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Cookbook review: Beating the Lunch Box Blues

This book brings new enjoyment to the lunch hour! Not a traditional cookbook, this “idea book” will make it easy for you to pack a lunch that either you, or someone you love, will enjoy.

Cookbook review

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Beating the Lunch Box Blues: Fresh Ideas for Lunches on the Go!

Beating the Lunch Box Blues: Fresh Ideas for Lunches on the Go, by J.M. Hirsch, is a cookbook — sort of — that shares ideas to help create the middle meal of the day. J.M. was inspired to start a blog based on his young son’s school lunches. This, in turn, gave him the idea for this book. As a working parent who packs lunches and is short on time, J.M. wanted to provide healthy and tasty meals for his son. He also wanted to avoid the monotony of the beloved PB&J as well the prepackaged meals that are all too easy to pluck from the grocery store shelves.

Don’t get boxed in

This book will be a big help to keep you from getting boxed in by boredom when it comes to packing lunches. If you think you’ve created as many appealing lunches as you can possibly imagine, just wait. More an idea book than traditional cookbook, you’ll still find many actual recipes in the book… for dinner. Don’t let that confuse you. Instead, think about the leftovers! From those dinner recipes, you’ll find oodles of ideas to transform them into interesting lunches for the following day.

Maybe more enjoyable than the recipes are the hundreds of ideas (with corresponding, creative photos) for easy-to-make, fun and scrumptious lunches. Whether you’re packing for a kid or an adult, this book holds something for everyone to enjoy.

Expect the unexpected

Dinner leftovers will get new life. Chicken will reach new heights. You’ll discover the joy of breakfast for lunch. Salads will become sensational, and even pasta dishes will dazzle your palate. In the book you’ll find many ideas to help pack for convenience (think rotisserie chicken or deli items), and provide added substance (healthy snack bars, jerky, and nori chips). J.M. shows that bread can take on the form of biscuits, waffles or flour tortillas, and that mix-ins to make yogurt more inviting can be any number of things (25 to start!), from mini-pretzels to flaked coconut to banana chips or even leftover cinnamon-sugar toast crumbles.

Prepare to be wowed

The ideas in this book seem limitless. J.M. is creative in his approach to combining ingredients, as well as in his suggestions for how to package your lunch in the appropriate containers to avoid soggy ingredients or to keep food cold and safe. As you flip though page after page, you’ll likely find yourself saying, “I never thought of that before.” This book will inspire you to pull together easy-to-make, mouthwatering meals for the lunch hour.

Consider these ideas for lunch:

DIY Hoisin Lettuce Wraps

DIY hoisin lettuce wraps

  • Toss hoisin sauce with leftover chicken or steak, lime juice, mint or cilantro, and a splash of hot sauce.
  • Microwave for a minute or so, then pack them in a thermos.
  • Carrot and peanuts (or other nuts) can be snacked on separately or added to the wraps.
  • Accompany with lettuce leaves for making the DIY wraps.
No-cook Oatmeal Pudding

No-cook oatmeal pudding

  • Mix 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats with 1/4 cup Greek yogurt and 1/4 cup milk.
  • Add cinnamon, a bit of brown sugar and fruit, then refrigerate overnight.
  • It’s ready to pack and eat by morning.
Copyright © 2013 by J.M. Hirsch from Beating the Lunchbox Blues published by Rachael Ray/Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

About the Author

J.M. Hirsch is the national food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs about the trials and tribulations of his son’s lunches at and tweets as @JM_Hirsch. His previous books include High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking and Venturesome Vegan Cooking. He lives in New Hampshire with his son, wife and too many cats.

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