What’s For Lunch in the ‘New Normal’?

What’s For Lunch in the ‘New Normal’?

Have you considered what the ‘New Normal’ will look like in the community break room when you finally head back in to the office?

Remember the good ol’ days when you could nuke your leftover pot pie in the community microwave at work and then eat it there while chatting about last night’s HBO special? Well, those times are behind us for now.

Like so many other things, we have been forced to… ahem, have the opportunity to… look at lunch and snacking in a new way. Gone, at least temporarily, are the safe zones like community refrigerators, microwaves and cookware. While it may seem silly to take a second look at those useful things, desperate times call for desperate measures… or in the case of food, shelf stable measures!

Yes, there is the simple fix of throwing whole ‘ready to go’ fresh fruits and vegetables into your lunch bag and hitting the road. But, if you would like to have a real lunch experience, here are a few things to consider.

Awesome Salad Combos in a Jar:
Salad in a JarWhen made the night before and layered correctly, you can easily take your salad with you and keep it on your desk for about 4 hours before you need to think about eating it. Just remember, the dressing goes on the bottom, then fresh veggies and mix-ins, lastly the lettuce or greens. This way the lettuce stays crisp until ready to shake up and pour into a bowl, or eat it straight from the jar.

‘Easy-Peasy’ (Yet Interesting and More Economical) Fruit & Nut Mixes:
Throw all of your favorite nuts, seeds and dried fruit together for a quick and easy trail mix that can live in a baggie in your desk drawer. These fun snacks also provide just the punch of energy you need to get you from lunch to dinner. Toss in some dark chocolate and you instantly have a super-food mix!

Homemade Noodle Dishes:
Ramen BowlSimply place your favorite blend of ramen condiments in the bottom of a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid. Layer in whatever fresh veggies you like (my faves are shredded carrots and snap peas or chopped asparagus and corn), top with dried noodles and sliced green onions. When ready to eat, simply add boiling hot water from the coffee maker or water cooler and TA-DA! Lunch in an instant. No refrigerator or microwave required.

Take something from the home freezer to work. By the time lunch rolls around, it will be thawed and ready! You can also use frozen items to keep other things in your lunch bag or box cold until it’s time to eat. (Word of caution: there are some simple thawing rules that will help ensure your lunch is safe!)

Look, do yourself a favor and do some research and you will find a plethora of foods that will keep at room temperature, making your lunch not only easier, cleaner and cheaper than going out, but also, HEALTHIER!!! It’s the simple things in life that make us happy, why not start with a snack?

Here are a couple more recipes that can get you going and require such little maintenance, it’s crazy. Chef Jill made these recipes with Fox4KC reporter Carey Wickersham. Watch the video segment following each recipe for additional tips and tricks for the recipe!

Ranch Snack Mix

• 1 package (12 ounces) miniature pretzels
• 2 packages (6 ounces each) Bugles Brand Snack Chip (or for a notch up in the healthy department, sub any crispy prepared rice puff
• 1 can (10 ounces) salted cashews
• 1 package (6 ounces) miniature cheddar cheese fish-shaped crackers
• 1 envelope Ranch Salad Dressing Mix
• 3/4 cup canola oil

In two large bowls, combine the pretzels, Bugles and/or puffs, cashews and crackers. Sprinkle with dressing mix; toss gently to combine. Drizzle with oil; toss until well coated.

Store in airtight containers.


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No-Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites

  • 1 cup rolled oats or quick oats
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter or any nut butter will work!
  • 1/4 cup mini dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (increase to 2 tablespoons if you want it to be sweeter)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of sea salt

In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, stir together the oats, peanut butter, chocolate chips, maple syrup, vanilla and salt until combined.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Taking small handfuls of the mixture, roll them into small balls 1-2 inches in size. Or you can use a cookie scoop. Place them onto the baking sheet.

Refrigerate the bites for 30 minutes or until solid. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge (they will last at least 1 week, and likely 2!)


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Creamy Frozen Fruit Cups

• 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 jar (10 ounces) maraschino cherries, drained
• 1 can (11 ounces) mandarin oranges, drained
• 1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained
• 1/2 cup chopped pecans
• 1 carton (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
• Fresh mint, optional

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Cut
9 cherries in half; chop the remaining cherries. Set aside halved
cherries and 18 orange segments for garnish. Add the pineapple,
pecans and chopped cherries to cream cheese mixture. Fold in
whipped topping and remaining oranges.

Line muffin cups with paper or foil liners. Spoon fruit mixture into
cups; garnish with reserved cherries and oranges. Freeze until firm.
Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before serving. Top with mint,
if desired.


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Want more great ideas for  your work group as you consider returning to the office?  We provide ‘virtual’, online private cooking classes that make the perfect experience for company teams, both big and small. Here’s a recent review sent to us by a client after an online class…

“… our team LOVED Chef Jill’s virtual cooking demo today!  Several people have already messaged us asking us to have her do another. Good thing we’re already booked for two more! 😉”  – Chelsea R,  GBA

Call Heather at 913/341.4455 or email her at heather@kcculinary.com, and let’s start planning your event!

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