Susie Csorsz Brown
Ok, you all know how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I mean, how many have we eaten in our lifetimes, right? Of COURSE we know how to make it. If you think about it, though, it really is just a formula, and once you fall into the make-lunch-everyday rut, you might forget that there are enough variables on this formula/sandwich that you can make it every day for your kids (and your big people!) and they wouldn’t mind in the slightest.
Let’s look at it, piece by piece.
You have your regular sliced options and a plethora of grain options. Pitas. Flat breads. Tortillas. Chapati. English muffins. Bagels. You can go high-brow with croissants. Try graham crackers or whole grain saltines. Rice or popcorn cakes. You can even use breadsticks and mix the your smearables and accoutrements together for a dip. Whatever bread option you use, be sure to mix it up. My suggestions would be to try to go whole grain and/or higher fiber because fiber helps keep your kids full longer. Trust me, your teachers will appreciate that. A hungry kid is an ornery kid.
Friends, you can not go wrong here. You can try something simple like plain butter (yes, butter. I give my family the real stuff; I am a firm believer in being able to pronounce what goes into our food, as often as possible. God bless our innovation and ability to make oils solid, but if I can’t pronounce it, chances are my body isn’t going to know what to do with it). You can try cream cheese, or spreadable cheeses. Laughing Cow. Plain Jane peanut butter. Any sort of nut butter. Any sort of seed butter. Chocolate nut butter. (I’m a big fan of Justin’s spreads as they are lower in sugar than other options. There’s even a white chocolate option.) You can go savory with hummus, liverwurst or spreadable savory cheeses. Feta. Try different options because chances are, your kids will like it. Okay, so it is possible that maybe they won’t but you won’t know until you try, right? And they’ll be gone at school all day, so you won’t have to hear their wingeing for a few more hours. The thing to remember that this is not only the glue that holds the sandwich together - literally - this is also the source of the healthy fats that is going to keep your kiddos feeling full, and with energy throughout the day. Choose wisely.
Important to note: put your smearable (read: your fat layer) on both sides of the bread. This is your water-proofing layer that will help keep the bread from getting soggy.
The world is your oyster. You have fresh fruits (bananas, strawberries, other berries, apples, pears, mango, etc.); dried fruit and berries and freeze dried crunchy fruit and berries. You have veggies (especially things like carrots which can go either way, or on savory/meat/cheese spreads things like peppers, tomatoes (fresh and sun-dried), cucumbers, thin slices of celery, and leafy veggies like spinach and lettuce. You have meat, cheese and even chips and pretzels. Just remember that it's good to have contrast between your smearable and your accoutrements. So, for example, you have a sticky/sweet peanut butter, add in something tart like cranberries or dried cherries. Some favorite combinations: peanut butter + bananas + dried cherries, cream cheese + dessicated coconut + dried mangoes, hummus + sun-dried tomatoes + shredded carrots, feta + sun-dried tomatoes + cucumbers ... honestly, I usually grab whatever bread is there, sometimes home-made, often not, but always whole grain.
Have fun. Think outside the box. And if you opt for an old-fashioned peanut butter and jelly, do your best to use a hearty whole grain bread, good unsweetened peanut butter (I’m a big fan of Crazy Richard’s and Smart Choice), and really good jelly or jam (we love Bonne Moman, especially their cherry jam). Bon appetit, friends.