Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bag Lunch Series Part 2: Niçoise Salad

Somehow, salads have gained a reputation for being the food of the fanatical health nut. Or worse yet, being a "lady's" lunch, thus excluding all male parties from partaking in this easy and inexpensive lunch. But salads can include any combination of "manly" ingredients (that 's a code word for filling) so you don't have to worry about grabbing at your stash of quarters for the vending machine.

One of the best examples of a filling salad is the niçoise salad, which includes a good amount of protein, the key to making it satisfying. With just a few ingredients on hand, and very little preparation, you could assemble this salad for lunch the next day. Or better yet, roast potatoes and steam green beans for dinner the night before, and use leftovers to make this salad.

Shopping List
Red skinned potatoes
Green geans
Mixed greens, spinach, boston, or butter lettuce
Green or Kalamata olives
Canned Tuna (or fresh if you want to follow Elise's recipe)
Olive oil
Shallot or garlic
Fresh or dried thyme, basil, and oregano leaves
Dijon or other mustard

Ingredients for 2 salads
2 small-med red skinned
2 handfuls of green beans, with tips cut off and cut into bite sizes
2 hardboiled eggs
1-2 cans of tuna
1 large tomato, cut into wedges or 1/2 cup grape tomatoes
8 olives
2-4 cups of greens

Ingredients for 2 servings of dressing
1 teaspoons of mustard
Juice of a lemon (or apple cider vinegar if you don't have a lemon)
2 minced garlic cloves, or 1 minced shallot
1 teaspoon of dried herbs (thyme, basil or oregano) or 1 Tablespoon of fresh herbs
1/4 cup olive oil

Preparing your salad the night before
1. Cut potatoes into bite sizes. Place potatoes in a pot, and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender. Alternatively you can roast them at 400 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes or until tender.
2. Remove the potatoes to cool but keep the water. You can now boil your green beans for 5 minutes. Any longer and they will be stringy.
3. Hardboil your eggs.
4. Whisk together your dressing ingredients and divide into two containers to take to work.
5. Once your cooked items are cool, all you have to do is divide up all the ingredients among two containers to take to work. Putting the greens in last make keep them from getting wilted.

The salads don't have to stop here! Here are some other salad-y ideas:
  • Tex-Mex salad: Greens, tomatoes, salsa, canned black beans, frozen or canned corn, avocado, queso fresco, leftover steak if you have it
  • Mediterranean: Greens, tomatoes, olives, chopped cucumbers, feta cheese, chopped leftover chicken or fish, chopped red onion, chopped bell pepper, leftover roasted eggplant, store bought pita bread
  • Autumn: Roasted beets and butternut squash or sweet potato cubes, bleu or goat cheese, greens or arugula, toasted walnuts or other nuts, sliced apples or pears, dried fruits, side of cottage cheese
  • Alternatives to dressing: Try to keep your dressing splashing to a minimum. If your salad is drenched, you may be eating way more calories than you think. Instead of oil and vinegar, try balsamic vinegar by itself. Try salsa instead of dressing, or have a scoop of cottage cheese next to your salad. This combination is extremely delicious, although it may sound weird.
One last thing. . .  no iceberg.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bag Lunch Series Part 1: Grain Salads

Quite a while ago my friend asked me to do a post on taking your lunch to work. My usual default mode as far as lunch is concerned is to make leftovers at dinnertime, then pack them away before Sean can eat them, so we have them for lunch the next day. First of all, not everyone likes leftovers, not everyone cooks dinner every night, and not every dinner is good the next day. So, I have been doing some thinking on the matter, and have decided that one post will just not do. Taking lunch to work is a multi-faceted process that takes time and planning, so I have decided to do a bag lunch series, instead.

There are several different ways to approach bag lunch. You can:
  • Make a batch of something over the weekend, freeze it and cook it at work
  • Make a food that can be in the fridge for 2 or more days and have it several times that week
  • Have several supplies on hand to assemble the meal each morning, or the night before
  • Have leftovers and throw in a salad or side
Today's recipe to kick off our series is a grain salad. These keep really well, and can be very hearty and healthy choices. They require very little cooking, so all you have to do is assemble them the night before.

This particular recipe is one of my favorite recipes ever! I clipped it out of one of the dentist's magazines. What? He is not going to use it. He is too busy making people cry. Stupid crowns. Anyway, it is super delicious. I just now realised that it is also vegan. But trust me, you won't even know, that is how tasty it is.

Sweet Potato and Grain Salad for 3-4 lunches

Shopping List
Box or bag of whole grains, such as farro, sweet brown rice, barley, or another nice chewy grain. Farro cooks in only 15 minutes!
Bag of frozen, shelled edamame
2 med-lg. sweet potatoes
1 onion, red or yellow
2 med carrots
Box of golden raisins (or raisins or dried cherries)
Bag of fresh organic spinach
Garlic clove
Balsamic vinegar, wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil

For the salad
1 cup of the grains, cooked according to package, then cooled.
1 cup edamame, cooked according to package, then cooled
2 sweet potatoes cooked in microwave 7-10 minutes until soft, cut into bites
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion (optional)
2 carrots, grated (If you have a grating attachment on your food processor, use it. Such a time saver!)
1 cup golden or regular raisins
1 cup packed spinach, torn into smaller pieces

For the dressing
1 minced garlic clove
1/4 cup vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

Assembly the night before
1. Combine grains, edamame, sweet potato, carrots, onion, and golden raisins.
2. In 4 lunch containers, divide the dressing among the containers. (You can leave the dressing separate, but remember to divide it into 4 servings.)
3. Divide the grain mixture among the containers.
4. Add a handful of fresh spinach on the salad that you will take that next morning, otherwise, it may get more wilted than you like.
5. When you get to work, shake or stir the dressing on the bottom into the rest of the salad.