A “sushi” roll with a surprise inside

Easy lunch box ideas: ham, cream cheese and raw corn kernel "sushi" bites on a whole-wheat tortilla; and strawberries. Http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Decided to mix it up a bit this morning. Because the local corn is still so delicious.

I’m a big fan of eating fresh corn raw. Some people don’t realize you can. But it’s sweet and refreshing and wonderfully crunchy. I highly recommend it.

My favorite was is to cut the kernels off the cob and add them to salads. You also could toss them with cooked pasta, but do it just before serving to keep that raw flavor and texture.

But we all know my monster is no fan of salads. He does, however, like corn. So this morning I decided to try something new.

I prepped his usual ham and cream cheese rollup, which I planned to cut into “sushi” bites.

Except in between the ham and the cream cheese, I added the kernels from one ear of corn.

We’ll see what he thinks of the extra hit of crunch and sweet…

By the way, the salsa experiment the other day went well. He ate about half of it. In my world, that’s a success.

Of oat-based pizzas and new kitchen reveals!

Easy lunch box ideas: oat-wheat pizza topped with potatoes, bacon, cheese and maple syrup; and a yogurt parfait. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Yesterday… I was hankering to make pizza dough.

This doesn’t happen often, so I decided to indulge it.

Except the kitchen still isn’t really fully stocked. Which means any time I go to make something, I generally find that I’m missing an ingredient I normally consider a staple.

Yesterday it was yeast.

But I decided to push forward anyway. And I decided to try an experiment.

I wanted to make an oat and whole wheat-based pizza crust. And it kind of worked.

In a food processor, I processed 1 cup oats until finely ground. Then I added 1 cup white whole-wheat flour, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 2 teaspoons sugar and 2/3 cup water.

I processed the whole thing, then kneaded it into a ball and let it sit, covered, on the counter until dinner. That’s when I just rolled it out, topped it with sliced (cooked) potatoes, bacon and cheese. About 10 minutes in the oven and a drizzle of maple syrup… and dinner was served.

Sure, it would have been better with yeast (the crust didn’t rise), but it was still pretty tasty.

So leftovers of that — and a yogurt parfait — were today’s lunch.

Now… About those kitchen reveal photos… Ready?



This is looking up from the sunroom/new living room.



This is the left side of the kitchen.



This is the right side.


This is the view from the dining room (the wall between the kitchen and dining room were removed as part of the renovation).



This is the view from the sink looking to the island and living room. And you can see I was able to relocate the chalkboard spice cabinet.

Hope you enjoy!


And now for a little salsa experiment… And kitchen pictures!

Easy lunch box ideas: whole-grain tortilla chips with salsa and sour cream; kiwi slices; and red pepper-tomato simmered lamb with new potatoes. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

So a couple weeks ago I tried something sneaky with Parker.

He had a friend visiting at the camp. The boys and I were playing poker by the campfire. And they, of course, wanted a snack.

I grabbed a bag of tortilla chips and — for me and the friend — a bowl of salsa.

Why for just me and the friend? As longtime readers know, Parker considers tomatoes evil.

But I decided to see what would happen if I simply set the bowl down amongst our playing cards and, without comment, simply started playing and munching.

The gamble worked. Without so much as a comment, he started scooping chips in to the salsa and mindlessly eating them as we played.

I said nothing.

He later mentioned something about it being spicy, but nothing else.

So today I decided to see if I could replicate the success. This morning I packed him some whole-grain tortilla chips with a side of salsa topped with sour cream.

Will he eat it? I’ll find out in a bit…

To round out the lunch, I added some kiwi slices and leftovers from dinner last night. I pureed a jar of roasted red peppers, a can of tomato paste, an onion and some garlic. I seared some lamb, then added the sauce and simmered until the lamb was tender. Then I added some cooked new potatoes left from the night before. Delicious.

Meanwhile, I’ve been promising the big reveal of the kitchen. Today, I’ll start with pictures of the old kitchen. Hardly a bad kitchen, but no longer quite meeting our needs.



The above picture is a view looking up into the kitchen from the sunroom. The sunroom is now the living room.




This is a view from the stove/sink corner of the kitchen. The wall with the chalkboard cabinet on it separates the kitchen from the dining room. That wall has been torn down.




This is looking down from the kitchen toward the sunroom. The doorway facing the camera is the old bathroom. The entire bathroom has been torn out and moved to another part of the house.

OK… Enough for today. Tomorrow… The real deal.

No food, a nervous kid and other first-day-of-school issues

Easy lunch box ideas: ham and bacon mini quiches; yogurt parfait; and orange slices. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Given that the world has a window into my son’s lunch box, you’d think I’d know better.

You’d think I’d know enough to make certain I went grocery shopping the day — or at least the evening — before his first day of school.

You know, so that I actually had something to put into his lunch box…

Ah well… Add it to my growing list of failures as a parent.

By the way, welcome back to the Lunch Box Blues!

Obviously, I took a bit of a hiatus in August. Wasn’t the plan, but the house renovation, living at the camp, travel and a host of other issues conspired to keep me too crazed to properly catalog Parker’s lunches.

But we’re back in gear. The kitchen is done (pictures to come later this week). And Parker is officially a fifth grader.

But there was that lunch to contend with. Parker and I milked our last day at the camp yesterday, swimming, kayaking, skipping stones and having “water wars” (heaving wet sponges at one another). So we didn’t leave there until 5 p.m.

No time for shopping. Which didn’t strike me as a problem until this morning.

So rather than something creative and fun to start the year, I reached for a standby and hoped for the best.

I made him mini cheese and ham quiches, but used bacon instead of ham because that’s all I had. I kind of overcooked them because I’m not yet used to the new stove. Add that to my fails, too.

Next up, a classic Parker yogurt parfait — this time made with cookies (no graham crackers in the house), jam and a handful of berries and chocolate chips. Sugar bomb, anyone?

Parker was a bit nervous about starting fifth grade, so the chocolate was my rather lame effort to comfort him.

Finally… orange slices.

This involved a bit of sacrifice on my part. Parker isn’t in love with oranges. I buy them mostly for myself. And I only buy them to use the peel in my old fashioneds.

He has no idea how many cocktails worth of orange I gave up for him to get some fruit today…

The hardships we endure for our kids…

It’s time to get serious about getting back to school


Or maybe it isn’t.

Because even though the rest of the nation seems to have headed back to the world of brown bagging it…

Parker and I have not.

We have spent the past few days vacationing with friends on the coast of Maine.

Today, we are spending the day lost in needlessly violent water “wars” — which involves the throwing of car sponges at one another (and a good friend) at the lake.

We also have made ample time for much-too-large ice creams.

And really good beers on the dock.


Tomorrow we will tackle back-to-school shopping.

On Friday…. More water fun.

This weekend? More of the same.

Monday? I suppose we finally will head home and acknowledge the reality of fifth grade crashing down upon us.

And Tuesday? Back to the lunch box trenches.

I also finally will share the results of the kitchen renovation that required far too much of my attention this summer. I’m thrilled with the results, even if the process wasn’t always thrilling.

Until then… Get your gear on. Get inspired. Get back into the lunch groove.

Trying to come back from my brown bag sabbatical


I know… I know… I’ve taken a few weeks off.

It’s just been a crazy few weeks. And the time off from lunch duty wasn’t planned.

But the last few days of the renovation hit hard and fast and needed my full attention. Just ask my oft-ignored child…

And then there was the moving back into the house.

Well, not moving us back in. We’re staying at the camp until the end of August. But unpacking all the stuff. Setting up the kitchen. Settling back in. And most importantly, bringing the cats back to the house.

Not sure I could have handled another night with the three crazed cats at the camp.

And now I’m on vacation for three weeks with Parker.

So far, much fun. Yesterday, a museum in Vermont. Today? Splashing at the lake. We’re trying to build a water-worthy Huck Finn-style raft using only rope and found wood.

This isn’t likely to succeed.

But we also needed a lunch break. So Parker is feasting on this-and-that. I made myself an Asian carrot slaw with golden raisins.

But now to try to get him back outside to finish our raft. He’s a bit immersed in his latest book, “The Monuments Men.” I predict cocktails (and mocktails) with books in the hammock later this afternoon.

Hope everyone is having a splendid finish to summer. Promise to return to regular lunch duty in the next few days.

A sandwich wrap made from tomatoes?

Easy lunch box ideas: ham and cream cheese wrap; strawberries; and a yogurt. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Don’t tell Parker.

Actually, he asked and I kind of sort of lied.

“What type of wrap is THAT?”

“It’s made from barbecue sauce.”


So I was at the natural foods store the other day and discovered these packages of something called GemWraps. They are no junk, no sugar, vegan, gluten-free wraps made from grape concentrate, tomato paste and seasonings.

They look and feel like fruit leather, but are thinner and less sticky. Sounded interesting, so what the heck. I got two varieties — barbecue and mango chipotle.

I made a wrap for myself last night. It was OK… Didn’t have a lot of flavor and was kind of a strange texture. I guess if you’re watching calories and carbs (they have almost none of either), it’s a way to still have a wrap.

Not sure how they will go over with Parker…

Obviously we need to clear something up

Easy lunch box ideas: graham crackers with peanut butter and banana; kiwi slices. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

Allow me to explain this to you one last time.

If you wake up in the middle of the night…

And if when you wake up in the middle of the night you are cranky…

In particular, if you are cranky to me…

More to the point, if you are cranky to me merely because you can’t fall back to sleep…

And if, as a result of this crankiness, neither of us gets much sleep…

And if in the morning I still must get up, pack your lunch and try to work a full day…

Do not expect the lunch of your dreams.

Graham crackers with peanut butter and really badly sliced banana. And kiwi. Done.

Getting fancy with a leftover steak sandwich

Easy lunch box ideas: steak, avocado and rosemary with cream cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla; and blueberries. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

So apparently yesterday’s warning went well. The steak — and in fact Parker’s entire lunch box — was a mess by lunch.

Yet he ate it.

I may not be able to prevent him from roughing up his lunch box, but I at least can get him to eat what’s in it.

Most of the time.

Today might not be one of those times.

I decided to get creative this morning. I wanted to use up the remnants of the leftover steak by making a cream cheese sandwich/burrito.

But for flavor and greenery, I decided to also add half an avocado and a whole mess of minced fresh rosemary.

Then I rolled it all up into a tight bundle and sliced it in two.

I decided on issuing no warnings today. He won’t notice the unusual ingredients; he’ll just assume it’s a regular steak sandwich.

We’ll see how it goes over.

Such a simple lunch should not require a warning, but…

Easy lunch box ideas: leftover steak with sour cream; and strawberries. http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com

After roughly five years of this lunch packing/blogging thing, I’ve finally accepted something.

I have accepted that my son — and I’m willing to bet your kid(s), too — will not exert his brain much at lunch.

My vision of his lunch experience goes something like this:

Parker sits down for lunch amidst a gaggle of boys. Never girls. They’re still icky.

Parker babbles for who knows how long.

Parker opens his lunch box and starts taking things out.

Anything that Parker cannot identify within the first nanosecond of seeing it is immediately returned to the lunch box.

Parker babbles some more.

Parker eats only the foods that do not require him to use his brain to identify, figure out, sort out or in any way think about.

Lunch is finished.

All of this is to explain why I have started issuing warnings and alerts as I pack his lunch each day.

Today is a fine example. Leftover steak with sour cream. Easily one of Parker’s favorite combinations.

But because of the renovation, I have limited lunch packing gear at my disposal. So the sour cream could not have its own container. Which means that by the time my incredibly rough and careless child gets to lunch, the steak and sour cream will have been flung about repeatedly.

Which means the steak and sour cream will be an unidentifiable blop by the time he opens the container.

No less delicious, mind you. But it will suffer from questionable visual appeal.

Now, you or I would take a moment to look at it and sort out what it is. We might even think to ourselves, “Gosh, I made a mess of my steak and sour cream. Perhaps tomorrow I shouldn’t launch my lunch box into the air. Repeatedly.”

And then we’d eat it anyway.

My boy? Very likely not.

So today, I had this conversation.

“So Parker. This is steak. This is sour cream. By the time you have finished abusing your lunch box for several hours and actually try to eat this, it will look like a messy blop. But it will still be steak and sour cream. OK?”

See? I’ve now alleviated any need for thought.