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.


Steak tacos and strawberries and the world is a happy place

Easy lunch box ideas: bison steak tacos with whole-wheat tortillas, cheese and sour cream; and strawberries.

As predicted, Parker’s lunch box returned home yesterday afternoon with the mysteriously dark rice pudding untouched.

Well, almost untouched.

He went to the trouble of carefully plucking the blackberries off the top, somehow managing to do so without disturbing the rice pudding beneath them.

He ate the berries. He didn’t even try the rice pudding.

“Why didn’t you eat that?”

“I didn’t like the yogurt.”

“What yogurt?”

“The yogurt.”

“That’s not yogurt. It’s rice pudding.”

“I didn’t know that it was rice pudding.”

“Why didn’t you try it?”

“I didn’t like it.”

“That’s hard to know unless you try it.”

The conversation went downhill from there. So he ended up eating it for his snack after school.

Today, no unidentified foods in Parker’s lunch. We had steak tacos for dinner last night, so I cooked up a little extra and repeated that meal for lunch.

“Oh good. I can taunt Jack with my steak.”

“How do you taunt him with your steak?”

“He’s always jealous when I bring steak. So I tease him with it.”

And that, folks, is why I work so hard to feed this child. So he can taunt friends with rare bison…

It’s always possible that I’m trying to poison him…

Easy lunch box ideas: black rice pudding with blackberries; pineapple; and a banana wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla with peanut butter.

Most days I don’t bother to tell Parker what I’m packing in his lunch.

It’s an efficiency thing. I don’t have time in the morning to debate with him what is going in his lunch. So I don’t ask his opinion. And I don’t offer any advance notice.

The only exception is when I put something in his lunch that he might not readily identify, and therefore might be reluctant to eat.

Because we all know how the 9-year-old’s mind works…

“My dad packed this lunch. He packed something that I can’t identify. Since I don’t know what it is and since it’s entirely possible my dad could be trying to poison me, I’d better not take even a tiny bite to see if I like it.”

You know it’s true…

Today was just such a day. Yesterday, we tested and shot a recipe from Sara Moulton for a delicious Mother’s Day rice pudding made with black rice. The color is funky. The taste is awesome.

When I packed it this morning, I’d meant to alert Parker that the blackish-greyish stuff in his lunch box is rice pudding (topped with blackberries), a food group he considers essential to life.

I forgot.

We all know that rice pudding is coming home untouched…

To round out the lunch — and probably be the only part he eats — some pineapple and a banana wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla with peanut butter.

Slow cooked baby back ribs, please!

Easy lunch box ideas: slow cooked barbecue baby back ribs; everything bagel and cream cheese; and fruit salad.

Parker has been asking for baby back ribs for weeks. He loves them, particularly when they are coated with a spicy, sticky barbecue sauce.

And for weeks I’ve been trying to make them for him.

But there seemed to be a conspiracy against the effort. I never seemed to get to the grocery store to get the key ingredient — the ribs. Or if I got to the store, I forgot to get them.

Finally, on Friday I pulled it together enough to get them. So yesterday, after an exhausting day of going to the library, eating bagels and reading, we made slow cooked baby back ribs.

I used a recipe from David Lebovitz’ new cookbook, “My Paris Kitchen.” It’s a lovely book, though admittedly not the sort in which you expect to find a recipe for caramel pork ribs.

You basically make a barbecue sauce by caramelizing sugar in a Dutch oven, then adding ribs and popping the whole thing in the oven for several hours. Delicious.

So leftover ribs made a fine start to today’s lunch. Parker uncharacteristically didn’t finish his bagel and cream cheese at breakfast (hope he’s not getting sick…), so I added that and a fruit salad.


A brown rice and Buffalo-esque take on chicken

Easy lunch box ideas: Buffalo-style broiled chicken tenders with brown rice; chicken saltimbocca; and kiwis and oranges.

Last night’s dinner was an experiment that — while not all that attractive — was yummy.

It was inspired by Buffalo chicken wings. I like the flavor — fried wings tossed in Frank’s Red Hot sauce — but I don’t like frying and I’ve never been a huge fan of wings.

I had some chicken breasts in need of using up. So on Wednesday evening I cut them into tenders and dumped them in a bag with a blend of toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. They marinated like that in the refrigerator for about 24 hours.

Last night, I oiled a wire rack and set it over a baking sheet. Then I arranged the chicken tenders on the rack. This helps the heat circulate all around the food.

I broiled the chicken until it started to get some color and just barely hit 165 F.

Meanwhile, I whisked together some low-fat sour cream and a healthy splash of Frank’s Red Hot sauce. A little salt and pepper rounded it out.

When the chicken came out of the oven, I tossed it in a bowl with the sour cream-Frank’s mixture, stirring it around to coat it really well. That was it. Turned out delicious. And so easy.

I paired it with some brown rice cooked in chicken broth. Also easy and delicious.

So leftovers of those two items made a good start for today’s lunch. I also gave Parker the last slab of chicken saltimbocca and some fruit. And so ends another week in the lunch box trenches.

Of chicken saltimbocca and buttery potatoes with pork shoulder

Easy lunch box ideas: chicken saltimbocca; pork shoulder and pan-roasted potatoes; and kiwis.


As usual, about as vegetarian-unfriendly a lunch as possible.

That’s my boy…

For dinner last night I was inspired by a Mario Batali recipe in the April issue of Food & Wine magazine. He did chicken saltimbocca with asparagus. It sounded pretty delicious, so I decided to do my own version.

I sliced two chicken breasts into thin cutlets, then pounded them even thinner. Then I dredged them through flour that I’d seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

I topped each piece with some fresh sage, then rather crappily wrapped each cutlet with a few slices of prosciutto. Need to get Mario to teach me how to do a better job at the wrapping part…

To cook them, I melted some butter (with a splash of olive oil) in a large oven-safe saute pan. I browned the cutlets on each side for several minutes, then popped the whole thing in a 300 F oven to finish up. Done and on the table in less than 30 minutes.

And pretty damn delicious.

So leftovers of that started today’s lunch.

For breakfast, I pan-roasted new potatoes in butter. It’s pretty simple. You melt butter over medium heat, add whole new potatoes, cover and let cook (shaking the pan every now and then). They brown up nicely in about 15 or so minutes. Add salt and they are delicious. Some crisped pork shoulder steaks finished breakfast, and leftovers of both got heated up and heaped into a thermos for Parker’s lunch.

Oh-so-very meat and potatoes…