Lunch Box Tech Rehearsal: Chicken sausage chunks,cheese squares, edamame, pb&j shapes

We spent most of today at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and since their museum cafe is one of the worst places in the known universe to get food, I packed lunches for all of us.  Which meant that Dylan got to test-drive his new lunchbox!

My inspiration for all things packed-lunch related come from Wendolonia, who packs the most beautiful bento lunchboxes I know of.  Mine aren’t nearly as pretty as hers, but I do get a lot of “oh hey, not just a sandwich!” ideas from reading her blog.

PB&J shapes; edamame; chicken sausage; cheese

PB&J shapes; edamame; chicken sausage; cheese

I also recently splurged on Amazon and bought this enormous set of cookie cutters so I could cut sandwiches into interesting shapes (that would also make them fit into this surprisingly narrow lunchbox).

So today’s lunch was one peanut butter & jelly sandwich cut into shapes (two stars, one 4 and one D), a little container of edamame, and a little container with some cut-up chunks of chicken-apple sausage and cheddar cheese.  And a water bottle.

Everything was a hit (“Oh, edamame my favorite green vegetable!  Oh, my sandwich is shaped like a STAR!)”, except that we were at the museum with a friend of his, and together they were too distracted to eat much of anything.  So out of this spread, we came home with most of it except for the pb&j, which was eaten because, dude, SHAPED LIKE A STAR.  (The sandwich shape thing…I’m so conflicted.  On the one hand, kids really do love things in fun shapes.  On the other hand, it wastes so much of the sandwich.  On the other other hand, how much of the wasted sandwich would have been eaten anyway?)

Tomorrow is Day One of packing a lunchbox to take to school.  Hopefully I’ll remember to take a picture tonight.

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Miso-hoisin spaghetti with eggplant and green beans

This is a variation on this recipe I found on Serious Eats a few weeks ago and fell head over heels in love with.  The sauce can be used for a dish like this, over pasta, or for a terrific chicken/pork/shrimp marinade.  And since the ingredients are all things that last basically forever in your fridge (miso, hoisin, and chili-garlic sauce), this can be whipped up at the last minute when you realize that it’s the end of the week and your pantry is down to half an eggplant, some green beans, and half a box of spaghetti.

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Chicken Cheese Sliders / I’m baaaaaaaaack

This blog, as I’m sure you all guessed, has been on summer vacation.  Which was absolutely my plan all along.  And since it was such a cunning and brilliant plan, I now have an incredibly convenient excuse to be all “back to school / back to blogging!”

Yep, back to school.  Dylan started Pre-K at PS230 this week.  I am now officially the mom of a school-aged child.

Which means that in addition to posts about dinner-my-non-picky-but-incredibly-stubborn preschooler will eat, you will also be getting almost-daily school lunch posts as well.  Don’t worry, those will be short.

So, dinner tonight.  Not the most exciting meal, but hugely successful from a feeding-kids POV and pretty tasty to boot.  And doable on a weeknight!  Huzzah!

Chicken-Cheese Sliders

1 whole skinless bone-in chicken breast

1/4 cup barbecue sauce

1 can chopped green chiles (4 oz)

1 small onion OR a few scallions, chopped (Yes, I ran out of onions.  Who DOES that???)

some garlic, minced/pressed

slider buns or regular sandwich/burger rolls.  If you are in NYC, FreshDirect has these awesome little brioche slider buns which are perfect for this.  They come in bags of 12 but you can freeze them and then slice & bake directly from the freezer.

cheese (cheddar or American)

arugula (this was for the adult sandwiches only, if your kids will eat spinach by all means use that instead!)

In a chef’s pan or skillet with a lid, combine the chicken, chiles, bbq sauce, alliums (that’s onions & garlic), and about 1/4 cup of water.  Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.  Put in fridge.  When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull it off the bones and shred it with your hands.  Mix it back into the sauce.

Preheat your oven to 400.  I probably should have told you that first. Sorry.

On a sheet pan, assemble sandwiches, but leave them open faced.  Basically you want the chicken and cheese on a bottom bun and an empty top bun next to it.  Bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the bread is toasty.  Add arugula.  Put top bun on sandwich.  Eat!  You could also add some spicy mustard if you wanted to.  Or extra bbq sauce.

Dylan eating sliders

Mmmmmmmm, cheesy!

Dylan’s menu: 2 sliders, edamame, milk, 1/2 apple



Aeryn’s menu: homemade baby food (potatoes, green beans, zucchini, carrots), cheerios, formula

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Pasta with tuna and green beans

From Martha Stewart, a nice modern twist on the flavors of a traditional tuna noodle casserole.  No pics tonight – too tired and forgot!

The major changes to this recipe were in the proportions.  Since the original serves one, we more or less tripled it.  (Also for some reason in Martha’s world tuna cans are 3 oz instead of 5.  Weird.)

  • 8 oz (1/2 box) whole wheat fusilli/rotini/etc
  • 1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and halved
  • 2 cans water-packed low-sodium tuna, drained
  • 3 tbsp EVOO
  • 1/2 cup almond slivers, toasted
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Boil pasta in salted water.  1 minute before the end of cooking, add the green beans.  Drain.

Meanwhile, combine everything else in a bowl.  When the pasta and green beans are done, mix them in.  Season to taste!  Wasn’t that easy?

Dylan gobbled this up, which was nice to see because we’ve been so exhausted lately that he’s been eating a lot of junk food – granola bars instead of actual meals, etc.   So serving him a balanced meal that he actually enjoyed eating was a nice change of pace.

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Roast chicken over leeks, carrots, and fennel; Brussels sprouts

Roast chicken, leeks, carrots, fennel, brussels sprouts

What Sunday nights should look like

There are few foods that offer more deliciousness per time invested than a roast chicken.  Especially if you’ve foregone the roasting rack and instead laid your bird over a bed of carrots, leeks, and fennel.  And especially if you also happen to have a lemon and some fresh thyme to put in the cavity.

Five minutes to assemble, a little over an hour to roast (but no worries if you leave it in a bit longer – it can take it), and you have dinner.  It’s so hands-off you can even decide halfway through cooking it that it’s such a lovely evening you may as well stroll over to Juice Box for a bottle of pinot noir.

(The bread you can either purchase fully baked or do like I do and buy frozen parbaked baguettes to keep in the freezer in case you feel like having bread one night.)

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Roasted Tomato Soup; Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

It’s a comfort food-y kind of Sunday evening here.

Soup & Sandwich


Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.  I like this recipe from the first season of Top Chef, and it’s simple enough that it’s not worth changing up.  It’s all over the internet, so go have a Google.

Dylan was in a helpful mood today, so I let him be my sous chef.  Fun!

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Carnitas Tacos. OH HELL YES.

This is the easiest carnitas recipe in the universe, and it’s soooooooooooo gooooooooooood.

Take half a boneless pork butt (about 2-3 lbs).  Cover it in whatever spice rub you want (this time around, mine was a combination of chili powder, New Mexico chile powder, a Penzey’s BBQ blend I don’t have time to look up, and Penzey’s Spicy Seasoned Salt), let it sit in the fridge absorbing flavor for a day or two.  The night before you’re going to eat these, dump it in the slow cooker with a jar of salsa verde.  Cook it on low all night and all the next day.  Remove from slow cooker, pull into shreds.  (This probably won’t be necessary, since you just slow-cooked it for 18 hours.  It will almost certainly fall apart on its own.)

THIS IS THE REALLY IMPORTANT PART.  Spread the carnitas onto a sheet pan and stick it under the broiler until it gets beautiful and crispy.  Did I mention this was the important part?

Serve with corn tortillas, guac (or sliced avocados), shredded cabbage (i.e. cole slaw mix), and sour cream.  If you were a more industrious grocery shopper than me this week, you could also add shredded jack cheese or some chopped fresh jalapenos.  Or more of the salsa verde you cooked the pork in, if you remembered to buy extra.  (It’s a taco.  You can pretty much put whatever you want on it.)

These were so good I forgot to take pictures because I was busy eating.  You’ll just have to take my word that they looked like AWESOMELY DELICIOUS TACOS.

(They were a little too spicy for Dylan, who instead had a veggie taco with no carnitas in it.  Oh well.  More carnitas for me!)

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Seat-of-my-pants Lasagna

I say “oh, no recipe, I made this up” and it sounds impressive, but really, if you know how to make spaghetti sauce from scratch, you also know how to make lasagna.  And since my mother makes the best spaghetti sauce in the known universe, this was pretty much a no-brainer. Read the rest of this entry »

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Not actually dinner, but superfun to make, and so easy!  This is the recipe I used, modified slightly as I did not have any semolina flower.

  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp zatar
Whole Wheat Crackers


Add dry ingredients to the bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix together.  Add water and olive oil, knead w/ mixer for 7 minutes or until smooth.  At this point the recipe says to separate the dough into 12 little balls…I did this, but in retrospect I’m not 100% sure why I did this.  What you want is just enough dough to roll out to cracker-thinness onto your sheet pan.  In my case, this was about 2 little balls of dough, or 1/6th of the total recipe.  Let the dough rest for about an hour at room temperature before you roll it out.  (And if you refrigerate it to roll out, say, tomorrow, let it come back to room temp before you do because it will roll out thinner and your crackers will be crispier.)

Preheat your oven to 400 and roll out the dough directly onto a sheet pan dusted with flour.  Just when you think it’s thin enough, sprinkle with kosher (or coarse sea) salt and roll out eeeeeeeeeven thinner.  Score with a knife to divide into crackers and prick each cracker with a fork a couple of times.  The recipe doesn’t say how long to bake these, but mine took about 7 minutes to get crispy and starting to brown.

In the future, I think more zatar would be in order – it was hard to taste in the finished product here.  Perhaps next time I’ll swap it out completely for a metric ton of black pepper.  Mmmmmmmm….

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Shrimp Caesar Salad

This has been, to be blunt, a very low-cooking week.  It’s my last week of maternity leave and I just didn’t feel like exerting myself.  Monday we had the greek-chicken-and-chickpea stew again, Tuesday I defrosted some chili from the freezer, Wednesday and Thursday were leftovers, and tonight we had shrimp caesar salads.  This consists of pan-seared shrimp on top of a FreshDirect caesar salad, and is just about the bare minimum of effort one can put in and still legitimately claim to have made dinner.  The marinade for the shrimp is as follows:

  • lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • red pepper flakes
  • fresh rosemary if you have it (I did)
  • lots of garlic

Puree everything into a thin paste.  Toss with shrimp, let marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes (much longer than that and you’ll wind up with ceviche).

Heat a little oil in a medium skillet (stainless or nonstick, doesn’t matter) until just barely smoking.  Cook the shrimp until lightly browned on both sides – do not overcook or they will become rubbery.

Put shrimp on salad.  Eat!

(Tomorrow we’re having chicken with a Trader Joe’s simmer sauce.  Do not expect a recipe for this.)

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