Friday, March 28, 2008

Busy Bunnies

After a plastic egg hunt in the yard, everyone enjoyed some sunday brunch:toddler brunch: mini tofu broccoli quiche; honeydew melon & strawberries; homefries; cinnamon raisin toast.

Mini Tofu Broccoli Quiche
1 package firm tofu, drained
1 medium onion, diced
1-2 T. olive oil
1 small head broccoli, steamed & diced (or about 1 cup frozen broccoli florets)
1 T. soy sauce
1/2 t. salt (optional)
1 t. turmeric
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Saute onion in oil over low-medium heat until soft.
In a food processor, mix tofu, soy sauce, salt, turmeric & nutritional yeast until smooth.
Pour into a bowl. Mix in onion & broccoli.
Spray a non-stick muffin tin with olive oil. Pour in tofu mixture.
(You can also make 1 large quiche in a pie plate instead.)
Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes, or 40 for a single quiche.
Makes 10 mini quiches.

In place of broccoli, also try steamed chopped asparagus, sauteed sliced mushrooms, etc.

Monday:Ryan & AJ: leftover mini tofu broccoli quiche; roasted potato half; vegan glazed carrot cake donut hole; strawberries for Ryan.
husband's lunch: roasted potato halves; stuffed shells; an orange.

Ryan: wheat gluten "chik'n" salad; onigiri; carrots; broccoli.

The mailman arrived with a box full of goodies from Daiso. An acquaintance in Seattle was kind enough to do some shopping for me! Thanks Sybil!! If only there was a Daiso on the east coast.

Ryan & AJ: watermelon; mini zucchini muffins; green beans; an orange slice for Ryan.
husband's lunch: watermelon; mixed nuts & raisins; romaine lettuce, spinach & tomato salad with roasted red pepper vinaigrette.

It's so easy to add frozen veggies to a simple jarred pasta sauce like the one above. Amazingly the steamed pumpkin, zucchini, summer squash & collard greens are all still items I put up last summer from the local farm. The zucchini and squash is beginning to get a bit freezer burned, so using it up in sauces works perfectly.

I made some animal-shaped onigiri ahead of time and stored them overnight in a Tupperware sandwich keep.

My first attempt at a basic character bento--bear, bunny, dog. I used a few Stampin' Up! scrapbooking punches for the nori faces, slivers of strawberry for the bunny ears, & steamed slices of baby carrot for the dog eyes.
Nate: animal-shaped onigiri; a mini banana muffin; a mini zucchini muffin; edamame; carrots; spinach; strawberries; grapes.
Ryan & AJ: edamame; grapes; spinach; animal-shaped onigiri; a strawberry for Ryan. Ryan always eats the lettuce too. :-)My lunch: onigiri; carrots; cucumber salad; a strawberry; edamame.
husband's lunch: edamame; strawberries; cucumber salad; onigiri; spinach.

Nate was invited to toddler art time & a playdate at "MetroMama's" house with some other toddlers his age. He shared his lunch with the host's daughter. Thanks Mandy!

Friday, March 21, 2008

No Luck for the Irish!

Nothing went right on Monday! After fixing all green bentos for the boys St. Patrick's Day snack, my husband left them in the car so the boys were stuck with school pretzels...and I can't even show them off because my camera seems to have lost 2 days worth of photos!

Tuesday's photos were also lost. My husband was the parent helper in Ryan's class and brought strawberries and homemade oatmeal raisin cookies.

Wednesday:On wednesday my husband was parent helper in AJ's class. I made his favourite mini pumpkin muffins. Ten kids gobbled up 2 dozen of these in no time, along with some banana halves.

AJ has this funny thing he does--he'll come up to you and poke your cheek gently and call you a "pumpkin muffin". For preschool I make sure these are nut-free. Just leave out all the "optional" ingredients for nut-free muffins or bread.
Another thing...while I do sometimes use canned pumpkin, or leftover steamed Halloween pumpkin, any squash will do. My favourites are red kuri squash or butternut squash--they give a bright orange color to the muffins. I cut a red kuri squash in half and bake it open sides down on a foil-lined baking sheet for 40 minutes or so, then remove the seeds and rind. For butternut squash I peel, seed, cut into chunks, and steam for 20-30 minutes until soft and mashable.

AJ's Pumpkin Muffins

1/3 cup margarine or butter (I use Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 to 1.5 cups pureed pumpkin or other winter squash
3 T. milk (any kind) or water
1 t. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground allspice (optional)
1/4 t. ground nutmeg (optional)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 T. raw cane juice crystals
1/4 cup pecan halves (optional)

Melt or soften margarine in a large bowl. Add brown sugar and mix until creamy.
Mix in mashed pumpkin, milk, & vanilla.
Add the next 6 dry ingredients. Mix well.
Add walnuts and stir.
Pour into greased muffins tins or loaf pan (I spray with olive oil). Sprinkle tops with sugar crystals. Sprinkle or decorate tops with pecan halves.

Cooking times:
mini muffins - 20-25 minutes - makes 3 dozen
regular muffins - 30-35 minutes - makes 12.
loaf - 45-50 minutes - makes 1 loaf...may need a few extra minutes if omitting nuts.

Ryan's snack: 2 mini pumpkin muffins, a strawberry, cucumber slices.

TLT sandwiches and grapes made a wonderful "picnic" lunch. Fakin' Bakin smoked tempeh strips replace traditional bacon. The rest of the sandwich imitates the BLTs at a Brooklyn, NY diner that my father loved:
Toast the bread. Spread your favourite mayonnaise on one side, spread the other side very lightly with peanut butter and sprinkle on a tiny bit of garlic powder. Then add the tempeh, tomato slices, and crisp lettuce (I used romaine). These are sooo good, Ryan even made up a song about them during his lunch.

Dinner: "Asian Cucumber Salad" from The Accidental Vegan (with half the dressing and mirin in place of honey), rice, spicy baked tofu, bok choy cooked in the style of "Snow Peas with a Hint of Pork" from Seductions of Rice, and a vegetable gyoza. Seductions of Rice has some really fantastic authentic tasting recipes. The boys went back for thirds or more of this dinner.

After dinner I went out to buy jellybeans and socks at Target. Who would have thought I'd bring home these goodies! Spiral picks, flexible Easter picks, some cute cupcake liners, & a Dyno Bytes sandwich cutter. They also had some pastel silicon baking cups and mini heart-shaped silicon baking cups.
No school on Good Friday. I almost forgot! Last year we showed up anyway, wondering why it was closed.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Appetites of Boys

It could be a growth spurt, or maybe just making up for the week of sickies, but the boys have been requesting food CONSTANTLY this week. I can hardly keep up! I can only imagine the grocery bill when they are teenagers.

Monday:Ryan and AJ: crescent rolls filled with broccoli & soy cheese; watermelon; edamame.

I don't buy soy cheese often, but sometimes Ryan specifically requests it when I am writing up the grocery list. I think a lot of parents bring cheese as a snack in preschool.
My personal favourite is Follow Your Heart's Vegan Gourmet; the monterey jack reminds me of a salty ball of mozzarella...of course it's been over 15 years since I've had the real thing.
Husband's lunch: leftover spaghetti & meatyballs (Nate's meatless meatballs) with sauce; 2 clementines; crescent roll filled with broccoli & soy cheese; romaine & baby spinach salad with cucumber, tomato & lemon tahini dressing.

Tuesday:Ryan: mini star-shaped sandwiches with cucumber & soy cheese; pineapple chunks.

Ryan & AJ: Pokemon-shaped Tofutti cream cheese & strawberry jam sandwiches; cold spinach; green grapes; a strawberry for Ryan.

These sandwiches didn't photograph well, but there is an impression of Pichu (not Pikachu, for you Pokemon masters out there) and 2 pokeballs in the bread. I bought these sandwich cutters at the Hakuhinkan Toy Park, a big toy store in the Ginza district in Tokyo. Ryan is very much into all things Pokemon.

Husband's lunch: chilled baked tofu with tahini & nutritional yeast sauce; strawberries; cold spinach; romaine & baby spinach salad with cucumber, tomato, yellow bell pepper & lemon-tahini dressing; a banana; a clementine; leftover brown basmati rice with vegetable Thai curry.
I overpack on wednesdays when my husband works late; hopefully it helps him avoid overeating pizza at his evening game playtest session at his store.

Thursday:Lunch was an indoor "picnic" of hummus and various dip-ables: Garden Harvest Toasted Chips; cucumber slices; yellow bell pepper strips; snow peas; baby carrots; celery strips; Garden Vegetable Wheat Thins crackers.

My Hummus Recipe

2 cans (15.5 oz.) chick peas, rinsed & drained
2 T. tahini
2 scallions, chopped
1 tsp. garlic powder, or ~1 T. chopped garlic
1/2-1 tsp. salt
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. olive oil
1/3 cup water

Put everything in a food processor (I use a Cuisinart), adding water slowly as hummus mixes.

This is thicker than store-bought varieties. I like it because it doesn't fall off whatever you're dipping or ooze out of sandwiches or make the bread soggy.

Friday:Ryan & AJ: leftover hummus; tamari-flax crackers (from Trader Joe's); snow peas; carrots; cucumber slices.

Husband's lunch: hummus sandwich with lettuce, tomato & cucumber; leftover chinese rice with sauteed snow peas; gala apple.

Friday, March 7, 2008


What a week! I thought we had done quite well this winter until the past week. Everyone got sick; first a stomach virus, then the flu, and my husband ended with an upper respiratory infection, coughing so hard we think he cracked a rib. (And you probably know what it's like to have a sick husband, haha. But to be sick yourself too with 3 kids in various stages of it, agh!)

Monday no one went anywhere. Ryan was already feeling better, but no one was well enough to take him to school, poor guy. But I managed to get him to school on Tuesday:
Thank goodness for leftovers: barrel-shaped onigiri, edamame, dill pickle cut into chunks, spinach, cantaloupe.

AJ & Ryan: mini banana muffins, cold tofu w/soy sauce, green beans w/soy sauce.

Nate & I were the last to get sick so we were just starting to feel better by thursday. Nate fell asleep before lunch, so here are Ryan and AJ's lunches:Tater tots w/ ketchup, cashews, carrots, grapes...and cucumber for Ryan.

Cooking while pregnant is very challenging for me. I have chronic morning sickness with major food/smell aversions. Even turning on the gas stove can be cause for, well, ya know. So I tend to use a lot more prepared foods than usual, like frozen goodies from Trader Joe's:
Everyone had the same: cold tofu w/soy sauce, ramen noodles & broccoli, & vegetable "Bird's Nests" which Ryan went back for seconds on.

One of AJ's friends was celebrating a birthday at school today. So I packed a vegan cupcake for him. I always keep a stash of frozen cupcakes, usually the basic vanilla ones from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. They freeze well and defrost quickly on the counter in the morning.
AJ: cupcake & peach soy yogurt.
Ryan: cinnamon bunny crackers, carrots, peach soy yogurt.
(Technically the bunny crackers are NOT vegan, they contain honey. This was a compromise I made with my husband as he often brought home baked goods with non-vegan ingredients and the boys would want some. So we compromised that honey would be allowed in pre-packaged foods, but he would cooperate and read labels to avoid all other non-vegan ingredients for home-use.
Also, I often notice when buying baked goods that the "natural" products contain honey as a sweetener. At some stores the choice is between a whole grain bread with honey, or a vegan Wonderbread-like substance that I would never buy. In these circumstances I think the honey is a fair compromise. Someday I should learn to bake all my own bread like my own father did.)Husband's lunch: strawberry soy yogurt w/blueberries, mixed nuts & raisins, clementine, watermelon slices, "salad" sandwich.