Chickpea Salad Sammies (DF)

Lunch arrived today amidst a variety of house renovation chores.  Having little time to make a hot meal as I might have liked to, I decided sandwiches would be just the thing. Lacking our usual go to sandwich fare, and having eaten most of the leftovers earlier in the weekend, I was in a bit of a pickle (har har) about what kind of sandwiches I could pull together.  And then it struck me… literally.  The precariously balanced can of chickpeas in the pantry tipped and landed on my foot.  I decided I would show that can who’s boss.

In trying to figure out how to quickly incorporate chickpeas into a sandwich without mashing them and cooking them somehow, I considered typical sandwich offerings.  The notion of a chickpea salad came to mind immediately, and I knew a route that combined the chickpeas with some manner of creaminess and some savory herbiness could only lead to a good lunchin’ place. A quick dip into the fridge and the spice rack and I was off to the races.

Chickpea Salad (GF,DF) makes enough for 4 generous sandwiches and some leftover for a lunch or two

  • 2 outer ribs celery, choppedIMG_0306
  • 1/2 red onion (or whatever you like), chopped
  • 2.5 c cooked or canned (rinsed and drained) chickpeas
  • 4 T sunflower cheese (or creaminess of your choice)
  • 2 T dijon mustard
  • 2 T white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 – 1 t dried thyme
  • 2 t dried tarragon
  • 1/2 t salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 avocado, cut into smallish pieces
  • sprinkle paprika (opt.)
  • green olives, chopped (opt.)

Sound like a lot of ingredients, I know, but this whips up super quick.  Combine the chopped celery, onion, and chickpeas in a bowl.  In a smaller bowl mix the sunflower cheese, mustard, vinegar, and seasonings.  Whisk (or fork it as I usually do) until incorporated.  Scrape wet bowl into dry bowl.  Stir until they’re all playing nicely.  Add avocado and stir again to combine.  It’s okay if the avocado smushes a bit – it will just add to the creaminess of the salad.  Serve with a sprinkle of paprika and a dusting of chopped olives.  We had ours on whole wheat bread with red lettuce.  Delish, and just right for a VERY busy weekend.

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Crunchy Lunchy

The last time I tried sprouts was MANY years ago, when they were only available in the health food store, and the health food store was a small, locally owned affair with hand painted murals on the walls and revolutionary music and patchouli in the air.  Lest I give you the wrong impression, this was in about 1991.  You may be surprised to find that I did not become a sprout loving Momma until recently.  When I tried them before, they were okay.  Just okay.  There were an awful lot of them, however, and they DO spoil; I didn’t like them enough to try to plan meals around them (planning really wasn’t my thing at the time), and since I was only preparing food for myself, the math simply didn’t work out.  They were too expensive.  Flash forward and EVERYTHING in that last sentence has changed.

I purchased some sprouts last summer, after having them with an awesome stir-fry Big Sis made for us at the beach, and they were good.  Liked them.  I still thought they were a bit pricey, but with more people to partake, the risk of spoilage was minimized.  Then I found out just how nutritious they are.  Then I realized my children liked them.  Then I realized that I LOVE them on everything.  The final piece of this sprouty puzzle was solved when I took 10 minutes on the internet to find out how to grow the little buggers… so here it is.  Your tutorial on a DIY sprouter and sprouting, for next to nothing.  What does this have to do with lunch?  EVERYTHING.  Know what makes ANY sandwich filling taste better?  Sprouts.  Know what makes any leftovers taste fresh and a little crunchy in a great vegetable kind of way?  Sprouts.  Know what makes you feel very clever when you grow them on your counter and include them in your thrifty and nutritious brown bag lunch?  Sprouts.  So without further ado…

To grow sprouts, you need a sprouter.  You are welcome to buy one, but I am too cheap to do that, so here’s my solution: large canning jar with 2 part lid and some mesh.  I happened to have clean window screening material from making beach bags for kids, but I imagine any mesh would work.

Next I used a yellow crayon to trace about 1/2 inch around the inner part of the canning lid and cut the circle of screening,

stretched the mesh tightly over the top of the jar and screwed the outer ring on tight to check for fit.
After washing everything, I added 1/4c of dried mung beans (purchased bulk from my food coop) to the jar,

My sister’s hand… oh wait, that’s me. Weird.

and added water until the jar was nearly full.  I left them to soak overnight, drained the water by turning it over (with the lovely screened lid still on…. doh). And the next day rinsed the beans with fresh water, and drained them again. Many of the skins had cracked. I proceeded to rinse them twice a day for the next couple of days and watched their astonishing progress.

Day 2

Day 3 – Pics through the glass did NOT get easier

There’s the sprouts we’re looking for – rinsed on the morning of day 4 and put in the fridge.

And so we’ve proceeded to eat them with everything, because they’re awesome.  And they cost me about twenty cents.  Yep, twenty cents to fill a one pound strawberry container with delicious homegrown sprouts.  Ahhh nothing more satisfying than some thrifty nutrition.

WHAT to do with so many flippin’ sprouts you ask?  Well aside from the aforementioned sandwich glorification, there is always the prospect of a great NAMUL!!!  Oh yes, we return to our friend the namul, and my new best friend Ani Phyo’s cookbook.  As a fabulous salad at lunch, my hubby and I enjoyed:

MUNG BEAN SPROUT NAMUL – adapted from Ani Phyo‘s recipe in Ani’s Raw Food Asia

  • 4 c mung bean sprouts
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T sesame oil
  • 1 t maple syrup
  • 1 small clove garlic, made small however you like
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t minced ginger
  • large pinch red pepper or chili flakes

Doesn’t get much easier than this kind of procedure.  Put all in bowl, toss.  Wait 20 minutes or so.  Eat.  Love.

We had ours as a side to veggie burgers at lunch, but I could easily see adding it to the top of any Asian dish with crunchy scrumptious results.  While I must confess the kids wouldn’t touch this one, I should also say that I was glad, deep inside, that I got to eat that much more.  Delish.

No More Number 4 Combos…

Fabulous Friday!!  What better time to continue our thrifty examination of nutritious lunch options?  To get us ready for next week, I’d like to outline some basic strategies that I’ve used to prevent fast food infractions.  Take a look and, if you are a lunch eater outer (my daughter’s nomenclature), maybe it’s time to take a baby step and choose one strategy to try next week.  If you already bring lunch, but find that your mid-day meal is a little yawnsville, maybe one of these strategies can add a little skip to your step.

Option 1: Big Sis made some awesome suggestions for Straight-Up and Mix It Up Leftovers  Remember… the remains of last night’s dinner will not stay edible; they will begin the inevitable transformation that occurs in the back corner of your refrigerator that ends with a mysterious noxious odor.  (Ever thrown a food storage container away JUST TO AVOID OPENING IT?  Yes, you have.  I have too.)  To add to the grocery list?  Slightly more for each dinner you prepare and a container to put it in if you don’t have a plastic yogurt tub you can use.  Done.

Here’s one of our favorite (super cheap) family dinners that makes plenty of leftovers, freezes beautifully, and is very flexible, so you can add other elements to it as you see fit.  We always make a double batch and lately I’ve been adding sauteed mushrooms and celery.  This recipe came from a fun old book on my shelf, The Tightwad Gazette.  If you come across a copy at a yard sale or second hand book store, grab it.  There are a lot of thrifty treasures in there.

Leftoverlicious Lentil Casserole - I always double this.

  • 3c veggie or chicken broth
  • 3/4c lentils
  • 1/2c brown rice
  • 3/4c chopped fresh onion
  • 1/2t sweet Basil
  • 1/4t oregano
  • 1/4t thyme
  • 1 clove garlic, mashed
  • 1/2c shredded cheese (Completely Optional)

I have found the Crock Pot to be the best method for this casserole.  Place all ingredients in crock.  Cook on low for 2 hours, high for 2 hours.  If you are using cheese, spread it on the top of the casserole for the last 25 minutes of cooking.  I assume you could simply leave it on low for longer, but I usually need it to be done sooner rather than later.  So there you are, a hands-off Sunday dinner that will make lunch too!

Option 2: Burritos/Wraps/Sandwiches  Big Sis mentioned using your leftovers in many clever ways and one of the smartest disguises is plopping that stuff in a tortilla and adding whatever salsa or veggie dip floats your boat.  Or throw a bunch of veggies you don’t usually eat on a sandwich into a wrap with some kind of sauce or spread.  That takes about 30 seconds.  Wrap it up and put it in bag with a piece of fruit and a carrot, another 30.  1 minute express lunch.  To add to your grocery list?  A package of whole grain tortillas or flatbread, salsa, and wax paper to wrap.  Done.

Option 3: Weekend Prep.  Weekend prep may mean making a casserole or whipping up a large batch of beans and rice or something else that is sort of flexible – remember that riffing on a theme idea?  Beans and rice with cheese and salsa; beans and rice with tomatoes and lemon juice; beans and rice with soy sauce, peas and spring onions;  beans and rice with mango and cilantro; beans and rice with sour cream, chili powder and lime juice.  You get the idea.  Not a bean fan?  Quinoa is another heavy hitter in this department as it has protein built right in.  Just make a ginormous pot of quinoa and then riff on it all week, using various bits or adding small portions of leftovers that you would normally throw away because they’re “too small to keep.”  To add to your grocery list?  Beans and rice or quinoa, some bits to go with if you don’t have any of those listed above.  Container if you don’t have one.  Done.

Option 4: The Random Grab One of my all-time favorite bagged lunches included whole grain bread, an avocado, and an apple.  Grab all three, throw in bag (with knife carefully wrapped) – 40 seconds.  At work spread avocado on bread (and sprinkle with a little salt if you’re me).  Eat until almost satisfied.  Eat the apple.  Done.  Delish.  I’ve also been know to random grab handfuls of things and snack throughout the day rather than having a specific lunch.  This would look more like grabbing the bag of almonds, a piece of fruit, a cucumber (or some other hand holdable vegetable), some cheese.  Done.  Munch.  To buy at the store?  The beauty of the random grab, is that you don’t technically have to buy anything extra at the store.  I must confess that the random grab approach assumes some level of pantry proficiency.  If you are not at least scoring an average in pantry proficiency, I would suggest one of the other options. ;-)

Option 5: The Backup Plan If you are fortunate enough to have a refrigerator where you work, it may be in your best interest to keep a backup plan there.  For me this was good bread and peanut butter.  While I love both, it is not something I would choose to eat on a daily basis; however, if I was unable to get lunch together or needed a snack, or when I was pregnant with twins and it was time for third breakfast, there was my friend the bread with peanut butter.  Add a few raisins and you’ve got yourself a party.  How about trying some hummus instead?  Prepare it on Sunday and take it in to work in a container on Monday with your nice bread or whole grain crackers.  To buy at the store?  Whole grain bread, peanut butter, hummus ingredients if that’s the way you want to roll.  Container if you need one.  Done.

You never need order from the Dollar Menu again, or refer to your lunch as a Number 4 Combo.  Now start researching vacation possibilities and thinking about how nice it will be to not feel completely tired and little sicky-full for an hour and a half after lunch every day.

What’s for Lunch? Grand-wiches and Expand-wiches

So you think you’re stuck with fast food or bologna for lunch, eh?  That is a bad place to be stuck my friends and I’d like to help you out.  Lunch is problematic for a lot of people because the traditional lunch repertoire is rather narrow, i.e. gets boring, i.e. forces you to not make it – settle for mediocre – go out for evil fast food.  It is a mire of danger, despair and disease awaiting you at noontime everyday!  Yikes, this is getting scary.

So in the tradition of Baby Steps and Riffing on a Theme in the Kitchen (I hope you were singing while you made that incredible orange hummus yesterday Little Sis)… I’d like to offer the Grand-wich and the Expand-wich.

Expand-wiches are what you make when you consider and include non-traditional layers for sandwiches.  Look in your fridge and find something that would taste good between slices of whole wheat bread, or rolled into a tortilla or heaped on a flat bread.  Really… most anything:

Sunday I looked in my fridge and found a humble eggplant, bought on sale with several vine mates that would soon be going bad because I bought too many.  I thought, “Gee wouldn’t a roasted eggplant sandwich be good?”  “Yes it would,” I answered myself, “But I don’t have time to roast any eggplant right now!”  So I nuked it instead.

Slice veggies about 1/4 – 1/2″ thick.
I drizzled one with homemade oil and vinegar/tahini / Bragg’s / lemon juice dressing  – I’d recommend about 2 – 3 tsp spread out onto the slice.  (You can use this dressing recipe until I get my act together and quantify the above.)
The other I drizzled with olive oil, rice vinegar and Bragg’s – again maybe a total of 2 – 3 tsp, but this one is meant to be super easy and fast / not really necessary to mix or  measure : just drizzzzle.
Nuked for a total of 2 minutes, covered

Placed my eggplant on a slice of Ezekiel bread that I’d spread with artichoke spread.

I ate it just like that and it was really good, but I highly recommend adding more items from your frig :
lettuce, tomato, cheese, other veggies (hot or cold) or if you eat meat – some roast chicken or turkey left over from another meal.

Expand-wiches expand the list of items you can use in a sandwich.  You can take this idea to either roast,  nuke or go raw with the following items that I think are amenable to sandwiching:
Portabello mushrooms
zucchini or yellow squash
Long way sliced carrots
asparagus
green beans
sauteed greens : swiss chard, kale, collards, bok choy
Namul (as described by Little Sis)
tofu
tempeh
olives
apple slices
sauteed greens
ETC.

Now to make it a grand-wich you add a new and different topping!  See beyond the mustard or mayonnaise in your fridge (although as Baby Steps are still encouraged if you eat more vegetables with your mustard and mayo that is a VERY good thing).  The artichoke spread I used above has a very mayonnaisey consistency.  I described a veggie and bean dip and Little Sis described a scrumptious sounding orange hummus in our most recent posts.  Veggie and bean spreads make your lunches healthier and more interesting.  Worth packing.  Worth eating and worth investing a little time in.  But really is it any more time to make a lunch the night before than it is to leave your place of work to go spend too much money on food that is not very good for you?

If you don’t like sloppy or a sandwich that is too thick, try wraps and tortillas.  You can really just throw stuff in these babies and roll with it ; )

Combinations I’ve tried:

Salad in a wrap with feta cheese or hummus

leftover roast chicken with leftover roasted potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and beets – with mayonnaise, hummus or artichoke dip, or lettuce for some moisture.

leftover roast chicken with leftover pasta sauce – preferably that has big chunks of vegetables like zucchini or eggplant or spinach or swiss chard or onion… you get the idea.  You can top with cheese if you like!

leftover veggies with hummus or bean dip

veggies and fruit

leftover greens sauteed with garlic and cheese….or hummus…. or other bean dip.

tofu with salad in a wrap

tofu, apples, walnuts and artichoke dip

So you see, the bread or tortilla or wrap is your canvas and a great variety of foods are your colors… and as simple as it is, the combinations are endless.  Let us hear about your Grand-wich and Expand-wich creations!