Category Archives: School Lunches

Homemade Granola…Crunch!

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As seen on View From The Bay, (Healthy School Lunches segment) on October 3, 2007

Everyone would make their own granola if they knew how simple and inexpensive it was! The sky is the limit on the variations you can do with this recipe. Simply follow the basic formula and let your imagination do the rest. Don’t forget to Call the Kids into the kitchen to help you with this culinary creation.

4 cups oats (not quick cooking)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbs sesame seeds

Optional Ingredients:
1/3 cup Dried Fruit, such as cranberries, raisins or currants
1/4 cup sunflower seeds (without shells)
1/4 cup Pumpkin seeds
3 Tbs flax seeds
1/4 cup dried and shredded coconut
1/2 cup nuts: chopped almonds, walnuts, pecans or cashews


  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees
  2. In a large bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon.
  3. If using, add shredded coconut, nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds and flax seeds.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine honey, oil and vanilla.
  5. Pour honey mixture over the oat mixture and stir to combine.
  6. Pour the granola mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven.
  7. Bake at 300 degrees for 30-40 minutes, stirring gently every 10 minutes, so that the mixture doesn’t burn.
  8. After the mixture comes out of the oven, add any dried fruit of your choice: currants, raisins, or cranberries
  9. Once the mixture has cooled, store in an airtight container for up to 10 days.

Cooking Tips

  • Flax seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts and dried fruits can both be purchased in small quantities in the bulk section of many grocery stores. They are much less expensive this way.
  • Flax seeds and walnuts are high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids which play a crucial role in brain function as well as growth and development.
  • By making your own granola, you are saving lots of money. Granola and granola bars can be expensive. Plus, there are no wrappers to dispose of!

Call The Kids:

  • Measure oats, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon.
  • If using coconut, sesame seeds, flax seeds, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, have the kids measure these too.
  • Measure oil, vanilla and honey and stir to combine
  • Using clean hands, mix wet and dry ingredients together in a large bowl
  • Spread granola onto a rimmed baking sheet
  • Add dried fruit to cooled granola and stir to combine

Recipe Source: What’s Cooking (



Filed under Cooking with Kids, Meal Planning, Recipes, School Lunches, View From The Bay

What’s Cooking Fans from the SF Bay Area…Set Your Tivo!

Michelle, owner of What’s Cooking, will be doing a Healthy School Lunches cooking demonstration with her two children.

Details: Wednesday, October 3
Time: 3-4 p.m.
Show: View From The Bay on ABC

View From the Bay

Click on the logo above to be linked to the segment, online. Let us know what you think!
Check out our Store to see the products featured on the show.

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Filed under Cooking with Kids, Recipes, School Lunches, View From The Bay

Easy, Delicious, and Peanut Free

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Easy and Delicious
Peanut Free Lunch and Snack Ideas for School

Peanut Free Lunch and Snack Ideas for Children

Don’t despair! There are lots of peanut-free, tasty and easy lunch and snack choices for your child! Please be sure to check labels carefully since many products may be processed on peanut contaminated lines. Thanks for helping ensure our children have a safe environment at school.

* For more ideas, check this out: Nutritious Lunches with a Sample Peanut-Free Menu

Snack Ideas:

· Yogurt mixed with fruit or with fruit on the side for dipping

· Hard boiled egg

· Homemade trail mix with cereal, pretzels, raisins

· Celery sticks stuffed with soft cheese

· Whole grain muffin (make a large batch ahead of time and freeze, so you can pull them out as you need them)

· Carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes (or any crunchy veggies) with ranch dressing or a favorite dip

· Popcorn

· Mini-pitas stuffed with cheese

· Half a bagel with cheese

· String cheese and bread sticks

· Cheese and crackers

· Fresh fruit, fruit salad, mixed dried fruit

· Whole grain cereal

· Sliced meat wrapped around cheese sticks

· Cubes of smoked tofu (some manufacturing plants may have peanut contamination)

· Graham or animal crackers

Lunch Ideas:


· Egg salad on their favorite bread, tortilla, or crackers bagel sandwiches with meat, cheese, tofu

· Soy nut butter is a great peanut butter replacement

· Tuna salad (with or without pasta added in or as a sandwich)

· Cheese sandwich, use pita, whole grain bread, bagel, or crackers

· Pita wrap with meat and/or cheese, lettuce and tomato

· Leftover meatloaf or chicken on whole grain bread

· Leftover pasta or macaroni & cheese

· Deli meat and cheese roll-ups

· Cottage Cheese with fresh fruit or veggie slices (loads of protein!)

· Hearty soup in a thermos (stew or chili are good too)

· Give them separate containers of ingredients so they can assemble their own foods, such as mini pizzas or burritos.


· Spread cream cheese, shredded carrots, sliced meat or tofu on a tortilla, roll up and slice into 1-inch pinwheels.

· pinwheels with cream cheese and jam, or with soy nut butter and jam

· Pasta Salad with meat or cheese

· Rice Salad or Couscous with mixed in chopped veggies, meat, cheese or tofu.

Combining a number of fun and healthy lunch and snack ideas makes your child’s school lunch and snack more enjoyable for them… the more fun their food the more likely they’ll eat it!

Interesting fact: One slice of cheese pizza has almost twice the protein of 2 tablespoons of peanut butter!



For more information about making Healthy School Lunches for Children, visit the

Healthy School Lunches page of the What’s Cooking Website. (


Filed under Cooking with Kids, Meal Planning, School Lunches

Lunch Lessons

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Changing The Way We Feed Our Children

Ann Cooper is on a mission to change the way our children eat. She’s out to reform school district spending policies and commodity-based food service organizations to ensure that kids across the country have wholesome, nutritious, delicious food at school.Her National School Food Challenge, Oct. 15-19, 2007, is a week-long opportunity for schools, families and advocates to work together to provide healthful, nutritious foods for kids at school and at home. Families and advocates are challenged to ask local administrators about the foods served in school lunches and help their kids make strong nutritious meal choices. Schools are challenged to find sources of local, fresh foods that can be served in cafeterias.

“Together, we can keep nutrition at the head of the class,” Cooper says.

Check out her informative website at to learn more and take a look these recommendations you can put to work right away in your own family.

Lessons from Ann Cooper’s Lunch Lessons:

  • Eat breakfast.
  • Encourage exercise.
  • Don’t make food a reward or a punishment.
  • Don’t be a short-order cook; make the same dinner for everyone.
  • Involve your kids in shopping and meal preparation.
  • Grow food with your kids, even if it’s just in a window box.
  • Take your kids to the farmers’ market so they’ll understand that food doesn’t come from a grocery store.
  • Practice what you preach—eat well yourself.

Recipe from Lunch Lessons For more of Ann Cooper’s recipes—from Apple Date Bars to Breakfast Polenta Casserole—go to

Turkey Meatloaf


1/2 cup onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup shredded carrot
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 pounds ground turkey
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1/2 cup Japanese bread crumbs (panko)
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
3 tablespoons ketchup, optional


1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Heat oil in a small skillet. Add onion, garlic and carrot and sauté until soft. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
3. Combine carrot mixture with turkey, parsley, bread crumbs, eggs, salt and pepper; mix well.
4. Pack mixture into an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan. Bake 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 140F. Slice and drizzle with ketchup, if desired. Serves 8.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Lunch Lessons by Ann Cooper and Lisa M. Holmes (Harper Collins, 2006).


Nutritional Information

Per serving: 169 calories, 9g fat, 17g prot., 4g carbs., 0g fiber, 366mg sodium.

To purchase her book, please visit: Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children


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Luring Your Kids into Eating Healthy School Lunches

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Our fishing expedition on Flathead Lake this summer was comical. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to catch anything, even though the boat next to us was reeling in fish every time we looked! Clearly, there was something we weren’t doing right. As a man from the next boat yelled over to us, “What kind of bait are you using?” a crazy thought entered into my mind: Feeding children is a lot like fishing – you have to have the right lure, or they won’t bite! Packing desirable school lunches is a lot like the fine art of selecting an appealing lure while fishing. Try some of these stress-free strategies for packing lunches that are healthy for your kids and the environment. They’ll be sure to bite!

  • Ask your kids what they will enjoy. Remember that if they don’t like certain foods at home, they won’t like them at school either!
  • Ask for their input before loading their lunch box. Just because they liked something today doesn’t mean that they will like it again tomorrow.
  • Keep in mind that your children don’t have much time to eat…so pack foods in small portions that are easy to eat, so they have time left to play.
  • Don’t be lured into buying prepackaged lunches, which are high in fat, sugar, salt and calories, are much more expensive, and produce tons of unnecessary garbage.
  • Let your child help you select a cool lead-free and reusable lunch bag or lunch box. Pick up a few reusable containers that will fit inside – this will prevent food from leaking and getting smashed, and will help you avoid using disposable items like plastic bags and foil.
  • Pack a reusable drink container instead of juice boxes, juice pouches, cans, and disposable plastic bottles.
  • Instead of packing a paper napkin, use a cloth one (baby wash cloths, or cut up old t-shirts work great for this!)
  • Pack stainless-steel utensils instead of using disposable plastics.
  • Buy in bulk instead of purchasing pre-packaged items. This will save you money, and you can reuse or recycle the containers at home.
  • Whenever possible, pack lunches the night before. Why add more stress to your morning routine?

Here are a variety of ideas for some fun and interesting lunches. Don’t forget to include fruits or vegetables, protein and whole grains every day.

Sandwich Alternatives:

  • Instead of sliced bread, try rice or whole grain crackers, whole wheat pita bread, whole grain bagels and tortillas.
  • Wrap it Up! Combine a variety of spreads, fillings and wrappers for a sandwich alternative your kids won’t forget. For lots of wrap recipes, please visit the Healthy School Lunches page at What’s Cooking.

Make Ahead…

  • Quiches or frittatas are full of protein. Try making a batch in a mini muffin pan – they will be a great size for school lunches and will last in the refrigerator for the whole week. Organic and free range eggs are good choices!
  • Whole grain pasta or couscous salad
  • You can make several peanut butter and jam sandwiches at a time. Wrap them tightly and store in the freezer. Toss one in a lunch bag and it will be thawed by lunch time! Is peanut butter banned at your school? Try: cashew butter, almond butter, soy nut butter, sunflower seed butter or tahini (sesame seed paste) as alternate spreads
  • Many of the thermos treasures below can be made ahead, stored and warmed before packing.

Thermos Treasures…

  • Tortellini with pesto
  • Spaghetti with marinara sauce
  • Noodle Soup
  • Fried Rice
  • Chili with corn chips on the side for dipping
  • Fruit Smoothies…cold, of course!

Container Combinations…for kids to assemble and snack on themselves

  • Purchase yogurt in bulk, and serve in a reusable container. On the side, pack some toppings, such as dried fruit, granola or grape nuts.
  • Carrots, cucumber or broccoli with dip, such as ranch dressing, plain yogurt with dill, or peanut/almond/cashew/sunflower seed butters
  • Nachos: pack containers of ground turkey/tofu, guacamole, grated cheese and tortilla chips
  • Whole grain crackers, slices of turkey, ham or tofu, cubes of cheese

Packing an appealing school lunch will lure your children into eating well, help them to be more successful in school, and help the planet, too. Don’t be caught with the wrong bait, or your kids might throw it back!

Michelle Stern owns What’s Cooking, a Certified Green SF Bay Area business that offers cooking classes and gifts to children. Their online service, What’s Cooking Weekly, gives busy families recipes and grocery lists for 5 healthy meals every week, along with tips on how your kids can help in the kitchen.

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