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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Simple Roasted Chickpeas with Agave Mustard!

Before I went vegan I was obsessed with honey mustard. In fact, I used to be a honey mustard fiend. Luckily for me, it’s easy to make a vegan version. I just mix vegenaise, yellow mustard, and agave and it comes out pretty much the same. Today I made some of it to dip a pretzel into…and then I was like “hmmm this would be amazing on chickpeas” so I whipped this recipe up.

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Basically what I did was, well, I will just format it like a recipe. Here it is:

Ingredients:

  • 15 oz can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and patted dry a bit
  • 2 tbsp vegenaise
  • 2 tbsp prepared yellow mustard, divided
  • 1/2 tbsp agave syrup

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place chickpeas in a shallow baking dish in a single layer.
  3. Mix 2 tbsp vegenaise, 1 tbsp yellow mustard, and 1/2 tbsp agave into a small bowl and stir until combined.
  4. Pour over the chickpeas and stir until evenly coated.
  5. Place in oven for about 25 minutes.
  6. Take out after 25 minutes, stir, and add the other tbsp of yellow mustard and stir again until incorporated.
  7. Place back into the oven for another 20 minutes or so. You may want to check after 10 minutes to make sure they’re not burning…but they should not be unless your oven is hotter than mine.
  8. Let cool for a few minutes and eat while hot, they’re best right then!

Superbowl Snack Recipe? You got it! *drum roll* Veganized Scallops wrapped in Bacon!

Super Bowl Sunday is nearing, and I wanted to veganize a recipe my parents used to serve at their Super Bowl Parties. Scallops wrapped in bacon! I’ve been seeing hearts of palm used as all kinds of seafood substitutes lately, and I love them, so I decided to try it. And I am so excited that I thought to experiment and create this recipe! It came out so amazingly delicious and is pretty looking too.

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Not much else to say except that I am so excited to share this recipe!

So without further ado,

Vegan “scallops” wrapped in “bacon” or as I prefer to call it, “Hearts of Palm Wrapped in Tempeh Bacon”

Servings 8-12 depending on how thin you slice the tempeh and other various factors

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp liquid smoke
  • ½ tsp hot sauce
  • ½ tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce (optional if you can’t find it)
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ cup coconut palm sugar or brown sugar (I used coconut palm sugar because I had some and it’s healthier for you…but brown sugar will work just as well if not better…)
  • About 3 stalks of canned hearts of palm
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp Old Bay Seasoning
  • ½ tsp kelp granules (if you can’t get your hands on this, double the Old Bay)
  • 1 tbsp oil

You will also need some toothpicks, a small shallow bowl, a small frying pan, a cookie sheet, cooking spray, and some extra Old Bay…(I love to make rhymes…but it is true)

Directions:

  1. Slice tempeh with a long knife into 10-12 thin pieces.
  2. Place in a Ziploc type bag
  3. Pour all ingredients in order ending with the smoked paprika into the bag.
  4. Seal bag and gently toss to coat the tempeh. Place in the refrigerator.
  5. You probably want to marinate the tempeh bacon for about an hour, shaking the bag lightly every 15 minutes or so and placing back into the fridge.
  6. In the meantime while the tempeh is marinating, take about 3 hearts of palm stalks from a can.
  7. Slice them to be about 1.5 inches tall or so. Maybe 2.
  8. Place them into a shallow bowl and pour 2 tbsp of lemon juice over them.
  9. Then sprinkle the Old Bay Seasoning over the tops, making sure each piece has some on it.
  10. Repeat with the kelp granules.
  11. Place some plastic wrap over them and also place them into the fridge like you did with the tempeh bacon. Turn over every time you shake the bacon. The idea is to let the hearts of palm soak up the flavors a bit and marinate.
  12. Around halfway through marinating both items, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  13. When the bacon is done marinating, spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and place the tempeh in a single layer. Do not put any extra marinade or liquid into the pan. Just the marinated tempeh.
  14. Take the coconut palm sugar or brown sugar and sprinkle onto the pieces of tempeh. Rub it a bit into the tempeh with your fingers. This will make the tempeh bacon more like actual bacon in my opinion. It ends up getting crispy, sticky and extra delicious when done.
  15. Heat in the oven for 15 minutes.
  16. When there’s about 5 minutes left for the tempeh bacon to cook, take out the hearts of palm.
  17. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a smallish frying pan.
  18. Place the hearts of palm without the marinade liquid into the pan and sprinkle with some extra Old Bay, maybe some salt if you desire too. Be very careful as it may splatter a bit.
  19. Heat on each side until it begins to brown, 1-2 minutes each side.
  20. Take out the bacon at 15 minutes and let it cool while you finish the hearts of palm.
  21. Place the hearts of palm on a plate.
  22. When you can handle the tempeh bacon with your hands, take one heart of palm piece and one slice of tempeh bacon. Wrap the bacon around the circle…if it breaks it’s ok, just finagle the toothpick into it so that it sticks on as well as you can. It’s all going into the same place anyhow. It’s kind of difficult to explain the procedure though. If you look at the pictures of the recipe it might give you a better idea of a strategy for handling it.
  23. Serve as soon as possible afterward. They’ll be best when still warm. You can try reheating them in a toaster oven on broil if you have that capacity later…microwave may work too but no guarantees it’ll taste the same when reheated. I’m pretty sure if you have a lot of people over or even just you, they’ll be tasty enough to polish off quickly
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the hearts of palm marinating

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the hearts of palm after they’ve been cooked

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all asembled!

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One more picture for good measure!