5 Easy office lunch staples that don't taste like disappointment
No time? No problem!
In an effort to rethink my spending habits and eat healthier (a nearly impossible feat when eating out in Malaysia), I decided to bring my own lunch to work (I know—I’m a revolutionary). I thought it would be easy peasy, but there were two big issues with this: 1) My mornings are tight and 2) My office doesn’t have a microwave.
Admittedly, I would definitely have more time in the mornings if I stopped oversleeping so much, but I know myself well enough to know that’s never going to happen. With regards to the microwave issue; yes, last night’s cold leftovers are fine, but sometimes I’m just not in the mood for self-loathing.
So, the game plan was that the food I brought in to work needed to be 1) Something that I can do on the go or the night before, 2) Something I don’t have to reheat and 3) Tasty.
Without further ado, here are five staple office lunches and how to make them tastier.
This is possibly the quickest and easiest thing to do, and the best part is that you can make it in bulk and keep it well in the fridge. You could buy it from the store, but making it yourself is so much cheaper and it means you can customise it to your tastes.
The entire recipe constitutes you blending a whole can of drained chickpeas, ¼ cup of lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, cumin, paprika salt and pepper until smooth. That’s it.
If you’re feeling saucy you can add in caramelised onions with fennels seeds, honey and tahini for an incredible onion-y hummus, but honestly it’s great just by itself. Use it as a dip with celery, carrots, bread—anything you can possibly think of—or use it as a spread to elevate a dry sandwich. Granted, it's not the most balanced diet, but it's tasty and can be really filling—just pack some fruit on the side.
This is a no brainer. It’s super easy to put together and is filling enough to keep you going through the day without the risk of a food coma.
Sandwiches have gotten a bad rep for being dry, bland and boring—but that’s only the case if you’re not putting in enough effort. There are lots of ways to spice up your sandwich game, and it’s all in the ingredients.
Don’t settle for ye olde supermarket loaf (not that there’s anything wrong with a Kingsmill soft white medium)—head over to the bakery section and pick yourself up a flavourful sourdough, or a flaky croissant, maybe a soft baguette or even a bagel!
The bread that you use is so much more than just a parcel to hold your filling—it in itself is a whole taste experience. There are endless options for sandwich bread and your choice can make or break your lunch; play around with flavours in your bread too! Sesame seeds, herbs, spices and olives—these can only add to the flavour. I usually opt for a ciabatta because it’s the easiest to bite into and the easiest to fit filling into.
The combinations are endless:
- Smoked salmon, cream cheese, greens and capers on a bagel
- Hummus and falafel with salad and tomatoes in a wrap
- Goat cheese and honey with walnuts, rockets and tomatoes
Depending on whether you want your bread toasted, and your choice of filling, it can be a little difficult to put this together in the morning. There’s a solution to this pickle: do it the night before and keep it in the fridge. Easy peasy.
There’s this odd misconception that salads are dull, flavourless and just a little bit gross. Don’t let society fool you—a salad can be both a salad and delicious! Here are some tips to take yours from zero to hero.
- Don’t just use the age-old combo of lettuce and tomatoes and call it a day. There are so many other ingredients out there that will make your salad so much more exciting! Think roasted squash and aubergine, and maybe even throw in some quinoa, pasta or couscous to fill it out more.
- Season your ingredients. Every. Single. One. Throw some lemon over your avo, and salt and pepper your tomatoes and cucumbers and aubergines. You’ll know you’ve seasoned enough when they all taste good individually!
- Mix up your greens! Combine your lettuce with rockets, arugula, watercress and spinach; and while you’re at it put some herbs in there too. Mint, basil, parsley! It will make all the difference.
- Cheese. This one is a no brainer; feta, goat, parmesan and blue cheese all go beautifully in salads. Anything that adds a bit of flavour (none of that shredded mozzarella stuff) can only improve on what you have, so play around and see what you like.
- Dressing: My go to is olive oil, balsamic vinegar and whole grain mustard all emulsified together. That’s just the base, though! Add some citrus, sesame oil, honey, garlic or anything you can find in your pantry that you fancy tasting in your salad.
4) Pasta Salad
So, it’s not technically a salad (it’s actually just carbs), but it’s salad-adjacent because it does involve lots of veggies. Just cool a bunch of pasta (any kind you fancy), drain it, then mix with an assortment of filling like cherry tomatoes, olives, red onion, parsley and basil. Throw in some mozzarella and salami for good measure. Then, a drizzle of dressing all over (olive oil, balsamic vinegar and wholegrain mustard makes a great pairing) and voila! Lunch for next week.
So this isn't a cold lunch, but it doesn't need to be reheated. Heat it up in the morning then pop it in a Thermos flask to keep it hot through to lunchtime. This has been a warm welcome on any days I’m feeling under the weather, and it’s more filling than you think.
You can make it in bulk and keep it for around three to four days, which makes a hefty number of lunches (and dinners). My personal favourite is a butternut squash and ginger soup.
Here's a recipe:
- Peel and chop the butternut squash (or any pumpkin or squash), a carrot, a potato, an onion, a knob of ginger.
- Chuck it all in a pot with some olive oil, and garlic and fry it till it browns.
- Then, add around 700ml of vegetable stock and let simmer until the veggies go soft.
- Whip out your trusty hand blender and blend it smooth. If it's not thick enough for your liking, add a touch of heavy cream into the mix and boom.
Tip: It's great on its own or with a side of tasty bread.
And there you have it! Five easy breezy ways you can jazz up your weekday lunches in the boardroom.