Like a good cook, I do my best to plan ahead each week to ensure I'll have lots of leftovers to take with me to work for lunch. But sometimes, life (mainly kids) gets in the way and the dinner plans go to hell. Not only does it leave us scrambling to cobble together something to eat at night, it also means a bare fridge in the morning when I'm trying to find anything at all that looks like it will do for lunch. Then, the shame kicks in as I open the spare freezer in the garage and grab myself a pre-packaged, overly salted, highly processed, usually extremely caloric frozen dinner I bought in Target for my kids to eat. But it's off to work I go with "lunch" in hand.
Back in June, I had such an event occur. What made it worse than usually was that at the time, I was spending my lunch hours getting hecancook.com live. Yes, a site devoted to getting men to cook, and here I was eating a frozen tv dinner. And to put it over the top, one of my teammates, who knew about the website, caught me in the act. All I could think to say, with a smiled of course, was "don't judge me". But then I went back to my desk, Salisbury Steak and Mac n Cheese in hand, and it hit me.
Why not package up my own frozen dinners for these moments. So last week, I went online to Amazon and purchased a whole stack of two-compartment containers that are safe for the freezer, microwave and dishwasher. Twenty containers for less than $15. Seriously! I looked at three and four-compartment containers, but they were just too big for my lunchbox. Do what makes sense for you and the food you plan to package, but for me, two compartments will be just fine.
Then, this past Monday, I planned ahead and made enough Jerk Chicken with Pineapple Rice to have dinner for the family and leftovers to freeze away. Here's a link to the recipe on Pinterest. It's not an original, but as I've said in the past, who cares! It's so easy and really tasty. The recipe calls for shrimp which I've made before, but shrimp doesn't tend to reheat well, so I changed it up for chicken thighs which I pre-grilled and chopped, then added when the recipe called for the shrimp. Before I served up dinner, I placed the chicken in the larger half of the storage container and added rice to the other side.
Had I really been inspired, I might have added some frozen vegis to the chicken. Then I just let it cool a bit, covered and labelled it, and stuck it in the freezer for another day. When I'm ready for it, I'll just place it in the microwave for 4-5 minutes on high, stirring half way through, and enjoy my lunch without any shame or judgement!
Ready to make your own frozen tv dinners? Just keep it balanced:
A meaty protein like chicken, steak or pork
A starch such as potatoes, rice or pasta
And a vegetable, either fresh cooked or frozen (yes - frozen vegis are usually packed at the peak of their nutritional value and are easy to have on-hand)
Here are a few ideas to get you going:
Roasted pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes and carrots
Grilled flank steak, rice pilaf and mushrooms
Baked dark meat chicken (bone-in), penne pasta with tomato sauce and peas
Slow cooker pulled pork, warm potato salad and baked beans
Let your imagination run wild, eat healthier and never be ashamed of your lunch again!