Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Brown Bagging It

Last week, Len Penzo did his third annual what in tarnation is the cheapest sandwich you can make when brown-bagging it survey and found that for the third year in the row, salami was the cheapest.  Wow.

I'll share a little secret with you--I am sometimes just plain not into sandwiches, or I get sick and tired of sandwiches (although I do like refrigerator dough turnovers).  And I've found that there are sometimes ways to spice up the sandwich, or even ways to brown bag it that doesn't involve sandwiches (or even necessarily last night's leftovers).

Freezer cooking.  Ah, yes, that wonderful old standby of making something you like, putting it into smaller containers, and freezing it for later meals.  I do this with soups, chilis, stews, certain casseroles, and sometimes, really fancy schmancy things like Fennel Chicken Fricasee or Chicken Cassoulet.  (They sound really fancy but they aren't--the cassoulet is not a proper cassoulet, but it's still good, and they aren't expensive if you get the meat on sale.  They are also better as leftovers, and they're already pretty tasty the first time around.)  If I have a free day, I'll break out my slow cooker and make chili or soup, and I'll make something else to freeze in portions.

I've also used things besides bread. Stuff a tomato or a large portabella musroom with something.  You can use anything--tuna, beans, egg salad, other vegetables, whatever you like.  I like sauteeing lentils with curry, cumin, turmeric, a dash of mustard powder, some ginger, and several cloves of garlic.  (You can change the herbs depending upon what kind of flavor you want--think garlic, basil, and oregano for a more Italian flavor, or rosemary and/or sage, garlic or shallots, and a little balsamic vinegar for something a little more comforting or earthy.)  I'll either leave them whole or grind it in a food processor and stuff a tomato or mushrooms with them.  It also makes for a nice spicy dip or spread.

Soup--I love soup.  I have a thermos so I don't have to wait to heat it up in the microwave.  Even if it's a canned soup I got from the grocery store, it's a nice addition to my lunch.  I often make my own and freeze it, so I'll take it out to defrost the night before, heat it up, and put it in my thermos.  I've got zucchini and potato soup (pureed so it's got a creamy consistency) in the freezer right now.  Or I'll use chili.

I'll also do a twist on other sandwiches.  Things like, adding a defrosted cube of pesto to mayonaise that I'm using in my tuna or chicken salad (or as a sandwich spread in general).  Or I'll add other herbs or spices to it--curry, or dill, mustard powder, oregano or basil.  Whatever strikes my fancy.  I'll use hummus or straight pesto as a spread, and when tomatoes are in season, use a nice bread for tomato and mozzerella sandwiches. 

And I need snacks, of course.  Which means hummus and vegetable sticks--I'll slice up a red pepper or carrot often for that.  Now that cucumbers are in season (and I'm getting them in my garden), I'll down one or two of those.  I just wash them, slice them in half and then in quarters, and put a little bit of salt and pepper on them.  Yum.

Gah! I'm hungry now.

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