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Pack your own lunch recipes - January 2017

We take our own lunch to work every day because the only other option is the work canteen which is a) expensive and b) junk.  We usually cook up a big batch of something like a casserole, stir fry, curry or roast, and make up individual servings to take to work each day (in glass containers).  We eat the same lunch every day all week, and something different for dinner.  This doesn't bother me, but you might prefer to freeze some of the portions so you can mix it up.

I decided this year to share photos and recipes from our lunches so that you might be inspired to pack your own lunch too.  Here's what we took for lunch in January.  I also share them on Instagram each Sunday night (you will also see them on the Facebook page).  And I'll post the recipes at the end of the month.  I'm not great at following recipes, and I'm also not good at writing them, because I tend to just use up what we have in the fridge/pantry/garden, things that are on special or we've been given at our local produce share.  I'll tell you what I made, but I'm not saying you should follow exactly, just use it as a rough guide and use up whatever you have handy too.

Week 1: Spicy Asian mince with vegetables
This one is so easy and very tasty.  You can use any mince (this time we had pork) and could also serve with rice (I prefer to avoid grains and increase the vege content instead).  This made eight portions for our first week back at work after the Christmas break.

1 kg mince
lots of chopped veges (I used 1 x onion, 1 x carrot, 1 x zucchini, 4 x mushroom and half cabbage, substitute whatever you have in the fridge, garden or cheap at the supermarket this week)
about 1 cup chicken stock
about 1/4 cup soy sauce
2 large teaspoons of curry powder
  • Cook the mince
  • Add everything else and cook until veges are just soft (you will reheat for lunch, so don't over do the veges!)
  • Dish up individual portions for lunch
The chicken stock really makes this dish tasty, so if you're not making it yourself yet, have a go, its really easy in a slow cooker and will feature most weeks.

Week 2: Roast chicken
A roast is a really easy one to last the week, you just need a couple of hours to cook it, then slice it up and you have the meat done.  You can mix it up with different vegetables each day, or just cook up a bulk amount to go with the meat (as I did).  I cut up all the vegetables and cook in butter in a large frying pan until just tender.  I also made roast potato and sweet potato with this one as we had the BBQ on anyway.  Some of the vegetables were also for Sunday dinner, so it wasn't much extra time to cut them up.  Note that this was a homegrown roast chicken, so the leg meat is very dark, I eat the dark meat (so tasty) and Pete prefers the lighter meat from the breasts.  When you're finished with the roast chicken you can use the carcass to make more stock, just throw it in the slow cooker with some veges!

1 roast chicken
2 cup chicken stock
dried herbs - rosemary, thyme, bay leaf etc
lots of chopped veges
Potatoes and/or sweet potato for roasting
  • Cook the roast chicken (I put this one in theWeber Family Q BBQ for 2 hours in a covered roasting dish, the chicken sits up on a trivet with the chicken stock underneath),  Arrange herbs around/inside the chicken.
  • Chop up the potato and sweet potato, roast after the chicken is done, or when nearly done if it fits in the same oven/BBQ - I like to sprinkle more rosemary over them at this stage
  • Chop up the veges (I used 1 carrot, 1 zucchini, 1 broccoli, half a cauli, 4 mushrooms, 2 handfulls of beans) and cook in butter until tender
  • Strip the meat of the chicken and cut into portions, make up the lunches with some meat, veges and potatoes
  • Make gravy from the meat drippings/chicken stock in the bottom of the dish (I just put the bottom of the roasting dish on the cooktop and add a little flour in water to thicken - leftover gravy can be eaten with other meals throughout the week)

Week 3: Osso Buccu - Beef casserole with mushrooms and cream
Osso buccu is just a cut of beef, its the shins sliced into chops.  Our butcher gave us the option of osso buccu or casserole meat, so we decided to give osso buccu a try.  We cook Y-bone or casserole the same way.  I find that meat on the bone in a casserole has more flavour.  Referring to my trusty slow cooker recipe books (I'll write more about these next month) I found two options for cooking osso buccu (and really they can be cooked any way you like).  One was with mushrooms and cream and one was with a tomato sauce.  We decided to go with the mushrooms and cream this time, basically a strogonof type dish, so you could serve it with pasta or rice if you wish (we prefer to leave out the grains).

Osso Bucco (4-6 pieces)
Beef (or chicken) stock - I had chicken stock from last week
Bay leaf, garlic, dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano)
Sour cream, cream or plain yoghurt
Chopped veges steamed or sauteed
  • Brown the osso buccu pieces and put them in the pre-heated slow cooker
  • Finely chop onion, carrot and celery, brown in the pan and add to slow cooker
  • Heat wine and beef stock in the pan, add to slow cooker
  • Put the bay leaf, herbs and chopped garlic in the slow cooker
  • Cook for at least 12 hours (settings to suit your slow cooker) until the meat falls of the bone
  • Fish out as many bones are you can find (and the bay leaves!), stir in the cream or yoghurt
  • Chop and cook mushrooms in butter (I think they are nicer added at the end rather than cooking the full time, but you can add them earlier if you want to), add to slow cooker
  • Cook other chopped veges and dish up beef into lunch containers (again, I find that lightly cooked veges are nicer, rather than overcooking them with the casserole)

Week 4: Eggplant lasagna
Some weeks we chose to cook something that we feel like for lunch (or whatever we can find near the top of the freezer), other weeks, the lunch chooses us.  This week we were given seven huge eggplants, so of course I had to find a way to cook them for our lunches.  I loosely based it on this recipe, although I put in beef mince and more veges.  As we don't eat grains (much), we haven't had pasta for ages (I never felt well after eating pasta, its so heavy to digest), this is a nice alternative to pasta lasagna and makes sure you get plenty of veges in your day.

Beef mince (about 2 kg, which was too much really, but it was easier to just cook it all once it was out of the freezer)
Veges - 1 carrot, 4 mushrooms, 1 red capsicum, handful of snake beans, 2 x leeks, handful of celery stalks, half a clove of garlic
Cottage cheese
Lots of spinach or silverbeet (we have heaps of silverbeet in the garden at the moment)
Parmesan cheese (I used some of our really strong homemade cheddar)
Passata or pasta sauce or can of chopped tomatoes (or fresh if you have time to cook them down a bit first)
Thinly sliced eggplant (I managed to use up four of them!)
Mozzarella cheese to top (and a little paprika)

  • Cook mince while chopping up the veges
  • Cook veges, combine with mince and passata
  • Mix up the cottage cheese, parmesan and chopped spinach/silverbeet
  • Layer in a large baking dish - mince/veges, then eggplant, then cottage cheese, then eggplant, then mince/veges, then eggplant, then mozzarella 
  • Bake in an oven for at least 30 minutes until cheese is brown (I baked it in the Weber Family Q BBQ and I can't remember how long it took, the eggplant didn't seem completely cooked, but it is reheated at work, so it doesn't matter)
  • Dish up, top with chopped fresh herbs (basil and parsley)

That was four weeks of real food, frugal lunches that we took to work and enjoyed all week.  Do you take your own lunches?  Do you cook in bulk like me or take leftovers each day?  Any tips or recipes to share?


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