If only I could be as organized about lunch as I am Thanksgiving

Easy lunch box ideas: breaded pork cutlets with cream cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla; yogurt. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Because for Thanksgiving I’m working off of a two-tiered spreadsheet.

A to-do list app that syncs between my laptop, my iPhone and my iPad.

An online grocery order.

A stack of well-organized recipes and ideas.

A well-stocked refrigerator.

Multiple dishes prepped in advance.

Lunch? Er… Not so much. Today — breaded pork cutlets slapped into a tortilla.

Usually, I don’t get too excited about Thanksgiving. That’s partly because by the time the real holiday rolls around, I’ve already had five or more full Thanksgiving dinners in the test kitchen.


But this year I’m looking forward to it. After a hectic (we’ll use that word to protect the not-so-innocent) November, I’m eager for a day of family, friends and food.

The menu?


  • Cheese and fruit platter
  • Warm phyllo cups with brie, cranberry sauce and bacon
  • Apple-live pate with homemade seed crackers
  • Warm Triscuits topped with manchego-stuffed dates and wrapped in bacon
  • Cucumber cups filled with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and dill


  • 23-pound turkey dry-brined with bacon salt
  • Spanakopita


  • Squash rolls
  • Sourdough bread
  • Homemade truffle butter
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Cranberry “salami” (a thick, sliceable sauce)
  • Vegan mashed potatoes (for mom)
  • Not-vegan mashed potatoes (for the rest of us)
  • Roasted sweet potato wedges glazed with orange bitters
  • Turkey drippings stuffing
  • Vegan stuffing with pine nuts, dried cherries, thyme and sage
  • Roasted butternut squash with shaved Brussels sprouts, lemon juice and ricotta salata
  • Roasted carrots tossed with butter and topped with honeycomb


  • Prosecco
  • Bourbon (duh!)
  • Seltzer
  • Red Wine
  • White wine
  • Sparkling cider (for the kiddies)


  • Apple pie
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Chocolate pumpkin pie
  • Coconut cream pie
  • Apple cake

You may have read about our nation’s bourbon shortage…

Easy lunch box ideas: Cambodian treats and a ham and cream cheese wrap on a whole-wheat tortilla. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

And lately I’ve been doing more than my part to foster it.

Apologies for the long silence. A confluence of kid, busiest time of the year at work, kid, outside projects, kid… Well, let’s just say my bourbon and I haven’t had much time for lunch blogging.

The kid’s still getting fed. Fear not.

Not sure he deserves it, but I’m signed on to keep him in food for the next eight years, so there we have it.

Today’s lunch is a whole lot of What the…?

I had a fun day yesterday exploring a Cambodian market in Massachusetts. A local who knows the language and the food was giving me a tour. Came home with all sorts of cool finds.

Took all my strength to not buy the 2-gallon bucket of Sriracha!

Some of those finds are in today’s lunch. The pretty pie-like thing is simply labeled “fruit, nuts and 2 eggs.” So there’s that. The lemon bar-like thing is kind of a dense sponge with a very not lemon filling. Even after eating a bite, I’m afraid I can’t be more specific than that.

And just to keep something within the comfort zone, we have the usual ham and cream cheese roll.

Hope everyone is gearing up for Thanksgiving! What’s on the menu?

Already one of those weeks…

Easy lunch box ideas: roasted pork tenderloin with cream cheese in a whole-wheat tortilla; and pretzels with hummus. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

And how can that be? It’s a short week.

Yesterday was nice. Parker and I went for a walk in the woods, then watched “Captain America.”

Appropriate for Veteran’s Day? Sure!

Anyway, today is back to the grind.

Lunch is leftover roasted pork tenderloin wrapped the usual way, plus a packet of hummus and some pretzels.

Nothing exciting to see here today…

The dinner (and lunch) that should not have worked

Easy lunch box ideas: spicy ground bison with butternut squash and quinoa with hummus on whole-wheat tortillas; a yogurt parfait; and pretzels. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Given Parker’s mood of late, my bourbon and I decided last night’s dinner would be a failure.

Any excuse for him to be a pest, after all…

And as we all know, an unfamiliar dinner is plenty of excuse…

I was hankering for a Middle Eastern dish I used to make frequently, but haven’t in many years. Basically, you make a big batch of garlic-rich hummus, then mound that on a serving platter.

Then you brown up some ground lamb and onions and season it with a heap of spices, including cumin, cinnamon and paprika. Spoon the meat over the hummus, then eat it scooped into chunks of flatbread.

Delicious! (And here’s a version of my basic recipe for this.)

Last night, I made it a little differently and I assumed it would be rejected by the resident boy.

I started by cooking up some red quinoa. While that cooked, I browned a pound of ground bison with finely diced butternut squash. I seasoned it with cumin, cinnamon and smoked paprika.

Meanwhile, I made hummus, but subbed cashew butter for the more traditional tahini. It’s great that way.

When the ground bison was ready, I dumped the quinoa into it, as well as a bunch of chopped fresh chives. To serve, I smeared hummus onto wedges of whole-wheat tortillas, then spooned some of the meat mixture onto that.

Parker ate three of them without question.

OK, then…

So I was happy to have two left over to include (cold) in today’s lunch. Add a yogurt parfait (with pine nuts, just to be different) and some pretzel rods, and that’s good enough.

Turns out all that math homework (and bourbon) have paid off

Easy lunch box ideas: Easy veg-rich chili and a yogurt parfait. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Because last night I learned a new mathematical theorem. It goes something like this:

VV @ DT is directly proportional to SBC in which VV = Vegetable Volume, DT = Dinnertime, and SBC = Sustained Brattiness in Child.

Ergo last night’s chili dinner.

Last night’s small batch of chili began with:

  • 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 12-ounce jar roasted red pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1/2 large butternut squash

All of that got dumped into a blender and pureed. Sauce!

I then browned 1 pound of ground turkey and 1 pound of ground pork. Add a 15-ounce can of black beans, the sauce and seasonings (chili, cayenne, cinnamon, cumin and smoked paprika), then let it simmer for 30 minutes.

A veg-rich chili.

You want fewer vegetables in your dinner (and now lunch)? Stop being a brat.


Holy (expletive deleted)! Just go to school!

Easy lunch box ideas: leftover pork sausage; aged gouda; raspberries; and holiday cookies. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

As you probably guessed from the silence, it’s been one of those weeks…

Well, one of those last weeks and one of those this weeks…

You don’t need details. Not so much to protect the not-particularly-innocent. But because you live it. You know it.

We can all just take a little — though not nearly enough — comfort in knowing we’re all going through the same…

For simplicity, we’ll just call it the “same loving development stages.”

So today we’re back. With lunch.

Lunch today? Leftover pork sausage — some of which exploded in flames on my stovetop last night, but with a week like this I kind of just expect that. I offered to bun them. Ketchup them. Barbecue sauce them.

Whatever. He wanted them plain. You get them plain. Berries and cheese on the side.

And since it’s holiday cookie season in the test kitchen, he has some holiday cookies, too.

Not that he deserves them.

But we’ve covered that ground before.

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. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

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. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

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. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

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.