Have you ever thought about how many peanut butter-and-something sandwiches you've made for your kids?
I lost count about two years ago.
To alleviate the monotony of day-in, day-out sammie making, I started whipping up these Banana Dog Bites. Kenya couldn't stop laughing the first time I asked him, "You wanna make banana dogs?" He just kept shrieking, "What's a banana dog? That's so silly!"
But he loved spreading the nut butter on the tortillas, peeling the banana, laying it in its "tortilla bed" (that got another big laugh), and rolling it up so the banana could "sleep tight" (still more giggles). Then I simply sliced the banana dogs into adorable half-inch sushi-style pieces and sent him off to school with them.
But it wasn't until his lunch box came home totally empty that I realized just how yummy they were.
-- Catherine McCord
1/4 cup peanut butter or almond or sunflower butter
2 bananas, peeled
Place 1 tortilla on a flat surface and spread 2 tablespoons of peanut butter on the tortilla to coat it evenly. Place one whole banana near the edge of the tortilla and roll it up. Slice the banana dog into 1/2-inch rounds. Repeat to make a second banana dog and serve.
-- From "Weelicious Lunches: Think Outside the Lunch Box with More Than 160 Happier Meals" (William Morrow Cookbooks, $29.99), by Catherine McCord.
Penne with Sausage and Broccolini
This recipe is delicious with any variety of sausage. I like loose sausage meat, but sliced chicken, turkey, or even soy sausage would be great.
And as with all of my pasta dishes, don't get hung up on penne; use any variety. But whatever pasta you use, be sure to follow the directions not to drain it. Using a slotted spoon to transfer it to the skillet brings some of the cooking water with it. This starchy water helps form the sauce.
Broccolini a little too crazy for your kids? Substitute regular broccoli florets, baby spinach (reduce the cooking time), or even peas.
-- J.M. Hirsch
12 oz. box penne pasta
2 lb. loose sausage meat
1 large yellow onion, diced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 bunches broccolini (about 1 pound total), roughly chopped
14 oz. can artichoke hearts, halved
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 5 minutes. Set the pot aside off the heat. Do not drain.
Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan over medium-high. Add the sausage, onion and pepper flakes and brown for 8 minutes or until the meat is nearly cooked. Add the broccolini and saute for another minute. Add the artichoke hearts and saute for another minute.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pasta from the cooking water to the saute pan. It's OK to get some of the water; this helps form the sauce. If your pan is not large enough to accommodate everything, you can instead combine everything in a large bowl. Stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 4, plus leftovers.
-- From "Beating the Lunch Box Blues: Fresh Ideas for Lunches on the Go!" (Rachael Ray Books, $18), by J.M. Hirsch. Addie Broyles writes for the Austin American-Statesman. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.