I love being a Hellobee blogger is because it helps get me motivated to kick bad habits. I get so much from this community! Plus I’m always looking for new blog fodder, so I can usually justify the extra effort necessary to tackle a project if I also blog about it too!
Recently I’ve been disappointed with our lackluster lunches. My husband is able to come home for lunch, so every day I make something for both of us. Unfortunately, after Scribble was born I found it difficult to make time to grocery shop. We got into the habit of eating whatever was in the pantry until we absolutely had nothing left to eat. This meant a lot of cheese sandwiches and condensed chicken soup. So one of my new year’s resolutions was to improve our lunches: to eat more fresh food and to rely less on grains as a filler.
Soon I’ll be making lunch for Scribble too, so I figured I needed to get our bad eating under control before we pass our issues on to future generations!
I am by no means a dietary guru, and a lot of the nutritional lingo flies over my head. I focused on ingredients that are easy to use, accessible, affordable, and whole. I also relied upon my freezer for some lunches! Here are some of my favorites from the past two weeks.
Refrigerator Cobb Salad
I’m calling this refrigerator cobb salad because it is exactly that: various oddball assortments of things we have in our fridge. Avocados were 88 cents apiece this week at my grocery store so I bought a ton! I also had a few strips of uncooked bacon left from a package we had opened over the weekend. I cooked the bacon in the oven using the Alton Brown method. (Put bacon on a pan in a cold oven, turn oven on to 450, bacon is done when the oven is finished preheating!) To make cleanup easy, I cooked the bacon on a baking rack set over a cookie sheet that was covered with a silpat. I added a few strips of turkey, tomatoes, and a bite of feta. Just as easy as putting together a sandwich! Total Time: 10 minutes.
Avocado Egg Salad
We still had a ton of avocados left, so I used another for this day’s lunch! This was not even a recipe; more like just throwing stuff together in a bowl. I boiled a half dozen eggs while Scribble was taking a nap, let them cool in a bowl of ice water, then roughly chopped them. I mashed together one avocado and one tablespoon of olive oil mayonnaise, along with sea salt and a generous amount of cracked black pepper. I folded the eggs into the avocado mixture, and sprinkled red wine vinegar over everything. I ate this over pre-washed grocery store greens with one half of a red pepper cut into strips. Red peppers were 4 for 5 dollars at my grocery store this week! Total time: 45 minutes, although most of that I was just letting the eggs boil and cool. The recipe made enough for two lunches, so today’s lunch will take zero time!
Sausage, Kale, and Pumpkin Soup
This was a freezer meal. Every time I make soup, dried beans, or pasta sauce, I put away enough for at least one lunch or dinner. This is easier for me than spending time making specific meals over the weekend to defrost later.
When I make soup I usually start with an idea, then wing it based on the ingredients I have on hand. We were low on groceries and I spotted a few cans of pumpkin hiding out in my pantry, and devised this soup to use them up.
I cooked six chicken sausage links, removed from their casings, then took them out of the pot and set them aside. I sauteed olive oil, diced onion, carrot, and crushed garlic in the pot until the carrots were nearly done. I then added one bunch of kale, chopped, and one cup of white wine, to the sauteed veggie mix. I let the kale wilt until all the wine had evaporated, then added salt, pepper, rosemary, and thyme to taste. I put the sausage and its drippings back into the soup along with the two cans of pumpkin puree. I then added more salt and pepper as necessary, as well as grated nutmeg. I let this cook until the pumpkin tasted less raw– about five minutes. I stirred in two cups of chicken broth and let everything simmer for about twenty minutes. To finish, I added a cup of half-and-half and about one quarter of a teaspoon of truffle oil. The truffle oil is certainly optional, but I happened to have some on hand! I think this soup would be delicious with garam masala instead of rosemary/thyme/nutmeg.
At lunch, I stuck the frozen soup in the microwave to defrost part of the way, then moved it to a pot to finish. Total time: 10 minutes.
Meet the marriage of leftovers and cheap produce. I got these blackberries for a song at the grocery store, and they are domestic!
We tend to eat one big breakfast every weekend when we are home, but we only have a few strips of bacon each, so I have to find ways to use up the rest of it. The night before I had wrapped chicken in bacon slices, then brushed on top a soy-brown sugar-garlic glaze (1 tablespoon each of brown sugar and soy, 2 crushed garlic cloves). I baked the chicken on a silpat.
For lunch, I sliced a few of the leftover cold chicken pieces and put them over greens, then sprinkled the blackberries on top. I was out of feta, so I threw a handful of bagged shredded mozzarella on top– like I mentioned I didn’t buy any extra ingredients to complete this challenge! Total time: 5 minutes.
Lentil and Kale Soup
Again with the freezer meals. I adapted this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, froze the remainder after dinner, and reheated. The only changes I made to the recipe were to add mushrooms (I had some languishing in the fridge), and to swap kale for chard since I had it on hand. At lunch this only required defrosting. Total time: 10 minutes.
I’m already thinking of more easy lunch ideas to share with everyone! I find that my grocery store habits are changing, as well as my dinnertime habits– I am using more creative ingredients, and cooking larger batches of dinnertime meals that I can use as leftovers. In my next post I hope to tackle daytime snacks as well!
What are your tips for eating healthy lunches that are quick, convenient, and inexpensive?