Wednesday, September 30, 2015

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One #19

Raid-the-fridge salad (romaine, yellow bell pepper, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, cucumber slices), yogurt ranch dressing, Honeycrisp apple slices alternated with cheddar, raspberries stuffed with white chocolate, and croutons.
This is the only disappointing Honeycrisp apple I've ever gotten. I think it was because I bought it from Trader Joe's--the produce can be really hit and miss from there. Oh, well.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sakura 3-Tier Bento #34

Pita crackers, cheddar, raspberries stuffed with white chocolate, a hard boiled egg (halved), and white beans with bacon and spinach.

These beans are one of those amazing little recipes that actually tastes better as leftovers the next day, and about equally good hot, cold, or at room temperature. I modified the recipe taken from a package of bacon.

White Beans with Bacon and Spinach
Servings: about 4

4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 cup frozen baby spinach
1 15-oz. can small white beans (such as cannellini or navy), drained and rinsed
Freshly ground black pepper

Cook the bacon in a large skillet on medium heat until most of the fat has rendered, stirring frequently. Remove bacon from skillet and drain on paper towels. Leave the fat in the skillet.

Cook garlic in bacon fat for about 1 minute or until the garlic has browned slightly. Stir in frozen spinach and cook, stirring, until hot. Add beans and bacon and heat through.

Season generously with ground black pepper.

Monday, September 28, 2015

ECO Lunch Box Three-in-One #18

Stuff-in-the-fridge salad (romaine, carrots, mushrooms, mini bell pepper rings), yogurt ranch (in the cup), croutons, raspberries stuffed with white chocolate chips, and small quiche wedges.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Pack-a-Snack #48

Scallion tamagoyaki on a bed of Calrose rice. I used one of the tiers of my bottle bento for this one. It worked out well.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #43

An experimental strawberry-sesame salad (which did not turn out super well so I won't say more!), mini Triscuits, cherry tomatoes, olives stuffed with jalapeno pepper, and tuna salad with a chopped celery garnish.

This is a very Friday lunch for the "I've been out two nights in a row at work-related 'parties' and haven't cooked" crowd. But it was okay. I'd forgotten how yummy Triscuits are. (And nobody paid me or gave me free Triscuits to say so.)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Skater Lunch Box #10

Latkes, bratwurst, sour cream with chives, a cherry tomato, a cup of mustard (for the brats), and fruit salad (oranges, kiwi, strawberries).

This was not what I'd planned for lunch today at all, but it worked (which can't be said for Plan A) and I lived to tell so I guess all is well!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #42

Asian baby corn salad, cucumbers, a bottle of soy sauce, Calrose rice, a mini Japanese mini hamburger, a slice of scallion tamagoyaki, an orange slice, and strawberries.

I adapted the mini hamburgers from this recipe. I didn't have all the ingredients she used and I also wanted to make a smaller batch to be sure I liked it before I tried again. They were great! Like some kind of little stovetop meatloaves. I could see this technique being used with a lot of different flavors. And they would probably freeze very well.

Japanese Mini Hamburgers
Makes 4 patties

Vegetable oil
1/4 stalk of celery, very finely chopped
2 baby carrots, very finely chopped
About 2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion
1/2 pound 80% lean ground beef
2 tablespoons Panko bread crumbs
1 large egg, beaten
3 tablespoons water
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons honey

Heat about 1 teaspoon of oil in a nonstick skillet that has a lid. (You'll need the lid later.) Add celery, carrots, and onions and cook a few minutes until softened. Remove from heat and transfer veggies to a small bowl to let them cool.

After vegetables have cooled down a bit, mix them with the beef, bread crumbs, egg, and a bit of salt and pepper (use your own judgment here, but I'd say about 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper). Mix well with your hands.

Divide meat mixture into four equal portions. Roll into balls, then gently flatten each ball into a patty about 1 inch thick.

Heat about a teaspoon of oil in the skillet over medium heat. Gently lay the patties in the skillet and brown on each side. Add water to the skillet, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook about 5 minutes, or until the juices in the meat run clear.

Remove the skillet from the heat.

Mix soy sauce and honey, then drizzle over the patties. Set back on the heat and cook on high, turning the patties gently to coat in the glaze. Once patties are glazed, they are done.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

ECO Lunch Box Three-in-One #17

Pumpkin butter-mascarpone spread, brioche toast, white chocolate covered strawberries, a hard boiled egg (halved), carrot hummus, olives stuffed with jalapeno peppers, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, and mini orange bell pepper rings.

Chocolate covered strawberries are super easy, and if you buy them out in the world they'll probably charge you some ridiculous amount of money for them. It's definitely worth it to learn how to do at home.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Any kind of chocolate (white, milk, dark, etc.)

Wash and dry strawberries thoroughly.

Cover a plate in aluminum foil and make sure you have room in the fridge for it.

Melt chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave. For about 6 strawberries, you'll need roughly 1/2 cup of chocolate. Check every 30 seconds until it begins melting, then stir every 10 seconds of cooking time until it's smooth. (You'll still see lumps when you pull it out of the microwave--the stirring is important.)

Working quickly (because the cold strawberries will make the chocolate set quickly), dip strawberries in chocolate, turning to coat evenly. Set aside on the foil covered plate.

When you finish dipping the strawberries, stick them in the fridge until the chocolate sets, then gently transfer to a covered container. And make sure to lick the chocolate bowl.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Laptop Lunches #264

Strawberries, cucumber slices, my "Starving Student Cuban Black Beans," and long grain rice. (This is a soupier version than I showed you last time.)

These beans freeze well, so I had made them some time ago. No cooking for me over the weekend and my food was still homemade! (I just had to prep the rice in my rice cooker.)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Pack-a-Snack #47

Want slightly more wholesome chocolate chip cookies? Sandwich them with peanut butter. These little cookie sandwiches were packed in one of my small Lunchopolis containers, and they tasted wonderful.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Skater Lunch Box #9

This is a lunch from before my move I never shared with you. Work provided lunch this time so I didn't pack one for today.

Sweet and sour pickled cabbage, chicken sausage slices, kiwi chunks, and Rainier cherries.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sakura 3-Tier Bento #33

Orange slices, pita crackers, and cottage cheese topped with slices of cherry tomato and cucumber.

The pita crackers went really well with the cottage cheese...and I made it through the week without buying lunch and without going shopping! But I'll be pretty happy to make it to the store again.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

3-Tier Bottle Bento #10

Mini chicken wontons, a few bottles of dipping sauce, orange slices, and cucumber slices tossed with rice vinegar and sesame seeds.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #41

Mini cinnamon rolls, maple sausage links, halves of hard boiled egg with salt and pepper, a cherry tomato, and kiwi slices.

Breakfast for lunch! Those cinnamon rolls were amazing. Also, the grocery store was an impossibility this week, and I had to get a little weird or spend 4-5 times what I spent on this buying lunch from the café next door to where I work. I'd rather have tiny cinnamon rolls, wouldn't you?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sakura 3-Tier Bento #32

Pita crackers, carrot hummus, mushroom salad (recipe given last week), peach slices, and dried fruit covered in chocolate.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #40

Brioche toast, a spread made of mascarpone and pumpkin butter, apple slices, cherry tomato, baby carrots, cornichons, marinated beets, and mushroom salad (recipe given in Wednesday's post).

The pumpkin butter came from my trip to Vermont in April. I am afraid I bought a little too many jars of jams, marmalades, and things like pumpkin butter--especially since I am just now getting around to the pumpkin butter--but it's very good. Especially mixed with mascarpone.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Laptop Lunches #263

Leftover blackened salmon and buttered egg noodles, peach slices, chocolate covered dried fruit, a dill mayo I made for the salmon, cucumber slices, and cherry tomatoes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

3-Tier Bottle Bento #9

Fruit salad (peaches, apples, grapes), cottage cheese topped with mini cucumber and cherry tomato slices, and mushroom salad.

Mushroom salad is like a lighter version of marinated mushrooms in many ways. It's cheaper thanthe jarred version, too. A friend asked me, when I said something about the mushroom salad, "How does one salad mushrooms?"

Well, here is how one salads mushrooms. Bonus points for mostly being able to do it ahead of time. The un-dressed salad will keep in the fridge for several days.

Mushroom Salad
Serves 2-3

About 4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
4 tablespoons chopped parsley (dried is fine)
1 scallion, sliced thinly
Olive oil
White wine vinegar

Mix sliced mushrooms, parsley, and scallion in a small bowl. Top with a moist paper towel. Chill for at least one hour. (Among other things, this will rehydrate the parsley if you're using dried.)

When ready to pack (or eat), spoon out the desired amount of the mushroom mixture and drizzle olive oil over the top. Mix. You will keep adding olive oil until the mushrooms are all coated and shimmery. This will take much more oil than you think it should. Mushrooms will soak up a lot of oil! Then splash with white wine vinegar to taste (I like about 1 1/2 teaspoons for the amount of mushroom salad you see here). Add desired amount of salt and pepper.

Easy! And quite good.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

ECO Lunch Box Three-in-One #16

Banana "sushi" rolls (multigrain tortilla, peanut butter, banana), strawberry yogurt, tossed vegetable salad, and a cup of yogurt ranch.

The little panda turned out to have ears that were too big to let me shut the box, so I ended up putting the dressing in a Tupperware midget. Oh, well.

Monday, September 7, 2015

5 Easy No-Deprivation Vegan Packed Lunches

I know if you follow along here for more than five seconds, you'll see that I am an omnivore, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate sometimes challenging myself to make vegan lunches. Here are my top five:

1. Pinto bean salad with fruit, pretzel thins, and avocado chunks. This would also be lovely with tortilla chips.

2. Veggies with hummus, pretzel thins, and banana chips with chocolate-hazelnut spread--which yes, can be vegan!

3. Fruit chunks, fancy chocolate (vegan, of course, if you can find it), tortilla pinwheels made with peanut butter and apple, and veggies with hummus.

4. Fruit, marinated tofu, peanut noodle salad, and marinated beets mixed with shredded carrots. This salad used Moroheiya noodles.

5. Cuban black beans and rice with fruit. My recipe for the beans and rice is given here.

None of these meals made me wish for animal proteins. All had a good diversity of flavors and colors. So challenge yourself: Have a vegan lunch now and then. You won't necessarily have to miss anything.

Friday, September 4, 2015

ECO Lunch Box Three-in-One #15

Eggs stuffed with a bacon mixture, peach slices, grapes, Scandinavian cucumber salad, and pinwheels of multigrain tortilla, ham, and cream cheese.

I'm actually not quite certain what makes the cucumber salad "Scandinavian." It is essentially a quick fridge pickle--mostly vinegar, salt, sugar, and dill to dress cucumber slices--but maybe that just reflects how Scandinavians like dill. If I make this recipe again, I will sweat the water out of the cucumbers before dressing them; as it sat this got watery and leaked out of my box a little. Fortunately I didn't get any vinegar and dill on my fruit!

This recipe is, incidentally, from the same book as Monday's crazy chicken. Maybe the life lesson is to use commons sense with old recipes--except that sometimes the weird stuff is actually really good!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sakura 3-Tier Bento #31

This is really very much the same as yesterday, arranged differently: Red and black grapes, half a hard boiled egg with salt and pepper, carrot hummus, "everything" crackers, and broccoli salad.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #39

Brioche toast, goat cheese with grapes, half a hard boiled egg with salt and pepper, cherry tomatoes, and broccoli salad.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One #14

A wrap made of multigrain tortilla, mayo, leftover chicken (from yesterday's bizarre experiment), avocado, and bacon; cherry tomatoes and yellow bell pepper strips with carrot hummus for dipping, apple slices, and white-and-milk chocolate covered pretzels.

A wonderful way for the chicken to redeem itself.