Originally published September 2015, updated September 2017.
Let’s talk about lunch.
Back in the day when I was a little kiddie, my mum had my sister and I packing our own school lunches. This was an activity we had to do each evening, not in the morning before dashing out the door, or else we risked losing our weekly pocket money. Pocket money was a big deal for me and was spent on life’s necessities – things like gel pens, Skittles, mini backpacks, earrings, and other bedazzled accessories from fine retailers such as Claire’s and Ardene. Fashionista of the 90s, right here.
Looking back, the food inside our lunch bags wasn’t the healthiest, and many lunches were made against my will during times when I would have far rather been watching Full House or Boy Meets World. However, it’s a policy I’m glad my mum enforced because the habit has stuck with me ever since.
Back in junior high (that’s grade 7-9 for those that live in places without schools for this extremely awkward life stage), I recall plenty of my friends buying lunch from the cafeteria (more commonly known as ‘the caf’). Others went out to nearby fine dining establishments like Wendy’s and McDonalds. This appealed to me for a while, but when I realized that buying lunch meant less money to spend on fruit-scented gel pens and friendship bracelets, I quickly reverted to my usual practice.
The other day as I was walking home from work (clearly a time when some of my deepest, most profound thinking is done), I was comparing habits of my schoolmates to my co-workers. We’re really lucky to have a different food trucks parked outside the office every day of the week, and there’s a good handful of people who take advantage of the convenience. We also have some nearby restaurants, and I know a few coworkers who eat at these places on most days of the week.
Then we have the large population of people (and I’m included in this group) who are the lululemon shopper-carrying type. We jockey for space in the office fridge and sometimes grab another person’s lunch by accident because their lululemon bag is one in a collection of 15+. You know you work in Vancouver when… ?
These days, my office lunches are a whole lot healthier (and in my opinion, a lot more delicious) than the ones I packed myself as a kid. Having a food blog helps because I often find myself with leftovers at the end of the weekend, and that’s exactly how today’s recipe was created.
Recently Minute Rice challenged me to make a lunch that nobody would want to share because it’s so good. So many came to mind, but in the end I went with this Curried Rice, Chicken and Apple Salad because it’s easy to transport and can be eaten hot or cold. More importantly, it’s got SO many different textures and is bursting with warm Indian-inspired flavours.
If you do as I’ve done and make this recipe with quick-cooking rice, it should only take about 15 minutes to prepare. And if you really want to be on your game when it comes to eating clean throughout the week, I highly recommend doubling it as it holds up well in the fridge for several days.Print
This Indian-inspired rice-based salad is a delicious healthy choice for the take-to-work lunches you’re enjoying this fall. Using instant rice shortens the cooking time so that it can be ready in less than 30 minutes.
For the dressing (makes about 3/4 cup):
- 1 small minced garlic clove
- 1/2 cup each fresh orange juice and extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- pinch of sea salt
For the spice mixture (you may have some leftover):
- 1/2 tsp each curry powder and turmeric
- 1/4 tsp each ground coriander, cumin and granulated garlic
For the rest:
- 400g uncooked boneless skinless chicken breast
- 1 cup uncooked brown or wild rice (I used Minute Rice, hence the short cooking time)
- 1 3/4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 1/2 cups celery, diced
- 1 large red apple, cored and diced (I like Honeycrisp or Pink Lady)
- 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
- 2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing, or add them all to a mason jar and shake to combine. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
In a small bowl, stir together the spices.
One at a time, brush some olive oil onto the chicken breast and rub a few pinches of the spice mixture into each. Lay them on the lined baking sheet or dish.
Sprinkle the chicken with freshly ground black pepper and roast for about 25 minutes or until no longer pink inside.
Meanwhile, prepare the rice on the stove in the broth. Once fully cooked, drain any excess liquid and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the 1/2 tsp of the leftover spice mixture.
Chop the celery and apple as directed. Combine them in the large bowl with the rice and all remaining ingredients.
Once the chicken is cooked, chop it into bite-sized cubes. Mix it into the rest of the salad, along with some of the dressing (you decide how much!) stirring well to combine.
Let the salad sit for 10-15 minutes (or overnight if possible) to allow flavours to intensify.
Serve as-is, or on top of greens for a larger meal. Leftover dressing may be served on the side if desired.
All photo credits: Olga Zwart
So tell me…
- What’s in your lunch bag today?
- What sort of luncher are you? Do you dine out, pack it yourself, or a mix of the two?
- What’s the best lunch you packed recently?