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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Two and a half hours later, here’s the result:
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 odorwhile 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.
After wining and dining throughout eastern California this past week, I felt the need for a healthier, lighter lunch. So I pulled out my Hot Logic thermal bag and went to work.
In case you have not been following my posts on the subject, the Hot Logic thermal bag is a marvelous invention for brown baggers who want a hot lunch, but who do not wish to use the office microwave. The device is essentially a small, aluminum-lined lunch bag with an inner hot plate. I usually place my food in a glass Pyrex dish that I purchased with the bag. It takes about 2 to 2 1/2 hours to cook most foods with the Mini Logic. By the way, if you’re going on a road trip, you can plug the Mini into a car converter.
Today, I heated up some frozen breaded tilapia and frozen mixed vegetables. This is what the food looked like going into the Hot Logic:
I plugged the device in. Two and a half hours later, this is what lunch looked like:
All of the food was completely cooked and piping hot. My only criticism is that the breading on the fish was kind of soggy. Otherwise, very tasty.
I should mention that using the Pyrex dish insured there were no food smells emanating from the oven. Great if you want to heat your lunch in your own work area.
My next experiment: Cooking breadless, frozen fish in the thermal bag. The Hot Logic manufacturers guarantee that it can be done. So stay tuned…..
If you are interested in finding out more about this device, 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.
Some years ago, I traveled to London, England with a friend. One of the most delightful encounters I had there involved the “Eat” food chain. You can find these little delis throughout the city, and they offer an unlimited variety of salads and sandwiches for working people who want to purchase a quick and tasty lunch. . Lots of sandwiches….so many different meat, poultry, fish, egg, and vegetarian fillings.
In this post, I have listed a variety of sandwich fillings and breads to try out the next time you plan your brown bag lunches. Consider packing these spreads separately from the bread until you’re ready to eat, so that you don’t end up with a soggy mess. To make lunch even fancier, trim the crusts as they do for tea time in merry old England.
By the way, if you have some favorite spreads, please share on my comment section!
Tomato-cheddar spread. Sandwich on white bread with sliced tomato, aged cheddar, and mayonnaise. Trim crusts and cut into pieces.
Ham, brie and apple. Spread softened butter and dijon mustard inside a split loaf of French bread. Fill with deli ham, sliced brie and sliced green apple. Cut into pieces.
Steak au Poivre. Mix 4 tablespooons each softened butter and chopped fresh herbs. Spread on baguette rounds. Top with thinly sliced steak and crushed peppercorns. (Great if you have some leftover steak from last night!)
Olive-focaccia. Mix 1 cup chopped olives and 3 tablespoons chopped parsley. Drizzle the inside of a split loaf of focaccia with olive oil. Fill with the olive mixture and sliced provoline. Cut into squares.
Salmon-cucumber. Spread softened cream cheese on white bread. Add smoked salmon and sliced cucumber. Trim the crusts and cut into pieces.
Shrimp salad. 1 cup chopped cooked shrimp with 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 tsp. curry powder, 1 teaspoon each grated lemon zest and juice, 1 tsp. each chopped chives, parsley and capers. Spread on white bread and add Bibb lettuce. Trim crusts and cut into pieces.
Crab Salad. Instead of shrimp (see shrimp salad recipe), used 1 cup crabmeat. Add sliced avocado.
Curried egg salad. Mix 3 chopped hard-boiled eggs, 3 tablespoons each chopped celery, red onion and cilantro, 2 teaspoons each dijon mustard and lime juice, and 1/4 cup mayonnaise. Cut white bread into pieces and spread with mango chutney. Add the egg mixture.
Pesto chicken. Mix 2 teaspoons pesto with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Brush on thin baguette rounds. Top with sliced cooked chicken breast and halved grape tomatoes. Drizzle with a little more olive oil.
Liverwurst-onion. Spread dijon mustard on pumpernickel bread. Add liverwurst and sliced red onion.
Roast beef-horseradish. Spread horseradish cream on rye bread. Add sliced cucumber, roast beef, and watercress. Season with salt and pepper.
Salmon salad. Combine 1 cup flaked cooked salmon, 3 tablespoons each mayonnaise, chopped chives and fresh dill, and 1 teaspoon each dijon mustard and lemon juice. Layer and salmon salad and sliced radishes on pumpernickel bread. Trim the crusts and cut into pieces.
Tuna salad. Combine 12 ounces drained canned tuna, 2 tablespoons each minced red onion and chopped nicoise olives, and 1/4 cup olive oil. Drizzle the inside of mini potato rolls with olive oil. Fill with the tuna salad and chopped hard-boiled egg. Cut in half.
Smoked trout. Mix 4 tablespoons softened butter with 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest. Spread on pumpernickel bread. Sandwich with flaked smoked trout and sliced cucumber and onion. Trim the crusts and cut into pieces.
A few years ago, I discovered an Asian-style rice that combines the nutrition of brown rice with the mouth-feel and flavor of white rice. I’m talking about haiga-mai, a product developed in Japan.
Haiga-mai (“rice germ” in Japanese) is processed so that the hull of each individual grain is completely removed, while the germ is left intact. This results in a product that is flavorful and as easy to cook as white rice, but with the B-vitamin content of brown rice. Nishiki makes a nice medium-grain haiga, while Tamari makes a sushi-grade haiga. The Nishiki product is easier to make, as it requires no rinsing or soaking prior to cooking. But I prefer the latter product because I enjoy making sushi with it. (We’ll talk more about home-made sushi when the weather gets a little warmer. It’s easier than you think!) You can purchase both brands of rice on amazon.com.
I should warn you ahead of time that Tamaki haiga is rather pricey. It lists on amazon.com at approximately $21 per 4.4 pounds. However, if you want an Asian rice with superior flavor and consistency, this stuff is great.
Here’s how I prepared my haiga rice this week. By the way, this is something you can do on the weekend, in preparation for your workweek.
HAIGA RICE (2-3 large servings)
First, I placed one cup of rice in a sieve and gently rinsed it under the tap for about one minute. This process removes excess starch and makes for a better consistency.
I placed the rice in a rice cooker and added one cup plus two tablespoons of distilled water. (I can’t emphasize enough that the water you cook your food in makes a big difference in flavor.)
I let the mixture sit for 30 minutes in the rice cooker.
I then turned on the rice cooker. (These devices are a must for habitual rice eaters. They ensure that your rice is cooked perfectly every time.) I should mention Tamaki provides directions for cooking haiga rice in a conventional saucepan
After cooking and cooling the rice, I prepared it for storage. Packaging rice in an airtight container ensures that it will be moist and tasty when reheated. I prefer to use a vacuum food bagger for this purpose. In order to prepare individual servings, I cut a quart-size vacuum bag in half, crosswise. This left one portion of bag with two open ends. I sealed one end of the portion with my bagging device. Then I placed the rice in the two “mini” bags, vacuumed, and sealed. Finally, I put the rice in the freezer until I needed it.
To use, open the bag and dump the rice into a microwave-safe container. Cover and cook on high for two minutes.
Personally, I like to use my Hot Logic mini oven/portable lunch bag to warm up rice. Turns out I had one leftover frozen portion of Chinese chicken and beef. Today, I heated this up with some frozen haiga in the Hot Logic for two hours. Here’s the result. The rice was delicious with a little soy sauce.
For those who are interested in finding out more about the Hot Logic device pictured above, please read about it in my “Gadgets” section. Otherwise, you can look up the device on https://myhotlogic.com. It’s convenient, easy to carry, and for me it has always delivered great results.