Sight is the sense with which we first "taste" food. That's something to bring into play -- and play is the operative word here -- when looking for appetizing variations on lunch-box staples.
How about something as simple as slicing sandwiches and baking cookies in whimsical or fetching shapes? Cookie cutters can do most of the tricky work, a small knife the rest.
Picture them: sandwiches as little fishes, teddy bears or baby elephants; cookies as stars or autumn leaves.
With supervision, the kids can help in the shaping and decorating, too.
Not Your Usual Tuna Sandwich
6-ounce can water-packed tuna, drained and flaked
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 hard-boiled egg, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons pickle relish
2 tablespoons chopped celery, optional
2 tablespoons chopped red apple, optional
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
8 slices white, whole wheat or rye bread, crusts cut off
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients except bread. Cut bread into fish shapes; sandwich bread pieces together with 2 or 3 tablespoons of fish mixture per sandwich.
Makes about 4 sandwiches.
Note: Vary sandwiches by using different spreads with other animal or theme shapes.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookie Bars
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), cold
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
10-ounce package peanut butter chips
Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray 9-by-13-inch baking pan with vegetable pan spray. Stir together flour, sugar, butter and baking powder. Using food processor fitted with steel blade, process mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg and vanilla, and blend well. Reserve 1/2 cup of mixture; press remaining mixture onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Spread jam over warm crust. Top with 1 cup of peanut butter chips. Stir together reserved crumb mixture and remaining chips; sprinkle over top.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool completely on nonstick cooling grid. Using cutter of choice or knife cut into shapes -- stars, bars or diamonds.
Makes about 8 to 10 stars or about 16 bars.
Autumn Butter Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
Red, yellow or orange-color sugar crystals, optional
Preheat oven to 400 F.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in egg and vanilla. Mix flour and baking powder one cup at a time, mixing after each addition. The dough will be very stiff; blend last of the flour in by hand (if dough becomes too stiff to work, add water, a teaspoon at a time). Do not chill dough.
Divide dough into two balls. On a floured surface, roll each ball into a circle about 12 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick. Cut into leaf and acorn shapes as desired, dipping cookie cutters or knife into flour before each use. If wished, sprinkle colored sugar crystals on top of some of the dough shapes.
Bake cookies on an ungreased baking sheet on middle rack of oven for 6 to 7 minutes, or until cookies are lightly browned.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
To decorate cookies:
Frost with royal icing, using:
3 level tablespoons meringue powder
4 cups sifted confectioners sugar (about 1 pound)
6 tablespoons water
Beat powder, sugar and water at low speed for 7 to 10 minutes. (10 to 12 minutes at high speed for portable mixer) until icing forms peaks.
Makes 3 cups icing.
Sprinkle with colored sugar crystals; or paint details such as leaf edges, leaf veins and acorn cups using icing color thinned with vanilla extract.
Recipes from Wilton Industries Inc.
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