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Preview: Vegan Lunch Box

Vegan Lunch Box

Updated: 2018-03-20T00:18:57.361-07:00


Happy Vegan Thanksgiving!


This year it was just my girlfriend and me at home on Thanksgiving, so I got to enjoy a quiet, simple-yet-festive all-vegan, salt-free, sugar-free meal.

First I made Cabbage Rolls, a recipe from my second cookbook that I still come back to over and over when I'm looking for a hearty holiday main dish. The rolls are filled with a vegan loaf made from walnuts, brown rice, and garbanzo beans.

Our side dishes were baked sweet potatoes and Green Beans with Walnuts and Pomegranate Seeds.  This was a recipe I saved from an old Martha Stewart Living magazine, sorry I can't find it online; the dressing is made from champagne vinegar, mustard, and shallot and a drizzle of walnut oil (my only non-nutritarian concession to the holiday).

For dessert I made sugar-, salt-, and fat-free Pear Ginger Cookies (sorry, not pictured), a recipe I picked up during our recent stay at TrueNorth Health Center.

So that was it -- no dead turkey, no sugar, no salt, no temptations to deal with. Best of all, no food coma afterwards! This was my favorite Thanksgiving ever!

Mango & Grape Tomato Salad


(image) When you eat like a nutritarian "salad is the main dish".  I eat salad at least once or twice every day, and I  have to keep coming up with new salad recipes, or I get bored! Here's another healthy, nutritarian-style salad I've been enjoying lately: Mango & Grape Tomato Salad.

The flavors here are bright and sweet, and the recipe is simple. For the dressing, whisk together 1/2 cup mango juice (I used a mango-peach blend with no added sugar, but I bet you could easily put chopped mango into a blender with water and strain to make your own mango juice), 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint, a pinch of clove and a pinch of coriander.

For the salad, cut a pint of grape tomatoes in half, dice two ripe mangoes (I like Ataulfo mangoes, they're so creamy), slice or dice 1/4 of a small red onion, and toss with the dressing. Serve on a bed of lettuce with black beans and diced avocado.

For my lunch I wrapped my avocado on the side to dice at lunchtime, so it stayed fresh.



(image) Just a reminder that John Robbin’s Food Revolution Summit starts tomorrow (see my blog post below for more details).

Saturday starts out with interviews of Dr. Dean Ornish, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, and Dr. Joel Fuhrman. The interviews are broadcast for free in the morning and again in the evening. Register to access the broadcasts and see the full schedule.

I’ll be tuning in at 10:00am my time for the interview with Dr. Fuhrman!

Lentil Beet Orange Salad


This was a great salad! I was looking for something fun to do with leftover cooked lentils when I came up with the idea for a Lentil Beet Orange Salad.

I baked whole beets the night before: scrub whole beets without peeling, wrap them in foil, and bake at 400F for about 45 minutes, until easily pierced with a knife. After they cool down the skins slip off easily when rubbed with the back of a paring knife.

In the morning I tossed diced beets, orange segments, and lentils on a bed of lettuce and packed the salad with Orange Sesame Cashew Dressing. The combination of sweet beets, earthy lentils, and bright citrus was amazing!

Food Revolution Virtual Summit


John Robbins was one of the first inspirational figures in my young adult life. His book Diet for a New Americahelped shape me into a young vegetarian and environmental activist, and as I've continued on through my life, his light has continued to shine and point me towards a life of greater compassion and kindness. Most recently, his books Healthy at 100and The New Good Life, have helped me to believe that it is possible to live a life of simplicity, purpose, health, and joy well into your later years.So I was excited to hear about the free Food Revolution Summit happening this month, where John Robbins will be personally interviewing 21 people who are "leaders in movements for healthy, sustainable, humane and delicious food". The guests include a bunch of names I'm sure you'll recognize if you're part of the vegan/plant-based movement: Dr. Joel Fuhrman (one of my heroes interviewing another one of my heroes, I can't wait!), Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Dean Ornish, Morgan Spurlock, Gene Baur, Rory Freedman, and more.From April 28-May 6 there will be three interviews broadcast daily, and you can listen for free. You can get more info on the summit speakers and register at's some more info from their website:The Summit offers training, inspiration and practical know-how from modern day heroes of health and sustainability. Participants are promised answers to burning questions, tools for dealing with family and peers, and practically useful insights, ideas, motivation and tips, all from the comfort and convenience of your phone and computer.The summit will include focus on the latest thinking on preventing and reversing heart disease, cancer and diabetes; the truth about GMOs, soy, raw foods, and grass-fed beef; the social, ethical and environmental impact of what you eat; and how to inspire your family to join you in making healthy choices.I'm going to go register![...]

Confetti Salad


(image) Confetti Salads are the newest addition to my diet! They're a great way to get a higher volume of raw vegetables and fruits packed into a small serving that's easy to eat. They also travel well and make great lunches!

The idea is simple: pulse vegetables, fruits, and nuts/seeds together for a few seconds in a food processor. The softer fruits, like oranges, lemons, or pears, dissolve into the mix making a built-in dressing!

Confetti Salads are also called "microsalads", but that makes me think of microgreens. Also Confetti sounds cuter. I first heard about them at Dr. Fuhrman's Member Center(image) forum. You can also read more about them and get lots of great ideas for them at Food = Health.

Today I made my current favorite: a few big handfuls of bagged coleslaw mix (shredded green and red cabbage and carrots), a handful of raisins, one apple peeled and chopped, one orange peeled and segmented, a handful of raw slivered almonds, a handful of raw sunflower seeds, 1/4 lemon peeled, and a big splash of Blood Orange Vinegar (you can leave this out if you don't have it). Pulse for just a few seconds to get to a coleslaw consistency.

I packed my Confetti on a bed of romaine and cucumber slices with a sprinkle of garbanzo beans.



How cool is this?? I just found out about PlanetBox, a stainless steel lunch box for kids, and I'm so excited I just had to break my bloggy silence and post something about it! Finally, it looks like someone's getting it just right!

If I had to design a lunch box, this is what I would create -- it's got the bento-style compartments I love so much in the Laptop Lunch System, but in food-safe, eco-friendly stainless steel, and without so many separate containers to keep track of. One section is the perfect size for a sandwich or bagel, it's got lidded containers for messier items, and the portion sizes look perfect for kids and maybe even some adults (not me, though -- I gotta stick with To Go Ware for my big, big salads!)

If you visit their website, watch the video and note the spiffy magnets for decorating, and how the carrying case includes outside compartments for a water bottle and snack (I would have loved a separate place for a snack when my son was in first grade and had snack and lunchtime).

The potential drawbacks I see are dings and dents in the stainless steel(remind your kids to keep it in the carrying case), potential leaks around the edges (not sure how fruits like melon will keep from leaking into the other sections), and the considerable cost. If anyone wants to get one and try it out, let us know how it goes!

Bean Chili with Zucchini


(image) I'm having fun with my new lunch boxes. The insulated stainless steel bowl is topped by a small plate before you put the lid on -- just the perfect size for freshly-made corn tortillas from the Mexican grocery!

I warmed the tortillas and layered them with damp paper towels, then filled the bowls with two hot servings of Bean and Vegetable Chili made with extra zucchini and sprinkled with fresh cilantro.

I brought this lunch to my girlfriend who was reading palms at the psychic fair and we ate our little picnic together. We got lots of ooh and aahs at the cuteness of our lunch boxes and how yummy our healthy lunches looked!

Broccoli Piccata


(image) I never thought I would actually CRAVE broccoli, but it's true! I've been craving Broccoli Piccata, steamed broccoli with lemon and capers from my first book. I made it more "Fuhrman-Friendly" by leaving out the oil and salt.

At mealtime I tossed the broccoli with my salad, hummus, and crunchy walnuts.

Golden Austrian Cauliflower Soup


(image) One of my favorite soups of all times! I first heard about Golden Austrian Cauliflower Soup on Dr. Fuhrman's Member Center Forum, where people were raving so much I just had to try it. I've been making it ever since; it's creamy and cauliflowery, with a touch of sweetness from carrot juice so you really don't miss the salt at all.

I like to sprinkle my soup with Perfect Pepitas, a recipe from my first book Vegan Lunch Box. I packed my pumpkin seeds in the plate that fits on top of the bowl in my new lunch box, with fresh pineapple on the side.

Okra & Lima Bean Masala


Excitement! Time to introduce a brand new lunch box!

I love my To-Go Ware tiffins and use them almost every day to pack our lunches for work, but lately I've been packing more hot foods like soups and stews. The tiffins are perfect for big salads and cold foods, but now I wanted something with a tight lid that wouldn't leak that would keep my food warm until lunch time -- something like the wide-mouth insulated container I bought a couple years ago, but a bit larger and made from stainless steel.

I found one! And with a cute green apple handle, too! I ordered our two new thermal stainless steel double-walled lunch boxes just a couple weeks ago from Dino Direct, but they aren't on their website at the moment. This one looks similar.

For their inaugural voyage to lunchtime I filled them both with Okra and Lima Bean Masala from FatFree Vegan Kitchen. This is one of my favorites to make at the end of the week when fresh produce is running short but I'm not ready to go to the grocery store; I steam-saute a sliced onion with Indian spices, then add a bag of frozen okra, some frozen lima beans, and two cans of diced tomatoes.

Switching Lunch & Dinner


(image) Sometimes it's a struggle finding time to work, shop, cook, clean, and still make it to the gym and have some time to relax. Planning meals and cooking when I get home has been especially hard; usually I'm starving and tired by the time I make it home and just want dinner to be ready.

So lately I'm trying something new: swapping out lunch and dinner. Instead of the usual big salad, I've been making a pot of soup and cooked veggies on Sundays and packing them for lunch. When I get home I fix my big daily salad for dinner.

So far this new routine is working splendidly! My lunch is warm and filling, which means less temptation to eat all the free goodies in the office kitchen, and my salad doesn't need a lot of prep work when I get home, so it's ready fast.

Today I packed an old favorite, Dr. Fuhrman's Creamy Asparagus Soup, half a baked carnival squash, and a pretty pear. (Look, it still has a leaf on it!)

Strawberry Salad


Last night I invited my friends over for a "Happy Healthy New Year Party", to kick off all our healthy eating resolutions with fresh fruits and veggies!

(image) Here are a few of the yummy dishes I made, starting at the top: Mediterranean Eggplant (from Eat To Live, made without the garbanzo beans) with endive leaves for scooping; blanched green beans with lemon mayonnaise (mix lemon juice, zest, and white pepper with Vegenaise...this one isn't nutritarian but I enjoyed the plain green beans); celery, jicama, and sugar snap peas; and homemade white bean dip with cucumber slices and whole wheat pita bread. Not pictured are a big bowl of roasted carrots and another bowl filled with fresh strawberries and mango slices.

The party was a lot of fun, with everyone contributing other healthy dishes (one friend brought vegan Hoppin' John with black-eyed peas and mustard greens, perfect for the New Year!), and we all looked silly and got sweaty playing Just Dance on the Wii. Proof that people can still have fun and be social while eating healthfully!

(image) This morning I made a beautiful lunch with leftovers, although there hardly were any! One friend brought this amazing roasted red pepper hummus, which I packed with cucumber slices for dipping. I sliced strawberries, apple, endive, romaine, and baby spinach for today's salad and topped with pecans and pomegranate balsamic vinegar.

Pineapple Cranberry Salad


(image) Here's a great Pineapple Cranberry Sauce recipe someone shared at Dr. Fuhrman's Member Support Center: cook 1 package of cranberries with 1 can of crushed pineapple until the berries pop. Stir in 2 tablespoons agave, maple syrup, or date sugar (to taste, we liked it a bit tart), 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, and some chopped pecans.

We enjoyed this as a side dish at Thanksgiving, but I love it even more as a salad topping, mixed into a salad with chopped apple and pecans. I packed us whole apples to slice into the salad at lunchtime, so they don't turn brown.

The gel-cool bentos are filled with Fennel Cucumber Salad from my first book, garnished with a kalamata olive. (BTW, the side dishes fit perfectly in the top compartments of our To-Go Ware containers, even with the lids on, but I've ordered large stainless steel sidekicks for the future, because I prefer them to plastic.)

P.S. This picture sucks! You can't even see the cute little smiley faces on the apple picks holding the olives. Oh well, I was running out the door this morning and took it with my iphone. Bad shmoo!

Mirror Image Acorn Squash Supreme


Hi! Long time no post! A lot of changes have been going on in my life, not the least of which is that I now aspire to the label "nutritarian" rather than vegan. That transition has been happening for a long time, as anyone who's followed me in the past or spoken to me personally probably knows. For example, I would no longer pack Oreos or potato chips in a lunch box just because they contain no animal products. Vegan does not automatically equal healthy. I would also not turn down something that contained a modest amount of an animal product if it were the healthiest choice available. I don't believe that animal products are unhealthy in the amounts that would have been present in humankind's natural diet before SAD came along. Rather I think of modern processed foods as the enemy: white flour, white sugar, oil, etc.I wanted to go on record with this because I've kept pretty quiet about it out of fear, and I'm tired of living in fear of being who I am openly and honestly, 100%. I fully support and admire Voracious, the once-vegan blogger who shared in this now-infamous post about the health problems she experienced on a strict vegan diet. That took a lot of courage. I can relate, and I think that when being vegan becomes more important than listening to your body, or when it becomes a "vegangelical" fundamentalism that leads to actual death threats against those who don't agree with you, it has become something unhelpful, unkind, and unworthy of us. That doesn't mean that I will be changing the fact that all the lunches I post here contain no animal products. I mean, I did write two vegan cookbooks and stand behind the idea that most of our meals should be entirely plant-based for optimal health. And speaking of "coming out", let me also add that my divorce has been final for almost a year and I'm now with a beautiful woman that I love very much! For the first time, I'm in a relationship with someone who not only supports and encourages me, but also likes the same foods that I do and has transitioned to a mostly-nutritarian diet alongside me. It's amazing to be with someone who doesn't make fun of my food or hightail it to McDonald's when she sees what's on the table. Instead, she's loved all the dishes I've made so far and is even surprised that some of her long-standing health problems have gone away with this new way of eating. We have a deal that she makes breakfast for us, usually a green smoothie or maybe oatmeal with fresh fruit, and I pack lunch. Today I packed us each some Acorn Squash Supreme from Eat To Live and big fresh salads with salsa for dressing and half an avocado each. I added a pear for a snack or dessert. I even used a pear cozy![...]

Homestyle Favorites Made Meatless


(image) Those of you with my second book might notice my friend Renee Pottle's book Homestyle Favorites Made Meatless listed in the Recommended Resources. I'm happy to announce that the book is now available at her website, Wine Barrel Gourmet, where she also sells mixes for healthy soups, pasta dishes, wholegrain breads, and more.

Renee's latest book is all about cooking with meat substitutes. I've been paging through my copy; the recipes are mostly old-fashioned favorites that you may have grown up with. Think hearty, down-home meals like ChickN and Dumplings, Sweet and Spicy Chops, Burgundy Beef, Salisbury Steak, and Fish Tacos, all made healthier and meat-free.

The book also contains a helpful list of some of the different meat substitutes available, and lets you choose which one you would like to use in any given recipes. For example, options for pork chops include Cedar Lake Meatless Chops, Field Roast Deli Slices, Worthington Choplets, or baked tofu. Cooks can take their pick and follow the recipe from there, so you're always able to find a vegan choice. Vegan recipes are noted, and many more can easily be made vegan by using nondairy milk products.

(image) Check out this picture of Renee's Paella, one of the "Meatless ChickN Favorites". Looks yummy!

Also, I just noticed if you order the book from her website you'll get a free bonus: "The Meatless Pantry Checklist" and "Meatless Pantry Creations - Design Your Own Soup, Stir-Fry and more!" A PDF version is even available.

Summer Refrigerator


(image) Yes, I'm still alive! Not blogging, but working, single parenting, dating, selling my house, and now moving to a new house. If life gets any busier I'm going to have to clone myself.

Today I cleaned out my refrigerator and did a grocery store run (I was out of town this weekend and missed the farmer's market). It's looking so pretty, kid-friendly, and well-stocked I thought I would take a picture.

Apples, watermelon slices and veggie sticks (jicama, baby carrots, and celery) are ready to grab and snack on, along with coconut yogurts, applesauce cups, and dried apricots. My son is a big fan of the new So Delicious Coconut Milk; it's all he drinks at home nowadays. The chocolate soymilk boxes are for his morning snack at summer school.

A big bowl of salad is behind the veggie sticks, and right now I'm cooking brown rice and edamame to add to this easy-grab snack fridge.

Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets


I leave for work a little after 6:00am, and by the time my break rolls around at 9:30 I'm ready for a breakfasty snack. Fruit is good, but having access to hot water made me think of instant oatmeal, the kind that comes in little packets flavored with yummy maple and brown sugar.The problem is, most prepackaged instant oatmeal is full of junk, and I HATE oatmeal with salt in it. (My mom never put salt in our oatmeal; the first time I had salty oatmeal at a restaurant I gagged.)So, I decided to try making my own instant oatmeal packets!I started with this basic recipe (leaving out the salt), pulsing some of the instant oats into a coarse flour and mixing 2 tablespoons oat flour with 1/4 cup instant oats. I added different dried fruits and flavorings to taste:1 TB raisins, 1 TB brown sugar, 1/8 tsp. cinnamon, and 1 TB chopped walnutsone package (1/2 cup) freeze dried strawberries & bananas1 TB date sugar, 2 TB freeze dried apples, 1/8 tsp. cinnamon, and 1 TB chopped pecans2 TB dried blueberries, 1 tsp. sugar, 1/8 tsp. orange zest, and 1/4 tsp. vanilla powder (found in the bulk spices section at my local health food store)and (my favorite!) 1 TB finely shredded coconut and 2 TB chopped dried pineappleI have many more ideas: dried cherries, coconut, and chocolate chips; dehydrated pears with sugar and a pinch of mace or cardamom; dried peaches with sugar and powdered soy milkor powdered rice milk. I could even buy maple sugarand make maple-brown sugar oatmeal.At work I can put the instant oatmeal in my little mug, add about 2/3 cup hot water, and let it sit for 2 minutes. A perfect mid-morning snack![...]

Pita & Pomegranate


(image) My lunches were either boring or repeats most of this week, so I didn't take any pictures until today: green salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, kalamata olives and olive oil-vinegar dressing, hummus, pita chips, and a wedge of pomegranate.

The shmoo and I like sharing a pomegranate when they're in season. We lay out plastic on the table and load up on kitchen towels, then tear into the beautiful fruit and eat the jewel-like seeds one by one. Pomegranates are super-healthy and oh, so pretty, but I'm especially drawn to them for their spiritual symbolism. Persephone ate a pomegranate seed in the Underworld and was condemned to stay four months in the Underworld every year. During these months her mother Demeter mourns for her and causes cold winter to cover the land. Pomegranates figure also in some Christian and Jewish traditions.

Why, I even have one tattooed on my shoulder!


Carnival Squash


(image) After dinner last night I sliced a carnival squash into wedges and steam-baked it in the oven (fill the bottom of the baking dish with water, cover with foil, and bake until the squash tender, about 30 minutes). I let it cool slightly, then put it away in the refrigerator. In the morning it only took a few moments to make a pretty squash arrangement in my To Go Ware container.

I like plain squash and find it pleasantly sweet, but you could bake it with margarine and maple syrup and sprinkle with salt if you like.

In the middle of my squash is a smaller container of Lemon Rice and Peas, left over from earlier this week. I also packed a salad with Russian dressing, a pear, and two Fruit & Nut Bars. The bars make a perfect snack late in the afternoon.

My first week of work is over! I actually enjoy being back in an office environment, but I miss being able to shop and do errands during the day while everyone else is at work. I'm actually going to have to shop with the crowds this weekend -- shmoo and I will be getting ready for Christmas!

I Know My Momma Loves Me...


(image) do I know? Because her curry tells me so!

My mom has been watching the shmoo for me in the afternoons when he gets home from school. Last night when I went to pick him up Mom insisted I take home a big bowl of yummy cauliflower, potato, and chickpea curry she had just made. It was nice not having to fix dinner! I made sure to save enough to pack for lunch today.

On the side are grapes and mandarin slices and celery with peanut butter.

I didn't pack as much today. I've been so worried about going hungry I've been packing more than I can eat; one night I was too full to eat dinner when I got home! Today I scaled back and packed just enough.

Lemon Rice and Peas


(image) Today I made Lemon Rice and Peas from May All Be Fed.(image) Last night I had leftover cooked brown rice, so it only took a few minutes to toss it together with Indian spices, frozen peas, cashews, low-sodium tamari and fresh lemon juice. I also threw in some garbanzo beans I had in the fridge.

This morning I packed the cold rice and peas in my To Go Ware alongside an avocado wrapped in yellow Hello Kitty. I opened the avocado at lunchtime and mashed it with some balsamic vinegar for green salad.

On the side are an orange, a low-sodium V8 juice, and yet more Fruit & Nut Bars (in case I needed a snack later in the day).

Since I have access to a microwave, I transferred the rice and peas to a regular bowl and microwaved them at lunchtime. They were so good I didn't want to stop eating, but it was too much to finish!

Now that I'm away from home all day, I feel even more the importance of a healthy lunch packed with care and love. It's a little reminder of home, a little moment of caring for yourself in the middle of the day, and a chance to smile a bit to yourself at a cute lunch box or a Hello Kitty avocado. :-)

Cabbage Rolls


(image) Today was my first 9 hour day, so I had to pack enough to get me through!

I packed the last of my Thanksgiving Cabbage Rolls in a wide-mouthed insulated container that kept them nicely warm until lunchtime.

A simple salad with dressing is up above, with an apple, grapes in a smiling mushroom, and more Fruit & Nut Bars.

It worked! I ate lots of fruits and veggies and still stayed nice and full until quitting time!

I'm going to bed now.

Buckwheat Tabbouleh Wraps


Today I started a brand new full-time job! That's right, I finally get to pack lunches for myself!

Lunch Number One: an avocado with a tiny container of dressing, baby carrots, grapes, Fruit & Nut Bars, and four incredible lettuce wraps.

When Gluten Free Gidget shared her Buckwheat Tabbouleh Hummus Wraps on the This Is Why You're Thin! blog, I immediately thought of how lovely they would be as a healthy, gluten-free packed lunch. I followed her recipe but used only a scant 1/4 cup olive oil and less than half the salt -- it was spectacular! Very satisfying yet light and refreshing.

(image) I topped the wraps with extra romaine to munch on.

Holiday Cabbage Rolls


(image) I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! There is so much to be thankful for, especially our good health and the health and well-being of those around us.

With that in mind, this year I again made my Cabbage Rolls as a healthy vegan centerpiece dish. The rolls are filled with a mixture of walnuts, brown rice, and garbanzo beans seasoned with herbs and Dijon and baked in a mixture of low-sodium veggie juice and lemon juice. They were a big hit -- even some of the meat-eaters gave them a try and liked them!

As an early Christmas present to all of you I am posting the recipe here. Use it next time you want to stay vegan and healthy at a festive feast. I'm sorry I didn't get this up before Thanksgiving, but I know there a few more opportunities coming up this season!