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If you’re new to Good Not Perfect, this is a week in my life as told through my lunch hour.  My coworker and I decided we were tired of the lunchtime routine, and after seeing all the delicious back-to-school lunch posts across the blogosphere, we thought maybe sharing our lunches would be an interesting little experiment.  It’s our effort to get healthy, homemade lunches.

So far, my coworker has been the star of the show.  Mainly because, due to my husband’s ridiculously long 3-week string of business trips, my shopping and cooking has been all helter skelter.

Day 1:  Vegetarian Chili with Cous Cous

Last weekend, before my husband hit the road (again), we enjoyed this meal together … if you missed it, you can read the recipe here.  I used the leftovers for the first day of lunch share.

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That’s a good looking bowl of chili.

Day 2: Soup and Salad

My coworker used one of my favorite recipes for lentil soup (recipe to come next week).  Super easy.  She had this in the freezer from a few months ago, believe it or not.  She served it with a simple tossed salad.  Delicious, healthy, and best of all, I didn’t have to lift a finger.

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Day 3:  (More) Salad

Beautiful weather.  Something we try not to take for granted in Chicagoland.  We took the opportunity to eat our kale salad outside.  Plus a little cheese and crackers on the side.

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So far my poor coworker has endured at least one kale salad a week.  Nothing like the glorious hot lunches she has regularly provided me.  I better redeem myself one of these weeks.  It’s probably not going to happen this week …

Did I mention at this point my veggie drawer is running on fumes?   My husband is still gone, I won’t get a chance to start pulling together lunch for the next day until the kids are in bed.  Not going to lie, on Wednesday night I was really not in the mood to cook. But let me tell you – because I knew my coworker was relying on me, I had no “out.”  If I didn’t have the lunch share, Thursday may have been a takeout day.

Day 4:  One Pot Pasta

Here’s the answer.  One Pot Pasta.  A reader contributed this idea as an easy weeknight meal, so I thought I’d try it.

This Martha Stewart recipe sounds too good to be true.  One pan?  I have all the ingredients in my pantry or fridge already?  Sign me up.  That is my favorite kind of recipe … one that doesn’t require a trip to the store.

I threw garlic, sliced onions, tomatoes, crushed red pepper, basil, oil, salt, pepper, and about 12 ounces of one ingredient pasta (examples shown here) into a pot.  I realized my pot was about two sizes too small. This was going to be less graceful than Martha.

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It looked pretty nonetheless.  I filled it with 4.5 cups of water, turned on to high heat, brought to a boil.

The recipe says to boil mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente and water has almost evaporated, which should take about 9 minutes.  It took a bit longer for me.  And I spent about 7 of those minutes trying to wrestle my pasta below the surface of the water in the too-small pot.

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It honestly wasn’t looking too promising at this point.  Smelled good.  But still pretty soupy.

I waited it out, and when the pasta looked al dente, I turned it off.  Most of the water was gone.  I used tongs to grab all the pasta and good stuff out and put it into the lunch containers, let it cool slightly, then grated some nice aged parmesan on top.  By the way, if I haven’t mentioned this yet – if you have a Trader Joe’s near you … you must go there for your cheese.

I didn’t feel like it had enough vegetables to meet the lunch share rules’ requirement.  So the next morning I steamed some green beans, put a hunk of Kerrygold butter on top, and that was that.

The next day at lunch I was able to offer her the following respectable, non kale based, hot meal.

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My review of the recipe?   Sorry Martha, but it needs something more (waiting for lightning to strike me as I type this).  Perhaps it’s because I used whole wheat pasta and not white … undoubtedly the more sinful white flour linguine would be the star of the show in Martha’s version.

For this whole grain version, I would have ideally put a beautiful bell pepper in there. Maybe some mushrooms or broccoli.  The flavors were good with the red pepper flakes and grated parmesan … or maybe I would have enjoyed it a bit more with a little squeeze of lemon on top.  Despite it not being quite perfect, I will be making it again.

Bonus?  The entire pot, at my grocery store, assuming no coupons, would cost <$6.00 (although I had both tomatoes and basil from the garden so even less for me).

Anything that requires no shopping and leaves me with only one pot to wash gets a lot of leeway in my book.

Happy lunching,

Laura Sig

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