Make-Ahead Lunch Week 2: Peruvian Vegetable Soup

OK, so Week 1 went well.  I had one lunch out, so it was 2 lunches of the burritos and 2 lunches of the Italian Wedding Soup, as previewed here.  The Italian Wedding Soup, honestly, was not that great to begin with, and holding it for a few days didn’t improve the gumminess of the pasta.  Not sure what the answer is, but it’s worth trying freezing it.

The burritos were good, though, although a little bland.


I jazzed them up with some Sriracha from the portable supply Santa gave me for Xmas.

So there are 5 burritos — frozen — left over from last week, and the plan is to use 2-3 of them this week.

The other lunch comes from Peruvian Vegetable Soup, which I found under the catchy title “How to Make Soup That Actually Fills You Up” on a site called FullPlate which touts a “majority fiber-rich” approach to dieting where 50-75% of your meal or snack should be a “fiber-rich” food (not to be confused with “fiber”; “fiber-rich” foods wants you to eat all kinds of vegetables and fruits as well as beans and such-like in order to eat things with a lower calorie density).

FullPlate is my latest diet gimmick.  Have I explained about me and diets?  What I’ve found about myself is that I get great results from a diet for the first few months (call it 2-4), and then my zeal flags.  Answer?  Refresh the diet gimmick every 3-5 months.  I don’t much care what the diet is as long as I have zeal for it, and by renewing the gimmick I can recharge my zeal.

So anyhow, I ran across the FullPlate diet reading and experimenting with Jane McGonigal’s SuperBetter book and self-improvement scheme.  I don’t know how FullPlate and she got together, but they are one of the “Quests” in the system, and they seemed simple (no measuring and looking up calorie counts) as well as the system seemed to work.

In any case, Peruvian Vegetable Soup is essentially a boatload of fiber-rich vegetables, beans, and qunoa united by a tomato-ey and cumin-ey broth.  The soup is designed (on purpose, says creator Amy Hanus) to be eaten in 3-cup portions, so it’s a huge slug of vegetables.  Reminds of me of a brief flirtation years ago with the Ornish 10% fat diet, where Debbie and I would gorge ourselves on vegetable stews and medleys of one sort or another.  It was OK.

So I ended up with four portions for lunches and a dinner last night for Debbie and me.

On a scale of Italian Wedding Soup to Burritos it’s probably 2/3 of the way to Burritos, so it’ll probably make its way into the lineup.


Still on the lookout for fiber-rich lunches that I can make ahead and freeze.  I’ll publicize my efforts with anything you send me, along with a shout out to your blog or other social media.  Let me know.

Make-Ahead Lunches

As those of you who know me a bit know, I take New Year’s resolutions pretty seriously, and try to lay out ambitious, but attainable, goals, objectives, values, principles, and such-like every New Year.

(Nothing sacred about New Years, by the way.  But nothing wrong with it either, and it does have the virtue, like summer vacation, that I have a bit of down time to step back and thing about the Bigger Picture.)

So one resolution (or goal, or habit, I’m not entirely clear on the distinctions) for 2016 is: Make-ahead lunches.

There’s a couple of converging streams of better-ness here.

  1. Save Money.  I’ve been scheming to get down the price of my lunches over the last couple of years, and have gotten them down to $5-6 a lunch going to our local Asian steam-table restaurant.  Not bad, and a lot better than the $12-15 I started with.  But getting under $5 seemed to involve either excessive deprivation or making lunches at home.
  2. Nutritious meals.  Making my own lunches seemed to be the ideal way to get into them exactly what I wanted (although, as we shall see, the making-ahead aspect introduces some constraints.)
  3. Fascination with bulk methods in food prep.  Something about making the lunches ahead — in bulk — captured my imagination.  As you may or may not know, there’s a OAMM (Once-a-month meals) meme out there on the Net with something of an infrastructure, thought leaders, etc.    Check out the (commercial) site or just Google it.
  4. “Productivity”.  I’m not 100% sure that make-ahead meals are more productive, but I’m prepared to believe it, and prepared to experiment with it.

So, if you Google “make-ahead lunches” you will get a hodge-podge of once-a-month, once-a-week, and “night-before” lunch recipes and schemes.  I did some reading and digging around and Web clipping over the holidays, and ended up learning two things about myself:

  • I’m not ready for once-a-month prep — lunch or all meals — at this time (and maybe never).  Too much of a hump for me, plus I’m not sure I believe the hype about how it saves you time.  Plus I had a hard time seeing how you could get the variety you wanted for a whole month in advance.  No flexibility in it.  You’re stuck with the work of the You who made those meals at the beginning of the month.
  • I want minimum same-day prep.  My morning routine has a lot of moving parts — writing, meditating, helping the dog, etc. — without adding more stuff to it.  My perfect same-day lunch routine would consist of fetching a container out of the fridge or freezer and adding it to the heap of gear I take with me out to the car.

So, that means once-a-week prep of 1-3 different lunch meals that I can freeze or refrigerate and will last the week in that form.

As far as I can make out, that kind of puts the kabosh on make-ahead salads, because they either they don’t last out the week (soggy, wilted, etc.) or they require same-day prep (add the dressing, croutons, whatever).  I’m still open to salads, but for now I’m focusing on soups, wraps, and possibly sandwiches.

For Week 1 (this week), I made a batch of burritos using this approach from and shredded chicken made this way from Picky Palate.  I wrapped each one in aluminum foil and froze them.  I also made a couple of servings of Italian Wedding soup from a big batch my wife had made up on Sunday.

I’m scheming ahead for Week 2, and would welcome any links, tips, pointers, or suggestions.

But What Framework to Use?

My son called last night to find out what toolset I would use to build a website.

I had a hard time answering him, for several reasons.

First of all, I wanted to know what his use case was.  And, as I suspected, the aim of the exercise was to build some kind of web application, not just a content site.

But I hardly know what toolset I want to use myself for building web apps.  I spent a surprising amount of (elapsed) time in 2015 dithering about this topic myself.

My reading and talking with tech friends has led me to focus on JavaScript in general and the JS MVC frameworks in particular.  But I wasn’t sure I wanted to urge that on my son.

He’s just learning how to write code, whereas I wrote code for years.  Why inflict a horrible language like JavaScript on someone who’s just setting out?  It’s like the old advice I got to start with BASIC, which I did and then had to unlearn most of it when I started using Pascal and Lisp.

(I was charmed and blown away to read that Paul Graham and Co. had used Lisp to implement their eCommerce startup ViaWeb, and even more charmed by his argumentation about why it was a sound choice.  Bravo, Paul Graham!)

And the MVC bias for me is probably just that, a bias.  I love elegance as much as the next geek, but, as Albert Einstein said so many years ago, “If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor”.  The MVC frameworks like Angular and Ember lay a big trip on you the coder; I’m happy to accept it, since power comes from observing constraints, but why inflict that on my son?

I ended up saying that I thought the #1 criterion for adopting one of the many frameworks was the level of support he could get for his choice.  Support comes in different flavors of course:

  1. Online support, like documentation, tutorials, discussion groups
  2. Meetups and other real-world interactions
  3. People you know well enough to ask them for help at 1 am

I laid stress on the last one, although I was careful to let him know that I was hardly someone whom he could ping for help, not because I wouldn’t drop everything to help him at 1 am or any other time, but because I’m still a babe-in-the-woods about Angular — the one I think I’m going to work with — at best.  My advice would be possibly one step ahead of what he could do for himself, if that.

He mentioned that his girlfriend had mentioned Django as a possible framework that she had used at some Hackathons.  I’ve read a bit about Django and said I thought it would be great if she knew something about it and could help him figure out problems.  But he said she knew very little.

So I ended up plumping for Angular and disclaiming my advice at the same time.

What advice would you give?