Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Winter soups

It's snowing. Again. Definitely time for a soup recipe post. A bunch of them. So here are my recipes for a few satisfying yumminesses I've showcased in Ryan's Thermos and at home during the past few months, and an old fave...Happy New Year!

Star Soup

My vegan version of Chik'n & Stars.

1 T. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled & diced
1 package Lightife Smart
Strips, chopped
2-3 cups mild vegetable
broth (I like Imagine's Organic
No-Chicken Broth)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
1/2 box/bag star pasta

Cook onion & carrots in olive oil over low heat until onion is very soft.
Add broth & salt, bring to a boil.
Add pasta, reduce heat to medium, stirring often.
After about 10 minutes add the chik'n strips. (Add extra water if soup becomes too thick.)
(If you don't want to use faux meat, try adding 1/3 cup of red lentils when you add the broth instead.)

Potato Leek Soup

Creamy goodness. And you can change it up by adding chopped broccoli, parsnip, or winter squash when you add the potatoes.

1 T. olive oil
1-2 T. margarine
1 large onion, roughly chopped
3 large leeks, washed and roughly chopped
6 potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
a few grinds pepper
3-4 cups milk vegetable broth (I like Imagine's Organic No-Chicken Broth)
1/2 cup plain almond milk or rice milk

Cook onion & leeks in olive oil & margarine over med-low hear until quite soft.
Add potatoes, broth, salt & pepper. Cook about 30 minutes or until potatoes are soft.
Allow to cool somewhat, add milk, then puree soup in a food processor until just smooth.
Serve & add more salt & pepper to taste.

White Bean & Root Veggies Soup

Somehow white beans in soup seem so delicate and delicious. A great way to mix & match your winter storage root veggies.

1-2 T. olive oil (and/or walnut oil)
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups vegetable broth + 2 cups water
1 tsp. salt (optional)
1/3 cup dried red lentils
2-3 large carrots, peeled & chopped
1 turnip, chopped
1 parnsip, chopped
1 medium potato, peeled & chopped
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
1 can cannellini beans (or other white beans), drained & rinsed.

Cook onion & garlic in olive oil over med-low heat for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add all but remaining ingredients except for the beans and cook until vegetables are just tender. Add beans and cook another 15 minutes.

Spicy Black Bean Soup

Add an extra jalapeno and clear your sinuses baby!

2 T. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
3-5 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 jalapenos, seeded, diced
2 cans black beans, drained, rinsed
2 T. ground cumin
1 T. dried oregano
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
a few grinds black pepper
1 poblano pepper, seeded & chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded & chopped
4 cups vegetable broth, plus 1 cup water
1 T. brown sugar
2 T. cooking sherry
2 T. lime juice (lemon will suffice in a pinch)

Cook onion, garlic & 1 of the jalapenos over low heat until soft.
Add black beans, cumin, oregano, 1/2 the cilantro, 1/2 the parsley, salt, pepper, 1/2 the poblano pepper, 1/2 the red bell pepper and the vegetable broth.
Bring to a boil. Cook for at least 1 hour at a slow boil, adding water if necessary.
Remove from heat. Briefly puree soup with an immersion blender, or ladle half the chunky contents from the soup and puree in a food processor.
Return to pan and add remaining ingredients. Cook for another 30 minutes.

Monday, December 29, 2008

My First Bento Giveaway!

For my upcoming 10,000th hit (yep, that's it folks) I wanted to give away a little token something. So from now until then (some time this week I assume), leave me a comment answering the following questions:

What is your favourite winter holiday/celebration?
What food do you eat/cook to celebrate?

The lucky winner will receive these 2 food pick sets:

I am not a big football
fan, (okay, I did have
season tickets one year
at Syracuse University),
but I know many people
are. The Superbowl is
coming up on Feb. 1st,
so I should have plenty
of time to ship these to the recipient. Besides the obvious bento applications, these would be great for Superbowl party appetizers, sandwiches, or cupcake toppers. Have fun!

I'll use my super high-tech random 6yo-pick-a-number out of the winter hat generator to determine the winner this sunday, January 4th. So spread the word!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Snowy Days

Using local winter
cabbage from the
farm couldn't be
easier. I made rice
in the rice cooker
and topped it with
some sesame

Sesame Cabbage

1 large head cabbage (or 2 small), chopped
1 T. peanut oil (or other light oil)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T. minced ginger
1 T. soy sauce
1 tsp. mirin (or 1 tsp. sugar)
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

In a large pot, pan or wok, heat oil, garlic, ginger & cabbage over med-high heat. Stir-fry until cabbage just starts to wilt. Add soy sauce and mirin. When cabbage is just tender, add sesame oil. Toss in sesame seeds and remove from heat.

We had a few days of snow. Ryan enjoyed playing outside with the neighborhood kids a lot.

Ryan's lunch: Hanukkah cookies; almonds; homemade chocolate peanut butter cup; rice "wreath" covered in spinach and decorated with cucumber "trees", red bell pepper & snowflake sprinkles; corn; clementine segments; baby carrots.

Ryan's lunch: broccoli "Xmas tree"; chocolate peanut butter sandwich rolls; green gel cup; bell pepper Pikachu and rice pokeball inari.

Xmas Eve eve dinner:
potato leek soup;
seaweed rice crackers;
chocolate chips;
gingerbread cookies;
veggie chili.

We brought a sushi snack to share Xmas Eve with relatives. Everyone seemed to like it except the teenage boys, LOL. I was finally able to use my new 3-tier bento I had gotten for my birthday this fall.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Candy Sushi

If you Google "candy" and "sushi" you'd be amazed at how many sites and images you'll find!I decided to throw healthy eating to the wind this Xmas Eve and use the junkiest of ingredients to make our own vegan candy gelatin marshmallow! I don't know who invented it, but try this at your next kid's party.
My candy sushi.
Ryan's candy sushi.

We all shared a piece or two after returning home from visiting relatives this afternoon.
Enjoy your holiday, whatever it may be!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Vegan Kyaraben Color Chart

Kyaraben/Charaben or “character bento” in Japan are often dependent on colored fish paste to imitate certain hues of popular cartoon/anime characters. During my recent Color Study post I concentrated on a color-themed bento each day.

Certain colors I found hard to
duplicate in a vegan bento without
using food coloring. While it is fun
once in a while to utilize the vibrant
effects of artificial coloring, I prefer
to stick with natural coloring where
I can. Often natural foods can be
used to color batters or rice with a
little extra effort.

So I have put together a list of vegan

foods by color to help when planning to recreate a particular character or scene. Please help add to this list if you have any other vegan food items you like to use to add color to your meals. Then I will post a chart in a pdf file form for easy printing. I hope it will inspire more vegan character bentos!

WHITE – barley, belgian endive, bread, bok choy stems, burdock root (peeled), cannellini beans, cashews, cauliflower, celeriac, coconut, cream cheeze, daikon radish, dumplings/potstickers, eggplant, fennel, frosting, garlic, iceberg lettuce, jicama, leeks, litchi, lotus root, mushrooms, onion, parsnip, popcorn, potato, pudding, rice, rice cakes, sour cream, soy cheese, soy wrappers (soy “paper”), sugar, sunchokes (jerusalem artichokes), taro, tofu, turnip, violets, water chestnuts, white chocolate, yogurt

PINK – applesauce, beets, cherries, cranberries/Craisins, grapefruit, guava, kidney beans, loganberries, Luna Sunrise strawberry bars, pink lady apples, potato, radish, raspberries, red corn tortilla chips, red wrap bread, rhubarb, rose petals, soy deli slices, soy hot dogs, strawberries, watermelon, yogurt

RED – beet chips, beets, bell pepper, blood orange, cherries, grapes, ketchup, kidney beans, loganberries, pear, pomegranate, raspberries/jam, red currants, red swiss chard/stems, salsa, strawberries/jam, tomato sauce, tomatoes/sun-dried tomato

ORANGE – apricots, bell pepper, bitter orange asian eggplant, cantaloupe/musk melon, carrot, kumquats, mango, orange beets, oranges, orange watermelon, papaya, peach/nectarine, persimmon, pickled burdock root, pumpkin/winter squash, rainbow chard stems, red lentils, soy cheese, sweet potatoes/yams, tomatoes, tomato wrap bread, turmeric

YELLOW – apples, banana, bell pepper, cheese sauce, chrysanthemum petals, corn/baby corn, exotic melons, kampyo, kiwano, kiwifruit, lemon, mango, mustard, nutritional yeast, onion, pear, pineapple, polenta, rainbow chard stems, soy wrappers, starfruit (carambola), summer squash, Tings, tofu quiche, tomatoes, turmeric, yellow watermelon, yellow wax beans, Yukon gold potatoes

GREEN – artichokes, asparagus, avocado, bell pepper, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, capers, celery, chard, chayote, collards, cucumber, edamame, fiddleheads, gooseberries, Granny Smith apples, grapes, green beans, green gage/kelsey plums, guacamole, herbs, honeydew melon, kale, kholrabi, kiwifruit, lettuce, lime, okra, olives, pea pods, pear, peas, pickles, pistachios, salsa verde, scallions, seaweed, spinach, spinach wrap bread, split peas, soy wrapper, sprouts, tat soi, tomatillos, Veggie Booty, watercress, winter squash (ie. acorn, kabocha), zucchini

AQUA - ??? beats me! The only thing that comes close in nature that I have seen are some edible flower petals. Even artificially aquamarine coloring isn’t common. But some I’ve noticed are fruit roll-ups, Gushers tropical fruit snacks, & candy sprinkles. Using just a small amount of food coloring you can create artificially colored aqua cream cheese, frosting, rice, yogurt/pudding. Edible ink markers are also available.

BLUE – blueberries, blue corn (taco shells, tortilla chips, tortillas), concord grapes, edible flower petals, hubbard squash, Luna Sunrise blueberry bars, plums

PURPLE – bell pepper, blackberries, blueberries, blueberry yogurt, blue corn (taco shells, tortilla chips, tortillas), cabbage, eggplant, grapes/jelly, kholrabi, plums, potato, purple broccoli/cauliflower, purple string beans (raw), radicchio, red leaf lettuce, red onion, red Russian kale, rice (some varieties of black rice cook up purple), taro (some varieties turn purple when cooked), okinawan sweet potato (cooked), violets

BLACK – black beans, blackberries, black grapes, black raspberries, currants, eggplant, figs, huckleberries, mushrooms, nori/seaweed, olives, prunes, pumpernickel bread, raisins, sesame, black rice, wild rice. Black edible ink markers can be handy for writing and stamping on food.

BROWN – abura-age (fried tofu pockets), asian pear, bamboo shoots, bosc pear, bread, brown rice, brown sugar, burdock root, chick peas (garbanzo beans), chocolate/cocoa/carob, chocolate pudding, crackers, dates, figs, French fries, fried onion, fried tofu, ginger, granola bars, hummus, lentils, maple syrup, miso, mushroom, mustard, natto, nut butters, nuts, pancakes, pinto beans, potato, pretzels, re-fried beans, sesame, soy deli slices, soy meatballs, soynuts, stuffing, sunchokes (jerusalem artichokes), tahini, tempeh, tvp, veggie burgers, waffles, wrap/lavash/pita, yeast extract (ie. Vegemite, Marmite)

GRAY - artichoke hearts, capers, longans, oatmeal, rye bread, soy deli slices, sunflower seeds, taro

Friday, December 19, 2008

Cupcake Craziness


Only AJ needed a snack
because Ryan and dada
were not back from their
trip yet...broccoli; apple
rabbits; roasted squash
seeds; tofu herb ravioli.

As soon as Ryan was
home he couldn't wait
to put up the tree.
Here's Maia checking
it out for the first time.

Ryan's lunch was full of gifts...fried tofu with a spaghetti ribbon, banana walnut muffin square with a red bell pepper ribbon, steamed carrot with a chive ribbon...etc.

Nate's lunch:
sesame tofu;
broccoli; rice
ball; baby corn.

AJ's preschool class
has an inordinate
number of December
birthdays. Add that to
the holiday snack
craziness and it means
I've had to make two
batches of cupcakes in
the past 2 weeks.

I frosted this one for
myself, and then of
course everyone
wanted one. I call it
the "almond joy".


AJ's cupcake of the
day was frosted with
mint frosting and
tiny dark chocolate

Ryan's lunch: root veggies & beans soup; red berry flax waffled with maple syrup & pomegranate syrup; 1/2 a clementine.

Dinner was a muffin tin
meal...peanuts, cukes,
veggie crackers, chick
peas, pretzel nuggets,
bell peppers, almonds,
carrots, clementine, rolls
of Tofurky slice, apple,
Veggie Booty.

All the boys had: dinosaur "cream cheese" & jam sandwiches; broccoli; cucumber slices; carrots. Nate had some Veggie Booty too, and Ryan had double layer sandwiches plus a stuffed pasta shell for his bigger 6-year-old appetite.

Nate's class did a white
chocolate wreath making
project. So I sent the
closest thing I had at the
time: frosting, chips,
sprinkles, and a lemon
poppyseed Boston Cookie

with a circle cut out of the
middle--he loved it.

Would someone please explain to my 2 year old that his brothers don't appreciate him hiding pretzel nuggets in their water cups and marbles in their boots. Doh.


a big
in the
so I made
a lunch
for the

rice balls;
rice/carrot/edamame salad; green beans; trio of peanuts/almonds/cashews.

I beat the blizzard by just
a couple of hours and
made it to the farm for
our monthly winter
produce pickup. The
greenhouse has bags of
snow-covered leaves
packed along both sides.

I picked some sage from the herb garden, then hauled everything to the car. We got 2 green cabbages, some kale, leeks, mixed baby greens, radishes, spinach, popping corn, salad turnips, and a massive bag filled with various potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, celeriac, onions, garlic, shallots, rutabaga, and winter turnips.

Blizzard dinner:
spicy sweet potato
with guacamole,
pumpkin miso muffins,
mushroom asparagus
tofu quiche.

The sweet potato pancakes
were delicious, but I hate
all the olive oil it uses to fry them, so in the future I'll make my usual baked wedges instead, but just add the extra seasoning and use the guacamole for dipping.

The pumpkin miso muffins from Just Bento were yummy, but I still like my own recipe better. I had to cook these for 5 minutes longer than indicated or they'd have been mushy.

My quiche was just another variation of my broccoli quiche, but this time with 4 baby bella mushrooms, 8 shiitake mushrooms, & a handful of asparagus, all sauteed with the onion, plus a little sesame oil added. Delish!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cotton Candy Land

A trip to the cousins'
house always necessitates
packing some munchies...
not because they won't
offer vegan-friendly food,
but because we don't want
to wipe out their cabinets;
they can sympathize with
their 4 younger boys still
at home. It's quite the mayhem when they all get together!

AJ's snack:
rice ball;

Ryan's lunch: cantaloupe chunks & cherry halves; steamed broccoli; 1/2 a Glenny's brown rice marshmallow treat topped with chocolate peanut butter; rice balls with stamped soy wrappers.
I packed up a trove of non-perishable snacks for Ryan's trip with Dada. Memphis is not exactly a vegan destination location!

Ryan's suitcase conveyed
the food, his bathing suit,
and his YMCA swim
bubble. These days you
have to pack and check
any liquids you want to
bring along, like rice milk
for instance.

Ryan's lunch: Luna bar; cherries; Tofurkey sandwich topped with red bell pepper "poinsettia" with cucumber "leaves"; baby carrots; bread "flower" spread with chocolate peanut butter.

AJ's snack:
carrot; Veggie
Booty; Tofurky

Nate's lunch:
grape tomatoes;
cucumber slice;
Tofurky "flower"
sandwich; a cherry;
a carrot; red bell
pepper strips.

Thanks to Two Vegan
for reminding me
that I hadn't had a curry
in months! And I'd never
thought to add zucchini.
So I whipped up my
usual recipe with the
added zucchini and some
farm carrots.


These too
are the
of River
over at
. I
used a
instead, &
the basic
cupcake recipe from VCTOTW. The kids in AJ's class were the lucky recipients at snack time today.

Then it was time to
whip up dinners
for Ryan and Dada's
airplane trip.
Thai spring rolls;
grape tomatoes;
a festively frosted
chocolate cupcake;
smoked tempeh,
lettuce & tomato sandwiches; edamame...

Cold soba noodles;
cherries; grapes;
carrots; avocado

I packed everything
in recyclable/disposable
packaging so Dada didn't
have to worry about
losing or washing containers. Both were containers from packaged food such as Veggie Chips and donut holes from Whole Foods. They ended up being the perfect sizes for a shared father-son travel dinner.

AJ's snack & Nate's lunch: grapes; grape tomatoes; cold tofu; steamed broccoli; soba noodles.

So far I've heard the trip to the Magic the Gathering World Championships in Memphis, Tennessee is going well. Dada is a special guest there this year. This is the longest I've ever been apart from one of my children. They enjoyed a dinner meeting at the Graceland mansion, and a vegetable sushi platter at Bluefin.

Maia is 5 months
old! She can stand
pretty well now
against things or
with assistance.
She got 2 teeth
last month. And
she has almost
enough Hello Kitty
outfits to wear one
every day of the
week, LOL.

She loves rolling,
playing with her
toys, going to the
YMCA, and being
bugged by her 3
big brothers.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Color study

This week I wanted to turn the rule of color in regards to healthy eating on its ear. One simple way to help you eat a balanced diet is to include a rainbow of colorful foods...but can you still obtain a balance of nutrients from a monochromatic meal?

Monday - pink/red day:
Ryan's pink/red lunch: strawberries; cranberry sauce; apple "rabbit"; red bell pepper strips; sun-dried tomato hummus; beet chips; macaroni with tomato & "bacon".

AJ's snack:
apple "rabbits";
beet chips;
sun-dried tomato

AJ drawing at the
computer before

Later, our trio of
energetic vegan
boys. Never a dull
moment around

Tuesday - orange day:

Nate's lunch:
a dried apricot; a
strawberry; tempura
sweet potato; a
pickle; marinated
mushrooms; cube
of cantaloupe; 1/4
sunflower butter &
jam sandwich; soy
cheese "Wubbzy".

AJ's snack: a baby
carrot; 2 quarters
sandwich; soy cheese
cubes; cantaloupe

Ryan's orange lunch: soy cheese cubes; sweet potato chips; cantaloupe cubes; sweet potato tempura; bbq soy crisps; baby carrots; dried apricots.

My (late) breakfast:
soba noodles with
sweet potato
tempura & scallion.

Wednesday - yellow day:

Ryan's yellow lunch: yellow bell pepper strips; oshinko maki (with yellow soy wrapper instead of nori); slice of broccoli tofu quiche; Tings; corn; lemonade.

AJ's snack:
Tings; apple-pear
nudgie bar; 1/3

Tofu Broccoli Quiche

1 head broccoli florets, steamed (or 1 cup frozen florets, thawed, chopped)
1 onion, diced
2 T. olive oil (or 1 T. olive oil, 1 T. margarine)
1/3 cup grated soy cheese (optional)
1 lb. water-packed firm tofu
3 T. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. salt
1 T. soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, peeled

Steam or thaw broccoli. Chop. Set aside.
Chop onion. Heat olive oil. Saute onion over low heat until soft.
In a food processor, add tofu, nutritional yeast, turmeric, salt, soy sauce, garlic. Process until smooth.
Stir in broccoli, onion, (& soy cheese if using). Mix until combined.
Pour into greased (I use spray olive oil) pie plate.
Cook at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Allow to cool at least 20 minutes.

Thursday - green day:

w/ peas;
a pickle;

Nate's lunch:
same as Ryan's,
but in smaller

AJ's snack:
Annie's Saltine
crackers; edamame;
spinach; broccoli;
a pickle; green

Friday - blue/purple day:

blue rice rolls wrapped with steamed purple cabbage; steamed peeled purple potato.

This really made me realize how few naturally blue foods there are, especially during the winter. In fact it got me thinking about the total lack of edible aqua-colored foods! In Japan, colored fish paste is often used to create those colors. The only artificial food coloring I used here was a few drops of blue in the rice cooking water.