It’s always possible that I’m trying to poison him…

Easy lunch box ideas: black rice pudding with blackberries; pineapple; and a banana wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla with peanut butter.

Most days I don’t bother to tell Parker what I’m packing in his lunch.

It’s an efficiency thing. I don’t have time in the morning to debate with him what is going in his lunch. So I don’t ask his opinion. And I don’t offer any advance notice.

The only exception is when I put something in his lunch that he might not readily identify, and therefore might be reluctant to eat.

Because we all know how the 9-year-old’s mind works…

“My dad packed this lunch. He packed something that I can’t identify. Since I don’t know what it is and since it’s entirely possible my dad could be trying to poison me, I’d better not take even a tiny bite to see if I like it.”

You know it’s true…

Today was just such a day. Yesterday, we tested and shot a recipe from Sara Moulton for a delicious Mother’s Day rice pudding made with black rice. The color is funky. The taste is awesome.

When I packed it this morning, I’d meant to alert Parker that the blackish-greyish stuff in his lunch box is rice pudding (topped with blackberries), a food group he considers essential to life.

I forgot.

We all know that rice pudding is coming home untouched…

To round out the lunch — and probably be the only part he eats — some pineapple and a banana wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla with peanut butter.

Slow cooked baby back ribs, please!

Easy lunch box ideas: slow cooked barbecue baby back ribs; everything bagel and cream cheese; and fruit salad.

Parker has been asking for baby back ribs for weeks. He loves them, particularly when they are coated with a spicy, sticky barbecue sauce.

And for weeks I’ve been trying to make them for him.

But there seemed to be a conspiracy against the effort. I never seemed to get to the grocery store to get the key ingredient — the ribs. Or if I got to the store, I forgot to get them.

Finally, on Friday I pulled it together enough to get them. So yesterday, after an exhausting day of going to the library, eating bagels and reading, we made slow cooked baby back ribs.

I used a recipe from David Lebovitz’ new cookbook, “My Paris Kitchen.” It’s a lovely book, though admittedly not the sort in which you expect to find a recipe for caramel pork ribs.

You basically make a barbecue sauce by caramelizing sugar in a Dutch oven, then adding ribs and popping the whole thing in the oven for several hours. Delicious.

So leftover ribs made a fine start to today’s lunch. Parker uncharacteristically didn’t finish his bagel and cream cheese at breakfast (hope he’s not getting sick…), so I added that and a fruit salad.


A brown rice and Buffalo-esque take on chicken

Easy lunch box ideas: Buffalo-style broiled chicken tenders with brown rice; chicken saltimbocca; and kiwis and oranges.

Last night’s dinner was an experiment that — while not all that attractive — was yummy.

It was inspired by Buffalo chicken wings. I like the flavor — fried wings tossed in Frank’s Red Hot sauce — but I don’t like frying and I’ve never been a huge fan of wings.

I had some chicken breasts in need of using up. So on Wednesday evening I cut them into tenders and dumped them in a bag with a blend of toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. They marinated like that in the refrigerator for about 24 hours.

Last night, I oiled a wire rack and set it over a baking sheet. Then I arranged the chicken tenders on the rack. This helps the heat circulate all around the food.

I broiled the chicken until it started to get some color and just barely hit 165 F.

Meanwhile, I whisked together some low-fat sour cream and a healthy splash of Frank’s Red Hot sauce. A little salt and pepper rounded it out.

When the chicken came out of the oven, I tossed it in a bowl with the sour cream-Frank’s mixture, stirring it around to coat it really well. That was it. Turned out delicious. And so easy.

I paired it with some brown rice cooked in chicken broth. Also easy and delicious.

So leftovers of those two items made a good start for today’s lunch. I also gave Parker the last slab of chicken saltimbocca and some fruit. And so ends another week in the lunch box trenches.

Of chicken saltimbocca and buttery potatoes with pork shoulder

Easy lunch box ideas: chicken saltimbocca; pork shoulder and pan-roasted potatoes; and kiwis.


As usual, about as vegetarian-unfriendly a lunch as possible.

That’s my boy…

For dinner last night I was inspired by a Mario Batali recipe in the April issue of Food & Wine magazine. He did chicken saltimbocca with asparagus. It sounded pretty delicious, so I decided to do my own version.

I sliced two chicken breasts into thin cutlets, then pounded them even thinner. Then I dredged them through flour that I’d seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

I topped each piece with some fresh sage, then rather crappily wrapped each cutlet with a few slices of prosciutto. Need to get Mario to teach me how to do a better job at the wrapping part…

To cook them, I melted some butter (with a splash of olive oil) in a large oven-safe saute pan. I browned the cutlets on each side for several minutes, then popped the whole thing in a 300 F oven to finish up. Done and on the table in less than 30 minutes.

And pretty damn delicious.

So leftovers of that started today’s lunch.

For breakfast, I pan-roasted new potatoes in butter. It’s pretty simple. You melt butter over medium heat, add whole new potatoes, cover and let cook (shaking the pan every now and then). They brown up nicely in about 15 or so minutes. Add salt and they are delicious. Some crisped pork shoulder steaks finished breakfast, and leftovers of both got heated up and heaped into a thermos for Parker’s lunch.

Oh-so-very meat and potatoes…

And now… The five-ingredient bison hand pie!

Easy lunch box ideas: sesame-soy bison steak hand pies and a yogurt parfait.

So I woke up inspired this morning.

I had a package of pie crust dough that I didn’t have any plans for. I’d been considering what to do with it for a few days. Quiche? Fruit tart? Eh…

This morning it hit me. Meat hand pies! My little carnivore would love them. And they were so simple.

Here’s what I did. I grabbed a raw bison steak from the refrigerator and sliced it as thinly as possible. Then in a medium bowl I whisked a bit of sesame oil, soy sauce and cornstarch. As I sliced the streak, I added it to the bowl and tossed to coat it well.

Then I rolled out the pie crust dough and cut circles from it using a dumpling cutter/crimper (a plastic clamshell-like device that cuts the dough to the perfect size, then lets you fill, fold and crimp it shut).

In the center of each dough circle, I mounded a few strips of steak. After the pies were folded and crimped shut, I arranged them on an oiled baking sheet and baked them at 375 F for about 20 minutes.

Oh, I also brushed them with a whisked egg and sprinkled them with sesame seeds. Just because.

That was it. Total work: about 15 minutes. More than I normally would do for a lunch, but not too bad for a morning when I got up a little early.

Add a yogurt parfait — with just a few jelly beans (left over from an Easter photo shoot) — and we’re good.

A lazy dinner makes for an even lazier lunch

Easy lunch box ideas: Baked "fried" chicken thighs with barbecue sauce; sesame crisp breads with cream cheese and jam; and strawberries.

After my oh-so-productive Sunday in the kitchen, I hit a slump yesterday afternoon.

It may have had something to do with the massive photo shoot we did yesterday. That had me nibbling on all sorts of delicious things pretty much from morning until late afternoon.

So I wasn’t all that inspired to cook.

Instead, I dug into the refrigerator and pulled out a bag of baked “fried” chicken I had prepped a while back.

We had a winner! I popped those in the oven at about 350 F for a half hour-ish, then poured myself a bourbon and tried to get Parker to tackle his math homework.

It was a success. The chicken and bourbon, that is. The math homework… Well… Whatever.

Since it was no extra work, I made sure to reheat a little extra chicken. And that’s where today’s lunch started. Pair it with some barbecue sauce, and he’ll be thrilled.

To round out today’s lunch — some sesame crisp breads topped with cream cheese and jam (three of them garlic pepper jam, one with wild berry). Add some fruit and we’re good!

Of bacon fat mayonnaise and chili-orange lamb

Easy lunch box ideas: orange-chili lamb with tzatziki; bacon and ham on a whole-wheat tortilla with bacon fat mayonnaise; ham and cheese mini quiches; and strawberries.

Parker and I hunkered down in the house all day yesterday. And with no particular demands on our time, I was able to be unusually productive in the kitchen.

Among my various projects — an all-day orange-chili marinade for lamb shoulder. The recipe came from a new book on Greek cooking from Maria Elia, “Smashing Plates.”

You make a blend of olive oil, cinnamon, allspice, an orange and a couple red chilies, then add cubed lamb shoulder and let it sit all day. I made a basic tzatziki — as well as an intensely garlicky hummus — to go with it.

Dinner was delicious. And the leftovers were a fine place to start today’s lunch.

For lunch yesterday, Parker requested his favorite pizza — bacon, cheese and a drizzle of maple syrup. So in addition to the lamb escapades, I also cooked off a pound of bacon.

And that meant I had a whole lot of bacon fat. So on a whim, I decided to make bacon fat mayonnaise. It’s pretty much a basic egg-based mayonnaise, but instead of oil, you use bacon fat.

I know… Health food.

It was yummy, but not as delicious as I wanted it to be. Next time, I think I’d add actual bacon to it.

Either way, this morning Parker requested a bacon sandwich at lunch to go with his lamb and tzatziki. So I layered some bacon and ham in a whole-wheat tortilla, then slathered on some bacon fat mayonnaise.

Because why not?

Add some leftover ham and cheese mini quiches (his breakfast) and some strawberries, and we’re good!

DIY pork nachos that will be too nuanced for my son

Easy lunch box ideas: butternut barbecue pulled pork; tortilla chips; cumin-seared pork chop; sour cream; watermelon; and strawberries.

I was determined to use up the rest of the butternut barbecue pulled pork. No matter what.

So that was my inspiration for today’s lunch.

Except it didn’t get me very far. I mean, how many pulled pork wraps and sandwiches can I foist on the kid day after day?

So instead, I just dumped whatever was left into one half of a lunch container… Then I waited for more inspiration.

I ended up going with a half-hearted DIY nacho theme, but I’m pretty sure that nuance will be lost on Parker.

My theory was that I would accompany the pulled pork with tortilla chips, sour cream and a chopped up pork chop left from last night’s dinner (I pan-seared them with butter, onions and cumin seeds).

In theory, Parker will fork bits of pork — pulled or otherwise — onto the chips, then dab a bit of sour cream on them for a delicious take on cold nachos.

In reality, he’ll dive in and inhale both porks. Then he’ll realize he also has chips, which he’ll dunk in the sour cream. Or maybe he’ll just eat the chips and drink the sour cream. Or, even more likely, spill the sour cream all down his shirt.

In desperation, once all carb and pork products have been inhaled and he remains STARVING, he’ll resort to eating the fruit. Then he’ll come home this afternoon and complain he didn’t have enough to eat.

And welcome to the weekend…

Success… I think? Maybe not?

Easy lunch box ideas: butternut barbecue pulled pork on a whole-wheat bun; fruit and granola yogurt parfait; leftover turkey sloppy Joes with mashed potatoes; and honey-roasted peanuts.

Yesterday’s brilliant plan of tanking Parker up on two yogurts and nearly a pound of steak at breakfast seems to have worked.

Kind of.

He did indeed bring home some of his lunch. The pork.

Because though he ate it without issue for dinner the night before, he simply could not bring himself to touch the horrible, repulsive stuff at lunch yesterday.

No idea.

But I’m confident it had nothing to do with his appetite. Attitude? Yes…

This morning’s breakfast was four pumpkin pancakes and a yogurt. So we’ll see what that does to today’s lunch — which should please his lordship.

Of course, that’s what I thought about the pork…

Anyway, today’s lunch is another round of the leftover butternut barbecue pulled pork (I might have made a bit too much of that…) on a whole-wheat bun, a parfait and a handful of the honey-roasted peanuts he likes.

I also had just enough leftovers from last night’s dinner to slip in a thermos — mashed potatoes and sloppy turkey Joes.

The turkey Joes were stupidly easy. Mostly because my darling child left me with neither the time not the energy (nor the will, for that matter) to do anything more involved.

In a blender, I pureed a jar of roasted red peppers (drained) and a yellow onion. Instant sauce. I dumped that and 1 pound of lean ground turkey into a skillet and let it bubble while I poured myself a few bourbons.

I also seasoned it with some really exotic stuff… Garlic powder and Italian seasoning.

Done. Easy dinner.

Let’s try front-loading lunch at breakfast

Easy lunch box ideas: butternut barbecue pulled pork in a whole-wheat tortilla with red peppers; lemon-mustard breaded pork cutlet; and strawberries and kiwis.

So I had this brilliant idea this morning.

Maybe I’m just not feeding Parker enough breakfast.

Truth is, he’s always been a moderate to light eater in the morning. That doesn’t shock me. Most of my life, I’ve skipped breakfast.

But with his appetite the way it has been, I figured maybe it was worth trying something different.

It also helped that I happened to have a 3/4-pound sirloin steak in the refrigerator that needed to be used. I took it out of the freezer several days ago, but never got a chance to cook it.

This is why I rarely plan dinner until about 5 p.m. Even when I do plan ahead, I mess it up.

So steak for breakfast…

The prep was simple. I trimmed the fat from the steak, then sliced it into very thin strips. I heated a skillet and tossed in some sesame oil. In went the steak for a quick sear, followed by a splash of soy sauce. In another minute, I added 1 teaspoon of cornstarch mixed with about 1 teaspoon of water. After about 30 seconds to thicken up, I seasoned it with salt and pepper and called it breakfast. Done in less than 5 minutes.

(Insert vacuum-like noises as the 9-year-old inhaled the entire thing.)

“Can I have some more?”

“That’s all there was.”

“Oh. Can I have a yogurt?”

(Insert additional vacuum-like noises.)

“Can I have another one?”

(Insert yet more vacuum-like noises.)

“You’re done! Don’t ask for more food!”

So, for lunch… Still working on the leftovers from the pulled pork. This time I wrapped them in a whole-wheat tortilla. I may also have accidentally slipped in some red peppers. Oops.

I also had a leftover breaded pork cutlet from last night’s dinner. I’d been meaning to try this mustard-lemon pork from a new cookbook by New Orleans chef Donald Link, “Down South.”

And last night was the perfect excuse. Parker is doing a school project on Louisiana. The pork was delicious. The only change I made was to use whole-wheat breadcrumbs instead of panko.

In theory, this huge breakfast should mean some of this relatively large lunch should come home… We’ll see…