I bet you didn’t know we were asked to join the Brown Bag Challenge over at the Food Network?  Well, we have been, and unfortunately, I have been so busy that I have not had a chance to write about it.  It has been crazy over at the Chez Us household for the past month, in fact, completely non-stop.  Despite the crazy, we have tried to bring healthy lunches into the office.  I usually make enough dinner the night before, to turn some leftovers into lunch.  It is really simple when you have a little left over roasted chicken, to whip up some chicken salad the night before and then pack it in the morning along with some crackers, cheese and fresh fruit.  As well I like packing salads made of spinach, pears and a little blue cheese;  light but filling.  I find if there is a little protein mixed with a lot of fresh fruit or vegetables it holds us over until dinner.

One of my favorite recipes to whip up is this amazing lentil salad.  Lentils are a great source of protein and are very filling, making this the perfect lunch time meal.  It is full of summertime cherry tomatoes, fresh mint and tangy feta.  I usually make a citrus dressing out of lemons and olive oil;  but decided to change it up a bit after reading about Za’atar.  Za’atar is a popular spice used through out the middle east.  It is a blend of oregano, basil, thyme, sesame seeds, sumac and salt.  From the research I have been doing, I have found there are different versions made with different herbs.  The particular one I found had a bit of tangy taste, which I contribute to the lemony sumac.  I did add a bit more sumac and I really enjoyed the lemony tang with the feta.  This is a very refreshing salad that is bursting with flavors.

To make this salad a complete meal, I packed our lunch bags with some homemade hummus, lavash and fresh plums. Not only was it a filling lunch but also a healthy one.  This recipe is also a crowd pleas-er for a brunch or dinner.  It is perfect served along side some grilled fish or even roasted chicken.

Do you bring lunch to work?  What is your favorite lunch to bring along side your business files?

Chez Us is participating in Food Network’s Brown Bag Challenge 2011.  You can find other inspiring brown bag lunches over at the Food Network as well as at these sites:

Essentials of Nutrition: Brown-Bag Challenge, Break Room Not Required

The Undercover Cook: Buffalo Chicken-Stuffed Baked Potatoes

This Imperfect Plot: Week 4 (and a BBC side effect: weight loss)

Confessions of a Curious Cuisiniere: What Does Your Sandwich Say About You?

I Brown Bag: Brown-Bag Challenge, Day-by-Day

The FN Dish: Using Leftovers to Create a Brown-Bag Lunch

Carmen Fitness: Brown-Bag Challenge, Going Strong

Family Fresh Cooking: Top Ten Best Lunch-Packing Tips

Feeding Philosophers: Lovely Legumes

Healthy Plates: Vegetable Beef Soup

Healthy Kitschy Vegan: Peace

All Things Splendid: Ch-Ch-Ch-Chili

City Life Eats: Day 16 and a Recap of This Week’s Lunches

Grecian Kitchen: Brown-Bag Challenge

Cooking Channel: Monkeying Around Lunch Box

Reve Noir: Brown-Bag Challenge Day 9, Repeat Again

The Garden Ephemerist: Brown Bagged

Adventures in Every Day: Brown-Bag Recap

Eating Omily: My Lunch Story

Nutritious Daily: Easy, Peasy Pasta

Chick Bike: Brown-Bag Challenge Days 15 & 16

Glory Foods: Hot or Cold Lunch, That is the Question

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Recipe:  Lentil Salad
  • 4 cups green lentils, cooked
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • mint, handful, torn into pieces
  • 1/2 cup feta, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon zaatar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sumac
  • kosher salt, to taste
Wash the lentils and remove any small pebbles that may be mixed along side them.
Put the lentils into a large saucepan and cover with cold water.
Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat;  turn down the heat and let simmer for 25 minutes.
You want the lentils to still be a bit firm, not overly soft.
While the lentils are cooking, mince the red onion and let it sit in cup of cold water;  this removes any bitter bite.
I let the onion sit for 20 minutes;  then drain out the water and wrap the onion pieces in a paper towel to remove any moisture.
In a small jar add the olive oil, lemon juice, za’atar, and sumac.
Shake until blended.  Season with salt, to taste.
Once the lentils are cooked, drain them, and then rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.
Lay the lentils on a few paper towels and let them dry really well;  about 30 minutes.
A few minutes before your planned serving time, put the lentils in a serving bowl, add the onion, tomatoes and mint;  lightly toss with the dressing and then sprinkle in the feta.
Serve.
Eat.

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