Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Laptop Lunches #6

Another few lessons.

Okay, so I've got organic blue corn chips, homemade guacamole for dipping, carrot sticks with hummus (sorry about the lid), and fruit salad from yesterday dressed with a fruit dip/dressing I have on hand. Also homemade; if it turns up as a dip I'll have more to say about that later.

The guacamole turned out very well. I covered it in plastic wrap, touching the surface, before I closed the box, to prevent browning. I didn't technically have all of the ingredients for a proper guacamole, but it was still really nice. As I learned from the Joy of Cooking guacamole recipe, it works out best if you use a large grater for your veggies, rather than cutting them with a knife. So I am giving you my first recipe:

Guacamole for 1
1/4 firm, red tomato
1/4 small white onion
1/4 jalapeno pepper
1/2 avocado
salt and pepper to taste
lime juice and cilantro, if you have it on hand

Grate the tomato, onion, and jalapeno in a small bowl. Mash the 1/2 of an avocado coarsely with a fork (you don't want it to be perfectly smooth). Add salt and pepper to taste. If you have lime juice and cilantro (I didn't), I'd use about a teaspoon or so of each. Fresh cilantro, please!

Other than that, I learned:

Lesson #1--Fruit salad is hard to salvage on day two, and though it is fine if dressed and eaten right away, if it sits for a while, it's just a sad, mushy, runny pile.

Lesson #2--A small tub of hummus isn't really enough protein. I should have had an egg with this.

Other than that, a victory in the world of lunch. Not so much a victory in the world of the graduate student, but that's a story for another day.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Laptop Lunches #5

A tragic thing happened last night while I was washing the dishes. It's not like I was being violent about it or anything, but the fork from my Laptop Lunches lunchbox snapped in my hand. I took a picture to illustrate its demise.

Well, that explains why the 2.0 version of this lunchbox comes with all-metal utensils. Lucky for me, I am resourceful and into kitchen gadgetry. (Well, obviously. I blog my lunch, for heaven's sake.) So I have a set of cocktail utensils on hand, even though I will never have a cocktail party. Time to pull out the cocktail fork.

It leaves a bit to be desired, but gets the job done, at least until I can justify a new purchase. Alas, I feel quite strapped for cash right now, or I'd be on Amazon right now, ordering 2.0 and accessories as we speak.

On to the business of lunch.

Believe it or not, I got some of my ideas here from Martha Stewart. Don't tell anybody; I've got a reputation as a Very Serious Scholar to uphold here. In any case, Martha's classic book, Entertaining, suggests serving an appetizer made of cream cheese piped onto cucumer slices. So I had the thought, why not make little "sandwiches" out of cucumber slices and cream cheese? That's your first item from top left, clockwise. You also have carrot sticks, leftover bacon-wrapped scallops, fruit salad I made this morning, and a half of an avocado, cut up and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Lesson #1: Cucumbers, plain and raw, taste like coasters. This is not really a lesson, since I knew that already. If ever I do this again, I will need to salt and pepper the cucumber slices, but that poses a problem. Salt is likely to make the cucumbers watery if I do it in the morning before lunch. So perhaps I need to acquire a tiny salt and pepper shaker set, like they bring you with room service. (I'm open to suggestions.)

Lesson #2: Never buy more than one avocado at once if you live where I live (northeast coast of the U.S.). It's just money down the drain if you don't eat your avocados within two days or so of purchase. I had to throw one out this morning, and I thought to myself, there's $2.50 wasted. It's tragic, really. This particular avocado was on the slightly overripe side, which is what I like, but I know I'll have to eat the other half tomorrow, if at all, because it's edging really quickly toward rotten. I don't recall having this problem when I lived in Texas. Then again, I was known to pay 25 cents for an avocado there. So I don't know.

The astute will note the presence of pineapple. Of course. The pineapple and I have a long way to go together!

All in all, I was pleased with this lunch, though by then I was still mourning the loss of my blue fork.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Laptop Lunches #4

I decided I needed something different than eggs and carrots for once. Besides, I had no hard boiled eggs on hand, and my fridge had frozen my carrots.

This, clockwise from top left, is fresh pineapple wedges, a mixture of strawberries and blackberries, leftover garlic chicken sausage sauteed with green pepper and onions, and a diced tomato with some yogurt-ranch dressing to put on top when the time comes.

Pineapples are a commitment when you're single, and if I had any sense I would have left that one in the store, but I was picking up the berries and remarking on the cost differential--wow! $2.50 for a pint of berries, or $2.00 for a whole pineapple! Of course, you end up eating more of the berries than of the pineapple--you've got to account for rind and core--and once you've cut into a pineapple you'll be eating pineapple at every meal for five days, but I do love fresh pineapple. So I caved. I have a feeling pineapple will be showing up in various forms for a while.

Dinner Plate #1

I don't always pack my food. Sometimes there's a proper meal at home, albeit rarely for those-who-dissertate.

This is sort of a variation on a BLT salad. Instead of plain bacon, it's bacon-wrapped scallops. It started like this: I had some bacon. I don't eat bacon very often, but there it was--bacon. I was at the store buying shrimp (you can see some of that in the entry for Lapop Lunches #1) and I paused at the scallops. Not terribly pricey, I said to myself. I keep telling myself I need to acclimate to being a coastal person now, a person who should be eating food from the ocean. The ocean is close, after all. I've got my own ocean, right there. But I'm an inland person. Inland people eat pigs and cows and chickens and such, and sometimes catfish. I'm expanding. So I bought the scallops, and in the back of my mind, I'm thinking, I've got bacon, and people wrap scallops in bacon.

The bacon-wrapped scallops were easy enough to make--cut bacon, wrap, toothpick, broil--and seemed pretty tasty. I even did this in the toaster oven, of all things, because my actual oven is broken. But as it is cooking, and I'm smelling bacon, I realize that I have nothing to eat with this. Maybe a salad, I said to myself. Maybe it could be a salad!

So there it is. Bacon-wrapped scallops with diced tomato on a bed of mixed greens that had been lightly tossed in a yogurt-ranch dressing.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Laptop Lunches #3

Clockwise from top left: Granny Smith apple slices, banana-and-peanut-butter mini kabobs, cucumber salad with scallion-dill dressing, a whole egg stuffed with the usual mix plus some chopped prosciutto sitting on a bed of carrot sticks, and a fresh peach miserably cut up.

Two lessons learned:

First, if you're going to make banana-and-peanut-butter mini kabobs, it's best to wait until the lemon juice painted on the banana slices to prevent browning dries before trying to put on the peanut butter, or to paint the lemon juice over the whole thing once it's assembled. Those things were slippery. I had planned to use a whole banana and do four of those things, but they were so time consuming I gave up after two (and since I ate breakfast at work, too, I just threw the half a banana in the bag and ate it with my granola).

Second: I really, really need practice in cutting up a fresh peach.

This was actually a really tasty lunch. I think I put way too much minced scallion in the dressing for the cucumbers, but it was otherwise a win. I've never put prosciutto in my stuffed eggs, but that's an idea worth repeating. And the banana kabobs were actually really nice. Though I swore, making them, I'd never try that again, I think that might be worth another shot with another method. And how amazing is it that standard toothpicks fit just perfectly into the lunchbox containers?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Laptop Lunches #2

Next day, much of the same, really. (Dissertating does not leave much room or time to come up with consistently new menus.)

But there is at least some variety. Clockwise from top left: garlic hummus (for dipping the carrots into), half a Granny Smith apple cut into slices (painted with lemon juice to prevent browning), assorted cherry and grape tomatoes in varying shades, carrot sticks, the last of the strawberries, a scoop of cottage cheese in a silicone baking cup, a stuffed egg (the other half of yesterday's), and some black olives to fill in the holes.

I filled the cottage cheese cup too high and there was some leakage of cottage cheese onto my olives and egg, but that really doesn't bother me.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Laptop Lunches #1

A while ago I bought a Laptop Lunches lunchbox. This is version 1.0, I guess, since they now have a new version that addresses some of the issues people had with the first. Of course, I now want version 2.0, but I'm waiting until I finish my next dissertation chapter to get a new lunchbox, and I've got my eye on a Japanese bento box at a store in the local shopping center. Laptop Lunches lunchbox 2.0 will have to wait.

So this is the first of my lunches I decided to photograph. A friend once asked me to blog my lunches if I ever made them consistently. Since I now pack a lunch pretty nearly every day, it makes more sense to take pictures, and taking pictures makes me slightly more accountable for what I eat, rather than taking a handful of granola bars and cookies. (Did I ever do that? Um...) So, yes, blogging lunch.

So, clockwise from top left: celery sticks, carrot sticks, leftover sauteed shrimp from the night before, a suffed egg, assorted cherry and grape tomatoes in various shades of red and orange, strawberries, and a yogurt-based ranch dressing for dipping the veggies into. (I sometimes remember to not put the lid on before I take the picture. Not always.)

Pretty, tasty, and nutritionally sound. The good thing about this for writing a dissertation is that it isn't heavy and doesn't make me want to take a nap after I eat. This is brain food, sustenance for writing. Much better than cookies. Hear that, fellow travellers on the journey toward defending?