Pesto Carrots and Chickpeas with Rice
Pesto Carrots and Chickpeas with Rice
Pesto Carrots and Chickpeas with Rice
Pesto Carrots and Chickpeas with Rice
Pesto Carrots and Chickpeas with Rice
Pesto Carrots and Chickpeas with Rice

As schools start back, packing lunches again becomes part of the daily routine for many while for me, I’m working out of the home which means planning ahead for my mid-day meal. As I mentioned, I snapped up a desk at a co-working space to get away from the house during the day (because I found out, I’m not a homebody- I love people.) And so, for the first time in over a year, I’ve started packing my lunches. When I was teaching, the town the school was in didn’t hardly have any good food to grab and since I lived 30 miles away, I got really good at packing lunches I loved. The secret? Variation! So today I thought I’d share a few ideas to get you started (or just some new lunch inspiration!) Have any favorites in your family? I’d love to hear!

My top six, go-to meal types:

With fall and winter approaching, my lunches every other day pretty much consist of soup. Soups and stews make for great lunches because of the ability to make large batches all at once, freeze leftovers for use throughout a month, and some soups/stews you can make in a crockpot for the ultimate low-hassle meal. A few of my favorites are Curried Pumpkin, Roasted Garlic and Tomato, Sweet Potato Sriracha, and Sweet Corn + Harissa.

This is my generic term for anything that isn’t a salad. This pesto carrot dish? I consider it a bowl meal. Any one-dish meal that can easily be packed up in a to-go container makes for a great lunch. I’l often toss leftover grains with veggies, maybe some nuts and cheese, and finish with my favorite sauce, like this pesto. Other lunch bowl ideas: Roasted Veg and Chickpea Bowl, Barley/Paprika Potato Bowl, and Zucchini Soba Noodle Bowl.

I feel like this one is fairly easy to guess. We always have some sort of green on hand and a salad is never far out of reach. The hardest part of making a salad is trying to decide what flavor combinations I want and what kind of homemade dressing I’d like to shake up. However, I love Avocado Chickpea Salad, Buffalo Crumble Salad, and Sesame Almond Spinach Salad.

Another ‘easy to guess’ category but I’m certainly¬†not talking about a meat/cheese sandwich. My favorite is a sandwich that is loaded with vegetables, sprouts, and slathered with a hefty bit of garlic hummus. I’ve also been known to stuff pita bread (so good!) Be sure to try Chickpea Salad Sandwich, Tomato Olive Sandwich, and Buffalo Lentil Meatball Sandwich.

Spring Rolls
If ever I’m feeling bogged down and need some pep in my step, I pack spring rolls loaded with brown rice noodles, vegetables, fresh herbs, and whatever else I might be able to stuff into the spring roll. Just don’t forget to wrap the finished spring roll in a damp paper towel and store it in an airtight container to make sure the rice papers do not dry out! My favorites: Carrot and Cabbage Spring Roll, Soy Glazed Carrot Spring Rolls, and Chard/Peanut Sauce Spring Rolls.

Everything else is lunch specific but my favorite way to handle lunch? Make extra dinner! I’ll take leftovers and package them in individual containers for grab-and-go lunches that often just need heating up the next day. The best part? Some of my favorite recipes have better flavor the next day, making lunch super exciting. If you’re into the leftovers like I am, I recommend Red Lentils + Spinach in Masala Sauce, Lasagna, and Enchiladas.

Now on to this salad. The carrots and the grains could really be replaced with anything you might have on hand. A tomato, millet, and chickpea pesto bowl is amazing or roasted sweet potato, quinoa, and pesto. I like to keep the ingredients to a minimum and use what I have on hand. With summer ending, I have an endless amount of basil which means, a ton of pesto! I’ll keep a jar in the refrigerator during the week to use pesto on eggs, slather it on pizza, or toss it in salads/bowls such as this one. (I also recommend playing around with different olive oils in the pesto, my favorite is this Rich & Robust one from California Olive Ranch!)

Pesto Carrots and Chickpeas with Rice (+ my healthy lunches!)
Serves: 2-3
  • 1 recipe for pesto (see note)
  • 3-4 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed if using canned
  1. Make pesto according to directions.
  2. In a bowl, combine carrots, cooked brown rice (or other grain), and chickpeas. Stir until well combined. Divide into 2-3 containers and store in the refrigerator to grab throughout the week.
+ If raw carrots aren't a favorite of yours, try steaming or blanching the carrots for a few minutes, just to make them tender but not mushy.

+ I'll often just leave the parmesan out of the pesto to leave this vegan. I've also been know to use sunflower seeds in place of pine nuts (I'm pretty free with my pesto).

{Disclosure: This recipe/post was developed for California Olive Ranch for their Healthy Lunch promotion. Be sure to check out their selection of olive oils and if you want more ideas for healthy lunches, hop over to their lunch pinterest board!)