Lunch is the middle child of meals.
It doesn't get the same kind of love as breakfast, it's not cool like brunch and it doesn't grab time and attention like dinner.
Instead, lunch is a soggy sandwich in a Ziploc, a Tupperware container of sad leftovers or a fast-food burger and fries.
It might be time for a reboot. Lunch is ready for its moment in the sun, and food bloggers and at least one book are helping it become hipper and easier.
“Lunch is a lot of people's biggest gripe,” said author and food blogger Katie Morford, who last year wrote a book about the meal, “Best Lunch Box Ever.” “Lunch is the most chore-like of all the meals. People tend to take what time they have and put it toward dinner.”
The key to rethinking lunch, she said, is viewing it as fun instead of drudgery, and she has an arsenal of tips and tricks to help people get there.
Morford said lots of people fall into a lunch rut, bringing the same baby carrots and turkey sandwiches every day.
“Parents get sick of making those lunches, and kids get sick of eating those lunches,” she said.
Emma Christensen, recipe editor for thekitchn.com, said she relies on a big chopped salad for lunches throughout the week. Ingredients vary, she said, but could include chopped greens, cooked grains, chickpeas, leftover vegetables, chopped fruit and nuts tossed with a vinaigrette dressing.
“My favorite combo right now is chopped romaine, red quinoa, chickpeas, roasted beets, orange slices and toasted almonds with a cider vinaigrette,” she said.
Recipes that use grains as the base for a salad are always popular on the website, she said. Recent reader favorites include a chopped brown rice salad and a radicchio salad with red quinoa, avocado and ricotta salata.
“These kinds of salads can be made a few days ahead and are also OK if left unrefrigerated for a few hours while you're at work,” she said.
Leftovers are another next-day lunch staple, but they aren't always appealing on day two.
“I sort of see leftovers as the secret weapon of the school lunch,” Morford said. “I try and retool them so they are made new.”
She tosses leftover brown rice with soy sauce, vegetables and an egg. Leftover black beans can be mixed with cheese and chili and thrown into a Thermos. Leftover chicken tossed with sauce becomes a sandwich served warm on day two.
Morford also believes you should invest in containers you or your kids like.
She uses stainless steel containers for her kids because they wash easily and are long-lasting. When her kids were younger, she said they used a lunchbox called a Planet Box, which is also stainless steel and is like a TV tray with a lid and kid-sized compartments.
Now that her kids are older, they use Lunch Bots, which are stainless steel and have larger compartments for bigger appetites.
For items that don't fit in the compartments, she relies on waxed paper bags. And the old-fashioned Thermos is another staple in her rotation.
For adults, she recommends the Life Factory reusable glass bottles that come with a silicone sleeve.
“This stuff is an investment,” she said. “But if you get the good stuff, you'll use it.”
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Prosciutto and Arugula Lavash Pizza
Lavash does an outstanding job as a crust for a crispy pizza. You might be surprised to see cheddar here instead of the more traditional mozzarella. That's because the first time I made it, sharp cheddar was all I had in the fridge. Turns out, its tangy flavor works like magic when combined with prosciutto and arugula. I make this pizza for dinner when I'm short on time and ingredients.
Consider doubling the recipe; extra slices are handy for snacks or even quick breakfasts.
• 2 whole-wheat lavashes (7½ by 10 inches)
• 1/3 cup tomato sauce
• 1 cup coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
• 2 thin slices prosciutto
• 2 handfuls baby arugula
Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.
Put the lavashes on a baking sheet and spread the tomato sauce evenly over each lavash with the back of a large spoon. Sprinkle the cheese over the tomato sauce. Tear the prosciutto slices into four or five pieces each and lay on top of the cheese, followed by the arugula.
Put the pizzas in the oven and bake until the edges are crispy and the pizzas are no longer floppy when you lift up a corner with a spatula, 10 to 11 minutes.
Remove the pizzas from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.
Cut each pizza into six rectangular slices. Wrap or pack into storage containers.
Recipe notes: This can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator. In the morning before school, pop into the toaster oven to restore crispness, if you like.
Peanut Butter Pinwheels
This playful twist on the classic PB&J relies on lavash instead of standard sandwich bread. It gets wrapped around peanut butter, chopped apples and granola, giving the whole thing great flavor, crunch and plenty of nutrition.
Get this into your kids' hands in the morning and it will fill them up for breakfast, too.
• 1 whole-wheat lavash (7½ by 10 inches)
• 2 teaspoons honey
• ¼ cup natural unsweetened creamy peanut butter or other nut or seed butter
• 2/3 cup chopped unpeeled apple
• 2 tablespoons granola
Cut the lavash in half crosswise. Spread both halves of lavash with the peanut butter all the way to the edge. Drizzle with honey and scatter the apple and granola over the peanut butter, pressing down gently.
With the shorter edge of the lavash toward you, roll up the wrap. Repeat with the remaining lavash. Using a serrated knife, cut each roll into four pinwheels.
Store the pinwheels in snug containers, or reassemble the log shapes and roll in parchment paper, twisting the ends so it looks like two big Tootsie Rolls.
Cookbook author and food blogger Katie Morford shares tips on how to turn leftovers into lunch the next day. Her book “Best Lunch Box Ever” is full of tips and recipes to help get a lunch box routine started.
» Make a big salad at dinner and use the leftovers for the base of a second meal. Top the remainder with leftover chicken or steak or add beans or tuna. Kids might like croutons, raisins or crumbled cheese on leftover greens.
» Use leftovers from kebabs to make a sandwich. Pull the meat and vegetables off the skewers and serve them in pita pockets with yogurt dressing or salad dressing.
» Hot or cold, pizza is a great lunch. If you make it from scratch, double the dough and freeze it for a future pie.
» Any cooked vegetable, whether it be grilled, roasted or sautéed, makes for a great next-day lunch. Eat them on a baguette with cream cheese or in a salad.
» Leftover chicken can, of course, go into a sandwich, but it doesn't have to be basic. Toss the meat with your favorite sauce and pile it onto a warmed roll just before lunch. Slider-sized buns are great for kids.
» Pasta, rice, quinoa or grains can evolve into lunch by adding a half-cup of diced vegetables, raw or cooked, and tossing the combination with a vinaigrette dressing. Add a couple of tablespoons of nuts, scallions, crumbly cheese or dried fruit to your taste.
» Leftover soup or stew can be reheated the next day, but keep things interesting by serving it with pita chips, diced avocado or a spoonful of yogurt on top.
— Adapted from thekitchn.com
Constantly forgetting your lunch? Here are some tips to remember it:
• Some World-Herald readers suggest hanging your car keys on the front of your fridge with a magnetic hook.
• One reader said on Twitter that he puts his keys in the fridge on top of his lunch.
• Another reader suggests making enough leftovers for an entire week and packing lunches the night before.
• Hang your lunch bag on the doorknob of your front door or put it next to your purse or wallet. Even if your lunch is in the fridge, it helps.
• Leave a note on the front door or in your car.
• Make yourself a cellphone alert to grab your food.