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lunch lady help…

Cucina-urbana-beet-salad

Cucina-urbana-beet-salad

I swear I don't just eat desserts even though this blog may regularly chronicle my never-ending sweet tooth. I actually have a really hard time with lunch. I don't want to spend the time to whip up something big and fancy like I might be willing to for dinner, so I end up slacking and not eating very well during my mid-day nosh. I'm in need of some good ideas for quick, healthy lunches from you, my sweet readers. What are your favorite daytime meals and snacks you can make at home? Fun sandwiches, salads, wraps…unexpected, yet simple combos…I'm all ears! I'll even make and photograph my favorite suggestions to share with you all…!

{photo by Oh Joy at Cucina Urbana}

42 comments

  1. my lunches usually consist of leftovers from the night before or something from the freezer. i always freeze my leftover soups in individual size containers so i can pop them in the microwave and eat with some bread and cheese. i’m a big fan of the tuna melt as well.
    that salad looks amazing but i never have the time/patience/ingredients to create something like that for lunch.

  2. I love to make a quick stir-fry with leftover rice and whatever fresh veggies I have laying around. I’ll usually throw in an egg and top with sriracha!

  3. I feel the same way about lunch, never know what to eat mid-day. Can’t wait to see what everyone suggests!

  4. I’m usually a leftover lover but when there aren’t any, I make a salad. I try to do a little prep work (chop up some vegetables, rinse the lettuce, etc.) early in the week so that I can throw it together once I’m hungry. I almost always have olives, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. I often add hummus and hot sauce and/or quinoa if I think to make it in advance. Other quick bites: scrambled eggs, speed stir fries, and THE BEST SANDWICH EVER. TBSE=granny smith apples, almond butter, cheddar cheese. I have to make myself one now since they are so good.

  5. During the spring/summer, I like making an avocado, tomato, corn, black bean salad with a lime cilantro sauce. It’s refreshing and light and perfect for the warmer weather. Hope that helps!

  6. I make salads that, similar to the picture in your post, are a mash up of a number of tasty ingredients. They’re so easy & take no time at all!
    I prefer to use red leaf lettuce because it’s so tender. I buy heads of it at the farmers market, pull all the leaves apart & wash them, then rip them up into bite-sized pieces & store it in the fridge in a zip-loc bag lined with paper towels so it’s ready to go any time.
    For the salad prep, I dry roast some pine nuts, microwave a cup of frozen corn (you could sub edamame), cut up some sun-dried tomatoes, cook & cut up a veggie burger, pile it all on the lettuce, and add some sunflower seeds and dressing (either making my own with lemon juice, olive oil, & dijon mustard, or I also love a number of Briannas salad dressings).
    A healthy, tasty meal in 10 minutes (multitasking while the veggie burger & corn cook, of course)!

  7. I love eating salads but I hate making them. I do love to make paninis though. Can’t remember if you have a panini maker but it’s one of the best things I have in the kitchen. My favorite easy one to make is fresh mozzarella, basil, tomato, and fleur de sel. I make a quick dipping sauce of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, and salt/pepper. Easy and super fast. You could use whatever bread you have on hand. I like levain bread for paninis.

  8. i’m all about the bento box lunch (so much more fun than a brown bag). bunches of little things in little compartments. usuals are avocado slices with cilantro, salt and olive oil, brown rice, some kind of cooked veggies with balsamic and olive oil, and some fish or chicken. on my desk… the ubiquitous bottle of sriracha sauce.

  9. i love the recipes that are the closetcooking blog. they’re always small portions and pretty tasty.my husband loves his chicken curry sandwich + the egg salad sandwich is the best one i’ve ever had..

  10. First I take canned white tuna, drain the tuna and drizzle it with fresh lemon. Sometimes I mix it with fresh chopped cilantro. Then I take a water cracker or a Wasa cracker (Oprah’s “favorite” since it’s low in calories), top it with sliced avocado or mash a piece of cubed avocado on to the cracker, and then top it all with the tuna, followed by fresh salt and pepper on top and another drizzle of lemon (optional–I like the lemon taste). It’s a refreshing, light, easy and tasty lunch or snack. It’s great because you can assemble this anywhere–at home, at the office and even during a picnic. I love the crunch of the cracker, smoothness of the avocado and zest of the lemon-dressed tuna. You’ll crave it!
    My other favorite is wheat bread with peanut butter, bananas and honey. Great anytime of the day!

  11. I love the Cuban-style beans from Trader Joe’s. I heat up a can of those beans with 1/2 cup brown rice. This makes two servings (one for now, one for later). I then add some pico de gallo salsa (or fresh tomato if I’m out of salsa), some avocado and a sprinkling of cheese. Delicious!
    I also eat this bean/rice combo with a fried egg and salsa for breakfast. Heavenly, cheap, and good for you!

  12. This is a snack I’ve become addicted to — roasted chickpeas. I know it isn’t a meal but it’s a nice thing to munch on in between them.
    Drain, rinse and pat dry a can of chickpeas. Place on a jellyroll pan and drizzle with olive oil to coat. Here’s where you can get creative: add any spices that appeal to you. Recently I started using 5-spice powder, cayenne pepper and sea salt. Bake in a 450 oven for about 25 mins. Stir frequently. They are best eaten right out of the oven (but if you have to store them, place in an air-tight container and consume within a day or two). I hope this inspires you.

  13. I love a caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes for lunch, super easy to assemble!
    I also love the chicken/veggie patties with butter lettuce, mustard and red onion on a whole wheat toasted english muffin. Basically anything on an english muffin is delicious. 🙂

  14. i made an amazing but quick wrap today! the wrap itself was whole wheat, and i added cheese (whatever kind you like, of course), spinach, avocado, and some turkey. it was awesome. i’m on a big avocado and spinach kick right now.

  15. my easiest meal:
    half of a chicken breast grilled, two strips of bacon cooked, half a roma tomato sliced, one slice of provolone cheese, and 1 T of pesto spread on 2 slices of sourdough bread.
    all pressed in the panini press. VERY yummy. it never fails!

  16. these all sound amazing! i’m with Lisa, i love a good caprese sandwich with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. right now my favorite salad is romaine, diced bell peppers, cannellini beans, shaved parmesan, and a garlic/italian dressing. so simple and so good. you could add cucumbers too. or maybe even a little chicken for extra protein but the beans usually do the trick for me.
    yum! i can’t wait to try some of these suggestions!

  17. Have you ever tried choy fan? Great Chinese dish if you have a rice cooker.
    1. Cut up and boil two Chinese sausage in half a cup of chicken broth, half a cup of water. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_sausage)
    2. While that’s boiling, wash enough rice for two (preferably short-grain). Drain and put the rice in the cooker, then add the sausages, water, and chicken broth. Start the rice cooker.
    3. While it starts, chop up some bok choy (as much as you want – I’m pretty liberal with mine), and when the rice/sausage mixture is about halfway done, mix the bok choy in.
    4. Overall, it takes about 25 minutes, but that’s a rough estimate. To season, I highly recommend yank sing chili pepper sauce (http://www.yanksing.com/home.php)
    Happy cooking!

  18. Grill up a bunch of boneless chicken breast before your work week. I always have garbanzo beans and organic lettuce in containers in the fridge. I also try to keep a zip bag of shredded carrots on hand. They keep pretty long. I keep a bottle of salad dressing in the fridge at work so I do not have to cart it around. In the morning, mix the three (or four) ingredients together and you have the healthiest lunch ever. Protein to get you through your day! Can’t get much better than that! By three o’clock, I still need something sweet though. every.single.day. I never deprive myself of sweets. Life is too short. I just try to be picky about them! Enjoy!

  19. sandwiches! right now my fave is toasted whole wheat, turkey, blue cheese, cranberry sauce, mayo and arugala mmmmmm!

  20. For a SUPER quick, light lunch, this is my go-to: use 2 or 3 slices of bread (depending on how big the slices are), and split up an avocado between them. Smash the avocado pieces onto the bread, and squeeze a lemon segment over them–I like a lot of lemon so I tend to use 1/2 a lemon for this. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little bit of feta cheese or goat cheese. It’s SUPER tasty and takes about 5 minutes to assemble. It’s what my mom and I always used to eat during lunch-stops during road trips!

  21. salmon salad sandwiches! quick, easy, and delicious!
    you can buy wild alaskan salmon (so good for you!) in a can at trader joe’s or whole foods! add some mayo (or vegenaise), relish if you like, ground pepper/salt, and a touch of mustard–pile in lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, provolone cheese…all on a couple slices of toasted whole grain bread! excellent source of protein while you get your veggies and grains in. so delish!
    i also looove making a good homemade hummus–good source of protein and can be eaten with veggies or in any sandwich!
    enjoy 🙂
    j.

  22. Can’t comment for my first time without saying hi! And I love you. I mean, I love your blog. 🙂 I’ve been reading it for about four months now, and I’m so totally impressed with your photos, recipes, writing, and culinary presentation. Your blog rocks. Thanks for sharing all your wonderful food loves with us.
    Now, in the name of a couple delicious, quick suggestions …
    * Toast topped with goat cheese, avocado or tomato, a poached egg, and a little salt and pepper. It’s simple, filling, healthy-ish, and so, so satisfying. I make it for breakfast, lunch and dinner — depending on the mood.
    * Cottage cheese and fruit
    * Greek yogurt, homemade or good store bought granola and a drizzle of honey.
    And if you ever have all this stuff as leftovers, combine it and thank me later. It’s like the ultimate in quick and dirty comfort food: rice, cheese that gets all melty and soy sauce. (Wrong on a lot of levels but GOOD.)

  23. I make a lot of quinoa, which is a super healthy grain. I bring one cup of quinoa and two cups of vegetable stock to a boil then simmer for about 15 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and the grains are translucent. Then you can add almost anything to the quinoa that you like. Recently I added peas that I defrosted, and some sauteed spinach with garlic. I also grated some parmesan in for extra saltiness/nuttiness/yumminess. This was definitely my best quinoa yet. The juicy burst of peas counteracted the starchiness of the quinoa very well.
    Another quick salad I make has arugula, shaved parmesan, chopped walnuts, and meatless chicken, which I quickly pan fry (of course the meatless chicken could be substituted for the real thing). I make A simple dressing with olive oil, some balsamic and a lil grainy mustard. Very simple, but surprisingly satisfying.

  24. One of my favorite lunches that is super quick is tomato basil salad. I take a few roma tomatoes (or vine-ripened tomatoes), a few sprigs of fresh basil, a tsp. olive oil, a wee of sea salt, and ground black pepper. Sometimes I add cucumber slices as well, if I’m in the mood. 🙂 Toss it together, and it’s amazing! It even keeps if you prepare it the night before. So good! xx

  25. Top 2 favorite salads to make in a lunchtime pinch:
    1. Avocado Citrus Salad.
    It consists of romaine lettuce, sliced avocado’s, orange or tangerine sections, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, and a light vinaigrette.
    2. Apple & Gorgonzola Salad.
    Romaine lettuce, paper-thin sliced apple (I usually use a whole small apple), toasted walnuts or pecans, and gorgonzola cheese with a raspberry walnut vinaigrette.
    Both of those salads are easy to make, delicious, healthy and filling.

  26. i normally stock my fridge up with a pack of fresh chinese (or vietnamese depending on who you ask) rice noodles. they’re call “churn fun” in chinese and “bun cuon” in vietnamese. they’re a thin rice noodle roll so to speak with green onions and dried shrimp between the layers.
    for a quick meal, i would cut the roll into bite size pieces, throw them on a pan with a tiny bit of olive oil until they’re golden brown, then pour a scrambled egg on top of everything and cook until eggs are done. depending on how i feel, sometimes i’ll throw a little bit of soy sauce over it or dip it in a mixture of hoisin and siracha…or eat it just as.
    sounds funky but it’s delish!

  27. I made a really great sandwich the other day.
    Quorn brand fake turkey burger (even if you’re not vegetarian they’re healthier and delish)
    Tandoori garlic naan from trader joes (the long thin ones, not round like traditional naan)
    Roasted red pepper and cilantro hummus
    Feta cheese
    Tomato
    I just cut the naan in half and put the turkey burger on top of the hummus, tomato, and feta. Really delicious, very quick, and pretty healthy if you add a side salad for yourself (use up the rest of the tomato and some feta).

  28. I created this yummy sandwich:
    Open Faced Fresh Mozzarella & Tomato sandwich on baguette:
    Instructions:
    1. Slice tomato
    2. In a small bow mix Balsamic Vinaigrette, and a dash of salt, pepper and oregano.
    Let tomatoes marinate in mixture, turning over a few times.
    3. Slice mozzarella cheese and baguette.
    4. Place cheese on baguette 1/2, then layer tomato slice and top with several spinach or basil leaves!

  29. I love hearing what people have for ideas. I’m like you–I never feel like making lunch. When I do eat lunch, here are my lunches at the moment. I shop at Trader Joes so a lot comes from there:
    * I toast some slivered almonds, pecans and pumpkins seeds in the toaster over for a few minutes. Once they’re done, I pour them over Greek yogurt and a banana, strawberries or whatever fruit I have.
    * If I’m feeling ambitious, I make a little couscous with cinnamon and put my yogurt/fruit/nut combo over that. Couscous only takes 5 minute and it makes the whole thing seem more like a meal I suppose.
    * Trader Joes sprouted sesame bagels with mashed avocado. Top with a little worchestshire and louisiana hot sauce. Love this.
    * Quesadillas with corn tortillas, cheddar cheese and thinly sliced apples.
    * European whole grain bread (I call it my German health bread–it’s very dense, thinly sliced. TJs has a version) I toast it and top it with a thin slice of provolone and salami.
    * Trader Joes also has frozen veggie panang curry that I mix with more coconut milk and more veggies and tofu or whatever is in the fridge.
    * Steam broccoli until a little soft. Mash and mix with Israeli couscous, butter and parmesan.
    * My version of chopped salad that I don’t really chop: lettuce, cucumbers, fennel, olives, feta, garbanzos, salami. Olive oil, vinegar and crushed garlic dressing.
    *Saute leftover spaghetti with soy sauce, green onions and an egg scrambled in.
    hope more people post their suggestions!

  30. toast a slice of your favorite bread (I like dark rye), top it with a fried egg. then spoon over warmed marinara sauce, shredded parmesan cheese and basil. super fast. super yummy.
    some people poach their eggs in the marinara but I like my egg yolks fully cooked.

  31. i <3 sandwiches. you can have em' warm & toasted if it's crisp/chilly outside, or cold & refreshing for warmer weather. lately, toasted croissants with a creamy, somewhat sharp cheese, your choice of greens, grape/cherry tomatoes, & some chicken/turkey (lunch meat works, too) will hit the spot. you can even drizzle on some salad dressing in there!

  32. i’m late to the party (as usual) but for a tasty 5 minute lunch, i’ve been cooking fresh angel hair pasta (buitoni)… it literally cooks in 60 seconds once your water boils.
    chop up fresh basil and grape tomatoes. toss with olive oil and voila, easy and yummy. for me, a salad usuually leaves me hungry (for chocolate!??) and this tends to satisfy and with so few ingredients is SO fast.
    of course, you could also add in buffalo mozzeralla, or do olives and feta instead.
    bon apetit!

  33. to my more nutritive than a salad will be: buy some mexican tortillas( im in argentina but i supouse you can get it in your contry) and fillthem up with some letover, or any salad sugestion so you will be more satisfied.
    alltought a chopsuey is a good one if you have a part of the complete dish (you can have nodles or rice or cook vegetables) and ad the other one, or make all in too seconds!! you put the water with the rice and cut the vegetables, cook them just a litlle to keep them crunchy and add soy sauce, put the rice in a bold and the vegetables on top, some seeds and you have a
    complete, yummi and fask meel!

  34. Oh I love this request – like a lot of the people above I have salads for lunch and do the prep at the beginning of the week. I’ve been eating this salad four days a week for the past four years.
    It’s really simple and delicious (healthy):
    mixed greens with herbs
    crumbled goat cheese
    dried cranberries
    walnuts
    roasted beets shredded or cubed (wrap wet in foil @350 till fork tender, peel using two paper towels – one to hold one to wipe)
    fresh ground pepper
    sprinkling of olive oil
    the only things that I rotate out are: avocado and grilled shrimp (soy, sriracha, sesame oil).
    just finished eating this – its so good!
    oh and if you eat a lot of beets your pee will change colors – I feel the need to warn people of that, freaked me out the first time.

  35. my current favorite sandwich is quick, easy and very very delicious:
    toasted multi grain ciabatta bread
    few slices of red apple
    a slice of brie cheese
    roasted turkey
    honey mustard
    yum!

  36. Loving all these avocado-including ideas, is there nothing that fruit (?) can’t do?
    If you ever happen to be in Guelph, Ontario, Canada hit up a little place called With the Grain. They make a glorious sandwich called the BATH (Bacon-Avocado-Tomato-Havarti, plus assorted greens and garlic aioli) that I’ve been imitating for lunch.
    Easy to assemble at home and travels pretty well for lunch on the go. I usually pack the ingredients separately, no one likes a soggy sandwich! Their fresh bread and garlic aioli really make it, but at home I can substitute tomato for cucumber. Really fresh and fantastic taste combination!
    Cheers!

  37. This is one of those “it sounds crazy, but you must try it” meals. It was a favorite when I was a kid and is still my favorite don’t-feel-like-cooking meal.
    Toast a sesame bagel and slather with butter (don’t skimp). Then, add a thick slice of juicy tomato, sprinkle with a good bit of cinnamon and a little bit of salt. AMAZING.
    If I’m out of bagels, I just use a good slice of fresh-baked white bread and sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top of the tomatoes.
    DEELISH.

  38. Hey there.
    Nice ideia, sharing lunch tips.
    Mine is this eggplant curry:
    http://www.manjulaskitchen.com/2009/10/09/baingan-bharta-eggplant/
    You can ommit some of the spices if you don’t have them at hand.
    It goes great with some bred, with or without cheese; with rice, potato, scrumbled eggs, cooked wheat, crackers. You can have it cold or warm.
    Just leave a jar of it in the fridge, and voilà.
    There are plenty of useful recipes in Manjula’s site. I totally recomend it.
    Keep up!

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