When small things are everything
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A few weeks ago, I was having a really hard time. Nothing big in particular, but enough to think, “Ugh, what can I do to snap myself out of this funk?”
And there it was. Out of the blue, at the end of our team meeting, someone spoke up and said, “Let me tell you some of the things I've been doing to keep life interesting.” Within minutes, emojis of good cheer filled the Skype session and everyone was smiling. It felt so good to laugh, I found myself tearing up.
A few of his ideas?
Get ready in the morning and put on dress-clothes, as if you were going into the office
Find a new recipe and cook something you haven't tried before
Mask up, drive to Lowes, and wander through the plants. (With a teenager scrolling Instagram, and not overly thrilled about said situation – optional)
Decide the side of your 80-year-old neighbor's house (that faces yours) could use a good power-washing. Offer. Convince her you're truly serious. Take photos of all of the blemishes so as you're not blamed for anything that is to come. Realize after half-an-hour, this isn't the best activity to be doing with a broken elbow. Think about quitting. Think about quitting some more. Power through. Five hours later, sit and admire the view.
His small act of kindness lifted my spirits like nothing else and I started thinking of things that I could do to break myself out of my rut. Lunch, I thought .. I'll start with lunch.
And so today, let's take a break from formal recipes. I'd like to show you what I've been eating for lunch these days. The real deal. Nothing fancy. Everyday delicious food.
Making a big batch of brown rice on Sunday is part of what makes lunches easy throughout the week. Pretty much anything can be tossed in to make it a meal.
This is my play on porridge when I'm hungry for something like oatmeal but don't want to spend more than five minutes making lunch. It's a blend of cooked brown rice, coconut milk, cinnamon, chia seeds, candied ginger, and shavings of dark chocolate
For the days when my soul craves something comforting. I'm sure you understand.
Brown Rice Porridge
- 1 cup cooked brown rice
- ¼ cup whole fat coconut milk
- 2 Tbsp water
- pinch of sea salt
- pinch ground cinnamon
- drizzle of maple syrup
- sliced candied ginger
- a square of dark chocolate, shaved or chopped
- sprinkling of chia seeds
- In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the brown rice, coconut milk, and water, stirring frequently. (Depending on the consistency, you might want to add more liquid)
- When it's just starting to bubble, sprinkle in the sea salt and cinnamon. Stir to combine.
- Spoon into a bowl. Drizzle with maple syrup and sprinkle with ginger, chocolate shavings, and chia seeds.
When it comes to condiments, there's ketchup (for her), hot sauce (for him), and hummus (to share).
I use it as a spread on anything from veggie wraps to egg sandwiches. It's a creamy salad dressing when thinned with extra lemon juice or water. Back in the day when we had a house full of dinner guests, I'd set out a big bowl, along with a platter of fresh-cut veggies and crostini. It’s safe for most dietary/allergy restrictions and so versatile! I just love it.
Plus, it's helpful to have a savory bowl of something that holds up for a few days. When I need something to dip random veggies in, while I'm finishing up my workday and thinking about dinner.
You must have random veggies in the refrigerator too, yes? I can't be alone in this.
~ Adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen by Sara and Hugh Forte
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas (or 2 cans)
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 3 Tbsp tahini
- zest and juice of one lemon
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
- pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- sliced cucumber
- chopped tomatoes
- black olives
- sprinkling of feta cheese
- nachos, pita, naan or crusty sourdough
- In a food processor, combine the beans, garlic, tahini, lemon zest and juice, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Pulse to combine.
- With the motor running, stream in the olive oil and stop at desired smoothness (I like mine a bit textured).
- Taste for salt and pepper; and, if you’d like, thin it out with a few tablespoons of water or more lemon juice
- I like to make a dent in the hummus (once it’s on a plate or bowl) and drizzle olive oil into it.
- Serve with nachos, pita, naan or crusty sourdough
For as long as I can remember, I've been making a big batch of something or other and eating on it for the better part of a week. I think there's a special skill in eating the same thing day after day, yet keeping things interesting.
This summer, I've been on a tuna salad kick. After hanging onto this recipe for years, I finally got around to trying it and I only wish I'd done so sooner. It's great on crispbreads with slices of avocado, on bread as a sandwich, a bed of greens for a more traditional salad, a pack-and-go lunch for my husband, or even cold from the fridge.
Nothing beats a light, refreshing, and tasty salad that keeps me full all afternoon. Whatever you do, promise you won't skip the lemon zest
~ Adapted from Bon Appetit | August 1999
Tuna + Chickpea Salad
- ¼ - ⅓ cup Greek yogurt
- 3 Tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 ½ Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest
Tuna and Chickpea Salad
- 2 (5 oz) cans tuna in water, drained
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 (15 oz) can chickpeas (or 1 ½ cups cooked) ** See recipe notes
- 1 cup chopped sweet onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 Tbsp sweet pickle relish
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- sliced avocado
- Whisk yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard and lemon zest in a small bowl
Tuna and Chickpea Salad
- In a large bowl, toss the tuna with lemon juice.
- Add chickpeas, onion, celery, tomatoes, sweet pickle relish, parsley, a couple pinches of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir gently to combine
- Add yogurt dressing and stir gently to combine
Friends, truly, is there anything better than fresh-from-the-field sweet corn?
Growing up on our family's Iowa farm, it was a tradition was that my dad planted the sweet corn patch in a different place every year (and kept it a closely guarded secret). Sometime in August, friends, and relatives gathered at our house for a weekend of harvesting, shucking, cooking, eating, and freezing.
Those were such happy days
We've tried all of the various ways of cooking corn on the cob, but my favorite is always boiled. It's the flavor and texture that reminds me of the way my mom and grandmas made it so long ago.
Of course, add lots of butter and salt.
Boiled Corn on the Cob
- ears of sweet corn
- lots of butter and salt
- Peel the corn and remove the silks.
- Fill a large stockpot half to three-quarters full with water and bring to a boil
- Add corn and boil for 15-18 minutes. More or less depending on how many ears you have in your pot.
- (You'll know it's ready when the kernels are plump and tender. Also, when the smell of sweet corn is wafting up from the pot)
- With tongs, remove the ears of corn from the hot water and place them on a platter. Serve while hot with lots of butter and salt.
I talk to so many people who don't like salads or can't understand my undying love, but they can be anything!
A lot of days, it's a bowl of mixed greens with herbs, olive oil, lemon juice, avocado, and whatever cute things I can find in the fridge. I often add jammy eggs or even a wedge of frittata, along with any leftover grains, lentils, roasted vegetables, etc. Thinking outside the box is crucial to good salads I don’t resent
Lately, slow-cooked kale is something I've been making in big batches on Sunday. I'll serve it with or without my brown rice and top with anything I have, roasted or not.
If it's more traditional greens, and you're looking for topping ideas, here are a few you started; think a nice mix of salty, savory, crunchy, and filling. Drizzle with a vinaigrette or simply a squeeze of lemon and olive oil
golden raisins, pine nuts, and shaved parm
any grain (cooked ahead of time), dried cranberries, almonds, and goat cheese
rotisserie chicken, grapefruit segments, sliced apple, a sprinkling of cheddar cheese, almonds, and currants
crispy chickpeas, walnuts, and feta
pear slices, pomegranate seeds, crumbled blue cheese
toasted walnuts, roasted sweet potatoes, feta
- 1 heaping pound kale, ribs removed
- ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 2-3 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
- sea salt + freshly ground black pepper
- 1 dried chile de Arbol, broken into pieces (or ½ tsp red chile flakes) - more or less depending on your tolerance for heat
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the kale for 1 ½ -2 minutes. Drain, let it cool until it's easy to handle, and squeeze out excess water. Chop and set aside.
- In a large skillet, warm ¼ cup of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the rosemary sprigs and chile and cook for one minute.
- Reduce the heat to low, add the onion and a strong pinch of salt; cook for a couple more minutes. Add the garlic slices and stir. Cook until the onions are soft and starting to brown (~ 8-10 minutes)
- Turn the heat to medium-low, add the kale and add the last couple of tablespoons of oil; stir to coat. Cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the kale is almost black and charred at the edges.
- Remove the rosemary sprigs and the chile de Arbol, if using. Top with a few grinds of freshly ground pepper, and taste for salt.
In March, when everyone was sent home to work, I was guilty of throwing together less-than-ideal lunches. I even had to stop keeping cereal around the house because it would end up being my meal. My favorite lunch, though, if I'm being honest, is soup. Vegetable, lentil, roasted red pepper, or even chicken and dumplings, it's all good.
Or, you know, sometimes I'll just eat the cookies I'm photographing.
~ Adapted from Sweet Potato Soul
Sweet Potato + Chocolate + Tahini Cookies
- ½ cup tahini
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- ¾ cup quick-cooking oats
- ½ cup chopped walnuts
- sea salt
- 2 Tbsp chocolate chips, chopped
- 2 Tbsp shredded raw sweet potato
- Mix the tahini, maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla
- Add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine
- Dampen your hands, and scoop 2 - 3 tablespoons into your palm to form into a cookie shape. Place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining batter.
- Bake at 350° for 10 minutes, or until the edges have begun to firm up. Allow the cookies to cool for 10 minutes or so before enjoying.
Wishing for you the loveliest day ahead (along with something delicious for lunch)!
I found I was getting way too bored with my lunches, so one day I sat down and brainstormed 15-20 easy go-to lunches and put them into a word doc. It includes several different iterations of mason jar salads, bento boxes, cottage cheese mixes, etc. On Sunday, I choose one or more lunches from my “menu” and meal prep them for the week. If I’m a little extra hungry, I always have yogurt, nuts, and some raw veggies around.
One of my favorite things to make is some kind of avocado toast because they’re so portable and filling! This week it’s avocado toast with pesto, arugula, avocado, and fresh mozzarella. Then I’ll sprinkle a little salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. (ps: I love the photo of Nala!) xx
I am at work, lunchless and lamenting right now!
Fantastic post, I want to make a bunch of these right now to pack in my better half’s lunch this week!
Ohhhh…this is wonderful! I ran across your blog a couple of days ago, and whipped up the hummus tonight. I’m not feeling so great and thought it might be bare-minimum-acceptable for lunch tomorrow and Friday.
Open face turkey sandwich. Ezekiel bread topped with avocado and a sprinkle of kosher salt, slice of turkey and a slice of swiss. Super yummy.
I’m always on the lookout for portable lunch solutions. It’s the one meal I tend to approach with a sense of dread. But the tuna salad – I love chickpeas so much I will just eat them plain, right out of the can. It looks like quite a step up from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches without much effort. Thanks, Ali!
I’m on a major budget this month (well, actually this whole year), so a lot of these ideas are perfect for me right now!
Here’s my favorite quick chickpea combo – I put in olive oil, either lemon juice or red wine vinegar, salt & pepper, red chile flakes, fennel seeds, oregano. Usually put it all in a tupperware and then shake it around until mixed. Just had some for lunch, in fact 🙂 Will try with shavings of parmesan next time.
Thanks for the great recipe ideas! Two bowls of the brown rice porridge just got me through writing about 13 pages on Heidegger this morning.
I usually have a green smoothie in a mason jar and drink it all. Very filling yet light!
Leftovers forever?! It makes it so easy. I’m always exhausted by the thought of making another meal for lunch. Plus, I’m less likely to overeat at dinner time because I know I will get to enjoy those flavors again for lunch!
As I stared at the uninspiring contents of my pantry, my gaze came to rest on a can of long forgotten chickpeas. Damn, what was that hummus I used to make from a recipe on The Veggies way back when. A simple search and there it was, from 2013! Thank you for the inspiration that still makes me happy seven years later. Cheers