As busy people, we all settle for store-bought lunch. The excuse is time, or lack thereof. We get it; the city is hectic, and the kitchens are small. But by putting in a little prep work on the weekends, you can create a simple and nutritious lunch. Recently, while I was doing some food photography in Manhattan, I served the staff at the branding agency Ro New York and the fashion brand Title of Work,a homemade, healthy lunch at their stunning office in the Flatiron District. Every dish I served is something I regularly eat as a make-ahead weekday lunch. And here’s how you too can do it.
Prep on the weekends
Buy all your groceries for the week on Sundays. Then, use a couple of hours to plan and prep: Wash the salad, make two different dressings, cook barley, make soup and plan you dinners so that you can more easily plan your leftover lunches.
The four dishes I served were made with simple everyday ingredients I always have in the fridge and pantry at home. I even cooked the beets for the noodles in (old) miso soup I got a few days before with some Japanese takeout. It’s all about using what you have in the fridge and being creative. Remember, you do not have to follow my recipes to the letter. Use them as inspiration and experiment with your own ingredients.
I made four tasty dishes — kale salad with vanilla, kelp noodles with miso beets, lentil soup and zucchini spaghetti with pistachios. Yes, I did say kale with vanilla! I know it sounds a little weird, but bitter greens such as kale and Brussels sprouts pair great with some sweetness, and vanilla is a great option. Below, you’ll find two of the four recipes. You can find the recipes for the kelp noodles and zucchini pasta on my blog, Modern Wifestyle.
Kale Salad with Vanilla
— handful of kale
— 1 tablespoon olive oil
— 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
— 1 teaspoon lemon juice
— 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
— 1/4 teaspoon maple syrup
— 1/2 cup pearled barley
— 2 slices smoked bacon
— 1/2 blood orange
— 1/2 pear
— 2 tablespoons crumbled feta
— pomegranate seeds (optional)
1. Trim the stems off of the kale, then cut into small pieces.
2. Make the dressing by whisking together the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, syrup and vanilla. Massage it into the kale.
3. Cook the pearled barley according to the instructions on the package.
4. Fry the bacon on a pan or in the oven until crisp.
5. Peel and slice pear and blood orange.
6. Mix everything in a large bowl and sprinkle with feta (and pomegranates if you have them).
Lentil Soup With Fresh Herbs
— 2 tablespoons olive oil
— 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
— 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
— 1/2 teaspoon paprika
— 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
— 2 yellow onions, chopped
— 3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
— 4 carrots, chopped
— 2 stalks celery, chopped
— 1 cup broccoli, chopped
— 12 ounces green lentils
— 6 cups vegetable stock
— 1 can crushed tomatoes
— salt and pepper to taste
— fresh parsley and mint for garnish
1. Heat the olive oil and spices together over medium heat in a large pot.
2. Add the onions to the oil. When the onions are clear, add the garlic.
3. Add carrots, celery and broccoli to the pot.
4. When the vegetables start to soften, add the lentils. Give it a good stir.
5. After few minutes, add vegetable stock and crushed tomatoes.
6. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the lentils are cooked. Salt and pepper to taste.
7. Garnish every plate with finely chopped parsley and/or mint.
Both of these recipes travel well in mason jars. So make use of them, and happy lunching!
What is your go-to lunch and how often do you bring homemade lunch to work?