Awhile back I shared one of my favorite lunches, this Couscous Salad. It’s pretty easy to make, pretty healthy, and pretty delicious. In that post, I talked about how I find lunch very uninspiring. I still do. I love going out to lunch though… why is it that a sandwich, soup, or salad at a restaurant is so much better than the exact same dish you made at home? Is that just me??
Maybe it’s because I don’t eat a wide variety of lunches. There’s only so many things that are portable and easily eaten on a brief lunch break. This salad is one of my go-tos. It takes about 5 minutes to make, so you can throw it together the night before. It’s healthy, with very simple ingredients. And since the whole avocado is in there, it’s filling enough to last you through the afternoon.
I like to use the small pickling cucumbers in this salad because I don’t think they leech as much water and stay more crisp in the fridge. You obviously can use a regular cucumber if you’d like. I usually make a double or triple batch at eat it all week. I kept this recipe small, because when it sits in the fridge for a day or two, the avocado gets brown and less pretty. I don’t mind this because it still tastes good despite its appearance, but I don’t want you people to make a big batch and be sad a few days later.
Fresh Avocado & Cucumber Salad
- 1 avocado
- 2 pickling cucumbers
- Juice from ~2/3s of a lime
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 4 turns of fresh ground black pepper
- A pinch or two of Kosher salt, to taste
- Slice the cucumbers and cut the avocado into chunks.
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Stir to combine.
- Refrigerate until serving.
Beets are one of those vegetables that you either love or hate. I’d had beets just once that I can remember prior to when Selim and I started dating, and I hated them that one time. So for years, I never tasted another beet. Selim likes them a lot and eventually convinced me to try them again. I was skeptically, but he converted me into a beet-eater.
A lot of times we just grate a beet in with whatever other salad ingredients we’re using that day. But I wanted to make a salad that showcased the beet itself. You may think it sounds ridiculous to roast some of the beets and not others – after all, once they’re all mixed together they barely look any different! But I’d give it a whirl. The roasted beets have a different texture and flavor than the raw ones. It gives this salad a greater depth of flavor, I think.
Two-Way Beet Salad
- 2 medium beets
- Olive oil, divided (2 tsp + 1 tbsp)
- Salt & pepper
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 2oz feta, crumbled
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Take one of the beets – scrub clean, peel, and chop into small rectangles/squares.
- Toss the beet cubes in 2 tsp of olive oil and a few dashes of salt & pepper. Spread on a foil-lined cookie sheet and place in the oven on a middle rack. Roast for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, take the other beet and similarly clean it. Grate this one via one of the larger holes on your grater. Place in a large bowl.
- Whisk together balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp olive oil, thyme, and a few more turns of black pepper in a small bowl.
- Once the roasting beets are done, add them to the bowl with the raw, shredded beets. Toss with the vinaigrette.
- Top with feta and serve.
I don’t know about y’all, but I feel like lunch is kind of a struggle meal. I want to have something that tastes good, is easy to make, is portable to work/school, is pretty healthy, and keeps me full until dinner. That’s doable, but sometimes is just a little boring. Lunch just isn’t an exciting meal to me! When you think of lunch, what do you think of? Lunch just elicits the thought of a sandwich for me. I actually love sandwiches, but you can’t eat a sandwich every single day.
The other thing about lunch is that I don’t really ever think about making “a recipe”for lunch. I feel like I just throw something together. I think others feel the same way, judging from some recent social media posts I’ve seen from friends looking to add some variety to their brown-baggin’ it work lunches. Which led me to the realization that my simple, thrown-together lunch(es) might be something new for someone else.
This is one of my favorite go-to lunches. It pretty much hits all of my lunch criteria as above. Tastes good? Big old check. Easy to make? Check. Portable for work? Definite check. Reasonably healthy? Veggie-packed check. Keeps me full? Check, check, check. The portions I describe here gives me 3 or 4 lunches for a week, which simultaneously preps for a good portion of the week and leaves room for a little variety.
Like I said before, I don’t really follow a recipe for this and alter it probably every time. Try it this way. And next time, try some different vegetables, different dressing, or some additions like cheese or meats. The variation below uses Trader Joe’s Light Champagne Vinaigrette, my current obsession.
- 1 cup pearl couscous
- 2 cups water
- 1 chicken bouillon cube
- 1 small cucumber, sliced and quartered
- 10 baby carrots, sliced
- 10 kalamata olives, pitted and halved
- 1 ear of corn, cooked/boiled and kernels removed
- 2 tbsp Light Champagne Vinaigrette
- Fresh-ground black pepper
- Bring the water, couscous, and bouillon cube to a boil. Cook over medium-high heat until water is absorbed and grain is soft, but not mushy. (Note: different sizes and variations of couscous may require more or less water. Follow given instructions if they differ from mine.)
- Meanwhile, prepare your vegetables.
- After couscous has cooked, drain if needed, and set aside to cool.
- Combine veggies, couscous, and dressing. Top with a few turns of black pepper. Mix thoroughly.
Makes 3-4 lunch servings.
Now who has some new-to-me easy lunch ideas to share?
Have you been introduced to zoodles, the semi-recent food craze and healthy-eater favorite? I love these spiralized “noodles” of zucchini. We’ve made several dishes with them, and I think they work great as a noodle or grain substitute if you’re into that kind of thing. What I don’t think however, is that they are “just like pasta.” You’ll see recipes floating around for things like Zoodles Alfredo where the authors claim they “can’t even tell the difference” between regular pasta and zoodles. I call BS. I like zoodles. I think they taste good. I think they work really well as a substitute in many situations where you would otherwise use noodles or rice. But I can definitely tell the difference!
I personally like cooked zoodles way better than just spiralized zucchini raw. I don’t know why it tastes that different to me, but it does. Hence why in this recipe I cook the zoodles, even though I’m making a cold salad. Don’t judge. (And don’t do it if you don’t want! I’m sure normal people would like the whole thing raw.)
Mediterranean Cucumber-Zoodle Salad
- 2 zucchini squash
- 1/2 of a large cucumber
- 1 tsp olive oil
- Handful of baby carrots, chopped
- 10 kalamata olives, pitted & quartered
- 4oz Feta cheese
- 1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp white wine
- 1/2 tsp honey
- 1/4 tsp thyme
- 1/4 tsp oregano
- Salt & pepper
- Use a spiralizer to spiralize the zucchini and cucumber. Alternatively, use a mandolin or julienne peeler. You want to end up with thin strips. Place the zoodles in a strainer (set aside the cucumbers). Toss with salt. Allow to sit out over the sink for 15+ minutes. This draws the liquid out of the vegetables and keeps them from getting mushy.
- Now squeeze the zoodles between your fists. You’ll be amazed how much liquid you can squeeze out! (You won’t hurt the zoodles, they’re pretty durable.)
- Put olive oil in saute pan over low-medium heat. Once warm, add zoodles to the pan and saute for ~10 minutes. Remove from heat, set aside, and allow to cool. [Skip this step if you’re not weird like me and are fine with raw zucchini.]
- Combine zoodles, cucumber, olives, and feta (crumbled or cut into chunks).
- Whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing. Then toss the vegetables with the dressing and serve.