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Foodie Tuesday: what to do with all the hardboiled eggs
Apr 26th, 2011 by Nancy

egg salad samI’ve got a fridge full of them,’you?

Today’s Foodie Tuesday entry offers up a quick and simple, kind, easy twist on the soggy mush of bad-egg-salad-on-soggy-white-bread: a sliced hard boiled egg with provolone, a tomato slice, sprouts, and herbed mayo on a lightly toasted English muffin. It’s brought to you by kokomama and inspired by a breakfast she noshed when working at a cafe in college.

Substitution ideas abound: no provolone in the fridge? Try havarti; tomatoes are all gone? Soak and mince sundried tomatoes, or use the marinated-in-a-jar kind. No sprouts? Any greens would probably work well, and I think I might make use of the dandelion greens in my back yard.

Note to all you Lunchsense users: this shows off several features of your lunchbox, one obvious and one not so much.  The obvious one is that the ice pack will keep this egg and mayo-laden treat fresh and cool for hours; the lesser-known (but no less valuable) feature is that since the food containers hold a sandwich in the same orientation as when it’s sitting on a plate, the sandwich guts don’t slide out from between the bread slices on your way to work.  Lunch looks just as good when you open up the containers as when you made the lunch.

Next up: a healthy, refreshing sandwich that makes use of all the leftover jelly beans.
Ha, I wish.
Foodie Tuesday: Marinated Flank steak
Apr 19th, 2011 by Nancy
Flank steak. Yum.

Flank steak. Yum.

We bought half a cow last week.

If you haven’t looked into buying a part of or a whole farm animal, I’d like to endorse the practice.  We started by buying half a hog from a co-worker of my husband’s about 15 years ago, and have repeated the process several times in the last decade.

I’ll save the particulars of bulk meat buying for another day, but I wanted to mention it because of my favorite cut, the flank steak.  It’s not the tenderest cut by far, but I have an old family recipe that sends me back to my childhood every time we serve it up.  Besides, flank makes a yummy dinner one day and an even better steak sandwich, in your lunchbox, the next day.

By the way, if you’ve ever bought “London broil” at the grocery store, you probably got flank steak or top round.  London broil is a cooking method to make the best of a tasty-but-tough cut, and that’s exactly what this recipe does.

Note that the recipe probably came into my life in the late 60’s and some of the ingredients (ketchup, vegetable oil) reflect it.  I’m sure, in its day, it bordered on exotic: garlic! soy sauce! no salt (soy sauce notwithstanding)! More than an 1/8th teaspoon pepper! An actual spice!  That said, it works exceedingly well, is simplicity itself, and never fails to wow family and guests alike.

Here’s the recipe.  Simple, accessible, delicious:

Marinated Flank

Combine:

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 C soy sauce (or tamari, per your preference)

2 T ketchup (any brand will do)

2 T vegetable oil

1 t ground pepper

1 t dried oregano

Pour over a two to three lb. flank steak, refrigerate and let marinate 4-12 hours. Grill over or broil under high heat to your liking (though this less-than-tender cut does best if grilled no more than medium rare – 140 degrees), then remove the steak and allow to rest 10 minutes.  Slice thinly across the grain and serve.

Hoard the leftovers (if any), and serve on a hoagie roll for lunch the next day.

Foodie Tuesday: Hummus
Apr 12th, 2011 by Nancy

hummusSuch a simple thing, hummus.  Fun to say, fun to type, too: hummushummushummus

Every time I have hummus I have a minor-league epiphany:

Oh! This is great! I love hummus! I should have this more often!

Then I forget about it for another 6 months, only to have the insight all over again when it crosses my path.

I found this recipe and thought it offered everything I could hope for: a great basic recipe with lovely, creative adornments and embellishments, and it’s all packable for a tasty lunch.

Brought to you by Jacqueline Pham at Pham Fatale, the basic recipe is made from easily accessible ingredients: chickpeas, cumin, garlic (though she suggested pickled shallots, which sound great), lemon juice & zest, and toasted sesame seeds (though I suspect premade tahini would substitute reasonably well).

The magic begins when she whips heavy cream, adds toasted sesame oil, and folds it into the hummus just before serving. Zowie.

Thanks to Jacqueline’s fine teaching and presentation skills, you can learn how to roast the red bell peppers that pair so nicely with hummus, discover what “verrines” are, consider alternatives to the standard issue pita for the hummus-delivery-system, and know what to do if you’re out of sesame seeds.  Check it out.

Foodie Tuesday: Dulce de Leche Brownies
Apr 5th, 2011 by Nancy

Dulce-Brownies-300x275Oh, there’s so much to share, and Tuesday comes but once a week!

Chocolate. Butter. Sugar. Nuts, or no nuts. Finger food, and two-bite sized.  Honest, sublime, homey, decadent, simple, sophisticated: brownies may be the all-time perfect treat.

Besides, Foodie Tuesday was due for a sugar fix.

Here’s an offering for Foodie Tuesday that may actually improve upon perfection: chocolate brownies with a sweet gooey layer of dulce de leche in the middle.  This brownie recipe is a time-honored classic that I’ve made dozens of times (even in gluten-free flour; all I add is a little xanthan gum to keep them from falling apart in my hands), and thanks to David Lebovitz and brought to my attention at babble.com, the addition of dulce de leche is simple and effective. Best of all, for those of you in the lunch-carrying corps, these are eminently packable and sure to draw longing stares from your coworkers.

dulce brownies 2

If you like that kind of thing.  It’s your call.

Unfamiliar with dulce de leche?  Here’s another link from David with the recipe.  Easy as can be: one ingredient, a can of sweetened condensed milk.

Enjoy!

Foodie Tuesday: The Pioneer Woman's Spicy Peanut Pasta Salad
Mar 29th, 2011 by Nancy

PIONEERWOMANI make the lunchbox.  YOU make the lunch.

Foodie Tuesday, week two: Where would I be without you, Pioneer Woman Cooks?

If you haven’t come across this site by Ree Drummond, you’re in for a treat – this gal loves food, cooking, good photography and her family (and much more), and rolls them all together into a website that keeps surprising and entertaining us with every visit.  When I need a delicious, comforting meal, her site is often my first stop.  My chef-in-the-making daughter browses her site partly for inspiration and partly for sheer entertainment; little does she realize, though, that in Ree’s hands she’s getting a head start on her cooking education as Ree photographs every single step along the way.

Do note: fat is her friend.  Butter is a food group, not a condiment, in Ree’s kitchen.  The results are worth it, but it takes some time to get used to measuring the stuff by the stick, not the teaspoon. Note also that her portion sizes run to the “cattle rancher” sized, especially since that’s just who she’s cooking for – she and her husband are in rural Oklahoma, where they ranch and homeschool their four children.  Whew, it makes me weak-kneed just writing that sentence.  Anyway, adjust her portions accordingly.

Now to hone in on a recipe from her site…I’m aiming for something that cooks up easily, packs up nicely in a Lunchsense lunchbox, serves well at any temperature, and is mouth-wateringly tasty to boot.  I think I’ve found it:

SPICY PEANUT PASTA SALAD

Spicy-Peanut-Pasta-Salad

Spicy Peanut Pasta salad: click the photo for the recipe.

Here we have peanut+garlic+sesame+sweet/sour effects of vinegar and brown sugar, blended and dressing room-temperature linguine and garnished with cilantro.

What I love about this recipe is that it barely breaks a sweat in the prep department: boil noodles, make sauce in blender, pour over noodles.  I also like that it starts with a solid base (the peanut sauce) made from readily available components, but it’s infinitely adjustable depending on the current inventory in the kitchen and preferences of the diners.  Outa red chile oil?  Not a problem, use…a little chili pepper, maybe, for heat, or possibly red chile paste.   No cilantro?  Sure, coarsely grate some carrots and/or cabbage and it’ll be fine.  Toss in bean sprouts or steamed pea pods if they’re around, it’ll be great.

To complete the meal Ree served it up with sliced roasted beef tenderloin and roasted asparagus – note that both of these other dishes are great served hot or cold, making them perfect lunchtime companions to the pasta salad.  They aren’t essential, though, and if you have another combo that works I’d love to hear about it!

Foodie Tuesday: a new series
Mar 16th, 2011 by Nancy

I make the lunchbox.  YOU make the lunch.

This has always been my response when customers ask if the Lunchsense lunchbox they’ve just ordered will come, um, pre-loaded.

You might think I’d be all about recipes, clever tips, great photos – an endless resource for what to put in that fancy new lunchbox.   As you might know, I’m a huge fan of food, from growing it to cooking, reading about, and most of all eating it, in (most) all its wondrous form.

But how do most of MY lunch-packing adventures go?  Not so adventurous, frankly.  I usually only pack lunch for my 3rd grader and 5th grader, and their tastes are…still developing, shall we say.  If I were to even try writing about what I usually pack for these two I’d run out of words by Friday, and you’d get pretty sick of what I had to say by about Wednesday.  ‘Hardly inspiring,  I’m sorry to say.

I’m not doing you any favors, though, if I’m not sharing some of the eye-popping, jaw-dropping, mouth-watering delectables that come across my desk and browser in the course of business, so as of today I will officially start fixing that.

By the way, how do you define a foodie?  Is it someone who’s a food snob?  Someone obsessed with eating “correctly” (whatever that means)?  Let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts about “my-lunch-can-beat-up-your-lunch” food snobbery (or would that be “my lunch can have your lunch for lunch”?)  vs. genuine, heartfelt foodie-ness.

So then, today: what’s on the (virtual) menu?

Since it’s lunch, and that conjures images of sandwiches, I’ll start with this: Raspberry Chipotle sauced Pulled Pork Leftovers topped with Candied red onions & provolone cheese, found on My Year on the Grill:

pulled pork sandwich

Didja get all that?  Here it is again: sweet and smoky raspberry and chipotles slow-cooked pulled pork recipe; bright, tangy candied red onions; velvety provolone.  Crunchy+pillowy+salty+seedy bun. Pull all this out of your lunchbox and you’ll be the envy of all your office mates.  For the surprisingly fast and easy raspberry chipotle sauce, see here .

I’ll be getting Foodie Tuesdays out every week.  I’m open to suggestions as well – if you see something just too good to hide, let me know!

Lunches My Kids Will Actually Eat
Oct 13th, 2010 by Chris

tuna-pitaEvery once in a while, we here at Lunchsense like to do, yeah, you guessed it—lunch.  Many adults hurry through, or dismiss it altogether; but, for our children, this noontime meal remains a treasured respite from the rigors of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.

Most will tell you they really look forward to it.  Visit your school’s cafeteria sometime—you’ll likely be greeted by a swirling jangle of sliding, metal chair-legs, eager, chirping voices and a heart-quickening buzz of unleashed energy.  You’ll also find a ton of wasted food.  This is often the result of over-packing, but it’s just as frequently caused by fickle tastes or “bor-ing” options.

Many kids love lunch-time, but the food—not so much.  “Come on, Dad—ham and cheese again?”

In an effort to make sure my kids are properly refueled for their afternoon lessons, I try to mix-up the menu a little bit, and I enlist their help in deciding what’s sure to get eaten.  Here are a few of their (somewhat) surprising favorites:

  • Hummus, cheddar and fresh spinach wrap.  I didn’t discover hummus until I was in my early 30’s, and now it’s one of my favorite snacks.  My kids love it in wraps and with tortilla chips.  It’s a solid source of dietary fiber, folate and some essential minerals.  It’s also very low in cholesterol.  The nutritional value will increase significantly if you find a good recipe and make your own rather than purchasing the pre-made kind.  Be sure to read the label if you opt for store-bought.  I use whole-grain wraps, of course; and ever since I showed my sons some old Popeye cartoons, they’ve found spinach (fresh, not canned) more appealing.
  • I call it a “Yunch.”  It’s simply a cup of low-fat yogurt, granola and some mixed berries.  What’s not to like?  Works great for quick breakfasts too.  Protein, vitamin B-12 and riboflavin are among the vital nutrients found in yogurt.  Try to use “plain” and be careful of sugar content when selecting a brand-name.  The berries (one of the world’s healthiest foods) and maybe a smidge of honey should make it plenty sweet.
  • Tuna salad pita pocket.  This traditional standard gets the job done.  Some kids have an aversion to it (probably the smell of a freshly opened can), but my boys really enjoy my own special recipe.  I go light on the celery and add a couple of tablespoons of sweet pickle relish.  I use fresh chopped greens and a whole-grain pita when assembling.  There are healthier choices, but white albacore tuna is another great source of protein that is low in saturated fat.  It also packs a nice B-6/B-12 punch with a decent niacin kicker.  You should use your mayonnaise cautiously to limit the damage, and don’t add any salt.
  • Tofu pâté.  If you haven’t tried it, your kids probably haven’t either, and you’re all missing out.  Tofu, while nutritious, gets a bad rap from the meat-eaters of the world; and truthfully, it is a poor facsimile of meat (Tofurkey?!?), but the pâté tastes really good.  I buy the packaged, “Toby’s Mild Jalapeno” variety because they introduced me to the stuff.  It’s like a combination dip/spread that can be scooped up with tortilla chips, or spooned into pitas and wraps.  It also works great with a bagel, instead of cream cheese.  My sons gobble it up however it’s served.  The tofu itself is mostly flavorless, adhering to the spices used in preparation.  I’d recommend sampling some different combinations.  It may not taste anything like meat, but if used properly, tofu can offer an excellent, alternative protein.
  • “Ants on a log” and an apple.  I’m talking about celery sticks smeared with peanut butter and dotted with raisins (or craisins), of course.  It’s healthy, simple and fun—what could be better?  Unassuming celery does its nutritional job with plenty of dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, K, folate, potassium and some manganese for good measure.  The apple and raisins provide another vitamin boost and additional carbohydrates.  The peanut butter is the protein, but check the sugar and sodium contents; and utilize portion control to limit the unavoidable intake of fat.  Note also that if your kiddos take peanut butter in their lunches, they should steer towards the “peanut” tables in the cafeteria, and wash their hands thoroughly afterwards.

It’s easy to take a less involved approach to your kids’ lunches.  The creative energy isn’t always there, and neither is the time.  But, letting younglings fend entirely for themselves in the lunch-room can be nutritionally dangerous, and it misses a great opportunity to model healthier living.  They really need the midday nourishment, so put your heads together—find out what they like, teach them what’s good for them, and make sure their lunches are about more than just socializing.  The quicker you can get your kids eating right, the sooner they’ll start developing healthy habits that will last their whole (long) lives.  And, that’s just using your Lunchsense.

Leaving on a Jet Plane
Feb 26th, 2010 by Nancy

It’s pouring rain outside. Again.beach scene 4

I love Eugene, and I’m a Northwest native (“Clan of the webbed toes”) so rain doesn’t really register most of the time, but after a spate of gardening last weekend I’m getting a bit fed up with February, and March is threatening to march in this weekend looking suspiciously similar to it.

I concede that I have nothing, comparatively speaking, to complain about. You East Coasters are having a winter for the record books and the most recent storm means that many of you can’t even see this post because the power is out, and I really, truly, feel for you.  Weather over there has gone from “inconvenient” to “Dorothy’s house just flew by the front window,” and you are all in our thoughts and prayers.

Nobody on either coast, then, would fault any of us for daydreaming about warmer, drier climes.

Getting to those locales is weighing heavy on my mind, though. Notwithstanding the cost (both financial and environmental), we all know the real truth: food on airplanes is mostly pretty wretched stuff. To add insult to injury, now we have to spring for it.

I was pondering this dilemma awhile back, and my wool-gathering turned from the destination to the journey, and what, exactly, I’d pack in my Lunchsense lunchbox for the trip.  I realized I had a few constraints, as follows – all the food would have to be:

1) Relatively non-perishable since the FSA would confiscate the ice pack (although we CAN pack ice in the drink bottle, then dump it out before boarding the plane, then get more ice on board, if absolutely necessary);
2) Lacking in any liquids or gels in quantities over 3 oz.;
3) Free of un-neighborly foods like allergens (i.e. nuts) or really aromatic stuff like, oh, limburger; and most of all
4) A meal that will be the utter envy of my cabinmates. A meal that will make the security guards that x-ray the lunch box stop the machine and stare in awe. A meal that will have passengers climbing over seat backs to get at it.

I realized at this point I needed professional help.

I needed a chef.

Enter good friend Andy Roybal, who took my constraints and weighed in with this response:

I would not worry about the temperature control because food has a 4 hour window in which it is safe and you would want some of the items to come up to room temp for better flavor.
The menu:
Rice is out because cold rice sucks but I would do Inari Nigiri – Sweet Rice wrapped in Fried Tofu Skins, it is normally served cold and three pieces would fit nicely into one of your containers. Along with that I would have a container of Soba Noodle Salad (again served cold) with julienne Green Onion, Carrot, Cucumber, and Red Pepper in a Soy-Ginger Dressing. Then you need some veggies… Soy Beans to the rescue! Edamame seasoned with Hawaiian Sea Salt, Toasted Sesame Seeds and Sesame Oil would be a nice. Here are a few more ideas… no harm in more vegetables, so let’s add a small side of Seaweed Salad available at most Asian stores already prepared. If you still have room… some home made Teriyaki Chicken would be nice… you can eat it cold and that rounds out your meal with a bit of protein. You do get to bring on 3 oz of liquid, so in the small salad dressing container, I would fill it with some Sake!

That would be my meal. I hope that helps… if you don’t like that one I was thinking of a Middle Eastern Lunch of Falafel, Hummus, Baba ghanoush, Tabbouleh, Yogurt Sauce and lots of Pita Bread.

Thank you, Andy. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

(Aside to Andy: The last line about kills me – “if you don’t like that one…” Oh fer heaven’s sake, Andy, have you FLOWN lately? Do you know what you’re up against?)

Can’t you see it? You get on the plane with your tidy little lunchbox, and about midflight when your cabin mates are prying the plastic wrap off their nine-dollar “club sandwiches” and trying to discreetly open little mayonnaise packets with their teeth you pull this feast out, smooth your cloth napkin (included) on your lap, smile graciously to them, and dig in?

So – what would you pack?

To all of us – hang in there, spring’s just around the corner. In the meantime, I’m going to daydream about warmer, drier, beautiful places. Like Eugene in August.

p.s. Stay tuned – Andy says he’ll come up with recipes for the goods above.

p.p.s. And if dreaming about good food isn’t enough, slide on over to foodgawker for a visual, virtual orgy of good food AND good photography.

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