Sad desk lunch: that depressing meal that you either slaved over, remembered to pack, and brought to work but has 0 flavor, or that $15 salad from the deli around the corner that lacks fresh ingredients but somehow got more and more expensive with every shred of carrot added to it. Either way, it is something you’re consuming while still at your desk, typing with one hand, forking food into your mouth with the other, realizing that this is not what meal time should be like. Lunch should be something you look forward to. It should be a mini escape from your work day, an oasis of flavor and delicious ingredients, and give you energy for the rest of your day ahead. We’ve all had sad desk lunches, but I am here to help make sure we put an end to this. As requested by many of you, I’ve rounded up some of my all time favorite lunches to meal prep. My go-to staples for a BYO lunch to bring excitement back to this meal!
The Classic BYO Lunch Staple
Whenever I hear “sad desk lunch” my mind immediately goes to salads. For most people, they’re just not exciting. Listen, I get it. Salads aren’t everyone’s favorite thing nor something most people look forward to. But, this is a salad that almost everyone enjoys (unless you’re like my mom and hate Feta… in that case, sorry!) and won’t leave you with that post lunch at your desk depression of missing the outside world and a real meal. An easy staple to batch-cook on a Sunday to pack for your week ahead all with minimal ingredients & time spent in the kitchen. A win-win!
The perfect summertime meal
The grill and I have an extremely long and historic love affair. From a very young age, I remember my dad grilling every single thing possible. The scent of the smoke and that char on whatever he was cooking is one of my favorite memories of childhood. Once I became old enough to cook, I was infatuated with the grill and mastering its ability to make every single ingredient produce more flavor than any other available cooking method. Seriously – why does everything taste better when cooked on a grill!? So, after many of nights watching my dad master the method, I one day decided it was my time to try; and the rest was history. While it may seem intimidating at first, I promise it is probably one of the easiest cooking gadgets out there. It does all the work for you! Although grilling is definitely not exclusive to summertime, this is one of my favorite quick and easy meals to throw together for a summer lunch or dinner. Say goodbye to lame salads and hello to flavor!
Shining light on a barbecue staple
Why is pasta salad totally the overlooked “step-sister” of a BBQ spread? For some reason, it is a dish I am constantly passing by and never craving. When a client recently mentioned how much he loved pasta salad it triggered me into a train of thoughts that came to the realization: pasta salad not only provides us with a way to still enjoy one of everyone’s favorite dishes in the summer without sweating our butts off, but it is freaking delicious, and extremely versatile. So, I naturally got in the kitchen, and got cooking. Safe to say, I will no longer be overlooking this side at summer cookouts.
A Simple 25 Minute Dinner
The other Sunday, after a weekend of traveling and having zero interest in going to a grocery store, I caved and ordered groceries online to our apartment for us to use that upcoming week. When I got home late that night I was excited to see the groceries hanging on our door until I realized that they were in fact not my order but, instead, someone else’s entirely. Since it was too late for the delivery system to do anything, I emptied the bags into our fridge and took note of what we were working with.
A weeknight Whole30 staple
Let me start right off the bat by saying in no way, whatsoever, is this meal replacing a delicious bowl of gluten and cheese filled spaghetti and meat sauce from your favorite Italian restaurant. Also, before the naysayers come at me about how quickly this meat sauce is made, this is not your grandmother’s Sunday sauce; this is a quick meat marinara sauce that does not take much time but still tastes delicious. Now that we’re on the same page, let me show you how to make a delicious and fast Whole30 approved dinner that you can surprisingly pull together with some potential staples lying around your kitchen (or am I the only one who regularly has zucchini and sweet potatoes on hand and ground beef in my freezer?).
The perfect meal to batch cook
When people think of Whole30 they think of lame, boring, sad salads. I get it, I thought the same thing as first. Little do these said negative people know that eating Whole30 compliant meals can actually be pretty freaking delicious. Not only delicious, but easy. This meal is so simple, includes a wide variety of ingredients that are easily interchangeable, and is the perfect meal for a batch cooking session. Cook a huge skillet of this stir-fry on a Sunday night and I promise, your hungry Whole30-doing self will thank you every day afterwards. Whether enjoying at work, while your coworkers eye you with envy mid bite of their sad salad mentioned above, or at night, sans that glass of wine that you crave so badly (sorry, I can’t help you there), it will hit the spot.
The quickest meal on this site
A few weeks ago I was in Florida with my family and, when I realized we had no lunch plans, I immediately raised my hand to create something delicious for everyone. However, as soon as my hand went up, the sun came out, and I immediately regretted my decision of volunteering to be inside the kitchen during the day (although, I must admit, the idea of driving a car to a nearby suburban Trader Joe’s with extremely wide aisles and a limited line is one of my ongoing daydreams). When I entered the store, I decided that I was going to make the easiest, quickest, and most crowd-pleasing lunch possible. That meant no oven, no stove-top, not even a microwave; this meal had to take me 5 minutes or less. I grabbed a bunch of random ingredients from the produce and pantry aisle and prayed for a successful pairing. I must have had the TJ gods on my side because I have been craving this salad ever since. It is SO easy, so refreshing, and surprisingly filling. A definite new weekday staple in my house.
Thanksgiving leftovers transformed to chicken & vegetable soup
If you’re like my family, as soon as Thanksgiving dinner is over everyone immediately grabs a Tupperware and begins fitting as much food as possible into their dedicated “leftovers bin”; fighting for that last bite of stuffing or spoonful of sweet potato casserole. This year, I made it easy for the rest of my family, and took myself out of the fight declaring I only wanted to take one thing home, something that absolutely no one else was eyeing: the turkey carcass. Yep, that’s right, I wanted the bones. So much so, that I even traveled back to NYC with them in a Ziploc bag (I know, seriously a psycho move). BUT, the week prior I made turkey stock with all of the turkey bones leftover from my Friendsgiving meal and it truly was better than any bone broth I had ever tasted (fully tooting my own horn) and it was garlic & onion free. This is huge for all of my low FODMAP friends out there. So, instead of elbowing my sister over the white turkey meat, I grabbed my bones and headed back to my apartment where my instant pot resided. As expected, the turkey stock turned out magnificently. So tasty, in fact, that I may begin eating turkey instead of chicken just so I can store the bones for my next batch of broth. Either way, I had vats and vats of turkey stock to put to work; one can only fit so many mason jars in her refrigerator. As I felt a cold coming on, I knew what I was prepping for my weekday lunches: homemade chicken vegetable soup. It was insanely easy, cooked itself (not kidding), and is now officially going to be on my meal rotation all winter. Bless you, turkey, for giving me so much to love over the past two weeks.
A healthy, gluten-free, version of every kid’s favorite meal: chicken fingers.
Growing up chicken fingers are a staple in every child’s diet. Back in the 90s these things were served at every sleepover, birthday party, post game tailgate, or restaurant table. It is the only thing every single kid enjoyed eating and a food that parent’s could guarantee their child would finish. Now that I have grown older and more focused on what ingredients are going into my body, I cannot remember the last time I ordered chicken fingers. While chicken is still a staple in my diet, there is no need for the excess batter and fried oil that comes along with this order. It wasn’t until my Whole30 experience, where I actively was restricting all fried food, that I realized I kind of missed them. You always want what you can’t have, right? It wasn’t even necessarily the grease aspect, but mainly the crunchy and crisped factor that encases the chicken and the option to dip them in delicious sauces. With the evolution of my taste palette steering away from fried foods, as I got older I also fell in love with an ingredient that I grew up despising: mustard. As a kid, I used to hate when my mom would spread mustard on a Philly pretzel at a sports game and now I would do just about anything for that combination. I mean it, in my kitchen, mustard goes on everything. Not only is mustard a great dipping option for these healthified (making up words) chicken fingers, it is also a main ingredient in the batter to make sure every bite has that spicy and tangy taste.