Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Laptop Lunches #174

Carrot slaw, crunchy green beans, chocolate graham crackers with caramel-chocolate spread and strawberry slices, and mango sticks.

Ah, but you say, won't the graham crackers get soggy? Only a little. To me they were still very yummy.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Lunchopolis #5

A banana, cut in half; blueberry mochi; strawberries; mini spam musubi (tutorial below); mini cucumber slices; and baby carrots. For me, this lunch proved that no single lunch box, however beloved, can work for all meals. So maybe my desire to buy a new lunch box is warranted!

Back to reality. Spam musubi is a classic Hawaiian dish, practically ubiquitous there. I made it bite sized, which was actually pretty easy--I think probably easier than the full sized ones for those of us not using specialized equipment. In lieu of a musubi press, I used a silicone ice cube tray. It was really yummy. Unlike sushi, Spam musubi can be eaten warm (and is really best that way), so you can make it a day or more ahead. (I gave mine a quick flash in the microwave on a paper napkin at lunchtime, having realized my Lunchopolis set isn't microwave safe. But you may be smarter than me about that.) Another benefit: it works well as finger food. No need for utensils.

Mini Spam musubi
Makes about 15

1 cup sushi rice (I use Calrose) (Note: You'll probably have some left over, but I never cook less than 1 cup of rice at a time--I think you'll actually end up using about 2/3 of this, though.)
2 sheets nori
A few slices of Spam, cut into sixths
Soy sauce
Sweet stir-fry sauce (I used this because I had it--otherwise, use teriyaki sauce rather than soy sauce + sweet stir-fry sauce)
A pinch of ginger powder

Cook sushi rice in whatever manner suits you. Meanwhile, cut nori along the perforations usually put onto nori sheets, and then cut in half again, so that you are left with several long, narrow strips.

Mix the soy sauce, stir-fry sauce, and ginger powder in a shallow dish; add Spam and toss to coat.

How much soy sauce, etc., you ask? I did about half and half, maybe three tablespoons of each.

Let Spam marinate while rice finishes cooking. As soon as the rice is done, fluff it with a rice paddle to let the steam escape. Set aside to cool.

Preheat a non-stick skillet and cook spam for a few minutes, turning midway through cooking time. You don't want plain, un-heated-ever Spam, as it has all this unrendered fat in it and...just trust me.

Mmm...crispy outsides. Transfer to a plate and let cool a little so you don't burn your fingers in the next step.

Next, you'll want to spread rice into an ice cube tray, but don't press down yet. Using the spam slices, press the rice into the ice cube tray.

Carefully turn Spam-and-rice squares out onto a cutting board. Wrap each one with a thin strip of nori, using a little water to seal the seams.

  And there you have it. Aloha!

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pack-a-Snack #7

Pear quarters poached in spiced red wine with pecans-in-syrup ice cream topping in a Rubbermaid container.

You do not have to reserve your ice cream toppings for actual ice cream. In fact, the pecan topping goes much better with many other things. If you want to make it yourself rather than buying the stuff in the jar, just make sure to use a very thick syrup, like corn syrup, rather than something thin like maple, or go another route and actually candy the pecans.

This was very satisfying. If I ever end up having poached pears and pecans-in-syrup in my kitchen at the same time again, I'll eat this again happily!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Laptop Lunches #173

Apple slices, mini pretzel thins, crunchy green beans, baby carrots, and Jarlsberg cheese spread.

Absolutely no complaints about this whatsoever. I also had the cheese spread for breakfast with broken pretzels. It remains one of my absolute favorite things. Also, as I now have a new camera, I can show you a photo that does it justice this time:

Mmm! Now don't you want to go whip some up?

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Laptop Lunches #172

Snow peas, baby carrots, and a few tomatoes with yogurt-ranch; mini multigrain crackers; pears poached in spiced red wine; and goat cheese topped with blueberry jam.

This time I remembered a spreader for my goat cheese, which worked out super well!

The pears turned out really well, except that I put in too much thyme; here I fixed that up by sprinkling them with a dash of cinnamon sugar. Still, I think I like poaching pears in white wine or just a simple syrup better. Even so, it was a nice change of pace.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Laptop Lunches #171

Baby carrots, steak and scallion pancake pinwheels, a little packet of Chinese cookies, bell pepper strips, baby corn, yogurt ranch, and heirloom tomatoes.

Scallion pancakes make really great pinwheels! I enjoyed this a lot. I have no idea what the cookies are--my boss brought back a huge package of them from a business trip to Shanghai--but they tasted vaguely like McDonald Land Cookies to me. Can anybody tell me what they are?

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Laptop Lunches #170

A sliced peach, spicy cucumber salad #2, peanut noodles, and rolls of London broil.

Peanut noodles are great for lunch, for many reasons:

1. They use up leftover pasta
2. They are super fast and easy to prep (peanut butter, soy sauce, garlic powder, random veggies, and some chopped peanuts for garnish--done!)
3. They taste best at room temperature

So go forth, and eat peanut noodles!

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Laptop Lunches #169

Chocolate yogurt, mandarin oranges, butternut squash/caramelized leek/goat cheese pizza, and cucumber slices.

The pizza was idea I found on the web somewhere, and it didn't quite work. It was edible, but it needed lots of red pepper flakes to be appetizing, and the leftovers left so much to be desired that I doubt I can face it again. But the basic premise is still good, I think--butternut squash soup as the sauce, topped with caramelized leeks and a strong cheese. Just use better soup. Or an even stronger cheese. I do not know.

However, making rectangular pizzas does make a lot more sense than round ones for lunch packing. That, at least, was a victory.

The other lesson I learned (which really I already knew) is that trimming your own leeks is just not worth the trouble, and I should buy the pre-trimmed version available at one store around here, rather than the huge, un-trimmed ones that take up half my fridge. But I will not rule out leeks. Leeks are worth eating, for sure!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pack-a-Snack #6

I finally caved and ordered some tiny containers for my dips and things when I pack snacks. These were the cheapest kind; I don't know how I feel about them. I wish they weren't flip top, or you could see the yummy contents instead of the silly lid designs!

It's not rainbows and mushrooms; it's caramel hazelnut spread and almond butter. This goes with banana chips and mini pretzel thins, all in my recycled pesto container.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Laptop Lunches #168

Mini chef salad, yogurt ranch dressing, tomato wedges, mini multigrain crackers, a mini wheel of brie with fig jam and sliced almonds, and mandarin oranges.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Laptop Lunches #167

Ham and herbed goat cheese pinwheels, jalapeno-stuffed olives, jalapeno hummus, multigrain water crackers, red bell pepper strips, celery sticks, purple carrot sticks, and heirloom tomatoes.

The ham and goat cheese pinwheels worked pretty well, but I don't recommend them without crackers, or it's too much richness.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Laptop Lunches #166

Pink grapefruit-flavored Greek yogurt, a blueberry mochi, some slices of granola bar, celery sticks, cucumber slices, carrot sticks, and heirloom tomatoes with yogurt-ranch for dipping.

This is also known as "I haven't cooked or been to the store this week and now it is Wednesday and I'm running out of ideas."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lunchopolis #4

Cucumbers, yellow bell pepper strips, carrot sticks, jalapeno hummus, pretzels, and banana chips with caramel-hazelnut-chocolate spread for dipping. (Think Nutella, with caramel.)

I woke up and thought the four compartments of the Laptop Lunchbox were too many to contemplate, so I used the three smaller containers of the Lunchopolis set.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Laptop Lunches #165

Blueberry pancakes, a hard boiled egg, some ham rolls, a peach, and tomato slices.

Fun tip: if you add a bit more liquid to muffin batter, you can make it into pancakes. These started as blueberry muffin batter. And they turned out really well! Even without syrup (I guess I wasn't in the mood).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Pack-a-Snack #5

Mini cheddar pretzel thins and half of a stuffed egg (dill pickle filling) in the smallest container of my Lunchopolis set. No complaints.

Friday, September 12, 2014

New: Recipe Index Available

Since I don't have a lunch to show you today (free lunch during on-campus meeting), I have an announcement: I've been working on a Recipe Index that is up now! It's a work-in-progress, but I'll do my best to keep it up to date and logical. Let me know if it is helpful, or could be improved.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Laptop Lunches #164

Alternating slices of golden kiwi and green kiwi, mini 12-grain crackers, crunchy green bean snacks, carrot sticks, and goat cheese topped with blueberry jam.

I am disappointed in golden kiwi every time I buy it. Next time, stop me! It's not that pretty and it tastes pretty much the same as regular, pretty, green kiwi.

I am not at all disappointed in goat cheese with blueberry jam and crackers, though! That was soooooo good. But I should have had the sense to pack a spreader, since a spoon only works so well. Learn from my mistakes!

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Laptop Lunches #163

Raid-the-fridge pasta salad (bow tie pasta, canned salmon, dill pickle relish, red bell peppers, and light mayo), snow peas, apple slices alternating with slices of Havarti, half of a yellow tomato, a purple carrot cut into sticks to show off the yellow core, and jalapeno-cilantro hummus.

Although this lunch looked really good in person, I didn't think my usual photography angle did it justice, so here's another look at it after I rearranged some things:

I realize I'm silly sometimes, but I'm allowed, right?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Laptop Lunches #162

Romaine-red bell pepper-yellow tomato salad, honey roasted figs (recipe below), bow tie pasta with vodka sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan, ranch dressing for the salad, and half of a stuffed egg (dill pickle filling).

Figs being one of those things you have to buy a package of rather than in bulk around here, I was swimming in figs and tired of eating them straight. So I did this.

Honey Roasted Figs
Servings: However many!

Butter, softened

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Trim top and bottom ends off figs, then cut in half lengthwise.

3. Spread a little butter on each fig half.

4. Spread a little honey over each buttered fig. Arrange in a buttered casserole dish. (I got to use my 5 x 9 Le Creuset for this! Hooray!) It will look something like this:

5. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until they look like this:

You can serve them hot, or chill. If you're swimming in figs, this is a nice change of pace!

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Laptop Lunches #161

Vegetable fried rice, a blueberry mochi, some soy sauce in the cup, a nectarine, and chicken shu mai.

I bought some stir fry sauce a long (embarrassingly long) time ago and never used it. So last night I got the bright idea to make a stir fry with the stir fry vegetables in the freezer I had purchased an equally embarrassingly long time ago. Here are a few problems with that:

1. The sauce was alarmingly sweet
2. I paired it with long-grain rice, which really doesn't work super well with Asian food (in comparison to medium-grain rice), plus has a tendency to harden overnight in the fridge

So I went to pack the stir fry, which I was going to try to power though in spite of the sweetness, and found the rice to be a brick. Well, Ph.D. candidates are nothing if not resourceful, so I decided to do a quick fried rice and rationalized that I could also eat it for breakfast and thus not be wasting time.

It was fine, but I can't bear to finish off what remained in the fridge--I rarely have to throw leftovers out, but this, I am going to have to chuck. Sigh.

So...what goes good with really sweet stir fry sauce? Or do I just need to throw out 3/4 of a bottle of that, too?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pack-a-Snack #4

Spicy olive-cheese dip (made from random things about my kitchen that need using up) and Inner Peas, in my trusty recycled pesto container.

This was good, but I think the moisture from the dip softened the Inner Peas slightly. Thus, if you're going to pack a similar snack, I suggest putting the dip in a lidded container. I have my eyes on a few from Amazon for just this sort of situation.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Laptop Lunches #160

Apple slices and mini pretzel thins with almond butter for dipping, some lemon yogurt with homemade strawberry sauce, and Inner Peas snacks.

I think this lunch reflects happiness that it is Friday more than anything else--not much effort here, but at least reasonably respectable. I need something to perk yogurt up to eat an entire carton of it, hence the strawberry sauce. Not my best effort today, but it did the job.

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Laptop Lunches #159

Fig and apple slices, jalapeno seasoned pretzel thins, pinto bean salad (recipe below), and a very sad half of an avocado I otherwise had forgotten about that I perked up with some black pepper.

Although my own version of this was technically not vegan, I have tagged it as vegan, because you can easily get pretzel thins that are vegan.

The pinto bean salad is adapted from America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2013. If you like Tex-Mex flavors but not the heat, this is a good one for you. If you do like the heat, serve this with something spicy and have the best of all worlds! (For the uninitiated, it's the cumin that makes it Tex-Mex.) This was very easy and really tasty, and soothed my cravings for Southwestern flavors in this cool northeastern summer. Plus, it's cheap and nutritious. They say you can only have two of the trifecta: cheap, tasty, and fast. This proves that wrong--unless you think sticking stuff in the fridge to marinate negates the "fast" part.

Pinto Bean Salad
Serves: 3-4

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 cubes of frozen cilantro (or 2 tablespoons fresh, chopped)
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and gently patted dry
1 small shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced

Combine vinegar, lime juice, cumin, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil until emulsified. Add cilantro cubes and whisk until well thawed and incorporated. Stir in remaining ingredients until well coated. Cover and chill for at least half an hour to allow flavors to meld (sensible lunch packers will do this the night before). Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Laptop Lunches #158

Green bean salad (made with yesterday's basil vinaigrette and some toasted almonds), sour cream, caramel flavored apple chips, mushroom pierogies, and kielbasa sautéed with onions and colorful bell peppers.

Pierogies are a Polish dumpling, typically made from either some mixture of potatoes and something, or a mixture of sauerkraut and something, or fruit. This was potatoes and mushrooms. They're quite lovely, especially with sausage and sour cream, but like most things with mashed potatoes in them, will need a quick flash in the microwave to be appetizing at lunchtime.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Laptop Lunches #157

Yellow tomatoes and cucumbers with basil vinaigrette (recipe below), a fresh fig, rellenos de papa with spiked ketchup for dipping, blackberries, and a chocolate peanut butter-salted caramel truffle.

Rellenos de papa are a Mexican dumpling-type thing of a potato shell surrounding seasoned ground meat. They go nicely, in my opinion, with some ketchup spiked with cayenne, chili powder, and a sprinkling of black pepper. They do not, however, unlike most of what I bring along with me, taste even remotely okay at room temperature, so I had to seek out a microwave. Be forewarned.

The salad dressing is easy and quick, and nice on things like tomatoes. Make your life easier and use the frozen basil if you don't have any growing around you (I don't right now, and frozen herbs work just fine).

Basil Vinaigrette
Serves: 2

2 teaspoons finely chopped basil leaves
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar (regular will work, but it will stain your salad)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Mix all ingredients well. Pour over salad. I recommend tomatoes, cucumbers, or quickly blanched or steamed hearty green veggies like broccoli or green beans.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy Labor Day!

Like any sensible person, albeit for the first time in something akin to five years or so, I am taking Labor Day off, so I have no new lunch for you. However, I do have an announcement. A previous post of mine, Laptop Lunches #114, has been selected as the Bento of the Week at the Bento Blog Network!

Thanks to everyone who voted!