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Adding Pizzazz To Lunch You Bring To Work

Everyone is trying to save money wherever they can these days, and one way is to bring your lunch to work rather than buying it. You might be surprised how that daily expense can really add up and how much you could keep in your own pocket by bringing your own mid-day meal.

On The Early Show Tuesday, contributor Katie Lee Joel offered some great recipes and some cool grown-up lunch boxes to make it all much more appetizing than brown-bagging a boring peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

She prepared:

  • Asian Chicken Noodle Soup
  • Curry Chicken Pitas
  • Grilled Vegetable and Goat Cheese Baguette
  • Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Pesto
  • Whole Wheat Chocolate Brownies

    Grown-Up Lunch Boxes

    Thermos All-in-One Meal Carrier -- TherMax double wall vacuum insulation locks in temperature to preserve flavor and freshness. Four microwaveable containers nest inside so you can bring a variety of flavors; soups, salads, even dessert. ($40, www.shopthermos.com)

    Boat and Tote Lunch Tote -- This new lunch bag is fully insulated to keep sandwiches and snacks cool while you're away from home. Interior is spacious enough to fit plastic containers and features mesh pockets for ice packs or cutlery. ($20, www.llbean.com)

    Wrap-N-Mat Reusable Sandwich Wrapper -- sustainable product that offers an intelligent alternative to the millions of disposable sandwich and snack baggies used each day. Simply fold around sandwiches, veggie sticks, cookies and other goodies, fold the cotton wrapper closed, secure with the Velcro closure, and food stays put. ($7, www.wrap-n-mat.com)

    I'm Organic Lunch Bag -- Made of 100 percent certified organic cotton. I'm Organic offers fun designs to express your passion for your organic lifestyle. Velcro sealed top and looped handle. ($17, www.imorganic.com)

    ECOBAGS Canvas Lunch Bags -- A basic cotton lunch sack that's reusable and machine washable. Nothing fancy about it. Just a basic lunch sack with an easy to use VELCRO® like closure. ($6, www.ecobags.com)

    RECIPES

    Asian Chicken Soba Noodle Soup

    INGREDIENTS:
    1 teaspoon olive oil
    1 tablespoon onion, minced
    1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
    3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
    1 tablespoon soy sauce
    1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
    1 cup rotisserie chicken, shredded
    1/2 cup carrots, shredded
    1/2 cup snow peas, thinly sliced
    2 ounces soba noodles, prepared to package instructions

    METHOD:
    In a small pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add onions and ginger. Sauté 3 to 4 minutes. Add chicken broth, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Bring to a simmer and stir in chicken, carrots, snow peas, and soba noodles. Serve in bowls or transfer to thermos.

    Curried Chicken Salad Pita Pocket

    INGREDIENTS:
    3 tablespoons plain yogurt
    1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
    1/2 teaspoon curry powder
    1 cup rotisserie chicken, shredded
    1/4 cup granny smith apples, diced
    1 tablespoon scallions, thinly sliced
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    2 Whole wheat pitas
    Butter lettuce

    METHOD:
    In a bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, curry powder, salt, and pepper. Stir until combined. Add chicken, apples, and scallions and mix well. Spoon chicken salad into whole wheat pitas and add a leaf of lettuce.

    Grilled Vegetables

    INGREDIENTS:
    1 zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
    1 Japanese eggplant, thinly sliced lengthwise
    1 Portobello mushroom, thinly sliced
    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    Juice of 1 lemon
    1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    Pinch of garlic powder
    Pinch of onion powder
    Salt and pepper

    METHOD:
    In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper until emulsified.

    Place zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, and marinade in a sealable plastic bag. Toss to combine. Let sit 20 minutes.

    Heat grill pan over medium heat. Remove vegetables from marinade and cook about 3 to 4 minutes on each side.

    FOR MORE RECIPES, GO TO PAGE 2.

  • Grilled Vegetable Sandwich with Hummus and Feta

    INGREDIENTS:
    2 sandwich rolls
    Grilled Vegetables
    3 tablespoons roasted red pepper hummus
    3 tablespoons feta cheese

    METHOD:
    Spread hummus on one side of each sandwich roll. Place grilled vegetables on roll and top with feta. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.

    Grilled Vegetable Pesto Pasta Salad

    INGREDIENTS:
    2 cups cooked whole wheat bow-tie pasta
    1 1/2 cups grilled vegetables, chopped
    1/4 cup pesto
    2 tablespoons pine nuts
    1 tablespoon fresh Parmesan, shredded
    Salt and pepper, to taste

    METHOD:
    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions. Drain and set aside in a large bowl.

    Add the grilled vegetables and pesto to the pasta. Stir until well combined. Garnish with the fresh parmesan and pine nuts. Store in an air tight container.

    Whole Wheat Brownies

    INGREDIENTS:
    1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    1/2 cup unsalted butter
    1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    3 large eggs
    1 1/4 cups sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla

    METHOD:
    Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray an 8 x 8 pan lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
    In a small saucepan, melt chocolate chips and butter. Set aside.
    In a bowl, sift flours, baking powder, and salt.
    In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat eggs and sugar. Beat until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Add vanilla. Stir in melted chocolate. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and brownies start to pull away from the sides of the pan.