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Five Tips for Inspired Desk Lunches

Our intention to enjoy more delicious, homemade lunches at work can easily derail and leave us staring at unlovable salads or dreary sandwiches. What’s the fix? As with most things culinary, a little planning goes a long way, as will some attention to flavor. Here are five tips for a lunch that'll make your co-workers jealous.

Tofu-Seaweed Wraps with Wasabi

Tofu-Seaweed Wraps with Wasabi

There’s been a lot of talk about sad desk lunches recently, and many of us can relate: Our intention to enjoy more delicious, homemade lunches at work can easily derail and leave us staring at unlovable salads or dreary sandwiches.

What’s the fix? As with most things culinary, a little planning goes a long way, as will some attention to flavor — I say go bold, not timid, when it comes to selecting your ingredients and choosing your recipes. Engaging your taste buds and delighting your palate will leave your brain and body ready for the afternoon. It works for me!

1. Love Your Carrier

A lunch that arrives at the office smashed, leaking or generally jumbled is a bummer. So is using precious morning time spent searching for a suitable container, then wondering halfway through your commute if your lunch is spilling out onto valuable electronics or important papers.

So be proactive and find a lunch carrier you really love, whether it’s simple or complex, modern or retro. Some of my favorite styles take inspiration from Japanese bento boxes: These feature several compartments that let you conveniently tote a bunch of elements under one lid. Get one and you’ll be encouraged to pack interesting, multipart lunches like this Sesame Orange Greens with Potstickers.

Sesame Orange Greens with Potstickers

2.  Make Cool, Single-Serve Entrees

Make a batch of a tempting dish that’s already divided up into neat, easy-to-carry portions. These wildly popular Macaroni and Three Cheese Lunch Muffins are ideal, and you can microwave them at the office or eat them at room temperature.

Ditto with Baked Brown Rice Kibbeh, spiced rice balls stuffed with lean beef and onions. Pack them with a little harissa for over-the-top flavor!

Baked Brown Rice Kibbeh

 

Macaroni and Three Cheese Lunch Muffins

3. Repurpose Last Night’s Dinner

It was yummy the night before, and it can be a fabulous new (not leftover!) lunch with just a few tweaks. You can slice up roasts or grilled veggies and turn them into super sandwiches, dice them and use them as the centerpiece of a uniquely tasty salad or grain bowl. 

This easy six-ingredient recipe for Cranberry and Apple Stuffed Pork Roast makes 6 to 8 servings, perfect for planned leftovers that easily become killer sandwiches.

Or bake up a batch Simplest Roasted Rubbed Salmon for dinner and sock away the super-flavorful leftovers to put over chopped greens with crunchy veggies. Tote an Asian-inspired dressing along in a separate container and everything will stay crisp and delicious.

Cranberry and Apple Stuffed Pork Roast

 

Simplest Roasted Rubbed Salmon

4. Get to Know Mason Jars

Stacking a salad in a glass jar has become a favorite portable-meal strategy. Not only do veggies and grains look great in layers, but keeping the elements separated until you’re ready to eat helps them stay fresher.

This simple recipe for Lunch-in-a-Jar: Cherry Pecan Grain Salad is a snap to put together and easy to customize with whatever grains or nuts and dried fruit you’ve got on hand. And while Mason jars are classic, any wide-mouth jar with an airtight seal will work beautifully.

Lunch-in-a-Jar: Cherry Pecan Grain Salad

5. Delight with Spice!

Excitingly seasoned food is guaranteed to banish the desk lunch blues. An easy to prepare Lunchbox Quesadilla is a great vehicle for your favorite salsa.

Or try these unusual Tofu-Seafood Wraps with Wasabi and get your day’s zing from Japanese horseradish. I love the avocado in this wrap, and if you toss the slices with a little lemon or lime juice to keep it from browning you can make them the night before — that’ll buy you a few more minutes of morning leisure!

Lunchbox Quesadilla

What’s your strategy for satisfying desk lunches? Let us know!

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