We’re a nation of sandwich eaters, and while I have nothing against them, I just think they’re a little…boring. I’d so much rather have real food for lunch. Here are a few of my favorite lunches on the go, gathered from TVFGI’s archives. I’ve followed a strict code of requirements for the perfect packable lunch: nothing sticky or messy, (no chicken wings) it can’t require reheating, (no hot soup) it can’t be smelly (nix the tuna and deviled eggs) or make YOU smelly, (too bad, pasta with oil and garlic) it must be healthy (sorry mini corn dogs) and most importantly of all, it has to taste great after several hours of hanging out in a bag. Here are ten delicious choices that made the cut —
LAYERED 7-BEAN SALAD IN A JAR is THE perfect portable salad. Legumes are one of the healthiest things we can eat, and most of us don’t get nearly enough of them in our diet. What’s special about this recipe is that the beans are layered in a container…use plastic if you don’t want to carry a glass mason jar…with the dressing at the bottom. Simply flip it over, or stir it in right before eating. The beans stay perfectly fresh, nothing gets mushy, and you will be surprised at how satisfying this is. Layer in some fresh herbs for really vibrant flavor. I guarantee all your co-workers will be hovering around you when you pull this out of your lunch bag.
Freshly made SUMMER ROLLS make an incredible lunch away from home. The only issue is that you need to keep the delicate wrapper from drying out. I wrap each one in a slightly damp paper towel, and then put them in pairs into a zip lock baggie. The sauce can go in a separate container. There are so many ways you can fill these crisp rolls. I have a SHRIMP & MINT version, as well as ASIAN SLAW ROLLS. The dipping sauce is half the fun, so experiment to find the one you love. They can range from cool and coco-nutty, to hot and spicy.
Pack these EMERALD GREEN FALAFEL by themselves in tupperware, or wrap them in pita. Just be sure to pack lots of the creamy tahini sauce to go alongside. Falafel are deep fried Middle Eastern chickpea fritters, and they are sold all over the world as classic street food. They travel well, and are very satisfying. I make mine on the small side so they are perfect as a finger food, just dip right into the tahini and pop into your mouth. You can bring these on top of salad greens too.
KALE SLAW is ideal for packing because, unlike almost every other salad on the planet, it actually gets better as it sits, even after you’ve put the dressing on! That’s because kale is such a sturdy green, it doesn’t go limp at the very mention of dressing. If you want to make this into a complete lunch, add some chopped rotisserie chicken to it. The dressing is fantastic, and the pumpkin seeds add a wonderful crunch.
PAD THAI might just be my favorite packable lunch. It’s got everything, the comfort of peanuts and noodles, the zing of lime and Thai spices, the crunch from bean sprouts, and the freshness of chopped cilantro. The above recipe is a hot and spicy tofu version. For the traditional version with chicken, try THIS RECIPE. Pad Thai is high on my lunch list because it keeps so well. It’s great hot, cold or at room temperature.
KUKU SABZI. This exotic Persian New Year’s dish is really just a mixed herb frittata. Since it’s crustless and is usually eaten at room temperature it makes a great working lunch. It slices cleanly and is easy to eat with your fingers. Serve it with a side of yogurt or sour cream.
No packable lunch round up would be complete without at least one Japanese dish. The Japanese are famous for coming up with uber healthy, uber packable lunch options. Potstickers have to be one of the best. I filled these SALMON POTSTICKERS with fresh cooked salmon, and serve them with a sinus clearing wasabi sauce. Don’t be surprised if you draw a crowd when you pull these out.
Classic appetizers make fantastic light lunches. Especially when you are eating lunch away from home you aren’t looking for a three course meal, just a pick me up. Something savory and delicious, like these chickpea flour battered CHICKEN PAKORA WITH PLUM CHUTNEY from India. You can make your own chutney, like I’ve done, or serve them with any store bought brand you like, or with yogurt. Move over chicken nuggets…
Just because hot soup didn’t make the cut for this list, doesn’t mean you have to forgo soup altogether. Gazpacho is a great option. You can put it in a thermos or you can just pack it in a plastic container. EARLY GIRL GAZPACHO gets better as it sits in the fridge, and I would recommend adding the chopped tomatoes, onions and peppers just before you leave for work. Skip the edible flowers, though, they won’t keep.
While most pastas just don’t taste quite right eaten cold, and the leftovers usually congeal into a solid mass, there are some that do just fine. Like one of my favorites, PASTA WITH SUN DRIED TOMATO AND ALMOND PESTO. It’s got layers and layers of flavor that come through at room temperature, and the strands stay separated thanks to the pesto. If you find that you get super hungry at work, this is a good choice. The carbs will perk you right up and the almonds will give you stamina.
I think there’s something for everybody here, what do you think? What is your favorite lunch to go?