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Posted: July 28, 2011

Hands-on lunch prep

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains figure into balanced meal


By C.W. Cameron

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Atlanta, GA —

Hands-on lunch prepBoys put 3 recipes to test for school year.Fruits, vegetables, whole grains figure into balanced meal.Byline / Source: C.W. Cameron / For the AJCEmail:  Correction:  Corr.-Unpub.:  Story: Paper, pens and markers ready? Check!
Backpack, new clothes and shoes purchased? Check!
Family prepared for new wake-up times? Check!
Organized for school lunches and after-school snacks? Not yet!
Fear not. We're here to help.
Meet our cooking team: Stephen, Matt and James Hummel. Stephen, 14, is a freshman at Lakeside High School. Matt, 12, and James, 8, will be returning to Intown Community School in Atlanta. These guys will be helping Mom and Dad, Kim and Paul Hummel, make their lunches and after-school snacks this year.
Lunch for the Hummels follows a formula: snack item, main course, fruit and dessert. The snack is often pretzels or fish-shaped crackers, and the main course is usually a sandwich. Stephen is pretty flexible and sometimes takes a bagel or maybe chicken or spaghetti leftovers. Matt sticks with a ham or turkey and cheese sandwich. James is the only one who will confess to the family fondness for fluffernutter sandwiches — peanut butter and marshmallow creme. Hummus with carrots is a favorite and a healthful family snack.
They're all pretty handy around the kitchen. Once a week they bake bread together, and that's often the basis for their sandwiches.
We brought in Butch Raphael, regional chef for Whole Foods, to help the guys fine-tune their cooking skills. Raphael came with recipes for granola, hummus and tuna melts.
These recipes are well-tested on Raphael's own kids: Ayden, 10, Shayna, 7, and Ezra, 4. The Raphael kids don't fix their own lunches — mom Pam takes care of that — but they do make their own snacks. Butch Raphael admits he's been banned from lunch duty.
"I put in too many treats! Or I mix up the ketchup and mayonnaise on the same side of the bread. That's not allowed, " he said with a laugh.
The Raphael kids really love fruit as an after-school snack. "We freeze berries and pieces of banana. The key to getting kids to eat fruit is to make sure it's the right size, " Raphael said. "A big apple is just too much for a little kid."
The Raphaels mix fresh fruit juice and water to make frozen fruit pops and freeze half-filled bottles of water to pack with lunches. In the morning they top the bottle with water, and it's icy cold when everyone is ready to eat.
The Hummels' formula for lunch is a good one. Jennifer Seymour from the Nutrition Guideline Development and Recommendations team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, "We know that diets rich in fruits and vegetables can help people feel full without adding unwanted calories. It's a good idea to make fruit and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat milk products the primary choice for lunch and snacks."
How did our cooks like what they made? Hummus is a family staple, so no surprise: They liked it. The granola was layered with yogurt, sliced strawberries and blueberries for a special after-school treat, pretty enough to share with company.
The tuna melts were the biggest hit. Turns out that tuna and pickles aren't staples in the Hummel household, even though everyone really likes them. "I guess I just don't go down those aisles, " Kim said. The melts disappeared in a flash.

Age-appropriate tasks

Here are some of chef Butch Raphael's tips for keeping children safe in the kitchen. These are general guidelines, so take your child's aptitude and skills into consideration before turning them loose in the kitchen.

Children younger than 5 can:
learn how to taste using good sanitation methods
measure ingredients
use a butter knife for spreading
layer ingredients for a pretty presentation
rinse fruits, vegetables, herbs

Children age 5-8 can:
cut fruits safely, using a butter knife or cookie cutters
use scissors for chopping herbs (parsley, mint, cilantro) or cutting tortillas
use a can opener
learn to balance flavors
mix ingredients by hand

Children 9-12 can:
use a grater to cut onions, garlic or cheese
use a peeler on cucumbers and citrus fruit
learn how to safely use a sharp knife
sauce and toss pasta

At 13, children can:
learn to use appliances such as an oven safely
drain hot ingredients using a colander
get into fancier kitchen work such as flipping food in the pan


Chef Butch Raphael provided these recipes, which he's tested many times on his own children. Each is easily adapted for your family's tastes. Don't like almonds? Substitute another nut in the granola or just skip it. Garlic too adventurous for your eaters? The hummus is just fine without it. And the tuna melt can easily accommodate sweet pickles instead of dill, or even chicken instead of tuna. Always remember, though, that kids might be a little more willing to try something if they had a hand in putting it together.

Hands on: 20 minutes Total time: 1 hour Serves: 18 (1/2-cup servings)
The tiny bit of cayenne pepper is a surprise that helps to offset the sweetness of the other ingredients. You may substitute honey, brown rice syrup or maple syrup for the agave nectar.

  • 5 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups raw almonds, whole or sliced
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 3/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2-1 cup unsweetened coconut, optional
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried fruit (date pieces, cranberries, cherries, raisins, apricots or mango), optional

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Mix the oats, almonds, pumpkin and sesame seeds, cayenne, cinnamon, ginger, salt and coconut together in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix applesauce, nectar and oil. Combine the two mixtures. Stir well to mix thoroughly.
Spread the mixture evenly onto two 9-by-13 baking dishes or rimmed cookie sheets. Bake for 35 to 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until evenly golden brown. Remove pans from the oven and stir again to keep the granola from cooling into a solid mass. The granola will crisp as it cools. If using fruit, add it once the granola has cooled.
Pack a 1/2 cup granola for a snack, along with a separate container of yogurt and maybe some fresh fruit.
Per serving: 265 calories (percent of calories from fat, 49), 9 grams protein, 27 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 15 grams fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 123 milligrams sodium.


Hands on: 10 minutes Total time: 10 minutes Serves: 16 (1/4 cup servings)
The Hummel family has been making hummus for years. In addition to the traditional garbanzo bean hummus, they make a version similar to the one below, substituting 2 cans of black beans for the garbanzos and changing the flavor a little by using lime juice instead of lemon and adding 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro.
Hummus can be served cold or at room temperature. Send this to school with a separate container of crackers, carrots, celery or cucumbers for dipping. For an after-school snack, hummus is delicious spread on pita wedges.

  • 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 cloves garlic, optional
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the beans, tahini, lemon juice and olive oil in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Add water a little at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Add the garlic and cumin, and then salt and pepper to taste.
Per serving: 86 calories (percent of calories from fat, 52), 3 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 5 grams fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 88 milligrams sodium.


Tuna Pita Melt
Hands on: 10 minutes Total time: 20 minutes Serves: 8 (2 pitas per serving)
Use the pickles that your kids like best — dill, sweet or pickle relish. If you have a toaster oven, this makes a great after-school snack that the older kids can prepare. One of chef Butch Raphael's tricks is to use a little pickle juice to help moisten the tuna, which reduces the amount of mayonnaise you need.

  • 2 (5-ounce) cans tuna packed in water, drained
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon red onion, diced small
  • 1 tablespoon pickle, diced small
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 16 small pitas
  • 4 ounces shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, mix the tuna, mayonnaise, onion, pickle, salt and pepper well. Lay the pitas on a baking sheet. Top each with a scoop of tuna mixture, then sprinkle with a tablespoon of shredded cheese.
Put in the oven and heat just until the cheese melts, about 10 minutes. Serve warm. They can be cooled and packed for a school lunch.
Per serving: 320 calories (percent of calories from fat, 21), 19 grams protein, 43 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 7 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 26 milligrams cholesterol, 635 milligrams sodium.

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