What Do I Eat at Work? Summer Salads

I’ve just started a new job. (Yay!) It’s part time, which leaves me a little flexibility to do the daily drop offs and pick ups — part and parcel of modern parenthood — but I’m in the office for about three full days a week. Which means I need lunch.

The last time I worked in an office every day, I was living in New York City. Where you never need to bring your lunch. Ever. (Well, you should bring your lunch if you want to save money, but I was really, really bad at that.) I’d go get a fresh, delicious salad that was made to order with exactly what I wanted on it and the specific amount of dressing I requested. It came with a roll, I’d add a soda, and it was all under $10. Perfect.

Alas, that’s all changed now. Working in suburban Boston is very different. My office happens to be walkable to a few places, and of course I could drive to go grab lunch, but it’s so much easier to be prepared and bring food to work.

So here are some of my go-to lunches. I make a huge amount of these salads on Sunday night, then eat them throughout the week (either on top of some baby spinach or on their own). Delicious, easy, and just the best. I’ve learned that Sunday prep is the key to a successful week. As someone recently reminded me, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. So go out and plan to make some of these summery salads!

1. Smitten Kitchen’s Broccoli Slaw: I have utterly loved everything I’ve ever made from this blog. Her brownies are unreal. Her strawberries and cream biscuits are out of this world. Zucchini fritters? The best. And this broccoli slaw was so good I made it two weeks in a row and ate it daily. That’s saying something!

broccoli slaw
Photo courtesy Smitten Kitchen

2. Nom Nom Paleo’s Red Cabbage Slaw with Tangy Carrot-Ginger Dressing: If you’re not up to speed on the Paleo diet (explanation here), it’s about eating unprocessed foods that are close to what the cavemen ate. Even if that doesn’t float your boat, most Paleo recipes call for little sugar (or, better yet, no sugar), which is a bonus in my book. (Yes, I love sugar and desserts and treats, but I don’t like it when sugar sneaks into foods where it doesn’t belong — like coleslaw!) This recipe was easy to make — everything can just run through the food processor — and fun because I love purple cabbage (though I was surprised that the purple cabbage turned my almonds a shade of indigo I hadn’t seen since high school biology’s litmus strips). If you don’t have a strong blender, you may want to steam the dressing’s carrots a bit so they blend up more; my dressing came out a bit grainy but still tasted good. And don’t forget to add salt!

red cabbage slaw
Photo courtesy Nom Nom Paleo

3. Food Network’s Lemon-Mint Quinoa Salad: I’ve been making this salad for a few summers now. It feels like the epitome of summer with the fresh mint, parsley, and lemon combined with cucumbers and tomatoes. I’ve adapted this one a bit. The recipe suggests eating the salad on endive leaves, which I don’t bother to do. I add feta cheese to give some balance to the lemon and mint and to make me feel like I’m in Greece (no, I’ve never been to Greece for real, but a girl can dream, right?). It’s a healthy combination, the quinoa is filling, and I could eat this one by the bowlful. And added bonus — it only gets better in the fridge on day two. And day three. That is, if you haven’t eaten it all by then.

quinoa salad
Photo courtesy Food Network

4. Smitten Kitchen’s Mediterranean Pepper Salad: Yes, I’m back to Smitten Kitchen — we can’t forget about her pepper salad! A friend made this for me when my daughter was born; she brought over two gallon-size bags of fresh salads, and it was the best present ever. Instead of the constant bagels I’d been eating one-handed while trying to figure out the whole breastfeeding thing, I actually got to eat something crunchy and fresh. It was wonderful. This salad will always have a place in my heart because of that, but also because it is just so good. I recommend eating it over arugula to up your greens quotient for the day. Ooh, or you could wrap it in a tortilla and call it a sandwich if you’re feeling tired of salad one day. Just eat it. It’s the best.

Photo courtesy Smitten Kitchen

5. Alexandra’s Kitchen’s Edamame and Radish Salad: A few years ago I was at a summer potluck, and someone had brought a salad with edamame and radishes — a combination I never would’ve created on my own. But its mingling was a savory surprise that I went back to for seconds… and thirds! I never figured out whose salad it was, nor did I get the recipe, but Alexandra’s Kitchen comes the closest to my memory. You have to scroll down the page to find the recipe, but her pictures are so beautiful that you probably won’t mind.

Photo courtesy Alexandra’s Kitchen