Bringing your lunch to work is a great way to save money and eat healthy. If the thought of taking your own lunch brings images of bologna sandwiches, bruised fruit, and pre-packaged “pastry” – think again! Bento lunches are all the rage. Sandwiches, wraps, and flatbreads have had healthy and delicious overhauls. Even packaging has improved, allowing for more and better options.
When I saw this pin for Salad Swag: 3 Cures for the Common Salad from the folks at The Kitchn, I knew this would be a great lunch test.
The Pin linked via Kelly’s blog and site, It’s not Just Lunch. If you need some ideas for lunches and packaging, Kelly is a FANTASTIC resource. Her blog has lots of recipes and ideas, as does her cookbook, and she has links for not only her own lunch packaging system (can you say successful “momtrepreneur”?) but also other bento and lunch ideas.
BONUS TEST: Two of the salads call for chopped fresh fruit (pear and apple). Since I like my job, and they frown upon bringing a knife to work, I went with the tip given for keeping the fruit from turning brown; store it in a bit of water.
I chopped the fruit (pear pictured).
…Put it in a small container, and covered with water.
This was a good way to keep the fruit from turning brown, and it did not turn mushy.
The only down side is that it’s a bit awkward to drain if using a single-unit container like in The Frenchie Lentil. It was a lot easier draining the apples in the lunch system I used for The Bleu Apple. Read on to see the details.
Back to salads – three of them! Rather than post a pile of ingredients for all three salads, I’ll show each one individually.
NOTE: none of these recipes have measurements, so I eyeballed the pictures and went for a rough estimate.
* THE FRENCHIE LENTIL
This salad calls for cooked lentils, rough chopped hazelnuts, chopped fresh pear, crumbled feta, arugula, and balsamic vinaigrette.
I took my pictures at the lunch table at work.
Although the photo isn’t as fancy, the plated product looked nice and tasted nicer. You can also see how draining the pears would be more difficult with a single-unit container. I also put the dressing in a separate container to make it easier to pour on the salad and make clean-up a bit easier.
I would not have thought of putting lentils in a salad, but I’m glad that The Kitchn did. They added a heartiness and meatless protein. The nuts gave a nice texture contrast and added to the protein, keeping me full all afternoon. The pears added a hint of sweet which played nicely against the saltiness of the feta. A filling and delicious salad that was perfect for lunch.
* THE BLEU APPLE
This salad calls for chopped apple, bleu cheese crumbles, cooked and cooled pearl barley, chicken breast, baby spinach, and lemon vinaigrette.
I made a couple of changes – some accidental – with my lunch. I used leftover shake and bake chicken breast on my salad (rather than get another pan dirty at 0-dark-thirty in the morning). When I picked up the bleu cheese at the store, I accidently grabbed crumbled goat cheese and didn’t notice until I was packing the lunch. Goat cheese it is. Finally, when I went to make the vinaigrette, my lemons were bad. *sigh* Creamy balsamic vinaigrette.
On this day I used the Rubbermaid Lunch Blox Sandwich Kit. This lunch system comes with four containers and an ice-pack cooler that all snap together whichs keep things from falling all over my lunch bag and organized. Because the containers are all separate, it made draining the apples much easier and the dressing had it’s own container, too. The one “side” container that you don’t see held a small piece of leftover cake. Since it’s not part of the recipe I left it out of the picture.
The combination was still fantastic. The apple was crisp and sweet (but not too much so). The goat cheese was creamy and added a nice tanginess. The pearl barley was chewy and hearty – a nice addition to a salad. The chicken was, well, chickeny. The creamy balsamic dressing tied everything together very nicely. It was another great lunch.
* THE HAWAIIAN
This salad calls for pineapple, almonds, bacon, chickpeas, baby kale, and ranch dressing.
I used canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed, and substituted the rest of the bag of baby spinach. Waste not, want not.
This was the hardest to get to lunch, because the bacon kept disappearing. I have no idea how it happened. Let’s just say I’m thankful my salad got some.
Once again, this salad played a symphony of tastes. The sweet, juicy pineapple was a lovely contrast to the crispy, salty bacon. The chickpeas were creamy in contrast to the crunchy almonds. And the coolness of the ranch dressing brought it all home.
Each one of these salads was delicious, filling, and anything but boring. I had enough leftovers of ingredients to make The Frenchie Lentil again for lunch, and even made The Bleu Apple for a light late supper for two.
Now for the Pintesting Results:
Overall Rating: 5 Pins
Accuracy: All three of the salads were extremely flavorful and filling. There were no measurements given, which nearly brought it down to 4 pins, but I like that you can modify the salad to your own tastes. Even though I had a few substitutions of my own, everything was delicious. 5 Pins
Difficulty: Some of the salads required a bit of prep work such as cooking and cooling lentils, pearl barley, or chicken, chopping fruit or nuts, etc. Not as easy as opening a salad kit, but definitely not hard. 4 Pins
Time: Each salad requires something with a cooking time of 20-30 minutes; lentils, pearl barley, or bacon. The chicken breast can be cooked on a George Foreman Grill in about 10 minutes. The rest is quick work. 4 Pins
Cost: These are restaurant quality salads that you would cost about $10 in most moderately priced chain restaurants. Each salad had a variety of ingredients, but most would make more than one salad. The Bleu Apple was the most expensive salad due to the chicken; roughly $4.50. The Frencie Lentil and Hawaiian both came in at $4.00 each. That’s what you’d pay for a Mc Fast Food lunch, only you’re getting a healthy, nutritious and delicious lunch that won’t make you feel guilty. 4 Pins
Practicality: These salads are easy to make ahead and have ready for the week. They’re a cost effective way to bring your lunch that’s anything but boring. 5 Pins