Best thing I packed this week (March 2, 2012)

Good morning and Happy Friday!

I am SO excited for this weekend. My stepbrother is coming to Pittsburgh today, and I can’t wait to see him/hang out with him(I haven’t seen him since December!).  As always, I must first be productive and go to work and go to school, so lets hope that these things go quickly so the weekend can start!  I better not have a long chem lab tonight….

Are you doing anything exciting this weekend?

Best thing I packed this week

Now lets move on to food…. and the next installment of  “the best thing I packed this week.” This week was full of delicious packed meals, so it was hard to pick a favorite. I did a lot of good prep work last weekend:

  • I made a grain salad
  • prepped lentils
  • made barley

that resulted in easy/delicious meals and made meal packing a breeze.

BBQ Lentil Wrap

I believe I have found a new favorite vegetarian protein source: lentils. I made a big batch this past weekend by:

  • Rinsing  1 cup dry red lentils
  • Placing them in a saucepan with 2 cups water
  • Letting them simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally (until all liquid was absorbed)

I did this while I was making dinner on Sunday, so this was so easy and resulted in a big Tupperware full of lentils (about 2 cups) to incorporate into lunches throughout the week. I need to remember to do this more often because lentils are

  1. so good for you, and
  2. so cheap!

I have been searching for new ways to use them and have been enjoying them in my lunches this week in wrap/sandwich form.  On Wednesday night before class, I enjoyed a delicious wrap that contained:

  1. BBQ lentils (1/2 cup lentils mixed with about 1/8 cup Trader Joe’s BBQ sauce)
  2. spinach
  3. more BBQ sauce + nutritional yeast

This was a simple, yet delicious and filling meal that I most likely will be making again. I also had a variation of this on Monday night (an Indian-spiced lentil wrap) by combining the lentils with some Trader Joe’s Curry Simmer Sauce. I may be on a new lentil kick….

Anyone else a fan/have good ways of preparing them? I’m looking for ideas!

Other notable meals of the week:

I also really enjoyed my Lemon Dijon Kale and Barley Salad on Monday for lunch

and  had some leftover Red Kidney Bean Curry soup/stew on top of some kale that was rather delicious (I need to post the recipe for this soup… it’s so good).

tastes better than it looks...

 
What was the best thing you packed/ate this week?
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What I Ate Wednesday #6 (February 29, 2012)

Hi there, can you believe it’s already Wednesday? Or that tomorrow is March 1 (where is time going)? Or that the high for today is 60 degrees (in Pittsburgh, at least)? It’s so odd…. annnd I guess I’ll stop asking questions now.

So today is the last day of February and also the last day to celebrate/take part in “Love Your Veggies Month” over at Peas and Crayons for WIAW. To end the month with a bang, I made sure to eat some delicious veggie-inspired meals yesterday. I am also pretty excited for next month’s theme….

Breakfast – 5:30 am

For breakfast yesterday, I had some Bob’s Red Mill 8 Grain Hot Cereal that I made by combining the following in a saucepan and cooking for about 5 minutes:

  • 1/4 c cereal (1 serving)
  • 1/2 c unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/2 small banana (mixed in)
  • 1 tbsp ground flax (mixed in at end)

Toppings:

  • 1/2 small banana, chopped
  • small handful golden raisins
  • 1 chopped dried apricot
  • 2 tbsp chopped walnuts (toasted by microwaving for 2 minutes)

I really like switching up my breakfast grains from time to time, and I love the texture of this cereal (it is more chewy and more “oat bran-esque” than oatmeal). It was a nice change from my normal bowl of oatmeal that I tend to eat in the morning. I also especially liked the addition of the toasted walnuts  (I need to remember to top oatmeal/hot cereal with toasted walnuts more often…).

Snack – 9:00 am

As my mid-morning snack, I had a random trail mix concoction I made that contained:

  • walnuts
  • almonds
  • chopped dried apricots
  • golden raisins
  • dried mango
  • Kashi Heart to Heart cereal

Lunch – 12:30 pm

 My breakfast and snack did a great job of keeping me full for quite a while, and I was able to hold off on lunch until 12:30 (I usually am very ready to eat by 12).For lunch I had a big veggie-packed salad (a great way to squeeze in a lot of vegetable servings!) that contained:

  •  spinach
  • carrots
  • cucumber
  • peas
  • beets (from a can – I never really buy beets but I saw them at the store this week and impulsively bought a can. I used to eat these all the time when I was younger, so they always oddly remind me of my childhood…)
  • chickpeas (approx 1/2 cup)
  • quinoa (approx 1/2 cup)

Dressing: Drew’s Goddess Dressing (I forgot how much I love Goddess dressing…)

I also enjoyed a new to me orange with my lunch: a minnelo. It was so sweet and and so delicious. I may need to start replacing my daily lunch apple with an orange….

Snack: 4:00 pm


I was still busy at work around 4 pm, so I snacked on a Fugi apple and a small handful of Kashi crackers as I worked and finished things up.

Dinner: 5:30 pm

I did my best to make this look appetizing...I think I failed

I had plans to go to the gym at 6:30 yesterday (for a BodyAttack class!), so I had a lighter dinner before I left to fuel me through the class. I had a Boca veggie burger on a piece of toast with some steamed stir fry veggies (a frozen mixture I recently bought) on the side.

One of my favorite ways to prepare frozen veggies is to microwave (aka steam) a small serving for 1-2 minutes (to get them warm), and then stir fry them in a medium-high skillet for 2-3 minutes. This browns the veggies a little and makes them more crunchy and “fresh” tasting rather than mushy and bland as they can sometimes get – which is never fun or tasty. I also like to add fun seasonings to them to spruce them up.

I decided to go with an “Asian theme” for my dinner last night, so I added some ground ginger and gomasio (a seasoned sesame seed) to my veggies. To make my Boca burger fit the “theme,” I used some Trader Joe’s Oriental Sesame dressing as the condiment for my toast and added some romaine, cucumber and gomasio as my burger toppings.

This was such a simple dinner to make and came together in less than 10 minutes. I wasn’t expecting much out of it, but it ended up being a pretty good meal. I especially liked the kick that the ground ginger gave to the veggies and how the TJ’s dressing absorbed into the Boca burger and toast, making everything rather delicious. I love when simple meals happen to taste amazing…

Dessert/Snack – 9:30 pm

To end my day on a sweeter note, I had a container of applesauce with a small handful of raisins and Kashi Heart to Heart Cereal sprinkled on top. I never eat applesauce, but for some reason it sounded appealing last night. I am glad that I had a few containers in my fridge that I haven’t touched in months, because this ended up being quite a delicious and refreshing snack…

I ate this as I read up on some Bio notes and attempted to watch the Biggest Loser (I have issues watching it these days due to the blatant/obvious advertising that seems to happen every 3 minutes on the show… does this bother anyone else?).

Annd that concludes my meals/snacks from yesterday. Now I’m off to check out the delicious things that everybody else has been eating this week! Have a great day everyone.

Easy Lunch Idea: Lemon Dijon Kale and Barley Salad

I always make myself grain and veggie-based salads for lunch. They are filling, delicious, and so versatile. They also guarantee a complete meal with the components of :

  • whole grains (barley, brown rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta…)
  • protein (beans, tofu/tempeh, tuna/salmon, chicken, etc.)
  • fat (olive oil-based dressings, nuts/seeds)
  • veggies (spinach, carrots, mushrooms, whatever you have on hand….)

With the switching up of different grains, protein options, vegetables and dressings, the options are really endless when it comes to this easy meal concept.

To make these, I usually just tend to throw whatever ingredients I have on hand(veggies, protein source, grain, etc.) in a Tupperware container, pack some dressing on the side, and call it a day. While this is easy, effortless, and always results in a filling, healthy meal, I thought I could streamline the process even more by making and pre-portioning a big batch of a grain salad over the weekend to grab and go as  an easy meal option during the week.

I did just that this weekend by making a big batch of a barley and kale salad. This particular combination ended up tasting so delicious that I thought I’d share (in case anyone is looking to switch up their lunch routine or try out a grain-based salad for lunch). I especially liked how the  massaged kale and broccoli soaked up the lemon dijon dressing, and how the addition of the sunflower seed kernels  gave the salad additional crunch and texture. Overall, this was a very  enjoyable combination.

If you are looking for a simple, healthy, filling lunch idea, try this out!

Lemon Dijon Kale and Barley Salad

makes 2 lunch-sized servings

Ingredients:

  • barley (1 cup dry)
  • kale (approx 1/2 of a large bunch or 2 cups when torn into pieces)
  • carrots (1/2 cup, chopped)
  • broccoli (1/2 cup, chopped)
  • celery (2 stalks, chopped into bite-sized pieces)
  • chickpeas (1 cup, rinsed and drained)
  • sunflower seed kernels (2-3 tbsp – optional)

Dressing:

  • olive oil (2 tbsp)
  • lemon juice (4 tbsp or about the juice of 1 lemon)
  • dijon mustard (4 tsp)
  • pepper to taste

Directions:

  •  bring 1 cup barley and 3 cups water to a boil, turn heat to medium and let barley simmer for 25-35 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally (will make about 2 cups once cooked)
  • while barley cooks, prep your veggies!
  • rinse and tear kale into bite sized pieces and place in large bowl
  • chop broccoli, carrots and celery  into bite sized pieces and place on top of kale
  • add chickpeas on top of veggie mixture

To make the dressing: in a small bowl whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and dijon mustard, add pepper to taste (you might want to add more olive oil or lemon juice or dijon depending on taste preference)

  • massage about 1/2 of the dressing into the kale, veggie and bean mixture, using your hands (or a stirring utensil) to evenly distribute the mixture. (Massage/mix until kale begins to wilt down a little and turn a bright green color)
  • once barley is cooked and somewhat cool, add 1 cup (you will have about 1 cup leftover) of the cooked barley into the veggie mixture and add the remaining dressing . Mix until well-distributed
  • separate salad into Tupperware containers, add about a tbsp of sunflower seed kernels on top of each salad and refrigerate until you are ready to eat!

Options:

  1. replace barley with another grain of your choice (brown rice, quinoa…)
  2. substitute the veggies with whatever you have on hand (cauliflower, cucumber, tomato, etc. would all work well) – you could also use spinach or another type of green in place of the kale
  3. substitute the sunflower seed kernels with some chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans…) or other type of seed

The options and possibilities are really endless with this. Let me know if you try it out!

WIAW #5 (February 22, 2012)

Hi there, happy Wednesday (and HAPPY BIRTHDAY JON)!

I thought I’d switch things up this week and show my meals from Monday. Since I am on the go literally all day, I thought it might be interesting to show a day of my packed meals/snacks on one of these days vs. the days when I am less busy. I also always love to see what people pack to eat (I love easy/healthy meals!), so I am hoping/assuming others feel the same?

Breakfast 7:00

On Monday I literally ate every meal away from home, which usually isn’t the case. I usually always eat breakfast at home. It is actually one of my favorite parts of the day, and I have a whole routine of reading blogs, watching the news, etc.  during this time. Breakfast is what gets me up in the morning (I brainstorm what I will make/eat pretty much as soon as my eyes open…).

On Sunday night though, I somehow set my alarm to the wrong time (1 hour late!) so I somehow magically woke up (thank god) with it with just enough time to get ready and pack myself something quick to eat for breakfast at work.

I ended up going with a pumpkin yogurt +oatmeal + peanut butter combo.

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 c plain greek yogurt (approx) with a spoonful of pumpkin mixed in – sweetened with a squirt of honey
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1/2 banana
  • small sprinkle of raisins

Snack 1: 10:00 am

Since I ate breakfast a bit later than usual, I wasn’t as hungry for my mid-morning snack. I just grabbed a handful of walnuts and almonds before I had to do some testing at work.

Lunch: 12:30

For lunch I packed myself a big salad that included every vegetable I could find in my fridge. I also added some kidney beans and veggie spiral pasta (I love adding pasta to salads!) for some staying power. I wasnt ‘expecting  much out of this salad, since it is one of my more normal combos, but, for some reason, this was SO good. I love eating big, delicious salads full of fresh veggies on Mondays to start the week off on the right foot. This creation contained:

  • spinach
  • broccoli
  • mushrooms
  • carrots
  • red kidney beans (about 1/2 cup)
  • Trader Joes veggie spiral pasta (about 1/2 cup)

I also especially liked my dressing choice of the day: Drew’s Rosemary Balsamic… It soaked into the broccoli and pasta really well and made everything very delicious.

To end things on the sweeter side, I had my daily apple (a Fugi… if you were curious) with lunch.

Snack 2: 3:00 pm

 Before leaving work  to head to class I was feeling a little hungry, so I snacked on 2 clementines and a small handful of almonds

Dinner: 5:00 pm

On Mondays and Wednesdays, I have Biology at 5:30, so I usually will eat my packed dinner around 5 in the student cafeteria/study area. On Monday, I was trying to get some studying done before class (I have my first Chem test on Friday), so I took a quick study break to eat dinner. I packed myself a whole wheat wrap that contained:

I also had some carrot sticks and sugar snap peas on the side.

Again, I didn’t think this would be anything special, but it ended up tasting soo good to me (maybe I was missing vegetables in my life over the weekend?). I love the wraps I have been buying (they are a whole wheat variety I buy at Costcos) – they are so doughy! – and the combo of black beans + hummus + nutritional yeast was especially delicious for some reason. I love mixing hummus and nutritional yeast together. It is such a cheesy/creamy combo.

Snack 3: 7:00 pm

After class I had a plan to go to the gym, so I snacked on a Honey Graham Clif Z bar on my ride there.

Dessert: 9:00 pm

And lastly, when I got home from the gym, showered, packed up all my things for Tuesday and settled in to watch the second hour of the Bachelor with a few friends, I decided I wanted something sweet to end the day. I ended up having some cottage cheese with chopped strawberries, raisins, and a few chopped walnuts sprinkled on top.

And that concludes a day of packed meals/meals-on-the-go.

I hope you have been enjoying some delicious food this week as well! I’m excited to go check out what other people have been eating and get some new ideas!

Best thing I packed this week (February 17, 2012)

Hi everyone, Happy Friday!

I am pretty excited because I have the day off of work today! I still have chem lecture + lab from 5-10 tonight, but I refuse to let that dampen my day. It’s so nice to have the morning/afternoon free! What should I do with myself? I’m not used to this freedom…..

Anyway, moving on…. Since it is Friday, I have another installment of “the best thing I packed this week.” I hope you guys are fans of eggs because my favorite meals revolved around them this week. For some reason I was craving egg salad last weekend (which is odd because I rarely crave eggs), so I decided to do something about it. I buckled down, decided to be my domestic self, and I made some hard-boiled eggs (I had no idea what I was doing and had to look up directions... it ended up being really easy, by the way).

Me and eggs have a weird relationship. I either love them or hate them (and there is no in between). I was definitely on the “love” side of the spectrum this week so I just went with it and had some egg-inspired meals….

The best thing I packed this week: Hard-boiled egg edition:

Best Lunch: “Cobb”-esque Salad

For lunch on Monday, I made myself a “Cobb-esque” salad (I am calling it that since it contained no bacon, chicken, or tomatoes like a typical cobb salad, but did have the egg and cheese components…). My salad contained:

  • romaine lettuce
  • carrots
  • cucumber
  • celery
  • mushrooms
  • snap peas
  • a slice of cheddar cheese (cut into squares)
  • 1 chopped hard-boiled egg
  • Dressing: homemade honey mustard dressing made with apple cider vinegar, mustard, honey and pepper

I loved all the different textures and tastes in this salad and the cheddar cheese was a fun addition (I have a similar relationship with cheese as I do with eggs…. love it or hate it). I guess I am in a dairy loving mood this week?

I think I was inspired to make this after seeing a Cobb salad on Pinterest the other week… I have been loving getting food inspiration from the site (side note…. I really want to try to make these apple pies in an apple…).

Best Dinner: Healthy Egg Salad Sandwich

Keeping with the egg theme, my favorite pre-class packed dinner this week was a egg salad wrap that I had on Wednesday night. I made the egg salad by combining (enough for 2 sandwiches):

  • 3 eggs (chopped)
  • 1-2 tbsp greek yogurt (I just eyeballed this)
  • a squirt of dijon mustard (maybe 2 tsp?)
  • pepper
  • a sprinkle of paprika

I made my wrap by combining half the egg salad mixture with some romaine lettuce.

This ended up being so good and definitely satisfied my egg salad craving. Not only was it a protein packed wrap with the addition of both eggs and greek yogurt, it was also a bit healthier than the standard mayo-heavy egg salad you would find in most deli’s or supermarkets.

I was a little nervous to use greek yogurt  as a mayo replacement (I usually use it as a sour cream replacement), but it turned out really well! This tasted  spot on to the mayo-heavy egg salad I remember eating as a child, only this version was so much less dense and calorie heavy! I know some people are against using greek yogurt as a substitute for other condiments, but I am a big fan. It’s just so versatile.

Other notable meals/snacks of the week:

Tofu sandwich with Trader Joe's Lentil Masala dip, cucumber and spinach

Snack of cottage cheese and pumpkin topped with craisins, raisins and a sprinkle of cinnamon and raw oats

 What was the best thing you packed this week?

Have a great weekend!

Things I’ve learned this weekend…

1. Three  years can go by really fast….

My boyfriend, Jon, and I celebrated our 3 year anniversary yesterday. I honestly can’t  believe it has been that long…. I feel like we just met next to the keg in the basement of that lovely college apartment where neither of us knew anyone…

While our relationship has evolved quite a bit over the years, he still makes me laugh everyday, is always my #1 fan, and I love him now more than ever. I don’t know what I’d do without him.

I love you Jon! Happy 3 years!

2. I want to be Ina Garten

Yesterday afternoon, Sami (my sister) and I made and brought lunch over to our friend Erin’s house to have a lunch/homework “party” (Hi Erin and Erin!). From reading my blog(!) and seeing Sami’s lunches during breaks from class (Erin is in Sami’s grad program), she was interested in having a Dana/Sami-inspired salad. I, of course, was happy to bring over some healthy and delicious food for us to enjoy (since I do want to start a lunch-packing service), and packed us some Asian-themed salads.

Asian-themed salads with edamame, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, snap peas, teriakyi tofu, brown rice, sesame seeds....

I felt a lot like Ina Garten, since she always seems to be whipping up and packing food to-go for special occasions. I won’t lie, I am a big fan of hers, and I kind of liked channeling my inner Barefoot Contessa yesterday. I love packing lunches for myself and for others, and if it were possible for me to make a living traveling around and making people healthy/colorful/delicious lunches and snacks, I totally would do it.

I need Ina to come give me some tips….

3. Bulgur wheat is a delicious oatmeal alternative

1/4 c bulgur, 1/4 c oats, 1 c almond milk, 1/2 banana, big scoop pb

Yesterday morning, I tweaked my normal oatmeal/banana/peanut butter breakfast by replacing a 1/4 cup of my normal oatmeal serving with a 1/4 cup of some bulgur wheat (that I got in the bulk bins at Whole Foods).  I first read about this grain over at Carrots ‘n Cake, and it is a great grain to enjoy for breakfast (here is some info about it if you’re interested). It is a bit chewier than rolled oats, but I find that combining it with oats creates a great combination of texture. It is a great way to switch up breakfast and  incorporate fun, new, and healthy grains into your diet! I really enjoyed this breakfast yesterday. (Note to self: eat more bulgur for breakfast!)

I  hope you are having a great weekend!

Anything you have “learned this weekend?”

Any types of grains you like to enjoy for breakfast other than oatmeal? I have tried using barley and quinoa as alternative breakfast grains before, and I know Bethenny has a brown rice breakfast that I tried a few years ago…

Best thing I packed this week: week 2 (February 10, 2012)

Happy Friday! Anyone doing anything exciting this weekend?

So the time has come again for “The best thing I packed this week” (here is week 1 in case you missed it)!

Best lunch: Roasted brussel sprout, sweet potato and black bean salad (with BBQ hummus dressing)

I can’t take credit for this delicious combination (my sister made it for me), but it was definitely the best thing I ate for lunch this week. Sami (my twin sister who is a busy grad student and lover of healthy packed lunches as well) and I tend to help each other out during the week and make each others lunches on certain days (she usually packs my lunch for Thursday, since I don’t get home until 9:30ish, and I tend to help her out Tuesdays or Fridays). It definitely makes my life a little easier, and I appreciate her SO much for helping me out. Thanks Sam!

This salad contained so many delicious things, I didn’t want it to end. My favorite salads tend be (1) ones with a lot of various ingredients to pick at and taste, or (2) ones that contain different or “less typical” ingredients than the standard salad (think carrot, cucumber, tomato, etc.), This salad definitely fell into the second category with the addition of brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes. I am a BIG fan of both (I love roasted brussel sprouts!), and while I typically eat these types of veggies for dinner, it was fun to enjoy them in the middle of the day. 

 I ate around the spinach first (I usually always save the best parts for last in salads) and left all the brussel sprouts, beans and sweet potatoes for last. This salad contained:

  • spinach
  • sweet potato cubes
  • roasted brussel sprouts
  • black beans
  • quinoa

Dressing: Homemade BBQ dressing made with:

  • BBQ sauce (approx 1 tbsp)… I never really measure these things
  • apple cider vinegar (approx 1-2 tsp)
  • a drop or two of water – to thin it out

I love making my own dressings, since I typically don’t tend like many bottled options, and I like to be in control of how much of certain ingredients I use.  Sami is actually a pretty talented dressing maker and is always whipping up some delicious combinations. My favorites of hers include:

  • BBQ (and BBQ Hummus)
  • Honey Balsamic 
  • Honey Mustard-esque dressing

Making your own dressing is really easy, and I find that they taste just as good (if not better!) than many bottled kinds (I HATE that artificial taste in certain types of dressing). Since a dressing can make or break a salad, they are definitely an important feature of my daily meals. What are your favorite kinds of dressing?

Other notable meals of the week….

kale, goat cheese, kidney bean and veggie "pasta" salad

olive tapenade, hummus and kale on whole wheat

So that concludes the “Best thing I packed this week.” I hope you have a great Friday/weekend!

What was the best thing you packed this week?

WIAW #3 (February 8, 2012)

Good morning! Can you believe its already Wednesday! This week is going by quickly…. and I am not complaining.

So today is a rather busy day for me  between work, class and lab (I have my first Bio test today ahhhh), but I am going to try to remain as positive as possible. I am feeling a bit sleepy at the moment (never a good sign…) but its nothing that a grande Starbucks coffee can’t fix. Does anyone else ever feel like they are on crack when they drink it (or what I assume crack would feel like)? It makes me so productive/talkative….

Anyway, since it is Wednesday, it  is time, once again, for another installment of WIAW! These are all my meals/snacks  from Tuesday, and since I had the day off from work yesterday (which was SO nice!), my activities were a bit more varied and you may see more photos that were taken other places than my office….

Pre-workout snack: 5:45 am

I planned to take a 6 am BodyPump class yesterday (to incorporate more strength training into my life), so I got up at 5:30ish, ate half a banana with some peanut butter and headed to the gym only to find out the class was cancelled! I was a little disappointed, but I did stick with my weight training goal of the month and did 20 minutes on the elliptical (2 miles) and 35 minutes of strength work + abs (!) that looked like this ( I did each move for 15-20 reps and repeated the sequence 3x):

  • Bicep curls (10lbs, 15 reps)
  • Lateral Raise + shoulder press (10 lbs, 15 reps)
  • Chest press (12 lbs dumbbells, 20 reps)
  • Back rows (12 lbs, 20 reps)
  • Tricep extensions (12 lbs each side, 20 reps)
  • Lunges + lift (15 each side – 1st set), squats (30) + alternating lunges (15 each leg – 2nd set) alternating lunges ( 15 each leg – 3rd set)

Abs: random moves for 5 minutes that included bicycles, reverse crunches, a plank, crunch pulses…. I always just try to stay moving for about 5 minutes

I won’t lie, I was pretty pleased with myself for sticking with the weights. I usually struggle to do 3 consecutive sets (which is why I love BodyPump for pushing me past my usual stopping point) but I pushed through and stuck with it. It felt SO good to have my workout completed by 7:00 am.

Breakfast: 8:00 am

I have been loving yogurt these days so I decided to have a yogurt bowl with some “fun” things added in for breakfast. I had:

  • 1/2 c greek yogurt sweetened with a squirt of honey
  • 1/3 (?) c pumpkin
  • 1/3 c oats
  • 1/2 banana
  • almond butter (1/2-1 tbsp)
  • raisins
  • cinnamon

I am still loving pumpkin and don’t see it ending anytime soon….

Snack(?) 11 am

I went to a baby shower for an old boss and picked at a few different things while I was there. I didn’t take any photos since I didn’t feel comfortable taking photos in the big group (maybe one day….?).

I had:

  • 4-5 bites of chocolate cake (butter and egg-less…. my friend/former co-worker Maggie’s go-to cake recipe)
  • a small scoop of quinoa salad (made with quinoa  and chopped raw veggies)
  • fruit salad
  • a bite of a cake pop… it was too cute not to try

Lunch 1:30 pm

After the shower I headed to the library to study for my Bio test. I packed myself   an “Asian-themed” wrap to eat while I studied. It contained:

  • edamame
  • veggies: spinach, cucumber, mushrooms
  • sesame seeds
  • a little teriakyi sauce.

I also had some carrot sticks and apple on the side.

The wrap was a little overstuffed (I always do this! I need wrap folding help…) so I ended up eating the insides out with a fork and then eating the wrap by itself afterwards (which ended up being pretty good since it soaked up the teriakyi sauce.)

Dinner 5:30

For dinner I tried a new to me veggie protein, TVP (Textured Vegetarian Protein)!  While I try to limit my intake of soy proteins to a couple times a week and don’t like rely on it too much, I do love eating tofu and tempeh from time to time and am always up to trying new things. I have heard of TVP before, but I never really had the urge to try it until I stumbled upon a recipe for BBQ TVP the other day. When I was at the store yesterday and saw it in the bulk bins, I figured it must be fate, and I might as well give it a try. Now or never, right?

Please excuse the unattractive photo. I had issues making this look appetizing... annnd my BBQ sauce exploded out of the container

I followed the recipe exactly, only adding some additional s+p and chili powder to the spice mix. I served it on top of some quinoa and had some sautéed kale (I love sautéed kale) on the side as well.

While it wasn’t bad, I found it to be a little bland… I think I maybe used too much liquid? I was unsure of how much I would like the texture (I usually don’t like “meaty” soy proteins), but it definitely grew on me as I ate it.  I am not going to say I am a huge fan, but I am not giving up on it quite yet. I loved the BBQ idea and it was really easy to make, so maybe I need to try again….Anyone  have some tips for me?

Dessert: 7:3o pm

I was really craving chocolate after dinner yesterday so I warmed a Chocolote Brownie ZBar for 30 seconds in the microwave, added a little almond milk, and ate it out of a mug… It didn’t look too appetizing so I’ll spare you and show you a picture of the wrapper. It ended up being delicious and exactly what I wanted. I love it when that happens.

So there you have it. I feel like my day was rather random yesterday, but I guess that’s what happens when you have a random Tuesday off….

Have a great day everyone!

You eat with your eyes first – How to make food look “pretty”

Last week, I shared a few tips on how to make meal packing fast and cheap. Today, I thought I’d share some tips on how I make my packed lunches/meals look “pretty.”

This might seem like a pointless tip or something that isn’t worth your time, but I am a firm believer that you eat with your eyes first. Food that looks better, tastes better… I promise.

Now, I know when lunch packing already seems like a hassle, the last thing you  probably want to think about is, “How can I make this look “pretty?” or “How can I make this sandwich look better?”” I realize it can sound ridiculous, and I know it is definitely easier to throw things in some tinfoil and plastic baggies and call it a day.

I am not saying that it is necessary to spend hours upon hours on food presentation everyday, but with just a few extra seconds each day, it is possible for all of us average joes and Tupperware  packers to have Whole Foods salad bar worthy food(or insert your own “best looking food I can think of here”) .

I find that when I focus more on how my food looks, I focus more when I actually eat it (and don’t just shovel food into my face). Food becomes more important. It tastes better, and I appreciate it more. The simplest foods can taste amazing when you take the time to make them look nice.

So without further ado, here are some of my tried and true ways to make food look appealing. Please come back and tell me when you get asked where you bought your lunch…

1. Focus on color!

Colorful food is more exciting to look at and to eat. When you focus on adding color to meals, you are also guaranteed to be eating more healthy/nutrient dense foods as well (it is an idiot-proof way to incorporate more veggies in your diet!). I always try to include at least a few colors in each meal.

One way way I do this is by trying to add something green in my lunches and dinners (whether it be spinach, kale, broccoli, celery….).

2.Put food in “sections”

I do this all the time, and it is an easy way to make food look more “pulled together.” I always get compliments on my meals when I do this (and sometimes get asked where I bought them!), so this definitely works.

I usually will chop everything I am using at once ,and I then just put each item on the salad/concoction that I made in a different area. It is an easy, instant way to look like you are a meal packing pro.

3.Don’t underestimate the power of mix-ins/additional “fun” items

This is the fun part. A meal automatically looks better and tastes better when fun and/or “themed” items are thrown into the mix. If you make an “Asian-themed meal”, add sesame seeds or sriacha (if you like spicy foods); If you are making a more basic salad with veggies and beans, add some dried fruit and nuts to make it “fancier.” If you have a few extra items on hand you can really make any meal look and taste more exciting with this simple step. Some “extras” I like to have on hand:

  • a variety of nuts
  • seeds (pumpkin, sesame…)
  • dried fruit (apricots, raisins, currants, mango) I love to go to Trader Joes and the bulk bins at Whole Foods for stuff like this
  • additional veggies (my sister and I like to add “fun” veggies to our meals like roasted brussel sprouts, jicama sticks, shredded carrots, chopped peppers, chopped green beans, beets, cubed sweet potato chunks… the options are endless)
  • other (wasabi peas, a small sprinkling of cheese, crackers, condiments…)

4. Invest in simple, well-sized Tupperware containers

Your salad/sandwich only looks as good as the container it is in. It seems silly, but it is true. I used to HATE all my Tupperware and could never find what I was looking for when I was packing my lunches. As soon as I bought a 4-pack of salad-appropriate containers and a 4-pack of dressing containers, meal packing became SO much easier. Plus, it was so much easier to make my food look more appealing. It is hard to make a salad look good in an old yogurt container… trust me.  This applies to plates and dishes too. A simple, white square plate will make your food look better than a cracked, beat up plate any day. I love to go to Target for cheap dish options.

5. When in doubt… layer

I like to think that layering is always a fancy way to make food look nice. I mean, parfaits always look good, so why not apply the concept to other foods? I tend to do this with salads or with dinners. In a salad situation, I will prep all my ingredients and then just place them on the plate one at at time. For example, Ill lay out 1/2 my lettuce base, then add 1/2 of the veggies one at a time, then  1/2 of the beans, then 1/2 of the “extras”… then just do it all again. Its fun to do and always makes a meal look a little more “special.”

So, there you have it, some of my tried and true ways to make food look and taste better. I swear this is an important part of meal packing and in the enjoyment of meals – and it is so easy to do! Let me know if you try any of this out (or have any other tips to add to the list).

Do you focus on how your meals look? Do you think food presentation is important?

Best thing I packed this week (February 3, 2012)

So for a couple of weeks, I was showing and photographing all the meals and snacks I packed for work and school.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

I wanted to do this to:

  • Show how it is possible to pack easy and healthy food  when you are on the go (It is possible to eat plenty of fruits and veggies on a daily basis!)
  • To avoid getting into a food rut and packing the same things all the time

Well, after doing this for a while, I have found that  my current method of showing everything I pack is a  little monotonous and not very useful in helping me brainstorm new meal packing ideas. I find myself taking more time photographing everything than actually focusing on what I care about – making fun/delicious food (This also gives me a whole new respect to the 3x a day bloggers out there…. they are good at what they do)!

Anyway, I think I have come up with an alternative. Instead of showing everything I pack, I plan to showcase or “spotlight”  the most notable or delicious meals that I pack throughout the week. This way, I can focus more on the food and less on documenting my not so beautiful array of Tupperware containers and tinfoil.

So to start things off, here are the “best things I packed this week:”

Best Lunch: Citrus Romaine Salad

This salad was kind of a odd mix of ingredients thrown together that ended up tasting really good.

The star ingredient in this salad concoction was some spaghetti squash that I decided to use last minute.  I usually only think to use this type of squash in Italian-themed dishes because of its “noodle-like” consistency, but the flavor of it is so mild, it worked rather well in this  less “traditional” way. While I am definitely  not one to shy away from weird food combinations, but I swear this was good! The squash soaked up the dressing very well and tasted delicious when paired with the clementine segments that I also added to the mix.

This particular salad contained:

Veggies/Fruit

  • spaghetti squash (it was on the bottom of the container so you can’t really see it)
  • romaine lettuce
  • yellow and orange pepper
  • carrot
  • clementine segments

Protein/Grain:

  • black beans
  • quinoa

Dressing: Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar

Best Dinner: Sweet + Savory Pita Sandwich

I actually forgot to take a photo of this, but lets just say it looked like this (just pretend the chicken is tofu…)

For dinner before class on Wednesday, I packed myself a sandwich using an Arnold’s 8 Grain Pocket Thin (a new product that I heard about from my friend that works for the company!). I saw the Pocket Thins at the store this past weekend and, even though I would probably buy them for myself anyway, I, of course, had to support my friend and pick up a pack.

I packed myself 2 halves (the serving is 100 calories for 1/2…. but I needed a bit more for a meal) with 2 different types of filling; One sweet, one savory.

Half #1 = savory

  • tofu
  • broccoli sprouts
  • cucumber
  • Trader Joe’s lentil masala spread

Half #2 = sweet

  • goat cheese
  • balsamic strawberries (I soaked some chopped strawberries in balsamic vinegar overnight…)
  • spinach

This dinner ended up being so good! The Pocket Thins are so soft and doughy (they have the same sweet/doughy taste that I love so much about sandwich thins), and I loved having two different sandwiches in one.  I ended up eating the savory half first and then the sweet. It was like I had dinner and dessert all in one!  I will most likely be doing this again….

What was the best lunch/dinner/snack you packed (or ate) this week?