By Louise Oliver
The ringing of bells – be it alarm or school – signals that the holidays are over. Familiar routines have started and for many that means a return to the daily scrabble to make the packed lunch, grabbing various bits and bobs before dashing out the door. Whilst I managed to pack the kids off with a fairly nourishing lunch, my lunch at work would be expensive and over packaged.
No more! This year I vowed to say goodbye to lacklustre lunches and make my own.
With a plethora of packages to contain my lunch and an even wider list of home-made foods I enjoy eating what was there to stop me? Well, the dreaded enemy of time and, come to think of it, thought. I wanted to find a way that didn’t require too much of either in the kitchen.
Luckily just the perfect superhero was available in the guise of batch cooking or supersizing – don’t worry no huge portion sizes, just smart cooking.
Before your busy week begins take the hassle out of packing your lunch or snacks. Think about the dinners you are planning over the week, can you make a little more for a tasty lunch the next day? Doubling up on ingredients requires only a little extra time in preparation and leftovers often provide your taste buds with an even tastier treat.
For those snacks that tend to be enjoyed during the daylight hours they can be prepared alongside your main meals. Some require no cooking, such as making a batch of raspberry yogurt, and for those that do, you can save both yourself and your oven’s energy; whilst you have the oven on to cook a bread you could have some extra veggies roasting that you might want to blitz up for a hummus. Using recipes that can be adapted to suit whatever seasonal fruit, veggies or creative flair you have to hand also conserves valuable thought power.
Here are a trio of lunchtime essentials to get you on your way…..
Following on from Fergus’s broad bean recipe, why not try making a batch of carrot or beetroot hummus. Homemade hummus whilst far tastier than shop bought also keeps well in the fridge allowing you to serve with some veggie crudites, bread sticks or spread liberally on your sandwiches throughout the week. It is also another easy way to get some more nutritious veggies into your diet. I made the recipe a bit more local without the sesame paste and it turned out to be a delicious hit with various ages. Carrots are a perennial in the veg box and their sweetness can handle a good hit of spice. To speed the process up even further, use a hand held blender and tinned chickpeas or fava beans.
There are many lunches that are enhanced by a good serving of yoghurt. A lunchtime favourite, if you have the time you can use the recipe in the Fife Diet Winter booklet to make from scratch. Otherwise opt for a tasty, plain, organic variety which can be eaten unadorned. However, if you prefer a good fruity side of yoghurt, make it your own by adding whichever seasonal fruit, nuts and toppings you have and prefer. This is cheaper, and allows you to control the amount of sugar and preservatives that are added – none! Be it frozen local berries, that you might have squirrelled away from summer (if not, they are really cheap at local farm shops at this time of year) or some apples and pears turned into a fruit compote, or even a home-made jam spooned in for a delicious fruit corner, the list of toppings is endless.
Your bread du jour can be bought from a local bread group or, if you can, make yourself ahead of time and freeze until needed. Whilst bagels may seem like an unnecessary hassle, they are quicker and easier than you may suspect and can be fun for all ages to make. Pop them in the freezer and they will quickly defrost the night before they are needed. Again, you can customise and experiment with toppings to make a really appetising lunch: seeds, oats, and nuts all work well. All this before you have even filled it!
So whether you throw it in the bag at the last minute or have it neatly contained the night before, a little thinking at the start of the week means a hassle free, delicious and nourishing midday meal is packed. The trick now is managing to wait for the lunch bell!