Easy

The Easiest Way to Pack Your Lunch

Bentgo Bento Box My office for work is located in a food dead zone. Located in the middle of a huge warehouse district in South Brooklyn,  the closest place to grab a bite to eat is Wendy's down the street.  Besides that, there's pretty much zero other options besides an occasional Dunkin Donuts and traditional Brooklyn pizza shops.  Nothing is healthy, and being vegan only further complicates things. We also have no onsite vending machines of any kind.  Or coffee makers.  The closest things we get to either is what we lovingly refer to as the "roach coach", otherwise known as the coffee truck.  It arrives without fail at 10 am every day to serve bitterly burnt coffee and bags of chips so tiny they'd barely satiate a child.  As a result, I've been more or less forced to learn to get really efficient at brown-bagging my lunch. My solution to make packing both my lunch and snacks a breeze?  The bento.   Bentgo Bento Box Bentos are single portion, home cooked meals which are common in Japanese cuisine.  They're packed into tiny boxes and feature a healthy, well-rounded meal meant to be eaten at room temperature. When I first learned about bentos, I purchased some traditional Japanese ones from a Japanese vendor.  The size of the box is supposed to correspond to the number of calories you should eat at your meal.  While this method is a great way to execute portion control, I had a few issues with these style boxes:
  1. They work best for traditional Japanese foods.  Rice, a protein (meat or fish usually) and some cooked or pickled vegetables usually round out traditional bentos.  Only issue with this is I'm American and don't make Japanese style food all the time.  It was difficult to fit sandwiches and other types of cuisine into these boxes.
  2. I don't always like to eat room temperature food,  And not all Japanese bentos are microwave safe.
  3. No room for snacks.  I'm gone all day, and needed a bit more space for at least two sets of snacks.
  4. No place to keep utensils.  On Japanese boxes, if there is a space built in it's almost always for chopsticks.  That then takes me back to bullet point #1.
  5. They aren't leak proof.  A traditional Japanese bento has sauces packed separately.  While the containers they use for them are super adorable, they're a pain to clean.  Plus I'm lazy.  I needed something I could pour a sauce on and not have the box leak.
Bentgo Bento Box After trying several different types of boxes over the years, I finally found my favorite one.  It's called the Bentgo and it's available on Amazon.  It solves all the issues I had with my previous boxes including:
  • It's a larger size, which is more appropriate for American portions but still small enough you can toss it in your purse or tote bag.
  • It's microwave safe.
  • Top box has space for two snacks.
  • Standard utensils are included and built into the leak-proof packaging.
They also come in adorable colors, and are inexpensive!  If you're interested in purchasing a Bentgo you can get them here. Bentgo Bento Box Now that I found the perfect vessel to pack my meals for the day, the actual packing part is a breeze.  All I do is either pack dinner leftovers or a sandwich in the main container, and my pre-planned snack options for the week in the divided one.  I usually try to keep my snacks to a sweet one for the morning with my coffee, and savory for the afternoon. Here's some examples:

Lunch Options

  • Leftover pasta
  • Leftover curry, stir fry or other ethnic foods and a grain, like rice or quinoa
  • Leftover stews (soups or anything too liquidy doesn't work in this container)
  • A sandwich
  • A salad (pasta and grain salads work great in bentos!)
  • Clean-out the fridge leftovers (like shown below, pesto shells, lemon tofu and green beans)

Snack Options

  • Fresh fruit and nuts
  • Hummus and cut veggies or crackers
  • Rice cakes with toppings like almond butter and jam, or guac and radishes
  • Baked goods like banana bread or muffins
The possibilities are only limited to your imagination. Bentgo Bento Box Packing my bento each night and eating it the next day always makes me smile.  They make your food seem so much prettier and appealing.  Sure beats a sad looking sandwich in a ziplock. Do you brown-bag it to work each day? This post is not sponsored by Bentgo.  I just really like their product.

Eating Vegan Paleo / Baked Sweet Potato with Beans and Greens

My favorite "lazy" meal. Baked sweet potato with greens and beans. For the past several months since I've gone grain-free, I've been on the search for really quick, easy to make "lazy day" meals that will keep me satisfied without hitting up Seamless for takeout.  These types of recipes are especially important for me when my work schedule gets insane and my days really long. While perusing Pinterest one day I came across this recipe on the Kitchn and have been hooked making variations of it ever since.  The formula is pretty simple.  Take a baked sweet potato, and stuff it with a tasty combination of beans and greens. Depending on how you cook the potato, it can be ready to eat in 10 minutes start to finish. If I have some extra time, I'll actually roast the sweet potato in the oven (which takes an hour).  Otherwise, if I'm being super lazy it just goes in my microwave on the baked potato setting.  The beans and greens get sautéed in a pan with olive oil, garlic, and maybe some onions or shallots while the potato cooks.  They also can be mixed and matched depending on what you are in the mood for. Here's some examples of the different variations I've made: The Original (i.e. the Kitchn version)- Sweet potato, kale, white beans. The Mexican Sweet potato, spinach, black beans and top with salsa and avocado. The Italian Sweet potato, broccoli rabe, chickpeas and a squeeze of lemon juice. (shown above, this one was AMAZING) The Clean-Out-the Fridge Sweet potato, whatever greens are in my fridge, whatever beans are in my cabinet.  It can also include other "leftovers" from that week.  One particularly good version included some leftover lentil salad I had made for the bean component. The possibilities are pretty endless.  Plus it's pretty damn tasty. What's your favorite "lazy day" recipe?

Comfort Food for Sandy Relief / Coconut Rice with Winter Squash

20121108-082142.jpg I don't usually post recipes, but I figured this was as good a time as any to share one of my favorites with you! Food bloggers are getting together today and posting their favorite comfort meal recipes in support of Hurricane Sandy Relief. The concept is to share a recipe that you find comforting and would bring to a friend or neighbor in crisis to raise their spirits. One of my favorite recipes is one I veganized from Real Simple Magazine quite a while ago that we include in our regular recipe rotation in our home. It's coconut creamy, comforting, quick, super easy and really yummy. If you haven't done so already, please donate to help with the Hurricane Sandy Relief efforts. Every little bit helps.

Coconut Rice with Winter Squash

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rice- I like to use leftover rice or make it in advance of putting the recipe together.
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 block of firm tofu- I use the silken kind for a stir-fried egg-type texture.
  • pinch of turmeric
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed*
  • kosher salt
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Prepare the rice according to the package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, place the squash in a saucepan, cover with water, and boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  3. Heat half the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Crumble the tofu, add it to the pan and cook, stirring, until it's lightly browned. Add the pinch of turmeric and mix to make the tofu yellow and give it a scrambled egg look.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Add the remaining oil and the onion to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk and simmer for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the squash, rice, edamame, and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring gently, until heated through and all the liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat. Add the scallions and tofu, toss, and serve.
*My photo above doesn't include the edamame because when I made it this week I forgot that I ran out of my freezer stash.  I recommend if you have it adding it to the dish, it really makes it. What's your favorite comfort meal?

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