Turning lunch box drudgery into a pleasant picnic
By ELIZABETH KARMEL For the Associated Press August 6, 2012 2:50PM
Gorp can easily upgrade a dull lunch. | AP Photo
Updated: September 9, 2012 6:01AM
Most people consider packing lunch a chore. But I’ve always thought there is something exciting about brown bagging it. It’s like getting to take a picnic to school, on an airplane or to work.
And when you think of lunch as an opportunity to pack a special meal, it can go from dull to delicious. I learned long ago that I would be happier if I brought the foods that I like to eat from home instead of hoping that the cafeteria or nearby food court would satisfy me.
A good friend of mine calls it the $10 upgrade. Which is to say that for about $10, more or less, you can easily elevate lunch from coach to first class. After making many lunches, catering in my restaurant and learning a few tricks from my mother and other brown bag fanatics, I have some tips for making brown bag lunches stay fresh, safe, interesting and delicious.
† Freeze bread and make sandwiches with the frozen slices. Wrap the assembled sandwich in a dry paper towel and slip it into a zip-close plastic bag or wrap with foil. By the time lunch arrives, the bread will be thawed and taste fresh and soft. Plus, the paper towel becomes a “placemat” for your sandwich.
† Freeze individual water or juice containers. Once frozen, wrap them in a paper towel and either foil or plastic wrap and place in the lunch box. Your frozen drink will double as a cold pack for keeping the lunch “refrigerated” and food safe. And (of course) it provides an icy cold drink.
† Create themes to inspire lunches. Use favorite books, movies or holidays for kid’s and use favorite cuisines or pastimes for adults.
† Think about your favorite picnic foods. They can become great lunch items. I especially like deviled eggs; peanut-butter stuffed celery; pimento cheese and pretzel rods; apple slices and goat cheese; fresh cherries, etc.
† Pack one indulgent treat, such as a homemade cookie or brownie, granola bar, a square of dark chocolate or dark chocolate covered almonds.
† Pack one item that can be eaten as snack. My favorite snack is a batch of my homemade gorp (good ol’ raisins and peanuts). Portion into snack-sized bags so they are ready to pack at any time. Or up the ante and mix a couple tablespoons of gorp into a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter, then use to make a gorp-stuffed apple.
I love making gorp because I can customize it and add all of my favorite fruits and nuts. Substitute soy nuts for the peanuts if nut allergies are a concern.
Start to finish: 5 minutes
Makes about 43/4 cups
1/2 cup toasted coconut flakes
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted cashews
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted almonds
1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts or soy nuts
1/2 cup banana chips, lightly crushed
1/2 cup M&M’s
1/2 cup peanut M&M’s
1/4 cup toasted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup diced dried apricots
1/4 cup finely diced crystallized ginger
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and gently mix well. Store in an airtight container.
Nutrition information per 1/4 cup serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 190 calories; 100 calories from fat (53 percent of total calories); 12 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 18 g carbohydrate; 5 g protein; 2 g fiber; 25 mg sodium.