Larrupin

Uncommonly Good

Salads, Baked Potatoes, Crackers and Cheese

Here’s what I’ve had for lunch the past few days.

Tuna on Salad

Tuna on Salad

Friday I put the leftover tuna salad on top of a bed of romaine and butter leaf lettuce topped with a few tomatoes, bread and butter pickles and honey mustard dressing.

I planned to get my lunches for the week organized over the weekend and have them read to go on Monday, but alas, I didn’t. I spent the weekend researching my family tree and editing a paper for my nephew so, nothing happened in the kitchen.

Baked Potato and Salad

Baked Potato and Salad

On Monday, I put together a pile of lettuce for a simple salad, grabbed an already baked potato, some sour cream, green onion, cheese and I was good to go. The salad was romaine, butter leaf lettuce, feta cheese, sunflower seeds, croutons, and honey mustard dressing. I cut the potato in half and zapped it in the microwave and then add butter, sour cream, green onion, and grated cheddar cheese.

The baked potato was planned, I just didn’t know when I would need it. One evening last week I baked about 5 potatoes. I doused them in olive oil and wrapped them in foil and put them in my toaster oven until they were tender. I ate one when they were done and turned a couple of small ones into hash browns sometime over the past few days and I had two left. I ate one Monday and had the last one today. Yesterday I had another salad and some crackers and cheese and tomato juice.

My desk is stocked with almonds, pistachios, peanuts, and dried apricots. I also have some crackers, cream cheese and Major Grey’s Chutney in the fridge at work in case of emergency. That has come in handy this week with my lack of preparation.

My crisper is running low, but I want to empty it before restock. If I buy too frequently I overlook something and end up having to toss it. With my slim budget I don’t need to be throwing food way.

I stopped by Target this evening for some dog food and got the very basics on my grocery list: milk, eggs, bananas, grapes, olive oil, yogurt… I think that’s about it. Tomorrow I’ll make a banana drink for breakfast. For lunch I think I’ll pull a frozen sloppy Joe patty out of the freezer and that for lunch. We’ll see if that pans out in the morning. 😉

April 28, 2010 Posted by | Brown Bag, Salad | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome to Brown Bagging

BLT Soup

Right after New Year’s Day, many morning news shows fill spare air time with variations on the theme, New Year’s Resolutions. In January Dr. Oz filled one of those slots on Good Morning America and listed the top ten things you can eat, or change about your eating habits, to be healthier this year. Number one on his list was  “avoid saturated fats.”

My weakness is salty, savory foods rather than sweets, and in particular I love French fries and potato chips. Going out to lunch, usually to a fast food joint, meant I was eating a lot of burgers and fries. My weight was also creeping up and add all that to the unexpected she-should-have-died heart attack my mom had two years ago and I decided it was time for me to make some changes.

Spinach Strawberry Salad

Spinach Strawberry Salad

I decided to start with Dr. Oz’s “avoid saturated fats,” primarily my favorites: French fries, greasy burgers and potato chips. But in order to do that, I needed to change my lunch routine without breaking the bank. The logical thing to do was to make my own lunch. So that’s what I’ve been doing for more than a month.

Every single day.

In one month I’ve saved about $160, and lost one pant size. W00t!

Since I started brown bagging, I’ve had lots of salads, some soups, and a few sandwiches. I’ve had some leftovers: spaghetti, roast chicken and rice, things like that. I’ve also stocked my desk with filling, good-for-me snacks.

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

While I’m doing this to eat healthier, I’m also broke. It’s much cheaper to buy at the grocery store than at a convenience store so I’m on a zero tolerance policy when it comes to “extra” spending.  I take coffee from home. I buy milk by the gallon and liters or half-gallons of juice and take it to work in recycled bottles. I make my own “iced” herb tea to have with lunch.

I have some to-go salad containers with good lids I saved from my fast-food days that work great for salads. I do the final salad assembly at my desk to keep them crisp and fresh. The same with sandwiches. I heat the soups in the microwave and take the garnishes in separate containers.

Mushroom Potato Soup

Mushroom Potato Soup

I have another blog, Larrupin, with details and recipes—some good for brown bags, some not so much—but this one will be more how-to. I’ll share the plans and lists and how I go about doing this every day. I’ll also show you the bowls, containers, bottles and bags I use to get it there every day. That part is still a work in progress.

So far I’ve been eating at my desk, which is not much of a break. But now that I’ve established the habit of taking my lunch and the weather is improving, I’ll take it to the park, just three blocks from my office, or eat at my desk and then take a walk.

What do you usually do for lunch? Where do you go to eat and how much do you spend? Do you eat healthy, or scarf down a fast lunch of burgers and fries? And if you’re a fan of brown bags let me know how you do it and what your favorites are. And while you’re at it, click the box to get email updates when I create a new post. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Jan

April 18, 2010 Posted by | Brown Bag, Soup | , , , | 2 Comments

Mushroom Potato Soup

It’s another snowy day in Oklahoma.  And yes, it’s the first day of spring. So it’s a good day for soup.

I bought leeks last week for potato soup and I also had almost eight ounces of mushrooms in the fridge that I needed to use. But instead of making two soups, I put them together and came up with this one.

First, I took the outer leaves off the leeks and after removing the root end I cut them into super thin slices. I put the slices in a colander ran water over them while separating the rings to be sure and get all the dirt from between the layers. Leeks are part of the family of onions and, while similar to onions, they have a milder flavor. I like the flavor they give my soups and stews, and I was also happy to see them on this website as one of the World’s Healthiest Foods.

When I was satisfied the leeks were clean, I put them in a three quart sauce pan over low heat. I added a splash of olive oil and stirred it into the leeks.  While the leeks started to saute, I washed and sliced the mushrooms, saved a few of the best for garnish and added the rest of the mushrooms to the pan.

When the leeks were soft and the mushrooms had given up their liquid I added some white wine, just to cover the veggies, and let it continue to cook while I peeled the potatoes. I cut the potatoes into medium chunks and put them in the pan with the leeks and mushrooms. I added water* to just barely cover the potatoes and turned up the heat.

*NOTE:  I usually use chicken broth instead of water, or at least water with chicken bullion, but my son is dating a vegetarian, and has agreed to try it for a month. He was coming over later in the day, so I made this vegetarian for him. I didn’t mention the mushrooms though. He insists he doesn’t like them. Shhhh…

It wasn’t long before the potatoes were fork tender. I turned the heat down and used a potato masher to break it all into smaller pieces. Next I got out my immersion blender and used it to turn the potatoes and mushrooms into a thick puree. I seasoned the soup with salt and pepper and my own garlic rich Janz herb blend. It very thick so now I added milk. I poured in a little at a time and stirred it in until it was the soupy consistency I was looking for.

When I was ready to eat, I filled a bowl and garnished it with a small dollop of sour cream, several super thin slices of carrots (I used a potato peeler to get them paper thin), fresh mushroom slices and a sprinkle of green onions. I am a pepper fiend so I had to add fresh cracked pepper to the top.

When my son arrived, I garnished his soup with carrot slices and grated Jarlsberg cheese. Other possible garnishes include avocado slices, grated Parmesan, seasoned croutons, and crumbled bacon.

Here’s the ingredient list with estimated quantities.

The Soup:

  • 4 leeks, sliced very thin, separated, washed well
  • 6–8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
  • Olive oil, a tablespoon or so
  • About 1/2 C white wine
  • 5–6 medium potatoes, peeled, large dice
  • Water (or chicken broth) to cover potatoes
  • Seasonings: salt, pepper, Janz Seasoning Blend
  • Milk

Garnishes:

  • Sour Cream
  • Carrot slices, paper thin
  • Mushroom slices, very fresh mushrooms
  • Chives
  • Grated cheese, whatever sounds good to you
  • Avocado slices
  • Seasoned croutons
  • Crumbled bacon

Mmmmm…. Larrupin!

March 21, 2010 Posted by | Soup | , , , , | Leave a comment

Snow Day Minestrone

Thursday, with an ice storm underway and the snow moving in, my daily Chow email came with a recipe for Minestrone.
Minestrone is a hearty Italian peasant soup, made with the vegetables of the season and it sounded perfect for Snow Day. (When the grown-ups have Snow Day it is an official designation and should be capitalized, unlike snow days when the schools close but most of the grown ups still have to work.)

I found there is no “original” recipe for minestrone, but the ingredients were determined by the season and region in which it was made. Minestrone can be a brothy soup with vegetables that still have some crunch to them; or it can be cooked for hours, breaking down all the vegetables into a thick medley of amazing flavors. This recipe leans toward the brothy version.

I skipped the butter in the original recipe and went with just olive oil. I found other recipes that started with diced bacon and then adding the vegetables to to bacon and drippings. I’ll try that next time. This is how my Snow Day Minestrone played out.
Prologue
Early in the day I put 1 cup dried Great Northern Beans (they were the only dried beans I happened to have) in a large saucepan, covered them with water, and brought it to a boil over high heat. Then I got the newspaper and settled down. About 30 minutes later I remembered the beans and ran to the kitchen in time to hear the sizzle of the last of the water evaporating. Fortunately, I caught them before they started to burn, so I refilled the pot and put them back on the stove. This time with low heat. I let them cook for another hour or so and when some were tender and others were still al dente I removed the pot from the heat. You can skip this step if you want to used canned beans.
Act One:  Saute
For the soup, I put my pot on the stove and turned the heat to medium. I tossed in the onions, celery, and red pepper with a splatter of olive oil.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper, tasting as you go. I let them soften and then added the garlic
and stirred it into the mixture for a minute or so. Next came the diced potato and carrot. I scraped the bottom of the pan to include all the good stuff that sticks to the bottom. When everything looked good I poured in the can of tomatoes and the juice and added the bay leaf. I let that cook together a couple of minutes.
Act Two: Simmer
I stirred in the liquid from the cooked beans. I added the green beans and liquid, half the zucchini, the peas and stirred occasionally until zucchini softened, about 10 minutes. Next came the broth, the pasta—I used small shell
macaroni— and half the parsley and let it simmer about 5–8 minutes.  Finally came the cooked beans, the leftover liquid, and the last of the zucchini. And just for fun I threw in a handful of alphabet pasta. The whole pot continued to simmer until the pasta was ready and the last of the zucchini still had a little crunch to it.

Epilogue: Serve

Remove from heat and stir in the remaining parsley, taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with grated Parmesan, freshly ground pepper, and my personal favorite, Tabasco sauce. Garnish with crunchy garlic seasoned croutons.

The Players

1 cup dried Great Northern beans
2 T olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced and diced somewhat chunky
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 small russet potato, medium dice
2 medium celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled, thinly sliced
1 medium bay leaf
1 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
15 oz can green beans
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
1/2 cup frozen peas
4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup small shell macaroni and 1/2 C alphabet pasta
1/2 C finely chopped Italian parsley (about 1/2 bunch)
Grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese, for garnish
Garlic Seasoned Homemade Croutons

January 31, 2010 Posted by | Soup | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

%d bloggers like this: