Monday, September 29, 2008

Lunch Box Contest Winner #5

Here is the phenomenal Amy, Winner Number Five in the Vegan Lunch Box Contest. Amy is fifth in honor of the FIVE lunch boxes she packs for FIVE of her children. How she manages to pack five lunches at all is a mystery to me, not to mention the fact that all the lunches look delicious, healthy, and fantastic!

Amy writes:
I love your blog and when I saw your contest I thought it would be fun. I have 6 children (the youngest is breastfed and doesn't need a lunchbox yet) so I'm sending in a picture of lunches I made for 5 of my children...

The bottom left has Southwestern Eggrolls on a bed of brown rice with diced tomato on the side. The inside of the roll is tempeh, spinach, corn, black beans, onion, red pepper, jalepeno which is left out for the kids, tomato, chili powder, and cumin. My recipe is a copycat of Chili's Southwestern Eggroll recipe except I substituted steamed tempeh for the chicken and just omitted the cheese. They are baked instead of deep fried like the original. The dipping sauce is vegan avocado ranch for the eggrolls. I used toffutti sour cream, veganaise, and soymilk in place of the dairy in the recipe. The top left has carrots and cherry tomatoes from our garden to use with the rest of the dipping sauce. The top right is mango and blueberries. The bottom right is an attempt at a vegan churro. I used a vegan donut recipe and it came out a lot flatter than I anticipated and looks more like a cookie.
The rolls and dip look delicious, and I love that they included my favorite soy food, tempeh. I'm so glad you took the extra time to photograph and share your family's lunch with us. Congratulations and thank you, Amy!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ann Cooper: Kickin' Butt and Takin' Names

Speaking of the school lunch program, blog follower A. Brown sent in this great clip of Ann Cooper, director of Nutrition Services for the Berkeley Unified School District and author of Lunch Lessons,at a 2007 conference:

Woo hoo! I love the passion and intensity she brings to this issue.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lunch Box Contest Winner #4

The fourth winner of the Vegan Lunch Box Contest is Candice, who sent in her entry all the way from her current home in Laos. Candice handily beat out all competition in the categories "Most Unusual Fruit" and "Funniest Lunch Box Logo".

Candice writes:
"In this lunch box that I bought in China (attached pictures for the humor -- there is 'Chinglish' on the lid) I have packed fresh spring rolls stuffed with bean sprouts, home made peanut butter, Thai basil, lettuce, and glass noodles (I cut one open in the middle so you could see inside. For the record, fresh springrolls do not photograph well!)

"In the red bowl is spring roll dipping sauce made from palm sugar, vinegar, water and chilies. The red bowl has a lid (Tupperware). In the blue bowl is ground peanuts that are sometimes dumped into the dipping sauce, but you can always just mash the spring roll down in there and get some peanuts on the end of it. The green stuff is bell peppers. The eyes on the spring rolls are hijiki seaweed.

"On the other tray are dragon fruit (about 1/3 of an entire dragon fruit), two rambutans, and home made roll-out vegan oatmeal cookies.
Best of all Candice was kind enough to send me her healthy
recipe for Roll-Out Vegan Oatmeal Cookies and I have posted it for all to enjoy.

Thank you so much, Candice! I hope I have a chance to try rambutan and dragon fruit someday. They look like crazy Dr. Suess fruit to me -- I love it!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Live Call-In Interview this Wednesday

For those of you interested in hearing me yammer on about lunchtime (as I do so love to do), there is an upcoming opportunity to do so: I'm going to be interviewed this week by Dr. Melissa West on her internet radio show Returning to the Body Mind.

Dr. West is a "holistic lifestyle coach, psychospiritual energy worker and yoga and pilates instructor", and her show focuses on the connections between physical, spiritual, and personal well-being. She's interviewed some very interesting people, including vegan professional triathlete Brendan Brazier (scroll down to the 9/3/08 episode to listen to the archived show).

The show will be going out live online at Contact Talk Radio this Wednesday, September 24th, from 8am to 9am PST. Listen in live at the website, or download the recorded show later on itunes.

We'll be talking for a whole hour (can I really yammer on that long?) and will even take calls from listeners. So call and ask me your questions (be nice!) at 1-877-230-3062 while the show is going on.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How could the cafeteria get any better?

The USDA wants to know!

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recently sent out an alert asking concerned citizens to contact the USDA with our input on how the National School Lunch Program needs to change:
The Child Nutrition Act includes legislation for the National School Lunch Program, which provides federal assistance for school lunches. This act is being reauthorized in 2009, and the USDA would like your input on what needs to change. Submit your recommendations for improving vegetarian options by fax at 703-305-2879, or online. They are accepting comments until October 15, 2008.
PCRM has put together a list of recommendations that would make school lunches more veg-friendly and healthier for everyone, including offering nondairy milk alternatives, plant-based meal options, and more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Shmoo Review: The Sneaky Chef

Not long after I posted my review of Deceptively Delicious a reader brought to my attention the existence of another popular cookbook with an identical mission -- to sneak vegetables into children's food unawares. It's The Sneaky Chef,and the author Missy Chase Lapin has a pending lawsuit against Deceptively's author Jessica Seinfeld for stealing her idea.

It may be true that Seinfeld ripped her off, or it may be a case of two people coming up with the same idea at the same ripe time. The question for me isn’t who thought of it first (scores of parents over the generations have resorted to sneaking a bit of something into the mashed potatoes or muffin batter). The question for me is, which one does it better? If you're going to buy just one sneaking-mashed-vegetables book, which one should it be? After reading them both, I would recommend The Sneaky Chef.

The author has really done her homework and most of her advice is right on: find fruits and veggies your kids like "straight up" and serve them that way (Method Six, page 76); slowly incorporate more whole grains into the diet (Method Two, page 67); avoid frying (Method Seven).

Best of all, her purees actually sound yummy, with a touch of lemon juice and a wide variety of vegetables (the Green Puree, for example, includes broccoli, spinach, and peas). I actually want to whip them up and add them to meals, even in a not-sneaky way.

But still, the initial bewilderment that I had when reading Deceptively still hits me as I look through the recipes here. Are children really so resistant to eating any fruits and vegetables that a tablespoon of orange vegetables hidden in boxed macaroni and cheese is a triumph? Sneaky even excitedly proclaims on its cover, "Blueberries hidden in cupcakes!"

Blueberries? Really? Who needs to hide blueberries? I need to hide the fresh blueberries away from my son so he won't eat them all in one sitting.

But Lapin's personal story of mealtime struggle brought home to me just how hard it is to get some kids to eat healthy foods, and caused me to cheer for her when she finally hit upon stealth techniques that worked and brought her some relief. Hey, whatever it takes sometimes! More power to you, sneaky momma!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lunch Box Contest Winner #3

This contest entry from Sherrila in California won my heart with a beautiful lunch container and a meal fit for a king -- or, in this case, a very hungry vegan husband!

I really like this Nissan Stainless Steel Lunch Totewith its nesting containers tucked into an insulated carrier. (I noticed in researching this lunch container that they have discontinued the current model and are coming out with a new one soon; I'm not sure what the changes are as it looks identical in the pictures...)

Let's start the description on the bottom left with heart-shaped melon salad with a trio of adorable strawberry mousies on top.

Next to it is a bell pepper filled with tofu salad and a salad of flower-shaped carrots, peppers, and zucchini, and a container of dressing on the side.

The hearty main course is a "Tuscan-inspired" pot pie filled with spinach, cannelini beans, and apple-sage vegan sausages from Field Roast. That pie sounds sooo good right now -- I love Field Roast!

For more pictures of lunch and lunch box, along with a more detailed description of contents, check out Sherrila's contest entry pdf.

It's so beautiful, Sherrila! You have one lucky husband. Keep up the good work!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lunch Box Contest Winner #2

Here is Winner Number Two in the Vegan Lunch Box Contest: the Amazing Aracelis from beautiful Puerto Rico! Aracelis had by far the most entries in the contest, but any one of her artful vegan lunches would have won it for her on its own.

To give you just a taste, here are my four favorite entries from Aracelis:

1. "This is 'Chinese Take-In'. Home made Szechwan eggplant, barbecued tofu stir-fry (with broccoli, tri-colored peppers, cauliflower and mushrooms), white rice garnished with pepper flowers and black sesame seeds; and to round off the lunch: more broccoli. This was a nice and decadent lunch."

2. "This has been my favourite lunch so far. The contents are: steamed broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas and tri-coloured peppers. Edamame; with a BBQ sauce container. Strawberry and vegan chickn bits; and lastly onigiri (omusubi) filled with mushrooms sauteed in hoisin sauce. I could eat this every day!"

3. "This is a simple lunch, but it really hit the spot. Lentil soup, rice, broccoli, watermelon, and black bean mini burgers. The soup was made by my mom, specifically to accommodate me. She's really sweet!"

4. I call this 'TGIF Bento'. Everything (except the tofu dog) was home-made. The contents are: sesame noodles, maki sushi (avocado, carrots and cucumber), char siu seitan steamed bun, broccoli, tofu octodog, mango, blackberries and a tomato. It was a really good lunch and good way to end the work week."

Congratulations, Aracelis! Thank you so much for sharing all your wonderful creations with us!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Lunch Box Contest Winner #1

I am pleased to present you all with the First Place Winner and youngest competitor in the Vegan Lunch Box Contest!
"My name is Abraham and I am 9 years old.

"Like your son, I am homeschooled so I usually don't pack a lunch for school. My mother often shows me your pictures and told me about your contest. I decided to make one of my favorite vegan lunches and enter it.

"Like you, I have a blog. I put up a lot of pictures of the meal there: The Little Giant.

"I call this lunch 'Artist's Palate'.

"In addition to my bamboo spreader and a cloth napkin, I took rice cakes, peanut butter, raisins, dried coconut, two blackberries, a few cherry tomatoes, some sweet red pepper slices, and a few green beans.

"I also packed two tiny "donut" peaches that we found at the farmer's market. Everything was organic except the raisins and all of the vegetables are local, too."

Thank you so much, Abraham, for entering the contest and showing us the artistic side of fresh fruits and vegetables. Lunchtime at your house looks like fun!

Abraham's free autographed copy of Vegan Lunch Box is on its way. I'll introduce you all to the second place winner next week.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Just Peachy

One of my tips on finding cheap fruits and vegetables this summer was to pick your own. Shmoo and I put that into practice this morning, picking peaches and nectarines at a local U-Pick farm for 60 cents a pound. Not a bad price, especially when you consider that U-Pick combines buying fruit with an hour of enjoying a shady stroll in the orchard and watching kids having fun. Shmoo was a most enthusiastic picker, determined to search tree to tree to find me the biggest, heaviest, prettiest peaches.

Here is my car trunk filled with fresh fruit, at a total cost of $22.00. We plan to gobble up the nectarines, then I'll be peeling and slicing the peaches and freezing them in a single layer on baking sheets. When they're frozen I'll put them in a smoothie bin and enjoy peach-blueberries smoothies all autumn long.