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…

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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.

My crusts have come back to haunt me

Easy lunch box ideas: barbecue baby back ribs; whole-wheat bread with pimento cheese (and NO crusts); and watermelon with grapes. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

I was totally prepared to be annoyed with Parker this morning.

Which tends to be my natural state lately, but that’s another story.

Last night my three glasses of cab and I spent a whopping 5 minutes doing something novel as a treat for Parker this morning. Did he properly appreciate it? Of course not.

During the renovation, I rediscovered that I have a really good bread machine. It hadn’t been used in years, mostly because we now have a great artisanal baker in town.

But as I set up the new kitchen, I decided to locate the bread machine in an accessible spot. Because wouldn’t that be just wonderful.

Wouldn’t it be great to wake up on a chilly morning — which we’ve been having — to the smell of warm bread? And then to slather it with something yummy to go with my coffee?

And to go with the endless F’ing games of Uno a certain 10-year-old now insists we play from the moment he wakes up until the minute he leaves the house…?

That also is another story.

So last night my wine and I busted out the bread machine and prepped a whole-wheat pumpkin seed loaf.

Which then scared the crap out of me in the middle of the night.

Bam! Clonk! Err! Whirr! Bam! Clonk! Err! Whirr! Bam! Clonk! Err! Whirr!

For 30 minutes at 2:30 a.m.

And since I hadn’t used this device in years, I had no idea what I was hearing. Convinced some lunatic was breaking into the house — an incompetent and slow lunatic — I grabbed the only weapon I own…

The flashlight on my iPhone…

And investigated.

Jump ahead to 6:15 as we stumble down the stairs.

“Uno!?!?”

“No!”

The bread came out great. So as a special treat, I slathered it with…

Yes, Healthy Eating Parent of the Year moment coming…

Leftover chocolate frosting from his birthday cake.

Because it was easier than trying to find a jar of Nutella. And I figured it was about as healthy.

While my son worked himself into a sugar coma, I took my coffee into the other room, blindly assuming he’d devour the bread my wine and I had labored so long for.

Until I came back into the kitchen and discovered the pile of discarded crusts.

A small mountain of crusts, actually. Mostly because much of the slices (the bread “flesh”) were still attached.

Because, it seems, they were “too close” to the actual crust.

For the record, the crusts were delicious.

And I was getting annoyed. Not just because he’d not eaten much of my carefully crafted bread. But also because he’d since been nagging me for a chocolate yogurt parfait.

Can’t finish the bread, but can demand more chocolate…

And then I flashed back about 30-something years… To a delightful, actually rather perfect 10-year-old boy — precocious, really — who liked to carry his lunch to school in a metal blue “Empire Strikes Back” lunch box.

And to the mom who without complaint every single day cut the crusts off the same damn mustard and cheese on whole wheat sandwich he insisted on.

Every. Single. Day.

No. Crusts.

She did it without complaint.

So Parker got a pass this morning. And his lunch? I cut the crusts off the bread before smearing it with pimento cheese…

Add some fruit and some leftover barbecue ribs…

And now for a whole new form of food glue!

Easy lunch box ideas: pimento cheese with steak and avocado in a whole-wheat tortilla; watermelon; and a yogurt. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

As food glues go, it’s hard to beat cream cheese and peanut butter.

And of course by food glue I mean any sticky smearable edible substance that can be used to hold together wraps and other sandwiches.

Why food glue?

Because our children are careless slobs.

Harsh? Perhaps. True? Duh!

I’m quite certain that if I didn’t glue my son’s sandwiches and wraps together, even more of them than usual would end up ground permanently into the fabric of his clothing.

And his hair.

So I rely on food glue.

But today I discovered a new one.

Pimento cheese spread.

Not something I normally keep about the house. But a writer of mine is working on a story about it becoming hip on the bar and cocktail scene.

So yesterday, one of AP’s chefs made a batch for a photo shoot.

The leftovers? Food glue!

I smeared a healthy portion of it onto a whole-wheat tortilla, then piled on leftover steak and a mashed avocado. It all rolled up perfectly. And held together.

Which isn’t to say my son won’t come home covered in food…

Add a yogurt and some watermelon and we’re good.

Oh, and yes, Parker’s cross-country meet went well. He seemed to really enjoy it…

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Another fine way to start a long week

Easy lunch box ideas: chili; birthday cake; and apple-pear crisp. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

So today is Parker’s 1oth birthday.

Which is crazy.

It’s also why I found myself rushing into his classroom this morning and telling his teacher:

“Is anybody else listening? No? Good. Because these are really f’ing ugly. But I think they’ll taste OK.”

Oy…

Today not only is Parker’s birthday. It’s also his first cross-country meet. And that had him more than a little nervous this morning.

That meant that instead of focusing this morning on making his birthday special or on making a treat for his class, I was mostly talking him off the edge of a cliff of nerves.

And so the cake balls I made using frosting and cake from his birthday party were a mess from start to finish. I’d frozen the leftovers for this sole purpose.

First I thawed the mush too long in the microwave. So I had to refreeze it for a while. Then my rounds of cake were misshapen. Then the chocolate coating went on messy. Really messy. Some fell apart.

I didn’t have time to fuss over them. I just dumped them into muffin tin cups and called it good.

His teacher seemed amused…

And I can’t believe we’ve hit double digits.

Doesn’t seem even a little possible…

Today’s lunch — rather hastily tossed together this morning — was leftover chili from dinner last night (made with TONS of tomatoes and peppers, though he didn’t seem to notice or mind), leftover birthday cake and leftover apple-pear crisp.

Now… Off to see how he does at his meet… Fingers crossed…

Yes, the pear tart is missing a bite…

Easy lunch box ideas: candied smoked bacon with cream cheese on an everything bagel; pear and pine nut tart; and fresh berries. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

I mean, we all nibble a bit as we pack their lunches, right?

I usually try to make it a little less obvious. Maybe trim the edge with a knife so it has a clean cut.

But today I figured… Eh. We’re talking about a kid who would eat off the floor if I let him. So I’m not going to get all bent out of shape about leaving a bite mark in his tart.

Today’s lunch was all about convenience. Parker has been obsessed with the game Uno lately. So much so, he begs to play it from the moment he wakes up until he is heading out the door to school.

Today I gave in more than normal. So there wasn’t a ton of time of lunch building.

Breakfast was candied smoked bacon. So I slapped some of that and cream cheese on an everything bagel. Add some leftover pear and pine nut tart from a photo shoot and some berries… Good enough.

It may be ugly, but it sure is yummy…

Easy lunch box ideas: sausages stewed in beer and onions; yogurt; and a fruit blend. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

So with a new school year, we’ve embraced a new chore list.

For Parker, that is.

He wanted more cash. I wanted him to do more work. So now he has a more rigorous schedule.

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He’s been good about doing them. Until last night, when he was at first reluctant to assist with dinner. He eventually came around. Funny how money can be an incentive like that.

Anyway, so I walked him through my new favorite — and stupidly easy — way to cook sausage. He ended up eating four of them last night. And another three made it into his lunch today, so I must be doing something right…

Start by slicing an onion or two. Toss in a large pot and add whatever sausage you have (I had 8 sweet Italian). Let that all brown for about 10 minutes over medium heat.

Now, open a beer and take a sip (I helped Parker with that step), then dump the rest into the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook another 5 minutes.

Now grab a hunk of bread (we used a hamburger bun because that’s all we had) and tear into little pieces. Dump those in the pot and stir. Simmer for another 5 minutes.

Done. Eat the sausages with the thick sauce spooned over them.

They may not be pretty, but they are delicious.

To round out his lunch today, I made Parker a giant juice of pureed pineapple and strawberries with orange juice. I’d meant to turn it into a smoothie by adding yogurt, but decided the pineapple likely would ruin the yogurt by lunch. So juice it was.

You know what happens when you make fun of Daddy’s meatballs?

Easy lunch box ideas: ground beef with corn, tortilla crumbles and cumin; yogurt; and strawberries. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

You get tomatoes with dinner, that’s what.

“But they’re on my list!”

Parker was, of course, referring to the list of five foods (and let’s be honest, it’s a list of five vegetables) that he is allowed to say he won’t eat. Tomatoes are high on that list.

Last night, my bourbon and I didn’t care.

“They’re roasted. You’ll like them.”

“But my list!!!”

“Then next time don’t make fun of my meatballs.”

You see, about 10 minutes earlier he’d been a jerk. I was trying to make meatballs for dinner. It was going to be a funky meatball — beef with corn and cumin rolled in tortilla crumbs.

I planned to brown them in the skillet, then pop the whole thing in the oven to finish.

Except when I gave the pan a hearty shake to move them around… They all fell apart.

I tried to turn it into a learning experience for my son, explaining that when we fail we need to just pick up the pieces, make it better, learn from it and move on.

But instead of listening and learning, he laughed.

So I gave him tomatoes with dinner.

He apologized and ate the tomatoes.

So leftover “meatball mash” is where today’s lunch began. I also included a pumpkin Noosa yogurt, which is this crazy delicious brand of ultra-rich yogurts. Parker loves them.

No corn, but how about some slipped in squash?

Easy lunch box ideas: baked apples with butter and sugar; pumpkin bread stuffed with cream cheese, dried cherries and pumpkin seeds; and butternut squash biscuits with ham and cream cheese. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

So not even a comment from Parker about the corn and bacon salad.

Nothing.

The container came home empty, scraped clean.

So I’ll not only consider this a success, I shall build on it. Surely, I can come up with other things to add.

Meanwhile, today’s lunch went in a very carby direction.

First up, sliced apples cooked in butter and a hint of sugar. No, I wasn’t anal enough to slice them that thin. We had a photo shoot yesterday and those were prepped for a tart. I snagged the extras.

The brown slab next to the apples is a pumpkin bread with a cream cheese filling, dried cherries and pumpkin seeds. Yup… Pretty intensely indulgent.

To wash it all down, a pair of butternut squash biscuits with cream cheese and ham.

Now… Time to think dinner. I believe my monster will be helping me prep it tonight. Thinking about some sort of tortilla-crusted meatballs. We’ll see how it goes…

How far can we push this corn thing?

Easy lunch box ideas: bacon-peanut butter-banana "sushi"; pineapple; and corn and bacon salad with sour cream. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

“So, was there something different about my ham and cream cheese?”

Parker. Friday after school. Asking about his lunch.

It was the lunch I’d slipped some raw corn kernels into by way of his ham and cream cheese “sushi.”

“What do you mean?”

Always best to feign ignorance…

“Was there something different?”

“Did you like it?”

Always best to redirect…

“Yeah.”

“Good.”

“But was there something different?”

“Well, I added corn to it.”

“I knew it!”

“But you liked it!”

“(Pause) It was OK.”

Whatever.

So today I decided to see if I could push the corn more obviously. Not that he dislikes corn. He just is generally averse to finding vegetables of any sort invading his lunches.

I made a simple bacon and raw corn salad with salt and pepper, and a bit of sour cream on the side.

Add some peanut butter-bacon-banana “sushi” and some pineapple on the side… And we’ll see what happens.