As you may recall, a few posts back I mentioned a desire to eat healthier food, especially, all of those meals eaten my desk each week. On average, I eat about 8 to 10 meals at my desk. Breakfast almost every single day and lunch most days, but lunch far too often was something I ran out to get. I’ve never been a “bring their lunch” kind of person, even in elementary school I was more likely to eat the “hot lunch.” So, to bring my own lunch was quite a challenge, but I am pleased to report in the last 2 weeks, I have only bought my lunch once .(although in fair disclosure, one day we had a client lunch), still a pretty impressive change. This is what I’ve learned:
- Know yourself. I’m not a sandwich person or a frozen meal person. So, I looked at what did I normally eat. Salads with protein and lots of veggies, wraps with a rice base, soup … so I used this for inspiration.
- Take time to prepare. I’ve been spending an hour or two on Sunday afternoons prepping for the week. For example, I have been marinating chicken thighs in a couple of different flavors (Asian, Italian, etc.) and baking them, then using them in salads or rice bowls the rest of the week.
- Don’t take it one day at time. It is too easy to run out of time or forget to bring lunch in the morning rush, so I’ll bring two or three days at time. This also gives you flexibility to change your mind and have something different mid-day.
- Invest in the right portable items. It is much easier to bring lunch if you have the right items, so a little container of salad dressing or small bags for toppings are worth the money if you use them.
So, what have I been eating?
Modified Chop Salad
Chop a variety of veggies (carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, cabbage) and mix in a Tupperware container. Add some chopped chicken (see number 2 above). In a separate bag, mix some more veggies that are a little more fragile (like cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes). Bring a small container of dressing (some favorites include Trader Joe’s Spicy Peanut, Panera Asian, Parmesan Peppercorn or Cilantro dressings). Bring another small bag with some small crunchy items (sunflower seeds, croutons, wonton strips). Mix everything together, put the lid back on it and shake to distribute the dressing.
Brown Rice and Quinoa Bowls
Make brown rice or quinoa in advance (alternatively, buy those great frozen brown rice packages from Trader Joe’s or the mixed rice with barley, red rice, and wild rice). Mix some veggies into the rice, again, base the veggies on what you want the final flavor to be … if I am going for an Asian feeling, I might mix in green peas, if it is more a of a Southwest feel, corn. Add a splash of dressing or other liquid, refrigerate. In a separate bag, mix some more veggies that are a little more fragile (like cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes). Bring a small container of dressing (some favorites include Trader Joe’s Spicy Peanut, Panera Asian, Parmesan Peppercorn or Cilantro dressings). Heat the rice for a few minutes, add the fresh veggies and dressing.
Soup is a go to item for me in the winter so I often have it on hand for lunch. I’ve been trying to add to it to make it a little more interesting. Sometimes, I bring a small green salad or a leftover item. Below is a photo (not at my desk, but had the same thing for lunch) where I had Curry Butternut Squash soup with a spinach, mushroom, goat cheese pocket. The recipes for both are below.
Spinach, Mushroom, Goat Cheese Pocket
- 2 pounds of mushrooms
- 1/4 of an onion
- 1 bag of spinach
- 8 ounces of goat cheese
- 1 sheet of puff pastry
- 1 egg beaten with water
Saute mushrooms and onions until most of the liquid has been absorbed, add spinach at the end. Roll out the puff pastry and poke with a fork. Add the mushrooms and spinach to one side of pastry, break up the goat cheese and sprinkle it over the mushrooms. Fold the pastry over and seal. Brush with egg wash and bake about 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
Note: I think this will become a “go to” recipe, the fillings can easily be substituted to best fit the menu or what is on hand.
Curry Squash Soup
Inspired by the Barefoot Contessa’s roasted squash soup …
- 2 small butternut squashes, peeled and chopped
- 2 onions, peeled and quartered
- 3 potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 1 head of cauliflower, separated into florets
- 8 ounces of apple juice
- 32 ounces of chicken (or veggie broth)
- Curry powder (to taste)
Roast veggies in oven for about 45 minutes, until soft and beginning to brown. Remove from oven and place on stove, add broth and juice. Bring to a simmer and let it cook with the lid on for about an hour until the veggies begin to break up. Add curry powder. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. If needed, add more broth. Let it cook another 30 to 45 minutes. Note: this freezes really well.