Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lunch Menuism

On the board for dinner this week:

Sat: Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup, with thick crusty bread and slices of sharp cheddar cheese.

Based on this recipe (which is based on the Panera soup), but with a few changes (of course; there is rarely a soup I don't want to add a bunch of veggies too):


1-2 cups diced carrot (I use 2+, my family loves carrots)
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced onion
2-3 cloves chopped garlic
5 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
~ 1 lb. cooked, boneless chicken breast halves, diced
2 packages Uncle Ben's long grain and wild rice (with seasoning packet)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4-1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup butter, divided
2 cups milk (I use skim)


1. In a large pot (I use my cast iron dutch oven) over medium heat, saute onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in 1-2 Tbl. of butter.
2. Add chicken broth, water, and cooked diced chicken. Bring to just boiling, then stir in rice, reserving seasoning packet. Cover and remove from heat.
3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in contents of 1-1.5 seasoning packets until mixture is bubbly. Reduce heat to low, then stir in flour mixture by tablespoons, to form a roux. Whisk in milk, a little at a time, until fully incorporated and smooth. Cook until thickened, 5 minutes.
4. Stir milk mixture into broth and rice. (You could add in some white wine too if you have it on hand.) Cook over medium heat until heated through, 10 to 15 minutes.


Sun: PW's Brisket, fresh country white sliced bread from Sprouts, my mom's vermicelli salad, corn on the cob, and baked beans.

My mom's vermicelli salad is the stuff of legend. I don't know where the recipe came from, but it is always a hit and requested at all get togethers. I don't like pasta salads generally, I don't like raw celery, and I hate mayonnaise, and yet, I love this side dish:

Glenda's Vermicelli Salad (aka, "the verm")

Break 1 (12oz) pkg of vermicelli into 2" pieces. Cook, rinse, and drain.

Add and marinate overnight in the fridge (I dump it all in a gallon ziploc):
1 Tbl Accent
1 Tbl seasoned salt
3 Tbl lemon juice
4 Tbl oil

The next day, add the following and let set for several hours in the fridge before serving:
3/4 c. chopped green pepper
1/2 c. chopped onion (I usually use green onions)
1 to 1 1/2 c. chopped celery
1 to 1 1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 cans sliced black olives

It goes great with any bbq meal, as well as baked ham, smoked turkey, hamburgers, etc.

Mon: leftover Soup.

This soup, like most soups, is even better the second time you eat it.

Tues: leftover Brisket, with homemade macaroni and cheese, green beans, bread

Wed: Pierogi bake, peas.

I'm using onion and cheese frozen pierogis from Sprouts and I usually put them in a baking dish with pepperonis scattered around, top it with marinara sauce, and top that with a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese and bake at 350 for 30 mins. Sounds odd, but I got it from the back of a pierogi box a million years ago and it's a yummy, filling, different way to serve them.

Thurs: Migas, fresh flour tortillas, black beans, fruit.

I make migas by breaking a bunch of eggs in a bowl, adding salt, pepper, and milk, and pouring the mix over a hot pan with a little melted butter (i.e., the makings of scrambled eggs). Then I add in diced tomato, diced onion (which I usually saute before adding the egg mix, except when I forget, which is often), and crushed tortilla chips (this is an awesome way to use up stale chips). Stir it around until the eggs are cooked and serve them with some warm tortillas, beans, salsa, and mexican rice. The kids love it and it feels like a little fancier way of doing breakfast taco night.

Fri: Take-out pizza with coupon JP carefully cut out from a flyer on our front door knob.

This place has good cheap pizza (and we get a free medium with the order of a large!) and $1 draft beer until 7. I'm looking forward to it.


The 10 lb. brisket has been marinating since yesterday (as have the vermicelli salad noodles) and was transferred to the oven at 9 a.m. this morning. The kitchen already smells good. I'm also planning on making these Best Big, Fat Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies, but only if I actually do the barre class DVD that is sitting next to my TV.

As part of our budget reduction, I've been bringing my lunch to work every day (except Mondays; that is my work friends and my sacred Freebirds day and I'm holding on to my once a week $6 veggie burrito with diced avocado for dear life). I used to hate (HATE) packing and eating a homemade lunch. Lunch is my favorite meal of the day. The first thing (and possibly only thing) I became famous for in the office was my voracious lunch appetite. I out ate pretty much every guy I work with at an all you can eat Mexican food buffet (better than it sounds) and BBQ place. I love lunch. I don't eat breakfast, I don't snack, and I eat a small dinner. Lunch is my meal.

And yet, once JP lost his job, I could no longer justify spending $8-10/weekday on it (and with my own pay cut/job change, I could barely justify it before that anyway). So I convinced my newfound best work friends that they should bring their lunches too and now we eat together outside or in random offices Tues-Fri. And after a few months of forcing myself to pack my lunch box every morning, I now find myself actually enjoying it. Not as much as a Five Guys cheeseburger and fries, but at least I no longer resent my little pink lunch bag.

Part of my problem with packing my lunch has always been that I want a big, satisfying meal, and it was hard to make at home hours before I was actually going to eat it and every frozen lunch meal seems to have like 300 calories and that would never be enough. I now have a decent rotation of lunches, but if you have any ideas for good work lunch ideas (we have access to a fridge and microwave in the kitchen), let me know!

My lunches generally consist of:

- big batch of quinoa divided into 2-3 containers, with whatever diced up veggies, chicken, and cheeses I can find in the fridge, and a separate small tupperware container of dressing, oil and vinegar, bbq sauce, etc. to pour over the top when it's time to eat;

With 1 of these 2:

- turkey sandwiches with all the veggies I like on yummy ciabatta rolls, wraps, pitas, or other bread that looks interesting in the bakery section of Sprouts;
- crackers and sliced cheeses and turkey;

And 1 of these 2:

- fruit (whatever the kids are getting; this week it's blueberries, sliced apples, and little clementines);
- yogurt (I don't really like yogurt, but I'll choke it down if we're out of fresh fruit at the end of the week. The kids switch to apple sauce or little mandarin cups, but I like those things less than yogurt).

Healthy, satisfying, all of it travels pretty well, and most importantly, I look forward to eating it. And now time for my in-home barre class so I can get started on my cookies!


  1. I am a nonprofit lawyer, so I *really* can't justify $8-10 a day for lunch out, especially when I'd rather spend going-out-food money on the weekends with non-work friends instead. My husband and I each have a soup thermos (this thermos is great, and I've taken to making a big batch of some sort of thick, hearty soup on the weekend that covers our lunches for at least two or three days. It's hot and it's filling. In hot weather, I'll try and make a big salad of some sort on the weekend (mediterranean lentil+rice+feta is a standard) that is also intended to be lunch for a couple of days. The other days we usually take dinner leftovers or sandwiches.

  2. I really envy that you have such great work friends! I work with great people too but we haven't become quite that close yet.

    I'm not a huge lunch person. I always bring my lunch but it has to be something quick and easy. I'm a lazy luncher! I rotate between three sad, sad lunch options: PB&J (LOVE!), Chicken and Wild Rice soap (from Campbells- lol!), or raisin, date & walnut oatmeal (from Quaker). SAD RIGHT? I've lived off of these three things for the past 2.5 years. And I usually do the same thing each day for 3-4 months before I switch to one of the other ones!

    Your lunches sound so healthy- I'm very impressed :)

  3. You might find a Frittata/Self-crusting quiche an interesting option.

    This one's a kiwi classic (Kiwi as in NZ, not Kiwifruit)

    Yummy, and easy.

    Alison Holst's meals are always so reliable - and great family food. She has "living treasure" status in New Zealand - an early TV cook, like Julia Child, but focussed on family food, that's healthy, tasty, straightforward to prepare, and works for a family budget.

    You might like this meatloaf, to use up more stale corn (tortilla) chips:

    Or this pea pesto - it looks yummy! Would work well as a pasta salad, or with quinoa.

    And there's more here:

    One note though: New Zealanders are now adopting chiles and more spicy foods - you can take her spice levels as at the lower end of the scale and up them to Texan tastes.

  4. I second RJ's crustless quiche suggestion. Super-easy, lots of protein, and totally delicious hot, warm, or cold, thus making it a good leftover lunch option. I usually saute a chopped onion and a ton of chopped kale or chard, add any herbs I've got lying around (or none), add some chopped olives if I've got olives (or none), a little salt, plenty of black pepper, and a bit of grated cheese (cheddar, swiss, gruyere if I'm feeling fancy, parmesan, whatever). Put all that good stuff in an oiled pie plate. Beat 6-8 eggs with some milk and pour the eggs over the veggie-cheese mix. Bake at 375 or so for 20-30 minutes (really depends on your oven and total amount of ingredients), until the top is set.

  5. the pioneer womens brisket was our sunday dinner (for 20!) last always turns out great ! Have you done it before ? I just love your blog and as a mom of three young adults (my baby will be 23 next week !) I think you are doing an outstanding job as a wife and mom !

  6. Do you have access to a microwave at work? My lunches are usually leftovers from dinners, which means there's no additional prep--I just make sure that I make enough food for dinner that we have leftovers, and when I put them away, I put them in single-serving containers so they're easy to grab and go in the morning. On occasion, though, I'll make up a bunch of chicken salad on the weekend, and take that with wraps, a green salad or veggies & dip on the side, and an apple.

  7. Be very careful who you share those cookies with! I just made them, I fairly certain strangers would propose marriage if I gave them one.