Gourmet sandwich, dessert help brighten the workday

Cooking for Two

Healthy, thrifty lunch fits nicely into insulated bag

Sunday Gourmet

January 11, 2004|By Bev Bennett | Bev Bennett,Tribune Media Services

After the holiday round of buying presents and attending festive gatherings, you may be left with a big hangover. Your budget needs to recover, and so does your diet.

By taking your lunch to work, you can save money and follow a healthier meal plan. You can make a sandwich and snack or dessert for half the price you'd pay at a restaurant or carryout. What's more, you have a greater choice of nutritious foods than you'll see on most menus.

If you thought bringing a lunch is tacky, you'll be relieved to know you're not the only brown-bagger in the company lunchroom. More people are packing their lunches, according to the NPD Group, a market research company in Port Washington, N.Y. Americans take a lunch to work 37 times a year, up from 35 times in 1999. They're also buying fewer restaurant lunches. However, if you're used to a chef-made meal, you're not going to be satisfied with anything less tempting in your lunch bag. Relax. You don't have to trade in your smoked turkey and arugula for peanut butter and jelly. You can prepare sandwiches with your favorite ingredients.

Depending on your time, you can make chicken, turkey or meats from scratch to use as sandwich fillings, or stock up at your supermarket deli. The same crusty breads you eat in restaurants are available in most supermarkets.

And don't discount dessert. If you have a delicious morsel at the end of the meal, you won't feel deprived, even as you're economizing. Date bars are delicious and pack well.

Smoked Turkey Sandwich

Serves 2

1 large yellow bell pepper

1 shallot, finely chopped

1/8 teaspoon dried crushed thyme

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

4 slices Italian bread

1 cup arugula leaves

6 ounces sliced smoked turkey breast

Place bell pepper over an open flame and blacken on all sides. Place in plastic bag, close and set aside for 30 minutes. Peel, core and cut pepper into thin strips. Place pepper in a bowl. Add shallot, thyme, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Add oil and vinegar. Set aside 5 minutes.

Top 2 slices of bread with 1/2 cup arugula each. Arrange turkey over arugula. Arrange the pepper strips over turkey, reserving the marinade. Drizzle the pepper marinade over the two plain bread slices. Close the sandwiches, wrap tightly in foil and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours.

Date Bars

Serves 8

1 packed cup sliced or chopped pitted dates

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons dark rum or water


zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup unsalted butter, divided

3/4 cup flour

3/4 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Combine dates, brown sugar, water, rum or water and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until pulpy. Stir in lemon zest and 1 tablespoon butter. Set aside.

Combine flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, baking powder and a pinch of salt. Cut remaining 1/2 cup butter into small pieces. Cut butter into flour mixture until crumbly.

Pat , of flour mixture into greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Top with date filling, spreading to cover crust. Crumble remaining flour mixture and sprinkle over date filling. Bake in 350-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until firm and lightly browned.

Remove from oven, cool and cut into 8 bars. Wrap leftovers individually in aluminum foil and freeze.

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