I’m always looking for new ideas about what to cook next for breakfast, lunch and dinner and half the recipes I come across are too fancy, too time-consuming or too confusing because, yes, it’s possible for a recipe to be all of these things. While I actually love to cook and I’m not afraid of expanding my culinary knowledge and gaining some more experience, I don’t always have the time for more intricate dishes or budget for fancy foods. So I have to adjust my cooking to my time, budget and, of course, taste buds. Some of my very favorite recipes include simple combinations of simple foods, but with quality ingredients.
Quality ingredients are not necessarily the most costly, but not the cheapest either. Since every single meal we enjoy is without a doubt extremely important for our short term and long term wellbeing, eating healthy, varied and balanced is a must. And, believe it or not, healthy eating isn’t restricted to salads or green smoothies and doesn’t have to keep us in the kitchen all day long. We wouldn’t even have the time or finances for this. But we do have to put some effort and time into what we cook and eat because home-made dishes are far healthier than anything partially cooked and frozen or most minimally processed or ready to eat foods. This being said, here are some of my favorite things to eat for lunch:
1) Turkey meatballs and celery. What I do is mix 350 g of lean turkey meat (over 90% lean meat) with salt, pepper, a drizzle of extravirgin olive oil, 2 medium-sized grated carrots, 1 medium-sized egg and an extra yolk, 2 slices of one day-old bread or bread crumbs and half a bunch of chopped fresh parsley. I mix the composition well and let it rest for 5-10 minutes, then begin forming the meatballs. I either put them on a cooking sheet and throw them in the oven (medium heat) for around half an hour, turning them and checking so they don’t burn, or cook them in a stone bottom frying pan without any oil for 20-30 minutes, turning them around as needed.
Separately, I bring a small pot of water to the boil, clean and chop half a celery root and one or two medium-sized celery stalks until they are soft but firm. I strain the vegetables and mix with 1 or 2 tablespoons of extravirgin olive oil. The turkey meatballs and celery are great eaten immediately, but make a wonderful lunch to take to work the next day.
2) Tuna, sweet corn and mayonnaise. One of may favorite combinations is this: 1 can of tuna fish chunks (140 g) mixed with about 120 g of boiled sweet corn kernels and about 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise (home made with boiled egg yolk and sunflower oil). Tuna is a great source of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and rich in quality protein, while corn adds fiber, a bit of potassium and B vitamins as well as some natural sugars to our diet. Mayonnaise is healthy when consumed in small amounts occasionally because it supplies Omega-6 fatty acids from both sunflower oil and egg yolks and important nutrients such as choline and quality protein from eggs. Being mostly protein and some fat, this combination is both satiating and energizing, not to mention it has no added salt.
3) Salmon, sweet corn, broccoli, tomatoes and rice. Boil 75 g of plain rice of your choosing. Steam as much broccoli as you see fit to eat in one sitting and boil half a sweet corn cob. Pack them all up with 100 or 150 g of smoked salmon and a refreshing tomato and have a great lunch at work. The rice represents the base of the meal and supplies carbohydrates for energy, while the salmon provides healthy fats and protein. Broccoli is rich in all sorts of healthy compounds, vitamins and minerals, while corn and tomatoes provide crunch, freshness and good amounts of important nutrients, fiber and antioxidants.
4) Grilled eggplants and aurata fish. If you’re having lunch at home, brought to you by your significant other or work a noon shift and have time to eat at home, then this is a great protein-rich, but easy and tasty lunch option that doesn’t make you feel heavy or full. Simply boil one whole gilt-head sea bream, also known as dorada or aurata fish (Sparus aurata), season with salt, lemon juice and extravirgin olive oil. Slice and grill either one small eggplant or half of a big one. Again, season with salt, pepper and dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar according to taste. Aurata fish is extremely tasty, particularly the head, while the eggplant and balsamic vinegar have a unique flavor.
5) Potato and egg salad with bacon and green beans. A take to work or eat at home lunch, this is both filling and tasty. Boil about one kg of white potatoes, peel and chop into medium-sized chunks. Saute 200-300 g of green beans. Add 4-5 soft boiled chicken eggs cut into quarters, or bigger and about 8 strips of bacon cooked in a non-stick frying pan. Season with salt, pepper and extravirgin olive oil. This is enough for 2 generous servings and quite satiating without packing too much fat or calories. Moreover, potatoes are a good source of potassium to help regulate our blood pressure, while green beans provide fiber and good amounts of vitamins and dietary minerals. Eggs are rich in protein and essential nutrients such as choline, vitamins B12, B2, B5, B9, A and D, phosphorus and zinc.
6) Mushroom spread. It can be made at home and eaten while hot, but also tastes great cold the next day. I always make more and put into glass jars to refrigerate for the rest of the week or more. You need 1 large oyster pleurotus mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus), which can weigh anywhere from 1 kg to 1,5 kg, and about 1 kg of champignon mushrooms. I always add more pleurotus because it has a softer, somewhat nuttier flavor. I wash and tear the mushrooms into smaller pieces and simply boil them. When they’re done, I strain and season them with salt, pepper, fresh garlic and extravirgin olive oil, then blend them well into a paste. I garnish with plenty of fresh parsley. They make a delicious spread and side dish and are quite a healthy lunch option because of their high nutrient value and low calorie content.
Because taste is as subjective as it gets, feel free to adjust the ingredients as you see fit. Just don’t make the potato salad all about bacon and so on. While preparing these foods does take some time, they do not require much artistry or skill, as I have learnt myself. The key to good health is to vary what we eat as much as possible so we get a higher chance of getting all the nutrients our body needs in the amounts it needs. So if you are ever at a loss for lunch ideas, maybe you will find some delicious inspiration in my 6 favorite recipes.