Lunching Couscous

Lunch ideas can be hard to come by for me and sandwiches were never really my thing. I love them with interesting condiments on bakery bread, but making one at 7am and bringing it to work never appeals to me.

I try to mix it up when it comes to lunch. Often it’s leftovers but I used to be so good about picking something, making a regular sized batch, and eating it all week for lunch. It was even more convenient when I’d bring it all on Monday and not have to think about it the rest of the week.  Lately, I’ve gotten off course.

Recently I made couscous for a couple of lunches and it was soooo good. I ate it as a cold salad and was all about it. Tomatoes were my inspiration.
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Grape. Heirloom. Tomatoes.

Ingredients

1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in halves
1 cup dried Israeli couscous
2 cups vegetable stock
11/2 cups baby spinach
2 slices of bacon, cooked to a crisp
¼ cup shredded Parmesan
¼ cup ranch dressing
drizzle of olive oil

Directions

Toast couscous over medium-low heat until lightly browned
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Add in veggie stock and cover for 7 minutes
Slice cherry tomatoes in halves, chop the spinach chiffonade, and crumble the bacon.
Fluff couscous to separate and allow to cool.
Add spinach, bacon, Parmesan and dressing.
Refrigerate overnight and drizle with olive oil before eating to rehydrate.
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I’ll admit. Ranch might seem a bit weird, but I had it and wanted something creamy. Parmesan peppercorn dressing would be more appropriate. My spinach had lived a good life but wouldn’t have been amazing the next day, which is why I chose to throw it in…like an herb rather than like a salad. Nobody was going to overshadow these tomatoes. No, siree!This was an easily packable and flavorful lunch. It also is super cheap. If I were like whats-her-face on the foodnetwork who makes $10 dinners I’d probably have an impressive lunch cost since this served as 2 lunches for me…and my mum may have bought the tomatoes for me when we were at the farm stand. I’d much rather pack a lunch and afford a fantastic meal in Italy or Spain. In just over 4 weeks time I will be! So excited I can’t even stand it!

This would be a good side dish. Adding basil and fresh mozzarella would be good with Italian dressing. Bring couscous to your next BBQ this summer and be the star next to all the cole slaws and potato salads.
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What are some other lunchable ideas & inspirations?

Four Leaf Clover

I’m lucky to work in the heart of downtown Boston with more lunch restaurants around than I know what to do with. I rarely take advantage of them. One hot hot hot day my office had plants to rendez-vous with our sister office at the Dewey Square Farmer’s Market for lunch.

It was so hot hot hot that I’m surprised I could remember what I ate (or how good it was)! Clover was a welcome relief from the mind-numbing heat. They worked the crowed and kept it moving. I was so impressed with the ordering process via iphone and the options. Check out how many of them there were working inside the truck! Wow!
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I didn’t check out twitter that morning to see what they were serving but was pleasantly surprised and was too hot to ponder. I quickly chose the chickpea fritter sandwich.
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It was really good, though I’m not sure what made it different than falafel. It had great flavor. The chickpea fritters were soft with a light crunch on the outside and a surprisingly fluffy center. The sandwich was on an oversized pita with carrot and cabbage slaw.
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Somebody got rosemary fries. It was such a lovely flavor added to really great quality fries.
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Their food is so good and I really need to eat at Clover more often. Do you watch Great American Food Truck Race? It’s awesome and a truck from Boston, called Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, is on!

Taco Cup…Ole!

Once upon a time, I discovered Pinterest. All productivity went down from there. Just kidding. Errr…maybe not kidding. I do love a good pin and the food pins going around are making me very inspired.
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Ms. K pinned lasagna cups and then made them. They were so cute I promptly added wanton wrappers to my grocery list and planned some Taco Cups.

Ingredients

1 package wonton wrappers
⅓ pound ground chicken
3 scallions
1 ½ cups shredded cheese
½ can of black beans

Directions

Brown ground meat with taco seasoning and preheat the oven.
Lay a wonton into a muffin tin and top with the ground meat and cheese.
tacocup_layer1_290_200Top with another wanton, then black beans, chopped green onions, and more cheese.
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Bake 20 minutes at 350 until melty & crisp.
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These are super fun and a great way to stretch a few ingredients. The beans were the 2nd half of a can I used for the veggie burger I made recently too. The ground meat I froze after making ranch burgers the last time since I didn’t have an immediate use for it. These taco cups really only needed a few ingredients (for me: cheese & wanton wrappers).
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I think these would make a great “finger food” or appetizer. They also would be great when having guests since taco cups be all ready without a million dishes, lots of chopping, or cooking in front of everyone.

Even though I do love make-you-own food set ups, I think my next theme might have to be fun & assembled items or appetizers. What else can I make in cup form?

Mediterranean Bliss

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t love Mediterranean food? It’s definitely my favorite. I never get sick of it. I love all the dip-able things….and all the olive oil…and all the feta…and all the marinades. I just can’t get enough. I recently enjoyed a Mediterranean meal with some of the most wonderful ladies in my life during my bachelorette weekend.

We went to an amazing winery earlier in the day, more on that later, but our dinner was at Temple in Providence, RI! We started with a few cocktails, in our own room within the restaurant with a less-than-enthused waiter, and the appetizer sampler to share. The Temple Mezze Platter was delicious and perfect for sharing. It had tzatziki, baba ghanoush (the best I’ve ever had, btw), hummus, dolmas, spanakopita, moroccan carrots & warm pita. Loved it! We ordered 2 platters to serve 4 each. It was plenty with some leftover.

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I got a mango lime cocktail. It was sweet but tart and I loved it. temple_drink_200_290
They brought out an assorted bread basket and roasted garlic. So good! temple_garlic_290_200

The menu seemed to have plenty of options for everyone. We ordered from every section of the menu! I got the Maine Lobster Flatbread. It had leeks and St. Andre cheese…also a fav. I’ve loved this buttery cheese but I’ve never melted it. Duh! I’m embarassed to say that I didn’t take a photo of my meal. Gasp!  It was really good but I was full quickly. I ended up eating the lobster off the remaining pieces once I just couldn’t eat anymore. I’d never let lobster go to waste. One Ms. L got the lobster flatbread too but I didn’t bug her to get a photo since I had the same.

Ms. L got Spring Vegetable Fusilli. It was full of all different veggies. The server didn’t think she’d put too much of a dent in it…there just was so much!

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This Mrs. E got Greek Style Chicken in a lemon, garlic, & oregano marinade. Ms. M got this as well.
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Check. Out. This. Flatbread. How amazing does that look?! One Mrs. E and one Ms. L got this sausage and argula flatbread and liked it. Ms. L wasn’t overly into the argula on top. temple_sausage_290_200
Another Ms. L got the Temple Burger. It’s lamb with black olive tapenade and tzatziki. I was eyeing that one. temple_burg_200_290
Ms. A got Greek Salad and Portuguese-Style Caldo Verde. It was leek and potato soup with chorizo. temple_soup_290_200
I loved everything about this weekend and everything about this meal. I was so pleasantly stuffed. Then, just when I thought the meal was over, they bring out these guys: temple_cupcakes_290_200 These are the best cupcakes I’ve ever had. The cake part was so good! Normally I’m just into the frosting on cupcakes from bakeries but these were different. We also amused ourselves trying to identify them. I ate the one that looks like s’mores (bottom left). They were specially delivered by Ms. L’s sis from Nancy’s Fancies. Seriously unlike any other bakery cupcake. What a nice touch to finish the meal with?! I have the greatest friends ever.

Easy 3 Ingredient Dip

I made an ap for Easter and wanted something lighter and healthier than I’d usually head towards. This is a white bean based dip with homemade pita chips. This ended up being a good one to bring somewhere since it is served cold and the pita chips could be made ahead of time or purchased.

Ingredients

1 can white beans, drained
1 jar roasted red peppers (with liquid)
½ cup fresh parsley
1 tbs garlic
2 wheat pita pockets

Directions

Rinse and drain white beans
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Add beans, red peppers with liquid, parsley, and garlic to a food processer.
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Blend, stirring partway, and leaving some chunks.
Refrigerate 2 hours before serving.
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I toasted some of my own pita chips. Tearing the pitas all the way apart made for a thinner chip with fewer calories. The dip was good, fresh, and super easy. It would be great on bread, stirred into pasta or soup, or anything!

I think you definitely have to like these ingredients to enjoy this but this handy dip includes a simple list of ingredients to have on hand.

Baked Orzo Flop

I thought I was super clever when I started waking up earlier. This gave me the chance to get stuff done before leaving for work. I unloaded the dishwasher, I poked through my RSS feeds, and I planned dinner.

Once again, I started thinking about what I could make with what I had around…anything to avoid grocery shopping. Baked Orzo came to mind and I thought a Greek dish was exactly what I wanted. I had orzo, artichokes, tomatoes and high hopes for this quick meal.
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Ingredients

1/4 pound Orzo
1 tbs garlic
1 jar artichoke hearts
1 cup plum tomatoes in liquid
½ cup red wine
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin

Directions

1) Cook orzo
2) Saute garlic, atrichoke hearts, and tomatoes with liquid on medium high.
3) Add wine and spices and simmer for 5 minutes.
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4) Turn to low and stir in orzo.
5) Sprinkle with Parmasan before baking for 20 minutes.
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Partway through my super speedy meal I hear:
Mr. J: is there cumin in there?
me: yup
Mr. J: ohh ok.
me: why?
Mr. J: ohh. {silence} Cumin is not my favorite.
me: hmmm

That’s where the dish goes awry…but it didn’t have to. I wanted to mellow out the cumin so I peek into the fridge and spot 2 ingredients I think will make the spices not taste as strong. Ricotta or sour cream. I went with the former. I had been a bit heavy handed with the wine so already my Baked Orzo had lost the great red color from the tomatoes (the wine made it a bit purpley).

I chose ricotta thinking it would be creamy and rich. It was indeed creamy but it also wasn’t smooth & silky. It was a bad choice, but you know…they can’t all be winners.

After I got it going I wasn’t feeling great about it. I actually said we might need to order pizza (which we never do to replace a meal). Mr. J was a trooper and ate it. It wasn’t amazing but I think it easily could be a great dish.

This Baked Orzo sounded amazing and is my inspiration to give it another go!

Better luck next time. Spoiler alert: I’ve since grocery shopped.

Make-Your-Own-Falafel

I looove falafel. I think there’s something about the nutty crunch, the cucumbers, tomatoes, and creamy tahini. I hadn’t really even thought about making it myself until a couple of years ago.
falafel_plate_290_200At that point  a few years ago, I soaked the chickpeas overnight, I cooked them for an hour, mashed them, etc… It’s such a process unless you’re mass producing falafel! The mix is the way to go…10 minutes and it is ready to cook. I bake them instead of frying them, partly for ease and partly for health. They get crispy and delicious.

Ingredients

1 package falafel mix
2 wheat pita pockets
2 cups lettuce
1 tomato
1 cucumber
¼ cup feta cheese
Italian, Greek, or Balsamic salad dressing
3 tbs tahini

Directions

Prepare falafel mix with water (as package directs)
Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes on each side.

falafel_baked_290_200Chop lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and toss with feta and dressing.
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Serve in pita, drizzled with tahini.
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I’ve made these as appetizers like a slider in halved mini pitas. They’re always a hit and super easy to make. I definitely don’t think you need my instructions, BUT I think falafel is something that doesn’t always come to mind to make at home.

Ardeo Mediterranean Deliciousness

Our winter girls family get-away weekend included one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. We dined at Ardeoa Mediterranean restaurant with 5 locations in Cape Cod.ardeo_sign
I simply adored it. It was one of the best meals I’ve had in awhile and I can’t say enough good things. Mum, Sis, and I loved each bite.

Mediterranean cuisine is definitely a favorite of mine because of some of the spices and the unique flavors. There was such a great freshness and boldness that I was 100% content with my meal choice.I had lamb mousaka. I saw it and knew I couldn’t pass it up. Lamb is the only red meat I eat so I was pleasantly surprised to see this Greek classic made with a twist! Lamb instead of beef? Yes please! It was served on what would be a serving platter in my home. I ate it for two, albeit hefty, meals.

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The menu boasts: flash fried eggplant with seasoned ground lamb, sauce bechamel, thinly sliced potatoes, spinach and feta cheese. This doesn’t do the plate justice. I loved the eggplant, cooked perfectly and not at all bitter. The sliced potatoes were great since often they are whipped for mousaka. The feta was salty and there was a MOUND of fresh spinach barely wilted on top. I did have to dig a bit to get to my dinner beneath the leafy green. Delicious nonetheless.

Mum got a petit leg of lamb stuffed. The lamb was perfectly pink and stuffed with brie and asparagus. There was a sweet potato hash and a sauce beyond her words. Mum smartly didn’t try to take any home knowing it wouldn’t be the same reheated.

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Sis got Eggplant Rollitini. Her eggplant was also flash fried and then stuffed with garlic, basil, spinach, ricotta, and Romano cheese. It then is baked with mozzerella and pink sauce. Hers was also topped with a MOUND of fresh spinach too.
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This meal was really great. Fire roast anything and it’ll be better. I thought the ingredients were incredibly fresh tasting. How refreshing that they serve quality food done right. There weren’t any crazy surprises. Everything just worked and the talent of the chef was obvious.

Likes: oversized portions, freshest ingredients
Dislikes: no locations near me, too much spinach on some entrees.