Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The most important question of the day ...

What's for lunch? If I don't bring my lunch (which has been very often recently ... I've got to get organized because it's too expensive to keep buying lunch) I start thinking about lunch at 9 am or so. Sometimes as early as 8:30. Anyway, it's all I can think about right now. Spaghetti from Angelo's? Subway? The vegetarian sampler from Station II? A salad from the Legislative cafeteria? Quizno's? Roly-Poly? Somehow this issue is always more important than whatever I'm working on.

I need to come up with some new and exciting homemade lunches to bring. It has to be either something easy to assemble, like a sandwich but more exciting, or it has to be something I can cook on Sunday and put into little containers that I can just grab on my way out in the morning. I'm really into one-dish meals. Even though I'm not a vegetarian, I'd prefer it to be meatless because I don't really like buying and cooking meat.

Anybody have any ideas?


Sarah said...

I usually cook a little extra dinner and then take the leftovers for lunch the next day. Well, I used to do this when I worked in an office. I still do when I go in for my weekly meeting, and eat leftovers at home almost every day.

I'm assuming you don't have enoguh fridge space to take salad stuff with you to work and make a salad there? That's a nice lunch but salads don't hold well.

Lisa B. said...

Making extra dinner would be perfect if I even made dinner, but I usually eat something like a bagel or a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner. Seriously, I don't like cooking enough to do it every day.

I've tried the salad idea, but I don't think I like salads enough. After two or three days of it I just can't eat it anymore. It's a great idea, though!

Elizabeth said...

I like to make spring rolls on Sunday and bring them to lunch. They keep overnight in those plastic containers.

christa said...

do you have access to a kitchen? or at least a microwave?

when i'm in a pinch i throw a potato in my purse. nuke it for a few minutes and you're golden. maybe steal some pats of butter from somewhere, or bring a little cheese to work with you.

cheap and filling!

Lisa B. said...

The potato idea is good because it involves little actual cooking on my part (Elizabeth, I haven't the
foggiest idea what would be involved in making spring rolls!) We have a microwave and a fridge--I could keep some butter on-hand and bring potatoes to eat. Plus, you could end up on "Let's Make A Deal" and Monty Hall could say I've got $100 for whoever has a potato in her purse ..."

I guess my biggest problem is that I don't really like to cook on a regular basis. I like making things in the kitchen, but only sometimes, when I really feel like it. And then usually I like to dump a bunch of things in a casserole dish, stick it in the oven and have it emerge as food a half an hour later. In fact, eating itself can be such a chore sometimes ...

r4kk4 said...

hmmmm...casserole cooking, you say?

how about this...mix together 2 cans cream of whatever, 1/2 lb of mac noodles (boiled, drained), a can of diced tomatoes (liquid too), a bag of assorted frozen veg and then top it off with some shredded cheese to cover the top.

bake for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees. partition. it'll last a whole week!

(i used to take this to work all the time. it's easy to eat (because eating is a major hassle for me sometimes too) and cheap.)

(i used to make this all the time

r4kk4 said...

(i might know how to make cheap food, but apparently, i don't know how to post a comment without being redundant. oops!)

Anonymous said...

Winter Squash Moroccan Stew:

Sweet potato and black bean burritos:

Any baked pasta, but I think baked ziti is the easiest. Boil noodles, add sauce, and ricotta cheese (I doctor mine up with a little garlic, onion, egg, salt, and pepper), and put more cheese on top. Bake.

I also make a "garbage stew" type thing once a week that usually has a beans and rice Mexican base. Tonight it went like this:

Heat some olive oil in a pan and saute chopped onion, chopped canned chipotles, and one lonely baking potato that you find in a basket on the microwave, plus some pre-minced garlic (thank you, deities, for pre-minced garlic in a jar, and also for frozen chopped bell peppers and pre-shredded cheese, amen) for... awhile. Add an assortment of Mexican-ish spices (cumin, chile powder, onion and garlic powder, oregano, salt, pepper, and my secret ingredient: cinnamon) and let that cook a little bit. If you have lots of burned bits on the bottom of the pan, add like half a cup of chicken or veggie broth to deglaze.

Then add any or all of the following (I added all of the following): frozen spinach, frozen okra, frozen corn, drained and rinsed cans of kidney, pinto, and black beans. Cook until it's warm. Season to taste. Serve over rice.

Baked rice with stuff in it:
In an oven safe pan or casserole dish with lid, saute in olive oil: one chopped onion, some garlic, frozen mushrooms, frozen asparagus. I like to fry some tofu separately, so it's crispy on the edges, and add that later. Then add a cup of brown rice, then 2 1/4 c. chicken or vegetable broth. Stir and bring the broth to a boil. Add tofu if you're going to (you could probably add cubed pre-cooked tofu that they sell in some grocery stores and not have to bother with cooking it yourself). But the lid on and bake for 45 minutes. Keep the broth/rice ratio the same, and add or subtract whatever stuff you want.

If you like rice (which I obviously do), I highly recommend a rice cooker. Then you can do things like cook some rice and heat up a bag of those handy dandy frozen stir-fry veggies with some pre-minced garlic (*says prayer of thanks again*) and some ginger and have stir fry. Or you can make some rice and roast a butternut squash then cube it when it's done and have rice with roasted butternut squash, which I like to put pepper and parm cheese on.

Ever since school started I've turned into a MONSTER of easy to make low mess meals that I can take with me for lunch.

Anonymous said...

That was me, frograbbitmonkey, by the way.

lisa said...

way back in the day i had perfected the art of finding a cheap meal on the go at a grocery store. favorite items were: yogurt (steal a plastic spoon from the salad bar or carry one), an apple, a single roll from the bakery, a handful of sunflower seeds or other nuts/gorp stuff. fresh market is nice for this, or it used to be.

i also used to make one bowl vegetarian meals that revolved around stuff like mac and cheese in a box, a veggie burger baked and cut up in it, maybe some peas added to the macaroni at the last minute and just lightly boiled. but that mac and cheese in a box is crappy food and bad for you.

andrew said...

I used to keep a box of muesli at the office, butthen we had free milk to eat it with.

A fellow bloggee, Briana, just posted on this self-same-question. It seems to be the topic which generates more comments than any other:

Lisa B. said...

Thanks for the link Andrew--and great suggestions everyone. This definitely is a popular topic because nobody gets around the old food requirement! Clearly I need to have more imagination when thinking about lunch. And more organization--usually I don't think ahead enough, and so when it comes time to shop for the week I think "Ooh, I need something for lunches ...." and then can't remember a single idea.

I think I'll be making a pot o' something this weekend! Plus, I'm now reminded that I need to continue my experiments in tamale-making. I have all the ingredients (including "no trans-fat" Crisco), and I know what went wrong last time, all I have to do is set aside the time to try it again. Tamales are little self-contained bundles of nutrition, and they were pretty much designed to be a good working person's take-along lunch. I could make a huge batch and freeze them, and just take along different garnishing sauces or something to keep them from getting boring.

Elizabeth said...

sorry, I should of been more helpful...

You can buy a package of rice paper (100 for .90) at any of the asian markets -- in durham there is one in between target and shrimp boats. You soak them in warm water for about 30 seconds and they are pliable.

For filling just use salad parts - lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, bean sprouts if you want. you can also soak rice noodles (from the asian market again .89) in warm water and put those in. Then you just fold the left and right sides over the filing and then the bottom and top.

For a dip you can use bottled peanut sauce.

I second the black bean sweet potato burritos, and a sweet potato microwaved can be your friend when the idaho stops cutting it.

Lisa B. said...

Oh, now that sounds like a reasonable plan, Elizabeth! I was thinking it was more involved (like my impossible dream of making tamales that are as good as those at El Cuscatleco). I think I'm going to try that one, especially as then I would get to eat peanut sauce!

wordnerdy said...

peanut sauce actually is supereasy to make, if you're craving it--i even have all the ingredients and i never cook (which is why i had poptarts for dinner--though i did make some awesome fried tofu w/ peanut sauce the night before, jsut forgot to bring leftovers with me to campus).

anyway, it's more or less two tbl peanut butter (i have the low-sodium no-sugar kind from weaver street, whcih works well in sauces), two tbl vinegar (i have apple cider vinegar--i don't know why but it works ok), two tbl soy sauce, one tbl brown sugar, about a tsp of garlic powder, and hot red pepper to taste(i like lots!). put these things in a bowl and whisk them! yummy sauce in two minutes!