The Dilemma of What to Make for Lunch

As much as I advocate eating in, and as much as I love to cook, I struggle with what to prepare for lunch. I’m lucky in that I work from home and have the luxury of preparing my mid-day meal in my own kitchen, but I still seek new ideas to mix up the routine. I want to break up the monotony without taking up much time.

Here are a few of my favorite selections. Please send more my way!

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

The first selection is chicken lettuce wraps — my dire attempt to recreate my favorite item on the PF Chang’s menu. This one’s tastes close to the restaurant’s version — albeit the wraps are missing Chang’s special sauce that goes on top.  I loosely followed a recipe from Cuisine at Home Magazine for dinner the previous night.  For lunch the next day, I served the chicken mixture on top of rice noodles for some added crunch.

To the ground chicken, I added ginger, garlic, lime juice, soy sauce, onion, garlic sauce, a touch of brown sugar, cilantro, and mint. The original recipe suggested fish sauce in place of soy, and ground peanuts on top.

Quinoa Salad

The idea for this dish originated from Bon Appetit’s quinoa tabbouleh. After preparing it a number of times, whenever I now make this salad, I add whatever ingredients I have on hand, versus strictly adhering to the recipe. The key to giving quinoa its flavor, in my opinion, is a lemon vinaigrette and tomatoes. To these ingredients, I add either parsley or basil or both, and maybe even some mint. The original recipe called for cucumbers and scallions; last night when I made it, I didn’t have either so I added corn. It’s delicious either way!

Portabella Mushroom Sandwich

I was inspired to make this sandwich upon tasting a similar version at a lovely cafe in Bozeman, Montana. To prepare, I saute portabella mushrooms and red peppers. When these are almost cooked, I add spinach or arugula and goat cheese. After placing the ingredients on top of toasted bread, I drizzle a little balsamic glaze for an extra zip. You can buy the latter at most specialty markets.

Grilled Cheese

Last but not least, yesterday I made a grilled cheese with a twist. One of my favorite lunch spots in Boise is Jenny’s Lunch Line, and they always prepare flavorful dishes with simple, home-made ingredients. So I owe them this idea! The sandwich has pesto, arugula, cheese and sliced peaches. I’m not sure what cheese the restaurant used, but I tried it with with Havarti. It was delicious!

Melinda Hinson