Warm lunches when you have access to a kitchen
October 7, 2020 10:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm currently working from home while house sitting in a lovely house with a nice kitchen. As we turn to fall, I'd love to think a bit outside of the box in terms of what I could be having for lunch. Desires below the fold.

I'd prefer meals that aren't typical lunch - no sandwiches, please - but don't require a lot of chopping or prepping. The house is a bit chilly, so something warm that I could put onto the stove and let simmer for 30-45 minutes (or more) while I worked would be lovely. I'm thinking some rice stews, savory porridge or casseroles would be nice. I will be within walking distance of a Whole Foods, so that is most likely where I will shop. What would you recommend?
posted by Toddles to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
How about hot open-faced sandwiches?

You can get pre-chopped chunk chicken/ turkey breast in packages now, not just coldcuts. Toast/ garlic toast, turkey, top with hot gravy (from a packet).

I've even seen pre-chopped chunk roast beef.
posted by porpoise at 10:31 AM on October 7, 2020

Smitten Kitchen’s One-pot Farro with Tomatoes would work for this! You have to chop an onion and some garlic. You can use canned tomatoes - check in the comments for more details.
posted by punchtothehead at 10:41 AM on October 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

For me, a stay at home mom, the biggest challenge to having a hot lunch isn’t the kids- it’s that I often don’t fancy eating something I just cooked. So I end up doing left overs or having peanut butter on toast. So I will be watching this thread. However, baked potatoes might be awesome. Particularly a Prawn Marie rose baked potato.... I could munch that down right now. Unfortunately for me I don’t live in a country that regularly sells large potatoes... But are sooooo many ways to make amazing baked potatoes.
posted by pairofshades at 10:43 AM on October 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

We do Japanese style curries- both vegan and with meat. If you have a nearby Asian market (or I guess amazon) you can just buy the "golden curry" packs, which are a great shortcut. We find we can eat endless amounts of Japanese style curries vs Indian or Thai mostly because of the spice levels.

Other wintery meals that work great: Baked Potatoes (either baking or sweet, just stab it a bunch and microwave) and a small bowl of chili
posted by larthegreat at 10:44 AM on October 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

Do you have a slow cooker? I've got a bunch of slow-cooker "dump" recipes (dump everything in the pot and leave while it cooks) where you can start cooking at 8 AM and have it done in time for lunch. I'm thinking I'll make this one tomorrow, and then I can eat the leftovers for lunch for a while after that.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:47 AM on October 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

The house meal thread is gonna have some good suggestions!

This one is mine. It's a perfect lunch creation, takes 20 minutes (and I'm including idle waiting for water to boil time in that), and I have it often. I realized after I posted that that if I have goat cheese I'll throw in some goat cheese at the end as well. If you like your flavor profile less funky just leave out the anchovy and goat.
posted by phunniemee at 10:55 AM on October 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

How do you feel about soup? Do you have a pressure cooker? This lentil sweet potato soup is so quick and easy and comforting.
posted by Biblio at 11:12 AM on October 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

This is a pretty great tasting and great smelling lentil stew that can be served over rice or the grain of your choice, excellent with crusty bread. The only thing that requires chopping is the sweet potato and an onion (you can use jarred garlic and dry ginger). It's a little bit different from Biblio's recipe directly above.
posted by jessamyn at 11:15 AM on October 7, 2020

Make some rice with raisins or currants in the pot with it (I use a rice cooker). When it's done, stir in a handful of feta cheese and almond slivers.

Also delicious and easy; cut onions, peppers, and eggplant into one-inch chunks, toss in oil, roast in the oven. 350 for 45 minutes or so will do it. Serve mixed in with rice or pasta. (Or puree it and eat as a dip. Or serve it over the aforementioned rice/cheese/nuts mixture. Yum.)
posted by gideonfrog at 11:23 AM on October 7, 2020

I'm in the same situation and the best lunches I've made this year have been curries. I made the Budget Bytes chana saag recently and it made enough for about eight lunches. I felt so much better on the days when all I had to do was put a grain in the rice cooker after breakfast and reheat some of that compared to the days when I forget to plan for lunch and end up eating something hasty and less tasty. Same when I made a big pot of the Smitten Kitchen everyday dal.
posted by terretu at 11:31 AM on October 7, 2020

I've been WFH for years and have very strong feelings most of the year that lunch should be hot, but I also don't have time to cook-cook during the day. On the weekends, I try to meal prep at least one casserole-ish thing (and freeze in portions so I've got many different frozen casserole servings in the freezer after a month or two), and the other thing I do is mix up a mayo-based marinade* for thin-pounded chicken breasts (or tenders, or b/s thighs, whatever you want to deal with). The mayo sticks, isn't terribly drippy, and is easy to brown. Throwing one of those into the air fryer, a nonstick pan, or on a sheet pan will get you done in 12-20 minutes, and depending on your cooking method (this is why I prefer air fryer or oven to a pan) you can likely do a side of oiled seasoned broccoli, brussels, small potato wedges or slices, misc roastable vegetables, etc. You can do the same thing with salmon or thin frozen fish (just brush on mayo and season before cooking).

*If the chicken is going to sit over several days, be very conservative with salt and acids or you will get rubbery slightly-pickled chicken. I leave out salt and acid until I'm putting them on the tray to cook and that works great.

I also make huge batches of frozen meatballs (also available from the store if you don't want to make them) to keep in the freezer. I throw a handful in the oven or air fryer, make a vegetable side alongside them or microwave-steamed, serve with sauce and a starch. I keep a range of sauces on hand - teriyaki, BBQ, marinara or passata - to toss everything in at the end.

Egg Roll In A Bowl is a low-carb go-to, but nothing's stopping you from including rice, sweet potato, or even noodles in yours if you like.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:38 AM on October 7, 2020

I'm going to suggest the Quiche's bready cousin, the Strata. Sort of a savory bread pudding. Find a basic recipe and then add what you like. I use cheddar cheese, onion, and thyme. It reheats well (covered with foil) in the oven or toaster oven. Don't microwave it.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 11:40 AM on October 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

I like a one-pan fry-up.
- bloom crushed chilies and other spices in a little olive oil in a small pan, maybe add a clove of garlic
- add starch, whatever leftovers you have: cube a cold baked potato or use rice or pasta.
- rinse and add canned white beans, chickpeas, or whatever your fave bean is
- add leftover veg. in my house this is often broccoli, brussels sprouts, or chard
- lots of salt and pepper, maybe some lemon juice, oregano, fresh parsley. sometimes I chop olives in.

Sometimes I do buckwheat soba. Cook one bundle of soba noodles in boiling water for 5 mins (watch for boiling over!)
- meantime, add some hot but not boiling water to a small bowl in which you have put a teaspoonful of white miso, a little tamari, and some fresh lemon juice. stir and break up the miso paste.
- chop some veg: carrot, cucumber, a little green onion if you have it, add some greens; arugula, spinach, or even lettuce.
- when the noodles are cooked, drain well and add them to a largeish bowl in which you have already put the veg. add a small glug of sesame oil to the noodles and pour the miso stuff over it.
- mix together and top with a hardboiled egg, or cold cooked beef or chicken or tofu if you have them.
- if you have some shichimi togarasu or other dry seasoning shake some of that overtop. I like sesame seeds or roasted shelled peanuts too.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 12:43 PM on October 7, 2020

I can see why you are asking. There are some tricky bits here. It's easy to imagine 15-20 minutes of rice-cooking time, but a rice dish is going to require some chopping. (You can mitigate chopping vegetables by buying them already chopped from the supermarket salad bar.) Actually, a single serving is really too small for the long simmer.

My first reaction was "that's what left-overs are for." A left-over could be just about any one pot meal. Being a New Englander, I occasionally have a single-serving can of baked beans especially there is some ham to throw in. I admit that I microwave it.

Try looking for a ramen recipe. It's broth + noodles + tasty additives + some cooking time.
posted by SemiSalt at 12:44 PM on October 7, 2020

Put some tomato soup, purchased or homemade, (or my favorite, tomato/roasted red pepper soup from a box) in a pot. Add some kale - bagged and prewashed if you want it to be super quick, or prep in advance - and optionally, some chicken, either previously cooked or raw. Simmer until the kale is cooked (and chicken is cooked, if needed). Top with cheesy croutons if you want. So good!
posted by insectosaurus at 1:45 PM on October 7, 2020

Congee requires basically no prep work. I toss in whole chicken thighs, rice, some roughly chopped ginger which I take out at the end, sometimes some dried shitake which I either soak and chop, or if feeling very lazy just toss in whole. It simmers on the stove for a decent amount of time, steaming up the house and feeling cozy.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 2:16 PM on October 7, 2020

thegreatfleecircus's congee suggestion is great!

Any easy variation on congee is to add roughly chopped sweet potatoes for a bit more heft. I like mine topped with a fried or poached egg, sliced green onions, soy sauce, and some chili oil, but I've also been known to add roasted peanuts, sliced Japanese pickles, century eggs, kimchi, leftover mushroom or greens stir fries, or fried onions (the ones that come pre fried in a can) depending on how I feel.
posted by A Blue Moon at 2:27 PM on October 7, 2020

Pasta e ceci. Delicious, and truly as fast and easy as promised!
posted by somedaycatlady at 5:53 PM on October 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

I love making a scramble for lunch when I have the time. And it's great "refrigerator glue" to use up a bit of lunchmeat, leftover chicken, spinach, cooked veggies, or whatever. My absolute favorite is Applegate Farms Turkey Bacon. There's no real "recipe" but this is what I do:

Heat pan to medium (not too hot or you'll burn your eggs!), spray with olive oil spray or add some butter. While that's heating, scramble the eggs with a splash of water plus salt and pepper. If I have fresh herbs it's worth it to chop and add those.

Chop up your mix-ins. I like to do a mix of veggies, meat, and cheese. Veggies and meat go in the pan, sometimes one before the other if it's raw. Then pour in your scrambled eggs, and use a silicone spatula to keep scraping and mixing up everything. When it's about 75% cooked, add in your cheese.

The key is to take it off the heat when you think it's not quite finished. It will cook a little more on the plate and be perfect.

Serve on the side a little salad or some cut up fruit.
posted by radioamy at 9:21 PM on October 7, 2020

I have fallen in love with pancakes for lunch. I never have the energy at breakfast time, but by noon I’m able to stand at the stove for a few minutes. I use Joy of Cooking’s recipe, with one egg instead of two. My favorite topping is warm applesauce.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:40 PM on October 8, 2020

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