Tired of eating frozen meals and PB&Js for lunch everyday? It may be time to give your midday meal an easy makeover. You can do this by preparing delicious dishes in advance, freezing them, and then reheating them at work. From mouth-watering meatloaf to an irresistibly cheesy lasagna, we’ve compiled gourmet dishes that go above and beyond a typical lunch.
Betty Crocker notes that when you are preparing and storing food in the freezer, make sure it is completely cool first. If you’re planning to bring these dishes to work, it’s best to freeze them in individual portions and use airtight containers that can go directly in the microwave. Keep reading to discover five delicious reheat and eat lunches that will make your co-workers jealous.
1. Slow Cooker Meatloaf
Spark Recipes’ slow cooker meatloaf is rich, saucy, and perfectly moist. If you’re planning to use this recipe as a reheat-and-eat lunch, you’ll want to cook it in advance, let it cool, cut it into individual portions, and then freeze. We recommend taking a slice out of the freezer and placing it in the fridge to thaw the day before you plan to bring it to work. This dish tastes delicious as is, but you can also easily transform it into a hearty sandwich; simply bring your sandwich fixings to work with you in a baggie. No matter which way you decide to eat it, it’s guaranteed to taste terrific!
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon skim milk
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon
- Worcestershire sauce
- 1 slice whole-grain bread
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ medium onion, diced (about ½ cup)
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pound extra lean ground beef
- ¼ cup no-salt-added ketchup
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon no-salt-added tomato paste
Directions: Combine the egg, milk, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce in a large mixing bowl. Tear or chop the bread into small cubes, add to the egg mixture, and soak for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining meatloaf ingredients and combine, using a fork. Coat an 8-inch round glass or metal baking dish with nonstick spray. Transfer the meat to the dish and form into a meatloaf shape. Pour ½ cup water into the slow cooker liner to create a water bath for the baking dish.
Set on low and cover. Cook for 6 to 8 hours. One hour before eating, combine the sauce ingredients in a small dish. Remove the lid from the slow cooker and carefully remove the baking dish holding the meatloaf. Over a large bowl, slowly tilt the meatloaf to remove the fat that has pooled in the bottom of the dish. Pour the sauce over the meatloaf. Return to the slow cooker, replace the lid, and cook 1 more hour. Remove the meatloaf from the slow cooker and cool slightly before serving.
2. Make-Ahead Chicken Enchiladas
Today delivers a 5-ingredient recipe for chicken enchiladas that can easily be made in advance. After preparing the enchiladas, you can store them in the fridge for up to 2 days — just make sure they are tightly covered with foil. They can also be frozen for up to 3 months; to freeze smaller portions, store the enchiladas in individual lidded freezer-safe containers prior to freezing, and then microwave them for 2 to 3 minutes before eating. Don’t forget to bring a small container of sour cream, guacamole, and salsa to enjoy with your lunch!
- 1 (15-ounce) can enchilada sauce
- 8 packaged flour tortillas
- 4 cups (about 1 pound) chopped rotisserie or other cooked chicken
- 1 small red or green bell pepper, cored and diced
- 1 (6-ounce) bag shredded Mexican blend, cheddar, or Monterey Jack cheese
- Optional: sour cream, guacamole and/or salsa, for serving
Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour about ⅓ of the can of enchilada sauce into a 9-by-13-inch casserole pan. Line up the tortillas crosswise in the pan, folded open like taco shells for easy filling. Fill the enchiladas, scooping about ½ cup of cooked chicken into each tortilla. Divide the diced bell pepper evenly between the tortillas, sprinkling the pieces on top of the chicken. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon shredded cheese over the bell pepper.
Drizzle about 1 tablespoon enchilada sauce over the filling. Roll and bake: Starting at one end of the pan, roll up the tortillas so the seamed side of each tortilla is face-down in the pan. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce evenly across the top of the tortillas, then top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Cool to room temperature.
3. Free-Form Sausage and Three-Cheese Lasagna
Packed with cheese and sausage, Kitchen Daily’s lasagna is a filling and comforting lunch dish. It’s referred to as “free form” because you can arrange the noodles in different ways. For example, Kitchen Daily notes that you can fold your noodles over the filling, rather than layering them like you would with a traditional lasagna dish. The recipe yields 6 servings.
- ½ pound lasagna noodles
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for tossing
- ½ pound sweet Italian sausage
- 1 cup water
- 4 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomato, chopped and juices reserved
- Freshly ground pepper
- Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- ½ pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 8 pieces
- 6 ounces Italian Fontina, cut into 8 pieces
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ¼ cup thinly sliced basil leaves
Directions: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the lasagna noodles until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and transfer the noodles to a bowl of cold water and let stand for 2 minutes, then drain. Pat the noodles dry. Transfer to a bowl and toss with olive oil. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the Italian sausage, cover, and cook over moderate heat, turning once, until browned all over. Add the water, cover, and simmer until the sausage is just cooked through, about 4 minutes. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Add the garlic and cook over low heat until golden, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices and cook over moderate heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sausage and its poaching liquid and simmer for 4 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a plate. Simmer the sauce over moderate heat until thickened, about 12 minutes. Coarsely break up the sausage and season the sauce with salt and pepper. In a well-buttered, 9-by-13-inch ceramic baking dish, arrange 3 lasagna noodles in different directions in the dish, leaving about 2 inches of overhang. Spoon a scant ¼ cup of the tomato sauce over each lasagna noodle and sprinkle with a little grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Set a piece of mozzarella and Fontina on each lasagna noodle and add a few chunks of sausage. Fold the overhanging lasagna noodles on top of the cheese and sausage. Repeat the process with the remaining lasagna noodles, tomato sauce, mozzarella, Fontina, and sausage, sprinkling with a little more Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Brush the softened butter on any bare pasta and curly edges, and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake the lasagna on the top rack of the oven for 20 minutes, until the sauce starts to bubble. Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees Fehrenheit and bake for about 7 minutes longer, until the top is richly browned. Let the lasagna rest for about 10 minutes, then scatter the sliced basil on top, cut into squares and serve.
4. Butter Chicken in a Silky Sauce
Similar to curry, Alison Mollenhauer’s recipe for butter chicken via Mark’s Daily Apple consists of a rich, silky sauce and plenty of aromatic spices. Marinating your chicken in Greek-style yogurt will create a tender, melt-in-your-mouth dish and ensures your meat isn’t dry or tough. This is a dish that tastes better with time — as the dish sits, the flavors will continue to meld, and the texture will get even richer and creamier. After preparing your chicken, portion it into zip-top bags or microwave containers for an easy reheat-and-eat lunch.
- 4 pounds chicken thighs, chopped into 1-inch cubes
- 6 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 3 teaspoons ground coriander
- 3 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ¾ cup Greek-style yogurt
- 7 tablespoons butter, chopped
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 6 cardamom pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1½ cups cream or coconut milk
- ½ cup fresh coriander, coarsely chopped
Directions: Combine chicken, garlic, spices, and yogurt in a covered container. Refrigerate for an hour or two. Melt butter in a deep pan. Add vinegar, tomato paste, tomatoes, cardamom, and cinnamon. Boil rapidly, stirring until sauce is thick, approximately 20 minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer and add chicken. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally until chicken is cooked through. Add cream or coconut milk, simmer a few minutes more, and garnish with chopped cilantro.
5. Spiced Lentil, Sweet Potato, and Kale Whole-Wheat Pockets
The Kitchn’s spiced lentil, sweet potato, and kale whole-wheat pockets are just as convenient as Hot Pockets but far more delicious. This healthy vegan recipe freezes well and tastes good hot or at room temperature, meaning you don’t even have to leave your desk to eat lunch (although we do recommend at least getting up and stretching your legs!). Preparing this dish does take a bit of time, but there are a few shortcuts that make it easier. You can use store-bought whole-wheat pizza dough, and you can roast and refrigerate the sweet potatoes days before assembling. After taking one bite of these fragrant, spice-filled whole-wheat pockets, you’ll realize the effort you put in was well worth it!
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1½ cups whole-wheat flour
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 3 small sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for brushing
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ cup French green lentils, picked over and rinsed
- 2 cups water
- ½ bunch kale, tough ribs and stems removed
- ½ teaspoon salt
Directions: Combine the warm water and yeast in a small bowl and let sit until the yeast dissolves. Meanwhile, combine the two flours and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix on low speed. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, followed by the dissolved yeast mixture, and mix on low speed until a shaggy dough forms.
Knead for 7 to 10 minutes, until dough is smooth. Lightly grease a large bowl with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Prick the sweet potatoes in several places with a fork and place on a baking sheet. Bake 45 minutes to an hour, or until very soft to the touch. Set aside to cool. Cut the onion in half. Thinly slice one half and set aside.
Dice the other half. Warm 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and sauté the diced onion and garlic until onion is translucent. Add the cumin, cinnamon, and allspice and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the lentils and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
Cut the kale into bite-size pieces. Add kale and salt to the lentils. Cover and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes more, until lentils are soft but not mushy. Taste and adjust seasoning. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lentil and kale mixture to a bowl, leaving most of the cooking liquid in the pot. Meanwhile, warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy skillet over low heat. Add the thinly sliced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Increase the oven heat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Divide the dough into 6 pieces and let rest for 20 minutes, loosely covered with plastic wrap. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch chunks. Mash with a fork until smooth and add a sprinkle of salt, if needed. On a well-floured cutting board, roll a piece of the dough into an 8- or 9-inch oval. Spread about ¼ cup mashed sweet potato over bottom half the dough, leaving room at the edges to seal the pocket closed. Cover with about ⅓ cup of the lentils and kale.
Top with a small amount of caramelized onions. Fold top half of the dough over, and pinch and fold edges to seal securely. Use a spatula to transfer pocket to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush top with olive oil and cut 2 or 3 small slits to let steam escape as it bakes. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until browned.
Let cool for at least 5 minutes if serving immediately. To freeze, let the pockets cool completely on the baking sheet and then place the entire baking sheet in the freezer. Once pockets are completely frozen, wrap each one individually in foil or plastic wrap and store in a freezer-safe container. Thaw and reheat in the microwave or oven, or eat at room temperature.