Lunch Lately & A Super Easy Taco Bowl Recipe

Before I get to pictures of my lunches lately, a few PSA’s:

I announced a winner of my Food Should Taste Good giveaway! Was it you?

Remember my Muesli Protein Bars? They were selected to be a finalist in the Muesli Fusion Recipe Contest! Please click here to go to the Facebook Poll and vote for me! All you have to do is click “Muesli Protein Bars — Blonde Ambition Blog”. First place AND runner up get a prize! Thank you so much to everyone who has already voted!

Ahem. Back to our regularly scheduled programming 😉

Last month when I went to Park City to attend Blend Retreat, I often found myself the recipient of the question, “So what is your blog about?” In fact, I get this question a lot in everyday life. I think most people expect me to say that I think I’m some gourmet foodie, or that I make really elaborate dishes. The truth is, this blog is about making healthy living seem more accessible to busy twenty-somethings (or even just busy people in general!).

Now, I get that when I say “healthy living”, the image that comes to mind is someone who must be 100% preservative-free, organic-only, homegrown, or following the ever so trendy gluten-free diet. (“I’m pretty sure gluten is just anything that is bad for you” hahaha Seth Rogen in This Is the End) But I know that’s unrealistic for most people, myself included.

For me, one of the most important aspects of healthy living is limiting my meals out each week — especially lunch. There aren’t a lot of healthy options close to my work, and salads get old fast. So I aim to prep food on Sundays, or even throughout the week when I have time in the evening, so that I have quick grab-and-go meals to bring for lunch. On days that I’m not working out at lunch, I sometimes have time to bike home and cook a quick meal. I suppose that’s a luxury of living only 7 blocks away from my office 😉

But there are plenty of days when I have to grab an “emergency” burrito out of the freezer, or grab a salad or sandwich from La Bou. And that’s okay! I try to abide by the 80-20 ratio…80% good healthy eats, 20% indulgence. So if I go out to eat or mack on a frozen burrito one day out of the week, that’s not so bad.

Here’s what I’ve been making lately!

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My Lemony Rice & Spring Veggies – perfect for a non workout day, but could work for a workout day too…just add chicken!

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There was one week where I spent about 20 minutes on Monday night cooking up a few sausages and peppers, and had lunch for 3 days. One day I ate them on a tortilla with broccoli, another day with bread like a sandwich. Very versatile!

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Salad is super quick to put together either the night before or in the morning. This one had romaine lettuce, beets, broccoli, and bell peppers…I think some pinto beans were hiding in there too. Make or store your dressing in a mason jar and add when you’re ready to eat!

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You wouldn’t think so, but pasta is actually a great quick meal to make in the morning to bring to work…Especially if you use spaghetti (which cooks quicker than most pasta). Just cook the spaghetti, toss in some veggies like broccoli and kale, plus a squeeze of lemon and some parm…And you have a perfectly portable meal! Plus, the hot spaghetti will wilt the veggies.

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On days when I have time to go home and make lunch, my meals typically look like this. A bunch of sauteed veggies with a side of avocado toast. Can you tell there were beets in this stir fry? Haha.

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evol Burritos are probably my favorite frozen burrito. It doesn’t hurt that Grocery Outlet has been selling them $1 off for a good 2 months now 😉 They are a little heavy on the tortilla, but I read that evol recently took that feedback and changed their recipe to include smaller tortillas. This must be why Grocery Outlet has so many – getting rid of the old product! My favorite is the Bean, Rice & Cheese.

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Now that I’ve totally inspired you to make your own lunch everyday… 😉 Here’s a recipe for an easy lunch (and what I’ve been eating for lunch this week! These Chicken Taco “Bowls” are easy and quick to put together (you basically just layer the ingredients in a bowl/tupperware) and are a really hearty meal. They’re easily customizable, too, so if you don’t like the ingredients I included, sub in whatever you want! I made these Monday night in about 30 minutes, providing me with two grab and go lunches this week!

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Chicken Taco Bowls
makes 2 bowls (but is easily doubled!)

1 large chicken breast
juice of one lime
salt & pepper
chile powder
cumin
garlic powder
oil, for sauteing

1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup black beans, drained
1 small summer squash
1 handful baby kale (if you use regular kale, you will probably want to cook it a bit with the squash. Baby kale is much more tender)

Combine chicken breast with lime juice and spices in a plastic bag. Squish around all the spices to make sure chicken is coated. Let sit while you prepare remaining ingredients. Cook rice according to package directions if not already cooked. Drain and rinse black beans, and cut squash into half moons.

Heat saute pan over medium-high heat. Add desired amount of oil, turning the pan to coat. Add marinated chicken to pan. Cook about 6 minutes, then turn. Once you have turned the chicken, add the squash. Cook an additional 6 minutes or until chicken is done, stirring the squash occasionally. Remove from heat and let chicken rest on a cutting board while you assemble the bowls.

In two tupperware containers, layer ingredients: 1/2 cup beans, 1/4 cup rice, small handful of kale, and half of the squash. When chicken is cooled, cut into cubes and evenly split between the two tupperwares. You’ll notice the heat from the squash and chicken will wilt the kale, eliminating the need to cook it separately. Store in fridge until needed, and microwave for about 1:30 on high before eating. Eat alone, or with a tortilla!

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20130619-092507.jpgWhat is your go-to lunch at work?

How often do you eat out during the week?

Homemade Vinaigrette

So, funny story about the leaves that are all over Midtown because of the few storms we got. As I walked home from work on Monday night, I saw a lot of City of Sacramento employees cleaning up sidewalks and storm drains and the like. I was pretty stoked, since we have a TON of leaves in front of our apartment, as I shared on Monday. A thick carpet of damp, slippery leaves. I figured since we live right by a bus stop, the city would hook us up with a clean up job too…

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Guess not. Womp womp.

Our apartment is one with the miniature white/tan staircase leading into it. Notice how the clean sidewalk stops there? (And then starts again after our apartment?) I’m starting to get the feeling maybe we have to do something about it ourselves. I think this is where our boyfriends come to the rescue 🙂

SPEAKING OF GREEN LEAFY THINGS…….. let’s talk about salad.

How’d you like that segue?

Though I like salad and eat it often, I haven’t bought salad dressing from the store in years.

Why? Because it is seriously easy and delicious to make any kind of vinaigrette you want at home. It most likely costs less too, considering you probably already have all the items you need in your kitchen. Plus, it’s a good way to control the calories and taste of your dressing. I’ve actually been wanting to share my tips for making vinaigrette for a long time, but it’s really hard to photograph a jar of salad dressing in a way that looks appealing. Regardless of the pictures, I hope you try this at home soon!

Last night, I piled together a salad with thinly sliced apples, roasted bell peppers, and crumbled pita chips. It was a last meal of sorts – I found out I’m having another procedure on Monday (in addition to the already-scheduled endoscopy…it’s gonna be a fun day, guyz) whose prep requires some, ahem, cleansing, and I’m supposed to lay low on the insoluble fiber until then.

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First, I whipped up a jar of dressing. The great thing about making your own vinaigrette is that it can be different every time depending on what kind of vinegar you use. Balsamic is my favorite, with red wine in a close second, but since I had apples in my salad, I decided to make an apple cider vinaigrette. This recipe is customizable to your tastes – I like mine a little strong on the vinegar and not too oily. If it tastes too strong for you, add some honey or sugar to tone down the vinegar. Leave out the dijon if you’re not a fan (but it makes the dressing super creamy!)

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Apple Cider Vinaigrette
dresses about 4 large single-serving salads

3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp garlic, chopped (can use jarred crushed/minced garlic)
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper

If you’re using a jar: Add all ingredients except oil, salt & pepper to jar and shake to mix. Add in olive oil, shake again. Add salt and pepper to taste, shake again. Keeps for 2 weeks or so in an airtight jar.

If you don’t have a jar, whisk all ingredients together in a bowl except olive oil. Once combined, drizzle in olive oil while still whisking until you’ve reached your desired consistency.

substitution ideas: soy sauce, sesame oil and chopped ginger for an Asian inspired dressing, honey & more mustard for a honey-mustard dressing, balsamic or red wine instead of apple cider vinegar, tahini or peanut butter instead of mustard… the possibilities are endless!

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So, dig in. Enjoy your salad. And ditch the store-bought dressing!