Chili is my new favorite food (for lunches and dinner)!

Easy lunch box ideas: veggie-rich chili with sour cream; and salted apple wedges with chocolate hummus. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Not because I like chili, though I do love it.

But because I have discovered I can put pretty much anything into a chili and Parker will eat it without question.

But offer him any of those ingredients on their own, no way!

Last night’s dinner was a tomato-bean-butternut squash-sweet potato-onion-bell pepper-ground beef chili. And he asked for seconds. Despite all those vegetables.

Had I given him even one of those vegetables on its own? No way!

But last night he never even questioned it.

Clearly I need to experiment with how far I can push this chili thing.

So today’s lunch is more of last night’s chili. Add some more chocolate hummus and salted apple wedges and we’re good.

The chocolate hummus recipe will come next week. And meanwhile, I’m going to perfect an over-the-top veg-rich chili and see what happens. Stay tuned.

Sometimes the best lunch is an uneaten breakfast

Easy lunch box ideas: steak and cheese mini quiche cups; and apple slices with chocolate hummus. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Still smarting from yesterday’s failure to launch, I decided today I’d be on top of things.

I got up promptly at 6:30 and started making Parker his favorite mini quiche cups — this time with steak and cheese because I had no ham.

This is one of the best breakfasts because I’m usually able to pack the extras in his lunch.

Except today, Parker bounded down the stairs (Do 10-year-old boys ever walk? Ever?) and declared really the only thing that could get him going today would be apple slices smeared with peanut butter.

He got apple slices smeared with cashew butter, but it worked.

The good news is I had plenty of quiche cups for his lunch (he ate only a couple for breakfast).

Add in some homemade (I’m cracking the code!) chocolate hummus (stay tuned for the recipe) with apple slices for dunking, and that should suffice.

Speaking of apples, it’s probably worth mentioning again — the best way to preserve cut apples and keep them from turning brown is a brief bath in lightly salted water.

I mix maybe 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt with a couple tablespoons of water, splash the apples in it, then drain. Very little salt taste, but no browning.

Parker reminded me to do this after I packed him a whole apple a few weeks ago. He ate half of it at snack and wanted the other half at lunch, but by then it was too yucky. That’s when I remembered it’s best to slice and slosh (with salt water).

Oh crap! My kid needs to eat, doesn’t he?

Easy lunch box ideas: steak and cream cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla; salted apple slices; a yogurt; Parmesan. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

You’d think that after five years I’d have this down, right?

This morning, I was just cruising along. Things were going grand. Parker was ready for school early. I was even having time to read yesterday’s paper.

It never occurred to me to question why I was having such a great morning with so much spare time.

Until it was time to leave.

“Parker, get your backpack. Where’s your lunchbox?”

“I don’t know.”

Turns out, neither did I.

Because I hadn’t made it.

Somehow, I’d forgotten. How is that possible?

Well, I don’t really have an answer.

Somehow… It just didn’t happen.

So that’s how I found myself at 8:05 a.m. rushing to find something to pack for my son’s lunch…

Because it’s not as though I’ve been blogging about his lunches for what? Five years or so?

Anyway, I quickly pulled together a steak (left from last night’s dinner) and cream cheese wrap on a whole-wheat tortilla, some apple (in a bag, because I couldn’t quickly find the usual jar), a yogurt and some Parmesan.

And out the door we go…!

The problem with serving leftovers for dinner…

Easy lunch box ideas: peanut butter and chocolate hummus in a whole-wheat tortilla; salted apple slices; and Parmesan cheese with smoked ham. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Is that you then have no leftovers for lunch the next day.

So while I made last night’s dinner easy (leftover chili found in the freezer), it did squat for me this morning.

Making matters worse, I’ve been to the grocery roughly 5,326 times this week. Yet each time, I inexplicably have bought only what I needed to test various recipes.

Wouldn’t it have been great if on even one of those visits I’d noticed that I have little to no food in the house and should grab something for dinners and lunches?

Would. Could. Should.

And so it goes.

So today’s lunch is assembled from a what-have-you of refrigerator finds. I smeared some peanut butter and chocolate hummus (recipe coming, I promise) on a whole-wheat tortilla. I tried cutting it into sushi bites, but it oozed too much so I left it as a wrap.

Add some apple slices (salted to prevent browning) and some ham and cheese nibbles, and we’re ready for the weekend.

Tonight is movie night… Parker has requested the first “Lord of the Rings” movie. He loved the books. Me, too! Hope you have a fun and delicious weekend!

Oh, and if you need a quick and easy dinner idea, check out this recipe for chicken satay. Love it!

I ruined the jerky, but I got an easy lunch out of it

Easy lunch box ideas: soba noodles with lime-chili beef; salted apple slices; and graham crackers with peanut butter and cherry jam. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

So yesterday I decided to test a recipe for homemade beef jerky. It’s pretty simple.

You slice steak into thin strips, then marinate it in a salty-spicy-acidic mix overnight. Then you just arrange the slices on a wire rack and dry it in a 200 F oven for 4 hours.

Easy.

Except I didn’t pay attention. And 4 hours turned into closer to 6.

It’s still delicious, but it’s a bit tough.

The good news is that I didn’t dry all of the meat I marinated. I’d run out of room on the rack.

So for dinner last night, I decided we’d saute the remaining steak (already super flavorful from the jerky marinade) and toss with soba noodles.

Except last night was Parker’s dinner night. One of his new chores is to help me make dinner once a week.

And instead of help, I decided to just let him do it. I’d tell him what to do and explain why he was doing it, but otherwise I’d stay out of the way.

And he did great. He sauted the steak and even thickened the sauce with a cornstarch slurry. Then he boiled up the noodles and tossed it all together.

And — best of all — there were leftovers for his lunch today. I considered packing them in his thermos jar, but decided cold noodles and beef would easier and just as delicious.

I’m starting to like this chore…

Oven-baked beef stew… It seemed like a good idea…

Easy lunch box ideas: beef "stew"; yogurt parfait; and graham crackers with cashew butter and apple slices. http:///www.LunchBoxBlues.com

I’d picked up some beef stew meat during the weekend and had been meaning to make a nice slow-simmered stew. Yet I never seemed to have the time.

Last night was no exception. Parker’s karate class smack in the middle of dinner prep wasn’t going to help. So I figured out a workaround. And it would have worked.

If I hadn’t been distracted by a certain someone.

About an hour before we needed to leave, I dumped a couple pounds of stew meat in an oven-safe saucepan. I added a 15-ounce can of tomato sauce and a hefty splash of red wine.

For seasonings, I went with garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, cumin and smoked paprika. Then I brought it to a simmer and let it bubble until we needed to leave.

As we left, I popped the whole thing into a 300 F oven. My theory was that right before leaving, I’d add more liquid, then let it cook slowly while we were gone. When I got home, I’d just add some veggies and finish it on the stovetop.

Good theory.

Except I forgot to add the extra liquid.

Which would explain the incredibly thick, tomato-meat mess I returned home to.

That said, it was actually pretty delicious. A bit intense, but not in a bad way. Vegetables at that point weren’t happening (no liquid for them to cook in). So I decided meat hunks in sauce would be good enough for dinner.

And for today’s lunch.

Add a yogurt parfait with raspberries and apple, as well as some graham crackers with cashew butter and apple slices… And we’re good.

And he thought the brownies were going to humiliate him…

Easy lunch box ideas: ham and cream cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla; yogurt parfait with apples and granola; and graham crackers with chocolate hummus. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

He has no idea what’s coming.

This morning I learned that Boys’ Life magazine has run a two-page spread on your favorite little lunch monster. I’ll post a picture as soon as I get a copy.

I’m afraid I’m going to have to very quietly slip a copy to his teacher… Who I expect will show it around.

Oops!

Oh, is that mean?

Meh!

Meanwhile, this morning I discovered the joys of not eating a midnight snack.

I’ve been trying to diet because I stress ate my way through this kitchen renovation all summer. Last night I got the hungry horrors around 11 p.m.

So I made myself one of Parker’s favorite sandwiches… A whole-wheat tortilla slathered with a ridiculous amount of cream cheese and piled with smoked ham.

I chomped a big bite… Then felt guilty.

So I sliced it up into rounds and packed it into a lunch container. And went to bed.

Sigh…

At least it made my morning lunch packing easier. To round out my midnight snack, I added a yogurt (chocolate) parfait built with chopped apple and granola, and some graham crackers with chocolate hummus.

And don’t worry… The chocolate hummus has been enough of a hit that I’m going to come up with a recipe for it. The stuff I’ve been giving him was purchased at Whole Foods.

Do you have any idea what an insensitive jerk I am?

Easy lunch box ideas: tortellini with sausage and peppers; an apple; and a yogurt. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Seriously! I’m such a horrible father.

Today, I did the worst thing a dad can do to his kid.

It was really awful.

He’ll probably need therapy for years.

Ready?

I wrapped up a tray of cream cheese swirl brownies as a treat for his class.

I know… I know…

There probably are kids on the street in India thinking, “I’m so glad I don’t have it that hard.”

But that’s what I did.

Yesterday, I was working on a recipe for said brownies. Parker enjoyed them. And rather than leave them around the house today — thereby ensuring I’d consume 10,000 calories by noon — I decided to pack them up as a treat for his class.

But clearly that would be THE. MOST. HUMILIATING. THING.

EVER!

Whatever.

So the ungrateful runt gets an apple, some sausage, peppers and pasta, and a yogurt.

And no treat for his class.

Whatever.

Another attempt at flatbread… This time with pumpkin!

Easy lunch box ideas: pumpkin flatbread rounds; ham; cheese; peanut butter; chocolate hummus; and orange segments. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

So yesterday I again got the urge to make flatbread. Except this time I had yeast!

To mix things up a bit, I made pumpkin flatbread. It was easy and delicious.

I started by mixing about 5 or 6 cups of white whole-wheat flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast in the stand mixer. Then I added a 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree.

I let this knead in the mixer for a while. I did need to add a bit of water to get the right consistency, but it was probably only about 1/4 cup.

Then I dumped the dough on a floured counter and kneaded by hand until I had a good ball. Into an oiled bowl it went and onto the counter in the sun for the afternoon.

After school, Parker had another cross-country meet (he placed 14th!). It was a bit chilly, so it was nice to come home to flatbread in the making.

I just tore off a hunk of the risen dough, rolled it out and tossed it into a heated cast-iron skillet. I toasted it up on both sides, maybe 2 to 3 minutes per side. A sprinkle of salt and it was done.

“This is awesome!” Parker declared. I agreed.

We had some more with dinner. And this morning I rolled out another hunk, cut it with a biscuit round, then toasted them up in the skillet for his lunch.

To go with the bread, I added a this-and-that mix of ham, cheese, peanut butter and something new I discovered — chocolate hummus.

It sounds gross, I know. But it actually is pretty delicious. We’ll see what Parker thinks…

Father’s little helper… Too cool for me!

Easy lunch box ideas: chili with sour cream and cheese; a yogurt; and whole-wheat bread with brie and honey. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

My theme for this new school year?

Getting Parker to take a bit more responsibility for himself.

For the cats.

For the laundry.

Sometimes even for dinner.

Which is why every Monday or Wednesday, depending on the insanity of life, he has to help me make dinner.

Last week he did this chore under duress.

So much for the years when my little guy loved helping me in the kitchen.

Last night he balked for a minute or two, but eventually came around.

I asked him to start by chopping the onions for chili.

Apparently, eye protection was essential…

Maybe from his own shirt…

9-18-14-B

I opted for chili because it’s so easy and he loves it.

What I don’t understand is why he loves it.

In any other situation, he objects to tomatoes, onions and beans in pretty much any form.

Chili? He gobbles them up.

Just messing with me…

So lunch today was leftover chili and a couple slabs of CRUSTLESS homemade bread with brie and whipped honey.