This is Joe, sitting in a diner in Brooklyn beside half my head. Joe is a temp worker, comedy writer, and performer in New York. But he technically lives in New Jersey. I've written about Joe on the blog before, complimenting him for being excellent at being vegetarian-adjacent, even though he's not a vegetarian (though he does like to eat a mostly vegetarian diet these days). It was Joe who gave me the idea to blog some lunch ideas for specific friends, after he sent me an e-mail asking for advice on how to eat a bit healthier at lunch time.
See, the problem is that Joe basically lives in transit. Some days he's working at an office, some days he's taking classes, some days he's performing at comedy nights or at story telling nights or as a part of the band at a really weird cable access variety show. All this means a lot of riding trains to and from New Jersey, and a lot of eating on the run.
In Joe's own words, he's
"trying to work on a high protein diet (to put on a few more pounds to stay at what Wii Fit dubs a normal healthy weight, as well as help me look just slightly less like a target as I run around the city late at night/prepare for the fact that I'm being snippier to annoying strangers in public/will eventually find myself getting beat up), but I ultimately just want to take better care of myself so I'll feel better/have more energy, and actually be kind of a functional adult."
When thinking of what kind of lunch foods would be good for Joe, I tried to come up with easy things that can be cooked in larger batches, say on a day off, and then eaten throughout the week. I also tried to come up with things that wouldn't necessarily need to be heated up, in case he wasn't near somewhere he could do that. And, last but not least, I knew this stuff shouldn't be too expensive, since Joe is trying to save his money right now.
Lunch Item 1: Easy Vegetable Soup
This isn't really a recipe, so much as a technique. I make soup this way all the time and it is hard to mess up. Chop one onion and two cloves of garlic and saute them for a minute or two in two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add three or four cups of chopped vegetables (carrots, squash, potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, whatever! Or any combination of those). Continue to stir the pot steadily for another three or four minutes. Add two bay leaves and a small amount of salt and pepper, then pour in enough soup stock to just cover the vegetables. Cover, reduce heat to medium low, and let cook until vegetables are very tender (between 15 minutes and half an hour, depending on the vegetables you've used). Remove the bay leaves, add a tablespoon of lemon juice, a cup of canned white beans or cooked red lentils, and then puree the whole mess in a blender or food processor or, better yet, with an immersion blender. If the soup is too thick, add some liquid (water, stock, coconut milk, soy milk, whatever you like). Adjust the salt and pepper to your taste.
These kinds of soups are great to take in a thermos for lunch because they are smooth and not messy. You can drink them without need of a spoon and you're unlikely to make a mess while doing so.
Lunch Item 2: Crackers
I often throw some store bought crackers into my lunch, especially when I'm doing the soup-and-sandwich thing. If you don't have a chance to sit down and eat, you can snack on the crackers to keep from getting too hungry. Many hunger pangs have been temporarily quelled with a handful of crackers and a few gulps of soup from a thermos. The crackers I like these days are Mary's. Joe would probably like them too, since he is a friend to quinoa, which is a major ingredient in the crackers, which are gluten free.
Lunch Item 3: Avocado Black Bean Wrap
My favourite black bean and artichoke dip/spread can also be made on a day off and eaten for days afterward. It is a great way to add protein to a sandwich. For Joe, I'd suggest a whole wheat tortilla wrap type thing, spread with a generous amount of black bean spread (or any bean-based spread, really, even the boring old hummus you buy at the store). For some added healthy fat, add a chopped up avocado. Throw some lettuce and tomato in there for extra texture and flavour and you've got your sandwich.
black bean artichoke dip
Lunch Item 4: Chocolate Covered Almonds
I like to have a treat with my lunch and I assume other people do too. Chocolate covered almonds are easy to find in stores and lots of varieties are vegan. They combine protein with a bit of sweetness, which means no mega-sugar crash after you eat (too many of) them.
Okay, Joe. I hope this helps. I will be attempting to do eight (eight!) of these posts throughout the month. I have a very diverse group of people who want some new suggestions for lunches.