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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Christmas Re-cap

Oi. So the school semester finished Sunday the 21st and I was a bit of a mess. After that, I barely stopped. It was a whir of wrapping presents, menu planning, grocery shopping (multiple times, ugh), spending time with family, cooking, etc. Since then I haven’t really stopped either, until today…Thank Goodness.

Remember my menu? I stuck to it pretty closely with a few adjustments.

My mom actually made the salad and the eggplant Christmas Eve which was great. She actually helped so much with the cooking which was a big relief because even as I write this now, I still feel like I am recovering from being so stressed during school.

First, we had the greek salad:

Isa Does It Greek Diner Salad

Isa Does It Greek Diner Salad

Then we had the main course, which for me was a piece of Spanakopita pot pie and the eggplant parm.

Spinach Pot Pie

Spinach Pot Pie

Spinach Pot Pie-Inside

Spinach Pot Pie-Inside

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

The dessert I was making for Christmas Day got screwed up because my mom was trying to teach me a trick with the roll cake but forgot how to do it the correct way and it fell apart 😦 So we decided to save the mud pie for Christmas day, and instead would have the vegan peppermint stick ice cream I had made…The frosting for the cake was already made, so we ended up making some of the crumbled up cake, ice cream, frosting, crushed peppermint candies, and chocolate syrup into sundaes. Everyone was obsessed with the peppermint stick ice cream, and I really don’t blame them! It was so good. It’s been requested that I make it again.

Vegan xmas Ice Cream Sundae

Vegan xmas Ice Cream Sundae

Then on Christmas morning we had my famous pretzel bread pudding for breakfast:

Pretzel Bread Pudding

Pretzel Bread Pudding

For an appetizer I made the Hummus Pomodoro with Warm Pizza Crust from Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen which was so good. Everyone really loved it, and my grandmother was telling me I selected some really good tomatoes, haha.

Festive hummus, pizza bread slices not pictured

Festive hummus, pizza crust slices not pictured

For dinner, here was my plate:

Clockwise from top left: Caramelized onion mashed potatoes, Gardein Holiday Roast, creamed spinach, and glazed carrots

Clockwise from top left:
Caramelized onion mashed potatoes, Gardein Holiday Roast, creamed spinach, and glazed carrots

And for dessert? Well, my grandmother decided to leave before we had it, so while I was waiting for my mom to take her home, I ended up whipping up a surprise. I had so much frosting leftover from the botched cake that I decided to make whoopie pies:

Whoops, I made Whoopie Pies

Whoops, I made Whoopie Pies

And we ate them along with the mud pie! (two gross but delicious sounding “pies,” haha)

Mud Pie!

Mud Pie!

This was also the first year I barely got any cooking related gifts.  Believe it or not, I’m okay with that. This is because:

A) I have way too many cookbooks and am now trying to make my own cookbook zine so I’m mostly eating my own creations.

B) I have pretty much everything I need in the way of utensils, though I did get a new measuring cup set and a cool little frosting thingy for decorating cakes and stuff in my stocking.

C) I am trying to also eat a bit healthier, so candy and junk food isn’t wise. Although, I did get a package of peppermint Bark Thins and Supercandy (they are vegan and basically gum drops with tons of B vitamins in them) in my stocking.

D) Apparently my love of working out has almost overtaken my love of cooking, at least, gift wise. I got some cool workout gear this year!

I do hope to use the two Whole Foods gift cards I got for presents for some food-related goodies/healthy foods! Yay.

Happy holidays everyone! I will probably not be posting until after the New Year, so I hope you all have a happy one!

My Xmas Menu

Happy holidays everyone!

Just a quick post to share my menu I have planned out for Christmas. I hope to post a bit more later on in the week.

Christmas eve dinner:

  • Greek Diner Salad from Isa Does It
  • Spinach pot pie (own recipe)
  • Eggplant Parmesan from Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen
  • Dessert: Mississippi Mud Pie (own recipe)

Christmas day breakfast:

My pretzel bread pudding casserole

Christmas day appetizer:

Hummus Pomodoro with Warm Pizza Crust from Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen

Christmas day meal:

  • Gardein Holiday Roast
  • Caramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes from Vegan Table
  • Creamed Spinach from Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen
  • Glazed carrots (my mom’s recipe)
  • Dessert: Peppermint stick ice cream (my own recipe) and chocolate peppermint roll cake (my own recipe as well)

I’m so excited for all this! haha. Yum.

Have a delicious holiday season! 🙂

Vegan MoFo Day 28: Sunday Brunch: Pretzel Bread Chia Pudding and Date Caramel Casserole

So I already posted this, but I’ll post it again in case you missed it because it’s relevant. I’ve been making food to share with my classmates at my college program as a part of my project I’m working on. Recently, they wrote about me in their “student snapshots” and actually took pictures of me unveiling this dish I’m about to post the recipe to now. It was a big hit. Take a look.

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This is the type of brunch dish that is so good it amazes people. It’s also the type of dish where when you eat it you are gasping a bit. I literally said “Omm nom” when I first tried it, I think. It was so good that no one who wasn’t vegan even cared that it was vegan. I’m sorry for bragging, but honestly I was actually a bit shocked at first at how good this thing I invented came out.

It has a lot going on, but trust me, it’s so good.

It’s a bit of a pain if you need to make the pretzels just to make this dish, but if you want pretzels too, then it’s a great decision. Just reserve at least 2 days before you plan on having this.

My family has a tradition for certain holidays to make the most luxurious, elaborate, and fancy brunch recipes for certain holidays like Christmas morning and such, and this is definitely already on the menu for that!

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Ingredients:

  • 4 homemade pretzels from my recipe here
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot powder
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup evaporated cane juice
  • 2 tbsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 batch caramel date sauce (recipe from the pretzel recipe here)
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance, melted

Directions:

  1. Break up pretzels into small chunks and place in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Pour almond milk over this mixture and coat well. Let sit in the fridge overnight.
  3. The next day, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. In a medium sized bowl, mix the chia seeds, arrowroot, water, sugars, vanilla, and spices together.
  5. Place the pretzel mixture into a casserole dish, and fold in the mixture you just prepared in the medium bowl.
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes.
  7. Take out of the oven and drizzle both the date caramel and melted margarine over the bread pudding.
  8. Dig in!

Vegan MoFo Day 23: Too Good Baked Goods Tuesdays: Soft Baked Pretzel with Date Caramel Dipping Sauce

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I love these pretzels so much. The date caramel sauce makes them even tastier. The best part is though, that once you make a batch of these, if you set aside four of them, you will be able to make the most amazing bread pudding casserole when I post the recipe for the next Sunday Brunch post. I can hardly contain myself.

If this recipe makes too many for you (it can make 14-20 pretzels) you can halve it or make the whole thing, bake them, and then freeze some of them to eat later.

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I’m starting to get sad that Vegan MoFo 2014 is almost over! I’ve met so many awesome people from different blogs and my blog has been doing really well. Boo 😦 But I’ll save my sorrows for now, since there is still a full week left! Gotta give thanks where it is due!

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Pretzel Ingredients:

  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (2 packages)
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons baking soda
  • 4 -6 tablespoons Earth Balance(melted)
  • to taste coarse salt (optional)

Caramel sauce ingredients:

  • 8 medjool dates, with pits removed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup original flavor coconut creamer
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp coconut palm sugar

Directions for pretzels:

  1. Mix yeast with lukewarm water in large mixing bowl until the yeast is dissolved.
  2. Add to the yeast mixture the sugar and salt and stir until dissolved; add flours and stir with a spoon until combined or mix in a standing mixer with the dough hook attached.
  3. Knead dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. 
  4. Let rise in the bowl with a towel covering it for 30 minutes.
  5. Around the time the dough is about to be ready, prepare a baking soda water bath with 4 cups warm water and 4 tbsp baking soda in another bowl. Stir this mixture often until ready to use (once you form the dough into pretzel shapes they will be dipped into this and baked).
  6. When the dough has risen, break dough into 14 even sized small balls, and then roll each ball into a snake/coil shape. There is an art to this that I have discovered. First, you knead the ball of dough and roll it around in your hand to soften it. Then you start to roll into a coil between the palm of your hands, focusing on the ends. Then you stretch it out by pulling it to elongate it, and roll it out more with the palm of one hand on a flat surface.
  7. Shape into pretzels…it’s pretty easy to figure it out, but you lay the coil down horizontally and curl the two ends in the middle so that they overlap.
  8. Dip the pretzels into the baking soda solution and place on a greased baking sheet (you will need at least two).
  9. Cover the baking sheets with a towel and allow pretzels to rise again 30 minutes. This is a good time to preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  10. Bake for about 10 minutes.
  11. Upon taking out of the oven, immediately brush with melted earth balance.
  12. Sprinkle with salt if desired, immediately after applying the earth balance. Allow to cool completely before eating.

For the date caramel sauce:

  1. Place dates in a small bowl and cover with the water. Let sit at least one hour.
  2. Blend all ingredients in a blender until it is as smooth as you can get it.
  3. You can heat this up on a stovetop before serving if you want, but it isn’t actually all that necessary.

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This post was brought to you by Vegan MoFo 2014, and the letter ‘P’