In an age when you're only ever a stone's throw away from a Pret, a Wagamamas or worse, the work canteen (you pretend you'll get the salad but you always end up going with the hot main), it can be increasingly difficult to stick to packed lunches for work. We know we can't afford to eat out so often, we know it's not healthy but sometimes the pull of a chicken katsu curry is hard to ignore when your other option is a soggy sandwich.
Luckily for us, I'm here to remind you that gone are the days when packed lunches meant rabbit food and carton soups. I've created a twist on the three packed lunch classics; sandwich, soup and salad with these quick and easy DIY dishes that'll save your wallet, your waistline and your willpower.
'The Sandwich': Salmon Blinis with Cream Cheese and Avocado
For this sexed up sandwich I've gone for succulent salmon because it makes me feel like I'm adding a touch of sophistication to the long work day. It's also full of Omega 3s which are great for lowering your risk of heart disease and depression - perfect for battling work stress! Stack your salmon on pikelets (thin crumpets) layered with cream cheese (low fat if you wanna be extra good) and serve with avocado for more good fats to keep you feeling fuller for longer. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and sprinkle with chopped chives for extra flavour and colour et voila - your soggy sandwich is now a salmon stack! Delicious.
The (Super) Salad: Cranberry Wensleydale, Walnut and Beetroot
It always makes me laugh when I hear people says that salads are boring because to me a salad is pretty much any ingredients you want mixed with leaves. Any ingredient - how can that get boring?! Bacon, mozarella, pasta, halloumi, eggs, seafood... the possibilities are endless (not altogether of course, that would be rank). And, as long as you only add the naughty things in moderation, your salad will still end up being healthier than most other lunches.
My favourite base is a soft leaf mix - baby spinach and fiery rocket and then I go from there depending on my mood. This particular salad is a great mix of flavours and textures and the pretty colours make it so appetising you'll want to eat it in a heart beet - (see what I did there?). The real star here though is the crumbled cranberry Wensleydale cheese which packs a punch bringing both saltiness and sweetness. Then I added chunks of creamy avocado and also chopped walnuts for crunch. For the dressing I did my favourite - honey and balsamic vinegar for a sweet and sour zing. Finally, top with some juicy beetroot cut into heart shapes because we eat with our mouths and our eyes. Plus it's totally Instagram-worthy - double win! A tip of mine is to leave your dressing in the fridge at work and add it there, it'll stop your salad from getting soggy. Wilkinsons also do some great mini salad dressing containers which are genius for when you're on the go!
'The Soup': Pork Ramen with Dumplings
For those days when you really need a hot meal, soup is an easy DIY option as you can make it in a big batch and leave it to boil and do its' thang while you get on with other stuff. Rather than go for tame tinned tomato soup or something similar though, I like to make my favourite ramen because it has so much going on that it never gets boring. To make two portions of my simple ramen, bring 1 litre of water to the boil, add the following and boil for 15 minutes:
-1 chicken stock cube
-2 pork loins sliced thinly
-2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (low sodium if you please)
When the soup has been on for 15 minutes, add some instant packet noodles to make it filling. If you want an extra filling soup, add some mini dumplings at this point (just mix 1/2 cup of plain flour with a little a pinch of salt and enough water to make a firm dough). Once quickly rolled into golf ball sizes, they'll only take a minute or two to boil and should float top the top when they're cooked. Finally, garnish with a pinch or chives or spring onions, a few spinach leaves and some chopped chillies if you want a kick.
I hope that this post has helped you to to rethink how you look at packed lunches. It's so much easier to stick to what you've planned to eat when it's something exciting and different. Each of these dishes is rich in flavour and healthy fresh ingredients, took less than 20 minutes to make and cost less than £2.50 per portion - beat that Wagamamas!
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x Jade Mercedes Fraser x