Make-Ahead Lunch Bowls to Win Any Weekday

October  1, 2018
Start with a grain and then spin the color wheel! Photo by Rocky Luten

There you sit, innocently, at your desk, when suddenly you look up—it’s 2pm and it feels like you haven’t had a crumb since—the turn of the century? This necessitates a quick-fix solution (oh granola bars, we love you but you’re not a meal) usually a snack (see last parenthesis) or a pastry. And I may be speaking for myself here, but doughnuts, being mostly a void themselves, rarely cut the mustard. Fortunately, there is hope. And it comes in the form of a compact little bowl by the name of Porter. Not only is it travel-ready (see that silicone seatbelt?) but it comes in both BPA-free plastic and the lightest ceramic you’ve ever met.

Far from giving you an empty bowl and sending you on your way (this isn’t a Charles Dickens tale after all) we sent a telegram (er, email) to the midday meal master and author of Lunch! Olivia Mack McCool. A food stylist and recipe developer based in New York City, she’s worked her magic for the likes of Bon Appetit, Phaidon, and Thrillist to name a few. Here are a some tricks and tips she graciously offers to liven up your lunch:

Maggie Slover: What are a few examples of common lunch blunders most of us are making (or, alternately, some of the quickest ways to elevate one's lunch?)

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Olivia Mack McCool: Packing the same old, boring salad—the one you only make because you think it’s healthy for you—is a surefire way to be tempted by your co-worker's suggestion to order takeout and ditch your sad lunch. The antidote is changing it up and taking a little bit of extra time to pack yourself something really delicious and equally (if not more) healthy than your typical mixed greens. That way when the midday hunger pangs strike, you’ll be craving what’s waiting for you in the office fridge rather than forcing yourself to actually eat it.

MS: What’s your go-to recipe from the book?

From our favorite lunch lady. Photo by Rocky Luten

OM:Oh there are so many! These are recipes that I really cook all the time. But the Spicy Green Slaw is my go-to. It has green cabbage, which is so healthy for you, and a creamy / spicy dressing that makes it addicting. It’s awesome for a lunch bowl, but is so versatile. At dinner, I use it as a topping for tacos or serve it with bbq ribs. Yum!

MS: Can you tell us what you consider to be the most transportable ingredients? (e.g. what can handle the jostle of a long commute and won’t get soggy sitting at your desk?)

OM: Any kind of whole grains are a great canvas for a portable lunch. They soak up any liquids or dressings without getting soggy and are great when cold, hot or even at room temperature. Raw, firm veggies like cucumbers and carrots also stand up well to the demands of a busy commute, staying crisp and crunchy under most circumstances. That’s why you find plenty of all these ingredients in Lunch!

MS: What’s the one dressing you’d want with you on a desert Island?

Find the rainbow collection. Photo by Rocky Luten

OM: Ah! Hard one. I’d say the Creamy Jalapeño Dressing, which you can use with those raw veggies that travel so well. A really close second is the Lime Vinaigrette; it has that funky, delicious combo of lime and fish sauce and is good on just about anything.

MS: What are some make-ahead meal components you often turn to?

OM: 6 or 7 minute eggs are my jam! They hit all the marks: creamy, savory, filling, healthful—and best of all, they come in their own little carrying case just waiting to be shelled come lunch time. Also, the Pickled Beets and Cucumbers from Chapter 2 are always in my fridge. I love them on everything. Insider hack: spoon them on top of Greek yogurt and add a bit of the Seed Sprinkle from Chapter 3.... sheer heaven.

MS: Excuse me while I go try that right this minute.

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Maggie Slover

Written by: Maggie Slover