10 Pounds Later

Anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE Panera. In high school I worked here for about 6 months and to this day, it was probably my favorite job. Unfortunately, when I moved to New York, the closest Panera was over 6 miles away, outside of the city. As a result, whenever I would leave the city of go home for a weekend, a trip to Panera was always on my list of things to do.

So when it was announced that Panera was coming to Manhattan – I freaked. The first store opened earlier this year at on 7th ave between 28th  and 29th. This is about 15 blocks north from my office and 3 avenues west (i.e not very close) but that didn’t stop me. On opening day, I trekked over to the store for lunch. I was so excited I could hardly contain it – well, the fact is, I didn’t. After ordering a bowl of broccoli cheddar soup with a massive grin on my face, I announced to the cashier that “I used to be you! I worked at a Panera once. It was awesome.” I thought she would join in on my elated state however, she responded by saying “So does that mean, one day, I will get to be you?” Clearly she didn’t understand that I thought, by working at Panera, she was the lucky one.

While the experience of eating Panera that day was fantastic, I had to come to terms that it wasn’t going to become a daily experience. The store was just too far away.

But then, I saw they were opening another Panera in Union Square – a 2 minute walk from my work. Nearly every day for months, I would walk by the site and peer in the windows to see how far along the construction was coming. Sadly, with union protests the work was slowed. And I was denied my “fresh” bread, soups and sandwiches.

Last week, after returning to the office from a nice lunch out with some co-workers, another one of my colleagues asked me if I had been to Panera yet? I freaked out – not realizing that it was opened. I was so upset that I had already had lunch that day – for a second I thought about making myself throw up just so I could go and eat another lunch but then decided that wasn’t a good idea, not to mention gross.

The next morning, I happily left my apartment without breakfast so I could stop at Panera for a cinnamon crunch bagel and a caramel latte. I know, not the healthiest of choices, but boy did it make me happy. I practically skipped into work.

Needless to say, it was delicious and I can’t wait to go back. So in honor of the 10 pounds that I will inevitably gain from all of the food I will eat from Panera, I am running my very first Giveaway on my blog. Leave a comment with your favorite menu item at Panera and you will be entered to win a 15 dollar gift card to your local Panera! The winner will be announced on Monday.

Happy eating!

Brown Bag Lunch

From 1st grade through 8th grade I brought a brown bag lunch nearly every day. The only time I would even think about getting hot lunch was when they served SpaghettiOs and for about the first week that they added a salad bar in my middle school (the novelty of eating lettuce wore off pretty quickly there). I used a lunch box for the first few weeks of school in 1st grade but after a couple of trips to the “lost and found” my mother quickly switched to brown bags. I didn’t mind this too much because my need to be responsible went way down and my lunch box had already gotten quite smelly. However, there were two points of contention

1. My mom was always trying to get me to re-use the brown bags (always the environmentalist) which re-introduce the need to be responsible
2. Sometimes we would run out of the small bags and my mom would make me carry one of the larger ones that you used to get at the grocery store before reusable bags were trendy. I don’t think I need to explain how this made me an easy target. A giant grocery bag? Really?

But for the most part, bringing a lunch to school was pretty painless. I was perfectly content to eat the same thing everyday:

– Peanut butter and jelly on white bread
– Pretzel rods, baby carrots of if I was lucky, chips
– Some sort of fruit
– A dessert (usually homemade)

All I needed was 10 cents for my milk and I was good to go.

As an adult, I am not quite as good at making my lunch. Not only is this a detriment to my wallet, but to my waist line as well. Living and working in New York City, it isn’t a big deal to drop more than $10 on lunch. And it is never as healthy as brown bagging it, and let’s be honest, it isn’t as good. In an effort to save money, eat healthier and feel better about myself, I have been trying to bring a lunch to work at least 3 times a week. While I have done away with the brown bag – it is great to get back to this tradition from my youth.

Today’s lunch featured: Tuscan Tuna and Beans from Not Your Mother’s Weeknight Cooking (a Christmas present from my MIL – mother-in-law for those of you not up on post wedding acronyms)

Serves 4.

Cooking Method: None
Prep Time: 15 minutes

Three 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Three 6-ounce cans tuna packed in olive oil, drained well and broken into rough chunks
2/3 cup finely chopped red onion
3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, crushed
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup olive oil (I accidentally forgot this and it tasted fine!)

Combine the beans, tuna, onion, and parsley in a serving bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, and salt; drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly. Pour the dressing over the beans and tuna; toss to combine.

I decided to make tuna melts using sandwich thins and sliced monterey jack cheese. I put it the toaster oven for approximately 8 minutes and was good to go. This is definitely not necessary but does increase the likelihood of point #3 below.

Today’s lunch was a good one for so many reasons:

1. It was yummy
2. It was relatively healthy
3. It made everyone else in the office jealous
4. I was able to use my awesome 3 compartment Tupperware!


Be on the lookout for more Brown Bag Lunch ideas! And feel free to leave a comment that includes your favorite workday lunch.

A Lesson in Parenting

From the age of six through about 12, my mom would make my lunch every day. It usually consisted of the same four elements: sandwich, vegetable (usually carrots or celery sticks), a snack, such as pretzels or if I was lucky chips, and a dessert – typically a homemade cookie. It was a pretty good life, I must admit.

Then around 8th grade, my mom decided that I should start being responsible for my own lunch. At first, I didn’t like this new development. Making my lunch added at least five minutes to my morning routine and I really wasn’t psyched about that. That is, until the morning that I realized that packing my own lunch also meant deciding what went in it…

Instead of a sandwich, carrots, pretzels and a cookie, I started packing a sandwich, pretzels and two cookies. And then, three cookies! I quickly realized that having control over my lunch was actually a good thing; however, I was limited by the selection of foods that we had available in our home, which were typically very healthy. I decided to take things to the next level and accompanied my mom on her weekly grocery shopping trips. I began to add things to the cart when she wasn’t looking. At first, I started small – a container of Goldfish, Poptarts WITH frosting, and mini Ritz crackers with “cheese” in the middle. After a few shopping trips and no comments from my mom about the extra snacks, I became more bold, adding things like Dunkeroos, Double Stuffed Oreos and Gushers. My lunch went from healthy and well-balanced to, well, crap. The other kids at school were very jealous that my mom trusted me to be responsible and pack my own lunch. I tried to tell them that they just needed to show a little maturity, but not to worry because not everyone was as “advanced” as I was and it would come with time.

Yesterday at work, as I sat at my desk eating chips and contemplated going out to get a slice of pizza for lunch, I watched my co-worked carry by her lunch.


It looks like her mom is still packing her lunches! Thank you mom for shirking your parenting duties and forcing me into a life of unhealthy eating.