Learn how to give humdrum lunches the heave-ho. Easy and affordable steps can take a boring work lunch to restaurant quality.
If you’re stuck in a rut of brown-bag sandwiches and frozen entrees, here’s a suggestion: Reboot your lunch with new ingredients.
Not expensive or exotic stuff. The supermarket deli counter is a good place to start. We’ve assembled a few ideas that are basic and affordable, and that give you plenty of room to expand according to your preferences and pocketbook.
First of all, if you’re new at packing lunches, keep the three B’s in mind:
Beauty: We eat first with our eyes. A meal that looks pretty tastes a little bit better.
Balance: Keep it nutritious by including veggies, fruits, proteins and whole grains.
Buzz: A little something extra makes the meal a small event to look forward to.
Budget is a fourth B, but packing your own lunch shows that you’re already good at counting pennies.
Creating sack lunches with flair requires more than just a brown paper bag. Consider adding a sophisticated lunch box that is insulated and large enough for ice packs if your company doesn’t provide a fridge. A wide-mouth container will make it easy to carry hot soups, stews and chili.
If your typical work meals are like the simple ones listed below, take a simple step up to the ones underneath.
From this: Tuna on white
Step up to: A wheat pita pocket, heated and then stuffed with tuna salad and Romaine leaves. Decorate with edible flowers. Pack the tuna and pita separately so the pocket won’t get soggy.
Serve with: baked chips, sweet gherkins and olives.
Buzz: Peanut butter balls (see recipe) with seedless grapes and melon balls.
From this: Frozen entrée
Step up to: A new spin on leftovers. Some home cooks make extra servings especially for their lunches. Chicken- or beef-filled puff pastry shells are a good example. The shells can be purchased frozen. Bake a few extra for dinner and bring one or two for lunch, with a serving of canned beef stewor chicken fillingpacked separately.
Serve with: carrot and celery sticksand broccoli florets. For dip, mix equal parts sour creamand mayonnaise, and season with paprika. Remember to store these items in the fridge until lunchtime.
Buzz: Finish with a few leftover brownies microwaved with cherry pie filling.
From this: Cheese singles and tomato on wheat
Step up to: Havarti cheesewith caraway or dill, used as a component in mini bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches on party rye. These can be assembled ahead, except for the tomato slices, which should be packed separately.
Serve with: soup, either a good deli version or homemade.
Buzz: Peach shortcake made with dessert shells, sliced peaches, vanilla puddingand Maraschino cherries.
Peanut Butter Dots
Cookeatshare.com has a similar recipe.
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, combine sugar and peanut butter. Add egg and beat until absorbed. Roll dough into 3/4-inch balls. Place balls on cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool on the cookie sheet for about 10 minutes. Finish cooling on wire rack. Store in covered container.
Makes about 7 dozen bite-size cookies.