Lunch Box News

Go Ahead and Sleep With Your Toddler, Study Says

Does sleeping with a toddler leave the child socially maladjusted and lead to other developmental problems?

Not according to fresh research from Stony Brook University in New York.

Go Ahead and Sleep With Your Toddler, Study Says
"After statistical adjustment for socio-demographic characteristics, there were no behavioral or cognitive differences at age 5 between children who bed-shared with a parent during their toddler years and those who did not," researcher Lauren Hale of Stony Brook tells the website LiveScience.

LiveScience reports that's good news for roughly a third of parents who believe it's OK to sleep with toddlers. The rest of the parenting community is evenly split, according to the website, between those who oppose and those who have no opinion one way or the other.

Those who oppose it argue that it will give the child developmental problems down the road.

But researchers followed 944 low-income toddlers and their parents beginning when the children were a year old. After two years, any developmental problems could be traced to other factors (socioeconomic status, parenting style, etc.) rather than bed-sharing.

There was virtually no developmental difference between children who slept with a parent and those who slept on their own, Hale tells LiveScience.

"Since we did not find a difference, this study suggests that bed-sharing patterns are not contributing to divergent developmental trajectories," she says.

The American Association of Pediatrics recommends against sharing bed with infants because of the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, but Hale says that has nothing to do with this study.

"Our finding is not in conflict with this recommendation, because our study looked at bed-sharing at ages 1, 2 and 3 (past the period of infancy)," she tells LiveScience.

Helen Ball, a researcher at Durham University in England, wasn't involved in the study, but tells LiveScience it's welcome news.

"The study is helpful in debunking the myth that bed-sharing is associated with negative developmental outcomes," she says.

Working Moms Don’t Hurt Their Kids, Study Says

You can stop feeling guilty if you work away from your kids during the day.

Well, a little less guilty, anyway. You are a mother. A certain amount of guilt is part of the job description.

Working Moms Don’t Hurt Their Kids, Study Says
If not freedom from guilt, you can at least find validation from a British study that concludes mothers do not harm their young children emotionally or socially by going out to work.

As a matter of fact, London's Guardian newspaper reports, girls seem to benefit from being in a household where Mom works. Researchers from the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London found no evidence of detrimental effects on young children of mothers working part-time or full-time.

The ideal scenario for children, according to researchers, is for both parents to live at home and for both to be working. The Guardian reports the finding will encourage policymakers to help families stay together.

Lead researcher Anne McMunn tells the Guardian there seemed to be many benefits from both parents working "as long as parents are supported, do not have to work long hours and are able to combine child-rearing with paid work."

"In this study we did not see any evidence for a longer-term detrimental influence on child behavior of mothers working during the first year of life," she adds.

The Guardian reports thousands of parents, mostly mothers, answered questionnaires about their children in infancy and when they were 3 and 5. They covered external behaviors such as hyperactivity, tantrums and aggression, and internal ones including unhappiness, tearfulness and worry.

Katherine Rake, the chief executive of the Family and Parenting Institute charity, tells the Guardian the study is welcome news.

"This study shows what mothers know intuitively," she says. "If you are able to get the balance right, your child and your career can both flourish."

Day 5 - The Kitchen Sink

Well here we are, the 5th and final day of sandwich recipes found all over the web.  Except today I took it upon myself to throw some ingredients together and see
school lunch sandwich burrito
if I could create something unique.  I also drew inspiration from the Great Sandwich Lawsuit of 2006 that I mentioned in previous posts.  Even though the verdict in that case was that a burrito was NOT a sandwich, I decided to concoct a recipe that combines elements of both a traditional sandwich and a burrito.  I started with a soft taco-size flour tortilla, then added black beans to form the base of what would appear to be a burrito.  But then the rest of the ingredients would be found in a sandwich, specifically things that HAD been used in the sandwiches I had made on Day 1 and Day 4.  These were low-fat alpine lace swiss cheese, smoked ham, pre-chopped salad mixture, sliced bell pepper, cucumber, and stone-ground mustard.  I’ll admit, this one was easily the messiest and most involved of the entire week’s crop, as you can see in this mid-assembly (photo on left).

The two main difficult parts of this recipe are heating the tortilla properly and rolling the tortilla.  To heat, I put an ungreased skillet on the stove and turned the heat up to medium-high. 
School lunch sandwich burrito
Then, although it seems like a very short period of time, I put the tortilla on the skiller for 10-15 seconds and then flipped it and kept it on for another 10 seconds.  This softens it up and makes it warm, so I made the bottom ingredient the cheese, followed by the beans which I had cooked for about 6-8 minutes under medium heat to further encourage the melting of the cheese and keep that tortilla soft.  I quickly piled on the rest of the ingredients and then attempted to roll the thing into a burrito.  I failed miserably on my first attempt and ended up eating it for breakfast over the sink like a taco.  Then I realized that the secret is to SQUEEZE the ingredients as you roll it.  First fold over the ends of the left and right side.  Then (yes you have to get your fingers messy) roll the part closest to you up and over with your palms down and your fingers curled under and into the ingredients, squeezing them into the tortilla as you go.  If you heated the tortilla properly and it was a fresh one, it will be nice and stretchable so you can just tuck the flap underneath so the burrito is sitting on the folded crease, like in this shot of the two finished burritos (photo on right).

The taste is not bad at all – basically like a sandwich with a twist or these wraps that you can get.  But for me, it’s the inclusion of the beans (and maybe next time I would use a little salsa) that makes it a true synthesis of the burrito and the sandwich…The Sandwich Burrito!!!!

Day 4 - German Style Ham Sandwich

This is definitely premature, but I think we might have a winner sandwich.  Today’s recipe is another one I stumbled across on a random web search.  It’s a different take on another lunchbox classic, the Ham Sandwich.  Here’s the recipe, then I’ll get to the scoop:

  • 6 slices (6 ounces) Westphalian or Black Forest ham, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup apple butter
  • 1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
  • 2 Kaiser Rolls, split
  • 4 ounces sliced Emmental or other Swiss cheese
  • 1 small cucumber, very thinly sliced
  • Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves
  • (makes 2 sandwiches – I gave one to Alexis and she loved it too)

I mGerman ham sandwichade a couple minor substitutions.  I went with 1 slice of low-fat Alpine Swiss cheese from Trader Joe’s and I used the same pre-chopped salad mixture that I had leftover from last recipe for the lettuce leaves.  I also had plenty of cucumber left from that same recipe to use in this one.  Gotta love the multi-use ingredients!  Oh yeah, and I couldn’t find Black Forest or Westphalian ham so I used smoked ham instead.

The key to this recipe is really the spread.  You take the mustard and the apple butter and mix them together in a small bowl.  This creates a fantastic spicy-sweet concoction that you spread  on the cut side of the Kaiser rolls.  Then you stack the other ingredients on one side like photo on left.

When you put the two sides together, it really looks appetizing.  I don’t know – there’s something about a sandwich on a roll or english muffin that just looks and tastes better than plain bread.  I remember in elementary school there was this kid Rickey Brown German ham sandwich 2who would always bring a corned beef sandwich to school that was made on an onion roll.  He was pretty short back in 4th and 5th grade and I guess he didn’t each much because he’d usually give me half.  Wow that was good.  I think that was the start of my love of deli food and, particularly, deli sandwiches.  Anyway, here’s the assembled German Ham Sandwich in all its glory, with one of my all-time favorite lunchboxes, the limited edition School House Rock model like the photo on right.

I don’t know which looks better, the sandwich or the lunchbox.  Unfortunately the store is long sold out of these, but they do have another of my favorite designs, the one of Mr. Owl from the Tootsie Pop TV commercials that they showed for like 30 years (anyone know if they’re still showing it?).  I think I probably watched that commercial back in the early 1980s while eating corned beef sandwiches with Rickey Brown after school before we played Intellivision.  Ahhh the good ol’ days.

So far this recipe is my favorite.  But next I’m really going to try something different, so stay tuned!

Day 3 - GRILLED Peanut Butter and Jelly

For the second day in a row, the sandwich recipe calls for a different take on the old lunchbox classic sandwich, peanut butter and jelly.  Today is a decidedly less healthy approach that conjures up images of Elvis.  Yes, it’s the sweet lunch treat peanut butter and jelly with all the savory preparation of a grilled cheese.  Elvis used to eat these all the time, except he would either substitute or add banana (and when it came to Elvis’s 1970s waistline it didn’t matter, did it?).  I hesitated on this one, but in the end I just had to try it.  The preparation is fairly simple and is pretty much what you would think – a PBJ sandwich with both outer sides of the bread buttered and then grilled.  When you start, it looks something like this photo on the left.
Grilled Peanut Butter Sandwich

I found that medium heat works best and it only takes about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on each side before you
Grilled peanut butter sandwich 2
get that nice golden brown coloration.  From there I used a paper towel to wrap it before I put it into a Ziplock bag.  I figured this would cut down on the slipperiness when I went to eat it later.  The paper towel worked well, although the bread was definitely a bit greasy by lunchtime.  Here it is after the first two bites (photo on right).

The verdict?  I really can’t recommend this one for packing into your lunchbox.  If you want a PBJ, I say just make one.  Or if you want it with a fun twist, go for yesterday’s recipe.  But the grilled PBJ definitely loses its appeal when it sits around.  That being said, it’s probably a great after-school or after-work treat, but even then…it’s kinda like those chocolate chip pancakes that you see at IHOP.  Sure it would be a little better, but do you really want that much of a gutbuster?  I guess I’m trying to say that it’s a bit of overkill, kinda like a fried twinkie.  After this one, I’m ready to get back to some healthier choices.  Maybe I’ll even pack a salad pod, although I better hurry.  Stay tuned!

Day 2 - Banana in a Bun!

Today’s sandwich selection is called Banana in a Bun.  I don’t remember which site I got this one from, but it appeared to be geared toward kids.  For anyone that knows me, I consider myself something of a child at heart and when it comes to food, I’ve been known to down the occasional Twinkie.  And although I enjoy all the ingredients in this recipe (banana, peanut butter, jelly, and a hot dog bun), the thought of eating a banana like a hot dog seemed a little weird and I wasn’t entirely sure that the taste would pan out either.  I had some doubts as I put it together this morning:

And Banana in a Bun in the pre-assembly phase.of course you knew I had to point out another hard-to-find item from my personal lunchbox collection, this time the classic 1960s flick about FREEDOM, man!  That’s right, my Easy Rider lunchbox.  Nothing like eating your lunch and imagining you’re on the side of the road taking a break from zooming across America in your hog.  This was another limited edition so the store doesn’t have any more, but you CAN pick up a cool Jimi Hendrix lunchbox.  I’m sure that’s what those guys were listening to when they were on the road back in 1969. See how easy it is for me to get off track when I start writing about lunchboxes?  Okay, back to the recipe.  So the trick is to not assemble the Banana-in-a-Bun UNTIL you get to work or school.  I almost made that mistake this morning, but caught myself in time to down the banana by itself as a healthy morning snack.  Okay, so here’s what it looks like all put together.  (the banana broke in half as I was peeling it…oops!)

ThereThe assembled Banana-in-a-Bun. Yum! it is.  In case you’re wondering what kind of hot dog bun that is, it’s a honey-wheat version from Trader Joe’s.  Just like the Veggie Bagel  yesterday, I like to trick myself into eating healthy.  Errr, healthiER. It actually was pretty good!  Basically tasted like what you would think, a peanut-butter and jelly with banana sandwich.  The hidden benefit here is that you don’t peel the banana until you’re ready to assemble and eat the thing.  There’s nothing worse that warm, sweaty fruit at lunchtime and that’s what I would think you would risk by doing a premature full assembly in the morning.  This way you get a nice sweet mid-day treat with some fresh fruit thrown in for good measure.  I think this one is going to win the week’s award for easiest to prepare.  It’s just a matter of spreading the peanut butter on one side of the bun and the jelly on the other.  The recipe I saw mentioned that you can substitute honey for the jelly.  For me that’d be too much syruppy sweet I think.  But, as today’s lunch shows, you just never know.

Day 1 - The Veggie Bagel!

As promised, today is the first day of a full week of lunchbox recipes dedicated to the Sandwich, with perhaps one or two that bend the official rules as set out by the Qdoba vs. Panera Sandwich Lawsuit of 2006 that I alluded to in Friday’s post.  Starting off the week is a recipe I found on the web for a fairly healthy, certainly vegetarian sandwich using a bagel instead of regular sandwich bread.  Here’s the recipe in its original form:

  • 1 tbspn coarse-grain brown mustard
  • 1 bagel, sliced in half
  • 1 leaf, romaine lettuce
  • 2 (1/4 inch thick) rings green bell pepper
  • 4 slices cucumber
  • 2 slices tomato
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 slices red onion
  • 1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts

I’m not a big fan of onions, although I don’t hate them either.  I prefer a hint rather than the full monty, so I subbed an onion bagel instead of a plain bagel and a mixture of onion sprouts and alfalfa sprouts for the straight all-alfalfa variety, then omitted the onion slice.  I also used a 50-50 pre-chopped baby spinach and mixed green salad concoction for the 1 leaf of romaine lettuce.  Okay I’m lazy…so sue me!  Besides, this way I can have a salad tonight and get about 1000 times the greens I normally get in a day.  Finally, I subbed spicy deli mustard for the coarse-grain brown variety.  I’ll admit, I do love mustard (and it’s fat free!) so maybe one of these days I’ll do a mustard comparison test.  But I digress. 

The sandwich took about 5-7 minutes to put together after all the slicing, toasting, and assembling.  Here it is just before the final alfalfa/onion sprout topping was added (and yes, that is my very own hard-to-find Weezer lunchbox.  I’m pretty sure the store is sold out of these, but they do have my other favorite band, Tenacious D).

Veggie Bagel in mid-assembly with my Weezer lunchbox in background.


I cut the cucumber slices a little small – I think next time I might go for a little bigger to keep them a little more under control.  The last step was the sprouts and just pushing the two halves together.  Oh yeah, and back to the mustard, I made sure to spread it on both halves of the bagel.  You can never have too little mustard in my opinion.    So, here was the finished product before it left the house this morning:

 So I get to work and I just downed it about 20 minutes ago.  Pretty good, I have to say.  Although much of the taste came from the bagel itself.  It reminded me of when I was a kid and couldn’t swallow vitamins or medicine.  My mom would hide the pill in a Ding Dong.  I guess the veggies can be considered that same sort of good-for-you medicine that you just don’t like taking straight. 

The Veggie Bagel. Mmmmm.

Hey, whatever works.  It tasted good, it was very cheap (I can probably make at least 2-3 more on the $9 I invested in all the ingredients and still have plenty of most of them leftover – I think everything but the bell pepper and tomato, which were each about $1.25), and I can feel good about having a somewhat healthy lunch.  Why somewhat?  Well, bagels get a pretty bad rap out there for their poor nutritional content, but I think having one every now and then is okay, especially when you’re loading up on all the nutrients from the veggies.  And this version of the veggie bagel uses no cheese and no mayo, so you save a lot of fat and calories that way too.  Here’s to the version of the Veggie Bagel!

Irish Lunches are Smiling

Apparently the gospel of taking lunch to school or work in creative and useful packaging has reached clear across the Atlantic.  Over the weekend, the Irish Times (Ireland’s official Newspaper of Record) published a story about the Built NY insulated lunch bags – they didn’t specify the Gourmet Getaway or the Tortuga but they did smartly point out that they can be obtained at (at the time we were known as,  Here’s raising a pint of Guinness and toasting the Irish Times!  (actually it’s a little too early in the day for that…right now it’s more like the fresh spring water in my cool Samurai Sprit SIGG bottle)  !Slainte!

Sandwich Wars

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about THE lunchbox food.  And by that I mean, what pops into your mind first when you think of the food inside your lunchbox?  You might say Peanut Butter & Jelly, but let’s think outside the lunchbox here, people.  (okay I know that was bad, but I couldn’t resist)  Really the first thing out of someone’s mouth is probably going to be “Sandwich”.  Be it a PBJ or a ham & swiss or a turkey and lettuce with mayo on wheat (ughhh…day after day of this!!) like my mom used to make, it can be argued that the sandwich is the quintessential lunchbox food.  So I thought I’d snoop around the web for some scoop on where this amazing entree comes from, where it’s going, and what legal battles might be waged over it.  (more on that last part later)  The earliest reference to anything remotely resembling the sandwich is the famous rabbi Hillel the Elder in the 1st Century BC.  Apparently Hillel came up with the idea of rolling a mixture of chopped nuts, apples, spices, and wine (and, if you believe Wikipedia, meat from the Paschal lamb and bitter herbs) into a matzoh and chowing down.  This symbolizes the bitterness of slavery in Egypt and the hasty exodus from Egypt by the Jewish people so many years ago.  Later, in the Middle Ages in Europe, people made a habit out of using coarse, stale pieces of bread as plates to eat off of.  (Hey, don’t make that face.  If I had a nickel for every time I ate off a day-old slice of cold hard pizza in college…okay that’s a story for another time)  By the time a medieval diner finished off his main course, the juices and sauces would become absorbed by the bread and would usually be fed to dogs, beggars, or, if the diner was hungry enough, himself.  Here, here!  It’s the original waste-free dishware!  By the 18th Century, we have a few theories about the origin of the modern-day sandwich, including one from Grosley’s Tour to London book from the 1760s, which notes that card-game players would eat meat between two pieces of bread so they could dine without having to leave their game.  The sandwich finally arrived here in the USA in 1840 when Elizabeth Leslie published a cookbook that had a recipe for ham sandwiches.

Okay so now that we know how sandwiches came to be, my next idea is to try a week’s worth of creative sandwiches that I found around the web.  I’m planning a slew of recipes dedicated to THE SANDWICH, with a grand finale harkening back to a legal battle over what “officially” constitutes a sandwich.  Yes, you heard right.  Panera Bread Company and Qdoba Mexican Grill actually had to slug it out in court to determine whether or not a burrito is a sandwich.  The verdict?  NO!  But that won’t stop me from being inspired to create an awesome lunchbox sandw- errr…creation.  Stay tuned!

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