Alex Guarnaschelli may be a fancy chef - studying at Michelin-rated restaurants in France, appearing in her own show on the Food Network - but she also has to feed her young daughter. Guarnaschelli is working on the "What's Your Lunchtime Challenge" contest, where moms write about the difficulties they encounter finding lunches their kids like.
The winner gets Sara Lee lunchmeat for a year and a home visit and lunch for 10 from Guarnaschelli. ( Enter the contest. Deadline is Sunday.)
Guarnaschelli recently spoke with us:
Q. What are the three most common lunchtime challenges with your child?
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I would say in no particular order, No. 1 is finding out from your child what they like and what they're going to eat.
No. 2, it's important for us to realize we're in this together. Parents have a hard time, thinking if they don't have their act together and color-code the lunch, their child won't have a good lunch. Parents should ease up on themselves. If you have some deli meats, cheeses, vegetables and fruits, you can make the week go by.
No. 3, always look for those new ideas. Maybe it's a little vinaigrette on the side or finger foods, like at a party.
Q. What are your daughter's favorites?
I put things on wraps. And I really have found that the things like the Bento Box, which separates the foods (in containers), lets my child enjoy all the flavors and gives a child freedom. And cheese, you can put it on anything.
Q. What's the worst thing you can do to a kid's lunch?
I have to tell you, I'm not one to talk about what one should avoid. Every family dynamic is different. I'm about celebrating the stuff that's very good and then branch out, making it fun and easy.
Best bets for family fun
Highlights this week:
Wednesday: Living history day for homeschoolers, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Latta Plantation. Meet colonial soldiers and learn about the American Revolution. www.lattaplantation.org.
Friday: Tweetsie Railroad kicks off its month of Halloween fun with the Ghost Train, every Friday and Saturday. www.tweetsie.com.
Saturday: The Charlotte Symphony's Lollipops series performs "The Emperor's New Clothes," with storytellers, clowns and dancers. www.charlottesymphony .org .
Sunday: Checkers preseason game against the Norfolk Admirals, 1:30 p.m., Extreme Ice Center in Indian Trail. www.go checkers.com .