5×5 Lunches


Photo courtesy pexels.com

Cook’s notes: I saw some lovely bento box photos on Pinterest and started jotting notes. All of the lunches had 5 common elements, which means they could easily go into a table. Each row represents the original meal. Mix and match to create new lunches.

(“Five by five” is a phrase I first heard on the show Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It comes from radio communications and means “the best possible quality and strength.”)

There are several vegetarian options, and all of the lunches are nut-free.

Protein Starch Veggie Fruit Dessert
Turkey Kielbasa Brown rice Sliced cucumbers Diced mango Yogurt pretzels
Deli turkey roll-up Pretzels Baby carrots Apple slices Macaroon
Cubed chicken Cheese and crackers Red bell pepper strips Blueberries Dark chocolate
Teriyaki chicken Noodles Pea pods Orange slices Chocolate raisins
Tuna salad Potato salad Zucchini Watermelon Carrot cake
Hummus Pita triangles Cherry tomatoes Grapes Cookie
Quesadilla Tortilla chips Guacamole Jicama slices Pineapple chunks
Quinoa salad with veggies Popcorn Steamed broccoli Pear Brownie



Nut-free Snacks with Protein


Cook’s notes: Here is a list of snacks that are balanced with carbs and protein but don’t rely on nuts. I’m not allergic to nuts, but it’s nice to have nut-free snacks. I put nuts in my morning smoothie and don’t always want to eat them again in the same day. Hard-boiled eggs are also high in protein, but I can’t stand their texture, so they are not listed here.


Pick one dairy or protein serving: Match with one fruit, veggie, or grain:
1 oz. cheese (2 Babybel cheeses, 1 Laughing Cow wedge, 1 string cheese) 1 cup berries, blueberries, cherries, grapes, or pineapple chunks
Black beans with salsa, 1 cup 1 piece of fruit: apple, banana, nectarine, orange, or peach
Canned tuna, 3 oz. 2 small fruits: Mandarin oranges, plums
Cottage cheese, 1/2 cup Applesauce, 1/2 cup (unsweetened)
Cream cheese, 2 Tbsp. Dried fruit (1 oz.): 9 apple chips, 4 dried apricots, 1/3 cup dried fruit, or 2 Tbsp. Craisins or raisins
Deli turkey, 2 oz. 1 low-fat [black bean] brownie
Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup Bread: 1/2 bagel, 1 corn muffin, 1 slice whole-wheat bread, 1 English muffin, 1/2 pita pocket
Hummus, 2 Tbsp. Plain oatmeal, 1/2 cup
Low-fat milk, 1 cup Popcorn, 3 cups
Roasted chickpeas, 1/2 cup Tortilla chips, 10 each
Sunflower seed butter, 2 Tbsp. Whole-wheat Fig Newton cookies, 2 each
Sunflower seeds, 3 Tbsp. 1 cup raw veggies: Baby carrots, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red bell pepper, or sugar snap peas
Turkey jerky, 1 oz. 1/2 cup cooked veggies or baked sweet potato

Sample combinations:

  • 1 cheese stick with 1 serving of crackers
  • 1 cup lowfat milk with 1 banana
  • 1 Laughing Cow cheese wedge and 1 cup raw red bell pepper strips
  • 1 oz. Brie with 1 cup cherries
  • 1 oz. cheddar cheese and 1 cup grapes
  • 1 oz. turkey jerky and 1 orange
  • 1 string cheese with 3 whole-wheat crackers
  • 1/2 bagel [or 1 rice cake] with 2 Tbsp. cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup black beans with salsa and 10 tortilla chips
  • 1/2 cup roasted chickpeas with 1/2 cup baked sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese and 1/2 cup pineapple chunks
  • 1/2 cup plain oatmeal with 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup yogurt and 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup yogurt and 1/2 cup berries
  • 2 Tablespoons hummus with 1 cup baby carrots
  • Half sandwich: 1 slice whole-wheat bread topped with mustard and 2 oz. turkey or chicken
  • 2 ounces deli turkey, 1 ounce aged cheese, 1 cup mini pearl grape tomatoes, and 4 pitted Kalamata olives (EatingWell:  October/November 2005)
  • Mix 3 oz. canned salmon with low-fat mayonnaise, and eat with 1 serving of whole-wheat crackers


Snacks without Nuts

Cook’s notes: It’s easy to get into a snack rut, for me, of 1 apple with 1 oz. cheddar for my afternoon snack. Plan ahead, so you don’t just grab some chips from the vending machine. Adding produce to snacks is an easy way to improve your daily eating.

Here are some templates with fruits and vegetables to make planning snacks easier.

  • 1 oz. cheddar and 1/2 cup grapes
  • 1 oz. cheese and 2 slices deli turkey
  • 1 oz. cheese, 1 serving crackers, and 1 mini cucumber
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese with 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup yogurt with 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup black beans, 1 oz. cheese, and 1 corn tortilla with salsa
  • 1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds with 1 oz. turkey jerky
  • 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal with 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup raw veggies with 1/4 cup hummus
  • 1 cup chocolate milk and 1 banana


Fruit choices: Match with 1 oz. cheese, 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup cottage cheese or yogurt, 2 graham crackers, or 1 oz. turkey jerky.

1/4 cup raisins
2 Fig Newton cookies
1 apple
1 banana
1 pear
2 mandarin oranges
1/2 cup blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries
1/2 cup seedless grapes
1 cup cherries

Vegetable choices: Match with 1 oz. cheese, 1 serving of crackers, 1/4 cup hummus, 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 1/2 cup bean salad, 1/2 cup roasted chickpeas, 2 slices deli turkey, or 2 cups popcorn. Vegetables are also tasty with Russian Dressing Dip, which is made with Greek yogurt.

1 mini cucumber
1/2 cup marinated beets
1/2 cup sugar snap peas
1/2 cup raw veggies
1/2 cup red bell pepper
1/2 cup roasted squash
10 snow pea pods
12 baby carrots
12 cherry tomatoes

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

IMG_2199Cook’s notes: I posted a version of this recipe several years ago that used two kinds of syrup (Peppermint Hot Cocoa, Syrup Version). This version includes two kinds of chocolate. The maple syrup seems to intensify the chocolate flavor. If you don’t have maple syrup, use either 1 Tablespoon honey or 4 teaspoons white sugar (you need to use 1/3 more sugar than maple syrup). Guittard does not add milk to their chips, but if you need certified vegan chips, I recommend the Enjoy Life brand.

1 cup almond milk
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (Droste Dutch Processed Cocoa)
1.5 Tablespoons extra dark chocolate chips (such as Guittard)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract

Microwave the almond milk in a glass measuring cup for 2 minutes on High.

Place the cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and salt in a mug. Add a splash of  hot almond milk; stir until chocolate chips are melted and the chocolate mixture is thick and smooth.

Add the remaining hot milk, maple syrup, and peppermint extract. Stir to combine.

Top with whipped cream and serve hot.



Broccoli Slaw with Honey Mustard

Cook’s notes: I used to make a broccoli slaw with honey roasted peanuts and balsamic dressing. I wanted to make a nut-free version, and I prefer slaw with a vinaigrette instead of a mayo-based dressing. The apple in this salad provides wonderful crunch. I didn’t use the full amount of dressing and omitted the sunflower seeds from this recipe as well. The recipe is adapted from “The Sprouted Kitchen” cookbook by Sara Forte (Ten Speed Press, 2012).

I added diced, cooked chicken to my bowl of slaw and had a container of fat-free Greek peach yogurt for dessert.

MAKE AHEAD: The salad needs to be refrigerated for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Gluten-free (but always check your labels to be sure). Nut-free.

12 oz bag broccoli slaw
1 apple, such as Gala, Fuji or Honeycrisp, cored and cut into small dice (leave the peel on)
3 Tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the dressing ingredients in a cruet or jar with a tightly fitting lid. Make sure the container is sealed, and shake vigorously until well blended.

Place the broccoli slaw and apple in a bowl. Drizzle with the dressing, and toss to coat.

Cover the bowl loosely and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes or until chilled. Serve cold.

Chewy Pumpkin-Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cook’s notes: I adapted a recipe to make it gluten-free and vegan for a friend of mine. The dough is a little sticky, but it’s easy to use a tablespoon scoop to shape the cookies. They are just delicious. I wasn’t sure if the spices would be overwhelming, but they are not. I used the Enjoy Life brand chocolate chips, because they are dairy, nut, and soy-free

Gluten-free, nut-free, vegan, eggless

Chewy and delicious cookies

Chewy and delicious cookies

Makes 40 cookies

1 stick (1/2 cup) Earth Balance vegan margarine, softened
3/8 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

Dry blend:
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1.5 cups oat flour (ground oats), plus 1/4 cup

1 cup mini chocolate chips (Enjoy Life brand, sold in 10 oz bag)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars for 5 minutes on medium speed. Add vanilla and pumpkin and beat 3 minutes more.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry blend ingredients (cinnamon to oat flour). Start with the 1.5 cups oat flour, and mix dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture.  If dough seems very sticky, add up to an additional 1/4 cup of flour.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Use a tablespoon scoop to drop level tablespoons of the dough onto ungreased cookies sheets.

Bake for 11 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to brown. Cool the cookies for a few minutes on the sheet, and then transfer to racks to finish cooling.

Source: Adapted from a recipe by Let’s Dish

2012 Holiday Party Mix: Nutlacker Sweets

Cook’s notes: A terrible pun, yes indeed. This year’s “White Christmas” mix has no nuts but plenty of flavor. This is easy to make, and the recipe makes enough for you to give a generous amount to several people.

No nuts, but lots of crunch

No nuts, but lots of crunch

2 bags (12-oz each) white chocolate chips
12 oz bag dried cranberries
14 oz bag dark M&Ms
4 cups multi-grain Cheerios
3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups small waffle pretzels

In a microwave-safe large bowl, heat chips on medium power for 1 minute. Stir. Add 1 tsp olive oil into the bowl and stir again. Heat the chocolate for another 30 seconds on medium; stir well until chips are completely melted and smooth. If required, continue to heat the chocolate on medium at 30-second intervals, stirring well each time.

Add mix-in ingredients to the melted chocolate. Stir to mix well with a rubber spatula, being sure to completely coat all ingredients. Spread mixture onto parchment paper to cool, separating the mixture into individual pieces or bite-size clusters (the easiest way to do this is by hand, wearing food-safe disposable gloves). When chocolate is set, store mix in an airtight container.