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The Brown Bag Challenge

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String Cheese "Slaw"
Pasta with Greens and Feta

(Family Features) - Making a great school lunch is no longer a simple matter of slapping together a PB&J on white, tossing in a bag of chips and adding a juice box. Add the concern of keeping packed lunches healthy to the age-old challenge of satisfying picky eaters, and parents today face quite a dilemma.

Luckily, pleasing finicky eaters while still keeping lunches wholesome just requires a little creativity. Call it thinking out of the bag.

Opting for organic one-percent or skim milk instead of sugary juice drinks; making sandwiches with whole wheat bread, lean lunch meats and low-fat cheeses; always including a serving of fruit; adding fresh vegetables to pasta salads or side dishes-- these all are excellent strategies for packing a healthful and tasty lunch.

"What we give our children to eat today helps determine their future health," says Terese Allen, food editor at Organic Valley. She encourages parents to look at school lunches as a wonderful way to instill healthy lifestyle behaviors in their children. "Childhood is when eating habits are formed. If healthy choices are made, we stand a good chance of reducing our kids' risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other diseases."

For more organic recipes, visit www.organicvalley.coop.

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String Cheese "Slaw"

Pack this unusual and fun side dish in a sack lunch with a sandwich or wrap. For added color and nutrition, add slivered sweet red peppers.

  • 1 package (6 ounces) Organic Valley "Stringles" String Cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups carrot matchsticks (or shredded carrots)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped basil, cilantro or parsley
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

    1. Pull threads of cheese off each string cheese stick (not too thin). Toss with carrots, basil, cilantro or parsley, lemon juice and olive oil. Add pepper to taste.
    2. Toss the "slaw" in its container once more before putting it in your child's lunchbox. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Notes, Tips & Suggestions
Recipe Courtesy of Terese Allen for Organic Valley Family of Farms

Pasta with Greens and Feta

This savory pasta recipe is easily doubled for a delicious dinner-with plenty of leftovers for kids' lunchboxes.
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  • 2/3 pound penne pasta
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 2 cups lightly packed spinach, washed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup Organic Valley Feta Cheese Crumbles

    1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Stir in the pasta and return to a boil. Cook until pasta is barely tender. Drain and set aside.
    2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and sauté until lightly browned. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes, taking care not to burn it. Add spinach and water, cover the skillet and cook for 3 more minutes. When spinach has wilted, add pasta and toss to heat through.
    3. Add lemon juice and pepper and toss again. Top with feta cheese and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Makes 8 servings
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Notes, Tips & Suggestions
Recipe adapted from Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children, by Ann Cooper and Lisa Holmes (Collins, 2006).
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SOURCE: Organic Valley

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