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What’s next on back-to-school supply lists? Mops and floor polish?

Given the number of cleaning products showing up on back-to-school school supply lists, a friend jokes that she expects to see mops, brooms and floor polish next.

Over the years, I’ve seen school supply lists go well beyond pencils, paper and glue to paper towels, Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer.

As the number of items on back-to-school lists have increased, so have complaints about them.

As a reader said in a note to me:

My friends are complaining the lists are very costly and they are being asked to buy multiples of items such a scissors. Are schools asking more of parents, are fewer parents sending supplies or are parents just more strapped for cash? I’ve just never seen so much chatter and my complaining friends live in the most affluent county in the state. I wonder if the lists are affecting families in other areas even more. Do parents become detached when they can’t even fill the first requests of the school?

On my neighborhood listserv, I learned that my local elementary school has adopted what News/Talk WSB personality and AJC columnist Neal Boortz derides as a conspiracy to inculcate children with a tolerance of government control of property rights: The teacher puts all school supplies into a common pool used by all students. (As one parent commented: “In other words, don’t buy your child the Spiderman folder; he’s not going to be able to use it.”)

This wasn’t the case when my four children went through elementary school. (And they attended at a time when the percentage of low-income students in the school was higher than it is today.) Yes, we bought tissues, paper towels, Ziplock bags and hand sanitizer to share, but kids kept their own folders, markers and pencils.

With all the financial challenges facing schools today, I am not going to quibble about back-to-school supply lists. I dutifully go out and buy everything that’s listed, even though I’ve found that some stuff never gets used. (I still have some two pocket/pronged folders and six pocket dividers with tabs sitting around.)

But the ever expanding lists have become a point of contention among some parents.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

A+ lunches

White bread bologna sandwich. Cookie. Apple.White bread peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Cookie. Banana.Sometimes a bag of chips.That, in a nutshell, was the dietary equivalent of the school lunches my mother put together as she rushed four kids to the bus stop every day.Usually, the sandwich was trashed or stashed in my locker to become a future science experiment, and the cookie and fruit were supplemented by vending machine junk. (Swiss rolls, anyone?)Times have not changed much. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that middle-school cafeterias are responsible for 40,000 pounds of waste a year to landfills — and 70 percent of that is discarded food.Donna Jaffe of Marietta, Ga., changed her lunch-making practices years ago, when she discovered her boys didn't want to eat what she had packed.So she got them involved in the process. "I decided not to stress, " she says. "If they want to pack last night's cold spaghetti and tomato sauce, that's OK. A bagel and cream cheese sandwich was fine too."If you are doing all the right [healthy] things for breakfast and dinner, it's not such a big deal."Lisa Cronic of Decatur, Ga., agrees. She likes to make lunches her children don't want to trade at lunchtime."Get them involved in choosing their own lunches, " she says. Cronic enlists the help of her 5-year-old son, Asa, who loves cheese. They try out samples at the Whole Foods counter, then select a few favorites. She also looks for creative ways to pack a lunch for her 9-year-old daughter, Terryl.A favorite is homemade mini-tacos stuffed with chicken and cheese. She heats them in the morning in the microwave, then double-wraps them in foil and packs them in an insulated lunchbox.Apples are cut into wedges and given a squirt of lemon so they don't turn brown. She also bakes mini-muffins and banana bread and throws them in the freezer to pull out later for lunches. They're thawed by the time the lunch bell rings.Most experts agree: Don't introduce your child to exotic foods in the lunchbox; it's almost a guaranteed toss. But you can make the foods your child does like more appealing. There is a reason kids gravitate to those pre-packaged Lunchables — they look cool."A healthy lunch is one that kids will eat, " said Cristina Caro, a registered dietitian and program coordinator for Healthy Lifestyles at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. "Packing lunch is a delicate balance between what's good for them and what they're willing to eat."

Dietitian's tips
  • Cut a sandwich into three or four pieces.
  • Try some variety in the fruit. If your child will eat only apples, get Granny Smiths, Golden Delicious and McIntosh for variety.
  • Think color and texture — fruits and vegetables that are bright, like baby carrots, and things that are chewy, like dried fruits.
  • Also consider your child's lunchtime. Some schools have lunch scheduled as early as 10:45 a.m. Your child might not be hungry for a big lunch then, Caro says.
  • Pack healthy finger foods as a quick snack or light lunch. "Even older kids like to eat with their hands, " Caro said.
  • Pat McQuarrie's children are grown, but the Peachtree City mom says it was "a challenge to send lunches, as they did not like the school lunch. I found that younger children liked to 'dip, ' so I created 'inside out' sandwiches."
  • Start with a crispy breadstick, then build out in any way that sounds good to them. For example: thin-sliced cheese wrapped around the breadstick, then lunchmeat (ham, turkey etc.), then lettuce. Wrap this snugly in plastic. Send a small container of their favorite salad dressing, like ranch or honey mustard.
  • She suggests a variation of the inside-out sandwich, with mozzarella, then salami, and the dipping sauce could be marinara.
  • Milk, juice or water?
  • These days, there are multiple milk choices for kids, from "snow cone" vanilla, to chocolate and strawberry. Flavored milks are OK, because they do provide calcium and vitamins A and D, but parents should be aware of their high sugar content, Caro said.
  • Best-case scenario: Children should drink skim or 1 percent milk.
  • Look for 100 percent juice; about 4-6 ounces is OK, Caro says. And plain water is always a good choice.

If your kid is trading — or trashing — his or her lunch, here are some ideas from Web sites to keep them happy for the school year. All sites have recipes on

  • Tip: When you're deciding what to cook for dinner, think about how you might incorporate leftovers into lunch for the following day. Make extra servings for dinner and set them aside for the next day's lunch.
  • Tip: Don't assume that your child's uneaten lunch is a sign that he did not like the food. If you ask a few questions, you may find that your child does not have enough time to eat or that he is spending more time socializing with his friends than actually chewing.
  • From
  • Tip: To maintain food at a cool temperature, pack a frozen juice box or water bottle in an insulated lunch bag. You can also use a freezable gel pack. Try to position the coldest item at the top of the bag since cool air settles.
  • From
  • Tip: "I know some marketing genius is developing soy yogurt tubes even as we speak, but in the meantime I'm trying my hand at homemade: I filled a snack-size zip-lock bag with about 1/2 cup cherry soy yogurt and froze it overnight. This morning I cut a very small slit in one corner of the bag. By lunch, it can be squeezed out."


• The "You can be in my club — sandwich": Divide two bread slices, crusts removed, into horizontal halves. Spread one slice with mustard, top with a slice of ham and a slice of your child's favorite cheese. Cover the second bread slice with chicken or turkey and mayonnaise. Cover the third slice with mayonnaise, tomato and cucumber slices. Stack the layers, top with the fourth bread slice, and cut in half. Insert an umbrella toothpick, if desired, into each stack.

• Cheesy tortillas: Spread half a flour tortilla with refried beans, a slice of cheddar, Monterey Jack or mozzarella cheese and mild salsa. Fold the tortilla in half, place between two paper plates and heat in a microwave until the cheese is melted (to heat in the oven, wrap in foil). Cut into triangles or leave whole; wrap in foil. You can also layer one tortilla over another or roll a single tortilla, Mexican fashion.


From www.parentzone.babyzone/com/momtomom/stories:Try packing a scoop of tuna or chicken salad into an ice cream cone. They aren't packed with sugar and kids love them. In a zip-top bag, put cut veggies that your child can use to decorate the head of the cone. Use carrot strips for hair and cherry tomatoes for eyes.

From children may not eat very much at one sitting. Think about packing appetizers instead of a large sandwich and whole banana. You can also include more choices if the quantity of each is smaller. Fill mini muffin paper cups with small amounts of food, wrap with foil and pack in the lunchbox.

From Pineapple Kebabs: thread on toothpicks pineapple chunks (1/2-inch pieces), marble cheese cubes (1/2-inch pieces) and slices of nitrate-free ham cut into 1-inch squares.

Other Web sites to get



Banana Dog1 servingHands on: 10 minutes Total time: 10 minutes

  • 1 hot dog bun (whole wheat, if possible)
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter or cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon strawberry or other jam, or honey, if preferred
  • 1 whole unpeeled banana
  • Raisins, shredded coconut, chopped peanuts

Spread one inner surface of split hot dog bun with peanut butter or cream cheese. Spread other side with jam or honey. Wrap in plastic wrap. Pack a whole banana (in the peel) and a small container of toppings, such as raisins, coconut and peanuts, or whatever else you can think of.At lunchtime, your child can peel the banana and place it in the bun, and sprinkle on the toppings and eat.— Recipe from www.kaboose.comPer serving: 366 calories (percent of calories from fat, 26), 10 grams protein, 63 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 11 grams fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 281 milligrams sodium.


Ultimate Tortilla Roll-up1 servingHands on: 5 minutes Total time: 5 minutes

  • 1 whole-wheat tortilla
  • 1 or 2 slices soy cheddar cheese (like Veggie Cheddar)
  • 1 Romaine lettuce leaf, shredded
  • 2 slices tomato
  • 1 teaspoon vinaigrette, your choice
  • 1 baked, skinless chicken breast

Lay tortilla flat. Add cheese. In a small bowl, toss lettuce and tomato with vinaigrette and set aside. Slice chicken, and lay on top of cheese. Top with lettuce and tomato, roll, then wrap with plastic wrap to secure.— From Leanne Ely, author of the "Saving Dinner" cookbook seriesPer serving: 480 calories (percent of calories from fat, 28), 15 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 27 milligrams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 119 milligrams cholesterol, 49 grams protein, 716 milligrams sodium.


Turkey Roll-ups6 servingsHands on: 15 minutes Total time: 15 minutesCut these up into pinwheels for a fun treat. They keep up to three days in the refrigerator.

  • 6 (8-inch) whole-wheat tortillas
  • 3/4 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon dry ranch dip
  • 12 thinly sliced fat-free turkey breast slices, halved
  • 1/2 cup low-sugar red raspberry preserves
  • 1 bunch green leaf lettuce
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese

Microwave tortillas on high 10 to 15 seconds; set aside. Combine sour cream and dry ranch dip; spread 2 tablespoons mixture on 1 side of each tortilla. Top each tortilla with 4 turkey slice halves and spread with 1 1/2 tablespoons preserves. Top tortillas evenly with lettuce and cheese. Roll up tortillas; wrap with plastic wrap. Chill up to 8 hours.— From the upcoming cookbook "Cooking Up Some Changes" produced by the Healthy Lifestyles program at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, due to be released in December. serving: 290 calories (percent of calories from fat, 21), 15 grams protein, 8 grams fat (3.5 grams saturated), 7 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 20 milligrams cholesterol, 510 milligrams sodium.

Video: Healthy back to school eating

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Video: Back to school makeup tutorial

Space where kids can work

School projects took over their dining room. A stack of construction paper here, a cluster of crayons there, tape everywhere.The chandelier at Harold and Kimberly Melton's home didn't set the mood for meals as much as it illuminated watercolors and Dr. Seuss books.And that was OK — for a few years.But, as the three Melton children grew, so did their need for a dedicated space where they could learn without having to shove everything in a closet when Mom and Dad hosted the occasional dinner party.Last year, the Meltons sacrificed the dining room. Craftsmen transformed the area into a room with new lighting, shelving and hooks to hold backpacks. A new dining room was built in another part of the house."It's about giving your kids a space where they can work and it's not going to be interrupted, " said Kimberly Melton, who now home schools her three kids, Lauren, 9; David, 8, and Julian, 6. "It's also about being able to find things. It makes your life a lot easier."As the school year gets under way this coming week for much of metro Atlanta, many parents are scrambling to get organized. From decluttering to setting up new shelves to moving furniture, parents are getting the house — and their kids — ready to focus and thrive.Experts say a well-lighted, designated place for kids to do their homework, and a system to keep the paper and projects in order, can be just as important to a child's success in school as eating a healthy breakfast and getting a good night's rest."If the student is organized and the family is organized, the rest is easy, " said Linda Stokes, director of a Sylvan Learning Center in Cumming. "You'll also be in a better mood. And when you are in a good mood, you can accomplish more."In today's highly wired, fast-paced lifestyle, experts say parents need to be purposeful in creating a quiet place for schoolwork.Stokes said the work area should be void of a TV and a computer, since a computer also can be distracting. When a child needs to use the computer for schoolwork, he can move to use it. Having it nearby at all times can get children off track because they might play computer games or message their friends instead of tending to the task at hand.What works best for child"Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to find something you need, " said Sylvia Morrow-Nocon, mom to 14-year-old Amelia, who will start her freshman year at Centennial High School in Roswell. "We have saved some family drama by having things where they are supposed to be."Weeks ago, Morrow-Nocon and Amelia started discarding mounds of school papers that are no longer needed and boxing up the items they want to keep, such as report cards and artwork.The teenager's desk is now clear. And Mom and daughter are getting organized, labeling folders that will hold homework divided into three categories: daily homework, short-term projects and long-term projects. Each folder will note when the work is due."It really helps because, when she comes home, she just needs to grab the right folder and get to work, " Morrow-Nocon said.Dr. Erik Fisher, an Atlanta child psychologist, said while it's critical for parents to establish a designated place for schoolwork, it doesn't have to be a desk."If it's the couch where your child likes to study, that's OK, but make it the same couch every day, " he said.And while some children like a quiet space, others like background noise, he said.The key, he said, is figuring out what works best for your child and then being consistent to establish good habits.Allison Lanier Jones of Insight Design said parents often don't provide enough light in a room. She said a combination of natural lighting and an overhead light is good, but children also need desk lamps.Jones also said parents often don't leave enough space for the desk and chair."Remember, kids don't always want to sit at the desk, " said Jones, whose architectural firm did the redesign project at the Melton house that also included adding a mezzanine-level play room. "They may want to kneel or perch on the chair and that takes more space."Room of their ownBack in May, 9-year-old Lauren Melton covered a long wooden table in the former dining room (but now kids room) with wood and paint. Working on a history project about Neil Armstrong, she crafted a wooden model of a spaceship."It was so nice to be able to leave it there and she could keep going back to it, " said her mom, Kimberly Melton.The Meltons ended up setting up a wooden dining room table in the room now devoted to the kids.The table features a metal insert originally designed for ice to chill beverages. They use it to neatly hold crayons, markers and pencils.The room is adorned with the kids' artwork — some are framed; others are taped to the wall. There's room for more.Everything in this corner of the house is ready for another school year."You have to get yourself up for it and you have to say, 'Yes, we are going to do this and make this space work, " said Kimberly Melton.

Getting ready

Here are eight tips for getting your home back in shape for school.

  • 1. Carve out a homework spot: Whether it is a bedroom or family office, find an area where your child can work distraction-free and make it a designated work space. Stock the area with all of the supplies and tools needed to complete the homework.
  • 2. Organize: Use separate, labeled notebooks for each class or subject area. Create files for each subject. Use a calendar to keep track of important dates and deadlines.
  • 3. Lighting: Take advantage of natural lighting and use an overhead light, but also add desk lamps.
  • 4. Storage: Storage bins and pullout trays keep items neat and organized and yet easy to transport. Use clear ones so you can see what's inside or label them.
  • 5. Don't commingle: School work books, library books should be stored separately from family books and papers. This way it will be much easier to keep track of where everything is.
  • 6. Artwork: Hang your child's artwork with pride, consider framing it in interchangeable mattes. It's inspiring and sends the message to your child you value his or her creativity.
  • 7. Label everything: With more than one child, it can be easy to get kids' stuff mixed up. And this will also prevent your child's stuff from getting lost at school.
  • 8. Noise: Avoid loud music, but remember not all kids like it silent. Some like background music. If so, go with instrumental, not Top 40 songs.

Source: Insight Design, Sylvan Learning

Common ailments and what to know


For kids heading back to school this fall, it's just a matter of time until they come down with the sniffles, coughs or worse.Despite a cleaning crew's best efforts, classrooms morph into petri dishes when kids get a bug, especially when they can spread infection long before they know they're sick. To arm parents and kids against the most likely sicknesses in class, we talked to Dr. Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician with the Children's Medical Group in Atlanta and a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, to learn more.

  • 1) Common cold: Not surprisingly, this is the illness seen most often in Shu's practice. She advises parents to keep their kids with colds at home as long as they have a fever, or if they feel very sick. Best advice to prevent infection? Make sure your little one gets enough sleep, has a healthy diet, and learns to sneeze and cough in his sleeve to prevent spreading infection. Oh, and teach him to wash his hands frequently. The AAP suggests taking your child to the doctor if symptoms persist beyond two weeks or include ear pain, difficulty breathing or excessive tiredness.
  • 2) Strep throat: If it seems that your child can't kick the strep throat bug, it's because the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes has several strains and spreads easily from infected saliva, Shu said. As soon as you suspect your child has strep, which causes a very red and sore throat, fever, headache and stomach pains, have him tested by a doctor. Keep him at home until he's fever-free for 24 hours or on antibiotics for at least a day. Best advice? Tell the little one to avoid sharing drinks and to wash hands frequently.
  • 3) Stomach bugs: The first thing to do if your child is vomiting or has diarrhea from a stomach bug is obvious: Keep him home, lest he encounter his most embarrassing moment ever at school. Shu said to watch out for dehydration by making sure your child has lots of fluids and rest but eats solid food only once he's able to digest it. Call your doctor if your child has a fever, if blood is present in his waste or if you suspect the illness is food- or travel-related.
  • 4) Pinkeye: This sticky, gooey infection, marked by bright pink eyes and yellow-green pus, luckily isn't as serious as it looks. That said, it's easily spread. Conjunctivitis, which can be viral or bacterial according to the AAP's website,, is spread by sharing towels, washcloths or pillows. Shu added that it's most common in children who are prone to touching others. While the viral version clears up in a few days, persistent infections should be seen by a doctor as antibiotics (eyedrops or an ointment for the bacterial variety) are in order. The little one is contagious until he's been on the drops for 24 hours, Shu said, though the AAP suggests keeping your child at home until the infection is gone. And make sure he keeps his hands to himself.
  • 5) Head lice: OK, this isn't a bacteria or virus, but it's one bug you don't want your kid to catch. While the AAP recently recommended that children with lice need not be kept at home, Shu recommends treating lice as soon as possible with a lice-fighting shampoo. She noted the shampoos only kill live lice and do not penetrate the lice shells or nits, thus parents should repeat treatments in one week. Best advice? Remind your child not to share hats, brushes or combs with friends. (Some schools allow children to keep their coats and backpacks at their desks, instead of transmission-friendly communal closets.)

Breakfast in fast lane

Breakfast can be tough. When you're headed out the door to work or trying to get the kids ready for school, it's hard to think of good-for-you breakfasts that can be pulled together quickly.We know we should eat something, so it's easy to opt for store-bought smoothies and juice drinks and drive-through breakfast sandwiches for the first meal of the day.The solution? Like so many things, it's getting organized early. Make your breakfast the night before when you're in the kitchen after dinner. Or tackle the job over the weekend and prepare what you need to get through the Monday-through-Friday routine.First, who says breakfast has to be eggs, cereal or toast? If you'd rather eat a bagel spread with marinara sauce and ricotta cheese, then enjoy. Hummus, shredded carrots and cucumber sticks wrapped in a flour tortilla? A great way to get a head start on your vegetables for the day.Second, stock up on the right containers. Having containers that are the right size, and sturdy enough to withstand repeated use, makes it that much easier to get out the door with breakfast in hand. Look for cups with gel packs that go in the freezer so your milk and yogurt stay cold and drink containers with built-in mixers so your smoothie will stay smooth.Third, remember that there's nothing wrong with simple. A banana or an apple with a slice of whole-grain toast may be all you need to get your day off to a good start. Add a protein source like peanut butter, a slice of cheese or a hard-boiled egg and you're good to go.And as long as you're working on breakfast, how about packing up a little lunch?


Boiled eggs are the quintessential breakfast-to-go. Avoid rubbery eggs by using this method to cook them. In a medium saucepan, arrange eggs and add enough tap water to cover the eggs by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then cover the pan and turn off the heat. Leave the eggs in the water for 10 minutes, then drain and cool. Peel immediately or store in the shell.Scrambled eggs refrigerate beautifully. You can use whole eggs, or just the whites.Scramble some eggs and then add some cooked sausage (pork, turkey or veggie). Mix in shredded cheese and salsa and wrap in whole- wheat tortillas to make breakfast burritos. Wrap in foil and refrigerate for up to four days; heat in microwave before you head out the door.Refrigerate plain scrambled eggs, then in the morning toast an English muffin, top with a slice of cheese and maybe some Canadian bacon, and warm up the eggs for one minute in the microwave. Add them to your muffin and you're on your way in two minutes with a hot sandwich.Another do-ahead idea uses purchased tubes of pizza dough. Unroll the dough and divide into 8 rectangles. Mix scrambled eggs with shredded mozzarella and marinara sauce and add 1/2 cup to each rectangle. Fold in half, seal the edges and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until brown. These will keep in the refrigerator for up to four days. Reheat, and again, you have a hot breakfast in two minutes.


If you have a minute in the morning, peeled orange sections and sliced apples are easy food to eat on the run. To prepare ahead, chop a mixture into small pieces and toss together with just enough fruit juice to moisten the pieces and keep them from browning. Refrigerate in containers that fit your cup holder and then just grab one as you head out the door. No fork or spoon needed. You just shake the pieces out like you're drinking a milkshake.Smoothies are a great vehicle for a little fruit and maybe a little dairy. Set up the blender and have your smoothie container ready. Then take one minute in the morning to blend your choice of fruit, juice and yogurt, if you like. Add ice, pour into your cup and go. If you want to make your smoothie ahead of time, skip the ice and it will keep overnight. Using yogurt or bananas gives smoothies a creamy texture.

Cereal and grains

Granola bars are the ultimate in grab-and-go convenience. Make your own and customize with the nuts and dried fruit you and your family like.Cold cereal is easy to take if you have one of the new containers with a separate compartment for the milk. Try using vanilla yogurt and cut down on the chance of a spill.Granola itself is easy to make and keeps for weeks. Those same containers with separate compartments make it easy to keep the yogurt cold and the granola crunchy until you're ready to eat.Instant oatmeal may not be quite as fiber-filled as old-fashioned, but it cooks in seconds. After spending almost $4 for oatmeal at a coffee shop, I realized I could put 1/2 cup instant oatmeal in a microwave-proof container, add 1 cup water, heat for one minute and have the same result at a fraction of the cost. Dress up your oatmeal with brown sugar, chopped nuts or dried fruit.If you need oatmeal for more than one, try cooking steel-cut oats overnight in a slow cooker. They take about eight hours to reach a creamy texture. Add some sliced apples and a little cinnamon and you've got the breakfast equivalent of apple cobbler.

And finally, bread

It takes just seconds to put bread, English muffins or bagels in the toaster before you head to the shower. Even if you eat it plain, it's better than no breakfast at all, but if you've prepped a few squares of cheese or a boiled egg, you're on your way to a good breakfast. And by the way, cheese freezes fine for a few days, or just cube it and refrigerate wrapped in serving-size packages.


Research says many of us eat breakfast in the car. Here are some ideas for meals you can eat while driving. Not that we'd recommend that, of course.

Individual OmeletsHands on: 10 minutes Total time: 35 minutes Makes: 12 muffinsThis is really great pickup food and infinitely variable. Substitute Canadian bacon or veggie sausage, change the cheese to mozzarella or pepper Jack, or try broccoli or mushrooms, if that's what you like. Use this recipe to make 24 shallow muffins (just put half the amount in each tin) and you'll have thinner omelets that fit neatly inside an English muffin. They'll refrigerate for 5 days. Pop one or two in the microwave until just heated through and head out the door.

  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper, divided
  • 1 cup 1/4-inch diced ham
  • 3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 12 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Thoroughly grease a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray.Reserve half the green onions and red pepper. In a small bowl, combine the remaining green onions and red pepper and ham. Divide the mixture evenly among the muffin cups. Top each with cheese.In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, salt and pepper. Combine thoroughly, then pour egg into each muffin cup. Use a fork to lift vegetables and ham to be sure egg penetrates to bottom of cup. Fill each cup 3/4 full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, just until muffins have risen and are set.Remove to a rack to cool. Package in individual servings and refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze. If frozen, thaw before reheating. Reheat in microwave for 1 to 2 minutes or until warm in the center.Per serving: 125 calories (percent of calories from fat, 63), 10 grams protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace fiber, 9 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 226 milligrams cholesterol, 351 milligrams sodium.


Orange SmoothieHands on: 5 minutes Total time: 5 minutes Makes: 1 servingThis smoothie mimics the beloved flavors of beloved Creamsicle ice pops. Smoothies are another quick breakfast option you can customize in many ways. Stick with the basic proportions of 2 cups fruit, 3/4 cup liquid and 1/2 cup yogurt or a half-banana for one serving. If you're using frozen fruit, add that first and allow to thaw for just a few minutes. If you're making a smoothie, when you're ready to serve, add ice cubes to give you that slushy consistence.

  • 2 cups pineapple chunks, fresh or frozen
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
  • In a blender, combine pineapple, juice and yogurt. Process until smooth, adding more juice if thinner consistency is desired. Drink immediately or refrigerate for up to 12 hours.
  • Per serving: 333 calories (percent of calories from fat, 8), 8 grams protein, 73 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 3 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 6 milligrams cholesterol, 80 milligrams sodium.


Homemade Granola BarsHands on: 25 minutes Total time: 55 minutes Makes: 16 barsThese bars get better as they age. They'll keep unrefrigerated for up to two weeks. Use one kind of dried fruit or add a variety. We made ours with dates, dried pineapple and dried cranberries.

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • 1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup untoasted wheat germ
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 11/2 cups chopped dried fruit
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 11/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-by-13-inch baking dish and line with parchment paper. Lightly butter the parchment paper.In a large bowl, toss together oatmeal, almonds, coconut, wheat germ and ground flaxseed. Spread on a rimmed cookie sheet and bake for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer mixture back to bowl and mix in dried fruit.Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, combine honey, butter, vanilla and salt and heat in microwave until butter is melted and mixture just comes to a boil, about 2 minutes. Pour honey mixture over toasted oatmeal mixture in bowl and stir well.Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Wet your fingers and firmly press the mixture into the pan. Be sure sides are even. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.Adapted from "Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics" by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter, $35)Per bar: 209 calories (percent of calories from fat, 38), 5 grams protein, 29 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 9 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 4 milligrams cholesterol, 39 milligrams sodium.


Banana-Blueberry MuffinsHands on: 10 minutes Total time: 30 minutes Makes: 12 muffinsBanana and yogurt add sweetness and moisture to this lightened version of the traditional blueberry muffin. If keeping for longer than a day, store muffins in freezer.

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 large very ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup blueberries, rinsed and picked over

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.In a large bowl, whisk the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. In another bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, yogurt, milk, banana, egg, butter and lemon zest. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until just blended. Fold in the blueberries. Be careful not to overmix.Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until muffins are just firm to the touch. Do not overbake. Cool in pan for 5 minutes; turn out on rack to cool completely.Adapted from "Go Bananas" by Susan Quick (Broadway Books, $16)Per muffin: 146 calories (percent of calories from fat, 18), 4 grams protein, 27 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 3 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 24 milligrams cholesterol, 272 milligrams sodium.


Morning Glory MuffinsHands on: 20 minutes Total time: 40 minutes Makes: 12 muffinsThis slightly decadent breakfast muffin is chock-full of fruit and vegetables and will refrigerate beautifully for up to one week.

  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 medium apple
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.On a rimmed baking sheet, spread pecans. Bake until lightly toasted, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.Turn oven up to 400 degrees.In a large bowl, stir together all-purpose flour, whole- wheat flour, brown sugar, baking powder and cinnamon. In another large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil and vanilla.In the bowl of a food processor, chop apple and carrots until about the size of rice. Stir apple and carrots into flour mixture; add raisins, coconut and pecans. Pour egg mixture over all and stir together until just combined.Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until just firm. Cool in pan for 5 minutes; turn out on rack to cool completely.Adapted from "BakeWise" by Shirley O. Corriher (Scribner, $40)Per muffin: 301 calories (percent of calories from fat, 52), 5 grams protein, 32 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 18 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 53 milligrams cholesterol, 108 milligrams sodium.

Hands-on lunch prep

Hands-on lunch prepBoys put 3 recipes to test for school year.Fruits, vegetables, whole grains figure into balanced meal.Byline / Source: C.W. Cameron / For the AJCEmail:  Correction:  Corr.-Unpub.:  Story: Paper, pens and markers ready? Check!Backpack, new clothes and shoes purchased? Check!Family prepared for new wake-up times? Check!Organized for school lunches and after-school snacks? Not yet!Fear not. We're here to help.Meet our cooking team: Stephen, Matt and James Hummel. Stephen, 14, is a freshman at Lakeside High School. Matt, 12, and James, 8, will be returning to Intown Community School in Atlanta. These guys will be helping Mom and Dad, Kim and Paul Hummel, make their lunches and after-school snacks this year.Lunch for the Hummels follows a formula: snack item, main course, fruit and dessert. The snack is often pretzels or fish-shaped crackers, and the main course is usually a sandwich. Stephen is pretty flexible and sometimes takes a bagel or maybe chicken or spaghetti leftovers. Matt sticks with a ham or turkey and cheese sandwich. James is the only one who will confess to the family fondness for fluffernutter sandwiches — peanut butter and marshmallow creme. Hummus with carrots is a favorite and a healthful family snack.They're all pretty handy around the kitchen. Once a week they bake bread together, and that's often the basis for their sandwiches.We brought in Butch Raphael, regional chef for Whole Foods, to help the guys fine-tune their cooking skills. Raphael came with recipes for granola, hummus and tuna melts.These recipes are well-tested on Raphael's own kids: Ayden, 10, Shayna, 7, and Ezra, 4. The Raphael kids don't fix their own lunches — mom Pam takes care of that — but they do make their own snacks. Butch Raphael admits he's been banned from lunch duty."I put in too many treats! Or I mix up the ketchup and mayonnaise on the same side of the bread. That's not allowed, " he said with a laugh.The Raphael kids really love fruit as an after-school snack. "We freeze berries and pieces of banana. The key to getting kids to eat fruit is to make sure it's the right size, " Raphael said. "A big apple is just too much for a little kid."The Raphaels mix fresh fruit juice and water to make frozen fruit pops and freeze half-filled bottles of water to pack with lunches. In the morning they top the bottle with water, and it's icy cold when everyone is ready to eat.The Hummels' formula for lunch is a good one. Jennifer Seymour from the Nutrition Guideline Development and Recommendations team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, "We know that diets rich in fruits and vegetables can help people feel full without adding unwanted calories. It's a good idea to make fruit and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat milk products the primary choice for lunch and snacks."How did our cooks like what they made? Hummus is a family staple, so no surprise: They liked it. The granola was layered with yogurt, sliced strawberries and blueberries for a special after-school treat, pretty enough to share with company.The tuna melts were the biggest hit. Turns out that tuna and pickles aren't staples in the Hummel household, even though everyone really likes them. "I guess I just don't go down those aisles, " Kim said. The melts disappeared in a flash.

Age-appropriate tasks

Here are some of chef Butch Raphael's tips for keeping children safe in the kitchen. These are general guidelines, so take your child's aptitude and skills into consideration before turning them loose in the kitchen.Children younger than 5 can:learn how to taste using good sanitation methodsmeasure ingredientsuse a butter knife for spreadinglayer ingredients for a pretty presentationrinse fruits, vegetables, herbsChildren age 5-8 can:cut fruits safely, using a butter knife or cookie cuttersuse scissors for chopping herbs (parsley, mint, cilantro) or cutting tortillasuse a can openerlearn to balance flavorsmix ingredients by handChildren 9-12 can:use a grater to cut onions, garlic or cheeseuse a peeler on cucumbers and citrus fruitlearn how to safely use a sharp knifesauce and toss pastaAt 13, children can:learn to use appliances such as an oven safelydrain hot ingredients using a colanderget into fancier kitchen work such as flipping food in the pan


Chef Butch Raphael provided these recipes, which he's tested many times on his own children. Each is easily adapted for your family's tastes. Don't like almonds? Substitute another nut in the granola or just skip it. Garlic too adventurous for your eaters? The hummus is just fine without it. And the tuna melt can easily accommodate sweet pickles instead of dill, or even chicken instead of tuna. Always remember, though, that kids might be a little more willing to try something if they had a hand in putting it together.

GranolaHands on: 20 minutes Total time: 1 hour Serves: 18 (1/2-cup servings)The tiny bit of cayenne pepper is a surprise that helps to offset the sweetness of the other ingredients. You may substitute honey, brown rice syrup or maple syrup for the agave nectar.

  • 5 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups raw almonds, whole or sliced
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 3/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2-1 cup unsweetened coconut, optional
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried fruit (date pieces, cranberries, cherries, raisins, apricots or mango), optional

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.Mix the oats, almonds, pumpkin and sesame seeds, cayenne, cinnamon, ginger, salt and coconut together in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix applesauce, nectar and oil. Combine the two mixtures. Stir well to mix thoroughly.Spread the mixture evenly onto two 9-by-13 baking dishes or rimmed cookie sheets. Bake for 35 to 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until evenly golden brown. Remove pans from the oven and stir again to keep the granola from cooling into a solid mass. The granola will crisp as it cools. If using fruit, add it once the granola has cooled.Pack a 1/2 cup granola for a snack, along with a separate container of yogurt and maybe some fresh fruit.Per serving: 265 calories (percent of calories from fat, 49), 9 grams protein, 27 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 15 grams fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 123 milligrams sodium.


HummusHands on: 10 minutes Total time: 10 minutes Serves: 16 (1/4 cup servings)The Hummel family has been making hummus for years. In addition to the traditional garbanzo bean hummus, they make a version similar to the one below, substituting 2 cans of black beans for the garbanzos and changing the flavor a little by using lime juice instead of lemon and adding 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro.Hummus can be served cold or at room temperature. Send this to school with a separate container of crackers, carrots, celery or cucumbers for dipping. For an after-school snack, hummus is delicious spread on pita wedges.

  • 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 cloves garlic, optional
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the beans, tahini, lemon juice and olive oil in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Add water a little at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Add the garlic and cumin, and then salt and pepper to taste.Per serving: 86 calories (percent of calories from fat, 52), 3 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 5 grams fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 88 milligrams sodium.


Tuna Pita MeltHands on: 10 minutes Total time: 20 minutes Serves: 8 (2 pitas per serving)Use the pickles that your kids like best — dill, sweet or pickle relish. If you have a toaster oven, this makes a great after-school snack that the older kids can prepare. One of chef Butch Raphael's tricks is to use a little pickle juice to help moisten the tuna, which reduces the amount of mayonnaise you need.

  • 2 (5-ounce) cans tuna packed in water, drained
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon red onion, diced small
  • 1 tablespoon pickle, diced small
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 16 small pitas
  • 4 ounces shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.In a bowl, mix the tuna, mayonnaise, onion, pickle, salt and pepper well. Lay the pitas on a baking sheet. Top each with a scoop of tuna mixture, then sprinkle with a tablespoon of shredded cheese.Put in the oven and heat just until the cheese melts, about 10 minutes. Serve warm. They can be cooled and packed for a school lunch.Per serving: 320 calories (percent of calories from fat, 21), 19 grams protein, 43 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 7 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 26 milligrams cholesterol, 635 milligrams sodium.

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