When you ship your little ones off to school with well-stocked lunchboxes, the last thing you want to worry about is whether they’re trading in those painstakingly crafted meals for someone else’s puddings. Start the new school year right by making better-than-basic sandwiches that kids will be proud to tote and eager to chow down on come lunchtime. They can even help make some of the recipes — lessening your burden, and ensuring they aren’t subsisting on a boxed meal from some other mom’s pantry.
Pastrami Football Finger Sandwiches (shown above)
Your little athlete will love these bite-size, football-shaped sandwiches filled with pastrami and a cheesy-pepper mixture. You might want to toss some extra finger sandwiches into the lunchbox — his fellow linebackers might intercept a few.
1 cup shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese blend
1/3 cup pickled piquant peppers, such as Peppadews, chopped
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
32 slices cocktail pumpernickel bread squares
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
8 ounces thinly sliced pastrami
16 bread and butter pickle slices
1 to 2 slices white cheese, such as muenster or white American (you want about a 4-inch square slice)
Special equipment: 16 toothpicks
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Mix the shredded cheese, peppers, mayonnaise, mustard and pepper in a medium bowl.
Stack 4 slices of the bread on a cutting board. Using a knife or 2 ½-inch round cutter, trim the bread into football shapes, save the trimmings for another use. Continue with the remaining bread.
Lay the bread slices on a rimmed baking sheet and brush with the melted butter. Place in oven and toast until crisp, about 5 minutes.
Spread about 1 tablespoon of the pepper cheese mixture on the bread. Top with some pastrami, a pickle and another slice of bread.
To make the laces, cut the cheese into 16 long strips. Cut each strip into 1 long and 3 short pieces. Lay the long strip lengthwise on the sandwich, and then the 3 short strips crosswise to make the laces. Repeat with all the strips. Put the sandwiches back into the oven for 2 minutes to set the cheese laces. Secure the sandwiches with a toothpick and serve.
Recipe courtesy of Food Network Kitchens
All-American Down-Home Patriotic Meatloaf Sandwich (shown above)
Make Jeff Mauro’s meatloaf for dinner, then slice leftovers for stellar next-day sandwiches. (Everyone knows that meatloaf tastes better as leftovers, after all.) Pickles and crispy onions make for irresistible toppings, though it can be hard to keep those onions crispy till lunchtime. Include a small handful of potato chips in a plastic bag for kids to add an indulgent layer.
Sometimes you shouldn’t mess with a classic, as is the case with this stacked turkey-and-bacon sandwich. If the toothpick-bound layers are too cumbersome for your little one’s mouth, make them single-decker by adding in an extra slice of bread.
This sophisticated sandwich is disguised as an ordinary chicken wrap. Let kids sneak a taste of the garlic, chive and anchovy-spiked aioli (protein-enriched thanks to yogurt, in addition to mayo), and they’ll be craving lunch hour all morning long.
The Pioneer Woman’s “sushi” nestles turkey, carrots, cucumber and cream cheese into tidy little rolls that are as fun to eat as they are pretty to gaze upon.
Fresh herbs and briny capers give the tuna salad filling in this bagel sandwich outside-the-lunchbox flavor your little ones will have a hard time passing up. To ensure the bagel doesn’t get soggy, pack the tuna in a resealable container and enclose a plastic spoon with lunch to allow for easy cafeteria assembly.
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The cored apple slices that surround this sandwich’s chicken salad are so cute, sweet and crunchy, kids won’t even notice this recipe is missing sliced bread. And pecans and raisins add enough welcome sweetness that little diners will never realize how healthy this lunch actually is.
Horseradish- and lemon-zest-spiked mayo and vinegar-marinated onions up the ante in what would be an ordinary deli meat sandwich. Jeff calls for the scooped-out rolls to be freshly broiled before serving; we suggest lightly toasting to give them some crunch that will last the several hours until lunchtime.
Egg salad can get a little “again, Ma?!” But Tyler Florence offers this solution that’s sure to rescue the deli salad from trade-in (or worse, the trash). Avocado slices add extra-creamy flavor, watercress provides crunch and mustard in the salad dressing adds just the kick kids didn’t know they were missing.
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Turn last night’s roast chicken dinner into this colorful, crunchy, sweet chicken salad wrap that’s like a Waldorf salad’s cousin. Walnuts, cranberries and chestnuts are welcome additions to the classic mixture; broccoli sprouts add interesting earthy flavor and texture to the wrap before the meat is added.
These colorful pinwheels can be made in the morning and kept chilled for an easy lunch or afternoon snack. Little kids can help you prep by washing and spinning dry the lettuce; big kids can layer the ingredients and roll up the sandwiches.
Turn lunch into taco time by packing this clever bento box of tasty toppings. Though only some might consider a taco a sandwich, we think the roast beef meat base makes these tacos a definitive fit, and little ones will love the DIY assembly aspect.
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