Friday, April 28, 2006

TGIF! - Barbecue "Rib" Sandwich

I am so glad it's Friday. For today's lunch I packed a vegan version of one of my favorite really bad foods from my carnivore days. It's a sandwich that appears from time to time at a certain restaurant, who shall remain nameless, but it starts with Mc. HA! I used to really like eating the barbecue rib sandwich there, except for the times that I would chomp down on a big glob of fat, gristle or something else unidentifiable. Lucky for us, Gardenburger has produced these Barbecue Riblets that taste just like the non-vegan kind. I think this is one of their more popular products, and if you try it you will see why. I originally planned this lunch thinking that I had some whole wheat hot dog buns left over, which hold the riblet perfectly, but after I got it cooked up I discovered that I did not. So I ended up cutting the thing in half and putting it on a whole wheat hamburger bun. I threw the other half in the fridge and I might eat it later today for a snack.

I had some scrambled tofu (from the recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz) in the fridge from the other night so I threw it into the red container. I make this stuff every week and I almost always have some hanging out in the fridge. Sometimes I heat it up before I eat it, but it is also very delicious when you just eat it cold. It's one of those things that has so many spices in it that the flavors just get better the day after you make it, and then even better the day after that. It's good stuff.

For a couple of raw things, I threw in some trusty carrots and some homemade trail mix containing walnuts, cashews, raisins, dried cranberries and some bananas that I dehydrated myself. This stuff is so good, I could just sit down and eat a huge bowl of it. I have great big bags of the individual ingredients from the bulk section of the health food store sitting in my cabinets at home, so you can probably expect to see a lot more of this stuff in the near future.

Well, that's all for today. Hopefully this weekend will be really nice and I can get some quality time in on the boat at the lake this weekend. I think that my favorite place to hang out on the water, Sonny's Marina, is opening this weekend. I don't think they have anything that I can eat there, but that won't stop me from pulling the boat in and drinking a pitcher of beer while I listen to the live music. ;o)

Thanks for stopping by and have a SUPER weekend! See you on Monday.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Well, a coworker and I went to a local elementary school today to judge a science fair so I didn't bring the lunchbox with me. It took us about 45 minutes this morning to drive to the school (I know, local?) and we got there about 9AM. It took us until almost 1PM to finish all the judging. There were lots of interesting science projects, and it's always fun to listen to kids (kindergarten through 4th grade) explain scientific things to you. I was actually quite shocked because it was two kids in kindergarten that impressed us the most with their knowledge of their project and the subject matter that they dealt with. Anyway, when all that was done, we stopped by Rush Street Grill for lunch on our way back to work. It's a local restaurant, so unless you live close to me I don't guess there's any use in searching for one. They have some really good food. I used to eat there a lot back when I was vegetarian because they actually have quite a few vegetarian options. Trying to eat vegan there presents a few additional challenges, but it is very doable. It's one of the easier places in town to eat vegan at, which I why I still like to frequent it as often as I can. It is a beautiful day here in Tennessee and they have a really nice outdoor dining area, which is where we sat. The main lunch crowd had already left and gone back to work, so it ended up being really nice.

I ordered what I usually like to eat there, which you will see in a moment, but I opted to replace the fries that normally come with it with a nice salad. First of all, besides just not really being that healthy, I assume most places probably just fry their french fries in the same oil that they fry everything else in, including frozen items containing cheese or animal parts, so that right there probably makes most restaurant french fries NOT VEGAN. There are a couple of places where I will eat the fries, but only because I happen to know that they use a dedicated fryer and oil for their potatoes. I did have to specify that I didn't want any cheese, bacon bits or croutons on the salad. In other words, I said I wanted "just vegetables". I thought I might have trouble with the dressings since a lot of them contain mayonnaise, and I believe even most Italian dressings contain parmesan cheese, but they had some yummy vinegar & oil which arrived in separate containers and was really tasty. It was a good salad.

Then it was time for the main course. I got the Grilled Portabella Sandwich. It's a big portabella mushroom cap which is grilled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It's topped with some grilled onions and roasted peppers, spinach leaves, tomato and onion. It normally comes with some cheese on it too, along with some basil mayo, but leaving those two things off, like I did, make this delicious sandwich vegan. It's a little messy eating it, because the mushroom is SO juicy, but it is very delicious.

Eating this sandwich actually got me stirred up again because I have been thinking a lot about all the cookouts that will be coming up this Summer at the lake and at people's houses. I had decided yesterday, after eating that hot dog, that vegan hot dogs would probably be the easiest option for me to take to cookouts so that I could eat something I like and still fit in with everyone else. I thought that might be better than a veggie burger since my favorite veggie burger really doesn't try to copy the taste of meat, it just has its own delicious flavor, but it would probably be hard to cook on a grill without it falling apart. But today, while I was eating that grilled mushroom, I was just thinking that honestly, that was the most meat-like thing that I had eaten since I became a vegan. So I may be taking some big portabella mushrooms to cookouts this season. Of course, there's then all kinds of other things you can worry about when cooking out, like keeping my food away from the meat on the grill, don't touch my mushroom with that spatula you just handled meat with, etc. But I'll cross those bridges when I come to them.

Actually, just a bunch of grilled vegetables like squash and zucchini, like I had at Cootie Brown's a while back, on a sandwich would also be good for a cookout. And speaking of cookouts, I got an e-mail reply from Texas Pete's about their Hot Dog Chili Sauce that I loved so much but had started to wonder whether it was vegan or not since it contained "natural flavor". Well, I got a quick reply from a lady named Becky Michael, who is a Quality Assurance Manager, and she said: "I am pleased to tell you that sauce is indeed suitable for vegetarians and vegans. The natural flavor in the chili is a reactive flavor on a soy oil base. There are no animal sources in the product." Yipee! I really like that stuff on vegan hot dogs, and it is very inexpensive. I'm actually surprised that they don't try to market it to vegetarians and vegans. I don't know if you've ever noticed it in the store where you live or not, but it comes in a can and is always over there beside all the canned meats like tuna, potted meat, SPAM and all that stuff. The LAST place you would expect to find a vegan hot dog chili. There are usually several brands of this meatless, usually fat-free, chili sauce lined up, but every other one that I have ever seen, even the fat-free ones, contain beef fat in the list of ingredients. Texas Pete is the only one I have been able to find that contains absolutely no animal products whatsoever. And guess what, it tastes good.

Well, that was lunch for Thursday. It was really nice eating outside, and missing the lunch crowd. Plus my food from Rush Street was really, really delicious. Definitely a place I would recommend eating if you ever find yourself in Kingsport, Tennessee.

I'll be back with the lunchbox tomorrow. See you then, and have a GREAT day.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Vegan Hot Dog

Okay, I know there's nothing super healthy about today's lunch, but there are a couple of reasons it ended up like this. One was that I was short on time last night and didn't have as much time as I would have liked to have spent preparing something for lunch today. And the second thing was just the fact that I had a burger yesterday and it really got me craving a hot dog. So there you go. This meal could actually be a lot more unhealthy than it is, especially if it was the non-vegan version, so at least I made the healthy choices where I could.

For the hot dog, I used a lite whole wheat hot dog bun to reduce the number of calories and simple carbs and increase the fiber content. I used Light Life's Smart Dogs for the hot dog and some Light Life Smart Chili to top it with. Both of these items are fat free, so that's good. I put the chili in the small blue container to keep it separated from the hot dog until I eat it so it wouldn't make the bun all soggy. On a side note, I used to use Texas Pete's Hot Dog Chili Sauce until I started wondering about one ingredient. All of the other non-meat cheap chili sauces that they sell at the grocery store contain beef fat. Texas Pete's is the only one I have found that lists no animal ingredients on the label. There was one ingredient though, "natural flavor" that caught my attention. I sent the company an e-mail and I will let you know what I hear back. I really hope that the "natural flavor" is referring to spices or something like that. We'll see.

No big salad today, I just went straight for the fries. They are, however, lower in fat because I prefer to bake them instead of fry them.

The small container up top holds some store-brand vegetarian (and vegan) baked beans. Some fresh chopped onion was added at home to give it a little more flavor. I forgot how much I liked baked beans. It's been so long since I had some. They are quite tasty. Yum. I noticed a recipe in Sarah Kramer's La Dolce Vegan last night that was some kind of spread for crackers that was made from baked beans. It sounded really interesting, and according to her it is very tasty. I might need to make it sometime.

To finish filling the lunchbox, I just threw in some raw walnuts, cashews and raisins again.

I was nowhere near my goal of trying to keep my lunchbox 50% raw today, or even at least 50% non-processed food. It's a meal I was craving though, that I haven't had yet this year, and it's vegan.

Besides trying to eat healthier, I also like to show people who aren't vegan, who might be considering it, that giving up animal products doesn't mean that you can't still eat the foods you like. There are so many products out there now, no matter what you like to eat, there is probably a vegan version of it. Yes, it may be highly processed, but it will, most likely, still be better for you than the non-vegan version. And it will DEFINITELY be better for the animals.

I will probably be eating out tomorrow because I am supposed to go and spend the first half of the day judging a science fair at a local elementary school. I did it last year and it took until something like 1PM just to get done. There were a LOT of science projects and you have to speak to each child individually and let them tell you about their project. I will probably just eat out at a restaurant on my way back to work. It's a pretty long drive (about 30-45 minutes I think) from work to this school, so it will be a lot later in the day tomorrow when I finally get to post. I WILL, however, be doing a post and including pics of what I order. If I get to eat where I am planning on eating, mmmmmmmmmm, it will be so good. And no, I am not planning on eating at Cootie Brown's again, not that I would mind, but that's not what I am planning. Just check back in later tomorrow afternoon if you wanna' see what I've been up to.

Thanks for checking in today. Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow afternoon!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

VwaV Veggie Burger

I was in a veggie burger mood today. I've had a few different types of veggie burgers on here before. If you look back through the archives you can see storebought frozen veggie burgers, veggie burgers made from pre-packaged mixes and homemade veggie burgers made from scratch. Obviously, the best tasting and most satisfying veggie burgers are those that are homemade, but they are a little more work. I made a couple of substitutions this time in my favorite recipe, however, that worked out really well and let me make my all-time favorite veggie burger with a little less hassle.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the veggie burger from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz is the best veggie burger that I know of. I am always amazed when I photograph this thing and then look at the picture. It looks just like a hamburger. It doesn't taste like meat though, it has its own flavor and is DELICIOUS. There were just a couple of things with the recipe though that kept me from making it as often as I might like to. One was that it calls for a small amount of tomato paste, something like 3 Tbsp. Well, I don't have one of those metallic tubes of tomato paste where you could just squeeze some out and then put the lid back on and store it. I always had to open a little can of it, get 3 Tbsp. out and then put the rest in some plasticware in the fridge where it would sit for a week or so until I finally threw it out. I HATE doing that. The recipe also calls for Dijon mustard, which is one of those things that I sometimes have and sometimes don't. So I was thinking about making this recipe and realized that I didn't have any Dijon mustard right now, and the fact that I would have to waste 1/2 a can of tomato paste to make these burgers when all of a sudden it just hit me. Why not just use ketchup and regular mustard? The more I thought about it the more I thought it would work fine because those two condiments are actually the base of most Sloppy Joe sauces and that's kinda' the taste that these burgers have, kinda' like a Sloppy Joe.

So anyway, I made the things, with the substitutions and they came out just fine. It's much easier to just squirt ketchup and mustard into the mix than fool with opening a can of tomato paste, and then throwing half of it away and having to dig around in a jar of Dijon mustard. The burgers are delicious, as usual, and I packed one for the lunchbox just the way I like it, on a whole wheat bun (top of the bun is removed for photography purposes) with pickles and Grapeseed Oil Vegenaise (in the little blue container). YUMMY!

Again, trying to eat healthier and cut down on the processed foods, instead of packing a large container full of storebought french fries, I opted for a smaller serving of homemade herb roasted potatoes and filled the larger container with some steamed green beans. For dessert, I didn't have any ready-made trail mix, so I just mixed some raw cashews, walnuts and raisins that I had lying around in separate bags. I have gotten into a real habit here lately of snacking on nuts, and that's a good thing. Looking back at some of my earlier lunches, it's hard to believe that I was eating so many cookies, and brownies and muffins. I still like those things, but I certainly don't need to be eating them every day in every meal. Sheesh!

I'm trying the dehydrator again, as we speak. I had several bananas which were getting close to being too ripe, so I sliced them all up using a mandolin slicer and put them into the food dehydrator. It ran last night while I slept and I checked on them this morning. They had dried a lot, but were not quite completely dry yet, so I turned the dehydrator off so they wouldn't dry out too much while I am at work today. I will examine them when I get home and see if I need to dry them anymore before storing them in some plasticware. Those would be good added to the nuts & raisins that I brought for lunch today.

Well, that's lunch for Tuesday. I'm really looking forward to eating my veggie burger. They are SO good. If you haven't got that cookbook yet, I highly recommend it. The veggie burgers are really good, and so is everything else. Honestly, I have yet to make a recipe from it that I didn't like.

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a good one and I'll see everybody tomorrow!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Barbecue Chik'n Pizza

I ended up bringing pizza again for lunch today, but this time I made it Barbecue Chik'n Pizza just to have something a little bit different. I remember, back when I was an omnivore, the first time I had pizza like this at a California Pizza Kitchen. I was hooked on it the first time I tried it. Luckily, it's really easy to make a vegan version of this yummy dish.

I didn't make my crust homemade this time because I discovered the perfect crust for personal size pizzas already made at the grocery store. I just used a whole-wheat pita. They've got all the fiber in them, they are the perfect size for fitting into the lunchbox, and they crisp up really nice in the toaster oven when you cook them. So basically, I just took a couple of pitas and covered them with some barbecue sauce (I would imagine that most barbecue sauces are vegan, but if you were buying a brand you were unfamiliar with I would definitely check the label), some Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Chik'n Strips, chopped onion and green pepper, and finally, some Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella. I popped the whole thing into a 450 degree toaster oven for 7 minutes and it was done.

I packed a salad, to go along with my pizza, which is just some spicy arugula with baby spinach and some carrots thrown on top. The dressing is my usual olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sesame oil. Plus I threw in a Cherry Pie Larabar to fill the empty space and give me a little bit more raw food in today's lunch.

Speaking of raw food, I guess I am going to have to take a step back and slow down a little bit if I am going to explore the preparation of more complicated raw food dishes. My dehydrator arrived last Friday and I tried making a couple of things in it this weekend and, unfortunately, I was not too impressed. The dehydrator worked fine, it's just that what I made in it wasn't that great. I made some flax seed crackers, and I just took one bite of that and actually had to spit it out. I am pretty sure that I severely over dehydrated those, so maybe that one was my fault. Perhaps I should try another batch and actually just dehydrate them for the time called for in the recipe. I guess it's possible to dehydrate something too much huh?

I should probably switch and try to dehydrate some fruit, or make some type of raw fruit & nut cookie next. I imagine something like that would probably be quite a bit more tasty than dehydrated flax seeds or potatoes. Anyway, I won't be starting a big raw food kick today. I obviously need to experiment a lot more before I commit to something like a 100% raw diet for a week, or 30 days, or whatever. In the mean time, I am still going to try and squeeze as many raw fruits, vegetables & nuts as I can into the lunchbox every day.

I'm not sure that a lot of the people who eat a 100% raw diet all the time spend the time making those fancy things that require the dehydrator anyway. From some of the stuff I have been reading, it looks like a lot of them are just "grazers" and basically just nibble on raw fruits, vegetables and nuts lots of times during the day. Oh well, I just had this idea that I was gonna' pop some stuff in the dehydrator and get some kind of yummy snacks out of it, and it didn't quite work out that way on my first try. I will try again though.

Well, I guess that just about does it for Monday. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sunday Brunch @ The Lake

We went to the lake house today to help my dad get the Jet-Ski in the water and so I could fix a vegan breakfast for my parents and see what they thought about it. I have a "regular" breakfast that I like to fix a lot, and order to eat when I go out to vegetarian restaurants, but I've often wondered what it would taste like to someone who is not a vegetarian or vegan. So we whipped up the meal and my parents tried it.

I made all of the same things that you've seen me eat on here before. Biscuits made from whole wheat pastry flour, gravy made with Earth Balance & soymilk with some tempeh sausage crumbles in it, some herb roasted potatoes and some scrambled tofu. Everything turned out really good and I enjoyed it. I'm not sure my parents were too keen on it though. My dad thought it was good, and he even had seconds on the biscuits & gravy (I had seconds and thirds!). My mom tried everything, but the word she used to describe it was "different". She said that it was good but that it was a lot spicier than the non-vegan versions of these foods. I guess that does make sense because you do seem to use a lot more spices when cooking vegan. I think that's what makes it good though. But I have a feeling that my mom would probably prefer the regular old version of these foods.

It was still a nice breakfast, and a nice day at the lake. The Jet-Ski got in the water for the season and I took it for a quick spin around the lake, which is always fun.

Well, I guess that's it for Sunday Brunch. The lunchbox and I will be back at work tomorrow. See you then!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Chik'n & Broccoli with Garlic Sauce

Today's lunch is not that complicated. I was in the mood for something Asian again, so I ended up packing Chik'n & Broccoli in Garlic Sauce. The sauce was just made from this recipe that I used with some tofu in the lunchbox a few weeks ago. To make it a little more interesting than just plain old tofu, I instead added some Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Chik'n Strips, frozen broccoli, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots.

The last time I packed something like this, I put it all in one container. I just put a little rice in the red container and then topped it with the sauce. I discovered that day, when I actually ate the lunch, that it wasn't really enough for a hungry adult to eat. It would have been fine if you were packing lunch for a youngster, but I wanted more than what would fit in a single container. So this time, I took the Chinese takeout approach and filled one container with my rice, and then filled another container with the sauce and all the vegetables. I can mix them together as I eat them and it will fill me up a lot more than my previous Asian lunch did.

I threw the same two raw foods in that I had yesterday. It's just some baby carrots and another slice of that raw Date Nut Torte that I made from Alissa Cohen's Living on Live Food book. I got this book a couple of days ago and have been reading it avidly. It is full of lots of interesting information and a TON of raw food recipes. I intend on trying ALL of them eventually. I would like to do a 100% raw diet for at least a week at some point in the near future just to see how I feel and what happens. I've got my recipe book now, and the dehydrator is arriving today, so I guess I could start on Monday if I really wanted to. I just don't know though, it just seems kind of scary to think about eating raw 100% of the time. I know there's no shortage of food options or recipes, so I don't know what I am really afraid of. Maybe it's just because it would be something different.

I guess we'll see. I might start a week of 100% raw next Monday if I can get properly motivated. Or maybe not. I may just start slowly working more and more of it in and see what happens. Anyway, I guess the lunchbox on Monday will tell the tale. I'm sure it will contain, at least, some new raw food things that I make this weekend using my new dehydrator.

Well, that's all for Friday. It's pouring down rain here in Tennessee again. It's supposed to be really nice this Sunday though. I am planning on fixing a nice big vegan brunch on Sunday morning for my mom and dad out at the lake. If it ends up being anywhere near as good as the brunch that I made last weekend, I will probably do an extra post on Sunday and let you see how it turned out. All of this is assuming that it doesn't pour down rain though.

Thanks for stopping by today. I can't wait to leave work and go home and play with the new food dehydrator (yes, I am easily amused). I hope everybody has a great weekend and I hope the sun shines wherever you're at. See everybody on Monday!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Tofu Burger & Sweet Potato Fries

I was in a burger & fries mood again today, but I was feeling a little bit lazy last night after mowing the yard and stuff, so instead of making veggie burgers from scratch, I tried something that I had not tried before and just picked up a box of Fantastic Tofu Burger Mix at the grocery store. I mixed the stuff in the box with a package of extra firm tofu, made it into patties and slapped those bad boys into a skillet. I put it on one of my homemade whole-wheat buns (I've left the top of the bun off so I could photograph the burger) and squeezed it into the lunchbox. As you can see in the picture, I got quite a few crumbs in the lunchbox trying to make that big bun fit. I really do need to work on the size of those things on my next batch.

These burgers taste okay. They are definitely quicker to make than going to all the trouble to make a homemade burger, but I still have to say that the veggie burger recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz is my favorite. Using the burger mix in a box though did give me an idea. I think that I would like to try just putting a package of tofu in the food processor and then adding all of the spices and flavoring ingredients from the VwaV recipe and then just blending it all together and making patties from that. That way I could have the flavor of the VwaV burgers (which I love) and the simplicity of just throwing stuff together without all the fuss of rehydrating the TVP, letting it cool, mixing, cooling in the fridge, etc. I guess the texture wouldn't be as firm if I use tofu instead of the TVP, but the texture of these tofu burgers is alright. Oh well, it's just something I'm throwing around in my head to save a little bit of time. It's really not that hard to make the TVP-based ones, I'm just being lazy.

Instead of regular french fries, I brought some sweet potato fries. I thought that these might be a little healthier, since sweet potatoes are supposed to be so much better for you than regular spuds, but looking at the nutrition labels, I really don't see that much of a difference. The package does tout that they're a good source of vitamin this and vitamin that. Maybe that's where they are healthier. I don't know, I just thought they might have more fiber or fewer carbs in them. I will probably be doing "raw" fries pretty soon anyway, so I don't guess it matters. They're not raw potatoes, they're made out of Jicama with some spices & seasonings on them. I plan on making some as soon as I can locate that vegetable. I haven't had any luck so far here where I live. I will probably have to wait until I make another trip to the big health food store over in Asheville, NC.

The two small containers actually hold some raw vegan food. The carrots are obvious. The other thing is my dessert. It's a Date Nut Torte and it is actually amazing how simple and easy this thing is to make. There are only 4 ingredients: dates, raisins, walnuts and lemon juice. It's just like some kind of little cake with icing on it. It is honestly though, one of the richest things I have ever eaten. Even this tiny little piece that I packed here in my lunchbox will be a challenge to finish. It is VERY delicious, but by the time I finish that little slice, any craving I might have had for something sweet for dessert will be COMPLETELY satisfied. It really is hard to believe that it is just raw food. It tastes so fudgy. Yum! I highly recommend trying it sometime if you think you might be interested in something like that.

Well, that does it for Thursday. I am anxiously expecting the arrival of my Excalibur food dehydrator tomorrow. I don't know if I will have anything whipped up with it by the time Monday rolls around but I would like to. Even though the two small containers were raw today, I wish I had actually done a little bit more raw food in this meal. Oh well, if I can find the Jicamas and get those in there the next time that I have burgers that would really help a lot.

Thanks for checking in today. Have a great day and I'll see you tomorrow, on Friday (YEAH!).

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Moosewood Spicy Penne Puttanesca

I ended up clueless last night as to what to pack for lunch today so I raided the freezer again and found one of those new frozen entrees from Moosewood Restaurant. I, of course, have heard a lot about this restaurant and I have seen several of their cookbooks in the bookstores and online. In fact, my boss brought one in last week for me to look at and this exact recipe was in there, so when I was in the store and saw it, I got it. This was a frozen entree, so there's only so much you can expect. I would, however, like to try making this recipe from scratch someday just to see how good it can really be.

There is no way I can describe this without laughing (I could never talk like this and keep a straight face, I always wondered how waiters do it when they have to stand there and tell you the specials and describe all the food and sauces and such, I usually start laughing), so I will just type the description that is on the box and you can read it: Spicy Penne Puttanesca - oven-roasted onions & peppers simmered in a spicy tomato sauce with calamata olives & capers served over penne pasta. Well, that wasn't too bad, I don't guess, but I would still feel silly talking like that.

When I heated this up last night, there was more in the package than would fit into the lunchbox so I had a little bit left over that I tried. It is good, but I wouldn't call it spectacular or anything. I definitely like all of the stuff that is in this recipe, but like I said before, I think this is probably something that would be a whole lot better if I made it from scratch. There's another one for the list of things to do...

I threw in a salad of Spicy Arugula with Red & Green Baby Spinach which I sprinkled with some slivered almonds and some dried cranberries just to make it a little bit more interesting. The dressing in the blue container is, as always, just olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a few drops of sesame oil. There's always a little bit of space left there when I carry the dressing container, so this time I threw in some raw cashews that I found at the health food store in the bulk bins. They were labeled "raw", and there's definitely no salt or oil on them, so I am assuming that they are. Mmmmmmm... I love cashews.

I had just a few organic strawberries left that I picked up at the health food store a week or so ago, and I would hate to lose those things to mold, so into the lunchbox they went. My dehydrator should be arriving later this week, and I am really excited about using it to make raw desserts by mixing all kinds of fruits and nuts in the food processor and then dehydrating clumps of the mixtures into chewy cookies. Hopefully, once that dehydrator is here, I will never lose any fruit in the fridge again. I will finally be able to buy those huge containers of fresh fruit when they go on sale because they want to get rid of them and actually be able to USE all of it without it going bad.

Well, that's lunch for Wednesday. On a side note, I need to get a new battery for my scale, because I can definitely tell that I have been losing weight since I started paying attention to the amount of fat and simple carbs in my meals. Yipee!

Have a great day and I'll see everybody tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Healthier Boca Spicy Chik'n Sandwich

Well, it's time to repeat a previous lunch and attempt to make it a little bit healthier by cutting back on the fat and simple carbs. There's not much I could do to the chik'n patty. The Boca Spicy Chik'n Patty is my favorite replacement for a chicken patty, and while they are FULL of sodium, it's basically all the sodium that is found in this meal. I always cook using No-Salt (KCl), and this will be the only thing like this that I eat today, so this may very well be all the sodium that I ingest today. Even though I sometimes eat a specific item that has a lot of sodium in it, like this patty, I think I am doing well at keeping my sodium intake below (usually WELL below) 1800mg a day.

The bun, on the other hand, WAS something that I could do something about. After comparing the nutritional info of the white buns and wheat buns that I used to buy, I saw that there was no difference. Since they were "wheat" buns and not "whole wheat" buns, they didn't contain any more fiber. I think all they actually did was add something to dye them brown so they would look healthier. Anyway, I have gotten into the habit now of making my own buns using my favorite pizza dough recipe and replacing 100% of the flour in the recipe with whole wheat pastry flour (I also modify the water amount to 1 1/4 cup, add 3 Tbsp. of Vital Wheat Gluten and use Olive Oil for the oil). This gives me a much healthier bun which is full of fiber and only contains 6 ingredients. Who knows what half of that stuff is that is in the storebought buns. And, as an added bonus, my homemade buns taste a lot better than storebought. I am still working on their size though, and I need to select something else that is a little bit smaller to use as my cutter because this batch of buns was just a tiny bit too large. That's the other good thing about making my own bread too... I can make items the exact size that I need so that everything will always fit perfectly into my lunchbox.

The little blue container holds some Grape Seed Oil Vegenaise. I used to buy the regular version made with Canola Oil, but Grape Seed Oil is supposed to be really good for you (I need to do a lot more reading on that) so I switched. Anyway, with the homemade whole wheat bun the sandwich became a little bit healthier, and a lot more tasty.

A simple little change that produced big results, as far as making the lunch healthier, was to leave out the onion rings that I had in my previous lunch and just replace them with some fresh raw broccoli. I was getting in the bad habit of eating french fries and/or onion rings all the time, so this time I just left them out and replaced them with veggies, only adding a smaller container of some herb roasted potatoes & onions to satisfy my potato craving. I DO love potatoes, but the small container of homemade potatoes & onions roasted with some olive oil, garlic, No-salt, pepper and rosemary on them is probably healthier for me than a large container of storebought french fries.

I also didn't pack anything like the bad-carb-laden brownie that I had last time. Instead I opted for a healthier dessert, that would fit into the small amount of space that was left, and threw in my favorite, an Apple Pie Larabar. GOSH! Those are so good. So there I've got 1 1/2 servings of raw fruit in that tiny amount of space. DEFINITELY better for me than a brownie.

Well, I guess that about does it for today. Today's lunch is certainly healthier than the last time I packed one of these chik'n sandwiches. I have been reading some more about raw food and am really starting to get interested in it, especially when it comes to making healthy snacks & desserts. I've got a huge recipe book on its way, and I have ordered an Excalibur dehydrator so I can start making things really soon. I'm still throwing all of this around in my head at the moment, but I am thinking that I would like to start making my lunches at least 50% raw. I don't think that would really be that difficult to do. I mean, even today's lunch is 50% raw with 1 big container and 1 small container filled with raw food. I guess we will see how this progresses, but I have been looking at a lot of raw recipes and it all just sounds so interesting. Hopefully, some of it will start showing up in the lunchbox in the next week or so.

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope everybody has a great Tuesday and I will see you right back here tomorrow!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Breakfast for Lunch

This may sound a bit extreme, but I made the greatest breakfast I have ever had yesterday, and I had so much left over that I just packed some of it up for lunch today. I make breakfast food for dinner occasionally, but I have to say that this is the first time I have ever brought breakfast food for lunch. I don't guess it really matters though because it is delicious and I love it. This meal is also, believe it or not, quite healthy when you stop and think about it. It's really amazing what you can do with your vegan superpowers.

Biscuits & gravy are one of my most favorite things in the world to eat and I could honestly eat them 3 times a day. The biscuits & gravy that you see here are honestly, the best I have ever made in my life, and it's all vegan! This was even better than what I have gotten in vegetarian restaurants. I just used my regular old biscuit recipe, which happens to be the one found in Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I made one major change though, I replaced 100% of the white flour with whole wheat pastry flour. The biscuits came out yummy, and full of beneficial fiber. What more could you ask for?

The biscuit gravy that I had been making a lot here lately was a recipe from VwaV which involved white beans, and it is very tasty, but this time I wanted to try and replicate the gravy that I had been getting in restaurants. All I did was melt 1 Tbsp. of Earth Balance margarine (this is the only fat in the gravy and it actually helps IMPROVE your good to bad cholesterol ratio!), stirred in 1/4 cup of flour (regular all-purpose), browned it a few minutes, then stirred in soy milk with a wisk until I got the desired consistency. I added some No-Salt (KCl) and pepper, along with 1 tsp. of Sage, then I threw in about 3 handfuls of the Tempeh Sausage Crumbles from VwaV. That TOTALLY made this gravy rock. The sausage crumbles have all kinds of flavor and all kinds of spices that make the gravy look really yummy (you can see all the herbs, red pepper flakes, etc. which make it really delicious). Seriously, this was the best biscuits & gravy I have ever made and I would put them up against the artery-clogging NOT VEGAN ones any day. They were really that good.

I also whipped up some scrambled tofu, but I made the mistake of using some pre-packaged stuff that I found at the grocery store that you just mix up with a pack of tofu. I did doctor it up a little bit by adding some chopped red & green pepper along with a small can of mushrooms. The next time, however, I will just make it from scratch using my favorite recipe from VwaV because that is SO much better than what I made yesterday. The stuff from store-bought seasonings isn't really bad, it's like something you might get in a restaurant, but the homemade version just has so much more flavor. My mistake.

The potatoes and onions were just cooked up in a skillet with olive oil, garlic salt, pepper & rosemary. They were delicious as always. Then I tried something new from one of the recipes that I hadn't tried before in VwaV. The tempeh & white bean sausage patties are quite tasty. They are a lot more delicate than the store-bought stuff, so you have to be careful or they will fall apart on you, but they taste good, and that's really what matters.

Well, that's it for lunch, I mean breakfast, I mean lunch for Monday. Gosh I can't wait to tear into that biscuit & gravy. That stuff is sooooooo good. Can you tell I like biscuits & gravy? It's hard to believe it's actually healthy vegan food. I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter, the weather here was BEAUTIFUL! Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a great Monday! See you tomorrow.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Out to Lunch @ COOTIE BROWN'S

Well, I didn't have to work today since it was Good Friday, so I didn't have to pack the lunchbox. Instead, I slept in a little bit and then got up and got ready and went to Cootie Brown's for lunch. Yes, it's the same place I went the last time I went out for lunch, but I told you that it's my favorite place. I considered a couple of other places, but it is such a beautiful day here today, and Cootie Brown's has this awesome outdoor dining area, I just couldn't resist going there. I met a friend there and we were seated as soon as the doors opened for lunch.

I tried something new the last time I ate at Cootie's, so this time I ordered my all-time favorite, the Black Bean Veggie Burger. These things are really, really good and the homemade patties are vegan (I have asked). There are a few things you have to ask them to leave off to make the whole meal vegan, but they're easy to remove. All you have to request is no sour cream, no cheese and no butter on the bun when they grill it. With those minor alterations, this vegetarian meal becomes vegan and is oh so good.

I probably should have replaced the fries with a salad for the small upcharge, but I didn't. I really like those fries, and I haven't had any in a while so I went ahead and got them. They fry them in their own dedicated fryer and oil so you know there hasn't been any kind of meat or other animal product cooked in the oil.

I have tried in the past to replicate this burger at home, and have never really succeeded. I recently discovered this recipe on the internet though that looks like it could turn out very similar to the Cootie Brown's burger, with the addition of black beans. I just haven't gotten around to trying to make it yet.

Well, I guess that's about it for Friday. It was nice to let someone else do the cooking for a change. Thanks for checking in. I hope everybody has a wonderful weekend and a Happy Easter. See you on Monday!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Fat Free Fettucine No-Fredo

I wanted to bring some kind of pasta for lunch today but I didn't really want to do spaghetti again, so I decided to do something with Fettucine noodles. First I went to the grocery store to attempt to find some good, vegan, whole-wheat pasta. The last time I bought pasta that I thought was going to be healthier for me, I ended up accidentally buying something that was not even vegan. This time, however, I discovered Hodgson Mill Organic Whole Wheat Fettuccine with Milled Flax Seed. I am convinced that I did good this time, and I am happy to report that the pasta itself is delicious. I will most certainly be purchasing this brand from now on.

With the pasta in hand, all I needed was to decide what to put on top of it. I briefly considered making some type of vegan pesto when I happened to remember seeing a recipe that caught my eye over at SusanV's blog, Fatfree Vegan Kitchen. It's a cauliflower based sauce that serves as a replacement for Alfredo sauce, which, of course, is definitely NOT VEGAN. Susan's Fettucine No-Fredo with Broccoli & Mushrooms was very simple to make and I only made a few changes when I made it. First of all, I took the lazy route and didn't buy fresh mushrooms and saute them, I just opened a small can of canned mushrooms and dumped them in. I also added some Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Chik'n Strips just because I used to like chicken in my Alfredo back when I used to eat the very unhealthy, and very cruel version of this dish.

The end result was very good. It's a recipe in progress, according to Susan, and I'm sure everybody who tries it will find their own particular little tweaks that they like to make to it. I also ended up sprinkling mine with some Vegan Parmesan Sprinkles, just to make it a little cheesier. The sauce itself, even though it has nutritional yeast in it, is really not that cheesy, but it is a creamy sauce. Tasting a creamy kind of sauce made from cauliflower that is fat-free really does get your mind racing about all the possibilities of a sauce like that. I will definitely make this recipe again and continue to experiment with it.

I also have some garlic toast there that I made from a sliced-up, homemade 100% whole-wheat bun that I made yesterday. I just use the exact same recipe that I use for pizza crust, remembering to use 1 1/4 cups of water and 1 Tbsp of sugar instead of what the recipe says, plus I use whole-wheat pastry flour instead of white, olive oil instead of canola oil, plus I added 3 1/2 Tbsp of Vital Wheat Gluten just to give the bread a little more "guts". I divided the dough up into 2 oz. portions for buns, put them out on a tray and let them rise and then baked them. They are yummy. For garlic toast I just sliced one of the buns, sprayed with a little olive oil, sprinkled with garlic salt and oregano and toasted it in the toaster oven. I had to cut it up a little bit more to get it to fit into the lunchbox, but it's all good.

Then I added some steamed yellow squash, onions and red pepper. I also threw in (I know they are a little hard to see in the picture) a container full of yummy raw blueberries. These were actually hand-picked by a good friend not far from where I live. Seems like I remember reading somewhere that blueberries are one of the best things that you can eat, and I love 'em, so there they are.

I'm really looking forward to eating my lunch today, I think it will be really enjoyable. We don't have to work tomorrow since it is Good Friday, so I won't be packing the lunchbox. I will, however, probably be going out somewhere to eat and will end up posting pics and all the info about that as another "Out to Lunch" segment. Thanks for checking in and I'll see everybody tomorrow. Have a GREAT day!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Well, I wanted a change of pace in today's lunch, and I didn't have much time yesterday evening to plan anything out and shop for ingredients to make something new, so I ended up just going to the fridge and taking out a bunch of raw fruits & vegetables and filling the lunchbox up with them. Heck, this is probably how most people think that vegans eat all of the time anyway, so I might as well give them something to talk about. Ha!

I purchased the grapes and carrots in very large bags at the local grocery store, so I needed to finish using them up before they went bad on me. I have been reading about raw foods a little bit this week and have become quite interested in them. I didn't have time to devote to any kind of fancy preparation or anything, but I would like to read more about it. It just seems strange though that eating raw can actually require MORE work than cooking. Well, not this time. All I did was take the stuff out of the bags, rinse it off and put it in the lunchbox. Based on some of my reading this week though, next time I buy grapes I am going to buy ones WITH seeds instead of seedless because grape seeds contain all kinds of good stuff. They never really bothered my anyway when I used to eat them when I was little. In fact, I think they're kinda' nice. If I can simply buy grapes with seeds and put a few more good compounds into my body, then I think I probably should.

The broccoli and strawberries are organic and came from the produce section of the Earth Fare market over in Asheville, NC. I started to remove the tops from the berries and slice them up so I could fit more in there, but then I decided I would rather just open my lunchbox up today and look and see all of the food intact, just the way that it naturally is (well, the carrots are obviously peeled). Heck, I bet if I looked hard enough on the internet I could probably find out that the green tops of strawberries contain some miracle compound. Seems like that's the way it always goes, whatever part of food we throw out ends up being the most nutritious part of the whole thing. Strange...

Well, I guess that's about it. There's not really that much you can say about beautiful raw fruits & vegetables. I realize that this is not a balanced lunch or anything, I mean there's probably not much protein in this meal (if any, although I assume there is a very small amount), but I get plenty of protein in other meals. I just wanted to do something different, light, easy and healthy for today (you can't get much different from a pepperoni pizza than this). I guess it's similar to just eating a salad for lunch, which I occasionally do. I will probably be purchasing one or two of the raw food un-cookbooks that I have been looking at. Who knows, you might log on here one day and see some of that really big fancy, beautiful, raw food like they serve in those really expensive restaurants. I doubt it, but I guess anything is possible. It just sounds like an awful lot of work to eat some raw things. I guess I would just rather eat the raw stuff instead of spending a lot of time trying to make it look or taste like something else without cooking it. I think it's interesting and I would definitely like to read more about it though.

Thanks for stopping by. See you on Thursday!

P.S. I just noticed how neat it is that the color of each item in today's lunch matches the color of the container that it is in. COOL!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Beans n Taters

Here's another lunch rerun that I've attempted to make a little healthier than the previous version. Nothing has changed about the beans. Again, it's just a can of pinto beans and a can of great northern beans mixed together. I would normally eat a bunch of onion on this, if I were at home, but out of consideration for the people at work, I usually leave that out for lunch.

One thing I did do to make this lunch healthier was to reduce the amount of potatoes. This time the Herbed Roasted Potatoes from VwaV are packed in the smaller container, leaving the large green container free to fill with steamed yellow squash, okra, onions and red pepper. I love the potatoes, and would fill all four containers with them if I could, but if I'm going to try and cut back on all those starches and simple carbs I guess I need to control myself and eat smaller portions of things like that.

That left one empty container. I thought about putting a cornbread muffin in there again, and I even thought about making them a little bit healthier by replacing the white flour in their recipe with whole wheat pastry flour, but I opted for making lunch a lot healthier and just leaving the bread out altogether and replacing it with some cooked greens.

Less potatoes and bread, and more veggies are about all I can think of to make this lunch healthier. I don't guess you can ever go wrong when you just add more vegetables. I've been really stirred up this week reading on the internet about raw food. I don't know if many of you are into that, and while I certainly don't know if I would enjoy eating like that all the time, it has grabbed my interest and I would like to read a couple of books about it. I am thinking about having a raw lunch tomorrow, just to be different. I'm not planning on doing any kind of elaborate food preparation like the recipe books have, but I am seriously just thinking about just gathering up a bunch of raw things and filling the lunchbox with them tomorrow. I guess we'll just have to wait and see how that works out. It would definitely be a change of pace for me.

Well, I guess that does it for Tuesday. I kinda' like repeating previous lunches and tweaking them to make them better for me. It's fun. Thanks to everybody for checking in today. Have a GREAT day! See you tomorrow!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Vegan Pepperoni Pizza

Okay, here it is in today's lunch, the holy grail of vegan ex-pizza junkies like myself - Pepperoni Pizza. I have been wanting to try this for quite a while, but have never been able to find the ingredients that I needed here where I live. So this weekend, I made another trip over the mountain to Asheville, NC and visited their awesome health food store over there called Earth Fare. They have absolutely everything. There I was able to find all of the vegan ingredients that I had been reading wonderful reviews about and had been just dying to combine into a vegan pepperoni pizza. I mean, if you've read rave reviews about all of the individual ingredients and you put them all together into something else, it has to be good right? Well it is. It's not only good, it is REALLY, REALLY, REALLY GOOD.

First, I made my pizza crust using my favorite recipe. When I normally make this dough, I change the amount of water to 1 1/4 cups and the amount of sugar to 1 Tbsp. Leaving everything else the same, it comes out perfect. This time, however, in an attempt to make the healthiest pizza possible, I used whole wheat pastry flour in place of the white flour. I could be wrong, but I assume whole wheat pastry flour is the same thing as whole wheat flour only ground a lot finer? It has the same fiber content as my whole wheat flour so I am hoping I am correct. The dough ended up being a little bit too wet, so I had to add a couple more tablespoons of flour to get it just right. After the initial rise, I divided it up into 4 oz. portions which I thought would make individual pizza crusts which, when sliced in half, would fit nicely into the lunchbox. I was right. They fit perfectly. Now, with a healthier crust, all I needed were the toppings.

I used my favorite pizza sauce recipe, and then topped it with Follow Your Heart's Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella and Light Life's Smart Deli Pepperoni Slices. I had read great things about both these products, and all I can say is that everything I read is true. I could go on and on about how good this pizza is. I mean, just look at it (if you click on the picture it shows you a larger version). It tastes every bit as good as it looks and it TOTALLY satisfies any lingering pepperoni pizza cravings that may have been left over from my omni days.

I finished the lunchbox with a salad to which I added a few mandarin orange slices I had left over, as well as a few dried cranberries that I picked up over in Asheville. The salad dressing in the blue container is just my old standby of olive oil, flax seed oil and balsamic vinegar.

That didn't leave much room for dessert, so I squeezed in a Cherry Pie Larabar. Besides being delicious, these things work perfectly with the lunchbox when you don't have a lot of room to spare. I mean, it's really kind of hard to believe that you can squeeze 1 1/2 servings of raw fruit down to fit into that little space. Oh where would I be without my Larabars?

Well, that about does it for Monday. I'm really excited about finally finding the ingredients I needed and figuring out how to make a healthy vegan pizza that tastes just as good as the very unhealthy NOT VEGAN version. I do enjoy making other types of vegan pizzas now at home which do not even contain any cheese or any kind of cheese substitute, and I love those too, but those are just like whole new foods to me. Something that I didn't eat before becoming vegan but something that I discovered after the fact and really enjoy now. Pizza like this, however, is just a delicious vegan clone of something that I, unfortunately, enjoyed way too much before wising up to the fact that there was such a huge amount of torture, abuse and death which was going in to making food that was not even good for me.

In case you're interested, this entire pizza in today's lunch has about 7-8 grams of fat, and all of it comes from Canola oil and Olive oil. I did a quick check over at a major pizza chain's website and found that their personal size pizza (with just cheese and pepperoni) has 30 grams of fat, plus oodles of cholesterol and just plain bad karma. Low fat, whole wheat crust, cruelty-free. I think it's a winner. If you like pizza, I highly suggest you try it. I don't think you will be disappointed. I'll shut up now. See everybody on Tuesday!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Baingan Bharta (Eggplant Curry)

I have actually never eaten Indian food in my life. After discovering a little local Indian store here in town last week, I have become VERY interested in trying all kinds of Indian food. I have heard that the food that you get in Indian restaurants can sometimes be extremely greasy, so I would really prefer to cook the stuff at home. I didn't want to make a big pot of something I might not like, and I needed to go to the Indian store last night to grab a couple of things, so I hit the freezer section and after MUCH searching (seems like everything had milk or cream in it) I finally found something called Baingan Bharta. After getting home and finding recipes, it seems like it has yogurt or some other dairy product in it alot, but this particular brand that I got did not for some reason, so I got it. I guess you are supposed to eat this over rice or on Pita bread, but since I am really trying to cut back on the carbs right now, I decided to just eat it by itself. I heated it up and ate a little bit of it last night (what I didn't need for the lunchbox) and I really liked it. I am glad that I liked my first taste of Indian food because I was worried that I might have picked something that nobody likes and it would have tainted my whole opinion of that style of food. This Eggplant Curry, as it is also called, is very good. I will be making some using this recipe (without the yogurt of course, I will either leave it out completely or substitute with soy yogurt or sour cream) in the very near future.

The green container holds some seasoned yellow squash, onions and red bell peppers. Then I threw in a couple of different things into the small containers that could serve as lunch or snack items. I will sometimes raid the lunchbox around 9:30AM and eat some fruit or something out of there for a snack. Either one of the small containers today could serve that purpose. One has some peeled baby carrots and the other holds some unsalted cashews that I purchased in a BIG bag at the Indian store. They were much cheaper there than at the grocery store. I don't know if they have had anything done to them or not. They are not dry-roasted or cooked in anyway, and there's no salt on them. I assume they are just raw. They are a lot lighter in appearance than what you see at the grocery store, which made me think that they might be really dried up, but they are not. They are delicious, some of the best cashews I have ever eaten. They're also supposed to be good for helping to straighten out your cholesterol level, so that's why I thought they might make a good snack for the lunchbox.

Well, that does it for the week. I really relied on prepackaged food this week more than I would have liked. I am going to try and get back to cooking the majority of stuff myself next week. I'll probably have my head buried in the laptop this weekend reading recipes and reading up about cholesterol since it's supposed to rain here. Thanks for checking in this week and I'll see everybody back here on Monday. Have a GREAT weekend!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Spaghetti with Garlic & Mushroom Sauce

Okay, this is my first day of trying to pack a HEALTHIER vegan lunch. I just had my cholesterol checked and I was expecting to get a really low number back. Well, I didn't. In fact, it was the highest it has ever been in my life, even higher than it was when I was eating meat, dairy and eggs. I hadn't realized how many bad carbs and how much fat was in my current vegan diet, and I didn't realize that THOSE things could affect the amount of cholesterol that my liver produces. I guess I was just stupid. I figured if I wasn't eating any cholesterol, then mine must be low. WRONG! From now on, I am going to concentrate more on foods that are good for me, and my cholesterol level. Things won't have to just be vegan, they will also have to be somewhat healthy. For my first attempt, I am going to try and turn one of my previous lunches, which really wasn't that healthy, into something that's better for me.

First of all, I've got spaghetti. Previously, I used regular old pasta, which is full of refined carbohydrates. This time, however, I used Barilla Plus Pasta, which contains better carbs, more fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. I'm as much of a sucker for slick marketing as anyone else, but reading up on this, and seeing what people had to say, I think it is a healthier choice if you are going to be eating pasta. (4/7/06 UPDATE: Well, I obviously was suckered in by all the charts and graphs on the box explaining how much healthier the pasta was because someone was kind enough to point out to me that this pasta is NOT VEGAN. It does have egg whites in it. I can't believe I didn't catch that. I have looked at every other ingredient list on every other box of pasta I have ever bought and this is the first time it has had egg whites in it. I wasn't expecting it. But stuff like this happens. I wasn't paying close enough attention. So next time I will just be using whole-wheat pasta) The sauce just came out of a can and I added some fresh mushrooms and a bunch of fresh minced garlic (which can help lower your cholesterol level) to it. Now that I think about it, next time I will just whip up the sauce myself from scratch with a can of tomato sauce and a can of tomato paste and all the spices. I could save myself from eating a bunch of sugar that way. I wish I had done that this time, but I didn't. DANG IT! Live and learn, I guess. At any rate, this should be healthier for me than my last spaghetti lunch because of the reduction in refined carbs and increase in fiber, protein, and essential fatty acids (and more garlic!).

I have a salad again this time around, so there's not much change there, except that this salad looks a whole lot better than the last one. It's just some red leaf lettuce and baby spinach leaves with some fresh mushrooms, onion and mandarin orange slices. I did kick my dressing up a notch by adding flax seed oil to my usual mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and sesame oil. As far as I know, these are excellent fats. I assume if you're gonna' be eating salad dressing, you want it to be made out of something like these guys.

I removed the bad carb filled garlic toast that I had last time and replaced it with some steamed vegetables. I also removed the chocolate chip cookie that I ate last time and replaced it with an Apple Pie Larabar, which of course, is just made out of uncooked, unprocessed raw fruits and nuts. Don't get me wrong, I will still have to cook up batches of chocolate chip cookies, brownies and such every now and then. I have just got to stop packing them in my lunch every single day.

Over all, I think this meal is quite a bit healthier than the previous spaghetti lunch. I haven't been vegan that long (just a few months, I was vegetarian for about a year before that) and I guess I was still in that stage where I was just basically trying to replace all the junk I was eating before with vegan versions, but they were still pretty unhealthy, according to my cholesterol levels. Luckily, my tastes have changed, and continue to change, from my omnivore days. I totally kicked the cheese addiction after a couple of weeks. I really don't even try to fake it anymore. So luckily, I know that eating BETTER will be easy. I mean, I'm sure this lunch will taste just as good as, if not better, than the previous one which was a lot less healthy.

Comments are welcome as I try to quit eating so much junk food. If you have any helpful tips or know of some top-secret ingredient or product that can replace something not-so-good please shout it out.

Well, that's about it for Thursday. Thanks for stopping by and I hope everybody has a great day. See you on Friday!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Organic Black Bean Enchiladas

Today's lunch may be a little less photogenic than others because the main course was so large that I kind of had to squeeze it in there to fit. I am sure it will still be delicious though. I didn't have a lot of time to cook something up last night so I resorted to the freezer full of storebought items. Today I've got some Amy's Organic Black Bean Enchiladas. They were really nice looking right out of the package, but of course I messed them up squeezing them into the green container. They smelled really good too when I was cooking them. I am looking forward to eating them later today.

The red container holds some spanish rice that I whipped up from a package of cheap store-brand stuff. I ate a little bit of it last night and it is actually very good. I guess it's probably hard to really mess rice up though huh?

There were some black beans cooking at home all day yesterday in the slow cooker, so I grabbed a couple of big spoonfuls of those and added them to today's lunch. Black beans are one of my favorite types of beans and I intend on making some Southwestern dishes, similar to the storebought stuff I am eating today, using black beans in the near future. I have been discovering some wonderful vegan food blogs here lately with tons of great recipes that I am determined to try out very soon for my lunchbox.

I filled the last empty container with a VwaV Best Pumpkin Muffin. It was the last one left from the batch that I made a few days ago. I guess I will have to drag a cookbook out tonight and cook up another batch of something for desserts for the rest of the week.

Here's a good place to give a little tip about reheating your lunch in the microwave if you are using one of the Laptop Lunches lunchboxes to pack your lunch in. All microwaves vary in power so you may, of course, have to adjust these times, but this is what I have found works really well for me. If I only have one large container (like the red one or the green one) to reheat, I just remove the lid and microwave it for 1 minute on HIGH. This is assuming it is cold from where you have had it stored in the carrying case with an ice pack. If I have 3 containers to heat up, like I do today (2 large ones and 1 small one), I remove any lids and place all 3 containers in the microwave at the same time and nuke them for 2 minutes on HIGH. So far this has worked really well and gets everything nice and hot without drying it out.

Well, that about does it for Wednesday. If you are reading this then you have made it over to the new website. I won't be updating the old one anymore so make sure you always come to the new address from now on. Thanks for visiting today and I'll see you tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

VwaV Veggie Burger & Fries

Well, I'm back to vegan junk food today, although it's really not that bad if you think about it. I guess the worst thing is just all the starchy potatoes. The layout is similar to the other day when I had that Chik'n Sandwich, but the yummy thing sitting there on the bun today is a homemade veggie burger made using the recipe from (all together now) Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I removed the top bun again so you can get a good look at the burger. I mean, look at that thing (clicking on the photos shows you the large version). Doesn't that look just like a hamburger made out of meat? Of course, it doesn't taste anything like the dead animal kind of burger, it's better. It's a TVP (textured vegetable protein) based recipe, so it's full of protein and low on fat. A whole wheat bun helps out a little on the "healthy factor" also. This was my third batch of VwaV Veggie Burgers. They are definitely my favorite veggie burger now.

I thought about piling the burger up with some vegan soy cheese, lettuce, tomato and the works. I really prefer just pickles and Vegenaise right now though. It's a kick I seem to have gotten on from the Chik'n Sandwiches. I am sure the burgers would be delicious though no matter how you dress them up.

I popped some Ore-Ida French Fries in the toaster oven for a side to go along with my burger. I prefer them baked instead of deep-fried. Of course they are healthier, and I just think they taste better when you bake them.

I had some steamed veggies left over in the fridge, so I put them in here today to get rid of them while they are still good, along with a handful of grapes. I bought a huge bag of grapes at the store last week (they were on sale) and I have been diligently working my way through them at home, as well as in my lunches. I probably eat more grapes than any other type of fruit. Once these are all gone, I intend to really try and increase the different types of fruit I eat. When I was an omnivore, I basically NEVER ate fruit. So while I am eating more fruit now than I used to, it is definitely something that I am still working on and need to improve.

That's it for Tuesday. Not too complicated. If you make the veggie burgers, plan on feeding several people, eating them for a few days or freezing some because the recipe makes enough for several burgers, depending on how large you make them. Thanks for checking in to see what's going on today. Have a great day and I'll see you on Wednesday.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Vegan Sushi

Well, there's certainly no shortage of beta-carotene in today's lunch. In an attempt to eat a little healthier, at least for one day, veggies make up most of today's lunch with carrots being present in 3 out 4 items. And now that I think about it, it would have actually been really good to have added them to the 4th item.

The little red box is filled with some vegetable sushi that I just picked up at the grocery store. The place I shop at makes fresh sushi every day. I've bought it before and it's good, if you like sushi. I keep meaning to try making my own someday, but that's one of those things that's on "that list", you know. The sushi just has carrots, cucumber, avocado, seaweed, sticky rice, sesame seeds and stuff like that in it.

The green box is filled with some steamed broccoli, carrots, snow peas and water chestnuts. I really do like eating just plain old steamed vegetables. I need to try and include them in the lunchbox more. These actually came from one of those new bags that they are advertising the whiz out of on TV, where you just throw the whole bag and all into the microwave and nuke it on HIGH for 5 minutes. It's handy, although it's not that much trouble to just dump frozen or fresh veggies in some Corningware and sprinkle a little bit of water on it and microwave it.

I bought a huge bag of peeled baby carrots at the store last week, so I started getting rid of them today by packing several in my lunch. I love these things. I thought about shredding them and making some kind of salad with raisins and walnuts in it, but I opted for just throwing the little guys in there raw. Maybe I will try some kind of salad another day.

For dessert I packed some of The Best Pumpkin Muffins from page 52 of Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I took her up on the option of adding a cup of chopped walnuts to the recipe. And as usual, she was correct... they are GREAT!

Well, I guess that just about does it for Monday. If you didn't check in over the weekend, just scroll on down for a posting about a wonderful vegan Sunday Brunch that I enjoyed yesterday over in Asheville, NC. Have a great Monday and the lunchbox and I will see you tomorrow!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

ROAD TRIP: Sunday Brunch in Asheville, NC

Well, we decided to get out of the house today and go enjoy a delicious vegan Sunday Brunch in a restaurant. There's not really a place to get such a thing in the town where I live, but luckily, we are only about an hour drive away from the cool little town of Asheville, NC. If you're not familiar with Asheville, it's a very unique little town that is just chock full of lots of spiritual, new-age, yoga, hippie and vegetarian vibes. There are actually like 5 or 6 very good dining options over there for vegetarians and vegans. If you ever have the chance, it's definitely worth checking out. It's about the most veggie friendly place I can think of that is anywhere even close to where I live in Tennessee. It was a beautiful day for driving over the mountain with with the top down. This first picture is from the scenic overlook at the top of the mountain, it's right at the state line and exactly half way between my house and downtown Asheville.

We decided to dine at The Laughing Seed. It's an exclusively vegetarian restaurant with tons of vegan options. I have eaten there before and loved it, and I knew they had this Sunday brunch that is supposed to be really good, so that's where we went. We got there about 5 minutes before noon and it wasn't crowded yet, but within an hour it was pretty much full, including the outdoor dining area. It's a really cool spot to people watch. There are lots of interesting people walking by to see, and there are musicians on almost every street corner playing guitars, violins, saxophones, etc. You name it... it's there.

I ended up ordering the Blue Plate Special and it was YUMMY! Probably some of the best vegan food I have ever tasted. The plate had some scrambled tofu, some herb roasted potatoes, a piece of homemade seitan soysage, and a huge delicious vegan biscuit smothered in yummy vegan gravy. I make a meal almost exactly like this at home a lot, and this was as good as, if not a little better, than homemade. I also had a couple of orange & pear Mimosas which were quite tasty. It was a delicious meal in a wonderful setting. What a way to spend a Sunday morning. Guess I'll see everyone back at work tomorrow with the trusty lunchbox. Have a great Sunday evening!