BACK -TO-SCHOOL BENTO BOXES Instead of a boring peanut butter and jelly sandwich, start the school year off by preparing bento lunch boxes with your kids. A traditional Japanese bento box holds rice, fish or meat, and vegetables. BUT you can create custom boxes to accommodate each family member’s favorite cuisine! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Hummus and Pita Plate: Pack 1/3 cup hummus with whole-wheat pita squares, baby carrots, baby tomatoes, and grapes.

Deli Roll-Ups: Roll 3 slices of deli turkey and/or ham around one Laughing Cow wedge and spinach. Serve with bell pepper slices, cucumber slices and cinnamon-sprinkled apple slices.

Wasa Salad Platter: Pack 4 Wasa crackers with one scoop of tuna or chicken salad, celery sticks and strawberries.

Taco Bar: Pack 3 oz. grilled chicken, 2 small corn tortillas, ¼ cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese, ¼ cup guacamole, ¼ cup salsa, and 2 tablespoons low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt. Serve with pineapple slices.

Pizza Box: 1 whole wheat English muffin, top each half with pizza sauce, part-skim string cheese slices (use one piece total) and turkey or vegan pepperoni slices. Serve with broccoli and berries.

Cold Soba Bowl: Pack 1 cup soba noodle salad (recipe below), snap peas and orange slices.

Lunchtime Soba Noodle Salad

Serves 4

  • 12 ounces soba (buckwheat) noodles
  • 1 cup frozen shelled edamame
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons grated peeled ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon Asian chili sauce (such as Sriracha or sambal oelek)
  • Salt
  • 1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 1 cup diced cucumber
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the soba noodles and edamame and cook according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain the noodles and edamame and run under cold water until cool.
  2. Combine the peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil and chili sauce in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water and whisk until smooth. Add the noodles and edamame, season with salt and toss to combine (add more cooking water to loosen, if needed). Divide among shallow bowls and top with the chicken, cucumber and scallions.

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