Since starting my new job at the end of August, I have been religious about bringing lunches to work. It continues to astound me at how much money I'm saving just with an hour or so of prep work on Sunday afternoon. In NYC, a standard lunch could run you $10 - $12 for a chopped salad, or a hearty sandwich, or even a soup combo with either. Take out? Possibly even more. Do that five days a week, four weeks a month, and that's $200 minimum on lunches!
One of my favorite big batch, make ahead, bring to work meals are quinoa bowls. You add in whatever protein and vegetables you want and portion it out across multiple days. The first actual recipe-based one I tried - and LOVED - was Iowa Girl Eats' Thai peanut pad thai bowls.
1 cup quinoa, well rinsed in cool water
1 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 teaspoons peanut oil
6 oz chicken breast, thinly sliced
1 cup coleslaw mix
1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame
2 green onions (scallions), chopped
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 cup salted peanuts, chopped
To stretch my dollars even more, I used veggies I already had in my fridge or freezer. Instead of edamame, I used frozen corn and frozen peas and swapped the coleslaw mix with 1/2 a carrot and 1/2 a radicchio head, both shredded.
For the Pad Thai sauce, you'll need:
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon peanut butter
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce (I used harissa since it was in the fridge!)
You start off cooking the quinoa. Bring the stock to a boil, add the quinoa, lower the heat and simmer with the lid on until the liquid is absorbed. I also seasoned the broth with some Chinese five spice to add another layer of flavor - unnecessary, but I'd totally recommend. Just like All The Real Chefs tell you to salt your pasta water, I've started seasoning my quinoa water. Game changer, just saying.
For the sauce, combine all ingredients in a bowl, whisk, and zap in the microwave for about 20 seconds. Whisk again and set aside. Whisk your egg with some sesame oil and keep aside, too.
Once all of your stir fry ingredients are prepped, heat oil in your pan (I used olive instead of peanut, sue me) and cook the chicken. Once no longer pink, remove from the pan and set aside. Into the same pan, add all of your vegetables and stir fry until tender. Once they've started to soften, push everything to the outside, dump in your whisked egg and scramble it.
Add the chicken back in, the quinoa, the peanut sauce, and the peanuts. Mix until everything is coated and do your best not to immediately start scooping spoonfuls into your watering mouth.
I mean.... dang these are good. All in, this takes about 30 minutes start to finish, including prep. In those 30 minutes, I made lunch for an entire week. Once the final mixture cooled a bit, I portioned it out in to Tupperwares and stacked them in the fridge.
This has your protein from the chicken and quinoa, some sweetness from the vegetables, some heat from the peanut sauce (and a squirt of sriracha - I'm That Girl who keeps a hidden bottle at her desk!), and some crunch from the peanuts. I can't get enough of it!