Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween week

Ryan's lunch: soy cheese cubes; a strawberry; pineapple tidbits; a pickle; rice cube Jack O' Lanterns; spinach.
AJ didn't need a packed snack. Dada was parent helper; they brought popcorn, raisins, and VitaJuice to share with his class.

Nate's lunch: grilled
nutritional yeast cheese
sandwich w/ a soy
cheese crocodile;
strawberries; a carrot
Jack O' Lantern; spinach.

AJ's snack: spinach;
pumpkin apple muffin;
a pickle; grilled cheeze
sandwich w/ soy cheese
Jack O' Lantern.

Ryan's lunch: grilled cheeze sandwich w/soy cheese ghost; a strawberry; cashews & Craisins; a pumpkin apple muffin; spinach; carrot Jack O' Lantern.

AJ's snack: edamame;
tamari flax crackers;
spider rice ball; broccoli.

Ryan's lunch: a Thermos of lentil soup; broccoli; rice "candy corn"; a strawberry; orange gel cup (hidden behind the spider); edamame.

Nate's lunch: green beans; pumpkin apple muffin; dried apricots; "pumpkin" sushi; vegetable "bird's nest".
AJ's snack: pumpkin apple
muffin; green beans; a
pickle; raisins.

Ryan's lunch: "pumpkin" sushi; soy sauce; vegetable "bird's nest"; banana walnut muffin; a pickle; green beans.
We made sugar cookies
the various school
celebrations: leaves,
ghosts, & pumpkins.


Chocolate covered strawberries
for Ryan's kindergarten snack.

bean "rocks".



Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Book Review: Bento Boxes

Bento Boxes: Japanese Meals on the Go, by Naomi Kijima

I got this cookbook for my
birthday. I was so excited.
Not sure how many vegan
recipes would be inside, I
kept my expectations low.

While every recipe has a full
color photo, I was more
impressed by the variety of
vegetable side dishes. Usually
when I look at bento photos I
am looking for "eye candy".
But while the photos are nice,
the simple recipes are even better. Plenty of vegan fare, and lots that is easily veganizable. I'd say 1/2-2/3 of the recipes in the book can be animal-free with simple substitutions or omissions. Pretty good for a Japanese cookbook printed in Japan. Even the English grammar and spelling are good!

The first section is heavy on meat and seafood. But later sections contain easy donburi, rice casserole, rice ball, fried rice & noodle recipes that often use tofu or can do just as well with the meat elements omitted. I chose to make substitutions in most cases such as tofu, tempeh, mushrooms, or soy meat analogs. I especially appreciated a few recipes designed for a rice cooker (my favourite kitchen gadget). The bento helpers section in the back of the book has over a dozen vegan ideas using various beans, seaweed, vegetables...even peanuts.

This cookbook is strictly about recipes. There is minimal introduction or other text, no bento making tips, no kyaraben (charcter bentos). What it contains is traditional Japanese bento fare.
There is a very brief blurb about measurement conversion in the beginning, and 3 simple soup recipes on the last page.

If you're vegan or vegetarian and not confident changing recipes a bit on your own, then this may not be the bento cookbook for you. But I am very pleased to add it to my collection.

Friday, October 24, 2008

24 Carrot Meals

Last week's meals left
a lot to be desired
nutritionally speaking,
so despite three domestic
disasters (my husband
losing his highest paying
job, a minor car accident,
and the pipe from the water
main breaking and flooding
our entire basement) I was determined to feed everyone well regardless.

Carrots are in season. I received plenty in our farm shares over the past few week, and the supermarket had 5lb. bags of organic carrots on sale cheap, so I stocked up.

First I made a delicious tempeh stew loaded with carrots and other fresh farm veggies, served over rice.

Since the autumn weather
cooling off, I was craving
soup. I reinvented a vegan
version of chik'n & stars soup.
Everyone loved it, and it
used a couple more carrots.

The next day an asian-
style carrot & bok choy
dish was delicious over
some fried rice using
the previous day's rice
from the rice cooker.

Fried rice is a great way
to use up leftover veggies,
fresh, cooked, or frozen.
And of course carrots were


I was craving more
soup, so I made some
fabulous carrot-ginger
soup, creamy & smooth,
slightly spicy. It not only
used a hefty amount of
carrots, but some celery
greens as well.

Ryan's lunch: carrot potato crisps; a steamed hollowed carrot cup filled with Tofutti cream cheese & chive dip; baby carrots in blankets; nori cat rice ball; bean salad.
AJ's snack: veggie potato crisps; nori cat rice ball; grapes; carrots in blankets.

Ryan's lunch: carrot-olive hummus (my hummus recipe, minus the olive oil, plus 12 lightly steamed baby carrots & 9 small green stuffed olives); cucumber slices; baby carrots; a tomato; oyster crackers; red bell pepper strips; celery sticks; smoked Tofurky & soy cheese roll-ups on flax wheat lavash bread.

AJ's snack: carrot-olive
hummus; oyster crackers;
cucumber slices; a baby
carrot; sandwich roll-ups.

(a bit
a growth
spurt &
eating a
lot at

potato crisps; bean salad; grapes; sandwich roll-ups; baby carrots; carrot-olive hummus; tomatoes.

Our last weekly farm share of the season!!: huge cabbage leaves; green bell peppers; spinach; baby tat soi; white potatoes; huge squash; small acorn squash; rainbow swiss chard; pea tendrils; salad turnips; 2 small heads lettuce; a rutabaga; fingerling sweet potatoes; beets; carrots; raspberries; broccoli; scallions; a gift bag of popping corn & baby red & purple potatoes. Not shown: PYO tomatillos; herbs; flowers.

Ryan's lunch: spinach & tat soi; raspberries; pea tendril; oatmeal-carrot cookies; grapes; sesame tofu on carrot skewers!
AJ's lunch for
grandma's house
after preschool:
spinach & tat soi;
sesame tofu; carrot
sticks; grapes; oatmeal-
carrot cookies.

One Bowl Oatmeal Carrot Cookies

4 T. (1/4 cup) Earth Balance Buttery Stick margarine, softened
3 T. canola oil (or other oil)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated raw sugar
1 cup grated carrot
3 T. soy or almond milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups quick oats

Mix first 4 ingredients. Add next 3 ingredients and mix again. Add the next 5 (dry) ingredients and mix. Add oats and mix again.
Shape 1-2 T. blobs roughly into cookie shape and place on a greased baking sheet (I used spray olive oil).
Bake 20 minutes.

Ryan said I "failed the Iron Chef challenge" because he "couldn't even taste the secret ingredient" of carrots in these cookies. Oh well! I could. And all the kids demolished them.


Nate's lunch: edamame; sesame carrot inari; grapes; raspberries; cucumber & pickled daikon maki sushi.

AJ's snack: oatmeal-carrot
cookie; edamame; grapes;
kappa maki; sesame carrot
inari. (AJ let me know
after school that inari is
not supposed to have shredded
carrot in it and he didn't like
it...too bad, the other boys
loved it.)

Ryan's lunch: edamame; pineapple tidbits; soy sauce; 4 kinds of sushi using carrots 4 different ways!

The cabbage leaves
from the farm were
begging to be used
as plates or platters
of some sort, before
being turned into a
sesame cabbage &
carrot dish.

Candied Carrot Coins
accompanied dinner:
carrots, Earth Balance
margarine, brown sugar,
agave nectar, & ginger.
Maple syrup also works
well if you have no agave.


Carrot pancakes for
breakfast. Another
big hit with the boys!
Top with maple syrup
of course.

Ryan's lunch: grapes; steamed hollowed carrot cup with Tofutti sour cream & Simply Organic French Onion Dip mix; spaghetti; peanuts; veggie crackers; carrot "chips"; candied carrot coins.

Lunch at home: curried
carrot salad with pineapple
& mango.
Leftovers go great with
tempeh for a heartier meal,
or with tempeh & rice in
a wrap sandwich.

Carrot smoothie: carrot
juice, pineapple juice, a
banana, frozen strawberries,
vanilla hemp milk.

There are so many things to
do with carrots. Just because
a kid doesn't like them one
doesn't mean you should give
up! Keep trying a variety of
approaches with all vegetables.
Besides what I prepared this
week, carrots can be used many more kid-friendly ways: shredded in lasagna, baked in muffins/bread/cake/granola bars, in pot pies, roasted with potatoes or other root vegetables, baked in foil packets, in pasta primavera or macaroni salad...the possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Halloween treats

Yes, I let my kids go trick-or-treating. Halloween happens to be our family's favourite holiday. We enjoy dressing up, going to Halloween parties, and carvings pumpkins. And I manage to keep the treats vegan (I don't worry too much about the excessive corn syrup since it's not a part of our regular diet).
Our neighborhood always seems to provide ample Dum-Dum lollipops, along with some Smarties and temporary tattoos. The kids go through their goodies and we give away the non-vegan items. But I also buy a stash of treats to sneakily distribute among their pumpkin bags while they are washing hands after the evening of tricks-or-treats.

So far this year's stash
includes: stickers, mini
puzzles, peanut bars,
pretzels, peanut butter
crackers, light-up self-
inking stamps, licorice,
cookies, Swedish Fish,
Lake Champlain dark
chocolates, pencils, fruit
leather, Fruitabu, nuts, Smarties...and a box of Annie's organic Bunny Fruit Snacks that was too big to photograph.

In years past I have included sugar-free vitamin C & zinc lollipops, Nutter Butter cookies, Gushers fruit snacks, spider/bat/skull rings, apples, clementines, popcorn, and various Halloween trinkets.

For parties, chocolate cupcakes with vanilla or orange frosting and sprinkles are a hit, or some frosted sugar cookies in the shapes of pumpkins and ghosts. Also any orange food is suitable: oranges, carrots, pumpkin muffins, etc. And don't forget roasted pumpkin seeds!

The mini candies handed out at Halloween don't usually contain ingredient lists. Here is a helpful list of vegan candy.

Do you have some favourite vegan treats that your kids enjoy?

Friday, October 17, 2008

nothin' fancy

Mothers aren't allowed to get
sick. And they certainly aren't
allowed to get a cold, mastitis,
and a bad back at the same
time. But if it does happen,
you had better bet it's going
to happen over a long holiday
weekend with beautiful
weather. Argh.

Maia is now 3 months old.

She starting to enjoy
books, watching toys,
rolling, kicking, and
chewing on her hands.
She is my latest teether.
Believe it or not, by this
age her big brothers
all had teeth!


The plan
was for
me to
so I
I was
I should
have, napped. Instead I probably did too much cleaning but felt like I got nothing done. Sigh. Still, the 6 hours of silence was golden.
I made everyone a lunch for the visit to their cousins house. The boy got: sushi rice flowers/butterfly; cold spinach; shiitake mushrooms; sesame tofu; bell peppers; pea pods; starfruit (carambola) slices; cranberry pecan bread. Not shown: packet of pretzels and a Rice Dream drink box.

Husband's lunch:
similar to the
boys, with added
celery, nuts &
raisins, and carrot

Maia's "lunch" was
packed on ice in a
Hello Kitty lunch bag.
It was her first time
from me for that long;
she did great except
for disliking the 40
minute ride home.

While everyone was gone
I discovered Nate had
been up to his usual antics.
Our fruit share bag had
partially eaten apples &
pear cores in it. Thank
goodness most of our
produce is organic since
he just helps himself to
unwashed fruit when no
one is looking.

He also helped himself
to some freshly baked
cranberry pecan bread.
Either that or a little
mouse came along
after I had packed the

Farm share: arugula, celeriac, peppers, carrots, apples, butternut squash, leeks, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, broccoli, purple bok choy, baby tat soi. Not shown: PYO kale, collards, chard, hot peppers, tomatillos, herbs, flowers.

Tuesday's lunches never got photographed; I was too sick still. I believe they consisted of: sunflower butter & jelly sandwiches, cantaloupe, tofu salad, & baby carrots.


Ryan's lunch he helped
pack: soy cheese cubes,
Nate's Meatless Meatballs,
carrot coins, mini banana
muffin, cantaloupe chunks,
pita chips; ladybug rice ball.

AJ's snack: mini banana
muffin, cantaloupe chunks,
rice ball, soy cheese cubes,
carrot coins.


I was finally feeling better, just in time for a crazy day.
Nate's lunch: pumpkin donut hole; Tofutti cream cheese & cucumber star sandwiches; orange pieces; carrot flowers & green pepper leaves; olives.

Ryan's lunch: vegetable crackers & soy cheese; a sugar cookie; cucumber slices; olives; Tofutti cream cheese & cucumber star sandwiches on lettuce; cashews; orange slices.

AJ's field trip
snack: vegetable
crackers & soy cheese;
pumpkin donut holes;
Tofutti cream cheese
& cucumber star sandwich.

AJ went apple picking
with his class at
Shelburne Farm in
Stow, MA. The apples
there were in great
condition even though
a nearby farm's crop
had suffered from a
recent hail storm.

Ryan's lunch: cucumber slices; wheat flax lavash roll-ups with Vegannaise,sliced scallion, Tofurky smoked deli slices, & Vegan Gourmet Monterey Jack soy cheese; peanuts; olives; peas & corn; slice of carrot cake; 2 sugar cookies.

And the 2 year old's
gift of the day: a basket
with sweet potatoes,
carrots, pepper, letter
magnets, & AA batteries.
I don't think he's quite
ready for Iron Chef, LOL.