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How to make Great Lunches Simplified

learn to cook mom

How many of us put cooking at the top of our priority list? In fact, not enough people have made learning to cook a priority in their lives. This means that we often exist on convenience foods and boxed mixes rather than taking the effort to prepare healthy meals for our families and our own personal enjoyment.

The same holds true for lunches when we often resort to a can of soup or box of macaroni and cheese or some other such product rather than putting our creative efforts into making a quick and easy yet delicious lunch. You will see many ideas in this article and the hope is that these ideas will not only get you off to a great start for ending the lunch rut we all seem to find ourselves in at some time or another but also to try new things on your own.

First of all, not all great lunches require actual cooking in order to prepare. Some of them will require the use of the microwave and some of them will need to be cooked or at least prepared before hand and reheated. The choices are virtually limitless once you understand the creative concept that must be in place. You should also find that many of these ideas are so simple you will wonder why on earth you have never thought of them. I certainly hope that some of these ideas will become main features within your own home.

Lettuce wraps. These make delightfully delicious lunch treats and the filling can be prepared ahead of time, which leaves only reheating the filling and wrapping when you’re ready to eat. This is a fun lunch to share with your little ones and it teaches them that lettuce is much more versatile than people often give it credit for being. Some people choose to go with a teriyaki inspired filling; my family likes taco inspired fillings for our lettuce rolls. You are perfectly free to come up with a favorite filling of your very own.

Try sandwiches with different breads. Believe it or not, my children love trying new things. It’s a rare trait for which I am extremely grateful. Believe me I understand all too well how fortunate I am. My youngest however, has a little difficulty with thick or crusty bread. Her favorite sandwich choice has become Hawaiian sweet rolls. We put the meat, cheese, mustard, and pickle in her roll as if it were a bun and she’s thrilled. Other great ideas include hollowing out crusty rolls and filling them with roast beef and cheddar. You can broil this in your oven for a few minutes for a rare sandwich treat. The cooking part is very minimal and you do not have to have in depth knowledge of anything to prepare or enjoy these simple treats. Other great bread ideas include croissants with ham and cheese or chicken salad, taco pitas (another great favorite in our household), and paninis (this works really well if you have a George Foreman grill or a panini press).

While this is by no means the end all be all guide to cooking quick and easy lunches it is good food for thought. Now you know some simple things to make your family a healthy lunch without taking too much time.

Edible Glitter Is Great and I’m Not Afraid to Say It

Welp, I fell into a pile of glitter and came out looking like Mariah Carey’s ugly kid sister.

I’ve been caught with my paint brush in the golden pot of edible glitz (a.k.a. luster dust), carefully coating senior food editor Chris Morocco’s Snickerdoodle Party Cookies so that they’ll glimmer like gemstones from across the room. (I can implicate my colleague Hilary Cadigan—also guilty as charged.)

Purists can hate on edible glitter all they want, but they can’t deny that it turns otherwise regular old ‘doodles into party doodles. Fashion doodles, even! And come to think of it, a dusting of glitter could take nearly all doodles—Golden Doodles, Labradoodles, Saint Berdoodles (yes, they’re a thing)—from monochromatic to dynamic.

As someone who received one tube of pink facial glitter from my cool babysitter when I was eight, then used pea-sized drops on my nonexistent cheekbones for the next ten years (and only on the most special occasions), I’ll gladly admit that I’m as attracted to glitter as the next silly human. Oooh, sparkly! is just about the only thought that goes through my head when I see something that catches the light in the right way.


Photo by Laura Murray, Styling by Judy Mancini

These churros have lots of sparkle, without the funny business.

While these snickerdoodles certainly do not need glitter—they already have lots of tricks, like cornflakes, cardamom, brown butter, Chris Morocco’s blood, sweat, tears (a.k.a. “love”)—their appearance certainly benefits from it. Edible glitter is the wellness serum that gives otherwise dull cookies that festive glow appropriate for a season alight with Christmas trees, Hanukkah candles, and your cell phone screen as you scroll mindlessly through the web before bed. It’s glitter that makes them stand out at the cookie swap or holiday potluck before anyone’s even had a chance to taste.

But consumable glitter can—and has, in many instances (see glitter lattes and gold wings)—gone too far. Put simply, to use sparkles as a crutch is an abuse of their power. To judge whether glitter is a welcome accent rather than a hasty cover-up or just straight-up Instagram bait, I think about my romantic partner dressed up in a fancy outfit. I want to love the person (or food) whether or not it’s adorned and I don’t want the decoration to be so over-the-top that it makes the person (or food) off putting or unrecognizable. A bagel that looks like it’s going to corrode my esophagus or a pizza that may or may not be molding is too much glitz: What’s fun about questioning whether I’m about to incur bodily harm from a metallic sprinkle mix that’s non-toxic but not necessarily edible? Where’s the joy in setting myself up to, pardon my language, crap rainbows?

And there are plenty of ways, thank the iridescent angels above, to make food shine with none of these worries. Tell me morning buns or sugar-coated churros, or raspberry rugelach, which get their pink sequined look from a mix of freeze-dried berries and regular old sugar, aren’t sparkly. Even steak looks like a gosh darn shooting star with a little help from flaky salt. The stuff we already have in the kitchen—coarse sugar, confectioners’ sugar, pyramidal salt—makes food glitter and taste better without warnings from the FDA. Just look inside yourself (and your pantry!): You’ve got all you need to sparkle just sitting in wait. You just have to unleash it.*

But when you’re grasping for a little extra holiday magic, you have my blessing—for whatever that’s worth—to reach for the luster dust. Just make sure it’s clearly labeled “edible,” okay?

*And yes, I am available for all your inspirational speech needs.


The Great Pumpkin Bread Recipe Is Here

There’s no other way to say this, but this pumpkin bread is moist. (DEAL WITH IT.) It’s even moister—which isn’t a word—the day after baking. No one wants a dry pumpkin bread, a mouthful of over-spiced regret, and no one certainly wants a mushy loaf, a soggy forkful of fall’s failings. We want a moist loaf. M-O-I-S-T. Find out what it means to me.

It means a lot. And to Molly Baz too. She developed this new recipe and didn’t want a typical vegetable oil quick bread. “Let’s resurrect the pumpkin bread from its sad sorry Starbucks state!” She declared. Okay!!!!

Olive oil brings a buttery, barely grassy note that goes well with pumpkin (“because pumpkin…comes from the earth,” she told me to which I replied 🤔) and it’s what makes the bread moist but never mushy. Molly played with the ratio of flour to fat for weeks until she reached perfection. And since I tasted it, I can concur. Perfection.

What else is inside this thing? A heaping dose of AUTUMNAL FLAVOR, that’s what! Cinnamon, nutmeg, a pinch of clove. This specific canned pumpkin. And fresh ginger, not the dry powder stuff. “I didn’t use pumpkin spice mix because I don’t believe in all the spices in that blend,” said Molly. She doesn’t believe in ground ginger. “People use ⅛ teaspoon a year and then it gets stale and flat in their pantry. Use fresh!” It brings a spicier, more dynamic flavor.

ba pumpkin bread 1

Photo by Chelsie Craig, Food Styling by Kate Buckens

ZOOMSCOPE: Crunchy rooftop.

On top we’ve got a rooftop of crunchy pumpkin seeds and sugar to make the whole thing shimmer in the evening moonlight. “Basic b*tches love glitter and so do I, let’s be honest,” said Molly.

ba pumpkin bread 2

Photo by Chelsie Craig, Food Styling by Kate Buckens


Don’t forget the side dish of whipped maple butter, light and airy and just a bit salty. It’s best made with an electric mixer, but you can paddle the maple syrup into room temperature butter with a spatula if you can’t be bothered. It won’t be as fluffy, but you’ll have maple butter. There are worse things.

“If I’m not picking apples this weekend,” Molly concluded, “I’ll be making pumpkin bread, and I hope the rest of the world is too.”

Get the recipe:

Drunk Elephant’s D-Bronzi Serum Works Great As Long As You Mix It Right

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard of Drunk Elephant. Because whatever instinct steered you to a website called Healthyish probably also led you to this “it” healthyish beauty line. Free of controversial ingredients like silicones, drying alcohols, and fragrances, Drunk Elephant was one of the first brands to hit the skincare scene, and it surpassed the competition quickly after.

Do a quick Google-search for “Drunk Elephant reviews” and it’ll pull up pages and pages of gushing testimonials and breathless “I tried it!” blog posts. Unlike other natural skincare brands, which often skimp on science, founder Tiffany Masterson created the brand to be both clean and clinical, meaning the products still pack a punch. All you have to do is feel the tingle of the T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum to know that that stuff is working.

So I was eager to take the D-Bronzi™ Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops, which launched this summer, out for a test drive. (Plus, I need to troubleshoot my dark olive skin, which in the winter turns so sallow that I look like I’m one Bloody Mary away from jaundice.) If you can get over the name “D-Bronzi™ Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops,” which took me a week because I knew I would have to type it multiple times, you then have to go through the work of trying to understand what, exactly, this is. Is it self-tanner? Antioxidant serum? Bronzer? All of the above?

Technically, it’s a bronzing serum, which means that it has the deep, nutty color of a serious bronzer paired with, yes, an antioxidant serum. There are also hydrating fatty acids and peptides in the formula, which are beneficial for all skin types. But, even so, the anti-pollution benefits touted in the name seem like more of an afterthought. (It’s a nice afterthought! But it’s still an afterthought.) That’s partly because the pigment is so concentrated that it looks and acts far more like a makeup product than skincare.

Masterson says you can mix the D-Bronzi™ Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops (ugh) with a number of things, like other serums, oil, sunscreen, or moisturizer. I first mix it with my moisturizer, and am immediately impressed by how sheer and subtle the glow-enhancing effect is, as though I spent a three-day weekend on an alpine hike. It also gives my skin a dewy finish, which I’m very into—until I remember that I still have to put on sunscreen. The SPF blurs out most of the sun-kissed color, and I’m back to square one.

The next day, I mix it with my sunscreen. I usually wear sunscreen that’s fairly liquid in texture, meaning it blends in easily and never looks chalky. But the sunscreen and bronzing serum together make me look a little too dewy, like I ate a Whopper Junior with cheese late last night and now, in the early light of dawn, all of the grease is finally emerging from my pores. And I already have oily skin! No, thank you.

Finally, I go off-label and combine it with my foundation. (It’s IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream Oil-Free Matte with SPF 40, in case you too emit more grease than a drive-thru window.) The matte, oil-free foundation blends seamlessly with half a pump of the D-Bronzi™ Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops. The resulting mixture gives me everything I want: glowing skin, a fresh finish, and just enough coverage to trick people into complimenting my skin. And protection against pollution, I guess.

I really like the D-Bronzi™ Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops now that I’ve figured out how to pair it. It’ll take some experimenting for you, too, since everyone’s routines and skin types vary. Find the right delivery method, and you’re golden.

Buy it: D-Bronzi™ Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops, $36

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Bad Wine Is Just a Great Wine Spritzer Waiting to Happen

Welcome to Party Tricks, a monthly column in which bestselling cookbook author and entertaining pro Alison Roman schools us on the fine art of having people over without pulling out your hair.

I’d love to pretend that my wine collection is full of only top shelf, extremely cool, “highly crushable” bottles with colorful labels and irreverent fonts, but guess what, it is not. Among the feisty pet-nats and funky orange wines lurks the more-than-occasional rando red I know retails for $7.99. Sometimes it’s leftover wine from a photo shoot, or something I got for free from an event, or a bottle brought over by a friend who made a very-last-minute run to a grocery store that only sells Chateau Diana “wine product” thinking I wouldn’t notice. (Well, I did notice! You know who you are!!). Regardless: It’s there, for better or for worse.

Alison Roman’s Elegantly Simple Mushroom Pasta

Now, I consider myself a reasonable person. Which means that despite the added sugar and unpalatably high tannins, I’m still able to find value in all things that contain alcohol. So I am here to tell you that yes, you can still drink that bad wine. Maybe not straight from the bottle—I would absolutely not recommend that. But, when poured over ice, topped with a little seltzer (or trendy sparkling beverage of your choosing) and a healthy squeeze of fresh citrus, it can be better than good—it can be great.

I’m sure somewhere out there, I am getting kicked out of a cool person’s wine club, but I have to live my truth. And my truth is that sometimes you’re having a dinner party and it’s the end of the night and all you have left is some not-great wine and guess what? It’s not going to drink itself. Plus, is there anything worse than opening up that bottle of chilled gamay you’ve been saving and serving it to someone too drunk to care how naturally fermented it is? No, there is not.

alison basically new

Photo by Alex Lau, Food Styling by Alison Roman, Prop Styling by Kalen Kaminski


You don’t even need a recipe to pull this off in a way that feels thoughtful instead of lazy, just the will to see past the butteriness of an over-oaked chardonnay to the promised land of tart, refreshing wine spritzers. (That’s right, I said it!!) Fill as many tumblers as you have guests with plenty of ice, and pour over whatever “just okay” or “kind of bad” wine you have lying around—say, three-quarters of the way up a glass. Top with effervescent water—Is it seltzer? Is it club soda? Is it soda water?? Honestly, still struggling to know the difference—and one or two good squeezes of citrus. To really go hi-low here, add a few dashes of Angostura or Peychaud’s bitters, which will tame any undesirable excess sweetness and make you look a bit fancy, then “garnish” (lol) with some sliced or peeled citrus. Pass around the glasses, and watch the party get a second wind.

And there you have it. It’s a cocktail! It’s a spritzer! It’s bad wine, made good.

And a batch of cookies, for good measure…