The nearest quality restaurant is a 15 to 20 minute walk away from my job. It’s only a good walk when the weather plays nice and project deadlines are manageable. To save time, lunch is mostly brought from home. It’s usually the previous night’s dinner. Often, when there’s a busy upcoming week, a few pre-packed lunch containers are prepped to prevent junk food eating (those stores are a convenient five-minute walk from the office). It’s easy for me to resist junk food, but I understand a lot of people crave it. My weakness is delivery from a better quality restaurant, but they’re not budget friendly. To resist the temptation of ordering delivery, lunches are packed to look visually appetizing. The idea sounds too simple of solution. However, I’ve trashed lunches made of wilted salad greens or soggy bread sandwiches for an appetizing delivery meal.
My inspiration for packing lunch comes from Japanese take-out meals packed in bento boxes. Bento boxes maintain quality over time and distance. For example, cold ingredients are separately wrapped from warm ingredients. Salad dressings aren’t tossed with lettuce—especially baby greens—to prevent wilting. Individually packed garnishes, such as minced herbs, relishes or cheese, add a delightful touch to reheated meals. A previous night’s dinner packed well in a bento-style container, is more appetizing then most quality restaurant meals.
Bento lunches aren’t always an Asian-Inspired meal. The Peach and Black Bean Salad with Lime Yogurt Dressing packs very well for lunch, for this recipe doesn’t need reheating. Each ingredient of the salad is placed on top of the greens in a container. The Lime Yogurt Dressing is separately stored in a smaller container (make sure it has a dependable lid to avoid linkage). To optimize flavor of cold salads, remove from the refrigerator an hour prior to eating, because most leafy salads taste better at room temperature.
Eating lunch from home or leftover dinner doesn’t have to be a morbid experience of sacrifice leading to a return to fast food meals with far less nutritional value. Packing a lunch to travel well from home to office takes time to learn. So, congrats if you’re beginning to bring lunch to work–or, you’re a seasoned professional. It’s an initial step to living well, because a beautifully packed lunch is a natural happy meal.
What about you? How do you pack a better quality lunch? Share your “brown bag” lunch experience in the comment section below.
Peach and Black Bean Salad with Lime Yogurt Dressing
- Olive oil; as needed
- White balsamic vinegar; as needed
- Sea salt; as needed
- Fresh black pepper; as needed
- Crushed red pepper; optional and as needed
- 1/2 lb. string beans; ends trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 can of black beans; drained and rinsed
- Baby Greens (Save time by purchasing a bag of pre-wash organic greens)
- 1 to 2 slightly under ripe peaches; sliced about 1/8-inch thick
- 1 small red onion; thinly sliced
- 1 small green pepper; thinly sliced
- 10 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes; cut in half
- Lime Yogurt Dressing (Recipe Follows)
- Place string beans in a pot of salted water and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat till the water is simmering. Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until the beans turn bright green (try to maintain its crispiness).
- Strain and rinse the beans with cold water to stop the cooking.
- Toss beans with olive oil, a dash of white balsamic vinegar, sea salt, fresh black pepper and crushed red pepper.
- Set aside.
Toss black beans with olive oil, a dash of white balsamic vinegar, sea salt, fresh black pepper and crushed red pepper. Set aside.
(Optional Step) Toss baby greens with sea salt and fresh black pepper. Set aside.
To Plate: Place greens on each plate or lunch container. Spoon string beans and black beans over the greens. Top with peach, red onion, and green pepper slices. Place tomato halves over the salad.
If eating immediately, drizzle Lime Yogurt Dressing on top.
If eating for lunch the next day, tightly cover the salad with a lid. Place Lime Yogurt dressing in a separate smaller container with a super tight lid. When ready to eat, drizzle dressing over the salad.
Lime Yogurt Dressing
- The juice of 2 limes
- 1/4-cup unsweetened, plain thick Greek yogurt
- Sea salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
- Crush red pepper; to taste
- 1/2-cup olive oil
- 1 small garlic; minced
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- Whisk all ingredients in a bowl
Serve over the Peach and Black Bean Salad or use as marinade.
I haven’t tried this as yet, but I certainly intend to – finaly a recipe for which I have all ingredients on hand. I am once again attempting to pack lunches. It requires some discipline, but it’s always worth it working in the downtown area where things are either over-priced or under-nourishing.