Monday, March 15, 2010

Lunch Box Ennui




Growing up, Mama never, not ever, made me eat the hot lunch at school. Thank goodness; that dreck they served up was nasty. Every day, she diligently packed things I loved to eat and sent me on my way. I rarely traded lunches with anyone, although I often got asked. Why on Earth would I trade Mama's Bitchin' Tuna Sandwich for Kelly Crosby's thermos of tomato soup? Who wanted Kim Maiser's Oreos when I had homemade peanut butter cookies? What kind of idiot did they take me for?

Those carefully packed lunches were proof, in my eyes, that I was loved and cared for. I never tired of them. And then I grew up and got a job and had to pack my own lunches. Packing my own lunch? Not so fun. I sure as shit didn't bake myself peanut butter cookies. When it came to packing my own lunch, I showed a stunning lack of creativity. Lean Cuisines and apples. Turkey wraps. Yogurt, berries and granola. Yawn.

Blessedly, I no longer have to pack my lunch. However, I'm stupid enough to have, as a newlywed, offered to pack my husband's lunch every day. Fresh Love clearly rendered me incapable of brain function. I hated packing my own lunch; what made me think this would be any different?

I'm trying to do better for hubs than I did for myself. I strive to mix things up for him. Lately, since he's still on Half-Assed Regime, I've been packing protein-filled salads. This particular one has a lot going for it--loaded with protein, veggies and fiber-rich barley, it's hearty enough to satisfy the hungriest of bears. The olives and the feta add salty bite, and the lemon and herbs freshen the whole thing up. Pack this for lunch and you won't suffer Lunchbox Ennui, trust me.*



Half-Assed Regime Mediterranean Salad
adapted from Cooking Light Magazine
makes enough for 4 lunches


3/4 cups uncooked pearl barley
water

1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup chopped cooked chicken breast
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped, pitted Kalamata olives
1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Cook the barley in boiling water as per package directions. Cool to room temperature.

Combine lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil and mustard in a bowl. Whisk to blend.

Combine barley, chicken, celery, tomatoes, red onion, salt, pepper, olives and cannellini beans in a large bowl. Toss with dressing. Add chopped parsley and feta cheese and toss lightly to combine. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.

* A caveat: if you aren't used to high-fiber foods, you'll fart. Just sayin'.

49 comments:

  1. This looks awesome! My years of Lean Cuisine have sufficed, but certainly not delighted the palette. I do love a good tuna sandwich though - may need to try your mama's recipe.

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  2. LOL- Love the caveat! So very true. I've been incorporating a lot more high fiber foods into our diet this year, and it did take a while to adjust. This looks like a great lunchtime salad.

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  3. Wow the chicken and beans really do add some substance to the salad. Looks good!

    I too pack my husband's lunch, mostly to save money. He is happy with wraps and I've come up with all sorts of combos. Some were successful
    some not so much. My daughter was the hard one, but she eats sandwiches now, and she lets me know just how she likes it!

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  4. Lately everything I've been making has been half-assed. This looks like a great recipe with full-assed results. Fantastic!

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  5. Anything half-assed is terrific in my book!

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  6. "You'll fart" LOLOLOL Kind of like when you first start eating fiber one bars. :)

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  7. I HATE cooking and packing lunches for my husband. Luckily I don't have to anymore. If there is a hell, it's packing lunches for the pickiest eater who doesn't communicate his epicurean needs and desires to anyone. Just saying...

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  8. TKW, always like a little Yiddish thrown in with the narrative (dreck!). Nothing like it!

    And, my god girl, are you STILL making the lunches? Isn't there a statute of limitations on that, like after childbirth it goes inactive?

    Anyway, I'm waiting with bated breath for instructions on how to spice up my kids' lunchbox offerings. Ungrateful wretches. Why don't they want a tired sandwich every day?

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  9. I hope he knows how lucky he is! That looks soo good!

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  10. Lucky husband! I'm laughing at the caveat.

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  11. I suck at packing my own lunch as well....

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  12. In my opinion Feta makes everything BETTA:)

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  13. Could you please move to South Florida? Would gladly pay you too!

    Looks delicious and I will have to try it soon!

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  14. Could you please move to South Florida? Would gladly pay you too!

    Looks delicious and I will have to try it soon!

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  15. Hope your husband has his own office, rather than a loft or cube ... Or maybe he's used to fiber with all the barley lately??

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  16. You are a better wife than I am. The funny thing is the other day I made my sons sandwich for lunch only for him to say to me,"Mom, I want to buy lunch..pizza day". So I handed the sandwich to my husband and said, "here honey, I made you lunch..dont get used to it" lol
    He just rolled his eyes! lol

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  17. I love that you pack lunch for your squeeze! And this sounds great; he's a lucky fella. Wish somebody would pack *me* a lunch once in a while.

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  18. The title of this post alone should win some kind of award. The fact that you pack your husband's lunch, however, is grounds to have said award stripped because you're MAKING THE REST OF US LOOK BAD.

    (I still love you, though.)

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  19. "Fresh Love clearly rendered me incapable of brain function."

    And what's more, you clearly haven't recovered. CK is right. You are so totally MAKING THE REST OF US LOOK BAD.

    For your penance I request three homemade lunches sent to CT for my new work three-day work schedule! That oughta teach you. Find something that packs well, REAL WELL. As in, makes it across the country and still tastes kick-ass!

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  20. Are friggen' kidding me. You pack your husband lunch? Will you marry me? That salad looks so good. My poor husband packs my kid's lunch because I hate doing it!

    You're my hero..my absolute hero!!!!!!

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  21. I would totally marry you for your lunches. I'll trade you...I'll bear the children. Sound fair?

    (BTW, my husband planned our weekly menu and informed me that no fewer than three of our meals this week are "of the Kitchen Witch.")

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  22. You are a good wife. And that salad sounds delicious. Is it weird that it is 11 at night and I want some? Perhaps. But it is what it is.

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  23. Great caveat! And I love this post topic. Now you're going to need to do the "kid lunch" version. Myself, I can eat sandwiches every day. I'm always in hurry in my office, and I'm so flippin' stoked to have a moment to myself, that a sandwich, some chips, and a coke are just about HEAVEN for me. But my poor children are definitely in home lunch hell. And The Girl doesn't really care for sandwiches. So, um, I really need to get creative. Help?

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  24. Hmmm. I'm afraid that happens even if one is used to fibre...

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  25. Okay lady, I want you to come over and pack lunches for me. I need more inspiration like this! I'd love to eat it, but no motivation to make it.

    P.S. I ONLY make hubs lunch if I'm making my own. I refuse to go to any extra effort :-)

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  26. This is half-assed for you? That looks like my whole freakin ass.

    And my husband needs NO extra help farting...although I think he would love this so I am going to try it.

    *round of applause here*

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  27. This sounds lush! I know what you mean about packed-lunches - so boring to make sometimes...and after a while there is a danger of running out of ideas... xxx

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  28. I don't even pack my 15 y/o's lunch. He packs his own. The salad delicious looking; the lunch packing - has to stop! LOL

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  29. How could I have missed this in Cooking Light?!? It looks really delicious... and I absolutely love anything that is made with barley!

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  30. Your feminist cred went Right Out The Window with that lunch packing shit!
    jc

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  31. Please send samples of your half-assed Mediterranean salad to sides of my spreading... assets.

    And OMG, I estimate that I am now in Year 14 of making school lunches. (Yep - about right - started when the #1 kid was 4; he's 18 now, and I'm still doing it for his brother. Yes indeedy, I HATE MAKING THOSE DAMN SCHOOL LUNCHES every day, but I do it. Just because.)

    Yeah. Sucks. But it's about love.

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  32. I loved packing my kids lunches when they were in grade school. Then when they hit jr. high neigher one of them wanted to take meals from home anymore. I dont think it was cause the school food was "amazing" I think its more of a "hip" thing to do.

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  33. One of my best friends mom sewed all her clothes and packed her the best lunches ever...I was so jealous! I thought she had to have been the most love child ever because those two things proved it invmy eyes!

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  34. My lunches usually consist of the following: PB&J sandwich or leftovers, apple and yogurt. I was able to have just leftovers for the last year thanks to sharing an office space with someone with a nut allergy, but now that I've moved I'm likely back to sharing the leftovers.

    Sigh.

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  35. OH yum yum yum! That is my kinda salad.

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  36. My husband says a sandwich made by someone else always taste better than one you make for yourself. I will have to try this...it looks great!

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  37. This sounds great. It has tons of my favorite ingredients. Plus, I have left over pearl barley from that last mushroom barley thing you had listed. That was a big hit by the way! :)

    PS-Can your mama come and make my lunch? Hers sounds divine. Mine, not so much.

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  38. I have been so spoiled my entire adult life. I have always had a team of professionals to make my lunch daily. Even when I worked for the Chicago Public Schools free lunch outweighed lunch that that tasted good.

    Sorry, I started going on about me apart from the gas this looks like a great meal.

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  39. yer mom rocks! Is dreck a real word? I love it! I never can stick with making my husband's lunch. Great looking salad!

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  40. All through elementary school, I ate the school lunch. I've conveniently blocked those memories of mystery meat and tater tots. Middle School? I don't think I ate lunch for three years. Fortunately, by the time I got high school, the cafeteria sold soda and ice cream sandwiches.

    But on those days when my grandmother did pack me a lunch (mostly so that I wouldn't eat just ice cream and soda), they were always filled with love. And neatly wrapped in waxed paper.

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  41. Late to this post, but just wanted to offer that it made me smile. My mother also fixed incredible lunches. Elaborate subs with tiny Tupperware containers of Italian dressing that we could drizzle over them at the table, so the bread wouldn't get soggy. Sausages packed in thermoses of boiling water so they'd be hot and steamy at lunch time. After school snacks were amazing spreads as well. Homemade scones and jam. Fresh cookies. Etc. Makes me hungry for the 3rd grade all over again.

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  42. I have been packing the same things for my first grader every day this year. I was worried that if left alone, he would not touch anything offered at school lunch and would starve to death. The problem is he only eats about 10 things in the world, with the right temperature! So that cuts it down to about 5 things that can be packed for cold lunch... sigh.

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  43. Absence--I feel your pain. Miss D. is picky as heck, right down to the "right" brand of pepperoni. It's a boring lunch I pack her every day.

    The Rest of You Awesome and Funny Readers: I will give up making my husband's lunch if you will ALL come here and potty train this freaking last kid! I am OVER excrement.

    Falling: 3 Witchy recipes in a week? Oh dear. I hope he likes spicy food?

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  44. You've got a deal. I'll be on the next plane out for Gibby's Potty-Training 101 in exchange for food. And alcohol.

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  45. MOTH loves spicy food. However, these are meals to be shared with me, so we're playing it safe. Tonight we had the Mediterranean Chicken Orzo Salad (I'm probably remembering the name wrong), and loooooved it. Tomorrow, ratatouille.

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  46. I totally pack my husband's lunch...with lean cuisines!! : )

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  47. I have to make my own lunch and my daughter's every day. This salad looks awesome and healthier than the leftover spaghetti (the only thing I know how to cook)I've been packing. Thanks!

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  48. You pack your husband's lunches?! I'm not sure if that's impressive or crazy. At least the salad looks yummy.

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