Posts Tagged ‘lunch’

Assembly Instructions – Fajitas

November 10, 2014

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If I said something was quick and easy before… this is far beyond even those descriptors. Overview: buy some stuff at Trader Joe’s, do a little slicing, a little searing, and then assemble a really tasty meal. Pack away the leftovers and you’ll have a really tasty lunch. Your time commitment is minimal.

Beef Fajitas for Four:

Trader Joe’s Carne Asada package, which is already sliced, just needs to be cut into manageable pieces

3-4 bell peppers, mixed colors, cut into strips

1 large yellow onion, sliced thick or thin

sour cream

chopped jalapeno (optional)

tortillas – the mixed corn/wheat ones are my favorite so far

Preheat a cast iron pan on the stove. Meanwhile, slice up your peppers and onions. Add a little bit of oil to the pan, then the onion and bell pepper (and jalapeƱo). Cook until soft and a little charred, then set aside to keep warm. In the same pan, add your carne asada pieces. Don’t crowd the pan – you may have to do two batches. I cook the meat until browned on the outside, red on the inside, so you may want to cook it a little longer. While the meat cooks, I like to warm up my tortillas in a separate frying pan on low heat. Once the meat is cooked to your liking, pile a little bit of everything with some sour cream into a tortilla and enjoy!

For my lunch the next day, I packed Greek yogurt in lieu of sour cream and popped tortilla halves into the toaster to warm them up. It was the kind of lunch that had me planning fajitas once a week for a while. By the way, the Trader Joe’s is within walking distance of my house, which is why every ingredient in this quickie meal can be purchased there.

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Veggie Salad + Ricotta Salata

October 29, 2014

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This lunch includes some leftover chicken from takeout, sliced apple, and quick-pickled dill-radish salad atop carrot slices and arugula with chopped hazelnuts and batons of ricotta salata to eat as is or to crumble on the salad.

Today I’m giving an example of how I pack my Laptop Lunch box.

Salad for lunch again is boring! Usually. This time, though, salty ricotta salata and crunchy hazelnuts save the day. Thanks to my CSA delivery, I frequently have a lot of fresh vegetables to use in my lunch box. The challenge for me is to get away from the usual carrot sticks/radish slices and pack an exciting lunch. I’m not the kind of person who will pass up restaurant lunch for carrot sticks!

I almost always pack my lunch the night before. This time, the radishes were sliced, then packed by themselves in an apple cider vinegar, diced shallot, and olive oil dressing with sprigs of dill. They marinated in one of my spill-proof medium containers. In the medium open-top container, I put arugula, carrot slices, and ricotta salata so that nothing would get too soggy. For the same reason, the toasted hazelnuts went into the smallest container and that went into the section with the sliced apple. Everything fit neatly inside without leaking or making anything soggy.

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When lunch time came, I shook up the radishes in dressing with the arugula, sprinkled the nuts on top, and had a tasty meal. I later crumbled some of that cheese up – I definitely recommend ricotta salata for your salads or snacking. The flavor is fresh, like farmers’ cheese, but it’s very salty and crumbly. I sometimes use it as a substitute for feta in recipes, but it’s less creamy than feta. What do you do to liven up your fresh veggies?

Carrot Mash

October 15, 2014

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This is another quick tip more than a real recipe. I was in the mood for mashed sweet potato the other day, but only had carrots in the pantry. I also wanted to sneak a little more protein into my lunch.
Step one:
Cook your carrots. I used 6 medium carrots and boiled them on the suggestion of Martha Stewart.
Step two:
Add the cooked carrots to the food processor or blender with 1/2 cup of cottage cheese ~ 14 grams of protein. Pulse until smooth.
Step three:
Add seasoning. This could be roasted garlic, butter and salt, or even sugar and cinnamon if you like that sort of thing with your sweet potatoes (not for me – I like to keep that stuff savory.)
Optional fourth step:
Depending on the whey content of your cottage cheese and the water content of your carrots, you might prefer to firm the mashed carrots by baking them in a casserole dish at 350 degrees until toasty on top.

I packed these up with a bed of spinach which wilted nicely when I heated my lunch. It wasn’t really like sweet potato, but it was a tasty lunch dish on the lighter side. Next time I’ll experiment by adding ginger!

Browned butter panko… Goes on everything

October 8, 2014

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This is sort of a recipe, sort of a tip for packing lunch. Last year, I fell in love with crunchy Bosc pears on bitter salads. This lunch box has a baby kale, pickled radish, and sliced pear salad, quinoa pilaf, and kiwi slices. When I made my pear + greens salad over and over again, I found it came out best when I added a salty/crunchy element. This time I had some leftover browned butter panko – so good. You can press these browned butter bread crumbs onto cauliflower, broccoli, meat… or make a little fried goat cheese for a salad. Here’s how you do it:

Cut 4 tablespoons of butter into slices. Add to a pan over medium high heat and allow to melt, but stand by with a spatula or scraper. When the butter starts to foam up, stir it. The little bits of proteins and sugars in the butter sink to the bottom and stirring will help you brown them evenly. When the butter has reached a level of browned-ness you like, add a cup of panko or breadcrumbs, 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or herb of preference) and salt to taste, stirring constantly.

Allow the panko/bread crumbs to soak up the butter, then watch and stir as they start to brown. When they are golden and toasty, take them off the heat quickly and throw them on top of whatever is nearby!

To make fried goat cheese, slice your chevre about 1/4 inch thick. I then placed the slices in the freezer to firm them up, but I still got a messy result (hence no photo). Dredge them in flour, then beaten egg, then press it into your finished browned butter crumbs. Because the crumbs are already browned, just barely fry the goat cheese in a little oil. I almost regretted making the first one because they were frequently requested after that…

Kefta for dinner and lunch

September 25, 2014

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One of my favorite things is when cooking once gets me more than one meal. This, my friends, is one of those recipes. It’s a bit of an adaptation of the Kefta and Zucchini Kebabs recipe from my go-to food blog, Smitten Kitchen. I tinkered with it enough times that I’m confident I can whip these up on a weeknight with stuff I most likely already have in the pantry. I’ve had good luck doubling the recipe, so adjust the quantities to reflect your hunger, the number of times you want leftovers, etc. – I just bet that they would do fine in the freezer. (We never have any left after a day or two, so I haven’t tried it myself.) These little grilled meatballs have the savory-spice flavors from my favorite falafel restaurants, and the toasted pine nuts give them a great bite! Plus they fit nicely in my lunch box.

Obviously, you can substitute whichever ground meat(s) you’d like to use. Unlike Deb, I’m a huge fan of lamb – I just have ground beef around way more often. I wanted to try one final iteration before I hit publish, which was to substitute chia seeds for the panko/bread crumbs. The chia seed binder will allow this recipe to be used by people looking for low-carb option. Throw some roasted beets on the side – delicious! I have paired them with this mashed cauliflower recipe, but it was way too garlicky for me.

1 small onion, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of chopped fresh Italian parsley (I’ve skipped this without harming the recipe)
1 pound of ground beef (or lamb, or turkey, or bison, or pork, or whatever! They weren’t even dry with 96% lean beef.)
1/4 cup pine nuts, chopped and then toasted – this gets you more toasted surface area, but you can also use already toasted pine nuts and roughly chop them.
2 tablespoons chia seeds OR 1/4 cup panko/bread crumbs
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Mix all ingredients in a bowl, then form into 1.5 inch meatballs. Throw them under the broiler for 3 minutes, turn, then broil until just cooked through – 3 more minutes.

Grab some yogurt dip and dig in!

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Non-sad (non)desk lunches

September 8, 2014

You do not want to see what working all day in nitrile gloves has done to my nails. I’m trying to mitigate the damage, but sheesh. You might want to see what keeps me going on a work day, though – LUNCH.

I work in an area with a few places to grab a salad or sandwich, but not so many that the menus can keep me entertained 5 days a week. Bringing my lunch has been great for my wallet and my peace of mind since I can sit down and relax outside right away. But when I first started to pack lunch in my usual food storage containers, I ended up wearing salad dressing or carrying around a sauerkraut-soaked messenger bag. (Mmmmmmmm, I’m sure my coworkers loved that.) I needed something that wouldn’t leak, so I fired up Google…

Of course, I spent a long while looking at bento photos, but my level of effort will never add up to those masterpieces. After that, I did get my heart set on having a compact, spill-proof lunchbox set that could be used for the variety of foods I like to pack. Some people like to have a salad every day, and if I did I would have chosen one of the lidded bowls with a dressing container included – some even have a locked-in ice pack. But I like to pack salads AND leftover bratwurst with sauerkraut, or soup, or a sandwich with the tomatoes in a different container so they don’t make the bread soggy. I ended up choosing Laptop Lunches. They come with a set of little containers that are made of BPA-free plastic and fit neatly into a hard outer case that is small enough to carry in my smelly messenger bag. I also ordered the additional container set with a larger lidded box.

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I chiefly liked this set because of the size, but it also had to fit these criteria:
-microwave safe (the container lids are not, but that’s fine with me)
-watertight
-lightweight

That last one is the main reason I chose plastic over glass. Many of my coworkers prefer glass because they’re nervous about microwaving plastic. I don’t know whether or not that’s bad, and I expect it’ll be years before anyone knows the exact extent of the implications, but minimizing the weight of my shoulder bag felt like a top priority. Many other lunchbox or food storage kits would have worked for me, and there are so many cool-looking stainless steel, tiffin-style, or vintage options in all price ranges out there… So my advice is to spend the time to get something you’re sure you’ll enjoy using.

So far, I love the set I chose! The lids keep liquids from leaking and I am able to pack more than enough food. I knew that I would need the extra inserts for days when I haven’t had time to wash yesterday’s containers. I will be posting a few photos and recipes/ideas for lunch in case anyone out there, like me, feels that inspiration is a good way to avoid the nearby fast food line.

If I can give one last tip for you, it’s to use the last 2 minutes of your break to rinse or wash your containers (or, to throw them in the dishwasher as soon as you can. Judge the number of containers you need to have by the frequency you can run a full dishwasher.) You are much more likely to pack lunch for tomorrow if you don’t let your containers get stinky. Happy lunch!