When There’s No Time to Cook….

We’re all been in that situation. Stuff stacks up on us, we can’t get to the market for our groceries during the weekend, and now Monday morning is here. So, are we stuck with McDonalds for lunch?

It doesn’t have to be that way. Get into the habit of maintaining staples for those times that you can’t go grocery shopping. Here are a couple of items I always have in my pantry:

Canned soups. I tend towards hearty, main-course items. My favorite products are Progresso Lentil Soup, Amy’s Curried Lentil Soup, and Trader Joe’s Organic Chili. I like legume soups because they are full of protein and fiber and make a complete meal.

Energy bars. I keep Atkins bars on hand when it’s not convenient to cook or pack breakfast or lunch. I like Atkins especially because the meal bars contain a lot of protein and fiber. Of course, I would not recommend a steady diet of processed foods like Atkins. But they’re helpful in a pinch.

Hard-boiled eggs. I like to keep them on hand when I don’t have time to prepare a complete breakfast.

Cheese. I always have cheese on hand. My favorite is Trader Joe’s Lite Cheddar. One slice is only 80 calories, with 4 grams of fat and 8 grams of protein. After I’ve opened a package, I wrap it using my vacuum bagger. When stored in this way, cheese is good for two to three weeks after purchase.

Food saver vacuum bagger

Frozen foods. I much prefer to fix my own meals, but I also store frozen dinners in case I haven’t gotten to the market. My favorite brands are Amy’s frozen meals, Saffron Road, and Cederlane. Because I own a Hot Logic thermal bag, I can pack frozen vegetables, legumes, and meats for cooking during the workday. If you do not have access to an office microwave and are curious about how the Hot Logic works, please check out the “Equipment and Gadgets” section of this blog’s “Menu.” You can also access http://www.myhotlogic.com regarding information about the device.

Flavorings. When I prepare foods with my Hot Logic thermal bag, I like to have sauces and other items for adding flavor to pre-cooked dishes. For example, I use powdered onion and powdered garlic (found in the spice/baking section of the supermarket) to enhance the taste of frozen vegetables. When I cook fish in the thermal bag, my favorite flavoring is Lawry’s Lemon Pepper sauce (found in the sauce aisle of the supermarket). I love collard greens, and I usually spice up this vegetable with Liquid Smoke (found in the sauce aisle of the supermarket.)

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This week, I was somewhat at a loss for what to bring to my regular Tuesday lunchgroup. (We usually meet right before German class for seniors at Cal State Fullerton.) I looked in my cupboards and noted some chili I had purchased at Trader Joe’s.

I packed this item in my Hot Logic thermal bag, along with some corn tortillas I had purchased at Sprout’s. I made sure to wrap the tortillas loosely in foil so that they did not come in direct contact with the hot plate in the thermal bag. Otherwise, they would have hardened.

I also added some Trader Joe’s Lite Cheddar to the chili. I heated everything for a couple of hours. Here are the results…a nice, hot meal!

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