Brown Bag Lunch: Recipes & Tips from the Brian Lehrer Show

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Kate: Combine cubes of cheese and salami, ham or turkey; sliced raw peppers, mushrooms and tuna fish (olive oil packed but drained); sliced raw fennel, sardines, and curls of parmesan cheese. The idea is to combine protein and raw vegetables that won’t easily get limp.

Paul: I keep it simple: Sunday night I make a big bowl of rice for the week, and cook a bunch of chicken cutlets. Every night I steam fresh veggies, and throw them in a container with my already cooked rice and one of the cutlets cut up. 1:45 in the microwave at work, and I have a nutritious, light lunch that doesn’t have me dragging at 3pm in the afternoon.

Nat: Cold Sesame Noodles are a great lunch that you can make ahead of time quite easily. All you need is some noodles, I use Soba. As those are cooking, mix up some soy sauce, peanut butter (or oil), chili sauce (if you like spicy), minced garlic. Shred some carrots and maybe bring some bean sprouts. Mix the noodles and sauce, add in the carrots and sprouts when you are ready to eat. They are meant to be eaten cold, so you can eat them straight from the fridge. **I left out sesame oil and seeds, a little bit is enough, since sesame can be really overpowering.

Claire Wilson: My favorite lunch these days is grated carrots with a hard-boiled egg and small can of Progresso (or other brand) tuna fish mashed into it. I dress it with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper. I alternate it with a salad of fresh red beets that I boil in bulk weekly, greens, a little goat cheese and vinaigrette made with walnut oil and lemon juice. I throw in a few walnuts sometimes, too.

Alex: I usually brought hummous wraps or hummous and pita and or veggies to work in the past, but I’ve been trying to get more creative lately. Yesterday I combined Near East Sesame Ginger Rice and some Trader Joe’s cooked shrimp. It’s easy to cook and thaw both and you can get a couple of meals out of it. I also have been making other rice dishes using brown rice, various seasonings, and adding peas, shrimp, you can add chicken, other vegetables…and you can make it all last

Tanuja: My favorite is a Santa Fe rice meal that I borrowed from the “SmartOne” microwave meals: I cook a large pot of rice, mix in one diced green and red bell pepper, a can of black beans, a cup of corn and two envelopes of taco seasoning. I’ll also dice up some chicken breasts and cook them in some more taco seasoning. During the week, I’ll make some rice bowls with a layer of my taco chicken, some shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and dice tomatoes. I also often wrap up these same ingredients into a wrap and make burritos, which I freeze for another week.

Joseph: Roasted chicken is one of the easiest, tastiest, and most economical meals you can make. Rub the chicken with salt, pepper, and pressed garlic, then roast on a rack in a roasting pan at 450 for 10 mins/lb., or until internal temp is 165. Surround with vegetables if you’d like. Not only will you get a few dinners, but the leftovers can be used for sandwiches, stir-fries, and soup.

Raya: Very simple, tasty and healthy sandwich: Spread generously avocado on Ezekiel bread, top it with lox (wild Alaskan salmon from Trader Joe’s), add some sliced purple onion, squeeze some lemon juice, romaine (or any other) lettuce and there you go..

Jessica: A pint of home-made broth or soup, some kimchee and an uncooked egg is [also] one of my favorites. I nuke the broth with some kimchee in it until it’s boiling and then break the raw egg into it and cover it until it poaches.

superf88: This one’s downright revolutionary (4 meal or snack) thank me later.

1. half and half either brown rice or sherry vinegar plus plain water;

2. broccoli stems (that’s right!), anything else ya want — cauliflower (frozen works too), carrots, corn, any veggies;

3. some spices if you want, like salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, hot pepper, coriander seeds, pickling spices — tho none needed.

Dunk in the vinegar filled cup or jar, let sit in fridge for a few hours up to a couple weeks; eat. Bam! You have hereby doubled or tripled vegetable consumption

Sarah: Favorite pasta salad: chopped artichokes from a can, tuna fish (canned), capers, lemon juice, salt & pepper tossed with pasta and splash of Olive oil. Keeps well.

Felix: Gourmet sandwich- For this some kind of nice sourdough or French bread is best. Spread goat cheese on both sides (its pretty cheap a trader joes) sprinkle salt, pepper, thyme, and dried basil on top of goat cheese. Slice tomato and place it on one side of the sandwich. Place a heaping pile of baby spinach or fresh mixed greens on top of tomato. It tastes best with vinaigrette but can get soggy by lunch time so I recommend mixing oil vinegar and lemon juice in a separate container and adding a small amount when you eat lunch.

Anna: Salads from leftover roast chicken are great; the key is to have a variety of tastes and textures, combining - among others - apple, bell peppers, celery for crunch; chopped nuts; dried cranberries or raisins for more sweetness; canned corn or peas; boiled rice or cubed potato if you need to stretch the food and don’t mind the carbs; a chopped hard-boiled egg; etc. I finish it with a bit of mayonnaise and lime juice (and lots of white or black pepper).

K in NJ: A little can of sardines and some rye crackers. My mom (who is from Sweden) used to send my sister and me to school with this lunch, which embarrassed me then (1950s, small-town America) but is one of my favorites now.

Orleanna: Boiling it down to the very basics. You can’t beat the boiled egg for packability. Delicious, maybe not, but I find it satisfying to my hunger and budget as well as to my lazy tendencies.

Lori: Frittatas are easy to make: try slowly sauteeing onions and swiss chard in a skillet, when soft, add 6-8 scrambled eggs, cook over medium heat and at the last minuted cook the top under the broiler. You have 4 good size meals with veg/protein.

Roses: I make this recipe in a slow cooker, but you can also use a regular stock pot. Toss in veggies (fresh or frozen, can of black beans, jar of tomato sauce, ground meat or turkey (I use ground boca burgers), spices. Cook on slow for 7 hours. Makes a great healthy, inexpensive chili. Take a portion to work and freeze the rest in several small plastic bags; one portion per bag. You can improvise with different veggies, proteins, and seasonings.

Roger Weir: I am not a very big home-cooker at all, but I’ve been doing more and more roasting lately. In particular, a roast chicken recipe which features: - Very thinly sliced lemon stuffed under the skin. - Fresh rosemary under the skin. - Rub the bird with garlic cloves. - Lemon thirds, whole rosemary sprigs and whole garlic cloves inside the bird. - About 15mins. before the bird is done, brush lemon curd over the skin. The curd caramelizes on the skin, and along with the lemon slices and the lemon inside the bird, the whole chicken takes lemony, herby, and delicious. - I’ve tended to put brussel sprouts and onions around the bird and let them roast up as well. Brussel sprouts are a recent favorite and only need salt, pepper, olive oil and about 45mins of roasting to taste amazing. I can get one great dinner out of this, then tend to wrap the remaining chicken in a tortilla along with refried beans for a lunch-time burrito the next day.

Emily: My favorite cheap lunch is really healthy too — cooked lentils, organic brown rice, shredded cheddar, frozen chopped broccoli, diced fresh tomatoes, and sauteed carrots/onions/garlic/olive oil, all thrown together and mixed up. It’s delicious, and aside from the cheese, is very low in salt. Plus, all the fiber and protein help keep you full and fueled for a long time.

Nancy: It is easy to cook a sweet potato in the office microwave. Make sure you cut it in half length-wise before packing it up. Cover with a damp paper towel to keep it from drying out and cook on high for 3-4 minutes or until it is tender all the way through. I like to add some chili to it during the last minute of heating, then top with cheese. You can also add salsa, sour cream, plain yogurt or your favorite potato toppings.

My husband’s absolutely favorite food! Microwave, then mash: Morningstar Farms Spicy Black Bean Burgers AND/OR vegetarian burgers Filling options: shredded cheese shredded lettuce diced tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, olives, onions sour cream salsa guacamole Put everything in a flour tortilla wrap (we especially like Mission cheddar/jalapeno wraps), folding in the sides so nothing escapes. Put the wet items (tomatos, salsa, sour cream, guac) in the middle so they don’t touch the wrap and make it soggy. Eat warm or cold, and enjoy!

Kathy Chan (Monday’s guest): When my pantry is completely bare, I’ll do something called ketchup fried rice. I learned this from my grandparents, who refer to it as Americanized-fried rice (they immigrated to Hawai’i from Vietnam). Three ingredients - day old rice, garlic, and ketchup. I swear, it is awesome!

I. Ncarce: Super Veggie Boigahs. 4 oz Chopped Spinach 4 oz Carrots, Diced 8 oz Vegetarian Beans drain all vegetables well 4 oz Applesauce 1 oz Tomato Paste 1/2 cup Potato Flakes 1 cup Bread Crumbs 1 T Margarine 1 tsp Garlic Powder or Flakes Combine drained vegetables. Gradually and gently blend in remaining ingredients until well combined but do not over beat. Mixture should be stiff but moist enough to spread. Each loaf should weigh 1 1/2 pounds precooked weight and be scaled to insure proper weight. Place mixture into a loaf pan that has been sprayed with pan release and lined with filter paper. Each loaf should bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit in convection/steam oven for approximately 40 minutes or until the loaf reaches 155 degrees internal temperature.

Zora (Tuesday’s guest): My go-to sandwich, when I don’t have dinner leftovers, is egg salad, which sounds dull but is really tasty. Simply chop up hard-boiled eggs (not too fine) and mix with a bit of mayonnaise–just enough to moisten. Start small–it takes less than you think. Add a generous amount of salt and a bit of black pepper, and you’re done. I like a tiny smear of butter on my bread, and a good crisp leaf of lettuce as well.

Carla: I make a soup over the weekend that can last for the week. Saute an onion. When slightly browned I add garlic, chopped ginger, and vindaloo curry paste. Continue to saute until all are combined. Add water to cover, bring to a boil, and add any leftover cooked or raw vegetables. Simmer until all the veggies are cooked. Put in a food processor and chop up until sort of smooth. Pack in separate containers. The soup can be heated in a microwave in the winter or eaten a room temperature in the summer.

Karen Ogle:

Tortellini Salad- Package of dried tortellini cooked as per directions 2 cloves of chopped garlic 1/2 diced red pepper 5 chopped artichoke hearts 5 chopped sundried tomatoes 1/4 cup of toasted Pine Nuts 1/2 cup of peas Olive Oil Lemon Juice Salt and Pepper Add a couple of swigs of olive oil to a frying pan over medium head. Add the garlic and red pepper. After about 3 minutes, add the frozen peas and toss around until just tender. Cool. Add all ingredients together with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

Chesterton: 8 oz of fresh creamy whole milk yogurt from my farmer, raw milk from my farmer, (for coffee I make at work) 8 oz kombucha I made (fermented tea that tastes like cider+lemonade and cured my diet coke jones AND it’s really cheap!), 1 oz cheese from my farmer (for 4 PM slump) and veggies. I keep homemade mustard vinaigrette at the office for the veggies. It’s all really good food and I don’t get bored. [Also,] I put a tbsp of miso paste in a baby food jar with a splash of raw soy sauce and a drop of toasted sesame seed oil - and maybe a few frozen peas - I add hot water in a mug and voila - a soothing soup.

Carly: I bring lunch to work every day, and have found that a baked sweet potato with homemade lentil soup/mung dhal inside is an incredibly satisfying and healthful lunch - it goes hand in hand with my weekly routine of cooking up a big pot of a legume-based soup or sauce and a pot of brown rice or quinoa, and finding creative combinations of both throughout the week. My favorite combos include adding fresh avocado chunks, tart lime pickle (truly makes any meal extraordinary), fresh steamed veggies like kale or broccoli, or nestling the soup inside a baked sweet potato. Just wrap the potato in tinfoil and bake until soft the night before, and pack it up the next day - presto! Jealousy-inducing, cockle-warming, hearty fare.

Michelle: --Black beans cooked in smoked paprika and caramelized onions (and bacon or chicken fat if you have any around). Eat with rice, sliced avocado or guacamole and topped with cilantro.

--Cold soba noodles with store bought soba sauce and wasabi. Top with cucumber, carrots, green beans (or any vegetables), canned tuna, hardboiled egg. It’s like a Japanese niçoise.

--Fried Rice- egg, Chinese sausage, sesame oil, scallions, garlic and any vegetable.

--Meatballs with rice. Make Asian meatballs with scallion, sesame oil, soy sauce and ginger or make Middle Eastern ones with turmeric, egg, paprika and onion. Eat with side of boiled green beans.

Niina: Chickpea salad: two cans of garbanzos (drained), one can of black beans (drained), red bell pepper, and parsley; toss with a dash of olive oil and cider vinegar; pepper to taste. A portion of this salad along with a piece of fruit makes a light but filling lunch.