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September 10, 2013
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Colorful Cooking column: Keep your lunchbox light

If you are on a budget or diet, surely you are packing a lunch. It saves money and is healthy. It’s a tedious task, maybe, but so well worth putting a little effort into. Research suggests a healthy mid-afternoon meal keeps your brain fresh and an unhealthy one, causes distractions and lethargy throughout the remainder of the day. We all know that post-lunch comatose feeling.

With its natural packaging, fruits are easy to transport, full of water and vitamins and are a great snack or light meal. Grapes are perfectly ripe now and grapes improve blood flow to the brain, which helps fight strokes and keep the after lunch nap at bay. A bunch of grapes, some vegetables, a whole grain, a little meat, dairy and a tiny bit of fat and you have a filling lunch, and a body that is grateful. Here are some quick, balanced lunch ideas:

Carrot Side salad

Crunchy, chopped carrots are healthy and clean your teeth. Keep some close by if you need to freshen your breath or for a quick snack. This is a colorful salad to accompany a sandwich.

2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into thin circles

1 tablespoon olive oil, plain yogurt or mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh Dill

Salt

Roasted red pepper sandwich

Add roasted red peppers to any sandwich to boost flavor and your veggie intake. All bell peppers are high in vitamin C and B6 and red and orange peppers have the most nutritional value. Finding roasted peppers is easy, they are usually sold in the salad dressing aisle near the olives and mustards at the grocery store.

1 to 2 slices of bread

2 tablespoons cream cheese

1/4 red onion, sliced thin

6 red peppers, roasted

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (optional) poured over peppers

Salt to taste

Stack ingredients in order and slice in quarters. This would be really good with a few slices of salami (very few to keep it healthy).

Quinoa and garbanzo bean salad

Whole grains satiate and garbanzo beans are a low-fat protein. When purchasing canned garbanzo beans, rinse them well to reduce the sodium by half.

1 cup cooked quinoa

1/2 cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup orange bell pepper, chopped into small pieces

1/4 cup chopped ham or pine nuts

1-2 tablespoons Italian dressing

Mix all ingredients. Will stay fresh for 24 hours.

Makes 1 serving.

Shrimp and avocado spring rolls

Avocados are high in monounsaturated fat, fiber and potassium. They are also high in calories — about 280 for the whole fruit. A serving size is a 1/4 of the fruit.

2 rice paper wrappers

1/2 large cucumber

2 green onions

1/4 avocado

8-10 medium shrimp, cooked or 1/4 cup peanuts

Peanut sauce

Slice all vegetables lengthwise at 3 to 4-inches.

Place rice paper in hot water until it gets soft. Remove from water, place gently on a plate, tap off excess water with a paper towel.

Arrange veggies and shrimp at the bottom of the circle, place 2 teaspoons peanut sauce on veggies and fold the bottom edge over veggies and roll once, tuck in ends and complete the roll until closed. Use oil on your hands to prevent sticking if needed.

Makes 2 spring rolls.

Veggie Burrito

This midday, vegetarian Mexican meal packs tons of vegetables. Our daily intake should be 2 to 3 cups of vegetables, and this gets you more than half way there.

1 flour tortilla

1/2 cup refried beans

1⁄8 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup tomato, chopped

2 tablespoons cilantro leaves

1/4 cup onion, minced

2 teaspoons lime juice

Mix tomato, cilantro, onion and lime juice together in a bowl, season with salt and pepper.

Combine beans and cheese and spread evenly upon a tortilla and place in microwave for 30 seconds. Remove, roll up and serve with tomato salad.

Makes 1 serving.

Tracy Miller is TV8’s in-house cook, who shares recipes Saturdays on “Good Morning Vail.” She teaches cooking classes at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards and hosts private cooking parties. Contact Miller at tracy@colorfulcooking.net.


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The VailDaily Updated Sep 10, 2013 05:18PM Published Sep 10, 2013 02:30PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.