Lunch Pack Series: Favorites, Budget-Friendly, and Easy-to-Prepare Dishes

If there is a Mythical Team in a typical Filipino baon (packed food), it would be:
1. Tocino
2. Longganisa
3. Hotdog
4. Corned Beef/Tuna
5. Egg
One of the five is paired with a handful serving of rice and it automatically gives every Pinoy a good burp to last a day, either in school or office.

I was fed by a packed lunch all through my school life, except when i was in the University, where every student was directed to Hepa Lane (Hepa is short for Hepatitis, due abundance of street food consumption). And as the old university saying goes, “Mura na Madumi pa” (Not only cheap, but also dirty). 😉

When I started working and eventually learned how to value my hard-earned money, I went back to bringing a baon. Albeit there are times when colleagues would invite me to check our this new restaurant or when my meetings are scheduled in the morning, or when it’s pay-day time, tendency is to have a sumptuous lunch out and forget about eating my baon. Instant cheat day!

I have been posting a #Baon series over at my Instagram page ever since I went back to a healthier eating lifestyle. The best way to watch what you eat is to cook what you eat, so I do as such, plus I love cooking. It’s a must that my baon has a balanced meat-vegetable or protein-carb ratio + ample amount of fruits. However, depending on my mood and cravings, i sometimes add a wee bit of carb and sweets. Most girls having a hard-time dealing with PMS could definitely sympathize haha! 

My friends would say i’m masipag and have plenty of time to spare to prepare my food but little did they know, it’s actually a quick process! I’ve heard 3 major excuses on bringing your own baon, much more a healthy one:
1. Too lazy to lift a finger
2. Have limited budget for healthier ingredients
3. No time (Snooze button, anyone?)

You’ve come to the right place, dear friends in the work-force! I’m here to prove you preparing a healthy lunch is worth all the effort without slashing much of your precious time and wallet. I’m gonna share with you my favorites, budget-friendly, and easy-to-prepare recipes good for a work-week! 🙂

Favorites: Pasta

If there’s one soul in this earth that hates pasta, it’s the end of sanity. Pasta will always be a comfort food not to mention easy-to-prepare! Come to think of it: cook the pasta, saute the sauce, vioala, nom-nom! Quick trivia: 80% of first dates usually happen in restaurants serving Italian cuisine. Why? Familiarity.

Full-disclosure: I just exaggerated the statistics, but in essence, it’s a fact 🙂

Here’s one of my most favorite healthy pasta dishes: Vegetarian Linguine Pasta

Preparation Time: 40 mins
Ingredients:

150g Linguine Pasta
1/2 cup Cream
1/4 cup Eggplant
1/4 cup Zucchini
1 small Red Bellpepper
1/3 cup Mushroom
150g French Beans or Asparragus
3 cloves Garlic
2 tbsp Butter
Salt
Pepper

Procedure:
1. Cook Pasta then set aside. Blanch the French beans for 5 mins using the Pasta water.
2. Saute garlic, mushroom, bell pepper until butter is absorbed then add eggplant and zucchini. Add cream once vegetables are cooked then add salt and pepper to taste. Optional: Chili flakes to give it a little spice.
3. Mix sauce with Pasta.

Budget-Friendly: “Upcycling”

Cooking boost creativity. It allows you to work within your means, especially if you live in household that glorifies food above else–just like ours. On weekends, i prepare a #SaturdaySpecial (or Sunday) for the fambam and expect that it’s gonna be a feast! My brothers (especially) are beasts that could not be tamed with just a pint, they demand a drum so i always allot a “contingency serving”. Whatever’s left, i put in a container and upcycle for my baon come Monday. A few weeks back, i cooked Molo (Filipino style dumpling) and i upcycled its excess mix for this budget-friendly recipe.

Here’s a very creative and healthy upcycled dish: Vegetable slaw with Beef Strips and Molo-patties

Preparation Time: 50mins
Ingredients:

1 pc Carrots
1 pcs Cucumber
1/2 cup Lettuce
Left-over meat from the day/night before, or:
150g Beef strips
1 tsp Sesame oil
2 pcs Dried Chili
1 tbsp Onion
1 clove Garlic
Salt
Pepper

Procedure:
1. Wash vegetables thoroughly. Slice carrots and cucumber thinly while cut lettuce into strips then set aside.
2. If you have left over meat from the day/night before, say Adobo or any mixes, you can pan-fry it like my Molo-mix then pair it with the vegetable slaw. Alternatively, you may use beef strips (Php150 only in SM Hypermarket).
3. Wash beef strips thoroughly until blood is eliminated. Marinate it in sesame oil, dried chili, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper (for atleast 30mins, better if overnight). Fry it with or without olive oil in a not-stick pan.

Easy-to-Prepare: Pre-packed or Ready to cook

When you say Ready-to-Cook, canned goods always instantly come to mind but there are healthier alternative pre-packed goods like frozen vegetables that have acceptable amount of preservatives but still okay in terms of nutritional value. This is perfect for yuppies who are lazy to peel and chop for that much needed vegetable intake. I admit, i sometimes feel lazy too but that doesn’t equate to go for meals that are loaded with sodium (Fastfood and the likes). This recipe is a personal favorite whenever i ran out of creative juices or have to be quick in the kitchen to have an early day at work.

Here’s an easy-to-prepare and affordable recipe: Buttered vegetables with Parmesan Chicken

Preparation time: 30-40 mins
Ingredients:

250g Frozen Mixed Vegetables
3 cloves Garlic
1 pc Onion
3 tbsp Butter
Salt
Pepper
250g Chicken breast, cubes
1 tbsp Calamansi juice
3 tbsp Grated Parmesan Cheese
3 tbsp Vegetable oil
Pepper

Procedure:

  1. Wash chicken breast and cut into cubes. Marinate it in Calamansi juice with parmesan, salt, and pepper for at least 30mins then refrigerate for a while.
  2. Saute mixed vegetables in butter, garlic, and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Using the same pan, fry chicken marinade in vegetable oil. Tip: the excess butter from the vegetable mix will give more flavor to the chicken.

Bonus: Colors

Because who doesn’t want a colorful plate? Eating healthy doesn’t mean suicide, the least you can do is make it look appealing to the palate. And that’s yet another healthy-eating hack! 😉

Here’s another favorite dish of mine:  Fresh butterhead lettuce with Beef tomato salsa. 

Preparation time: 50mins
Ingredients:

2 cups Butterhead Lettuce
1 cup Red cabbage
3 tbsp Corn
150g Ground beef
2 cloves Garlic
1 tbsp Onion
4 pcs Tomatoes
Curry powder
Salt
Pepper

Procedure:

  1. Wash vegetables thoroughly. Cut red cabbage in strips, while leaf the butterhead lettuce. Set aside.
  2. In a separate skillet, boil corn until cooked. Alternatively, you may use canned corn.
  3. Saute ground beef in garlic, onion, tomato then add corn. Season with salt, pepper, and a dash of curry powder. Add dried chili for more spice.

***

For other healthy food and beverage homemade recipes, check out my compilation here and here. If you have any suggestions or feedback, let me hear from you! 🙂

Lunch is power,

Charlene

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