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.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

KOSOX 2-Tier Sushi Box #20

Because there was a lunch thing at work (although not really vegan friendly, but that's another story), for today's blog we reach back to the season when I was still facing a steep vegan learning curve, but somehow managed to put food together anyway. And so: a coconut bar with chocolate and cranberries, grapes, a tiny pasta salad made from leftover noodles, Ritz crackers (I think they were "everything" crackers), Yves veggie pepperoni, baby carrots, and grape tomatoes.

The coconut bar was more like a candy bar than I had anticipated when I bought it. But vegan tip: it was from the kosher-for-Passover section (this was, as you might guess, from quite a while ago). Kosher food often leaves out dairy you'd find in non-kosher food, so if you have a kosher section, it can be a good place to shop.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #31

Grapefruit avocado salad, no-bake peanut butter chocolate chip coconut bites (recipe below), and baby carrots.

I think when most people think of vegan food, they probably think of something like this, a slightly scary looking mashup of plants that may not seem to belong together, if they don't think of bizarre "fake" foods. This may be the most "crunchy" (as the term is used to describe hippy natural foodists) meal I've ever prepared, though some of you may be able to find evidence to the contrary! But it was good. And free of gluten, should that matter.

The salad recipe initially seemed odd to me, but a co-worker had some extra grapefruit she was giving away, so I figured the time was right to try it out. It wasn't epic--I think next time I'll try that other dressing mentioned in the website, the one made of mayo and plum jelly--but it was good.

The peanut butter bites on the other hand? Epic. I packed too many, because they are dense little packets of protein and fat, but I had the extra for an afternoon snack and polished off the whole batch in a day. I adjusted this recipe to make just six little balls and to use no stir peanut butter. I also used sweetened coconut because that is what I had, so these may be too sweet for my crunchy credentials. But need I repeat that they're amazing?

No-bake peanut butter chocolate chip coconut bites
Makes six balls

3 tablespoons shredded coconut
3 tablespoons rolled oats
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon dark chocolate chips
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Mix coconut, oats, flaxseed, and chocolate chips in a bowl. In another bowl, mix peanut butter and maple syrup, then dump into the dry ingredients and mix everything together. Form six balls from this. Refrigerate to firm up if you like, or serve as they are.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Temari Rabbit Bento Bowl #20

Vegan saag paneer and Trader Joe's Punjab Eggplant over basmati rice, apple slices, and crunchy Biscoff spread.

This saag paneer wasn't quite like what I remembered and loved, but it was a reasonably good spinach curry with tofu, and went well with the eggplant, so there you go.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Laptop Lunches #276

Garlic toast, Rainier cherries, veganized (almost) tater tot casserole, and celery sticks.

There is an adventure to changing your diet. There are lots of new things to try, new flavors, new genres. But there is also a need, to the extent possible, to make transitions as gently as possible. I've eaten a lot of foods from across the world, but I was craving the flavors of classic American "caker" cooking this weekend. What's more stereotypically American than that Midwestern staple, the tater tot casserole?

The funny thing is that I'd never had the original tater tot casserole, but I knew I'd had the basic flavors many times before: layers of ground beef, mixed veggies, cream of mushroom soup, cheese, and tater tots. Given my success with TVP in the goulash I had last week, I looked at lots of recipes and improvised my own veganized (almost) tater tot casserole. (I say "almost" because, as before, I'm still using that beef bouillon I still have.) It was pretty easy, and it soothed some part of my soul. At some point I'll share a recipe with you (I want to try different veggies), but this was pretty great anyway.

I will tag this vegan because one could absolutely make it vegan and the only non-vegan thing in it was the bouillon, which is an easy substitution. Stay tuned for the next time this comes around, fully vegan and delightful. And I'm happy to know I'm finding a vegan groove, where I have the confidence to play around and try getting creative with these new ingredients.

Friday, July 7, 2017

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One #54

Rainier cherries, a tortilla, and burrito fillings: vegan sour cream, sliced black olives, refried beans, avocado, tomato, and shredded iceberg lettuce (under the avocado and tomato).

Because of my ongoing frugality quest, I went with this easy make-it-at-lunch burrito using the rest of the beans from yesterday's taco casserole. Because I knew I wasn't going to eat it hot, I left out the cheese (vegan cheese is much better melted). This was really satisfying.

Frugal or not, Rainier cherries appear but a few weeks out of the year, so I buy them in quantity when they do. They are amazing.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #30

Chunks of avocado, diced tomatoes, vegan sour cream, Taco Casserole I veganized based partly on this recipe, and nectarine slices.

I think I've mentioned my current quest to be as frugal as possible, so this week I'm trying to eat things up rather than buying new things (other than produce from the super cheap market down the road as needed to flesh things out). And so, here we are. This casserole was so good you guys, and it was even better the next day. Also, it is gluten free in addition to being vegan, so live it up, all! No major allergens here!

Incidentally: It seems based on what I've been able to find that Goya Rancheros refried beans are vegan, but if you know otherwise, please let me know. I often get confused when products are "controversial" and they do have the mystery "natural ingredients" on the label. Goya's website crashes every time I try to ask them about this.

Enough of my anxiety about beans; here we go with this recipe.

Taco Casserole
Serves 4

1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/3 cup chopped bell pepper, any color
1/4 of a small onion, chopped
1/3 cup frozen corn
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 small can red enchilada sauce
10 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips
2 1/2 slices vegan cheese (I used Chao)
1/2 can refried beans
1/4 cup shredded vegan cheese (I used Daiya cheddar style shreds)
About 6-8 black olives, sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cook bell pepper and onion in oil in a nonstick skillet until softened. Add corn and cook until thawed. Stir in chili powder, cumin, and salt to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon will probably do it).

Mix the refried beans with a little water if needed to make them spreadable; set aside.

Cover the bottom of a square baking dish with some of the enchilada sauce and put down a layer of half of the tortilla strips. Layer as follows: all of your beans, half of your veggies, half your remaining sauce, slices of cheese (cut to fit in a single layer), remaining tortilla strips, remaining veggies, remaining enchilada sauce, shredded cheese, and olive slices.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese melts (it's vegan cheese; you'll need to poke at it to check) and the casserole is bubbly.

Allow to sit for about 15-20 minutes before slicing.

Top with your favorite taco toppings, such as avocado, tomato, lettuce, sour cream, more olives, etc.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Insulated Jar & Sides #28

Cherries, vegan-ish goulash, and cucumber slices.

I found some beef bouillon that was hiding in my kitchen and used it in this recipe for vegan goulash, so this is not vegan, although it otherwise contains no animal products. I felt weird using the beef bouillon but it helps nothing to just throw it out, so here we are. Just goes to show you how long the transitional phase can last if you're trying to eat up all your animal products alone. I last purchased an animal product sometime in October. (I did not have to tell you this, I guess, but wanted to.)

Someday, when I make it with no animal products, I will give you a recipe. I've got my eye on the Better than Bouillon Not Beef for the future. However, it was really good, and represents a major win for a new ingredient for me: TVP (textured vegetable protein). It has the basic texture of ground beef or turkey and sucks up the flavors you add to it.

I will, however, tag this as a vegan/vegetarian lunch, because you absolutely could make this with veggie stock of some kind and I'm sure it would turn out great. Also, this is one of those better-as-leftovers recipes that seem like something magical.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

3-Tier Bottle Bento #37

Happy Independence Day! I'm not at work but I have this from several months ago to show you (from the not-blogging, vegan transition angst hiatus). It is not vegan, but shows how I was beginning to experiment with vegan food.

This includes Gardein mandarin orange crispy chick'n with sesame seeds and scallions (vegan), applesauce topped with cinnamon sugar (vegan), and white rice topped with salmon furikake (not vegan). I would still have the salmon furikake if a friend hadn't asked me for it, incidentally; that is one of those things that seems to last forever in the pantry. I've yet to replace it with a vegan furikake, of which there are many varieties. Maybe next time I'm at an Asian market I'll pick up some.

I loved the Gardein products, and this was one of the first I tried. It was one of the things that gave me the bravery to keep trying this vegan thing.

Monday, July 3, 2017

KOSOX 2-Tier Sushi Box #19

I had to go to a potluck. And it was definitely not a vegan potluck, and I didn't know most of the people, so I wanted to go with something I thought was safe. Well, who objects to veggie sushi? Surely most people would like that. And I had everything on hand to make it, which meant I was a frugal success. (Except, I later discovered, the nori, but that was easy to get.) And I proceeded to make a sushi feast to share. Well, somewhere between sushi and kimbap, which is Korean and very much like sushi, and in my experience always involves pickled daikon radishes.

And so there were pickled daikon radishes, and cucumber, and carrots, and avocado. And I even made the avocado rolls inside out and covered them in black sesame seeds. It wasn't perfect but it was really pretty!

The rolls I made that included all four fillings were the very best sushi I've ever made, hands down.

And then nobody ate them except my friend and me, and I had tons left over. And thus, this lunch, even though leftover sushi leaves something to be desired:

Some people, it turns out, refuse to try sushi under any circumstances. Those people made me sad.