Saturday, August 29, 2009

Around the World: Italy Again

Here's another "Around the World" menu inspired by the cuisine of Italy: Grilled Vegetable Stromboli, Balsamic Strawberries, and a green salad with Italian dressing.

Stromboli is usually made by rolling meats and cheeses up into an Italian bread dough before it's baked. After the loaf is cooked and cooled it's cut into slices and served. You can easily make stromboli with vegan meats and cheeses, but I decided to switch things up and use an assortment of grilled vegetables and a layer of roasted garlic instead.

This lunch was photographed in a Lunchsense lunch box. The owner was kind enough to send me a Lunchsense to photograph for my book, and everyone who saw it was impressed. The containers have tight lids and fit together perfectly along with an ice pack and beverage container in the lunch box, which has a nice shoulder strap and also folds out to make a place mat for your meal. It's a great design, especially if your kids are old enough not to lose track of their containers and lids.

Link: Vegan Lunch Box Around the World.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Around the World: The Southwest

This lunch showcases some of the traditional foods of the southwestern region of the United States, which includes Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado: Corncob Cornbread, Anasazi Beans with roasted chiles, Prickly Pear Pudding, Fried Nopales, and a Baby Squash Medley topped with sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Just for fun I used scissors to cut corn tortillas into "cornhusk" shapes and wrapped them around the cornbread to resemble fresh ears of corn. The tortilla strips are used for scooping up bites of beans and nopales at lunch time.

One cactus is in this lunch, served two ways: First, nopales are the flat, green pads of the prickly pear cactus. When cooked they taste something like lemony green beans, with a slippery quality like okra. They're very popular at the Hispanic grocery store in my town, where I usually have to stand in line to get to them, in bags already deprickled and diced. (I cut a whole pad into a little garnish, too.) Next, the red fruit of the prickly pear cactus is made into a sweet syrup that flavors the nondairy pudding for dessert.

Link: Vegan Lunch Box Around the World.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Around the World: Nebraska

My menu for Nebraska features Chik'n Pot Pies filled with chicken-style seitan, mixed vegetables, and creamy gravy. Why Nebraska, you ask? Because the chicken pot pie was the first mass-marketed frozen pot pie, developed in 1951 by Swanson company in Omaha, Nebraska! So there!

This lunch also includes Sticks-and-Stones Salad (carrot and celery sticks and water chestnut "stones"), and Apples with Caramel Dip. The caramel dip is amazingly quick and easy to make; I paired it with tart Granny Smith apples but it's also wonderful with bananas.

This meal was photographed, by the way, in a Mr. Bentostyle lunch jar with separate containers that stack together inside an insulated outer shell. These are spendy but they're a nifty lunch container for those who want individual servings of different foods to all stay hot or cold together and stay upright like a thermos.

Link: Vegan Lunch Box Around the World.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kids Konserve Coupon

A while ago I wrote about Kids Konserve, a company specializing in eco-friendly lunch sacks and containers for kids.

Well, Kids Konserve contacted me recently. They have two new products out this season: new lunch bags made from 100% recycled plastic water bottles with a nesting trio of stainless steel containers ...

... and a non-toxic, biodegradable ice pack! "Should the ice pak puncture," the website says, "simply plant in your backyard!"

They also wanted to offer you, my lucky readers, a discount coupon. Save 15% off at Kids Konserve by using coupon code: vegan (valid until 9/30/09).

Around the World: Caribbean

I love this picture we took for one of my Caribbean lunch menus. Oh yeah, pink flamingo food picks with googly eyes, baby!

Here's the menu, inspired by the island cuisine: Plantain Wrap with Tangy Black Bean Spread, salsa for dipping, and an easy Caribbean Coleslaw with lime and pineapple.

Fried ripe plantains are popular in the Caribbean. I was surprised at what a great sandwich filling they made! The slight sweetness of the plantain paired perfectly with the tangy mashed black beans and spicy salsa. If you're not familiar with them, plantains look like large bananas, but aren't as sweet and aren't eaten raw. For this recipe look for ripe yellow plantains with black spots. Use a paring knife to help peel them.

(Oh, and leftover bean dip tastes great on pita chips, corn chips, and veggies, too!)

Link: Vegan Lunch Box Around the World.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Around the World: Thailand

I love Thai food so much, I couldn't settle on just one Thai menu for the new book! Pictured here are my two menus inspired by Thailand: (counter-clockwise from front left) Pad Thai with sliced Asian pear, Red Curry Vegetables, and Cucumber Salad; Lime and Thai Basil Salad, Thai Iced Tea, and Mango Noodles.

Both of the main dishes are made with gluten-free rice noodles that have been cooked, drained and stir-fried. The Pad Thai is a quick and easy dish made with the help of a storebought mix. The Mango Noodles take a little more time but are one of my favorite dishes from the cookbook: noodles seasoned with soy sauce, lime juice, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil, fried tofu, sweet pepper strips, snow peas, baby corn, and fresh ripe mango. They have a wonderfully complex sweet-sour-savory taste.

Link: Vegan Lunch Box Around the World.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Around the World: Korea

Traditional Korean meals feature a wide assortment of panchan, or side dishes, surrounding a main dish of rice or noodles. Diners choose from the many panchan, adding a bit of something spicy to one bite of rice, a bit of something crunchy to the next, and so on.

My Korean lunch box includes (in the bottom container) Beansprout Salad, kimchi, and Stir-Fried Watercress with three purple plums nestled in between; (top container) Korean Dipping Sauce with vegan meatballs on food picks ready for dipping, and a large helping of Rice with Toasted Millet.

The lunch box you might recognize as a To-Go Ware tiffin and four Sidekicks. I love the way three Sidekicks fit together in the tiffin, making it perfect for panchan.

By the way, this picture was taken in the middle of my strawberry patch!

Link: Vegan Lunch Box Around the World.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Around the World: Turkey

This is one of the first recipes I made for the new cookbook. Last year around this same time I baked baby eggplants and filled them with lemony rice cooked with onions and tomatoes. This is part of my Turkish-inspired feast: Stuffed Eggplants, Fresh Fava Bean Salad, Mini Pita Bread, and a bite of Turkish Delight for dessert.

In the photo I surrounded the stuffed eggplants with pretty yellow pear tomatoes and garnished them with fresh dill, all from the farmer's market. It's the time of year once again when the farmer's markets are awash with eggplants and tomatoes, so keep your eyes open for baby eggplants that are just the right size to fit into your lunch box!

Link: Vegan Lunch Box Around the World.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Kindle Vegans!

Those of you with Kindles might be interested to know that Vegan Lunch Box and Vegan Lunch Box Around the World are both available for Kindle!

Do they make plastic covers for the Kindle so you don't splatter it with goo while you're cooking?

May the Force Be With Your Lunch Box

I can imagine some lucky little Star Wars fans carrying these light saber chopsticks in their school lunch box.

One of my favorite blogs, Tokyomango, reports, "Starting in November, you'll be able to buy these Star Wars light saber chopsticks in Darth Vader Red, Luke Skywalker Blue, or Yoda Green".

Monday, August 10, 2009

Around the World: New England

Another photograph from the United States section of my new book, this one inspired by New England: New England Chowder and Fish Crackers.

I love a warm bowl of chowder on a cold fall day, but I don't like the heaviness of most cream-based soups. I wanted my recipe to be healthy and light, so I made my version of chowder with corn cream: cook fresh or frozen corn kernels in water, then blend and strain. Stir into a soup made with carrots, celery, onions, potato, mushrooms, and seasonings (including lots of white pepper!).

The Fish Crackers are a modified version of the Vegan Goldfish Crackers recipe I posted several years ago.

The entire New England menu also includes Boston Brown Bread Muffins with vegan cream cheese and a pear for dessert.

Link: Vegan Lunch Box Around the World.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Goodbyn

There's another new entry in the kid-friendly lunchbox market. This one's called the Goodbyn, and features built-in compartments with no lids or removable containers to keep track of, an 8-ounce bottle with its own compartment, built-in handle, and best of all, stickers.

I think it's a bit goofy to look at, but still cute. From the photographs and description, it looks like it can hold quite a lot of food -- even a whole banana. Thoughts?

(Thank you Michelle for the link!)

Friday, August 07, 2009

Around the World: Italy

This picture is so beautiful, with those gorgeous dark blackberries glistening like little jewels, I can't believe it didn't make it into the book! This is one of two Italian menus I wrote for the book: Caponata Sandwich, tri-color pasta spirals, Mini Vegan Cheesecakes, and blackberries.

Caponata is a sweet-and-sour eggplant relish, wonderful here sandwiched between slices of crusty Italian bread with a slice of vegan mozzarella.

These muffin-sized vegan cheesecakes are one of my favorite "decadent" recipes from the book. They were very simple to make, down to their graham-cracker crust, and were a big hit with everyone who tasted them, both vegan and non.

Link: Vegan Lunch Box Around the World.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Around the World: Kansas

I'm going to post pictures for the next few weeks to give everyone a taste of what the new bookis like!

Here is the photo we took for Kansas: Mini Veggie Burgers with french fries and ketchup. This is my favorite picture from the book.

The complete menu for the Kansas-inspired meal is: Mini Veggie Burgers on Mini Burger Buns, baked frozen french fries, Limeade Fruit Salad, and Oatmeal Cookies. The burgers are made from amaranth, lentils, carrots, and sunflower seeds, and are gluten- and soy-free.

I chose to make a veggie burger for the Kansas lunch because of a line from the children's book This Is the Way We Eat Our Lunch.In Kansas, it said
But the favorite lunch of Reggie's
is a burger made of -- VEGGIES!
Link: Vegan Lunch Box Around the World.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Buy My Lunch Boxes!

Whew, I just spent most of the afternoon photographing and listing eight of my lunch boxes on ebay. It's time to start thinking about what lunch container you're going to use for back-to-school!

Most of these lunch boxes were used to take photographs for my cookbooks -- one is even the cover model for my first book! Some of these were only used once or twice, so they're in perfect condition.

Most are plastic and bento-style lunch boxes, but one is stainless steel and one is a really cool insulated food carrier with four inner containers, like a "Mr. Bento".

Oh, and one set is an accessory bundle: the purple Gel-Cool lunch container was small, so I bundled it with lots of lunch box accessories. They're all small and cute, perfect for a preschool or kindergartner: little forks, little dip and candy containers, pretty food picks, and a hand-sewn napkin.

Don't worry, I still have plenty of lunch boxes left! LOL

It's Almost Here!

My new cookbook Vegan Lunch Box Around the World is coming out August 11th, just in time for school to start again! If you want your copy the minute it becomes available you can even preorder at Amazon.

When the advance copy arrived I just had to take a pictures of my two books side-by-side; I love the way this cover complements the first one in a "collect-the-whole-series" kind of way. I've been looking through it and I have to say I'm delighted. I love the style, the photographs, and all the work everyone at the publishing company did to make the book pretty and easy to read.

Even though I love love love Vegan Lunch Box, I actually think the new book is -- dare I say it? -- even better. The first book was written during my very first year of making lunches; this one was put together after many more years of experience. I think it reflects a growing aesthetic, a better understanding of menu planning and packing, and a more adventurous palate.

And the recipes! Looking through it I remember testing and eating each recipe, and I want to make and eat them all again! Right now I'm hungry for the Vietnamese Pho, German Cabbage Rolls, and Hot Noodle Soup... (Ooh, the Hot Noodle Soup -- so good I even crave it on a hot summer's day!)

I learned a lot writing this book. Like the title says, the lunch menus are inspired by cultures and cuisines from across the globe. I took the time to research the cuisine and culture of each area I touched on and have interspersed the menus with tidbits of information about the regions and what lunch is like for people in different parts of the world.

So if you're contemplating lunch time or shopping for back-to-school, keep Vegan Lunch Box Around the World in mind! You'll be eatin' pretty and helping the shmoo and I stay off the streets!!