These easy recipes will make the midday meal something to look forward to.
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Mom and daughter cooking in the kitchen
Credit: Maryna Andriichenko / Getty Images

Summer is a welcome break from the grind of packing lunches, but feeding kids who are home from school can be challenging in its own way. Think of these easy, fresh, and fun ideas as a guide to keep in your back pocket for when you've hit the PB&J wall.

The Toaster Oven Is Your Friend

On days when it's too hot to heat up the kitchen, lean on your toaster oven, which produces far less heat than a regular oven, and can easily handle an impressive range of kid-friendly lunches. A few we love: English Muffin Pizzas, tuna melts, or open-faced grilled cheese (which takes on a croque monsieur-like deliciousness if you add ham). If you're feeling creative, Sweet-Potato Toasts are a great option, where you swap in planks of sweet potato for bread, and top them with anything from hummus and sprouts, to nut butter and berries.

Go for Make-Ahead Options

Another route to avoid overheating is to make meals ahead of time (ideally in the morning, before it gets too hot), which you can then serve at room temperature or even cold. Pasta with pesto fits the bill beautifully, as does a soba noodle salad, such as this eggplant-tomato one (and if your kids aren't into eggplant or tomatoes, you can easily trade those for snap peas, cucumbers, carrots, or practically any other vegetable).

Embrace No-Cook Meals

And then there's the absolutely-no-cooking-at-all approach, which we admire greatly. It's also super-easy for kids to help when there's no heat involved. They can thread skewers (or toothpicks) with any manner of ingredients for lunch kebabs—consider tomato, mozzarella, and salami; turkey, Swiss cheese, and cucumber; cubed grilled chicken, olives, and chunks of feta; or any other combination they love. Some kids might like these plain; others will love a dipper, such as guacamole or vinaigrette.

Use Those Leftovers

Finally, sometimes you just want to make do with whatever you have, and if that's leftovers from a weekend cookout, lunch can be ready in minutes. Crumble leftover burgers over tortilla chips, top with some shredded cheese, and broil (or melt in the toaster oven) for nachos, individual or otherwise. Barbecued chicken is delicious in quesadillas, and grilled steak is wonderful wrapped in a tortilla with some lettuce and sour cream.

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