Salad days

Left to my own devices, I could eat carbohydrates with bouts of protein consumption and nothing else. Usually by dinnertime my interest in going face down into a bowl of food at the end of the day when I’mYum! make-upless in my “tired pants” (nicknamed by the child for the proclamation about my mental state that usually accompanies their donning) is keen.

Turns out this is also how the vast majority of my students fill the bill when they’re left to their own devices. They work a lot, can’t afford a lot, and thus they eat breakfast and generally return home looking for food with raptor-like hunger. Many of us can finally relax at dinnertime (or lunchtime if we work the night shift, hopefully). They don’t have enough time to shop, don’t have enough time to eat, and as a result they don’t meet up with vegetables very often unless they’re in a wrapper squeezed between a piece of meat and a bun.

So how about a salad?

When you’re really hungry, this sort of thing tastes really, really good. The prep also lends itself to the popping of ingredients into one’s hungry mouth without a trace of guilt. And if one is a serious cheater like me, this can all be done rather quickly (and somewhat cheaply, but let’s not kid ourselves, produce can be expensive — but you’re worth it!! Excuse me while I put down my pom-poms). Here’s how — any or all of these:

  • Bagged salad (yes, it’s cheapter, and even a little safer, to buy head lettuce, but who are we kidding here?)(Make it dark leafy greens like soft red salad and not that iceberg crap you get at the fast food places with no taste at all. Unless you like only that, in which case go ahead, it’s better than skipping it altogether).
  • baby carrots: ready for action, cheap, keep well
  • cucumber (cheap)
  • raisins (keep well, in it for the long haul, keep them sealed in a bag, 1 tablespoon)
  • nuts (violently expensive but spring the $5.99 or so at Trader Joe’s. Packed with good fat and in the case of walnuts, those fab omega 3 fatty acids – 1 tablespoon)
  • An apple. Keeps well when whole, get the organic for about $.69-.75 apiece and cut into salad last. Or,
  • Mandarin oranges in the can. Usually swimming in sugary juice so drain them and rinse that off. Refrigerate the can. Yum!
  • Frozen peas and/or corn. Don’t believe me, but they’re great in salad.
  • Cooked pasta (1/2 cup to 1 cup), leftover rice, cous cous…(evil-fast pasta trick: put it in the microwave raw but just covered with water and zap it for about 9 minutes while you are prepping the rest, run cool water over it after draining)
  • Beans, tofu, leftover chicken from the restaurant the other night, cheese, cottage cheese, parmesan cheese. Not all of these, just one good protein source, and just 3 oz. of meat, or 1/2 cup of beans, or 1 oz of cheese will do the trick
  • low cal dressing, or 1 tablespoon of the seriously good stuff (read: high in fat)

Yes, all of this will run you about 30 bucks. But it makes a lot of salads, and a lot of salads is what you should be tossing down your gullet. All this takes just about 15 minutes once you get the hang of it (I run to the fridge, grab everything in one go, dump it on the counter and go to work quickly). If you go nuts you can really stuff yourself for not too many calories and get all your day’s veggies and quite often the fruits you were lacking too.

Small child in the mix? No problem. Toddler age children love finger kid salad!foods, but many don’t like foods mixed up together. So serve them separately while you’re prepping. Also, serve them their veggies FIRST if you’d like them to get eaten. Keep any bread, beans, etc. for after the first 10 minutes theirs hits the table and they’ll work on the good stuff first while they’re really hungry.

I got this swell melamine divided dish for $1.99 at Target. (but note: NEVER heat plastic dishes in the microwave – the plastic gets into the food and it’s NOT safe!)

Would you rather have this sort of thing for lunch? Good idea. Don’t know how to package it up? For a child, there’s the lock and lock. (The lock and lock can be had at Target for about $4. Again, never microwave plastic). For adults, there’s To-Go Ware, Bento boxes, or anything else you’ve got. On a bit of refreezable ice in a cooler bag, please. If you yearn to see the best “what to pack for lunch blog” anywhere, check out veganlunchbox. You don’t have to be a vegan to love it.

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