Friday, June 30, 2017

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #29

Tofu scramble, tempeh bacon, roasted cherry tomatoes, toast, margarine (Benecol Light, actually--it's the only vegan spread I've found that's soft like my previously beloved Brummel & Brown), a little cup of strawberry jam, and raspberries stuffed with dark chocolate chips.

Aside from it being way too yellow, I think I succeeded pretty well with the tofu scramble.

Also, about the Benecol: The company is cagey about whether the product is vegan. They will tell you it is kosher (parve), plant-based, and non-dairy. For me, that plus a plant-only ingredient list is enough. Your mileage may vary.

I mentioned the tempeh bacon to a friend, who asked if it was crispy or soft. It's kind of both, though you could cook it at a lower heat and it would be soft, or at a higher heat and it would be crispy straight through, I think. Mine was more crispy on the outside. I liked it better than I ever liked real bacon (I never much cared for real bacon that much, anyway).

Thursday, June 29, 2017

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One #53

Hot dog buns, "sunshine" raspberries stuffed with dark chocolate chips, and mashed chickpea salad (to put on the hot dog buns).

Again, I'm trying to be really, really frugal, so things get weird. But the "sunshine" raspberries--not quite golden and not really red--are local and relatively inexpensive, so there you go. I enjoyed this, though I think I over-mashed the chickpeas in this salad.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Insulated Jar & Sides #27

Steamed broccoli seasoned with Mrs. Dash, Chinese-Inspired Saucy Beans (recipe below) over rice (trust me, it's under there), apple slices, and crunchy Biscoff spread.

I used to love the classic Chinese dish, tomatoes and eggs with rice. But of course eggs are off limits for me now. So when I was trying to come up with things I could cook easily, and I had these beans in tomato sauce, I thought I'd give cooking them in a similar style a whirl. They were amazing and even easier than tomatoes and eggs.

Chinese-Inspired Saucy Beans
Serves 2-3

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped bell peppers (any color--here I used red and yellow)
1 can vegetarian beans in tomato sauce
Splash soy sauce
Splash rice vinegar

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook onions and pepper until soft. Add beans, soy sauce, and vinegar and heat through. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Serve over cooked white rice.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Lunchopolis #35

Peanut butter and banana sandwich, tea biscuits, and baby carrots.

I'm feeling broke at the moment (having learned not to say I'm feeling poor--the difference between my under-employed days and now being that my income can cover my expenses just fine, and sometimes I've just had more outgo than I'd like) so this week's lunches rely either on pantry items or really cheap things, also I overslept this morning, hence the banana sandwich.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Pack-a-Snack #81

Apple slices and peanuts with crunchy Biscoff spread (a gift from a British friend). I have fallen in love with apple slices dipped in crunchy Biscoff! It's so good. You can't find this spread all over the U.S., but Trader Joe's Speculoos is similar (not as good, in my opinion, but close).

Friday, June 23, 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Temari Rabbit Bento Bowl #19

Coconut rice with spicy tofu and sliced cucumbers with rice vinegar and black sesame seeds.

This recipe was not all I'd hoped, but it tasted much, much better the next day than it had at dinner right when I made it, so there is that.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Insulated Jar & Sides #26

The blurriness of the peach Daiya yogurt on the right, upon which my camera would not focus, should have been an omen. Grapes, oatmeal topped with peanut butter and jelly, and said yogurt.

I have tasted all these things and can recommend them. And if you have never topped your oatmeal with dollops of peanut butter and jelly, well, you have not yet lived.

But if you pack your lunch like this, do not do what I did and leave it sitting in the kitchen so that you are forced to forage for food in the wild at work. Sigh.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Skater Lunch Box #24

Grits topped with Daiya cheddar and vegan sour cream (I like Tofutti), sauteed mixed baby greens (kale, swiss chard, and spinach), a little cup of Bac'n pieces, sauteed mushrooms, and cherries.

I was proud of this one, because it was improvisational. I've trusted myself a lot less to improvise since I began this transition, relying heavily on cookbooks, frozen foods, and aggressive meal planning. But then sometimes you just have to make it up as you go along. I was afraid I'd never be able to do it again after I went vegan, but I'm managing.

This was really good. It needed the Bac'n pieces for both protein and taste, so I'm glad I packed those, too. I'm not a major fan of grits but they're quick and a nice change of pace.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Laptop Lunches #275

Vegan beanie weenies (recipe below), cherries, pasta with a sauce that you might call cheese but not quite, and cucumber slices.

I think I've said before that beanie weenies with macaroni and cheese was my favorite meal, pre-veganism, and now that I'm in this transition I wanted to find a way to recreate it. The beanie weenies are pretty easy, but the macaroni and cheese has been elusive. This seems closer to, but not quite, where I'd like to aim. The sauce was creamy and tasted really good alongside the beans, but it wasn't actually all that cheesy. I think maybe next time I will melt some Daiya into it.

However, the beanie weenies are prefect. Here's how to get about 3-4 servings.

Vegan Beanie Weenies
Serves: 3-4

1 tablespoon vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
1 small onion, chopped
4 vegan hot dogs, cut into slices
1 can vegetarian beans in tomato sauce (I used these)

Melt butter in a nonstick skillet. Cook onions until soft, then add hot dogs. When the hot dogs are heated through, add the beans. Let simmer, covered, until hot.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #27

Because of ongoing free-stuff-at-work, the lunch I'm showing you today is from a while ago (late March, to be precise).

Rice, orange chick'n (Gardein) with scallions, spinach sauteed with mushrooms and tomatoes, pineapple, strawberries, and a Magical Coconut Bar.

I was pretty excited about the coconut bar, which is like the miracle bars I used to get at potlucks. I had made a batch for an event and ended up with a ridiculous quantity of leftovers, some of which I gave to a skeptical omnivore friend who loved them. But I was happy to have plenty for myself, too. Mmm. There are other ways to get an extra hit of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, but this one is more fun than most.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Lunchopolis #34

Something so, so exciting happened, you guys! A whole passel of vegetarians and vegans came for a work meeting so the leftover catering was vegan! And I didn't have to cook lunch or dinner for a few days, which is good because I totally didn't want to. So here's some of what the caterers had brought the day before.

This is a pasta salad with roasted peppers, artichokes, olives, and asparagus; dolmas; pita; and baba ganoush.

Dolmas are stuffed grape leaves. College was my first encounter with this whole realm of cuisine, and it really bewildered me. I wouldn't buy dolmas myself, probably, but if they're there, I'd eat them.

Baba ganoush, on the other hand, is a garlicky eggplant dip that totally amazes me. I was really glad there was a lot left over.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Insulated Jar & Sides #25

Melon chunks, canned soup (Campbell's has a new vegan vegetable soup), and soup mandels (mini croutons). (In case you can't tell, not feeling well has lasted a little while, and cooking is beyond me.)

This particular soup is actually labeled as vegan, which is uncommon in general and nearly unheard of from Campbell's. (Again, nobody ever pays me or sends me free soup or anything for this.) Warning: nearly all Campbell's soups, including their "vegetable" soup, aren't even vegetarian, let alone vegan (it's in that "natural flavoring" you'll find on the label, and people moan about it all over the internet. Because...really!? That seems wrong somehow). This is the Italian vegetable with farro, and it's reasonably good. It is also clearly labeled as vegan.

Soup mandels are from the kosher section again. They're really fun and also good in salad.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #26

The makings of a sandwich (veggie bologna (Yves), a panda cup with vegan mayo (Vegenaise), lettuce, tomato, bread) and some pineapple.

I wasn't feeling well in the morning, and didn't have much energy to devote to figuring out what to have for lunch. But a sandwich ready to assemble is almost always better than one prepared and then eaten several hours later.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #92

Leftover spicy eggplant, some glazed veggie meatballs, rice, and leftover mu shu vegetables.

This was from a Chinese restaurant down the road. I added the veggie meatballs. Eating out isn't necessarily hard as a vegan around here, although it is kind of boring at times. The point of eating out for me now is the company, not the food. If I want to have something really good, I cook it at home. This wasn't bad, really, not at all, but it wasn't exciting.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

3-Tier Bento Bottle #36

Cucumber salad (Fannie Farmer Cookbook), grapes, and vegetarian kibbeh.

Two lessons today. One, it was really easy to veganize this, my favorite cucumber salad recipe. I just used vegan mayo. Everything else was vegan already. So I don't need to necessarily turn only to vegan cookbooks.

Two, the frozen section of the kosher department of the grocery store has many hidden gems. Kibbeh, a Middle Eastern dish kind of like a filled dumpling, is one of these. The kosher sections often have vegan food in them, in part because of restrictions on mixing meat and dairy products in Jewish law and custom. If you're going to serve your kibbeh with yogurt (as is often done), it can't be a meat dish. In any case, this section of the grocery store isn't made up of self-consciously healthy food, although I don't think there's anything particularly unhealthy about it. But they tried to make the meaty filling (TVP, mostly) taste like a greasy red meat--I think it most resembled lamb on my tasting. The breading is made of bulgur, which I've always liked but hardly ever prepare. I wouldn't be surprised if you started seeing me taking more kosher section adventures.

Kibbeh goes really well with cucumber salad, by the way. You need something creamy to offset the slightly greasy filling. Also, it was necessary to microwave the kibbeh; room temperature just didn't work out.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Skater Lunch Box #23

Mashed potatoes (made from some of my too-salty potatoes), chickpea meatloaf, and a simple cucumber-tomato salad with my balsamic vinaigrette dressing, which I made with white balsamic vinegar because it looks better that way on cucumbers.

I really seem to be cooking up a storm, but that's because there were so many make ahead recipes and I could get so much done on the weekend. But I surprised myself here.

The chickpea meatloaf held its shape well. I halved the recipe, so I got about 4 servings out of it, and baked it in two mini loaf pans. I thought the glaze was a bit too fussy for me--I would have been fine with ketchup mixed with a little soy sauce, or serving it with some mushroom gravy--but it tasted good. It is not meatloaf as I remember meatloaf, but it doesn't have to be. It is its own thing.

Also, leftovers were excellent in a meatloaf sandwich with mayo and some Daiya cheddar cheese melted into the reheated meatloaf. Mmm.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Lunchopolis #33

An eggless salad (Hot for Food) sandwich, a little bottle of homemade vinaigrette, fresh cherries,  basic salad (mixed lettuces, tomatoes,cucumbers, yellow bell pepper), and potato salad.

Doesn't this salad look like egg salad? It also tastes a lot like it, but it's made of crumbled tofu, and it is really good. I will say it has a longer list of ingredients than my egg salad did, but you also don't have to cook anything for this or peel eggs. Just crumble the tofu and mix with stuff and go. However, it tastes better after it's had a chance to sit for a bit for the flavors to meld, and given the relative blandness of tofu, the pinch of cayenne pepper was really important.

The potato salad, meanwhile, wasn't the best thing I've ever done, because I accidentally over salted the water while I boiled the potatoes. Oh, well. It tasted good, if too salty.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #91

Some mini bagels, toasted; mini spice cookies; carrot lox; and a non-dairy cream cheese spread I made.

This is the inspiration for the recipe I used for carrot lox. I used apple cider vinegar rather than coconut and regular old iodized salt rather than coarse salt. And it was amazing. It does not taste like smoked salmon; to me, it still tastes like carrots, though a co-worker who tried it said it doesn't taste like carrots. She did say, however, that it is better than lox made from salmon, and she is an omnivore who has eaten a lot of lox in her life, so I haven't just experienced a change in tastes. It was pretty easy, too; the only real drawback is that you have to start two days ahead.

The Daiya cream cheese is actually good; I tried Trader Joe's and it disappointed me. If I can find some, I also want to try Kite Hill, but there are a lot of brands available, so I was pretty confident there would be at least one worth eating. I mixed the Daiya cream cheese with some chopped red onion and capers (this really just makes my usual sliced red onion and capers for a cream cheese and lox bagel more portable).

The non-dairy cream cheese costs a lot more than the dairy version, but carrot lox? Practically free compared to salmon. So. It evens out.

Carrot Lox
Serves: About 4-6

3 large carrots (don't peel or trim yet)
2 cups salt, plus more if needed to cover
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put a thick layer of salt (about half your salt) into a loaf pan. Wash the carrots and while they're still wet push into the salt, taking care not to let the carrots make direct contact with the pan. (You'll still have quite a thick layer of salt underneath.) This is easier to do if you tessellate the carrots. Add more salt to cover carrots completely.

Roast carrots for 90 minutes uncovered.

Remove carrots from oven. Dump the salt (now kind of  a giant salt crystal) into a large pan. Allow to cool until you can handle the salt rock thing.

Using a wooden spoon, carefully crack open the salt to reveal the carrots and gently remove them.

You can peel the carrots now but really you don't need to. Just make sure you don't have salt clinging to them.

In a bowl with a lid, mix oil, liquid smoke, and vinegar; set aside.

Slice the carrots thinly into uneven pieces. We're aiming for lox, not carrot coins.

Add carrots to the prepared marinade and stir gently to coat. Put in the fridge for two days to marinate. If they dry up in that time, add a little more oil.

Serve as you would regular old salmon lox, if you ate fish.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Pack-a-Snack #80

Apple slices sandwiched around peanut butter and pinwheels of scallion pancake and veggie ham (Yves).

Friday, June 2, 2017

Insulated Jar & Sides #24

It's Frito chili pie! VEGAN! No,really! Sour cream, scallions, tomatoes, vegetarian chili topped with cheddar, and Fritos.

I thought, when I began this process, that I would have to find entirely new foods to eat, and I have, but there have been a lot of pleasant surprises in the realm of the familiar. This is one of them.

I've tried a few different vegan sour creams, and this one is my favorite: Tofutti. It's not exactly good for you,but neither is dairy sour cream. So don't eat this in large quantities. But a few tablespoons here and there are probably fine. (Although I'll remind you: I'm a historian, not a medical doctor, so be sure to talk to yours if you have questions.)

Also, cheese: Non-dairy cheese has improved drastically since the last time I tried it (in the first term of George W. Bush, as I recall). You have to melt it, but if you do, it's pretty good. These are Daiya cheddar-style shreds. Here is one really big difference to me, though: I no longer want a lot of cheese. Just a little will do. It's more like a seasoning than a big part of the dish.

I recommend making your own chili, of course, but this will do in a pinch (Hormel).

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #25

Some veggie breakfast sausages (Field Roast), banana spice pancakes topped with banana slices and pecans, maple syrup, and grapes.

This is one of those days I was improvising with what I happened to have around. The pancakes are from a cinnamon spice pancake mix (most pancake mixes I've seen are vegan) to which I added half a mashed banana along with the water. I thought the sliced bananas might turn brown and look gross at lunch, but they didn't really. I was astonished.

I also wondered whether this would be palatable at room temperature. It was actually really good. Go figure.

Also, an added bonus: I didn't get syrup in my hair when I ate this, which is almost never the case with me eating pancakes.