Think beyond sandwiches for your lunch

Healthy, tasty noon meals require some prep work but it will pay off with big flavors, nutritional boost

 

While most people put a great deal of thought into their evening meals, the same can’t always be said about their lunches.

A sandwich, piece of fruit and maybe a sweet are the basics many people depend on. A salad, with the dressing packaged separately and a few crackers on the side, might find a place on your lunch plate.

 Or, for some adventurous types, you might see a thermos of soup or a hot dog in boiling water that can be placed on a bun for a hot meal.

Even on weekends, lunch tends to be an afterthought. A sandwich, reheated leftovers or a frozen pizza are common.

But in the middle of a busy day, lunch is often the longest break you have. It’s a time to rest, relax and energize to take on the afternoon’s chores.

To do that, make a healthy, tasty lunch a priority. You can do that with  a bit of forethought.

For some, it might be easiest to prepare the meal ahead of time, either the night before or even on a weekend. You can then reheat the food for lunch.

If you’re planning to take leftovers to work for your lunch meal, package the leftovers in individual servings right after dinner and refrigerate them immediately. That way, all you have to do is grab them on your way out.

Of course, if you head home for lunch it’s easy to heat the food when you get there, especially if you’ve already done the prep work the might before.

Make sure you will enjoy your lunch even at work by keeping a few essentials stashed at your desk. A steak knife, silverware, a small cutting board, a small bottle of olive oil, flaky salt and a pepper grinder can help add a freshness to your meal.

 Following are a few recipes from foodnetwork.com that can be made for lunch.

    foodnetwork.com

Tex Mex Chicken Quinoa

2 tablespoons salsa
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup cooked chicken, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/4 cup black beans
For topping: diced avocado, shredded cheese, chopped fresh cilantro, freshly squeezed lime juice

    In a large mug or small bowl, combine oil and red onion. Microwave one to two minutes, until softened. Add chicken, quinoa, beans, salsa, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper to taste, then stir and microwave another minute or two. Serve with toppings of your choice.
    Makes one serving.

 

Pork and Broccoli Grain Bowl

1 pound pork tenderloin
3 cloves garlic, grated
1-1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
1-1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
3 cups broccoli florets
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup quinoa
Juice of 1 orange
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

    Halve the pork tenderloin crosswise, then halve lengthwise. Rub two-thirds of the garlic into the meat along with one teaspoon each oregano and cumin and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Set aside 10 minutes.
    Toss sweet potato and broccoli in a large bowl with one tablespoon olive oil, remaining cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast on the upper rack of a 450-degree oven for 25 minutes, stirring once, until lightly browned and tender.
    Cook the quinoa as the label directs.
    Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook five minutes, until browned. Flip the pork, transfer the skillet to the lower oven rack and roast about five minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 140 to 145 degrees. Transfer to a cutting board.
    Stir the orange juice, vinegar, red pepper flakes, remaining garlic, one tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon oregano in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
    Divide the quinoa and vegetables among four bowls. Slice pork and add to the bowls. Drizzle with the orange sauce.
    Makes four servings.

 

Broccoli Melts

1 pound broccolini or regular broccoli
Coarse salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
A few pinches red pepper flakes
Finely grated zest, then juice, of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup finely grated aged Pecorino-Romano
8 slices bread
8 thin slices provolone cheese

    If using broccolini, cut into two-inch segments. If using broccoli, peel the stems with a vegetable peeler, then cut the rest into large chunks.
    Pour about a one-inch puddle of salted water into a large saute pan and bring to a boil. Add broccoli and cover with a lid, then let it steam two minutes. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels, wringing out as much extra liquid as possible. Chop into small bits.
    Wipe saute pan dry and heat over medium. Add olive oil and let it heat for a full minute. Add garlic and pepper flakes, cooking about one minute, until the garlic just begins to turn golden. Add broccoli and cook one to two minutes, seasoning with salt. Transfer mixture to a bowl and add lemon zest and juice, Pecorino, salt and pepper flakes to taste.
    Preheat broiler. Arrange the bread on a baking sheet and lightly toast on both sides. Scoop broccoli mixture onto each slice of bread, lay a slice of provolone over it and heat under the broiler until the cheese has melted and begun to blister.

 

Chipotle Veggie Burritos

1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder, plus more to taste
Kosher salt
1 cup white rice
1 15-ounce can black bean soup
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cups frozen corn, preferably fire-roasted, thawed
1 large tomato, diced
Juice of 1 lime
4 burrito-size flour tortillas
2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese

    Puree all but three tablespoons cilantro with two cups water, garlic, chile powder and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a medium saucepan along with the rice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook about 18 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Uncover, stir and let cool five minutes.
    Bring black bean soup to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and cook about three minutes, until the liquid is slightly reduced. Stir in spinach and return to a simmer. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
    Toss corn, tomato, lime juice, the reserved cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon salt and chile powder to taste in a large bowl.
    Warm tortillas in a dry skillet or the microwave. Divide rice, bean mixture and cheese among the tortillas and top with some of the corn salsa. Fold up the bottoms of the tortillas, then fold in the sides and roll up. Serve with the remaining corn salsa.
    Makes four servings.

 

Monte Cristo Crepes

1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
1/4 cup dijon mustard
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 12-inch crepes
8 thin slices Black Forest ham
8 thin slices deli turkey
8 thin slices Muenster cheese
1 5-ounce package mixed greens
1 small head frisee, torn into small pieces
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

    Microwave jam in a microwave-safe bowl for 20 to 30 seconds, until loose. Stir in mustard and set aside.
    Heat 1/2 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add one crepe. Stack two slices each ham, turkey and cheese on one half of the crepe. Cook one to two minutes, until the crepe just starts to brown on the bottom and the cheese starts to melt.
    Fold crepe in half over the filling using a spatula, then fold in half again to form a wedge. Flip the wedge and cook about 30 seconds, until the bottom is browned. Transfer to a plate. Repeat to make three more crepes. Remove the skillet from the heat between batches if it gets too hot.
    Toss greens and frisee with olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Serve with raspberry mustard and salad.
    Makes four servings.

 

Antipasti Penne

12 ounces whole-grain penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 ounces soppressata or salami, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, strained and quartered
6 stuffed Spanish queen olives, halved, plus 2 tablespoons brine
1 14-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
4 to 5 fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup of 1/2-inch chunks fresh mozzarella

    Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, add pasta and cook according to package instructions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Return pasta to the pot.
    Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add soppressata and cook three minutes, stirring, until blistered and the oil turns reddish. Add artichoke hearts and olives and stir to coat. Add tomatoes, reserved pasta water, basil leaves and two tablespoons olive brine. Bring to a simmer and cook eight to 10 minutes, until most of the water evaporates and the sauce thickens slightly.
    Add sauce and mozzarella to the pasta and stir to combine. Divide among four bowls and garnish with more basil.
    Makes four servings.

 

 

Lemon Herb Rice Salad

2 lemons
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, shredded
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups long-grain white rice
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar
1 Kirby cucumber, seeded and diced
1/2 cup chopped salted roasted peanuts
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 bunch watercress, tough stems removed, leaves torn

    Remove two wide strips zest from one lemon with a vegetable peeler. Combine one strip zest with vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook about five minutes, until edges of the zest turn slightly golden. Let lemon oil cool.
    Cook rice as the label directs, adding remaining strip of zest to the water. Transfer rice to a large bowl, discarding the zest, and fluff with a fork. Cool to room temperature.
    To make the dressing, juice both lemons into a medium bowl. Add vinegar, brown sugar, 1-1/4 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Discard zest from the lemon oil, then whisk oil into the dressing. Add the onion slices and let marinate 15 minutes.
    Place carrot, cucumber, peanuts, cilantro, mint, basil and watercress in the bowl with the rice. Add dressing mixture and gently toss.
    Makes six servings.

 

Shrimp Fajita Salad

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 assorted bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
3/4 teaspoon fajita seasoning
Juice of 2 limes, plus wedges for serving
1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1-1/4 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 flour tortillas
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
1/2 cup pico de gallo

    Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook five minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened. Add bell peppers and 1/2 teaspoon fajita seasoning and cook three minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion starts browning and peppers are slightly softened. Add 1/4 cup water and continue cooking five minutes, until vegetables are tender.
    Whisk half the lime juice with 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil and agave in a medium bowl. Add half of the cilantro, and the onion and peppers. Season with salt and pepper, toss to coat and set aside.
    Wipe out the skillet and heat over high heat. Toss shrimp with the remaining olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon fajita seasoning in a bowl. Add to the skillet and cook two to three minutes per side, until the shrimp are pink. Remove from the heat and add the remaining lime juice and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.
    Warm tortillas. Divide lettuce among four bowls, top with onion and peppers, shrimp and pico de gallo. Serve with tortillas and lime wedges.
    Makes four servings.

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