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Best Lunch Ideas for a Yummy Start to 2020

food in stainless steel containers on marble counter

Why is figuring out what to make for lunch some days is so darn hard?

Are you the type of person who grabs a quick muffin?

Or maybe you forage for an apple with peanut butter (that's absolutely me some days!). How many times do you just give up, pour another cup of coffee and then ransack your fridge at 4 because you're staaaaarving (yep, also me).

Lunch really shouldn't be that hard, should it?

The answer is nope.

Not if you plan it out. And, honestly, you really don't even have to plan it out that much.

With a tiny little bit of planning and prep, lunch can be super easy to throw together, whether you're making it for yourself or your kids.

Here are just a few ideas and what I make for lunch that easily carries me on through to dinner.

BOWLS

This is probably the lunch I make the most often. All you need is your favorite grain + veggies + protein + dressing. Plug it whatever you have on hand, or prep over the weekend so you can just reheat.

For grain you can use farro, quinoa, couscous, brown rice, or white rice. Add some roasted veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, and bell peppers. Top it off with rotisserie chicken from your local store. Drizzle with a dressing like the one in the recipe below.

If you're making this for your kids or taking this to work, pack all the components in a bowl with the dressing in a separate container. Then toss the ingredients with the dressing when you're ready to eat.

It's seriously skies the limit when it comes to a lunch bowl. Leftover steak from last night? Add it your bowl. Pickled onions? Add it to your bowl. Avocado? DEFINITELY, add that to your bowl.

Spinach and Mushroom Quinoa Bowl

Serves: 4  Total Time: 35 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups quinoa (I love using multi-colored)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 3 tablespoons walnut oil
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds
  • Handful of fresh arugula

DIRECTIONS

Rinse quinoa, put in medium pot with 3 cups of chicken broth. Bring to a boil, and simmer until water is evaporated, about 20 minutes.

While quinoa is cooking, in a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat and add garlic. Sauté for a couple of minutes, then add mushrooms. When they start to brown, add the spinach. Toss the spinach with tongs to help coat it with the olive oil. The spinach will start to wilt, then add red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, put the walnut oil, lemon zest and juice, goat cheese and almonds.

When the quinoa is done, add it to the bowl and toss to coat it with the walnut oil mixture. Then add the mushroom mixture and a handful of arugula, and stir so all the ingredients are well combined.

SANDWICHES

I don't think lunch gets much easier than a sandwich. But there are so many other options instead of just the usual pb&j. Not that there's anything wrong with a pb&j. But there's a whole world out there of other sandwiches to explore!

Chicken Salad Sandwich

Serves: 4  Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 10 sprigs parsley
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 small onion, halved
  • 1 small carrot, halved
  • 1 stalk celery, halved
  • 3 pounds chicken breast, on the bone with skin
  • 5 to 6 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups diced poached chicken (recipe below)
  • 1 stalk celery, peeled and diced
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Bread, 2 slices (I love using Como)
  • Tomato
  • Lettuce

DIRECTIONS

Make the Poached Chicken:

This is a great recipe for poached chicken because you also get “homemade” chicken broth. Store bought chicken broth is taken to a whole new level of flavor. With winter around the corner I love to “stock” up on homemade stocks for soups, stews and sauces. I like to pour the chicken broth into ice cube trays and freeze them, but you can also freeze in a large container.

In a medium stockpot, put parsley, thyme, onion, carrot, celery and chicken breasts. Cover with broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes until the chicken is firm. Uncover and let the chicken cool for about 30 minutes in the liquid.

Remove chicken and place on a cutting board. Remove the skin and separate the chicken from the bone. Cut in large chunks. Strain the broth and either freeze or refrigerate. The broth will last in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, which is why I highly recommend you freeze it.

Make the Chicken Salad:

In a mixing bowl combine chicken, celery, scallions and herbs.
In a small bowl, whisk mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk until there are no lumps.
Add the chicken and gently mix until combined. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Take your favorite bread, scoop a generous helping on one half, and layer lettuce and tomato on the other half.

Avocado Cucumber Sandwich

 Serves: 2  Total Time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 slices Dave’s Killer Bread, 21 Whole Grains and Seeds
  • 4 ounces herbed goat cheese, at room temperature (you can also use Boursin)
  • 2 Romaine lettuce leaves, washed and dried
  • 1/2 of a large cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup alfalfa sprouts
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Spread the herbed goat cheese evenly on all of the slices of bread. Take one of the slices and top with lettuce, cucumber slices, and avocado slices. Drizzle a little fresh lemon juice over the cucumbers and avocados. Add some sprouts and season with salt and black pepper, to taste.

Place a piece of bread, goat cheese side down, on top to sandwich all of the fillings together. Repeat with second sandwich. Serve immediately.

Note-if you can’t find herbed goat cheese, you can add herbs to plain goat cheese or just use plain goat cheese. This sandwich is best the day it is made.

SALADS

Running a veeeeery close second to easy lunches is the salad. And like the bowl, skies the limit when it comes to what you can put in a salad.

I love adding leftover roast chicken, grilled shrimp or flank steak. You can also buy a rotisserie chicken to save time.

Chopped Salad with Lemon-Chipotle Dressing

Serves: 4  Total Time: 35 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 roast chicken, about 2 lb.
  • 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 6 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh basil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tsp. minced canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, with sauce
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 Persian or Asian cucumbers, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 heirloom tomatoes, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 to 2 romaine hearts, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 large avocado, firm but ripe, pitted, peeled and diced

INSTRUCTIONS

Pull the chicken meat from the bones, discarding the skin. Cut the meat into bite-size pieces and transfer to a large salad bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the mustard and lemon juice and whisk to blend. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Mix in the basil, shallot and chipotle chilies with their sauce. Season the dressing with salt and pepper. Stir 1/4 cup of the dressing into the chicken and let marinate while preparing the remaining ingredients.

Stir the cucumbers, tomatoes and bell pepper into the chicken, then stir in the lettuce. Add enough dressing to lightly coat the ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Gently stir in the avocado and serve immediately.

Quick Tips: Purchase a rotisserie chicken from your local market—it takes only minutes to pull the meat from the bones and cut it into bite-size pieces. The dressing can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated; stir in the vegetables just before serving. For a meatless version, replace the chicken pieces with 2 cans (each 15 oz.) chickpeas. Simmer the chickpeas with 1/2 cup water and 1/4 cup of the dressing for 5 minutes; cool before using.


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