Cozy Food

Toastabag cheese toast and tomato soup

It’s winter in California. The rain’s coming down, day after day. As I look out the window at grey skies and sheets of water, I’m thinking “hygge.”

What’s that? Well, it’s something I learned about while visiting Scandinavia last summer. “Hygge” refers to an ambience of comfort and coziness. There’s a culture around hygge during the winter months in Scandinavia, where friends and relatives spend time with each other equipped with hot cocoa, comfort foods, and candlelight. Given that much of Northern Europe is locked up in ice and snow during winter, the idea of hygge is certainly an attractive one…a great, big winter hug.

Here are some convenient ways to hug yourself with hygge at work:

Hot chocolate.  Instead of coffee, consider packing hot cocoa for work. There are several instant mixes at your local grocery store that you might try. If you still need that caffeine kick, you can add some instant coffee to the mix.

For those of you who have access to Trader Joe’s, I’ve become fond of TJ’s Sipping Chocolate. I usually have that with my Blue Diamond Almond Milk 30, to save on calories.

Hot cereal. There’s nothing that spells H-Y-G-G-E like hot cereal. Even if you don’t have time to make it at home, you can still put something together for the microwave at work. Here’s a recipe I used with TJ’s Instant Oatmeal:

  • One packet Trader Joe’s Unsweetened Instant Oatmeal
  • One tablespoon raisins
  • 1/4 cup Trader Joe’s Crunch Dried Honeycrisp Apples
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • One packet stevia
  • Two teaspoons butter or margarine
  • One cup milk
  • One tablespoon chopped walnuts (optional)

Mix all ingredients, except walnuts, in a loosely covered microwave safe bowl. Cook in microwave on High for 90 seconds. Add the walnuts. Enjoy!

If you want to make this at work, combine the first six ingredients together the night before work, place in a sealed container, and keep it in the frig. Pack the walnuts and milk separately. By the time you get to that workplace microwave, you’re ready to go.

You can also easily nuke this dish at home in the morning and put in a Thermos for work. Add a little extra hot water to keep the oatmeal moist.

Soup. There’s nothing like a hot Thermos full of soup on a cold day. Here are some easy choices.

  • Lentil soup. Long ago, I hit upon a really easy way to spice up pre-made lentil soup. First, I saute chopped onions and other assorted vegetables. I add some curry powder and saute a minute more. Then I add chopped tomatoes and saute another minute. I add a couple of cans of Progresso Lentil Soup, mix it all together, and simmer for about 20 minutes. This is a very easy recipe to make,and it packs well in a metal thermos. You can find the specifics under the “Recipes” category listed on this blog.
  • Asian-style ramen. I’m fond of Top Ramen, but I recently found something better. While shopping at Sprouts Market, I discovered Lotus Foods Millet & Brown Rice Ramen. You can also get it online at amazon.com. This product contains 9 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber per serving. Unfortunately, it’s rather high in sodium, but a low sodium option was listed on amazon.com. I cooked the ramen for 6 minutes to get the noodles to the desired tenderness. To add nutrition to the mix, I would recommend adding some chopped baby bok choy at the beginning of cooking. It should be tender at the end of the cooking time. Add some sliced hard-boiled egg as garnish and you have even more protein. Works well with a metal Thermos.
  • Pacific Foods soup. This company offers a variety of soups packaged in cartons, and you can find them in many main stream stores. One of my favorites is Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup. Heat up and pour into a thermos, or store in a Crockpot Lunch Warmer (see “Gadgets” under my categories). And what goes better with tomato soup than…..
  • Cheese toast. All you need is a toaster. Really. We have a Bed, Bath, and Beyond nearby, and there I discovered Toasta bags. (You can get these online at amazon.com. Look under “toastabags.”) Put a couple of slices of cheese between bread. Add some pop by slipping in three or four slices of dill pickle. Spread the outside of the bread lightly with butter or margarine. Pack in your lunch bag, along with one toasta bag. When you get to work, put the sandwich in the toastabag, and put the entire package in the toaster. You may need to experiment a little to get the right consistency. But I can tell you that the result will be perfectly melted cheese and toasty bread. The instructions for toastabag indicates that you can used the bag again and again after washing. I have yet to test that theory, but I can tell you that my sandwich came out pretty good.

Let’s here it for hygge!

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