Wednesday, February 16, 2011

3 for a perfect lunch

On Monday I looked at on-the-run breakfasts, and today I'm going to share some of my favourite no-fuss take-to-the-office lunches. A healthy, balanced dinner at home shouldn't ever present a problem - there are new recipes on this blog every week day, and past and current recipes are collected and categorized on my other blogs, with links on the right of this page.

I am a great fan of the soup-salad-sandwich lunch, whether I am at home or at the office. I'll start with soup.
Soup gives you a sense of fullness that lasts a long time. Any soup will do – as long as it’s home-made. ‘Home-made’ means that there is less fat, preservatives, artificial flavourants and colours, just plain goodness. Make up a big batch of your favourite soup and freeze it. You can add beans, barley and/or lentils to make it more substantial, if you like.
Or you can make a rich, creamy tasting soup out of butternut or carrots (or both), which is delicious hot or cold.
Start with: 1 onion, peeled and quartered.
Add to this 1 medium butternut, peeled, deseeded and cut in chunks (or 5-6 large carrots, scrubbed and sliced).
Put the prepared veg in a saucepan and pour in about 750ml of chicken or veg stock .
Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 mins.
Once the veg are soft, blitz the whole lot with a hand-blender, or pulse in a liquidizer, until it is smooth.
Now you can add more water if you want a thinner soup.
Then add in whatever you like in the way of flavouring - 2 Tblsp curry paste, 2 Tblsp chopped coriander (cilantro) or 2 Tblsp of grated ginger root - and blitz again to disperse the herbs.
Pack into plastic containers (this freezes well, though you may want to blitz it again on thawing).
Serve with a dollop of fat free yoghurt, creme- or fromage fraiche.
I usually get 4-5 servings of about 350ml each out of one pot of soup.

Salads are a fabulous way of packing in all those vitamins and minerals. And 'salad' is very versatile - you can put in pretty much whatever you have. To most people a salad is rabbit food, but it doesn't have to be. I always start off with mixed lettuce leaves because I like lettuce, but you can add rocket; baby spinach; chopped fresh mint; chopped fresh basil; watercress; mustard cress; asparagus and alfalfa sprouts; and I'm still only on the green stuff. For colour and crunch there are: red, yellow and green bell peppers, red onion, radishes, olives, beetroot. For substance add: chickpeas, cannellini beans, broad beans. For extra protein add; hardboiled egg, feta cheese, nuts, pine nuts, seeds, smoked trout, canned tuna or salmon. For a sweet surprise add chopped apple, mango, pineapple, pear, grapes, cherry tomatoes, orange segments. No dressing required.
Or you could start with cooked rice or pasta and add any or all the above.

Sandwiches are versatile, too. You could pack the salad above between two slices of whole wheat bread, or in a bagel, or in a hollowed out whole wheat seed roll. Then there are the usual sandwich fillings; egg- chicken- or tuna mayonnaise (use a low oil light mayo, and you don't need to butter the bread). Or choose a filling of cold meat, chicken or cheese (omit the protein from the sandwich if you have already put it in the salad).

Full yet? Don't get bogged down with eating the same lunch every day. Ring the changes with left-overs (which don't sound very appetizing after the soup-salad-sandwich combo above!) or look back at the breakfasts I suggested - many of those make a suitable lunch.

Whatever you decide on, remember to watch your portion sizes.

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