What’s For Lunch? Peppered Shrimp Bento Box


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UPC’s Peppered Shrimp Bento Box

It’s cool and rainy outside. There isn’t a lot of rain, but the rain drops that are coming down are generally bigger ones. I love weather like this for running; there’s really nothing quite as refreshing as the brisk feel of a light wind and some fat cool raindrops falling on my face, head, and shoulders while I pump out a speed workout on the track! Unfortunately, that’s not what I’m doing right now, and may not be something I get a chance to do anytime soon. I say “unfortunately” because I really enjoy speed workouts, and even more when I get to enjoy weather like this!

On the more fortunate side, I have a delicious lunch to look forward to! My morning conversation with my wife, as with most mornings, went about like this:

Me: What do you want for lunch?

Wife: I dunno, whaddya got?

Me: Mmmm…

I peered about in the fridge, knowing that the soup I made last night was unsuitable for lunch today. There wasn’t a convenient Rack of Ribs sitting around for us to eat, like we did on Monday. So I pulled out one of my old-standby meals: Peppered Shrimp. It went over the first time I made it for lunch, shrimp travels well, and it still tastes good after being reheated (at least, the first day). It was just right!

UPC’s Peppered Shrimp Bento Box; What you’ll need:

  • Peppered Shrimp:
  • 1 lb Wild-Caught Shrimp (mine is frozen)
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Oil
  • 2 tablespoons Fresh Ground Black Pepper (more or less)
  • Salad:
  • Mixed Greens (your favorite mix; this is a “Power Greens” mix)
  • 1 medium Cucumber, chopped
  • 1 medium Carrot, chipped
  • 4 White Button Mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Celery, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Avocados:
  • 1 Avocado, chopped
  • 3 sprigs Basil, chopped

Serves: 2
Prep time: 25 minutes

1. Put the shrimp in a pan with the coconut oil and cook it on high heat.

2. Cook this for about 5-7 minutes, letting it thaw and cooking off the water from the thawing. Stir regularly while cooking.

3. While the shrimp is cooking, begin preparing your salad.

4. After 5-7 minutes of cook time, when the shrimp is mostly thawed, sprinkle the pepper across the shrimp liberally.

5. Continue preparation of the salad and avocados.

6. Continue to cook and stir the shrimp until the water has all boiled off and the shrimp is sizzling like bacon in the pan.

7. Let the shrimp cool in the pan, stirring occasionally.

8. While the shrimp cools, complete preparation of the salad, pack it in your bento box, and enjoy!

Questions:

  • Do you ever have trouble figuring out what to eat for lunch?
  • What do you pull out of the fridge, freezer, or cupboard as a stand-by meal?
  • Do you ever take a shrimp meal to work as your lunch?
  • Do you like running in the rain?
  • If you do workout in the rain, do you prefer running, or another workout?

What’s For Lunch? Smoked Salmon Bento Box


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UPC’s Smoked Salmon Bento Box

Ok, I’ll admit it… I’m an addict! I’m an unmitigated food addict. It’s always been my “drug of choice,” so to speak, and that hasn’t changed one iota over the years. And I love it!!

“I’m UPC, and I’m an addict.”

“Welcome UPC.”

All jokes (mostly) aside, these Bento-Box lunches have been leaving me seriously looking forward to my lunch every day! It’s not like I don’t normally enjoy my food. Of course I do, it’s made by my favorite chef! No, this is another situation entirely. I thoroughly enjoy the idea of being in a position to easily, painlessly carry a full meal, and a full-looking meal, all the way to work with me to eat at my leisure. It’s truly a delight.

Smoked Salmon Bento-Box; What you’ll need:

  • Smoked Salmon:
  • 12 oz Smoked Salmon
  • 2 oz “Glaze” (Apple Cider Vinegar (or any flavor), Olive Oil, Black Peppercorns, Whole Mustard Seeds; mixed together and soaked for a day)
  • Salad Eggs
  • Salad:
  • Favorite Mixed Greens
  • 1 cup Celery, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Green Onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Fresh Basil, chopped
  • 1 large Avocado, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Serves: 2
Cook and prep time: 30 minutes

1. Prepare the Salad Eggs. I used ham, basil, and carrots for this Salad Eggs dish.

2. In a pan, sear the smoked salmon on high heat for about 1 minute per side.

3. After turning off the heat, paint the salmon with the glaze, leaving the salmon in the pan so that the glaze can thicken in the heat. Let the salmon sit in the glaze for 2-3 minutes per side.

4. Slice the salmon and put it in the Bento Box.

5. Mix the salad ingredients and add them to the Bento Box.

6. Add the Salad Eggs to the Bento Box. And bring it to work to enjoy!

Questions:

  • What kinds of lunch foods get you excited?
  • Do you ever eat seafood for lunch?
  • Do you prefer smoked salmon, or another preparation method?
  • Do you prefer a different salmon preparation for a different meal? Have you ever thought about it?

What’s For Lunch? Balsamic Pulled Chicken Bento Box


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Balsamic Pulled Chicken Bento Box with Salad Eggs and a Green Salad

I changed jobs about 2 months ago. There are a couple of things that happen to me when I change jobs. My sources of stress change (not more, and usually less, but it’s quite different). There are always the early questions in any new job that everyone asks themselves; questions like “Am I going to get along with my boss/co-workers?” keep coming back over the first several weeks. More importantly than those questions, though, are the changes in your habits. You may no longer have the same people to spend time with during the day, the same lunch spots that you’re used to, and your commute might be different. These each are sources of stress to your system, and while the euphoria of a new job typically masks them, that will wear off eventually.

I mention this all because when I change a job, that means that I stop running to work. Why? Because I wear my work shoes on the commute for the first several weeks of any job. I don’t want my new boss or new co-workers to see me walk in to work with my Vibram Fivefingers while my First Impression is still being formed – it’s much easier to change later and start to use them after a few weeks than it is to convince someone that, while I am weird, it won’t negatively affect my performance. So, I don’t run to work for the first several weeks. No big deal, right? 5 miles is less than 20% of even a low week of my running miles. And in terms of time, it’s probably even less significant than that: maybe accounting for 5-10% of my workout time. I shouldn’t worry about it, right?
Wrong. Let’s keep in mind that workouts are not just quantitative, they should also be qualitative. And each workout has a specific purpose. I have strength days 1-2 times each week, where the purpose of the workout is to seriously stress my muscles, causing strength to build. I have speed workouts, where I run as fast as I can over a specific distance, stressing my muscles to build more speed. And I have endurance workouts, where I run for a long time, or do planks or wall-sits for a long time, to build my endurance capacity. And then there are meditative and stress workouts. You’ve had a tough day, and to let that stress go, you pound on a heavy bag for a while, or you go out for a bike ride for an hour. These are just as important, in a very different way, as strength, speed, and endurance workouts are. And my morning 1-mile is a meditative workout. It’s as important to me as eating breakfast. Do I skip breakfast occasionally? Yes. Should I skip my morning 1-mile occasionally? Yes. But there are always adverse affects when I skip it for several days, or more. It adds to my stress levels. Or, rather, skipping it reduces my capacity to handle stress.

So I’ve just settled in enough to start running to work again, and I feel GREAT! I started last week, but hadn’t had a chance to mention it until today. I couldn’t be happier!! My work shirts are groaning in distress, knowing that their brief respite from my morning runs to work have ended, and that they’re going to have to deal with my sweaty neck again. I know, it’s no fun to get to work with sweat inside the collar of your shirt. But it’s so worth it for my 1 mile stress preparation runs every day! Welcome back morning 1-milers!

Balsamic Pulled Chicken Bento Box; What you’ll need:

  • Balsamic Pulled Chicken:
  • 1/2 Chicken, pulled (skin on, slow-cooked, spiced)
  • 2 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • Spices: Turmeric, Sea Salt, Ground Pepper
  • Bento Box:
  • Salad Eggs (I used Fennel instead of basil)
  • Favorite Salad Greens (I used Baby Arugula)
  • 2 sprigs Fresh Basil, chopped (use fresh basil; it’s a leafy green along with a herb)
  • 1/2 cup Crimini Mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 medium Yellow Squash, sliced (Zucchini works too)
  • 2 medium Carrots, chipped
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Serves: 2
Cook and Prep Time: 60 minutes (I did it all the morning of; extra cook time will be better!)

1. In a pot, add the chicken, several cups of water (so that the chicken is fully submerged) and the spices.
Note: I started the chicken even before my coffee in the morning, and let it cook for as long as I could.

2. Cook the chicken on Medium heat, about 5 out of 10, covered for as long as you can – but at least 45 minutes.

3. Prepare the Salad Eggs and the salad. Add these to the bento box (or lunch container of choice).

4. After at least 45 minutes of cook time, using a pair of tongs and a fork, shred the chicken thoroughly, leaving the shredded chicken in a separate bowl.

5. Add the balsamic vinegar to the bowl and mix the chicken thoroughly. Add this to the bento box (or other) lunch container. And enjoy!

Questions:

  • Do you have some daily (or most days) stress relief activity?
  • Do you have a meditative workout?
  • Do you have different kinds of workouts that you do on different days?
  • Do you eat pulled-chicken?
  • When you do a 3-piece meal for lunch, how do you keep them separate?
  • What’s your favorite chicken meal?

UPC Bento-Box: Apple Sausage, Sweet Potato Fries, Herb “Sweet” Salad


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Another UPC’s Bento-Box Lunch; and a new treat: the Herb “Sweet” Salad

I have a sweet tooth. In fact, if there was a “Sweet Tooth’s Anonymous,” I would most definitely need to be a member. I realize that Humans are naturally predisposed to having a sweet tooth. There is a very good evolutionary reason for this: we need to eat sugar to get fat, and we need fat to survive periods of famine (winter, dry season, etc.). I get that. Despite that there are very good reasons for us to have a sweet tooth, I seem to be more predisposed to sweet-tooth cravings than other people I know.

Obviously a sweet tooth is somewhat counter-productive when you’re trying to get down to fighting weight, so to speak. I am a firm believer in a “Cycles” approach, where you have a slimming and muscle-building cycle, like in the spring and summer, and then you have a sweet-tooth season where you put on a bit of fat and let your body take itself in another direction for a while, like in the fall and winter. And while our bodies existed in their evolutionary environment, that was all fine and dandy, because our cycle-approach was limited and driven by the food that was available. For example: the herbivores which were still alive in the fall tended to be stronger, faster, and more able to survive (they lived through the spring and summer, after all). So they were harder to catch. But lucky for us Humans, we can eat the abundantly available fruit instead of being primary predators for a while; it helps us to put on weight and incidentally, survive the winter.

But here in the NYC area, I live in an environment of non-seasonal abundance. My limitations have to be entirely self-created, and self-enforced. So I’ve become VERY inventive at finding ways of satisfying my sweet tooth without much, if any, carb intake. And today’s Herb “Sweet” Salad is a perfect example! Enjoy!!

Herb “Sweet” Salad; What you’ll need:

  • Favorite Salad Mix (I used a “Power Greens” mix)
  • 1 Avocado, chopped
  • 1/2 large Cucumber, chopped
  • 2 Carrots, “chipped” (cut chips of the carrots in to the mixing bowl)
  • 1 cup White Button Mushrooms, chopped
  • And for the “Sweet” flavoring:
  • 3 sprigs Tarragon, pull the leaves off, then chop
  • 1 cup Fennel, chopped (Get fennel with the greenery still on; use the greenery, not the bulb – alternately, chop and caramelize the fennel bulb.)
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar

Bento-Box; What you’ll need:

  • Herb “Sweet” Salad (ingredients listed above)
  • 1 large Sweet Potato, sliced
  • 4 Apple Chicken Sausage Links (or other sausage; another household favorite of ours is Kielbasa)

1. Put the Sausage Links in a pot with some water and cook on high, covered.
Note: Most sausages come pre-cooked, so you could eat them right out of the package. I always cook them anyway.

2. Put the home-fry sliced sweet potatoes in a pan with a refined nut oil and cook on a high heat.
Note: I used Walnut oil; using a refined nut oil here is important, because they’re less likely to oxidize under the high heat of stir-frying the sweet potatoes.

3. Mix the salad and tend to the sausages and sweet potato home fries.
Serve, and enjoy!

4. (Optional Extra Step): Take the sausages out of the pot, slice the sausages and fry them, lightly crisping them for additional flavor.
Note: This step works particularly well with flavored sausages.

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Questions:

  • Do you get sweet cravings?
  • Do you indulge them?
  • Do you find ways of satisfying them without indulging?
  • What kinds of things do you do to keep your sweet tooth satisfied, without offsetting your hard work to manage your health?
  • Do you allow your body to have a weight “cycle” of sorts?
  • Is your weight-cycle dictated by anything? The seasons? Holidays? Vacations?
  • Are you satisfied with your body’s cycle? Does it work for you?
  • Do you, like me, believe that a weight cycle (within healthy limits, of course) is actually likely a healthy thing?

UPC’s Pocket Guide To: Sprucing up your Leftovers


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Sprucing Up Your Leftovers – Today’s meal: Chicken Croquette

As you may or may not recall, I made some Paleo Crispy Chicken Croquettes last week. They came out delicious, and my wife immediately started to get excited about what other ways we could start to re-incorporate chicken in our diets. Truth be told: we eat very little white meat. Most of what we eat, as what you see me post recipes about, is red meat. It is not uncommon in the UPC household to eat a healthy serving (6-10 ounces) each meal. In fact, the only time we ever really indulge in chicken or turkey is either as a salad meat, or in a sausage. There are some really delicious chicken sausage flavors sold at Trader Joe’s, and I definitely see myself continuing to patronize their chicken-sausage shelf!

So using the Paleo Crispy Chicken Croquettes I made last week, I made several meals for myself and my wife throughout the week and weekend. These Paleo Crispy Chicken Croquettes were absolutely delicious (and perhaps better!) when they were reheated for subsequent meals. We ate them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; not consecutively, of course.
In the above picture you’ll see that I roasted up some carrots in coconut oil for several minutes, and then served the carrots over some mixed salad greens with the re-heated Paleo Crispy Chicken Croquettes. The meal was quick, delicious, and easy; and best of all, it was completely home-made!

So back to today’s topic: Sprucing up leftovers.

Here are some simple steps you can take to turn some leftovers in to an appetizing and delicious meal:

1. For meat leftovers: Add greens, the add colorful veggies.

  • More often than not, the leftovers in my refrigerator consist of the uneaten meat from my last meal. In fact, I frequently make quite a bit more than my wife and I will consume, specifically for the leftovers.
  • Step 1: Add some greens. These could be in the form of salad greens or cooked veggies, but the first thing you add to a meat leftover meal is something green.
  • Step 2: Add some colorful vegetables. A great way to satisfy both of these requirements would be to mix up a quick tomato, avocado, and arugula salad, and serve it alongside your leftover beef or other meat. In today’s picture, you see the green salad base with roasted carrots.

2. For cooked vegetables: Add a protein source.

  • When I have vegetables left over from a meal, 90% of the time it’s a cooked vegetable. Again, like when I cook up extra meat when I’m cooking, I often prepare extra vegetables as well.
  • Step 1: Add a protein source. For me, I often save my leftover cooked vegetables for my Salad Eggs the next morning. There is little I enjoy more than a delicious Salad Eggs meal to start off my day. And what easier way to do it than with vegetables already prepared from the night before?
  • Step 2: Add some more vegetables. When I am not making Salad Eggs with my leftover vegetables, I am adding them to a salad, or serving them alongside a meat dish. In either case, this usually means that I’ll need salad greens to complete my plate.

3. For raw vegetables: Cook them, then add more greens and a protein source.

  • It is very, very rare that I ever prepare more raw vegetables than I’m going to eat. In those rare occasions, I’m most likely to cook whatever vegetables are left over from my previous meal.
  • Option 1: Make a soup, Salad Eggs, or an omelet. A great way to use raw vegetable leftovers is in a soup. Cooking the vegetables in water will rehydrate them, hiding any wilting that may have happened in between your food prep for the previous meal and the current meal. I love making a soup or salad eggs with leftover vegetables.
  • Option 2: Make a salad. This can work very well with a Hot & Cold Salad, where you cook up some of the ingredients of the meal (along with a protein source), and serve the salad all mixed together, combining the cooked flavors with the raw flavors.

I highly recommend making enough food to have some leftovers each night for dinner. It can make meal-prep for Breakfast and Lunch so much easier than the daunting task of preparing and making 2 meals for yourself (and your family) all while getting ready for work and catching up on the tweets and facebook updates from the night before. Leftovers can save an impressive amount of time when faced with all of those priorities in an already-tight morning scheduled.

Questions:

  • Do you make extra food intentionally for leftovers?
  • How do you deal with your leftovers when you have them?
  • Do you make a whole extra meal of leftovers, or do you selectively make leftovers from specific portions of your meal?

What’s For Lunch? Bacon, Ham, and Olive Salad


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UPC’s Bacon, Ham, and Olive Salad

I had an awesome weekend! I’m not going to write an entire post on what I did this weekend (I’m saving that for my 1-mile race, coming up), but I am definitely going to share. The highlight of my weekend was a “Super Spartan” race that I did with a big group of friends yesterday (Sunday). If you’ve ever done any of the adventure/obstacle races before, you already know that these events are an amazing way to spend a day enjoying your friends’ company, and having a great time doing it! I’ve done some research on the Super Spartan and Spartan Beast races in the past, and they’re really quite challenging running events in their own right; adding in the obstacles increase the difficulty, and the fun, so that a large group of friends can get together and have a great time working through the course as a unit.
My favorite obstacles from the course: The water slide (yeah, it was as awesome as it sounds like it should be!) and the rope climb (just like gym class). I think the hardest obstacle was the “military crawl” where we crawled about 50 meters under barbed wire, through mud, dirt, rocks, and assorted other challenging terrain. And the most timely obstacle: the pond-swim, which came just when I thought I was going to melt from the hill-climbing and running. Wow it felt great to cool down in the pond!!

UPC’s Bacon, Ham, and Olive Salad; What you’ll need:

  • Favorite Salad Greens (I used baby kale and arugula, both organic)
  • 1 lb Bacon, cooked and crumbled (use only premium bacon)
  • 1/2 lb Rosemary Ham, sliced
  • 1 medium Cucumber, chopped
  • 1 can Green Olives, drained
  • 1 cup Shredded Carrots
  • 1 cup Crimini Mushrooms, diced
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Serves: 2
Cook and Prep time: 35 minutes

1. Start the bacon.
Note: I always cook my bacon on medium-low heat, covered. It helps me keep it chewy, the way I prefer my bacon.

2. Chop and prep the salad ingredients, combining them in a mixing bowl.

3. Tend the bacon. When it’s done, remove and place on a paper bag to dry and cool.

4. Crumble (or chop if you prefer your bacon chewy) your bacon thoroughly, and add it to the mixing bowl.

5. Add the olive oil (if you didn’t already) and mix thoroughly. Now serve, take to work, and enjoy!

Questions:

  • Have you done an adventure race of any kind?
  • If not: would you? Which one?
  • Was it an obstacle course style race, like the Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, or any of the other various exciting obstacle course races out there?
  • Would you do it again?
  • What did you enjoy the most/least about it?
  • Would you do a different one?
  • Which ones are you looking at?

What’s For Lunch? Pulled Pork and Bacon Bento Box


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UPC’s Pulled-Pork and Bacon Bento Box Lunch

I had a surprisingly good reaction from you folks about my Bento-Box style lunch menu last week. It would seem this is something you’re all interested in, in general. So I am going to try to put together a Bento-Box style meal at least once a week. By “Bento-Box” what I am really referring to is a full meal that you can pack from home for lunch with three separate components. You could very well combine them as you see fit, ending up with two parts, or even one whole salad. And I’ve had more than a few posts on here with my lunch salads for you all. The Bento-Box style meal, though, is a little bit of a change from the normal routine, and might add an extra bit of excitement in to your lunch routine. I really enjoyed having my lunches as one big salad. Even still, it was a nice change in my routine to have a simple, delicious salad, with a meat and some cooked vegetables to accompany it. And your comments last week tell me that you all enjoyed reading about it!

UPC’s Bacon and Pulled Pork Bento Box Lunch; What you’ll need:

  • Leftover Pulled Pork (See here for instructions on how to make it; today’s version was spiced with sage and cloves, still plenty of mushrooms!)
  • 1 lb Bacon, 1-inch slices (This is Vermont Smoke and Cure bacon)
  • Salad:
  • Favorite Salad Greens (This is baby kale and spinach)
  • 1 cup Shredded Carrots
  • 1 Nectarine, chopped
  • 1 Avocado, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Serves: 2
Cook and Prep time: 15 minutes

1. Start the bacon.

2. Add the pulled pork to your Bento-Box.
Note: If you want to re-spice the Pulled Pork, you should re-heat it in a pan with some coconut oil to ensure the flavor is well absorbed.

3. Add the salad ingredients to a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.
Note: I always mix my salad with my hands; I think that the end result is tastier.

4. Tend to the bacon.

5. Add all of the ingredients to your Bento Box style lunch container. Pack them, and head off to work, school, or wherever it is that you go during the day!
Note: The above link takes you to a google search for the lunch containers that I have in the picture. I’m really starting to love them, and highly recommend them!

Questions:

  • This is my second Bento-Box installment. What are your thoughts so far?
  • Is there any take-to-work meal that you would like to see me put together?
  • I often use pre-cooked ingredients in my lunches, to save on time in the mornings (and they’re already chilled because I prepared them ahead of time and stored them in the fridge). What kinds of pre-cooked ingredients are you using for your lunches?
  • Are there any particular pre-cooked ingredients that you would like to see featured here in a Bento-Box lunch?