June is finally here which means school is out and your kids are running free until September. While this means freedom for your munchkins, it also means more work for you, filling the lunch-shaped hole left behind by those missing school lunches.
An extra meal everyday is a lot to handle, but your kids deserve better than microwaved pizza and frozen chicken nuggets. Don’t panic, because making healthy delicious summer lunches doesn’t have to be a chore. Just borrow a page from Greece.
Greek School Lunches
American children aren’t exactly known for their love of vegetables, but that’s normal, right? Kids aren’t supposed to like broccoli, carrots, and brussel sprouts. Or are they?
In Greece, typical school lunches consist of 3-4 servings of vegetables, which sounds insane when compared to the U.S. National School Lunch Program’s meager 1-2 vegetable servings. But what’s even more interesting is that the Greek kids actually eat their vegetables, unlike the often discarded veggie cups in many American lunchrooms.
The secret, says Elena Paravantes, Greek-American writer and registered dietician, is in the preparation:
“Here in Greece we eat vegetables as a main course, we cook all sorts of vegetables in olive oil and tomato. And then we eat this with bread and cheese, and it’s delicious. The Spanish do this and so do the Italians.”
So, this summer take a page from the Greeks and try out these simple Mediterranean lunch options. Who knows, with recipes like this you might finally get your kids hooked on veggies before they head back to class.
Peas in Olive Oil and Tomato (Arakas Latheros)
Named after the Greek word for oil (“lathi”) Arakas Latheros—peas in olive oil and tomato—is a simple peasant-inspired vegetarian dish.
To make this timeless Mediterranean dish, simply saute diced onions, then add water, salt, pepper, parsley (or dill) and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add peas and carrots, cover, and simmer.
Alternatives: If your kids don’t like peas, substitute okra or green beans for an even more authentic Mediterranean meal.
Bean and Cheese Salad
This delicious salad is as simple to make as its name suggests. All you need is a little lemon juice, olive oil, kidney beans, cucumber, and some feta cheese.
Whisk the lemon juice and olive oil together (season with black pepper if you like), then toss in a handful of cannellini beans (white kidney beans), feta cheese crumbles, and sliced cucumber. Finish it off with some croutons or pita shreds, and mix and match a few extra ingredients—like corn or diced tomatoes—for your perfect blend.
While it sounds fancy, “panzanella” is just a popular Tuscan-style summer salad. It’s actually made using whatever seasonal ingredients you have at hand, so don’t be afraid to mix it up.
For instance, day-old or toasted bread cubes make great croutons, and cubed tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, sliced cucumbers, and kalamata olives round out the recipe. Top with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice and add salami if you’re craving some protein. Simple and delicious.
Turkey-Cheese Pita Pockets
Nothing beats the ease and simplicity of a sandwich, but peanut butter and jelly gets old fast. Mix it up with a Mediterranean twist on an American staple—the turkey sandwich.
Skip the bleached white bread, and substitute it with a whole grain pita pocket instead. Ditch the fatty mayo for delicious hummus spread inside, then fill with roast turkey slices, baby spinach leaves and cucumber half-moons. Your kids will love the fresh taste of greens, and you’ll love watching them eat this nutrient-packed lunch.
Summer Food on the Run
At Nanoosh, we’re dedicated to good food that’s good for you, and easy to make meals for life on the go. Mediterranean food is the perfect recipe for simple, delicious meals packed with energy to keep you and your kids going this summer. So pack a Mediterranean lunch and get out there and enjoy the summer, because before you know it, your kids will be back in school and you’ll miss making all those “hectic” summer lunches more than you think.