Confession: I’ve hated bologna and cheese sandwiches packed in my lunch since I was in the third grade. To this day, I dislike anything reminiscent of bologna, even ham or mortadella.
It’s not that my mom didn’t mix it up; it’s that my brother really liked it and it was inexpensive, so we kids had it often. Admittedly I was that kid who liked olive loaf and pimento cheese, so maybe my disappointment was related to the complete lack of excitement of bologna and American cheese on white bread. Some kids just need some flavor, Mom! I finally told mine that I hated it, and she came up with a way to give my little bro his bologna without having to buy special lunch meat just for me.
Fear not. I’m here with some fun ideas (including my mom’s secret weapon) to mix up your kid’s lunchbox sandwich game. Whether your kids are 7 or 17, there are ideas on this list for you.
1. The Rory (kid-friendly Reuben/Rachel)
Pile roasted deli turkey or roast beef on wheat bread, top it with pickles, shredded greens and Swiss cheese (in that order), and include a side of ranch or Thousand Island for dipping.
Mix 1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika into a tablespoon of mayo, and spread it over two slices of rustic bread. Sandwich shaved smoked turkey or chicken, roasted red peppers, hickory-smoked cheddar and some spinach and/or arugula.
3. Fruity chicken salad
Mix up shredded chicken with a little mayo and/or sour cream, and toss in diced Granny Smith apple and dried cranberry. Spread it on a nutty or oaty bread.
4. Turkey-cucumber “tea” sandwich
Spread your kiddo’s favorite bread with cream cheese, and top it with sliced cucumber, tomato and deli turkey, then top it with another piece of bread. Cut it into quarter triangles for maximum tea sandwich believability.
5. Pad thai sandwich
Layer bread with sliced chicken or fried tofu slabs, and top it with carrot shavings, strips of green onions and bean sprouts. Add a little sambal if your child likes spice. Send it with peanut dipping sauce.
6. Albuquerque turkey bagel sandwich
A low-fat bagel is just begging to be schmeared with herbed cream cheese and topped with shaved turkey, mild green chilies, lettuce and tomato. For kids who like it, use jalapeño cream cheese.
Bacon will always lose its crisp before lunch, but prosciutto isn’t supposed to be crispy. A prosciutto, lettuce and tomato sandwich has all the flavor of a BLT without the chewiness of soggy bacon.
8. Prince(ss) of Hawaii Spam and pineapple sammie
Layer two slices of thin and crispy-fried Spam, a grilled pineapple ring and your kid’s favorite cheese (American is traditional) between two halves of a King’s Hawaiian hamburger bun.
9. Ha-ha-ha-ham and cheese
Spreadable Laughing Cow or low-fat cream cheese is slathered over a robust bread, then topped with ham, carrot shavings and iceberg lettuce for a fun fusion of flavor.
10. Meatloaf sandwich
Leftover meatloaf on good ole white with a spread or dip of ketchup, mustard or barbecue sauce is the ultimate in Americana.
11. Pinwheel sandwiches
Cut off the crust, and use a rolling pin to flatten the bread, then spread it with a bit of pimento cheese, thinly sliced turkey and a leaf of lettuce. Roll it like a jelly roll, and leave it as is, or slice into 1-inch pieces.
12. Mom’s secret weapon (aka peanut butter, butter and brown sugar sandwich)
Finally, my mom’s secret weapon — slather a thick layer of peanut butter on one piece of whole-wheat bread, and sprinkle it with brown sugar. Spread a thinner layer (about double what you’d do for toast) of salted butter on the other. Sandwich them together. You’re welcome.