If you haven’t gathered this already, I am very specific about the things I eat. I just don’t want to eat anything unless it’s worth eating. Sometimes I see my boyfriend bring sad turkey sandwiches to work when I am packing several things in so many containers they warrant an entire tote bag and I think: I am neurotic about food, but also, my lunch is going to be AWESOME. And, I figure if I take healthy, reasonable and tasty food for work, that means that later I can have a cheeseburger if I want. Or 50 cent tacos. Or like 14 of the s’mores bars Linda made the other day (recipe to come).
So, here are some of the ideas, tips and tricks I use when packing good work lunches.
1. Jars. You know how much shit you buy that comes in jars (salsa, jam, pickles, chutney, olives etc.), and when the shit is gone you recycle the jar? Stop doing that. Instead, run your jars through the dishwasher and enjoy all the free, microwave/dishwasher safe, glass-so-it-doesn’t-leak-toxic-chemicals-into-your-food tupperware. My favorite jars are really small ones (perfect for salad dressings in single servings) and jars with wide mouths (for easy eating stuff out of).
2. That brings me to my favorite work breakfast: oatmeal. And don’t for one minute think I eat that crap that comes in a packet and has 400 grams of sugar. Here’s what you do: go to Trader Joe’s and look at their hot cereals. They have a barley/wheat/rye/oatmeal instant cereal mix right now that is $2 for a big jar and has no added sugar. Buy it, or at the very least get yourself a big container of plain, instant Quaker oats. In the morning before going to work, pour 1/2 cup of oatmeal into a wide mouth glass jar. Put any other delicious stuff you want in there too, I usually do only sliced almonds, because I don’t like fruit in my oatmeal, but you could put dried cherries, apricots, cranberries, whatever. Then put in some sugar, which you can do safely because you control how much sugar goes in. I’m not gonna lie, I put a few tablespoons of maple syrup in that jar. You could put white sugar, brown sugar, honey, whatever. Put the top on the jar and when you’re at work, pour about 1/4 cup of water into the jar and microwave on high for 2 minutes, without the lid. Voila, hot, fiber-y breakfast. When you’re done, put the top back on, put the whole jar back in your tote bag and throw it in the dishwasher when you get home. Easy.
3. I’m sure that you, like me, are always trying to eat more vegetables. Here are a few things I bring for work lunch that help me do that.
A. Salads with homemade dressing in little jars. I HATE store bought salad dressing. It’s gross, tasteless and bad for you. Most of all, it’s pointless, because homemade dressing is so flingin flangin easy. Because I made the dressing so I know I like it (Uncle Chris’ Sweet Garlic dressing, and my made up Lime-Chipotle vinaigrette, I’m looking at you), it makes it a lot easier to be excited about a salad. Stick your salad stuff in a tupperware container, pour dressing onto salad, shake it up and there you go. Also, a note on low-fat bottled dressings: eat these only if you hate yourself and you don’t want to be happy. Make all your dressings with good oils and you’re healthier than the disgusting chemical laden crap they put in bottled dressings any day. If you’re making a creamy dressing, a little low fat sour cream or regular mayo (or Greek yogurt, which is super good for you and has protein) is a lot better for you than some re-hydrogenated milk powder poison they put in low fat creamy dressings. Seriously, please don’t eat that stuff, just make your own and keep it in a jar in the fridge.
Here’s my Uncle Chris’ Sweet Garlic dressing recipe, which is famous in my family. It is DELICIOUS, and makes about 2 cups if you make the whole recipe, so you might want to halve it.
6-8 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
salt and pepper
Put everything in your food processor and pulse until smooth. It’s a pretty thin dressing, but it sticks to salad really well and is intensely flavored, you don’t need much to dress a whole bowl of greens.
B. Tupperware containers full of easily microwaveable veggies, with seasonings. My favorites are raw broccoli with olive oil, salt, pepper and grated Parmesan cheese, microwave for 2 minutes on high, snow peas and carrots with sweet Thai chili sauce and soy sauce, microwaved, halved cherry tomatoes with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, eaten cold.
C. Sandwiches with a serving of spinach on them. If you make a sandwich and it doesn’t have some healthy greens on it, shame on you. It’s the world’s easiest way to eat greens. My favorite work sandwich: avocado, tomato, spinach, chipotle mayo and bacon. Yes, I sometimes cook bacon before work so I can bring it in my lunch. I told you I’m devoted.
D. Fruit smoothies, with spinach in them. Easy, you’ll never taste it. Also, you can bring smoothies to work in a jar.
4. You know when it’s 3pm and you’re hungry for something probably crunchy and maybe sweet? If you packed some dry cereal in your food tote bag, like I did, you’d be in business. One of my favorite things on this earth is Smart Start. I tried to write a whole post, entitled Ode to Smart Start, about how much I love it, but Sue wouldn’t let me post it. Smart Start has big, nicely sweet bran flakes (big enough to eat dry and comfortably with your fingers, and not look like a jerk shoveling tiny cereal particles into your mouth) and lovely oat clusters. Any dry, easily edible cereal would do (Frosted Mini-Wheats are a good choice), but why you’d eat cereal that isn’t Smart Start is beyond me.
5. Leftovers. Do I need to include this? Does anyone NOT bring leftovers to work? Best work leftovers: pasta, soup, Indian/Thai food. Things that you can eat without use of a knife.
6. Sweets. Because not having sweets with you is the quickest way to end up buying 4 boxes of Junior Mints from the cigar store down the street to try to meet their $5 minimum charge for credit card transactions. Today I didn’t bring anything, because I have half a chocolate bar and some taffy my boss brought me from Seattle. He knows how I roll.