So, how did you end up doing throughout the challenge? Tell us about your favorite lunches in the comments below!
Share your lunch with your Twitter followers and invite them to join us: Tweet This!
Let’s take a moment to look at the progress you’ve made since the start of the challenge:
• Week 1 - During our kick-off, we made a pact to bring our lunches to work at least once a week for the next several weeks.
• Week 2 - In our second week, we avoided falling into a lunchtime sandwich rut with a recipe for Lunch Box Burritos. Over 80 of you reported bringing a meal to work - not bad for our first effort!
• Week 3 - Halfway through our challenge, nearly 100 of you were on board. This week, we shared a dinner recipe for Curried Quinoa Pilaf With Roasted Squash and Yogurt-Marinated Chicken that makes a fabulous salad the next day.
• Week 4 - With Thanksgiving looming, this was a tough time to think about packing a lunch. Still, over 25 of you pulled through and said that you brought a meal to work this week. Nice work! We also shared a simple recipe made from pantry staples that is perfect for busy cooks.
Even if you weren’t able to bring your lunch every single week, we still applaud you for trying to make small changes for the better. Taking a homemade lunch to work is such an effective way to stay healthy throughout the year. And it’s especially nice to end 2010 with good eating habits, not to mention a few more dollars in your pocket for holiday gifts!
This brings us to our final recipe. It’s an easy-peasy minestrone soup that’s full of seasonal vegetables, white beans, and just enough pasta to be satisfying. This meal also re-heats and freezes well, so you can make a double batch and preserve it in individual portions for quick lunches in the hectic weeks to come. If you’re worried about spilling the soup in your lunch bag, remember that BUILT totes can be thrown in the wash if they get a little dirty.
And remember, BUILT is offering a special 20% discount on all of their stylish lunch bags through December 7th, plus free shipping on all items through December 23rd. Wouldn’t they make a great holiday gift? Just use the discount code APT20 when you check out at www.builtny.com
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Easy Minestrone Soup
Makes 6-8 servings
Active Preparation Time: 30 minutes, plus 15 minutes inactive time while the soup simmers
Note: If you’re planning on freezing the leftovers, leave the pasta out during the initial preparation and add it later when re-heating.
3 slices bacon, diced (or substitute 1 tablespoon of olive oil for a vegetarian version)
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 medium-sized carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 small red potatoes (12-14 ounces), washed and diced with peels left on
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
5-6 cups water, chicken broth, or vegetable broth
1 cup small-shaped pasta, such as ditalini, shells, or elbow macaroni
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Place the bacon in a 6-quart stock pot or Dutch oven and set over medium heat. Heat the bacon until fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Drain off all but one tablespoon of the bacon fat. If you’d prefer to not use bacon, heat one tablespoon of olive oil and continue with next step.
Cook the onions, carrots, and celery in the bacon fat/olive oil until they are softened and the onion begins to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the potato and cook until the edges are soft but the centers are still firm, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme, and one teaspoon of salt, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Increase heat to high and pour in the tomatoes and enough water or broth to cover the vegetables by an inch. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are nearly tender, about 15 minutes. Add the pasta and continue cooking until the pasta is al dente, about another 5-6 minutes (follow package directions). Stir in the cannellini beans, reserved bacon, and vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste.
Soup will keep refrigerated for up to a week or frozen up to six months.
• Packing Tip! Throw in some crusty Italian bread or pita chips to dip into the broth.