One Trick for Make-Ahead Lunches from the Freeze-Dryer

Staying at a healthy weight became important to me a few years ago when I hit a milestone birthday. When I was younger, I could eat everything I wanted without a thought. Then, it caught up with me as my metabolism slowed down. The problem is I’m a fairly lazy human. I refuse to join a gym, and instead only agree to participate in fun outdoor activities like biking, walks, kayaking and so on. If someone asks me to help them move, I always say yes then indulge in my favorite Italian dish that night. I am not known for my self-discipline.

Another deal I have with myself is that I take healthy lunches to work through the week, then on the weekend I tend to unleash my inner teenager a bit. Somehow, it works. For weekday winter lunches I like big, chunky soups with just a small piece of really tasty cornbread or sourdough. My paleo-diet coworkers can’t believe I still eat bread, but – I do. Again, I am a fairly lazy human with near-zero willpower. It was through this endearing quirk of mine that I discovered a secret: The soup ingredients I love in the winter are awesome in the summer as a cold salad. In the winter I freeze-dry big batches of my favorite soups and portion them out for work. In the summer, I use virtually the same ingredients but eliminate most of the broth and substitute a small pasta like orzo or ditlani, or a protein like quinoa.

For example, in the winter one of my favorite soups is butternut squash with curry. The soup is broth plus two roasted and pureed apples, butternut squash and onions (plus salt, pepper and curry to taste). I like to top it with sliced banana and coconut and have a handful of cashews on the side. To make this into a salad, I just roast diced butternut squash and onions with a sprinkle of salt, pepper and curry then and toss them with diced apples, bananas, cashews, orzo or quinoa, and a tablespoon of coconut flavored olive oil. This pasta or quinoa salad freeze dries beautifully and tastes fresh on hot days.

Another of my favorite winter soups is Tuscan white bean. The basic ingredients are cannellini beans, diced celery, broth, sauteed onion and garlic, a sprig of rosemary and a bay leaf. You can certainly add kale and sometimes I do. This soup likes a little slice of cornbread for sweetness. To convert this to a summer dish, I cook a small pasta in broth with the rosemary and bay leaf, then remove the bay leaf and rosemary and toss in the other ingredients, including a bit of fresh corn that I roast on the grill then cut off the cob. I freeze dry this in small batches, then add a small drizzle of olive oil right before I chow down. Same depth of flavor, same comfort, different season. No need to hunt through the Pinterest forest of recipes-in-a-jar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *