Spruce up that sack lunch with these easy recipes

Recipes and photos by Marisa McClellan

The days are getting shorter. Labor Day is on the horizon. Soon there’ll be a hint of a chill in the morning air. This can only mean one thing: Fall is coming, and with it fresh school (or office) supplies, one or two new items of clothing, and another year of lunch boxes to prep and pack. Whether you’re in charge of a single midday meal or a family’s worth of brown paper bags, these recipes might just be the inspiration you’ve been looking for. First, an appetite-appeasing sandwich, constructed from sturdy whole wheat bread and a spread made with cream cheese, poached chicken (leftovers from a roaster also work nicely) and a few herbs for color and flavor.

Next up, a hearty barley salad, stuffed with feta cheese, hunks of crunchy cucumber, cilantro (you can substitute Italian parsley if you’re a cilantro hater) and onion, bound by a slightly sweet mustard vinaigrette.

And what lunch bag is complete without PB&J? Try this whole grain cookie bar, made with natural peanut butter, jam or jelly, whole wheat flour and plenty of oats. It satisfies the sweet tooth while all those whole grains give it a virtuous appeal.

Chicken and Cream Cheese Sandwiches

8    oz. softened cream cheese
1     cup of chopped, cooked chicken
¼     cup chopped herbs (parsley, basil
or tarragon all work nicely)
    salt &    pepper
    whole grain bread

In a food processor, pulse together the cream cheese, chicken and herbs. Process until you’ve got a smooth-ish spread. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.

Spread on your bread. Add any additional toppings you’d like (cucumber, slivered red onion and lettuce are all nice).

This sandwich spread will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Barley, Feta and Cucumber Salad

1     tbsp. grainy mustard
1     tbsp. honey
     cup apple cider vinegar
¾     cup olive oil
    salt & pepper


1     cup of barley, cooked and cooled (barley
gets cooked at a 1:3 ratio; 1 cup of barley
to 3 cups of water)
1     seedless cucumber, cubed
½      sweet or red onion, chopped
4     oz. (approximately) of feta cheese, cubed
or crumbled (depends on your taste)
1     bunch cilantro, chopped

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the mustard, honey and vinegar. Whisk until incorporated. Stream the olive oil into the other ingredients, whisking as you pour to create an emulsion. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a large serving bowl, combine the barley with the dressing and toss to combine. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to incorporate. Let sit for at least half an hour prior to serving so the flavors can mingle.

This salad keeps for up to five days in the refrigerator.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bar Cookies

¼     cup butter (one stick)
¼     cup applesauce
1     cup natural peanut butter
½     cup brown sugar
1     egg
1     tsp. vanilla extract
¼     tsp. salt
½     tsp. baking powder
1     cup rolled old fashioned oats
1     cup whole wheat pastry flour
1     cup jam or jelly (any flavor)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a square brownie pan.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, applesauce, peanut butter and brown sugar. Once combined, add the egg and vanilla and beat to incorporate.

In small bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. Add them to the wet ingredients in two stages, mixing well between additions.

Divide the dough roughly in half. Press the slightly larger half into the bottom of the prepared pan to form a crust. Spread your jam or jelly out in an even layer across the surface. Crumble the remaining dough out on top—this will form crispy clusters during baking.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top browns. Let cool completely prior to slicing.

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