Lunch Week: Friday

Day 5: Lentils and couscous

lentils and couscous

This is definitely all of our favorite lunch. It's the lunch I've been making the longest -- indeed, I started making a version of this when I was pregnant with Elisabeth. It's the one we like to serve when we have friends over, or when we haven't been to the grocery store in weeks. It's comforting, it's nourishing, it's always available, and it's delicious. 

No matter what picky eater we have at the moment, they will all eat large bowlfuls of lentils and couscous.

This is the kind of simple food that you can go back to again and again. It's simple, pretty quick, and doesn't contain much by way of seasoning. But simple, healthful foods like this don't require a lot of seasoning. 

I know I've photographed this meal on a number of occasions, meaning to share it with you here, but always something has interfered with that plan. So, here, tonight, I am finally sharing this with you. 

Here is what I do.

I usually make this using green lentils, though sometimes red lentils find their way into my pot instead, and always pearl couscous (I used to call this Israeli couscous, but of course, the kids like the name "pearl" better!)

Thinly slice several cloves of garlic (3-4). You could mince, or press, or even use the jarred kind. But the slices soften up so nicely and are so delicious and pretty as you eat the lentils. I really do recommend the slicing.

In a large saucepan, combine 1 lb dry lentils, the sliced garlic, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, and 4 cups of broth of your choice. (You could use water and a bit of salt instead of the broth if you don't have any on hand.)


Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the lentils are cooked but not mushy, about 25 minutes. A lot of the liquid will evaporate. That's OK, it's not meant to be soup.

pearl couscous, before cooking (but after toasting)

Meanwhile, prepare your pearl couscous (also called Israeli couscous or sometimes toasted couscous) according to package directions. I always toast it first, but of course you don't have to.

our favorite lunch

Serve in bowls and enjoy a simple, satisfying lunch. Because that's what the very best of lunches are, don't you think? Simple, satisfying, sustaining. On the best of days, lunch is a moment for everyone to stop what they're doing and come together for a few minutes in the kitchen. Lunch can feel like a chore, I know. It often does to me, that's why I decided to do a lunch week! But if we remember to stop and savor it, it's also a gift and a blessing. 

(Now I'm thinking, the five "S"s of lunch should be: stop, savor, simple, satisfying, sustaining.)

Wishing you all a season of beautiful lunches.

Lunch Week: Thursday

Day 4: Tortilla pizzas

cheese pizza

First of all, it snowed, a real snow, last night.


winter! it's just around the corner!

on the apple tree

snow play

Somehow snow just makes everything feel better, doesn't it?

Today's lunch doesn't seem very snow day-ish, but oh, well. 

Tortilla pizzas have been a staple for us for a long time. It's a thing that everyone loves for a while and then gets tired of for a while, so it goes in and out of rotation a lot. But they are very simple.

pizza - before baking

Here's my method:

I like to use whole grain tortillas. These are made locally and are so soft and delicious for just about anything. Of course, you can use any tortilla you have on hand.

Sometimes I make a little marinara sauce on the stove, an old-fashioned "alla marinara" (1/4 olive oil, several tablespoons minced garlic, some oregano, and chopped tomatoes), sometimes I use pasta sauce (homemade or from a jar), and sometimes, like here, I just spread some olive oil, garlic, and diced tomatoes right on the tortilla. (You can use fresh or canned tomatoes, these are canned.)

After the tomatoes, I add a few toppings, depending on what we have on hand. Here, I used sliced mushrooms and some roughly chopped black olives. One of the pizzas was just cheese, just in case.

before baking

For cheese, I just grate up some of whatever we have. Gouda cheese is good on these! So is cheddar or muenster. Probably just about any cheese would be good! If you have some fresh mozzarella on hand, slices of that are the best.

Bake in a 400-degree oven for 10-12 minutes. If desired, you can throw some fresh greens on top, or sprinkle with some dried herbs before or after baking ... this is really a flexible meal. Like scrambled eggs, I really feel like pizza is something that just about anything can be thrown on!


I saved our VERY favorite lunch for tomorrow, so I hope you'll join me! 

Please keep sharing your favorite lunch ideas, either in the comments here or link to your own lunch posts! 

Lunch Week: Wednesday

Day 3: Poached Eggs


Sorry I haven't been here earlier today. Not much is going on, except perhaps a shift in the weather, and I've been feeling kind of out of it today.

Anyway. We have poached eggs for lunch quite often (once or twice a week). I think if you really learn to poach an egg well, it can take you far in life. People seem impressed by this skill. And they are really good. Now, normally we eat poached eggs with toast, butter, and some cheese. But last week, I was thinking a poached egg on salad sounded delicious and lo and behold, the very next day, the November issue of Everyday Food arrived with a recipe for salad with roasted vegetables and poached eggs on top. Since my kids don't turn down roasted vegetables (especially beets, carrots, and the crispy, caramelized bits of onions!), and since James would eat nothing but salad at every meal if he had the opportunity, I thought this would be a hit. It was so good! If you don't have a copy of the magazine, you'll have to pick one up or wait a month or two for them to put the link up on the website. 



Here is my method for poaching eggs. It's pretty much fool-proof.


Bring a tall saucepan of salted water to a rolling boil. Break one or two eggs into a small bowl and carefully lower them to just above the surface of the water, and then quickly slip them in. Set a timer for four minutes. (This is not forgiving, like the spaetzle -- you'll want to stay right there!) I usually make 4-5 eggs in the same pot at the same time. Skim the water occasionally if it seems likely to boil over. 


Use a slotted spoon to carefully lift the eggs, one at a time, from the water. You can place them in individual bowls with a small pat of butter and serve immediately with toast, or you can place them on a towel-lined plate to drain slightly first. 


The whites should be completely set but the yokes should be very runny. If four minutes leaves them overcooked (depending on your stove, your altitude, and a number of other factors), try 3 1/2 minutes the next time. If that still yields an overcooked egg, you could try 3 minutes. But start with four the first time just to be safe.


They do require a bit of care, but they are so worth it! And I highly recommend them on salad!

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In addition to my lunch post, I'm joining Ginny in the Yarn Along again today. 

Yarn Along 10/24

I finished the body, neck, and button bands on James's sweater. Just the sleeves to go! 

This week the only thing I read was the Catechism of the Catholic Church. My husband and I are following a schedule to read the entire thing during the Year of Faith.

And finally, Halloween is in one week! How is that possible?! I finished Elisabeth's costume on Saturday and about half of James's on Sunday. I could've completed more of it but my husband roped me into some projects around the house, which I'm glad we did. I haven't started anything for Fiona yet, but I may not. She is up in the air about what to be. There is a choice between an old costume of Elisabeth's or one I'd need to make. Right now I don't have the supplies on hand for the one I'd need to make and I'm not sure if I'll have the funds in time to buy them. We'll have to see. 

Lunch Week: Tuesday

Day 2: Loaded Nachos

loaded nachos

Need I say more?

loaded nachos, before adding top layer

We usually do these in a 9x13 pan and add a layer of chips, followed with shredded cheese, whatever toppings we're using (see below), and then I repeat the chips and cheese. 

Topping ideas: black or pinto beans (we put them on about 2/3 as James is currently in a non-bean-liking phase), pickled or fresh jalapenos (all my kids like spicy), olives, onions of any variety, and anything else you like! When we are having this for dinner, we sometimes add seasoned shredded chicken or (cooked) spicy sausage.

Pop it into a 375-degree oven and bake until cheese on top is melted and browning. Serve with salsa and sour cream, if desired.




Elisabeth and James can each eat about 1/3 of a pan of these, leaving the other 1/3 to be divided between Fiona and me, which is about right. 

Lunch Week: Monday

Day 1: Spaetzle and Sauteed Mushrooms


I thought I'd begin Lunch Week with the meal that started the idea.

But first, a little bit about our lunches. I find lunch to be the hardest meal of the day to come up with. The five lunches I'll share this week are common staples for us, although sometimes we have other simple lunches like fruit and almond butter or cheese and crackers (which I'm sure some would consider to be snacks but they can be good lunches, too). One thing you'll notice about our lunches: they're all vegetarian. Although we eat meat, I very rarely serve it as a lunch food, or even a breakfast food except on rare occasions. I try to keep things simple and healthy and I favor a plant-based meal for that. (Though I'm not against occasionally having high-quality hot dogs or a quick chicken noodle soup, or leftovers, of course -- if we have any.)

With that, on to the spaetzle. As I mentioned before, I have always loved spaetzle, as have my children. But the small boxes are pretty expensive so I was anxious to learn to make my own. I finally got a spaetzle maker a while ago and I've been so happy with how easy it is.


(This is a spaetzle maker. I think it makes sense to have a metal one rather than plastic, because of the sustained exposure to heat.)


I like sauteed mushrooms with it, because it gives the hearty flavor that gravy would without being so heavy. I usually just quarter the mushrooms but of course slicing would work, too.

For the spaetzle (this serves 3 as a main dish and about 5 as a side dish; we usually double this at lunch and have some, but not a full recipe, leftover):

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk

Combine all ingredients using an electric mixer. Believe me that you don't want to hand-mix this. It will be a sticky, stretchy, very thick batter. Let it stand at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before using. I usually put the water on to boil while waiting. 


Over a large saucepan of boiling salted water, using a spaetzle maker (or alternatively, I understand you can push it through the holes of a large colander, although this sounds time consuming and difficult. The spaetzle maker is only around $15 so it's worth it), drop the noodles directly into the boiling water. This is hot, but not difficult. (Whenever I'm doing this, I inexplicably think of Minnie, even though I'm not sure this is something she'd ever know how to make!)

When the spaetzle float to the top (within a few seconds), skim them out with a slotted spoon. They are very forgiving, if you get distracted by one thing or another and need to boil them a bit longer. (Haha, like Minnie!)


You can serve with butter if you desire, and the sauteed mushrooms (I saute them while boiling the spaetzle). You could also used roasted vegetables or sauteed greens in place of (or in addition to) the mushrooms.

This is the only recipe this week that requires a piece of specialty kitchen equipment, but let me know if you try it sometime in the future!

If you are joining me in Lunch Week, please leave a link to your lunch post(s) in the comments. I'd love to get fresh ideas for lunches, and I'm sure others would too. If you don't want to create a blog post, or don't have a blog, you can just leave your ideas in the comments! I thought about creating a linky for this, and may still do so later if there's interest, but I thought I'd start it off more casually to begin with.

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PS: Marching band season is over! Starting today, or yesterday to be more technical, I have my husband back!