box lunches: chicken shawarma + hummus roasted mashed potatoes

Mike left this week’s worth of lunches in a bag on the CTA early Tuesday morning. Not a great start to the week.  He was lunchless and disappointed, mostly because these chicken shawarma lunches happen to be his favorite.  Our only solace comes from the hope that some hungry stranger found them and was able to enjoy them, but who am I kidding? RIP delicious shawarma, you’re just another casualty of public transportation.

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The inspiration for these lunches came from a very dark place. Some of you may be familiar with my unhealthy obsession with hummus. I know, I have a problem.  I’m yet to discover a dippable snack that isn’t heavenly smothered in it.  Pitas! Pretzels! Baby Carrots! Roasted broccoli! French fries!

And here is where things got out of control.  The french fries.  I never should have dunked a french fry in hummus.  It opened a Pandora’s box of possibilities because if there is any food obsession that rivals my obsession with hummus it would be potatoes.  Hummus and potatoes?  I need to lie down now…

The great thing about these hummus mashed potatoes is their texture.  I do not tolerate soupy mashed potatoes.  That’s why red potatoes are my favorite to mash.  This recipe takes them even further and you’re going to think I’m crazy but I need you to trust me on this one.  Roast your potatoes first.  Mash them second.  I kid you not, it will change your life.  Roasting them in the oven first gives them that really crunchy exterior and keeps the insides pillowy and soft, so they mash up perfectly chunky and creamy at the same time.  I imagine they’d pair well with any flavor combination, but the hummus adds just the right amount of tang that goes perfectly with the chicken shawarma.  Roasting the potatoes first does add a bit of time to this recipe, but I promise you it’s worth every second.

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hummus roasted mashed potatoes
3 lbs red potatoes, cut into quarters
olive oil
salt + pepper
1 cup hummus
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 – 1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425°.  Place potatoes on a sheet pan and coat with a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Salt and pepper to taste. Roast potatoes in oven for approximately 1 hour, flipping halfway through.  (I always put the hummus in a glass bowl on the stove-top while the potatoes are roasting- this takes the chill off and makes it easier to incorporate later on.)  When the potatoes are finished roasting, immediately place them in a saucepan with the butter and cover with a tight fitting lid.   Let them steam for 5 minutes, allowing the butter to melt.  Mash the potatoes a bit before adding the milk.  I always start with 1/4 cup of milk to avoid soupy potatoes.  You may need to add a bit more to get the right consistency.  Once the potatoes have reached the perfect mash, mix in the hummus.

And there you have it- hummus roasted mashed potatoes.  It’s a mouthful, a wonderfully delicious mouthful.

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I used this recipe for chicken shawarma.  I used 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and marinated them in 1.5 times the spice mixture overnight.   I also opted out of pan frying the chicken after taking it out of the oven.  If you’re going to eat it right away, I think pan frying would give it a nice little crunch, but since I microwave these lunches again at work, I find that it dries out the chicken a little too much.

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The above mashed potato recipe and 3 chicken breasts cooked using the recipe linked above made enough for 8 lunches.  Roasted broccoli will probably pop up in many box lunch posts because I can’t get enough.  I like to stuff everything (potatoes included) into a pita.  It’s a great way to break up a mundane work day.

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shredded pork tacos + carmelized onions + apple slaw

I Mexican’t contain myself when it comes to tacos.  As soon as the weather starts to warm up, it’s all I want to eat.  Fish tacos! Chicken tacos! Steak tacos!  Shrimp tacos!  I promise there will be an iteration of each of these on the blog eventually.  Today I bring you the infamous pork taco.

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I never ate much pork when I was growing up.  It wasn’t on my mother’s regular rotation.  Mike’s family was another story, though, so he is always begging me to incorporate more pork into our diet.  It’s not that I don’t like it, but I just never really consider it as an option.

These tacos are pretty simple.  The pork is cooked in the slow cooker, so there isn’t much activity involved in the pork prep.  Throw a pork loin roast in a citrus marinade overnight and it’s ready to toss into your slow cooker.  You can brown the sides of the roast before putting it in the slow cooker, but it won’t stay crunchy so I think it’s an unnecessary step.

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The hardest part of this recipe is the caramelized onions, but even those aren’t difficult.  They just require a lot of time (about 2 hours, start to finish).  Because they take so long, I’d recommend cooking 4-5 very large yellow onions and freezing the rest for later.  Or put them on a panini for lunch tomorrow.  Or in your scrambled eggs.  Or anywhere.  Really.  I promise it won’t be a bad idea.

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slow cooker pork loin roast
2-3 lb pork loin shoulder, scored
1 head of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
1 pint orange juice
6 limes, juiced
1/2 white onion, sliced
1 12 ounce beer
1 small jalapeno, halved

Grind garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano in a mortar and pestle until it forms a paste.  Combine herb paste with juices.  Add pork and onions to marinade and let marinate in the fridge over night.  Place pork in slow cooker with onions reserved from marinade.  The rest of the marinade can be discarded.  Add a 12 ounce beer into the crock pot (we used a Fat Tire).  Let the pork loin roast cook for 6-8 hours on low.  When the pork is tender, pull it by hand and return it to the broth with the jalapeno.  Let it hang out on your slow cooker’s warm setting until you’re ready to eat.

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We topped our pork tacos with a little bit of chihuahua cheese, some fresh cilantro and a simple apple slaw made with sliced green apples tossed with a bit of lime juice.

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It’s a relaxing Sunday night meal.  I don’t even want to taco ’bout how delicious it is.

box lunches: asian style chicken + soy glazed carrots + roasted broccoli + brown rice

When i first started working in an office, I didn’t understand how much of my money would be wasted on buying lunch.  Not only was I spending $10+ per day on food, but the food was never any good.  The never ending marathon of fast food took a toll on both my wallet and my waistline and I knew that buying lunch everyday was not a sustainable way to live.

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Bring on the box lunches! Spending Sunday afternoons cooking lunches was the first change I made when Mike and I decided to start eating healthier.  A few hours in the kitchen ended up saving us so much money, and we end up with a well balanced and delicious meal to break up the monotony of the work day.  It might seem silly, but having a home-cooked meal at my desk somehow makes the day seem so much brighter (but then again, most of my days are spent counting down the minutes until my next meal, so I may be crazy).

This is my most recent version of our lunch assembly line: Asian style chicken, soy glazed carrots, roasted broccoli, and brown rice.

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I only use chicken breasts, as they’re always available in my freezer, and make sure to marinate them overnight for optimal flavor.  Baking the chicken is a good way to multi-task!  You can get the carrots and brown rice done on the stove-top while the chicken and broccoli cook in the oven.

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Coat the broccoli with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roasting broccoli at 475° should only take about 15 minutes.  Once it’s all brown and crispy, I like to finish it with a squeeze of lemon (or lime) juice.

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For the carrots, it’s important to use carrots that have dried out for a few days in the fridge.  It really makes a huge difference in the caramelization.

And that’s it!  I usually try to make 8-10 lunches to feed both me and Mike for one workweek, so I double the recipes above.  This combo only takes about an hour to put together, but it definitely beats anything I could buy on my lunch break at work.

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