Thursday, September 1, 2011

Brown-Bag Lunch Challenge from FN's Healthy Eats & Day 1: Eggplant Parm Pizza

In the spirit of back-to-school Food Network's Healthy Eats blog is challenging us to bring a healthy lunch to work everyday for the month of September. This challenge really speaks to me because it is something I struggle with every work day. Hopefully, together, we can explore some great ideas for what to take to lunch and overcome the obstacles that keep us from making lunch the night or morning before work and find us spending $10 and extra time during our lunch break to buy lunch out. 

My lunchtime story goes like this: most days I buy lunch, spending as much as $60 a week on food (a BIG chunk), the days I bring lunch I am excited about what I brought and looking forward to eating it 50% of the time, the other 50% of the time I either don't eat it or have to supplement my meal with a snack bought at Duane Reade or Starbucks because I didn't pack enough food to fill me. My main hurdle in my food not being appealing 50% of the time is that my office does not have a microwave, let alone a lunchroom or cafeteria. I work by Central Park so I usually sit on a bench to eat my homemade lunches, but some days eating cold food, especially in the colder months, has no appeal to me whatsoever. I am constantly on the lookout for delicious, filling meals to take at lunchtime that I'll still want to eat by the time 1:30pm rolls around. It is a real challenge. 

Fortunately I've gotten the month started off right. Today I will be enjoying a homemade pesto and eggplant parmesan pizza. Its homemade in every which way; I made the pizza dough last night, the pesto last week and the eggplant parm is leftover from a dinner I made. Last week I made a similar pizza with the same dough, same pesto and mushrooms and sauteed onions instead of the eggplant. Happily, I brought it three days in a row to work and was not sick of it! It's a keeper. My trick to enjoying it cold? I take it out of the fridge one hour before I plan to take lunch, this gives the crust time to warm up and soften. 

Are you taking the Brown Bag Challenge? If so leave me a comment! 
What are your favorite lunches?
Any tips for what to eat and enjoy without use of a microwave? 

My plan is to tweet my lunch while I'm eating it everyday on @culinarylibrari
The hashtag for the Challenge is #BrownBag.
Follow @HealthyEats and @FoodNetwork for more! 

Eggplant Parmesan and Pesto Pizza
Lunch in the park
1 ball of pizza dough (I like to make this dough from Michael Ruhlman) 
1 tbsp olive oil
About 1/2 cup of pesto (I made the Pesto di Noce from Saveur)
1 1/2 cups Leftover eggplant or chicken parmesean, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400*
Make the pizza dough according to Ruhlman's directions, do this at least 2 hours before you plan to make the pizza [If you want to add some whole grains to this dish use some whole wheat flour in the dough, for the pizza pictured here I did 2 oz whole wheat flour with 8 oz all purpose]. Roll out the dough to either a circle or rectangular pizza and place on a baking sheet covered with foil and rubbed with a small amount of olive oil. Spread the pesto over the dough. Add the eggplant cubes. Top with parmesan cheese. 
Bake in the oven  for about 10-12 minutes until the cheese has melted. 
Cut into 4-bite pieces, let cool, then pack for lunch! Store additional pizza in fridge in tupperware or a plastic bag or enjoy for dinner while still hot. 

Take out of fridge 1 hour before eating or heat up in a microwave for 2 minutes. 
Makes enough for 2-3 lunches.
Packed for Work

I plan to write more over the course of the month and would love to hear from you if you are participating or just love bringing your lunch to work anyway! Let's get some great discussion about this tricky time of the work day! 

Also, don't limit the discussion to just what you eat- let's talk about how you like to eat lunch... maybe you use a cloth napkin and real silverware? Do you have a favorite lunch bag? A preferred brand of containers? A container that is the PERFECT size for a favorite snack? 

Let's talk about Lunch!

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