A better brown bag

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If you think that taking lunch to work has to be as boring as the brown bag you pack it in, think again. With a little planning and creative think­ing, you can have a satisfying midday meal wher­ever you find a table.

Taking your lunch to work saves you money, helps you control calories and allows you to boost your daily nutrition. You control the portions and the ingredients, so you can customize what you carry, ensuring that you get a good-for-you lunch that you’ll enjoy.

Here are tips from the National Peanut Board that may inspire you to think outside the lunchbox and create a brown bag meal you will be proud to carry.

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Pita Pockets with Chinese Chicken-Peanut Salad

•Plan ahead—put lunch items on your grocery list and gather lunch-style recipes for your meal plan.

•Balance choices—select a variety of foods from http://www.MyPyramid.gov, including whole grains, fruits, vege­tables, low-fat dairy and lean protein.

•Think small—pack a variety of snacks to satisfy any craving that may hit during the day.

•Pack whole grain crackers and sliced cheese as an alternative to a sandwich.

•Pack a bag of snack peanuts for an energy boost any time of the day.

•Pack a banana for a sweet treat that may save you from a trip to the vending machine.

•Dress up fruits and vegetables with protein-packed peanut butter dip (see recipe). Repurpose leftovers—instead of simply taking last night’s dinner for lunch, use the ingredients to make some­thing new.

•Turn leftover roasted chicken into a tasty chicken salad (see recipe).

•Toss cold pasta with dressing and chopped veggies for a pasta salad.

For more delicious ways to upgrade your lunch, visit http://www.nationalpeanutboard.org.

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Pita Pockets with Chinese Chicken-Peanut Salad

Yield: 6 pita pockets
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 cup grated carrots
1/2 head roughly chopped iceberg lettuce, (about 4 cups)
2/3 cup chow mein noodles
1/3 cup canned sliced water chestnuts
4 tablespoons peanut oil
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon lite soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
3 pita breads, halved
In large bowl, mix together chicken, carrots, lettuce, chow mein noodles and water chestnuts. Set aside.
To make dressing: In separate bowl, mix together peanut oil, peanut butter, rice vinegar, soy sauce and sugar until smooth. Stir in peanuts and green onions. Stir until blended. Pour dress­ing over salad and toss well.
Fill pita pockets with even portions of chicken salad.

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Rock ’n’ Roll Lunch

1 small whole wheat tortilla spread with 2 tablespoons peanut butter, sprinkled with 1/4 cup granola, rolled up and sliced
Carrots and celery with Dazzling Peanut Butter Chocolate Dip (recipe follows)
Blackberries
Drinkable yogurt
Dazzling Peanut Butter Chocolate Dip
Yield: 4 (3-tablespoon) servings
2 tablespoons low-fat plain yogurt
1 teaspoon chocolate syrup
1 tablespoon peanut butter
Chocolate sprinkles (optional)
In a standing mixing bowl, mix yogurt and choco­late syrup on medium speed until well blended.
In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave the peanut butter at 70% power for about 1 min­ute or until melted; stir half-way through. Pour peanut butter into chocolate yogurt mix­ture and mix until smooth. Top with sprinkles if desired.
Serve with 1 cup assorted carrot and celery sticks, sliced cucum­bers, apples or pear slices.

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Breakfast for Lunch

1 sausage link
3 mini peanut flour pancakes(recipes follows)
Fruit cup
Greek yogurt with honey (for dipping pancakes and fruit)
Peanut Flour Pancakes
Yield: 24 (3-inch) pancakes
Use your favorite whole grain pancake mix according to package directions for 12 full size pancakes.
Add 1/4 cup peanut flour* + 2 to 4 table­spoons milk.
Let stand for 10 minutes before cooking.
*This low-fat, high protein, gluten-free flour is available at supermarkets nation­wide and online.

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