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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tips: Packing your Lunch

+ Baby Cheddar and Apple Frittatas recipe:

All the cutest things come in miniature sizes: gummy bears, pink sequins, chubby babies or bagel shaped earrings. Considering my addiction to small individually wrapped things, namely cupcakes, ginger candies and sushi, I am surprised it took me so long to discover bento boxes. I'm not talking about the beautiful lacquered boxes you get at restaurants, but the home-made bento packed up with anything from a star shaped pb&j to your roommates left-over Thai food (innovatively disguised as your left-over Thai food).  I consider myself the perfect bento candidate; I eat with all the variety and fortitude of a chipmunk.  Of course, we can't all get a rush from kitten shaped boiled eggs or smiling carrot sticks, but luckily some popular bento packing guidelines are easily applied to a student-friendly brown bag lunch (see this Top 10 list for ideas and advice).

A bagged lunch is a great way to reduce the cost of astronomical campus meal plans and to use up leftovers.  Plus, you can customize it to your heart’s content.  No longer will you have to choose between greasy heat-lamp grilled cheese or a spongy slab of vegan "meat" when your tummy starts grumbling. Which reminds me, I am supposed to be giving you recipes so your tummy doesn't grumble!

Although the ideal lunch-box meal should be made the night before for convenience, an arsenal of quick, easy and versatile recipes is essential to good lunch packing. With that in mind, I have added the tag "lunch box" to our recipe cache to indicate recipes that are easy to make, store well and travel without a fuss. These Cheddar and Apple frittatas were made using the 4 egg whites from the Vanilla Pudding recipe we made earlier this week. It didn't take me more than 6 minutes to pop 3 of them into my lunch box, steam a cup of edamame and slice up a sumptuously juicy apple this morning. The frittatas are light and perfect with big chunks of sweet apple and sharp cheddar cheese. I even threw in a few slices of black forest ham. These crust less wonders are even simpler to make than a quiche and can be enjoyed at breakfast with a little maple syrup, at lunch, as an afternoon snack or even a casual appetizer before dinner.

Notes: I used a miniature muffin pan to make these. If you don't have a mini-muffin pan I suggest you get one in the interest of increasing your cute factor.  It works wonders! These pans are as practical as they are charming and are perfect for bite size snacks or mini desserts like baby cheese-cakes, cupcakes or muffins. Also, while you're at the store, pick up a pack of mini-liners that can be filled with any number of scrumptious batters or used to present melon, ice cream, candy or anything else that looks undeniable miniaturized and in a crinkled paper liner.

Inspired by Everday Foods Apple and Cheddar Frittata
Makes 12 "baby" frittatas

4 egg whites + 1 egg
1/2 an apple, peeled and chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
fresh cracked pepper
1/4 cup good quality, sharp cheddar cheese
3-4 slices good quality deli ham, cut into slivers

1. Preheat your oven to 365.
2. Generously whisk your eggs together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Grease your muffin pan with butter or shortening or something of similar "non-stick" quality.
4. Peel your apple. I like to cut it in half and then in half again, using a vegetable peeler to remove the skin. Cut the apples into a small dice (you don't want to overwhelm your tins). Add to the egg mixture along with your cheese and ham (or bacon).
5. Spoon the apple, ham and cheese into your muffin tin, filling to the top with the egg white. Bake for 10-12 minutes. You know they are done when the egg is opaque and no longer runny and they have puffed up considerably. Don't worry though, they will fall after being removed from the oven which is fine.
6. Run a butter knife around the circumfrence of each tin to remove your frittatas, pushing up gently with the end of the knife they should lift free easily. Serve warm or chilled from the fridge.

Tips and Tricks to Packing a Scrumptious Lunch:Bulleted List
  1. Make it balanced: packing a bag of cheetos and oreo cookies might be a fast fix but it will certainly leave you hungry. Try and balance carbohydrates and proteins to ensure you stay fuller longer; carrot sticks and peanutbutter or yogurt and granola are two healthy options. Leftover pork fried rice is another great choice.

  2. Channel your inner 5th grader: invest in a lunch box. There are tons of sites that have bags and boxes featuring everything from eco-friendly designs to retro super hereos. Pick something you really love (and preferably something with refrigerated capacities) so you are less likely to forget. Plus, you'll be the coolest kid on campus.

  3. Cook once, eat twice: Think ahead when you cook dinner. Making an extra serving saves you the time and effort to pack a lunch. Plus, if it was something you really liked you'll be salivating just thinking about it.

  4. Pilfer your families tupperware: Believe it or not tupperware, even the 'disposable' kind, isn't cheap. The next time your Mom sends you cookies or tuna casserole don't toss the container. Re-use it! Eyeball the pantry the next time you are home and stock up while you can!

1 comment:

  1. Yes! (Except for the cutesy muffin pan) I have all these ingredients! I'll have to try this for breakfast tomorrow morning :D Also, now that I have a bento box of my very own, this dish will be perfect for it!