Recent tweets about fixing the mister’s lunchbox for work had garnered quite a bit of interest from some of my lovely tweeps, via the network itself, along with e-mails. Aside from the most common question of whether I prepare his lunchbox everyday (the answer is yes, albeit they are mostly sandwiches), I’ve also been asked how much earlier I have to wake up, and how I’ve managed to find the time to fix these lunches. In response to the former, I actually wake up later than the mister (hah!), and as for the latter, the secret lies in cutting your actual-day preparation time, so you won’t have to rush sorting out the ingredients you need, etc. Let’s face it, regardless of how perfect a morning person we can claim to be, it’s forgivable to have your brain on auto-pilot mode at 5:45 am. So here are five simple tips to help you ensure you’ve got that lunchbox filled!
Tip #1 : Prepare your ingredients the night before
As much as I hate to admit it, those teachers back in school were true. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail;– well, in this case, you don’t exactly fail, more of go hungry for lunch. Decide on what you plan to pack for the next day / the coming week (I often decide on the week’s lunchbox menu while we go grocery-shopping on the weekend), and where possible, prepare your non-perishable ingredients the night before. For my pasta and crustless pizza, for example, I’ve sliced the sausages, mushrooms and garlic, and stashed them (covered) away in the refrigerator the night before. Just placing them all together really makes a difference; it certainly helps to enter the kitchen in the wee hours of the morn ala a celebrity chef, finding all your ingredients waiting for you by the counter.
Tip #2 : Complete half of the work the night before
Similar to the aforementioned tip, try cutting back time by choosing recipes that either requires or would benefit from an overnight rest. Burgers would be a great [and easy] treat, where you can simply marinate your burger patty and freeze / refrigerate it, so all that’s left would be the actual grilling and assembling. Or better still, work on recipes you can prepare fully the night before, refrigerate and simply bake the next day, such as breakfast casseroles or strata. Bear in mind though you’ll have to cut your recipe at least in half, so you won’t have to spend 45-60 mins on baking.
Tip #3 : Bake & freeze!
Truth be told, I’m not really a fan of heating up leftovers, nor freezing bakes for that matter. Perhaps it’s simply because I don’t like my food cold (eating and seeing), but when it comes to taking
the easier way out shortcuts, I’m game for anything. Whilst there are certain lunchbox bakes I make on the morning itself (e.g. egg muffins, mini frittatas), others like morning muffins and crustless pizza (pictured above), can easily be made the day / night before, refrigerated, and reheated to its full glory the day of packing.
Tip #4 : Make those leftovers work
I shall refrain from saying ‘Kindly refer to Surplus Sunday posts’, for you should have already gathered by now my penchant for breathing new life into leftovers. Take note of the leftovers you have the night before, and refrigerate the perishables for re-heating or set aside essential ingredients. My personal favourite ‘recycled’ lunchbox dish is fried rice, for we almost always have a bit of leftover cooked rice in the rice-cooker. Just take the amount of rice you would need, and keep it covered in the refrigerator; cold cooked rice works best for fried rice afterall. And if you have leftover sides such as meat and chicken dishes, score!
Tip #5 : Mix it up!
As aforementioned, fried rice is my favourite lunchbox idea, which inevitably spells repetition. However, thanks to the nature of fried rice (cooked rice + spice/flavour + meat/vegetable), it’s easier to have variations each week. Throw in tom yam paste for tom yam fried rice, prawns for seafood fried rice, or chicken cubes for chicken fried rice. It works the same way for pasta and sandwiches, of course; the latter even has the advantage of having a varied bread type (plain, wholemeal, rye, multi-grain, etc). Having said that, vary not only the ingredients, but also the days, please. No one wants to have 5 different types of fried rice every week, unless he / she is a huge fan of the dish, of course.I always try packing fried rice once a week, on days when I know the mister has a hectic schedule or end late, because it keeps him full longer.
Smoked Paprika Chicken with Mushrooms Burger
2 chicken breasts
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1⁄2 tsp dried rosemary (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
fresh white button mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp butter
- In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, paprika, black pepper, rosemary and salt.
- Place chicken between two pieces of parchment paper. With a meat tenderiser (or just plain ol’ rolling pin), pound the chicken until about 1/2 inch thick.
- Place the chicken in the marinate, turning to coat both sides. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or freeze overnight.
- In a pan over medium high heat, sautee the sliced mushrooms with butter until all the mushrooms have softened and cooked (i.e. the mushrooms have released their juices, and absorbed them back). Turn off the heat, and set aside.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade, and preheat your grill/pan to medium high. Grill chicken for a couple of minutes on each side, until cooked through. At this point, if you’re having cheese, add a slice of cheese on the chicken and cover the pan for about 1/2 min, to allow the cheese to melt slightly.
- Assemble your burger: bun bottom, lettuce, chicken, mushrooms, tomato slices.