Roz Ka Khana

A blog about everyday food. Mostly Indian. All vegetarian.

Archive for the tag “lunchbox”

Lunchbox Series – A Week of Protein Packed Lunches – Day One – Rainbow Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

I just realized that this is my first post for the new year. A wee bit late but what better way to start than with some healthy lunchbox recipes. It’s always heartening to see the whole family get on a healthy streak versus a lone crusader (that would be me) experimenting with single serve “healthy” menus which has been the case for some time now. I’d still try to cook and pack healthy food for Nikhil but I have never wanted to force “dairy free” or “gluten free” or “grain free” menus on anyone, even on myself. Those have purely been weekly experiments to see the effect of elimination of some of these highly talked about diets, on my own body. And I have realized that some things that work for me may not work for everyone. To each his own. I have, for example, tried to eliminate milk, caffeine, white flour, white rice, white sugar etc. from my diet, I try to be gluten free once a month if I can, have introduced fermented foods like kefir and kombucha on a regular basis and have noticed quite drastic effects on my energy levels, skin, vision and even my outlook in general. I keep trying something new every month and it’s amazing to see the direct effects of food on the body and mind.

But I’m also not wont to spending hours catering to every diet need at home so this project meant that either everyone get on the healthy bandwagon or I jump off and “be normal”:) Save my green smoothies of course, which I have stuck on to – possibly for life:)

So it came as a pleasant surprise when last week G announced that he wanted to try packing lunches to work. And make it a rice-free but protein laden week. Like I said I have enjoyed packing lunches for Nikhil, something I would never have imagined I had in me, but I also love a good challenge. One of my favorite pastimes on weekends (call me strange) is creating healthy menus for the week ahead and it has been a blessing to have a planned food calendar for everyone in the house – removes the stress out of crazed weekday mornings, eradicates the eternal and annoying “what’s for lunch or dinner” questions and makes shopping easier.

And so we were on. Vegetarian, protein laden menus for the week, minus rice, pasta and heavy carbs. Here’s what it looked like:

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I have been posting the daily lunchboxes on the Facebook and Twitter pages but do need to record the recipes somewhere for posterity and of course to share with those interested. So here goes…a daily recap of the #proteinweek #lunchbox.

Day One:


Rainbow Salad with Boiled Egg and Lemon Vinaigrette:

Ingredients: (for one lunchbox)

  • Romaine Lettuce – 2 cups
  • Grapes – 1 cup, sliced
  • Red apples – 1 cup, chopped
  • Red Bell pepper- 1/2 cup sliced thin
  • Carrot – 1/2, grated
  • Red cabbage- 1/4 grated
  • Sunflower seeds – 1/4 cup
  • Boiled egg – 1, sliced (you may replace with tofu or tempeh or quinoa if you don’t eat eggs for other protein alternatives; even paneer or haloumi cheese if you don’t mind dairy)
  • Kidney beans, 1/2 cup, boiled

Lemon Vinaigrette: ( recipe)

  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, mustard, and fine sea salt, until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the oil , whisking constantly until the dressing is well blended. Season with fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. The vinaigrette can be prepared ahead and refrigerated, in an airtight container, up to 3 days.

Chickpea or Kabuli Chana Chaat:

  • 1 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight, boiled and drained
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1 cherry tomato, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp Jiralu powder or chaat masala (available at Indian stores)
  • Salt to taste
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • a small bunch of cilantro, chopped.

Take the chickpeas in a bowl and mix the first 5 ingredients. Add the lemon juice and garnish with chopped cilantro.


Lunchbox Series – Veggie Burger

I’ve tried almost all the frozen vegetable burgers available in grocery stores here..Morningstar Farms, Boca, Amy’s, but none come close to the “veggie patty” burger that I was used to growing up.  I’ve also realized that one reason why most hamburger eaters think that veggie burgers are “gross” is probably cos they are. They are often dry, hard as a rock, with processed fake meats holding them together. Most of the brands I mentioned above were staple when I was in school here, only because I didn’t have the time to look for anything different or make one from scratch and were my only go-by for a meatless option, hard to find in most college town fast food joints.

Veggie burgers are a pretty common feature in the Indian fast food restaurant menus and one of my favorite food growing up, so it was no wonder that I was looking for a similar texture and taste in the frozen section. Amy’s California burger came close to the taste …at least it didnt have the heavy soy taste that the others did. But it didn’t pass the lunchbox test. The dryness came back once the burger cooled. I tried making my own, and that worked, but again, making a whole batch of them to use in lunches was a lot of work, so the quest for that perfect frozen burger was still on. And then I found one in Costco. It was recommended to me by a friend when we had a veggie barbecue party at home, and was such a hit, that it’s been staple in my refrigerator ever since. Carrots, bell peppers, potatoes and other veggies make up this burger, and it’s best served grilled. Manufactured by Don Lee Farms, they have a range of meat and meat free products. The best part is, that it doesn’t dry out, probably because it’s thinner, uses vegetables as the biding agent, and doesn’t have the fake meat.

Nikhil, my 7 year old food critic loved it too, so it made it’s way into his laptop lunch, of course! Grilled veggie patty, served on a wheat kaiser roll, with organic hummus,  lettuce, swiss cheese , onion and tomato make this a very wholesome lunchbox staple. Add a banana, some salad greens and yoghurt and you have a nutritous and wholesome lunch.


Lunchbox Series – “Chipotle” Burrito

No..I don’t really have any excuses for my long silence. Call it a mix of emotions, the elation after the November election results or the shock and utter disbelief at the attrocities of the Mumbai massacre, November was an emotionally draining month. Enough to get one out of a writer’s block, but not so in my case. I have about 4 “drafts” in my blog dashboard that are begging to be finished, but unfortunately may remain drafts until something else inspires me to finish them. The good news is that while I couldn’t get myself to write, I continued to experiment with food, both the cooking and the tasting of it:) That was my way of battling the depressing news outside…my distraction.  

The one thing that I did do religiously everyday…to fuel my Roz Ka Khana (everyday food) was experiment with Nikhil’s lunch, of course, and add to the Lunchbox series that I started a while back. All in draft mode! So here is the second of the daily lunchbox musings…inspired by none other than Chipotle!

The burritos at Chipotle are a favorite in my family and beat all other Mexican fast food eateries hands down, so it was no wonder this became Nikhil’s favorite lunchbox item.

Burritos always remind me of the time when I first came to this country and started attending school in Illinois. I was just a week old on the University of Illinois campus and was just starting to explore the places to hang out or just eat a decent meal. I missed home, and my roomies were still warming up to me, so eating at home wasn’t always an option, especially since the groceries weren’t all mine anyway! I was starting to get tired of eating the “cheeseburger with no meat” at MickeyD’s…it just wasn’t the same as eating the vegetable cheese burger at Universal’s in Hyderabad! 

And so it was on a billboard on Green Street that I spotted this sign that read “Burritos as big as your head” with a guy sporting a burrito on his head like a sombrero. I’d heard from other Indian friends that the cuisine was similar to Indian cuisine…the rice and beans reminded one of rajma chawal (rice and red kidney beans curry) and the tortillas were similar to chapathis (Indian bread) but I had actually never eaten a burrito before.

And so I found myself at La Bamba restaurant to get my first taste of this “chapathi-rajma” combo. Only to realize that they weren’t joking when they said “as big as my head”. I was asked to choose my fixings and being quite ignorant, I added everything that was meatless in there. The result was this humungous burrito almost bursting at the seams from having an overdose of ingredients. One bite into it and I gagged. There were 2 kinds of beans (didn’t know I needed to choose only one), guacamole, extra cheese , sour cream, lettuce, salsa and the rice….the spanish rice I had this taste I definitely didn’t like very much.  Or it was just my gluttony attempt at stuffing more than 5 ingredients into a simple, soft tortilla and probably overstimulating my senses.

Anyway, that experience made me wary of the huge burritos and I lived on Taco Bell’s Bean and cheese burrito for the next year in school, always steering clear of the rice. When Chipotle opened in my neighborhood, I experimented with rice again only because it looked different from the spanish rice. It somehow reminded me of the Indian lemon rice and needless to say, I’ve been hooked to Chipotle since. I suppose it makes you think that the Indian-ness to the dish is probably what makes me like it so much? Probably so…and did I mention the spice?

This recipe was an attempt to mimic the Chipotle experience at home, maybe a tad Indian-ised with the tomato chutney/salsa added to it instead of the Chipotle salsa, but I think the overall flavor was not far off at all. As I said earlier, it is a staple lunch menu at my house, so is an addition to the Lunchbox series…I have also tried it with an even more Indianised tomato chutney and the taste gets even better according to me.

Chipotle style Cilantro and Lime rice

1 tsp butter
2 tsp chopped cialntro
2/3 cup white basmati rice
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lime

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add rice and lime juice, stir for 1 minute.Transfer to a rice cooker. Add water and salt and cook till done. Add in the cilantro and fluff rice with a fork.

Black beans:

Canned or washed and boiled black beans – 1 can or 1 cup beans

2 tbsp salsa

Garam Masala (optional)

1. Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a saucepan. Add the salsa to the hot oil and the garam masala and heat till it starts to boil lightly.

2. Add the black beans, mix well and cook for about 3-5 minutes.

The Burritos:


1. Take a flour tortilla. Add some chopped lettuce, the lime rice, salsa, black beans, sour cream and shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Add fillings, lengthwise.

tortilla with cilantro lime rice
Layer the contents down the center of the tortilla, lengthwise. If you’re using a 12 inch large tortilla, the filling can be up to 4 inches wide and approximately 7 inches long. Leave at least 4 inches on the bottom end of the filling.

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2. First Fold.
Fold the short end of the tortilla up. This keeps the contents from spilling out from the bottom.

3. Second Fold.
Fold one of the long sides over the top of the filling. Place your fingers perpendicular across the fold, cup the tortilla over the filling and push the edge against the filling to make sure the fold is tight.

 4. Third fold.
Wrap the remaining long end over both folds.


I packed the burrito with some sour cream or salsa for dipping, or a mix of sour cream and salsa as a dip. Sliced peach, yoghurt and a leftover brownie cake for dessert makes for a hearty lunch, don’t you agree?


Lunchbox Series (Grilled potato and sprouts sandwich)

When my son started public school, I discovered something about myself that I didn’t know before. I actually enjoyed packing his lunches! I liked to plan out a weekly menu for him just like his school calendar, scour the various blogs and sites for back-to-school lunch ideas and yes, also make his lunch look colorful enough for him to want to eat it! It felt very satisfying to pack greens, nuts, veggies, fruits and grains and get a lunch review from him every day. On most days the lunches come back empty, and on some, there are a few half eaten bites. The rule is to leave everything in the box so I can keep track of what he is eating every day.

I tried to be a little more creative than packing mac n cheese and PBJ and being vegetarian, I also had to ensure there was enough protein and fibre in his lunches. And so began the search for a lunch box that would go beyond the basic brown bag. Laptop Lunches did the needful for me! The simple, colorful, plastic containers were just what I needed to get my creative juices flowing and make those lunches look edible too. What follows is a series of some lunch ideas for your school goer…and it works for those work lunch totes too.

Sprouts and Potato Sandwich


Moong Sprouts – 1/2 cup

Potatoes – boiled and mashed – 2

Whole wheat bread – 4-6 slices

Chaat masala – 1 tsp

Onion, chopped – 1 medium

Green chilies – 1, finely chopped

1. You can prepare the filling the night before. Boil and mash the potatoes, add the onion, green chilies, chaat masala, salt to taste. Mix well.

2. The next morning, preheat the sandwich maker. Butter each slice of bread, add the filling in between, and toast the bread till golden.

Note: You can also add green chutney to this mixture before you add the filling to the buttered slices. Adds some spice to it, so this may be an option for the grown up lunches.

To pack Nikhil’s lunch, I used a kitchen shear to cut the sandwich into smaller triangles, and added orange wedges and yoghurt to make it a filling laptop lunch!

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