I’m so excited about my lunch today.  Actually, I’m so excited about everyone’s lunches today.  But mainly mine, because it’s leftovers of last night’s dinner, and I loved last night’s dinner.

We had something for which I cannot take credit — it’s a Cooking Light recipe, actually, for Farfalle with Creamy Wild Mushroom sauce.  After the constant parade of meats that have crossed our table in the past week or so, a nice vegetarian recipe — though still one that tastes and feels substantial when you’re eating it — was just the thing I needed to feel like I was coming back into balance food-wise.  The bonus part was that, although L. is sometimes skeptical of what’s served to him on meat-free evenings (bless his carnivorous little heart), I had totally forgotten that he really, really likes this dish.

So had he.  When his plate was set before him, he paused for a second, just staring at it.  However, from his hesitation I derived a sneaky benefit, because in anticipation of the usual vegetarian recalcitrance, I’d sliced up an orange and set it alongside his portion of pasta.  I figured that if L. happened to be hungry enough, one or the other option was going down, and either way I’d be happy.

To my shock and delight, L. — who appears to be experiencing some sort of food renaissance at the moment, and is now eating again things which used to be his favorites, but which he’s refused outright for months on end — dove headlong into the oranges.  An entire large, seedless navel orange went down his gullet in minutes, even to the extent that he started nibbling at the peels, experimenting with their potential as edible items.  J. and I sat quietly enjoying our dinners and monitoring P.’s exploration of his raspberries (which he was industriously trying to make into jam).  Secretly, though, we were raising our eyebrows at one another and mouthing silent exclamations and altogether acting like total idiots.  An observer at our table would probably have thought that they were witnessing some odd old French silent film.

At last, oranges depleted, L. glowered at the pasta.  J. gently encouraged (OK, maybe sort of bribed, but not outright) his eating of the dreaded stuff by reminding him oh-so-casually that there were homemade chocolate chip cookies on the counter.  After the smashing success of the orange, I held out little hope that we’d get much further, so as J. took a smeary, squirmy, berried P. upstairs for a bath, I returned my own focus to my plate.  (As a side note: is it just me, or is it every Mommy who ends up eating a cold dinner most nights after spending most of her time righting spilled cups, refilling portions, and digging food out of orifices into which it was never intended to be put?)

When I looked again at L. moments later, I was aghast — he had turned into some sort of preschooler ShopVac, hoovering up every single one of the mushrooms on his plate in a spectacle that was frighteningly reminiscent of Shark Week.  Creminis and shitakes disappeared like the assistants in a David Copperfield show.  That’s when I remembered my sister, D., once a loather of mushrooms now converted to a firm adherent, commenting: “Of course I like portobellos.  Who wouldn’t love a mushroom that tastes like a steak?”

“You like the mushrooms?” I asked L., who simply kept nodding and shoveling.  “Do they taste a little bit like meat, bud?”

“Yep,” he managed, pausing to take a breath.  At that moment he and I both noticed that he’d cleared out all fungal remnants of his dinner, leaving only the pasta.  Our eyes locked.

As I drew in breath to offer more mushrooms (hey, I’m no fool), L. looked down, picked up a noodle, and began nibbling.  I shut up and started clearing the rest of the table.  Before I knew it, he’d downed most of his pasta.  “Mommy.”  He clasped his hands earnestly.  “I so, so ate my dinner all up.”

“Good job,” I praised.  “Did you like it?”
“Uh-huh.  It was yummy.  And now.  Can I please have a cookie?”

Oh, my dear child.  A cookie you shall have.

Needless to say, a small portion of the pasta (with plenty of mushrooms) went into L.’s lunchbox today, alongside his leftover meatballs.  I also tucked a container of orange slices into the box — might as well go for broke — along with the requisite cup of applesauce and the mozzarella cheese stick he wanted.  Then, turning my attention to P.’s lunch, I paused.

Though P.’s lunch is often the easier of the two to pack, our shopping routine got a little out of whack this week, and the slapdash effort we made did not in any way ensure that we’d have the usual staples on hand, in sufficient quantities to get us through the week.  Most of the things that I ordinarily grab and toss into P.’s lunch were sadly absent from fridge and pantry.  I managed to make him a little smashed meatball marinara mini-burger on an English muffin and packed a large container of raspberries, along with a cheese stick (he likes a cold cheese stick for the molars he’s cutting at the moment).  But at that point, my lunch-packing OCD took hold, with neon lights blinking: “Need at least 4 items!  At least 4 items!”

I struggled.  Faltered.  Until the wayward few apples sitting on my counter caught my eye.  Before I could second-guess myself, I peeled, thinly sliced, and nuked one of the little suckers with a sprinkle of cinnamon, making the fastest 1-minute baked apple you’ve ever seen.  But thus reduced to a mushy bit of steamy, cinnamony goodness, it looked sad sitting in the bottom of a tiny container.

The naked apple would not do.  Now my brain switched gears, frantically performing a mental Google search for Things That Taste Good With Apples.  In minutes, I was hauling various cereals out of the pantry.  A few Cheerios…some quick-cook oats…some maple syrup…I measured, sprinkled, dashed, and popped it all into my toaster oven.  Voila — Granol-io Crumble. Still crunchy and chewy, like granola, but softer and easier to eat than the traditional varieties, making it an ideal topping for a semi-toothless creature like P.  A hefty shake of the stuff garnished the sad, naked apple mush, and suddenly he had a gourmet dessert.

Oh, it was good.  And now I’m in a granola kind of mood.  If the weather doesn’t go beastly hot this weekend, I suspect I’ll be mixing up some new varieties of homemade granola treats.  And if it does go beastly hot, I may still get all crunchy.  Because at the moment, I’m feeling pretty smug about the oranges, the mushroom love, and the quick-thinking recovery from the naked apple debacle.  I feel the madness creeping in, and it’s bringing oatmeal.