Thursday, July 28, 2011

Casual Friday, Blue Jeans & an Easy Lunchbox

A casual work day calls for an easy, portable lunch.
My average travel day makes lunch planning a must.
The last few months the one thing I can count on for any given Friday is unpredictability.  My job takes me an average of 75 mile radius around my home town.  With this in mind if I pack an easy go to lunch any day of the week I'd better do it on a Friday.  Austin Texas is like many cities across the country with the less casual dress in the workplace environment. On Friday though it is a given that it is more casual than Monday through Thursday with blue jeans & flip-flops being de rigueur. The same can go for my lunches the last day of the work week. Lunchtime doesn't have to be a hassle. I generally throw things together on Thursday evening easing myself into the weekend a little early.  This Friday I will be having 2 small crimped sandwiches & a few garden veggies,.  I have had a few cucumbers & volunteer tomatoes which have been producing a little better than the seeded variety of veggies which seem to be burning up in the mid-summer heat wave.  As a mid morning snack I've packed a small amount of dried fruit & nuts.  My lunch also includes Coconut water which I found frozen at a local Asian grocery store.  The frozen coconut water also helps keep my lunch cool & fresh till I stop for lunch later in the day.  The coco water drinks have been very popular since last summer.  The beverage as a sports drink is popular too since it is super hydrating,  full of potassium & minerals.  Water of course is the beverage of choice in the heat but if you haven't tried coco water I can suggest this thirst quenching drink this Summer. Enjoy your own casual Friday & be inspired by simply packing a lunch today. **Lunch box find: You may notice the small salt & pepper (orange top) container in my bento photo. It was a .79 cent purchase at a local Asian store.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ensalada Nopalitos, a Healthy Summer salad from South of the Border.

Cactus: part of the Mexican & Central American diet centuries.

During the intense hot summer months in Texas I strive to make a lunch which will stay cold or lack in texture or flavor ( & not spoil in our current 100* temps ).  While my lunch is chilled, I do try to keep out unnecessary ingredients which could easily host food born illness in the heat.  It can be a challenge.  I have been making many marinated type salads which keep the flavors & hold up to the warm days. (with the help of frozen gel packs) 
I recently remembered one of my favorite salads from living in Mexico.  The grocers in Mexico sell nopals or cactus slices already cut up & prepared in bags. Nopal or nopalitos can be found in many stores here in Texas & across the U.S. as well. Nopales are sliced & eaten raw or fried, roasted, added to tacos, soups or pickled. Low in calories, nopales provide modest amounts vitamins & minerals. There are people who don't enjoy the texture however & that is okay.  (ahh, more for those of us who do enjoy eating nopal.) Enjoy the simple Cactus Salad recipe & stay cool.

Garden fresh tomato is perfect in or on this salad.

Ensalada de Nopalitos 
3 cups diced Nopales, with green spines removed & sliced into pieces as to resemble green beans.
boiled in salted water until tender and rinsed under cold water. *cooking time about 4 minutes.
1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion
2 small tomatoes, sliced or diced.
Tomato Vinaigrette recipe.
Prepare Nopal, rinse under cold water, chill for 1 hr, add onion, vinaigrette & then top with tomato or mix diced tomato into the nopal. Salad serves 4-5

Tomato Vinaigrette 
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper, black or red
1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, coarsely chopped
Toss all ingredients in the blender & pulse 2-3 minutes. Chill or use immediately.Yields 3/4 cup dressing. *1 tbsp Cilantro is also nice with this vinaigrette when serving this salad.

For more information on Nopal check here