Tired of boring lunches? Try this awesome formula for meals full of flavor

Working from home has radically changed my relationship with lunch. During college and my first jobs in the newsroom, I didn’t make it a priority to take time out in the middle of the day to eat. I was “too busy,” a statement I wore as a badge of honor while drinking my third iced coffee of the day (but in retrospect, it was steeped in ill-conceived Girl Boss aspirations and the remnants an eating disorder). The caffeine sometimes kept me from hanging around, but in the late afternoon I inevitably hit a wall and had to scrounge from the office for dusty candy or a stale cereal bar.

If the past few years living through a pandemic have taught me anything, it’s that taking a little extra time to benefit your body is invaluable. Of course, it looks different for different people. That could mean taking — as Vogue put it in 2021 — a “silly little walk” for your sanity. It could mean taking a glorious afternoon nap, silencing the voices telling you that you should be doing something “productive” instead.

In my case, that means Actually make me lunch.

Read more: A lunch for when you don’t have time for lunch

I’m not picky about what I do. While I tend to map out a weekly menu for dinners, lunches are a little looser. However, I have two non-negotiable points. First, the lunches I prepare are vegetarian or vegan. Second, to borrow a phrase from comedian Tim Robinson, “You can’t skip lunch – you just can’t.” In other words, I just have to do Something.

My breakfasts tend to follow a formula: there’s a quick-cooking carb, a simple protein, and some fat.

It’s an act of self-care, but flexing my culinary muscles as part of my new routine has actually been a lot of fun. Along the way, I ended up cooking delicious meals with bibs and bobs from my pantry and kitchen. They tend to follow a formula: there’s a quick-cooking carb, like canned beans, instant rice, or toast; a simple protein, such as chickpeas, edamame, eggs or tofu; and a little fat, which is most often avocado, nut butter, or a drizzle of olive oil.

There is room for a slight intrigue in the formula, however, depending on the ingredients I have on hand. This week, for example, I had some great early-season radishes, sweet potatoes, and green onions, along with stray cans of black beans and coconut milk. I used them to make the following dishes:

Lunch 1

Black beans and eggs (Ashlie Stevens)Canned black beans (which I honestly simmered with a sprinkle or two of leftover taco seasoning), topped with a fried egg, sliced ​​radishes, avocado, green onions, and pumpkin seeds.

Lunch 2

Sweet potatoes and eggs (Ashlie Stevens)Scrambled eggs with air fried sweet potato slices (they only took 10 minutes in the air fryer!) and avocado topped with this yuzu furikake, which I put on everything these days.

Lunch 3

Avocado and eggs (Ashlie Stevens)Instant rice cooked in coconut milk with a touch of sesame oil, topped with a steamed egg yolk, avocado, homemade chilli crisp (given to me by my favorite Vietnamese restaurateur), peanuts and green onions.

Although these three dishes overlap, they are distinct enough that I don’t get bored. I go into the afternoon feeling nurtured and instead of being proud that I’m “too busy”, I feel a little boost of accomplishment because I actually cared. of me.

As more and more people return to the office, lunch is on my mind. What does a return to eating at the office look like? How have restaurants in business districts fared during the pandemic? How do you get out of a sad office salad rut – whether you go back to the office or not?

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We’ll tackle these questions (and many more!) at the end of this month through a whole week of stories, recipes and breakfast tips. In the meantime, subscribe to The Bite, Home and kitchen tool’s weekly food newsletter, where this essay was first published.

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