Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lunches for Aji's First and Second Days of School

The first day of playgroup/school for my baby, who is now a big 3.5 year-old!  She asked for green noodles for lunch.  I asked if she wanted spinach linguini, what I normally make the girls, or green tea soba noodles.  She chose the green tea sobas!

Green tea soba noodles (cook according to package, then rinse under cold water)
Stir-fried "duck"-style seitan (not really sure what made it veggie "duck," seemed like pretty standard seitan) and chopped yellow pepper
Raw cucumber wedges and yellow pepper slices
Sauteed cremini and shiitake mushrooms 
Organic cherries

I chopped and sauteed the mushrooms the night before in organic extra virgin olive oil and organic canola oil.  I also cut the cucumber wedges and pepper spears.

In the morning, I cooked the noodles, chopped the seitan and pepper, and stir-fried the seitan and peppers.  I kept everything separated (sometimes the girls are picky about mixing food or like to mix their own) when I packed with little silicone containers.  I put the cherries on top of the noodles.

I tried making a little smiley face out of a cucumber and tofutti cheese slice for Aji, but by the time we got to school, her backpack had taken several tumbles down stairs and around the car, so it was no longer a smiley face.  Have to work on the cuteness factor!  Need to read up on those tutorials.  ;-P

I mixed everything together (except the cherries) for my lunch.  Thought it was pretty good, but whatever spices were used in the faux duck seitan were a little weird.  Jacqui liked the seitan better than the mushrooms, which just didn't make any sense to me at all.  (She's had no school since her first day, so has been eating lunch with me every day.)  Aji ate most of the noodles at school and two of the cherries, and then we finished the rest off at home.  Noodles were a definite success.  Not sure about the seitan though.  

For lunches today (Wednesday), Aji asked for tofu scramble.  I love tofu scramble lunches because I know they will eat everything!  Any veggie can go in and it will be eaten, even if it is *gasp* a mushroom!!!

Tofu scramble
Organic grapes
Yellow pepper slices
Pitette (small pita)

Had I not fallen asleep when I put the girls to bed last night, I would have actually prepped all the veggies, especially the broccoli that needed to be used today.  But alas, I needed SLEEP, so everything was done this morning, except for shredding the zucchini, which I did over the weekend.  

The nice thing about tofu scramble is that you can really make it with whatever veggies you have and it will taste delicious.  You just have to take care with the order in which you add things to cook so that the harder veggies, like onion and sweet potatoes, have longer to cook than the shredded zucchini.

Ingredients for tofu scramble:
Extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, or safflower oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 medium sweet potato, cubed
1/2 cup chopped red, orange, and yellow peppers
1/2 cup shredded zucchini
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 block firm tofu
Sea salt
Nutritional yeast
1-2 plum tomatoes, chopped

What to do: 
Heat the oil over medium heat, add onions and saute while cutting the sweet potato.  Add the sweet potato and continue to saute as you cut the peppers and chop the mushrooms.  Add the chopped pepper and mushrooms and saute.  Add the shredded zucchini, saute.  Drain the tofu (but do not press) and crumble into the pan, saute.  Add the tumeric, to get to the color you want.  Add sea salt and nutritional yeast to taste, continue to saute.  Check that sweet potatoes and mushrooms are cooked and turn off heat.  Add the chopped tomatoes.  

The tofu scramble took about 30 minutes to cook today, with all the different veggies.  Cooking time varies based on the amount of prep you've done and the types and sizes of veggies that you are using. 

To pack: 
I put the tofu scramble into the large (bottom) part of the girls' bentos today.  Wished I hadn't for Aji because it came home with tumeric-colored liquid all in her lunch bag.  [Note to self: Aji's lunches have too much motion involved to be unsealed or too cute.]
Top section had a pitette cut in half (in which to stuff the tofu scramble for easier eating), two slices of yellow pepper, and organic grapes. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Muffins and Bean Patties

Today was a full day for us.  Lots of playing, library trips, playing, house hunting, and more playing.  We added in some baking and a lovely end-of-day story from Jacqui's former teachers and Aji's new teachers.  Great day, but I'm officially exhausted.  Vacation is hard work.

Pumpkin muffins
I know that I have my own recipe for pumpkin muffins, but I recently treated myself to Let Them Eat Vegan by Dreena Burton, and could not resist trying her pumpkin muffin recipe.  
I hadn't made them yet, despite the girls' requests for muffins, because the recipe calls for oat flour and I didn't have any.  A few nights ago, I realized that I could just make my own!  I put 1.5 cups of rolled oats into my food processor (I wanted to make sure I had 1 cup of flour) and processed on high until it looked sufficiently flour-like.  This made more than the 1 cup I needed, but I will use the rest at some point. ;-)  
I also couldn't find my nutmeg, so I subbed that for another of the lovely fall/winter spices and used the 1/4 tsp ground ginger suggested for adults.

The muffins turned out well.  The recipe made 17 muffins for us (my tins are really on the small side and I tend to underfill rather than overfill).
The girls worked very hard on these and we only ended up with a little bit of sugar on the floor.  We ate these as part of our dinner tonight.

Bean cakes/patties
For the main part of dinner, I had in my head to use up leftovers and make a bean burger or bean ball.  Into my food processor went ~1 cup of leftover steamed veggies and kidney beans, ~1 cup of leftover rice, ~1/2 tsp sea salt, ~1/2 T nutritional yeast, ~1/2 tsp organic seasoning, and ~2-4 T oat flour (see, I'm already using the extra!).  Process on high until everything is mixed together well.  Unfortunately, this was much wetter and stickier than I has expected, so I added panko to thicken it up and make it possible to form some sort of ball.  When I transferred the balls to the frying pan, the transfer process did not work out.  I ended up flattening the balls and breaking them into smaller pieces to fry.  That worked out well and they ended up with a nice brown patina.  We ate them with organic ketchup for dinner.

Aji ate her portion right up.  Jacqui exclaimed how wonderful it was, but then stopped eating halfway through and decided she didn't like it anymore.  I think she got to a thicker area of the patty that was not as crispy.  Next time: thinner, smaller patties so that everything gets nice and crispy.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Inarizushi and Cucumber Sushi

Today was meant to be the welcome party for Aji's playground, but the weather interfered and the party was rained out.  But not until after I had made inarizushi for the party.  I did not manage to take any photos of the inarizushi, but I am sharing how to make it.  For dinner, I used the same rice and made cucumber sushi, which was a big hit with the girls.

Step One: Rice Mixture
I make a brown rice mixture.  I always use brown rice, hijiki seaweed, and a vegetable.  Sometimes I add millet, quinoa, sesame seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, you get the idea.  Adjust the amount of water to the amount of rice, millet, quinoa that you are using.

2 (rice) cups brown rice
1-2 T dry hijiki
1 cup shredded zucchini (or other vegetable)
4.5 (rice) cups water

I set this in my rice maker with a delay start so that it is ready in the morning.

Step Two: Making Inarizushi
You need to purchase inarizushi-no-moto (like here from Amazon) or make your own from auberage.  I haven't been able to find unseasoned auburage, so I buy the seasoned cans of the inarizushi-no-moto from the local Korean natural grocery store.  
When I'm making a large batch of inarizushi, I use the liquid from the can to mix with my rice mixture.  When I'm just making a few for my kids' lunches, I use a reasoned rice vinegar (sushi vinegar).  Not much is needed, enough to mix with the rice to add a little flavor, and let the rice cool a little bit so that you don't burn your hands stuffing the inari.
After mixing the liquid with the rice, then to make the inarizushi, you take one piece of the inarizushi-no-moto out of the can, and gently open it, taking care not to tear it, making it into a little pocket.  Then, you take some of the rice mixture and stuff it into the pocket.  You can either stuff it to the top or stuff it a little less and fold over the edges of the pocket.  I always leave edges to fold over.  If you stuff the rice to the top, you can add sprinkles of gomassio or something else to the open rice.
When I make inarizushi for the girls' lunches, I use two stuffed pockets for each lunch.  Today I made 10 pieces for the party, which we ate for lunch with friends.

Step Three: Making Cucumber Sushi
One large cucumber makes four large pieces for the girls' dinner
I take the cucumber and partially peel it, but you can leave the skin on or peel it completely.  The girls and I like the stripes from the partial peel.  Then, I cut the cucumber into four sections that are 1.5-2 inches long.  Using a spoon or a knife, cut out the center (seeds) of each cucumber piece.  Take some of the rice mixture and stuff the cucumber.  Sprinkle black sesame seeds gomassio on top and serve.  Yum!
I served this with pecans and avocado for the girls' dinner tonight.  They had a lot of fun eating these, although I may make the cucumber pieces a bit shorter next time.  :)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

New school year, new school lunches

Jacqui started kindergarten today.  It's an all-day affair here in New York, five days a week. So that means that I have lunches to make six days a week for two kids now.  Last year was four days a week, three days of playgroup and one day of Chinese school. This year five days of school and one day of Chinese school.  I'm going to try to post a few days a week the lunches I make them.  Wish me luck!

Lunches so far this week

trip to the aquarium
Spinach linguini with soy vinaigrette
Green olives
Veggie spring rolls
Honest Kids juices for both girls

Jacqui's first day of kindergarten
Cold soba noodles (with ponzu sauce for Jacqui)
Cucumber half moons
Green olives
Tofu cats (tofu coated in my mix and fried in safflower oil -- see below)
Reusable container of vanilla soy yogurt for Jacqui
Honest kids apple juice drink for Jacqui 

Coating mix
Spelt flour
Organic cornstarch
Whole wheat pastry flour
Sea salt
Nutritional yeast
Black sesame seeds
White sesame seeds

Method for Tofu Cats (or other shapes)
I slice a block of extra firm tofu into four equal slices and then use cookie cutters to make shapes for the girls.  We have a huge assortment of shapes (thanks, Mom!.  The girls' favorites are the cat and papillon (butterfly).  Hearts and stars are big hits too.  After cutting out the shapes, I coat the tofu in my coating mix (front and back) and then fry the tofu on both sides in organic safflower or canola oil.  I generally also make standard rectangles out of the tofu and fry those up for the girls' lunches, but today I decided to give them each two tofu cats and I kept the rectangles for my own lunch.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Strawberry Muffins

Sunday morning, Aji asked to make cupcakes.  But cupcakes are too sweet, and my kids never actually eat more than a bite of them.  Muffins, on the other hand, have all the benefits of cupcakes (small size, muffin pan, liners!) without all that unnecessary sweetness that makes my kids not eat them.  Saturday night I bought one of those HUGE containers of strawberries, which I had cut up after the girls went to bed and stocked in the fridge.  (This is one of my recently-set goals: cut up fruits and veggies when I buy them to increase the likelihood that they will be eaten before going bad.)  So, strawberry muffins were born (based on a strawberry cupcake recipe from Joy of Vegan Baking):

3/8 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup vegan sugar
~1 cup fresh strawberry puree
1/2 cup canola oil
1 T white distilled vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

What To Do
Preheat the oven to 350F.  
Line the muffin pan.  (The girls did this while I went out for a cup of coffee and the oven heated up)
Mix up the dry ingredients.  (Jacqui's task)
Puree the strawberries in a 2 cup glass container.  (immersion blender!)
Add the oil, vinegar, and vanilla to the strawberry puree and whisk to combine.  (Aji's task with my help)
Make a hole in the center of the dry ingredients (Jacqui) and pour the wet into the dry (Aji).  
Mix thoroughly, but not too much.  (All of us!)
Spoon batter into the lined muffin pan.  Note that this is a sticky dough.  I used two spoons to get the batter into the pan.  
I may have overfilled my individual muffin holes, but this amount of batter filled only 9 of my 12.  So I added water to the other three (to keep everything moist) and put the pan into the oven.
30 minutes and a sweet smelling apartment later, we had soft, moist, strawberry-scented muffins.  

These muffins make a great snack -- the girls had them before we went to Coney Island yesterday -- and a lovely breakfast -- this morning, fact!  We are down to just two left though, so we will have to make these again.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Baked Rice and Lentils

from many months ago...written but never remember to hit publish...
Taking inspiration from the Mothering November/December issue's potluck article, I made baked rice. I mostly used the recipe provided there, but made a few changes, mostly to veganize it. :)

1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced

3 stalks celery, chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

3/4 cup brown long-grain rice
3/4 cup dry French lentils

1 tsp ground cumin
2 cups vegetable broth

15 oz diced tomatoes with juices

1-2 cups frozen greens, defrosted and chopped

1/2 cup Daiya (mozzarella style)

What to do

Preheat the oven to 350.

Warm your Dutch oven over medium heat.
While it is warming, chop the onion. When the pot is warm, add the olive oil. When the oil is warm, add the onion and saute for five minutes. Mince the garlic and chop the carrot and celery. Add them to the onion and saute for another five minutes. (Add a little water if everything starts to stick.)
Add the rice, lentils, and cumin and stir and cook for approximately one minute.
Add the broth and tomatoes with juice. Stir well.

Remove from heat and place in oven, uncovered. Bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Defrost and chop the greens (or use fresh).
Add the greens and Daiya to the casserole, stirring well to combine.
Place back in the oven and bake for another 20-30 minutes, uncovered.

Hot! Pink! Noodles!

Hot Pink Noodles
(or Noodles with Beet Greens and Tofu or Garbanzos)

1 package of noodles (quick cooking Asian noodles are best for this recipe)
1 bunch beet greens (2 cups chopped) [any greens will work, but the beet greens will make the noodles PINK!]
1/2 - 2 cups cooked garbanzos or 1 package of tofu
canola oil
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
2 T organic sugar
1/3 cup lime juice
1/4 cup Bragg's or other soy sauce
pinch red pepper flakes

To make
Fill a large pot with water, and place it over high heat to boil.  Wash, then chop or tear the beet greens into bite-sized pieces. 

Heat canola oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Dice the tofu and toss it into the pan.  Saute it until the pieces are golden and crispy.  If using garbanzos, just saute for a few minutes, then set aside.

To make the sauce, combine the peanut butter, sugar, lime juice, Bragg's, and red pepper flakes in a bowl.

By now your water should be boiling.  Add the noodles and greens -- you may need to stagger depending on the type of greens and noodles.  You want them to be finished cooking at the same time.  For the noodles I generally use, they take 5-6 minutes, which is about the same time that I use for the beet greens. 

Once they are cooked, drain the greens and noodles in a strainer, and return to the pot.  Add the sauce, and toss to coat the greens and noodles.  Add the tofu or garbanzos, and gently toss.  Serve the hot pink noodles immediately, and refrigerate any left-overs.