Wednesday 07 March 2012

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Small Kitchen College: The 5 Best Foods to Take to Class

Photo Credit: Small Kitchen College

In the classroom, not all food is created equal. We’ve all seen that person whose bag of chips makes so much noise, from the packaging to the chomping, that it’s impossible to concentrate on the professor’s hopefully fascinating lecture. Then there are those who attempt to juggle their yogurt, spoon, pen, and notebook (and let’s be honest… cell phone) on that tiny desk. Both are easy ways to get distracted and end up with food-stained notes. Been there… and I’d prefer not to go back.

But class is no time to go hungry.

Classroom cuisine requires some thought and a little planning. The kind of thought and planning your parents mastered in your elementary school days. Think about it: your parents didn’t have oodles of time to prepare your lunches and snacks and often opted for simple foods that gave you energy for the noggin and kept your clothes clean! For the best foods to bring into the classroom, just take a nostalgic look into your childhood lunchbox for some inspiration. The results are delicious, scholastic and timeless.

**The 5 Best Foods to Take to Class**

1. Sandwiches. This may seem like a no-brainer, seeing as sandwiches are the quintessential school lunch food. The classics like PB&J are still welcome in college, but more sophisticated and nutritious wraps are also a good option for an on-the-go meal. As always, adapt recipes with what you have on hand (or what you love to eat): add eggs and beans for breakfast, sliced turkey and fixins for lunch. Think carefully about the wrapping, so you can maneuver the sandwich with one hand while the other hand writes vigorously. For a real nostalgic snack, make your own cracker sandwiches à la Ritz with any kind of nut butter, cheese, or your favorite spread.

2. Granola Bars. While ordinary granola bars may not be the most nutritious option, it’s hard to deny their comforting taste and portability as a no-fuss meal. Personally, Quaker Oats Chewy bars were a snacktime necessity in my family (I think I’ve tried every flavor out there), but after taking a look at the label they don’t look as good anymore. Instead, try making them from scratch! Both bake and non-bake recipes are straightforward and allow you to adjust the oil, sugar, etc to your preference. Make these ahead of time and wrap individually for a super easy on the go breakfast for class all week.

3. Fruit. It’s pretty hard to dispute the appeal of a ripe piece of fruit. Fruit often requires little to no prep, and you’re meant to eat it with your hands! But not all fruits are fit for the classroom. Some fruits are just messier, juicier and noisier than others. And in class those will not fly. Rather than reaching for that orange that requires both hands to peel, grab a bunch of seedless grapes instead. Apples may be a fairly loud and juicy fruit, but when cut into pieces (just like your mom used to do!) there is less mess and crunch (still tasty I promise). Dried fruits, like the grape’s old-ass cousin the raisin, also make a sweet grab and go snack to perk you up in that 4pm class.

4. Muffins. Much like granola bars, muffins are not high on the healthy foods list. But just like granola bars, they are a super convenient breakfast and the homemade version scores way above the store bought in both taste and nutrition. Those awful 90s Hostess mini muffins just don’t compare. While quickbreads are equally as versatile, there’s something perfect and effortless about the muffin pan’s pre-determined portions and fast baking time. Use whatever produce is in season to guide the flavors. Right now I’m craving pumpkin, apple, and carrot muffins made hearty and filling with whole grain flour, bran and oats. For those looking to cut down on the sweets, try swapping in savory ingredients like curry with squash for a change.

5. Smoothies. Put the margarita blender to good use and whip up some smoothies, the perfect replacement for those drinkable yogurts (or gogurt!) of our childhood lunchboxes. Fresh or frozen fruit blends nicely with yogurt or nut butter for a sweet but balanced meal. But smoothies can also be a vehicle for your vegetables! With smoothies, the possibilities are endless. Invest in a plastic cup with a lip and straw and these creamy creations will make it into your regular meal rotation. The best part–the straw means they’re a no-hand meal, leaving your digits free to type out those instant messages…er, I mean notes. If you like to slurp your calories, don’t forget about an individually sized Ronnybrook 2% milk or chocolate milk.

– Juliana Barton for Small Kitchen College

Juliana Barton is a recent graduate of the University of Virginia, who avoided the dining hall by playing lunch lady in her own kitchen, complete with fajita night and the occasional Sunday sundae. Read more…

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