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…

And so it has come to this…

Easy lunch box ideas: two barbecue pulled pork buns with butternut squash; strawberries; and a yogurt.

THIS being that this morning I have packed two massive pulled pork sandwiches in Parker’s lunch…

And now a couple hours later I’m having doubts…

I’m wondering whether I packed enough food.

Which almost certainly means I did not.

Which almost certainly means my darling child will arrive home STARVING!

Though the other day we did have a conversation about using that word.

It was Sunday. He’d already had a huge breakfast. Followed by a second huge breakfast. And already was cruising into an early lunch. And he was STARVING!

We talked about the fact that there really are people in this world who don’t get enough to eat. In fact, people in our own community. And we talked about the fact that Parker most certainly is not among them.

To his credit, Parker no long claims to be STARVING!

He now lets me know that he is STILL HUNGRY!!!

I suppose that is an improvement.

By the way, this pulled pork was test batch No. 2 of the pork I mentioned the other day — the one with the pureed butternut squash and onions added to the barbecue sauce.

I’ll post the recipe once it’s live. It’s a keeper.

A morning fit for buttery flatbread

Easy lunch box ideas: ham and cream cheese on fresh flatbread; strawberries; honey-roasted peanuts; and a pudding.

Woke up a little too early this morning. Normally not such a horrible thing.

But Parker had a big math test today, and the extra time just gave him more time to worry.

I’m sure he’ll do fine. We spent a ton of time yesterday going over the material.

Regardless, I knew he needed some comfort food. And since I had a little extra time, I decided to make fresh griddle flatbread — some for his breakfast, some for his lunch.

Back in my BP days (Before Parker), I used to entertain a lot.

Totally. Different. Life.

And I’d always make this super easy flatbread, serving it to people right as it came out of the pan. It’s so tender and delicious. And so simple to make.

But since I now live WP (With Parker), I don’t entertain quite like I used to.

Totally. Different. Life.

So I haven’t made this flatbread in a long time. Not sure what made me think of it this morning, but it seemed just right for Parker’s breakfast.

Here’s what you do. In a food processor, combine 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup of water, a hefty pinch of salt and a tiny splash of olive oil. Process until the dough comes together in a smooth ball, about 1 minute. If the dough is too dry, drizzle in a bit more water. If it’s too wet (it should just barely tacky), add a bit of flour.

Transfer the dough to a floured counter, divide into 6 pieces, then roll out very flat.

Heat a skillet over medium heat, then lightly butter or oil it. One at a time, toast the flatbreads for about 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until lightly puffed and browned in spots.


That’s certainly what Parker did (with just a bit of butter and salt sprinkled on them).

So for lunch, I took the three remaining flatbreads, smeared on a little cream cheese, then topped them with the ham Parker picked out at the grocery store yesterday. Add some strawberries, some more of his favorite honey-roasted peanuts and a pudding (a special test day treat), and we’re good.

By the way, for anyone wanting the recipe for the funky pizza-wrapped sausages I did the other week, here it is. Enjoy!

And now we break the 1-pound mark…

Easy lunch box ideas: Peppercorn-maple-crusted bison steak with lemon and sour cream; pineapple; and a strawberries and cream-topped brownie.

Because even yesterday’s 3/4 pound of barbecue pulled pork wasn’t quite enough.

I think I’ll just buy him one of those suitcases on wheels. I’ll shovel food into it each morning and he can roll it in to school. Or maybe one of those electric coolers on wheels…

So last night — after the usual massive afternoon snack — I was playing around with some sweet-and-peppery crusts for steak. The eventual recipe hopefully will be a spicy sorghum glaze for flank steak.

But last night’s version was crushed peppercorns, maple sugar and kosher salt on bison steaks. It was perfect for Parker, as it needed to sear for just a couple minutes per side to develop a perfect crust.

And that kept the insides perfectly raw, just the way he likes it.

Parker ate a massive portion of that for dinner last night. And I made sure to cook extra for today’s lunch. A pound extra, in fact. Because I went a little heavy on the peppercorns, I added some sour cream for him to cool it down with.

I also added some pineapple and… a strawberries-and-cream brownie. Parker got his progress report this week and it was excellent. All 90s and above. So on the way to karate last night we stopped at his favorite bakery to pick up a treat to celebrate.

By the way, here’s the caramelized sweet-and-sour chicken recipe I promised a while back. Really delicious.


Start to finish: 30 minutes
Servings: 6

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch strips
Scallions, thinly sliced, to garnish
Fresh cilantro, chopped, to garnish

In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a simmer and cook without stirring for about 10 minutes, or until the sugar has browned and thickened to caramel. Stir in the fish sauce, being careful of sputtering, then the soy sauce, ginger and lime juice. Return to a simmer.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over medium, heat the oil. Add the chicken and cook, stirring often, for 20 minutes, or until cooked through. When the chicken has cooked, use a slotted spoon or tongs to transfer the chicken (but none of the liquid in the pan) into the caramel sauce. Toss to coat the chicken with the sauce, then transfer it to a serving platter. Top with scallions and cilantro.

Nutrition information per serving: 400 calories; 170 calories from fat (43 percent of total calories); 19 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 150 mg cholesterol; 14 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 13 g sugar; 42 g protein; 1260 mg sodium.

(Recipe adapted from the November 2013 issue of BBC GoodFood magazine)

How about 3/4 pound of pork? Will that suffice?

Easy lunch box ideas: barbecue pulled pork on a whole-wheat tortilla; strawberries; pineapple; cheddar cheese and quince paste; and a random hunk of turkey.

Yesterday’s two large pulled pork sandwiches on whole-wheat buns apparently were not enough.

Those, the strawberries, the peanuts? No enough.

He still came home and inhaled two slices of bread with jam, a pile of berries, a yogurt and more tembleque. I finally shut him off after that and assured him dinner would be coming soon.

And “all” I fed him for dinner was 8 ounces of steak, a stack of whole-wheat tortillas, cheese, an avocado, sour cream and a whole mess of salad with almonds and croutons.

At this rate, this blog is going to become more about emergency feeding procedures for a growing boy than about lunches.

Or are those the same thing?

So today I ramped up his lunch even more. Roughly 3/4 pound of the pulled pork somewhat messily piled into a whole-wheat tortilla and wrapped.

For “sides” — strawberries, pineapple, a few hunks of cheddar with a slab of quince paste, and a random hunk of turkey breast just because I needed to fill that last compartment (and more protein is never a bad thing).

And I just took 2 pounds of steak out of the freezer. Hope it thaws in time for dinner.