Thursday, September 29, 2011

Laptop Lunches #33

Apparently I'm a little pinwheel crazy. Really, I didn't go to the store according to schedule and didn't cook, so that actually explains the pinwheels. But this is different, in that these pinwheels are deli honey turkey slices, not tortillas, rolled with veggie cream cheese. Not vegetarian (but still kid friendly).

The pinwheels are served with plain water crackers, chunks of grapefruit and oranges, snow peas, grape tomatoes, yogurt-blue cheese dressing, and sticks of mango.

It has started to really amaze me how many different kinds of fruit there are. Growing up, my family kept oranges, apples, and bananas on hand at all times. We had both Granny Smith and Red Delicious apples, so we were really embracing variety, I guess. And I did encounter other fruits--canned fruit salad, which we usually doctored with some sliced kiwi and chunks of apple and banana, canned pears, peaches in season (and canned when not). I guess I haven't thought about it much, but since I've been blogging, and purposefully trying to show new items, I'm starting to see it--this is really the first time I've had grapefruit on the blog? And yesterday was the first day for a mango? And I haven't even shown you a fig or a papaya or a cherry, or any number of other things. The world is vast, and great are the fruits and veggies therein. I'm so glad I started blogging my lunch, or I probably wouldn't have embraced so much variety in my food--I know I wouldn't have discovered starfruit--and if I had I never would have thought about it.

In the realm of graduate school, I am well, I think, but starting to feel the pressures of the home stretch, and I've rarely been so happy to see my day off coming. But you've got to take days off, or the pressures will do you in.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Laptop Lunches #32

Nothing leftover here. I know many of those who read my blog are looking for kid-friendly things, and some want vegetarian things, so I'll please a range of people today, I suppose, with my kid-friendly vegetarian meal.

Mango chunks and strawberries; a stuffed egg (basic paprika-seasoned stuffing); celery sticks, grape tomatoes, and carrots with yogurt-blue cheese dressing (they were out of ranch); and veggie cream cheese-tortilla pinwheels.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Laptop Lunches #31

Much of this was leftover from an on-campus event. (Graduate school's here to Piled Higher and Deeper, though this was less sketchy because I was responsible for both ordering the food and cleaning up. I do not think it so untoward to take some home.)

Anyway, here we have naan bread with yogurt raita, baby carrots with roasted red pepper hummus, lamb curry, and a mixture of cut oranges and strawberries. Indian food is tasty but much of it is really not all that attractive. Various curries, kormas, and creamed spinach-y things result in a quite gloopy-looking range of foods. Of course there are prettier things from India, but I tend to gravitate toward the not-so-pretty, which doesn't work super well for making pretty lunches.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Laptop Lunches #30

At last, I have a refrigerator! And I have been to the store to buy food! I made a mistake, though--I went to buy the food on a Saturday afternoon. In the land of my origins, this would not have resulted in the creation of grocery shopping as a contact sport, but in the northeast, the stores are smaller, with narrower aisles, and it's a lot more congested as a result. The density of the population is also greater. All of that to say, I was not as good with my budget as I usually am, because the entire experience was so stressful. (I think I have concluded that 8:00 AM, Monday-Wednesday, is probably best, but even then you have to deal with stockers.)

Bananas and strawberries, a tiny bit of a mini lemon meringue pie, roast duck breast on a bed of herbed couscous and some pomegranate sauce (leftover from last night--pricey overall, but worth it), and baby carrots with roasted red pepper hummus in a silicone cup.

The duck was a new recipe for me. I have eaten very little duck in my life, but this was the very best duck I have ever had. It's actually a pretty easy one, too--seared duck breast seasoned with kosher salt that is then baked in a hot oven (425 degrees, if I am remembering right), and then you make a sauce from the drippings in the skillet you seared the duck in out of pomegranate juice, a shallot, and some cornstarch--the whole thing, start to finish, takes about 20 minutes. And couscous is, of course, super easy. I would consider this an easy meal for impressing a date, if there was room for it amid dissertating.

I will be less extravagant with my choices next time I visit the store, but this was a fun and attractive return to actual cooking.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Laptop Lunches #29

I am still fridgeless. I may or may not get a refrigerator tomorrow. (In the morning I must throw away everything that didn't make it into the cooler.) So here we are, and I think it's fair to call this what not to do as well as a Laptop Lunch. Cup-o-soup packets, tea bags, orange slices, some stevia packets and a cup of honey (sealed) for the tea, mixed nuts, a granola bar, and a travel mug.

I never ate the soup, and I think that half an orange, tea, nuts, and a granola bar is not exactly enough to sustain a person. I really should have bought some sushi or something, but I was feeling poor (especially since I have to throw so much food away!). Lucklily dinner was on campus and free, and now is sitting on ice, so there will be a lunch to be had tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ding, Dong, the Fridge is Dead!

The refrigerator in my apartment has officially given up the ghost. It sounds like a UFO in a 1950s movie trying to land, and chills absolutely nothing. There will be no fridge to replace it until Thursday sometime. I do have some things chilling on ice, but the stress of this and the job market took a bit of a toll on my physical health this week, and so Laptop Lunches gave way to Lipton Cup-o-Soup today. I am feeling better and hope for a more substantial lunch tomorrow, though I wonder whether I will have anything with which to prepare it. This could be an interesting challenge: the non-perishable, attractive lunch. Frankly, that sounds darn near impossible!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Laptop Lunches #28

Pita chips seasoned with parmesan, garlic, and herbs; roasted red pepper hummus; a mini wheel of white cheddar cheese; cucumber-red onion salad; and a whole stuffed egg (just a basic paprika seasoned mix).

Sweating the cucumbers for a bit and adding a bit of sugar to the dressing did wonders for this recipe's taste, but it's appearance is a little sad, isn't it?

I was sick this weekend, plus my fridge has decided to die, so food-wise things are not in great shape (no real grocery shopping has taken place in more than a week). And work? Well...hope springs eternal, they say, but I'm not optimistic.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Laptop Lunches #27

Yesterday, there was no lunch. Or more accurately, there was an on-campus free lunch. It was nowhere near as attractive or as good for my health as the lunches I typically pack, but it had the benefit of being free--turkey sandwich, Doritos, and soda. This should have meant that I packed an extra healthy lunch to make up for it, but this is more of a "didn't go to the store and don't plan to for a few days" sort of thing. Sliced starfruit and oranges, bacon, blueberry-banana pancake wedges with maple syrup, and a hard boiled egg, sliced.

Maple syrup (the real stuff) is expensive, but worth it, particularly if you're me and have pancakes maybe twice a year. There's no comparison.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Laptop Lunches #26

Snow peas, carrots, and yogurt ranch dressing for dipping; blueberry-beef patties; sliced starfruit, apple, and orange; and cottage cheese.

The recipe for the blueberry-beef patties is here. They're quite good but I had 80% lean, not 90%, and they didn't hold together very well, so they looked pretty dreadful. Delicious and ugly. Warning: you'll need a meat thermometer for this recipe, because the juices will always run sort of purplish because of the blueberries. Also, the meat itself will look oddly grayish raw, which can be quite disturbing!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Laptop Lunches #25

Tortellini "pizza" salad, sliced starfruit, snow peas and cherry tomatoes with yogurt-ranch dipping sauce, and a white chocolate lemon mini cupcake in a silicone baking cup.

The tortellini salad was better on day one, over the weekend, and had absorbed all of its dressing, so I added some ceasar-yogurt dressing this morning while packing the lunch. It tasted better than it looked, but if I was truly thinking clearly I would have used Italian.

The cupcake is evidence of the value of planning ahead. I baked a two-layer cake (click link for recipe) for an event on Sunday and took some of the batter (about what you have left from scraping the bowl after pouring the batter into the 9 inch cake pans, roughly 3 tablespoons) and put it into two silicone baking cups. I baked the cups along with the cake, and frosted them with the leftover frosting. This was a good idea for two reasons: One, I got to have cake with lunch. Two, it meant I got to taste the cake--I expected leftovers but this was the most popular thing on the dessert table and was quickly gone.

Isn't starfruit cute? It's a bit pricey and I'd never tasted it before, but I thought I'd splurge (better that than a box of cookies). The flavor and texture is reminscient of melon--very subtle--a nice lesson for today.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Laptop Lunches #24

Cherry tomato salad, 1/4 of a chocolate muffin (which, let's face it, may as well be cake), blueberries, sliced bananas, and apple chunks, and some sliced turkey breast.

Cherry tomato salad, from that America's Test Kitchens Cooking for Two 2009 book I checked out, tastes great but is a tremendous amount of effort. Mixed feelings about this one; probably won't return to the rotation but I may try to find something in a simpler version (this is essentially caprese salad with cherry tomatoes, anyway). We'll see.

I had lunch with a friend today who consented to having her lunch photgraphed as well:

Watermelon, macaroni and cheese, and a banana. Looked quite tasty, and came with a super cute napkin.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Laptop Lunches #23

Poached pear with some of the poaching syrup, half a nectarine, carrot sticks and yogurt-ranch dip, and pesto-tortellini salad.

I had bought a bunch of basil for a salad I'll be making later in the week (look for it tomorrow or the next day), and knew I had way too much for that, so I attempted to re-create a salad from a little cafe in my hometown that I always loved. I think I did a passable job of it. It was good for dinner last night and for lunch today. I added some tomatoes for color and variety for the lunch version. This salad is easy to customize to your tastes, but here's what I did (not having any pine nuts or walnuts on hand):

Pesto-tortellini salad (about 3-4 servings)

10 oz. fresh tri-color tortellini
1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
2 garlic cloves
About 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup light mayo
1/2 to 3/4 cup diced cooked turkey breast (chicken is more typical, but I had the turkey)
Shredded parmesan (for garnish)
Cherry tomatoes (for garnish)

Cook tortellini in salted water according to package directions; drain. Meanwhile, with an immersion blender, chop basil, garlic, and salt until fine. (You may have to turn it off and loosen things up with a rubber spatula once or twice.) While continuing to blend, add oil in a thin stream until all is added and blend until a thick paste. Add grated parmesan and blend again until incorporated, just a few pulses. Toss tortellini gently with pesto and mayo, then mix in turkey breast chunks. Refrigerate.

Just before serving (or when packing for the day), add a few cherry tomatoes, quartered, and a sprinkling of shredded parmesan cheese.


Today's lesson: I love poached pears. I'm not a big fan of raw or canned pears, but a fresh pear poached in a light sugar syrup with a splash of balsamic vinegar is ambrosia to me. Half number one, I had warm last night with a bit of whipped cream, and refrigerated half number two for lunch today. They're good either way and super easy. (I modified the Joy of Cooking instructions to suit the poaching of a single pear cut in half.) I would recommend doing it the night before, though, because although they don't need too much tending, it can take 20 minutes to poach a pear.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Laptop Lunches #22

Last night, I made pork chops for the first time. I used the recipe for baked, breaded pork chops in a cookbook I checked out of the public library, America's Test Kitchens Cooking for Two 2009. They were quite possibly the best thing I have ever cooked. They were a little fussy--toasting bread crumbs I had to season myself, then toss with parmesan and parsley, and dipping the chops in flour, then a mixture of dijon mustard and egg whites, then pressing in the crumbs, then baking on a rack over a rimmed cookie sheet--but worth every bit of fuss. (And the total hands-on time wasn't really all that much--though the total time to wash the dishes should really be factored in for those of us without dishwashers.) I will make pork chops again, for sure, even though the leftover version, the next day, is only nice, not transcendent, because the coating is no longer crunchy.

So, leftover pork chop with homemade aïoli and a few mini tomatoes to fill in the holes, a homemade apple chutney from a jar I had on hand (seemed like the thing to do with pork), the end of the carrot slaw (which although not so nice on day two was still good, if not so crisp), and a mixture of nectarine wedges and blueberries.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Laptop Lunches #21

Back in the saddle! That was an interesting week--power out, with me eating what I had here in the order of most likely to spoil to least likely. (Have you ever made a meal out of a package of deli roast beef? As in, only that? An entire package of deli roast beef? Not recommended.)

Today is better than that.

I made mini-kebabs again, this time of leftover turkey breast, white cheddar cheese, and cherry tomatoes. I had that with apple slices, the most amazing carrot slaw, a bit of snow peas cut in half (these survived the storm but were unlikely to last much longer) with some yogurt-ranch dip, and a silicone cup of dried cranberries.

The carrot slaw recipe came from the classic Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Unlike Fannie, I am no fan of raisins, so I left them out. I loved this. Carrot slaw is a keeper in the rotation for sure.