For a bit of lunchtime pizzaz, we've come up with some ideas and recipes for you to bring back the fun in lunch. It's time-saving, good on the pocket and will give you an energy boost to get your through the dreaded afternoon drowsiness
Why not jazz up ordinary items with some quick fixes?
Toss that boring old soggy tuna sandwich into the trash and pack yourself a healthy and fun lunch instead! Why settle for a greasy meal at a stall when you can have something just as flavour packed right in your own bag? I’m not bad mouthing our delicious local stalls by any means but sometimes our bodies need a bit of a health boost and lunch is the perfect time to infuse a little bit of nutrition into our system. One important thing you must remember though is that healthy does not always mean a couple of lettuce leaves and it can be just as tasty as any meal out there.
Here are a few recipes that will have your lunch buddies jealous and begging for a taste.
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
Quinoa (main picture) is an ingredient that most people are not familiar with, but this protein packed powerhouse is perfect for a light yet filling carb free lunch. Quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids making it a complete protein source. It is also gluten free, easy to digest, a good source of dietary fibre, and is high in magnesium and iron. Tossing the Quinoa with dried fruit and nuts gives this a Mediterranean flair that is exotic and delicious.
Handful of leftover chicken
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped dried figs
1/4 cup toasted almond slivers
Rind from 1 lemon
Lemon juice from half a lemon
1 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup cooked Quinoa (as per package instructions)
Once the Quinoa has cooled down, toss in the cranberries, figs, almond slivers, chicken and lemon rind.
Squeeze lemon juice on top and drizzle in the olive oil and mix well.
Add some salt and pepper.
This can be made the night before and kept in the fridge. You can of course sub the chicken with turkey ham or grilled fish.
Rainbow Pasta Salad
The more colourful a salad, the healthier it is for you. This is a simple way to make sure you get the most vitamins and antioxidants out of your salad. This pasta salad is very easy to put together and it can be easily customized to each person’s taste by altering the vegetables added into it. In this recipe a can of charbroiled salmon is added for an interesting flavour dimension but you can just as easily use normal canned salmon or tuna. Try to stick to the varieties packed in water or olive oil as you don’t want to add on unnecessary calories.
1 can charbroiled salmon drained
1 cup sautéed mushroom slices
1 red pepper diced
1 bunch steamed asparagus roughly chopped
1/4 red onion diced
1 tbs olive oil
3 tbs pesto
2 cups of tri colour fusilli cooked as per package instructions
Toss the fusilli with olive oil so that the noodles don’t stick together.
Add in the salmon, mushrooms, red pepper, asparagus and red onion.
Mix in pesto when ready to eat.
This can be made the night before and kept in the fridge and you can put the pesto in a separate sauce container. Once you are ready to tuck in just pour the pesto on the pasta, put the lid back on the Tupperware and shake it around to mix it up. And presto! A wonderful colourful lunch packed with nutrition.
Passage through India Pita
By playing with spices you can jazz up an ordinary lunch item such as a chicken salad sandwich. This can be done from scratch by marinating a chicken breast with spices or for the easy way out: if you have chicken leftover from any dinner meals you can also chop it up and toss it with this yoghurt mixture.
1 chicken breast
4 tbs yoghurt
1 tsp ground cayenne
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Lemon juice from half a lemon
2 garlic cloves minced
1/4 red onion in thin slices
1/4 red pepper in thin slices
1 tsp olive oil
Chopped cilantro to garnish
Whole wheat pita bread cut in half
Add the cayenne, cumin, coriander, lemon juice, and garlic to the yoghurt and mix well. Trim the fat and skin off of the chicken and pour half of the yoghurt mixture on it to marinate for 30mins or more. Reserve the rest of the mixture for later.
Once the chicken has been marinated, sear it in a hot pan on high heat and transfer to a baking dish and bake at 175C for 20mins. In the pan where the chicken was seared add olive oil to the pan and sauté the onion and red pepper slices. Keep aside.
Take the chicken out of the oven and cool. Dice the chicken pieces and toss with the reserved yoghurt mixture, onion and red pepper slices, and chopped cilantro.
Pack the chicken mixture in a container separate from the pita bread. This is to prevent the pita from getting too soggy. Once you are ready to eat, stuff the pita with as much chicken as you want and enjoy!
Jazz up the Ordinary
Sometimes you may not have time to pack an elaborate lunch so why not jazz up ordinary items with just a few quick changes. Here are 5 food ideas to make your daily bread more interesting.
- Mix your usual can of tuna with some yoghurt, chopped sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, and chopped pitted olives a tasty alternative to the usual tuna mayo.
- Instead of bringing along a cup of fruit yoghurt why not fill a Tupperware with some fresh and dried fruits along with some walnuts and top with yoghurt and honey. Slurp!
- Make your own spreads ahead of time and keep in the fridge. You can toss a container of this with some bread into your bag for a quick lunch. Blitz chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice in a food processor or blender for a hummus. Blend fresh herbs with olive oil and nuts for a pesto or even roast a few different nuts and whiz in the processor with olive oil and salt for homemade nut butter (much healthier than buying a jar of peanut butter).
- Get yourself a tumbler and make a nice fruit smootie that you can sip on your way to work. It's a great energy booster and might keep the traffic jam blues away. Afterall someone once said that the main cause of road rage is hunger. This is also great if you are the sort of person that skips breakfast and end up eating a fat packet of nasi lemak at 11am.
- If you’re packing lunch for a loved one why not place the meal in a baggie and write on it with a marker or stick a cute sticker on it. This lets them know that their lunch was made with love.