September 23, 2013 at 1:00 am

Maureen Tisdale

Let's Talk Food: 'Microwave stir-fry' and other make-at-work lunches

This 'microwave stir-fry' is a clever combination of batch cooking in advance and cooking on the spot, with the added advantage of freezing individual meals. (John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)

Not to be creepy, but I tend to notice other people’s food without even trying. Maybe my mind has an autopilot setting to look for ideas in what other people eat.

Sometimes, that pays off. My co-worker Eric has such colorful, healthy-looking lunch dishes — I’ve admired his pepper-filled salads many a time when I’ve run into him in that aforementioned busy newsroom kitchen or when stopping by his desk to discuss this headline or that editing decision — that I got to asking him about them one day, and he told me about his “microwave stir-fry.”

I thought it was a clever combination of the helpful batch-cooking in advance I’ve written about before and cooking on the spot, with the bonus of freezing individual meals. So I got the details out of him.

Eric's "Microwave Stir-fry"

Here’s how he does it, in his own words:

First, I cut three chicken breasts into cubes and saute them with a bit of salt and pepper until just barely cooked through (don’t want them to dry out).

While those are cooking, I divide two 12-ounce bags of frozen stir-fry vegetables evenly amongst three microwave-safe containers — the square, shallow ones work well. I use 8- to 9-ounce chicken breasts, but if you use smaller ones, you can cram more veggies in there.

Then I divide the chicken evenly amongst the containers, cover and pop them in the freezer.

When I want to eat one, I try to remember to thaw it first. You can do it frozen, but it takes a lot longer. If you thaw first, the vegetables settle, and you can squeeze even more in the container before microwaving.

I nuke it until it’s hot and drain the excess water.

I top it with my favorite stir-fry sauce to taste. For me, it’s the Kalbi Bulgogi Korean BBQ Sauce from Jay One (Kroger has it; not sure about other locations). But any thick stir-fry sauce will do. It will thin out from the heat, which makes draining first extra important, but it’s still tasty.

And that’s Eric’s Microwave Stir-Fry. :-)

The closest I’ve come myself to this type of preparation is adding seasoned beef and a packet of guacamole (purchased as, or personally vaccuum-sealed into, individual servings) to already-made taco salads, but I know Eric isn’t alone. Some people bring groceries for putting lunch together here, and I’ve even run into a person or two fashioning a lunch on the spot from their goodies.

It’s a darn smart idea to play with, and well worth taking the risk of getting nosy about a coworker’s food.

Do you have any make- or finish-at-work dishes? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below. You need a Facebook account to add comments, but they’re free and easy to sign up for. Maureen Tisdale, Detroit News Food Editor, will be keeping an eye out the next few days to respond to any great comments or questions you post. You can also follow her on Twitter @reentiz. Join the discussion!