On the Road!

On the road to Canada!

To all my readers….my husband and I will be on the road until the beginning of July. We are driving up the Pacific coast all the way to Victoria, British Columbia. How exciting!

I will continue to write posts as we make our way north, and then south. I’m anticipating lots of stops at restaurants, diners, etal. It will be interesting to see how the foods we encounter might translate into brown bagging. Also, my husband is expert at RV cooking. Which means that we may have to change this blog to “RV Cooking,” at least for the present, lol!

Meanwhile, there will be lots of opportunities to discuss books and articles I read on the way. I already have a list of books I’d love to recommend.

Salad Days

I was in the mood for salad today, but too lazy to make it myself. So, off to Trader Joe’s.

When I worked full-time, I depended on TJ’s premade, single-serving salads to get me through the week. My favorite has always been the TJ Tomato and Mozzarella, made with fresh mozzarella, grape tomatoes, pine nuts, and a lovely spring mix consisting of spinach, chard, arugula, and various types of lettuce.

TJ’s salads come in containers that fit into most standard-size lunch bags. The dressing is packed separately in a plastic envelope.

I added an envelope of Starkist tuna for protein, and half an avocado for….well, substance. It was delicious!

If you’re into counting calories and nutrients, here’s the label for this item:

Nutrients for Trader Joe’s Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

As you can see, using the entire envelope of their balsamic dressing adds a lot of calories. I chose to use half and found that satisfactory. Another option is to use your favorite low-fat balsamic vinaigrette. There are several brands in most supermarkets.

Whole Wheat Chicken Enchiladas/Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice

Whole wheat enchiladas with cilantro-lime brown rice



Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone!

This menu may look a little complex, but the two dishes can be quickly and easily assembled with pre-cooked, pre-packaged ingredients. The rice and enchiladas freeze and re-heat well in a microwave or Hot Logic thermal bag (see my “Gadgets” section for more on the Hot Logic). A great brown bag lunch!

Let’s begin with the enchiladas:

WHOLE WHEAT CHICKEN ENCHILADAS (6 enchiladas)

  • 2 cups pre-cooked shredded cooked chicken (use store-bought rotisserie chicken)
  • 2 8-oz. packages Frontera Enchilada Sauce (in Latino food section. You can substitute a 16 oz. can of enchilada sauce)
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups Cheddar cheese (you can buy pre-grated Cheddar cheese in the deli section of your supermarket)
  • 6 “La Tortilla Factory” Low Carb whole wheat tortillas *

1.Pour one package of enchilada sauce into a saucepan. Add chicken. Heat on “Low” until simmering. Turn off the burner.

2.Place a tortilla in a 9”x9” casserole dish. Put 1/4 cup of the chicken-sauce mixture in the middle of the tortilla. Add 1/4 cup grated cheese and top with a couple of slices of onion. Roll up the tortilla around the mixture, leaving ends open. Repeat until you have six completed enchiladas.

3.Pour the second package of sauce over the enchiladas. Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese and sliced onions on top. This dish can be microwaved on High for one to one and a half minutes, or until cheese is bubbling.

*Each La Tortilleria tortilla contains 50 calories, 8 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, and 11 grams of carbohydrates. In addition, each tortilla has only two grams of unsaturated fat and 200mg of sodium.

CILANTRO-LIME BROWN RICE (2 medium servings)

I first tried this dish at Cheesecake Factory and fell in love at first bite. Their version calls for white rice. In the recipe below, I use brown.

  • One plastic envelope Trader Joe’s Frozen Brown Rice
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro stir-in paste (I found a tube in the produce department at my local Albertson’s)
  • Juice of one large lime

1.Heat up the rice according to instructions.

2.Stir in the cilantro paste and lime juice. Delicious with the enchiladas!



Meal Prep Made Easy

Walmart 2-compartment meal prep container

I’m always on the lookout for gadgets and tools that will make weekend brown bag meal prep easier. This week, I found some neat plastic containers at Walmart that will do the trick nicely.

2-compartment food containers.

These 2-compartment containers can be used both in the freezer and microwave. And for those of you who have been following my posts concerning the Hot Logic thermal bag….it works well in that device also.

A 15-pack of the containers cost just under $10.00. My opinion? They’re worth it. You can portion out your meals for the week into the containers and stack them in the freezer. In the morning, you just grab one and take it to work.

By the way, you can purchase 1-compartment containers at Walmart also. Not sure about 3-compartment, but I’ve seen these advertised on amazon.com.

Book Review: “31 Paleo Brown Bag Lunches to Go” by Mary Scott

Many of my FaceBook friends have asked about low carb and paleo recipes for brown bagging. With this in mind, I am recommending 31 Paleo Brown Bag Lunches To Go as an easy way to access recipes for lunch.

Before we go any further, let’s define “paleo diet.” According to mayoclinic.org:

A paleo diet is a dietary plan based on foods similar to what might have been eaten during the Paleolithic era, which dates from approximately 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago.

A paleo diet typically includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds–foods that in the past could be obtained by hunting and gathering. A paleo diet limits foods that became common when farming emerged about 10,000 years ago. These foods include dairy products, legumes and grains.

“Paleo Diet: What is it and Why is it so Popular?”
Author: Mayo Clinic Staff
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/paleo-diet/art-20111182

Adherence to this diet means no breads or pastas made of grain or legumes; and no dairy items like cows milk, yogurt, or cheese. Also, honey is used as a sweetener instead of cane sugar. Because of the absence of these food groups, the paleo diet will tend to be lower in simple carbohydrates and sugars than other meal plans.

Scott’s book includes paleo versions of sandwiches, salads and hot main dish meals such as chili without beans and taco salad without tortillas. Sandwiches are to be wrapped in lettuce, and at least one recipe for enchiladas substitutes collard greens for the traditional corn tortilla wrap.

Here are some examples of recipes listed:

  • Sandwiches: “Beef Lettuce Wraps,” “Ham Wrap,” Thai Chicken Wraps.”
  • Salads: “Kale Crunch Salad,” “Lemon Salmon Salad,” “Sweet Chicken Salad,” “Stuffed Tomatoes,” “Orange Salad.”
  • Hot main dishes: “Chicken Enchiladas,” “Beef Curry,” “Bacon and Beef Chili.”

While the hot main dishes will require the availability of an office microwave or Hot Logic device, there are also plenty of cold dishes that require less prep. I would strongly recommend that fillings for sandwiches be packed separately from lettuce wraps, to avoid unnecessary sogginess and mess.

Big plus: The author lists detailed nutritional info for each of the recipes.

You can purchase this book on amazon.com in Kindle ($5.99) or paperback ($7.99) form.

Cooking Fish At Work….Can You Do That??

Yes, you can–without offending your coworkers.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve shared my experiences using the Hot Logic Mini Thermal Bag. It’s a portable nylon convection oven with a hot plate insert. When used with a sealed Pyrex dish, this wonderful gadget seals in flavor and odor while warming up and cooking a variety of foods.

This week, I cooked a raw food product for the very first time: Frozen salmon. I must admit that I had my doubts as to whether this would work. However, the manufacturer assured that the thermal bag could do the job.

Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon

I picked the fish up at my local Sprouts. Although wild salmon is rather expensive at almost $5 per serving, I’m really fond of the flavor and am willing to pay extra. Also, wild salmon tends to contain more healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids.

I put a slice of the salmon in my Hot Logic, skin side up, along with some frozen vegetables. Then I topped the fish with Lawry’s Lemon-Pepper Marinade and added chopped fresh dill. Finally, I plugged in the device. (By the way, I did not defrost any of this food prior to cooking.)

Salmon lunch before cooking

Two and a half hours later, here’s the result:

The finished product

Everything was completely cooked and piping hot. The vegetables were tender but not overdone; the salmon was cooked just right. It was delicious!

Best of all, there was no fishy odor while the food cooked. And when I opened the Pyrex dish, the aroma was far less than it would have been with the use of a microwave oven. I should mention that glass Pyrex seems to be the only material that seals in flavor and odor. You can safely use the Mini Logic with plastic and foil containers, but you end up with a smellier cooking process.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Hot Logic Mini thermal bag, please see https://myhotlogic.com for more information. Also, look under the “Gadgets” category under the Menu section of this blog. Finally, you can purchase the Hot Logic Thermal Bag (also referred to as a “mini oven”) on amazon.com. The bag plus matching Pyrex dish runs about $55.