Monday, August 31, 2015

Skater Lunch Box #8

I think I've been reading The Mid-Century Menu a little too much.

This is mushroom rice pilaf, something called "Supremes of Chicken Veronique," and maple carrots, which I made over the weekend because I found recipes in one of my old cookbooks and had the stuff on hand.

The book is Barbara Swain's Cookery for 1 or 2, published in 1978. To be fair, a lot of the recipes are pretty normal (like the mushroom rice pilaf) and are just conveniently sized down for the small household. But the chicken...

I'd seen variants on this recipe in several of the older cookbooks I have geared to the single and/or childless household. It was apparently a thing ca. 1970s to drown chicken breasts in a grape cream sauce.

Yes. I said it. Grape cream sauce. For real, drop dead, no kidding. Grape. Cream. Sauce. And it is meant to be served hot, hence the microwavable "Skater" box. Hot. Grape. Cream. Sauce.

Although I don't have a flatbed scanner and will thus make you put up with my photography, I think you should see the recipe.

I will say that their method of cooking the chicken results in a beautifully moist chicken breast. And the cream sauce is simple and tasty (so long as you go with 1/4 cup, rather than 1/2 cup, of cream). Everything is fine right up until you add grapes. This is what they said it would look like:

Well, people, I am telling you those grapes have not been tossed into cream and heated through. Those were just tossed onto the cream sauce before they took the photo. Because I am telling you, without question, that those grapes haven't had the color cooked out of them.

To be honest, the flavor wasn't bad, either. It was more of a mouth feel and texture thing. But I ate it. Twice! So not altogether horrible. I think I'd suggest using cooked apples or something, though, if you want a hot, fruity cream sauce on your chicken.

Or just go with mushrooms. It's safer and more expected.

Fortunately, this resulted in me having some moist, lovely leftover chicken to be used in other lunches this week, because I had the good sense not to pour the cream all over all the chicken. See you tomorrow.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Pack-a-Snack #46

Chicken salad, carrot sticks, a grape, mini rice crackers, and some chocolate covered blueberries, all in my medium Lunchopolis container. I would have had more of the chocolate covered blueberries, had I not stolen so many of them while I was packing lunch and the snack. Oh, well.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

3-Tier Bottle Bento #8

Waldorf salad, a stuffed egg nestled in with cornichons, and cherry tomatoes mixed with cucumber chunks.

Waldorf salad is always lovely, but rarely do I have everything on hand at once. Today I did. My version is very simple--just apples, celery, walnuts, and grapes in mayo--but there are variations I may try sometime. I have read that the first Waldorf salads were actually just apples and celery in mayo, which I think would probably be fine, but for some reason I've never tried it that way. Maybe next week.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #38

A stuffed egg, halves of green seedless grapes, white nectarine slices, brioche toast, and avocado mixed with cherry tomatoes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #37

Mixed grapes, chicken salad stuffed in the hollow of an avocado, cherry tomatoes, yogurt ranch in the little panda cup, yellow bell pepper strips, and baby carrots.

This refused to photograph for some reason. It was a real struggle and this was the best shot I could manage to get.

The chicken legs redeemed themselves by turning into a pretty nice chicken salad, by the way.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Skater Lunch Box #7

Celery sticks and baby carrots with yogurt ranch dip (in the little chick cup), rice pilaf, and a chicken leg.

This chicken was a recipe that went a bit awry. It was meant to have a nice, thick glaze. It does not. It was kind of bland and a bit greasy from the coating of butter that went on it. (I think the butter made the glaze slide off, actually--not the greatest planning). But it was actually better the next day, which is often the case with chicken.

I love the little chick, but most of my lunch boxes aren't deep enough to accommodate it. I was excited to find that the Skater box fits not only the chick, but also the pig and the panda that came with it. So many possibilities!

Monday, August 24, 2015

ECO Lunch Box Three-in-One #13

Mixed grapes, a stuffed egg, potato salad with chives as a garnish, and cherry tomatoes tossed with mozzarella.

There had been a plan of cooking for the week over the weekend, and it fell through. But this actually wasn't bad.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Pack-a-Snack #45

"Everything" crackers, cornichons wrapped in ham and Swiss, and some extra cornichons for good measure.

The French know how to make a delightful little pickle!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #36

Kiwi and nectarine chunks, blueberries, garlic peas, chocolate covered blueberries (redundant, but it is Friday...), rolls of ham and Swiss, scallion tamagoyaki, grape tomatoes, and experimental potato pancakes.

There was a tiny bit of mashed potato leftover in my fridge. It wasn't enough for much, not really even as a side dish, but I thought I could make it into pancakes with some egg, flour, and chopped red pepper. They turned out to be quite nice, almost like boxtys (Irish potato pancakes), but still need a little more work.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sakura 3-Tier Bento #30

Nectarine chunks, kiwi slices, blueberries, cucumber wedges tossed with rice vinegar and sesame seeds, grape tomatoes, carrot sticks, Calrose rice, my first effort at soboro, and scallion tamagoyaki.

Soboro is a heavily seasoned meat topping for rice. It is meant to be presented on top of the rice, but I think it is also meant to be a little more finely chopped or something than mine ended up. I'm not sure what I did wrong, exactly. But it tasted good. This version is made with ground turkey, and I was able to freeze some in my new (so huge by comparison) freezer.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sakura 3-Tier Bento #29

Cornichons wrapped in ham, slices of Swiss cheese, "everything" crackers, a cup of yogurt ranch dressing, slices of mini bell pepper, grape tomatoes, carrot sticks, and a salad of blueberries, nectarines, and kiwi.

Otherwise known as: A much better version of "Lunchables."

Monday, August 17, 2015

25 Things to Pack for Lunch that Are Not Sandwiches

I bring lunch to work every day. I happen to work at a school (okay, a university--but it counts!) so they are technically "school lunches": as I have said many times, school lunch is school lunch no matter the age of the person who eats it. So if you're looking for some ideas, whether for work or for school, I've wrangled some of my favorite past recipes and lunches for inspiration this back-to-school season.
1. Chicken salad lettuce wraps are a fun alternative to sandwiches, and gluten free!

2. Ricotta dip (recipe given here) and sun-dried tomato hummus pinwheels make for a simple vegetarian lunch, and the dip is a nice change of pace from my usual yogurt ranch. Both are very easy to do.

3. If you're tired of the same old hard boiled egg, try pretty marbled tea eggs.

4. Or shake things up with these naturally pink eggs. (The ones above sat in the beet juice for an extra day or two; the ones in the linked recipe still have some white around them.)

5. You can also color rice purple naturally.

6. Varying what you stuff into eggs is fun! These are Caesar salad stuffed eggs. With a bonus...

7. You can also stuff things into tomatoes when you have the right size on hand. Get the recipes for both the Caesar salad stuffed eggs and crab stuffed tomatoes pictured above here.

8. Feeling industrious? Try some mini spam musubi.

9. These smoked salmon pinwheels are deceptively easy to make.

10. Or make salmon salad and stuff it into the hollow of an avocado. This was too delicious for words.

11. These Impossible Pizza Rolls are my most popular post ever--and they're super easy.

12. Try breakfast for lunch. So easy, especially when you already made breakfast and can just throw some extras in your lunch pail.

13. Quesadillas don't have to be filled with Mexican flavors. Try spinach and feta.

14. Stuff raspberries with white chocolate chips. It balances the tartness and makes fruit into a decadent dessert. Plus, they fit perfectly!

15. You can make omelets in the oven if you're not great at the stovetop version. And chopped strawberries over oatmeal are surprisingly satisfying at noon.

16. Use silicone baking cups to round up odds and ends.

17. Scallion pancakes make excellent wraps.

18. Chicken nuggets and mini waffles pack well.

19. Salad is obvious, of course, but worth mentioning. Add crackers and cheese and you've got a full meal, especially when you put fruit and protein in the salad.

20. Don't underestimate how glorious smoked trout can be with a little cream cheese and chives to spread on mini toast slices.

21. Banana "sushi" (with peanut butter and a tortilla) are filling and nutritious.

22. Mini quiches with a simple Bisquick crust make for an easy dinner + lunch the next day.

23. Homemade pimento cheese with pretzel thins is a nice change of pace. Or try something similar with my Jarlsberg cheese spread.

24. Hummus can be doctored with all sorts of things. My favorite is chopped pepperoni and scallions with olive tapenade-flavored hummus.

25. Lunchables were a good idea, but expensive and poorly executed. You can do better for your wallet with a lot less waste--and there are tons of variations on crackers, cheese, meat, and various other finger foods that will never show up in a mass-produced box. These crackers are rice and almond thins. You'll never see those in a Lunchable!

Check out my recipe index for more ideas, or just follow along on my daily journey. See you tomorrow with a new lunch. Happy packing!

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Friday, August 14, 2015

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One #12

More diner leftovers, re-envisioned slightly: applesauce, pinwheels of leftover turkey and cranberry sauce (whole grain tortillas), cherry tomatoes, sliced avocado on a bed of romaine lettuce with salt and pepper, and a cup of yogurt ranch dressing.

All in all, a triumph of the dregs of Friday-before-weekend-shopping! The pinwheels worked well--they made the whole grain tortillas a little easier for me to eat because the cranberry sauce softened them slightly. This is a nut I'll crack soon.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Skater Lunch Box #5

Leftover diner food: Mashed potatoes with a sprinkling of parsley flakes (to perk them up), stuffing, turkey, a cup of cranberry sauce, and slices of white nectarine.

This was a good use for this lunch box--one of the few I have that can go in the microwave. It was a little light on veggies (unless potatoes count--which they can, sometimes), but you can't always have everything.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Sakura 3-Tier Bento #28

Mozzarella chunks tossed with grape tomato, cucumber slices, "everything" crackers, hummus topped with pepperoni and scallions, nectarine chunks, and chocolate covered blueberries.

I'm really enjoying putting peperoni on hummus, and it seemed to go well with the mozzarella and tomatoes. If you have not tried this: try this.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #35

Nectarine slices, chocolate covered blueberries, mozzarella balls, Calrose rice topped with honey Dijon-flavored seaweed flakes, blackened salmon, a cherry tomato, and cucumber slices.

No complaints!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Laptop Lunches #262

There was absolutely zero time this morning for making fancy food. Or even moderately fancy food. So I have half an avocado, some grape tomatoes, chunks of nectarine, cubes of Swiss cheese, and a cup of strawberry rhubarb jam (for dipping the cheese into).

It works, mind you, but there is something about it that seems quite...primitive, maybe.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #34

Chocolate covered blueberries, a cherry, cucumber wedges, grape tomatoes, mandarin oranges, brioche toast, and a baked egg on a bed of creamed spinach.

I wouldn't say this is a recipe. It's pretty much just a thing, like putting peanut butter on a tortilla and wrapping it around a banana. So I won't call it a recipe. Just instructions.

For the egg--which is lovely--warm up your toaster oven (or your actual oven, I guess, if you want to make lots). Using leftover creamed spinach (or the prepared kind you get in the freezer section) make a little "crust" of sorts in a silicone baking cup. Crack an egg in it. Sprinkle with cheese (I used parmesan here but cheddar is also nice). Bake for about 15 minutes or until your egg is as set as you like it. (I forgot about mine and my egg baked all the way through. Oh, well. It still tastes good that way. But the thing about baked eggs is supposed to be the pretty, runny yolk for you to dip your toast in. So you might want to set a timer and not get involved in reruns of Frasier, thus totally forgetting about your dinner.)

No matter how long you've baked your egg, you can treat this like a spread for your toast. And it's really lovely.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One #11

Tossed salad (romaine, grape tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, almonds) with yogurt ranch dressing, cherries, brioche toast, and olive tapenade hummus topped with chunks of pepperoni and a scallion garnish.

Hummus with pepperoni is worth writing home about. Seriously, you must try this one.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Laptop Lunches #261

Cucumber slices, baby carrots, grape tomatoes, some cherries, chocolate covered blueberries, some sort of pasta chip thing, and cubes of Swiss cheese with strawberry rhubarb jam.

The pasta chips are called Pastitas, I think. I was not impressed.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One #10

An effort at a composed salad that might as well be known as "tomatoes and eggs on a bed of romaine with yogurt ranch dressing," a stuff-from-the-fridge pasta salad (sugar snap peas, bell peppers, and mayonnaise), some mandarin oranges, and cherries.

Cherries were on sale for $2.00/pound, so you'll be seeing lots of them this week.

Monday, August 3, 2015

3-Tier Bottle Bento #7

Cherries, a stuffed egg, and mozzarella/tomato/cucumber salad.

The salad was this recipe. While perfectly edible, I think I could improve on it; I think basil would make much more sense than tarragon would. But it was pretty!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Pack-a-Snack #44

Applesauce and cookies (I've done this before, I know!) in my small Lunchopolis containers. These are Lu "Digestives," brought over by a friend I had over for tea the night before. They were really lovely.