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It’s that time of year again. School’s back and moms are on the lookout for healthy, creative ideas to make those lunch boxes more exciting. We took a little spin around the world to find some ideas for easy-to-munch-on goodies with an exotic twist.

Greek Spinach Pie 

While spinach may not come high on any kid’s list, we are sure that this Spinach Pie recipe will quickly become a hot favorite.

Ingredients:

1 pack frozen spinach, well drained.
2 small bunches fresh spring onions, chopped
2 heaped tablespoons of finely chopped fresh dill
2 heaped tablespoons of finely chopped fresh parsley
1 heaped tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
2 eggs, beaten
400g feta cheese, crumbled
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
2 pinches of ground nutmeg
Olive oil
1 packet of frozen filo pastry sheets
Salt and pepper to taste (although feta cheese is salty so you may not need to add extra).

Preparation:

Lightly sauté spinach and fresh ingredients on low heat until the onions are translucent.  Remove from heat and add beaten egg, cheese and seasoning. Line a large oiled baking tin with several sheets of filo pastry, covered with a light drizzle of olive oil.  Spread the spinach and cheese mixture over the filo sheets then top with at least 6 more sheets of filo, with a light smear of olive oil between them. Don’t forget the top layer!

Tuck in neatly at the sides before baking in a moderate oven for around 40 minutes. The pastry should be a golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before cutting into squares. Tastes great warm or at room temperature.

Don’t forget that a Greek Salad is always a popular and heathy dish for the whole family!

India

With loads of flavor and goodness packed into a triangle of yumminess, the spice level of this Samosas can be adjusted for sensitive young palates. So easy to pack into any lunch, they are great cold as well as hot, and have loads of flavor. Top tip: Samosa wrappers are usually available deep frozen in local supermarkets.

Ingredients

For the dough (if you do not find frozen):
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups self-rising flour
6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
9 tablespoons water
For the filling:
1/2 kg potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 cup frozen mixed peas, corn, and carrots
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 red chili, minced (can be reduced for a milder effect)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala spice blend
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves
Vegetable oil, for frying
Chutney, for serving

Preparation:

To make the dough: Mix the salt and flour in a medium bowl or a food processor. With a pastry blender, incorporate the butter until crumbs have formed. Add the water a few tablespoons at a time, until you can form a ball. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes. Let it rest for about 15 minutes more. You can prepare the dough in advance and refrigerate it.

To make the filling: Boil the potatoes until tender. Drain and set aside.
Cook carrots, peas and corn in boiling water. Set aside to cool.
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion until golden. Add the garlic, ginger, and chili and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garam masala, turmeric and salt and cook 2 minutes more.

Combine the mashed potatoes in a bowl with the onion and spice mixture, carrots, peas, corn, lemon juice, and chopped coriander. Mix well.
To assemble the samosas: Divide the dough into 9 equal size balls. On a floured surface, roll each ball into a 5-inch circle. Cut each circle in half.

Brush the straight-d side with a little water, fold it in half, and align the two straight sides so they overlap to form a cone shape. Squeeze the edges together to make a tight seal. Place approximately 1 generous tablespoon of filling inside each cone, leaving the top edge clean. Moisten the inside top rim of the cone and press the edges together to make another tight seal. Place the samosas on a tray until ready to fry. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Heat approximately 3 inches of vegetable oil in a deep saucepan. Fry several samosas at a time, being careful not to crowd them. When 1 side turns golden brown, flip it over to brown on the other side. Drain on paper towels. Serve with chutney.

Italy

Any Italian mom knows how to create a delicious frittata from whatever she finds in her refrigerator. Great when served hot for breakfast or cold as a lunchtime snack, it is perfect for packing into a school lunchbox.
So how do you make a great frittata every time without always using a recipe? The answer is a ratio. For every six eggs, use 1/4 cup heavy cream, 1 cup cheese, and 2 cups total of vegetables and/or meat. This will get you a frittata with a hearty filling — especially if you’re using something like potatoes and bacon — and a creamy egg custard shot through with the tang of cheese.
Use a cast iron or oven-safe nonstick skillet. Stainless steel pans will work, but you’ll need extra oil to make sure the eggs don’t stick to the pan.

For the eggs:
6 large eggs, enough to cover the ingredients
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
4 slices thick-cut beef bacon or smoked turkey, chopped
2 medium sized cold precooked potatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups baby spinach or lightly cooked broccoli (2 ounces)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 cup shredded cheese, such as Gruyère or cheddar
Top tip: There is no limit to the ingredients you can use in a frittata. Try chopped onion, colored capsicum, chunks of sausage, mushroom, artichoke, or just experiment with your own favorites.

Preparation:

Heat the oven. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 200°C.
Whisk the eggs and cream together, add ½ teaspoon of salt and whisk; set aside. Cook the beef bacon (or smoked turkey), in a lightly oiled heavy-bottomed non-stick pan, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Remove the bacon then proceed with adding the sliced potatoes. Season as required. Wilt the spinach with the garlic and thyme in another small pan and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until spinach wilts. Add the beef bacon back to the pan with the potatoes and distribute evenly.

Add the cheese. Spread the vegetables into an even layer, flattening with a spatula. Sprinkle the cheese on top and let it just start to melt. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and cheese. Tilt the pan to make sure the eggs settle evenly over all the vegetables. Cook for a minute or two until you see the eggs at the edges of the pan beginning to set.

Bake the frittata for 8 to 10 minutes in a medium oven until the eggs are set. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then slice into wedges and serve.

Japan

In Japan a packed lunch usually comes in a bento box. You can add whatever ingredients you like, but one of the most popular has to be sushi; it is such fun to make the kids will love to help.

Ingredients:
6 sheets sushi seaweed (nori)
1 batch prepared sushi rice
1 pack smoked salmon or crab sticks
Cream cheese
1 avocado, sliced
Cucumber, cut into sticks

Preparation:

Sushi rice:
1.5 cups sushi rice
2 cups filtered water
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
Place the rice and water into a saucepan. When the rice has finished cooking, evenly pour the seasoned rice vinegar all over the rice. Toss the rice around to further distribute the rice vinegar, taking care to be gentle, and not mash the rice.It is now ready to be used for sushi.

Making your sushi:
Place the seaweed sheet on a bamboo mat, then cover the sheet of seaweed with an even layer of prepared sushi rice. Smooth gently with the rice paddle.
Layer salmon or crab stick, cream cheese, cucumber and avocado on the rice, and roll it up tightly. Slice with a sharp knife, and enjoy with soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi.
Soy sauce for serving
Wasabi mustard and pickled ginger (optional)

Mexico

A trend that has caught on worldwide, tortilla wraps can be crammed full of your favorite fillings. Top tip: If you are not up to making your own tortillas, and unable to find at your local supermarket, just use fresh white or whole-wheat shami bread. It works perfectly well. Just be sure to wrap firmly and chill before cutting into sections.

Suggested fillings:
– Cold roast chicken, spicy guacamole, grated cheddar cheese, fresh tomato salsa, cooked pinto beans.
– Cream cheese, chutney, grated carrot, smoked turkey slices.
– Chopped boiled eggs, mayonnaise with a dash of curry powder, micro greens, finely chopped colored capsicum (optional).
– Cold sliced roast beef, chutney, sliced Emmenthal cheese, chopped iceberg lettuce, and a dollop of mayo.
– Chopped apple, raisins, celery and walnuts with cream cheese. Add a smear of mayo for an added tang.

Scandinavian Smorgasbord Open Sandwiches

When it comes to sandwiches, the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway and Sweden have their own special open version. What lunch pack wouldn’t be brightened up with a few smorgasbord delights? Toppings can be selected from smoked salmon and other fish, prawns, boiled egg, baby greens and fresh herbs, pickles, fruit, cream cheese and cold cuts. The secret is to make them as pretty as a picture.

Spain

Much loved in Spanish speaking countries across the globe, chicken empanadas are worth the effort. Practice makes perfect!

Ingredients:

For the Empanada dough:
4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, chilled
12 tablespoons shortening, chilled
2 egg yolks
3/4 to 1 cup water
For the filling:
2 to 3 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 bay leaf
Water (or chicken broth)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
Salt (to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
3 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
1/2 cup green olives, sliced

For assembly:
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
1. Make the Empanada Dough
2. Gather the ingredients.

Preparation

Sift the flour into a bowl and then stir in 1 teaspoon salt and the sugar. Blend the butter and shortening into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter, or with two knives, until fairly well blended.

Whisk the egg yolks with 3/4 cups water. Stir in the 1/2 cup of the water-egg mixture, a little bit at a time, until the dough starts to come together smoothly.
Keep kneading the dough, adding more of the water-egg mixture as needed (you may need a few tablespoons extra of water), until the dough is smooth. The dough will seem a bit saggy until it has thoroughly chilled. Taste for salt and add more if needed.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour. When ready to use, the dough should be soft and smooth, not elastic. If you poke a hole in the dough with your finger, the indentation should remain.

Poach the chicken by placing the chicken breasts in a small pot with the bouillon and bay leaf, and cover with water or chicken broth. Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Let cool in the broth.

Shred the chicken into small pieces. Moisten with 1 or 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Set aside.

Heat oil in a pan. Add chopped onions, paprika, cumin, chili powder, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until onions are soft and clear, and the mixture is golden brown.

Remove from heat and stir in the chicken. For best flavor, refrigerate filling until the next day. Stir chopped hard-cooked egg and olives into the cold filling mixture.

Shaping the empanadas

Separate empanada dough into golf ball-size pieces and roll each one into a smooth ball.

Let rest for 5 minutes. On a floured surface, roll each ball of dough into a circle about 15 cm in diameter. Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of filling in the middle of the circle. Brush the edges of the dough along the bottom half of the circle lightly with water.

Fold the top half of the circle of dough over the filling to form a semicircle, and press edges together firmly to seal. Brush the pressed edge with a little bit of water and fold the edge over itself, pinching and crimping as you go to make a braid-like effect.

Heat oven to 220C. Place empanadas on a baking sheet.
Mix egg yolk with water and brush mixture lightly over the entire surface of each empanada. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and slightly puffed. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thai Chicken Salad Wraps

Ingredients:

3 cooked chicken breasts, diced
1 ½ cups dry coleslaw mix (finely shredded cabbage and carrots)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons chopped dry-roasted peanuts
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons light sesame oil
1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
Pinch of red pepper flakes
4 to 6 10-inch shami bread (white or whole-wheat)
Butterhead lettuce leaves

Preparation:

Place diced chicken in a large bowl. Add coleslaw mix, green onions, cilantro and peanuts and toss to combine.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic and red pepper until smooth. Pour sauce over dry ingredients and toss to coat completely.

Place 4-5 lettuce leaves on the bottom half of each shami bread. Top each with a few heaped tablespoons of chicken salad mixture. Fold over sides of the shami bread, and then roll up from bottom to top. Repeat with remaining bread. Cut in half and serve.

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