WRITTEN ON January 11th, 2010 BY Meredith AND STORED IN Cheese, No really, what IS for lunch?, Tomatoes, Turkey, Vegetables

When I was working a regular 9-5 office job, I remember always having a real problem with lunch. Specifically, where to buy it and how much it was going to cost.

In New York City, something as ordinary as a chopped salad can run you about 14 bucks. Add a drink and a piece of fruit (or in my case, a cookie) and you’ve got an almost $20 a day lunch habit.  On top of that, you have no real control over the portioning of said salad (because, let’s face it, once it’s dressed and paid for, you’re gonna eat it all) and that “light” dressing is actually a total lie (see Sienfeld fro-yo episode for a similar conundrum).

If your New Years resolutions happen to include losing weight and saving money (as mine always do), the issue of lunch can be a real fly in the ointment.

After a while I forced myself into the habit of packing my lunch.  The first big hurdle was of course the fact that all the cool kids went out for lunch. I got over that pretty quick. I’ve never really been a cool kid anyway, and there were actually very few people in the office that I wanted to impress (a red flag that my “career” there was doomed, perhaps?).  After a few weeks I found that I had no problem either eating lunch at my desk while pretending to look busy or snagging a corner solo spot in the lunchroom where I could read my book for 30 minutes.  I became one of the lunchroom regulars, though I was the only one who sat alone (the crew from tech-support was quite social).

The second issue was that I’d get tired of the same old thing.  What can I say, I bore easily, and the idea of the same turkey on wheat day in and day out was, quite simply, excruciating. Nails on a blackboard. So I challenged myself to ramp it up.  I’d spend Monday night making a big pot of soup, or roasting vegetables, pulling rotisserie chicken or making homemade slaw, just to keep my lunches interesting. It became a fun little game.  What could I impress them with tomorrow?  Lentils from the night before tossed into a spinach salad (yes, I said tossed and salad in the same breath, so sue me) with some feta, pulled chicken and homemade vinaigrette?  Baked salmon (just make an extra piece at dinner) on pumpernickel with capers and lemon mayo? The sky’s the limit when you decide to bring your own.  If you can get over the scorn from the cool kids, all it takes is an extra portion when you’re making dinner and a little advanced planning.

That’s where these roasted and sauted veggies come in very handy.  Make a bunch of them in the beginning of the week and use them in salads or layered on sandwiches. They’re healthy and keep things interesting.  Voila.  You’re saving money and you know what you’re eating.

Now you just have to get over brown-baggin’ it problem number three.  People ooggling over your shoulder as you eat, to see what you’ve brought today. It’s ok.  They’re just jealous.

Thinking outside the deli

Thinking outside the deli

Roasted Tomatoes (makes 20 halves)
10 baby Roma tomatoes
Olive oil
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaved picked
Salt and pepper
1 large pinch dark brown sugar
Preheat oven to 425. Halve each tomato horizontally and place on baking sheet, cut side up.  Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme and brown sugar. Roast in oven about 15 minutes until soft.  Turn broiler on medium high, place under broiler about 5 minutes  more.
Sauted Broccolini
1 bunch broccolini, ends trimmed about 1/2 inch
Salt
1 tbsp lemon zest
Olive oil
Black pepper
In a large pot, bring enough water to cover broccolini to a boil.  Salt water well, add broccolini and cook about 2 minutes.  Drain, rinse with cold water.  Dry well.  Heat olive oil in same pot, add broccolini.  Season with salt and pepper, saute about 5 minutes until tender but still crisp.  At last minute, toss in lemon zest.
To assemble sandwiches: (makes 2)
1/4 lb roasted turkey
4 slices Vermont white cheddar
Roasted tomatoes
Sauted broccolini
Dijon vinaigrette
4 slices whole wheat sourdough
On one slice of bread, layer one slice cheese.   Layer half of the turkey, 5 tomatoes, 3 broccolini stalks, and a second slice of cheese.  Drizzle with vinaigrette.  Top with second slice of bread.  Repeat for second sandwich.

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