Bid Farewell to Sad Sack Lunches

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Southwest quinoa bowl. Tip: You can pulse this dressing in the food processor for a smoother texture.

When I was a kid, my mom would pack the best lunches — each item neatly wrapped inside my plastic My Little Pony lunchbox. One day my dad packed my lunch. I opened it to find a mangled mess of peeled banana and PB&J, all with chunks of Ritz crackers stuck to it. When I complained to my dad that night, he responded by saying we didn’t need to waste so many plastic bags.

These days, much to my eco-loving dad’s delight, I have ditched the tiny sandwich bags for an efficient glass container or Mason jar.

I am a working mom, and lunch happens every day. If I don’t want to hit a drive-thru, I could end up spending $15 on a healthy option like salad, pressed juice, or an acai bowl.

With a little bit of prep, I can make enough food to create three or four lunches ready to grab on my way out the door. I can have delicious and healthy lunches for about $10 — for the week!

The Basic Recipe

I have a simple method: greens + grains + a protein and mix-ins. Use these recipes as a guide.

Each recipe makes four 1-quart bowls. Why plan for four days and not five? Well, everyone needs a freebie day for lunch meetings, or to simply grab a favorite bite on the corner close to the office.

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Spicy peanut soba noodles

Building the Bowls

  1. Each recipe is designed for an easy assembly line.
  2. Once you choose what recipe you will be making, divide ingredients evenly into four parts.
  3. Place four bowls in front of you and equally distribute the greens and grains in the containers first. Follow this process until you’ve evenly distributed your ingredients.
  4. Place ¼ of the vinaigrette dressing into small leak-proof containers and place inside the bowls. Dress each bowl just before eating so it doesn’t become mushy. 

Spicy peanut soba noodles

  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 12 ounces cooked soba noodles
  • 4 ounces chopped firm tofu
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • ½ cup chopped peanuts
  • 1 cup diced snap peas
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • 4 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Spicy Asian Vinaigrette

  • ½ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce, or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon sambal or sriracha
  • The juice and zest of one lime
  • 4 tablespoons light-tasting oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
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Kale, feta, and heirloom tomato bowl. Tip: Slice the tomatoes the day you plan to eat them.

Kale, feta, and heirloom tomato bowl

  • 4 cups cooked faro
  • 4 cups chopped kale
  • 4 ounces crumbled or diced feta
  • 4 heirloom tomatoes

Lemon Dill Vinaigrette 

  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 2 lemons, juiced and zested
  • ½ cup chopped dill
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

Southwest quinoa bowl

  • 8 cups mescaline greens
  • 4 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup cooked pinto beans
  • 4 ounces cotija cheese or feta
  • 1 cup grilled corn kernels (two cooked cobs, if available)
  • 12 ounces of your favorite grilled steak

Roasted Red Pepper and Lime Vinaigrette

  • ½ cup champagne vinegar
  • ½ cup diced fire-roasted red peppers
  • The juice and zest of two limes
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste
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