Monday, February 25, 2013

Lunchboxing

These past days, I've decided that my stomach and campus food aren't ever getting back together.  So, I've taken to packing my own lunches!
The lessons I've learned while packing lunch feel rather valuable, and so I will share with the Internet my lunch ideas from time to time, as well as just some good lunch-packing tips to keep in mind if you want to take a home cooked meal to work.

The sample recipe I've included is Japanese inspired.  The main part of it is rice, fermented soybeans, and an egg.  The side dish is salad, and the snacks are nori and carrots.  The process takes about an hour and a half, but you will be actively working for 15 minutes at most.  The rest of the time is just for the rice to cook.

Rules of Thumb:
♕ If your lunchbox is solid, try to have it just filled completely.  This reduces how much your food jiggles around as you carry it.
♕ While preparing your food, think of meals that you enjoy cold.
♕ Also, think of foods that become better the longer they sit, like marinades or tiramisus which absorb cream.
♕ Try to increase your collection of small containers, a few centimeters tall.  These are excellent for holding garnishes like sauces, berries, nuts, and herbs separate from your meal until right before eating.
♕ Following that strain of thought, try to keep as many things as possible separate in your lunch.  Sandwiches are oft best fresh assembled, so keep the bread away from the soggy components if at all possible.
♕ Invest in reusable plastic eating utensils, plastic baggies, and plastic containers for maximum glass-shard prevention.  Tight screw on lids are nice too, lest your lunch gets leaky and freaky.
♕ Know how you respond to certain foods.  I get very drowsy after eating Greek yoghurt always, so when I want it for lunch I also pack some coffee.
♕ As always, try to keep things healthy.  A multicolored lunch filled with whole grains, good proteins you don't mind eating cold, and many fruits and vegetables will provide great satiety.
♕ If you are worried about having halitosis after finishing lunch, you can pack some foods which naturally cleanse the breath, such as a few cardamom pods or cilantro.

Sample Lunch Ingredients:

 1 cup / 90g forbidden rice (a purple glutinous rice sold in many Asian supermarkets)
 2 cups / 475mL water
 1 pouch (60g) natto
 1 egg
 1T / 15g mustard
 .5T / 7mL soya sauce
 1 cup / 50g torn lettuce
 1t / 3g black sesame seeds
 2T / 5mL salad dressing
 Handful carrots, sliced as you wish.
 1-2 sheets toasted nori, cut into ~6cm by ~3cm rectangles
Under the egg, bottom left, sits the natto, while at the top
you can see the forbidden rice in all of its blackness.
I use a small, rinsed container from peanut butter for my
main dish.

Procedure

For the rice

 Boil the water, add rice, cover
 Simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally
 Take off heat and let sit for 15 more minutes.
 Spoon about a fourth of the recipe into a small sealable plastic container.
note: as soon as you are done with the rice, refrigerate.  Forbidden rice gets its deep purple color from minerals and all sorts of healthy molecules the grains contain inside.  While this makes the food nutritious for you and me, it also makes it delicious for many bacteria.  I left the cooked rice on my stovetop overnight, and in the morning there was so much bacterial growth in it that it had to be disposed of.
If you cook brown or wild rice instead of forbidden, the same warning applies.  The risk is lessened with white rice.  You should still refrigerate it though.
 Top with natto.
 On a pan, break an egg and cook to desired doneness.
 Top natto and rice.
 Into separate container(s), pour mustard and soy sauce. 
note: they are added to the natto and rice.


For the salad

 Tear leaves, cover in sesame seeds.  Put into container.
 Pour dressing into separate container.

Assembly

 Into one plastic bag, place carrots.
 Into another, place nori.
 Arrange your salad and rice containers.
 Into remaining space, put dressing containers.
 Place plastic bags on top of containers.
 Insert eating utensil (chopsticks or fork)  
 Refrigerate until ready to go

♕ The morning of, I made some green tea to go with the meal.


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