Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Weeknight Meal: Italian Baked Beans over Polenta

Last night we ate Italian Baked Butter Beans over polenta for dinner. Believe it or not, this was a pantry dinner. Frozen butter beans, canned tomatoes, a carrot, an onion, some spices, and stone ground cornmeal.

While polenta isn't usually considered an easy weeknight meal, it doesn't haven to be complicated. You really only need to stir every ten minutes or so. This meal bubbled on the stove and in the oven while I emptied the dishwasher, paid bills, and futzed around on the internet.

The bean recipe is a slight variation on the Italian Baked Lima Beans from Veganomicon. Dewey thought this meal tasted like lasagne. I haven't made many of the bean dishes from Veganomicon yet, and I think it's time to change that.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Weeknight meal: Baked Potato

We've added another meal to our easy meal list. This meal relies a lot more on convenience foods than most of the other meals on our list, but we need more variety on our list if we're going to stick with eating more meals at home.

We've made this a few times now. It's a baked potato, with Upton's Naturals seitan, broccoli, and locally-made Nacho Mom's vegan queso. The Upton's Naturals seitan has been sneaking into a lot of our meals, lately. It freezes well and defrosts fast, and it's great in spaghetti sauce, casseroles, and anywhere else you might use ground meat. In the past, we've made our own cheese sauce, and I think we'll continue to do that in the future since it's cheaper and we can make it exactly how we want it.

To make a quick cheesy sauce for baked potatoes or broccoli: saute a few tablespoons of flour in nonhyrdogenated margarine or neutral oil for about two minutes over medium low heat. Slowly pour in a cup of unsweetened plant milk, stirring with a fork as your pour. Turn the heat to medium-high. As the sauce warms, sprinkle in a few handfuls of your favorite vegan cheese. (I've used both Daiya and Tofutti slices for this.) Stir until the cheese melts into the sauce. Add a pinch or two of paprika, and season with salt to taste.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Brunch: Raised Waffles

Dewey and I eat brunch out every Sunday. Since we're trying to eat in more often, we're going to eat brunch at home once a month.

This Sunday we made raised waffles from Vegan Brunch. These are the best waffles I've ever had. I've been getting more and more confident with yeasty recipes the past two years, and I wish I'd tried this one before. It doesn't have any of the fussiness of a lot of yeasted recipes: it only needs to rise for an hour, and you don't need to knead it at all.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Home Cooking

Kris over at Two Vegan Boys has challenged everyone to eat more at home and less at restaurants. Really she challenged everyone to eat entirely at home for a year, but Dewey and I aren't up for that challenge yet. She'll be blogging what she eats for dinner every night here.

We have noticed over the past few months a rapidly rising food budget. Or maybe just a lack of a food budget. Either way, I'm committing to cooking more of our meals at home, and doing so with my eye on the food budget.

As part of this, I'm going to be posting more of our ordinary home dinners. They aren't always exciting, they won't always come with recipes, and (this one kills me) the photos won't always be pretty. But they'll show what one vegan and one along-for-the-ride omnivore eat for dinner. I'm also committing to trying more recipes from the cookbooks I've been buying faster than I can use them.

Above is last night's dinner. A thrown-together enchilada soup made from all the leftovers in the house: enchilada sauce, corn, carrot sticks, black beans, potatoes (leftover from making latkes), a minced chipotle chili, tofutti sour cream, and some seasonings. The only thing we bought to make this was a can of beans.

The biscuits are cornmeal biscuits from Vegan Brunch, and they're amazing. Really easy to make and the perfect pair for some Tex-Mex-inspired soup. I mixed the dough and put half of them in the oven, and while they baked I made the soup. I think the entire meal took about 35 minutes to make, including clean up. Half the rolls went in to the freezer for future lunches and dinners.

If you've hesitated about buying Vegan Brunch because you rarely eat brunch, don't let that stop you! I've made lots of great recipes from this cookbook, and rarely before 6PM. I think with the exception of cinnamon rolls, most of the recipes in the book make great dinners. And I promise not to judge you if you eat cinnamon rolls for dinner occasionally.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Help! There's Nothing to Pack for Lunch

Sometimes, planning ahead doesn't happen. [See the entire last week.] But if you have a moderately well-stocked pantry, you can probably pull something out for lunch. Especially if you consider some often-overlooked foods for lunch. Most of these foods won't make anyone's top-ten list, but they're better than skipping lunch or hitting the vending machine.

Many frozen fruits and vegetables are great for packed lunches. They often don't even need to be heated up. Just toss them in a container and they'll have defrosted by lunch. For fruits, mango and berries do especially well. For vegetables, peas, corn, edamame, and green beans are my favorites. If you have time and motivation, make a compound butter or vinaigrette to go with the vegetables or whip up a smoothie.

Have a can of beans? Blend it together with some oil and whatever herbs you have handy. Even better with some garlic or green onions. Or skip the blender and marinate the beans in your favorite salad dressing. Canned beans mashed with salad dressing makes a great sandwich spread.

Have a can of refried beans? Mix it with canned tomatoes, rotel, or salsa for a great bean dip or puree. For bonus points, add cumin and a bit of chili powder.

Have dry oatmeal? Throw it in a tupperware with plant milk or water and whatever you can scrounge up (consider frozen fruit, jam, dried fruit, nut butter, flax, or nuts). Not into sweet? Make savory oats instead (I like soy sauce, ginger, green onions, and hot sauce in my oatmeal). If you have access to a microwave at work, wait until lunch to cook. Best to use a large container for this and watch closely, as oatmeal can expand and overflow the container as it cooks.

Consider often-overlooked ingredients to round out your meal. Sun-dried tomatoes, pickles, olives, crystalized ginger, nori, and miso are usually in the back of my cabinets or fridge.

This last suggestion is a favorite of mine: soup in a bag. [Note: if Sandra Lee makes you pull out your hair, now is probably a good time to go visit someone else's blog.]

Soup in a Bag
ziplock bag*
frozen vegetables (peas, corn, or vegetable mix)
couscous, broken up angel hair pasta, or fideo noodles (uncooked)**
garlic powder
ginger powder
vegetarian bouillon powder/cube

Add a handful of vegetables to the bag. Add 1 tablespoon couscous or a handful of noodles. Shake a bit of garlic and ginger powder into the bag as well and finish it off with bouillon powder or a bouillon cube.

At lunch time, heat water. Dump the contents of the bag into a mug or bowl. Pour the hot (boiling is best, but not necessary) water over the soup ingredients. Wait 5 minutes for the pasta to absorb water. Stir and enjoy.

*There's no reason not to put the ingredients straight into a microwave-safe tupperware, but I find that mornings where there's no lunch food in the house are also mornings where there aren't any clean tupperware containers.
**You want noodles that will cook in 3-5 minutes. Anything longer (like regular spaghetti), and they won't soften with just boiling water.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!


Sorry for the absence, folks. I had a wee cold, and I was too busy sneezing, hacking, and whining to post pictures of the questionably-nutritious, questionably-food stuff that I was eating.

But I did manage to make the lovely gem above for Thanksgiving. And a pumpkin pie. And gravy (no recipe).

I'm pretty sure this is a keeper for Thanksgivings to come. It's pretty, easy to make, tastes great, reheats well, and makes a wonderful leftover sandwich. A hit on many levels.

The recipe is from 500 Vegan Recipes. I've been of two minds about this cookbook. I've tried some lovely recipes from it, but I've also had a few stinkers. But the recipe for Seitan en Croute has firmly pushed me towards "recommend".

My other favorites from 500 Vegan Recipes have been the butterbean dip (start with half the required scallions and taste before adding the rest), peanut butter muffins, and cheater mac and cheese. The baking recipes make use of a lot of alternative flours, which I like. For instance, the peanut butter muffins are made partially with pulverized dry oatmeal. And there are lots of recipes for grains that I've been trying to get to know, like bulgur.

Unfortunately, a few of the ingredient measurements are off, like the amount of chia seed in the Brazil nut bleu cheese. And a few of the recipes just didn't work for me. But overall, I recommend this book, especially if you are interested in baking or exploring new-to-you ingredients.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Announcement: Tiffin winner

According to the random number generator, the winner of the tiffin is Seglare, who is MOFOing from Copenhagen! Seglare, email me your address at scratchsniff1 (at)

Recipe Thursday: Tot Salad

I used to think I didn't like salad. In the U.S., we mostly eat Sad Salads™. You know, a few much-too-large pieces of iceberg lettuce, a tomato slice, and a cucumber slice. If you're lucky, there might be a few carrot shavings. These salads are solely vehicles for loads and loads of dressing. Why else would you eat them?

But salad doesn't have to be like that. Salad can be flavorful. It can be crunchy, tangy, salty, sweet. Salad can be the best part of the meal.

Here is a salad worth eating.

Tot salad
several cups of baby lettuce leaves
1 cup green beans (fresh or frozen)
1 cup tater tots
1/2 cup grape tomatoes
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon oil
salt and pepper

Cook the tater tots according to the directions on the package. If using fresh green beans, trim them and cook them in boiling water for 4 minutes, or until bright green. Shock them in ice water to stop the cooking. Alternatively, remove frozen green beans from the freezer several hours in advance to thaw.

Combine the agave nectar, mustard, and oil. Stir vigorously to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble the salad. This makes one large meal salad or two side salads.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Boxed Soups

Leftovers and home-cooked foods are great, but sometimes you need to rely on Mama Grocery Store to provide something to round out your lunch.

I think boxed soups are great to keep around for lunches. Boxed soups, for whatever reason, tend to taste better than canned ones. And they don't require a can opener, which is a bonus for work or school meals. I often rely on them to boost the vegetable count in my lunches between grocery trips.

Due to BPA in can linings, there's been a recent explosion in boxed soups. And a surprising number of the new soups are vegan. I've been keeping a score sheet for every boxed soup I try. Here are my favorites.

Pacific Natural Foods Cashew Carrot Ginger My soup rating system is 1-4 soup spoons. When I tried this soup for the first time, it made me wish that it went to 5, at least. It's creamy, flavorful, and doesn't need any doctoring. This is the soup I'd serve to anyone who thought vegans eat twigs and berries.

Dr. McDougall Roasted Red Pepper Tomato This is my other hands-down favorite. This brand is marketed as healthy convenience food. (You can read about Dr. McDougall's diet here.) They're a little harder to find than the Pacific Natural brand. Locally, I buy them at Whole Foods or Fiesta supermarkets. You can also get them in bulk from Amazon. The Roasted Red Pepper Tomato soup is the perfect balance of tomato-y acid and red pepper sweetness, and there are nice chunks of tomatoes, too.

Honorable mentions: Imagine Foods Potato Leek, Imagine Foods Corn and Lemongrass, and Pacific Natural Foods Thai Sweet Potato.

The Fig and Colavita soups also pictured above are so new, I haven't had a chance to try them.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Diabetes Blog Day: 6 Things

It's Diabetes Blog Day, one of many events during World Diabetes Month. Today's topic, blogged by diabetes bloggers across the Internet is 6 Things You Want People to Know About Diabetes

1. Being perfect isn't possible. But it's what we often expect of ourselves when we have diabetes. And despite knowing all of that, there's a lot of guilt that comes with each little failure.

2. Fear is a really poor motivator. Don't tell me about your grandmother who lost her leg/eyesight/kidney function thinking that it will convince me to take better care of myself. First of all, I take damn good care of myself as is. Second of all, while the DCCT tells us that good glucose control can reduce some complications by 42% to 76%, NOTHING reduces complications by 100%. I could do everything right and still end up with complications. So keep your fear to yourself.

3. Speaking of good control, in his book Think Like a Pancreas, diabetes expert Gary Scheiner defines very good control as having blood glucose levels in range 70% of the time. Fair control is having the numbers in range 50-70% of the time. Imagine that you made soup using the same ingredients every day, but it only tasted OK 70% of the time. And, your 70% success rated you a master chef.

4. No one knows what causes type 1 diabetes. We know that islet cells in the pancreas are destroyed by the body's immune system. But the why and how are still under investigation. Wheat, viruses, low vitamin D, cow's milk, lack of breast feeding, and aliens are all possibilities, but scientists are far from certain. Chances are, it's more complex than we think.

5. When you think I'm sick, I'm not. When you see me testing my blood glucose or taking insulin, everything is OK. That's what I do to be healthy. Just like you brush your teeth or eat food.

6. And when you don't think I'm sick, I am. Contradictory, I know. Just because I look OK at any given time, it doesn't mean I'm feeling OK. The signs of low/high blood glucose are often easy to miss from the outside.

Packing Drinks for Lunch

This is my favorite drink to pack in my lunches. It's peanut- and walnut-flavored soy milk. And it makes my lunch feel luxurious. I buy this from New Oriental Market, but most Asian markets will have a few kinds of flavored soy milks. I like this one because it's not too packed with sugar and it tastes like nuts!

Water is of course healthy, affordable, and easy to find. But there's no reason to limit yourself to just water with your lunch. Packing a more interesting drink can make your lunch feel special, which means you are more likely to actually eat it.

Other beverage options:
tea (hot or iced)
coffee (hot or iced)
plant milks
hot cocoa
fruit juice
apple cider
tonic with a squeeze of lemon or lime
coconut keffir
tomato juice
sparkling water
cafe au lait

I don't own a thermos, so I pack homemade drinks in a clean mason jar and reheat or refrigerate at work.

Hot Cocoa in a Jar
1-2 tablespoons cocoa powder
sweetener to taste
a pinch of salt
1 cup plant milk
flavoring (optional)

Pour a few tablespoons of milk in your jar. If you're using a crystalized sweetener like white sugar, microwave the jar for about 40 seconds. If you're using a liquid sweetener or sugar-free sweetener, you don't need to heat the milk. Add the cocoa powder, sweetener, and salt, and stir until everything is combined. It can take a lot of stirring to incorporate all the cocoa powder.

Add the rest of the milk and the flavoring if you're using it. Flavoring can either be an extract such as vanilla or mint extract (a few drops) or a syrup (1 to 2 tablespoons). If you're using a syrup, you'll want to reduce or eliminate other sweeteners. Cinnamon or cayenne pepper are great additions, as well. Stir everything together.

When you're ready to drink, shake with the lid on, and then microwave uncovered for 1-2 minutes.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Microwaves. Not everyone has access to one at lunch, and some people just don't like them.*

Lots of foods taste great at room temperature. Many sandwiches, fruit, raw vegetables, crackers, salads, and nuts are all traditionally served room temperature. Other foods are often served cold, like summer soups, yogurt, smoothies, dips, and pasta and grain salads. And finally, there are foods that are usually served hot that just happen to taste pretty good at room temperature or cold, particularly pizza and pureed soups like tomato soup.

I know that I often don't feel satisfied until I've eaten something warm. If you have an electrical outlet available, you might consider getting an electric kettle. Electric kettles are pretty popular in England, but you don't see them as often in the U.S. They heat water very quickly with little energy use. With hot water, you can have tea, hot cocoa couscous, bulgur, and quick cooking noodles (like angel hair pasta). Even just a cup of tea following a cold meal is enough to make a difference for me.

Alternatively, think spicy. If you're feeling one kind of heat, you might not notice the lack of another kind.

If you're on the go or there's no electricity, you might consider getting a thermos or a food jar to keep things hot. Heat the thermos with boiling water, drain, and then add whatever hot dish you want. Chances are it will still be hot, or at least warm, at lunchtime.

Or think raw. Raw foods aren't meant to be heated in the first place. So revel in fresh fruits, vegetables, and sprouted grains and beans.

As far as keeping things cold, an ice pack should do. But really, most vegan foods should be fine at room temperature for a few hours, with the exception of rice and yogurt.

100 Lunch Foods That Don't Require Heating
1. tomato soup
2. pbj
3. pretzels
4. frozen fruit (it will defrost by lunchtime)
5. nuts
6. popcorn
7. fruit leather
8. leftover pizza
9. sesame noodles
10. steamed vegetables (w/vinaigrette or plain)
11. crackers
12. cole slaw
13. granola bar
14. yogurt
15. plant milk
16. bean dip (homemade or commercial)
17. fruit salad
18. fava bean puree w/a drizzle of olive oil
19. pesto pasta
20. pickles
21. lemonade
22. avocado
23. trail mix
24. ants on a log
25. TLT
26. potato salad
27. tortilla and refried bean spirals w/salsa
28. nicoise salad
29. avocado and tomato sandwich
30. hummus and pita w/tomatoes
31. bagel with cream cheese or hummus
32. olives
33. any of the salads in my first list
34. iced tea
35. cinnamon toast
36. apple spread with peanut butter (core an apple, slice into wedges, apply peanut butter, reassemble apple)
37. veggies and dip (w/crackers!)
38. cereal (with or without milk)
39. tapioca pudding
40. chickpea salad sandwich
41. vegan sausage on a bun w/mustard
42. salsa and chips
43. crock cheese w/crackers and vegetables
44. tomato salad
45. roasted chickpeas
46. lettuce wraps
47. garlic bread
48. applesauce
49. seaweed salad
50. soy crisps
51. tapenade spread on French bread
52. juice
53. rice pudding
54. fruit cup
56. Waldorf salad
58. cucumber sandwiches
59. apple chips
60. gazpacho
62. vegan lunchmeat sandwich w/all the fixings
63. dried fruit
65. fruit-and-nut bar
66. packaged Indian meals
67. creamed spinach
68. edamame (throw in frozen, they'll defrost by lunch)
70. tofu satay w/peanut sauce
71. granola
73. marinated mushrooms
74. panzanella
76. three bean salad
77. equal parts tahini and agave nectar spread on a tortilla, rolled up, and sliced into spirals
78. broccoli slaw
79. brown rice w/peanut sauce (or curry sauce)
80. tofu (baked, fried, or aburaage) w/dipping sauce
81. cold baked sweet potato
82. marinated cucumbers
83. sushi rice with toppings
84. shredded carrots tossed with peanuts and raisins
85. banana chips
86. carrot sticks w/peanut butter
87. A roll sliced in half, spread with pesto, and filled with tomato slices
88. muffins (there's a great, filling peanut butter-oatmeal muffin in 500 Vegan Recipes)
89. seitan sub sandwich
90. applesauce
91. broccoli w/marinara for dipping
92. peanut butter and cracker sandwiches
93. dried figs stuffed with almonds
94. melon
95. guacamole (covered tightly with plastic) and chips
96. a soft pretzel w/mustard
97. ratatouille
98. cold roasted vegetables
99. baby spinach and mushrooms w/agave-mustard dressing
100. tabbouleh

*I think microwaves are perfectly safe to use if you microwave in appropriate materials (preferably glass. Old yogurt and margarine containers are not appropriate.). And they use less energy than most other heating methods. For the lazy, don't store any food you plan to reheat in a container you wouldn't put in the microwave. When you're hungry, you're more likely to throw caution to the wind. For the more prepared, cost-conscious, and waste-conscious, keep a bowl and plate at work so you can transfer food to a microwave-safe material.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lonestar Vegetarian Chili Cookoff

Sunday, November 7, is the 22nd Lonestar Vegetarian Cook-off. I'll be competing for the second time. Last year, I won second place with this chili recipe. I still really love that recipe, but we've given the chili a bit of a makeover so it's fresh and new this year. It's still bulgur-based. It's still beanless. And it's still spicy. But we used a completely new spice blend.

The cook-off is really a great event. Last year there were lots of 100% vegan chilis to try, veg-related booths, live music, door prizes, and great food and beer. I except this year to be even better.

I'll be cooking up 5 gallons of chili (without electricity!) and serving it by the tablespoonful tomorrow. I hope some of y'all will come out to try it. More details are on the event's website.

I'll post the recipe, a contest recap, and the price of making 5 gallons of vegan chili tomorrow!

Friday, November 5, 2010

MoFo Lunches: Week 1

Welcome to my early morning kitchen. The sun hasn't come up. I haven't had my coffee yet. I haven't eaten. I might still be in my pajamas. And I'm certainly grumpy.

But it's time to pack my lunch, and you're all invited to watch under the glare of my camera flash. The photos aren't pretty. Making lunch is hard enough pre-coffee and breakfast. There's no way I'm up for staging pretty photos.

Along with photos and descriptions of the food, I'm going to include carb counts and insulin doses. November is Veganmofo month, but it's also American Diabetes Month. And I don't make a single food decision without consulting the 'betes.

Monday. Leftover lo mein (whole wheat lo mein noodles, green beans, carrots, red onions, cabbage, tofu). I never can get the vegetables fully incorporated into the noodles, so the leftovers are 75% vegetables. But there are a few noodles on the bottom there. Pineapple. A few dark chocolate covered dried blueberries.

40g carbohydrate, 4 units humalog

Tuesday. Imagine Foods tomato soup. Salad of lettuce, golden raisins, and almonds with pomegranate vinaigrette on the side. A frozen chickpea cutlet from a bulk cooking session. The cutlet defrosted by lunch and I tore it up and added it to the salad.

45g carbohydrate, 4 1/2 units humalog

Wednesday. Leftover noodle soup (vegetable broth, whole wheat noodles, soy curls, carrots, celery, onions, and celery leaves). Whole wheat crackers. Soymilk (made from black soybeans, but it doesn't taste any different.) Two dried strawberries.

40g carbohydrate, 4 units humalog

Thursday. I forgot to make my lunch until 2 minutes before I had to leave, and it shows. So Delicious strawberry-banana coconut yogurt. A toasted slice of Rudi's part-whole grain cinnamon-raisin bread (I was so excited to find vegan cinnamon-raisin bread). Pineapple.

60g carbohydrate, 6 units humalog

Friday. Whole-grain vanilla cereal (I can't remember the brand). Ancient grains milk (This is new. I can't remember all the grains, but it includes quinoa.) Cole slaw.

50g carbohydrate, 5 units humalog

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Artichoke Salad Sandwich

Thursdays in November will be lunchbox recipe days!

First up is an artichoke salad sandwich. I got the idea for this recipe from muffin-tuffin on the PPK. Her description of the sandwich was "artichoke hearts, basil, garlic, mayo, roasted red peppers on bread with spinach."

I did things a little differently to fit what's in my kitchen. I never seem to have roasted red peppers, and roasting them myself doesn't seem to mesh with my goal of easy lunch recipes.

Artichoke Salad for a Sandwich
(makes 1 sandwich)

4 artichoke hearts (frozen or canned, but not marinated)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 green onions, chopped
handful of basil, chopped
1 tablespoon vegenaise
salt and pepper to taste

If you're using frozen artichoke hearts, thaw or cook them briefly. If you're using canned or jarred artichoke hearts, rinse them in water. Squeeze the artichoke hearts over a strainer to get out as much water as possible. Roughly chop the artichoke hearts, mix with the other ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

I ate my sandwich on pumpernickel (low GI!) with some lettuce, but I think tomato slices or thinly sliced onion would be nice as well.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lunch Container Roundup (and Giveaway!)

This is my lunch bag.

I pack the food in glass tupperware containers. For me, it's important that my lunch containers 1) can go in the dishwasher, 2) have standard cup sizing for easier carb counting, 3) are made of glass if they will ever go in the work microwave, and 4) minimize waste. The lunchbag was free. Before I had that, I just packed the containers into a canvas bag.

But there are lots and lots of other options out there if you want something made specifically for holding your lunch. (All of these can go in your dishwasher.)

Laptop lunchboxes are a homage to the bento boxes that are popular in Japan. You've probably seen them at the great Vegan Lunchbox blog. They're phthalate-, BPA-, and lead-free and microwave safe. Pros: they're cute, great for portion control, and encourage variety in your lunch. Cons: they're not as flexible as some options, and they're probably not the best option for packing lots of wet items like soups or marinated salads.

Tiffins hail from India. They're stainless steel, which means none of the worries of plastic food storage and they're practically indestructible. Pros: These are great for larger food portions for things like salad. They're also more "grown-up". Cons: again, not a great option for liquids, and they're not microwave safe.

Fit and Fresh Salad Shaker is exactly what it sounds like. You put the salad in the bottom, and there's a container for the dressing on top. At lunch, just dispense the dressing and shake! Pros: great for salads! Cons: not very good for anything else.

Food jars (or thermoses) are perfect for anything liquid or anything that needs to stay hot or cold. Pros: best option for soups or for anyone without access to a microwave. Cons: a bit of a unitasker, this won't be of much use for packing sandwiches or salads.

And now, a contest! The prize is a three-tier tiffin from Herbivore Clothing (paid for by me). The contest is open to international contestants. Enter by telling me your favorite food to pack for lunch in the comments below. If you don't have a blog where I can contact you, include an email address in your comment. I will choose a winner using a random number generator next Wednesday, November 10.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fear of (Lunch) Commitment

It's day two of VeganMoFo, and we're talking about our commitment issues.

It's hard for some people to commit to packing lunch. Some people aren't cooks. Some people aren't planners. And some of us are just lazy. Not to mention that in many places, there's delicious food around every corner just beckoning us to buy it. "Come on," these foods beg. "You can sleep in an extra 15 minutes and you won't have to do any dishes. Besides, we're french fries. You love french fries."

There are good reasons to pack your lunch. You probably already know them. Done right, it's cheaper and healthier. There's less waste, and you know exactly what you're eating.

So how can you learn to love lunch again?

1. Vary what you eat. When I was a high school freshman, I ate cheese pizza for lunch every school day. Then I refused to eat pizza for two years. Lesson learned. It's boring to eat the same thing day in and day out.
2. Make it special. Though a peanut butter and jelly sandwich may be tasty, it can be boring. An almond butter and mayhaw jelly sandwich is exciting. Exciting helps you resist going out for french fries or getting oreos from the vending machine. Special can also mean using your favorite lunchbox or napkin or the silverware your grandmother gave you.
3. Plan. At least a little bit. Keeping lunch staples around (and saving them for lunchtime only) keeps morning prep to a minimum. Even better, pack your lunch the night before.
4. Have a back-up plan. Humans forget things sometimes. It's bound to happen. Have a plan for days when there's nothing in the house to pack or you leave your lunch at home.
5. Pack substantial lunches. Try to pack a few things from different categories. Some possible categories are: protein, carbohydrate, vegetable, fruit, nuts, goodies, hot, cold, room temperature, crunchy, creamy, salty, sweet, spicy, green, red, yellow. For me, having variety is what makes food feel like a meal rather than a snack. Sometimes this means a soup of beans and greens and piece of fruit (categories: hot, cold, salty, sweet, protein, vegetable, fruits, blue, green). Sometimes it's a smorgasbord of leftovers. Besides being more substantial, variety in your meals means you're more likely to hit all the nutritional bases.
6. Be social. If your coworkers keep dragging you off to lunch, find other ways to spend time with them. Start a lunch swap. Organize a bring-your-lunch-to-work day. Meet up after work.
7. Or don't. Your coworkers are jerks? Getting out of the office doesn't have to involve food. Put on a pair of headphones, head out for a walk, find a place to eat outdoors, or read a book.
8. Keep yourself accountable. Make a lunch date with a coworker or friend. Keep track of how much money you're saving or the number of healthy non-fast food meals you're eating. Offer to cook for officemates occasionally as vegan outreach.
9. Reward yourself. Have a piece of chocolate or a great cup of tea after lunch. Or let yourself eat out occasionally.
10. Know your limitations. And work with them. If your idea of cooking is opening a jar of spaghetti sauce or microwaving an Amy's meal, don't plan to cook huge amounts of leftovers or bulk meals. It probably won't happen. And if you are a perfectionist, don't let that get in the way of packing your lunch. Meeting some of your goals is better than giving up and meeting none of them. Balance your expectations with your abilities.

Monday, November 1, 2010

100 Ideas for Vegan Lunches

When Dewey and I started sharing kitchen duties, all my leftovers and meticulous meal plans disappeared. Dewey isn't a fan of repeated meals or planning meals ahead. We've forged some kind of cooking alliance that works for us, and dinner shows up on the table with little fuss most of the time. But when I finally found a job in Austin, I missed my constant leftovers for lunch. Being me, my first thought was a list. And so I bring you, 100 Ideas for Vegan Lunches.

The list is specific to my tastes, dietary needs, and cooking habits. So think of this as a starting place. Replace the meals that I like to cook in bulk with your own favorites. Some obvious foods don't appear, such as juice, because they're not diabetic friendly. The foods are more-or-less healthy, but that doesn't mean there isn't a place for dessert or chips at lunch. It just means I don't need a reminder to eat those sorts of things.

Without further ado, here are 100 things you could pack for lunch, with links available where possible

1. crock cheez, crackers, vegetables
2. hummus (commercial), crackers/pita, vegetables
4. pbj
5. refried bean tortilla spirals w/salsa
7. boxed soup
8. yogurt w/flax
10. jerky
11. dal
12. cole slaw
13. TLT
14. avocado, tomato sandwich
16. Caesar salad
18. muffins
21. sesame noodles
22. nuts
23. fresh fruit
24. no sugar added dried fruit
25. plant milk
26. hot chocolate
27. tamales (frozen)
28. sausages (commercial)
30. bean dip (homemade), crackers, vegetables
31. seven layer dip w/tortilla chips
33. falafel (frozen) w/pita, lettuce, tomatoes, tahini
34. ww English muffin w/EB and marmite (or jam)
35. pumpkin bread
36. salad: lettuce w/soba, tofu, red bell pepper, and peanut sauce
37. soy crisps
38. leftovers
39. avocado
40. oatmeal w/nuts, soy milk, and brown sugar
41. unsweetened applesauce w/walnuts or pecans and flax
42. waffles (homemade or commercial) w/maple syrup or peanut butter
43. Boca chik sandwich w/vegenaise on whole wheat
44. tomato salad
45. almond pate (from Wheatsville), vegetables, crackers
46.vegetable (or hummum) wrap
47. dry cereal
48. baked potato with toppings (salsa, broccoli, and so on)
49. ww couscous w/nuts and dried fruit
50. sliced mushrooms w/Goddess dressing
51. ww garlic bread
52. sun-dried tomatoes
53. miso soup
54. noodles w/esme's sauce and vegetables
55. smoothie
56. salad: romaine, apple, avocado, tempeh bacon, red onion, goddess dressing
57. olives
58. chocolate covered fruit
59. seitan sandwich w/all the fixins
60. artichoke salad sandwich with spinach
61. baked beans
62. pickle
63. bouillon
64. iced tea/coffee
65. celery (or jalapeno!) filled with peanut butter
66. popcorn (with nooch)
67. grain salad (grain+herbs+beans+sauce)
68. chickpea salad sandwich
69. tortilla chips and salsa
70. black bean soup
71. soup in a bag
72. grilled cheese and tomato soup
74. edamame
75. frozen vegetables
76. roasted vegetables
77. bowls (grain/pasta + veg/beans/tofu + sauce)
78. cereal w/milk and fruit
79. raw vegetables w/ranch dip
80. lasagne
81. pasta salad
82. quick curry w/brown rice or pasta
83. fried rice
84. cornbread
85. frozen fruit
86.crackers and peanut butter
87. baked apple
88. peanut butter and apple or banana sandwich
89. tot salad: lettuce, tater tots (cooked), green onions, tomatoes, green beans, agave-mustard salad dressing
90. rice and beans (with hot sauce!)
91. baked sweet potato w/brown sugar-green onion compound EB
92. tofu scramble in a tortilla
93. steamed vegetables
94. side salad: arugula w/tahini-rice vinegar dressing
95. crystallized ginger
96. fruit crisp
97. tofu (baked, fried, or aburaage) with a dipping sauce
98. marinated mushrooms
99. kale and soba noodles dressed with soy sauce and sesame oil
100. BBQ chickpeas

The full version of the list is organized by work required (little work, bulk cooking, some work) and nutrient, focusing on the ones vegans or diabetics might need to pay attention to. You can find it here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Announcing VeganMoFo 2010!

It's time for another year of VeganMoFo! For the month of November, people from around the world will be pledging to blog about vegan food and issues every weekday.

There are rumblings of some great themes out there, including the history of vegetarian food (with recipes!), beans and rice, gluten-free vegan cooking, cookbook reviews, and vegan food from around the world. Check out the VeganMoFo headquarters for updates and roundups or to sign up to blog or tweet about vegan food (@veganmofo).

For the month of November, I'll be blogging about packing vegan lunches for adults. If there's anything you ever wanted to know about how one lazy person can save money, eat healthfully, reduce her environmental footprint, and prevent animal cruelty all through the power of a satisfying lunch, ask in the comments.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Celebratory zucchini soup

I've left behind my crummy night job, and I'm beginning a new (sane?) daytime job tomorrow. That means more sunny hours for cooking, photography, and gardening. Ooo boy!

To celebrate, I scrounged through the produce lurking at the bottom of the fridge and came up with one zucchini and one yellow squash, a little worse for time. Coincidentally (magically?) I saw a recipe for zucchini soup in last week's Meatless Monday newsletter. I can't ever say no to soup.

[Meatless Monday aside. I really like this organization. They have a great nutrition news roundup, and I love the vegetable-packed message. But I've found the recipes to be hit or miss. This one was a hit, though.]

Here's my version of the soup, modified to fit the contents of my fridge.

Summer Squash Soup

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 summer squash, cut into 1-inch pieces
vegetable broth
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Sautee onion in just a smidge of oil until soft. Add the garlic, and cook 30 seconds longer. Add the summer squash, tarragon, and enough vegetable broth to just barely cover the vegetables. Simmer 10 minutes or until the squash is soft. Blend with an immersion blender (or transfer to a blender in batches). Stir in nutritional yeast. Serve hot!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Review: The Urban Vegan

I was on a cookbook fast during the year that I was looking for work. Now that I've been working for a few months, it's time for feasting!

The vegan cookbook market has exploded over the past few years. One of the benefits of having so many new vegan cookbooks is that there's room for specialty books. 2009 and 2010 brought us vegan cookbooks on brunch, Latin food, cookies, diner food, entertaining, and fine dining.

My first cookbook purchase of the year was The Urban Vegan: 250 Simple, Sumptuous Recipes from Street Cart Favorites to Haute Cuisine. Each chapter has a theme such as "Cafe Culture," "All Night Breakfast at the Diner," and "The Melting Pot."

The chickpea paprikash (at the top) from the "Melting Pot" chapter was creamy and flavorful and made a great one-dish meal. I subbed Anaheim peppers because I couldn't find the cubanelle or Hungarian wax peppers the recipe called for. We easily got enough for two dinners and three lunches from this recipe.

The baked potato, roasted asparagus, and aioli (below) made a perfect light meal. I've always eaten baked potatoes with just butter and salt (and occasionally soy sauce!), but I really enjoyed the tang that the aioli brought to potato. I suspect the sauce should be a bit thicker than this. I used the vegenaise from the end of the jar, and it tends to be liquidy.

I also tried the Welsh Rarebit (on homemade bread!), and it brought back great memories of gathering around a dish of Welsh Rarebit with my family. The recipes just calls for beer, without specifying what kind. Dewey offered to pick something up for me, and he grabbed a stout, since it's my favorite to drink. The Rarebit came out a bit dark, so stick with a pale beer.

A few recipes require vegan dairy products or harder to find seasonings, but the majority of the recipes can be made with ingredients from an ordinary grocery store. Some other dishes I'm looking forward to trying are the Rapini Panini, Curry Cashew Casserole, Spaghetti alle Melanzane (spaghetti with eggplant), and Potatoes with 40 Cloves of Garlic. Trying hard to think of something critical about the book, the closest I could come is that the constant references to busy urban life and city dwellers begin to wear a bit thin if you read the book straight through like I did. In other words, I highly recommend this.

Friday, April 16, 2010


I don't really believe in New Year's resolutions. Big sweeping changes are pretty rare and are usually motivated by something life changing. A life-threatening illness. The birth of a child. The loss of a family member. But, I do like to start the year off by taking stock and making a few, very concrete, goals.

In 2009, one of my goals was to get more comfortable with yeast. Yeast has always intimidated me. A lot of the steps are pretty subjective. (What does it mean that dough is "smooth and pliable"?) In 2009, I made bagels, pumpkin cinnamon rolls, and lots and lots of pizza. Besides some mishaps with pizza baking at the beginning, it all went pretty well. I can easily whip up some pizza for dinner or a batch of cinnamon rolls. But at the end of the year, I felt like I had cheated because I never made a good old fashioned loaf of bread. So one of my goals for 2010 was bread.

Above is a loaf of white sandwich bread from a recipe on the King Arthur Flour blog. Those folk know their bread

I'm pretty happy with my first loaf. It's incredibly soft and pliant. I can't wait until tomorrow to make some toast and spread it with melty peanut butter.

I'm hoping 2010 will find me eating homemade challah, whole grains breads, and some of the more unusual breads from 500 Vegan Recipes, like Mole Bread, a spicy cocoa bread.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

South Carolina Mustard Sauce

Soon after I switched to a vegan diet, I made a list of my favorite foods that weren't originally vegan. My goal was to find ways to enjoy all of them in vegan form. Four years later, I'm about halfway through that list. Some things are beyond my cooking ability still (kolaches!). Some require vegan ingredients that just aren't quite good enough yet. And some, well, I just haven't gotten around to yet.

This South Carolina Mustard sauce is something my family ate every so often when I was a kid. Often my mother would ask me to make the sauce, and then she would cook the pork loin when she got home from work.

Unlike other barbecue sauces, South Carolina mustard-style barbecue sauce doesn't have any tomato products. They're usually based on a combination of vinegar, mustard, and sometimes brown sugar. The red color in this version comes from chili powder.

The barbecue sauce was nearly vegan already, but I was left with the dilemma of what to pour it over. I don't remember what pork tastes like (this dish and bacon were the only pork foods we ever ate at home when I was a kid). But when I made the courico tacos recently, I realized they were the perfect choice for this barbecue sauce.

I still need to perfect the cooking method for the soy curls, but the mustard sauce was just as I remembered it. Tangy, sweet, and just a bit spicy.

South Carolina Mustard Sauce

1 cup apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup yellow mustard
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons pepper
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons Earth Balance

Combine the vinegar, sugar, mustard, chili powder, and pepper in a medium sauce pan. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove from heat source, and stir in soy sauce and Earth Balance.

Friday, March 12, 2010

February: Some Updates

It's been a busy month. I (finally!) found a job. Unfortunately, it's third shift. It's put a bit of a cramp in my photography and gardening since both of these things need sunlight.

In general Dewey and I have been busy improving the house, introducing the cats to one another, and just generally adjusting to the new schedule. But I've found a bit of time to squeeze in my hobbies here and there.

At the top is a puttanesca scramble from Vegan Brunch. It's a tofu scramble with tomatoes, olives, and capers. I had a lot of leftover ingredients from an antipasto salad, and this was a perfect way to use them up. I wasn't sure what I would think of this, especially since the antipasto salad wasn't a hit. But it was great.

I never wrote a review of Vegan Brunch, but some of our favorites are the courico tacos made with soy curls, the chocolate beer waffles with sweet cashew cream, and the (virgin) Bloody Moskowitz.

This is the baked potato soup from Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food. This cookbook has found a steady spot in our diet now that I have less time for cooking. Those are chopped green onions on top of the soup. I've been obsessed with them lately.

A little "aha" cooking moment from earlier this month. You have a microplane grater, right? They're lovely. They're great for zesting or grating small things like garlic or nutmeg. And they won't tear up your sponge (or your knuckles!) the way a traditional grater does. Anyway, if you turn the microplane grater upside down while you grate, it collects whatever it is you're grating.
I've put together the frame for my new square foot garden, but I've decided not to plant until we get the lawn regraded. Anything planted now will just get torn up then. Bummer for now, but in the long run, fixing the lawn so water doesn't drain under the house is more important.

And finally, I took Lizzie's advice (though her comment seems to have disappeared since then), and went with a chicken wire compost bin. Hopefully by this time next year I'll have enough of my own compost that I won't need to buy any to build a second square foot garden.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Vegan Bake Sale for Haiti Today

I spent Saturday cooking for today's bake sale. I made thyme spiced mixed nuts, vegan rice crispie treats made with Dandies, and curry spiced cashews.

Come out to Ten Thousand Villages between noon and 4 PM to buy some treats and donate money to support relief in Haiti.

Curry Spiced Cashews

2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated margarine
4 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups roasted cashews

Melt margarine over medium heat. Add the spices and cook about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Take the pan off the heat and add the cashews. Stir to coat the cashews evenly with the spice mixture. Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Austin Vegan Bake Sale for Haiti

Come out to Austin's vegan bake sale for Haiti this Sunday, January 24th, from noon to 4PM at Ten Thousand Villages (1317 South Congress Ave). All money raised will be donated to Food for Life Global.

Many thanks to Ten Thousand Villages for letting us use their space and to Wheatsville Coop for donating supplies.

In Texas, vegan bake sales are also being held in Houston and Denton. There's a growing list of vegan bake sales for Haiti on the Post Punk Kitchen blog.

If you're interested in baking for the Austin bake sale there's information on Facebook and this thread of the VRA.