Lunch Box Ennui

March 15, 2010

Growing up, Mama never, not ever, made me eat the hot lunch at school. Thank goodness; that dreck they served up was nasty. Every day, she diligently packed things I loved to eat and sent me on my way. I rarely traded lunches with anyone, although I often got asked. Why on Earth would I trade Mama’s Bitchin’ Tuna Sandwich for Kelly Crosby’s thermos of tomato soup? Who wanted Kim Maiser’s Oreos when I had homemade peanut butter cookies? What kind of idiot did they take me for?

Those carefully packed lunches were proof, in my eyes, that I was loved and cared for. I never tired of them. And then I grew up and got a job and had to pack my own lunches. Packing my own lunch? Not so fun. I sure as shit didn’t bake myself peanut butter cookies. When it came to packing my own lunch, I showed a stunning lack of creativity. Lean Cuisines and apples. Turkey wraps. Yogurt, berries and granola. Yawn.

Blessedly, I no longer have to pack my lunch. However, I’m stupid enough to have, as a newlywed, offered to pack my husband’s lunch every day. Fresh Love clearly rendered me incapable of brain function. I hated packing my own lunch; what made me think this would be any different?

I’m trying to do better for hubs than I did for myself. I strive to mix things up for him. Lately, since he’s still on Half-Assed Regime, I’ve been packing protein-filled salads. This particular one has a lot going for it–loaded with protein, veggies and fiber-rich barley, it’s hearty enough to satisfy the hungriest of bears. The olives and the feta add salty bite, and the lemon and herbs freshen the whole thing up. Pack this for lunch and you won’t suffer Lunchbox Ennui, trust me.*

Half-Assed Regime Mediterranean Salad
adapted from Cooking Light Magazine
makes enough for 4 lunches

3/4 cups uncooked pearl barley

1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup chopped cooked chicken breast
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped, pitted Kalamata olives
1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Cook the barley in boiling water as per package directions. Cool to room temperature.

Combine lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil and mustard in a bowl. Whisk to blend.

Combine barley, chicken, celery, tomatoes, red onion, salt, pepper, olives and cannellini beans in a large bowl. Toss with dressing. Add chopped parsley and feta cheese and toss lightly to combine. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.

* A caveat: if you aren’t used to high-fiber foods, you’ll fart. Just sayin’.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Futureblackmail October 4, 2010 at 10:30 am

Just wanted to let you know that I’m making this one tonight. I had to ask the grocery store manager where I could find Barley because I didn’t know what it was so this ought to work out fabulously for our local pizza joint.


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