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Food & Wine November 26, 2014

Four of the Best Packed Lunches to Pack a Work Day Punch

Lunch is a meal we don’t want to miss: for most of us, it marks the halfway point during the work day, when we feel the urge to refuel our engines and get our motors running strong again.

However, some of us in our fury to get back to work, skimp out or skip lunch altogether. Lunchtime doesn’t have to be just diet coke and a chocolate bar; there are plenty of excellent lunch recipes to build a delicious meal, and planning your lunch meal can be fun, exciting, and something to look forward to if you have some great ideas: “if you know that your body is going to remind you that you’re hungry in your lunch-hour, it’s important to plan ahead of time for that meal, and it’s best to select lunches that give you both maximum energy and nutrients,” explains Sara Boucher, MSc, PhD candidate in human nutrition at the University of Otago. Now that we know designing a nutritional lunch is important, what’s next on our menu?

For your taste buds’ pleasure, here are four packed lunch recipes harnessing maximum flavour, nutrients and enjoyment without sacrificing creativity or originality.

  1. The Mighty BBQ Chicken and Ranch Dressing Salad
    This is one hearty lunch and anybody who believes salads won’t fill up the belly will be pleasantly surprised by this gem. It’s pretty simple to make, too, and full of fibre and nutrients to keep you powered through the rest of the day. Dice up a chicken breast and marinate with salt, pepper and olive oil in a pan. Place romaine lettuce in a bowl and sprinkle the chicken on top once cooked; then, add diced red capsicum, canned corn kernel, beans, and sliced tomatoes, sliced onion, shredded cheese and of course, the best part, tortilla strips. Once you’ve assembled your ingredients, add BBQ sauce and ranch dressing as desired. You can also marinate the chicken breast in BBQ sauce if you prefer.

Tip: keep your salads in a mason jar. They’re portable, kept fresh and won’t take up much space in the office refrigerator!

  1. The Fresh and Fiesty French Tuna Salad Baguette (also known as the Pan Bagnat)
    If you enjoy fresh fish and tuna sits well with you, then try out a tuna salad sandwich on a baguette for extra taste and refinement. Get your hands on a fresh baguette, slice it in half, brush the halves with a bit of olive oil and some garlic. Place fresh basil leaves on one side. Mix together tuna, tomatoes, feta cheese, onion, artichoke heart, sliced red capsicum, parsley, and combine with three tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. Once the mixture is emulsified, add the ingredients to the top of the basil leaves, squish that baguette down overnight (if making the night before), and be prepared for the tasty treat that awaits you! Not a fan of tuna? Replace with chicken or try another meat that suits your fancy.

Tip: jazz up any sandwich with a baguette, meat or no meat. It’s a new way to try out your favourites if you’re bored of plain bread.

  1. Bold and Fiery Wonton Jalapeño Poppers
    Get your spicy taste buds fired up with these little poppers. Mix together eight ounces cream of cheese, diced green capsicum, one large diced green onion, one cup shredded jack cheese, four ounces diced jalapeño peppers, a sprinkle of chili powder, and a touch of salt. Place the mixture inside the wonton wrapper and seal them tightly, then fry ‘em up in a deep skillet over medium heat on the stove. Flip the little guys over and remove when golden brown and you’ve got your hot poppers ready and waiting for your hungry tummy!

Tip: For more health-conscious poppers, bake wontons in the oven at 176° C instead of frying.

  1. A Peppy Pesto Chickpea Risotto Salad
    This is a pretty simple recipe, but it doesn’t lack in taste or nutrients. This particular dish boasts being both vegan and gluten free, so it’s definitely a good option for the very health-conscious lunch-maker. Cook risotto rice to tender, and in a bowl, add three sliced carrots, a cup of chickpeas, sliced tomatoes, and sprinkle on some chopped basil leaves over the top of the risotto! Oh, and don’t forget to add your organic pesto sauce!

Tip: add a small amount of parmesan or mozzarella cheese to the salad for an extra cheesy risotto salad flavour. Please remember that adding cheese no longer makes this dish vegan.

Here are four healthy and entertaining lunches just to show you that lunch doesn’t have to be boring to be nutritional. In fact, these are four perfect dishes to get you started on your lunch-making adventures. Besides, we all know that our own magical touch makes our food taste better, anyway! So get packing and give these four a try!

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