February 07, 2010

A week in lunches

You might think from reading this blog that I adore cooking. And I do enjoy it, but here's the catch. I only like to cook for other people. When Doug's not home -- say, at lunchtime -- I have a hard time mustering up the effort.

Instead, I tend to eat embarrassing things like TV dinners and Ramen noodles. But I set about last week trying to do better. So I present, for your entertainment and (dare I hope?) inspiration, a workweek's worth of low- to no-effort lunch dishes involving very few processed ingredients.

Monday: Sliced Braeburn apple with extra sharp cheddar

Add a few squares of chocolate for an extra-decadent treat, but otherwise, no explanation needed, right? Except maybe yeah, those are store-bought party crackers. What can I tell you? If I ever get brave enough to make those from scratch, y'all will be the first to know. Well, right after Doug...

Tuesday: Pork barbecue sandwich with Rome apple and home fries

I made this from a half a pork chop and some home fries left over from Monday night. I shredded the meat and added some homemade barbecue sauce. Warmed the meat in the microwave and put it on toast. I re-heated the fries in the oven so they wouldn't turn soggy and gross (about 10 minutes at 350°). I also lightly sprinkled my apple with cinnamon.

Wednesday: Cottage cheese salad

I started with a "classic" salad of iceberg lettuce, red cabbage, and carrots. I added green onion, sweet yellow onion, half a tomato, and some crumbled bacon, cooked earlier. Topped it all with about 2 tablespoons of ranch dressing, a generous helping of cottage cheese, and a shake of black pepper.

Thursday: Tuna salad

Same classic salad base as Wednesday. I cracked a can of tuna packed in water and let it drain into the sink. Meanwhile I mixed about a tablespoon each of mayo, ranch dressing, and pickle relish. After that I also added chopped green and sweet yellow onion, a small clove of finely minced garlic, parsley, cilantro, black pepper and dried celery seed. (I prefer fresh celery but didn't have any around.) Then I mixed this dressing with my tuna and put about half on my salad greens. Sliced half a tomato and shredded some extra sharp cheddar over the top.

Friday: Grilled cheese and tomato soup

Doug's gonna murder me when I finds out I made this without him. Seems silly to explain a grilled cheese, but I will say this. I don't do margarine. Butter has a superior flavor and, in moderation, isn't any worse for you than the fake shit. To keep the butter from tearing up my bread I set it out about a half-hour early to get soft. The cheese is mild cheddar and the bread is store-brand white. The soup is Campbell's Select Harvest Tomato with Basil. Which, I have to admit, wasn't as yummy as it sounded. Come summer when tomatoes get cheap again, maybe I'll venture to make some from fresh.

Recipe: Simple homemade barbecue sauce

I love this approach because it lets me totally customize the sweetness, sourness, smokiness, and heat. I use tomato ketchup as a base, even though those Carolina barbecue champions swear you should start with mustard. But that's the beauty thing about barbecue sauce -- we can all use what we like!
  • Sweetness: I usually use brown sugar, but I've also had success with honey, maple syrup, and sorghum molasses.
  • Sourness: Lemon juice adds a bright, fresh flavor, whereas apple cider vinegar tastes more savory.  Note that if you're using the mustard base, you may not need the additional sourness. It all depends on your taste (or in my case, usually, what happens to be around).
  • Smokiness: Seriously? Get yourself a bottle of Liquid Smoke. Colgin's is the only brand I've ever used, but am open to recommendations. The flavor is mighty concentrated, so just a few drops will do ya.
  • Heat: Here the possibilities are endless. The easiest thing is to sprinkle in some ground pepper (black, white, cayenne, whatever you like). I'm also a big fan of mild green Tabasco. The secret to heat is to add slowly, taste often, and don't be afraid to experiment.
Happy lunching!


  1. Love your pretty lunches. I have to admit I like Velveeta for grilled cheese, but that stuff is fake as can be. At Chi O, the cook always made grilled cheese and tomato soup on Friday, and there was a HUGE turn out. My lunch is usually a zBar and an apple, so thanks for the inspiration.

  2. I totally agree with Sarah's comment. Your lunches look SO pretty and are inspiring me to do something different. I'm enjoying all the inspiration that your posts bring! Thanks!

  3. Thanks ladies. Granted, if I wasn't taking pictures, I sure wouldn't have arranged tomatoes on the outside of the plate. I'm usually more of a dump-and-go kind of girl.

    Sarah: I also really like Velveeta grilled cheese. Or, at least I used to. I haven't tried one in a while, but lots of things I used to like have become gross to me. I'm getting so spoiled cooking for myself!

  4. Loved your lunches, would be better then throwing some thin sliced ham between 2 slices of bread and maybe a piece of cheese and calling that



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