Lunch. It’s usually a pleasant time, a time to unwind and hopefully take your mind off of work and other obligations. Or, in my case, it is a time to browse through the numerous food blogs I attempt to follow, drooling over images of food while wishing I could run into my kitchen and put something in my darn slow cooker. (Why don’t I use that thing more often?)
When I was a kid, I used to eat the same thing every single day. I would pull a chair up to the television and watch Gullah Gullah Island with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before I left for afternoon kindergarten. I ate that sandwich like it was going out of style, until it finally did (for me) when I eventually got sick of them in college.
Somehow my dad became in charge of Sunday lunches when I was younger, but that meant I was allowed to eat frozen waffles with ice cream every once in a while, so it was great. I’m not really sure how that was okay, but I’m glad it was. In high school, as a year-round athlete, I was constantly starving by the time lunch rolled around, even though lunch was at 10:50 am. Obviously snacks were required for the rest of the afternoon to keep me sane and to survive basketball or field hockey practice after school. In college I usually had meetings to attend during the lunch hour, but it was also a chance to see friends and chat about our projects we were working on in our respective majors, or complain about how much sleep we didn’t get.
These days I eat a simple lunch of an apple with some sharp cheddar cheese. I first tried this combination on a trip to Cape Cod with my high school boyfriend and his family. We stopped at a little park on the way there for some lunch, and his mom shared this snack with me. I remember her saying that when she was in her twenties, she and a good friend of hers used to eat it for lunch every day. I also remember thinking that it sounded like an odd lunch, but now here I am eating it every day myself. It sounds like a “bird food” kind of lunch, and it essentially is. I’ve found that a small meal like this is what suits me best during the day, not leaving me too full and helping to keep away that afternoon slump. Naturally I become hungry again two hours later, so I usually pack some seasonal fruit in the warmer months, and recently during this polar vortex freeze-out I’ve been snacking on hummus and veggies in the afternoons. I also usually need a snack for the end of the day so I don’t accidentally eat someone when I’m at the gym after work.
Do I sound spoiled? I am. Lunch and afternoon snacks are not this nostalgic and easily attainable for everyone, if at all. 65% of all South African children are living in poverty. If these children have food that is nourishing and easily accessible, they can focus better in school, they can stay in school and receive a better education. Being well-fed allows children to concentrate better and reach their potential in the classroom.
I know that I can’t focus if I’m hungry. I get “hangry.” Sadly, this happens to me a few times a day, and you don’t want to be near me when it does. I get easily annoyed, and I have trouble speaking with actual words. Robert always has to remind me, “use your words, Sara,” because I end up grunting at him and pointing at things instead of speaking because I am just SO HUNGRY. Even though I ate a few hours ago. I don’t even know what I would do if I didn’t get to eat lunch every day. Would you survive?
This post today is part of a series of posts with other food bloggers. We are joining together with the help of The Giving Table to raise money for The Lunchbox Fund. Our goal is to raise $5,000 to provide a daily meal for 100 South African school children for an entire year.
I am so fortunate that eating is not just a necessity for me, but a hobby. I cook for fun – it’s just a bonus that what I make also feeds me. I can buy ingredients to make a pistachio cake simply because I want to. Today I donated $25 to The Lunchbox Fund, choosing to spend my money on someone else instead of myself, and you can, too. You could donate $25, $100, $5 or $1000. Every little bit gets us closer to our goal of $5,000. What can you afford to give today? What could you give up for one day and spend that money on this cause? A grande cappuccino, a yoga class or an impulse buy at the grocery store? Let’s do this.
- 3 oz. + 1 oz. apple cider vinegar
- 2 oz. brown sugar (roughly ½ cup, packed)
- 1 apple, peeled, cored and diced into medium-sized pieces (preferable pink lady or another sweet/tart apple variety)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme
- juice of half a lemon
- 1 tsp. maple syrup
- sea salt
- 4-6 oz. olive oil
- ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
- 6 strips thick-cut bacon
- maple syrup
- ½ small red onion, chopped small
- 1 lb. broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 pink lady apple, sliced thin and chopped
- ¾ cup shredded carrots
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup golden raisins
- In a small skillet over medium heat, add the 3 oz. of vinegar and the sugar. Let it reduce and thicken. It should turn a dark caramel color and foamy bubbles should form on the surface.
- Add the apple and garlic, cooking until the apple gets soft, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat to let it cool for a few minutes.
- In a blender or food processor, add the apple mixture with the rest of the vinegar, thyme, lemon juice, maple syrup, and a pinch of salt. Pulse until combined and only small chunks remain.
- Add 4 oz. of olive oil and pulse again. Add more olive oil until you reach your desired consistency. I ended up using about 5 oz., which made a dressing closer to the consistency of a thin apple sauce.
- Add salt to taste and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside.
- Lay bacon slices on a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, leaving room between each slice. Drizzle the bacon with maple syrup. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until it reaches your desired crispness. Place finished bacon on a paper towel-lined plate to drain. (While the bacon cooks, this would be a good time to do some chopping)
- Place the chopped onion in a small bowl with ½ cup of the dressing. Let that sit for at least 5-10 minutes.
- In a large bowl combine the broccoli, apple, carrots, cranberries, raisins and almonds. Chop the bacon into bite-sized pieces and add it to the bowl. Add the dressing-soaked onions to the bowl.
- Mix everything around and add more dressing as desired. I ended up using all of my dressing. (This salad was not overly-dressed. If you prefer your salad with a heavier dressing, you may want to double the dressing recipe and enjoy the leftovers on something else throughout the week.) Add salt to taste.