Back-to-School Lunch Rescue: Burrito Bites & Fruit Leather Sushi

by Kristen Hartke BacktoSchoolA fabulous array of kid-friendly finger foods. Clockwise from top left: Fruit leather sushi made with peaches and watermelon; fresh watermelon “fingers”; fresh Mexican sour gherkin cucumbers (sometimes found at farmers markets and through our friends at Washington’s Green Grocer — and easy to grow at home); Burrito Bites.

Sometimes, when you’re a parent, your toughest dining critic is a two-year old. It gets even tougher when that toddler starts school and inevitably starts measuring the contents of his lunchbox against those of the kid sitting in the next seat. The competition is cutthroat in the cafeteria, where your own progeny sits prostrate in front of a boring, but lovingly prepared, PB&J — no doubt made with freshly ground peanut butter, raspberry jam made from fruit grown in your community garden, and home-baked bread from locally-milled wheat... yet he stares longingly at the monosodium-glutamate-loaded pre-packaged build-your-own-pepperoni-pizza-on-a-cracker extravaganza being devoured by The Luckiest Kid in the World.

The best thing you can do to try to give your own kid an edge, and yourself a break, is to make the same boring food look fun. Some day he’ll realize that your efforts were, in fact, far more delicious than that stuff that comes in a box, but, until then, you’ll be the worst parent ever. Don’t worry; by that time, he’ll be a teenager and despise you for a whole bunch of other stuff you haven’t even started worrying about yet.

Burrito Bites

1 8-inch round tortilla

Refried beans

Salsa (Peach-Mango is always a favorite in our house)

1 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips

Spread refried beans over the surface of the tortilla and then spread a thin layer of salsa over the top — leave about a 1/2-inch border around the edge of the tortilla, as the beans and salsa will spread out when you begin to roll the burrito. Place the pepper strips in horizontal rows across the tortilla, then roll the tortilla horizontally, keeping it fairly tight as you roll. Using a sharp knife, cut the rolled burrito into 1-inch pieces. Because there is no dairy in this dish, it will keep well in a lunchbox for a few hours. Makes about 8 individual burrito bites.

Fruit Leather Sushi

2 fruit leather strips, any flavor (check the package and look for 100% fruit ingredients)

Peanut butter or similar spread (coconut, cashew, & soynut butter are also great)

Sliced fresh fruit (peaches, watermelon, and pineapple are good choices)

Spread the peanut butter on the surface of the fruit leather. Add a slice of fresh fruit about an inch from one end of the fruit leather and then start rolling; the peanut butter will act as a glue to keep the fruit leather together. Cut the roll in half on a diagonal; this makes a great lunchbox treat or afterschool snack. Makes 4 individual sushi pieces.