- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2006

When we were young, we knew what was in our lunchbox — peanut butter and jelly or ham sandwiches. Our mother was a wonderful cook, but those lunches lacked interest. She just didn’t give them much thought.

Children today have been exposed to so many more flavors in their youth that they welcome burritos and wrapped sandwiches, sushi and pasta salads in their lunchboxes. My daughter still talks about the homemade vegetable soup she ate from the Thermos in fourth grade.

I have learned that even if you don’t have much time to spend thinking about a packaged lunch, make a good turkey and cheese sandwich and carry along some fruit. It’s nice to have a homemade sweet for dessert, such as my white chocolate chewies.

In this easy recipe, you fold white chocolate chips into chocolate cake mix batter. If white chocolate chips are not available at your supermarket, buy a 4-ounce bar of white chocolate and chop it into small pieces. If you like nuts in your chip cookies, add a quarter cup chopped almonds (with skins or blanched) or pecans.

Five time-shaving lunchbox tricks

• Cook “planned” leftovers for dinner so you can reheat them for lunch. Meatloaf, roast chicken, even taco salad are wonderful the next day for lunch.

• Make homemade soups and freeze them in pint-size portions. In the morning, heat up the frozen soup and pour into a Thermos for toting to work or school.

• Use a flour tortilla instead of sandwich bread for fast roll-ups or burritos.

• Bake quick breads and freeze them in single slices. Take these frozen slices and let them thaw en route.

• Pasta and rice salads are great do-aheads. Refrigerate and portion them into plastic containers. Take along fruit and a cookie for a satisfying meal.

White chocolate chewies

The preparation time is 5 minutes, the baking time is 10 to 12 minutes, and the assembly time is 15 minutes.

These cookies freeze well.

Vegetable oil spray for misting the pans

1 package (18.25 ounces) plain devil’s-food cake mix

1/3 cup water

4 tablespoons (half a stick) butter, melted

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup white chocolate chips

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly mist 2 cookie sheets with vegetable oil spray. Set the pans aside.

Place the cake mix, water, melted butter, egg and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute.

Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 1 minute more. The cookie dough will be thick. Fold in the chips until well distributed.

Drop heaping teaspoons of the dough 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Place the pans in the oven. (If your oven cannot accommodate both pans on the center rack, place one pan on the top rack and one on the center rack and rotate them halfway through the baking time.)

Bake the cookies until they have set but are still a little soft in the center, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven. Let the cookies rest on the cookie sheets for 1 minute more. Remove the cookies with a metal spatula to wire racks to cool completely, 20 minutes. Repeat the baking process with the remaining cookie dough. Makes 4 dozen 2-inch cookies.

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