So I relaunched the blog and then promptly got food poisoning. This post was intended to go up yesterday, but, ya know, food poisoning and this being a draft and fail.
BUT. I'm not a fan of lunch. Never really have been. I get hungry, I want food, but not really lunch. I can't figure out when lunch became an "eh, give me a milkshake and I'll be fine" meal for me. It could be something going all the way back to college, when lunch happened during a free hour between classes and the options were limited. Hot bar tended to be burgers and chicken nuggets, maybe pasta and a stir-fry. Cold bar was sandwiches. Same every day. Not very exciting, though the soup in the bread bowls was good.
It could also be something more recent - just a lack of interest in traditional lunch food and being "over" leftovers. I like to cook and lunch is totally something I pack - and even with the wealth of frozen dinners out there and cans of soup and other options, it can be a bit repetitive. Lately, I've been trying to get out of the slump by trying to mix it up. Where Allen can buy food at a cafeteria at work, I don't have that option - though I do have outside options. Even if I did, I'd probably still pack for frugal purposes.
Jazzing up lunch time is a challenge for me because it is so easy to fall into the same old routine every day and every week: a plain sandwich on Monday, Soup on Tuesday, leftovers Wednesday, and on and on until I feel like I'll cry the next time I open a pound of oven-roasted sliced turkey. Rather than try to overhaul my entire lunchtime packing routine, I've been trying to change it up by making my standard components more interesting. I mean, there's nothing wrong with a sandwich and carrots and chips everyday, just as there's nothing wrong with leftovers or eating out every day - we all have preferences. I just want more of them (okay, and maybe home made mac and cheese for lunch).
Changing up components has made lunchtime more interesting, without impacting the time I spend packing. It's involved a few simple changes:
- Brie and baguette in place of a sandwich (with yogurt and fruit as sides)
- Changing plain turkey for cracked-pepper turkey in my sandwiches
- Adding potato chips for extra crunch with soup or sandwiches
- Making big salads with all of the ingredients I can find, instead of limiting myself to lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and cheese. Croutons, dried fruits, and nuts really pump up my salads, and I don't know why I don't make salad at home with those ingredients more often
- Planning leftovers for dishes I like, and cooking smaller portions for dishes that don't reheat well. I'm looking at you, chicken parmesan.
Of course, this has impacted grocery shopping just a bit. Brie isn't the most inexpensive cheese ever, and I have a fondness for triple-cream brie, which is like butter but better. Making big salads takes time, but also means I get to break out the salad spinner to wash and dry my leafy greens. We have an excellent local market, and I get more passionate about what I'm eating when I know where it was produced/grown/made. This weekend we hope to get out to the market to get more produce, meat, and even some local (soft-baked) graham crackers for s'mores.
How do you jazz up your lunch?