Question: I want to start packing my own lunches during the week to save time and money, but I don't really know where to start. What kind of simple meals can I make that travel easily?
Answer: I've found that owning a good lunch bag, with pockets for ice packs, is a good motivator for me to bring-my-own lunch. My favorite meals to make in large batches are soups and stews. If you don't have a big soup pot, it may be worth picking up during your next shopping trip. Both economical and filling, soups and stews freeze well and the recipe possibilities are endless! If you don't already own some, buy a few lunch-size Tupperware or reusable Ziploc containers. For any meals I want to eat 2-3 days after cooking, I freeze them right away. Soups and stews will last several weeks, even a few months (if packed in a freezer-safe container or Ziploc bag) in the freezer and taste delicious after re-heating.
This zesty chicken soup is one of my favorites and my boyfriend loves it, too, especially with a cheesy panini on the side. Add your egg noodles, beans, or favorite vegetables to make this soup your own.
Lemon-Thyme Chicken Soup
2 to 3 lbs. whole uncooked chicken (or three uncooked chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks, if you would rather not de-bone)
1 bunch thyme, bundled (tie together with cooking string)
Two whole lemons, sliced
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tsp. salt
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
2 cups sliced carrots
2 cups chopped celery
2 whole russet potatoes, skinned and cut into bite size chunks
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
In a large pot, place raw chicken, thyme, salt, lemon slices, zest and juice, and cover completely with water (approx. 2 quarts). Bring to a boil, until chicken is tender and cooked through. Turn to low heat. If it's a whole chicken, pull it out of the stock and let cool slightly before de-boning and returning bite-size chicken pieces to the pot. Pull the thyme bunch out (there should be a nice amount of thyme leaves in the pot by now) and throw away. Scoop out lemon slices if you don't prefer them in the final dish.
In a large skillet, place the olive oil and bring to medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until translucent. Add potatoes and cook until slightly tender. Add carrots and celery and toss until they are well-coated with the oil and onions. Sprinkle with salt and cracked pepper. Transfer onion mixture to lemon-thyme chicken stock. Let simmer, on low, until vegetables are tender. Makes about 6-12 bowls of soup, depending on serving size.