Monday, April 29, 2013

Brown Baggin' It

Hello out there!

How are you guys?

Things have been going incredibly well here. This past week we've had some amazing weather. I've been doing a little gardening and Sunday we spent the whole day at the lake with friends, enjoying the water, some refreshments and  of course, BBQ!

So...there is this amazing little tool on my dashboard here on Blogger, and it tells me that there has been a crazy spike in new readers lately. I have to say it took my breath away and I am extremely grateful. I feel that I am falling in love with this blog more and more everyday. I find myself missing it on my days off! And you all are a part of that. Knowing that somehow, I have reached all of you and that *hopefully* you're enjoying what you've found...well, that makes it all worth while.

Today we are going to talk about LUNCH. I used to hate packing my lunch for work. I would always end up with some soggy messy sandwich at the bottom of my bag by lunch time and there is nothing worst than that, is there? Then, once my stomach started revolting against gluten (and bread was no longer an option) I found myself taking packaged foods to lunch because they were so easy. Stuff from the frozen foods section or canned soups that were laden with sodium and not super filling.  Over the years and through much trial and error, I have figured out a way to have healthy, delicious lunches packed and ready to go at all times. All it takes is a little forethought, some prepping and the right tools to create some wonderful lunches that will not go soggy on you. I was posting a lot of my lunches on FB recently and many of my friends starting begging asking me for some tips. So here we are.

Even though I work at a restaurant, I still pack a lunch nearly every night. I really really want to eat at the restaurant every night, but that would be a horrible thing for my waistline, so I don't.

Chopped Salad with Roasted Turkey Breast
Of course, while I am packing my lunch I also pack some for Mike, who is the easiest man to cook for. He will eat nearly anything and he does not need variety like some people (me). I pack him a lot of wraps, salads or whole wheat crackers with tuna, because of my gluten sensitivity we don't keep bread in the house so we almost never do sandwiches. This is good news for you, my dear readers, because if you've come here to get some ideas for non-sammichy lunches, you have come to the right place!

Here's what we are going to do...I am going to give you a little shopping list for the beginning of the week. Then I am going to give you some ideas (with photos) of how we do it at the H.N.E home. And here's the most important part...I want you to report back. Yes, some homework! Tell me how it is going and what you're packin.'

Deal? Alrighty, here we go...

Utilizing Leftovers, Chickpea Patty Parmesan. Veggies and Fruit.  
I start off "our week" with a trip to the grocery store that is solely dedicated to lunches. And I say "our week" because we work, respectively, in Law Enforcement and Food our work week is not the typical Mon-Fri schedule. I assume that some of you also have unconventional work weeks, just go out the day before you go back to work and fill up that fridge. Make sure that you have an hour or two to dedicate to packing all this stuff too. And double check that you have all the little helpers you will need to pack effectively.

Things like, multi compartment plastic containers, dip holders, plastic baggies, foil, cello-wrap, even cupcake liners are SO helpful in packing the perfect lunch. Some other things to take into consideration is how many people you're packing for. If you have 2 children, your shopping list will be much larger than the one I am giving you! What are your families favorite snacks? How well will the foods you're choosing hold up in a sack lunch? Does the person taking the lunch have access to a fridge or a microwave? It would be a super lousy idea to give Mike potato salad, for instance, because some days he doesn't have access to a fridge. His lunch just sits in his back pack all day.

Shopping list:
(remember, this is the one I use. Take this as a guide and make the necessarily changes to suit your family)

1 lb low fat deli meat (turkey, usually, or turkey pastrami or roast beef)
1 package single serving cheese snacks (baby bell, mozzarella cheese, laughing cow)
1 package of whole wheat crackers (we love Ak-Mak crackers, or anything from Trader Joes!)
A bunch of veggies (avacados,cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, carrots- pre cut is nice)
Salad greens- rinsed and chopped
A bunch of fruit (strawberries are my favorite, blueberries, cherries, grapes, apples etc. I never do chopped bananas though! Ick!)
Tuna fish- if the recipient of this magnificent lunch has access to a fridge (or if you're brave enough to just go with an ice pack)
Whole wheat or Gluten free pasta
Pasta Sauces
Canned Beans (black beans are our favorite)
Ground Turkey- pre cooked w/ salt and pepper only!
Chicken Breasts- pre cooked w/salt and pepper only!
Bacon- pre cooked
Sweet Snacks (chocolate covered raisins, sugar free cookies, 100 calories brownie bars, sweetened dried fruit, yogurt with jam)
Salad Snack Packs with cheese and berries. 

The idea here is to do all your prep ahead of time. Before the groceries even hit your fridge, you want to rinse all the produce and get it chopped up and ready to go. Then when you are ready to pack lunches, it's all about assembly. Most weeks my fridge looks like my walk in at work- with all my veggies cleaned, cut and ready to cook.

The first thing I do is check to see how many days Mike and I work that week. Mike and I both work 4 days this week and I also have class on 2 of those days. Now that I know how many lunches I need to prep, Then I check my cabinets to make sure I have enough clean plastic lunch containers. If I don't I buy more find them and clean them up.

 Then I take a look into the fridge, all my prep is there, but I make sure there aren't any left overs I can use up. Peeking in the fridge now I see some chili beans and smashed potatoes (made yesterday for our BBQ) that I can use as sides. I also see some chicken and broccoli pasta I can use as a main or a side, knowing I made that day before yesterday I will remind myself to take that lunch first!

Now I move on to the new lunches. I make a smallish batch of pasta and leave it undressed. Throughout the week I use that in our lunches with some pasta sauce as a side or toss it with oil, vinegar and veggies for a cold pasta salad.

Chicken Taco Salad with Sour Cream & Guacamole
 With the precooked ground beef, I make 2 taco salads using a little less than a cup of meat per lunch, a bunch of salad greens, tomatoes, olives and some chopped avocado. I pack us some sour cream in little dip containers and put a baggie of flax seed chips from TJ's into each of our lunches.

With the sliced deli meat, I make clubs with lettuce, tomato, pickles, bacon, spicy mayo and meat, no cheese. If I had pesto sauce or hummus made I would use that instead of mayo. I make 2 of these for Mikes lunches, slice them in half and, wrap 'em.

I make two giant salads with the prepared tuna fish, for me, since I have a fridge at work. I make a large green salad with all the fixins (lettuce, tomato, olives, pickles, carrots, radishes!) and scoop about 1/4c to a 1/2c of prepared tuna on top.

Now we each have the minimum amount of 4 lunches per person. However, I need a little variety and I have 2 extra lunches that need to be packed for my school days. So I take the cooked chicken breast and make 2 large chicken salads with greens and lots of chopped veg. I pack some dressing into my dip cups and keep the chicken wrapped separate from the greens so Mike can warm it up- he hates cold chicken!
Sandwich wraps all ready to go! HEY- Did you know if you click on
this photo, it will get bigger? I JUST found that out!

In each plastic lunch container I give us a healthy side- black beans for the taco salad, chopped fruit for the wraps and salads. I also give us each a cheese snack and a sweet snack. If I am feeling particularly energetic I might throw together a few small snack packs that have cheese, cracker, meat and fruit in them. On really busy days these little guys have saved my life (and probably the lives of a few innocent bystanders).


Chop the cooked chicken breast and mix with mayo to taste. Add salt and pepper, a tbsp of curry seasonings and a splash of hot sauce. Use as filling for a wrap, with salad greens or with whole wheat crackers.

Use the cooked ground turkey and black beans to make a yummy low fat burrito, add cheese and avocado and wrap tight with a paper towel and cello-wrap.

Mix a cup of the prepared pasta and sauce with a cup of ground turkey meat and some cheese as a nice filling main course.

Wrap 1 slice of deli meat around a mozzarella cheese stick, pack some marinara dipping sauce and crackers for a delicious high protein snack.

Try and have fun with it. I love cutting my veggies into cute shapes and using my brightly colored cupcake liners, remember we eat with our eyes first!

Now that you are armed with all the basic know how, I hope you will start brown bagging it! Now more soggy ham sandwiches in your future kids, get packing!!

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