Why Sliders Are the Best

turkey slider with cheese

When I was in high school, I loved to eat a plate of sliders and fries at this place in Omaha called The Diner. It was, well, a charming little diner with classic diner food. Ever since I discovered those mini burgers, I’ve been obsessed with sliders. I don’t even know where the term “sliders” originated. I should do some research on the internets.

In the meantime, I’ll just continue to have fun making different types of sliders. I love a straightforward beef and American cheese slider loaded with pickles, lettuce and Thousand Island (secret sauce) dressing. Sometimes, I’ll mix it up with turkey or pork or even salmon. The other day, I made turkey sliders with sautéed kale and mushrooms incorporated into the burgers. They were fantastic. I always try to make a few extra burgers, so I have some leftover for lunches. They’re actually delicious cold.

grownup lunch with turkey and cheese sliders served with a green salad
grownup lunch with turkey and cheese sliders served with a green salad
a kid lunch with a turkey and cheese slider, veggies, apple slices, Goldfish crackers, almonds and a chocolate eyeball treat
a kid lunch with a turkey and cheese slider, veggies, apple slices, Goldfish crackers, almonds and a chocolate eyeball treat

 

Because the Grownups Gotta Eat

a sandwich that will make you happy
a sandwich that will make you happy

I pack a lot of lunches. Luckily, as a college professor, my academic schedule is similar to my kids’ school year. That means I pretty much get to take the summer off from lunch packing. This could be one of the reasons that I’m pretty motivated to make good lunches; I get that much needed break in the summer. When I’m teaching, I often have very little time for lunch. Sometimes I eat during my office hours and sometimes I have a weird schedule like this quarter, in which I have a class that meets from 11:00 in the morning until 2:00pm (it’s a terrible class time). When I’m on campus, I pretty much always have to bring my lunch to work. Some days, I have no energy for making myself a fancy lunch once I’ve finished cobbling together a family dinner, cleaning the kitchen and making lunches for the kids. BUT, occasionally I can muster the will to pack myself a lovely sandwich—and, oh, how I love a lovely sandwich. I would be so excited to have a job in which all I did was come up with interesting sandwich combinations. Look at the gorgeous sandwich I made for my lunch today: it’s got cilantro microgreens that I discovered at the farmers market over the weekend, avocado sprinkled with chile limón seasoning, cheese, and thinly sliced grilled pork loin on sprouted wheat bread with mayo and brown mustard. I can’t wait to eat it today!

Week 2: Crushed It!

lunch on 30 Aug 2017: grilled chicken and edamame hummus roll ups with veggies, watermelon and ginger snaps

The kids made it through the second week of school, and I’ve pretty much gotten back into the swing of lunch making. This week it was all about variety. Here are some fun lunch ideas:

Rice Cake Sandwich

Mix things up by using rice cakes instead of bread. Since rice cakes are pretty light, I threw in a hard boiled egg to power the kids through their day.

lunch on 28 Aug 2017: rice cake sandwich with peanut butter and Nutella, peanut butter filled prezels, hard boiled egg, sprouts, and apples
lunch on 28 Aug 2017: rice cake sandwich with peanut butter and Nutella, peanut butter filled pretzels, hard boiled egg, sprouts, and apples
Sandwich Bites and Bento Containers

Make a regular sandwich, but cut it into smaller pieces. Kids love small stuff. Cute silicone bento containers are perfect for holding little treats.

lunch on 29 Aug 2017: peanut butter and blueberry jam sandwiches with almonds, candy sunflower seeds, veggies and melon
lunch on 29 Aug 2017: peanut butter and blueberry jam sandwiches with almonds, candy sunflower seeds, veggies and melon
Roll It Up

Do your kids get bored with sandwiches? I know mine do. Use flatbread or a tortilla to roll up all sorts of yummy stuff. Hummus works great as a glue. So does peanut butter if you want to go sweet.

lunch on 30 Aug 2017: grilled chicken and edamame hummus roll ups with veggies, watermelon and ginger snaps
lunch on 30 Aug 2017: grilled chicken and edamame hummus roll ups with veggies, watermelon and ginger snaps
Add Something with Cute Packaging

I usually try to avoid food that is overly packaged, but some things are just too cute to pass up like GoGo Squeezes. They are kind of like baby food, but my big kids still like them.

lunch on 31 Aug 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and banana sandwich with peach applesauce, apples, and veggies
lunch on 31 Aug 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and banana sandwich with peach applesauce, apples, and veggies
Make a Sliders

My kids are crazy for any sandwich made on King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls, which are so soft and delicious. Every sandwich is more fun when it’s slider-sized.lunch on 1 Sept 2017: pepperoni and cheese sliders with veggies, white nectarines, and Goldfish grahams with candy coated chocolate sunflower seeds

lunch on 1 Sept 2017: pepperoni and cheese sliders with veggies, white nectarines, and Goldfish grahams with candy coated chocolate sunflower seeds

And Just Like That, It’s Another School Year

lunch on 24 Aug 2017: ham and guacamole pocket with pea sprouts and red pepper, peanut butter filled pretzels, plums and apples

I can’t believe that the lazy days of summer are over and the kids have been in school for a full week. I am full of optimism for this new school year. I now have a 4th grader and a 7th grader (first time middle schooler!), so I feel like an old pro at lunch making.

Here is how the first week went:

lunch on 21 Aug 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and banana sandwich with carrots, lipstick peppers, and an apple
lunch on 21 Aug 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and banana sandwich with carrots, lipstick peppers, and an apple

I’ll admit that the first day of school snuck up on me. It was the day after my daughter’s dance recital and it coincided with the epic solar eclipse (which wasn’t so epic here), so there was a lot going on. For lunch, I stuck to a classic combination: peanut butter, Nutella and banana (quite possibly the greatest sandwich ever) with some crunchy veggies and a little farmers market apple.

lunch on 22 Aug 2017: ham, cheese and sprouts sandwich with carrots and plums
lunch on 22 Aug 2017: ham, cheese and sprouts sandwich with carrots and plums

On Tuesday, my son actually tried school lunch for the first time ever. He was underwhelmed by the “street tacos” so I’m not sure if he will by buying lunch at the middle school too often. For Lily’s lunch, I made a ham and cheese sandwich with butter and pea sprouts.

lunch on 23 Aug 2017: edamame hummus and sprouts sandwich with salami, lipstick pepper, plums, nectarines, Goldfish and almonds.
lunch on 23 Aug 2017: edamame hummus and sprouts sandwich with salami, lipstick pepper, plums, nectarines, Goldfish and almonds

My kids are crazy about these salami sticks that come in two-pack at Trader Joe’s, so I typically throw them into a lunch at least once a week. On Wednesday, I also included a little sandwich with edamame and hummus, half a super sweet lipstick pepper, some plums and nectarines and parmesan Goldfish with almonds.

lunch on 24 Aug 2017: ham and guacamole pocket with pea sprouts and red pepper, peanut butter filled pretzels, plums and apples
lunch on 24 Aug 2017: ham and guacamole pocket with pea sprouts and red pepper, peanut butter filled pretzels, plums and apples

I was motivated to try something a little different for lunch on Thursday. I folded a tortilla around some sliced ham and guacamole to make a little pocket of yumminess (a little cheese glues the edges together). These were a big hit with the kids, so I think I’ll be making more tortilla pockets in the future.

lunch on 25 Aug 2017: pretzel bread with sprouts and grilled fish, carrots, plums, Goldfish and almonds
lunch on 25 Aug 2017: pretzel bread with sprouts and grilled fish, carrots, plums, Goldfish and almonds

On Friday, the lucky kiddos got sandwiches made on pretzel bread filled with leftover grilled cod fish and sprouts. How yummy does that sound? Whew, we survived the first week of school.

 

And Just Like That: The End of School

lunch on 6 June 2017: teriyaki tofu and cucumbers with sweet chili sauce on King's Hawaiian rolls, baby carrots, mango banana chia pudding, and grapes

I still can’t believe it: the school year is over. It’s been a long slog this year, but we survived it. I’m actually relieved to get a break from lunch packing. I was starting to run out of inspiration as the school year wound down. I’ll be using the summer to get my lunch packing groove back and to try to master the art of choux pastry.

Here are some of the favorite kid lunches from the last two weeks of school:

last day of school lunch: pita pizzas with papaya, nectarine, Trader Joe's dark chocolate Nutty Bites and Reese's Pieces (special treat!)
last day of school lunch: pita pizzas with papaya, nectarine, Trader Joe’s dark chocolate Nutty Bites and Reese’s Pieces (special treat!)
lunch on 6 June 2017: teriyaki tofu and cucumbers with sweet chili sauce on King's Hawaiian rolls, baby carrots, mango banana chia pudding, and grapes
lunch on 6 June 2017: teriyaki tofu and cucumbers with sweet chili sauce on King’s Hawaiian rolls, baby carrots, mango banana chia pudding, and grapes
cantaloupe, donut peach, fennel, mini peanut butter banana chocolate chip muffins, grilled chicken and salami sticks
lunch on 31 May 2017: cantaloupe, donut peach, fennel, mini peanut butter banana chocolate chip muffins, grilled chicken and salami sticks
lunch on 1 June 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and bananas on homemade challah, grapes, cherries, kiwi and baby carrots
lunch on 1 June 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and bananas on homemade challah, grapes, cherries, kiwi and baby carrots
lunch on 5 June 2017: cantaloupe, grapes, Cheez-It snack mix, salami sticks for Iain and mortadella wrapped around cheese and sprouts for Lily
lunch on 5 June 2017: cantaloupe, grapes, Cheez-It snack mix, salami sticks for Iain and mortadella wrapped around cheese and sprouts for Lily

 

Variety and Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin

lunch on 17 May 2017: teriyaki pork tenderloin, cheddar cheese, pretzel thins, donut peach, apricot, kiwi and purple carrots

I just love our new Monday morning routine in which the kids pack their own lunches. This week, I asked Lily to pack me a snack and she made me a beautifully organized container or cherries and carrots, complete with an encouraging “You’re Awesome” Post-it note. I love that kid.

Lily making her lunch and a snack for mom
Lily making her lunch and a snack for mom

Lunches for the rest of the week were full of variety. For Tuesday’s lunch I made little salami pizza’s on honey whole wheat English muffins.

lunch on 16 May 2017: English muffin pizza with salami, carrots, grape tomatoes and kiwi
lunch on 16 May 2017: English muffin pizza with salami, carrots, grape tomatoes and kiwi

Wednesday’s lunch contained lots of fruit along with cheese, pretzels and leftover pork tenderloin. I love how fast pork tenderloin cooks. I marinated two pork tenderloins in teriyaki sauce (Soy Vay®) and roasted them in a 500˚F oven for 20 minutes (be sure to line a baking sheet with parchment paper or you’ll be left with a sticky, burnt mess when cooking at this high temperature). They were perfectly tender and juicy. With rice and some quick sautéed mushrooms and sugar snaps, it was a perfect dinner with plenty leftover for both grownup and kid lunches.

lunch on 17 May 2017: teriyaki pork tenderloin, cheddar cheese, pretzel thins, donut peach, apricot, kiwi and purple carrots
lunch on 17 May 2017: teriyaki pork tenderloin, cheddar cheese, pretzel thins, donut peach, apricot, kiwi and purple carrots

On Thursday, the kids requested a “sandwich tasting” for lunch. These little King’s Hawaiian rolls have 1) Nutella, 2) butter and strawberry jam, and 3) crunchy peanut butter and marshmallow Fluff.

lunch on 18 May 2017: mini sweet sandwiches, pistachios, carrots, cherries and mango
lunch on 18 May 2017: mini sweet sandwiches, pistachios, carrots, cherries and mango

The last lunch of the week has some oranges that I picked last night in the dark (ripe, luckily), kiwi, carrots and a mini sandwich with mortadella, pork and cheddar. What a yummy end to the week.

lunch on 19 May 2017: pork and cheese mini sandwich, oranges, kiwi and carrots
lunch on 19 May 2017: pork and cheese mini sandwich, oranges, kiwi and carrots

A Week of Lunch Inspiration

lunch on 10 May 2017: little turkey, cheese and dill pickle sandwiches with mini bell peppers, honeydew, Goldfish and pistachios

This was a pretty good week of lunches for the kiddos: lots of variety and plenty of delicious fruit. We got some particularly delicious mangoes and a big, sweet honeydew that the kids have enjoyed throughout the week.

Lily makes here lunch: pita with edamame hummus, purple carrots and grilled chicken, salami sticks, more carrots, orange slices and chunks of mango
Lily makes her lunch: pita with edamame hummus, purple carrots and grilled chicken, salami sticks, more carrots, orange slices and chunks of mango
lunch on 9 May 2017: pizza bread on King's Hawaiian sweet rolls, mango and carrots
lunch on 9 May 2017: pizza bread on King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls, mango and carrots
lunch on 10 May 2017: little turkey, cheese and dill pickle sandwiches with mini bell peppers, honeydew, Goldfish and pistachios
lunch on 10 May 2017: little turkey, cheese and dill pickle sandwiches with mini bell peppers, honeydew, Goldfish and pistachios
lunch on 11 May 2017: rice salad with ham, tofu, cherry tomatoes and butter lettuce with seaweed, honeydew and Goldfish trail mix
lunch on 11 May 2017: rice salad with ham, tofu, cherry tomatoes, edamame, and butter lettuce with seaweed, honeydew and Goldfish trail mix
lunch on 12 May 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and bananas on flat bread with mango and honeydew
lunch on 12 May 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and bananas on flat bread with mango and honeydew

How to Make Lunches for the Whole Family Without Going Insane

lunch for the whole family on 3 May 2017: fluffernutters with honeydew and veggies for the kids, peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches for the grownups

I actually don’t possess the secret for making lunches every week without going insane. Some days it seems impossible to balance work, kid activities, exercise, cooking, and errands/chores. Typically, my lunch-making strategy is to pack lunches while I’m cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. That way I’m not making a mess twice. I always have more energy for packing lunches early in the week—by Thursday night, I’m often a hopeless mess. But, miraculously, work gets done, the kids do their homework, dinner gets on the table, and the lunches do get made. I even occasionally get motivated to make decent lunches for the adults in the house.

kid lunch on 1 May 2017: chocolate chip brioche rolls, salami sticks, watermelon and colorful carrots
kid lunch on 1 May 2017: chocolate chip brioche rolls, salami sticks, watermelon and colorful carrots
lunch for the grownup on 1 May 2017: sandwiches made with leftover grilled pork, smoked turkey, cheese, and butter letter; roasted potatoes and watermelon salad
lunch for the grownups on 1 May 2017: sandwiches made with leftover grilled pork, smoked turkey, cheese, and butter letter; roasted potatoes and watermelon salad
lunch on 2 May 2017: fruit salad (watermelon, mango, strawberries, and apples), pancake muffins with jam and chocolate chips, and Goldfish trail mix
lunch on 2 May 2017: fruit salad (watermelon, mango, strawberries, and apples), pancake muffins with jam and chocolate chips, and Goldfish trail mix
lunch for the whole family on 3 May 2017: fluffernutters with honeydew and veggies for the kids, peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches for the grownups
lunch for the whole family on 3 May 2017: fluffernutters with honeydew and veggies for the kids, peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches for the grownups

In Praise of the Bread Machine

a loaf of challah fresh out of the oven

A bread machine is one of those big bulky kitchen appliances that I never imagined would be an essential item in my house—that was, until I got a bread machine. I love this thing. The loaves that bake in the machine are a little funky in size: tall and puffy with a hole in the bottom from the mixing device. But, the kids don’t complain: they love fresh, warm bread. The thing that I really love about the bread machine is that it mixes dough perfectly. We use every week to make pizza dough: dump the ingredients in and the dough is ready in 45 minutes. All it needs is a short rest and then it’s ready to roll out.

I’ve also discovered that the bread machine can make lots of other doughs, including enriched doughs for brioche, sweet rolls, pan de muerto and challah. Look at this beauty I made yesterday:

a loaf of challah fresh out of the oven
a loaf of challah fresh out of the oven

And here is today’s school lunch, featuring that lovely bread:

challah with Nutella and jam, pistachios, baby carrots and strawberries
challah with Nutella and jam, pistachios, baby carrots and strawberries

Getting Kids in the Kitchen, or, Outside of the Kitchen

learning the proper way to remove a slider from the grill

I’m continually trying to come up with ways to get my kids interested in food prep and cooking. Some days it’s easier than others and I don’t try to force it if they’re not feeling it. A few days ago, my husband decided to give Iain, who is almost 12, a little grilling lesson. This kid LOVES burgers. And, he also loves fire, so it was a perfect combination. We made sliders, which are especially kid-friendly in terms of both flipping and eating.

Iain gets slightly smoked out while grilling
Iain gets slightly smoked out while grilling
Iain gets an audience
Iain gets an audience
learning the proper way to remove a slider from the grill
learning the proper way to remove a slider from the grill

The best part about making sliders: serving them for lunch the next day. The kids said they were delicious cold. Too bad there weren’t enough leftovers for me to have some for my lunch.

lunch with fruit, carrots, pretzel thins and a mini cheeseburger
lunch with fruit, carrots, pretzel thins and a mini cheeseburger

In Praise of Strawberries and Fancy Sandwiches

crazy big strawberry from the SLO Farmers Market

Here at Love and Lunch Corporate Headquarters, we have had a rough couple of weeks (a month?) of sicknesses working their way through the office. As a result, I haven’t been keeping up to date with my lunch posts. But, rest assured, we have been eating. And eating quite well, I might add. I was thinking about this as I made sandwiches for the kiddos last night. I took sandwich requests (always a mistake), so I had to make two different types for today’s lunch: one with mortadella and the other with roast beef. Making these fancy sandwiches made me reflect on my own childhood of bologna, American cheese (Kraft singles), and ketchup (Heinz, please) sandwiches. Yep, that atrocious combo was my favorite. My kids definitely have way better taste than I ever did at their ages.

sandwiches made to order: mortadella, cheddar and sprouts for Princess and roast beef, cheddar, a few sprouts and dill pickle relish for Big Dude
sandwiches made to order: mortadella, cheddar and sprouts for Princess and roast beef, cheddar, a few sprouts and dill pickle relish for Big Dude

Of course, I didn’t grow up in California (except for a brief stint in kindergarten when Dad was stationed at March AFB), land of plenty. I mean just look at this strawberry:

crazy big strawberry from the SLO Farmers Market
crazy big strawberry from the SLO Farmers Market

My kids are so lucky to have year-round access to such amazing produce. It makes it a lot easier to pack reasonably healthy lunches when you always have delicious fruit and veggies on hand. Here is a round-up of some recent lunches. Almost all the produce is from the SLO Farmers Market. Yum, yum and more yum.

lunch on 13 Mar 2017: carrots, apple slices and strawberries with mini peanut butter and jam sandwiches, and pistachios
lunch on 13 Mar 2017: carrots, apple slices and strawberries with mini peanut butter and jam sandwiches, and pistachios
lunch on 14 Mar 2017: rice cake with crunchy peanut butter and jam, graham fish and dry roasted peanuts, strawberries
lunch on 14 Mar 2017: rice cake with crunchy peanut butter and jam, graham fish and dry roasted peanuts, strawberries
lunch on 15 Mar 2017: jam and butter on homemade egg bread with dried apricots, a Fig Newton, strawberries, carrots and sugar snaps
lunch on 15 Mar 2017: jam and butter on homemade egg bread with dried apricots, a Fig Newton, strawberries, carrots and sugar snaps
lunch on 17 Mar 2017: sandwiches with grapes, carrots and baby cucumbers
lunch on 17 Mar 2017: sandwiches with grapes, carrots and baby cucumbers

Sandwiches, Pizza Bread and More

lunch on 14 Feb 2017: pizza bread, sugar cookies, carrots and radish flowers

This week I made a variety of sandwiches and such on bread. For Valentine’s Day, the kids got pizza bread on King’s Hawaiian rolls with sugar cookies, carrots and radish flowers on the side. I admit that I’m not very skilled at making radish flowers, but the kiddos were eager to jump in and help.

lunch on 14 Feb 2017: pizza bread, sugar cookies, carrots and radish flowers
lunch on 14 Feb 2017: pizza bread, sugar cookies, carrots and radish flowers

Wednesday it was Make Your Own Sandwich day with some kid-approved sandwich ingredients: salami, ham and delicious Irish cheddar cheese.

lunch on 15 Feb 2017: Make Your Own Sandwich lunch with salami, ham, Irish cheddar and King's Hawaiian rolls. Chunks of mango, carrots and radishes on the side.
lunch on 15 Feb 2017: Make Your Own Sandwich lunch with salami, ham, Irish cheddar and King’s Hawaiian rolls. Chunks of mango, carrots and radishes on the side.

I got creative with my bread machine this week and made a lovely loaf of spiced carrot bread. I love adding shredded fruit or veggies and cinnamon/pumpkin pie spice into the bread dough: it gives the bread just a little hint of sweetness. Yum!

lunch on 16 Feb 2017: peanut butter and honey on spiced carrot bread with a chocolate oat bar, carrots, and orange slices
lunch on 16 Feb 2017: peanut butter and honey on spiced carrot bread with a chocolate oat bar, carrots, and orange slices

And here were are at the end of the week with a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich. Seriously, what could be better than ending the week on a sweet note?

lunch on 17 Feb 2017: peanut butter and Nutella sandwich with nut, chocolate Powerberries, satsumas, parmesan Goldfish and pretzels
lunch on 17 Feb 2017: peanut butter and Nutella sandwich with nut, chocolate Powerberries, satsumas, parmesan Goldfish and pretzels