Monday, August 29, 2011

I Survived Hurricane Irene

It wasn't as bad as it could have been, but it was a serious storm. This is my road. Power is back on, but we're supposed to stay home (of course, I'm not objecting to this). Yesterday, lunch consisted of me eating an entire package of deli roast beef because I didn't want it to spoil, and dinner was a pot of hot chocolate I made out of the rest of my milk.

It'll be a while before my food is fun again. In the meantime, I have other outlets for my creativity. I have a renewed love for colored paper, glue sticks, and sequins.

It's going to be a long week.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Laptop Lunches #20

In anticipation of Hurricane Irene, I have not gone grocery shopping for perishables (and most of what I eat is perishable). This is a bit more leftover than I like to do for lunch, but I guess it's new to you. It's also more calorie-dense than I usually pack, so it looks a bit more sparse. A wedge of scallion-cheddar bread (a fabulous recipe by Anne Byrn in The Dinner Doctor, which is pretty close to my favorite cookbook), some glazed sweet potatoes and apples, a bit of ham steak, and some grapes.

This may be the last one for a while. It's already raining pretty hard, and the electric company predicts outages of up to three weeks.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Laptop Lunches #19

I must have taken a zillion pictures of this but it never photographed properly. This is the best I've got:
I guess that will have to do.

Jicama sticks, baby carrots, olive hummus, cottage cheese with a scallion-tomato flower, garlic and herb water crackers, and Waldorf salad.

I haven't been cooking in the evenings so I had no leftover meat, hence the cottage cheese. But when I put it all in there, it looked beige and the textures didn't have enough contrast. So I made a tomato flower. I should have taken pictures of this process. If I ever choose to make another tomato flower, I will give you a tomato flower tutorial. They're really easy. If I had it to do all over again, I would just do the blossom of the flower and do three of them. I don't really like scallion in my cottage cheese.

As for Waldorf salad, it always makes me laugh. Rather than give you a boring recipe, I will give you this. "We're fresh out of Waldorfs," of course. You'll never forget how to make it after this! And maybe, like me, you'll repeat to yourself with the same emphatic tone, "Apples! Celery! Walnuts! Grapes! In mayonnaise!"


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Laptop Lunches #18

Now we're getting somewhere! It helps to find time to go to the grocery store before the produce gets picked over and you end up with a sad mess.

Snow peas and yellow tomatoes with yogurt-based ranch dipping sauce, chicken-and-crab salad on a bed of romaine, red seedless grapes, a wheel of white cheddar (I took the plastic wrapping off so you could see the red wax), and the last of the strawberries.

I made the chicken salad from the last bit of leftover chicken cultet, which means I somehow got four meals out of a single large chicken cutlet:

Lunch #1: Slices of chicken cutlet with other things (seen here)
Dinner #2: Pasta with chicken, crab, and mushrooms and a sprinkling of parmesan:

(It tasted better than it looked. Needs color; next time a bit of spinach or broccoli could help matters quite a bit.)

Dinner #3: Chicken-and-crab salad on double-fiber bread
Lunch #2: This one.

I don't know if this would please the nutritionist who wanted me to eat more protein, but throw in the cheese and the yogurt dip and maybe I come out all right. At least I somehow managed to avoid eating the same meal six times in a row.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Laptop Lunches #17

I tried a new recipe here. Martha Stewart again. She let me down again, too. The idea was great, but the product really left something to be desired. Link to her Cucumber, Red Onion, and Dill Salad here. The problem was that it was way too vinegar-y. I think a couple of things could help--sweating the water out of the cucumbers with some salt first, and adding a bit more sugar. I will revisit this later since I liked the concept so much.

Other than the salad, I had plain water crackers, strawberries, a wheel of mini-Babybell white cheddar, some mixed nuts and dried cranberries, and spinach-artichoke hummus in a silicone cup. It was a little boring in some ways (my love affair with strawberries is waning this week), but it served my purposes.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Laptop Lunches #16

This did not turn out quite the way I wanted, looks-wise or taste-wise, but it was okay. It is a spinach salad with sliced yellow and red cherry tomatoes, potato salad, strawberries, honey-mustard yogurt dressing for the salad with a few carrots to fill in a hole, and some slices of a leftover baked chicken cutlet stuffed with crab stuffing. (I did not prepare the chicken. I only cooked it. It was on sale and cost less than plain chicken did.) I put way too much mustard in the potato salad, and that, combined with a very mustard-y dressing (needs much more honey to qualify as honey mustard--bleh), was just too much mustard for a girl who never was all that crazy about mustard to begin with.

Spinach salad was easier to eat with a cockatil fork than the ceasar salad I made was, perhaps because there were no croutons and spinach has more grip than romaine.

Oh, well. We go on trying.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Laptop Lunches #15

Last night, I went to the grocery store at 10:00 PM. This is a good time to go if you want to avoid crowds and get amazing deals on the "ready to cook" stuff in the meat section that will be past its sell-by date the next day. It is not a good time to go if you have a specific produce item you want. There will be no baby carrots in sight. The bulk bins will have nothing but very sad, smushed vegetables at the bottom that nobody will want. So you will have to buy other things. But I think this was okay, even if it wasn't what I wanted.

Spinach and artichoke hummus with carrot chips and celery sticks, leftover meatballs in a creamy dill sauce, a white flesh peach, some blackberries, and the last key lime mini cheese ball.

This it the last of the ground beef. I think this resulted in me somehow getting 8 or more meals out of one pound of ground beef (three visible here). I don't know if that is a good thing, since my nutritionist has encouraged more protein, but there was hummus and cheese and such in that time, so maybe it isn't a bad thing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Laptop Lunches #14

This is what happens when I want to finish up the stuff in the fridge before going to the store--way too much clutter. Really, no more than one silicone cup should make an appearance; here I have four.

Oh, well. I had some leftover meat mix from the stuffed peppers, which I made into little mini burger type things, squash and cheese casserole, a key lime mini-cheeseball, some fruit dip (sealed, sorry), a stuffed egg and a small silicone cup of hummus atop a bed of somewhat sad looking carrots from the bottom of the bag, a fresh apricot, and some blackberries.

I hope tomorrow's lunch is more attractive, but this was fine, taste-wise.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Laptop Lunches #13

Today was a much better day in the realm of lunch, if not so wonderful a day in the realm of work. It was just an okay day for work. So maybe the lunch makes up for it.

Blackberries, strawberries, and bananas (albeit poorly arranged; must work on that), key lime flavored mini cheese ball (from a mix bought, misguidedly, at a cheese shop in Oregon), stuffed egg, stuffed mini sweet peppers, snow peas, little orange tomatoes, and yogurt-based ranch dressing to dip the veggies into.

I made up the recipe for the stuffed mini peppers entirely on my own, and they were amazing!

Stuffed mini sweet peppers (serves about 4)

About 12 mini sweet peppers
About 1/4 pound ground beef
1/4 small white onion, minced
1 celery stalk, minced
About 3-4 baby carrots, minced
About 3 cherry tomatoes, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute veggies and garlic until slightly softened in a pan sprayed with cooking spray. Mix beef, vegetables, garlic, egg, and salt and pepper with your hands in a small mixing bowl. Cut tops off of peppers and remove pith and seeds. Stuff beef mixture into peppers. Lightly oil a shallow baking pan. Arrange peppers in pan. Bake until peppers have softened and beef is cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Lesson for today: I've never eaten raw snow peas, but they're really nice raw! Also, they have the benefit of being purchaseable in tiny amounts, always a concern for the single woman not wanting to bore herself (or you) with an endless parade of baby carrots.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Laptop Lunches #12

File this under, "It seemed like a good idea at the time."
Steamed broccoli, yellow squash casserole, salmon-mashed potato cakes, strawberries, and nectarine wedges. The casserole was amazing. The salmon-mashed potato cakes, not so much.

Lesson #1: Do not attempt salmon cakes without bread crumbs. And you could do without the mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes do not substitute for bread crumbs.

Lesson #2: It takes less than two minutes to steam a little broccoli in the microwave! Life will never be the same!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Laptop Lunches #11

Caesar salad (romaine lettuce, red onion, a sprinkling of parmesan, caesar-yogurt dressing, croutons in a mini silicone baking cup), orange slices, a wedge of nectarine, some blackberries, orange tomatoes of some sort, stuffed egg, and poached salmon.

Lesson #1: Salad is more trouble than it is worth and nearly impossible to eat with a cocktail fork. Plus, when you have to put the dressing and croutons in separate cups, it's cluttered-looking, not pretty.

Lesson #2: Mini silicone baking cups are awesome, and I wish I had thought to buy some earlier!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Laptop Lunches #10

Today required a bit more rummaging in the fridge than originally planned, but I think it still turned out well. Apple and swiss cheese slices, cherry tomatoes, hummus with 40 spices, cracked-pepper water crackers, orange slices, and a single serving of homemade raspberry cobbler in a silicone cup.

As I more or less came up with the idea of making a tiny batch of raspberry cobbler to use up the rest of the raspberries (which were getting quite messy), and it actually went quite well, I will give you a recipe. This makes two portions the size above, which is just right--you want one now, warm, with a little whipped cream or ice cream, and the other later, at lunch, am I correct? I adapted this recipe from one on the Betty Crocker website, which A) made way too much cobbler for my purposes and B) made not enough of the dough for the berries for my purposes. As it is, I would probably double the dough, because I like my cobblers very, very bready, but this was still quite good, and probably slightly on the healthier side.

Raspberry Cobbler for Two

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon water
Splash of lemon juice
3/4 to 1 cup fresh raspberries
1/4 cup baking mix, such as Bisquick
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon butter, melted
Optional: sugar for sprinkling

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a small saucepan, mix sugar and cornstarch. Add water, lemon juice, and berries. Heat to boiling over medium heat, then cook for one minute more, stirring constantly. (This happens super fast with such a small quantity, so do not allow yourself to be distracted by brilliant thoughts related to your dissertation.)
3. In a small bowl, mix baking mix, milk, and melted butter until a dough forms.
4. Divide hot berry mixture evenly between two regular-sized silicone baking cups (Put them into some sort of casserole dish or something to make life easier in transport to oven and back). Top each with 1/2 of the dough. Sprinkle sugar on top of this, if you like.
5. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until berries are bubbly and dough is golden brown.
6. Serve warm or allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Laptop Lunches #9

Leftover pizza, fruit dip in jar, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, yogurt-based ranch dressing in cup, orange slices, and raspberries.

Pizza is a graduate student staple, of course, alongside the noble ramen and Chinese takeout, but I generally try to avoid it. Never go to the grocery store hungry. As virtuous as you are in buying fish filets and cottage cheese, the freezer section will still call to you, and you'll end up eating pepperoni pizza with a cheese stuffed crust. Maybe it all balances out in the end. Who knows?

Today's lesson: while fruit dip in a jar is a good plan, as it seals and it also is not as huge as the silicone baking cups (note to self: need to buy mini silicone baking cups), it has the potential to leak just slightly, and as such, should not be put into the same container as celery sticks. Fruit dip does wonderful things for raspberries; it does nothing good for celery.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Laptop Lunches #8

I am only half pleased with this. Kiwi slices, raspberries, sliced banana (lemon juice prevents browning), hummus with 40 spices, a sliced hard boiled egg, carrot sticks, celery sticks, turkey lunch meat, Laughing Cow cheese wedge, and marshmallow fruit dip.

It was way too much fruit dip, and I do try to avoid lunchmeat, but I was in quite a hurry this morning and since I woke up ravenous I knew I would need more protein. The cheese was old and inedible, actually. I was quite disappointed to open it and find that!

The recipe for the fruit dip can be found here. It's the last recipe on that page, Marshmallow Fruit Dip with Mayo. I didn't bother with the grated rinds this time, though--it's just marshmallow creme (or "fluff," here), mayo, lemon juice, and orange juice. It does marvelous things to kiwi.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Laptop Lunches #7

Back to the daily grind! The plus side to this means lunch in a box, and pictures thereof.

Archer Farms Tuscan style garlic & basil pasta salad with add-ins (see recipe), cherry tomatoes, hummus with forty spices, carrot sticks, and a fresh nectarine, cut up.

There's a story on this pasta salad (which does not photograph well, apparently). And I fear it may be a sad one.

Archer Farms (the Target brand) occasionally comes up with something I fall completely in love with. They had a chicken sausage lasagna with creamy walnut pesto sauce that was the best frozen lasagna that I've ever eaten, and about a year ago, it just disappeared. Not manufactured. Gone. No traces thereof online. (If anybody has recipe ideas, I'll gladly take them. I sometimes have cravings for this lasagna phantom.) Not long ago I first encountered their "Italian-inspired Tuscan style garlic & basil cold pasta salad (includes tri-color radiatore pasta & seasoning mix)." Now, rationally, the box, which makes about five servings, is not worth $3.50, particularly when you have to add stuff yourself, including mayo for the dressing. And is just about the best pasta salad I've ever tasted. But it was on clearance last time I was at Target. I think they're trying to mess with my head.

There's a recipe on the side of the box that I've modified over time. Basically, you boil the pasta, drain, and rinse in cold water. The dressing is more or less a pesto mix, I think. You dissolve that in boiling water for about 10 minutes, then add mayo to make 1 cup of said dressing. Unlike the lasagna, I think I might be able to replicate this sometime. In any event, you add a few handfuls of pepperoni slices, quartered, a can of black olives (whole), and a few handfuls of shredded parmesan (fresh! please!). Chill for half an hour.

At room temperature, this is divine, but it may well be no more. And there you have it. Target is messing with my head.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

What Not to Do #1

If you're looking to make an appealing meal, don't do this. But on this day, I ate at home because I'd been exiled from my on-campus study space (long, long story; this is also why this blog took an early hiatus before my trip away--look for more posts on that later). I was not in an artistic mood.

This is a chocolate peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread with a glass of 2% milk. What it is not, is attractive. I will say, however, that the Peanut Butter & Co. Dark Chocolate Dreams is truly heavenly. I love Peanut Butter & Co.

And here's another thing not to do:

Beef flavored Top Ramen with eggs. A slightly depressed grad student staple, really. (So hot you can see the steam!) However, as this is not simply by package directions, I will give you the sad recipe:

1 package ramen noodles, any flavor
1 pat of margarine
1 egg

Cook noodles according to package directions; drain. Meanwhile, beat egg lightly. Stir pat of margarine into hot noodles until it melts. Sprinkle a bit of the seasoning packet on top; stir. Pour in egg. Cook, stirring, and sprinkling seasoning, until egg is cooked and all seasoning is added. If you are a fancy person, you could sprinkle a minced scallion on top or something, but when you're in the mood to do that, you're not eating ramen.

I have hope for better things tomorrow!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Update coming soon!

On the off chance that anyone is checking, I just wanted to let you know that an update will be coming soon! I have been away and can't wait to describe lunches I did not pack. Also, more will be said on the reason for the hiatus so soon after beginning. But until then, know I haven't forgotten Food for Dissertating.