No More School Lunches! SOL#29

Here is a picture of my school lunch from Thursday:

My last school lunch

My last school lunch- 😦

I was totally grossed out when I saw the limp, greasy fries. Thankfully this was only the first time that I’ve been served fries. Nearly everyday there is rice, a small amount of veggies, and either chicken or beef.  On Thursday it was chicken nuggets (totally not a fan at all but it was the best option available).  Usually about once a week the lunch service provides my favorite Venezuelan dish, Pabellon, which is shredded beef, black beans, and rice.

The only problem is that this past month it seems like all of the dishes have tasted like Pabellon (except for this disastrous last lunch on Thursday) and now I’m not crazy about eating it again any time soon.  I also feel like there is a lot of grease in the food at the school cafeteria (something I really miss about the very cheap, healthy, and delicious food I got from the school cafeteria in China). I’m trying to eat clean now!

When I was teaching in Ciudad Ojeda I had a HUGE kitchen to work in. For two years I cooked nearly everyday, portioned out and froze leftovers so I always had lunches and dinners ready, and rarely ate out because Venezuelan food is really heavy on the carbs.  Now I live in a small apartment with a sink that is so small that I can’t lay a dinner plate flat to clean it.  My oven and fridge are also small (and of course there is no deep freezer provided like I had in Ojeda!)- though both are bigger than I had in China.

Anyway, I still haven’t grown accustomed to cooking in my small kitchen!  How do people with small kitchens, ovens, freezers, and fridges prepare lunches for the week? What should I try to cook?

Remember there are not many prepackaged foods that I can find here.  I mostly get my food from the local farmer’s markets. Lots of fruits and veggies and a bit of meat and cheese now and then. Very rarely I find homemade wheat bread that I like otherwise I usually buy a thick tortilla like thing called “pan Arabe”.

Does anyone have any recipe ideas to help kick me out of this school lunch rut?

Slice of life

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14 responses to “No More School Lunches! SOL#29

  1. Hummus.

    It’s just chick peas, roasted sesame tahini (although you can substitute roasted tomatilloes), olive oil, salt, lemon (or lime) juice, water, and whatever herbs, peppers, or spices you choose to add. Then you just need something to dip into it.

    Recipes for basic hummus are easy to find online and then you can experiment with added flavors.

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  2. We have an old lunch bag. I threw it in the wash and it’s ‘clean’, but it ain’t new. It’s nice because it’s square in shape and nothing gets squished. I’ll bring it when we come back to school and you can use it if you want!!

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  3. ps. for food ideas – think of all the veggie slices you can: peppers, cucumbers, carrots, etc. Rice. Cook ripe plantanes in the oven w/skin until they burst and they’ll be cooked. google: crockpot + lunch ideas.
    USE THAT CROCKPOT! There’s also quinoa in the market near us.

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    • I did pick up the platanos in the little market today Christi and I made some hummus last week. Maybe I will even chop up some carrots to go with it. Great ideas! I will be sure to google crockpot lunch ideas!

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  4. Stews and soups are economical and easy to make in bulk for lunches. I’m not sure what is cheap and easy to obtain over there, like sandwiches are pretty nice, too, but not if the stuff you want is difficult to come by. I used to make enough for dinner so that I had leftovers for lunch, that is also a possibility. I feel your pain, small kitchens are challenging, but when you have no choice you make it work. Good luck!

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    • I love soups and stews (even if I end up sweating as I eat them due to the tropical environment here). My problem is the race for the microwave in the teacher’s lounge. It would be nice to not waste time reheating stuff. I like the sandwich idea and I can find stuff to put on the bread, but I like good bread and most of the bread here is white and full of preservatives. When I can find some of the good artisan bread I will try to bring some sandwiches to work!

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    • My lovely friend Christi let me borrow her crock pot, so I do a big soup or stew about once a week. I’m just trying to get the hang of how to portion it out for the week and have a little variety while saving space in my smaller fridge/freezer. What are your favorite crock pot recipes?

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  5. Hey Amanda, hope everything is ok. As you already may know planning ahead here is always kind of tricky, and yeah we dont have many healthy options when it comes to food, in my case I hardly ever eat out because most places here lack basic hygiene standars. What I´ve found that works best for me is cooking a week worth of meal portions, I cook one single dish (chicken and rice, smashed potatoes and fish, etc) then I store them in foil trays in the fridge and there goes my lunch for one week (the downside is by day 3 Ive grown tired of having the same food), Im gonna give you some options anyways:
    – Q Arepas: its kind of a Venezuelan food restaurant, they cook everything from scratch, I find their food pretty yummy and it´s not very greasy, the place is as hygienic as it can get here, they have 4 locations in Valencia. Sometimes I go there buy some takeaway and eat it at work next day.
    – Arab Stores: there are a few around town,some of them are very reputable, I particularly like the one in Shopping Center. their hummus is pretty good, as well as the eggplant cream, there´s always fresh pan arabe (by the way isnt pitta bread the same thing ?), I usually make some really nice sandwiches with the stuff I buy there.
    – Get some Tuna: I always have a few cans of tuna handy, they are major lifesavers, dice some tomatoes and Onions and put it on some Pan Arabe, it makes for a quick and healthy lunch.

    Hope this helps, feel free to ask me for advice !!! take care.

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    • Hi Edgar. Thanks for the advice.

      I usually try to eat a low carb diet. Hard to do in Venezuela!

      I keep the arepas to once a month. I love arabic food and eat plenty of hummus and baba ganoush. Whenever I buy pita back home it is about half the size of the pan arabe here. Also the pita is usually thicket with more of an air pocket in middle of the bread so you can put stuff inside of it. Generally I treat the Venezuelan “pan arabe” like a thick tortilla and use it for wraps.

      I love tuna, but I always feel bad about bringing fish to school since it is so smelly. I might bring some anyway and just eat it in my classroom. Yum!

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  6. Google ‘bento lunches’ for some really good ideas. Its a hobby of mine to fit several different types of food into one container creatively. It results in me eating a balanced lunch, using more veggies to make it prettier and makes good use of leftovers. You don’t need a fancy container to do it either!
    Last month I experimented with ‘salads in a jar.’ I love it! I have a 2 hour commute (really 4) here in the Netherlands. So I worried that my salads would turn out soggy, but they actually stay pretty crisp and fresh. I just recycle glass jars as I use them and now have a pretty good assortment with various sizes. The only problem I have is overpacking the jars, and that makes it harder to mix up the salads. Just google ‘salads in a jar’ for some ideas. I’m sure with the abundance of fresh veggies and fruits you will have fun trying different varieties!
    Love your blog by the way!

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    • Great idea with the bento lunches! I will have to do some research. I think I actually have a fancy bento lunch box from my internship in Japan about ten years ago. It is probably in my mom’s attic somewhere!

      When I was working for the state of Oregon I tried the “salad in a jar” thing, but I can’t seem to find a good wide mouth jar here. Jars are still pretty popular for packing lunches in Portland. Usually I just pour my soup into the jars I have and then dump them into a bowl once I get to work. I should just pack a big salad into a tupperware container.

      Thanks for the ideas!

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