Add some crunch to your lunch

Shake up your soups and salads with great toppings!

It’s early in the New Year and I’m hearing two messages loud and clear this week. Lots of folks have been asking for ideas to eat healthier meals after the joyful excess of the holidays. The second most common query is about making packed lunches more interesting. I’d like to consider both those questions as one, and my answer is simple: eat more soups and salads. Homemade soup is magical in that it can be made in huge batches and frozen in small quantities so it can be easily reheated for oodles of thermos-filled lunchboxes. Salads are another highly portable option. While there are probably a zillion or so ways to make soup and salad, the quickest way to make lunchtime more interesting – for kids and adults alike – is to add a crunchy topping. Popcorn is a favourite of mine; so are the crispy chow mein noodles that were a staple of North American take-out Chinese food a few decades ago. Below are three more options for tasty toppings that do double-duty as great packable snacks. Feel free to use the search function on my site to find loads of great soup and salad recipes if you’re in need of further inspiration!

Popped wild rice

  • Pop the wild rice by putting 1/2 teaspoon (1.25 mL) of canola or vegetable oil in the bottom of a medium saucepan.
  • Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and swirl it a few times as the oil heats up, to evenly coat the bottom.
  • Add 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of wild rice.
  • Reduce heat to medium; swirl or shake gently to coat the rice with oil. You will hear the rice crackling and popping within a few seconds.
  • Keep shaking and remove the pot from the heat as soon as the popping slows down (about one minute). Immediately transfer the popped rice to a small bowl and sprinkle with a bit of salt.
  • Let cool and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Crunchy tortilla strips

  • Preheat oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • With scissors, a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, slice four small corn tortillas into 1/2 inch x 1 inch (1.25 cm x 2.5 cm) strips.
  • Place in a bowl and drizzle 2 teaspoons canola oil over top. Toss to coat evenly.
  • Combine and sprinkle over top 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 1/8 teaspoon each garlic powder, onion, powder, salt and pepper and a dash of cayenne.
  • Transfer to prepared baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes. Remove from oven, use a spatula to toss the strips and bake for 7 – 10 minutes more, until crisp.
  • Let cool and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Crispy chili-lime roasted chickpeas

  • If using air fryer, preheat air fryer to 400F. If using oven, preheat to 400F and place a rack in the middle.
  • Spread 1 can (19 oz / 540 mL) of rinsed and drained chickpeas out on paper towel to dry, removing any loose skins. Put chickpeas in a broad, shallow bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss gently to coat evenly.
  • Put chickpeas in basket of air fryer or, if cooking in oven, spread chickpeas out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Do not clean the bowl you had the chickpeas and oil in as you’ll be using it again.
  • Roast the chickpeas in the air fryer for 25 – 35 minutes, shaking basket every 5 minutes. In oven, roast for 40 – 45 minutes, jiggling the baking sheet occasionally.
  • The chickpeas will turn a dark golden brown and get crunchy. If you take them out of the oven or air fryer too soon and discover they are not completely crunchy, put back in for a few minutes more.
  • While chickpeas are roasting, whisk together 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 teaspoon chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon each paprika and cumin in the same bowl you used previously.
  • Remove roasted chickpeas from air fryer or oven and add to seasonings in bowl then very quickly toss to coat. Sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon sea salt and toss again.
  • Return to air fryer or oven for 5 minutes more to dry out the lime and spice coating.
  • Transfer to a clean, broad bowl to cool completely and serve at room temperature.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Author: Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. If you enjoy this space be sure to check out my Rogers TV Ottawa cooking show, Paula Roy's Favourite Foods, available on local cable, streaming and a dedicated playlist on Rogers TV's YouTube channel.

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