greens for the lunch box
November 7, 2010 3:28 PM   Subscribe

Lunchbox Green: Looking for simple veggie side dish recipes suitable for making weekly and packing to work.

O recipe heroes of MetaFilter, hear my plea:

I'm getting better at planning my food intake and preparing stuff like chicken breasts, hard-boiled eggs, etc. to take to work. I know I'm not getting enough vegetable servings per day. I've tried just steaming up a batch of asparagus or broccoli and saving it to have with my lunch protein, and that's OK, but I know that there are some things I could do with a batch of green vegetables and one or two or three other ingredients that would be easy to make a lot of, good cold, and something I look forward to eating in the middle of the day. Hot and microwaveable is ok too.

Bonus points if this has already been asked here or elesewhere and you can point me to the result, I had a look but didn't find anything.
posted by chaff to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
1. Go the soup route. As many vegetables as you like + broth + a handful of tiny-shaped pasta + some canned beans = minestrone.

2. Some uber-simple salads. Just shred either carrot or cooked beet and toss the shredded stuff with a simple vinagrette.

3. Check out the "Daily Special" cookbook released by the Moosewood group. It's nothing but soups and salads. Some of the salads they have in the book are substantial enough to be the meal in and of themselves. (One I've got memorized is just a "pasta salad" that's nothing but pasta, blanched green beans, some sliced roasted red pepper, and a handful of nuts.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:38 PM on November 7, 2010

I like kidney beans and chickpeas cold. If you wanted to make it seem like a salad you could add some sunflower seeds and some dressing.

I also really love baby carrots. I know it's not financially smart to buy them (it's cheaper to just cut up your own carrots) but I like the convenience. Once a week I'll separate one big bag into little baggies so that all I have to do is reach into the fridge and grab what I need. I also have a bunch of little plastic containers that I fill with salad dressing for my husband's lunch because he doesn't like them bare.
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:45 PM on November 7, 2010

One incredibly lazy thing I love to make is boxed rice/pasta (Rice a Roni-esque things where it tells you to add n cups of water) with lots of chopped frozen spinach or kale or something cooked right in.
posted by so_gracefully at 3:46 PM on November 7, 2010

Spinach and kale reduce down beautifully. Sauté an entire bunch of spinach with some sesame oil. Serve warm or cold with a garnish of sesame seeds and some hot chili oil. Yum. Or use olive oil and garnish with pignoli, or any neutral oil with almonds or cashews.

I wish I could do this more, but leafy greens are both expensive and somewhat hard to find fresh here in Alaska. Le sigh.
posted by charmcityblues at 3:48 PM on November 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

I use this blog for inspiration.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:58 PM on November 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

I like to sauté a bunch of thinly sliced garlic in a bit of olive oil for two minutes or so, then add leafy greens of any sort. When they've cooked down a bit, I pour in between a quarter and half a cup of vegetable stock and a tablespoon or two of good soy sauce, then let it all cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. It shouldn't take very long at all.

This is good hot or cold, and if I had my way, I'd eat it every day. I am especially fond of mustard greens and collards. I don't ordinarily like Trader Joe's, but they have a bagged cooking greens mixture (collards, kale, spinach, etc.) that is quite tasty. I find it with the bagged salad lettuces.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 4:03 PM on November 7, 2010 [5 favorites]

More of a snack, but you can toss kale leaves with olive oil, some apple cider vinegar, and salt, and pop it into the oven until the leaves get crispy but not brown. You can make it ahead of time and take it to work. Even not hot, it makes a great crunchy snack! It kind of takes us a lot of room, though, so it's not very compact for traveling to and from work.
posted by aka burlap at 4:05 PM on November 7, 2010

There are two mainstays I use for vege-based lunches:

The first is equal parts frozen spinach and cottage cheese. Microwave at lunch time, and dip bread into it. Yum!

The second is a mixture of chopped apple, celery, cottage cheese, and nuts. You can make it mostly celery if you want to get maximal vege-potential out of it. You can add lettuce too if you like, but I'm not a lettuce fan.
posted by lollusc at 4:11 PM on November 7, 2010

Raw kale salads - healthy, and it's fine to mix up the dressing with the kale and leave it for a few days (it's one of those things that can be better the longer you leave it as the flavours mix together, just modify to leave out anything that won't last a few days).
Here's one recipe (I used regular kale and left the breadcrumbs out) and here's another.
posted by scribbler at 4:18 PM on November 7, 2010

I love greek salads for lunch. 2 Romaine hearts (the ones that come bagged in 3's or 6's), a couple tomatoes, 1 english cucumber, thinly sliced red onion, and crumbled feta & kalamata olives to your taste. This recipe for the dressing (I like to double the recipe and have extras, I find the stated amount a little scant). Stored without dressing, it lasts in the fridge about 3 days (it makes a pretty huge batch), so I have lunch for about half the week.

If you need to bulk it up, you can add chickpeas or cut-up cooked chicken to it. I like to dress it just before I eat (I bring dressing on the side in a ziploc baggie) but even if you dress it in the morning, it's still ok by lunch.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 4:36 PM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I love this recipe for raw broccoli salad. Definitely make it in advance so the flavors have time to develop.
posted by mmmbacon at 4:44 PM on November 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't ordinarily like Trader Joe's, but they have a bagged cooking greens mixture (collards, kale, spinach, etc.) that is quite tasty. I find it with the bagged salad lettuces.

I just now cooked up that very bag of greens for my lunch for the next couple days. I add it to whatever pasta I have on hand (heavy on the greens, light on the pasta).
posted by pemberkins at 4:52 PM on November 7, 2010

1. Roasting vegetables is so easy -- toss a bunch of what you like (eggplant, pepper, cauliflower, onion, asparagus, root veggies) with a little sesame or olive oil, salt and pepper, and stick it in a 400 degree oven for an hour. You can toss in a bit of goat or feta cheese to melt on there as soon as it comes out. This is really delicious at room temperature, cold, hot, whatever.

2. EmpressCallipygos's: Just shred either carrot or cooked beet and toss the shredded stuff with a simple vinagrette.
This really sounds great. Something similar I like: I don't bother to cook the beets, just put them with carrot and red pepper and fresh herbs (if possible) and a little lemon juice and/or vinegar and sesame oil in the food processor and you have a delicious slaw to eat with yogurt, tuna, goat cheese, etc. I like to put it into a tortilla with tuna or canned salmon, too.
posted by keener_sounds at 4:55 PM on November 7, 2010

Green veggies (green beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus), roasted or sauteed with a bit of olive oil or butter until the edges start to caramelize, then sprinkled with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Top with a few shavings of a hard, salty cheese like Romano or Parmesan.
posted by rebekah at 5:09 PM on November 7, 2010

Response by poster: This stuff looks SO GOOD thanks everybody my grocery list has already exploded!
posted by chaff at 5:12 PM on November 7, 2010

Get a pound or two of brussels sprouts. Trim the stems and any loose leaves, then slice in half. Toss with salt, pepper, a little olive oil, and tasty spices, and roast?

Or, instead of seasoning and roasting, take those same brussels sprouts, but also dice up some shallot.

In a pan with a lid, heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Add the shallot and cook on medium heat until translucent. Add your sprouts and a 1/4 cup or so of veggie stock or broth, put on the lid, reduce heat to low, and let it cook for 20 minutes or ntil the sprouts are tender and delicious. Reheats very well and isn't bad cold either.
posted by BZArcher at 5:19 PM on November 7, 2010

This is my favorite all purpose veggie side (and main) dish. Very basic, quick to make, allows for lots of variety, and it is delicious cold.
posted by studioaudience at 5:28 PM on November 7, 2010

Asian coleslaw using pre-cut cabbage or broccoli from the market is fast, delicious, healthy, keeps for several days and just gets better. If you're more dedicated than I, grating the vegetables of your choice is an option.

From the pre-chopped salad section, dressing-free:
N packages 3-way slaw (cabbage, radicchio, carrot) or angel hair cut cabbage
N packages broccoli slaw

Dressing, mix to taste:
Canola oil
Rice wine vinegar
Toasted sesame oil
Chili/garlic paste
Fish sauce
Raw turbinado sugar
posted by vers at 5:48 PM on November 7, 2010

I'm back to provide My Mom's Brussels Sprouts Recipe, which she found somewhere and emailed to me. I usually double it because I really, really love Brussels sprouts. It reheats well, but also tastes pretty good cold.

Dijon Dill Brussels Sprouts
1.5 pounds fresh or frozen Brussels sprouts, halved
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dill
0.25 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper to taste

Place Brussels sprouts in a saucepan with a small amount of water, cover and steam until desired tenderness (approx 10-12 mins). Combine butter, mustard, lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper. Drain Brussels sprouts; add butter mixture, stir well.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 6:12 PM on November 7, 2010

A little more effort than Callipygos's idea, but crazy good:

Spiced carrot salad
1 pound carrots
handful of dried cranberries
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamon
1/4 tsp coriander
1 clove garlic

Shred the carrots with a grater or a food processor. Heat the oil in a pan on a medium-low flame, add the garlic and spices, and stir them around until they get fragrant. Pour the oil and spices over the shredded carrots. Add the lemon juice and dried cranberries. Let sit for at least a few hours. (It's even better after a day or two, and it'll keep in the fridge for a week.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:54 PM on November 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also, do you like radishes? Slice up some cucumber and some radishes, toss them with some salt — don't go crazy or anything, but feel free to err on the salty side — and leave them in a bowl in the fridge. After a little marinating time, they come out all spicy and zingy and awesome tasting.

Also also: cherry tomatoes cut in half, teeny bit of salt, fuckton of ground black pepper.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:00 PM on November 7, 2010

Broccoli slaw the longer it sits in the fridge the better! I've blanched the broccoli with great success (in case you don't love it raw) and used an easy mayo (+ a bit of water to loosen it) and horseradish dressing to keep it simple.
posted by WayOutWest at 8:12 PM on November 7, 2010

Cucumber Salad! Cucumbers peeled and sliced, cut up tomatoes, cut up onion, add salt, pepper, dill, and vinegar (1/4 cup for three cucumbers). Cover and refrigerate overnight. Yum, yum, yum and extra points for super low cal.
posted by eleslie at 6:12 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Composed salads are my favorite, and they don't get gross as fast as strict leafy green salads so they can make it to lunch a bit easier. Cook's Illustrated's piece on them was really good, it focuses on keeping them from being standard soggy waterlogged ladies who lunch bland nonevents. They offered 4 really fantastic versions--apple and fennel, pear and pistachio, standard Greek with olives and tomatoes and whatnot, and radish and orange. But you soon realize the template and can go any way you want. The trick is 1 cucumber peeled, seeded, diced into 1/4-inch pieces and--important!--lightly salted and drained in a colander for at least 15 minutes to prevent sogginess; 1 romaine heart, washed, dried, and chopped roughly; something toasted and nutty (pepitas, almonds, walnuts, pistachios); some cheese (feta, blue, chevre, Parm); a main event fruit (pears, apples, asian pears, pomegranate seeds, oranges); a complementary veggie (red onion, fennel, radish, bell pepper, scallion), and the simplest lightest vinaigrette (equal parts salad oil and a lighter vinegar, say, champagne; 3 Tablespoons each is plenty). The way it works is you make the vinaigrette right in the bowl, toss in the cucumber, fruit, and veggie parts and let sit at least 5 minutes to soak it up, add the romaine and lightly toss, then top with the toasty and cheesy parts. Super simple, super delicious. Winter fruit in salad is wonderful, and this template made me realize sometimes, particularly in composed salads, less is more to highlight flavors.

Nthing kale chips and variations on wilted spinach salads like Japanese sesame-sweet and standard stuff like homemade bacon drippings and bits, almonds, toasted sesame seeds, poppy seeds, mushrooms, strawberries, oranges, or grapefruit (not altogether obvy!), stuff like that.
posted by ifjuly at 8:17 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Broad beans, frozen in a bag. Take out a handful or two and put them in a little lunchbox, they'll defrost by lunchtime. (If you want to be sure, drop them in some hot water for a minute, but you don't need to cook them through - they should be ready to eat).

Drizzle on some lemon-flavoured oil - I use rapeseed oil which is great, I guess olive oil would also be good. Done. So good. If you're feeling fancy you can add lots of chopped fresh mint leaves.
posted by penguin pie at 12:36 PM on November 11, 2010

« Older Yes, I've been to TV Tropes   |   Name that '90s female one-hit-wonder song Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.