This is a long one kids! Just warning you now.
I bring my lunch to work a lot and often get questioned by coworkers about how I have time to bring my lunch everyday and also how I am not tempted to eat out very often. The answer is: meal planning!
I know a lot of people say that they are too busy to bring lunch or make dinners at home but you really can make cooking at home fast and easy with a little bit of advance planning.
My mom is an exception to this general rule. She doesn’t really plan for specific meals as much as I do but just comes up with stuff on the spot. I do that occasionally too, but I am also a little more type A . When I was growing up, she always worked full-time and still managed to come home and prepare a homemade meal almost every night. Sure, there were times we went out to dinner, but not more than once a week or so. We also rarely ate the same recipe more than once unless it was a favorite. I was one of those weirdo kids who hated Lunchables, but only because what my mom packed me was usually better. Well that’s a lie on two counts…One, I mostly didn’t like Lunchables because I have always been very picky about lunch meat and couldn’t eat that thick slimy turkey.
Just thinking about it gives me the chills. And two….my mom’s lunches were better with the exception of her peanut butter and jelly which were like the worst thing ever. I always thought I hated pb&j when I was little until I finally went to a friend’s house and realized it was just my mom’s I hated.
Anyways, meal planning makes my life a lot simpler and makes eating at home more fun. On Sundays (usually), I look at what I already have in the fridge to see what meals I can put together for that week. I usually just write down a general idea of what I will eat for each meal. Here is an example-if you can read my horrible handwriting:
Then, I make a list of what I still need and pick that stuff up from the grocery store. I don’t always stick to the plan, but I find that I end up wasting a lot less food this way. I also spend less money. When I go to the grocery store without a list, or at least a general idea of what I want, I end up wandering around and throwing random stuff in my cart. I spend way too much money and the next day I’m wondering what I even bought since by then I feel like I have nothing to eat.
Another thing that really helps me is to prepare as much as I can on the weekend. If you know that you eat a salad everyday for lunch, chop all of the veggies on Sunday. That way you have them ready to go and making your lunch will take less than 5 minutes. I also usually throw my lunch together while I am making dinner the previous night. If I left it for the morning, I would never ever bring a lunch since I seem to run out of time no matter how much time I give myself in the morning. For me, if I plan out my week to ensure I am eating stuff I really like, then I actually want to eat the lunch that I brought over eating out. If I have an empty cupboard and more options, I am way more likely to want the Thai food or whatever else is being ordered at lunch.
Onward to food. Yesterday at the store I bought ingredients to make homemade falafel (which you can probably see on my meal plan). I have made falafel from the mix but this is the first time I have made it from scratch. It is quite easy but obviously a little more time-consuming than adding water to a mix. I do feel better knowing all the ingredients that go in, and it seems healthier this way too!
Baked (or fried) falafel:
1 can chickpeas
½ cup+ parsley
2 cloves garlic
2 T lemon juice
1 t cumin
T-ish olive oil or avocado
1 t salt
1 cup breadcrumbs
Oil, for frying
Open and rinse the can of chickpeas. Put into food processor and pulse for 5 or so seconds. Add parsley, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, salt and pulse until mixed.
Transfer to a bowl add egg and mix thoroughly. I added avocado instead of olive oil just for a little healthy fat without using more oil, since I knew I would use some for frying. Add the crumbs little by little until the mixture holds together. If you don’t have a food processor, it would be really easy to mash the chickpeas with a fork and then stir all remaining ingredients in.
I actually made both baked and fried falafel so I could do a little taste test. I have made baked falafel before when I used the mix and it was soooo dry, so I decided to try both ways to see which one I liked better.
If baking: Roll into patties/balls and place on an oiled pan. Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes, flipping halfway through. I added a little bit of olive oil on top of each patty, for a total of about a teaspoon each. I did this to prevent drying.
Why are they green? Because I added a ton of parsley, probably closer to 1 cup. If you really like parsley, add a lot! I have noticed a lot of restaurant falafel has a greenish color on the inside and now I know why! I thought the parsley gave these a really fresh flavor, and luckily I don’t mind the green color.
If frying: Heat oil in a medium-sized pan.
I used a few tablespoons (this is a lot of oil for my taste, but usually falafel calls for an inch or more of oil, so this was a compromise) Roll dough mixture into patties/balls and once the oil is hot, put into the pan. Flip them after a few minutes. They brown pretty quickly so they don’t need to stay in the pan for very long
Verdict: What did you think the verdict would be? Frying tastes better. I might be the Fat Nazi but I’m not crazy! That being said, the baked are really good too! I could definitely tell the difference between the two, but I think the addition of the tiny bit of oil on top made a difference because they are by no means dry. How you want to cook them all depends on your preference! If you are looking for healthier, bake and if you want more traditional then fry! Although keep in mind that even this version fried uses not much oil and would be much healthier than a restaurant version. Serve in a salad, pita or eat them alone!
Hope you like them!