I don't think I'm alone in the never-ending search for a quick workday lunch that actually resembles a real meal. You know, something beyond a cup of yogurt, leftover pizza, or an apple and almond butter (although that one's probably the least of all my lunchtime transgressions!).
Because I work from home, one would think that lunchtime should be no problem — I have an entire kitchen and the full inventory of my fridge and pantry at my disposal, after all. But somehow, every day, I still end up scrambling when my stomach pangs remind me it's time to eat. Plus, there's always something to be done right after lunchtime, leaving me just a few minutes to throw something together and wolf it down in front of my laptop.
But of course I can accomplish a lot more in the afternoon if I eat something even remotely nourishing, so I'm always on the lookout for a way to add some veggies into the midday mix. That's why a new (or maybe just new-to-me) salad kit at Trader Joe's caught my eye recently. Well, actually it was the word "curry" that stopped me as I weaved my cart through the weekend throngs. I love curry, but had never though to put that together with salad. What was this marvelous thing?
It was their Yellow Curry Chopped Salad. The cheerful little bag is billed as a "Complete Salad Kit," and indeed, it contains a salad mix of chopped romaine, red and green cabbage, carrot slivers, and green onion slices; naan chips (naan? Chips? Like if naan and croutons had a baby?); a teeny bag of golden raisins and cashews; and a yellow curry ginger lime vinaigrette. All for $3.99. I don't usually like pre-made salad dressings, but I had to give this kit a try so I grabbed a bag.
Come Monday when I began my usual scavenger hunt for lunch I found the kit in the fridge. All it needed was some more bulk so that I wouldn't be ravenous again in two hours. Some rummaging in the freezer turned up a bag of TJ's frozen falafel that I'd picked up out of curiosity. This is microwavable, true "heat and eat" falafel; not gourmet by any stretch of the imagination, and never going to be crispy like the falafel from my favorite pita shop. But hungry lunch-makers can't be choosy and the falafel needed only 90 seconds in the microwave.
While they heated up I decided to live dangerously and get a whole second bowl dirty so I could properly toss the salad with the dressing. (To me, that's the difference in an okay salad and one I'll actually enjoy eating.) When the two falafels were done, I quartered them and topped the salad and boom — lunch in two minutes.
The verdict? Look, it's a salad kit and freezer falafel. Elevated cuisine it is not. But the dressing had a nice curry kick, the veggies were satisfyingly crunchy, and the sweet raisins here and there kept things interesting. It was way better than it had any right to be. I finished my bowl and had it again the next day — this time with a twist. The falafel was a bit dry, so I tossed it in with the salad to get it coated with the dressing, and that definitely made a difference. The third time I made it (yes, when I find something I like, I latch onto it — I have eaten the same breakfast every day for years) I stirred in a spoonful of TJ's Greek yogurt to the dressing. The creaminess was the tiny little difference that took this from vaguely healthful (I'm not fooling myself with fried falafel, I know, but the vegetables!) to a lunch that feels like a treat. I can see this salad kit becoming part of my perma-list for Trader Joe's excursions.
If you want to try this, here are some notes.
- The bag says 3.5 servings. Leaving aside questions of the point of a half serving, there's no way this makes three-and-a-half lunches. It made two, with a little cabbage mix left over that we used when we needed literally a couple bites of coleslaw for some BBQ.
- You have to use it up quickly — the most recent bag I bought is only good for a couple days, and looks it, so plan on a one-two punch with back-to-back lunches (or one per person if you share your kitchen).
- The little bags with the chips, toppings, and dressing don't reseal so you'll need some teeny bag clips (I used binder clips in a pinch) to save them for the next day.
- So that my new favorite lunch doesn't get boring, I plan to mix up the proteins. Cooked shrimp is high on my list, but to keep this home lunch from costing what lunch out would run, a couple of soft-boiled eggs would also be tasty, or canned tuna if that's your thing. And I haven't tried their pre-baked tofu, but I bet that would also be a good addition.
Have you tried this curry salad kit? How do you mix things up?