The Tyranny of the Lunchbox

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I loathe making packed lunches day in day out…there, I’ve admitted it.  Odd because I love picnics and what is a packed lunch but a picnic in miniature ? I haven’t always hated them, in fact when Spider first started having lunch twice a week as “lunch club” at preschool I spent most of the week planning them and trying to make them fun and enjoyable.

But now some 4 years on, 4 years during which the amount of things he will eat has been  rapidly decreasing (and inconsistent, one week he will eat something the next week it’s “But Mummy, you KNOW I don’t eat that !!!), I just find it dispiriting and a grind…and I’m not alone, I don’t think Flapjack Queen has made flapjacks in over 18 months

His Grandma has had some success with evening meals and has discovered he will eat a lot of things he says he doesn’t like if you cover them with breadcrumbs.

Anyway I have decided it is time to rejuvenate the lunchtime experience for both of us, to try and inject some fun and variation into what has become a sort of “if it’s monday it must be cheese” experience…although maybe drawing up a spreadsheet to record progress may have been taking things a bit too far !

So tonight I have tried to restart my Domestic Goddess qualifications – spurred on by the guilt of the knowledge that my Spider had a Cadbury’s mini roll in his packed lunch every day last week – I flicked through Cake Days:Hummingbird Bakery to see if there was anything I could make from the storecupboard… pity poor Spider as despite page after page of baked yumminess I appear to have picked the most healthy and boring recipe in the book.

Cooling in the kitchen are Apricot Crunches which are a sort of fruited flapjack. I had been worried by the amount of butter involved until I realised they use butter and sugar instead of golden syrup and not in addition. Result for me is that for once I can get my flapjack out of the tin…however the mixture didn’t set too well and is prone to crumbling…I think possibly a higher oven temp next time to make the sugar and butter become” sticky”.

It’s not much, but it is at least a start…and it’s only monday

The things I do for you

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I have been wanting to make the chocolate loaf from Apples for Jam:Tessa Kiros for some time now but had put bread making on the back burner for a while (Husband buys bread when it’s on sale and fills the freezer and I haven’t needed bread therapy for months).

But, as previously mentioned on these pages I am trying to improve the variety in Spider’s packed lunch so following a tip from The Book fo Sandwiches:Gwen Robyns I gave him a banana sandwiches on chocolate bread.  It was, an unqualified failure ! This despite me telling him what I was doing the night before (“sorry Mummy cannot come and play the Bee game with you now, she’s making chocolate bread for your sandwiches”)…he loved the idea.

The next day however, wouldn’t touch them.  Part of me wishes I had found this post before. The post not only gives the recipe but cautions the cook that it is not as sweet as you might hope, and if I’m being honest it does need to be  a bit sweeter.  However since I could tell from the sandwich remains that he hadn’t even touched them so I  suspect in Spider’s case he just decided he didn’t want a brown lunch.

I do thank the recipe though for making Husband do a double take “What on earth is that !!!!” he said pointing at the top of the cooker where the loaf was cooling, looking for all the world like one of our cats had serious bowel problems and had managed a record breaking poo on top of the hob…

Anyway, not being one to waste food I’m currently noshing a toasted version with damson jam which seems to work as the jam is very sweet and the loaf slightly bitter.

Dusting off the lunchbox

Been relatively quiet on these pages recently, not because we’re not cooking (we are, gotta eat, don’t do a lot of ready meals in this house) but because it’s hard to write about food when you are feeling sluggish and  feel like the back end of a horse – I am suffering from a body image problem, which I’m not going to talk anymore about as reading about dieting is about as boring as actually doing it.

We have been busy harvesting the free food of Warwickshire. Nothing too adventurous just the usual sort of jams and things – not like my brother who has been busy bottling sloe and apple jelly – don’t think that one is destined for toast, probably more of a savoury use like red currant jelly.

I’m hoping that the start of the school year and the need to make lunch on a daily basis for Spider, who is notoriously difficult to make sandwiches for (other than cheese) will spark off my interest in food again. We are also back on the watching our budget and not wasting anything regime…

I have been watching Economy Gastronomy recently, and like a lot of people have been amazed at the generosity of the “budget”, either we are miscalculating what we spend or we are already thriftier than average. I have not until this evening made anything from the book – however the co-op were selling 12 eggs at half price (otherwise I’d never have made a frittata with 8 eggs), we also had potatoes (red not new) and spring onions which needed using, always have chorizo and there was a tablespoon of clotted cream lurking in the fridge (to which I added some hot water and lemon juice as a sour cream substitute). It was OK, nothing special, perhaps it really needs the salsa they recommend with it, but it did use up the leftovers, served with some half price garlic bread AND there is still enough left fo r 2 lunches this week, as frittata is quite nice cold.

will link the recipe when they put it up on the BBC website

Quesadillas

I used to have, as part of my cooker a griddle plate – it was as Husband would describe it,  a “great bit of kit”. It was really useful when knocking up a cooked breakfast for “men” (I am outnumbered at the weekends) or, if you are in “yummy mummy” mode breakfast pancakes. It had 2 flaws however, the first was it was really difficult to clean if cooking something a bit fatty (bacon) and being electric it was very slow to heat up and very slow to cool down again…

When we moved we found we missed it, but not enough to buy the same cooker for yet a third time (we used to have separate houses before we married)…however for christmas this year treated ourselves to a double sided griddle “sheet” which you place over the burners of a gas hob  january-2009-086.

I’ve not had chance to play with it as yet as Husband has been doing almost all the cooking since christmas (lovely lovely sausage and mash this evening).

Anyway I was looking in the fridge last night, looking for inspiration for Spider’s Lunch Club when I discovered amongst the leftovers almost all the ingredients for Quesadillas as per Nigella Express – unfortunately however Husband had already earmarked the ham and bacony bits for a variation on carbonara…

Besides I try not to have the main bit of Spiders packed lunch something he hasn’t had before – and at the moment he eats wraps but insists on unrolling them and removing the filling.

So the next day I was nosing round the fridge again and these wraps were still looking back at me, as was quite a lot of blue cheese.

january-2009-085 So this is my version filled with hummus, grated blue cheese, left over roast chicken and sliced spring onion. Nigella’s version can be found here and this is what wikepedia has to say about them.

Quesadilla ? panini ? things have moved on so much since the 80’s when I used to envy the frequent appearance of a Breville toasted sarnie in my friend Wilf’s lunchbox… and the griddle is so much easier to clean.

If I had had a better day and not spent yet another 5 hours stranded on the M40 I might have been tempted to pass on the recipe for making  flatbread/wraps in case you felt desperate to make quesadillas and didn’t have spare ones floating around the fridge…which I guess is a very strange place to keep wraps and to tell you the truth I cannot remember putting them there in the first place…I guess it’s early senility setting in…

Just Bento’s bento box challenge

Just Bento and Just Hungry are two of my favourite sites. I stumbled across them last year when I started taking a packed lunch to work again…something I should have been doing anyway but rarely remembered except on occasions when my Mum hands me sandwiches when I dropped Spider off.

The spur to being more organised was Spider’s pre-school starting a lunch club. As it was on mondays it was an incentive to think about packed lunches over the weekend for the rest of the week (admittedly perhaps FQ and I did spend slightly too much thinking about it and from time to time wasted hours discussing what to put in our childrens lunch bags). Anyway, it worked, for the space of a term I remebered to take lunch with me everyday.

I should point out that when I don’t take food with me, I don’t buy lunch elsewhere – I just don’t eat. Which is a bad thing for many reasons and can contribute to a weight problem as your body gets used to storing calories when it gets them !

I used the internet to get ideas for lunches as I have a limited interest in sandwiches and quickly discovered Lunch in  Box which reminded me about bento boxes, and searching for that brought up Just Bento. Both these sites are jammed packed with ideas not just for lunches but for speeding up preperation of lunches and greater use of the freezer for staple items (I am as you may realise from early posts totally dedicated to my freezer).

I have treated myself to a genuine Bento Box from the Japan Centre but I haven’t used it much – mainly because there was no lunch club last term and as a result I stopped taking lunch – besides  I  found  a cheap partitioned plastic box from a supermarket much more versatile (and its dishwasher safe !).

Anyway, not only is lunch club back this term but Just Bento is running a bento box challenge, starting on the 11th January – it has 3 stages to it Basic, Going Deeper and Weight Loss (in theory the size of your box can be related to the amount of calories it can hold – but that I guess depends on the type of food you are putting in it).

So this is my new years resolution, make lunch for work daily and to keep me on track I am taking the Just Bento challenge…cooking my way through Delia How to Cook 1 & 2 is a personal challenge and not a resolution and I’m giving myself a year for that one due to financial constraints…