This burrito may not look like much…

Easy lunch box ideas: bacon, brie and honey burrito on a whole-wheat tortilla; oranges; and a yogurt parfait. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

But it’s actually a cleverly disguised flavor bomb.

Didn’t have much to work with this morning, so I decided to drop a bomb of flavor on Parker’s lunch box.

Because what’s to lose?

I started by browning some seriously thick-cut bacon. Good start.

Then I slathered brie all over a whole-wheat tortilla. And when I say slathered, I mean a really, really thick layer. You could probably swim in that layer of brie. Wow, do I wish I could do that…

Then I slathered — not quite so aggressively — creamed honey over the brie.

I piled the bacon on top of that. And then I rolled it all up into a nice, tight burrito.

It took all my self-control not to eat it myself. But then I’d have spent the rest of the day wallowing in those calories and lacking the 10-year-old metabolism to burn them.

And I guess my kid would have gone hungry.

So I didn’t.

And not a bite came home.

And not a word was said to me.

Not a word about the flavor bomb of awesome deliciousness.

I mean, sure, it would have been great if he’d come home gushing, “Daddy! That was the most delicious lunch you’ve ever packed! Have I mentioned how much I love you?”

Or even a, “Nice lunch, Dad.”

Maybe even a grunt in my general direction?

I know… Expecting too much.

But apparently whether or not it was appreciated, at least it was consumed.

And that’s pretty much where the bar is at, right?

So why isn’t there a hamburger in today’s lunch?

Easy lunch box ideas: roast beef and bacon "sushi;" apple with peanut butter and graham crackers. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Excellent question. Particularly since I went to the trouble of making an extra one at dinner last night specifically so that I could pack it warm and toasty in a thermos for today’s lunch.

So what happened?

Well, it all comes down to onions. And parsley. You see, there were tiny little bits of both in the burgers last night. Barely enough to notice. But would you care to guess who did notice?

That’s right, my perfect, precocious, nothing-but-awesome, always amazingly behaved son. The son I love more than anything else.

Upon seeing these freckles of onion and parsley last night, my totally wonderful child erupted into a flurry of rainbows and smiles, flowers and tears of joy.

It was one of those moments you look back on and think, “Gosh, that really belonged in a Pottery Barn catalog.”

I was so caught up in this moment of joy, I decided to celebrate in my own way. I’d been saving a new bourbon for a special occasion, and this was exactly what I’d been hoping for.

Unfortunately, my son was so overcome by his amazingness, he wasn’t able to eat a bite of his burger. Which caused quite the conundrum this morning as I packed his lunch.

Dare I pack that extra burger and risk triggering another rapturous expression of joy? Surely not!

Which is why today’s lunch is a far more sedate whole-wheat tortilla wrapped around roast beef, bacon and cream cheese, then cut into bites. I also added an apple, which I halved, filled with peanut and slapped a graham cracker onto (normally, I’d dunked the peanut butter-coated apple in granola, but we’re out).

So apparently organ meats are where it’s at

Easy lunch box ideas: roast beef and cream cheese on a whole-grain baguette; a yogurt; and pretzels with maple-peanut butter dip. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

If I had said to Parker, “Today, I’m packing liver and a chicken heart in your lunch…”

Well, we can all imagine how that would have gone down.

But because I simply cooked it yesterday morning and quietly packed it without comment…

Every last bite of yesterday’s lunch was inhaled.

Which makes me think…

Game on, kid! What other strangeness can I pack and get him to eat?

Stay tuned more on that.

Meanwhile, today we did it hoagie style. I happened to have a big hunk of whole-grain baguette kicking around, so I slathered it with cream cheese and tossed on a bunch of roast beef.

But the real innovation in today’s lunch is the pretzels and dip. At first, I couldn’t think of anything to put with the pretzels. Then I spotted the jar of peanut butter.

So into the mini-processor went some peanut butter, some maple syrup, some sour cream (yogurt would be fine, too) and a pinch of cinnamon. Pulse a few times and it was delicious.

I almost kept it for myself…

If I didn’t love my child would I pack him coq au vin tacos?

Easy lunch box ideas: coq au vin tacos; a yogurt; and chicken liver and heart. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

I mean, seriously. If three bottles of red wine and meltingly tender chicken don’t say love, I don’t know what does.

Yesterday, I was kind of restricted to the couch. Did something to my back on Friday. Maybe it was all the beatings I was giving Parker…

Kidding! Just making sure you’re paying attention.

Anyway, whatever I did, it rendered me pretty useless yesterday. I was on the couch with a heating pad. So Parker and I spent most of the day watching porn.

Still kidding…

We watched “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” And I needed a dinner that would pair well with the crack we were smoking…

OK, I’ll stop now.

We needed a dinner that could cook on its own while we got into the Christmas spirit.

Seemed like a good day for my simple take on coq au vin — chicken cooked in wine.

I started by chopping up a couple onions. I tossed them in a large Dutch oven with a handful of garlic cloves and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary. Add some olive oil and saute for about 4 minutes.

Then I added a whole chicken, browning it first on side, then on the other. This whole process took about 10 minutes.

I added about 2 cups of chicken broth and the remnants of 3 bottles of red wine (altogether about 2 bottles). Once it came to a simmer, I popped on the cover and put it in a 300 F.

Then we watched our movie.

After about 2 hours in the oven — and the aromas were heavenly — I transferred the chicken to plate (it was so tender the legs fell off as I lifted, but who cares). Then I strained the liquid and discarded the solids.

The liquid went back into the pot and I boiled them until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups. Then I added rice flour (but you could use cornstarch) and simmered until thick like a gravy. It didn’t even need salt.

The chicken was so unbelievably tender, it fell apart just by touching it. It was moist and delicious. Served with the sauce, it was unreal.

So this morning, I heaped some of the leftovers into a thermos and accompanied them with Parker’s usual taco fixings. Coq au vin tacos.

Oh, and speaking of love… Real love is in the heart. Chicken heart. Parker asked that I save him the chicken heart. So I browned that — and the liver — this morning and tossed that in, too.

Not sure that he’ll eat it for lunch, but what the heck.

If you want Daddy to be inspired when making your lunch

Easy lunch box ideas: red wine pulled pork; and a yogurt and berry parfait. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Don’t be a jerk to him all morning.

What is complicated about that?

So today’s lunch? Rather uninspired.

I dumped the remnants of his breakfast parfait into a container, then tossed some more yogurt and berries on it.

Good enough.

I was going to turn the leftover pulled pork from last night’s dinner into tacos for him, but…

Meh.

Warm and in a thermos will suffice.

Still, the pork is delicious. I brought the dregs of two bottles of red wine and partial containers of chicken and beef broth to a boil. I added a couple pork tenderloins and a few seasonings and returned it to a boil.

Then I covered it and popped it in the oven at 350 F for an hour while we were at Parker’s karate class. When we got home, I pulled out the pork, shredded it and thickened the remaining liquid. Toss it all together and it was delicious.

Probably more so than he deserved, actually.

Parker’s cooking chore again pays off for lunch duty

Easy lunch box ideas: pretzel-fried steak; whole-wheat pull-apart bread; and a yogurt parfait. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Wednesday is Parker’s “help make dinner” chore day.

One of the many unfair burdens imposed on this tortured child.

So on Tuesday I gave him a handful of cookbooks and offered him the chance to flip through and pick what he’d like to make for dinner the next day.

Of course, being the bourbon-triggering brat (Oops! Did I say that?) he has been lately, he told me what he thought of that idea.

So my bourbon and I decided for him.

I’d been meaning to try a chicken-fried steak recipe from Aarti Sequeira’s new book, “Aarti Paarti.” I liked the sound of it because not only did it substitute crushed pretzels for the breading, it also spiked the whole thing with fenugreek, paprika, coriander and cumin. The recipe also is online here.

Wednesday night came and — somewhat under duress — Parker rose to the challenge, expertly dredging and breading the steaks. We also made a stupid-easy pull-apart bread (whole-wheat pizza dough pulled into balls, drizzled with olive oil, garlic powder, salt and oregano, then mounded in a flute pan and baked).

The steaks were total comfort food. A winner. And I should add, they paired nicely with bourbon.

Not that there’s a trend here…

So this morning, I heated up the remnants of the steak and popped that into a thermos. Add a yogurt parfait and a few pulled apart hunks of the bread, and we’re good.

It may not look like much, but it sure can pack some veggies

Easy lunch box ideas: turkey chili with cauliflower; puff pastry with chocolate spread; and a yogurt. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

I’ve decided that chili — defined oh so very broadly — is my magic food.

Because it seems I can put pretty much anything into a pot, add some liquid and chili powder, top it with sour cream and call it chili.

And my kid will eat it!!!

Well, I’m into that.

So last night I made more “chili.” But it was a Franken-chili.

I started by browning an onion. Then I added a bag of frozen cauliflower puree I had kicking around (steamed and pureed, don’t ask). Then I added a can of tomato sauce and a can of black beans.

Then I added some turkey sausage and some bacon. And then all of the leftover turkey.

And so it simmered.

It wasn’t the best chili I’ve ever made. In fact, it was one of the worst.

But Parker ate it. For dinner and again for lunch.

So I’ll take that as a win.

Add a yogurt and some random baked off puff pastry squares smeared with chocolate spread and we”ll call it a win.

And yet more Thanksgiving leftovers!

Easy lunch box ideas: turkey with barbecue sauce and sour cream; candied bacon; yogurt parfait; sourdough bread with truffle butter; and chocolate pumpkin pie. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

It’s really all in how you pack them.

Yesterday, it was turkey and veggies transformed into chili. Today, it’s turkey tossed with barbecue sauce and topped with a bit of sour cream. Nothing Thanksgiving-y about those leftovers.

Then I added some candied bacon. Just because. And to wash that down, some sourdough bread topped with homemade truffle butter. That is SO good.

A raspberry-granola yogurt parfait and the last slice of Thanksgiving pie — more of the chocolate pumpkin — round out today’s lunch.

Thanksgiving leftovers, Day 4: Vegetarian chili edition

Easy lunch box ideas: vegetarian chili with turkey, sour cream and cheddar cheese; chocolate pumpkin pie; and a yogurt. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

So yesterday Parker announced he was getting sick of Thanksgiving leftovers.

As far as I was concerned… Tough.

Thanksgiving was brutal to get on the table. We lost power the night before and didn’t get it back until an hour before 12 guests were arriving.

It all came together perfectly and we had an awesome time. But I worked to make that dinner happen.

And Parker is going to love it. Then. And now.

So yesterday, I decided to make a vegetarian chili. Well, kind of vegetarian chili. Veg aside from the chicken stock and a little bit of turkey. By Parker’s standards, that’s vegan.

I started with the vegetable remnants from Thursday, many of them uncooked produce I’d not needed — a bunch of butternuts squash, a couple sweet potatoes, some shallots and a bit of corn.

Then I added chicken stock, a 28-ounce can of tomato puree and a 15-ounce can of black beans. I let it simmer over low heat for about an hour, then I added a little chopped leftover turkey. Add some chili powder and smoked paprika… And it was done. And delicious.

Topped with sour cream and grated cheddar, it was delicious.

So leftovers of that are the core of today’s lunch. Frankly, I was shocked he ate all those veggies without question last night, so I figured I’d give it a go again today.

Add a yogurt and a slice of chocolate pumpkin pie and that’s good enough for a Monday.

Thanksgiving menu — this time with recipes!

Easy lunch box ideas: Hummus topped with ground beef and onions with cheese; ham; and aged gouda. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Last day of school! Last day of peace. Where’s my bourbon?

Going to keep it brief today because, after all, nobody cares about anything except Thanksgiving. So today’s lunch is leftovers from dinner last night — hummus topped with ground beef and onions with a sprinkle of cheese.

Meanwhile, here is my Thanksgiving menu annotated with recipes and instructions, etc. Hope everyone enjoys an amazing holiday with friends, family and heaps of food. And bourbon.

Starters:

  • Cheese and fruit platter

    Just your average assortment of yummy cheese and fruit, stuff to nibble and overeat before the real feasting begins.

  • Warm phyllo cups with brie, cranberry sauce and bacon

    Plan is to fill mini phyllo cups (the ones I use for Parker’s mini quiches) with a hunk of brie, a spoonful of whole-berry cranberry sauce and a hunk of cooked bacon, then bake them until the cheese is melty and delicious. I’ll assemble them ahead and bake off just as people arrive.

  • Apple-liver pate with homemade seed crackers

    The pate was simple. I sauteed some onion in bacon fat, then added a diced peeled apple, 1 pound of chicken livers and a bit of salt and pepper. Once the liver was lightly browned, I deglazed with 1/4 cup of apple brandy. Dump the whole thing in the food processor and pulse until smooth. I’ve frozen it and will thaw it 24 hours in the refrigerator before serving. The crackers are from a book/blog — recipe here. I’m not a follower of this diet, but these crackers are fantastic and easy to make.

  • Warm Triscuits topped with manchego-stuffed dates and wrapped in bacon

    I’ll be filing this recipe to the wire tomorrow, but meanwhile it’s pretty simple. I stuff dates with hunks of manchego cheese, then set each one on a Triscuit. Then I wrap each in half a strip of bacon (bacon overlapping on the underside of the cracker) then bake at 400 F for about 10 minutes. I’ll assemble these in the morning and bake off as people arrive.

  • Cucumber cups filled with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and dill

    I love these. I cut English cucumbers into 1-inch rounds. Then I use a melon baller to scoop out the seeds (but not all the way), creating tiny cups. In a processor, I combine 8 ounces smoked salmon, 8 ounces creme fraiche (sour cream works, too), fresh dill, salt, pepper and a healthy splash of Sriracha. I pulse until mostly smooth, then spoon some into each cup. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll top each with a caper.

Mains:

  • 23-pound turkey dry-brined with bacon salt

    God help me. I don’t even like turkey. And we’re getting enough of a crowd that I may actually roast two birds! One is 23 pounds, the other is 18. I made bacon salt the other night. It was easy. I cooked off about 12 ounces of bacon, then dumped it and about 1 1/2 cups of kosher salt in the processor. Then I processor until the bacon was the same consistency as the salt. Today I will dry brine the birds using that salt. First, I’ll arrange fresh sage under the skin of one bird and salami slices under the skin of the other. Then I’ll liberally (1/2 teaspoon per pound) sprinkle bacon salt all over and inside both birds. Back in the refrigerator they will go until Thursday around 11, when I’ll cram them into a 350 F oven and hope for the best.

  • Spanakopita

    We’re aren’t Greek, but in my family it isn’t Thanksgiving unless Mom makes spanakopita. She makes it with kale instead of spinach. It’s incredibly good and we crave it all year. We always make enough for leftovers because it’s like pizza — even better cold. Time magazine wrote about our Thanksgiving a few years back and included Mom’s recipe. 

Sides:

  • Squash rolls
  • Sourdough bread

    I buy all bread items from an amazing local baker, The Crust and Crumb. 

  • Homemade truffle butter

    Stupidly easy, but so insanely good. Get yourself a quart of heavy cream. Dump it in the food processor and processor for about 5 to 10 minutes. First it becomes whipped cream, then it breaks and pretty soon you have a huge lump of the most intense butter ever sitting in a pool of buttermilk. Strain it, then dump the butter in a bowl. Use a wooden spoon to work the butter, pressing it against the bowl. This extracts additional liquid. Pour off the liquid. Season the butter with flaked salt (I use truffle salt). Don’t refrigerate it. It’s best as is. You will be astounded.

  • Cranberry sauce

    I usually make this recipe.  But this year a guest is bringing the cranberry sauce, so I decided to experiment. See below.

  • Cranberry “salami” (a thick, sliceable sauce)

    I was intrigued by this recipe in Tyler Florence’s new cookbook — “Inside the Test Kitchen.” I made it the other night. Very easy, pretty yummy. This is the recipe.

  • Vegan mashed potatoes (for mom)
  • Not-vegan mashed potatoes (for the rest of us)

    My approach to mashed potatoes is simple. I peel a whole lot of yellow potatoes, then I boil them all until tender. I drain them, then set a small amount in one pan and the rest in a larger pan. I set both pans over a medium flame for a minute or two to help dry them out. This makes them fluffier and absorb more yumminess. Next, I add vegan butter and vegetable broth to the smaller batch and mash away. In the larger batch, I add whole milk and as much butter as humanly possible.

  • Roasted sweet potato wedges glazed with orange bitters

    This is a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s new book, “Plenty More.” These sweet potatoes are outrageously addictive. This is the recipe.

  • Turkey drippings stuffing

    No real plan on this one. Bread crumbs, butter, celery, onion, sage and thyme moistened with turkey drippings and stock, then dumped in a casserole. I don’t stuff the bird. Too much trouble.

  • Vegan stuffing with pine nuts, dried cherries, thyme and sage

    Same idea as above, but will use vegetable stock and add some funky stuff.

  • Roasted butternut squash with shaved Brussels sprouts, lemon juice and ricotta salata

    So excited to make this. Plan is to cube and roast some butternut squash, then toss it with raw Brussels sprouts that have been shaved using a mandoline. The whole thing gets tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, then topped with pine nuts and shaved ricotta salata.

  • Roasted carrots tossed with butter and topped with honeycomb

    Going to cut carrots into 3-inch lengths, toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper, then roast until tender. Just before serving, I’ll toss them with melted butter and heap them on a serving platter. Then I’ll top them with gobs of whipped honey, which should ooze and melt over them. Might sprinkle some thyme on there, too.

Drinks:

  • Prosecco

     To go with starters. I also bought extra because the chef likes to start the day with mimosas while cooking.

  • Bourbon (duh!)

    Also for starters. And going to make this cocktail as a pitcher cocktail to have out.

  • Seltzer

    I am seriously addicted to my Soda Stream device. Will serve the seltzer at the table in repurposed bourbon bottles.

  • Red Wine

    Got the have some cab.

  • White wine

    For those who insist.

  • Sparkling cider (for the kiddies)

Dessert:

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

    I don’t bake, so most are being purchased from my local bakery. A friend is bringing the apple pie and my mom is experimenting with a recipe for the apple cake.