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Ideas for lunches at work--quick-prep please!

Hi all,

I'm a pesce-lacto-ovo vegetarian, which is to say that I don't eat poultry/pork/red meat. I find it difficult to eat healthfully for lunch at work without bringing tuna every day, which I don't want to do due to the smell. It is very important to me to have some protein during lunch so I don't get headaches/fatigued.

So, requirements:

-easy/quick to throw together
-protein strongly preferred (tofu/eggs/nuts/cheese, or tuna in a more disguised version than a sandwich)
-high in fiber would be good
-no poultry/pork/red meat
-reasonably healthy

So--thoughts? I think I will have space for a small fridge and a microwave (I will have a small office, but it will be my own--and in case you can't tell I haven't started yet!).

Thanks in advance!

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  1. How about a quinoa salad? I make mine with quinoa, black beans (you can used canned if you're in a hurry), corn, red pepper, olive oil, salt, pepper, lime juice, scallions. It's filling, healthy and pretty quick. You can also make a bunch at the beginning of the week and store in the fridge.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Miss Needle

      I made quinoa tabbouli this week to bring for lunch and it turned out really well...took me a grand total of 20 minutes (and only because my "kitchen" isn't big enough to boil water and chop veg at the same time). Quinoa, garlic, lemon juice, salt & pepper, then add parsley, mint, cucumber, and red pepper. Quinoa has (relatively) a lot of protein, and is a whole grain...

    2. I always make onigiri to take with me to class and I have no access to a fridge or a microwave. I make the onigiri the night before and wrap the seaweed around it when I am about to eat it.

      I like to stuff it with tsukemono, umeboshi, kimchi, etc

      1. I am like you - almost. I do eat chicken :S

        I really like the combination of pasta, veggies and beans - two of my favorites are from cooking light -

        This one is very garlicky - spinach and feta are the centerpiece here. It calls for garbanzo beans, but i have also used cannellini & great northern:

        And there is another one I love that I can't seem to find, but I will try to summarize:
        Combine 1 c. Cherry tomatoes (sliced in half),
        2 tbsp fresh basil
        and a 2 to 1 mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar

        Boil some pasta, and drain a can of cannellini beans into a strainer. When the pasta is done, dump the pasta water (try to save some water if you can) over the beans in the strainer. Combine pasta, leftover water, and tomato mixture.

        But there are endless combinations. You can make a batch for dinner, and it can make you lunches 1/2 the week. Seriuosly though - if you are looking for fiber and protein, beans cannot be beat. I hope you like them - and if you don't - you should try!! :)

        1. I, too, need protein at lunch. I like things based on peas/beans:
          -salad of French lentils with red wine vinegar and olive oil
          -hummus and crudite and/or pita wedges
          -salad of chick peas and cubed, cooked potatoes with any oil/vinegar or mustard-based dressing
          -marinated fava or other large, white beans with crackers
          -leftover beans and rice from last night's dinner (I always make several meal's worth)
          -bean and cheese burritos or tacos (keep the "wet" ingredients separate from the tortillas, heat the filling and then assemble).
          -cottage cheese with things mixed in (I like celery and carrots, lots of black pepper)
          -Egg salad (I'm one of those people who love it - I use light mayonnaise)
          -Greek yogurt with things mixed in
          -shrimp salad (either a light mayonnaise dressing or an oil/vinegar dressing)
          -smoked or cured fish (lox) with a bagel or crackers
          -swiss cheese with cole slaw on rye
          -granola with fruit and nuts, either as cereal or mixed into yogurt or cottage cheese

          Happy lunching, and good luck at the new office.

          1. You could always roast some salmon in advance and take on a salad, tossed with pasta or even as a sandwich.

            There are also some decent companies that make frozen premade falafel that you could take as a wrap. Here in Austin a local company sells large packs at the nicer grocery stores that are quite good rewarmed.

            Egg Salad is also an option. Or how about a bagel with smoked salmon. The real trick I think will be making some things a night ahead and then reheating at work.

            4 Replies
            1. re: ashes

              These are really great, everyone. I have a hard time getting it together the morning of because I try to hit the gym, so I think that making a lot of stuff at the beginning of the week, or at elast the night before, is key.

              ashes and others: I like the idea of roasting salmon and taking it on a salad. How many days in advance can I make the salmon and have it still be OK? If I make three pieces of salmon Sunday night, can I eat it until Wednesday? I'm paranoid about fish. Really paranoid.

              1. re: IndyGirl

                I would say a smell test should do. Two days definitely (I have leftovers from Tuesday on a salad today) but three could be pushing it (depending on how fresh the fish was to begin with. Of course I'm paranoid on all meat and fish and rarely eat anything over 3 days (although my sweetie has other ideas).

                1. re: ashes

                  In my experience, 2 days is max.

                2. re: IndyGirl

                  Poached salmon is really good cold the next day, but I wouldn't go any more days simply from a flavor point of view. I poach in water/wine, drizzle with olive oil, chopped garlic, chopped parsley, s & p, sometimes add a bit of soy sauce. Serve with sliced lemon. I like it as is for lunch with whatever sides you like but you can put it in salads or with pasta if you prefer.

                  There was a great recipe posted here for potato salad using smoked salmon & I believe a vinaigrette dressing; I searched for it but couldn't find it--will try to dig it up. Great for a one dish meal, and smoked salmon lasts longer than fresh--if you wanted it for lunch for more than one day.

              2. Hummus, veggies, and whole wheat pita.
                Hard boiled eggs (either whole or sliced for salad).
                Add chickpeas (or really any bean) to a pasta or green leaf salad to boost the protein.
                Cold salmon salad is a good idea from above, especially if you've made salmon the night before for dinner (I would think cooked salmon can keep for a few nights in the fridge).

                A friend of mine figured out how to microwave an egg in a clean coffee cup. Greased well, it pops right out onto a piece of bread for a "fried" egg sandwich.

                Soups are good, too. There are so many you can store in a drawer or on a shelf. Then, if you bring some bread and cheese, that's a pretty good lunch!

                4 Replies
                1. re: leanneabe

                  Oh yes--I do the "breakfast in a mug" thing all the time! It's fabulous. I love the idea of doing that for lunch. I could even have a carton of eggs in my fridge, LOL :) (I'll probably be eating breakfast there too, due to my efforts to hit the gym in the early AM).

                  Thanks everyone for the ideas, and please keep them coming. I have never quite mastered this. I think my problem might be meal planning though--the grocery shopping gets me every time.

                  1. re: IndyGirl

                    I would recommend also keeping some mixed nuts or trail mix in a container in your office. I've had so many busy days where a handful of nuts has kept dizzy hunger spells away long enough for me to get a proper lunch.

                    1. re: leanneabe

                      Oh yes--it sounds like a trip to Trader Joe's is in order! Those trail mixes they sell have kept me going many times :)

                  2. When I get really lazy I get the Nile Spice soups where you add hot water. They have some great veggie ones like black bean, split pea, potato leek. Add a piece of fruit and it's a meal.

                    Egg salad sandwich
                    Hummus sandwich with tomato and cucumber (especially good on a bagel or in a pita)
                    Greek village salad: cucumber, tomato, red onion, feta, kalamata olives and a whole wheat roll
                    Cream cheese and cucumber sandwich
                    Spinach salad: buy the prewashed baby stuff in a bag, add some pecans or walnuts (candied are even better), some dried cranberries, and feta or goat cheese. You can up the protein with smoked salmon. I buy kippered salmon at Trader Joes and it will keep for a week in the fridge
                    Cold potato and cheese omlette (think Spanish tapas)
                    Red beans and rice
                    Amy's frozen dinners. Lots of veggie and vegan options.
                    Tuna nicoise salad (tuna, green beans, hard boiled egg, olives...)
                    Bean and cheese burrito. Bring tortilla, pregrated cheese, open can of refried or pinto beans. Assemble and microwave

                    1. a nice orzo salad with vegies, tofu and beans. Or couscous salad with the same. If you love salmon, it's a nice switch from tuna, roll it up or stuff it in a pocket. I used to run a health food lunch counter and we made the best cucumber sandwiches with cheese, cucumbers, alfalfa sprouts, shredded carrots, spike seasoning, garlic powder, guacomole, - nobody ever missed any meat!!!!!

                      1. Lots of great ideas here...
                        Take a whole wheat tortilla (la tortilla brand is yummy), spread with a little cream cheese (fat or low fat), lox, red onions, tomato slices, capers, and a little lemon juice; roll up. You can pack separately and make it up at work... I like to heat the tortilla first.

                        Whole wheat tortillas filled with low fat cheese.. particularly I use the soy cheese blend of mozzarella, cheddar and jack at TJ's because it's high protein and has fiber too. I'd make one at work and bring salsa on the side.

                        You could make mini quiches in whole wheat crusts and freeze. Frittatas are similarly easy and easy to incorporate high fiber ingredients like butternut squash and lovely veggies.

                        Personally I love the simple combo of cottage cheese and salsa, perhaps served in a scooped bagel with cheese melted in the bottom of it. It won't be crispy but can be done in a microwave.

                        You could pre-stew some lentils with carrots and onions and other seasonings you like, freeze the batch, but take in portions to work with the microwavable brown rice from TJ's.

                        Make a big pot of chili overnight in your crockpot. I like to add TVP instead of beans or meat to mine. I don't know if you've played with TVP or not, but I like the texture, though others are more iffy I'm sure.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Emme

                          Man o Man, I love salmon and never think of doing that - rolling it. It's prob. my favorite spread - lox, cr cheese, red onion, capers, lemon - mmmmmm

                          thank you

                          1. re: lexpatti

                            Me too, I adore lox with CC and capers and red onion. I think I will DEFINITELY be doing this.

                            I do love chili with TVP. my crockpot died though--may have to splurge on another one.

                            1. re: IndyGirl

                              If you like TVP you might try Morning Star's Crumbles or Quorn's "fake chicken pieces." Both are frozen and an easy add in. In college we would add crumbles to burritos and spagetti sauce (when I lived with a vegan). The fake chicken pieces are my favorite though, a great add in to boxed mac n'cheese (I love Annie's). With a little broccoli you have a lovely warm casseroley homey lunch. And if you buy Annie's version of Easy Mac you can cook all in the microwave at work, mix and serve.

                          2. re: Emme

                            by any chance, do you have the recipe for your mini quiche with whole wheat? I was looking for a mini quiche recipe and even better with whole wheat! thanks!

                          3. I'm having a delicious lentil salad I made last night. For extra quick use canned lentils or if you have a 1/2 hour simmer some delicous puy lentils with onion, garlic, thyme and bay leaves (no salt).

                            Vinaigrette - Olive Oil, Lemon, Rice Wine Vinegar, Honey, minced garlic, minced shallots, chives, lots of Dijon mustard, Hot Asian Chili Sauce, S & P

                            Stir in lentils.

                            Add chunks of goats cheese and toasted pecans or walnut.

                            I threw it on top of a bed of arugula or any salad green would do.

                            For extra protein I grill a piece of salmon MR and have it on top.

                            Delicious and holy lots of fiber.

                            1. One thing that I haven't seen mentioned is a container. I've got several Corningware oval ceramic dishes with a plastic tight-fitting cover. This is great for packing leftovers in, cover with some plastic wrap or wax paper, then putting the lid on. The size is perfect for one serving, you can freeze a meal in it, etc. The wax paper/wrap allows you to just pop the heavy-duty lid off and toss it in the microwave and saves a lot of cleanup by not having to scrub any sorts of oil off the lid part. I use mine several times a week.

                              Today, leftover pork tenderloin slices with chimichurri sauce over a mix of black beans and Rotel tomatoes.

                              1. I am learning that for me, it helps to have leftovers in the fridge that I can throw together easily in the morning. Some of my faves are:

                                high protein pasta (Barilla in the yellow box), cottage cheese, marinara sauce, frozen peas mixed together and heated at work makes a nice casserole in a bowl.

                                taco salad with 3 bean salsa (mix together a can of chopped chiles, drained, 3 cans of your favorite beans, drained and rinsed well, with chopped onion, tomato, parsley, & jalapeno. dress with red wine vinegar & olive oil), shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips, and a drizzle of sour cream or ranch dressing

                                tuna & white bean salad (1 can of tuna in olive oil mixed with 1 can of white beans, drained and rinsed, some chopped red onion (or pickled onion), lemon juice, olive oil, salt, & pepper) is very nice on greens.