Tag Archives: lunch ideas

Weekly Eating – 10/16

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Hey y’all, for those who don’t know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (along with a whole host of other causes I’m sure). Though I agree with BitchesGetRiches on how empty the promises of “raising awareness” I do want y’all to be aware that:

  • It is estimated that in 2017, there will be at least 252,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer among women
  • 40,610 deaths will be caused by breast cancer
  • A self-exam is the best preventative thing you can do
  • Men can also get breast cancer
  • Mammograms aren’t always the best idea before 40
  • About 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in their life
  • Costs of cancer care can easily be in the hundreds of thousands, even with great insurance
  • Diet and exercise can lower your risk of developing cancer

(Sources: Susan G Komen.org, breastcancer.org, cancer.org, MayoClinic.org, The CDC, USNews.com, Washington Post)

Ways you can help:

Save the boobies!

Monday:

Breakfast – I had made another big batch of smoothie in jars for this week, so I had a strawberry banana smoothie. It was also nice and pink!

Lunch – Salmon Couscous Salad: I brought enough for 3 days lunches

Dinner – Ham & Bean soup. I had some veggie soup leftover, plus some of a pork loin from the weekend. To use them both up and make it into something new I just chopped the pork, added a can of white beans, and simmered it together for about 20 minutes. With the rest of the leftover rolls, it was delicious and perfect!

Tuesday:

Breakfast – Smoothie in a jar

Lunch – Salmon Couscous Salad

Dinner – White cheddar shells with pork. I just could not even, Tues was a stressful day. So I said F it, I’m making boxed mac n cheese. Hubs was sweet and took over, and decided to tear up the remaining piece of pork loin and add it to the mac n cheese.

It turned out really really good actually! Since the mac n cheese was a Friday Freebie at Kroger and the pork was leftovers, this was basically a free meal. Not bad for not wanting to cook.

Snack – 2 Cookies & Green tea

Wednesday:

Breakfast – smootie in a jar

Lunch – Salmon couscous salad

Dinner – Ribs with potato wedges & roasted cabbage. I had planned to make stuffed cabbage casserole, but the face hubs made when he saw that on the meal plan board was so sad… since I was grocery shopping today, I decided I’d pick up whatever was on sale and surprise him. And boy, when I saw organic grass-fed ribs on sale for $5, you better believe I snatched that right up!

Even better, when I got to the checkout, the sale price rang up wrong, about $2 more than it should have been. I politely pointed it out to the lady, who checked the sticker and saw I was right. Turns out, if something rings up incorrectly and you catch it, you get that item for free! So we had FREE ORGANIC RIBS! Best day ever.

Of course, having ribs meant having bones leftover. And I’m not one to waste an opportunity, so of course I tossed the bones into the small crock pot overnight with some spices and odd and ends, so now I also have a quart of organic beef broth!

Snack – a coworker brought in pumpkin oatmeal bars, so I had one of those with some green tea. Delightful. I’m trying to cut back from 2 cups of coffee a day to only one, plus it is finally getting chilly around here, hence all the green tea this week.

Thursday:

Breakfast – (free) Raspberry Noosa & my homemade tropical granola. Noosa was another Kroger Friday Freebie, and I already know I love this brand, so I was pretty excited about it. I used half the container and added about 1/2 cup of granola for a perfect and tasty breakfast.

Lunch – Peanut butter and banana sandwich, (free) peach cottage cheese, mason jar salad. The cottage cheese was another Kroger Friday freebie (I really love these things) and it sounded interesting. I love cottage cheese, and I love peach yogurt. but I gotta say, not a fan of them mixed together. I could only handle about half, and then I threw the rest in the trash. I know, I’m sorry!

Dinner – Spaghetti with meatballs, garlic bread, and zucchini. I had a half loaf of garlic bread in the freezer, so I pulled that out and roasted it on a pan with some meatballs and zucchini while we went for a nice walk. When we got back I just boiled up some pasta, added sauce, and pulled the pan out of the oven.

Snack – granola bar

Friday:

Breakfast – mason jar smoothie

Lunch – Employee Appreciation Day picnic! We got free lunch of bbq pulled pork, baked beans, chicken tenders, pasta salad, and coleslaw. I haven’t had chicken tenders in ages, so that was delightful. There was live music and games and tons of free swag too! You know my favorite price is “free”.

They were pretty good gifts as well, multiple travel sized toiletries which will be perfect for upcoming trips, a full sized bottle of ibuprofen, a tshirt which will probably see many yoga workouts, a nice divided lunch box, and several nice pens. All in all a very good day, I felt quite appreciated.

Dinner – Stir Friday! I found 2 pork chops in the freezer, which I took out and thawed. I also got a marked down bag of chopped cauliflower rice for myself, and made regular brown rice in the rice cooker for hubs. With a cup of frozen mixed veggies, some garlic and soy sauce, it was a perfect simple meal.

The Weekend

This weekend I am super excited to have found a Triangle FIRE Meetup group! So I’ll be making some pasta salad to take to that, and hopefully learn a lot and make some new friends. We are also contemplating going to the NC State Fair, since Sunday is the last day to do so.

I need to make another batch of peanut butter granola bars since I’m running low, and maybe a few more mason jar salads for next week. If we find the energy, we might find a pumpkin patch or go apple picking. I also acquired a Singer sewing machine, which I need to look up the manual for and try to get it working.

Food Total: $55.13

I was very pleased with this week’s food shopping. I had an offer from Kroger where you get 200 bonus fuel points if you spend at least $50, but I didn’t want to go very far over that. Especially since last week I inventoried the freezers and have the rest of October already planned out. So hitting just over $50 was perfect, I got the bonus fuel points which will help keep gas costs down, but didn’t over-spend on my food budget.

Lessons Learned

It is SO GOOD to have a flexible meal plan, backup meals in the pantry, and knwo how to cook several simple meals. On days where work is stressful or you’re upset or whatever and you just cannot think about cooking something, having a pantry with options you can just make happen in 20 minutes or less is so critical. It saves us from the expense of ordering delivery or going out to get food, food that is probably not very healthy (because it would be either pizza or Firehouse brisket and cheddar subs, I guarantee).

How about you guys, did you have a great week or a learning week?

Salmon & Couscous Salad

The first time I had this salad was on a family vacation, and my sister-in-law and her friend were cooking a vegetarian dinner for everyone. She has been a vegetarian for going on 20 years now, which is an awe-inspiring lifestyle, for me. I’m not sure where the original recipe came from, but it involved corn and tomatoes, pine nuts and salmon, shaved parmesan and arugula. It sounded pretty good.

Then we sat down to eat. And it was presented beautifully, layered in a rainbow across a large serving tray.

And then I took a bite.

And I was in love.

That’s the story of my obsession with my favorite salad of all time. Since then I have made several permutations of this salad, for a dinner party, for hubs and myself, and just for me to enjoy at work. It is super simple to put together, and can be an easy thing to take to work to eat for several days. You can eat it cold or room temp, so there is no microwave fishy smell (which I’m sure my co-workers appreciate).

And it is virtually endlessly customizable. I’ve had it with pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, macademia nuts, or none. I’ve tried craisins, raisins, dates, and prunes. I’ve used couscous, quinoa, or no grains. And nearly every salad dressing on the planet will go with this well, as well as having it naked! (As in, no dressing, though do whatever makes you happy. At your house, not at work.)

If you’ve been keeping up with my Weekly Eating series, you know this is frequently a dish I make in large amounts so that I can have leftovers for several days. I’ve begun taking enough for 3-4 days’ worth to work, and just keeping it in the refrigerator and taking out one serving at a time. It is super healthy, quite filling, and pretty affordable if you choose ingredients seasonally and/or on sale.

If you’ve been looking for a recipe to impress at a dinner party, a meal that is inclusive for vegetarians (just offer extra protein options like quinoa and other toppings like beans/nuts), something light and fresh and healthy, or a make-ahead nearly-no-prep work lunch option, look no further!

Ingredients (per salad):

  • 2-3 ounces cooked salmon
  • 2-3 cups salad (spinach, romaine, mixed greens, arugula)
  • 1/2 cup cooked couscous (or barley, rice, quinoa)
  • Sprinkle of craisins or raisins or other dried fruit
  • Sprinkle of nuts (walnuts work best but any will work)
  • Sprinkle of cheese (parmesan, feta, goat…)
  • Optional other toppings: tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, peppers, carrots, beans, anything you can think of!
  • Dressing of choice

Step 1: Cook your salmon however you like, I usually pan-fry them with a spritz of coconut oil or bake them in the oven. Your choice to leave them as a fillet or shred them. You could also use canned, drained salmon here, or sub in cooked chicken, steak, or other fish.

Step 2: Cook your couscous or other grain. I like pearled couscous because it has a pleasant, sort-of-chewy texture that goes well with the overall texture of the salad. Quinoa is also good here.

Step 3: For visual effect, lay down a bed of greens and then layer each separate ingredient in a line across it. To just dig in, toss it all in a bowl, topping as you see fit. Enjoy!

 

 

Cranberry Cashew Chicken Salad

 

Ever get really tired of a certain kind of lunch?  Like say you always take a roast beef sandwich with cheddar and mustard.  Or a tuna salad pita pocket.  Or a certain type or brand of soup.  When you eat the same thing several days in a row, you can get bored easily.  But then you also want more ‘grown-up’ options sometimes than just peanut butter and jelly, or maybe you don’t have any leftovers to choose from at the moment.

This is a super simple recipe for a great tasting and healthy chicken salad sandwich mix.  It is designed to make just enough for one large sandwich or wrap, but you can easily increase the quantities to feed a family of four or a luncheon buffet for fifty.  It has a tiny bit of sweetness, which helps kids love it too, and a nice bit of crunch to make it interesting.  No one needs to know that you snuck in an extra serving of fruits & veggies.

For maximum healthy, use plain Greek yogurt to bind it, and serve as a lettuce wrap or on whole grain bread or tortilla with extra veggie toppings.  This is a great way to use up extra chicken meat from a whole bird, and is very frugal and versatile.  Try this the next time you need lunchtime inspiration, a quick after-school snack, or a buzz-worthy picnic dish.

Ingredients for Cranberry Cashew chicken salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1/2 tbsp dried cranberry
  • 1/2 tbsp cashews or peanuts
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise or Miracle Whip or plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp mustard

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Step 1: Use meat from a cooked chicken (such as rotisserie) to save time, or poach 1 boneless skinless chicken breast in water or broth until no longer pink.  Shred with two forks, and use about 1/2 cup per serving you intend to make.

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Step 2: In a bowl, mix all ingredients together well.  This tastes even better if you let it sit overnight in the refrigerator, and will keep up to a week.  Feel free to add in your own flavorings like lemon or lime juice, use raisins instead of cranberries, or add spinach rather than celery.  If you have nut allergies, omit the cashews/peanuts, and if you still want crunch add a tbsp large breadcrumbs, fried onions, or Chinese noodles.

 

 

Cranberry Cashew Chicken Salad

Cranberry Cashew Chicken Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1/2 tbsp dried cranberry
  • 1/2 tbsp cashews or peanuts
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise or Miracle Whip or plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp mustard

Instructions

  1. Use meat from a cooked chicken (such as rotisserie) to save time, or poach 1 boneless skinless chicken breast in water or broth until no longer pink. Shred with two forks, and use about 1/2 cup per serving you intend to make.
  2. In a bowl, mix all ingredients together well. This tastes even better if you let it sit overnight in the refrigerator, and will keep up to a week.
  3. Feel free to add in your own flavorings like lemon or lime juice, use raisins instead of cranberries, or add spinach rather than celery. If you have nut allergies, omit the cashews/peanuts, and if you still want crunch add a tbsp large breadcrumbs, fried onions, or Chinese noodles.
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Turkey Bacon Club on Italian

 

Hot on the heels of my light, ultra-healthy, vegan Avocado Beet Wrap post Tuesday, I bring you this trifecta of meat-wich! Hey, that’s the definition of omnivore I guess. That and the significant other might walk out if all I ever fed him was veggies. Though I try…

This was of course his brain-child, since a craving for a giant dagwood-like club had hit a few days ago. So a quick trip to ALDI’s and about $20 later, I brought home enough goodies to make about 5-6 of these bad boys, rather than pay someone else the same amount for two.

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These are delightful, not going to lie, and would certainly please the crowd at a picnic or BBQ. Unless of course, it’s the Vegans United of America BBQ.  (I just made that group up, and if it’s a real thing I in no way intend to mock or upset anyone. Maybe someday I’ll even join)

Ingredients:

  • 1 large roll Italian bread, cut in thirds (or several smaller individual rolls)
  • 1/2 pound turkey
  • 1/2 pound ham
  • 1 pound bacon
  • 6 slices white American cheese (or whatever kind you like)
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1/4 red onion, slivered
  • 3 large Romaine leaves
  • 1 cup sprouts
  • 1 avocado
  • Handful of peppers
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • salt & pepper
  • Other toppings: parmesan cheese, mustard, mayo, balsamic vinegar, pickles, etc.

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Step 1: Fry the bacon in a frying pan, let drip dry on some paper towels. Cut up any veggies you are using.

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Step 2: Cut open the rolls if they aren’t already cut. Pro-move: Heat in a buttered pan until slightly crispy, or microwave 30 seconds. Layer the turkey, ham, and bacon, top with oodles of toppings and cheese. Trust me, this last part is the key. Drizzle on 2 tbsp olive oil and red wine vinegar, and sprinkle on salt & pepper to taste.

Now laugh & take pictures of your friends and family as they try to fit their mouth around this monstrous delicacy you’ve created!

 

Avocado Beet Wrap

 

As spring kicks into gear and temperatures climb, we start looking for lighter, cooling dishes. It’s tough to enjoy a beef stew or thick chili when it’s 95 and humid. Luckily spring and summer bring a rotating buffet of delicious seasonal vegetables and fruits.

One of my favorite ways to use fresh produce is in a wrap. You can only have a bowl of salad so many times before it gets old. This way you can still have all the greens and good toppings but in a portable, desk-friendly format. Wraps are easily adaptable to just about any veggie or dip (such as hummus, guacamole, or sriracha ranch).

This wrap packs the healthy fats of avocado, the anti-cancer and inflammation-fighting power of beets, the hydration of cucumber and greens in one fabulous lunch. But feel free to sub in another type of green (spinach, kale, beet greens) or other veggies you have on hand. On average, you should eat about 2 1/2 cups of veggies per day, and a wrap should contain approximately 1 cup.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tortilla
  • 1 whole roasted beet (4-5 slices)
  • 1/2 cucumber, skin on if organic
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/4 head of romaine (or 1/2 c greens)

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Step 1: Cut up your avocado, cucumber, & beets. Spread the greens on the tortilla, top with veggies. Roll up and enjoy!

 

*Some time saver tips:

  • Use canned beets for the slices
  • Pick up pre-cut cucumber from a salad bar
  • Use packaged guac instead of an avocado

Baker’s Dozen: Quick Lunch Ideas

 

Happy Easter my dear readers! Hopefully you are reading this after the fact, because when this is published I wish you all the love of family and friends, good food, and chocolate bunnies. Wherever and whenever you are, thanks for reading! (By the way, you may enjoy last year’s Easter article, or this handy guide of ideas for leftover ham).

Somewhere between 11 and 1 each day, your stomach or your watch will bring up that daily question: What’s for lunch? While leftovers make a fantastic lunch option, you can only tolerate ham sandwiches or the same old pasta so many times in one week.

If you’re tired of the same sandwich every day, if you’re going broke eating out 5 days a week, or if you just want to try something new, look no further! Here are 13 great ideas for lunch today, tomorrow, next week, or forever. Mix it up based on your own tastes, and what you have available.

 

Simple Sandwiches
The classic lunchtime standby, a cold sandwich is the pinnacle of convenience. You don’t need to heat, mix, or do anything besides open the container and enjoy. Of course, if you are at home or have access to a grill/panini press, more power to you! Here are some fun ideas besides the tired PB&J.

Mediterranean Panini – This combination of fresh, Mediterranean inspired vegetables and warm melty goodness only needs one letter to describe it: Mmmmmmmm…

Vurgers (Veggie burgers!) – These little gems can be made 8-12 at a time and frozen for lunch in a flash. Eat them alone, on bread, or wrapped up, with your choice of toppings. I’d recommend cheese, salsa, and/or coleslaw.

Double Turkey BLT – With sliced turkey and turkey bacon, plus fresh crisp veggies, this protein-packed beauty should tide you over until the dinner bell rings.

That’s a Wrap
Wraps are even more simple than sandwiches because you can close the tortilla on both sides so nothing oozes out. And you can put just about anything you can think of into a wrap, don’t limit yourself to just lunch meat. Breakfast burritos are great at noon too.

Vegetarian Wrap – customize this with whatever you have available: shredded carrots, juilenned cucumber or zucchini, sprouts, homemade red pepper hummus, greens, avocado or guacamole…

Caesar Chicken Wrap – wrap up 1 cup of shredded lettuce (try Romaine, kale, and/or spinach), 1/2 cup grilled chicken (hot or cold), shredded Parmesan cheese, a few croutons and a drizzle of Caesar or Ranch dressing for a quick, easy, portable lunch.

Ham & Veggie Burrito – use whatever fresh or frozen veggies you have on hand to create a unique lunchtime treat. Eat cold or hot.

Super Salads
Salads have a bad rap for being “rabbit food”, something only the super healthy or super weird consider a meal, and not at all filling. That is just a downright lie! You can eat a pile of greens the size of your head for fewer calories than a ‘snack-size’ bag of chips, and if you add the right kinds of toppings you can stay fueled all day. Besides, there are other kinds of salads than the leafy green kind.

Kale & Barley Salad – a vegetarian delight, this hearty mix tastes amazing and will keep your tummy from growling for hours.

Creamy Tuna Potato Salad – with lean protein from the tuna, filling starch from the potatoes, and lots of fresh veggies, this meal has it all.

Steak & Orange Salad – thin slices of strip or flank steak pair perfectly with mandarin oranges and a balsamic vinaigrette. Feel free to use pear or apple slices instead and any dressing you like.

Asian Chicken Salad – use that old package of Ramen noodles in a healthier, more creative, and much tastier way than salty chicken water.

Soup’s On
Soups are a classic budget favorite because they are infinitely versatile and super cheap per serving. But if you get creative, there are plenty of filling, portable options, even some that can be eaten cold. Invest in a nice thermos, or take advantage of the microwave if you have one available.

Ham & Barley Soup – with layers of flavor from the ham bones, healthy kale and carrots, and whole grain barley, this soup should keep you going until quitting time. Add a garden salad, some thick hearty bread or crackers to complete the meal.

Baked Potato Soup – Potatoes are fabulous, they are so cheap and are very filling. Try this twist on classic baked potato soup for far fewer calories and your wallet and waist will thank you.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup – Best served in a bread bowl, but also great enjoyed with fresh crusty bread.

 

*Those recipes in italics are vegetarian/vegan friendly! Feel free to add meat if that is your thing.

Creamy Tuna Potato Salad

 

I’ve never been a huge fan of potato salads. They are usually overly-fatty-creamy, with cold mushy potatoes and bits of who-knows-what. Just not appetizing. But then I read this in some magazine once, and since I had asparagus and red potatoes already, decided to give it a whirl.

With a bit of a twist and crossover of tuna salad and potato salad, and easy on the saucy things, it sounded much more delicious than your usual potato salad rotting in the picnic sun. And by substituting in Greek yogurt for some of the heavier dairy per usual it becomes slightly healthier.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds redskin potatoes
  • 1/2 cup frozen mixed vegetables (or just peas)
  • 10-12 spears asparagus
  • 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 can tuna, drained
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • Salt, pepper, dill, oregano, etc.

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Step 1: Dice your potatoes, and bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook 5-7 minutes. Add the chopped asparagus and frozen veggies and cook another 3-5 minutes.

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Step 2: Mix the yogurt, mayo, and milk in a small bowl. Use more or less milk to make it your desired consistency.

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Step 3: Drain the potatoes and vegetables. In a large bowl, combine the tuna, potatoes, and cream dressing. Season as desired, mix well.

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This recipe makes enough for three good-sized servings. The SO and I each had some for dinner, then I packed up the rest for lunch the following day.

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This is tasty warm right after combining, or cold right out of the refrigerator, making it a great dish for leftovers.