Thursday, June 25, 2015

lunch boxes for adults : wraps, rolls and sandwiches the healthy way | lunch boxes the Indian way

I know it is a challenge to think about wraps, rolls and sandwich kind of lunch boxes if you don't eat breads much and generally depend on loads of vegetables, some lentils, some dairy, some poultry and some fish and meat for your daily meals, in that order.

We often want our lunch box food the kind that can be eaten easily while grabbing the food with hands, something that doesn't get messy and we feel sated after the meal. There is a reason why wraps and sandwiches and burgers got so popular in the first place, they all give a tactile edge to the taste, making the meal a sensory pleasure perceived not just by the taste buds. Holding the food in one's fingers is an added pleasure while eating.

So much so that we all started looking for similar foods even if we want to stay away from sandwiches and rolls, wanting to find substitutes of the same foods we want to shun.

ragi uttapam lunch box

Okay, so these lunch boxes will NOT be wraps, rolls and sandwiches. But the same kind of convenience to bite into the food is the reason I am listing all these options of lunch boxes together. We are a country of parathas and dosas, we know how to roll our paratha and how to make the dosa fit for a roll.

The lunch box options here are a suggestion of how to balance such paratha and dosa kind of meals and no, these are not one dish meals as one sandwich was never capable to hold all the vegetables I wanted to accommodate. Some vegetables are liquefied (blended) here to make chutneys, some mashed to make dips, some are blended in the batter to make the meal more vegetable rich. And there is more salad or fruit yogurt for variety.

Here is my list of suggestions while making convenient (easy an quick to make) lunch boxes into balanced meals..

  1. Take some time to plan the shopping, cleaning, chopping and sorting of the vegetables and fruits or delegate this work to someone capable. Do some planning on what all you need to carry the next day, or better for the whole week if you can. Cooking in batches works great if you find time only on weekends. Plan and sort out the lunch boxes for the coming week and avoid any last minute hassles.
  2. Make the office lunch time a relaxed activity, a meal that you look forward to and enjoy all the textures and taste you like. Do not eat on your desk or just turn away from your work area while eating so you don't peep into the work mails while eating your lunch. Mindful eating is way more effective in managing your eating discipline than you imagine.   
  3. It is good to balance carbs, proteins, vegetables ratio in every meal but do not sweat if you can't manage to do this for your lunch box every single day. The balance can be achieved by including the missing components in the other meals too and you can always carry an extra snack box with nuts and seeds etc. Better keep some roasted nuts and seeds in your office drawers if possible.
  4. Include some of your childhood favourite foods in your lunch box occasionally so you involuntarily enjoy the lunch time and do mindful eating without much thought into it. Some of those stuffed parathas your mom cooked or the rajma chawal or tahiri or bisibele bhath will be great tools to make you eat mindfully. Try to balance those foods nutritionally, for example balance a paratha meal by having a smaller portion of the paratha with a large portion of salad and yogurt.
  5. Include some home made chutneys and sauces, dips and mayonnaise, some pickles if needed and give an extra edge to a quick lunch box. You could always get someone in the family make those for you or find a help who can do the job. Or else get creative and blend some roasted sesame to make tahini and then add some raw or roasted vegetables to it to make a saucy dip that keeps well in the fridge for a week. Use cream cheese or hung curd to make some herbed dips. I will do a detailed post on dips and sauces for easy lunch boxes here but just think we are a country of chutneys, there are so many recipes in the family repertoire already.
And do not forget the importance of fermented foods. If you can't add some sauerkraut to your everyday salads, just carry some home made yogurt for the probiotic dose of the day. Make a fresh fruit yogurt in 5 minutes and enjoy at lunch time.

Go gluten free whenever you can even for the lunch boxes. You will still find some comfort food options. Minimal gluten meals may be more practical if you are skeptical about taste.

Below is the fruit yogurt that I make by simply chopping some fresh fruit into home made yogurt. I used apricots and mango cubes here along with some chopped almonds and chia seeds.

I am sharing 10 lunch box options with you today. 


ragi uttapam lunch box

1. Mixed grain uttapam-chutney lunch box...
The main lunch box is a mixed grains gluten free (ragi, jowar, red rice and urad daal) uttapam to which chopped onions and curry patta has been added. I packed it with dry idli podi (a mix of roasted lentils, sesame seeds, coconut and chillies, tamarind etc) and a fresh tomato and coconut chutney (raw tomato, fresh coconut, little garlic and green chilly). This is almost like finger food making a filling healthy meal.

You could make ragi dosa too for this kind of lunch box.

2. Uttapam-sambar-chutney lunch box...
Another gluten free uttapam (white rice, jowar and urad daal) made with chopped onions. I soak the ingredients for a couple of hours, blend them all smooth and often add a little sourdough starter to the batter and keep it overnight in a cool place. The husband calls these dainty uttapams as 'bread uttapam' these are so soft.

Here, we ticked off the bread from our list :-)

uttapam lunch box

The thick sambar you see in the picture is a one step pressure cooked sambar made thick so it carries well in the lunch box. I find this sambar so good I have it as a meal by itself.

To make that thick one pot sambar just heat ghee in pressure cooker, add curry patta and sambar powder to roast very briefly and then add rinsed masoor daal (2 tbsp) and chopped lauki (bottle gourd, 400 gm), add a cup of water, salt to taste and pressure cook. Add a little tamarind extract in the last, stir well and pack. I use pumpkin or other vegetables too sometimes but whatever can be chopped the previous day is good.

3. Paneer stuffed ragi bread lunch box...

These flat breads are made of leavened dough. A mix of ragi and whole wheat flour (60:40) is kneaded with a little salt, sugar and sourdough starter and kept overnight. A mashed paneer mix with chopped onions, green chillies, salt and pepper is then stuffed into flat breads and is cooked over hot griddle just like kulchas. Smear the breads with ghee or butter before packing.

stuffed ragi bread lunch box

That parval (pointed gourds) bhujia you see int he picture is very easy. Scraped and long quarter wedges of parval are stir fried with kalonji (nigella seeds), green chilly and little turmeric and salt, on low flame, till they start curving at the ends. The result is a nice stir fry salad that you will reach for after every bite of the stuffed bread.

The mango chutney is in fact a well celebrated pickled chutney we called gudamba or khatta meetha aam ka achar. Adds oomph to any meal.

4. Jowar roti-baingan bharta-chaulai saag lunch box...

This would be one of my favourite meals. Plain jowar roti (will share detailed procedure of making jowar roti soon) with some pyaz baingan ka bharta and chaulai ka saag is a rural meal that I have never tasted in villages but started cooking after seeing on TV. It makes one of the best gluten free meals trust me.

Indian lunch box

The pyaz biangan ka bharta is quick. I keep the onions sliced and brinjal roasted and peeled in the fridge so it is a 3-5 minute affair in the pan if cooking for two. Heat mustard oil, tip in chopped green chillies (mild variety) and sliced baby onions (1/2 cup), fry till soft and then dump the roasted brinjal pulp and salt. Mash and stir for a minute and it is ready. Use green capsicum in the recipe too to make it more interesting.

Chaulai saag is made with just mustard oil garlic red chilly tadka, dumped the chopped greens with salt and cook till soft and mushy. Takes about 5 minutes for 2 servings.

The chopped salad or kachumbar is just a mix of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and red onions with some salt and mustard oil drizzle. Drop of vinegar added if the salad is being packed for the lunch box.

Jowar ki roti meal needs a plain buttermilk that tastes divine after such a meal. Get a nice bottle to pack buttermilk or chilled tea to office.

5. Multigrain paneer paratha lunch box..

The mashed paneer stuffing used for the ragi flat bread is used here too. The dough mix is a mix of barley and chickpea flour which tastes really good. One thing to take care of when making such a stuffed paratha is, that the consistency of the stuffing should be the same as the dough to be able to roll the stuffed bread easily.

paneer paratha lunch box

You see the same baingan bharta with this paratha meal too. We love baingan bharta and it is so easy to make once the house-help roasts the brinjals, peels them and packs them in the fridge for the next day.

Cucumber batons when one can't chop a detailed salad.

Fresh fruit yogurt with fresh apricots, dried figs and chia seeds is great. Can be an evening snack too if the yogurt is kept in a cool place. You can freeze the yogurt the night before as this way the yogurts stays well for at least 6-7 hours in the office if you intend to eat the yogurt late.

6. Ragi (finger millet) roti wrap lunch box ...

This wrap has potato and tuna salad as a stuffing. The tuna is from a tin but you can buy tuna fish, poach it, flake it and freeze it for use if you don't want to use tinned fish. I use tinned tuna and sardines occasionally. Tuna and potato salad can be made in so many different ways that it does not surprise me any more. I have made it the Bengali way, the south Indian way and even with peri peri sauce.

Here is detailed instructions regarding how to make soft ragi roti.

For this wrap you can use any salad you wish, some leftover chicken or paneer tikka or even hummus and some raw or steamed vegetables.

A mixed grain thalipeeth also makes great lunch box meal.

roti wrap lunch box

There is a little home made paprika mayonnaise in the green silicon cup on the side that makes a delicious dip for this wrap. The chopped salad box gets whatever I can chop that day, the salad ingredients are chopped fresh and not the previous day BTW.

7. Patoda wrap lunch box, the lazy lunch box...

This one is for the days you wake up late. The patoda rolls (see recipe here) in the fridge make a great stuffing for a plain multi grain roti. Pack some diced cucumbers and plain home made yogurt and get set for the day.

roti wrap lunch box

That big roti hides 4 large patoda rolls, very filling, very tasty and needs no chutney or dip if you are carrying cucumber or kachumber type salad if have time. Or else pack some green chutney or even home made mayonnaise with it.

I prefer not applying the chutney or mayo inside the wrap as it makes the whole thing soggy if packed in the lunch box. Okay, mayonnaise doesn't make it soggy but drips while eating, so better pack it separately and use as dip.

8. Chaulai (amaranth greens) pakoda wrap lunch box..

Another lazy day's roti wrap can be made with any leftover fritters, chicken tikka or paneer or veggie tikkas. Here I have used amaranth greens fritters for the purpose. The multigrain roti is smeared with paprika mayonnaise (home made) and fritters are wrapped inside. These are lentils based fritters that we make sometimes for dinner or weekend breakfast, the leftover fritters can be frozen and used as desired.

roti wrap for lunch box

I have packed leftover rajma with this, and a chopped salad with yogurt, almost like a raita which makes this meal really satisfying.

Citrus green tea with basil seeds is great to take with lunch boxes too, especially during summer and monsoon time. You can add fruits to the chilled or iced green tea as well, just like this peach tea with basil seeds..

9. Steamed ragi bread lunch box, gluten free goodness ...

Ragi bread can be made in the oven or in a skillet. While oven baked and skillet baked bread needs some time, the steamed bread is almost instant if you have prepared the dough in advance.

Half a cup of sourdough and 1/2 cup each of rice flour, black lentil flour (urad daal powder) and a cup of ragi flour is mixed with a little salt and sugar with enough water to make it a loose dough or a thick batter consistency, and is fermented overnight or for 5-6 hours. This batter/dough keeps well in the fridge for a week. About a cup of this batter is spread on the steamer lined with muslin and is steamed till the bread cooks, a knife comes out clean when poked. The steaming of this bread takes only 8-10 minutes.

Brush the cooked bread with ghee or butter immediately, slice when a bit cold.

gluten free steamed ragi bread

I packed a sour cream dip with basil and chives along with a green almond and rucola pesto here. The sour cream dip includes some minced fresh basil and garlic chives along with salt. The pesto has green almonds, rucola, olive oil and salt. You can add some Parmesan or fresh cream to this pesto. I find fresh cream in rucola based pesto better.

This steamed ragi bread can be slit in the middle like pita bread and stuffed too, but the stuffed steamed ragi bread wouldn't hold well for a packed lunch, that will be better consumed immediately. I like the dip and pesto being applied slowly and eating the bread relishing the flavours. Pack peanut butter or jam or smooth scrambled egg with this bread and enjoy.

10. Sattu ka paratha lunch box...

This is one of the most favourite childhood lunch box paratha that both of us love. Sattu ka paratha was a regular monsoon delicacy because it doesn't spoil easily, one of the healthiest desi meals I must say, even though it is made of whole wheat flour and is not gluten free.

And there you see the baingan ka chokha.

The chokha is different from bharta in being just roasted and mashed and not fried in a pan. Just mash roasted (char grilled) and peeled brinjal (preferably the round ones) with minced garlic and green chillies, some salt and mustard oil and it is a luscious goodness you can't resist.

sattu ka paratha lunch box

The cucumber and roasted peanuts kachumber or kosambari is no rocket science either. Just mix some roasted pounded nuts and whatever greens and cucumber you like and drizzle some lime juice, some salt and little sugar to balance.

We like plain buttermilk with this meal and somehow I forgot placing the bottle along with this sattu ka paratha lunch box.

sattu ka paratha lunch box

Buttermilk can also be chilled or frozen overnight so it stays good for a few hours in the commuting time and the office.

I pack 2 bottles of buttermilk for myself sometimes, just for the home work desk I mean. It reminds me that I have something to drink for comfort. Else I just keep sipping water.

buttermilk in a bottle

Guess what more I have for giveaway? Tell me in your comments below, make a guess. I will announce the next giveaway in the next post of the series.

I intend to post a good number of posts about lunch boxes and a few more giveaways are scheduled. Keep commenting and telling me about your preferences and requirements regarding lunch boxes and enter a chance to win something interesting and useful to make your lunch boxes fun.

healthy drinks

I understand some of you are waiting for the next posts of this series, your mails and messages reach me and I feel glad that you are finding this series useful. But it takes a lot of time, sometimes 10 hours of work to make a post like this one, so please bear with me while I create the new posts. I promise I will bring something useful and healthful.

There are more giveaways, to enter you have to tell me what you prefer in lunch boxes and what suggestions and ideas you would like to know. Write you comments here, there are a few useful pretty things up for grab the giveaway will be announce by the end of July.

The giveaway is open for India only, I can ship your reward to an Indian address if you wish.
There is a pretty hand painted lunch box as a giveaway from Trove and another useful steamer from Tupperware to win as well. don't forget to comment..

Note that all these healthy lunch boxes are not recommendations to loose weight although they may be helpful for the cause by default. I feel disappointed when any health advise is taken as a way to loose weight. Everyone has different health concerns and must follow a diet regime that works best for one.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

lunch boxes for adults : do not let the simple roti subzi be boring, jazz up the everyday subzi, make the subzi quick



Lunch boxes for office have always been serious business. They made history in service industry by just collecting the lunch boxes from homes of office goers and delivering them to their offices, the Bombay Dabbawalas are now a case study at Harward Business School.

We Indians want home cooked food everyday even though we have become more and more experimental. Home cooked comfort is unparalleled.

The kind of mails and comments on blog and instagram I am getting, I understand the most loved lunch boxes will be the desi types. Roti subzi in the north and idlis and different types of rice preparations in the south are the kind of meals loved by adults in their office lunch boxes. School going kids prefer more fancy stuff but adults always want better value for the effort.

Also, for most of us lunch time is crucial because this is the first meal of the day that we eat at leisure and yet we want to call it a working lunch. Breakfast for most of us is a hurried affair. Incidentally for myself, breakfast is late and often makes a brunch which is mostly the stuff I pack for the husband, that makes me test the lunch box about any spoilage or change in taste or texture.

I learnt a few things regarding avoiding food spoilage and change in texture etc in packed lunches since I started packing lunches for both of us technically.

Here are the 5 things to ensure quick and convenient lunch boxes everyday...
  1. All raw salads have to be simple as there is not much time to chop and mix ingredients and dressings but the raw food has to be tossed with a little vinegar to avoid any spoilage. 
  2. Rotis have to be folded while still hot and packed into the lunch box to keep the soft. Applying some butter or ghee helps retain the texture better. 
  3. Don't carry any curries that may leak accidentally or may spill when opening the lunch box. Quick dry stir fries with minimal spicing works best as it gets ready quickly and stays fresh to be eaten after a few hours. 
  4. Get the lunch boxes washed really well and rinsed with hot water everyday if they are not being machine washed. Any remaining bits of food will breed microbes and cause spoilage of food the next day. Grooves of the lids are to be watched. 
  5. The cut fruits should be placed in the office refrigerator immediately after reaching or should be meant for the mid morning snacking. Cut fruits should not be kept for more than a couple of hours. Smaller fruits should be carried whole, only pineapple, papaya, melons etc can be cut and packed, preferably with a little lime juice to prevent oxidation. 

Apart from this, invest in good quality lunch boxes and have a few sets of them for different types of foods you carry. I use a few glass containers with plastic fitting lid for yogurt and raw salads and find them very convenient to retain the taste and aroma of raw foods and any slightly acidic foods.

The glass storage boxes from Luminarc and Borgonovo are great as they have a good tight filling plastic lid. I like stainless steel lunch boxes too as the food doesn't spoil and can be reheated in the old fashioned office ovens that most Government offices have. Some plastic lunch boxes form Tupperware are good only for the foods that can be eaten without reheating. I generally avoid microwave reheating in plastic, glass is better for MW cooking or reheating.


These stainless steel lunch boxes are from Trove, hand painted on the outside, making them look good, making lunch time a bit of fun. The paint doesn't come in contact with food so there is no worry of leaching of any chemicals.

Here is how I pack the roti subzi lunch boxes...

I believe in eating loads of seasonal vegetables so you will see I do some effort in cooking the vegetables and packing generous quantities too. It helps that I have a help for chopping the vegetables the previous day. I have provided quick subzi recipes typed in italics or have provided links to the subzi recipes.

This ghee fried peppery okra in the lunch box below is a favourite and we treat it as a salad more.

The other white gravy curry is a plain lauki (bottle gourd) cooked with coconut milk that we both love. It take about 10 minutes to cook 2 generous portions. Just pressure cook the diced lauki (600 gm) with 1/4 cup water and salt to taste, add 150 ml coconut milk and give a quick tadka of mustard seeds, dry red chillies and curry patta.


It helps when the subzi in the lunch box is simpler in flavours, as the flavours stay fresh even after 3-4 hours. More complex spicy curries may taste good to some, but they will make the lunch area quite smelly for others when one is eating lunch. We might not like to spread the aromas of our lunch box in a common dining room or even a private room where the aroma may stay on.

The other roti subzi lunch box has a Lauki chana daal subzi with Amritsari vadi and a garden salad with boiled eggs. The salad is just chopped red onions and raw spinach from garden tossed with kasundi (Indian mustard sauce) and poured over chopped boiled eggs. This way the eggs don't smell.


The subzi again takes some 15 minutes to cook. Heat mustard oil, add one Amritsari vadi (broken) into hot oil and fry till fragrant. Add a little turmeric powder, peeled and diced bottle gourd (500-600 gm bottle gourd), salt and soaked chana dal(3-4 tbsp soaked daal). Toss well to mix, add 1/2 cup water and pressure cook.

This subzi looks like a lot of effort but cooks quickly and tastes great to if you like Amritsari vadi. The good thing is, that the vadis have all the flavorings of real spices and some chillies so you don't need to add any to the subzi. This lobiya subzi with Amritsari vadiyan is almost similar and can be great lunch box subzi too.

Another subzi with Amritsari vadi is with Turai (sponge gourd that I made in similar fashion, with or without chana daal. See in the next lunch box. The other white gravy curry is a poppy seeds onion curry called peyaz posto with some paneer cubes.


Adding paneer or eggs to the lunch box makes it easier to balance. This 10 minute kasoori methi paneer will be great for lunch box. The celery tomato paneer bhurji, or another celery paneer also makes a great option or try this drumstick greens tomato and paneer curry for lunch box.

Another okra stir fry is made in just 5-6 minutes using pre cut whole baby okra. Just heat a little mustard oil, add a slit green chilly and dunk in the baby okra. Toss and stir fry for 3-4 minutes and sprinkle some yellow mustard powder, pepper powder, garlic powder and a little amchoor powder or lime juice. This one also serves as a salad and also tastes great when wrapped in plain rotis.


There is some quick paneer bhurji in this lunch box that also takes less than 5 minutes if you have pre cut onions and green chillies. To make this one I just use the pan which was used for the okra stir fry or any other stir fry that I made that day, no extra oil required. Just saute the green chillies and onion for a minute, add crumbled paneer, salt and pepper and scramble for a minute or till the paneer gets heated thoroughly. Pack as required. 

There is some khatta meetha aam ka achar in the silicon muffin liner. These muffin liners are great to pack something extra in the lunch boxes. 

There are many everyday subzi recipes you can follow and suit them to pack in the lunch box. Some more stir fry vegetables and stir fry salads form this blog can be adapted for lunch boxes. I love lotus stem curries and raw plantain too for room temperature meals akin to lunch box.

The rotis are always multi grain or at least a mix of barley flour and besan (chickpea flour) and we do like a generous smear of ghee on our rotis whenever we eat them.

I am planning to share some chutneys, sauces and quick salads suitable for lunch boxes in this series, as suggested by Ritika Kapoor in the comments section of last post. I understand that having some home made sauces and chutneys can be very convenient in planning lunch boxes for both adults and kids. I am glad there are more people who don't want to eat bottles sauces and chutneys and want to make the effort for getting the right thing.



I am announcing another give away in this series. This time it is a 3 tier hand painted lunch box from Trove, I am sure it will make your lunch box even more interesting or you can even use this box to store some dry snacks at home or at your office desk.

To enter to win this give away you have to tell me what are your lunch box preferences generally and what more you would want to have everyday. Write your suggestions and your mail id in the comment section of this post and enter a chance to win this beauty for yourself. The give away is open till the end of July.

Keep telling me more about your lunch box requirements. You can find me on Facebook, instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Follow me there if you like what I do and keep giving me feedback as that is how you get to see what you want here.

This giveaway is open till the end of July 2015, applies within India, apologies for not being able to ship worldwide. 
Please provide your mail id in the comment section so I can get in touch with you.