And then there are those days when you say, “Screw it.”

Easy lunch box ideas: mashed potatoes; aged gouda; pumpkin cannoli; and penuche cream pie.

And then you say, “Where’s my bourbon?”

One of those days. Misbehaving kid. Misbehaving electrician. Work piling up.

You get it. You know.

So those days come and you say… Whatever.

So you fill your kid’s lunch box with buttery mashed potatoes. And aged gouda.

And then you sort of give up.

And you ask, “Where’s my damn bourbon?”

So you toss in some pumpkin cannoli. Not because he deserves it, but because you don’t care.

And you ask, “Is it wrong to drink bourbon at 8 a.m.?”

So you toss in some penuche fudge pie topped with vanilla custard. And you don’t care that it slops into the container. Again, not because he deserves it.

Because… Well, you get it.

A lazy Sunday stew makes for a fast and easy lunch


Easy lunch box ideas: beef, butternut squash and carrot stew; buttermilk whole-wheat dinner roll; and a yogurt. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.comSo yesterday was a rare day. I cleaned the garage so that it can be parked in for the winter.

And that was about it. No plans. No demands.

So I decided to take advantage of a long and leisurely Sunday by taking on some cooking projects, the sorts of things my usual day-to-day doesn’t permit.

I started with a beef stew with butternut squash and carrots. For an experiment, I braised the beef for the stew in buttermilk for four hours before scooping it out (discarding the buttermilk) and adding it to a tomato base that I’d simmered down.

Then I added the rest of the ingredients — including a whole mess of basil, oregano and thyme — and let it go for another two hours. It was pretty delicious, though I’m not sure I’d bother with the buttermilk braise again. It supposedly makes the meat very tender. It worked, but a braise in any liquid would have accomplished that.

Next up… Buttermilk whole-wheat rolls. Sensing a theme? I found myself with four quarts of buttermilk in the refrigerator and was set on using as much as possible this week.

The rolls turned out delicious. A very basic recipe from “The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book.” It’s an old-school bread book.

So today’s lunch was simple — beef stew and a roll, and some yummy yogurt on the side.

Same meat, but now with added carbs and fat

Easy lunch box ideas: leftover mashed potatoes with Chinese barbecue pulled pork; apple crisp; and a buttermilk biscuit.

Still had a ton of Chinese barbecue pulled pork left over last night, so decided it needed a fresh take for dinner.

So I made killer mashed potatoes.

As in, mashed potatoes with buttermilk. And heavy cream. And butter.

I considered frying fresh sage in more butter and stirring the whole thing in… But got distracted.

Was delicious all the same with the pulled pork.

If the mashed potatoes look a little bluish, no need to adjust your display. They are. I only had four proper mashing potatoes, and that wasn’t quite enough. I wanted leftovers for today’s lunch.

So I tossed in a few purple new potatoes. They mashed up just fine and Parker didn’t even notice the color.

So today’s lunch started there — mashed potatoes topped with pulled pork (all packed together in a wide thermos). Add a leftover biscuit and the last of the apple crisp… And that’s fine for a Friday.

Hope everyone has a great weekend.

A chore that finally pays dividends… And not just to Parker

Easy lunch box ideas: Chinese pulled pork on buttermilk biscuits; chocolate spread on graham crackers; and apple crisp.

So earlier this year Parker asked for more money in his allowance.

I said, sure. So long as you do more chores.

And to his credit, he has done a good job with that. He does the laundry twice a week, feeds the cats every day, handles the recycling and trash, even vacuums.

And once a week he has to help me make dinner.

Oddly, this has been the one challenge. Fair enough. By the end of the day, he just wants to crash on the couch and read. So these evenings of perfect father-son bonding over the butcher block weren’t really translating.

Until last night. For whatever reason, he was in the mood. So we cranked up his hit list on the radio and got cooking.

We started with buttermilk biscuits that are cooked in a cast-iron skillet. Then we ambled on to slow-braised pulled pork with Chinese barbecue sauce.

He was great about it, measuring everything carefully, cutting the butter into the flour with knives, measuring out the many (many!) spices for the barbecue sauce, etc.

Who is this kid?

Another perk of his culinary efforts? Leftovers with which to pack lunch this morning. Cold pulled pork on buttermilk biscuits!

Yesterday morning I’d also had some time to make an apple crisp, so I added that to his lunch, too. A couple graham crackers with chocolate spread and we’re good.

You have no idea how much I love steak taco night

Easy lunch box ideas: bison steak with whole-wheat tortillas, sour cream and cheese; raspberries; and a buttermilk-chive biscuit.

Especially on a week like this, when I am horribly behind on work and life in general (thanks to being away all last week).

Steak taco night rocks. I cut whole-wheat tortillas into quarters. I splash some sour cream into a bowl. I grate some cheese into another. I slice an avocado.

All that’s left is dumping a couple bison steaks into a hot skillet and searing them on both sides, then slicing them nice and thin.

And if I’m smart — which isn’t always a sure thing — I’ll double my efforts and have enough of everything prepped so that packing a lunch of the same thing is simple.

This time I managed to be smart.

And for good measure, I also tossed in some raspberries and a buttermilk-chive biscuit (another Thanksgiving leftover).

It’s never too early to plan for all those Thanksgiving leftovers

Easy lunch box ideas: turkey, cream cheese and barbecue sauce sandwich on whole wheat; and a slice of pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving comes early to our house.

In fact, it started coming about four weeks ago and has visited us about once a week ever since. So goes life in the test kitchen of the world’s largest news organization.

Which is why I’m already thinking about how to use up Thanksgiving leftovers.

This morning I added a heap of pumpkin pie filling (yes, scraped out of the pie shell) to Parker’s yogurt parfait breakfast. He was pretty delighted by that.

For lunch, I gave in to convenience and just packed a whole slice. Why not?

I also had turkey to use up. So I toasted two slices of whole-wheat bread, slathered them with cream cheese and barbecue sauce, then slapped on some turkey.

Some days it’s not worth overthinking things!

So much brown, so little time

Easy lunch box ideas: graham cracker peanut butter and jam sandwiches; aged gouda with crackers; and leftover pasta Alfredo.

Argh! Back yesterday from a week on the road in New York City.

Let’s just say I ate and drank so very, very well.

But got back yesterday and feeling utterly behind in everything.

So today, I will keep it simple. I made a very, so very brown lunch.

Graham crackers with peanut butter and jam. Aged gouda cheese with crackers. And leftover pasta Alfredo.

Simply had to do.

But what would Frodo eat?

Easy lunch box ideas: Candied bacon and cream cheese on a whole-wheat wrap; apple with peanut butter and granola; and a yogurt.

Parker has been a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings books for a couple years. But he never wanted to watch the movies. He figured they’d scare him.

But this weekend he finally decided he was ready. Which was a perfect excuse for us to snuggle on the couch for a while during the long weekend before I head out today for a business trip.

And by work I mean eating everything not tied down in New York City.

But while we watched the first two movies in the series, we needed to eat. So I made Parker a cream cheese and candied bacon wrap using bacon left over from a party we had this weekend.

He requested another for dinner.

And in the process… I made an extra and shoved it into today’s lunch.

At some point, he also needed a snack — because that’s what hobbits do — and I sliced up half a large apple and smeared it with peanut butter.

The other half also go peanut butter, but also got dunked in granola. Keeps it yummy and keeps it from turning brown.

No school, but how about that chocolate hummus recipe?

Easy lunch box ideas: Chocolate hummus.

No school means no packed lunch!

But I’ll share that chocolate hummus recipe.

So good! Try it.


Start to finish: 10 minutes
Makes 2 cups

15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup honey or agave syrup
3 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt

In a food processor, combine all ingredients. Process until smooth, stopping the processor to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Use immediately or refrigerate. Tightly wrapped and refrigerated, the hummus will keep for up to a week.

Nutrition information per 2-tablespoon serving:
 75 calories; 25 calories from fat (33 percent of total calories); 3 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 11 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 2 g protein; 90 mg sodium.

Let’s see what he does with a little bit of sage on that bacon

Easy lunch box ideas: sage, bacon and Parmesan toasted on whole wheat; a muffin; and fruit.

Truth is, he may not eat today’s lunch. At least not gleefully.

But boy did it smell great while I made it!

Still scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of food. Still haven’t had time to shop.

So this morning I fried up some more smoked bacon. And I swear I only nibbled off two tiny pieces. Purely to even out the strips. I know how much my son appreciates uniformity in his bacon.

Then I shaved some Parmesan on a couple slices of whole-wheat bread and tossed the bacon on that.

But then I decided to mix it up a bit. Because why the hell not?

So I threw some fresh sage leaves on it. Then some butter in the skillet. Toast away!

Oh my. It smelled SO good.

We’ll see if he gets totally freaked out by the sage.

Add some fruit and a muffin I found in the freezer — I have no idea what’s in it!

Good. Enough.