If you work 9 to 5 and you lead a busy life like me, you are always wondering what to prepare for all your meals. And if you are like me, the meal that has you stumped most of all is lunch. I have a few tips to help make your lunchtime meals more efficient and more flavourful.
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There are so many possibilities but lunchtime is the meal that I am always wondering what to make. You have 3 possibilities for lunch: soups, salads and sandwiches. And under each one there are a variety of options.
1. “Cook Once, Eat Twice” (or three times!) Soup is the perfect freezer food, which means leftovers won’t go to waste. Soup will keep in the freezer for a couple of months, so don’t hesitate to whip up extra-large batches to enjoy now – and later.
2. Freeze leftover soup in muffin tins for easy-to-transport single-serve lunch portions.
3. Allow soup to cool overnight in the refrigerator before freezing. Putting hot soup into your freezer can briefly increase the internal temperature of your freezer, which could negatively impact your already frozen items.
4. Don’t add cold milk or cream straight from the refrigerator to your soups while cooking. To prevent curdling, warm the milk and cream up before adding to the simmering soup.
5. Mirepoix is a classic flavor base of onions, diced carrots, and celery. The traditional ratio is 2:1:1 (Two parts onion to one part each carrot and celery). It is often used to add flavor to soups, stocks, and broths. The smaller the pieces are cut, the faster they will release their flavor.
6. When making soup, “sweat” aromatics, like onions or garlic, first. Simply sauté these ingredients in a little olive oil or butter until they are soft. This will release their flavors and enhance the final taste of your recipe.
7. Give your soup a chance to cool a bit before adding final seasoning. When the soup is boiling hot, it is difficult to tell whether or not it actually needs more salt or other seasonings.
8. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime to broth-based soups before serving to “brighten” up the flavors. Citrus has a natural fresh taste to it that will liven up the other flavors in your soup.
1. Save time cleaning up by making your salad dressing in the same bowl you plan to serve your salad in. Mix up your dressing ingredients and let them sit for a while to give the flavors a chance to meld.
Then add the rest of your salad ingredients to the bowl and toss to coat right before serving. If you make more dressing than you need for one salad, simply pour off the excess into another storage container before adding your salad ingredients.
2. When making homemade vinaigrettes, add a little Dijon mustard or mayonnaise to emulsify the mixture. This will help hold together the oil and vinegar (or other acidic components) longer.
3. No one likes a soggy salad. Don’t add the dressing until right before you serve it to keep your lettuce crisp.
4. It’s important to thoroughly wash lettuce before eating it, but it can be challenging to get it dry enough to hold your dressing. If you eat a lot of salad, a salad spinner is definitely worth the investment.
5. If you need to take your salad on the go, but hate soggy, wilted lettuce – try layering your ingredients. A good rule of thumb is to always put the dressing on the bottom (or in another container), followed by “tougher” ingredients like carrots and celery.
Next up, add proteins like chicken breast or sliced eggs and then top with delicate lettuce or spinach leaves.
6. Have extra tomatoes from your garden? Wash, chop, and freeze them! Previously frozen tomatoes are too mealy to enjoy raw, but they are perfect for soups, chili, and stews.
7. Don’t buy previously grated Parmesan cheese in a can. A nice wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano isn’t overly expensive and will last you a long time. Plus, it won’t have a bunch of preservatives and anti-caking ingredients added to it. An inexpensive Microplane* is perfect for grating over soups or salads and makes for a nice presentation when serving guests.
8. There are many reasons to buy wedges of hard cheeses, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago cheese, instead of the pre-grated stuff. For example, hard cheese looks beautiful – and tastes amazing – when cut with a vegetable peeler into ribbons and placed on top of soups and salads. An added bonus is the larger chunks impart a more recognizable flavor to your dish.
9. Always save the rind from hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano to add to the pot or slow cooker when making soups. That delicious salty cheesy goodness will soften and infuse your creation with a wonderful new layer of flavor.
1. Plain, old sandwiches can get boring really fast. Introducing an unexpected flavor to your favorite combinations is an easy way to liven things up a bit. Instead of mayo or mustard, try a creamy avocado spread, spicy jalapeno jelly, or sweet fig jam. The options are nearly endless.
2. Grilled Panini sandwiches are a great cure for the common cold sandwich. You can pick up a highly rated Panini press sandwich maker on Amazon – or you can use a grill pan and place a clean cast iron skillet on top of your sandwich for even heating (and those gorgeous grill marks).
3. Summer is the perfect time to enjoy sandwiches, because who wants to be stuck in the kitchen making complicated meals on a hot day? Plus, it’s tough to beat the taste of in-season veggies, like tomatoes warm off the vine and crispy lettuce straight from the garden. They create the perfect foundation for whatever meat, cheese, veggie, and condiment combination you put together.
4. One trick to instantly up the ante on your sandwich creation? Heat the protein before assembling your ingredients. Heating up your chicken, ham, sliced beef or even tofu will add another delicious dimension to your sandwich.