A Lunch Co-Op Changed My Lunch Life

Y’all. Eating healthy and bringing your lunch to work every day is hard work. It’s a lot easier to eat out and not have to worry about it. But it’s also a lot more expensive and a lot less healthy. So how do you find that middle ground? Well I am only an expert in what works for me, but here is what did work: I joined a co-op.

More like I created a co-op because one didn’t exist at my workplace. I found four other people who also wanted to eat healthier, cheaper lunches every day. And it wasn’t as hard to find four other vegans (or at least people willing to eat vegan lunches every day) as I thought that it would be.

We assigned each person a day and on your designated day you are to bring five servings of whatever it is that you prepare for lunch. And then you don’t have to make lunch for the rest of the week.

IMG_2726

Brilliant, right?

You get all of the benefits of bulk meal prepping but without having to eat the same thing every day. You also get to try a lot of things that you may not have thought of trying before.

It’s been two weeks in our Lunch Bunch, and I’d say things are going pretty well. What have we been eating? I was hoping that you would ask!

IMG_2604

Day One: Stir Fry Veggies with Tofu Over Rice

 

I figured this would eventually be one of our meals so I kind of laughed when it was the first one. I love stir fry. Love love love. But I’m not very good at pressing my tofu to get the firm texture that this dish had. I was super thankful that we had this dish because I was able to get some advice on press, press, press again.

 

 

 

Day Two: Kung Pao Cauliflower and Chickpeas

IMG_2603

 

Day two was my day. I had a head of cauliflower that I

 

had bought at the grocery store but almost forgot about when I was able to whip up this

 

yummy dish. I absolutely love chickpeas, so I added those as well. This dish was super easy and even the non

vegetarian in our group was

impressed. I used a super simple breading, roasted the cauliflower, then tossed the cauliflower and some chickpeas in a kung pao sauce that I made. I felt like the

 

portion was a little small, but it seemed to be fine with everyone. We’re all learning a lot about portion control lately.

IMG_2602

Day Three: Vegan Quiche

Oh. My. Goodness. I still cannot get over how delicious this was! I’ve seen recipes for vegan quiche for YEARS but could never convince myself to try it. Now I am absolutely kicking myself. The non-vegetarian in our group whipped this up and you would swear that she’s been a die hard vegan and master chef her whole life if you had tasted this. If you want to try it for yourself, you can use this recipe from Minimalist Baker.

Day Four: Soy Chorizo and Sweet Potato Wraps 

IMG_2622

Sweet Potatoes are probably my favorite food. Or maybe avocados. I can’t decide. Who cares? This dish had both! There was a little bit of assembly required but it was well worth it. A warm tortilla with spinach, a tasty mixture of sweet potato and vegan chorizo, topped with avocado. Say no more. My taste buds were happy all day long. This is a combo that I had never really thought about making but will be sure to whip up for myself in the future.

IMG_2631

Day Five: Spaghetti with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes

Remember what I said about us learning portion control? It’s hard. And it’s hard to control yourself when the food is so yummy. I don’t eat pasta very often so this was a nice change of pace for me, and I was tickled to see that there were roasted Brussels sprouts as a side.

IMG_2725

Day Six: Congee

I had never even heard of congee before but it may be one of my new favorite dishes.

Congee is a savory rice porridge that is popular in many Asian countries. It’s often paired with meat and/or veggies and served to people who are ill. It’s healthy comfort food! Oddly enough, I was having a really bad day the day that we had congee so it was perfect. Our congee was topped with kale, tofu, mushrooms, and green onions.

 

Day Seven: Zoodles with Homemade Sauce

 

IMG_2740

I’m not sure what dish I was planning to prepare for my second week, but this was not it. That being said, I am a sucker for a good deal. Any time that I go to the grocery store, I always check for produce that has been marked down to sell before it goes bad. Monday evening I was at the store when I found zucchini marked down to 4 for 99 cents and could not just let it sit there. I also scooped up a bag of tomatoes for 99 cents. I already had plenty of garlic and basil at home, so Zoodles it was! If you haven’t tried making vegetable noodles yet, I strongly suggest it. I also scored an organic personal sized watermelon for only 99 cents so I added some fresh fruit to our lunch.

 

Day Eight: Zucchini Hummus Wraps

I DIDN’T GET TO EAT TODAY! I was so busy running around with meetings that I didn’t realize until I got home that I had forgotten to eat. Today’s lunch was a whole wheat tortilla with hummus, vegan cheese, kale, grilled zucchini, tomatoes, and onions.

IMG_2771

 

Day Nine: Barbecue Carrot Sandwiches 

 

Yum! This is another dish that I wouldn’t have made for myself. I love carrots and I love barbecue sauce, but I had never thought about using carrots in a dupe of a pulled pork sandwich. The sandwiches were topped with guacamole so of course my avocado loving soul was thrilled.

Day Ten: Mashed Potatoes and Cauliflower with Mushroom Gravy

IMG_2785

Remember that day that I was so busy that I forgot to eat lunch? I was NOT about to let

that happen again. Which explains why I am standing up in this picture, holding my food. I had to eat on the go, but I’m so glad that I took the time to heat my lunch up. I am not a huge potato person so having the mixture of potatoes and cauliflower mixed things up in an unexpected way. I definitely went into this meal thinking “mashed potatoes and gravy is a side dish, not a meal” but I was pleasantly surprised.

There were lots of hearty mushrooms in this dish and it gave it a really meaty texture. I am ceasing to pass judgement on food because I haven’t had a single meal that I wasn’t head over heels for this week.

So there you have it. I’ve eaten healthier, saved money, saved time, and helped my friends do the same. You could easily implement this in your own workplace or friend group as well!

Click the thumbnails below for full size pictures of each of the meals that I posted above:

Advertisements

Udon Noodle Soup With Miso and Soft Boiled Eggs

I love ramen. I love soba noodles. I love udon noodles. Basically I love any asian style soup img_1685that features noodles. As much as I love these things and also love to cook, I have never actually made ramen or an udon noodle soup at home until very recently. Unless you count the instant ramen noodles…you know, the cheap 4 for $1 deals. And you shouldn’t count those. If you have never had ramen from an actual restaurant you are seriously missing out. Or maybe you just need to make the real thing at home like I did last night.

A few weeks ago while he was in Las Vegas, Bo tried authentic ramen in a restaurant for the first time. He absolutely loved it and asked if it was something that I could make. And honestly, I wasn’t sure that I could. So when this recipe for Udon Noodle Soup showed up as one of my choices from Blue Apron, I jumped at the chance to try it. It’s probably one of the best decisions that I have ever made.
If you have never tried Blue Apron, it is a subscription box style meal planning service that delivers properly portioned and fresh ingredients with easy to follow recipes directly to your doorstep. Each week you get three meals that serve two people. There’s also a family option for feeding four people. I’ll be posting an overall review of Blue Apron here on my blog at the end of the week but if this recipe is any indicator, I am pretty sure that I am in love. I was blown away by the freshness and quality of the ingredients that I received, and that definitely played a huge role in how yummy this soup turned out. I’ve included the recipe at the end of this post, or you can find it here on Blue Apron’s website. Great ingredients can really change everything in a meal, so if you have ever thought about giving Blue Apron a try, DO IT!
The nerdy part of me gets REALLY into learning about food, terminology, and nutrition. The science and culture of food is absolutely fascinating to me and plays a huge part in my love of cooking. Being someone who loves to eat also plays a lot into me being into cooking, but that is beside the point. I read a lot about different types of noodles while making this recipe, and am really looking forward to making this recipe again in the future and making subtle changes to it to keep it new and exciting.
This soup used udon noodles, so let’s start there.
  •  Udon noodles are some of my absolute favorite because they are thick, chewy, and super filling. If you pick up some udon noodles for yourself, definitely go for fresh. These noodles are usually in a refrigerated section at most grocery stores and you can always find them at any Asian market. It is difficult to find dried udon noodles most places, but believe me when I say that you don’t want them. The texture is never quite right, so just save yourself the heartache and go for the fresh noodles. Udon noodles are very subtle in flavor so they go great with any soup, unless you plan on using a base that isn’t very flavorful and in that case I would definitely recommend going with a more flavor packed noodle.
  • Soba noodles are a great example of a flavorful noodle. They are made from buckwheat flour and have a somewhat nutty taste to them. You see them in a lot more salads than soups since they do have such a distinct (delicious) flavor to them.
  • If wheat noodles just aren’t your thing, you can always opt for rice noodles. Most rice noodles are similar in size in shape to angel hair pasta. These are the types of noodles that you see in a lot of Vietnamese and Thai dishes.
  • Ramen noodles are probably the Asian style noodle that most Americans are familiar with. Whether you associate them with your broke college days or with the top of Justin Timberlake’s head circa 1997, you definitely associate them with something and you know what they are. I personally prefer the softer and thicker udon noodles, but you will definitely never see me turn down a tasty bowl of ramen!

img_1686

Here is Blue Apron’s recipe for Udon Noodle Soup. I followed it exactly and only added Sriracha to the finished product. I honestly believe that they reason this turned out so well is because of how fresh and tasty the ingredients are that come in the Blue Apron box. What you will find below is just the recipe. When you order a box you get portioned out, high quality, fresh ingredients, and photos along side the step by step instructions. Their site and the boxes also come with tips and tricks for things like how to best peel and chop ginger, the easiest way to mince garlic, etc.
Try the recipe below and let me know what you think. I’d also love to hear about YOUR Blue Apron experience!
Udon Noodle Soup With Miso and Soft Boiled Eggs
  • 2 Cage-Free Farm Eggs
  • ½ Pound Fresh Udon Noodles
  • 4 Ounces Baby Bok Choy

  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 2 Scallions
  • 1 Carrot
  • 1 Lime
  • 3 Tablespoons Roasted Peanuts
  • 1 1-Inch Piece Ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon Hoisin Sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil
  • ¼ Cup Sweet White Miso Paste
Don’t forget Sriracha!
First things first is the prep work. Wash and dry the fresh produce. Heat a small pot of water to boiling on high. Peel and finely chop the garlicPeel and finely chop the ginger. Cut off and discard the root end of the scallions; thinly slice, separating the white bottoms and green tops. Peel the carrot and thinly slice into rounds. Cut off and discard the root end of the bok choy; roughly chop. Cut the lime in half crosswise. Roughly chop the peanuts.
Carefully add the eggs to the pot of boiling water. Cook for exactly 7 minutes. Drain thoroughly and rinse under cold water for 30 seconds to 1 minute to stop the cooking process. When cool enough to handle, carefully peel the cooked eggs. Transfer to a cutting board and set aside in a warm place.
While the eggs cook, in a large pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot.Add the garlic, ginger and white bottoms of the scallions; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the carrot; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes, or until slightly softened.
To the pot, add the noodles (carefully separating with your hands before adding), sesame oil and the juice of both lime halves. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 4 minutes, or until thoroughly combined and heated through. Turn off the heat; season with salt and pepper to taste.
Divide the finished soup between 2 bowls. Halve the peeled eggs lengthwise and season with salt and pepper. Top the soup with the seasoned eggs. Garnish with the peanuts and green tops of the scallions. 
Enjoy!