Thursday, June 30, 2011


Some exciting things are going on for Milkstars which means I'm at my desk on the phone a lot this week.  During lulls in conversation or while I'm waiting for a call, I procrastinate by looking at eye candy on the web.

I found the following photos today which are inspiration for lunches to come.  We still have another week until school/camp starts (these will probably be the longest three weeks of my life as my babysitter is on vacation and it's just me all day trying to be a mom and an entrepreneur) so I'll see if I can come up with anything creative for my first lunch of the summer.

I know I have talked a lot about egg molds but clearly there is so much more one can do with a hardboiled egg and a little creativity.  Check this out "hard boiled chick" from the Frugal Family Fun blog.  Note the awesome Planet Box lunchbox they are using:

This next photo is more of an abstract piece but it looks super delicious and reminds me I have a long way to go before I exhaust all sandwich options.  I saw the photo here but some cursory searching reveals the photo was taken by what appears to be a very talented photographer named Charles Schiller.  A warning, the photos on his website will make you really hungry (and feel inadequate as a chef!).

A mashup of design, photography, and sandwich ingredients. Mmm.
Sandwiches by Charles Schiller

I also discovered Lisa Storms' blog today and it's filled with such the most adorable edibles.  I can't wait until Juju can read and I can put cute little messages in her lunch like this one:


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The lunch box fairy delivers

Juju received a very early birthday present from a friend last week (her birthday is not for 3 more weeks but I am sure she appreciates that the celebration has begun!) that is totally blog-worthy.

First let me say that my friend Pegah, who gave us the gift, is actually partly the inspiration for my blog and the fact that I try to serve Juju healthy foods.  I met Pegah when we were both pregnant and I liked that she took a natural and calming approach to pregnancy, birth, and everything that came after.  She gave me ideas on what books to read and what kinds of food to feed my baby and her healthful attitude helped me form a lot of my current opinions on what to feed kids.

Pegah was one of the first people I met who was also reading Ruth Yaron's book Super Baby Food.  While I think Yaron is a little bit insane and goes too far on a number of levels, I think she has some fantastic ideas and Juju still eats the Super Porridge from that book more than 2 years after I first introduced it so Ruth must be on to something.  I remember being at Pegah's house when our kids were about 9 months old.  She was making food for Juju and her son Kiki (brown rice and carrots) and served everything in beautiful glass bowls.  There was a certain refinement to everything she put on the table that inspired me to go home and add some ceremony into what I cooked and how I presented food to Juju.  I continue to get great food ideas from Pegah and I am glad I can now give some back to her.

So, it's no surprise that Pegah gave us a beautiful set of kid's flatware to dress up our dinnertable for Juju's 3rd birthday.  I have admired the set at Pegah's house and Juju is now enjoying using them at ours.  My favorite part about the Knuddle set (besides the fact that it's way nicer than anything else in Juju's dinnerware drawer) is that it comes with a large spoon which is perfect for soup or cereal.  We don't have anything else like this spoon and it came in handy today when a sleep-deprived Juju demanded cereal and milk in the middle of the day.  I think we'll also love it when it gets cold and I start making kid-friendly soups again.

Thank you Pegah for the wonderful gift and for all of your inspiration!  If you want your very own WMF Knuddle set you can find one on Amazon here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

They Draw and Cook (and they look good doing it)

My favorite thing about cookbooks is the photos.  Someone sent me a new cookbook the other day with a dearth of illustrative photos and I have to say, the book was immediately unappealing.  How can I get a feel for how the dishes will end up once complete if I am not given a single visual example?

When my former co-worker Bobby mentioned a project he's involved with I was struck by how narrow-minded I was about needing visual imagery to go along with my recipes.  I always expect a pretty photograph of the completed dish but Bobby and the people behind They Draw and Cook, (a fantastic website with a book coming out soon), showed me there are zillions of ways to illustrate a recipe beyond a standard styled food photo.

They Draw and Cook is a collection of recipes illustrated by artists around the world and it's just as much fun to look at the recipes as I imagine it is to make them.  I would love to have a whole bunch of these hanging around my kitchen.   Here are a few examples of what they have collected.  Go to their website to check out even more recipes conveniently sorted by type.  Poke around and you'll see they have a few other projects that are equally visually appealing.  Very cool stuff!

Pea Soup

Feeling Fishy

While I haven't been packing a lot of lunches lately I have been cooking a few dinners, many of which are centered around fish.  I learned recently that my Aunt Laura in Rochester reads my blog and likes when I mention fish recipes so in lieu of a lunch, I am going to blog about dinner.  Hi Aunt Laura!

The other night we had Mahi Mahi.  It was really warm here in Los Angeles and my husband likes to cook on the grill when it's hot out so we don't do anything to further heat up the house.  The Mahi Mahi was delicious and super easy to cook.  All we did was salt and pepper the fish, brush on a little bit of olive oil, squirt some lemon on top and throw the pieces on the grill.  We paired the fish with red onion and summer squash skewers which were a great addition to the meal and cooked just as easily on the grill.

Tonight I undertook a more complicated fish recipe.  Inspired by the Glee original song "Trouty Mouth" and the fact that I had trout at a restaurant for lunch the other day, I looked up a recipe I used to cook years ago before I had a child and definitely did not appreciate my spare time enough.

Back in my days of working in television news I used to have both a computer and a television on my desk.  This came in handy during breaking news situations when I wanted to be on top of the latest details from a press conference or needed to see a piece of footage being fed in from the field via satellite.  It was equally as handy when I wanted to procrastinate ala playing a game of solitaire on the computer.  So, when I was supposed to be listening to a morning conference call, I was really mostly watching the Martha Stewart Show on NBC.  I'm so glad I did as I got so many wonderful recipes from that program (one day I will share the red velvet cake recipe I got from a guest on the show).  On one particularly slow news day I watched Wolfgang Puck prepare a beautiful butterflied trout in lemon caper butter that I tried to replicate this evening.

I have cut and pasted the recipe below or you can click here to print it.

This recipe is not easy though there are ways to simplify it.  For example I have no idea why, but I had the patience tonight to supreme two lemons as the recipe calls for.  I usually don't have the patience and cutting thin lemon circles should do the trick.  For those of you who were not reared on the Food Network, to supreme a lemon you must first peel it (a frustrating task in itself) or cut off the rind and then cut in between the segments of the lemon to create about 10 pieces of pure lemon (no white pith) that are edible when cooked.  I am not sure if that description was helpful enough.  There are lots of videos like this one on Youtube that can teach you how to supreme a lemon.

I did not use croutons or white wine and I also don't think the recipe needs as much butter as is called for below (but that could be because I didn't make 4 butterflied trout; I made two whole fish for the adults and a half a fish for Juju).  Here is a photo of her plate, tail and all.  I paired the fish with easy to make millet and broccoli (something needed to be easy today).  The leftover sauce from the fish tasted great over the millet.  The recipe tells you to cook the fish with the head and tail intact but I asked my fishmonger to remove the head.  The last thing I need is for my nearly 3-year old to come eye to eye with her dinner (this 31-year old isn't too keen on the idea either).

Butterflied Trout in Lemon Caper Butter (courtesy of Wolfgang Puck)
Serving Size: 4
4 butterflied whole trout
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Flour, for dredging
Olive oil, for sautéing
2 tablespoons butter, plus 1 tablespoon
2 lemons, supremed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon capers
Toasted Croutons, recipe follows
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves 
  1. Lay out the trout so the skin side is down. Open the flesh like a book. With a sharp knife, carefully cut out the backbone, making sure to keep the fillets attached at the head and the tail. Season both sides of the trout with salt and pepper.
  2. Lightly dredge both sides of the trout with flour, shaking off any excess. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Heat the oil until it shimmers when swirled. Carefully add the trout, flesh-side down, starting at the tail and laying away from you towards the head. You may need to cook the trout in batches. Cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove to a platter and keep warm.
  3. Once the trout is all cooked, return the pan to medium-high heat and remove all but 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and cook just until it begins to brown and smell nutty, about 3 minutes. Add the capers, lemons, croutons, white wine, and lemon juice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and remove from the heat. Stir in the parsley and pour over the trout.
Toasted Croutons:
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 (1/2-inch thick) slices white bread, crusts removed and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  1. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the olive oil and heat. When the oil is hot, add the bread cubes and cook, stirring, until toasted and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and cool.

Monday, June 27, 2011


As I have said before, I am far from being plastic-free.  On the contrary, we have a ton of plastic in the house.  I do however try to minimize, to the extent I can, the amount of plastic I use in food storage.  (If you haven't figured out the pun already, that is why I'm blogging on something called Steel My Lunch).

I was organizing my pantry the other night (I know, it's really rude of me to brag about the exciting life I lead here) and it reminded me that I've never shared how I store food when it's not destined for the lunch table.  I try to put a lot of food in glass.  It helps me avoid the plastic-y taste you get when you put things like cheese in things like Saran Wrap and I'm pretty sure grains keep longer when you seal them in an air tight glass jar.

To show you just how dorky I am, I took some pictures of how I store grains in glass.  If you are reading this and are still interested enough to continue, you probably lead a life about as exciting as mine.

I have a few fancy candy-jar-looking containers I got at Ikea and I think they are so nice I leave them out on the counter:

I don't have enough of these containers for everything I want to store so I keep everything else in the pantry in old pasta sauce jars.  I'm a little embarrassed at how unpretty these are but here goes:

You can see that some of the original labels are still on the old jars.  Throw "12 pack of Ikea glass jars" on the list for the lunchbox fairy.

This is probably the most boring post I have ever written.  Don't worry, camp will start soon and I'll go back to blogging lunches!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lunch on June 20, 2011 - It's Bavarian pasta, it doesn't need any sauce

Lunch today was thrown together (yet again) out of things I had in the fridge.  You would think keeping a lunch blog would make me more diligent about meal planning but alas, it has not.

Today I am serving leftover pasta, cottage cheese with strawberries, and avocado.  The pasta is left over (we made veggie-meat sauce over the weekend and had more pasta than sauce). 

I didn't have anything to go on top of the pasta which reminded me of a line from Woody Allen's "Everyone Says I Love You" delivered by the German maid/cook: "It's Bavarian pasta, it doesn't need any sauce.  Italian pasta needs sauce.  The Italians were weak!"  I still prefer pasta with sauce but in the effort of getting out the door quickly today, I settled for Bavarian style - I drizzled some olive oil on top and threw in some sugar plum tomatoes.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Gilding the silly

Remember when I mentioned that I wanted to play with my cookie cutters again?  Well, this time I went too far.  In fact, if you looked up the term "gilding the lily" in a dictionary of idioms I am quite sure you would find the following photo.

I used a heart shaped cutter to cut hearts out of mozzarella cheese.  I placed them on small crackers.  Then, I cut hearts out of Trader Joe's fruit leather and used two of them to fill in the negative space on the slice of cheese.  I then went crazy with a "J" shaped cutter and a small Persian cucumber.  Overdone, yes?  But Juju ate 90% of this snack so I think it was worth it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lunch on June 16, 2011 - Shells and cheese and peas

The problem with keeping a lunch blog is that I open myself up to judgment every time I pack a lunch bag.  I'm not particularly proud of tomorrow's lunch but I think it would be disingenuous if I only blogged about the pretty or wholesome lunches I put together.  At the end of the day this is not a health food blog or a "nominate me for mom of the year award" blog so here goes.

For tomorrow's lunch I am serving mac and cheese. . .from a box (cue the audible gasp!).  Technically it's organic but who am I kidding, it is still dehydrated cheese and lots of sodium.  Our great babysitter had the idea once to mix peas in with the mac and cheese and Juju loves it so I threw in some fresh peas to make it "healthy."  The mac and cheese is in a new thermos I recently acquired.  I'm experimenting with it to see if it really will keep items particularly hot (or cold).  Tomorrow morning I will (try to remember to) transfer the mac and cheese to another bowl, heat it, and then put it back in the thermos.  This sounds like a lot of work which makes me think I won't be doing this often.  Maybe in the winter I'll send some soup like this though.

In addition to the mac and cheese I am serving cantaloupe and strawberries and leftover cous cous with cottage cheese.  Not a very appealing combination, I know, but it's what we had in the fridge and I'm too tired to make something else.

Tomorrow is the last day of school before a 3 week summer break.  I'll probably still be packing lunches though so I will try to blog about them when I do.  Happy Summer!!

Star studded snack

I pulled out my cookie cutters! 

We recently transitioned Juju from a crib to a bed which means she hasn't been napping everyday any more.  This puts a serious crimp in my work-from-home schedule.  It does however give me time to hang around the kitchen while she's awake and come up with cute snacks.

Today I served up star-shaped cheese and cucumber on 12 grain mini crackers:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lunch on June 14, 2011 - cornflake cuteness

I was just looking at my earlier entries when I made use of cookie cutters and other lunch accessories.  Lately I haven't been putting as much effort into lunchmaking and today's lunch proves it.  I'm serving leftovers again today.  Maybe this summer I'll get more inspired and work on some new recipes and play with presentation.

Lunch today is leftover cornflake chicken, pasta with vodka sauce, grapes and carrots, and half an avocado (not pictured).  

I don't usually have cornflakes in the house but I needed them for a recipe last month (noodle kugel) and the rest of the box has been sitting on a shelf ever since.  I remember my Grandma Ada used to make cornflake chicken when I was a kid.  I don't have her recipe but I was sure it wasn't very complicated so I figured I would make it up.  When I was in the kitchen crushing up the cornflakes I suddenly remembered a great honey fried chicken dish I had in February at the new restaurant Craig's here in LA and decided to incorporate honey into what I was making.

So here is what I did:
I cracked two eggs into a bowl, added some salt, pepper, and honey and beat it together.  I took chicken tenders (or you can do chicken breasts) and dipped each one in the egg wash and then into a bowl of crushed cornflakes.  I put all the coated pieces on a cookie sheet (sprayed with Pam) and baked them at 350 for about 30 minutes or so.  I didn't bother to turn them.  When they came out I melted a little honey in the microwave (watch out, it's hot!!) and poured a touch on top (you can also leave it on the side for dipping).  The result was pretty good.  Maybe not as good as at Craig's but pretty good for at home.  Let's hope Juju thinks it works cold.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The lunchbag for little ladies who lunch

The other day I wrote about a practical yet expensive lunch box I'm currently obsessed with.  Today I found a more modestly priced yet completely impractical lunch bag I'd love for the lunchbox fairy to bring me as well.  How cute is this?:

The Gap just put this rose lunchbag on sale for $19.95 and I am in love.  I am not usually into such displays of super girly-ness but I find this to be a totally appropriate use of over the top pink and frill.  Or maybe it's just that I appreciate its nod to the gorgeous Valentino petale totes I aspire to one day own (lunchbox fairy, do you have any connections with the purse gods?). 

It also reminds me of the clutch Vanessa Bryant carried at the 2003 Teen Choice Awards when she was first sporting the $4 million, 8 carat "apology" from her cheating husband.

 Do you think the lunchbox fairy has me on her blogreader?  Fingers crossed she does!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lunch on June 9 - Middle East meets Far East

Lunch tomorrow is a little unusual.  I'm not sure I would like the flavor combinations but Juju doesn't really seem to mind if things don't exactly "go" together provided she likes both things separately.  This mentality spills over into her fashion sense too.  Since she's comfortable mixing so many colors and prints that she likes I've taken her lead and mixed a few dishes as well.

Tomorrow's lunch includes sushi, celery, carrots and hummus, and a side of cantaloupe.  It just hit me that this may not be the most filling lunch.  Perhaps I'll throw in a fabric snack bag filled with edamame.  The dog-pick is for color and unintentionally matches the pink silverware set.  The matchey-ness of the two proves there are no accidents.

My friend Amy brought over some delicious cookies this evening (she claims they are made with whole wheat flour but they taste just as good as regular cookies so I don't believe her).  I want to send one to school with Juju but alas I am afraid it will be confiscated.  Juju asked for peanut butter today when I handed her a celery stick but I was afraid to pack it in tomorrow's lunch (hence the hummus substitute).  I don't recall being told we can't send peanut products to school but these days I'm pretty sure they are a no-no anywhere.  When did packing a lunch get so hard?  There are so many rules to remember!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A lunchbox that's out of this world

I have been meaning to write about the PlanetBox Lunch Box since I started this blog.  There is not a single lunch accessory I want more than a PlanetBox Lunch Box.

If you follow Catherine McCord's Weelicious you have seen it in action many times.  The PlanetBox is made entirely of stainless steel and has 5 compartments to pack full of lunch-ey goodness.  (You know how much I like to compartmentalize my lunches!).

It's a little weird and clunky and would take a day or two for Juju to get used to but I think it's worth it.  It would eliminate my need to fill a bunch of containers with food; the PlanetBox would let me put it all in one place.  Yes it's a little pricey (the set I like is between $50 and $60) but I'm used to paying more for stainless steel and this one looks to be pretty well made.

I don't own a PlanetBox yet because when I first learned about them a few months ago I had already invested in two lunchboxes and a whole bunch of lunch accessories for Juju.  The King of All Media already thinks my current stash is kind of overboard.  I am not sure what he would say if I came home with a lunchbox that needs it's own custom carrying case to make it to school. 

So, for months I have secretly wished I had some kind of lunchbox fairy godmother who would deliver a PlanetBox to my doorstep.  She hasn't appeared yet but here's hoping she knows how to use an Amazon wishlist. . .

Monday, June 6, 2011

Lunch on June 6, 2011 - Leftovers for lunch and leftovers for blogging

I've been a bit behind on blogging.  Last week I decided to focus my energies on my actual day job.  If only I got paid to do this blog; it could be really good.

But alas, here is a compendium of things Juju ate for lunch last week and will eat for lunch tomorrow.

Tomorrow I am serving leftovers from tonight's dinner of artichoke (I know, I know, enough with the artichokes.  I'm sorry, they are still in bloom and still delicious!!), semi-homemade pizza, salad, edamame, and strawberries.

The pizza is semi-homemade because I did not make the dough.  I used Trader Joe's dough to make two pizzas.  One was cheese and mushroom (obvs) on wheat dough, the other was cheese on herbed dough.  Both were really good.  I will likely have leftovers myself for lunch tomorrow.

Last Thursday (June 2) Juju had strawberries, carrots, leftover chicken, and whole wheat pita sandwiches filled with edamame hummus and thin carrot slices.  It still weirds me out to send chicken for lunch (for some of my formative brown-bagging-it years I went to a Jewish Day School that forbid anything but a dairy lunch) but Juju always eats it so if I have it around, I pack it.

On the Tuesday before that (May 31) I was really desperate with not much in the house (we went out of town last week so I didn't do much stocking up at the grocery store).  So, I scraped together a few strawberries, cut some corn off the cob, opened a bag of edamame, and hardboiled some eggs.  You'll notice I used my egg molds here and made one bunny egg and one teddy bear egg.  I really don't like the teddy bear mold.  It's near impossible to get the egg to move into the "ears" of the mold so it doesn't really work.  Juju must agree.  She only picked at the bear one and preferred to eat the bunny instead.  I made use of fake grass from an earlier sushi meal to liven up the egg section of the container and I threw in the giraffe pick to give the whole lunch some more color.

I used my Lunchbots Trio for all three meals.  If you are interested in Lunchbots, you might want to check out the Gilt Groupe sale going on right now for the entire line.  The savings are very minimal, so you might prefer to purchase them from elsewhere but it's worth a look, particularly if you have some Gilt credit.  If you are not a member of Gilt Groupe, that link above will allow you to sign up (full disclosure - I get some sort of credit when you make your first purchase on the site.  I promise to use it on something good!).