Monday, December 31, 2007

Let's Do Lunch!

Happy New Year, Lunch Box Fans! Will you be eating Vegan Hoppin' John tomorrow, for good luck in the new year? I hope so!

Well, look what Santa brought me: my very own Borsa Bella Bag (sitting in front of the beautiful white roses my husband brought me for Christmas. Take that, Santa.)

These adorable handcrafted bags are made in America by the sister of a good friend of mine. When I saw the name of this bag -- "Let's Do Lunch" -- I knew I had to feature it on my blog. The bag has a quilted interior with inside pockets to hold utensils, napkins, and an ice pack, with a magnetic clasp at the top to keep the bag closed. It's a nice way to keep all your lunch containers and utensils together in one place.

Here's the vegan momma lunch I put together to go inside my chic new bag: a thermos filled with Dr. Fuhrman's Famous Soup alongside a rectangular stainless steel lunch box filled with stir-fried carrots and arame (a type of seaweed), two brown rice flowers, and a sweet Clementine mandarin for dessert.

Verdict: I am absolutely in love with arame and carrots, stir-fried together with a touch of dark sesame oil and a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds. If you have never considered eating sea vegetables, let me tell you that seaweed is simply bursting with good-for-you minerals like calcium, iron, zinc and iodine. Not only that, it also tastes amazing! Arame is a nice one to start with, as it has a mild, almost sweet taste that is easy to enjoy. Try it in a stir-fry like this one, or cooked, chilled, and sprinkled on top of a vinegar-based potato salad. Yum!

Thank you, Borsa Bella!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Preview of Coming Attractions

Here's a sneak peek at the cover design for the new, updated edition of Vegan Lunch Box coming out this March from Da Capo Lifelong Books!

For the original, self-published edition my husband and I did all the typesetting, photography, and cover design ourselves. I'm excited to see what real fancy-pants professional publishers in New York City can do. I like what I've seen so far. What do you think?

The cookbook will contain all the recipes of the old edition, plus some new, and will be completely reorganized and stylized. Best of all, I think they've even lowered the price a bit!

I can't wait to get a peek inside!

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Lonely Lunch Box

Here it is, all alone at the bottom of the box: a final unsold copy of Vegan Lunch Box. Yes, I've turned off my ordering buttons and closed up shop, ready to devote myself full time to shmoo's third grade year.

But don't despair, vegan lunch fans! I'm excited to report that a brand new, completely revised edition of Vegan Lunch Box will be coming out from Da Capo Lifelong Books in March 2008.

The book is being completely redesigned (by professionals, even!) It will include all the recipes from the original plus brand new menus and recipes I created especially for the new edition. The best part is that the book will now be widely available in bookstores across the country, instead of being distributed one at a time out of a basement in eastern Washington. Check back for more information and a glimpse of the new cover some time in the next few months.

If you would still like to get your hands on a copy of the original, self-published edition, copies are still available over at Laptop Lunches. Order one while supplies last, or hunker down and wait for spring.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Saley Days of Summer are Over

The crazy summer blow out sale was a huge success! We moved boxes and boxes of books and the orders just kept pouring in. Thanks so much to everyone who bought a book plus one to share!

I hope all you parents had a great summer and are ready to gear up for fall. I love Back To School time!! Can you believe it's just around the corner already? I'm starting to put together shmoo's third grade learning plan and order new math and history books. I really do enjoy sitting down with him for lessons each day, so I'm excited about all we'll get to learn and do this year.

Unfortunately for all you bento fans, we won't have much need for lunch boxes this year. Staying at home generally negates the need for a packed lunch, you know. Besides, I'm sure you can tell that I've always made my more elaborate lunches more for my own sense of artistic and aesthetic accomplishment than for shmoo. It was easy to find the time when shmoo was off at school all day, but now that he is home with me and has also gotten older (9 as of this week!) he really has lost interest in the whole endeavor. At the same time my sense of creative fulfillment has shifted to helping with his education and to a number of volunteer efforts. It's been a fantastic adventure, and I'm excited to be moving on to new things.

Having said that, I want to let you all know that there are only a few boxes of Vegan Lunch Box left. If you wish to order a copy for this school year, you probably want to do so quite soon! After these final cases are gone, it will be several months before the book becomes available again.

Monday, June 18, 2007

It's Crazy Kung Fu Shmoo's Summer Clearance Blow Out SALE!

UPDATE: Please note that this sale expired August 1st.

That's right! We're crazy, crazy, crazy for slashing prices this low -- must be the heat! Visit to take advantage of my Summer Clearance Blow Out Sale: from now until August 1st buy TWO COPIES FOR $30.00! You heard right: two copies of Vegan Lunch Box for just $30.00! *

Woo, I always wanted to be a used car salesman. Anyway, I thought perhaps a juicy sale might encourage people to buy copies now for back-to-school time, so I don't get slammed in late August. And perhaps it will make up a bit for my shameful lack of posts.

Things have been quiet around here lately, I know. Please don't expect too much of me this summer; a lot has been happening in my life that doesn't fit in a lunch box! I hope everyone is out there enjoying some vacations and summer fun, like we are.

Someone mentioned hoping I would post some summer travel ideas and recipes. Please don't forget to look through the archive of recipes and blog posts from last summer for a collection of picnic, road trip, and camping ideas.

*Every good sale has to have fine print, so here's mine: Price includes free shipping via USPS Media Mail. This deal is for US orders only. For International and Priority shipping, please select the Priority and International order button and order at the regular price of $22.95 plus $5.00 shipping. To purchase just one copy, use the regular $22.95 order button.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Eat To Live Bundle

FYI for those of you who are interested in learning more about Eat To Live, I am selling an Eat To Live Bundle on ebay.

The set includes both of Dr. Fuhrman's DVDs, the 5 CD audio book "Disease-Proof Your Child", and an unused container of Dr. Fuhrman's Cocoa Powder (I bought it, then thought better of adding cocoa powder back to my diet -- too tempting!).

Even after you've sat down and watched them once, these DVDs are great for putting on in the background for snippets of encouragement and inspiration as you putter around during the day. The CDs are especially great for listening to in the car with the kids. After they hear these lessons on the fabulous disease-fighting properties of a healthy, plant-based diet, you might find your kids becoming more enthusiastic about eating their vegetables!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Rocking Rainbow PB & J

Remember the Jif Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest? Back in February shmoo and I sampled the Texas Roll 'Em Up, and today I finally got around to making my second favorite entry: the Rocking Rainbow PB & J. Although neither of my vegan-friendly favorites won the contest, they both made Runner Up.

Half a whole wheat pita is filled with (organic, all natural) peanut butter and grandma's homemade jam, and the outside is spread with more peanut butter and decorated with fruit.

Two daikon butterflies are flitting about the rainbow. (Please don't ask me how I did it. I found instructions in an old library book on garnishes, and I went through an entire daikon to get these two good ones!) Baby carrots with vegan ranch dip, a small container of sesame sticks and a cup of shmoo's favorite oat milk complete the meal.

Verdict: The biggest question I had about the Rocking Rainbow was, how do you pick it up and eat it without all the fruit falling all over the place? Well, shmoo solved the problem in his own simple way: he picked all the fruit off and ate it first with his fingers, then picked up the pita and ate the sandwich. The butterflies got their little wings nibbled off, and everything else was devoured. 4 stars.

P.S. Speaking of pb & j, isn't it amazing what a simple peanut butter sandwich can do?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Wild Garden Hummus

Those of you who read my picnic posts last summer might remember my love for Wild Garden Hummus. It's my favorite hummus for camping, traveling, and picnics; the flavor is mild and not too garlicky for kids, it's oil-free, and best of all the jars are shelf-stable and don't need refrigeration. Yes, I've packed many a glass jar of Wild Garden for lunch on a long train or car trip.

So imagine how excited I was to find out that Wild Garden now comes in single-serving "Hummus To Go" packs! Hey, no more heavy glass jars or leftovers going to waste! I plan to pack some of these with us on our outings all summer long.

Today I packed the hummus with some Wild Garden Roasted Garlic Pita Chips, baby carrots, sugar snap peas, and cucumber, and a fresh mandarin orange cut into wedges.

Next to the hummus a bite of Equal Exchange Dark Chocolate is peeking out. One of shmoo's friends was selling these fair trade chocolates and coffee as a student fundraiser. How cool is that? Most of the kids' group fundraisers I've seen have involved chemical-laden cookie dough, microwave popcorn, or cheap chocolate at a high price. It's great to discover that there are positive, vegan- and eco-friendly alternatives.

Verdict: Certainly this is one of the easiest lunches I've ever packed! Shmoo tore off a corner of the hummus pack and squeezed ribbons of hummus onto his pita chips, reminding me of the Cheez Whiz of my youth. 5 stars.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sunny Wholegrain Sushi

Here's one of my lunches for a change, photographed in a colorful Melamine 3-Layer Tiffin from Pearl River. I actually bought the lunch box as a gift for a friend who collects melamine (shh, don't tell!) but couldn't resist posing a lunch in it before passing it on.

On the upper right is a big serving of Asian Salad made with baby lettuces, cucumber, edamame, carrot, and daikon.

On the upper left are some Sunny Wholegrain Sushi cones, filled with healthy whole grains, avocado slices, and sunflower sprouts. I shaped the cones using a sushi cone mold from BentoTV.

Above the cones are a pig-shaped container of homemade Ponzu Sauce for the sushi, a kiwi container of Orange Dressing for the salad, and some Japanese Spinach from Vegan Lunch Box. This recipe from my aunt is the ideal way to prepare cooked spinach for a lunch box; the spinach is barely blanched and all the liquid is squeezed out, leaving the spinach chewy and flavorful, and excellent cold.

For dessert are two mandarin orange flowers with kiwi fruit centers.

Verdict: In an appalling act of mealtime injustice, my husband ate both of my mandarin flowers when I wasn't looking, and had to face my righteous, mandarin-deprived wrath. 5 stars.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

More of Mabel

Linda from Mabel's Labels contacted me after reading my comment below on creating a label for veg*ans based on their Allergy Labels:
"Mabel is thinking we might be able to modify the Allergy Alert Label. Why don't you give me the text you'd like to see on a vegan label and we'll see if we can make a prototype."
How about it? Does anyone have some wording they would like to suggest? Would there be a demand in the veg*an community for a label like this for our children? Would you buy them?

Some of you have criticized my comment that the "I don't eat" list should be modifiable, because individuals have different ideas about what veganism or vegetarianism means to them. For example, some vegans would add white sugar to their list, others would not, and the same is true for honey. More controversially, I know scores of "vegans" and "vegetarians" who eat eggs, fish, chicken, etc. I'm not saying this is good or bad, I'm just saying it's true in my experience.

I understand that there is one set, proper definition, but in practice each family is different. I think allowing people to design their own "don't eat" list would be nice. Also, some parents might wish to add other items like "food coloring" or "wheat" to the list if their son or daughter is sensitive.

Perhaps leaving off the "I am a x" and just writing "Please don't feed me:" would be the best way to go.

More thoughts for Linda?

Monday, April 30, 2007

Mabel's Labels

So far in his school career, shmoo has misplaced four lunch containers, two container lids, several cloth napkins, and at least a dozen spoons (I've restocked the spoon drawer twice!)

So when Linda from Mabel's Labels offered to send some labels for shmoo, I was delighted. Now, as you can see, all shmoo's containers have his name and a cute little cat on them. Shmoo even got to pick out the color scheme and picture himself. And now when he forgets his lunch things they will at least have a bit better chance of making their way back to him.

My big question about the labels was how well they hold up to repeated washing. This picture was taken after lunch, when the containers had been washed with warm soapy water and air dried. The labels showed absolutely no sign of wear. I asked Linda about durability and received this response: "I personally have labels that have been on for over 2 years - the life expectancy of our labels is LONG!"

I love the labels, but here's what I really wanted to share, especially for those of you dealing with food allergies: Mabel's also sells Allergy Labels. How cool is that? You can detail what your child is allergic to and put it on everything they will eat and drink from during the day.

Hmm, I wonder if you could even change the wording from "I am allergic to:" to "I am vegan, I don't eat:"? Just a thought.

Thanks, Linda!

Road's End Shells & Chreese

Here's another new vegan product I picked up while on vacation: Road's End Shells & Chreese. I bought a box of their Cheddar Style Shells & Chreese to see how it would compare to my regular homemade version from Ultimate Uncheese (a perennial shmoo favorite).

It was so easy to make! I boiled the noodles, tossing in some frozen peas and corn at the end, drained it, then added some plain nondairy milk and the flavor packet. Just like a conventional box of mac & cheese! The instructions called for just 1/4 cup of nondairy milk, but the pasta still seemed too dry. I added at least an extra 1/4 cup before getting a nice, smooth consistency.

On the side are baby carrots with Vegenaise and dill for dipping, fruit salad, and three Mi-Del Ginger Snaps for dessert.

Verdict: Whipping this up took no time at all, but how would the flavor compare? "Hey, this tastes just like the macaroni and cheese that you make, Mom!" shmoo said. High praise for Road's End, from both the cook and the consumer. 5 stars.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

PUL Wrap

Vegan Lunch Box reader Lilia saw my recent post on Wrap-N-Mats and wrote in with these pictures and comments:

I saw your post about the Wrap- N-Mats and your dislike of the plastic smell. I found a solution and thought you might want to share with your readers. I made my own cloth diapers for my dd who is now 2 1/2 and potty trained. I have tons of PUL left over. This is polyurethane laminate coated fabric. After I read your post last night, I decided to wrap my sandwich in it. I made the sandwich last night, refrigerated it overnight and carried it in my insulated lunch bag. My sandwich was nice and soft at lunchtime. It didn't get stiff. I will be making more of these now for my family and my friends.

To get an idea about what the fabric looks like you can go to Diaper Shop. It's fairly soft considering it's coated, especially if the material that was coated is a knit. A little more stiff if it's a woven, but still folds up more like a thick napkin than plastic. I bought lots of "diapercuts" from Diaper Shop. You can get a nice variety of fabric choices this way, without having to buy a full yard. They run about $3 a cut. and could probably get 4 out of one 20x20 cut. Much more affordable than the Wrap-N-Mats.
As you can see from Lilia's pictures, making a PUL wrap looks easy, with no layers of fabric and plastic to sew together. And the fabric selection is great, with both fun prints and plain solids. Thanks, Lilia!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Follow Your Heart Pizza

On a recent trip out of town I was finally able to pick up some Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Cheese. I've been hearing about this stuff for years and couldn't wait to try it for myself. Today I took a bit of the mozzarella-style cheese and turned it into a lunch box pizza with tomato sauce, broccoli, and capers.

On the side is, yes, another Applesauce Fruit Squeezie and a bite of fair trade dark chocolate.

Verdict: I really, really wanted to like Follow Your Heart. It's more local than Sheese and isn't made with transfats like Tofutti slices. Perhaps it's a case of having inordinately high expectations, but I was disappointed. None of us liked the taste or texture of any of the Follow Your Heart cheeses. We found them gritty, soft, and watery. But still, I felt worlds better giving this to my son versus giving him Tofutti, and cooked on top of pizza shmoo said the mozzarella tasted "not bad". At lunchtime shmoo picked the broccoli off the pizza first and gobbled it up (dang, I should have put more on!), then ate every last bite of the pizza -- even the crusts! 3 stars for Follow Your Heart.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Wrap-N-Mat and Celebration Roast

Here's another new lunch toy! I came across Wrap-N-Mats a few months ago and was interested in trying one out. Wrap-N-Mats are a reusable plastic bag alternative that fold around a sandwich and close with velcro. The PEVA or PVC lining keeps the sandwich fresh, then at lunchtime the mat unfolds into a placemat. Nifty!

After we got over the fact that the brand new mat smelled like a stinky shower curtain, we decided to wipe it down and stick a sandwich in it.

I filled two slices of sprouted barley bread with Vegenaise, ketchup, lettuce, spinach, and cold slices of Celebration Roast. I bought the roast recently on a good friend's recommendation, and oh, I'm so glad I did! Even the meat-eater among us agreed that the roast was some of the best-tasting veggie meat we've had. Tasty hot or cold, Field and Celebration Roast are made from wheat gluten, pea flour, and lentils -- no soy, so they're a great veggie meat for those with soy allergies. The Celebration Roast includes a stuffing made from butternut squash, apples, mushrooms, and carrots -- more sneaky vegetables for the shmoo.

I know the whole point of the Wrap-N-Mat is to reduce waste, so it's ironic that the other treat I scored for the shmoo this week was an Applesauce Fruit Squeezie.That's right, shmoo can finally squeeze goo out of a plastic tube just like his friends! I packed the tube-o-mush alongside a fresh orange and some dairy-free Fig Newmans.

Here's the mat all folded and ready to go. Since we're on the subject of bags, I packed shmoo's fig bars in another plastic bag alternative: Natural Waxed Paper Bags. I like to fold the bag and use a hole punch to make two holes through the fold, then tie the bag shut with raffia or twine. (I'm sure I got that idea from Martha...)

Verdict: The Wrap-N-Mat worked nicely, but I must say I still prefer packing lunch in a lunch box. There's something so satisfying about how everything fits together inside a box, and since I tend to pack more fruit and vegetable salads, wet foods, noodles, rice, etc., a lunch box suits my style. But if you are a sandwich-a-day person, a Wrap-N-Mat would sure beat throw-away baggies. Shmoo was utterly delighted with his applesauce tube and wants to know if he can have one in his lunch every week from now on. 4 stars.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Shmoo Review: Twinkie, Deconstructed

"EEEW"..."Gross!"..."YUCK!" Warning: don't curl up in bed with Twinkie, Deconstructedif outbursts like that are going to keep your spouse from sleeping. Because it's hard not to exclaim out loud as author Steve Ettlinger leads you through the mysterious inner workings of the industrialized food system.

Ettlinger sets out to follow each ingredient in a Twinkie back to its original state, and describes the convoluted industrial processes that give us such food additive favorites as "polysorbate 60" and "sodium stearoyl lactylate".

This book is the perfect read for anyone who wonders where our food comes from and what it's made of. If you partake of modern processed goodies – and I don’t mean just the golden cream-filled ones -- you may be quite surprised to find out what you’ve been putting in your mouth. Even though Ettlinger chose to focus on the Twinkie because of its popularity and long list of ingredients, the additives and chemicals he describes are present in a vast number of the foods on our grocery store shelves -- yes, even some of the vegan ones.

Vegans might want to pay special attention to the chapter on soy, where Ettlinger describes the process by which soybeans are transformed into shortening, lecithin, and soy protein isolate, the last of which shows up in many vegan "meats" and "sports bars".

I highly recommend Twinkie, Deconstructed, but maybe not for bedtime reading. Because even after you quit shouting and let your partner go to sleep, you may find it hard to sleep yourself, your mind haunted by images of giant factories filled with corn, flour floating through sprays of chlorine gas, and soy flakes soaking in vats of lye. I know I did.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Shmoo Review: Everyday Dish

If you are a visual learner nothing beats watching a teacher demonstrate what they are trying to teach you. Case in point: cookbooks versus cooking shows. Some of us have a hard time looking at a written recipe and grasping what the cook is talking about, or what the finished recipe is supposed to look like.

If this sounds like you, I’m happy to report that there are plenty of great DVDs and cooking shows out there to introduce you to vegan cooking. In fact, three of my favorite vegan chefs recently sent me a copy of their new vegan cooking DVD, Everyday Dish: Vegetarian and Vegan Meals for Everyone.

Well-known cookbook authors Dreena Burton, Bryanna Clark Grogan, and Julie Hasson have teamed together to create this instructional DVD of 15 vegan recipes, including goodies like Hummus Tortilla Pizza, Lemon Lime Bars, and Triple Chocolate Pudding. The entire DVD is shot in the same gorgeous, well-appointed kitchen, and by the end of the show I felt I’d spent a cozy afternoon in this kitchen cooking with friends.

Although all three of the chefs were charming to watch, I thought Bryanna’s recipes most benefited from the visual format. Many of her recipes require a lot of preparation and call for ingredients that even long-time vegans might be unfamiliar with, like raw wheat gluten, agar, and TVP. If you have never made something like a gluten roast, it’s quite helpful to be able to watch one developing and see what it looks like when it’s done.

Another benefit of cooking DVD versus written recipe is catching all those little tips and tricks experienced cook use but don’t write down in their recipes. Dreena demonstrates how to handle a food processor without making a mess; Bryanna shows you the best way to open silken tofu. They both had me thinking, "Gosh, why didn’t I think of that?"

I would recommend that before you watch this show for the first time you insert the DVD into a DVD-ROM and print all the recipes. That way you can follow along and take notes on the recipes as you watch. Having copies of the recipes will also give you an idea of the quantities involved, as there is mostly no mention of exact amounts during the recipe demonstrations.

If you learn best by watching, are new to vegan cooking, or just enjoy watching cooking shows, the three accomplished vegan chefs of Everyday Dish are here for you!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Monkey Chow

We've gone BANANAS! First I went ape for this monkey bento container from Japan. Then when Mr. Monkey arrived he needed his very own banana napkin. You can see how things went from there...

The top container holds two Tofu Lettuce Cups -- gingery tofu, peanuts, coconut and lime juice wrapped in buttercrunch lettuce leaves.

The monkey container holds some mango chutney to add to the tofu before eating. Please note adorable banana-handled spoon.

In the other large container tropical party picks hold two miniature hazelnut butter and banana sandwiches next to a small cup of "Monkey Chow" (fruit-shaped cereal).

Finally, every monkey loves to eat his vegetables, so I packed cooked carrots and peas above a trio of corn tires.

Verdict: Oops, I forgot to pack a spoon, but shmoo didn't care. He picked up the container and shook all the peas and carrots into his mouth like the wild, crazy primate he is. Then he devoured the corn tires, flinging the empty cobs around the room and screeching. Just kidding. The little sandwiches and cereal went next, followed by the tofu...without the lettuce. 4 stars.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Typical Sunday Breakfast

Sometimes readers ask to see what we eat for other meals around here, like breakfast. So, leaving lunch boxes aside for now, here's a picture of one of my son's favorite weekend breakfast treats: waffles and eggs. That's right. In fact, he likes a fried egg placed directly on top of his waffle, just like this, so he can eat them both together. Yes, indeedy.


Were you fooled? Did I getcha? Oh my gosh, I'm so bad at pranks it was hard to even write that paragraph!

No, it's not an egg, I promise!

What is really in this VEGAN breakfast? You're looking at a Vans Organic Blueberry Toaster Waffle topped with vanilla soy yogurt and...a canned apricot half.

I found this idea for "Sunny-Side Up Waffles" in the Pillsbury Kids Cookbookand couldn't resist saving it for good ol' April Fools Day. The recipe notes that you could also use a canned peach half if you prefer.

Unfortunately, I didn't have any veggie bacon on hand to complete the illusion, but ripe kiwi fruit made a pretty side dish.

Verdict: Both shmoo and his dad had to stare at this little breakfast trick for quite a while before finally giving up and asking me what they were looking at. Best of all, the yogurt and fruit really did make a tasty waffle topping. Happy April Fools' Day!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Musubi Easter Eggs

Yes, yes, I know Easter is still a week away, but I've been looking forward to this lunch box for months, and besides, next week is Spring Break. Anyway, maybe this advance posting will give some of you time to join me in making adorable Musubi Eggs this Easter!

To make these eggless eggs I followed the recipe for Musubi in Vegan Lunch Box. (Also known as onigiri, musubi are Japanese sticky rice balls.) I pressed the sticky rice into a plastic Easter egg sprayed with nonstick spray to start forming the egg, then used my hands to solidify and finish the shaping. I pushed the filling in where an egg yolk would be. These are filled with cashew butter but tart, salty umeboshi plum is traditional.

To decorate the eggs I used mamenori -- thin, vegetable-dyed sheets of edible soybean paper (please note that the pink sheets are colored with cochineal and are therefore not vegan). I cut the sheets with scissors, pinking sheers, and paper punches, then set them in place with a dab of water. The mamenori tended to curl when wet but wouldn't stick without a bit of water, which was a big pain. In the end, though, I was happy with our little eggs and loved the pastel colors.

As you may have noticed if you followed the mamenori link above, these sheets cost a pretty penny, especially if you want to use an assortment of colors. I was lucky enough to work out a trade with Cooking Cute for a few sheets -- thanks, Ngoc! If mamenori is out of your price range, other options include using nori or dyeing the rice itself with natural food coloring. I even think those thin "fruit by the foot" fruit leathers I've seen at the grocery store would work.

I was also inspired recently by the fruit-filled bouquets over at Edible Arrangements, and decided try my hand at making my own tiny arrangement for Easter. I cut out a pineapple flower with a cookie cutter, used an apple corer to remove the center, then wedged a cantaloupe ball in the middle and surrounded the flower with honeydew leaves.

On the side is Sprout Salad with Mandarin Orange Dressing (also from Vegan Lunch Box). The dressing is hiding in a little plastic carrot down below, nestled next to a happy warren of jicama bunnies. A small container of sunflower seeds can be eaten as is or sprinkled on the sprouts.

Verdict: The first thing shmoo said upon seeing this lunch? "Oooh, honeydew!" Yes, melon is exciting when it's out of season! The eggs were a hit, too. Shmoo was tickled that he could actually eat the colored paper. He loves squeezing his dressings out of all these little plastic squeeze bottles, but still doesn't seem too keen on actually eating his salads. 5 stars. Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Vegan Lunch Box Accessories Kits

I love all the little napkins, containers, and toys I've been using lately in our lunch boxes. I thought some of you might want to join in the fun, so I've put together a selection of Lunch Box Accessories Kits for sale!

First, each kit will feature one of these 2.5 ounce stainless steel ramekins with a plastic lid. The ramekins will fit inside a Laptop Lunch System or a To-Go Ware container. They are perfect for holding dips, dressings, nuts or small treats. I can't imagine using my stainless steel lunch boxes without them.

Each kit will also include two or more little Lunch Box Napkins, sewn by yours truly. I've been digging through my fabric stash for the last two weeks, sewing up a huge assortment of napkins in all styles and colors, from the demure to the fun and colorful (I went a little crazy on this, so there are many more than what's pictured above).

Finally, as you can see from this picture, my "Lunch Box Toys" drawer is getting rather, well, STUFFED. In the spirit of Spring Cleaning I would be happy to throw in a random toy or two with each order. There are decorative paper and plastic liner cups to hold food and divide larger containers into smaller segments, small plastic containers, party picks and skewers, lunch box notes, soy sauce/dressing squeeze bottles, and more.

Order through PayPal by selecting the "Buy Now" button below. Important: when you place your order you will see a text note field that asks "What's Your Lunch Box Style?" Use this space to tell me anything that will help me choose the right napkins/toys for your order. For example, what kind of lunch box do you use? Is this for a little girl who loves pink, a boy who likes pirates, or a grown-up who likes sock monkeys? Are there any colors you really can't stand? Do you eat with chopsticks? Do you prefer something nondescript? Tell me all about it!

Ooh, I think this will be fun! Supplies are limited, so order quickly before they're all gone.

Lunch Box Accessories Kit
$15.00 (includes shipping)


Monday, March 19, 2007

Now THAT'S a Lunch Box!

Although I dearly love the kid-friendly Laptop Lunch System I use for shmoo, I still like to keep my eye out for larger, plastic-free lunch boxes that fit us big people and our big, plant-based appetites. Yes, sometimes even my To Go Ware doesn't hold enough salad to satisfy my veggie-lovin' tummy. It's time to Super Size It!

My latest is this 3-tier Food Carrier. It stands about 10 inches high including the handle, which means I can fit it into my insulated cooler for longer trips. With three containers I should be able to pack a nice variety of foods or a set of matching snacks for the three of us. (And hey, if that's still not big enough for you, how about this 4-tier version?)

For its maiden voyage I packed my new food carrier with a hearty lunch for two for shmoo and his Dad, who took off together on a day-long Field Trip of Science. Two white bean hummus and grated carrot sandwiches are packed in the first tier alongside a few radishes. I jammed as many fresh tangerine segments as I could into the second container (shmoo has been known to eat that many all by himself, so I hope he remembers to share!) In the bottom tier are tortilla chips and salsa and a few "seedy fudge balls" made from ground sesame, sunflower, and flax seeds mashed together with tahini, cashew butter, dates, raisins, and a splash of tangerine juice. I rolled them in cocoa so they look like little truffles.

Verdict: Shmoo is quite taken with these stainless steel containers, and is getting old enough to take them apart and put them together by himself. But is he old enough to carry one to school without swinging and denting it, and possibly someone's head in the process? I don't think so. He's sticking with the plastic lunch box.

Shmoo enjoyed the fruit and the fudge balls and ate all but the crusts of his sandwich. My husband took one small bite of his sandwich and ate all the chips and salsa. Guess who's the picky eater in this family? 4 stars.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Let's Hear It For Sneaky Mommas!

After seeing my recent pea-filled St. Patty's Sandwich, Vegan Lunch Box reader Roxy shared this tip: "I like to blend peas into guacamole--it adds more nutrition to the already nutritious dip and you really can't tell the peas are in there. I use about 1/4 cup of peas to every large avocado. Yum!" Thanks, Roxy, I love it! In fact, it inspired me to make a post especially for sharing these kinds of ideas.

Sometimes it seems like the only way you can get children to eat vegetables is to slip a bit in quietly here and there. Kids might also be resistant to eating beans, or nuts, or ground flaxseed, or their daily vitamin. What is a parent to do?

As those of you who have read my book will know, I love getting sneaky! And when it comes to getting healthy foods into reluctant kids, I think a Vita-Mix is a Sneaky Momma's Best Friend. I use mine almost every day to blend vegetables into creamy soups, cooked kale into pizza sauce, even spinach into breakfast smoothies!

Of course, I don't actually lie about what is in my blended concoctions, but even when I tell my son that his favorite black bean soup is filled with onions, zucchini, and peppers, he tends to shrug and keep on eating. I guess it's "out of sight, out of mind", and what he can't see can't gross him out.

What other tips do you have for us desperate Sneaky Mommas (and Poppas)? Please share! And don't worry -- your secrets are safe with us.

Shmoo Review: Benji Bean Sprout Doesn't Eat Meat!

Reviewed by special guest blogger Shmoo.

"Benji Bean Sprout Doesn't Eat Meat!is a kind of neat book. It's about a kid who eats vegetarian and other kids think he's weird because he doesn't eat meat. He eats vegetarian meat. The kids who make fun of him are mean but then they try his food and then they don't think he's so weird anymore. He goes to an animal sanctuary. I want to go to an animal sanctuary some day. I want to see a tiger.

"Vegetarian kids will like this book, or meat eating kids so they can learn about what happens in factory farms and what happens to the animals. Maybe they would lose their appetite for meat, or maybe they would be nicer to vegetarians.

"I have different lunches like this kid. Sometimes other kids wonder what I have for lunches. What was funny was one time this other kid said he liked the smell of my lunch. I like my lunches, too!"

Monday, March 12, 2007

St. Patty's Lunch Box

St. Patrick's Day (coming up on March 17th) is quite the event in the McCann household, with lots of wearin' and eatin' o' the green. Well, we eat green every day, but on St. Pat's lots of things start turning green! Case in point: these St. Patty's Peanut Butter sandwiches from Disease-Proof Your Child. Cooked peas are blended with peanut butter to make a stunning green spread. I added some agave syrup to make it a bit sweeter for shmoo.

Other green goodies include grapes, romaine lettuce with pumpkin seeds and a little shamrock squirt bottle filled with raspberry-balsamic vinegar.

And what would St. Patrick's Day be without potatoes? Here are two Potato Beetles from Vegan Lunch Box, packed with a container of ketchup. Chive antennae and nori smiles make these two very happy beetles.

Verdict: The potatoes were a huge hit, with demands for many more "potato 'polies" (he says he thinks they look like "rolypoly" bugs now) for snacks later. He left most of the salad but finished everything else. 4 leaf clovers. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 05, 2007


A Vegan Lunch Box reader named Melissa emailed me a few months ago suggesting that this recipe for pupusas would make a tasty vegan lunch. Pupusas are traditional El Salvadorian corn masa "cakes" filled with meat, cheese, or beans that are patted flat and fried. They are often sold by street vendors in El Salvador and Honduras.

My lumpy little pupusas are filled with refried black beans and cilantro. I must admit I have not yet achieved Masa Mastery; my dough kept tearing and sticking, leaving bits of refried bean poking out as I tried to round the dough balls and pat them flat. Eventually I came out with a few decent-looking pupusas, but even the really ugly ones still tasted good. I packed them with a small container of salsa.

Melissa serves her pupusas with a simple pickled radish slaw, so I followed her lead. This slaw is filled with green and purple cabbage, radishes, vinegar, and cilantro (I'm on a real slaw kick lately, now that I know I like it).

I also made my recipe for Calabacita con Elote (Mexican zucchini and corn) from Vegan Lunch Box. As I revisit some of my recipes with the nutritional knowledge I now have, I'm finding ways to make them healthier. In this case, I steam-fried the veggies with a bit of water instead of oil, then stirred in the marjoram with a tablespoon of Late Harvest Riesling Vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar, sugar and salt. We actually preferred the lighter taste of the white grape vinegar over the original recipe.

To finish the meal on a sweet note I tucked in an organic baby banana and a tangelo. (After taking the picture, shmoo requested that I score the tangelo for easier peeling and wrap it in plastic.)

Verdict: Sadly, this wasn't one of shmoo's favorites, although I thought it made a nice-looking, healthy, well-balanced lunch. He liked the fruit and pupusas and ate them all, but just picked some of the radishes and corn out of the veggie dishes. 3 stars.

Thanks so much, Melissa, for introducing us to pupusas!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wateroos & Water Bottles

After my recent post on Hint, several readers emailed me with further suggestions for healthy, kid-friendly beverages. One reader recently sent me a link to Wateroos, plain and naturally flavored water in juice boxes.

They sound very similar to Hint, but in a smaller package that would fit in with the Juice Box Crowd at preschool and the playground. Again, I hate to see the wasteful packaging; at least with Hint we are refilling the plastic bottles several times (and still get a tiny "hint" of flavor) before we recycle them. Juice boxes are not even recyclable in some areas.

But still, it's a product I wanted to share for those of you in the midst of the Sweetened Beverage Battle. If it helps your child feel good about drinking water while those around them are sucking down Kool-Aid Jammers, I'm all for it.

I think perhaps the best choice is a cute refillable water bottle, like these SIGG Kids Bottles and Klean Kanteens. We like our Klean Kanteens, but I've heard that the SIGG bottles chip and dent easily. Anyone want to share their experience with SIGGs?

Also, I've been looking for for a long time is a juice box-shaped refillable water bottle. Anyone?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Well, it happens to all of us, doesn't it? We all make mistakes, and somehow this one got past me and all the eyes helping me look over Vegan Lunch Box before it was printed.

Last week, with the help of a sharp-eyed cook, we discovered a mistake in one of the recipes: on page 208, in the recipe for Red Rice, you should add 1 ¼ cups water, not ¼ cup. I apologize for any dry, crunchy rice that may have resulted from this inadvertent goof-up!

To celebrate this error coming to light, I have created a brand new Corrections Page on the website (Don't you wish every cookbook had one? I do!) If any more mistakes come to light I'll be listing them there, so check back every once in a while.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Mediterranean Eggplant and Beans

Many people have emailed me asking how they should handle social events now that they are vegan. What do you do when your business meeting lunch is going to be catered? When Aunt Fran invites you to dinner? When your Bible study group is meeting over donuts and pastries?

Bring food. Always bring food. If they tell you you don't need to, bring food anyway. Unless you are absolutely positive about where you're going and what you will have there eat, bring food. Make a dish to share if it is appropriate; if not, bring a fun, well-balanced meal just for yourself.

Because if you don't bring food (as I learned once again last week), you may end up with nothing to eat while all around you are enjoying a feast. This sends the wrong message about veganism to yourself and to everyone else. You may end up feeling hungry and sorry for yourself; your choice may start to feel lonely or isolating. Even worse, other people may look at you and decide that vegans are sad-looking people who eat nothing but carrot sticks.

But bring along a vibrant, fabulous lunch or dish to share and you show yourself and them how fabulous vegan dining can be!

Heeding my own advice, here's a little lunch I packed myself for a recent gathering. In the larger container is a green salad topped with kiwi fruit, almond slices, and strawberry balsamic vinegar (from Trader Joe's).

The smaller container holds a trio of delightful dishes. First I prepared Green Beans & Carrots in a Tarragon Viniagrette from Vegan Lunch Box. By the way, if you're a health-conscious veghead like me, it's easy to cut back on the fat in this recipe; I used just a small drizzle of olive oil as opposed to 2 tablespoons. I also left out the salt and no one was the wiser; Shmoo helped finish the rest of these off with gusto.

Across the happy pink divider is another salad: Cabbage, Apple, and Raisin Slaw from The Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Nava Atlas. I always hated slaw until I tried this one filled with tart apples and sweet raisins; I could eat the entire batch! But I resisted the urge and instead brought the rest to share.

Next to the salads is a ramekin of Mediterranean Eggplant and Beans from Eat To Live. Creamy eggplant and chickpeas taste luscious together with onions and red bell pepper (gee, it's fun to feature foods shmoo would never touch!) I packed this dish in a microwave-safe container in case I wanted to warm it up.

Verdict: It feels nice to be well-fed and taken care of, even when you're the one taking care of yourself! 5 stars.

Road Trip Snack

Our family hit the road last week for a special half-day trip to nearby Spokane (ooh, the big city!) At the last minute I decided our car trip snack was so colorful I just had to take a picture and post.

Our fruit salad for three is filled with banana, kiwi fruit, apple, orange, pineapple, and raspberries. The smaller container carries a travellin' supply of Apricot Date Fudge, one of our favorite recipes from Simple Foods for the Pack. This book contains a fabulous collection of "fudges" that remind me of Date Nut Pop'Ems -- kid-friendly treats made from mashed dried fruits and nuts. I like to keep some on hand for healthy shmoo snacks. These are made from dried apricots, dates, walnuts, coconut, and (here's the key) a squeeze of lime. The dividing paper is keeping my husband's coconut-free fudge separate (he's allergic).

Verdict: We had a great trip! Sadly, I enjoyed our little car snack much more than I did our restaurant meal. I think I'm too spoiled by my own home cooking; vegan choices are really nonexistent sometimes. I ended up eating an iceberg lettuce salad and a plain baked potato. Next time I'm packing the whole meal, darn it!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Full Meal Muffin with Sheese

Last year I started experimenting with an idea I had for a "Full Meal Muffin" -- a main course muffin that contained all the good stuff (a fruit, a vegetable, whole grains, omega-3's, iron, calcium, and protein) and none of the bad (sugar, oil, salt). I experimented several times but never felt happy with the recipe; I found that even one scoop of protein powder made my muffins gooier and denser than I liked.

I decided to toss the whole idea, but several of you emailed me after the book came out wondering what happened to the muffin. I was surprised so many of you remembered! So, back by popular demand, here it is: a new, improved Full Meal Muffin, sans protein powder but still filled with zucchini, banana, apple juice, omega-3-rich walnuts and iron- and calcium-rich blackstrap molasses.

When Vegan Essentials sent out an email recently stating they had just received a shipment of Sheese all the way from Scotland, I knew I had to give it a try. This vegan cheese from across the Atlantic has been getting rave reviews, and I couldn't wait to try my son out on a healthier alternative to trans-fatty Tofutti. I packed a wedge of "smoked cheddar" Sheese with some unsalted rice crackers.

To finish off the meal we have Brussels sprouts, baby carrots (in a tiny orange-lidded container from BentoTV), and a small Pink Lady apple.

Verdict: My goodness, you would think this kid had a Brussels sprouts deficiency, the way he jumped on those sprouts and gobbled them down! The muffin, crackers, apple, and carrots were next. But the Sheese? "Eeew," he said, taking one microscopic nibble and putting it down.

What, is he crazy? Everyone I've given wedges of this Sheese to has been amazed at how good it tastes; it is far and away the best vegan cheese I have ever tried. Of course, I haven't tried Follow Your Heart yet, but this stuff blows Tofutti out of the water. Maybe it's the smoke flavor he didn't like? 4 stars.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Shmoo Review: Winning the Food Fight

Of all the books I've had fun reviewing lately, this one most challenged and defied my expectations. Looking at the cover of Winning the Food Fightby Natalie Rigal, I expected the usual: fun food presentation ideas ("turn an apple into an adorable choo-choo train!"), kid-friendly recipes ("Rockin' Rollin' Rainbow Wraps!"), and some kind of nutritional pyramid.

Instead, what I found was a scientific look into what researchers call the "psychology of taste". How do children's taste preferences develop, and why? What is the effect of gender or age on food preference? What causes children to gravitate towards certain foods and shy away from others, particularly vegetables? Rigal, a researcher and senior lecturer on developmental child psychology at the University of Paris at Nanterre, does a great job of collecting and exploring the vast array of scientific literature on the subject while interposing accounts of her own experiences with her children at the table.

If studies like "Neophobic Behaviors and Appearance Percentages Among Children Two to Ten" are your idea of fun, this is the book for you. (In case you're wondering, 56% sorted out mixed foods, 45% examined their food and 31% grimaced, but only 8% turned their head away.)

The study I found most charming highlighted for me the vast ocean of difference between the food culture of France and the one here in the U.S. In a study done in France on children aged 2 to 3 years during lunch at a day care, cauliflower "was chosen in 51% of the cases when prepared au gratin, in 49% when served with a béchamel sauce". Tomatoes were chosen in 52% of the cases when stuffed, but only 27% when served "à la Provençale". Wow. Where I live, 2 to 3 year olds in day care generally get a choice between the dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets or the fluorescent orange mac-and-cheese.

This is not the book to turn to on a busy weeknight when you're wondering what you can fix that the kids will eat; you'll find no recipes or fast-food hints here. But of all the books I've looked at recently, this one has provided me with the most fascinating food for thought.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Peanut Butter & Jelly "Pop Hearts"

Happy Valentine's Day! Here's a treat to make for your own little sweethearts this Wednesday: Peanut Butter & Jelly "Pop Hearts". Start with a batch of Easy Pie Crust from Vegan Lunch Box, either the white or half-whole wheat version. Roll the pie crust out on a floured surface and cut into hearts using a 4-inch cookie cutter. Place one heart on a baking sheet lined with sprayed parchment paper. Dab a spoonful of nut butter into the center of the heart and top with a spoonful of your favorite fruit spread or jam. Spread out the butter and jam using the back of a spoon, leaving a half inch of space all around the edges. Brush the edges with cold water and top with another heart. Press the edges together and crimp all around with a fork. Bake at 400ºF for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

When the Pop Hearts are cool, decorate with any favorite icing or frosting (powdered sugar mixed with lemon juice or nondairy milk makes an easy, quick icing). These can be warmed up in a toaster oven or oven, but I fear the frosting would make a mess in a regular toaster. Makes about 10 4-inch Pop Hearts.

I also showed lunchy love today with radish rosettes, a yellow heart filled with Vegenaise and dill for dipping, strawberries dipped in melted vegan white chocolate and rolled in coconut, and a bottle of vanilla soymilk.

Verdict: I love Valentine's Day; it's a great excuse to pull out the hearts and get all cutesy. Shmoo liked this version of the pb&j and ate up everything quick as a wink. I am now madly in love with the radish rosette and have been garnishing everything with them. The combination of strawberries, coconut, and vegan white chocolate is luscious. 5 stars.

Don't Try This At Home

In my recent post in praise of Hint I talked about our struggles with the Juice/Soda/Sports Drink Monster, and about how having naturally flavored, unsweetened waters on hand has helped us tremendously. Many of you wrote in to share your own struggles with sweet drinks and to offer additional healthy beverage suggestions.

I was especially taken with these Stevia Spring Water Flavors. I liked the idea of keeping a bottle in my purse to pull out at restaurants. I imagined dropping a few drops of fruit flavor into his water glass as a special treat, thereby cleverly avoiding the soda pop whine. "Ha HA!" I thought. "Take that, Soda Monster!"

Well, we were sadly disappointed. First of all, the little bottles don't come with dropper tops, so you have to buy and pack a dropper or "disposable pipette" or make a big mess trying to pour out a few small drops. Without a dropper the liquid ran down the side and made a sticky mess. Shmoo reported that the flavors were okay in the water but left a strong, unpleasant taste in his mouth after drinking.

So we're sticking with our beloved Hint, but I'm still looking forward to trying other healthy drink ideas, especially True Lemon (Update: Someone just pointed out that True Lemon and True Lime both contain lactose from milk -- this means they are not vegan, so we won't be trying them after all!) and Suzanne's Aromática de frutas. And yes, I have also tried serving fruit-flavored herbal teas quite a bit, although shmoo sees them as an excuse to hit the sugar bowl.

In the meantime, does anyone want these little flavor bottles? ("This tastes terrible, try some.") We have grape, passion fruit, and mango; the last two are unopened. Email me with your address and they are yours. Update: they're gone!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Book Update

Some of you may have noticed that Vegan Lunch Box has been on backorder these last two weeks. That's right -- our first printing actually sold out in just 3 months, far exceeding all our expectations. Thanks again to everyone who bought a copy, recommended it to their friends, and wrote wonderful reviews on Amazon.

I'm now happy to report that the second printing has arrived and all backorders will be packaged this weekend for shipment on Monday afternoon.

Yes, the delivery truck pulled up and once again our dining room, living room, bedroom, and garage are filled with lovely brown boxes. They add that special touch to our home decor and make it impossible for me to fully open my closet door. Please help me reclaim my living space by buying a copy today!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Shmoo Review: Dairy Free Made Easy

So many reasons to go vegan! Most people go vegan for their health, for the animals, for the environment, or for a combination of all of the above.

But there are also a lot of people in our midst who came to veganism due to dairy allergies. My lovely sister-in-law, for example, went vegan after discovering that her newborn daughter was severely allergic to cow's milk. When she stopped consuming dairy products she realized that they had been upsetting her own tummy for years! Vegan cookbooks and websites helped her find new recipes to replace the dairy; from there, as she learned and read more, it was a natural progression to veganism. Hooray!

So, if you or your children are allergic to dairy products, welcome! I hope you find a lot of fun dairy-free, kid-friendly ideas here to incorporate into your own mealtimes. And especially for you, I'm happy to say that Alisa Fleming from Go Dairy Free has just put out a helpful new guidebook called Diary Free Made Easy, filled with even more helpful information focused specifically on dairy-free living.

The first part of this spiral-bound book gives readers an in-depth overview of dairy products, calcium concerns, allergies, and the many other reasons why people are choosing to kick dairy out the door. For those who are just starting out, the book includes a helpful list of "survival tips" for shopping, identifying hidden dairy ingredients, eating out, cooking, traveling, and feeding children.

The chapter on non-dairy milk alternatives was my favorite; it featured a list of various non-dairy milks along with instructions on how to make your own soy, rice, almond, oat, and coconut milk at home. The recipe section includes more alternatives to traditionally dairy-filled favorites like mashed potatoes, whipped cream, cheesecake, and more.

The final half of the book is made up of a very extensive list of recommended dairy-free products and companies, including some "superstar" companies that maintain dedicated dairy-free facilities, making them ideal for those with the most severe allergies. The list includes over 2,000 products, and if you order directly from the website the book also comes with a fat envelope filled with coupons for some of them. (My mom and I had fun fighting over these; she got the one for Toby's Pâté, but I made off with the Nate's Meatless Meatballs coupon. Ha!)

The coupons and product listings are obviously time-sensitive, but Alisa plans to maintain downloadable PDFs of the product lists on her website. With all these great new products and recipes, living a dairy-free life is getting easier all the time!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Texas Roll 'Em Up

Jif Peanut Butter is hosting a Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest. One of the contestants, Terry, invited the shmoo and I to try out her daughter Julie's creation, the Texas Roll 'Em Up: a tortilla (I used whole wheat) spread with peanut butter and filled with a black bean-corn-salsa mixture.

It's a surprising combination, but Terry says "it makes a good lunch box sandwich, it packs well. Julie takes it to school everyday now. It is her favorite sandwich...We usually eat it without the guacamole and sour cream." I appreciated the fact that, unlike most of the contestants, this sandwich included a nice serving of vegetables (corn, tomato salsa) along with a hearty amount of vegan protein (nut butter and beans).

I packed the Roll 'Em Up with jicama stars, Durritas (store-bought tortilla chips with a "cheezy" topping from Ultimate Uncheese), organic purple grapes, and Dark Chocolate Love Treats.

Verdict: Shmoo thought the taste of peanut butter mixed with beans and salsa was a bit odd, but it only took a couple bites to adapt. We all appreciated how the creamy, unctuous quality of the nut butter stood in for the cheese you would typically find in a Southwestern wrap. Leftover bean-corn-salsa mix makes a great salad served on a bed of greens with diced avocado. 4 stars.

P.S. The Texas Roll 'Em Up is one of ten finalists that you can vote for online, so head over to Jif to check out all the entries and pick a favorite. Many of the entries are fun, creative and vegan-friendly. Voting ends tomorrow, so vote fast!

P.P.S. Never, never, ever would I suggest actually using Jif Peanut Butter. Stick with all-natural nut butters made without added shortening, sugar, and salt.