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In which I get shouty about another meal

Okay, I have spent some time lately banging on about breakfast and that’s cool: you should probably have a pretty good feel for where I’m coming from there (tl;dr: stop eating boxed crap, eat fruit and yoghurt and oats and toasted sandwiches, prepare the night before if you gotta). Let’s talk lunch. Lunch, while not so deeply neglected as breakfast, often gets pushed aside based on that excuse that gets used for breakfast: don’t have time to prepare it. My arse, you don’t. The number of adults I know who would daily eat hot chips and gravy except that they can’t manage the walk to the café because their arteries are too choked up from all the preceding installations of hot chips and gravy, like some sort of foul beaver dam of the bloodstream, astounds me. (And don’t get me started on the cost of buying a decent lunch if you’re in shouting distance of an office: they know you’re a captive market and will price accordingly, i.e. like a demon with a gambling debt.) Want to make one good change for your body? Pack your lunch and eat something decent: if you’ve got the brainpower to navigate your way to this site and read these words, you’re smart enough to know why. Save money, feed your body something awesome, and keep yourself healthy.

I have had a lot of really suck-arse lunches and if I can persuade even one person to have one less suck-arse lunch, I will feel that my time on this green planet has not been wasted. When I was at uni, whatever I took for lunch had to (a) withstand not being refrigerated; (b) get bashed about in a lunchbox all day; (c) be lightweight. I ate a LOT of peanut butter sandwiches. Here’s a pro tip: if the doctor says you have to lower your cholesterol and you’re only 19, you’re eating too much peanut butter. I’m surprised I didn’t end up the size of a house. Things improved dramatically when I got to my first after-uni job: I was a cook at a childcare centre, which meant a hot, fresh, nutritionally-sound lunch every day. That was awesome, and primed my palate and body for something of a revelation — life is short, so eat decent food. My next job was light years away from any kind of food prep, but the office space was well stocked with fridges, kettles, microwaves, a sandwich press, even a fan-forced oven and stovetop (we host training courses and need somewhere to reheat the catering). Jackpot. I have never looked back: most of the time, I schlep a big sack of supplies in on Monday and make my lunch fresh each day.

If that’s not a viable option for you — if the kitchens at your workplace are full of grues or coworkers steal your lunch, there’s always the option of making a big batch of [x] on the weekend, boxing up multiple serves and taking one in every day. Or, since lunch is merely dinner with daylight, make extra dinner and take leftovers. Also, don’t give up on the humble sandwich: it may seem like a copout, but once you start shaking that shit up, the sky is your oyster.  Think wraps, pita pockets, toasties, baguettes! Think cheese, salad, roast vegies, pesto! Think, damn you!

My lunches this week past have inspired envy and joyful weeping from coworkers and myself, respectively.  You can make a big batch on the weekend, portion it up into lunchboxes, and nom your way to happiness.

Handy-pants Easy-bulk-cooking Lunch Lessons: Y’all Eatin’ Some QUINOA

Cold things in a box. Delicious!

If that recipe name seems a trifle contrived, it’s because once I got the Handy-pants Easy-bulk-cooking Lunch bit started, I realised I could put some work in and make the acronym HELL YES Quinoa.  Stop that groaning.  All right, call it lentils and quinoa, you boring sausage. Quinoa! That wonder grain (technically/botanically not a grain: a pseudocereal) that is delicious, cute and full of protein. In my experience, dry quinoa roughly triples in size when cooked.  I also had the scrag-end of a bag of green lentils at the back of the cupboard, so those went in too, for some more precious protein. After I had cooked and cooled both lentils and quinoa, I mixed them together and threw in the chopped vegetables, drizzled with oil and lemon juice…and that, my friends, was that.

What went in
1 1/3 c dry quinoa
80g dry green lentils
water for boiling both
finely diced capsicum, tomato, cucumber, shallots
finely shredded flat-leafed parsley and basil
olive oil, salt and pepper, lemon juice: add to taste at the end

Doin’ that funky thang
Rinse the quinoa thoroughly, then pop it in a saucepan with some water: 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa, so for me that was 2 2/3 c water. Boil for fifteen minutes, or until all the water is absorbed, then rinse in a strainer and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, in another saucepan, boil the green lentils in slightly salted water until they are tender but not mushy. Keep an eye on them: they’ll absorb all the water if you’re not careful and then you’ll burn their little lentilly bottoms and nobody wants that. Rinse in cold water and leave to cool. When they’re both cooled, toss the rest of the vegetables and seasonings through.

One coworker's response: "I'll come back when you're not...uh, I'll come back later"

Served with almonds. Because I like almonds.

Dishes like this are dead easy to prepare, in bulk and in advance, and you can adapt them to whatever you’ve got in the fridge. Not keen on the quinoa? Use rice, couscous, or even macaroni noodles.  Don’t like lentils? Lentils are gone! Get your protein on with some pinenuts, fried halloumi, cubed feta or chopped boiled egg.  C’mon people, you don’t need me to tell you how to do this. Come Sunday afternoon, get your arse in the kitchen and set your lunches for the week.

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