Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fit lunch into your morning!

A Healthy lunch: just a few minutes in a morning routine.
A good time was had by all this weekend with a busy schedule of the Jewelry Parties, Race for the Cure, Tailgate Party courtesy of Bytes from Texas & even some quick Cheese Making,  on Sunday afternoon.  I guess with all that fun one might just skip the meal prep & go directly to the lunch counter!  Not so for me when I can manage it.  There almost  always is a way to snag a quick meal & take 5 to 10 mins out of a busy schedule to put together a lunch box.  I was lucky enough to have Bytes from Texas send home some Tail Gate goodies after her party (which is more than I can say our UT Longhorns left the game with on Saturday evening....) I paired up some of her delicious salad with a canned fruit juice, a few cashew nuts, 2 oz of Gold Fish & a few tablespoons of Pomegranate seeds. At one of my favorite delicatessens  I enjoy a similar salad although the portions are much larger.  Packing a lunch at home my Bento or Tiffin  helps make portion control quite easy.  If it doesn't fit into a Bento or Tiffin I generally don't take it.  Besides, I hate messy spills or smashed up sandwiches. 
  Since the Race for the Cure I have been reading more on what foods are recommended to help in our daily fight against cancers, not only Breast Cancer. Many diet plans of this type seek to maximize use of vegetables as well as a variety of whole grains such as brown rice, bulgur, and wheat-berries. I try & buy only whole grain bagels, breads, cereals, crackers & pasta. This maximizes my intake of fiber, which may help fight many cancers.

For that Salad recipe check here for Bytes from Texas recipe for the Delicious Salad

For more info on the Global Race for the Cure check Here.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nine to Five Rice Salad

Rice has fed more people over a longer period of time than any other crop. As far back as 2500 B.C. rice has been documented in the history books as a source of food and for tradition as well. Beginning in China and the surrounding areas, its cultivation spread throughout Sri Lanka, and India. It was then passed onto Greece and areas of the Mediterranean. Rice spread throughout Southern Europe and to some of North Africa. From Europe rice was brought to the New World.*

It is this most flexible of grains that I turned to for lunch time inspiration.  I made Spanish rice earlier in the week & decided to make a rice salad from the leftovers. With a tiny bit of imagination you can spin some leftover rice from dinner into a rice salad for lunch the next day. With a few diced veggies, dressing, a bean of some type for extra protein a rice salad can be a wholesome & filling meal.  I love pomegranate seeds & tossed a few of those in my lunch box, some tiny cucumber slices along with a few crackers,  cheese & applesauce.  I am so hoping to eat lunch outside while the weather is still nice here.  

Nine to Five Rice Salad
1 Jalapeno pepper, diced, seeded & finely diced
2 Tomatoes, chopped
1 can Garbanzo beans, drained
1/4 cup Spanish Olives
3 Tbsp fresh Basil, chopped
1 Tbsp Shallot, chopped
2 Cups left over Rice (White, Brown, Spanish rice, or White & wild rice blend)
6 Tbsp Balsamic Vinaigrette (3 Tbsp Olive Oil, 3 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar, tsp sugar,
salt & pepper to taste)
Toss all ingredients, chill several hours, garnish with extra basil. At most the prep time takes about 15 minutes for this easy salad.

Spanish Rice
1 1/2 cups rice
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup plain tomato sauce
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 tsp cumino powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 of a medium onion
2 tablespoons oil
4 heaping tablespoons of finely chopped parsley (& or)1/4 cup corn,  (optional)

In a medium sauce pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add in the fresh garlic and onion. Saute for 1-2 minutes until softened. Add in dry rice. Stir for about 5 minutes until rice becomes a golden brown color.Add in broth and tomato sauce (Slowly into rice, not directly onto hot pan!) Add in the cumin, chili powder & parsley if you're using it. Stir it up and bring to a boil. Once it starts boiling, turn the heat to low and cover. Let it simmer for 20 minutes and fluff with a fork. This is the rice I used for the above salad.

*More history of Rice here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Just another Monday morning....

On a post Halloween Monday I was a wee bit fuzzy when I made my cup of coffee. After hearing on Martha Stewart Radio;  "this is the start of the Holiday eating season".  I knew there had to be a healthy choice today for lunch.  I am working this afternoon & doing the mid morning scramble which was off to a roaring great start.  I was almost nose to nose with a snake this morning.  I had my cup of coffee in hand  while wondering what the cat was staring at on our patio...I stepped outside to investigate and had to shoo a very bold squirrel off the patio furniture. I say this because our Aussie dog was already out in the yard doing her morning patrol. While checking out the squirrel activity,  I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.  Generally I am the one who seems to spot the critters in my "where the wild things are" backyard.  I spotted a King Snake clinging to the limestone around the french doors.  I don't mind telling you I was astounded & jumped back into the house (in 2 giant leaps) all the while not spilling coffee! Thankfully, the snake did remove himself from the wall!  (ack!!!) After calming down I packed a healthy Bento lunchbox  for my busy day ahead.  No recipes forthcoming on this post but I am watching where I am stepping today.

*If you wondered about my cute Bento: it is a Natural Leaf Bento lunch bag.  I found this in both pink & green at the New Oriental Market here in Austin at 6929 Airport Blvd.  I bought the pink for my daughter & kept the green for me.  There is enough space inside the bag for a few extras once the tins are pack inside.  Natural Leaf makes several different types of Bentos.  I love the sturdy construction & portability of this one. 

**Lunch box addition: I recently received a Food Buzz Tastemaker item from Soy Joy.  I really enjoy Soy Joy bars when I am in a time crunch & need a mid day snack especially at 130 calories.  The nice chewy texture reminds me of a fruity cookie, especially the strawberry & blueberry flavors.

What I looked like this morning just after 7am when I almost ran into a snake while stepping outside....(frightening possibility!!!) Okay, so I did have a robe & not that fancy hat but you get the idea! I was a little startled.

Feliz de Dia de los Muertos!  Have a wonderful Monday.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fall Flavors, J'aime Le Fromage

Crisp Apple, smooth Brie & Smoked Turkey~means J'aime Le Fromage (translation: I love cheese!) I've be singing praises of Brie for years....
My youngest daughter was a Brie fanatic from an early age. Actually both my daughters seem to have a great appreciation for a good cheese.  They did however get the adoration of fine fromage from me...this love of all things cheese does make it into the lunch hour frequently.
Toasted Cheese Sandwich has always been a stand alone favorite in our house but taking it to work or school is a different story.  I decided a little lunch time improvisation as in order for a "toasted" Brie, Apple & Turkey sandwich.
 I toasted the bread slices with a scant amount of butter on one side of each piece of bread, let the toasted bread cool completely before assembling the sandwich. I thinly sliced the Brie cheese, sliced the Apple super thin & then layered in a few Spinach leaves after I added thinly sliced Smoked Turkey Breast.  Make sure the bread is not warm still ( it will be slightly soggy from the steam is so, wrapping it in a paper towel helps absorb the moisture too.) place it into your lunch box.  This sandwich is fine chilled or perfect reheated for about 20 seconds.  It makes the Brie slightly soft & the apple flavors seem to pop!  I spread nothing on the bread for this sandwich This is just personal preference.  Lunch box additions were: Blueberries & Watermelon slices & a few lowfat fig newtons
***Cheese note:  Brie comes in many varieties, this is one of the least in price & more widely available in the states but perfect for melting into a cheese sandwich.  Want to take a walk on the wild cheese side?  Check out the cheese counter at Whole Foods.  It is a real trip to Bountiful!! Happy Lunch hour!
Cheesy Factoid:
The oldest recorded evidence that anyone could find of the existence of Brie Cheese was found in the chronicles of Charlemagne. At that time, the Emperor in power, had a taste of the now-famous cheese in the city of Brie around the year 774 BC. And here’s another fascinating tidbit about Brie cheese… Louis XVI’s last and dying wish was supposedly to have a final taste of Brie. *

*for more history of Brie check here

Monday, October 25, 2010

Lemony Egg Salad on a Meatless Monday

Eggs are full of packed full of protein & great for a mid day meal. I know my mother knew this when I was a kid since she would pack a boiled egg in my lunch box. What she did not account for was the clumsy antics of a kid in the hours leading up to lunch time. It never failed that I would slam my lunch into something not realizing what the boiled egg sulfur smell would do to my entire lunch time experience. Yikes, not to mention my lunch time reputation! It took me years to let my mother know that I didn't need boiled eggs in my lunch. Even those memories did not dull my enjoyment of a simple Egg Salad Sandwich. Anyone who enjoys this salad has a favorite way they like it. There need not even be a recipe it is so simple. It is all in a pinch of this seasoning & slightly less mayo to prevent the salad from going soggy. What is important is the egg boiling. If you have ever seen a slight green or silver tinge to the yolk when you boil an egg it is because the egg was boiled far too long. Also keep in mind that farm fresh eggs often don't slip out of the shell as easily as an older store bought egg when being peeled.

Lemony Egg Salad with Basil
6 large eggs, boiled, cooled completely.
1-2 tablespoons Mayonnaise
Salt and pepper
Juice from 1/2 fresh lemon
1 Tbsp. Capers, well drained
1 stalk of Celery, chopped
2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil leaves, thinly sliced
For sandwich garnish, lettuce, spinach or sprouts

*Perfect boiled eggs. Place the eggs in saucepan and cover with cold water by a 1/2-inch or so. Bring to a boil. Now turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for exactly 10 minutes. When the eggs are done cooking place them in an ice water bath for three minutes or so - long enough to stop the cooking. When eggs are cool, peel the shells off & make salad.

I slice my eggs width-wise then lengthwise. I personally don't like my eggs mashed for egg salad & this gives them a nice texture. Gently mix in all ingredients. This salad makes enough salad for 4 sandwiches. If you take egg salad in your lunch be sure & keep it chilled. I served my egg salad in a 1/2 Pita Pocket. Lunch Box additions: It paired well with fresh veggies, cheese & fruit.

This little vintage egg slicer made light work of slicing up 6 eggs for the Lemony Egg Salad. A wonderful find at our local City Wide Garage Sale, my husband could not understand my excitement when I showed him the cute vintage Pink egg slicer I purchased for $1.00!

What my Lunch Styled looked like back in the day?? Seriously cute & kind of school-girl prep, my thermos didn't last very long. Clumsy kids didn't stand a chance then when the thermos jars had glass linings...

Does anyone remember Vivian in Pretty Woman saying "“slippery little suckers" & accidently launched her escargot across the restaurant? I also found these at the aforementioned City Wide Garage Sale & re-purposed them right into my everyday kitchen items. Escargot tongs the perfect boiled egg tong? Who knew? They also are great for grabbing tea bags out of a boiling hot mug of tea.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Asian Bao: Tiffin for one, please!

Take a Bao & have a unique lunch. At our local Asian store we can find all sorts of delicious selections for a quick healthy bite at lunch. There are several choices of Char Siu Bao(Chinese steamed buns)available here in Austin Texas. I could get carried away on the selection of the steamed buns since they seem to have sweet, savory, veggie & even tiny miniature Bao buns. Choices, choices...just one of the delicious steamed buns & a salad make a great lunch. Most Asian stores even have a selection of lunch boxes, I found this Tiffin at the same store. The housewares aisle has some great items to both inspire & make lunch making more interesting. Not close to an Asian supermarket? Try checking this site which has a wonderful selection of Tiffins. Tiffins & Bentos are a great way to carry a meal and everything is secure inside. Tiffins actually clamp down at the top.
Tiffin Factoid:
Tiffins are actually a very old method for carrying lunch. Since 1890 each day in Mumbai, India’s largest city, around 200,000 office workers receive a home cooked lunch prepared by their spouse and later hand delivered in a traditional ‘Tiffin’ lunch box by a Dabbawallah. The Tiffins filled with a home cooked meal are identified by colors, design or symbols. Somehow with 200,000 delivered meals the correct Tiffin seems to get to the hungry Tiffin recipient. The Dabbawallah is a person whose highly specialized profession it is to take the fresh food from the home to the worker each day. The word Tiffin actually means light lunch.

In truth, Tiffins can feed far more than one but you get the idea. Change up the lunch routine & make your PB&J a wee bit more exciting. Out with the mediocre brown bag & in with something new. Lunch time doesn't have to be less than exciting.

Of course if you really want to have a Tiffin with some style try one of these Thai Monk Tiffin boxes at this site.

My personal favorite Tiffin can be found here at Ten Thousand Villages, a true nod to the 2010 Eat Pray Love movie starring Julia Roberts.

You never know who will be taking lunch in a Tiffin next!