The Cure for the "Sad Desk Lunch"
Escape the tyranny of the frozen supermarket enchilada and the wilted "salad" from the drive-thru, and try one of these super-easy ideas. If you keep a few basics on hand in your file drawer — salt, pepper, hot sauce and even olive oil — it really is possible to eat like a king, even when you feel more like a serf.
Kale and White Bean Soup
Dress up a can of white bean or vegetable soup with torn-up kale, canned tuna and shavings of Parmesan. (Keep a hunk of the long-lasting cheese in the office fridge and you can use it to amp up months' worth of soups, salads and sandwiches.)
Tofu and Bok Choy
Steam baby bok choy (halved lengthwise) in a covered bowl with a few spoonfuls of water in the microwave. Warm tofu (cubed) in a separate dish. Toss all together with hoisin sauce thinned with a little water. If you've remembered to stick a bottle of seasoning in your bag, sprinkle with sesame seeds, togarashi or bonito flakes.
The pub classic is just as sustaining at your desk (minus the beer, alas). Assemble a plate filled with a hunk of bread, a wedge of cheese — try an aged cheddar, Gouda or blue — some kind of pickle (gherkins, pickled onions, chutney) and a slice or two of ham. The rules are loose: Sub in a hard-boiled egg for the ham. Use an apple instead of a pickle. Or go French and try dry hard sausage and creamy butter.
Think of a can of diced tomatoes and green chiles (such as Rotel) as a preseasoned canvas. Make a memorable meal by mixing tomatoes with canned black beans (rinsed) and some frozen or canned corn before warming it all in the microwave. Spring for a bag of tortilla chips from the vending machine and crumble on top — or use the chips as scoopers for a fork-free meal.
Cut leftover pizza into bite-size pieces (you can do this with scissors in a pinch). Toss with bagged mixed greens and your favorite bottled vinaigrette. Sprinkle with lots of grated Parmesan — or crumbled nacho cheese-flavored chips from the vending machine, depending on your resources.
Mediterranean Sweet Potatoes
Bake a sweet potato in the microwave (cook 5 minutes, turn, then cook until soft, about 5 minutes more). Split and stuff with canned chickpeas (rinsed), a drizzle of tahini dressing or plain yogurt, and some harissa for kick.
Salmon and Eggs
Wrap asparagus in very damp paper towels and cook in a microwave until tender. Poach an egg in a coffee cup (fill the cup with 1/2 cup water, crack the egg inside, cover and cook for 1 minute). Top the asparagus with a few slices of smoked salmon, the egg and a drizzle of lemon dressing — or horseradish cream — and you can count down the days to Sunday brunch.
Veggie Rice Bowl
Reheat frozen brown rice and frozen mixed vegetables (such as a broccoli stir-fry blend) separately in the microwave. Top the rice with the vegetables. Add kimchi (or Sriracha) and crispy fried onion snacks from the vending machine.
Top crispbread crackers (easy to keep long term at your desk) with smashed avocado, a few slices of feta and a handful of walnuts.
Combine a container of prewashed spinach with cubed salami and provolone from the deli. Toss with bottled balsamic vinaigrette — another go-to for the office fridge. Use balsamic vinaigrette on sandwiches and grain bowls too.
Asian Chicken Salad
Combine presliced slaw mix (cabbage and carrots) and leftover shredded chicken (homemade or rotisserie). Toss with toasted sesame oil and sprinkle with salted peanuts from the vending machine.