Grace and I both work from home and one of the perks of this set-up is that we get to pause and enjoy a meal together in the middle of mountains of emails, assignments, and deadlines. While I am always grateful for all of the time we get to spend together, weekday lunches feel like icing on the proverbial cake. To me, they’re a symbol of the fact that we’ve built our lives and our work on our own terms.
Every now and then, though, one of us has to leave our house in upstate New York for a work obligation. I never look forward to when Grace goes away, but I do jump at the chance to pack her lunch. I get really into it. I wrap a real fork in a real napkin. I leave notes. I pack dips and dressings on the side in their own little containers. I make sure she has enough healthy food that will keep her blood sugar numbers stable all day long (Grace’s recent diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes means the icing on our cake is more like vinaigrette on crudité).
For my entire life, cooking has been, and continues to be, the most tangible way I know to take care of those I love. Packing lunch for someone is a simple thing, but I honestly think it’s one of the sweetest things to both create and to receive. Whether it’s for your wife who is off to a big city for an event for her upcoming INCREDIBLE book, or for your kid who is just getting into the groove of a new school year, or for your roommate who is heading into a new office, you get to be reminded that even when you’re not with your person, your person is right there with you.
Starting today and going forward for the entire week, I am so excited to share daily “lunch boxes” right here on the best website on the whole Internet (#proudwife). Each menu features EASY, very do-able recipes that are healthy without being “in-your-face” healthy. They also all include food that can sit comfortably in a container for a few hours and tastes great at room temperature. All of the lunch box recipes are inspired by recipes in my brand new cookbook Small Victories (it’s out today! yay!). Here’s the part where I tell you that if you dig these lunch boxes, I think you’ll really enjoy Small Victories. But really, I think you will!
All week long Grace will be sharing some fun behind-the-scenes stuff from these lunch boxes, like cute little videos on Instagram, that sort-of thing. We really hope you enjoy these posts. They were so fun to make. Oh, and the giveaway! I almost forgot about the giveaway! If you let us know what you think about the lunch boxes or what YOU like to pack for lunch in the comment section, we’ll be choosing four winners. Three will get a copy of Small Victories and a limited edition Julia’s Caesar tote bag… and, drum roll please, one grand prize winner will get both of those plus a 5.5 quart Staub Cocette and a selection of Hudson Valley favorites from us! With lots of love from our kitchen to your lunch box, Julia.
[UPDATE: The contest is now closed and winners will be announced this week!]
TUESDAY LUNCH BOX
Turkey Merguez-ish Meatballs
Yogurt + Herb Dip
Whole Wheat Pita, Olives + Sliced Cucumbers
This lunchbox features turkey meatballs laced with the wonderful flavors you typically find in North African merguez (lamb sausage). There’s a great recipe for Homemade Merguez patties in Small Victories that uses lamb and a hot grill, but for a lighter and more weeknight-friendly option, I opt for turkey and the oven. If you can’t find harissa, which is a very garlicky chile paste from North Africa (the most widely used type comes in a very chic tube), you can substitute a large pinch of red chile flakes or an equal amount of your preferred chile paste or hot sauce. These meatballs are equally great when they’re hot out of the oven as they are cold from the fridge.
Turkey Merguez-ish Meatballs
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon harissa paste (leave out if you prefer these mild or add more if you prefer them extra spicy)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 large handful finely chopped cilantro and/or parsley
1 lb/453 g ground turkey (preferably dark meat)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425ºF/220ºC. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Place the garlic, harissa, cumin, coriander, salt, and cilantro and/or parsley in a large bowl and stir everything together. Add the turkey and mix well with your hands (just get in there, they’re the best tools for the job) until everything is evenly combined. Form the turkey mixture into 16 golf ball-sized meatballs and place them on the prepared sheet pan in even rows. Drizzle the meatballs evenly with the olive oil and use your hands to spread the oil over the surface of each meatball.
Roast the meatballs until they’re browned and firm to the touch, about 20-25 minutes.
Yogurt + Herb Dip
Makes about 1 cup/240 ml
1 cup/240 ml plain Greek yogurt (whatever amount of fat you like, if any)
A large handful of finely chopped fresh herbs (dill, mint, cilantro, chives, parsley, and/or basil all work well)
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
A large pinch of kosher salt
Place everything in a bowl and stir together. Done and done. Store extra in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week.