Happy Holidays!

Here's my Christmas present to all of you: a complete Christmas Lunch Box Menu with all the recipes: Golden Chestnut Soup, Best Brussels Sprouts, a clementine mandarin, and some Gingerbread Vegans with a tiny piping bag of icing and some sprinkles. Beverage: Silk Nog, of course!
Verdict:
I think Little shmoo sucked every last smidgen of icing out of that plastic bag. He ate all the Brussels sprouts, but only half of the soup. My husband really went all-out on this great photograph -- our dining room looks like a photo studio! 5 Ho Ho Hos!
P.S. The kids are on vacation until next year, so see you in January!

French Toast

Last week while helping out at school I overheard this conversation between two middle school boys in the hallway: "Dude, you won't believe what I have in my lunch today -- french toast!" "Aw, man!"
French toast, huh? I can do that! I used the fronch toast recipe from my new favorite cookbook, Vegan With A Vengeance, and packed it with a tiny container of maple syrup, some hash browns, a clementine mandarin, and a thermos of hot soy cocoa.
Verdict: What's not to love? Every bit got eaten up, even the crusts! 5 stars.

The Unfortunate Incident of the Tuno in the Lunch Box or The Lunch That Wasn't

Little shmoo has been begging me for three months for a can of Tuno from the health food store. I asked my friend Mike at the store, "Have you tried this?"
"Yeah."
"Is it good?"
"Nope."
With that glowing recommendation in mind, I put off buying it for as long as I could, but the shmoo finally wore me down and I bought a can.

The instructions said to use Tuno as you would tuna, so I mixed it with vegenaise and capers and put it on white bread. I packed it with tater tots & ketchup, green beans, and grapefruit segments.

After I took some pictures I still felt extremely doubtful, so I said, "I think you better take a bite of this now in case you don't like it." Shmoo took a bite and made a big nasty face. I took a bite and made an even bigger nasty face. The Tuno went in the trash and I slapped together a pb&j.

I thought about taking a new picture and forgetting this whole sorry incident, but instead decided to let it stand so I could ask all you Tuno lovers out there...where did I go wrong?

Verdict: 0 stars for Tuno, with a tip o' the hat to peanut butter for always being there for me.

Macaroni & Limas

This is one of Little shmoo's favorites: pasta with lima beans and rosemary- infused olive oil. I packed it with an organic apple, some cauliflower with a small container of Original Yumm! Sauce (this stuff is pure heaven -- a gift from my mom's recent trip to Oregon), and a piece of dried pineapple.
Verdict: He said the Yumm! Sauce was "too sour" (I notice that whenever I make uncheeses I have to use half the lemon juice called for or I get the "too sour" verdict...they seem just fine to me, so I guess it's a sign of his young, sensitive palate). Anyway, he ate some of the cauliflower plain and ate every last bit of the pasta and lima beans and fruit. "Those are some tasty limas!" he reports. 4 stars.

Hot Cocoa

I made some soymilk cocoa this morning and packed it in his thermos (I had to trim the straw to fit in the lunch box). Little shmoo drank the cocoa and nibbled on three little powdered sugar- covered cookies made with strawberry jam. The rest is rather ordinary (with cocoa and cookies as the treat, who needs a fancy lunch?): organic applesauce, baby carrots, and a peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich on oat bread.
Verdict: Just crusts and two carrots left. 4 stars.

Flautas

One of the great things we have in this town is a fabulous Hispanic grocery store that makes all-natural corn tortillas. These fresh mini 4" tortillas were just crying out to be put into a lunch box. I filled them with some "white bean crock cheese" (from Jo Stepaniak's "Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook") and fried them into
little flautas. Brussels sprouts are on the side with a tropical fruit cup and an organic strawberry fruit leather.
Verdict: "These are tasty!" I was volunteering in the classroom today so he shared one with me, then regretted not saving it for himself. Just one sprout was left over. 5 stars.

Soup & Crackers

Our little thermos is getting quite a workout in this cold weather. Homemade tomato-basil soup, with crackers and vegan cheese, canned pears, and two fresh-baked chocolate cookies with oh-my-god vegan white chocolate chips (part of my recent shipment from Vegan Essentials...why yes, I do think white chocolate chips are essential, don't you?).
Verdict: About the cleanest-looking lunch box I've seen in a while. He didn't even leave any crackers behind. 5 stars.
P.S. Tomorrow is another noon release day -- no lunch box!

Biscuits & Gravy

I baked some spelt biscuits this morning and packed them with a thermos of hot gravy filled with chunks of seitan. Pour the hot gravy over the biscuits for a warm, filling lunch. Some peas & corn on the side, with a little clementine mandarin and an organic strawberry fruit leather for dessert.
Verdict: Messy, but tasty on a cold December day. He ate everything but the clementine, which he saved for after school. I found these organic fruit leather at Target, of all places. 4 stars.

Blueberry Donut

Little shmoo's favorite black bean soup today, with some smokehouse almond rice crackers and an organic orange. For dessert, a shipment of goodies from Vegan Essentials arrived just in time to send shmoo with a vegan blueberry donut!
Verdict: This worked out even better than I had planned. It turns out that a group at school was selling donuts today as a fundraiser, and there I was with a vegan donut to put in his lunch box! 5 lucky stars.

Mini-Bagels

Two mini-bagels with vegan cream cheese, an organic apple, and a Spongebobish bag of baby carrots with some mashed pinto beans mixed with Bragg's for dipping. Beverage: a raspberry Silk Alive! soy yogurt drink.
Verdict: I knew he would only finish half the bag of carrots, but I had to leave the carrots in the bag because hey, it's a cartoon character promoting a fresh vegetable! Hooray! I mean, I don't know if Little shmoo has ever actually seen "Spongebob Squarepants" (we don't have TV), but I'm supporting this 100%. Next I'd like to see Batman promoting kale...then maybe shmoo would eat it! 4 stars.

Pizza


Here's a picture of the four mini pizzas I've made to include in the cookbook (clockwise from top): Mixed Mushroom, Polka-Dot Pepperoni, Kale Kalamata (my favorite!), and Zucchini Lattice. Guess which one my son wanted for lunch...
Pepperoni, of course! I measured the inside of the lunchbox to make sure the pizzas would fit just right -- too cute! I've never sent shmoo to school with a soda before but a fruit-sweetened spritzer seemed just right with pizza. I tucked an organic pear in his backpack wrapped in a napkin, too.
Verdict: He even ate the crusts! And hubby and I ate our crusts, too, when we enjoyed the rest for lunch. 5 stars.

Seitan Sandwich

Here's a sandwich of seitan slices with vegenaise on wheat bread, with a lime soy yogurt, green beans, and a dried apple and blueberry bar.
Verdict: I waded through an ocean of crusts (oh, those cursed crusts...) only to discover that the shmoo had once again left all his containers and untensils in his desk at school. The napkin was still there, though! But he ate everything and especially liked the apple bar. 4 stars.

Napkins!

Today's lunch photo features the awesome napkins that super-mom Dionne made for Little shmoo's lunches. Thanks again, Dionne -- they are the best! Today's lunch is macaroni & peas with a basil-flecked nutritional yeast sauce, an organic apple, some baby carrots with extra mac & peas sauce for dipping, and some chocolate letter cookies.
Verdict: This is a repeat of one of Little shmoo's all-time favorite lunches. He can eat bowls and bowls of this and never get tired. 5 stars.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's something the kids will be thankful for: Native Blend Popcorn Balls.

Thanksgiving

Here is a Thanksgiving lunch box inspired by foods we eat today that are native to North America (listed here in bold). A pumpkin Anadama roll filled with tofurkey and vegenaise, cranberry sauce in the tiny container, wild rice pilaf with peas, corn & pecans, popcorn balls (popcorn was served at the first Thanksgiving!) with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and dried blueberries. Beverage: concord grape juice.
Verdict: My husband took this fancy-pants picture for the cookbook. Our adopted turkey, Ingrid, is looking adorable and thankful in the background. Little shmoo loved the wild rice and the tofurkey roll, but doesn't care for cranberry sauce. All three of us can't stop eating these chewy, carmely popcorn balls. 5 stars.

Tortilla Roll

A lunch chosen and prepared entirely by Little shmoo. He even took the picture, with pumpkins added as "perfect decorations". A whole wheat tortilla rolled up with refried beans and cut into bites, grapefruit segments, cooked peas, carrots, and corn, and a piece of vanilla cake.
Verdict: He loved his lunch (5 proud stars), and I loved having him in the kitchen this morning, chatting as he chopped carrots, spread beans, and scored a grapefruit (which took him about 10 minutes!). "I'm going to eat the grapefruit first," he told me, "that cake can wait!"
Then a while later (still scoring) he said, "I'm tired of the people in my lunch group. They eat meat every day in their lunch, and when I see it I think, 'there's one less animal in the world'." Oh, it hurt to hear this and I didn't know what to say. It made me feel sorry and sad, sorry that I've opened his eyes to see a dead animal where other kids just see food, sorry that I send him out on his own every day to face it in a way I don't have to.

Veggie Burger

A veggie burger made from "Nature's Burger" by Fantastic, on a wholegrain sprout bun with a slice of Tofutti cheese. Organic green grapes, baby carrots with some cannellini bean hummus, and some pretzels.
Verdict:
I'm happy with these burger patties. They come in a dry mix that you add boiling water to. The main ingredients are brown rice and mixed dried vegetables, which I feel better about than the usual processed soy patties. They stay tender and don't get rubbery when cold like the Bocas, and best of all Little shmoo liked them, too! He ate well over half the burger, all the grapes and carrots with dip. He didn't touch the pretzels, which is probably healthier than eating them! 4 stars.

Musubi

Three musubi are lined up in the lunch box today. Musubi (also called onigiri) are balls of Japanese sticky rice (that's right, Shannon, James eats sticky rice!) wrapped with nori seaweed and usually stuffed with an umeboshi plum ("You're the ume in my musubi" is a Japanese version of "you're the cream in my coffee"). Along for the ride are some adzuki beans with pickled ginger and soy sauce, and an Asian pear.
Verdict: Wow, these are more filling than I thought; we ate one each and were stuffed. I even tried a bit of umeboshi in mine, and boy howdy that's an aquired taste. Little shmoo ate all the Asian pear and most of the beans, too. 3 stars.
P.S. Yesterday my mom found these cards that she bought back in the 80's to slip into our lunches (which she never did). They say adorable, sappy things like "You Can Do It!" and "No Matter What I Love You". I'm getting quite a collection of cards -- pickle-shaped jokes, cookie-shaped puzzles, mazes, and now these. Does anyone have any lunch notes they'd like to trade with? Or how about some of those little cloth napkins that Catherine mentioned below? Email me (jmccann@veganlunchbox.com) if you're interested.

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

Today was noon release, so no lunch box today (we went out for vegan burritos at Taco Del Mar, woo!). Instead of the regular lunch box, here are pictures of the two birthday cakes I plan to include in the cookbook: Triple Chocolate Cupcakes and Pineapple Celebration Cake. The chocolate cake is so good, even omni members of my family ask for it for their birthday! Little shmoo's birthday is in the summer so he won't be bringing them to school to share, unless we decide to have an Unbirthday Bash.

Chickpea Salad Sandwich

Chickpea salad in a pita pocket, mandarin orange slices and organic green grapes, jicama sticks, sugar snap peas, and red cabbage, and two Golden Oreos for dessert.
Verdict: Ha! After I took this picture I slipped the sandwich into a ziplock bag and folded the two Oreos up in a napkin. So when Little shmoo got home he had eaten everything except a bit of pita bread (he really liked these chickeny chickpeas), some of the red cabbage and peas...and the cookies! I unrolled them and held them up to him. "Oh!" he said. This kid needs to learn to use his napkin! 4 stars.

Waffles

Some oatmeal-flax waffles, cut into strips and spread with peanut butter, packed with a little container of maple syrup for dipping; organic blackberry- applesauce (our favorite), and some roasted sweet carrots with cinnamon. Beverage: calcium- fortified orange juice.
Verdict: Sometimes I'm frustrated by how little time they have to eat their lunch -- 20 minutes. He ate all his waffles and juice and was halfway through his carrots when the teacher told everyone time was up. He ate his applesauce after school. That's one reason why I don't send a lot of beverages; I think he plays around with the bottle, and the liquid fills him up quickly but leaves him hungry later. 3 stars.

Veterans Day

No school today! The shmoo and I will be heading out to play with friends this afternoon, something we haven't got to do much since he started school.

Here's the recipe for my Lunch Box Fondue. We sure loved it. Even my uncheese-hating husband was surprised when he tasted it; he sat up and said, "How did you do this? It actually tastes good!" Surprise!

Let me know what you think, and if you have any other fondue dippers to add to my list. Thanks!

Pasta with Lentil-Riceballs

Some pasta spirals in tomato sauce are kept warm in the thermos. In the lunchbox are lentil and brown rice "meatballs", green beans, pomegranate seeds (did you know pomegranates have more antioxidants than green tea or red wine?), and a piece of Newman's Own Organic sweet dark chocolate.
Verdict: At the last minute I decided to pack an extra little container of tomato sauce for the lentil-riceballs -- they are sooo good with lots of tomato sauce. I packed enough for two since I was planning on being there to have lunch with him, but it turned out the teacher didn't need me today. So of course he couldn't finish it all by himself, but he did eat all the green beans and half the pasta and lentil-riceballs. 4 stars.

Chicken-free Nuggets

Three vegan chicken nuggets next to some p.t. fries (p.t. stands for potatoes and turnips). A tiny container of ketchup is nestled next to a mandarin orange cut into wedges. In the two smaller containers are sugar snap peas and jicama cut into fall leaf shapes, and a date walnut carob brownie for dessert.
Verdict: We just found these "Health Is Wealth" brand vegan chicken nuggets at the health food store. He likes them, and I was happy that they were all-natural and contained no evil trans fats. He ate a huge plate of the p.t. fries with his breakfast, so there were hardly any left for his lunch. The uneaten remainders today were some of the sugar snaps (he likes to open them and eat the peas out of them -- me, too!) and the mandarin orange, which he ran out of time for. He ate it after school alongside half a pomegranate (it's pomegranate season, hooray!). 4 stars.

Cheezy Breadsticks

Some twisty breadsticks topped with cheesy-tasting nutritional yeast, alongside some tomato sauce for dipping. The veggies are a frozen mix called "Flavor Fiesta" -- broccoli, carrots, and green, black, white, and kidney beans. Also tucked in the box are a fruit cup and one chocolate chip cookie (Little shmoo made these himself, with a little help, from the recipe on the vanilla Silk carton. They're good!).
Verdict: Little shmoo and Papa shmoo both went crazy over these breadsticks. I made 36 last night, and they're all gone! Little shmoo scarfed down the breadsticks, fruit, and cookie. In the veggie department, he ate every single bean and carrot and left all the broccoli. I have to agree with him, frozen broccoli is not as good as fresh. 4 stars.

Triple-Decker Corn Thins

Triple-decker almond butter and peach jam sandwiches on Multigrain Corn Thins (I cut the corn thins in half with a sharp knife before assembling, so they would fit in the lunch box). Cherry soy yogurt topped with frozen blueberries and cherries in the large lidded container, and some green peas, baby carrots, and celery sticks. A maze is wrapped around the spoons (two to prevent "dirty spoon whining", one for the yogurt, one for the peas) for fun.
Verdict: A quick, simple lunch on a busy Monday. We like these little corn thins from the health food store; they're like rice cakes. Everything was gone but most of the celery, and I do mean everything -- he left half the empty containers in his desk at school! Luckily I have a backup set. 4 stars.
Update: I cleared out his desk today and found two spoons, three containers, a lid, and the core of the asian pear from Halloween's lunch. Eeew! We had a little talk about proper post-lunch hygiene.

Tea and Scones

Two blueberry scones, two kiwi fruit, and an assortment of tea sandwiches on storebought English Muffin Bread with the crusts cut off: Tofurkey deli slices with vegan mayo, cucumber with vegan cream cheese, and radish with margarine. Beverage: berry-flavored herbal ice tea with apple juice ice cubes.
Verdict:
Little shmoo ate half the radish sandwich and half the cucumber sandwich, and only had room for one scone. Everything else was reduced to post tea-time crumbs. He loved having iced tea for lunch. 3 stars.

"And then a miracle occured..."

I know this isn't lunch related, but tonight my son ATE A SALAD! An actual salad went in my son's mouth and down his throat -- I saw it happen! He has hated all green leafies -- cooked or raw -- pretty much since he joined planet earth. A shred of lettuce on his burrito is enough to send him into a fit.

So tonight there I was, chopping romaine, spinach, and cabbage for what is usually a salad for one (Hubby doesn't care much for salad, either). Little shmoo came into the kitchen and watched for a while without saying anything. He picked up a baby spinach leaf and looked at it, then handed it to me. "I think I could eat that salad if it had a yummy dressing on it," he told me, "and if it had things I like in it, like carrots."

Stay calm, stay calm, I told myself. "I think we can do that," I said.

I put him to work spinning the lettuce and chopping chunks of baby carrots and apple while I toasted walnuts and thought about the dressing.

I had to think fast. This was a moment I had been waiting for, and I didn't want to blow it. My usual sprinkle of balsamic was not going to cut it, no way. I remembered a vinaigrette that Dreena Burton had talked about once on an Erik's Diner podcast. I pulled out my notes. She had mentioned that adding a sweetener, like maple syrup, can cut acidity and allow you to use less oil. Starting with her example, I put together a dressing I am now calling

Asian Miracle Dressing
(results atypical, individual results may vary, please try this at home)

1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 TB maple syrup
a pinch of salt
a grind of pepper
1/2 tsp. low sodium soy sauce
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 TB extra virgin olive oil

Combine and whisk with a fork until well-blended.

Together we brought the salad and dressing to the table, and I served him up a bowlful. "Mmm, this dressing is my number one dressing," he said as he started in. "So many flavors!" he said a few bites later. I told him salads were like that. He set it aside to eat his spiral pastas with lima beans and rosemary, and I thought that was it. Then he came back to the salad, served himself some more, and ended up eating two bowls.

I tried to act encouraging without dancing on the tabletops. I'll probably wait a few days before I make another salad, and I won't be at all surprised if he doesn't like it next time. If this is the only salad he ever eats, that's okay. I'm just glad I was there to see it happen.

Fondue

A thermos filled with piping hot vegan fondue today, with several veggies for dipping: boiled new potatoes, raw zucchini slices, lightly steamed purple cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and baby carrots. Organic apple chunks are in the lidded container. Off to the side is one Endangered Species dark chocolate (half off after Halloween, yeah!).
Verdict: Okay, so I didn't really send him to school with the mini-fondue fork (from our chocolate fondue set). But it looked sooo cute and fit so perfectly in the lunch box, I just had to take its picture. The points are sharp, though, and I didn't want anyone's eye out. He used his regular fork instead.
I can tell lunch is going to be a big success when he wants to eat it right away for breakfast. He ran excitedly to his dad to exclaim, "I'm having FONDUE in my lunch today!" He ate all the apple, carrots, and Brussels sprouts, and most of the zucchini, potatoes and purple cauliflower. 5 stars.

Grilled Pepperoni Sandwich

A spicy grilled vegan pepperoni and mozzarella sandwich, packed with a little container of tomato sauce for dipping. I topped lightly steamed broccoli with a vibrant lemon, garlic, and caper sauce, then packed along a mixed fruit cup and one Mary Jane. (Mary Janes are old-fashioned peanut butter and molasses taffy, with what I think are the cutest candy wrappers ever. If I ever learn to decoupage, I’ll be making something with Mary Jane wrappers.)
Verdict: This was our first experiment with storebought vegan cheese slices -- we tried Tofutti brand. I'm not too keen, but Little shmoo loved it. Not even a crust was left!! The flavorful lemon sauce helped the broccoli out at lunchtime, a big improvement over plain. The only thing he didn't like? The Mary Jane. Yes -- more for me! 3 stars.

Chili Spud

Little shmoo's favorite chili (I call it his "picky chili" -- no onions, peppers, or chunks of tomato) is in the thermos. I cut open a baked potato and wrapped it in parchment paper; at lunch he unwrapped the spud and poured hot chili over it. An organic kiwi fruit (did you know one kiwi fruit has over 100% of your vitamin C?) and half a raspberry licorice are on the side.
Verdict: A hearty hot lunch for a cold, rainy day. All the chili and all but a couple bites of potato were gone. He got too full for the kiwi fruit, which he ate as an after-school snack. 4 stars.

Spiders & Goblin Fingers




Lunch box is back just in time for Halloween! Two photos today, one of the outside of the box all done up for the day...






And here's the spooky contents. Spider sandwiches -- made of homemade blackstrap carob graham crackers filled with peanut butter and pumpkin butter -- are creeping around on a bed of "mummy wrap", while "Goblin Fingers" wait to be dipped in some vegan Ranch. A crisp Asian pear from the final farmer's market of the year is on the side. Beverage: Witches' Brew, of course! (chocolate soy milk and cherries).
Verdict: A spooktacular success (bwaahaahaa), and a bit of nutrition on a day otherwise devoted to sugar. He gobbled down everything but two Goblin Fingers, which he ate when he got home. And yes! He brought home the candy he received so I could check it out before he ate it! Luckily, one piece was vegan. 5 blood-curdling screams.

Out to Lunch Again

Today was a "Diocesan Inservice" day. I have no idea what that means, except that it meant no school for Little shmoo. We spent the day thrift shopping for Halloween costumes (he's going to be a Bionicle).

And here's the really tragic news: next week is noon release every day for teacher conferences. No vegan lunch boxes!!

But looking on the bright side, I'll be spending the week double-testing recipes and writing for the cook book, so it's all good. And I'll post a new recipe, too!

Mini-Wellingtons

Some of you have indicated which lunch is your favorite, and I have to say this one is mine (I've always been a huge sucker for anything en croƻte). Beef Wellington is a traditional English dish made from a fillet of beef that has been wrapped in pastry and baked. Here, I transformed our favorite nut and bean loaf into miniature vegan Wellingtons. On the side are peas, an organic pear, and three raspberry wafer cookies. Oh, and I found these cute little "Lunch Packers" at a chichi local boutique; you write a personal note on the back and inside is a corny joke, brain teaser, or funny trivia.
Verdict: I was in class to help today, so he and I got to sit outside in the sunshine while he ate (this was extremely cool -- he was king in the classroom when he returned, and gave all the guys high fives as he walked back to his desk! lol). He ate the cookies first, then the peas, the pear, then the whole wellington minus one bite of symbolic crust that I got to eat. 5 stars.

Full Meal Muffins

I created these "Full Meal Muffins" with teenagers in mind: they're lightweight, portable, and easy to eat. They contain two vegetables, two fruits, flax seed for omega-3 fatty acids, calcium from fortified orange juice, brown rice protein powder, and whole grains. They are dense and hearty and sportsbarish, but tasty! Little shmoo shoved down three quick as a wink when they came out of the oven yesterday. Today I packed them with some mixed nuts, an organic apple, and a "Silk Alive" strawberry soy yogurt drink.
Verdict: At the last minute I worried that two muffins wouldn't be enough, so I moved the nuts up, took out the large yellow container, and lined up three muffins in the front. But two really were plenty, after all; one untouched muffin and some nuts were left over. I think the muffins would be even better with some heart-healthy dark chocolate chips, hee hee. 4 stars.

Massur Dal & Carrot Soup

An Indian-inspired lunch box today. Massur dal (aka red lentils) and carrot soup is in the thermos. The whole wheat dumplings are filled with turmeric potatoes and peas (aloo matar), and some mango slices and cucumber raita are on the side. A dark chocolate (the Halloween candy is starting to arrive!) is the treat.
Verdict: He loved the soup and the potato-stuffed dumplings, the cucumber raita not so much. As he does with anything breadlike, he decided one piece of the dumpling was the "crust", so he left that one piece. Too funny! We lucked out and scored some good, creamy mangoes this time. 3 stars.

Vegan Turkey Sandwich

Here is a lunch chosen, made, and photographed entirely by Little shmoo himself! He's been an enthusiastic kitchen helper lately (his favorite job is frying veggie burgers and delivering them to the table with much fanfare on a "waiter's tray" he made from the Lego bin lid). I wanted to encourage him while he's interested. He chose tater tots (which involved turning on the oven and wearing an oven mitt, very cool!), a tropical fruit cup, four little teddy grahams, and a vegan turkey sandwich on wheat with vegan mayo. Yes, that's a whole package of turkey slices there, minus one slice he ate while making the sandwich!
Verdict: He was proud of his lunch and ate everything but the crusts. I know it's not as pretty or interesting as some of the other lunches, but I like that he got a little lesson in how to take care of himself. 5 stars.

Polenta Fries

Crispy polenta fries with barbecue sauce for dipping, cauliflower trees and baby carrots, hickory- smoked toasted soy nuts, and two Golden "Uh Oh" Oreos (uh oh, there's an open package of Oreos in my house...). In the silverware space I tucked in a rolled-up maze game for a surprise. Beverage: soymilk, oj & apricot smoothie.
Verdict: These polenta fries and bbq were perfect. The maze was a hit, too; he was expressing regret the other day that his food doesn't come with cartoons and puzzles on it like the prepackaged stuff other kids get. He'll be finding more stickers and fun things in his lunch box now. 5 stars.

Injera

Little shmoo loves Ethiopian injera bread; he used to call it "silverware bread" because we eat Ethiopian food by scooping it up with injera -- no silverware! Now he likes to top it with this split pea alecha (stew) and call it "martian pizza". So, here's injera bread, split pea alecha, mixed vegetable wat (spicy stew), and honeydew melon. For dessert, four little chocolate Teddy Grahams are peeking out of the tiny container.
Verdict: If this looks like a lot of food, that's because it is! On Thursdays I volunteer in the classroom, and Little shmoo thinks it's so cool that his mom is there to share lunch with him (I'm enjoying it while I can!). Our Ethiopian feast traveled well and was easy to eat. I know Teddy Grahams aren't the most nutritious thing in the world, but they are vegan! He requested them when we were at the store together, and I think a little treat is important to kids. 4 stars.

Chik'n Sandwich

A vegan chik'n patty on a wheat bun, oven roasted sweet potato fries, and some apple crisp for dessert. Beverage: almond amazake.
Verdict: Thank you to Amy and little my for suggesting sweet potato fries. I hadn't made them in quite a while, and they were very tasty. Little shmoo didn't touch them (oh well, more for me!), but he ate everything else. 4 stars.
P.S. Tomorrow is a noon release day -- sorry, no lunch box!

Play Pretzels

We rolled out little snakes of dough this morning and baked them into fun shapes. I packed them with a small container of peanut butter for dipping, kiwi and star fruit, baby carrots, and roasted chickpeas. Beverage: chocolate Silk.
Verdict: This was our first time trying star fruit; we agreed it was fun to look at but not too exciting to eat. Everything else was eaten and enjoyed. "I ate a lot!" he said. 4 stars.

Phyllo Triangles

My Big Fat Greek Lunch Box! Four phyllo triangle stuffed with tofu feta, a fennel cucumber salad with capers and olives, gigantes plakis (Greek "giant beans"), and paximadia (Greek anise-flavored "biscotti"). Beverage: organic concord grape juice.
Verdict: I invited my mom over for lunch to help us eat the rest. Twice she looked at the table and said, "Wait, you mean this is what he had for lunch? Wow." Little shmoo says he especially loved the crunchy triangles and the cookies. 5 Opas!

Broccoli Fennel Soup

Hot broccoli fennel soup today in a thermos, with black sesame rice crackers, tangerine slices, and fruit & nut bars. Beverage (not pictured): chocolate Silk.
Verdict:
He didn't miss the chocolate milk today! But he did run out of time for the tangerine. 3 stars.

Bagel Face

"Bagel Face, you've got the cutest little Bagel Face..." (guess what's been running through my head all day?) A bagel with vegan cream cheese, grandma's organic strawberry jam, and cashews. Backing Mr. Bagel Face up are canned pineapple, carrot blossoms, and chocolate rice milk.
Verdict:
I'm laughing because the only thing he neglected to eat was the chocolate milk. He says he just didn't see it there! I don't send beverages very often, and he was too excited to make Mr. Bagel Face's acquaintance, I think. 4 stars.

Pita with Hummus

Half a whole wheat pita bread filled with hummus and cut in quarters. Alongside are a cute cucumber chain (I got this idea from the Laptop Lunch User's Guide that came with our lunch box), lemon soy yogurt, and organic red grapes. In the tiniest container are four little Sharkies for a surprise treat.
Verdict: This lunch was easy and a big success -- everything eaten but an edge of pita bread and a couple cucumber slices (the chain folded up nicely into the container after I took the picture, in case you were wondering). 5 stars.

Tennessee Corn Pone Muffin

A lunch inspired by my favorite cuisine: southern cooking! A savory cornmeal and black bean muffin with vegan ham cut-outs on the side, lite canned pears, creamy sweet potato, and two Golden Oreos.
Verdict: "I looove those beans!" says Little shmoo. He ate everything but most of the sweet potatoes. We're still working on sweet potatoes! 4 stars.

Pumpkin Muffins

In honor of the pumpkin harvest, here is my recipe for Pumpkin Carob Chip Muffins.

I'll be posting a new recipe every two weeks or so. The old ones will come down when I put a new one on, so I can do more testing and tweaking before putting them in my cookbook-in-progress. So get them while you can, and please email me with any recipe feedback.

Yesterday someone asked me if Little shmoo ever came home asking for something he saw in someone else's lunch box. No. Last year in kindergarten he did ask for flourescent yogurt-in-a-tube (how gross is that?), but this year he's excited by his own lunches. On Friday he came into the kitchen while I was washing out his lunch containers and asked me, "What's for lunch on Monday?"

Quinoa Amaranth Timbale

A quinoa and amaranth timbale (a timbale is a savory custard baked in a mold), homemade black beans, a tangerine, and a piece of dried cantaloupe. Beverage: Rice Dream Horchata.
Verdict: In a perfect world this meal would include some steamed spinach, but Little shmoo refuses all leafy greens (every child has their limit!). The dried cantaloupe was an interesting new treat from the health food store, very much like dried papaya. And the answer is YES, the timbale DID hold its shape in a seven-year old's swinging lunch box! Amazing! 2 stars for no veggie today.

Vegan Ham Roll-ups

Vegan ham slices rolled up with vegan cream cheese (in the picture it looks like only two, but there are five stacked in there), a pumpkin carob chip muffin, watermelon and cantaloupe balls with organic red grapes, and sweet canned corn.
Verdict: Little shmoo had a lot of fun scooping out melon balls and rolling up deli slices this morning. He cleaned it up today, too, eating everything but a bite of corn. 4 stars.

Bagel

A wholegrain bagel with vegan cream cheese, lightly blanched french green beans and carrots in a tarragon vinaigrette, two nut & seed butter cookies, and some organic red grapes.
Verdict: Very quick and easy. Little shmoo said a whole bagel would be too much, but now says a whole bagel will be fine for next time. I wish the nut butter cookies weren't so good -- I'm eating too many! 3 stars.

Tofu Fish Sticks

Tofu fishies with a little ketchup to dive into, organic tater tots, lightly steamed broccoli, and grapefruit segments.
Verdict:
These fishies were nice and crunchy (thanks to my friend Heidi for the recipe!). Everything was "tasty" he tells me, although he's used to his broccoli being piping hot, not tepid. Such are the limitations of the packed lunch. 4 stars.

Inari

Inari sushi today! Inari is a sweet fried tofu pouch stuffed with sushi rice. A little pickled ginger is on the side, plus edamame (baby soybeans), an organic pear, and some Botan Rice Candy for a treat.
Verdict: Inari is a great sushi to start the kids on if they're not sure about seaweed. Little shmoo says he prefers the nori rolls but he likes these, too. 4 stars.