Yesterday, I had one sad, sick kid at home. Luckily, he appears to have had a 24 hour bug and he’s in fine form today. He’s getting the soba noodles lunch from yesterday. Today’s lunch for Lily is a starchy protein powerhouse for my little growing girl: quesadillas on a corn/whole wheat tortilla with mashed potato (left over from dinner) and salsa, a hard boiled egg, plums and canteloupe, and a mini serving of on the sweet side trail mix. The trail mix is a clean out the pantry extravaganza of goldfish, peanuts, cashews, peanut butter filled crackers, fruity o’s cereal (TJs), and chocolate chips.
Today’s lunch is pretty much last night’s dinner redux: soba noodles with fried tofu, hard boiled eggs and kale topped with peanut sauce. I omitted the egg and added edamame for lunch just so the noodles would be a little different. There were four left over dumplings (Trader Joe’s Thai Vegetable Gyoza), so into the lunch boxes they went. I thought green grapes were in keeping with this lunch’s green theme: total plant powered goodness. Mmm, I’m getting hungry just looking at this yumminess.
* Cooking Tip: Peanut Sauce. Peanut sauce is so easy to make. The main players are:
- peanut butter (or sunflower seed butter if allergies are an issue) [3 tbsp.]
- soy sauce [3 tbsp.]
- rice wine vinegar [1 tbsp.]
- sesame oil [1 tbsp.]
- honey [1 tbsp.]
- grated ginger [1 tbsp.]
- warm water [3–4 tbsp.]
- something to spice it up: red pepper flakes, Sriracha, cayenne, etc.
Every peanut sauce recipe seems to have slightly different ingredient proportions, which leads me to believe that exact proportions are unimportant. Amounts in brackets are what I used for this recipe. I like to use equal parts peanut butter and soy sauce, which is pretty tangy and not overly peanutty. The water is added just for consistency. I have a great trick for grating ginger that I learned years ago from Rachel Ray (yes, of the YUM-O 30 minute meals): freeze ginger, unpeeled and grate it while frozen. Freezing the ginger breaks down the fibers, so it grates easily with none of the stringiness you get when grating it fresh. You also don’t end up with the inevitable chunk of moldy ginger lost at the bottom of the crisper. If you use a fine grater/zester, just leave the skin on; you won’t even taste it. Pre-kids, I loaded up on red pepper flakes for a pretty spicy peanut sauce. Now, I make a mild sauce and we add Sriracha (the Rooster) at the table.
Empanadas are the ultimate lunch food: perfect little savory, portable pies. The name empanada comes from the Spanish verb empanar: to wrap in bread or pastry. Making empanadas is somewhat time-consuming (this is a weekend task), but, oh so worth it. If you make a big batch, there will be plenty of leftovers for both kid and grownup lunches. Empanadas can also be frozen, uncooked, and popped right in the oven for the best snack ever. Kids who like to play with dough can help make them; this will increase production time considerably, make a huge mess, and will result in less than perfect results, but, who cares. Involving kids in food making makes them much more adventurous, appreciative eaters. These empanadas are filled with black beans, corn, golden raisins, kale and cheese in a mild chili tomato sauce. At dinner, we ate them with salsa, Greek yogurt (I always use this in place of sour cream) and my current favorite condiment: Chipotle Tabasco sauce. For lunch, I packed them with multigrain chips, grapes and carrots.
Every once in awhile, I behave like a normal person. I get home from work, look in the fridge, assess my level of fatigue, think about my chores for the evening, and decide that the only option is to order Thai food. Luckily, we have the most amazing little Thai restaurant right around the corner. There are two young guys who are always there (I think Mom does the cooking in the back) and they are the sweetest, most upbeat dudes ever. They fawn all over the kids and always give out little freebies: Thai tea, popsicles, gummy worms, little silk bags from Thailand. Two years ago, when he was in kindergarten, Iain draw a picture of his favorite meal: pad see ew at Thai Boat. We brought it into the restaurant to show the guys and they promptly taped it up on the wall. I think it’s still there, right behind the cash register. Luckily, Iain and Lily don’t mind cold leftover pad see ew with tofu for lunch. Lily talks so much during meals that I suspect most of her food is cold before she gets around to eating it anyways. I decided to serve peas and edamame with the noodles. The fruit compartment has plums and grapes. I wish I had this lunch today.
This is what I made last night in lieu of dinner:
For reasons unknown to me, my kids love chicken drumsticks. Personally, I think they are a little gross: greasy, messy and full of weird stringy bits. But, no matter, if we grill some chicken, the kids are really excited when they see drumsticks. They also love cold leftover drumsticks for lunch. I like to wrap the ends in a little foil to mitigate the greasiness, because both Iain and Lily are currently suffering from wipe dirty hands on clean clothes syndrome. With that perfectly grilled teriyaki drumstick (low and slow, baby) is a sodium mix: pretzel thins, rice crackers, and Goldfish Space Adventures. The fruit is, hold your breath, sweet, juicy, glorious stone fruit. Ah, peaches and plums in October—the bounty of California. Of course, it was over 100 degrees today, so I wasn’t feeling so much California love. The treat is a particularly realistic grouping of chocolate rocks.
Grilled pork: it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Today’s main lunch item is a whole grain quesadilla with grilled pork and barbecue sauce. Yummers. The pretty pink and red compartment has strawberries and greek yogurt with strawberry jam swirled in. I also included some grapes and sliced carrots. The more colors in the lunch, the better—and healthier—it looks. The treat is a couple of chocolate mints.
Cooking Tip: For the best, crispiest quesadillas, use a dry cast iron pan over medium heat. Cast iron pans are awesome in so many ways: they are cheap, basically indestructible, and totally non-stick when seasoned properly. I have fancy pants expensive All Clad pans, but, more often than not, I use one of my cast iron pans for sautéing and such.
When I was growing up, Sunday was barbecue day. When we lived in places like Southern California and Guam, the weather was conducive to Sunday BBQ year round. Not so in Nebraska. But, not matter, my dad would be bundled up, lighting the grill and smoking a cigar outside in the dead of winter. In retrospect, I wonder if Sunday BBQ was related to my dad’s desire for a weekly cigar indulgence. My mom had been a heavy smoker early in life and once she quit, she quit for good and couldn’t tolerate the smell of smoke at all. Hence, dad had to take his stinky cigars outside where the smell was somewhat masked by lighter fluid and burning charcoal (he eventually broke down and bought a gas grill which was much easier to light on Midwestern winter days).
So there you have it: the long story of why Sunday is still barbecue day in my house and why today’s lunch contains barbecue leftovers. The sandwich has sharp cheddar cheese and sliced pork roast. That’s a little container of scrumptious eggy potato salad (grandma’s contribution to Sunday BBQ) at the top. Since this meat and potatoes lunch is pretty heavy, I included lots of fruit—grapes, strawberries and watermelon—and threw in a baby carrot.