The Lunch Box Steamer Session

Good morning everyone! Erin’s post last week about How To Eat and some of the related comments made me want to share my lunch box with you. I wish you were all here, because this week I steamed enough veggies for everyone!

Red cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kabocha squash, crimini mushrooms, carrots, bell pepper, beets, and sweet potato

I’ve always loved vegetables and salad, however, sometimes all that raw roughage is hard on my stomach. Plus, the cold weather makes me crave warm food. So when I saw the kabocha fashionista switched from cold salads to warm salads, I thought “Aha! What a great idea!”

Basically, all I do is buy a bunch of fresh vegetables and spend about 2-3 hours (including clean up time!) on Sunday to chop and steam them. Then I mix them in portable, convenient containers. I leave a few at home for quick dinners and take the rest to work for lunch. Here are a few tips and lots of pictures, in case you want to share my lunch!

1. Get fresh, organic and/or local vegetables whenever possible. You can taste the difference, especially since you’re not covering them in sauce. Also, choose vegetables you actually like! Try to vary in color and texture.

Actually, I baked the squash, but everything else was steamed.

2. Don’t steam the vegetables too long, crispy is better. You’ll be microwaving them later which will continue to cook the vegetables. Soggy veggies are no good.

3. Add quinoa or brown rice to the mix for more texture and as a binder or carb base.

4. Keep nuts, dried fruits and seeds around to throw in after you heat up your vegetables. They add an interesting crunch and flavor.

5. If you get bored add a little black pepper, spices, low fat dressing, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, tamari or anything else you can think of to that meal. I like to add the sauce when I’m eating, rather than when I cook, so I can suit my mood at the time.

6. Mix and match the veggies in each container so there is some variation from meal to meal.

Still not excited about eating steamed vegetables all week? When I feel that way, I remind myself I used to eat a ham and cheese or peanut butter sandwich every day for lunch. Then I would have spaghetti or mac and cheese for dinner most nights. This seems a lot more exciting than that. Not to mention, much healthier!

Monday's lunch at my desk. I couldn't finish all of it for lunch so I saved some and ate is an afternoon snack.

The most time consuming part of this recipe–and most vegan/vegetarian cooking–is all the chopping. That’s actually my favorite part of cooking. I can just zone in and hack away. Although, I usually make a pretty big mess.

How do you feel about chopping a lot of vegetables? Does this lunch seem too boring for you? Be honest! 

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14 comments

  1. Copy editor nerd here: It’s spelled roughage 😉

    I definitely should cook more things ahead of time to bring for lunch. My go-to is natural peanut butter and no-sugar-added jam on whole wheat, which I think is perfectly fine when paired with other good stuff, but it’s a little boring. Quinoa with lightly sauteed or steamed veggies would be a great lunch for me … the key for me is spices, garlic & red pepper or ginger and soy sauce or whatever.

  2. Thanks for the tip.

    I find if I don’t cook ahead of time I end up buying food and/or eating junk food. I’m not really motivated to cook during the week. I always intend to whip something up on a week night and then it rarely happens. I’m amazed my mom cooks almost every day! I hope to be a more regular cook someday.

    1. I cook dinner most nights of the week, but I rarely think about cooking things specifically for lunch. So I go with PB&J, leftovers, or occasionally soup and salad from the cafe downstairs.

  3. It’s funny that you posted this today. The Colombian recipes that I’m trying are full of chopping, dicing, and mincing. Last night I was up two hours later than usual because I was making a soup for lunch. The soup needed to cook for an hour and a half, but I did my chopping out of order. I spent half an hour chopping stuff that is added an hour into the cooking, and then cut up the meat that needed to be put in first. And when I decided to make it last night, I forgot that you can’t cook a pot of soup and put it directly in the fridge. So after the chopping and cooking, I had to wait for it to cool down.

    But having just eaten lunch, an empanada and a bowl of cuchuco de cebada (barley and pork soup), it was well worth it.

    1. That soup sounds good too! Is the recipe online or in a book? Did you make your own empanadas? Chopping always takes longer than I think it will. If you find any good Colombian recipes, please share! I guess, the hard thing for me is they usually use a lot of tomatoes, right?

      1. Actually, the Colombian recipes don’t use much tomatoes, but there is a lot of starch: potatoes, yucca, corn, and rice are very common ingredients (sometimes three in one recipe!). I’ll definitely share as I find recipes that are particularly good. The soup that I made was in a book, but there’s a very similar recipe at http://www.mycolombianrecipes.com/cuchuco-de-cebada-colombian-barley-and-pork-soup

  4. Hey is that your rice cooker? Or did you get a steamer?

    1. Yep it’s the ZOjirushi NHS-06. It has a small steamer tray so I can steam small veggies in it. I used the rice cooker and a pot with a metal strainer in it for all the steaming.

  5. Deb,

    I’m impressed you eat steamed vegetables–I like mine better raw. I confess just steamed vegetables seems boring to me. We always have a BIG salad for lunch . . . besides romaine and veggies, I usually throw on a couple Tablespoons of seeds and nuts . . .and almost always olives since we can handle the small amount of good fat. The down side to a ‘nutritional plan’ that includes lots of fruits and vegetables is the prep time: talk about a balancing act! If I don’t make our salads until morning, I end up cutting my workout short so I get to work on time. If I’m not real organized in the evening, I end up staying up too late and don’t get enough sleep. During the week, just trying to balance work, devotional time, food prep, exercise, keeping up on current events, and sleep . . . while throwing in a little fun . . . it’s really hard to keep all those balls in the air!

    1. I always marvel at how you cook dinner almost every night. I know exactly what you mean about trying to balance everything in each day. Since I cut out most processed foods I realize how much time they were saving me. Cooking whole grains, fruits and vegetables takes so much more time than instant meals (or ordering delivery)! I’m still trying to figure out how to incorporate more cooking into my daily life–plus exercise, cleaning, reading, blogging and socializing. Some days I feel as if I get everything done and still have time to relax…other days I just collapse on the couch or in bed. Thanks for sharing your take. It’s good to know other people struggle with multiple time constraints. Here’s to juggling 😉

  6. kabochafashionista · · Reply

    Ahh wow, it’s so lovely to hear how you’ve been inspired by my blog to a) firstly try lots of my fave food ever and b) try warm salads for the winter! 🙂 It’s so nice to hear that I can inspire some people!
    As for chopping vegetables, I’m actually in quite a lucky position at the moment that I have enough time to chop my vegetables there and then when I need them for a meal so I just decide which ones I fancy at the time 🙂 If I needed to pack lunches though, I would definitely do a big chopping session on a Sunday!
    Alsooo you should try mixing the ways you cook your veg because some are just simply amazing roasted trust me! I really really recommend roasting squash, sweet potato, sprouts, beets and carrots. Then I mix the roasted veg with some steamed veg like broccoli etc for a bit more variety in taste.
    Sometimes when I make a lot of veg and rice with a sauce I put it into tupperware and freeze it so maybe you could try that too?

    1. Great tips! Thanks so much for sharing! Next time I’m definitely going to try roasting the beets and sweet potatoes with the squash. Also, I think freezing would be good because sometimes I cook way too much! If I freeze them in small batches like you said, it would be like having homemade tv dinners. 🙂

  7. […] is the third in a series of posts on squash, the first was acorn squash, and the second was kabocha squash. After Christy schooled me in squash a few weeks ago, Mike and I tried making spaghetti squash for […]

  8. […] haven’t had a lot of free time to cook lately so I’ve been mostly steaming vegetables with different grains and sauces. When I finally had some free time on Saturday, I took out almost […]

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