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Brown Bag Lunch Envy

On March 2, 2012 @ 11:35 am In All Articles

[1]By Chef Michelle Austin

The last thing a kid wants is a boring school lunch — especially one made for the “only one in the class” who’s allergic to all things milk, egg, peanut, tree nut or seafood!

Don’t kid yourself, either. They’re not going to eat it just because you packed it. They’ll bum something off a classmate rather than cram the same predictable “safe” sandwich down their throats week after week. Trust me, they’ll confess to as much 10 years from now when they come home from college during the holidays.

Here’s a way to beat the school lunch doldrums and make your food-allergic child the envy of the class. We’re going to dish up a Mexican quesadilla, an Asian spring roll, and fruit and veggie dips that taste just as good at room temperature as when they were assembled. Best of all, these recipes are so easy, your kids will beg to make their own lunches!

Bag or box, your allergy-friendly school lunch starts here:

  • Have a clean working surface big enough for two people and the ingredients. Wash hands and surfaces before beginning and when switching between different types of food — for example, from meat to veggies.
  • If using any packaged foods, check and re-check all ingredients listed to be sure they don’t include your child’s allergens.
  • Needed kitchen tools can include a knife and cutting board, so supervise and remind kids ALWAYS to cut away from themselves when using a knife.


Quesadilla Mexicana


1 10″ wheat tortilla

1/3 cup favorite grated cheese
• Non-dairy option: soy or rice cheese substitute

2 slices favorite lunch meat, chopped
• Option: 1/3 cup sautéed veggies

1 tablespoon salsa (optional)

Cooking spray
• Note: many cooking sprays contain soy or peanut oil; use a rice bran spray alternative if allergic


Lay tortilla out flat on a plate. Sprinkle cheese/cheese substitute across half the tortilla, with more toward the middle. Add meat or veggies and optional salsa on top of cheese. Fold rest of tortilla over to cover filled half.

Spray sauté pan with cooking spray. Carefully place folded tortilla in pan and cook on medium heat until lightly brown. Flip tortilla over and brown other side.

Remove quesadilla from pan; let cool.

Asian Spring Roll


2 rice wrappers (rice paper)
• Option: small wheat tortillas

1/3 cup cooked chicken, cubed
• Option: substitute any cooked meat/lunch meat or chopped veggies

1/4 medium red bell pepper

1/2 carrot, grated

1/2 cup lettuce, chopped or ripped in small pieces

1 ounce vermicelli
• Option: use shredded cheese or soy/rice cheese substitute instead of pasta

1 sprig each basil and mint (optional)

1 tablespoon Asian ginger dressing, sesame dressing or tahini (sesame seed) past
• Option: substitute silken tofu and 1/2 teaspoon each grated ginger, lime and soy sauce, blended


Bring medium saucepan of water to boil on medium-high heat. Cook pasta until “al dente” (3-4 minutes). Drain and let cool.

Mix meat, veggies and herbs in a bowl; toss in dressing.

Fill separate bowl with warm tap water. Dip rice wrappers in water individually to soften. (If using tortillas, skip step but be sure tortillas are at room temperature and soft/rollable.) Lay rice wrappers/tortillas flat on plate.

Spread mixed ingredients to cover rice wrappers/tortillas evenly, leaving about 2″ of wrapper/tortilla uncovered on two opposite sides. Fold uncovered sides inward over mix and gently roll up each rice wrapper/tortilla.

Dynamic Dip Duo

Pineapple and Cranberry Spread (sweet)

8 oz. cream cheese
• Non-dairy option: silken tofu

8 oz. can crushed pineapple
(or mandarin oranges, chopped)

2 tablespoons sundried cranberry
(or any fruit of your choice)



Open can of fruit and drain juice. Chop fruit into small pieces if necessary.

Add cheese/tofu to fruit and cranberry (or other fruit); mix well.

Portion dip into containers and refrigerate.

Spinach Ranch Dip (savory)

4 oz. cream cheese
• Non-dairy option: silken tofu

1 packet ranch dressing mix
• Non-dairy option: if mix calls for milk, use soy, rice, or tofu milk instead

1 cup fresh spinach
• Option: try artichoke

1/3 cup yellow onions, finely chopped

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


Prepare ranch dressing according to instructions. Set aside.

Place oil in sauté pan; cook onion on medium heat until clear. Add garlic powder and spinach; sauté until spinach is wilted.

Place cream cheese, ranch dressing and cooked vegetables in blender. Blend until smooth.

Portion dip into containers and refrigerate.

[3]Chef Michelle Austin is founder of On Thyme Consulting and a co-owner of Just to Please You Productions. All menu concepts and recipes are prepared by Michelle exclusively for Allergy & Asthma Today.

Click here [4] for more Michelle recipes!

This article first published in Allergy & Asthma Today [5] magazine, Vol 9, Issue 3, Fall 2011.

Reviewed by Andrea Holka and Carol Jones, RN, AE-C

Article printed from Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics: http://www.aanma.org

URL to article: http://www.aanma.org/2012/03/brown-bag-lunch-envy/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.aanma.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/BrownBag.jpg

[2] Image: http://www.aanma.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Quesadilla.jpg

[3] Image: http://www.aanma.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Michele.jpg

[4] here: http://www.aanma.org/publication/aat-subscription/chef-michelle

[5] Allergy & Asthma Today: http://www.aanma.org/publication/aat-subscription

[6] Go Fly a Kite: http://www.aanma.org/2010/03/go-fly-a-kite/

[7] Head South of the Border: http://www.aanma.org/2012/07/head-south-of-the-border/

[8] Raising Happy Foodies: http://www.aanma.org/2011/06/raising-happy-foodies/

[9] ‘Get In the Game’ Chili: http://www.aanma.org/publication/aat-subscription/chef-michelle/%e2%80%98get-in-the-game%e2%80%99-chili/

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