Bag Lunch Bonanza

I remember the first few years of my newspaper career. A bunch of us used to go out to lunch just about every day. Some weeks, we’d hit four or five different places. Other weeks, we might go to the same place every day.

But these days, people are pinching pennies. Gone are those daily noon lunches at your favorite cafe or restaurant.

Some people still go out to eat lunch every day, but generally, it’s only once or twice a week at the most. In fact, many people are bringing their own lunches to work. A recent study by the NPD Group consumer market research firm says that American adults carried 8.5 billion lunches from home in 2007, the most recent figure available.

I would carry a lunch to work, too, but because of the dogs we have at home that need to be fed and let out of the house, that’s not possible. And that’s OK, since I usually make soup every weekend, and there is plenty left for a bowl each workday.

But I if was taking a bag lunch to work, I know one thing that would be included beside a couple of pieces of fruit — a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That’s because we have a bunch of tasty homemade jellies and jams plus homemade peanut butter. (Each week or so I freshly grind some peanuts for peanut butter.)

And, of course, there would have to be a cookie.

I’ve come across an interesting cookie recipe recently — a peanut butter one at that — that would be welcome in any bag lunch. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Also, find the recipe for my favorite soup.

Lunch Box Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter
¼ cup reduced-fat creamy peanut butter
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
16 minichocolate kisses
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking sheet with nonstick spray.
Combine flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In mixer bowl, blend together butter and peanut butter. Add brown sugar, egg and vanilla; beating until fluffy. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until blended.
Drop 12 generous teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet, forming 12 cookies. Lightly pat down to flatten, and place one mini kiss in the center of each cookie.
Bake until browned on the bottom, 12 to 14 minutes.
Transfer cookies to wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough. Allow cookies to cool completely (at least 1 to 2 hours) before serving.
Store in an airtight container.
Yield: 16 cookies.
Approximate nutritional analysis per cookie: 105 calories (34 percent from fat), 4 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 18 milligrams cholesterol, 15 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 178 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.

Czechoslovakian Cabbage Soup

6 cups coarsely chopped green cabbage
1 1-pound can or jar sauerkraut
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, pared and coarsely chopped
2 1-pound cans whole tomatoes
2-pound chuck or buffalo roast or 2 pound beef short ribs or stew meat
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ to ¾ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 bay leaves
8 cups water
Cook meat in water in soup pot until medium. Remove and cool. Put the rest of ingredients in water and bring to boil. Chop the meat into bite-size pieces and add to soup. Cook for 2 hours and serve.
Note: If you don’t use meat, substitute 4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth for 4 cups of the water.