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?

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?

What’s For Lunch? UPC’s Bento-Boxes


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UPC’s Salad Bento Boxes

I’ve shared pictures of my lunch salads before, but today’s post is somewhat special. My wife and I making a concerted effort to remove unnecessary plastic from our lives. There are a couple of reasons for that, but the biggest one is an attempt to reduce our impact on the world. I’m a firm believer in the “Golden Rule” and my wife recently pointed out to me that I really should be working hard to use as much re-usable materials as possible, since that’s ultimately the best application of the “Golden Rule” in regards to my impact on the environment. She’s right, of course, and I didn’t need any convincing. The plastic containers that I had been using previously would often last me months before being replaced. But they’re still plastic. So we made the shift to glass for out refrigerator items, and we just picked up several of the Smart Planet “Meal Kits” that are made entirely from silicone.

These are awesome for a couple of reasons, in my book: they’re durable, they’re light, they’ll last until we don’t like the colors anymore, and they collapse once you’re done with them to take up less space. And, of course, most importantly, they’re not ugly. Which makes it easier for me to share my lunch recipes with you!

I may make this “Bento Box Lunch” a whole separate category, if you all end up think it’s a hit. Be sure to read the “Questions” at the end to help me figure out whether this should be a regular thing, or if I should just keep in in the 3-meal rotation that I have going now.

Today’s UPC Salad Bento Box; What you’ll need:

  • 1 Serving of UPC’s Salad Eggs
  • 1 Serving of Rosemary Carrots and Mushrooms (instructions below)
  • 1 Double-Serving Tossed Salad (any great lunch-salad will do; instructions for pictured salad below)
    UPC’s Salad Eggs:
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 Organic Yellow Zucchini, chopped (obviously green zucchinis will work too!)
  • 2 Organic Carrots, chopped
  • 1 bunch Organic Basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Oil
    Rosemary Carrots and Mushrooms:
  • 2 medium Organic Carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup Crimini Mushrooms, quartered (chopped large)
  • 4 sprigs Organic Rosemary, Rosemary pulled off the sprig and chopped
  • Optional: Add copped Celery for additional flavor and green.
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Oil (for extra credit: use bacon grease!)
    Tossed Salad
  • 1 large Organic Avocado, chopped
  • 1 medium Organic Cucumber
  • 2 cups UPC’s Pulled Pork (alternately, sliced ham or bacon)
  • 1 bunch Organic Basil, chopped
  • 3 cups Organic Arugula, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Serves: 2 (Breakfast and Lunch, depending on your meal sizes)
Cook and Prep time: About 1 hour

1. Start the UPC’s Salad Eggs. I’m going to skip the instructions for this, since they’re well documented in the linked post.

2. In a small pot, add the carrots first, then the mushrooms, rosemary, and coconut oil. Cover, and cook on high for 1 minute. After 1 minute, turn down to medium-low, and leave covered, stirring every 3-4 minutes while you prepare the rest of the Bento-Box.

3. Tend the UPC’s Salad Eggs, continuing to follow the directions in the post.

4. Turn off the carrots and mushrooms after about 12 minutes of cook time.

5. Add the chopped arugula (or your favorite salad greens) and basil to a mixing bowl. On top, add the avocado, cucumber and pulled pork. Then spread the olive oil evenly over the salad and mix carefully (I mix with my bare hands; yes I wash them first).

Serve each meal portion in to a separate section of your Bento Box, and enjoy!

Questions:

  • What are your thoughts on a full-meal post from time to time?
  • Do you like the idea of the lunch Bento-Box format?
  • Would you like to see more hot-meal components, or cold-meal components?
  • What do you bring for your own breakfast and lunch?

What’s For Breakfast? Salad Eggs


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UPC’s Salad Eggs

The weather here in the NYC area was idyllic over the weekend. It was stunningly beautiful all day Saturday and all day Sunday! I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better weekend! Not only was the weather excellent, but it couldn’t have possibly been a better test for my first ever New York Road Runners race as UPC. I know, I have done a few posts on working out, and you all know that I love running as a part of my exercise regimen, but most of you didn’t realize that I like to test myself on occasion, to see what is “the best that I can do” at that point in time. You’re all also well aware that I’m training for a 1-mile race in one month; but this is a little bit early for that post, right? Well, as much as I love racing, I haven’t participated in a race in nearly a year now. I’ll write another post today (that’s right, you get two posts today!!) to discuss the race, share some pictures, and give you all a training update on how I’m doing, and what my results from this weekend indicate to me with regards to my training and preparedness for the 1-mile race, which is my ultimate goal. So, since I’m not going to tell you about the race itself, let me spend a few words talking about testing in general.

I am a big fan of testing. Of course, I am not referring to the testing that you go through as a  normal part of training. I don’t mean “can I get an 11th rep?” when I talk about testing. What I’m talking about is the kind of testing that happens best under the umbrella of competition, though it’s possible to host your own version of a testing cycle. This kind of testing is when you save up your energy for a few days, or longer, so that you can push yourself to the absolute maximum of your capacity. You sleep, eat, rest, and train differently leading up to testing day, making sure that your capacity on that day is the absolute best that it can be. What you’re looking for is where the bar is for you, under optimal conditions, at this point in your physical fitness. Again, competition is not the only way to test yourself. But they’re set up specifically for that purpose; there’s usually a monetary cost to participate. While this is ostensibly to cover time and materials to make the testing possible, from my perspective what this is really for is to ensure that the athletes take the competition seriously. There is often a prize associated with success; though some of the time a prize is awarded to all participants (in most cases, I am ok with this). And competition in general always draws crowds. People like to see peak performance; it’s exciting.
All of these factors lead an athlete to build up that day to be different from any other day. As I mentioned above, because of the testing aspect of the day, athletes change their patterns leading up to the day. They reduce their training, otherwise called “tapering”. They eat differently. Some athletes eat more of one food group, and less of another. Sometimes there is more eating. Sometimes there is less eating. Often runners do something called “Carb loading” in the hopes that they’ll increase their total glycogen stores in their muscles and liver. Many wrestlers and boxers reduce their total food and water intake in order to make their weight class goals. They sleep differently. Often athletes operate on a reduced sleep schedule in order to get their training in around their other required daily activities (school/classwork, work, etc). Where the “taper” before the test day, they will emphasize getting enough sleep so their body is fully rested.
All of these things add up to an optimized athlete. And while I don’t necessarily agree with all of these activities, or with the fact that they are needed to begin with, these are a part of the testing cycle for regularly competitive athletes. I do love the testing cycle. I’ve been a competitive athlete for as long as I can remember, and I honestly don’t want to discontinue the testing cycle in my life. As one activity becomes less prevalent in my life, I replace that activity with another; and usually I seek out a way to test myself in that activity. Testing, when done right, is as important to me as the training. And in it’s own way, the testing is every bit as valuable.

But, there are many athletes who don’t do their testing the right way, as defined by me. Sometimes they carry the stress of the testing on their shoulders. Some of the time they like testing too much, and do it too often. Frequently I see athletes who don’t give their testing the kind of respect that it deserves, and they set themselves up for injury.
So here’s my stand on testing / competition: Do your testing infrequently enough, and with enough focus, that you get the best results you possibly can, you enjoy it, and you don’t set yourself up unnecessarily for injury. I know that’s a tall order; testing can be addictive! But it’s important to keep your competition days in perspective. These are intended to be tests of your ability. Make them infrequent enough that you can approach them with optimal performance in mind. And be sure to schedule a reasonable recovery so that any amount of injury that your body sustained during the testing it can heal from properly before you resume your full training regime.

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UPC’s Salad Eggs; what you’ll need:

  • 4 Top-Quality Eggs (See here for egg recommendations)
  • 2 Organic Carrots, sliced
  • 1 Organic Yellow Squash, sliced (Zucchini works too)
  • 1 bunch Fresh Organic Basil, chopped
  • (Optional) 6 Crimini Mushrooms, quartered
  • Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Oil

Serves: 2
Cook and Prep time: 15 minutes

1. Add the vegetables and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to a pan and cook on medium heat, covered.
Note: Be sure to allot appropriate time for whatever side dish you’re preparing with the salad eggs. If you’re using bacon, as I did in the picture, it can be prepared in a second pan in the same amount of cook time as listed above by cooking it on medium-high heat, covered.

2. Stir the vegetables once every minute for 5 minutes.

3. After 5 minutes of cook time, shake the pan to make sure the vegetables are evenly spread out on the base of the pan and sprinkle your salt and pepper over the vegetables.

4. Turn the heat up to high. Wait for a moment and then crack the four eggs directly over the vegetables.
Note: Some people prefer to pre-mix the eggs and pour them in to the pan fully mixed. I prefer to mix them in the pan – this is a stylistic choice, and doesn’t appear to make much difference either way for scrambled eggs; though there can be a big difference for omelets or frittatas.

5. Stir the eggs and vegetables vigorously as the pan continues to heat up, making sure the egg yolks and egg whites are mixed thoroughly.

6. Just before the eggs reach your desired consistency, turn the heat off and let the eggs finish cooking using just the heat of the pan.
Now serve and enjoy!

Questions:

  • Do you enjoy testing / competition?
  • When is the last time you really tested yourself?
  • What kinds of competitions are the most fun for you?
  • What is your preparation ritual for your testing / competition?
  • Do you make changes in your normal daily rituals when testing / competitions are coming?