Home Cooking: Gourmet lunches on a budget of $3 a day
I recently started a part-time job. Three days each week I work in an office. Dining out would quickly get expensive and buying packaged meals at the grocery store could mean processed foods containing unpronounceable ingredients.
Leftovers are always an option, but only if I need incentive to grab a sandwich on Main Street. Let’s be honest, no matter how delicious it tasted last night, re-heated leftovers never achieve their former glory.
So, I set a goal to create a week’s worth of lunches on a budget. And no, you won’t find a cup of ramen noodles anywhere on this menu. What you’ll find are fresh vegetables, bold flavors and delicious variety. All for $15 total for five days of lunches.
$15? I know, it sounds impossible. One of the greatest health challenges our nation faces, and Summit County is not immune, is making healthy, economical food choices available for everyone. This goal can be challenging when our food travels a great distance.
As someone who loves to cook, I believe eating on a budget shouldn’t mean endless cups of ramen noodles, frozen pizzas and peanut butter sandwiches, especially for growing young bodies. By the way, all of these recipes can be enjoyed by kids, adjust the seasonings accordingly. Since we’ll be making all three recipes at once, let the kids help. They’ll enjoy eating something they prepared.
I believe fresh vegetables are the answer to delicious economical meals. When we cook according to the season, vegetables cost less, they’re fresher, and it’s more likely that they were grown locally or in our case, somewhere in Colorado.
Here’s my shopping list
2 large summer squash or zucchini
1 bag of baby spinach
4 Roma tomatoes
1 lb. carrots
2 cans of chickpeas
1 cup of quinoa
1 quart of vegetable stock or 2 tablespoons of miso paste and 4 cups of water
1 small Fuji apple
Small box of raisins
1 small mango
1 package of pita breads
1 box of whole wheat linguine
From my pantry
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
Italian spice mix
Salt and pepper
All three lunches are prepared at the same time. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the squash and tomatoes into half-moons, slice three carrots into coins. Scatter the vegetables onto a baking sheet, sprinkle with EVOO, salt and pepper. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
While the vegetables are roasting, cook 1 cup of quinoa according to package directions. Allow to come to room temperature. You can then move onto prepping the curried chick pea salad sandwich. You will split the roasted vegetables between the hearty Italian soup and the Southwestern quinoa salad.
Curried Chickpea Salad Pita Sandwich
Drain and rinse in can of chickpeas. Put the chickpeas and roughly mash them, so that you have a mixture of broken and whole pieces. Dice the shallot and the small apple into small pieces, add to the bowl, along with the raisins. Add a squeeze of lime juice, about 2-3 teaspoons of curry powder, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 1/3 cup of mayonnaise. Taste and adjust seasonings. Stuff a pita with the chickpea mixture and a handful of baby spinach. Makes two large sandwiches. You can also skip the pita, enjoy this as a salad with the baby spinach, and pita chips on the side. Pack raw carrot sticks to enjoy on the side.
Hearty Italian Vegetable Soup
In a large saucepan, bring the vegetable stock and a quarter size amount of linguine broken in two. Bring to boil and allow the noodles to cook for five minutes. Drain and add a can of chickpeas, and about a cup of the roasted mixed vegetables and two handfuls of spinach. Season with Italian seasoning mix, salt and pepper. Makes two large, vegetable-filled bowls of soup, enjoy with the seasoned baked pita chips.
Southwest Quinoa Salad with Roasted Vegetables
Mix the room temperature quinoa with a sprinkling of olive oil, a squeeze of lime juice, a healthy sprinkle of ground cumin, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Dice avocado and mango. Gently fold in roasted vegetables, two handfuls of baby spinach, avocado and mango. Taste and adjust seasonings. Enough for two large salads.
Seasoned Baked Pita Chips
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the four remaining pitas and cut each into eight triangles. Scatter the pita triangles with EVOO, season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the pitas are crisp and golden. Serve the chips with your soup or salad.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson lives in Breckenridge.
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