Do you ever utter the words, “salad, again? I’d rather eat something savory and crunchy and…” Those store bought salad mixes that come with nuts and dressing, and who knows what else that leave you feeling disappointed are a travesty of the worst kind when it comes to lunch. Don’t fret though, there’s hope for you yet. While you’re listening to your favorite podcast, music, or even watching that schlocky series you’ve been hiding, you can spend a few hours stocking your pantry with tasty things that will ensure your lunch, and even dinner, is covered for the coming days.
Now, if you’re organized the first step is making a list of lunch options. Sandwiches, salads, soups, and rice bowls are easy go to’s that should top your list. If you really want to get organized make a list of dinner options and plan what will become the next day’s lunch (thinking like a chef, nice work!).
If you’re less organized or subject to whim when it comes to what you eat, let’s take a different approach. Step one, make some stock. Chicken, vegetables, beef, pork, doesn’t matter, you need it, make twice what you think you need. I recommend using the simple chicken stock method that leaves you with poached chicken. All you need in chicken and water. Then, reduce it by half, freeze it in ice cube trays for later. You can use the stock to make small batches of soup, perk up some rice, or make a simple sauce. A simple soup of homemade stock, sautéed onions, a can of cannelloni beans, and some veggies (frozen or fresh) is quick and satisfying.
Other items you should have on hand to help you eat right are bottles of a nice vinegar and olive oil. I’d add a coarse salt to that list as well. Dressing a salad really only needs those three things and what seems like a splurge is actually less expensive that most store bought salad dressings (and better for you). Buy a couple of little squeeze bottles to keep at work for dressing your salad, no need to premix anything.
Candy some nuts:
- melt 1/4 c of sugar in a saute pan over medium low heat
- add 1 c of nuts (cashews, pecan, walnuts)
- stirring until nuts are coated with melted sugar and starting to brown
- add 1/2 tsp of salt and 2 T water
- keep stirring until water is just evaporated, adjust heat as needed to prevent scorching
- add 2T butter, stir until butter is melted and nuts are evenly coated
Those nuts make a great addition to your salad or just as a snack. You can add spices like cumin, fennel, and coriander to mix it up even more.
Make some quick pickles. A bunch of radishes or a couple of carrots can be turned into quick pickles that perk up your salad or sandwich. Try pickling some jalapeños or other peppers:
- thin slice well washed radishes, peppers, or julienne carrots, place in a clean jar with a tight fitting lid
- bring 1/2 c vinegar and 1/2 c water to a boil
- add 2 T sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- spice such as black peppercorns, coriander, or bay leaves
- simmer until sugar and salt are melted
- pour hot liquid over vegetables, cool at room temperature for 30 minutes
- refrigerate and eat once cooled completely
Plump some yellow raisins:
- bring 2 c white white to a boil, add 1 bay leaf and some peppercorns or other spices of your choosing
- pour over 1 c raisins
- store in the refrigerator for 1 month
Plumped raisins can go in lots of different salads or in savory rice dishes. It’s a quick way to add a little sweetness to your dish. Try adding it to your chicken salad (since you have poached chicken and you’re about to make the mayo below).
Make your own mayo. One whole egg, 1/2 c oil, 1 T lemon juice, 1/4 tsp salt, and a clove of garlic is all it takes. You can add herbs, mustard, chilis, the possibilities are endless and it takes your sandwich to the next level.
Make a large pot of rice. You can dress this up in myriad ways, from adding herbs, olive oil, vinegar, plumped raisins, and some nuts to make it a salad. Or make fried rice with eggs, add the chicken you cooked when you made your simple chicken stock. Take a cup of your already reduced chicken stock, reduce it again to 1/4c, add some soy sauce, mirin, sugar and salt to taste and pour it over some rice and top with a fried egg. Add shredded chicken and vegetables for a quick and easy dinner.
If you keep these basic ingredients on hand you can avoid the rut you’re accustomed to, and chances are you don’t even need a recipe to do it!