OMG that is totally revolting

Easy lunch box ideas: beef and bean chili with bourbon-peanut sauce; fruit; and yogurt.

Sad truth of the matter is, sometimes delicious food is ugly.

That’s today’s lunch.

And last night’s dinner.

Just the way it is.

I decided to do a chili last night. I pureed a whole mess of sun-dried tomatoes and onions, then mixed that with beef broth. Then I added the last of the bourbon-peanut barbecue sauce.

And that was my sauce.

Then I browned some stew beef before dumping in my sauce. Add 2 cans of kidney beans and a minced jalapeno, then simmer for an hour-ish.

Shockingly good. And Parker loved it. He ate three bowls.

I only told him afterward how many veggies were harmed in the making of that chili.

“Well, I like these vegetables!”

Good. Because he got more of them for lunch today.

Steak dinner for two, please!

Easy lunch box ideas: bison steak; tortilla chips; sour cream; and fruit.

A lunch I didn’t need to pack!

Parker is on vacation this week. He was planning to go to vacation camp today, but instead had a friend over for the day. It worked out. They played and ignored me. I’ve been able to work and ignore them.

Good parenting at its finest.

The only time I really needed to deal with them was lunch. I offered steak and they both were happy to have it. So I kept it simple — seared bison steak, fruit, chips and a bit of sour cream.

Good enough!

Now I can go back to ignoring them.

What to do with a bottle of lousy bourbon?

Easy lunch box ideas: barbecue chicken with sour cream; candied bacon; and grilled fruit pizza.

Pack it in your kid’s lunch, of course!

A friend and I decided to try a few new bourbons the other night. Some were hits. One was a total miss. As in, undrinkable miss.

But rather than pour it down the drain, I decided to pack it in Parker’s lunch.

In the form of barbecued chicken.

I boiled down 2 cups of the bourbon, added some tomato paste and peanut butter, then a whole mess of seasonings. It was delicious. And it did wonderful things to the chicken I made this weekend.

And those leftovers made it into today’s lunch (along with some sour cream for dunking).

The other half of today’s lunch is grilled fruit pizza with a ricotta sauce. It’s left over from a shoot yesterday. Pretty yummy.

Add a slice of candied bacon left from this morning’s breakfast and we’re good.

By the way, there was no lunch yesterday because Parker technically is on vacation this week. He had a buddy over yesterday and they ran crazy in the yard cutting tunnels through the bushes most of the day. I worked.

Today, he’s at a vacation camp. Wish I could do that instead of work!

A solution to the STARVING boy problem?

Easy lunch box ideas: beef satay; spicy Korean barbecue chicken in a whole-wheat tortilla; and blackberries.

A reader recently offered a simple, yet brilliant solution to the problem suffered by many of our children — afternoon starvation. And in case you didn’t catch it in the comments, I’ll repeat it here.

Jen noted that on days her son has been particularly active, she brings a snack when she picks him up at school and he eats it right away. Simple. Elegant. Wonderful.

I decided to give it a try yesterday. Most days I pick Parker up at 3:30. On Thursdays, that means we come home for a few hours, then head to karate before a late dinner.

Starvation usually kicks in around 5 p.m. (even after a 4 p.m. snack).

So before I went to get him, I made a chocolate banana smoothie. It’s easy — and healthier than it sounds. I blended milk, ice, a banana, unsweetened cocoa powder and a bit of stevia (a natural, non-sugar sweetener).

When I showed up at school with it, Parker was thrilled. He inhaled it before he even finished packing his bag. And once home? Not a whimper of starvation until after karate, and even then it was moderated.

Why did it work? After all, I almost always give him a snack after school when we get home.

I think it has something to do with the distraction factor. When he came home after drinking the smoothie, Parker got right into other things. He never took a break to eat, and therefore to think about needing to eat 12 meals a day.

Maybe? Who knows… Perhaps it was just chance. But I’ll be trying it again.

Meanwhile, today’s lunch is leftover beef satay from dinner last night (another one I marinated all day, then was able to cook quickly after karate), the last of the leftover spicy Korean barbecue chicken (this time in a whole-wheat tortilla), and some berries.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Sometimes I’m kind of slow, but I’m learning

Easy lunch box ideas: spicy Korean barbecue chicken; curried potatoes; and blackberries with chocolate.

Too often lately I’ve been burned by Parker’s ravenous appetite.

I prep what I consider to be a reasonable amount of dinner, which accounts for having leftovers with which I will prepare his lunch the next day.

Except the human vacuum cleaner then comes to the table in inhales everything.

So last night I decided we’d have spicy Korean barbecue chicken. And I wasn’t about to let this happen.

Since I’ve also been burned of late by his NEEDING to eat IMMEDIATELY after his homework, I prepped the chicken in the morning so it could marinate. That way, when starvation struck, I could just toss it in the oven.

The recipe is loosely adapted from Cooking Light magazine’s new cookbook, “Global Kitchen.” I mixed 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean chili paste), a whole mess of grated fresh ginger, a hefty splash of toasted sesame oil, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes and about 6 cloves of garlic. Then, instead of 1 pound of sliced pork tenderloin… I added 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs.

As expected, once Parker’s homework was done, starvation hit. So I cranked up the oven to 450 F and set a rack over a rimmed pan. The chicken was in and out of the oven in about 15 minutes. Had it been warmer out, I’d have grilled it. But I was feeling lazy.

Didn’t matter. It was delicious.

Parker ate three plates of it.

Luckily, my advance planning meant I still had some for today’s lunch!

While Parker did his homework last night, I also made curried potatoes. I dumped a bunch of new potatoes in a cast-iron skillet with some butter. I cooked them until they started to brown, then I added a can of coconut milk and a couple tablespoons of yellow curry paste. Then I just let it simmer until the potatoes were tender and the sauce was thickened. A sprinkle of salt and sugar made the sauce pop.

Leftovers of those potatoes — funny how I never need to triple up my cooking in order to have leftover vegetables — were part two of today’s lunch.

Finally, some blackberries. But I found them kind of tart. So I tried something new. I use a butter knife to smear a little chocolate spread on the inside of the jar in which I was packing the berries. We’ll see if he notices.

The cream cheese and fruit in pita? Not so much.

Easy lunch box ideas: barbecue roasted pork loin; rice crackers with Parmesan cheese and quince paste; and a yogurt and fruit parfait.

I knew it even as I made it. But did I listen to myself?

Of course not.

Even as I made the cream cheese, strawberry and banana wrap on whole-wheat pita pocket yesterday morning, I thought  Parker wasn’t going to like it.

Not sure why. It has everything he loves. But usually I use whole-wheat tortillas, not pita pockets.

Well, it seems that’s all it took to push him over the edge.

When I went to pick him up from school yesterday, one of his teachers pulled me aside.

That’s never a good thing, is it? They don’t do that just to tell you what a pleasure it is to spend all day with your charming child. Or to tell you what a wonderful parent you are to be raising such a polite and loving kid.

It’s. Never. Good.

Apparently, Parker was displeased with his wraps. And after he ate the parfait, he decided to throw away the wrap.

This is a first. I know this is a first because not everything I pack is a huge hit. And when it isn’t, he brings it home half eaten in his lunch box.

But we have a rule… With only some exceptions, whatever comes home in his lunch box is what he has for his after school snack. Only after he eats that can he have something else.

Yesterday, he decided to circumvent that rule.

Until one of his teachers stepped in. He wasn’t allowed to throw it away.

Parker apparently was most displeased by this turn of events. I wasn’t able to get all of the details, but he seems to have expressed some of that displeasure.

That’s my boy.

As I said, it’s never good.

He didn’t get in trouble, but I was being informed…

I heard lots of grumbling on the way home. We didn’t talk too much about it other than to note that it wasn’t appropriate.

And when we got home for snack…? Guess what reappeared?

“But I didn’t like it!”

“You barely tried it.”

“The bread was yucky.”

“Then why not unwrap it and at least use your fork to eat out the fruit and cream cheese?”

“Oh. I didn’t think of that.”

And so that’s what he did for his snack.


But moving on… As many of you predicted, Parker did arrive home STARVING…

We won’t remind him that eating one’s lunch is an excellent cure for this.

Luckily,  I had prepped dinner a bit in advance. This seems to be the new key to avoiding a bout of the “screaming starvings.” I try to have dinner prepped a little earlier these days.

So yesterday morning I made a barbecue dry rub (brown sugar and a whole mess of spices). I sliced a pork loin roast almost in half, opened it like a book, then rubbed it thoroughly inside and out. The pork absorbed the flavor all day, then I just popped it in the oven at 400 F for 45 minutes while Parker did his homework.

After his homework, he barely had time to mention how STARVING!!! he was before dinner appeared on the table.

So leftovers of the roast is where lunch started today. I also did another parfait — using crushed ice cream cones instead of my usual graham crackers or granola because that’s all I had — and some Parmesan cheese, rice crackers and quince paste.

Today is another cross country day. We all know what that means…

And thanks for all the great comments yesterday. I used a random number generator to pick the winner — and that’s Pattie S. Congratulations!

A strawberries and cream sort of lunch. And a giveaway!

Easy lunch box ideas: berry and yogurt parfait; and strawberries and banana with cream cheese wrapped in a whole-wheat pita pocket.

So Parker LOVED cross country running yesterday. And if I thought the growth spurt — and his insane rate of food consumption — was slowing, I suspect this new activity will reverse that.

For dinner last night, he ate roughly a pound of jerk chicken and sweet-and-sour chicken — some of which I’d hoped to use in his lunch today. None left. He also ate cucumbers, a yogurt and asked for bread and butter.

All of which meant I had no leftovers to work with this morning.

For breakfast, he requested a yogurt and fruit parfait. And since I was making one, it wasn’t much more work to make two. So that’s where today’s lunch started — strawberries, granola, a blueberry yogurt, a drizzle of honey and just a sprinkle of mini chocolate chips.

Since I already had the strawberries out, I was inspired to try something new. Not sure it’s going to go down all that well, but…

I smeared cream cheese over half of a whole-wheat pita pocket. Then I layered sliced strawberries and a banana on it and rolled it up. In theory it should be yummy… But who knows.

If I made it again, I’d use a whole-wheat tortilla instead. The pita bread didn’t really hold up well to the rolling.

Oh, and I have a giveaway for today. My AP and cookbook photographer — Matthew Mead — has a new book out, “Matthew Mead’s Backyard Style.” It’s a beautiful book of ideas and recipes for outdoor fun.

Leave a comment on today’s post and I’ll pick a winner at random tomorrow to get a copy of the book.


All runners fuel up on cake, right?

Easy lunch box ideas: strawberry roll cake; butter roasted potatoes and chicken sausage; and mixed berries.

Today is a big day for Parker. He’s trying cross country running for the first time.

I encouraged him to do it. I figured no harm in him burning a little energy after school. Though I am wondering if he’ll come home exhausted… Which could make math homework interesting.

I did momentarily consider that if he gets into it, running could become something we do together. That thought lasted about 10 seconds.

I despise running. He’s on his own.

Meanwhile, I wanted to make sure he had plenty of energy for all that running. So I packed a slice of strawberry roll cake I made last night. I was testing a recipe from Spike Mendelsohn’s mom. Pretty delicious.

For the rest of his lunch, I went with breakfast leftovers. I got up early this morning, so I tossed new potatoes and butter in a cast-iron skillet, then walked away for a good 30 minutes.

Toward the end of cooking, I added some sliced chicken sausage and waited for everything to get nice and brown. He loved it for breakfast. I’m guessing he’ll love it for lunch.

Oh, and remember the veg pulled pork I mentioned a few weeks ago? Here’s the recipe. So easy. And so good.


Start to finish: 2 hours 15 minutes (15 minutes active)
Servings: 8

2 cups chicken broth
2 cups white wine
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cups chopped butternut squash
2 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 cup barbecue sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons hot sauce
8 buns

Heat the oven 350 F.

In a large, oven-safe pot, such as a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, combine the broth, wine, onion and squash. Bring to a simmer, then add the pork. Return to a simmer, then cover the pot and carefully transfer it to the oven. Cook for 2 hours, or until the pork is extremely tender and easily falls apart.

Remove the pot from the oven and use a slotted spoon to transfer the pork to a plate. Return the pot to the stovetop and heat over high. Bring the liquid and vegetables to a boil and cook until the liquid is nearly gone, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn the vegetables.

Transfer the vegetables to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the pureed vegetables to the pot. Add the barbecue and hot sauces, stirring well. Return the pork to the pot and stir well to coat. The stirring alone should be sufficient to reduce the pork to strands. If needed, set the pot over medium heat until hot. Serve the pulled pork on buns.

Could his growth spurt finally be slowing down?

Easy lunch box ideas: ham, cream cheese and grated carrot wrap in a whole-wheat tortilla; strawberries.

Yesterday Parker did the unthinkable.

He said I’ve been packing too much food lately.

This from the boy who was coming home from school and eating second lunches, then eating a couple dinners a few hours later.

So today I went light. I also decided to try something new.

Parker loves ham and cream cheese wraps in whole-wheat tortillas.

Parker does not love carrots.

This morning I decided to see whether we could find a happy middle ground.

I know if I tossed carrot sticks into his sandwich — or even anywhere near it — he’d be unhappy. So instead, I grated the carrot into the center of the wrap before rolling it up.

Thanks to the grating, the texture of the carrots was soft and juicy, not hard and crunchy.

Will he go for it? Probably not. But I’m hoping the presence of ham and cream cheese will soften the blow for him.

Undeniably, the worst lunch I ever have packed

Easy lunch box ideas: bagel and cream cheese; pasta carbonara; and a yogurt.

It was bound to happen.

I’ve been chronicling Parker’s lunches on this blog for nearly five years now. And at some point it was bound to happen.

This morning, I forgot to pack his lunch.

In my defense, there’s a lot going on at the moment.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet, but we’re about to begin a major renovation at the house. So major that we need to move out for the summer. As part of this, the kitchen is being gutted and rebuilt.

And as part of that, I need to sell some of the existing appliances.

And that’s where things fell apart this morning. I have some folks interested in buying my stove, but they asked for more photos. So this morning after feeding Parker, I decided to clean the stove in order to do that.

It seemed totally reasonable. I’d got up early and we had plenty of time before Parker needed to be at school. Until we didn’t.

Somehow, I lost track of time. Suddenly, it was 8 a.m. and we were about to rush out the door.

That’s when I noticed something was missing.

His lunch. I’d forgotten to pack it.

“Ugh! Your lunch. I need to pack one!”

“Well… I guess I could go without.”

Could he sound more pathetic and sorry?

And so today’s lunch consists of the half-eaten bagel leftover from Parker’s breakfast (it was still on the table as I scrambled to throw something together), a yogurt and a bowl of carbonara left from dinner last night.