25 Jul

why you should always pack a lunch box even when you work from home

This post is part of a series on making working from home work for you

Okay, so maybe you don’t need to pack a lunch box, but you *do* need to make your lunch ahead of time.

Today a fellow work-from-home-r messaged me on Twitter just as I was pondering the Great Lunch Decision and said:

randomly – i really hate working out what to have for lunch. such a time waster

Yes. Yes it is.

You could be forgiven for thinking you would eat healthily or have delicious freshly cooked hot meals for lunch if you worked from home. It’s a delusion that you should actually be able to turn into a reality.

But here’s how it *actually* is: Lunch time rolls around and you can’t be bothered deciding what to eat, let alone making it. Or (more often in my case), lunch time rolls on by and suddenly it’s 3pm and you’re ravenous and your blood sugar is so low you have to stuff 12 freddos in your mouth while you wait for your toast to cook or you’re going to faint in a big puddle on your recently cleaned kitchen floor.

Even if I do manage to stop at about lunch time and realise I should go and get something to eat, I generally haven’t thought in advance about what I could make so I invariably stare into the empty, cavernous, echoey fridge shouting “Hello? Hello in there? Come out and get me, lunch!”, and the empty, cavernous, echoey fridge just echoes my shout and nothing ever presents itself. So I either end up abandoning all thoughts of eating and just make more coffee, or I grab five little packets of snack food and head back to my desk where I proceed to eat a whole bunch of stuff that has absolutely no nutritional value.

If I’m going into the office, I either pack up my pinker than pink Tupperware fuel pack or I just wake up to myself and realise I’m going to get 12* coffees at the bookshop and Guzman Y Gomez for lunch. But my point is, if I’m going into the office, I almost always know what I’m going to eat. And if I don’t, it doesn’t actually matter, because there’s a food court right next to our building. In fact I can scope out how busy it is without getting in the lift, because I can peer directly into it from our floor.

But there is no food court at home. In my home, there is often no bread and rarely anything more exciting than cheese slices to have on the bread (on the off chance I have bread).

So the moral of the story is this: If you work from home and you like the idea of eating lunch, you should prepare your lunch just as you would if you were going into the office. Make your sandwich the night before, put aside some leftovers in a microwave safe container, or buy ready made meals you can throw in the oven. Don’t buy huge tubs of yoghurt unless you’re going to decant them in advance into smaller containers, because it’s a pain to have to do it during the day. Buy things in portion controlled packets or you’ll end up taking the whole packet to your desk and eating it all, because it’s easier than opening the packet, putting some in a bowl, then finding a Tupperware container for the rest.

If your office was (for example) in an industrial area and there were no food shops around and you couldn’t drive anywhere to get food, you’d never go into work without a well stocked lunch box. There aren’t any food places around the corner in suburbia, either, so the same applies to working from home. Pack your fuel pack in advance and you may actually make it to the end of the day without eating every bit of convenience food in sight or passing out from starvation and face planting on your keyboard.

* Evidently 12 is my number today. Often it’s 67. But today it’s 12.

02 Jun

red velvet and cream cheese

Today’s post was going to be about sabbatical preparations and why it’s a good idea to start a non-work, non-research blog at the start of a dissertation writing sabbatical.

But then I made red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing and I felt it was my duty to share with you the extremely simple but amazingly delicious recipe I used to make these little morsels of chocolatey goodness.

I’ve made a few red velvet cupcakes in my time. Most recently, I used the Cake Boss recipe to make cupcakes and two full size cakes but they were an unmitigated disaster… Not because of the recipe, but because I attempted to bake them in my sister’s non-fan forced over. I know. They exist. I was flabbergasted too. One of the full size cakes looked like it was going to be okay. But then my sister dropped it on the kitchen floor while checking to see if it was cooked. I felt like I spent $50 on ingredients, two hours cooking, and got no cake for my troubles. The full size cakes were supposed to be the kindy birthday cakes for my niece and nephew, so that was pretty disappointing. It was a seriously good looking cake mix, too. Silky (or velvety!) smooth and a really lovely consistency.

So anyway, this weekend I decided to have another crack at it. I scoured the web for a recipe with only one selection criteria in mind: low fuss. I made these with the kidlets so simplicity is important. They just don’t appreciate the whole vinegar and bicarb chemical reaction thing, or the sift it five times for maximum smoothness ritual. The aim is to get as much of the ingredients into the bowl as humanly (or kiddly) possible, with minimal egg shell, and minimum beater spray. The first thing I look for in a cake recipe when I’m cooking with the kids is whether the butter and sugar needs creaming. Because that is Just Not Fun with four year olds. Also, pro tip: never suggest to a four year old that they tap the measuring cup on the bench to level it out – really, it’s just better to live with some variation in quantities rather than derail the whole process to clean up a kid who’s covered head to toe in cocoa.

So, I used a recipe from taste.com.au. 10 ingredients, no creaming, chuck it all in the bowl and away we go. It made 24 (recipe says 18). And they were 24 of the most perfect little cakes ever. Not too sweet (making them a perfect vessel for a mountain of icing), and just the right amount of chocolate. Even my substitution of pink food colouring for the red I should have used didn’t make these babies any less pretty.

Now you can’t have a red velvet cupcake without cream cheese icing. My niece and nephew reminded me of this when I offered them icing-less cupcakes not long after these came out of the oven (late yesterday afternoon). I didn’t have time to make the icing last night and when I rocked up at their place this morning, the very first thing out of their mouths was “Where’s the icing?” (at 9am – aka cake o’clock).

Putting icing on a red velvet cupcakeMy niece and I got round to making the icing this afternoon. I didn’t follow the recipe for the cream cheese icing. Partly because all my unsalted butter was in the freezer and I didn’t have the foresight to defrost it; partly because I like my cream cheese icing to be cream cheese icing (as opposed to butter, vanilla and cream cheese icing). So we mixed up a block of cream cheese (250 grams) with about a cup of icing sugar (not quite because the lumps were driving me crazy so I ditched the last of them). After we finished licking the beaters (which involved double dipping them, I will confess), my little sous chef and I loaded the cakes with mountains of icing.

The thing is, kids don’t eat cake. It’s like this universal rule. They love icing but they couldn’t care less about the crumbly stuff. So here is my second pro tip on baking with kids: make double the icing, because at the end of the day, they’re just going to lick it off their cakes and hand them back to you. You’ve got to have extra icing in reserve (preferably hidden) or you can bet you’ll be eating icingless remnants while they proceed to eat every bit of icing in sight.

30 posts in June: 2/30