Monday, October 30, 2006

Lunch Box of the DAMNED

Cue the scary music and ghost sounds, because it's time for the Halloween Lunch Box! It's a ghastly Mummy Calzone on a bed of mummy wrappings (torn paper towel), with a bucket of blood (pizza sauce) for dipping.

Two gruesome shrunken heads (a baked apple with clove eyes) rise up from a swamp of blackberry applesauce, and a little paper pumpkin holds dessert.

I saw this clever calzone in a Halloween recipe booklet at the grocery store. I veganized it by using my recipe for Broccoli Calzones in Vegan Lunch Box. I divided the wholegrain pizza dough into five pieces instead of eight, in order to roll out each piece and trim them into triangle shapes. I used a pizza wheel to cut the sides into strips, then filled the center with broccoli and tofu "ricotta". I rounded the top strip of dough into a head and overlapped the dough strips all the way down to form the mummy body. Bits of black olives are the eyes.

For dessert, a little pumpkin filled with candy and confetti is a nice way to make a small amount of candy feel like a very special treat. Just wrap one or two pieces of candy and some Halloween confetti or toys in a circle of orange tissue paper. Twist the top and seal with a bit of green floral tape.

Verdict: "It's very important to decide whether to eat the head or feet first," shmoo informs. "I ate the head!" He was delighted by the shrunken heads. "Weird!" he says. I warned him ahead of time not to try to eat the cloves! 5 howls at the moon.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Thoughts on "Fitting In"

The indomitable Erik Marcus asked if I would put together a little audio segment for his podcast this week, in celebration of the release of Vegan Lunch Box. I happily agreed!

So bop on over and listen to the October 28th show, which includes my segment on vegan kids "fitting in" at school.

For those of you haven't done so already, I urge you all to subscribe to Erik's Diner, and fill your iPod-shod ears with hearty helpings of vegan goodness.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Shmoo is heading out on a science class field trip today. In celebration of the launch of my new Vegan Lunch Box cookbook, I've used three recipes from the book in this lunch -- one in a brand new way! I've even included page numbers, so you can all play along at home starting November 15th.

First, Roasted Tomato Basil Soup (page 124) is packed in a thermos, topped with a chiffonade of basil (I love saying chiffonade). I wanted to serve the soup with some fall-themed crackers, so I used the barley poppyseed crust from my Savory Autumn Leaf Pies (page 243), rolled it thin and cut crackers out with tiny oak leaf and acorn cookie cutters. Sprinkle them with salt if you like, then bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 375ºF for about 12 minutes, or until golden.

A salad of romaine, raddichio, and carrot is on the side (I'm still too freaked out to add his favorite baby spinach leaves), with a small container of Asian Miracle Dressing (page 159 and here).

For dessert, Asian pear and raspberries mixed together, and one piece of our Halloween dark chocolate.

Verdict: Shmoo tells me he's "addicted" to this hot, soothing soup (oh, and to lima beans). Once he starts eating it he just can't stop! A fantastic lunch, but we all agree that the chocolate is very bitter, and not as sweet as last year. 5 stars.

Tune in Monday for a Halloween Lunch Box of the Damned (bwahahah).

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's Here!

Finally, at long last, my new cookbook Vegan Lunch Box is ready for purchase! The books will be arriving at the beginning of November and orders will start shipping November 15th (just in time for the holidays, whew).

Operators are standing by! If you preorder today at, your book will be lovingly packaged and delivered to the post office by none other than yours truly!

Wait, there's more! Ordering direct will also get you free shipping on domestic U.S. orders (additional shipping costs apply to international and priority orders).

But that's not all! Order today and you'll also get a super-spiffy "Vegan Lunch Box" sticker that you can stick on your very own lunch box! Or wherever you want. How great is that?! (12/1 update: sorry, stickers are sold out!)

By the way, if you would like to have your copy autographed, I can do that, too. Just write me a note in the "Other Instructions" box on your order form.

So go right here right now to order a copy or read more about what's in the Vegan Lunch Box. Woo!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Pad Thai

My son has always been an adventurous eater, willing and eager to try anything once. Unfortunately, he also has a very quick gag reflex. This does not a happy combination make.

The first time shmoo tried pad thai was off his father's plate at a cozy little Thai restaurant. He asked for the noodle, placed it in his mouth, and promptly threw up all over the table. I was mortified beyond my wildest nightmares. I rushed him off to the bathroom while the waitress earned possibly the largest tip ever by clearing off the table. I knew right then and there that rice noodles were OUT.

But this summer (four years later) shmoo told me he wanted to give rice noodles another try. With no small amount of trepidation, I placed some pad thai on his plate in the safety of our own home and ran for cover. Lo and behold, he loved it!

So, here's a vegan pad thai lunch to celebrate shmoo's new love of rice noodles. A Taste of Thai's Pad Thai For Two is vegan (hooray, no fish!); I followed the recipe on the package, substituting crumbled tofu tossed in a bit of turmeric for the egg. I garnished it with fresh cilantro and a wedge of lime.

On the side are three recipes from the vegan Thai cookbook Buddha's Table: Thai Feasting Vegetarian Styleby Chat Mingkwan. First, Stir-fried Red Curry Green Beans with just a hint of red curry paste, made with mushrooms instead of tofu. Then a crisp, refreshing Cucumber Salad garnished with cilantro. For dessert, a wedge of Asian Pear sits alongside a very interesting little treat: a Thai Cupcake (kanom thuay). These traditional Thai sweets are made with coconut milk, rice flour, and sugar, steamed in small saucers until firm. They taste a bit like coconut-flavored gum drops!

Verdict: It was -- dare I say it? -- Thai-riffic! Doh! Shmoo's favorite part was the tender, spicy green beans (he picked out the mushrooms). 4 stars.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Home Sick Soup #1

I know, you can't always be a spectacular vegan, packing a fantastic vegan lunch to go. Some times even a vegan gets to feelin' poorly. Then, it's nice to stay home and comfort yourself with a nice big bowl of hot soup.

Chicken noodle? Forget about it! Dead chicken can't hold a candle to a steamy, soothing bowl of Tomato Rasam.

Resplendent with Indian spices, cilantro, and fresh ginger, this soup sings in your mouth, warming weary bones and soothing sore throats. Best of all, it takes a mere 10 minutes to make, but tastes like it's been simmering on the stove all day.

Tomato rasam is one of our favorite sick day comfort foods. It's like soup for the soul.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Nacho Cheese

Another Monday, another lunch box!

My friend Linda shared this lunch idea with me. It's a menu that got five stars from her own little shmoo-ette: Nacho Cheese Dip made with nutritional yeast and pimentos, packed in a thermos with corn chips for dipping and a tortilla wrap filled with veggie chicken strips. I followed her lead but filled shmoo's whole wheat wrap with his favorite refried beans instead.

On the side are baby carrots, garden-fresh tomatoes, and some apple slices with Aztec-inspired designs carved into the skin (we've been studying Mesoamerica this week).

Verdict: This was by far the best nacho cheese we've ever had (including those made with dairy cheese!), and one of the best uncheeses I've ever tasted. If we find out where her friend got the original recipe, I'll be linking to it here (UPDATE: follow the link on "Nacho Cheese Dip" above to go to the recipe and read about its origins). Shmoo was raving about this lunch! 5 stars. Thanks, Linda!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Vegan Bento

I've been feeling inspired and amazed lately by some of the wonderful Japanese bento blogs out there, like Bento Corner and Cooking Cute (wow!). What a different state the West would be in if we more closely emulated the Japanese diet, rich in vegetables, soy, and rice, and emphasizing variety (look at the array of vegetables even a three-year-old gets in his itty-bitty bento!)

In my Japanese-inspired lunch box are rice shapes made with molds I picked up at the Bento TV shop. Regular paper punches are used to make these cute nori seaweed designs.

Tamago yaki (Japanese omelet) is a common addition to the Japanese bento box, so I wanted a vegan version. I started with Bryanna's Tofu Omelet (scroll down), added soy sauce and sugar, and sprinkled the top with swiss chard that had been cooked, squeezed dry, and chopped (you could also use crumbled ajitsuke-nori, spring onions, or other cooked greens). I baked the omelets in small squares, let them cool, then carefully rolled and cut them.

To finish the lunch I packed cherry tomatoes, cooked carrots cut into little flowers, and some of my niece's baby apples. (Explanation: My 2 yo niece is the pickiest eater I've ever met. Ever. She refuses most foods but likes apples. She shook her head and turned away from grapes until sneaky grandma told her they were "baby apples". "Bayee apples? Oooh!" She ate a whole bunch.)

Verdict: Shmoo's favorite part of this lunch? The carrots, he said, were particularly tasty. He picked off the chard but liked the tofu tamago yaki, and now wants to know if he can eat every meal with a little platic toothpick. 4 stars.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Tofu Pâté Shells

Here's a fun, easy lunch: cook jumbo pasta shells according to the package directions, rinse with cold water and drain well. Stuff with Toby's Lemon Dill Tofu Pâté (we tried Toby's for the first time this summer, and boy, is it fabulous). Garnish with a sprig of fresh dill.

On the side is shmoo's all-time favorite lunch box veggie: peas and carrots. I cook chopped baby carrots until tender and add the frozen peas for the last minute or so. He loves these veggies cold and always eats them first. Above the shells are some of our very own home-grown organic Golden Muscat and Concord grapes. We'll be making the rest into juice this week. Finally, for dessert, a warren of chocolate chip and chocolate Bunny Grahams.

Verdict: Stuffed jumbo shells make a great lunch, but be prepared: the filling tends to goosh out the back when you first take a bite. Three shells were the perfect serving size. Shmoo didn't finish all his grapes. Seeded grapes are much more fun to eat outside, he says, when you can spit them hither and yon. 4 stars.