Monday, November 29, 2010

[Leftover] Turkey Chili

I always feel silly writing recipes for chili. Everyone pretty much has their own method, and it's so easy, anyway! But in case you've got a huge container of leftover turkey haunting your fridge, and can't stand the thought of one more turkey sandwich, I present my favorite post-Thanksgiving recipe. Fill five canning jars with the results and your lunch is set for a week! Apologies for the less than stellar picture, but it's not much prettier even when you can see the chili clearly!

Grocery list
  • Kidney beans - 4 cans or 20 oz. cooked dried beans
  • Jalapeno peppers - 4 medium
  • Onions - 2 medium
  • Crushed tomatoes - 16 oz.
  • Tomato sauce - 12 oz.
  • Leftover turkey - about 3 cups chopped (I'm assuming you have this on hand! If not, I think a pound of browned ground turkey would work well.)
  • Garlic - 4 cloves
  • Olive oil
  • Seasonings: Salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, paprika, anything else you like


Dice the onions and jalapenos and mince the garlic. Saute them in a bit of olive oil over medium heat until the onions are transparent but not browned. Stir occasionally and cover in between stirrings so the jalapeno vapors don't get to you! In a slow cooker or large stockpot on medium heat, combine the turkey, beans, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce and sauteed vegetables. Season to taste (I used about a teaspoon of each spice listed) and cook for about 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, until the turkey has broken down a bit and everything is well blended.

Yield: 6-8 servings
To bring: canning jar!

Questions about the cooking method? Please let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich

Just how delicious this lunch is in relation to its extremely low prep time is surprising - you could seriously slap this puppy together in two minutes before you run out of the house, and have a super tasty lunch to look forward to all morning! Roasted red peppers are a great item to keep around for last minute sandwiches. They keep well in the jar they're packaged in, but still have most of the nutrition of fresh red peppers.

The way I've made it, this has about two servings of cheese. If you want to cut back and just use one serving, bulk it up with some leafy greens - I think arugula would be great!

Grocery list
  • Bread (baguette or sub roll) - about 6 inches.
  • Cheese (brie, mozzarella, etc.) - 2 ounces
  • Roasted red peppers - 2 whole peppers, or several strips (I used Whole Foods 365 Organic brand)
  • Optional - pesto, mustard, basil leaves, arugula


Slice the peppers in half so they'll lay flat (if they've been packaged whole). I'd also suggest patting them dry with a paper towel if you're not going to eat this right away. It really only needs the peppers and cheese, but if you happen to have some basil or pesto on hand...well, just be careful not to eat the whole thing right there on the spot!

Yield: 1 serving
To bring:
sandwich bag

Questions about the cooking method? Please let me know in the comments! 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Grab 'n Go: Cottage Cheese, Crackers, Cookie, Apple, Coconut Water

Friends! Readers! I've been absent, I know. But I have a really good reason. Possibly the best reason there could be. I done got me a job! I'm working with Spoons Across America, a non-profit that aims to teach kids about cooking and healthy eating (which is basically my one true jam - yay!) And I'm primarily working on their social media content, which hasn't left a lot of time for generating content here. But I'll figure out a balance, don't you worry! Meantime, check out their website, blog and follow us on Twitter!

Speaking of time, I'm also excited that working in an office again will allow me to personally relate to the "no time the night before" dilemma that you guys selected as the number one reason (55%) that it's hard to bring a healthy lunch in my poll a few weeks back. Since I can't magically add time to your evenings, I decided to create a new feature, "Grab 'n Go" in which I, with all my professional studying-to-one-day-be-a-real-dietitian knowledge, balance out a lunch consisting of ingredients that you can literally just drop into a paper bag on your way out the door (or, say, five paper bags you stash in your fridge on Sunday night).

The main trouble with grab and go items is that, other certain fruits and maybe yogurt, most packaged items are highly processed and don't pass my healthy food sniff test. And in my experience, they don't always satisfy the "real food" craving that tends to pop up when lunch rolls around. But I'm going to do my best to scout out products that will work - if you have any suggestions, definitely let me know!

For today's meal, I selected:

Grocery list

I thought it would be interesting to check out some nutritional and financial stats. In total, the meal has:

  • Calories - 415
  • Fat - 7 grams
  • Sodium - 675 mg
  • Carbs - 74 grams
  • Fiber - 9 grams
  • Sugar - 42 grams
  • Protein - 14 grams
  • Cost - $4.66

Not too shabby. The sugar content seems high, but keep in mind that the apple packs about 13 grams of fruit sugar, and you'd be drinking more than 42 grams of added sugar if you downed a regular soda with your meal anyway. The main reason I've been so obsessed with coconut water recently is that it only has 14 grams of sugar, which is way less than other fruit juices. Plus, at least psychologically, the electrolytes provide a great mid afternoon boost without all the sodium of a sports drink. Sodium is also bound to be an issue when eating mostly packaged foods, but 675 mg in this meal is around a fourth of the recommended max of 2400 mg (for a 2000 calorie diet), so I think that's pretty good too.

I think $4.66 is definitely a good deal considering most lunches out cost around $8-10 (in my experience) but you're definitely also paying for the convenience of pre-packaged products. Clearly you could cut down the total cost by packaging the crackers and cottage cheese yourself, but I guess that would kind of defeat the purpose of grab and go!

Yield: 1 lunch
To bring: paper bag

Questions about the cooking method? Please let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

DIY Yogurt Cup

Ok, I'm officially obsessed with this. And I've been obsessed ever since I came across the idea on The Kitchn - why hadn't I thought of it before?! Using a canning jar to store your lunch is just plain brilliant - it's pretty much leak proof, first of all, but it's also just so darn cute and pretty.

"But where oh where do I get a canning jar?" you ask? I picked up a few at The Brooklyn Kitchen for just over a dollar each, but canning supplies are all over the place these days. Many Whole Foods stock them, and I've also seen the jars at dollar stores. Any jar will do if you really can't find one, just make sure you're confident in its ability not to leak.

I also love this because so many yogurt cups are loaded with sugar, and here you get to control the precise sugar content. Don't feel limited to jam - fruit and honey are also options! It's also a great way to save money and buy larger containers of yogurt instead of smaller (non-recyclable) cups. I love the idea of dolling out yogurt and jam into five jars on a Sunday night, then topping them off with nuts or granola stashed at your desk when you plan to eat them!

I'm wondering what else would be good to bring in a canning jar...right now I'm thinking oatmeal, maybe soup. So much better for the microwave than plastic, and not much heavier. Any other suggestions?

Grocery list
  • Plain yogurt (I used Stoneyfield Farm's organic reduced-fat version)
  • Small canning jar (I'm assuming you'll have to buy this...)
  • Optional: fruit, honey, etc.
  • Jam or preserves (a low-sugar version would be great)
  • Nuts or granola


Spoon the jam into the bottom of the jar. About two tablespoons works for me, but use whatever you like. Top with about a cup of yogurt. For the jar pictured, I actually put everything together more than 24 hours before eating it, and the walnuts I used weren't soggy at all. But, if you plan to use granola or store the cups for a few days, it might be better to add the topping when you're ready to eat it.

Yield: 1 serving
To bring: canning jar!

Questions about the cooking method? Please let me know in the comments! 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Avocado Toast

I know what you're thinking - what a pretty picture! Many thanks to Ferris of Dove + Sparrow wedding photography for teaching me how to actually use my camera! To think, all this time I was trying to shoot with fluorescent lights. And who knew aluminum foil had uses outside of the kitchen? Stop by her newly designed site to see some great photography (and yes, stalk pictures of my wedding!)

On to the gloriously photographed food at hand...although, avocados are fairly glorious no matter how bad the photo is. I love that they come in their own packaging - as long as it's not too mushy, you can just throw one in your bag, or even have a few ripening on your desk (stick them in a paper bag to speed things along.) I topped this with a squeeze of fresh lemon (you can pack a few slices in a plastic bag, they're also great for drinks) and chili flakes, which are a great desk pantry staple. My last office always had some floating around due to massive pizza orders! There's some cilantro on there too, which you could pack in with the lemon, but it's optional.

And yes, I cut the avocado open with a plastic knife and spooned it out with a plastic spoon, just to see if it could be done! It's no trouble at all as long as the fruit is ripe.

Grocery list
  • Avocado - 1 medium (I find they're most affordable packaged as bags of four in many stores)
  • Bread (or crackers like melba toast) - 1 slice
  • Lemon or lime - juice of 1 wedge (or a few squirts of bottled)
  • Cilantro (optional)
  • Salt - to taste
  • Red pepper flakes - to taste

Toast the bread and slice it. Granted, you have to have a toaster in your office for this lunch to work properly. If you don't have one, avocados are perfectly good on untoasted bread, or there's always melba toast! Cut open the avocado and spoon out each half onto the slices. Mush it together and top with salt, chili flakes, lemon juice and whatever else you like. I think za'tar would be another great option. Any other suggestions?

Yield: 1 toast
To bring: plastic bags

Questions about the cooking method? Please let me know in the comments!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What's Your Biggest Lunch Challenge?

Empty, but not forgotten

Since starting this blog, I've heard many different reasons for why it's so hard to bring a healthy lunch to work every day. So I'm curious - what makes it difficult for you? I want to bring you the most relevant recipes and tips, so please help a sister out and answer the question below!

What is your biggest challenge in bringing a healthy lunch?
I'm excited to hear from you!

Photo used under Creative Commons from Flickr user stillframe.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Baba Ghanoush and Pita

Baba ghanoush is essentially hummus made with eggplant instead of chick peas. The other ingredients are all the same: garlic, olive oil, tahini (ground sesame seeds), lemon juice and salt. I love to make it this time of year because I just can't resist all the pretty purple eggplants that are in season, but it's also a great Middle Eastern dip to make yourself because it's much easier on appliances than chick peas (I burned out the motors of two blenders before realizing you should really make hummus in a food processor!) If you're not up for the DIY version, many brands like Sabra sell it right alongside hummus at the store. Several varieties include mayonnaise though, so watch out if you're looking to keep the meal vegan.

Grocery list
  • Eggplant - 2 medium (about 3 lbs.)
  • Tahini - 2 tbsp. (optional - use more olive oil if not using. It's usually found near the peanut butter)
  • Lemon - juice of 1/2 (or 2 tbsp. bottled juice)
  • Whole wheat mini pitas - 2
  • Garlic - 2-4 cloves
  • Olive oil - 2 tsp.
  • Salt - about 1/2 tsp.
  • Smoked paprika - optional
  • Parsley flakes - optional

Slice each eggplant lengthwise and puncture the outside skin several times. Lay the fruit cut side down on a sheet sprayed with oil and roast under a low broiler for 1/2 hour (or for 1 hour at 400 degrees, although I don't like to leave the oven on for that long when it's hot outside!) Turn the the eggplant to face upwards about halfway through. If you like roasted garlic (it's more mellow) go ahead and throw the cloves in at this point.

It's best to let the eggplant cool completely. When it's ready to handle, peel off the skin and press out most of the liquid (it can give the dip a bitter taste; use a towel if you need to.) Now for the easy part - put everything in the blender! I like to add the garlic one clove at a time at the end to get the right flavor. And of course, add more of any ingredient until you get a taste you like!

Pack it in a small container. I topped mine with smoked paprika and parsley flakes for effect, but they're optional. Add a plastic bag with two sliced mini pitas and you're good to go! It's also great on bread (or a bag of pita chips from the vending machine if you're desperate.)

Yield: about 3 cups, or 6 servings
To bring: small container and plastic bag

Questions about the cooking method? Please let me know in the comments! 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Strawberry and Walnut Salad

I have this idea that if I'm going to have salad as a meal, it needs to have a zillion things in it in order to "count." But if you just use larger amounts of whatever you have, it's really just as substantial, plus there's less prep. And if those things happen to be the kind of foods that make you look forward to your lunch break, all the better! I love fruit in salad because it's a punchy little surprise in every other bite. Nuts and chickpeas pack protein (about 10 grams total if you use 1/4 cup of each) and of course you have the leafy greens.

As for dressing, I used Galeos Miso Ceasar because it's just about the only awesome tasting low-fat dressing I know of that doesn't have tons of artificial ingredients, but (as Jamie Oliver would say) strawberries are also great friends with balsamic vinegar. Since both balsamic and olive oil don't need a fridge, they're a great option to keep at your desk without any worries of coworkers stealing a glug. If you're bringing dressing from home, try packing a small plastic container or baby food jar inside the salad container least if it spills, it will just go on your salad!

I haven't listed ingredient amounts here...I figure you know how much you want to eat!

Grocery list
  • Greens (spinach, arugula, spring mix, etc)
  • Strawberries (or apples in the fall!)
  • Nuts (walnuts, almonds)
  • Chickpeas (canned, optional)
  • Salad dressing OR balsamic vinegar and olive oil (about a tablespoon of each)


Wash wash, chop know what to do! Save the dressing for when you're just about to dig in to minimize the sog factor.

Yield: 1 great big salad
To bring: large plastic container, smaller jar for dressing

Questions about the cooking method? Please let me know in the comments!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Egg Salad on (Fancy) Toast

I know egg salad is up there with tuna on the potentially smelly-lunch list, but I eat it pretty often and haven't had any problems, so just use your discretion! If your eggs are fresh, smells should be minimal. I'm a big fan of organic eggs because I think you can really tell the difference, so maybe that's why I haven't had many problems  - plus you'll have much less to worry about considering the recent salmonella outbreak!

Egg salad sandwiches are still kind of "meh" though, which is why I thought of using these cute mini loaves I always see near the deli section - much fancier! I always pack the salad component separately anyway, so I figure there isn't much difference between transferring it to two slices versus a bunch of fancy mini ones. I'm really partial to seasoning the egg mixture with Old Bay - it's a spice blend so you don't have to think about adding anything else - but use whatever you like: chopped onions, garlic, any number of dried seasonings.

(PS...also makes a great study snack, although mostly I was just getting sick of taking pictures in front of my computer!)

Grocery list
  • Eggs - 2 (or more, if you want to make enough for several days)
  • Bread - 4-5 mini toasts, or 2 regular slices
  • Mayonnaise - about 1 tbsp. for every two eggs
  • Spices - 1-2 tsp. Old Bay or other spices


Boil the eggs - I usually add them to boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. Cool (at least slightly) and peel, then mash them up with mayo and spices to taste.

Yield: 1 serving
To bring: small container for eggs, plastic bag for bread.

Questions about the cooking method? Please let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chopped Caprese Salad

Pardon my extreme enthusiasm for this lunch - it is probably my most favorite food, ever! Especially with summer tomatoes that are just coming into season. Of course it's best with fresh buffalo mozzarella, but I've noticed that if the tomatoes are good enough it's not horrible to substitute a packaged cheese like Sargento or Polly-O, and it's certainly far cheaper. You'll often find this prepared in restaurants with large slices of cheese and tomatoes layered together, but I like to dice everything to make it easier to eat with a fork! I highly recommend buying both the tomatoes and basil at a farmer's market for the freshest taste.

Grocery list
  • Mozzarella cheese - 2 ounces (about two 1 cm slices of a 16 oz. package)
  • Tomato - 1 large
  • Basil - small bunch (about 1/2 cup, chopped)
  • Olive oil - 1 tbsp., or to taste
  • Salt - to taste
  • Fresh black pepper - to taste


Chop the tomatoes and cheese into a medium dice and shred the basil. In a large bowl, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to lunch container.

Yield: 1 serving
To bring: transport container

Questions about the cooking method? Please let me know in the comments!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Quinoa Salad with Berries, Nuts and Greens

This recipe is a little more complex than most of the recipes I plan to post on this site, but if the rave reviews it received from every single person who tried it tell you anything, I think it's worth it! I used a whole box of quinoa so it makes a ton - feel free to cut it in half if you don't think you'll use all 8 servings in one week.

Bonus: this recipe is crazy healthy, especially for how delicious it is! Quinoa (keen-waa) is a whole grain with lots of fiber and protein, and you already knew that nuts and leafy greens are super good for you. Depending on how much olive oil you add, it's also fairly low fat, plus it's vegan and gluten free!

Grocery list
  • Quinoa - 1 box (16 oz.)
  • Vegetable stock - 1 box
  • Fresh currents OR pomegranate seeds OR dried sweetened cranberries - 1 cup
  • Kale OR other dark greens (collards, spinach) - 1 medium bunch
  • Walnuts OR other nut - 1 cup, chopped
  • Onion OR shallots - 1/2 to one cup, chopped
  • Olive oil OR butter - 1 to 2 tbsp.
  • Salt - 1 tsp. or to taste

Cook the quinoa according to the directions on the box, substituting vegetable stock for water (add a few cups of water if you need need more liquid.)

Chop the greens and their stems into fork-sized pieces. Blanch them in boiling water, making sure to add the stems about 2 minutes before the leaves. Cook the leaves and stems together for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Sautee the onions or shallots along in olive oil until softened and slightly caramelized.

Optional: toast the walnuts in a dry pan 2-3 minutes. Be careful not to burn them!

When the quinoa is cooked, salt to taste. Toss in the rest of the ingredients: greens, berries, nuts, onions. Top with more olive oil if desired. Store in a large container in the refrigerator for up to one week, or immediately split into individual lunch containers. Serve either cold or heated.

Yield: 8 one to two cup servings
To bring: transport container (microwave safe if heating)

Questions about the cooking method? Please let me know in the comments!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Open-Faced Strawberry Sandwich

This is hardly a sandwich, but I don't know what else to call it! For this low-sugar take on PB&J, I used an Arnold's multi-grain sandwich thin. It's sort of an odd cross between an English muffin and pita bread, but you could use any sort of bread here, even regular whole wheat slices. I used Brad's Organic Cashew Butter, but regular peanut butter would definitely be cheaper and has fairly similar nutritional content. By my calculations, this simple lunch has about 300 calories, 10 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fiber!

Grocery list
  • Whole grain bread product: sandwich thins, English muffins, pita OR bread slices - 2 slices
  • Nut butter: cashew, almond OR peanut - 2 tbsp.
  • Strawberries (or other fruit) - 4, sliced


I wouldn't transport this in its assembled form - too likely to get mushy! Instead, I slice the strawberries ahead of time and pack them in a small plastic container. You can pack the bread slices in a separate plastic bag, or just keep the whole package in your desk at work if you plan to use it all in one week. Nut butters will keep well in a desk drawer too!

When you're ready to eat, toast the bread if possible/desired (you can also do this ahead of time at home) spread a tablespoon of nut butter on each slice and top with strawberries. Make sure they don't fall off when you eat it!

Yield: 1 serving
To bring: transport container for the strawberries, plastic bag for the bread.

Questions about the cooking method? Please let me know in the comments!