Saturday, August 30, 2014

Pack-a-Snack #3

Tiny cookies and applesauce: the preferred snack of five-year-olds and Ph.D. candidates the world over.

A while ago I saw these mini caramel wafers at the grocery store, and I  had to try them, for two reasons. One: mini stroopwafels! So adorable! Two: I keep getting a surprising number of visitors from the Netherlands on my blog, and I wanted to give them a shout out (these cookies are imported from Holland).

They make a great snack paired with applesauce. I was expecting something different sandwiched between the cookies, but the caramel is not the fluffy creamy stuff you'd get in most American sandwich cookies, but a firm, chewy caramel like you'd find on a caramel apple, which is, I think, what compels me to dip them in applesauce.

The containers here are the two small ones in the Lunchopolis kit.

If you're from the Netherlands, let me know in the comments how you found me!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Laptop Lunches #156

Turkey cutlets in lemon-caper sauce, herbed couscous, raid-the-fridge fruit salad (apples, mango, orange chunks, and blackberries), and cucumbers with a splash of rice vinegar and  sprinkling of black sesame seeds.

Since yesterday's turkey cutlets were hard to eat without a knife, I pre-cut this one. It worked out okay, but I think it's not as pleasing, visually; since that does matter to me I'm going to either have to start packing a small knife (anybody know where I can get a small steak knife?), or hide one in my desk drawer.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Laptop Lunches #155

Alternating rounds of yellow and purple carrot, red pepper strips, and cucumber slices with veggie hummus; blackberries; spiced turkey cutlets with avocado-grapefruit relish (Eating Well Serves Two); and herbed couscous.

The recipe for spiced turkey cutlets, with or without the avocado-grapefruit relish (which was lovely, too, actually), is a keeper. I never thought of dredging filets of meat in spices rather than in flour--I mean, dredging, not just seasoning--but it's not a bad thing at all! These particular turkey cutlets were dredged in a mixture of chili powder, five spice powder, and a pinch of salt, and cooking them took all of 10 minutes start to finish.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Laptop Lunches #154

An orange cut in wedges, some Inner Peas, mini pitas stuffed with roast beef and pepperjack cheese with a little mayo, and mango sticks.

I liked the pitas from yesterday so much I gave them another whirl. I think they're better with cucumber, but this was perfectly fine.

There was apparently some sort of controversy about Inner Peas when they first appeared at Trader Joe's, being mostly not actually peas. But this time around, they are mostly peas. I like them a lot, though I kind of wished for something to dip them into. Next time!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Laptop Lunches #153

Raid-the-fridge fruit salad (mango, kiwi, banana, and blackberries), a stuffed egg seasoned with black pepper, some mini pitas stuffed with cucumber slices and cream cheese, and purple and yellow carrot rounds with jalapeno-cilantro hummus.

The pitas were really very good! I don't usually like pita all that much (except as pita chips), because it tends to be dryer than most breads, but if you put something moist inside in the morning, they're perfect by lunchtime.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Laptop Lunches #152

Mango sticks, a hard boiled egg with black sesame seeds and halves of cherry tomato, Five Spice Duck Stir-Fry (Eating Well Serves Two), and rice.

The black sesame seeds seem to have looked better in person. I wonder why?

I really like duck. I'm not sure if this is the best recipe to showcase it, though. I did like the way the veggies tasted in this stir fry, however. I might try it again with chicken sometime.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Pack-a-Snack #2

True to form, I've packed my snack in a random container--this is a recycled pesto sauce container with a couple of silicone cups in it to keep things separated.

Here we have a mini wheel of brie from Trader Joe's topped with a little fig and orange jam and toasted almond slices, alongside mini 12-grain crackers and grapes.

Super yummy and yet again, so much better than a granola bar! (The individual wheels of brie, meanwhile, are an inspiration. The rind is very mild, so I can actually eat it. And they're a great size for a snack--about an inch across. If you can find them, try them!)

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Laptop Lunches #151

Feta and baby spinach grilled in a tortilla, snow peas, a nectarine, yogurt ranch, and some nut cluster bites from Trader Joe's.

This was a use-it-up-before-you-go-to-the-store lunch, proof, yet again, that amazing somethings can often come from the "nothing" in one's fridge and pantry.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Laptop Lunches #150

Apple slices and mini pretzel thins with almond butter for dipping, tomato salad (recipe below), and some leftover meatballs on top of mashed carrots.

Almond butter is a nice change of pace for me. I was pretty happy with this lunch. Almond butter is a little runnier than peanut butter, so I think it's easier to use as a dip.

Tomato salad is super easy, and nice to do when you can get good tomatoes like these small red and yellow ones (contrast!).

But this isn't so much of a recipe as instructions.

Tomato Salad
Serves: However many!

Slice tomatoes and arrange however you'll want them to appear. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix white balsamic vinegar (you can use the regular kind, but it'll stain your tomatoes) with a little olive oil and sugar (for this size salad, I used a tablespoon of vinegar and about 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of sugar). Drizzle this dressing over tomatoes. Done.

So long as you haven't had the silly idea that you should refrigerate your tomatoes, this will be a treat!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Laptop Lunches #149

Mini pita rounds, grapes, snow peas, baby carrots, veggie hummus topped with chopped red onion and hard boiled egg, and a strawberry tartlet (recipe given yesterday).

Doctoring up hummus is a remarkably good idea. I took it from a book, so I can't claim it was my own inspiration. But it definitely elevates hummus from dip to main dish.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Laptop Lunches #148

Rice with tomatoes and eggs (recipe below), mushroom-stuffed mochi, sesame seaweed snacks, and a homemade strawberry tartlet (recipe below).

If you have any Chinese friends (or are yourself Chinese), you will have, at some point, encountered a version of tomatoes and eggs. It's basic Chinese comfort food. I am told that in some parts of China it is nothing more than tomatoes, eggs, and rice, but I was taught to make it by someone from southern China, where they tend to incorporate more flavors. If you're so inclined, though, you could leave out everything but the tomatoes, eggs, and rice and still be authentic.

(By the way, since I mentioned it in this post, a follow up: the seaweed snacks are wonderful when you have rice, too!)

Here is the recipe for my version of tomatoes and rice, which I always sort of eyeball, so take the quantities as approximations and adjust as desired:

Tomatoes and Eggs
Serves: 2 over rice

1/4 yellow onion, sliced very thinly lengthwise in strips, then halve the strips
1/4 green bell pepper, sliced very thinly lengthwise into strips, then halve the strips
2 eggs, scrambled
About 1 cup fresh tomatoes, cut into wedges (I used pretty small tomatoes--if I used Roma, which is my usual method, I'd use about 2 of them)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Stir fry onion and pepper in a nonstick skillet until tender, then pour in egg and cook quickly. Chop up any really large pieces of egg. Add tomatoes and cook until tomatoes soften and give up their juices. Add remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve over rice.

The strawberry tartlets were borne of my suddenly acquiring two pounds of strawberries.

This recipe will make six tiny tartlets, which I made in my magic tulip cups, plus one 4-inch tart:

(My 4-inch tart, alas, is not as pretty.) I think if you just made the bigger ones, it would make about 3 of the 4-inch tarts. This recipe is adapted from both America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2011 and Joy of Cooking.

Strawberry Tartlets
Serves: Depends on your appetite, see above for details

For the shells:
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
2 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:
About 1 and 1/2 cups fresh strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch salt
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons butter, cut into bits

1. Spray tart shells you'll be using with vegetable oil spray.

2. Stir flour, sugar, and salt together, then cut in butter. The mixture should look coarse with small grains of butter, but not too over-mixed. Pour in 1 tablespoon of ice water and stir. If large clumps form, great! No more ice water. If not, add the other tablespoon and mix it in.

3. Form a dough with your hands. Tear off pieces the size of a walnut and put into prepared tart shells. Press into a crust. If necessary, use plastic wrap to smooth out. Cover each tart shell with plastic wrap, set on a plate, and freeze for at least a half an hour, or up to 1 day.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put tart shells on a cookie sheet and remove plastic wrap. Weight down shells (I use mini silicone muffin cups for the smaller tartlets, and an individual-sized pie pan for the 4-inch tart. If you don't have anything suitable, you can put aluminum foil, sprayed with cooking spray, into each tartlet, and fill with pie weights or dried beans.)

5. Bake until the surface no longer looks wet and the edges start to change slightly in color, about a half an hour. Remove whatever weights you had in the shells and set aside to cool.

6. Rinse, dry, and hull your strawberries. Slice the pointy end off of an equal number of strawberries as you have tart shells; set aside. Slice these strawberries thinly. Arrange slices in a fan shape in each tart shell, then put a pointy end in the center. (You can slice and add more if you need them. This does not have to be all that precise.)

7. Cut remaining strawberries up into small pieces. If you are fortunate to have a working blender (alas! I am not!), you can puree these instead. If you are like me and your blender is broken, proceed to whack these strawberries mercilessly into bits with a potato masher.

8. Whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a medium saucepan, then whisk in water. Stir in the berry puree or mash, lemon juice, and butter. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium high heat, stirring, for about a minute. Spoon the cooked berry mixture carefully into prepared shells over the raw strawberry slices. Try to ensure you glaze all the raw strawberry surfaces.

9. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to set the tartlets. If you have whipped cream, you can add that when you serve them.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Laptop Lunches #147

Leftover butternut squash and sage ravioli with maple cream sauce (recipe below), carrots with veggie hummus to dip them in, strawberry chunks, and grapes.

(I somehow inherited two pounds of strawberries from a party I attended, so this is some of them; I also did something kind of fun with them, which you'll see tomorrow.)

I had a package of butternut squash and sage ravioli in my freezer for a while, but I didn't find the traditional route (sage butter sauce) all that appealing, so I went another way.

It does taste better than it looks leftover at lunch! In fact, it was kind of amazing. I can't claim spontaneous inspiration (as there are people all over the internet talking about maple cream sauce for butternut squash ravioli), but I can claim creative improvisation due to lack of the usual ingredients. My version is still creamy and maple-y and super good with the ravioli, even though I had no actual cream (most recipes call for actual cream). I did find one recipe using cream cheese instead, but I didn't have the other ingredients it wanted. So here you are:

Maple Cream Sauce
Serves: About 3 over butternut squash ravioli

1 tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cream cheese (I used light cream cheese)
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon maple syrup (Do not cheat! ONLY THE REAL STUFF!)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic cloves and cook until tender, about a minute or two.

2. Add flour and stir in well, then melt in cream cheese (you may need to do this off heat).

3. Slowly incorporate milk over medium heat, stirring constantly. When all the milk is incorporated, add maple syrup and cook until thickened.

4. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pack-a-Snack #1

Since my schedule is such that I need to pack a snack in addition to a lunch a lot of the time, I decided I might as well start showing you those as well occasionally. The basic ideas are very similar, but this is also a great way to use up odds and ends. (And yes, I am like everyone else; I eat granola bars and candy and all sorts of far less elaborate snacks not worth blogging at all.)

I'm going to call them all generally Pack-a-Snack, because I will use a lot of different containers, but I doubt that knowing what I'm using will be as helpful as it is for lunch boxes. This small blue rectangle comes from my Lunchopolis kit, and I've filled it with six mini square silicone muffin cups (each holding about 2 tablespoons), with six different offerings:

White fudge mini Flipz, roasted vegetable hummus, carrot slices, a tiny bit of leftover salmon salad, mini pretzel thins, and cut snow peas.

This was very satisfying, much more so than a granola bar would have been, and might work out well for a small child's lunch. Even though the container got knocked around a bit in my bag, everything stayed securely in its compartment.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Laptop Lunches #146

Apple slices, some chunks of Honey & Ginger Love Beets tossed with carrot slices, ham and egg pinwheels (recipe below), and avocado chunks.

In recognition of there being more protein sources in the world than fish, and to celebrate my finally, finally being able to cook an omelet without tearing it to shreds, we have a new recipe today:

Ham and Egg Pinwheels

2 eggs
1 1/2 slices deli ham
Cooking spray

Spray a 10-inch nonstick skillet with rounded sides with cooking spray. Preheat on medium heat. Pour in egg. As the edges begin to set, pull them gently toward the middle and tilt the pan to allow the uncooked egg to flow underneath. (Do not, as I tended to do, pull the edges all the way to the middle. Just pull them in a little.)

Once the egg is set, gently slide a rubber spatula all around the edges until the egg begins to slide around the pan. Transfer to a plate.

You do not want to roll this while the egg is too hot, so go do something else for a while, like put on mascara or something.

Arrange ham slice(s) on the egg to ensure coverage of most of it, then roll gently into a log. Transfer to a flat cutting board and cut into slices with a sharp knife.


You're going to see more omelet-based efforts from me soon, I believe. I'm very excited to have finally figured this one out. (If you're avoiding gluten, it's also a way to get to have pinwheels. There are few things I like more than a pretty pinwheel for lunch.)

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Laptop Lunches #145

A baby sweet pickle, cut in half, snow peas and carrots with yogurt ranch for dipping, leftover curried rice salad (see yesterday's lunch for more on that), a crab cake with homemade tartar sauce (recipe below), and chunks of apple.

At this point I realized I'd been eating a lot of fish and I had to remind myself that there are other protein sources to be had. The crab cake was a frozen variety on sale; nothing spectacular but perfectly respectable, and great with the tartar sauce.

America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2012 was the base for this recipe, but I didn't have any sweet pickle relish, so I made do with what I had, and it was still really, really good:

Tartar sauce is one of those things people tend to just buy, but it's really simple to make--plus it cuts down on the number of bottles in your fridge if you make it.

Tartar Sauce

1/3 cup light mayo
1 tablespoon chopped sweet pickle
1 1/2 teaspoons capers, rinsed
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients. Serve.

Servings: About 3.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Laptop Lunches #144

Black plum slices, small tomatoes stuffed with salmon salad, curried rice salad (The Dinner Doctor), and a stuffed egg. (Or two, depending on how you define stuffed egg. Is it the half, or the whole?)

I must apologize for this crooked photo; I rushed back to take this picture after I realized I'd forgotten the almond topping on the rice salad, and was apparently in too much of a hurry to frame it properly.

The stuffed tomatoes technique is one I've used before; there is a tutorial here. The salmon salad recipe is the same one used to stuff the avocado yesterday. These were really very good!

This salad was a new one for me. Supposedly you can eat it hot or cold. Hot, though, it is vile. I was really worried, but cold it was actually pretty good. It's a weird combination of things, however, and I am on the fence about some of the ingredients. Essentially, it consists of Rice-a-Roni in a spiced mayo with jarred artichoke hearts, scallions, and green olives, topped with toasted almonds. (Wow, did that look strange typed out.) Mostly it is the olives I find really odd in this one. I doubt I'll make this particular rice salad again, but I'll keep experimenting and figure out what I like in the realm of rice salads; I don't think I've ever made one before this. Do you have a rice salad recipe you'd recommend?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Laptop Lunches #143

Sesame seaweed snacks, nectarine chunks with kiwi, a salmon salad stuffed avocado (recipe below), and chunks of tomato.

The seaweed snacks did not belong with this meal; all while I ate them I was desperate for some rice. But they were good! I will look forward to pairing them with rice at a later time. I tried a new thing, and it worked out--always exciting.

And now, the stuffed avocado:

I'm very proud of this one. I wish I'd had the sense to pack it in a different lunch box; this one got slightly smushed (still tasted amazing though). A tip: if you're going to pack a stuffed avocado, also pack a spoon. It's hard to get all that goodness out with just a fork.

(I had the sense, as you can see. I always pack a spoon, though, even if it doesn't get used.)

Salmon Salad Stuffed Avocado

4 oz. cooked salmon filet
3 tablespoons light mayo
2 tablespoons celery, finely chopped
2 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons capers
2 teaspoons dried parsley (or about 3 tablespoons fresh, chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 avocado

Flake salmon in a small bowl. Add all ingredients other than avocado and stir until well mixed. Slice avocado in half lengthwise and remove pit. Fill hollows of avocado with salmon salad mixture.

Serves: Two.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Laptop Lunches #142

Zucchini-Carrot Casserole (recipe below), chunks of nectarine, salmon with creamy piccata sauce (Eating Well Serves Two), Rainier cherries, and a cup of mini chocolate chips.

The sauce is a nice one for salmon; tart, but I like that. I may make it again. It was pretty simple.

As for the Zucchini-Carrot Casserole:

It was a simple invention out of the "necessity" that came as a result of having a half a zucchini around. But it was good!

Zucchini-Carrot Casserole

1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 small zucchini, shredded
1/2 carrot, shredded

1. Grease a small casserole dish (mine was a 5 x 9). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Whisk egg, milk, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in veggies. Put in pan.

3. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until set.

Serves: 2-3

Friday, August 8, 2014

Laptop Lunches #141

Celery, cherry tomatoes, and baby carrots with yogurt ranch for dipping, avocado chunks with salt and pepper, smoked sausage with peppers and onions, mashed potatoes, a few Love Beets (honey & ginger flavor), and mini white fudge Flipz in a mini oval silicone cup.

I know there are probably healthier things in the world than Flipz, but I really don't think a little white fudge is a bad thing in an otherwise nutritious lunch. I like sweet with salt, and these really hit the spot.

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Laptop Lunches #140

Bibigo Pork & Vegetable Mini Wontons with a homemade dipping sauce, scallion stuffed egg, a fresh apricot, some Rainier cherries, and a spicy cucumber salad (recipe below).

These mini wontons come in several flavors. I highly recommend them--they're super easy to prepare. You just throw them in boiling water for about 5 minutes. I did this while I was putting the rest of lunch together. If you want to cool them off (as you will, to pack them), just follow the package directions and run some cold water over them. They also make a great soup.

And...on to the recipe!

Since I already gave you a recipe for a spicy cucumber salad, I'll call this one Spicy Cucumber Salad #2. It's embarrassingly simple, and I think might actually be the one my friend used to make.

Spicy Cucumber Salad #2

About 3 inches of a cucumber, cut into slices and then quartered
A splash of rice vinegar
About 1/4 teaspoon of sriracha  sauce, or to taste

Pour vinegar over cucumbers and toss. Add sriracha sauce and toss again.

Serves: 1.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Laptop Lunches #139

Red bell pepper strips, sugar snap peas, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber slices with yogurt ranch for dipping (in the orange cup, whose lid I mistakenly left on for this picture), cheese sticks wrapped in turkey bacon, and pluot slices.

I'd forgotten about turkey bacon for the longest time. Although it is most assuredly not bacon, it is good, and a pretty good convenience food (it comes fully cooked). It's essentially some sort of lunch meat in strip form. And it tastes pretty good wrapped around cheese sticks.

Pluots are a cross between plums and apricots, and they're quite nice, if you're getting bored with your fruit selection.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Latop Lunches #138

Carrots, cherry tomatoes, and sugar snap peas with yogurt ranch for dipping; Rainier cherries, tortilla/cream cheese/spinach/ham pinwheels, and a hard boiled egg with salt and pepper.

I have finally learned how to do a perfect hard boiled egg. Well, perfect according to snooty chef standards, anyway. I was watching an old episode of Julia Child's The French Chef on Amazon where she showed how to do it, and her method is foolproof. Boil the water first, then lower the eggs slowly, one at a time, into the boiling water with a spoon. (Be careful not to crack them!) Turn the heat down to a simmer, and set a timer for 15 minutes. After they have cooked for 15 minutes, remove from heat and pour off the water immediately, then run cold water over the eggs for about 20-30 seconds, then leave the eggs in cold water to cool.

I personally have always rather liked the way hard boiled eggs taste when the yolks get that green ring around them, but that's not considered proper, so there you are.

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