Monday, October 16, 2017

Temari Rabbit Bento Bowl #25

Vegan dirty rice and a simple salad.

So...long time no see. First I was putting off going to the store. Then I got sick (nothing serious; a cold) at a particularly bad time and it threw my lunch packing game severely. So I'm back again with a backlog of lunches, some of which are more appealing than others, but are primarily made from stuff I already had around. There was no shopping for groceries for quite a while.

I froze the vegan dirty rice I'd made and I can happily report that it works well as a frozen meal for later. So from that vantage point, a win! Combined with a salad made from the random veggies in the fridge, ti worked out fine.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Lunchopolis #40

A vegan version of chef salad (butter lettuce, red onion, yellow bell pepper, tomatoes, and vegan salami with vegan ranch dressing (Daiya; under the lid--sorry; I was in a hurry this morning), a cup of mini croutons (mandel), and Bac'n bits; garlic toast; and strawberries.

I really liked this salad. I still think the Just Ranch is better than Daiya ranch, but Daiya ranch is respectable. And butter lettuce is always wonderful, regardless.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #38

Strawberries, blackberries, creamy cauliflower salad, some chocolate wafers, and vegetable flavored Ritz crackers.

This salad sounded weird, but I had bought a cheap head of cauliflower that really, really needed to be used, and I was feeling adventurous. And it was actually something I really enjoyed! It also makes a pretty great sandwich if you spread it between slices of toast. Cauliflower, incidentally, is surprisingly high in protein. I made this with frozen parsley, which is why it is so green.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Laptop Lunches #279

A fruit salad of strawberries, kiwi, and blackberries; lightly seasoned steamed carrots; veganized colcannon (recipe below), and vegan corned beef.

I don't know what provoked me to cook up this Irish feast, but it was lovely comfort food. It was also my first effort at do-it-yourself seitan (which is basically what the vegan corned beef is). I think I could stand to learn to knead it better, and it is entirely possible I cooked it too long, but aside from that this was like some kind of revelation. The taste was a heady sense memory.

I looked at lots of recipes for colcannon before coming up with this one, which is probably most similar to this not-vegan version.

Veganized Colcannon
Serves 4-6

1 small head green cabbage, shredded (I had a pretty small head of cabbage--about 4 cups of shredded cabbage)
4 medium potatoes, peeled (I used Eastern potatoes)
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons vegan butter, such as Earth Balance

Put cabbage with 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook uncovered until tender. Drain, but save the liquid; set the cabbage aside and cover to keep warm.

Cut the potatoes into even pieces (about 8 pieces per potato) and put in the saucepan with the cabbage water. Add water just to cover the potatoes and another pinch of salt. Bring to boil; reduce heat to maintain a gentle boil and cook uncovered until potatoes are very tender. Drain potatoes and place in a large bowl. Mash with a potato masher, then set aside, covered, to keep warm.

Add the soy milk and the scallions to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the milk and scallion liquid over the potatoes. Add cabbage, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Mix well.

Melt the butter in the saucepan, then pour over the potatoes. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Sakura 3-Tier Bento #61

A dipping sauce (the marinade for the tofu), strawberry fans, blackberries, carrot-cucumber salad with "honey" sesame dressing (recipe below), Kalbi style baked tofu, and triangles of scallion "pie" (so it says on the package in English, but they may just be pancakes).

The marinade for the tofu makes a great dipping sauce, and because it's not meat or anything, you can just eat it! No waste! Look at that new perk I discovered for this way of eating!

The recipe I am giving you today is adapted (and veganized!) from Annabel Karmel's Lunch Boxes and Snacks. It's Japanese-inspired, so maybe I shouldn't pair it with Korean barbecue (the tofu), but I'm fine with the fusion. It tastes good together, and that's really what matters here.

Carrot-Cucumber Salad with "Honey" Sesame Dressing
Serves 2

1 large carrot, peeled
1/2 English cucumber, or 1 Persian cucumber (you want a seedless variety)

Use a swivel vegetable peeler (the kind that looks a little like a slingshot) to make thin strips of carrot and cucumber. Then prepare your dressing as follows:

"Honey" Sesame Dressing

1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon mirin
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Mix all dressing ingredients, then toss with the carrot and cucumber. This salad will keep well in the fridge for a few days if you want to make it ahead.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Skater Lunchbox #30

Strawberries and a recipe I got off the back of a package of Tofurky for a Sesame Garlic Chick'n Soba Noodle Bowl. This is another of the early-vegan meals from my backlog. I remember being astonished by Tofurky--before going vegan, I only knew it as a joke, but it really is amazing food science. And it tastes good. I don't eat as much of what I used to call "fake meat" anymore, but I'm still really grateful it's there for me.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Pack-a-Snack #85

Apple slices and Speculoos-Cocoa Swirl (Trader Joe's).

I miss Nutella, but there are plenty of other things to try on my quest for a substitute I like. This is sort of a chocolate-cinnamon flavor, and totally different than Nutella, but without the dairy. It tastes great with apple slices.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Insulated Jar & Sides #33

Clementine sections, blackberries, French lentil soup, and saltines.

This was one of the lunches from my backlog. I would have eaten this sometime in late December or early January, when this hearty soup was a comfort on a cold winter day. It is also one of the very few prepared foods at my grocery store that is vegan. I love this soup, so I hope that this winter I can figure out how to make it.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One #59

I liked the salad I had yesterday so much I had it again: romaine lettuce, red bell peppers, mushrooms, Italian dressing, and Bac'n pieces; some garlic toast; and artichoke and tomato pasta.

I made this pasta with veggie noodles for extra vitamin goodness. I don't know what I make of the recipe, such that it was without clear quantities given, but it was easy and got me through a night I wasn't much into cooking. (I'd say the main difference between omnivore me and vegan me, food-wise, aside from the obvious, is that I don't really get to just pick up take out anymore. There are exceptions, but mostly I am always cooking. This isn't a truly drastic change since I lived somewhere before this apartment that made take out so inconvenient I just cooked all my own food there, too, but it does mean that sometimes I get home and have to cook when I don't want to cook if I've not planned ahead adequately.)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #37

A basic salad of romaine lettuce, mushrooms, and red pepper with Italian dressing and a tiny cup of Bac'n Bits; grapes; chocolate orange slices, leftover Vegan Potatoes O'Brien Casserole, and some Gardein chick'n tenders.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Vegan Potatoes O'Brien Casserole

I am not a proper food blogger. I do not have a half dozen fancy pictures for you staged perfectly. What I have are ideas for lunch, mostly, but having veganized a casserole successfully, I thought I would share it with you.

It was good, although really, really rich, and like most of my vegan adventures, tasted better as leftovers. I could see this working well for a potluck or a holiday dinner in which people are sneering at your vegan food, though, because impressing omnivores with vegan foods usually involves adding a lot of fattening things. I began with this recipe, which I cut in half among other things, and was inspired to make the base for the cheesy mushroom sauce with this recipe. This is a creamy, cheesy potato casserole that works well as a side for things you might otherwise serve with mashed potatoes. You can also have it as a main dish alongside the sorts of things you would put with a main dish baked potato.

Prepare to be fattened!

Vegan Potatoes O'Brien Casserole
Serves: About 6-8

3/4 cup vegan butter (such as Earth Balance), divided
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion, divided
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/4 cups soymilk
1/2 package of frozen hash brown potatoes O'Brien, thawed
3/4 cup shredded non-dairy cheddar (such as Daiya)
1/4 cup non-dairy sour cream
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt 1 tablespoon vegan butter in a saucepan. Cook mushrooms and 1 tablespoon onion in butter; set aside. In same pan, melt 3 tablespoons vegan butter. Whisk in flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper and cook for about a minute. Add soy milk slowly, a few tablespoons at a time, fully incorporating into the flour mixture before adding more. After all has been added, return cooked mushrooms  and onions to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until thick. Remove from heat.

Spray a 9 x 9 square baking dish (or equivalent casserole dish of your choice) with cooking spray. Spread thawed potatoes on the bottom of the dish. Set aside.

Melt remaining butter; divide in half.

Combine half of melted butter with your mushroom mixture, remaining 1/4 cup of onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, shredded cheese, and sour cream. Pour over potatoes.

Mix remaining butter and bread crumbs. Top casserole with buttered bread crumbs.

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes. Allow to cool a little before serving.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #36

Pickles, corn on the cob, barbecued tempeh, blackberries, potato salad, a slice of bread cut to fit the box, and some margarine.

In my disappointment over Benecol beginning to put dairy in it, I went on a quest for a replacement. I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Light fits the bill for now. I also saw that they've made a margarine actually labeled vegan, too.

I'm taking a long Labor Day weekend, so I'll see you again on the other side.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Insulated Jar & Sides #32

Mini croutons (soup mandeln, if you're looking for these), creamy asparagus-pea soup, blackberries, and some Polish raspberry chocolates.

I made this soup because I bought some asparagus that was slightly sad but very cheap at a local store. (I've been thinking I should blog this store sometime, if I didn't feel so self-conscious about taking photos there. It's not quite a dedicated produce market and not quite a grocery store, and all the produce is extremely cheap, if mildly sad.) Yesterday you saw it as a garnish; today it is the main event. I didn't have almond milk so I used a peculiar new plant milk I had seen, Veggemo. (Veganism, as I've read many times, is all about variety through restriction.) Anyway, this milk is not really any good for drinking or putting in cereal, but it works out fine for cooking, and it's a lot thicker than soy or almond milk, so it worked well in this soup. I liked this soup a lot, actually, although I like asparagus too much as it is to make it unless the asparagus was sad already and needed some help.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Skater Lunchbox #29

vegan sausage stuffed pepper cut it half to fit the container, a garnish of asparagus (primarily for color), and mashed red potatoes.

I didn't make the peppers exactly as the recipe directed, using some pizza sauce about to go bad instead of marinara and cutting the recipe in half. Next time I think I'll add some vegan cheese. But that TVP vegan sausage was great, and so easy! So much cheaper than buying the ready made stuff, too. I've read in many places that meat isn't that good by itself, but the seasonings are what make it appetizing. I didn't really give it all that much thought. But I doubt many meat-eaters would turn down these peppers--they taste pretty well exactly like I remember Italian sausage tasting.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Temari Rabbit Bento Bowl #24

Some of that tofu saag paneer I made a while ago and froze with some chana masala chickpeas (Wegmans) over basmati rice, blackberries, and these Polish chocolate-covered orange slice things.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Lunchopolis #39

Maple syrup, grapes, some apple veggie sausage, homemade waffles, and chopped strawberries.

This is the first post in a while I've felt I needed to tag as a "transition to veganism" post. But when you turn around and realize you have that container of powdered buttermilk way in the back of the fridge on the bottom shelf, what to do?

So I attempted waffles. I have never made waffles from scratch like that and here I was, making buttermilk waffles even though I'm vegan (which in my philosophy is fine, as I've said, because just throwing out these things doesn't actually help anyone and it's wasteful), with an egg substitute. And I I had a hard time figuring out how much batter should go in the waffle iron and how long it should cook, but I managed.

And I had waffles. Which can be vegan, although these aren't. I'm not going to tag this post as vegan until after I learn to make vegan waffles, though. And because I still have an awful lot of powdered buttermilk. Sigh.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #35

Peach crisp; vegetable-flavored Ritz crackers; some Tofurkey slices; a salad of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, yellow bell pepper, and Bac'n Pieces; and the last of the vegan honey mustard sauce/dressing from earlier this week.

I'm not sure what motivated me to make the peach crisp, but I liked it a lot. I will be sad when peach season ends.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Skater Lunchbox #28

Half a Beyond Burger, steamed broccoli stems, onion gravy, and vegan macaroni in a creamy (not quite cheesy) sauce.

Have you ever had a Beyond Burger? I give this to you in caps because the brand actually matters. This burger is unlike really any veggie burger out there. I don't even know what to say. I only know that it looks like a raw beef burger, and then you cook it, and the beet juice and coconut oil bubbles up and flows away, and it looks like it is bleeding, and then it browns and it looks like a cooked burger, and then you bite into it and it feels and tastes like meat in a way that almost never happens in your vegan world.

And so it seemed a good candidate for that most homey of cuisine, a hamburger steak. It is distinct from Salisbury steak in my head, though when I describe it to people without familiarity with Southern food, they say it sounds like Salisbury steak. But it just isn't that to me. In any case: for hamburger steak, cover a hamburger in onion gravy, maybe with mushrooms, and voila! Steak!

Also in the land of attempting to be more frugal, I decided to try cooking up the broccoli stems left over from a time I was using the florets. They should be cooked separately, rather than together as was so often the case in my childhood, because the stems need more time. But the stems are lovely, oddly shaped things that go well with this kind of meal.

Finally, I had frozen half of the sauce last time I made this creamy-but-not-cheesy sauce, and I was afraid it might not work well that way, but it did amazingly well. So thanks for cooking, past me!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Insulated Jar & Sides #31

Peach slices, vegan red beans and rice (the rice is under there! I promise!), sliced cucumbers, and some everything bagel seasoning in the little chick cup.

I veganized a recipe for red beans and rice I found on the Whole Foods website. It's pretty easy to make, although I don't know how authentic the taste is for purists. If I made this again, I'd be less virtuous and use white rice instead of brown. I think that might elevate it in taste if not in nutrition. And I might add more beans, because there seemed to be a lot of sausage in this. But it was good anyway!

Red Beans and Rice
Serves about 2

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 a small green pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (14.5 oz.) can kidney beans
1/2 package of soy chorizo (I used Trader Joe's)
1 cup rice
Heat oil to a shimmer in a medium saucepan. Add onion, celery, and green pepper and cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes, salting a bit halfway through. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add beans and chorizo, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

While it simmers, cook the rice as per your usual method (I use a rice cooker). Serve beans over rice.

Monday, August 21, 2017

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One #58

This does not look like much, but the recipe I used for this is practically life changing: Chick-fil-A Tofu Nuggets with Vegan Honey Mustard Sauce and a salad of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, kalamata olives, and a little cup of Bac'n Pieces. (I used the sauce as the salad dressing, too.)

The tofu nuggets are marinated in pickle juice. It seemed like something wise and frugal, because I would otherwise just throw out pickle juice. But it made me instantly sad, because I will never have enough pickle juice to make this as much as I want. The leftovers are better heated in a toaster oven than a microwave, and really should be reheated because cold they are nothing to write home about, but you can't have everything all the time.

Incidentally, this is also gluten free.

The honey (really agave) mustard sauce, however, I can make anytime, and will make as a salad dressing more often. It's a nice, creamy change of pace, albeit an alarmingly yellow one.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Skater Lunchbox #27

An attempt at a hash (Trader Joe's soy chorizo and frozen hash browns O'Brien), a VeganEgg scramble (I'll explain that below), more of that garlic spinach/tomato/mushroom saute you saw earlier in the week (it's a super versatile veggie side), and toast squares.

The VeganEgg (made by Follow Your Heart) promises to re-create scrambled eggs in ways a tofu scramble never can. This is partly true. But it has little flavor and unlike tofu is hard to get to become flavored, and it also has a weird rubbery texture, almost like extremely overcooked scrambled eggs (I was warned not to undercook the VeganEgg, so maybe cooking it longer would have improved it, but I did cook it for about 10-15 minutes). I think this product works better in recipes where it doesn't have to stand alone. But if you are crazy about scrambled eggs, this may be something you'd want. I may stick to tofu.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One #57

An improvisational pasta salad (I started with my roasted grape tomatoes and angel hair pasta, then added the rest of a jar of marinated artichokes hanging out in the fridge, some garlic, some scallions, Vegenaise, and Italian dressing), Italian-seasoned zucchini, and red grapes.

I have forgotten how much I love a simply prepared squash. Good for me it's still in season!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

3-Tier Bottle Bento #38

Vegetable-flavored Ritz crackers, baked beans, and a new vegan recipe for broccoli salad I was trying. I didn't like it much, so I won't give you the link, but I think I can use the inspiration to develop one of my own. I did like the added Bac'n Bits and how they added a nice smoky flavor, but dried cranberries just didn't belong in my opinion.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #95

Baby carrots, mixed nut butter, apples, homemade zucchini bread, and a bit of margarine to spread on it.

After all I said about Benecol, guess what happened. They started putting milk in it. So I have a bit of mine left over but I'm now on a new quest to find a soft, fattening spread. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sakura 3-Tier Bento #60

Garlic spinach/tomato/mushroom saute, some kabocha I had in the freezer, Asian garlic tofu, blanched broccoli, and steamed rice topped with black and white sesame seeds.

It's been too long since I last used this box! It's such a pretty one.

The kabocha was made a long while ago, and I realized, pulling it out of the freezer, that it was prepared in dashi stock (which is tuna). I then realized that I still have most of a jar of dashi granules. Well, we're getting there. But if you make this meal without the dashi stock for the kabocha, it's vegan.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #94

Peach slices, baby carrots, grape tomatoes, "Inner Peas" crisps, vegetarian kibbeh, and vegan tzatziki.

This was one of those days that having a stocked freezer was good, because I didn't get to go to the store as planned. But here I am with lunch and various dregs of my kitchen. (That hasn't changed with my diet.) The tzatziki, by the way, goes really well with the kibbeh.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One #56

Greek orzo salad (recipe below), some chocolate-covered tea biscuits with freeze dried strawberries, and peach slices.

I was inspired to make this salad when I saw this recipe, but I didn't want to make 8 servings and I also clean forgot to put in the artichokes and beans. (With the pine nuts, it seemed like sufficient protein to me, so once I remembered I just shrugged it off and decided that I'll have to make something with kidney beans and artichokes later.)

Greek Orzo Salad
Serves 4

2 cups vegetable broth (I made mine with Better than Bouillon)
3/4 cup dry orzo
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 Persian cucumber (the small ones), chopped (if you don't have this, use about 1/3 of an English cucumber or 1/2 a regular cucumber, seeded)
1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes
1/2 cup pitted and halved kalamata olives
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup baby spinach, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley (I used frozen parsley cubes)
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
Salt and pepper

Bring vegetable broth to a boil. Add orzo and cook until done to your liking. Drain and rinse with cold water. Allow to cool if it still feels warm (I took the cooling time to chop my veggies).

Mix pasta with remaining salad ingredients. Set aside.

Mix dressing ingredients. Pour over salad and stir well to combine.

In my opinion, this is best at room temperature, but you can serve it chilled if you wish.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Monday, August 7, 2017

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #34

I've been trying some new recipes, and also making my own old incidentally vegan recipes from my omnivore days, so there are recipes for everything here if you want to try them out: carrot zucchini chickpea fritters on a bed of baby spinach, corn and tomato salad, and vegan tzatziki.

This was good. The tzatziki was thicker than I'd like, but otherwise really nice. I used dill rather than mint in it, because I'm more a dill person than a mint person. If I had a better blender, you wouldn't get the occasional little grit of cashew, but I'm okay with that at the moment. It goes well on the fritters. Altogether, this lunch took advantage of the bounty of summer, with about 10 different kinds of vegetables.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Pack-a-Snack #84

Dark chocolate-coated tea biscuits and freeze-dried strawberries.

I know freeze dried strawberries in the height of summer is a little silly, but I had them and wanted to try them. They're wonderful. I highly recommend the freeze-dried strawberries.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Insulated Jar & Sides #30

Baked beans, a salad I made up based on some internet inspiration and what happened to be left around the kitchen at the end of the week, and potato salad. We will call the salad I made up "Avocado, Basil, and Veggie Salad." It's colorful and unusual and makes a pretty good lunch, too!

The inspiration came from the Idiot's Kitchen. I just made it smaller, used stuff from the freezer I didn't have fresh, and added some red pepper. Here you go:

Avocado, Basil, and Veggie Salad
Serves: 2

1 teaspoon-sized cube of frozen basil (or use dried, or chop up a few tablespoons fresh if you're lucky enough to have it around)
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
1 tablespoon vegan mayo
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, defrosted (microwave about 30 seconds, stir well, and repeat only if needed)
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 Persian cucumber (sometimes called mini cucumbers), chopped
1 scallion, sliced
1 tiny avocado, cubed (or use half a normal sized one)
Salt and pepper

Mix basil, lime juice, and mayo in a bowl. Add corn, bell pepper, cucumber, and scallion. If you're making this ahead of time, season now with salt and pepper and save cutting the avocado for the same day you'll be eating the salad. If you're doing it all at once, just mix well now. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Laptop Lunches #278

Nectarine slices, cucumber slices covered in everything bagel seasoning, baked beans, and potato salad.

I love cucumbers with everything bagel seasoning, but next time I'll pack it in a cup--the salt made my cucumbers wilt by lunchtime.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Skater Lunch Box #26

Braised green beans (see Monday's post for the saga that has me scratching my head about whether they're vegan or not--the ingredient list suggests they should be, but...anyway) and some of a leftover casserole I made (a veganized chicken and stuffing casserole with mixed veggies).

The chicken substitute is Gardein Chick'n Scallopini, if that matters.

This doesn't look like much but it was so homey and comforting! Stuffing is one of my favorite things. If I had this to do over I'd put in some more colorful veggies, but this wasn't light on veggies by any means--celery, onion, peas, corn, green beans, and mushrooms are all in there, though not too obviously for the most part. As I was cooking this, I kept saying to myself, "Wow, I eat a lot of vegetables now" (not that it should be surprising for a vegan to eat lots of veggies, but still).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Lunchopolis #37

A simple salad of spinach, cucumber, and avocado with a cup of homemade citrus vinaigrette; some tea biscuits; tofu scramble tater tot casserole, toast soldiers, and Rainier cherries.

That recipe for that tofu scramble tater tot casserole was miraculous. It made the tofu scramble creamy like I used to like my scrambled eggs thanks to the non-dairy cheese (I think) and obviously almost everything benefits from the addition of tater tots. The leftovers, she noted, were a great packed lunch--and she is right. I will probably play around some with the veggies if I make it again (who am I kidding? WHEN I make it again), but it was great as it was. I doubt an unsuspecting person would know it was tofu, either.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Skater Lunch Box #25

An old fashioned Southern "veggie plate," veganized: braised green beans, a boiled potato, buttered carrots, some veggie bacon (Sweet Earth), a bit of Benecol spread, and a corn muffin.

I have a confusing, convoluted story to tell about the green beans, but first, the corn muffin: I used this recipe, halved and made into muffins. It tastes good, but I was startled by how pale the veganized version was--not a real surprise, I guess, given that we're missing the egg yolks here. I may try a few different things to see if I can make it more yellow--that pop of color is so nice sometimes.

Also it looked really yellow in the picture.

And now, my braised green beans.

Some time ago I read that Goya Ham Flavor is vegan. The ingredient list is as follows:

Salt, monosodium glutamate, artificial flavors, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, silica

So I bought some and rejoiced as I veganized my braised green beans recipe, with a bonus that now that I wasn't using a ham hock I could make it in smaller quantities.

And yet, somewhere else on the box, in bold, a while later, I noticed this on the box:

Contains: Milk

What? How? Why? Where?

I concluded that it doesn't really matter, because I can probably figure out how to flavor the beans with liquid smoke in the future, and all that MSG--not that I really worry about occasional MSG; it's something that's been weirdly demonized--might not be the greatest thing.

Anyway, I tried. And it might even have been vegan, if that was one of those allergy warnings that was supposed to mean they process the stuff on the same equipment as something else. I'd welcome more info on that if anyone has any.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Temari Rabbit Bento Bowl #23

Raid-the-fridge pasta salad (mix Italian dressing, mayo, and salt; add cooked pasta and various vegetables; in this case I added strips of veggie pepperoni I had leftover from my pizza adventures) and strawberry and kiwi chunks covered in coconut shreds.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Laptop Lunches #277

Macaroni, a cup of balsamic vinaigrette, strawberries, vegan Swedish meatballs, and a bit of salad leftover from a work event.

Yes, you can make American-style Swedish meatballs vegan. You just have to think outside your boxes. I'd give you a recipe but I didn't begin from zero here; I was starting with some leftover mushroom and onion gravy I'd made earlier this week for a quick dinner of hamburger steak (also vegan; I used a Beyond Burger patty for it). But the gist of it is simmering veggie meatballs in said gravy and adding some dill and vegan sour cream and serving it with noodles of some kind.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #33

We had a going away party for someone at work, so there was lunch (this time the vegan options were perfectly good), and I'm reaching back to a transitional lunch I prepared in the early spring: corn and Parmesan pasta salad (not vegan), vegetarian baked beans, and kiwi. It was a while after I stopped buying animal products but still I was getting through what I had (and still am in some cases), so hence the Parmesan. I want to try this recipe again with the vegan Parmesan I've seen at my local grocery store, but all in due time.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Traveler's Lunch #7

A little pinch of red pepper flakes in a pink bunny cup, some homemade vegan pizza, baby carrots, a cup of vegan ranch dip, and cucumber slices.

Red pepper flakes are good on some not-vegan pizzas, from what I recall, but they do amazing things for this vegan pizza I made.

This vegan ranch dip is Daiya. I think I prefer Just Ranch, but Daiya is good. Fair warning: Daiya is also very thick (so thick I struggled to get it out of the bottle), so it's a better dip than a dressing.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Temari Rabbit Bento Bowl #22

Vegan dirty rice (recipe below), Rainier cherries, and some little cookies.

Creole food isn't something I'm completely unfamiliar with--my mother made gumbo a lot when I was little--but I've not attempted cooking it myself, aside from the occasional guilty pleasure of a box of Zataran's. But that, not being vegan, is off the table now.

I didn't actually set out to make dirty rice, so much as to find a recipe I could make that used the stuff I already had on hand. I ended up modifying this one to suit my tastes, in part because my mind boggled at that much cayenne pepper. But it awesomely used the dregs of my refrigerator with some pantry staples, including celery leaves! Plus it seemed especially virtuous, given that it used brown rice. (I'm not always so virtuous.) So here you are. Because this was freezable (I put some away for later, as a kind of do-it-yourself TV dinner), this isn't my usual small yield; this will serve about 4-6.

Vegan Dirty Rice
Serves: 4-6

1 cup water
1 cup TVP
2 cups vegetable broth (I made mine from Better than Bouillon vegetable paste)
1 cup long grain brown rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red sweet pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano

Boil the 1 cup water, pour it over the TVP in bowl, mix, and set aside.

Bring the vegetable broth to a boil in a large pot. While waiting for the water to boil, rinse the rice. Add rice to boiling broth, stir, and turn down the heat to a simmer. Cover and set a timer for 40 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onions and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes. Add garlic and a bit of salt (about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon) and continue to cook for another five minutes.

Add peppers and spices and cook for 2 minutes more. Taste. Add salt or any other seasonings if needed. (At this point I added a pinch more cayenne pepper, because I was slightly braver than I thought I might be.)

Add reconstituted TVP and cooked vegetable mixture to the rice pot, stir in well, and bring to a simmer. Keep at a simmer until your timer lets you know 40 minutes have passed.

Turn off heat, but don't open the lid. Let sit for at least five minutes. When ready to serve, fluff with a fork and dish out.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Pack-a-Snack #83

Peanut butter filled pretzel nuggets and apple slices. They go really well together, and get me to eat more fruit.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Temari Rabbit Bento Bowl #21

An example from my early transition days, because I had a luncheon at work that would (theoretically) have vegan options: Peanut noodles made from leftover pasta and a melange of veggies and applesauce topped with cinnamon sugar.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #32

Tortilla/vegan cream cheese/red pepper relish pinwheels, Rainier cherries, cucumber slices, and baby carrots.

This was a lunch assembled from what I happened to have given that I've not been cooking so much in the heat. It was lighter than most but I wasn't all that hungry, so it worked.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Lunchopolis #36

Pita wedges, apple slices, an assortment of Mediterranean dips (baba ganush, eggplant salad, ezme, and hummus), cucumber slices, and carrots.

I actually manage to go out to dinner at a place with more than one vegan choice! The local Mediterranean restaurant has lots of vegan options so I got a cold appetizer sampler and had a lot left over for lunch today. The ezme was new to me--spicy, but nice. I would never, ever think to mix tomatoes and walnuts together, but it worked.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Lunchbots Quad #7

Cucumber slices and baby carrots with a little cup of vegan ranch dip (Just Ranch), kiwi and grapefruit slices with sweetened shredded coconut, some onion crackers, vegan cream cheese and chives, and homemade pepper relish.

My friend has been bringing crackers and hummus to gatherings at my home for a long while now, because it's the only thing she really trusts as vegan, but guess what I discovered after I ate them? These crackers she left with me aren't vegan. They have milk in them. That's unusual for not-cheesy crackers--crackers tend to be vegan--but there you are. This isn't vegan. It tried to be and wasn't. But I don't sweat this sort of thing and I don't think you should, either; just do your best. Because you can get vegan crackers embarrassingly easily, though, and I prepared this with vegan intent, I've tagged this lunch as vegan.

I hadn't made the pepper relish in a really, really long time, and suddenly it occurred to me that it was probably vegan, so I dug out the recipe, and yup, it's just veggies, a bit of oil to cook them in, water, and seasonings. It still goes great on a cracker with or without the cream cheese.

Monday, July 17, 2017

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One #55

Homemade pizza (it's vegan! Really!), some garlic dipping sauce from pizza delivery (also vegan, incidentally), some mini croutons, a few dark chocolate triangles, and some salad with a bottle of Italian dressing. A co-worker saw me eating this and accused me of falling off the wagon, but I'm still solidly on it. It's just that I didn't have to give up pepperoni pizza when I gave up animal products.

After the lunch at work that I navigated by eating the salad (the one you see above) alongside a sandwich from home, I knew I needed to make some pizza. I was surrounded by pizza and it depressed me. I haven't had pizza in about 8 months. I really missed it. It was time. And so I took the plunge.

I made a pizza with Daiya mozzarella and Yves veggie pepperoni. It really hit the spot--and this cheese is really stretchy! I was amazed! There will be more pizza soon because I have the pepperoni and cheese and pizza crust and sauce, but next time I may try some other toppings, too.

In other vegan transition news, I found the chocolate in the kosher section. It's dark chocolate with crisped rice--basically, a Crunch bar. And it cost about 40% less than the vegan chocolate in the other part of the store. Live and learn.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Insulated Jar & Sides #29

I had a day off (hooray!) so we again reach back into the vault for one of those early-attempt-to-go-vegan lunches. This was a recipe I'd found in a cookbook I'd checked out of the public library for green bean and mushroom stroganoff. It is not something I would ever make again, but I learned from the experience--namely, that if you're looking to replicate something that had chunks of beef in the original, you need to put seitan in it or something. Also, that vegan or not, I still want my green beans cooked to death, which these aren't. This came with sides of noodles (not egg noodles anymore--and honestly that may be one of the very hardest things I've given up, because I so loved egg noodles and non-egg pasta just isn't the same) and applesauce.

But I persevered and I'm finding my groove. Looking back on these lunches is really good for me, seeing how far I've come in just a few months.