Pack flavour into packed lunches

Both my children are back at school — my son to middle school and my daughter to university. I have to be very creative for their lunch menus because both of them don’t want regular lunches to fill their appetites. Here are a few fun recipes to make for your kids’ lunch box.
The rice and chicken salad and vegetable sandwich are nutrient-packed and flavour-filled, while the muffins make for a great recess snack.

Wild rice and sauteed chicken salad

Serves 4
1 1/2 cup wild rice blend
3 1/4 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp cooking oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless, cubed
1 celery stalk, diced
1 small bunch of green onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup cranberries
1/4 cup pecans, walnuts or almonds (optional)
Juice and zest of one medium lemon
Add rice, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring it to a boil and turn the heat to low. Cover the saucepan with a lid and simmer until rice is fully cooked, about 35-45 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it sit for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let cool.
In a skillet, add oil over medium heat. Add mustard seeds, garlic, fennel seeds, salt and pepper and cook until garlic turns light golden brown, about 15 seconds. Add chicken and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool.
In a large bowl, mix well the rice, chicken, celery, green onions, cranberries, lemon juice, zest and nuts, if using. Serve cold.

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Grilled vegetable sandwich

Makes 2 sandwiches
My son Aaron loves grilled vegetables, so I decided to create this sandwich with a touch of balsamic vinegar to give a complex sweet flavour to his lunches.
2 Tbsp cooking oil
2 red peppers, cut into one-inch squares
1 red onion, cut into one inch squares
1/4 tsp coriander powder
Salt and pepper to taste
4 slices of your favourite bread
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 medium tomato, sliced
2 small kale leaves
1 small bocconcini, sliced
2 Tbsp glazed balsamic
Grilled vegetables
Mix oil, peppers, onion, coriander, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Grill or sautee vegetables over a medium heat until they are softened. Remove from the heat and let it cool.
Spread 1 tsp of mustard on each slice of bread. Build the sandwiches with tomatoes, kale, bocconcini and grilled vegetables. Sprinkle with a touch of balsamic before placing the top slice of bread. Cut in half. To pack, wrap sandwich tight in a desired sandwich wrap.

Cardamom blueberry mini muffins

Makes 16 muffins
You can substitute the blueberries for chocolate chips for a more decadent snack. If your child doesn’t like cardamom, you can instead add 1 tsp of vanilla essence after adding the milk.
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp white sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp green cardamom powder
1/2 cup blueberries
1 egg
2 Tbsp oil
1/2 cup 2% milk
A mini muffin baking pan
16 paper cups
Preheat the oven to 190 C (375 F). In a medium bowl, mix gently the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cardamom powder and blueberries.
In a large bowl, whisk egg and oil. Add milk and mix. Add the flour blend and gently mix, making sure there are no lumps in the batter.
Line the baking pan with paper cups. Spoon batter into cups and bake for 10-12 minutes.

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