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09/02/2011 07:20 EDT | Updated 11/01/2011 05:12 EDT

School Lunches: Add Some International Treats To The Lunchbox

Flickr: gamene

Looking to inject a little spice into your kids' boring lunchboxes, but worried they'll turn up their noses and it will come home uneaten?

Your children can go beyond sandwiches and carrot sticks, it just takes a little imagination and a positive attitude. Seema Pabari is the owner of Tiffinday, a business that delivers vegan lunches to offices around Toronto, featuring dishes from all over the Indian Subcontinent. Pabari says there is a surefire way to get a picky child to enjoy South Asian cuisine.

"Bring in chickpeas," she says. "Any kid will love chick peas. A lot of my son's friends are not South Asian kids and there's one little blond-haired, blue-eyed kid and I remember when he came to our house when he was three or four. His mom said, "I love your food Seema, but he won't eat Indian dishes," and I thought, "I'll make him something he likes." So I bought panipuri, which are little, bite-sized semolina puffs, you buy them at South Asian stores ready-made. You hollow them out, stuff with a chickpea potato mix and top with a drizzle of tamarind sauce and cilantro."

Because Pabari loves cooking with children, she brought the kids into the kitchen and had them poke the holes and stuff the panipuri themselves; they then handled the drizzlling of the tamarind sauce from a squeeze-bottle. "You have to make it fun," she says.

"This kid ate so many panipuris, he stuffed his face that day," she laughs.

If you're hankering to expand your child's horizons when it comes to international food, there are many online resources that offer easy recipes, which you can make with or without your kids.

- International Gourmet Recipes for Kids

- Eatingwell.com

- About.com

For a healthy, colourful and fun-to-eat twist on a seasonal favourite, try one of Pabari's specialties: Curried Corn on the Cob. Pabari says it's something that will be in her son's lunchbox this school year. "The corn wheels make it manageable for little ones to eat and the sunflower seed garnish is an excellent way to add protein," says Pabari.

Curried Corn on the Cob

Ingredients:

1 corn on the cob, boiled and sliced into ½" wide "corn wheels"

2 cups diced Roma tomatoes

3 tbsp crushed canned tomatoes

1/4 cup finely chopped onions

1 finely chopped clove of garlic

1 tsp canola oil

¼ tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp brown sugar

Salt to taste

¼ tsp turmeric

½ tsp of mixed coriander and cumin powder (available from South Asian grocery stores, or curry powder)

Pinch of chilli powder (optional)

Garnish (optional):

Sunflower seeds

Finely chopped cilantro

Method:

Heat up the canola oil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add mustard seeds when oil is warm -- these will pop profusely if the oil is too hot, so keep the lid handy. Throw in the onions and garlic, stirring well until the onions are brown and caramelized.

Add in all of the tomatoes and allow to simmer slowly. If needed, add a little bit of water. Cook until they're the consistency of a thick tomato gravy.

Stir in the brown sugar, salt, turmeric, coriander/cumin powder (or curry powder) and chili powder.

When the gravy is thick and smooth, stir in the corn wheels so the gravy covers the wheels.

Garnish with sunflower seeds and cilantro just before serving (or just after placing in a Thermos/plastic lunch container). Don't forget to pack a corn pick!

WATCH:




Do you know what your kids are eating at school? OpenFile and Huffington Post Canada team up for an insightful and comprehensive examination of the issue of school lunches. Over the next week, we look at what school cafeterias are serving and what parents are (and should be) packing. We examine the idea of "lunchroom racism," report on the impact of corporate sponsorships on school lunches, and reveal how are school boards tackling these and other issues. Join the discussion here or on Twitter by using the #FoodFight hashtag.