Did you brown bag your lunch as a kid? Even if you didn’t, it’s time to revive the practice. Packing lunches isn’t only for school children — it’s a great option for adults, too. Bringing food from home saves money, and can be healthier than eating out. It’s also a great chance to get creative with food. You don’t need to take the same old peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a bag of chips every day (unless you really want to.) But if you’re in the market for something more exciting, here are six easy lunch recipes that require minimum morning preparation.
1. Ploughman’s Lunch
Is it going to be one of those weeks? You know, the kind where you are permanently stuck behind your desk, scarfing down your lunch in the middle of writing a report? If so, a ploughman’s lunch can be your go-to. Essentially, it is a deconstructed sandwich, normally involving any combination of bread, cheese, fruit or vegetables, chutney, and meat. With cut, easy to reach portions, it makes eating while working less messy. The combinations are endless, and you can skip a component if you feel like it. Simply take the ingredients listed below, pack them in a tupperware container, and do any assembling right before you eat. Here are a few variations to get you started.
Option 1: Ingredients — A hunk of mature cheddar, French bread, pickled onions, baby gherkins, tomato chutney, sticks of celery, sliced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and a thick slice of baked ham. If desired, spread butter on bread,
Option 2: Ingredients — 1 baguette, pickled onions, 2 types of cheese, 1 apple, cherry tomatoes, and pickle. Again, the bread can be buttered or enjoyed with a chutney. If you want to cut the apple before heading to the office, squeeze lemon juice over the slices to prevent them from browning.
Option 3: Ingredients — A chunk of cheddar, 1 apple cut into wedges, romaine lettuce, grated carrot, 3 cherry tomatoes, olive oil, and crackers. Place 2 romaine leaves in a container, then spoon 2 tablespoons chutney into one leaf and use the other leaf to hold a salad made of 1 small grated carrot, 3 cherry tomatoes, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil or preferred dressing.
A gazpacho makes perfect sense for an at-work lunch because it is served chilled. Whip up a batch over the weekend and you’ll be able to dish out lunch-sized portions into tupperware containers that can be taken to work any day of the week.
1 1/2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lime, juiced
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon toasted, ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
Directions: Fill a 6-quart pot halfway full of water, set over high heat, and bring to a boil. Make an X with a paring knife on the bottom of the tomatoes. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for 15 seconds, remove, and transfer to an ice bath and allow to cool until able to handle, approximately 1 minute. Remove and pat dry. Peel, core, and seed the tomatoes. When seeding the tomatoes, place the seeds and pulp into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl in order to catch the juice. Press as much of the juice through as possible and then add enough bottled tomato juice to bring the total to 1 cup.
Place the tomatoes and juice into a large mixing bowl. Add the cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, jalapeno, garlic clove, olive oil, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire, cumin, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the mixture to a blender and puree for 15 to 20 seconds on high speed. Return the pureed mixture to the bowl and stir to combine. Cover and chill for 2 hours and up to overnight. Serve with chiffonade of basil.
3. Hummus and Vegetable Wrap
Where so many wraps go wrong for work is that the ingredients need to be roasted, or sautéed. With all raw vegetables and protein-packed hummus, this wrap is ready in just a few minutes, making it any easy lunch to prepare before heading out the door in the morning.
2-3 tablespoons roasted red pepper hummus
Handful of shredded carrots
Handful of baby spinach
Splash of lemon juice/olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
Edamame soy beans
Directions: Spread the hummus. Add the ingredients in a thinly spread layer – distribute evenly. Roll up your lavash bread, wrap tightly. Slice into 1 inch thick rounds if desired. Place in a sealed container and go.
4. Steak Salad
Since you’re planning your lunches ahead of time for packing, why not plan dinners too? That way, you’ll be able to take your dinner leftovers as part of lunch, cutting down on food waste, and saving money. Take this salad to work a day or two after having steak for dinner. You can even make the vinaigrette ahead of time, or purchase a bottled dressing.
1/2 head romaine lettuce, cut into bite-size pieces
1 large head Belgian endive, thinly sliced crosswise (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced into rings
3 cups fresh baby arugula
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 ounces Gorgonzola, coarsely crumbled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound steak (such as New York, rib-eye or filet mignon), pan-fried or grilled and chilled
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup olive oil
Directions: In a large bowl, combine the romaine lettuce, Belgian endive, red onion, baby arugula and cherry tomatoes, and half of the cheese. Toss the salad with enough vinaigrette to coat. Season the salad with salt and pepper, to taste. Arrange the salad on a platter. Cut the steaks crosswise into thin slices. Arrange the steak slices atop the salad and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Pack it up, and at work, drizzle vinaigrette over salad before eating.
Red Wine Vinaigrette: Mix 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 teaspoons honey, 2 teaspoons salt, and freshly ground black pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in 1 cup olive oil.
5. Chicken Salad Pesto Sandwich
The original recipe will make 4 servings, so you can cut back and customize to however many lunches you need to make. You can use leftover chicken, or use a rotisserie chicken for the filling. The mayonnaise can easily be replaced with pesto if desired.
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons pesto
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped cooked skinless, boneless chicken breast
3/4 cup chopped peeled English cucumber
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
8 slices whole-grain bread
1 cup alfalfa sprouts
Directions: Combine first 5 ingredients (through black pepper) in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine chicken, cucumber, tomatoes, and mayonnaise mixture in a large bowl; mix gently. Spread chicken mixture over 4 bread slices; top with sprouts and remaining bread.
6. Turkey Boursin Wrap
Again, this wrap recipe was originally intended for a larger crowd than one. The amounts below will yield six servings — you can use the other ingredients for a salad with dinner, or to prepare more wraps throughout the week.
2 cups shredded cabbage and carrot coleslaw mix
3 ounces arugula leaves, stems discarded
3/4 cup alfalfa sprouts
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
6 (8-inch) spinach, tomato-basil, or plain flour tortillas
6 tablespoons light Boursin cheese, about 2/3 package
36 (1/8-inch-thick) slices cucumber, about half a large cucumber
18 (1/8-inch-thick) slices plum tomatoes, about 3 tomatoes
12 ounces thinly sliced cooked smoked turkey breast
Directions: Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl, tossing to coat. Spread 1 tablespoon Boursin cheese over each tortilla. Top each tortilla with 6 slices cucumber, 3 slices tomato, and approximately 2 ounces turkey. Divide slaw mixture evenly among tortillas; spread on each and roll up. Cut each rolled wrap in half diagonally. Wrap each tortilla in plastic wrap.