Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Laptop Lunches #269

I made some homemade Mexican-style rice from scratch. It only sort of worked. But it was good enough to eat again, so I brought some for lunch. I also have strawberries, a cup of sour cream mixed with tomatillo salsa (as a sauce for the tamale), a beef tamale, some shredded Mexican-blend cheese, and diced avocado. There are veggies here but they're mostly in the rice--they've been cooked in a tomato puree with onions, garlic, and peppers and whatnot.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Insulated Jar & Sides #15

Better Cheddar crackers, stuff-in-the-fridge soup (veggies, smoked sausage, leftover cheesy mashed potatoes, chicken broth, a bit of milk), strawberry and kiwi slices, and chocolate covered almonds.

Monday, August 29, 2016

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One #44

Random salad (spinach, carrots, red onion, avocado, tomatoes, shredded cheese), blueberries, mango sticks, strawberries, a chicken slider, and a little bottle of homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

A slider is a sandwich. Alert the media! I've caved! (At least for today.) I couldn't resist these cute little buns, though.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Pack-a-Snack #73

These are some Polish chocolate wafers in a container I have on hand.

I live in a Polish neighborhood, or so Google has told me. There are a couple of places near me that sell a lot of Polish food, but I have rarely ventured to buy their wares, not least of which because they confuse me. This time I decided to take the plunge with something that looked like some kind of chocolate.

This is tygrys orzechowy, which turned out to be some kind of wafer with chocolate and hazelnuts. It's very good. But I wish I had someone to help me with all the Polish food; these Polish labels are taunting me all over the place.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #16

I was in the mood for a large fruit salad today: Strawberries, kiwi, mango, and blueberries; pinwheels of cream cheese, spinach, and roasted chicken on a tortilla; and a sort of improvisational potato salad made from leftover potatoes, scallions, and mayo with a little salt and pepper.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Skater Lunch Box #21

Mini stuffed peppers, a few boiled potatoes, cucumber slices, some butter in the little chick (for the potatoes), and mango chunks tossed with blueberries.

I felt myself to be really clever to have adapted the technique in America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two for slow cooker stuffed peppers to make these delightful little microwave versions. They cook up super quick and you can stuff them the night before you cook them. But the only real drawback here is that you have to find small bell-style peppers like these. These are an heirloom variety I got from the CSA share my co-worker gave me when she was going out of town.

But if you should be lucky enough to have little peppers, you can do this. Microwave recipes are out of fashion these days, but heaven knows it's too hot to turn on the oven, and honestly, you won't miss out on a thing by micro-cooking these.

Microwave Stuffed Mini-Peppers
Serves: 1-2

1/2 small onion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon tomato paste
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
3-4 small bell-shaped peppers
1 Italian sausage patty or link (if a link, remove the casing) (sweet or hot is fine, depending on your preference)
1/4 cup leftover cooked rice
1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1. Microwave onion, garlic, oil, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes in a bowl, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened (about 5 minutes).
2. Cut the tops off of each pepper. Chop the pepper tops and discard stems. Remove core and seeds from the pepper shells. Use a small, sharp knife to make tiny holes in the bottoms of the peppers (about 3-4 holes per pepper).
3. In a bowl, mix onion mixture, chopped pepper tops, Italian sausage, leftover rice, cheeses, and salt and pepper with your hands. Pack this into the prepared pepper shells. You can mold them into rounds over the pepper tops if you have too much of this mixture. If you are making these ahead of time, stop here and refrigerate prepared peppers.
4. Set peppers over water in a microwave vegetable steamer. Open vent.
5. Microwave on high for about 10-15 minutes, or until peppers are tender and the meat is cooked through. If desired, sprinkle with more Parmesan before serving.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Lunchopolis #24

I found a salad online I wanted to try. At the very last minute, I discovered the red onion I had had gone bad. So I had to substitute scallions. This salad isn't quite as colorful as the original, but it was tasty!

So here we have Apple, Pecan, Cranberry, and Avocado Spinach Salad (based on this) with homemade balsamic vinaigrette, some large scallion-herb crackers, and strawberries.

This is my improvisational recipe, alongside a recipe for balsamic vinaigrette:

Apple, Pecan, Cranberry, and Avocado Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Balsamic Vinaigrette for One
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Put all ingredients into a small cup with a secure lid. (I used a Tupperware Midget.) Shake well.

Apple, Pecan, Cranberry, and Avocado Spinach Salad
1 cup baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
1 tablespoon dried cranberries
1 tablespoon chopped salted pecans
1/2 apple, cored and sliced thinly
1 tablespoon chopped scallions
1/2 small carrot, cut into long strips with a vegetable peeler
1/3 small avocado, cubed
Balsamic Vinaigrette for One (recipe above)

Top spinach leaves with cranberries, pecans, apple slices, scallions, carrot strips, and avocado. Pack vinaigrette separately. When ready to eat, top salad with dressing and toss gently. (I couldn't really toss this easily in this container, but it worked out fine.)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Lunchopolis #23

The sun has made photography rather difficult lately!

This is a peanut butter and graham cracker sandwich, baby carrots, cucumber slices, and a simple fruit salad (kiwi, strawberries, blueberries). One of those incidentally vegan meals. Sylvester Graham, inventor of graham flour, would probably approve of everything here except the graham crackers. (Too sweet; overstimulating.) It was light, but I wasn't all that hungry today.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Insulated Jar & Sides #14

This jar is very hard to photograph, I'm learning...

Leftover chicken and wine sauce, rice pilaf, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and ground cherries.

Ground cherries are kind of odd. I don't know what to think of them. But I ate them.

The chicken was this recipe, without the grapes and cream. I recommend it highly, without grapes and cream.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

LunchBots Quad #2

A cup of yogurt ranch, yellow pear tomatoes, baby carrots, chopped kiwi and strawberries, garlic-herb water crackers, and chicken salad (from leftover chicken breast--I just added celery, scallions, some off-brand Mrs. Dash, and mayo).

The LunchBots Quad, I should warn you, will leak a little if you pack anything liquid-y. There was a bit of strawberry-kiwi juice that ran under the divider. Fortunately it didn't actually mix into my crackers, and the amount was small enough not to really effect the flavors of the rest.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Insulated Jar & Sides #13

I was super frustrated with the lighting in my kitchen this morning. This is the best shot I could get. The glare is the sun, not flash; I had the flash off.

Ignoring the oddities of my lighting, let's talk food. This is how you pack Frito chili pie for lunch.

Some of you are scratching your heads and saying, "Frito what?"

In the Southwest, this is a super common dish. When I lived in Texas, the first time I was invited to anyone's house--with maybe one exception--they served Frito chili pie. Normally, what one does is to put down a layer of Fritos, then top with chili and cheese. Like Cincinnati chili, you can stop there if you want. (If Cincinnati chili also has you scratching your head, it's the same thing, just with spaghetti instead of Fritos and the chili is a mole-based flavor.) You can also add other toppings. Here I had scallions (barely visible), sliced black olives, chopped tomatoes, and sour cream. People in New Mexico, I am told, eat this by dumping the chili into a bag of Fritos, but I'm from Oklahoma, and we do it in a bowl. Some people also assemble the thing and then bake it like a casserole, but I like the crunch of the Fritos.

To eat this at lunch, you dump everything into the jar and go at it. By then the heat of the chili will have melted the cheese.

A lovely, low-effort meal to soothe my transplanted soul.

Friday, August 12, 2016

KOSOX 2-Tier Sushi Box #14

After yesterday's tale of woe, I vowed to pull something together today. This is nothing spectacular, but it was perfectly suitable.

Baby carrots, kiwi slices, and fruit "sushi"--peanut butter, apple slices, and dried cranberries on a tortilla.

I have a long weekend coming up so I'm on hiatus for a bit.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Tale of Woe

People sometimes comment on me packing lunch every day in a way that suggests it's a chore. Eating out is a treat, I suppose, for many people; also, a lot of people don't "have time" to pack lunch. But for me, packing lunch is the treat, and going out is the chore.

You won't have a lunch from me today. But I will share some thoughts on my experience instead, on the going-out-to-lunch hour instead of the packed-lunch-in-the-break-room hour.

I had to pick up my neighbor from the airport, and I didn't cook dinner. I haven't been to the grocery store in a while due to a hectic schedule. Even though I can pull a lunch together nearly any time based on what I have around, because I keep things on hand just for this scenario, my brain wasn't cooperating this time. I overslept. So it was actually beyond my ability to pack a lunch.

I decided to make the best of it and went to a new restaurant that just opened I'd been wanting to try. It's kind of gimmicky--a waffle place that makes both sweet and savory versions. I got a mashed potato waffle with smoked salmon and sour cream. I was glad to get to try the new place, but it made my lunch hour much less relaxing to have to rush out, buy something, and wolf it down, rather than just grabbing my lunch from my bag and taking my time. It tasted fine but certainly no better than anything I could have done myself. I think, actually, that I would have enjoyed latkes and smoked salmon more. Mashed potatoes don't waffle that well.

Cost for this? About $11.

Sometimes it will make sense to grab lunch on the go. But the time I spent going out to get lunch was more than I usually spend pulling lunch together in the morning, and that leaves time for running errands on occasion. Walking to the post office to drop off a letter or to the drugstore to pick up something on my lunch hour doesn't stress me out; it's nice to go for a walk after I've eaten and I would without needing to run an errand anyway. The walk after lunch is so much nicer than the before-lunch rush to get food.

I could have packed 3-4 lunches, or more, for the cost of the waffle. I definitely would have packed something more nutritious. I have more variety available to me than the small handful of places nearby my workplace, too.

To each their own, of course. But for me, I much prefer to bring my own lunch. Which I will do tomorrow, even though it may be a little bit of a scrounge. See you then.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #15

A wedge of scallion-cheddar supper bread (from the Dinner Doctor cook book), a slice of something some people call "pork roll" and some people call "Taylor ham," peach slices, a little cup of yogurt ranch, snow peas, baby carrots, and cherry tomatoes.

A co-worker offered me her CSA share while she was on vacation. This week I was daunted by the huge bunch of scallions I had, so scallion bread it was.

Meanwhile, a friend had heard a story on NPR about a particular New Jersey pork product with a controversial name. Some people call it "pork roll" and some people call it "Taylor ham." She called to ask whether I could get some to try and report back. I found some at a grocery store near me, and in general it confused me. It looks something like ham and something like a paler version of salami. It tastes more like bacon than either, but the texture is nearly impossible to describe. Ultimately, though, it tastes glorious on the scallion-cheddar bread (which is actually more like a giant, cheesy, oniony biscuit than anything else).

It's more commonly referred to as "pork roll" in my region, but I think "Taylor ham" sounds more appetizing. However, it can't legally be called ham. So it's actually "pork roll."

Either way, if you're going to have it, I recommend putting it on something biscuit-like, which is not very northeastern of me but that's what you get from a transplant from the Southwest. The scallion-cheddar supper bread is very easy to make. Just saying.

This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Cheryl at BusinessChic. The theme for August is "work day eating"--perfect for me here are Food for Dissertating!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Skater Lunch Box #20

Another of my leftover mini macaroni and cheese casseroles, broccoli, meatloaf (from the freezer), and peach chunks.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #83

Grapes, a few mini macaroni and cheese casseroles, multicolored cherry tomatoes, and a bottle of balsamic vinegar.

The macaroni and cheese was supposed to set up like a muffin, but I have not perfected that yet. I'll let you know if I ever do! But they were pretty.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #14

A Korean vegetable bun (if you can't tell by now, I really stocked my freezer at the Korean market!), a few little bottles of soy sauce mixed with rice vinegar (that's in the elephant and chicken bottles), broccoli-egg salad, and mixed green and red grapes.

These Asian buns are really great for packing lunch--they're a little bit like a cross between a sandwich and a giant dumpling--but they do tend to be really dry. You'll need to bring along some kind of sauce. I like soy sauce mixed with rice vinegar, but you could do straight soy sauce, too. You also need to thaw them overnight before cooking, but that can be done very quickly in the microwave. Most of them have fancier looking tops than this one, but I think this does the job effectively in any event.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

3-Tier Bottle Bento #30

Red and green grapes, chocolate chip-banana yogurt, and granola.

Yet another version of breakfast for lunch.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #82

Some shell-shaped chocolates, red grapes, herb-and-garlic water crackers, an improvisational cheese spread, and cucumber slices.

Though I've given you a couple of different simple cheese spread recipes, I don't know that you actually need one for this style of cheese spread. Of recipes I've already given you, this one most closely resembles pimento cheese. Basically, mix shredded cheese with mayo and some sort of complimentary vegetable(s). This is mayo, cheddar, scallions, and red bell pepper. Then add black pepper and, if needed (rarely is this so), salt. Serve with crackers, pretzels, or vegetables for dipping.

This particular spread makes an amazing cheese-and-cucumber sandwich, by the way.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

KOSOX 2-Tier Sushi Box #13

Cucumber slices tossed with rice vinegar and sesame seeds, cherries, blackberries, blueberries, a cherry tomato, shrimp shumai, a little bottle of soy sauce mixed with vinegar, and stewed kabocha squash.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Skater Lunch Box #19

Blackberries, stewed kabocha squash (Japanese pumpkin), blanched broccoli, cherry tomatoes, some Korean beef patties I found in the frozen section of a Korean market, and rice.

I used Just Bento's recipe for the kabocha. It tasted amazing and once the kabocha squash was prepped it was super easy. However, cutting up a raw kabocha squash and making cuts into the flesh for each piece was probably the most physically demanding chore my cooking has ever thrown at me. My cutting board is gouged. I stabbed myself in the thumb. And I only managed to cut up half a squash, anyway.

If only it didn't taste like one of the most delightful vegetables I've ever encountered, I would say not to bother. Unfortunately, it does taste like one of the most delightful vegetables I've ever encountered. Maybe you can find it pre-cut. I'm open to tips on how to make that an easier process!