Office Lunch Makeover: Delicious & Portable Fall Dishes

Cooking healthy meals to bring to work for lunch is usually the last thing you feel like doing after working a long day. So instead of trying to squeeze in your cooking on a weeknight, make a big batch of a healthy dish on Sunday and freeze individual portions. Just bring one to work and pop it into the microwave. Not only is it healthier to make and bring your own lunches, it can help out your wallet quite a bit as well. The average worker spends $2,000 a year eating out lunch during the work week!

So what to cook? Here are some easy, healthy and seasonal recipes to get you started.

Spinach Mushroom Pasta
Adapted from myrecipes.com
Makes 4 servings
8 ounces whole-wheat pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound sliced mushrooms
6 ounces cream cheese
½ cup milk
8 cups lightly packed spinach
¼ cup chopped fresh chives
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Heat olive oil in a large pan, then add garlic and mushrooms. Cook for five minutes or until the mushrooms are soft. Add cream cheese and milk, and heat until boiling. Stir often. Add spinach and cook for three minutes or until it’s wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour vegetable mixture over pasta, cool and freeze in individual portions. After reheating, serve with chives and parmesan on top.

Chicken with Barley and Mushrooms
Adapted from myrecipes.com
Makes 4 servings
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ pound cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup dry white wine
3½ cups chicken broth
1 cup pearl barley
3 tablespoons dry sherry
2 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 small zucchinis, quartered lengthwise and cut into ½-inch thick slices
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Cut chicken into bite-size pieces and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces and sauté until lightly browned, about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken from pan, then add the remaining tablespoon of oil, mushrooms and onion. Cook the mixture for about 7 minutes or until mushrooms are lightly browned. Add garlic to the mixture and cook for two more minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer mushroom mixture to a bowl and set aside. Add white wine to the hot pan and de-glaze it by using a wooden spoon to scrape browned bits off bottom. Add 1½ cups broth and barley to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until most of liquid is absorbed and barley is tender (will take about 25 minutes or so). Stir in remaining 2 cups broth, sherry, carrots and thyme. Bring that to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook 10 minutes. Return the chicken and mushroom mixture to the pan. Finish it off by adding in the zucchini and parsley and simmering until chicken is cooked through, about 7 minutes. Cool and freeze in individual portions. After reheating, top with parmesan.

Hearty Beef Stew
Adapted from allrecipes.com
Makes 10 servings
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds cubed beef stew meat
4 cubes beef bouillon, crumbled
4 cups water
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons cold water
Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add beef and cook until brown. In a small bowl, dissolve bouillon in water, then add to pot. Add rosemary, parsley and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for one hour. After the hour is up, stir in potatoes, carrots, celery and onion. In a small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in 2 teaspoons cold water. Stir into stew to thicken. Cover and simmer 1 more hour. Cool and freeze in individual portions.

If you’re looking for more fall-inspired recipes or ideas for lunch, check out these posts:

Photo credit: Daniel Panev

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