Monday, August 28, 2006


Oh, I think BentoTV is just about the cutest thing EVER. I want every little bento box, nori punch, and rice mold she carries.

Too bad the show isn't vegan. But I think a lot of the ideas could easily be veganized. (Do veggie dogs make good octopuses?)

A Vegan Campfire

Here's our brave shmoo ready to hit the trail on another exciting outdoor adventure. Man, that kid can hike!

If you're getting ready to head into the wilderness, too, check out the new article I wrote for A Vegan Campfire.

Special thanks to TsugaMensch for recommending the book Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpackin'.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Happy Campers

We're back from our big end-of-summer campout! Last year I relied heavily on meal packets from Mary Jane's Farm. Although I still love them, at around $7 a serving the price was looking a bit too steep. This year I decided to make my own camp tucker using dried or canned foods that wouldn't go bad without refrigeration.

The first night we had the luxury of a fresh green salad from the still-cool cooler, along with a heap o' "High Water Hoppin' John" -- black-eyed peas, precooked brown rice, and a can of collard greens. This recipe was from the clever new cookbook Apocalypse Chow by well-known vegan chef Robin Robertson. The book is a "guide to eating with elegance even when the refrigerator, stove, and microwave are rendered powerless", and it succeeds wonderfully; stock your pantry using these helpful lists and recipes and your family will stay happy and well-fed during the next natural disaster. The recipes rely heavily on canned foods, so it's perfect for car camping where weight isn't an issue.

Speaking of canned food, I didn't want shmoo to miss out on the quintessential campfire "weenie roast" experience, so I brought along a can of Cedar Lake Deli-Franks. Canned veggie dogs frighten me, but shmoo jumped in with gusto and roasted them over the campfire, along with (of course) vegan marshmallows. He gave them both a big, sticky thumbs up!

So what if food weight is an issue? If you're hauling everything into the back country, you're going to want to ditch the cans and find something more lightweight and portable. That's where my favorite camping cookbook of all time comes in: Simple Foods for the Pack. This friendly little book has dozens of easily veganized recipes. Pictured here are Polenta Cakes: sturdy, savory "journey cakes" made at home the night before the trip. These tasty mini-casseroles were filled with zucchini, carrots, tahini, and onion (shhh, don't tell shmoo). I would recommend them highly for the lunchbox.

Ah, and those of you who are addicted to Larabars will be happy to note that this book includes an entire collection of "fudges" made from mashed dried fruits, dates, and nuts. Pictured here is Apricot Date Fudge, made from dried apricots, dates, walnuts, coconut, and a squeeze of lime. This was my husband's favorite campout treat.

On our final night I made another dish from Simple Foods: Sunflower Seed Patties with Shiitake Mushroom Sauce (I left out the milk powder and added more vegetable broth powder to make it vegan). I was amazed that this dish fit easily into two small ziplock bags, weighed almost nothing, and made enough for three generous servings. I opened up some small cans of peas, corn, and spinach on the side.

And finally, for dessert, here's a dish I created especially for our trip: Peach Blueberry Campout Crumble. I've wanted to work with dehydrated Just Blueberries for a long time, and I finally got my chance. The flavor was surprisingly fresh, and they plumped up with just a minute's cooking time.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Thank you, Bobby Flay!

Yes, even Bobby Flay can provide inspiration for the vegan chef! His Chinese Chicken Salad is one of my favorite salads of all time: shredded Napa cabbage, sugar snap peas, cilantro, carrots, and peanuts with a zippy red chile peanut dressing. I veganize it by substituting agave for the honey and topping it with grilled tempeh instead of chicken. The flavors sing!

Today, however, I tried topping the salad with cashews and Orange Cashew Dressing, basically because I had some in the fridge. I also packed a kiwi fruit (I like to slice them in half and scoop them out with a spoon) and one of my new favorite snacks: Millet Rice Manna Bread. Manna Bread is made entirely of sprouted wheat kernels, which are said to be easier to digest than regular wholewheat flour. The loaf is cakey, dense, and moist, excellent plain or topped with cashew butter. This fall, when it stops being hotter than blue blazes round here, I plan to bake my own.

Verdict: I liked the cashews, but missed the more assertive peanut dressing. 4 stars.

P.S. Yes, this was a little lunch just for me; shmoo is eight now, and has been really into cooking for himself these days (his specialty is smoothies). I'm happy to step back and let him choose his own meals; it's fun to watch him learning to cook, and I'm not about to give him a complex by jumping in to take pictures.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Can it really be August already?

Today Disease-Proof blog is reminding me that it's almost time for back-to-school with their post on Packing A Lunch For School.

We're going to have to give that Hot Russian Dressing a try.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Shmoo Review

Recently I set out to find books my son and I could read together that would encourage healthy eating without requiring any dairy deprogramming afterwards (kids are always being told to drink lots of milk for "strong bones and teeth", with no mention of other sources of calcium).

The first book we ordered, The Children's Health Food Book, sounded promising: superhero "Health Guardians" like "Vegetarian Warrior" and "Fruitarian Fighter" do battle against the evil "Meat Monster" and "Sugar Demon". Sounds perfect for an eight-year-old!

But when we sat down together to read the book we both became...confused. What does the author mean by "mucus"? Is this some kind of raw food thing? Mucus, he says, causes all the adult diseases and all childhood illnesses like colds, flus, and asthma. Mucus comes from eating "thick gooey food" like meat, milk, sugar, and starch. I told shmoo my best guess was that the author was referring to atherosclerosis, but I really have no idea.

My son's biggest complaint was the lack of story line; the book reads more like a lesson than the action-adventure he had been hoping for. 1 star.

Next came The Race Against Junk Food, starring the S.N.A.K. Posse ("Super Nutritionally Active Kids"). The message here is clear, straightforward, and universally acceptable: junk food and cigarettes are BAD; fruits, vegetables, and exercise are GOOD.

The author uses an action-packed story to get the point across, combined with colorful, detailed illustrations (we loved all the exercising vegetables). Shmoo liked sitting down with this one; he carefully analyzed each picture and read the story several times on his own. I only wish a competent editor had helped with punctuation and sentence structure; better writing could have made this story easier to read. 4 stars.