Down-Home Leftovers for Lunch

Leftover spare ribs, corn on the cob wrapped in foil, frozen collard greens

My husband made some crockpot spare ribs the other day. I begged him for just one leftover rib so that I could bring it to lunch this past Tuesday.

Fortunately, I had a couple of additional items in the freezer: Frozen collard greens and frozen corn on the cob. I put a dab of butter on the corn and wrapped it in foil. Then, I added a 1/4 teaspoon onion powder and a 1/2 teaspoon Liquid Smoke to the collards. * I lidded the containers, closed the bag, plugged it in, and let it work its magic for two hours. I had a half hour drive to my senior’s lunch group/German class at Cal State Fullerton. The hot plate in the Hot Logic continued to keep my food warm during the trip. Everything was perfectly cooked and delicious! **

If you are interested in finding out more about the Hot Logic Mini thermal bag, check out “Equipment and Gadgets” under the “Menu” section of this blog. Otherwise, check out

* I would recommend adding a couple of tablespoons water to the collards if you need to leave the bag plugged in longer than two hours. The additional moisture will keep the vegetables from drying out from the heat.

**Cooking spare ribs in a crock pot is quite simple, and it can easily be done during the weekend. Go the packaged foods section of the store where they stock gravies and sauces. Look for either Shillings or McCormick BBQ Slow Cookers Pulled Pork Sauce, and just follow the directions using spare ribs. My husband recommends the following: It will take about eight hours to cook the meat. After six hours, use a basting syringe to suck out the fat that has accumulated in the crock pot. Then cover and continue to cook.

I would like to add that the corn and collards would be excellent with warmed up fried or baked chicken.

Sushi Lunch Menu

My goodness…the heat in Southern California just won’t let up! Today alone will be in the 90’s. Surely not a good day to cook.

When the heat is on, I crave a sushi-based menu: Chilled carbs, with a little salt and protein added. Above is a photo of food I packed myself: Vege sushi, fried chicken I bought at the grocery store, and salad from the produce section. I’ve also packed a mixture of soy and wasabi for the sushi, as well as dressing for the salad.

Everything you see here can be bought pre-made, including the sushi; many supermarkets offer this item at the deli section. By the way, there’s a widely held belief that sushi is always made with raw fish. Not true! The main ingredient in sushi is short-grain rice flavored with rice vinegar. Although some sushi dishes include raw and cooked fish, other types of sushi incorporate avocado, pickled vege’s, or other foods into the final product.

I would like to mention that the containers in the photo were purchased at This website offers a variety of bento-style lunch boxes which are quite useful for all kinds of brown bag dishes. In addition, the containers are dishwasher and microwave-safe. The Bentology items are pricier than the Walmart lunch containers I recommended in an earlier post (See my “Gadgets/Equipment” category on this site). However, you might enjoy looking at the selections.

Tea Time

French-style ham sandwich, strawberries, scones, Starbucks iced tea

When I think of “tea time,” what comes to mind are images of elaborately decorated tea pots, delicate tea sandwiches, and tiered services filled with crumpets and scones. Guess what? A tea time style lunch menu is just as accessible as your local market. And very easy to pack.

  • Tea sandwiches. We have a nice French baguette market near our condo. It’s always filled with delectable pastries of all shapes and sizes.

Today, I purchased a French baguette filled with ham, cheese, and Dijon mustard. Only 250 calories for half a sandwich.

  • Sides. Fresh fruit and baked goods are frequently served with sandwiches at a traditional tea. I already had strawberries and scones that I purchased from my local Albertson’s. (Albertson’s scones are a tasty Quickbread that can be heated up in the microwave for 20 seconds. Great by themselves or with a little butter and jam.)
  • Tea. The most important ingredient! Since the weather is still a bit warm, I chose to purchase some iced tea at Starbucks, which was close by the French baguette shop.

The final product was satisfying….and quite easy to pack for a brown bag lunch!

Meze: Mediterranean Appetizers for Lunch

Meze-style lunch with stuffed grape leaves, grape tomatoes, cheddar cheese, hummus, and pita chips

Here I am in the middle of a California summer. It’s way too hot for a heated lunch. So today, my cold lunch alternative is meze.

“Meze” refers to a selection of appetizers commonly served in Middle Eastern countries. In predominantly Muslim regions, meze can be served as part of a multi-course meal. In Greece, Turkey, and the Balkans, meze is often served as a snack with alcoholic beverages.

Foods in a meze menu can include the following:

  • Dolma (stuffed grape leaves)
  • Sheep, goat, or cow cheeses
  • Kalamata olives
  • Pita or other breads
  • Cold vegetables (for example, cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Grain salad (please see my post from last week for an excellent grain and legume salad)
  • Dips such as hummus, baba ghanoush (mashed eggplant), and tzatziki (yogurt dip)

These are just a few choices. You can find more listed on “Wikipedia” and other culinary resources. Or…just use your imagination. If it’s cold and edible, you can put anything into a meal like this!

I’ve fixed a Meze-style lunch several times for work. It’s easy to assemble, especially if you have access to a Trader Joe’s or Sprouts. Today, all of the ingredients you see in the above photo were purchased at Trader Joe’s. They are pre-made, pre-packaged, and can be dumped into your lunch bag with little preparation on your part.

If you access the Menu section, “Equipment and Gadgets,” my October 18, 2018 post features the lunch bag and plastic containers seen in the photo.


  • “Meze”  Wikipedia:  The Free Encyclopedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.  24 July 2019,.  Web.  26 July 2019.

Brown Bagging on the Road: High Sierras, California

Roast beef sandwich with horseradish, cucumber/tomato salad, Pete’s cold baked beans

Over the last several weeks, my husband and I have travelled all the way from Southern California to Canada, then back south to the Eastern Sierras. We are currently camping at Mono Village above the small town of Bridgeport, off Hwy. 395. Here’s a photo of some meadows below our camp. As you can see, the wild irises are in bloom.

Cow pastures full of wild iris below Mono Village camp site.

There are great opportunities for hiking, fishing, and just taking some nice walks at Mono Village, which is right next to Twin Lakes.

Upper Twin Lake

I make a point of walking the area every morning. To not do so would be forfeiting the wonderful gift of seeing things like this on a daily basis:

Creek near our campsite

Let me get to the food portion of this post. My husband, an experienced RV camp guy, is also a fine cook. Using both his crockpot and grill, Pete has produced many delicious meals at camp.

One day, we decided to have a cold dinner. We’d just gotten our provisions at Von’s supermarket in Bishop, which is about 2 hours south of the campsite, and Pete didn’t really want to cook. Here’s a photo of what we ate:

Roast beef and horseradish sandwich, cold baked beans, deli cucumber-tomato salad

That’s right, cold baked beans. And they were surprisingly good! This dish is easy to make and a convenient, transportable item for a brown bag lunch. Here’s the recipe:

PETE’S COLD BAKED BEANS (3-4 small servings)

  • One 16 oz. can Bush’s vegetarian baked beans
  • One tsp. prepared mustard

Mix beans and mustard together in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for three minutes. Let beans cool and then chill in the frig for an hour or two.

The Bush’s Beans website shows the following nutritional data for 1/2 cup portion:

  • Calories: 130
  • Fat: 0
  • Sugar: 12 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 29 grams
  • Sodium: 550 mg.
  • Fiber: 5 grams
  • Protein: 6 grams
  • Iron: 10%

The website also indicates that this product is gluten-free.

Brown Bagging on the Road: Bishop, California

Roast beef sandwich with broccoli slaw and Saffron Road Chickpea chips

In a previous post, I wrote that my husband and I are driving up the coast to Canada. Our first stop was Bishop, California, which is east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Although it’s heading towards summer here, there is still plenty of snow on the mountains. Below is a photo of a Bishop alfalfa field. Gorgeous!

Alfalfa field with Sierra Nevada in background

We went for groceries at the Vons in Bishop and decided to purchase a cold lunch: Dietz & Watson roast beef sandwich with cheese at the sandwich counter, and some broccoli slaw with red onion and raisins at the deli. But I also had a hankering for something salty and crunchy and headed for the snack aisle.

I selected a bag of Saffron Road Chickpea chips from a plethora of chip choices. As a rule, I don’t eat chips very often because they have little nutritional benefit and are basically empty calories. At my age, I have to watch for that if I want to keep my “girlish figure,” haha! However, I noted that this product, a combination of lentils, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, cornmeal, and peas, contained 4 grams of protein, which is pretty good for chips. The Saffron Road chips are baked and not fried, and they don’t contain any saturated fat. And for my gluten-sensitive readers, this product is advertised as gluten-free.

And they taste pretty good!

Below are nutrition facts for Saffron Road Chickpea chips. You can also find them at Sprouts Market.

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:


  • 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!