After my last three months of work, I have a new appreciation for packed lunches. When I first started work, I had this idea that I would bring these effortless, gourmet meals to work everyday to challenge my culinary creativity and also save me money from going out to grab a bite all the time. What I found is the last thing I want to do in the morning when I’m rushing is make a mess in the kitchen and assemble my lunch. In the evenings after I have already cooked dinner I don’t want to turn on the stove or oven again and cook something. The perfect in between for my lunch preparation has become making a hearty and flavorful salad the night before. While I sip some wine and potentially even multitask prepping dinner, I will throw together this salad (or even make a batch of a few) to have ready for work the following morning.
Try this with the last of fresh summer produce and adapt for fall favorites. Here’s what I include… First, add a layer of canned chicken to your container. You could certainly make your own in a big batch with chicken breast, but I also love Costco’s version for those times I’m in a pinch. Then sprinkle any cheese you have on hand. I’m really into blue cheese lately, but feta would also be great. Then, half or quarter some beautiful cherry tomatoes. You could also use heirlooms from the farmer’s market or any red, ripe tomatoes you grab from the store.
Cucumbers and dill are a match made in heaven. I slice and then quarter cucumber to toss in next and then chop a nice handful of fresh dill. Use both of these later for a cucumber salad! Don’t forget to take a sip of your wine while you’re prepping.
For color, I love adding bright orange carrots. I buy a bag of these pre-washed, pre-cut carrots on the weekends and use for salads all week. They also can get easily tossed into stir fry or chopped up and incorporated to a veggie pasta.
Dressing can be anything you have on hand. Sometimes I’ll bring a bottle of a red wine or balsamic vinaigrette to the office to leave in our fridge. There’s no sense it bringing one back and forth everyday! Other times, I’ll squeeze some fresh lemon and drizzle olive oil, balsamic and S&P over the salad toppings before I add the lettuce. This will prevent the lettuce from getting soggy and will actually add flavor to the veggies and chicken. Your greens can range from a spring mix, to fresh romaine to kale or spinach!
Just like that you have a hearty salad ready for the next morning. You can grab and go on your way to work, and I promise you will have some very impressed co-workers. I would love to hear what else you add to your make-ahead salads? Hard boiled eggs? Avocado? Quinoa? Comment below and share any photos with me on Snapchat (gourmetgab) or tag me on Instagram (gourmet_gab)!
Love food. Love self. Love life.