Getting fancy with a leftover steak sandwich

Easy lunch box ideas: steak, avocado and rosemary with cream cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla; and blueberries.

So apparently yesterday’s warning went well. The steak — and in fact Parker’s entire lunch box — was a mess by lunch.

Yet he ate it.

I may not be able to prevent him from roughing up his lunch box, but I at least can get him to eat what’s in it.

Most of the time.

Today might not be one of those times.

I decided to get creative this morning. I wanted to use up the remnants of the leftover steak by making a cream cheese sandwich/burrito.

But for flavor and greenery, I decided to also add half an avocado and a whole mess of minced fresh rosemary.

Then I rolled it all up into a tight bundle and sliced it in two.

I decided on issuing no warnings today. He won’t notice the unusual ingredients; he’ll just assume it’s a regular steak sandwich.

We’ll see how it goes over.

Such a simple lunch should not require a warning, but…

Easy lunch box ideas: leftover steak with sour cream; and strawberries.

After roughly five years of this lunch packing/blogging thing, I’ve finally accepted something.

I have accepted that my son — and I’m willing to bet your kid(s), too — will not exert his brain much at lunch.

My vision of his lunch experience goes something like this:

Parker sits down for lunch amidst a gaggle of boys. Never girls. They’re still icky.

Parker babbles for who knows how long.

Parker opens his lunch box and starts taking things out.

Anything that Parker cannot identify within the first nanosecond of seeing it is immediately returned to the lunch box.

Parker babbles some more.

Parker eats only the foods that do not require him to use his brain to identify, figure out, sort out or in any way think about.

Lunch is finished.

All of this is to explain why I have started issuing warnings and alerts as I pack his lunch each day.

Today is a fine example. Leftover steak with sour cream. Easily one of Parker’s favorite combinations.

But because of the renovation, I have limited lunch packing gear at my disposal. So the sour cream could not have its own container. Which means that by the time my incredibly rough and careless child gets to lunch, the steak and sour cream will have been flung about repeatedly.

Which means the steak and sour cream will be an unidentifiable blop by the time he opens the container.

No less delicious, mind you. But it will suffer from questionable visual appeal.

Now, you or I would take a moment to look at it and sort out what it is. We might even think to ourselves, “Gosh, I made a mess of my steak and sour cream. Perhaps tomorrow I shouldn’t launch my lunch box into the air. Repeatedly.”

And then we’d eat it anyway.

My boy? Very likely not.

So today, I had this conversation.

“So Parker. This is steak. This is sour cream. By the time you have finished abusing your lunch box for several hours and actually try to eat this, it will look like a messy blop. But it will still be steak and sour cream. OK?”

See? I’ve now alleviated any need for thought.

The lunch that took 10 hours to make, but minutes to pack

Easy lunch box ideas: cold barbecue pulled pork with sour cream; and watermelon.

Luckily, all those hours were spent on Saturday.

We had friends out at the lake Saturday, so I decided to make smoked barbecue pulled pork.

I used a technique I learned from Elizabeth Karmel. Basically, you get yourself a really big pork butt. I cut it into two pieces, then rubbed them with a salt-brown sugar-smoked paprika-fennel rub I made.

Around 9 a.m. I prepped the grill for indirect cooking (heat only on one side) at 300 F. I popped the the pork onto the cooler side, then added some foil packets of soaked wood chips for smoke.

Then I walked away for about 10 hours.

The entire yard smelled amazing.

When the pork hit 195 F at the center, I took it off the grill and let it cool until easily handled. At that point, it pretty much just fell apart. Toss in some homemade extra sweet and tangy barbecue sauce and we were good.

Delicious stuff.

So today’s lunch started there — a sandwich of cold leftover pulled pork with sour cream. Parker seems to like it as much cold as hot, so it should be perfect for a warm day at summer camp.

As expected, the cold-nacho-lesson was lost on him…

Easy lunch box ideas: ham and cream cheese "sushi" on whole-wheat tortilla; and watermelon.

So it seems the cold leftover beef nachos were a hit.

My lesson was lost on him…

Not only was every last morsel of the cold nachos consumed, Parker didn’t so much as utter a peep about them.

And let’s be clear about one thing… My 9-year-old is not reluctant to share his thoughts about things he dislikes…

So it seems the cold nachos could be a thing for the future, even if the lesson wasn’t absorbed.

For today’s lunch? A Parker classic — ham and cream cheese “sushi” with watermelon.

For me? Everything not tied down… Stressful day as renovation that was supposed to end today now stretches into the end of next week. Ugh…

Hope everyone has a restful and well-fed weekend.

If you’re going to whine, you’re going to get cold nachos

Easy lunch box ideas: cold leftover beef and cheddar nachos; blueberries; and a yogurt.

Admittedly, the cause and effect here perhaps is a bit too nuanced for Parker to learn anything from.

But still…

Dinner last night was supposed to be… Well, I hadn’t actually had time to sort that out.

And that would be because a certain 9-year-old opted to whine and complain about… Well, just about everything.

And, of course, nothing.

Which is what made it all so special.

So I decided a quick and dirty dinner was called for. The better to get me back out onto the porch with a cocktail.

So into a skillet went 1 pound of ground beef. A bit of salt, some pepper, some garlic powder and a bit of chili sauce.

Onto a rimmed baking sheet went some tortilla chips. When the beef was browned, I dumped it over them, then grated the first block of cheese I could grab. A few minutes in the oven and the brat… I mean, loving child had his dinner.

My dinner? 1 1/2 pounds of quick-pickled carrots I was playing with a recipe for.

And a few old fashioneds…

So today’s lunch… He’s getting cold nachos because that’s the only leftover I had.

Sometimes life gives whiners cold leftover nachos.

A little of this, a little of that. Lunch in 5 minutes flat.

Easy lunch box ideas: ham; tortilla chips; noodles with steak; and watermelon.

Had neither the time nor the energy to assemble lunch today.

Are we there yet? Is this renovation over yet?

Anyway, the best I could do this morning was assemble a collection of this-and-that.

Tortilla chips a la plastic bag.

Ham slices a la plastic bag.

Watermelon chunks a la plastic bag.

Dregs of noodles and leftover steak served up as cold salad.


What the hell… It’s summer camp and a cookie sandwich won’t kill him

Easy lunch box ideas: chicken satay and a peanut butter and banana sandwich on snickerdoodle cookies.

That was my theory this morning.

As I bumbled about trying to sort out what to pack, I noticed the two remaining snickerdoodle cookies on the counter.

And it really was in my best interest to use them for something.

Because I knew that if they were still on the counter when I got home tonight, I would power eat them in seconds.

And I’ve done enough renovation-stress eating of late.

And since Parker is far more likely to burn the calories than I am, I decided to pack him a treat. A peanut butter and banana sandwich on giant snickerdoodles.

For the healthy part of the meal, I grabbed some leftover chicken from dinner last night. I mixed a sort-of-satay sauce from ground peanuts, hot sauce, lime juice, brown sugar and a few other things, then tossed sliced chicken thighs in it. They grill up wonderfully.

Add some sour cream for dunking for dunking the leftovers and we’re good.

By the way, the cold noodle salad yesterday was devoured. So I may need to try that again.

Today, I’m not even trying. Not even a little…

Easy lunch box ideas: cold teriyaki udon noodle salad with steak; watermelon; and a snickerdoodle.

Because we are in the home stretch of the home renovation. And I needed to be back at the house early today.

Because if I thought raising a child was hard, babysitting contractors all summer has proved even harder.

The good news is we’re almost done. If you believe their estimates, it will be done this week.

Not holding my breath, but hoping for the best.

Meanwhile, this morning we slept a little late and didn’t have a lot of time to pack up.

So I just tossed together whatever was ready to go. That meant already cut watermelon, a snickerdoodle cookie and leftovers from last night’s dinner — a teriyaki-like steak and pasta dish.

It was just a way to use up some leftover grilled flank steak. I sliced it thin, then heated some sesame oil in a skillet. I added the steak and got it just hot. Then I added soy sauce, Sriracha, lime juice and a bit of agave. Once it was simmering, I added some cornstarch (mixed with cool water). About a minute later it was done. Then I added the udon noodles I boiled up in the meantime, tossed it well and call it delicious.

Hoping Parker thinks the leftovers served as a cold noodle salad are just as good as they were warm last night.

Get your paws off the lunch!

Easy lunch box ideas: Ham, Parmesan cheese, pita chips and raspberries.

My stupidly simple lunch was of great interest to one of our furry residents this morning.

Not sure why, but ever since we moved to the cabin for the summer, Marmalade has taken to begging…

Particularly when meat is involved.

This morning he was climbing the butcher block as I assembled the lunch. Then he followed me out onto the porch…

And offered to help…

Was a bit rushed today — need to spend the day on the road — so I didn’t have time to get fancy. Instead, I grabbed a little of this, a little of that and called it good.

Ham. Pita chips. Parmesan cheese. Raspberries.

Done. Have a great weekend!

It’s never too soon to think about next year’s lunch gear

Easy lunch box ideas: flank steak tacos with cheese and avocado on a whole-wheat tortilla; watermelon.

So yesterday afternoon I was out shopping for a trashcan…

I know you’re jealous. But not everyone can lead the sort of glamor life I have…

And while I wandered about the overwhelming options available at my local Bed, Bath & Beyond, I discovered one of the coolest lunch gear items I’ve found in a long time.

It’s called Dressing-2-Go and it’s a small silicone squirt bottle with a watertight ketchup bottle-like cap. And I think it’s just shy of brilliant.

As we all know, our little ones aren’t the neatest eaters… My son tends to wear whatever liquids I pack, whether soy sauce for his sushi, barbecue sauce for his sandwich, whatever.

This bottle is perfect for him. Pretty much spill proof and just the right size. I love it. They also sold them in packs of three, but I figured I’m unlikely to send him with multiple liquids in one lunch.


Meanwhile, today’s lunch is a modification of a classic Parker dish. For dinner last night I tossed a flank steak in a bottle of hot sauce, then tossed it on the grill. Slice it thin and pair it with whole-wheat tortillas, cheese, avocado and sour cream, and we had steak tacos.

Normally, I’d pack the leftovers as they were for a DIY taco kit. But something tells me assemble-your-own-tacos isn’t a lunch fit for summer camp.

So instead, I took all the same ingredients and rolled them up in a whole-wheat tortilla. Same food, less mess.