My No. 1 lunch packing tip? “Cook once, eat twice.” Because when I’m making dinner, it doesn’t take any extra time or effort to make a little more than I need. And those leftovers will make my morning lunch packing routine so much easier.
But this approach also works at breakfast. Too many pancakes? Use them as “bread” for a PB & J. A couple extra waffles in the toaster? Add a slice of cheese for a “grilled cheese.” And a few extra scrambled eggs are awesome (and toasty) in a thermos.
Breakfast hash is another great choice. Typically, I dice up a potato and toss it in a skillet with some butter or olive oil, then add chopped leftover meat (whatever we had for dinner – steak, chicken, turkey, pork, whatever). Half of it lands on the table at breakfast, the other half goes in a thermos for lunch.
This time of year, I like to use fresh pumpkin instead of potatoes. It’s easy. When selecting pumpkins for hash (or pie), be sure to select a “sugar” or “pie” variety. Carving pumpkins are not suitable for eating!
To prepare fresh pumpkin, just peel, seed and chop it just as you would a butternut squash. A 2- or 2 1/2-pound pumpkin is perfect for hash. Once peeled, cleaned and chopped, it should produce about 3/4-1 pound of edible pumpkin.
- 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
- 3/4 pound fresh pumpkin, peeled and finely diced
- 2 cups chopped cooked meat (chicken, pork, steak, sausage, etc.)
- Salt and ground black pepper
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the pumpkin and sauté for 8-10 minutes, or until nicely browned and tender. Add the meat and cook until heated through. Season with salt and pepper (garlic powder is nice, too).
- Serve half for breakfast, then pack the remainder in a thermos.
Recipe by J.M. Hirsch, AP food editor and author of Beating the Lunch Box Blues. Photo: Matthew Mead.