Luscious leftover lunches

Come September the world changes from relaxed casual to organized chaos. It means that a number of people, both students and workers, have to give up the summer timetable of holiday heaven to resume responsible work. Yuck!!! Packing lunches is one of those responsibilities. It is a relentless job, every week from Sunday night to Thursday night, from September to next holiday season, approximately 200 lunches per year per person… a lot of lunches.

However, like the morning shower, packing lunch is essential work. It means that you know you have a nutritious lunch which will prevent you from going without food or binging on purchased poor choices. It saves you money, saves empty calories and saves lunch time too. By having a good packed lunch you are assured of having adequate nutrition to get you through the rest of the day with your temper intact and your brain working. If this seems like a daunting task, I have outlined some tips to streamline the process and make it manageable:

• Pack the lunch the night before.  For food safety it allows the food time to chill thoroughly in the refrigerator overnight and it gives you enough time to get it made. Mornings are always short on time.
• Make sure you have an adequate lunch bag and suitable containers to hold the food. This speeds up the packing and allows for more variety.
•Use leftovers; in fact, plan to have leftovers. They are a bonus for the lunch the next day. For instance, if you are doing a roast on the weekend, make sure you have enough to add to lunches during the week.
• Pack food you like to eat but make sure you use Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating as a checklist.
• Make sure you include enough food for snacks; for instance, include at least two fruits – sometimes three – to prevent overloading on cookies and other sweets.
• Plan your lunches ahead so that you will have the groceries on hand to prepare what you need.

The Gorgeous Salad
Pre-washed greens and prepared dressings are a boon for making a salad in a flash. For lunch-to-go all you need is a giant handful of greens, toasted nuts, natural almonds a calcium source and walnuts are both good choices, perhaps some canned beans such as chick peas (drained and rinsed), a sprinkle of blueberries and some pieces of other vegetables such as chopped peppers, celery and tomatoes. You can top with additional protein of your choice whether a hard cooked egg, tinned tuna or salmon or sliced meat. Pack the dressing for the salad in a small container separately and toss with the greens at the last minute to prevent a soggy salad. Add a slice of whole grain bread and a piece of fruit and you’re good to go.

Best Dressing Ever
This delicious all purpose dressing will keep covered in the refrigerator for at least two to three weeks. You have enough dressing here for a number of salads.
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) canola or sunflower oil
1/2 cup (125 mL) cider vinegar
2 tbsp (5 mL) liquid honey
1 1/2 tbsp (22 mL) Dijon mustard
In a food processor, chop garlic, salt and pepper until finely chopped. With motor running, pour oil through feed tube with cider vinegar. Add honey and Dijon mustard. Combine thoroughly and pour into jar and refrigerate.

Pasta Salad with Pesto Dressing
Make a giant bowl of this pasta for dinner and serve warm. Chill the remaining pesto pasta and spoon into plastic containers for lunch for the next few days. If time and your basil crop permits, make your own pesto. It freezes well or will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.
12 oz (375 g) farfalle pasta or rotini
1 cup (250 mL) pesto (freshly made or purchased) see recipe attached
2 bunches green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup (125 mL) sliced stuffed green olives
Grilled Vegetables
2 red peppers, sliced
2 zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch/ 6mm
1/2 cup (125 mL) extra virgin olive oil
Your Own Pesto
2 cups (500 mL) fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup (125 mL) grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (50 mL) toasted pine nuts (optional)
2-3 large cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp (2 mL) fresh black pepper
1 cup (250 mL) extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar as desired.
Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and rinse in cold water. Add to large mixing bowl with pesto, green onions, olives and grilled vegetables.
To grill vegetables: In mixing bowl, toss together red peppers, zucchini and olive oil. Arrange on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 425˚F (220˚C) or grill on barbecue on medium high until deep golden brown. Cool then toss gently with pasta and a spoonful of balsamic vinegar if desired. Makes six to eight servings.
To make pesto: In a food processor, add basil leaves, cheese, pine nuts if using, garlic, and pepper. Puree until smooth and finely chopped. With motor running pour oil through feed tube and puree until smooth. Spoon into jar and refrigerate or freeze. Makes about 1 1/2 cups pesto.

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