Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ask the Internet: Emergency Lunch?

Sweet readers! I know you’ve been on the edge of your collective seat for the results of last week’s Top 5 Fruits poll. Your wait is over. The winner is...


23 votes: Apple

19 votes: Banana, Blueberry

18 votes: Strawberry

16 votes: Pineapple

13 votes: Peach

12 votes: Cherry, Mango

11 votes: Raspberry

10 votes: Watermelon

8 votes: Grapes

7 votes: Blackberry

6 votes: Orange, Pear

5 votes: Cantaloupe, Grapefruit, Kiwi, Nectarine

4 votes: Clementine

3 votes: Cranberry, Honeydew, Lemon, Lime, Pomegranate

2 votes: Apricot, Black Raspberry, Papaya, Passion Fruit, Plum, Pluot

1 vote: Acai, Asian Pear, Chirimoya, Date, Green Coconut, Guanabana, Guava, Lychee, Mangosteen, Medlar, Pacay, Persimmon, Pitanga, Plantain, Raisin, Rhubarb, Tangerine,

It was an agonizing decision for most of you, and I feel your torment. My favorite fruit, grapefruit, didn’t fair so well, but that’s okay. Come winter, I'll be in heavenly grapefruit bliss. Onto this week’s Ask the Internet query.

Picture this: You’ve just returned from vacation to an empty fridge and messy house when you get the call to start that 10-hour/day freelance job you’ve been hoping for. At the same time, you’re taking over the editorial responsibilities of the most delightful food blog in the whole wide web. (Or fill in your own madcap scheduling scenario.)

Q: What do you throw together for a healthy, quick, last-minute lunch that does not involve peanut butter and jelly for 5 days straight?

A: Yes, it’s been a little hectic around CHG headquarters in Kris’ absence. There have been several days in which I succumbed to the evils of Midtown Lunch—$8 salads and $10 sandwiches. But, I’ve culled a few new tricks, including cooking beans in the crock pot and quinoa in the office microwave. Results forthcoming!

Readers, what about you? How do you handle bagged lunch in a pinch?

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

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angela jiniel said...

my favorite is apples and cheddar cheese. With maybe a few wheat crackers. Yum!

Kristen | gezellig-girl.com said...

I have a Lock&Lock set (from the H Mart on 32nd St) with a bunch of little sections, and I fill it with whatever odds and ends I can find in the kitchen — cut up pieces of fruit/veg, Wasa with peanut butter + sriacha, dried fruit, weird candy from Chinatown that I don't even remember buying...

The cute set helps make it look more like a thought-out lunch and less like random crap I found and threw together.

Anonymous said...

I also go for the odds and ends. Chips and store bought hummus. Fruit. Granola bars. Bagels with cream cheese/jelly.

Wait, did you want healthy? Can't help you there...

j. said...

I admit, if I were in NY I'd be hitting the falafel cart hard. Otherwise, hummus, pita, veggies. Any leftover thicker than soup in a pita works good too, just transport separately.

I always liked having a baggy of nuts and dried fruit- usually brazil nuts and dried papaya- for snax.

Kristen's suggestion of the Lock&Lock boxes is good- that way you can bring stuff that might be runnier and not worry about it flipping and spilling in transit.

Edward Antrobus said...

ham & cheese sandwich put in a cooler bag with a reusable icepack.

Anonymous said...

Instant oatmeal--you can get enough for 1 week for a buck, and all you need to add is hot water. Perfect? No. But cheap, hot, filling, and not insanely unhealthy.

Also, add cheese to anything...cheese and crackers, cheese and fruit, cheese and veggies, etc. Quick bite-sized lunch.

And lastly...scrambled eggs. Do a big batch, add whatever veggies, meat, beans, or cheese you have, and divvy it up in plastic bowls. Add a little something after you heat it up...hot sauce, salsa, pico, etc. Quick high-protein "breakfast bowl" for lunch.

MsLeading said...

Hummus and fresh veggies are my ultimate quick lunch. I always have both in my fridge and ready to go, though - I imagine it's not so emergency-friendly if you have to soak and cook chickpeas first. :)

kitty said...

For quick healthy meals in Austin, one could stop by a plethora of new businesses like My Fit Foods and Mel's Meals. They are premade meals that are supposed to be whole grain, low fat, some are gluten free and vegetarian, and all that jazz. They can get expensive, however.

For a quick meal at home, I'd probably throw some hummus, spinach, and lunch meat on a tortilla and wrap it up.

Stephanie said...

We always keep a few boxes of cous cous in the pantry. I heat the water and herb packet when I get out of the shower, by the time I'm dressed its boiling so I add cous cous and cover. When I'm done doing my hair and makeup I fluff it with a fork. After breakfast I throw it in a tupperware with whatever kind of greens we have and if we're lucky any cheese, nuts or dried fruit we have on hand. Delicious.

love food. said...

Put a bunch of spring greens/spinach in a tupperware, top it with any vegetables that are already cut up, pour a half a can of garbanzo beans on top, and dress it with whatever i find in the office fridge!

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

Granola/granola bars, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, crackers and fresh fruit.

Jaime said...

My go-to quick lunch this summer is:

+a big bunch of vegetables - usually bell pepper strips, cherry tomatoes, and either carrots or cucumbers
+one or two hardboiled eggs
+a couple of slices of cheese.

I'll pack a plum or some berries on the side, and finish up with a few pieces of dark chocolate.

It's healthy, tasty, satisfying, and almost always gets comments from my coworkers for being colorful and pretty.

chacha1 said...

The only way I can consistently manage "brown-bagging" is to not expect myself to actually prepare anything. It's all I can do to manage one proper meal a day. :-)

So for lunch it's bread, cheese, and pickles, alternating with frozen vegetable lasagna.

And V8 Fusion single-serve cans, and a banana 3x a week.

Anonymous said...

Couscous, canned chickpeas, and veggies with lemon juice and Parmesan cheese. Throw in a piece of fruit, and you're good to go.

Nathalie said...

Bean salads are my go to emergency lunch since my pantry is always stocked with both dried beans (cheaper) and canned beans (to save on soaking/cooking time). Just add vinegar and olive oil, a bit of salt and pepper, to whatever beans you have on hand (my favorites for salads are red kidney beans and chickpeas). Add wathever veggies for have left in the fridge/freezer (thawed in the microwave) or canned veggies such as corn. Rice or couscous salads are also quick, if you have the time to cook the grains.

Liz said...

Are you making dinner? Make more! Leftovers, my friend! (tip: box up your lunch BEFORE it hits the table so it doesn't accidentally get eaten up!)

Kate said...

Hummus and vegetables is my go-to emergency lunch/dinner for when I'm getting hammered at work and get home at 9 without the time or energy to do anything other than stare at the fridge and think "toast".

The veggies take prep work, but I do a few meals' worth at once. I buy the hummus rather than making it, because if I'm busy enough to need it, I'm (regrettably, since it's stupidly expensive for what you get) too busy to make it.

Anonymous said...

When I have fifteen minutes to go and no sandwich materials on hand, I cook some pasta and throw it together in a tupperware container with canned tuna, canned white beans, olive oil, lemon juice, some of the pasta water, salt and pepper. Sometimes I add a dash of balsamic, a grate of parmesan or a handful of frozen peas (they defrost when the hot pasta goes in.) Mix it up at the office, ready to go, cold or re-heated. I've got it down to a quick science, and it's filling and relatively healthy. It's also made of ingredients I almost always have even if I haven't been grocery shopping in weeks.

LB said...

Use your freezer!

I cook beans by the pound and then freeze leftovers in 2 cup portions in freezer bags or in glass peanut butter jars (about the same size as a 15 oz. can of beans). Not quite as easy as opening a can but you can defrost easily in the microwave the morning of or defrost them in the fridge the day before if you're thinking ahead. You can freeze cooked rice or grains in small portions too.

I also freeze sliced bread, sliced sandwich rolls, and pita and those defrost easily in a few minutes in an oven or toaster oven at 400. A little wax paper between the slices or pitas helps. Sliced cheese between pieces of wax paper freezes well also and defrosts fairly quickly.

For a truly dire situation, I really like Ak-Mak brand crackers ("Armenian cracker bread" as the package calls them). Tasty, 100% whole wheat, and a small box fits easily in a desk drawer or work locker. All you need is a trip to a corner store or CVS for apple, baby carrots, peanut butter or string cheese and you're set.

Ashley Daoust said...

SOUP! Soup soup soup. If you're ok with eating the same thing a few days in a row. I'm also a fan of apples and cheddar, which was mentioned. And I've been known to eat bananas and hard boiled eggs for lunch too. but really though, a big pot of soup has been known to get me through some rough spots.

Autumn609 said...

I take a big scoop of plain yogurt, some frozen fruit, and some plain oats or granola in a container, grab a spoon and I'm good to go. I'll use fresh fruit if I have it, but I love the triple berry blend from sams/costco with yogurt. The frozen fruit keeps things cold enough if I leave lunch in my purse instead of the fridge.

Everyone always comments on how my lunch looks like desert, which it is cheap healthy lunch desert. It takes about a minute to make, the longest part being finding a matching lid for my containers.

I also grab some sliced veggies to munch on for the drive home when I'm on the parking lot normally described as I35E. Keeps me from making less good choices when I get in the house.

Mary said...

Lots of leftovers! Last night's dinner is almost always the next day's lunch. A lunch without any animal protein rarely sustains my boyfriend through the workday, so I make sure to cook up some extra protein the night before. Even though it seems more expensive to buy a little extra meat or fish, it works outs to be way cheaper (and yummier) than buying lunches at work.

Laura said...

My strategy is to make a double portion of whatever I have for breakfast and put the second half in a container for lunch.

Most of the time I have cous cous and veggies. I cut up a mixing bowls worth of veggies and portion them out into ziplock snack bags. Then I just throw them all in the freezer. When I need a quick breakfast/lunch I throw a bag of veggies in a frying pan with oil and spices (I like coconut and toasted sesame oil and shichimi togarashi.) and put a lid on it. Then I walk away for five minutes.

Then you just have to pour in the water and when it starts bubbling throw in the cous cous, turn off the heat and walk away for five more minutes. (5 parts water, 4 parts cous cous). Then just stir, put half in a container for lunch, and eat the rest.

I especially like doing this because I don't have a microwave at work and the leftovers are just as good cold.

I also have a laptop lunchbox and follow the "throw in a little of whatever I've got" method when there are lots of veggies and leftover tidbits in the fridge.

Anonymous said...

I like to mix some low fat cottage cheese with lemon juice and lemon pepper seasoning. I then use melba toast to "dip" the cottage cheese. Add a few seasonal fruits on the side and a glass of V8 and you have a simple, quick, healthy lunch.

wosnes said...

I almost always have homemade soup in the refrigerator. It's my lunch of choice. Occasionally I'll have a salad or a sandwich or a leftover buffet, but most of the time it's soup.

Leigh said...

You guys RULE. Seriously.

And Kristen/gezellig-girl: I love H Mart. I'll be going there this weekend at the power of your suggestion.

sarah said...

Usually leftovers does the job. Other times I cut up and throw together in a container whatever veggies and nuts are around. Lunch can be tricky; here's a post (the first of two) containing some good lunchbox tips.

MaryKate said...

While I like the idea of taking leftovers for lunch, for my household, that hardly ever pans out. What I've taken to doing is make a big batch of something on the weekend and that becomes my lunch food. No one else in the house is allowed to have any. I put it in tupperware by individual servings and then just pop one in my lunch bag on the way out the door.
I find things like eggplant meatballs very successful, as they keep well and taste delicious if you can't heat them up via office micro. Also, veggie casseroles work well, as do soups. I usually take an apple and some graham crackers or rice cakes for midday snacking.