Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How to have an Easy Hot Paleo Lunch at Work or School

Now that cooler weather is here in many parts of the world, the cold salads that were so refreshing in the hot months just don't seem to be the right thing any longer.  For many of us, once we have to start thinking about sweaters again, we also have a hankering for something warm and soothing for lunch.

Unfortunately, for Paleo eaters, eating soup in a school cafeteria or restaurant can be fraught with danger.  Since cooks (and even award-winning chefs) are notorious for using left-overs in their soups, you really can never know exactly what you're eating.

The answer is to bring your own, but up until now the only choice you've had is to use a thermos bottle, which is bulky and awkward to carry, and often only gives you a luke-warm meal.

Enter the new mini Slow Cooker from Crock-Pot.  Now, with this easy to carry mini appliance, you can take soups or stews with you, plug them in beside your desk in your office, and your meal can be slowly heating while you work.  And since you can't smell anything, no visitor to your office will have any idea what's cooking behind the scenes. (It also comes in red, pink and black.)

Even if you work at home as I do, you might seriously consider getting one.  Before I had to heat my soup in a small saucepan, and since it was only a portion for one, I had to stand over it for 10 minutes to make sure it heated slowly and didn't burn.  Now I can just forget about it until I'm ready to eat.

The nice thing about this mini appliance is how easy it is to use.

You just fill it with whatever you want to heat for lunch, snap on the top ....

.... and take it with you just like a lunch pail.

This isn't a slow cooker in the real sense of the word, because you can't really cook raw chicken or meat in it.  You need to cook it ahead of time first. However I've found that easily cooked protein such as seafood can be cooked quite effectively.

In fact one of my favourite meals is Cioppino with shrimp.  I put raw peeled and thawed shrimp into the container, cover it with the soup, and when I'm ready to eat the shrimp is perfect.  Not rubbery or overcooked.  I've also done this with small pieces of fish and with scallops, however the stew does need to heat for at least a couple of hours.

When I feel like a really hearty meal, I take some of my Italian beef vegetable soup to reheat.

And when I'm a bit under the weather, nothing hits the spot like chicken noodle.  I bring the egg noodles with me separately and add them to the pot when I'm ready to eat.

Sometimes I still want a salad or a sandwich and just something warm to go with it.  That's when I find a light vegetable soup can really hit the spot.

My open-faced sandwiches are perfect with asparagus soup or the carrot and orange soup with thyme.

And a bacon spinach salad goes great with some hot bacon, cheese and vegetable soup

When I don't have a lot of time to make lunch, my quick and easy shrimp soup is just the thing for a Chef's salad - which is just greens and vinaigrette with any left-over chicken or meat in your fridge.  And if you cook up a few hard-boiled eggs on the weekend and always have an avocado on hand, you can have a different version of this each day of the week.

The best kind of meal to heat is soup or stew because you want something with quite a bit of liquid. If you're looking to heat up last night's slow cooker dinner left-overs for lunch, then this mini slow cooker will be perfect.  Jambalaya, Coq au Vin, or Beef Burgundy, will all come out hot and delicious. And if you don't want a side salad with it, you can add left-over cooked vegetables as well to make it a complete meal.

I've even heated Frittata and scrambled eggs, but only for about half an hour.  If you're going to heat something like this then you have to be prepared to watch that it doesn't get dried out.

Whether we commute to the city, the classroom, or just down the hall to our home office, eating a nourishing lunch is important, and when we can do it simply, quickly and easily, then all the better!

 “Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.”   - George Bernard Shaw

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