Vegan MoFo 2017 Day 27: Meals for the young (at heart) unicorn bento

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Obento is the Japanese art of lunch making that is not only healthy and delicious but also visually appealing. In the United States where I (Laura) live, bento box lunches have caught on a bit, although they often don’t follow the Japanese tradition as much, which usually has a good portion of the meal as rice.

I love looking at pictures of creative bento boxes. They have bento box pictures for almost any animal or cartoon character you can think of. I especially like when the compartments of the box all work together to create one image, but I’d say that’s a more advanced bento artistry skill than where I am at now.

Usually the pictures I see feature nonvegan foods in them, so naturally, I was interested in contributing some vegan pictures of bento box lunches.

I know when I was in school as a vegetarian, other students used to make fun of my lunches because they looked weird or I ate different kinds of food. Though I don’t have kids of my own, I wonder if, especially with younger ages, bringing colorful and artistic bento lunches could get vegan kids to feel more comfortable at lunchtime. Other kids would hopefully be curious and excited to see what’s in the child’s lunch every day, especially if you take a creative approach to it. It would lessen the chance of bullying, and even maybe get them interested in vegan food.

It does take a bit of planning and time, although, it actually took me less time to make it than most of the meals I make for myself.

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The bento box I used was from PlanetBox¬†(of which I get no benefit from promoting, I just liked them) which is an eco-friendly company. They have several different styles and come with little sealable containers¬†as well. Each box style has the option to get decorative magnets included (free of charge). Obviously, I chose the Rover for its rainbow unicorn magnets. It appears that those magnets are currently sold out on PlanetBox’s website when I just looked, I wonder if they’ll be making them available again or not.

Because I wasn’t going to be taking my lunchbox anywhere or letting it sit in the fridge for awhile, I may have been able to get away with a little more. I wonder how transporting the food would work. I think the compartments keep the food well separated, but it did say in the instructions that came with it to put particularly juicy or runny foods in sealed containers rather than let them be freeform. So, that’s something to keep in mind if you’re going to use it as an actual lunch. I like the structure and challenge creating a bento box provided me. It helped me think differently about creating a complete meal.

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Here is what I did with mine:

  • I made a vegan coleslaw and added extra purple cabbage to make it more worthy of a unicorn.
  • I placed a tea sandwich shaped like a unicorn and decorated it with sriracha. For kids, I’d recommend some other squeezable sauce unless they like sriracha and spiciness.
  • I took the unicorn corn-on-the-cob holders and used them as skewers for rainbow fruit salad. You could use toothpicks or other decorative pointy items as well. Just remember that most schools have a no-tolerance policy for anything that resembles a weapon, so don’t go putting them on fake mini-swords or something. Use common sense, know your kids’ schools’ rules. If you want to avoid the skewer idea, you could use small cookie cutters and cut fruit into shapes.
  • I made some kettle popcorn out of kernels in my Whirley Pop. When it was all popped, I mixed in melted vegan butter, purple colored sugar, sprinkles, and a kettle corn flavored popcorn shaker that I got from the grocery that happened to be vegan. It came out delicious. If you want to save time though, buy a bag of kettle corn and add sprinkles of your own.
  • I put Just Ranch in a container for dipping gluten-free pretzels in.
  • I put a few Surf Sweets vegan heart-shaped gummy candies in the middle. You could also put some vegan fruit snacks, a small amount of rainbow colored candy, small cookie, etc.

 

There are many more options! Get creative.

Other items that would be neat:

  • Rainbow dipping veggies (especially if you can find some baby purple carrots)
  • Hummus or nut/seed butter
  • Rice or noodles
  • Salads (greens, potato, pasta, etc)
  • Vegan hot dogs/sausage (you can make them shaped like octopi by cutting them into small pieces horizontally and then cutting legs with vertical cuts
  • Tofu scrambles or tofu no egg salad
  • Breakfast for lunch with some kind of colored pancake in a cool shape or design or as a pancake sandwich, options are unlimited
  • Etc.

There are lots of bento box props, tools, and other neat stuff you can buy online or in stores. A lot of Asian markets will have stuff like this as well as bento boxes. Small cookie cutters, squeeze bottles, containers, cupcake liners, stuff found in the baking section of craft stores, pretty printed parchment paper, foil, old toys, etc. can all enhance your design or serve a function in the bento box as well.

Remember, as Fluffy says:

Fat Unicorn

 

 

 

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Savory Veganloaf Cupcakes

Okay, so I remember meatloaf cupcakes being a trend a few years ago or so, but I did not have a vegan food blog back then. Now that I do, this has been on my mental to-do recipe list for awhile, and I finally did it.

These are definitely to be filed under the kid-friendly category. It kind of made me feel like a kid again! For another vegan kid friendly recipe, see here.

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The cupcakes feature lots of healthy ingredients like carrots and onions, pinto beans, raisins, quinoa, and pinto beans, among other things. To top it off, there is a mashed potato “frosting” with nutritional yeast and garlic powder. I added some ketchup on top instead of a cherry, and vegan bac’uns as sprinkles.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

For the cupcake loaves:

  • Gimme lean ground beef style or other vegan ground faux meat of choice, 14 oz
  • 15 oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp plain almond milk
  • 2 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce (Annie’s Organics makes a good vegan version, check your labels because this often contains non vegan ingredients…or you can use a vegan steak sauce if that is easier to find)
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp prepared yellow mustard
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 flax eggs (2 tbsp flaxmeal, 6 tbsp water whisked together and let to sit for about 5 minutes)
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 1 cup grated carrots

For the mashed potato “frosting”:

  • 6 medium white potatoes
  • 4 tbsp (1/4 cup) Earth Balance
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened plain almond milk or other vegan milk of choice
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp garlic powder

Directions:

For the cupcake loaves:

  1. Cook quinoa before preparing the cupcake loaves. When it’s cooked, let sit to cool while you prepare the rest.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. In a food processor, put the gimme lean faux beef, pinto beans, raisins, chopped onions, almond milk, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, mustard, oregano, and salt in pepper and pulse until as combined as possible. If your food processor is like mine, you’ll need a rubber spatula to push it around to get it mixed together well and scraped down the sides.
  4. Add the flax eggs to the mix and pulse until combined.
  5. Transfer this mixture into a large bowl.
  6. Add quinoa and carrots, fold in with a spoon or rubber spatula until dispersed throughout.
  7. Spray cupcake tray with oil and place about 1/2 cup of this loaf mixture into each cup.
  8. Heat in oven for about 15 minutes until lightly browned. While cooking, prepare the mashed potato “frosting.”

For the mashed potato “frosting”:

  1. Peel and chop the potatoes.
  2. I steamed the potatoes in a steamer pot, but you could also boil them. I just put water in the bottom pot and the potatoes in the basket, kept on high heat at first and eventually turned down to medium. It took about 20 minutes for them to be ready to be mashed. You know when a fork can easily go through them and they are soft.
  3. Pour the water out of the bottom of the steamer pot, and place the potatoes into it.
  4. Add Earth Balance, Almond milk, nutritional yeast, salt, and garlic powder, and mash.

To assemble:

I wanted to pipe the mashed potatoes onto the cupcakes but I was too impatient to wait for the mashed potatoes to cool enough so I could stick it in a large ziploc bag, snip the corner, and make it look pretty with piping it like real cupcakes. So, I just scooped some on with a spoon, and put some ketchup on top, with a little bit of vegan bac’un sprinkled on top–those are definitely recommended if you can find them because they added a really great crunch factor to the dish. These are quite healthy, eat more than one! Probably best to eat with a fork, unfortunately, though…