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Liven up

lunchtime In a sandwich rut? Give your brown bag a delicious, affordable makeover

B

ringing your lunch to work saves money, but it can leave you feeling bored, particularly if you eat the same thing every day.

Banishing those blahs doesn’t have to mean breaking out your wallet, though. Try these tips to enjoy energizing meals that can get you through the afternoon.

Build a better sandwich Choose lean meats like turkey or chicken, and add plenty of veggies. Swap in mustard or hummus for mayo, and opt for whole-wheat or multigrain bread.

From top: Masterfile Royalty-free, Istockphoto

once, 1 Cook eat twice Vegetable lasagna is a meal that’s easy to make (check out our simple recipe on page 26). It also freezes beautifully, so spend a Sunday afternoon baking two—one for dinner and another that you can freeze in single portions for lunch. To make this dish more figure-friendly, as well as a nice change from your usual midday meal, opt for reduced-fat ricotta and mozzarella cheeses.

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out 2 Clean your crisper Use produce that didn’t make it into a salad to whip up soups you can take to work. Even if your spinach is wilted or your tomatoes a bit bruised, simply heat them up along with other stray vegetables in a little olive oil until they’ve softened. Puree the mixture in a blender or food processor. Add chicken broth to thin, if necessary, and season with salt and pepper. It’s a great way to maximize your grocery purchases.

27 October 23, 2009


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A lunch break is a luxury for some people. If you have to work while you eat, make it easier and more fun. Pack a lunch that you can nibble on at your desk. Skip the chips, however. Instead, choose high-energy foods such as half a sliced avocado, cubes of your favorite cheese, a handful of blueberries, or crackers with hummus or peanut butter.

yourself 4 Make a smart snack Microwave popcorn is a great afternoon treat, but it can be expensive and it sometimes contain more calories than you might think. As an alternative, put ¼ cup popcorn kernels, 1 tsp. olive oil and salt in a brown paper bag. Fold it over tightly to close, give it a shake to combine the ingredients and pop it in the microwave. You can add dried oregano or basil

or other herbs and a teaspoon or two of grated Parmesan, if you like. Or make your treat sweet by sprinkling the kernels with cinnamon and brown sugar before you pop them.

Prep: 40 min. Bake: 70 min. Rest: 15 min. Serves: 10 Cost per serving: $2.06  Tbsp. olive oil 3 1 large onion, chopped 2 carrots, shredded (about ¾ cup) 8 oz. white mushrooms, sliced 1 zucchini, shredded (about 1 cup) 5 cloves garlic, minced 1 tsp. Italian seasoning Salt and pepper 1 10-oz. package frozen spinach ½ cup chopped fresh basil 2 eggs, beaten 1 15-oz. container low-fat ricotta ½ cup Parmesan, shredded 1 lb. low-fat mozzarella, shredded 2 24-oz. jars spaghetti sauce 12 sheets uncooked, no-boil lasagna

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Preheat oven to 375°F. Mist a 9-by-13-inch casserole with vegetable spray. Use foil to line a baking sheet large enough to hold casserole. Warm oil in a large covered skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrots. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring often, until onion is translucent. Add mushrooms and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in zucchini, garlic, Italian seasoning, 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp. pepper. Add frozen spinach. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove cover from skillet, increase heat to high and simmer until liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in basil and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.

2 Reality Checked

Bring your lunch with tips from All You Reality Checkers

The day after we have tacos for dinner, I like to sprinkle the leftovers over a bed of lettuce and add some tomatoes and low-fat shredded cheese. The dressing I use is low-fat, too—usually Thousand Island. It’s a nice way to spice up an otherwise boring salad without having to do any extra work in the kitchen! —Karon Paulhus, 40, Monson, Mass.

Every Sunday night I make a big salad with lettuce plus whatever veggies are on sale, Craisins and feta cheese, and I put it in a storage container in the fridge. I take a serving to work every day, and it lasts all week. Normally if I buy a salad instead, it costs more than $10 per day. —Michele Boyer, 39, Freehold, N.J.

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28 October 23, 2009

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In a medium bowl, mix eggs with ricotta, Parmesan and half of mozzarella. Spread ½ jar spaghetti sauce over bottom of casserole. Place 4 sheets lasagna on top. Spread ½ ricotta mixture, ½ vegetable mixture and ½ jar spaghetti sauce on top. Add 4 more lasagna sheets, spread remaining ricotta mixture and vegetables on top, then top with ½ jar spaghetti sauce. Add remaining 4 lasagna sheets and sauce. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella. Liberally coat 1 side of a piece of foil with vegetable spray and cover casserole. Bake until bubbling, about 60 minutes. Uncover and bake until cheese is browned, about 10 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before serving. PER SERVING: 398 Cal., 17g Fat (6g Sat.), 41mg Chol., 3g Fiber, 22g Pro., 40g Carb., 1,372mg Sod.

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Kitchen TIPS Use different veggies. You can swap yellow squash for the zucchini, or frozen chopped broccoli for the spinach. Add spice. For a kick, add a teaspoon of crushed red pepper along with the Italian seasoning. Make it meaty. This recipe can please meatlovers, without the addition of too much fat. Simply brown ¾ pound ground turkey or chicken, then add it to the vegetable mixture, and proceed with the recipe.

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Foodpix/Jupiterimages (Cheese, Lasagna), Istockphoto (crackers), Collage Photography/Veer (popcorn)

a 3 “Pack pick-nic”

Vegetable Lasagna


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