Even I felt guilty about packing this lunch…

Easy lunch box ideas: brie-honey-smoked bacon wrap in a whole-wheat tortilla; and whole-wheat bread with cashew butter and chocolate hummus. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Going to be on the road a lot next week. And that means this week is a lot crazy.

Which explains why I’m running out of food in the house.

So this morning’s lunch packing fumblings were a bit random. And once I had everything assembled, it sort of left me feeling I was setting my kid up for a coronary.

I started with smoked bacon, which I browned in a skillet. Rather than simply dump the bacon in a container, I smeared a whole-wheat tortilla with brie, then dumped the bacon on that.

But wait! There’s more.

A few dabs of whipped honey would be nice. So… a honey-brie-bacon wrap. Pretty delicious…

Next up, a piece of toast topped with cashew butter and chocolate hummus (recipe is coming tomorrow).

Then I took this picture and starting packing his lunch up. And then it hit me.

No produce. TONS of fat and carbs. Even I was bothered by the lopsided lunch.

Then it got worse. Some of the hummus got on my hand. I licked it. It tasted off. Damn!

So that sandwich landed in the trash.

Back to just the bacon-brie wrap. So I quickly grabbed a handful of (stale) tortilla chips and dumped them in a container by themselves. Then some salted apple wedges.

No time for a new picture.

Some days, you just have to say good enough.

How to fuel a 10-year-old runner?

Easy lunch box ideas: beef short ribs and horseradish sauce on a whole-wheat tortilla with cream cheese; whole-wheat toast topped with brie and whipped honey. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

I know carbs are traditional. But I also know my little guy prefers protein and fat.

Parker has a cross-country meet after school today, so I wanted to make sure his lunch had a few extra calories to keep him going.

And so while marathoners might like their pasta, Parker gets sliced up leftover beef short ribs with horseradish sauce rolled in a whole-wheat tortilla with cream cheese.

For a side? A slab of whole-wheat bread lightly toasted and topped with a heavy smear of brie, followed by an equally heavy smear of whipped honey.

And of course he’ll still be starving by the end of it all.

Which is good. Because Wednesday is his help-me-make-dinner chore day. And tonight we are making chicken curry.

Finally! A recipe by Melissa d’Arabian that my kid will eat!

Easy lunch box ideas: slow cooker beef and chickpea stew; cider-glazed Parker house roll; and cheddar apple pie. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

She knows I’m just kidding. I think.

But Parker does have a rather spotty history with Melissa, star of Food Network’s “Ten Dollar Dinners.” I’m pretty sure she won’t mind me reminding the world why. Particularly since this update has a much better ending.

It started about five years ago.

That’s when I got this “brilliant” idea for a new way to entice Parker to eat vegetables. I asked food television celebrities to develop recipes just for him, recipes designed to bring him to a table of produce.

It kind of worked. Though not really. You can read the whole sordid account of it here. It was a fun story.

All of the celebs were given basic rules — no hidden veggies, etc. — and told to come up with something that would appeal to my kid. And I made sure I warned them — Parker hates anything green.

Well, Melissa apparently skimmed over that line. She offered up a creamed spinach recipe.

Parker’s reaction to it was captured in this is the picture, which ran all over the country.

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Despite Parker’s rude response to her recipe, Melissa and I became buds. She also now writes for me at AP. And that’s why these days we regularly cook Melissa’s recipes here.

And why I often offer them to Parker.

For the record… Melissa is on a total winning streak.

He loved last week’s healthy orange-chocolate pudding (get the recipe here). Ditto for the honey applesauce cake (recipe here). He even liked her baked cod dinner (recipe here).

But his favorite by far? The slow cooker beef stew with chickpeas we tested and shot yesterday. I’ll share the recipe when it runs in a week or so. It was really incredible.

Suffice to say, I think Melissa finally has diluted her association with spinach.

The rest of today’s lunch — cheddar apple pie and a cider-glazed Parker house (appropriate!) roll.

How about some caramelized applesauce?

Easy lunch box ideas: steak with taco fixings; and applesauce with chocolate chips. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Actually, that wasn’t the plan.

Last night, I decided to use up a glut of apples Parker and I had picked by making sauce. Unfortunately, I got a bit distracted.

I’m still trying to clean the burned bottom of the pot.

Oddly, it didn’t harm the applesauce. Actually, it has a bit of a caramelized flavor that’s pretty tasty.

Not that I recommend this approach.

So that and some leftover steak taco fixings made today’s lunch.

Oh, and here’s the article about Parker in Boys’ Life magazine! Love it.

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Chili is my new favorite food (for lunches and dinner)!

Easy lunch box ideas: veggie-rich chili with sour cream; and salted apple wedges with chocolate hummus. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Not because I like chili, though I do love it.

But because I have discovered I can put pretty much anything into a chili and Parker will eat it without question.

But offer him any of those ingredients on their own, no way!

Last night’s dinner was a tomato-bean-butternut squash-sweet potato-onion-bell pepper-ground beef chili. And he asked for seconds. Despite all those vegetables.

Had I given him even one of those vegetables on its own? No way!

But last night he never even questioned it.

Clearly I need to experiment with how far I can push this chili thing.

So today’s lunch is more of last night’s chili. Add some more chocolate hummus and salted apple wedges and we’re good.

The chocolate hummus recipe will come next week. And meanwhile, I’m going to perfect an over-the-top veg-rich chili and see what happens. Stay tuned.

Sometimes the best lunch is an uneaten breakfast

Easy lunch box ideas: steak and cheese mini quiche cups; and apple slices with chocolate hummus. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Still smarting from yesterday’s failure to launch, I decided today I’d be on top of things.

I got up promptly at 6:30 and started making Parker his favorite mini quiche cups — this time with steak and cheese because I had no ham.

This is one of the best breakfasts because I’m usually able to pack the extras in his lunch.

Except today, Parker bounded down the stairs (Do 10-year-old boys ever walk? Ever?) and declared really the only thing that could get him going today would be apple slices smeared with peanut butter.

He got apple slices smeared with cashew butter, but it worked.

The good news is I had plenty of quiche cups for his lunch (he ate only a couple for breakfast).

Add in some homemade (I’m cracking the code!) chocolate hummus (stay tuned for the recipe) with apple slices for dunking, and that should suffice.

Speaking of apples, it’s probably worth mentioning again — the best way to preserve cut apples and keep them from turning brown is a brief bath in lightly salted water.

I mix maybe 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt with a couple tablespoons of water, splash the apples in it, then drain. Very little salt taste, but no browning.

Parker reminded me to do this after I packed him a whole apple a few weeks ago. He ate half of it at snack and wanted the other half at lunch, but by then it was too yucky. That’s when I remembered it’s best to slice and slosh (with salt water).

Oh crap! My kid needs to eat, doesn’t he?

Easy lunch box ideas: steak and cream cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla; salted apple slices; a yogurt; Parmesan. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

You’d think that after five years I’d have this down, right?

This morning, I was just cruising along. Things were going grand. Parker was ready for school early. I was even having time to read yesterday’s paper.

It never occurred to me to question why I was having such a great morning with so much spare time.

Until it was time to leave.

“Parker, get your backpack. Where’s your lunchbox?”

“I don’t know.”

Turns out, neither did I.

Because I hadn’t made it.

Somehow, I’d forgotten. How is that possible?

Well, I don’t really have an answer.

Somehow… It just didn’t happen.

So that’s how I found myself at 8:05 a.m. rushing to find something to pack for my son’s lunch…

Because it’s not as though I’ve been blogging about his lunches for what? Five years or so?

Anyway, I quickly pulled together a steak (left from last night’s dinner) and cream cheese wrap on a whole-wheat tortilla, some apple (in a bag, because I couldn’t quickly find the usual jar), a yogurt and some Parmesan.

And out the door we go…!

The problem with serving leftovers for dinner…

Easy lunch box ideas: peanut butter and chocolate hummus in a whole-wheat tortilla; salted apple slices; and Parmesan cheese with smoked ham. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Is that you then have no leftovers for lunch the next day.

So while I made last night’s dinner easy (leftover chili found in the freezer), it did squat for me this morning.

Making matters worse, I’ve been to the grocery roughly 5,326 times this week. Yet each time, I inexplicably have bought only what I needed to test various recipes.

Wouldn’t it have been great if on even one of those visits I’d noticed that I have little to no food in the house and should grab something for dinners and lunches?

Would. Could. Should.

And so it goes.

So today’s lunch is assembled from a what-have-you of refrigerator finds. I smeared some peanut butter and chocolate hummus (recipe coming, I promise) on a whole-wheat tortilla. I tried cutting it into sushi bites, but it oozed too much so I left it as a wrap.

Add some apple slices (salted to prevent browning) and some ham and cheese nibbles, and we’re ready for the weekend.

Tonight is movie night… Parker has requested the first “Lord of the Rings” movie. He loved the books. Me, too! Hope you have a fun and delicious weekend!

Oh, and if you need a quick and easy dinner idea, check out this recipe for chicken satay. Love it!

I ruined the jerky, but I got an easy lunch out of it

Easy lunch box ideas: soba noodles with lime-chili beef; salted apple slices; and graham crackers with peanut butter and cherry jam. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

So yesterday I decided to test a recipe for homemade beef jerky. It’s pretty simple.

You slice steak into thin strips, then marinate it in a salty-spicy-acidic mix overnight. Then you just arrange the slices on a wire rack and dry it in a 200 F oven for 4 hours.

Easy.

Except I didn’t pay attention. And 4 hours turned into closer to 6.

It’s still delicious, but it’s a bit tough.

The good news is that I didn’t dry all of the meat I marinated. I’d run out of room on the rack.

So for dinner last night, I decided we’d saute the remaining steak (already super flavorful from the jerky marinade) and toss with soba noodles.

Except last night was Parker’s dinner night. One of his new chores is to help me make dinner once a week.

And instead of help, I decided to just let him do it. I’d tell him what to do and explain why he was doing it, but otherwise I’d stay out of the way.

And he did great. He sauted the steak and even thickened the sauce with a cornstarch slurry. Then he boiled up the noodles and tossed it all together.

And — best of all — there were leftovers for his lunch today. I considered packing them in his thermos jar, but decided cold noodles and beef would easier and just as delicious.

I’m starting to like this chore…

Oven-baked beef stew… It seemed like a good idea…

Easy lunch box ideas: beef "stew"; yogurt parfait; and graham crackers with cashew butter and apple slices. http:///www.LunchBoxBlues.com

I’d picked up some beef stew meat during the weekend and had been meaning to make a nice slow-simmered stew. Yet I never seemed to have the time.

Last night was no exception. Parker’s karate class smack in the middle of dinner prep wasn’t going to help. So I figured out a workaround. And it would have worked.

If I hadn’t been distracted by a certain someone.

About an hour before we needed to leave, I dumped a couple pounds of stew meat in an oven-safe saucepan. I added a 15-ounce can of tomato sauce and a hefty splash of red wine.

For seasonings, I went with garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, cumin and smoked paprika. Then I brought it to a simmer and let it bubble until we needed to leave.

As we left, I popped the whole thing into a 300 F oven. My theory was that right before leaving, I’d add more liquid, then let it cook slowly while we were gone. When I got home, I’d just add some veggies and finish it on the stovetop.

Good theory.

Except I forgot to add the extra liquid.

Which would explain the incredibly thick, tomato-meat mess I returned home to.

That said, it was actually pretty delicious. A bit intense, but not in a bad way. Vegetables at that point weren’t happening (no liquid for them to cook in). So I decided meat hunks in sauce would be good enough for dinner.

And for today’s lunch.

Add a yogurt parfait with raspberries and apple, as well as some graham crackers with cashew butter and apple slices… And we’re good.