Pulling dinner from the nether regions makes for an easy lunch

Easy lunch box ideas: grilled maple-bacon pizza with watermelon. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Last night’s dinner almost didn’t happen. Except it somehow did.

But the best part? It also made for an incredibly easy lunch today.

Here’s how it went…

I picked up Parker from summer camp at 5:15 p.m. We had 30 minutes to get to his karate class, which would last until 6:30. By the time we’d get home to the camp, it would be about 7:15.

I’d done no dinner prep.

And I wanted a cocktail.

And a swim.

And Parker wanted Lego time.

It all worked. I started by swinging by our favorite pizza shop and grabbing a ball of their dough. Just the dough. And then I tossed it in the backseat of my very hot car. And that’s where it sat until we got home.

And that was the plan. All that time in the hot car? Perfect for letting the dough rise. By the time we pulled into the driveway, it was perfectly soft and tender and doughy delicious and ready to be cooked.

Before I even walked in the door, I turned on the grill so it could heat up.

By 7:20 p.m. I was crafting my cocktail — 2 ounces vodka, 1 ounce agave syrup, 1 ounce lemon juice and a 12-ounce bottle of India pale ale — all over ice. Crazy delicious and refreshing. I probably drank it way too fast, but I didn’t care.

Now… dinner. I tossed a ton of bacon on the grill. To keep the flaming fat under control, I made a tray out of foil, then popped it right over the flames. It cooked up perfectly in minutes.

I also added a few ears of corn to the grill’s top shelf. And a slab of salmon for myself. Then I dumped a bag of frozen broccoli florets into another foil pouch and tossed that on.

Then I drank some more.

By 7:40 I pulled the salmon, bacon and corn off the grill. I stretched the pizza dough with my hands, rubbed it with some olive oil, then threw it on the grill.

Close the grill cover. Take a drink. Open the grill cover a minute later. Use tongs to flip my dough, which is now perfectly cooked on the bottom. Scatter the bacon over the dough, add cheese, close the lid and cut the heat.


Dump my salmon over my broccoli. Add salt.


Pull the pizza off the grill. Drizzle it with maple syrup. Dinner. Served by 7:47.

And there still was time for a quick swim and legos.

Today’s lunch? Leftover maple-bacon grilled pizza. And watermelon.

Thankfully, no karate tonight. So dinner should be slightly more relaxed… More time for swimming. And cocktails.

Whipped cream on a 95 F day? Why not?

Easy lunch box ideas: ham and cheese mini quiches; ham, cheese and egg sandwich on a whole-wheat bun; and blueberries with whipped cream and cinnamon. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Today’s lunch called for a double ice pack.

And that still may not have been enough. The temps are in the mid-90s and Parker is at summer camp.

For breakfast this morning, I wanted to use up some eggs I’d whisked for scrambled eggs this weekend. They were delicious, but I’d whisked too many eggs.

So I started with the usual ham and cheese phyllo quiches that Parker loves. Half the batch for breakfast, the rest into his lunch.

Next up, a ham, egg and cheese sandwich. I had just enough ham and eggs left. This may not be a popular choice. Parker currently is off eggs. But whatever.

Lunch is not a democracy.

Finally, some fruit. As I was dishing up blueberries, I noticed whipped cream left over from the weekend. I was impressed it was still whipped, so I dolloped some on his berries, then added a pinch of cinnamon.

I can’t imagine that in this heat it will still be whipped at lunch, but whatever. It still will be delicious.

Not really all that prepared for a return to camp

Easy lunch box ideas: ham and cream cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla; pita chips; and an orange. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

And lunch duty.

And I blame the long weekend spent eating and drinking and swimming too much.

The result was that this morning when I got up and really didn’t have much of a plan for Parker’s lunch.

If I’d thought about it yesterday, I would have popped an extra burger on the grill at dinner.

But clearly I didn’t.

So instead, today’s lunch is a same old, same old — Parker’s favorite sandwich of ham and cream cheese, an orange and some pita chips. Meh. But it should get the job done.

Meanwhile, I’m just looking forward to my own dinner tonight. Late last week I grabbed some beautiful salmon and cured it for gravlax. It is so delicious. Salty, sweet, dilly, perfect.

I’m going to shave it thin tonight and heap it on a salad with lemony vinaigrette.

Parker probably won’t touch it. His loss. He can manage with the last of the burgers.

Can you really make a homemade nut-free Nutella in 5 minutes?

Easy lunch box ideas: peanut butter, banana and chocolate ganache on a whole-wheat bun; and strawberries. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com


Kind of.

OK, it’s not really Nutella, but I’m relatively confident your kid won’t care.

But first, I have to back up to last night’s rain.

After a day of scorching heat, we had massive rainstorm yesterday afternoon and evening. Which made it pretty near impossible to grill the lemon-pepper-thyme chicken I’d prepped in the morning.

So instead I stir-fried it on the stove and tossed it with some udon noodles. Not the dinner I’d dreamed about, but not horrible, either.

Problem was, the leftovers weren’t really suitable for a summer camp lunch (particularly since I was shortsighted enough to pack away all of my thermoses because of the renovation).

So lunch turned to Plan B — a peanut butter and banana sandwich on a whole-wheat bun. But I wanted it to be… different.


I’d have gone for Nutella, but we didn’t have any. So I decided to make a chocolate spread, technically a ganache.

It was simple. I brought some water to a simmer and set a bowl over the pan. In the bowl, I combined a hefty splash of heavy cream and an even heftier handful (or three) of chocolate chips. Then I stirred until everything was smooth.

Beautiful. Pop the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes to set up a bit, then just spread and enjoy! Hope everyone has a wonderful and well-fed July Fourth weekend!


Of fish sauce and lemon-pepper-thyme

Easy lunch box ideas: bison steak marinated in fish sauce, then popped on a bun with avocado; strawberries. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

I accept that nobody feels bad for us having to spend the summer living at the lake because of the renovation.

And having my evening cocktail on the dock does make the insanity of it all a little easier to roll with.

Nonetheless, I’m having a heck of a time adjusting to this commuting-to-work thing.

Again, I get it. No sympathy.

But when you’re used to working from home, any commute feels endless.

And I’ve been commuting from my camp to the house each day, mostly so I can keep an eye on the renovation and answer the endless questions that come up.

But what really sucks is the evening commute back to the camp. Most days we don’t get back until after 7 p.m.

And then I still need to make dinner.

And I still need to fit in my cocktail.

I mean… priorities…

So I’ve become a fan of the morning marinade. Dumping meat into a bag with something yummy, then leaving it for the day. When I get home, it’s a no-brainer dinner on the grill.

So yesterday, I tossed a couple bison steaks in a bag with a healthy splash of fish sauce. Try it. It doesn’t taste fishy, but it gives the steak a seriously savory boost of flavor.

I grilled those and some corn for dinner, and the leftovers got tossed on a bun with avocado for today’s lunch.

Then I had to sort out tonight’s dinner… So after I packed today’s lunch, I grabbed a package of chicken breasts, cut each in half crosswise, then cut each half horizontally into two thin halves.

For flavor, I sprinkled a hefty amount of thyme and black pepper over them, then squeezed a lemon and drizzled some olive oil. A few minutes on the grill and they should be delicious.

Oh, and tonight’s cocktail? It’s going to be gin with a splash of bitter lemon soda. And a whole lot of ice (it’s 95 F here today)!


What do swimming cats have to do with packed lunches?

Easy lunch box ideas: Chopped leftover chicken tossed with barbecue sauce on a bun with sour cream; blackberries. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Nothing, really.

Except that last night as Parker and I were headed into the water at the lake to cool off with a loud game of “water war,” we decided Herbie needed to cool off, too.

Herbie happens to like water. He will run across the house if he hears the bathroom sink turn on. He jumps in, splashes in it, lets it run over his head, etc.

So we decided to see how much he’d like a really giant “sink.”

I can’t speak to his enjoyment level, but it turns out he’s a pretty great swimmer. At one point he even dived in under water and swam a bit before surfacing like a submarine.

And yes, Parker was the videographer.

After Herbie was returned to the safety of our cabin, Parker and I headed out onto the water for our war. This involves us throwing car sponges at one another, trying to knock each other off our floats.

It’s very loud.

Meanwhile, summer camp continued today and leftovers were the order of the day — chopped cooked chicken mixed with barbecue sauce and heaped onto a bun with sour cream. Add blackberries and we’re good.

Summer camp begins… And we’re back in the lunch box trenches!

Easy lunch box ideas: chopped leftover bison steak with barbecue sauce on a bun; and mango slices. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

So I didn’t plan to take a blog vacation. It just sort of happened.

My attention has been split in about a million different ways these past couple weeks.

Parker finished school on the 11th. So there was this whole kid to entertain thing going on.

And then there was the renovation going on at home.

So far the renovation has resulted in only one arrest.

One police report.

Two painfully misogynistic conversations with contractors.

And a loud and long string of obscenities uttered by me to another contractor yesterday.

And yet it progresses. We hope for it to be done by the end of July.

Please let it be done by the end of July…

Meanwhile, internet connectivity issues… and that whole day job thing…

So I decided to take a two-week break until Parker started summer camp and needed packed lunches again.

And that would be today.

Parker is doing archery camp this week. He was excited to be attending with a bunch of his buddies. I was excited for a return to some semblance of a schedule.

Lunch today was a kind of rushed affair. Got to get back into the groove. Chopped up leftover bison steak with barbecue sauce on a bun. And a sliced mango. I was going to add a cookie, but being the horrible and distracted father I am, I forgot.

Oh well. Here’s the a fun summer of delicious lunches!

Some retro TV for a rainy and cold summer day


Another rainy, chilly summer day.

So I decided the only appropriate response is to snuggle in bed with a kitty, some no-effort lunch items and some retro sci-fi.

I loved “Lost in Space” when I was a kid. I wanted to be Will Robinson so badly. And to have that robot!

Anyway, soon we will have to drag ourselves out of bed and head into town. But until then…

A boy, a book, his cat and the first day of summer vacation

Easy lunch ideas: smoked ham, raspberries; Parmesan cheese; quince paste. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Parker is having a lazy day. And I can’t blame him.

It’s the first day of summer vacation and we’re hunkered down at the camp on this drizzly and cool day on the water.

I have to work, so he’s snuggled himself and his kitty up in his loft with a pile of books.

My job? I mean, aside from my real job, that is. Deliver snacks and lunch every once in a while.

As usual, he’s tearing through books. I think that’s his second 400-pager today. Wish I could read that fast.

I could have gone fancy for today’s lunch. But why? Sure, it’s a luxury to have him home, where I could cook something fresh. But then he’d have to leave his lair to eat it.

Better to keep it simple — a plate of his smoked ham, some balsamic-glazed Parmesan, some quince paste, some raspberries. Just a heap of whatever I found in the refrigerator.

The forecast for tomorrow is the same. We might just have to rinse and repeat.

Oh, and what he doesn’t know is that last night I made frozen pops out of coconut milk, pineapple, bananas and cherries. Not exactly the weather for it, but he won’t care.

The most anticipated lunch of the year… The last day of school!

Easy lunch box ideas: smoked ham; raspberry ganache brownie; snickerdoodle; and tons of candy! http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

At least, the most anticipated by a certain 9-year-old boy, that is.

We’ve made it — barely — through another 180. There were plenty of days — including yesterday — when I wasn’t so sure…

But as Parker put it as he stepped out of the car this morning…

“The second I finish school at 3:30 today I’m officially a fifth grader!”


Shopping for Parker’s last-day-of-school lunch usually is fun. But a certain boy was in a snit yesterday afternoon. And that quickly devolved into a certain father being in a snit.

Which meant the whole thing turned into two angry people driving around, griping, complaining and me occasionally sniping, “Stay in the car while I get your stupid cookie!”

Sigh… At least the school year is over.

We were all in better spirits this morning as I packed up his lunch (which he is VERY lucky to have, let me tell you…).

He loves the┬álast-day-of-school lunch because he gets to pack whatever he wants. I love it because I don’t really have to do anything.

So this year, he selected his favorite local smoked ham, a snickerdoodle cookie and a raspberry ganache brownie (both from his favorite bakery in town, The Crust and Crumb), and a selection of candy from the great little old-school candy shop down the street — gummy dinosaurs, a gummy lobster, chococlate-covered gummy bears, candy berries and candy Legos.

Parker loves the attention these lunches get. Last year he came home beaming because all of the older kids admired his lunch.

But every year when I pack these things, I remind him… “Please don’t make yourself sick.”

And the best part of this? He has a dentist appointment today at 4!

Thanks so much for taking this silly ride in my son’s lunch box for yet another year. Stay tuned for summer camp lunches!