Culinary Chic

There’s nothing quite like a homemade lunch, but sometimes I’m just too lazy to prepare lunch in advance. Even though I like to take the easy way out more often than not, it’s important for me to have easily accessible lunches that aren’t too expensive. Sure, I would love to go out to eat every single day, but it just isn’t realistic for my wallet or my waistline. I tend to gravitate towards the frozen food section for the obvious reasons – cost and convenience. Unfortunately in most cases this means some type of sacrifice on taste. Recently Lean Cuisine launched a Culinary Collection line of frozen meals, so when DailyBuzz Food offered the opportunity for me to try them out, I immediately signed up.

One thing I appreciate is vegetarian options, which are harder to come by than you’d think; it seems as though the majority of frozen meals available have chicken in them. One thing that always blows my mind is soup – they have so many veggie friendly options (lentil, black bean, pasta and veggies), but so many of them aren’t actually vegetarian! Of course being only 6 months in I sometimes forget to check the label since I assume things that don’t include meat on the initial package mean it won’t include animal products on the ingredient’s list. Thankfully I’m getting better at it. So I was initially nervous that there wouldn’t be many options for me to choose from within the Culinary Collection, but I was pleasantly surprised! After much debate, I decided on their Mushroom Mezzaluna Ravioli entree, and couldn’t wait to dig in at lunch.


It’s always a pat on the back when you’re heating something up in the work kitchen and someone makes a comment that it smells good… which is exactly what happened when I was heating up my lunch! You never want to be the person that stinks up the entire room (cough, fish re-heaters, cough). So with the smell already getting a thumbs up from me and my co-workers, it was time to eat. Verdict? YUM! As with all frozen meals, though, I found myself wanting more when I was done. Of course that’s a good thing because it means I enjoyed it, but it was just shy of being enough for this runner girl.


While the picture doesn’t do it justice, this dish has a lot of flavor. It’s half-mooned ravioli filled with portabello and button mushrooms, romano and ricotta cheeses, in a creamy marsala wine sauce with spinach and red peppers. I definitely tasted all of those ingredients, which was impressive. It’s nutritional values are pretty solid, too, with 14g of protein 3g of fiber, and a total of 290 calories. Paired with some fruit, yogurt, or other healthy options makes for a well-rounded, quick, and easy lunch. I’m definitely looking forward to trying their other varieties!

Have you tried any of the Lean Cuisine “Culinary Chic” dinners?
What do you usually have for lunch?

Disclaimer: I have partnered with Lean Cuisine through DailyBuzz Food to help promote their new line of Chef’s Pick products. I have been compensated for my time commitment to work with this product. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments. Thank you Lean Cuisine!

Lunch Toppers

When it comes to cooking, it’s easy to fall into a pattern. For me, I like to try and make something new almost every night for dinner. But when it comes to lunch, I tend to stick to what I know and repeat a lot. What I have for lunch seems to go through a cycle, depending on what I’m feeling. One week it may be frozen meals, another week it may be sandwiches, and sometimes its specific snacks or ingredients.

I’ve been adding cucumbers and tomatoes to my lunches almost everyday the past two weeks thanks to my CSA box, putting them in sandwiches, wraps, and salads. My favorite, though, has to be in sandwich form with some hummus and alfalfa sprouts. It’s simple, easy, and really delicious. The cucumbers add a nice crunch, while the tomatoes add some sweetness.

I think it’s important to eat what you enjoy at lunch – it’s a break in the workday, and who wants to eat something they’re less than enthusiastic about? There are plenty of afternoons I head to the kitchen ready for lunch, and am less than excited about what awaits in the fridge. My personal favorites are a well dressed sandwich or salad, or leftovers. Since I save most of my eating out for dinner on the weekends, I only have myself to blame when I’m less than excited about what I have each day. I can’t wait to see what my next lunch obsession is… I’m seeing veggie burgers in my future.

Do you have any lunch time staples? 
Any suggestions of things I should definitely try? 

Daily Grind

Since finishing my student teaching, I’ve been back to work at my old company on a part-time basis. Even though it’s part-time I’m still trying to work as much as possible, which means heading into the office almost every day of the week. While there are a lot of differences between working in an office and a classroom, I of course find some of the biggest differences when it comes to food (surprise!).

Prior to student teaching I was concerned with my lunch options – because I wasn’t familiar with the layout of the school and what most teachers did for lunch, I spent the first few weeks bringing only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Now don’t get me wrong – I love a good PB&J, but that doesn’t quite cut it for me when it comes to lunch – I prefer it as a snack. I brought creative leftovers every now and then, but for the most part my meals were less than inspired. Knowing that I would have constant access to a toaster oven, microwaves, and a refrigerator when coming back to the office did spark a little excitement.

Despite having grand plans for my lunches, I tend to gravitate towards the frozen section during my weekly grocery shopping trips. It doesn’t require much thinking when I’m at the grocery store, or when I’m packing my lunch. Of course once it’s actually time for lunch I’m disappointed I didn’t take the extra time to prepare something myself. Since I’m currently in a no-dairy zone, and I also stay away from meat, I’m currently living more of a vegan lifestyle, but I’m far from calling myself a vegan. Just in the past week I’ve been shocked to see how many seemingly dairy-free items actually have dairy in them (like Morningstar Farms’ soy crumbles) making my frozen lunch choices slim.

Yummy sandwich!

So what do I eat for lunch?
– peanut butter & jelly sandwiches (on a rare, uninspired occassion)
– wraps (typically filled with a smattering of veggies)
– salad (previousy topped with cheese, and I’ve since been experimenting with other toppings)
– cold-cut sandwiches (also rare, but I’m a big fan of Hormel’s natual line)
– frozen meals or quick microwave meals (Hormel makes awesome “Compleates” and I’m generally a Lean Cuisine fan)

One of my favorite snacks!

Of course the aformentioned lunches are not alone – snacks are important, too! My snacking habits are all over the place, but I try to make sure there’s some type of cracker/carb, a fruit, and either yogurt or a dessert-like treat. Since I particpate in Foodie Pen Pals, I can usually guarantee I’ll have a snack for at least a week that fits one of the criteria I mentioned.

Now that marathon training is about to start (more on that later), I need to make sure I’m eating the right stuff, and the right amount to keep myself fueled. Of course it’s been a little difficult due to all the tests I’ve been having recently, but hopefully I can get back to a normal eating schedule soon.

So, what do you usually eat for lunch? Any awesome bring-to-work friendly things I should check out? 

Ladies Who Lunch

Lunch has always been my favorite meal of the day. Growing up, I was never a big breakfast person, and dinner was just an afterthought. But lunch, oh the possibilities! Lunch is smack dab in the middle of your day, perfect for you to incorporate almost anything you want – a late breakfast, or even an early dinner. You can get away with pretty much anything you feel like for lunch. I however, like to stick to typical lunch foods. You know, your sandwich, soup, salad, etc.

Since I work full time, lunch isn’t nearly as glamorous as I wish it could be. By glamorous, I mean all of the different and delicious creations that lend themselves to the mid day meal. If I had it my way, I’d be in the kitchen creating an interesting sandwich, wrap, salad, or other oddball creation daily, with of course leaving room to sample the yummy lunchtime menus from surrounding eateries. Alas, I live a far from glamorous life.

I’ll be honest, a lot of the time I’m just too lazy to think up creative lunches, so I settle for frozen meals. I try my hardest to have them no more than 2 times a week, but sometimes my schedule just doesn’t allow time for me to make my lunch ahead of time. If I have leftovers from dinner, I gladly bring those to work as well. Since my fiancé and I are currently saving for a wedding, we rarely go out for lunch during the work week – I’d say no more than once or twice a month.

After a week of boring frozen meals (the semester just started, so I was swamped with start-up work), I resolved to try something new last week. Enter my veggie wrap! I had it twice for lunch this past week, since the ingredients lent themselves to three full wraps – hello money saver! It’s nothing fancy, but it’s delicious.

Random Veggie Wrap
– Serves 1 –

1/2 Hass Avocado, sliced
1/4 Cucumber, peeled and sliced
Handful Soybean Sprouts
3 Tbsp Hummus (I used roasted garlic, but any will work)
1 Tbsp Feta (crumbled)
1 Wrap (I used tortilla – but a flavored wrap would be great, too)

1. Spread hummus in middle of tortilla
2. Place all other ingredients on top of tortilla
3. Wrap, first by folding over slightly, then turning in the sides, and continuing until all ingredients are covered

Product Review: Veggie Style

Gardein Santa Fe Chicken

Most tried and true vegetarians would probably shudder at the thought of pre-packed and processed vegetarian options, but when it comes to lunch, I need something quick and easy. And while I’m only a part-time veghead (I’ve graduated from halfetarian to threequarteraterian), I really do enjoy vegetarian food. I can’t pass up a box of Morningstar Farms’ Black Bean Burgers, or Amy’s Organic Breakfast Burritos. So, while in Wegmans this past weekend, I decided to pick up two things for my lunch this week; Gardein’s Chick’n Santa Fe and also Light Life Smart Deli’s Bologna Style veggie meat. A mouth full, I know.

So let’s start with the Gardein Chick’n Santa Fe. The package comes with two chik’n patties, which are considered to be two separate servings. At just 140 calories each, I figured I could probably have two. However, in order to stretch my dollar, I decided to just bring one for lunch on Tuesday, and I paired it with the leftover mango cous cous I had. It actually turned out to be impressively filling, and I was glad I saved the other patty for later in the week. As someone that does still eat meat, I was shocked at how meat-like the chicken really was. Even my fiancé was impressed with it’s look in terms of color and texture. The patty was stuffed with corn and black beans, and came with a spicy(ish) tomato sauce to pour on top. It only took 2 minutes to microwave, and was perfectly cooked. Needless to say I was really impressed with it, and am looking forward to trying more Gardein selections!

Onto the veggie bologna. Growing up my go-to sandwich was Boars Head bologna with yellow American cheese, cut into quarters. I am salvating just thinking about it. But let’s be honest, for both the meat eaters and non-meat eaters, bologna is pretty gross. So, I decided to give the veggie (and hopefully more healthy) option a try, as my vegetarian friend loves it. I was a bit wary, considering I’ve had real bologna and it was one of my favorite deli meats growing up. I made my sandwich Tuesday night, paired it with some American cheese, and while I was tempted to have a taste, anxiously awaited until 12pm Wednesday to give it a try. While it isn’t real bologna, it definitely does a pretty good job imitating. If I hadn’t known it was veggie bologna, I probably would have assumed it to be legit.

It’s important to keep in mind when having vegetarian substitutes, they aren’t going to taste exactly like that meat you’re swapping out (in most cases). I think if you go into trying something with the idea that it’ll taste exactly like your favorite piece of chicken, hamburger, etc. you’ll be disappointed. However, if you’re willing to try some new flavors and expand your eating palate, veggie substitutes will be nice additions (or swaps)!