Category: Working Lunch

Laura and her Coworker Lunch Share

Working Lunch – Week 4 and One Pot Pasta

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

Working Lunch – Week 3

 

wk 3

 

Day 1:  Potato Blue Cheese Bacon Soup

And Salad

What a week.  Last week was one of those weeks where everything sort of seemed off, from work to home.  With my husband traveling, I was sort of a pseudo-single mom (I really do not know how military wives and single moms do it!), and life at work and home was jam packed and stressful.  The fact that my coworker delivered me the above cup of soup last Monday very well may have been the one thing that made that particular day bearable.  It was really good.  Maybe a touch too much blue cheese (but that may just be me, not a huge fan).  Here is the recipe.

Blue Cheese and Bacon Potato Soup
Cuisine: American
Author: Steph (Coworker)
A rich, creamy soup, perfect for winter days. Inspired by a soup that Steph used to get at a restaurant in Detroit where she grew up.
Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 3 large red potatoes, chopped in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated or shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated fresh Romano cheese
  • 3 oz Blue cheese crumbles
  • 1 lb bacon
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • hot pepper sauce to taste
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, melt butter. Add onion and cook over medium heat 10 minutes, or until soft
  2. Add garlic, and cook 2 minutes
  3. Add potatoes and stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender
  4. Fry bacon, and place on paper towel. After it cools, crumble into tiny pieces
  5. Puree half the potato mixture in food processor or blender. Return to pot, add remaining ingredients, and heat through until cheese melts

She served this cup of sinful (way-more-dairy-than-I-normally-indulge-in) soup with a great salad with pears and a bit of blue cheese.  The dressing was a bacon vinaigrette similar to this one from Add a Pinch.

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Day 2:  Pasta and Salad

My overall day wasn’t much better than Monday.  Luckily, lunch was just as good.

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Pesto from a local chef with a booth at the farmers market.  Delicious green olives. And a salad.  Sadly one olive didn’t survive the occasion.  I was saving it for the end, which backfired.

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Yes, that’s my olive on the floor.  I cried a bit (and then took a picture).

Day 3 – No comment.

Let’s just say we went out for a quarterly work lunch with a few other coworkers.  Let’s call it “Shmuffalo Shmild Shmings”.  And I ate Shmuffalitos.  This is one of those days that just happen in real life.  I didn’t pick the place and I wasn’t going to eat a sad looking excuse for a salad to prove a point.  Pues, no pasa nada.

Day 4 – Roti!

This was the day I’d been waiting for all week.  There is a new Roti Mediterranean Grill opening a stone’s throw from our office.  Having stalked the opening and entering into a free drawing, I was on the mailing list for the sneak preview, so my contribution to the lunch share this week was this free lunch for two – yes, I managed to weasel my way out of cooking completely last week.  But I did think it was a great opportunity to showcase a “real food” restaurant – one very good option in for a quick real food lunch out that is not salad.

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We are so lucky to have a Jason’s Deli, Protein Bar, and now Roti within a single parking lot.

This is the type of place I can get behind.  I had not been there before, so I went to their website first and looked around a bit.  Then, when I got there I asked some more questions.  Turns out the regional manager is very knowledgeable about their ingredients, and has actually been to the farm where they get their chickens (not free range, but humane and no antibiotics). They offer sustainably raised salmon, organic chickpeas, cheese from a farm in Wisconsin.  It’s not perfect – not all GMO free, not all organic … but quite good.  The fact that they are making a conscious effort to make their supply chain and ingredients transparent to the consumer is the most important thing.  And I will support them because of that.  Plus, do you see this plate?  Look at those colors!  You can see the menu here.

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Since I hadn’t been there, I just got the first thing that jumped out as me as a favorite.  The “B.P.E” (Best Plate Ever) (that’s really what it is called, I am not making it up).  Look at that.  It is making me hungry.  The roasted veggies with kale(!), beets, brussels sprouts (just EVOO and salt and pepper).  The tomato and cucumber and herb salad.  The house made hummus (with organic chickpeas).  Roasted red pepper sauce, a warm pita, rice and no-antibiotic chicken.  Yes, I pretty much devoured it.  And nothing fell on the floor (victory).

And that concluded our not-very-disciplined lunch share week.   The high?  Definitely the free Roti.  The low?  Definitely shmuffalitos.  Or maybe my olive falling on the floor in slow motion as I helplessly watched, then shed a single tear.

If you missed it, you can see recaps of week 1 and week 2 here.

Happy lunching,

Laura Sig