Hot Take on Hot Lunch

Living in the moment is best way to experience life, unencumbered by past regrets and future concerns, but it certainly has its pitfalls, too. Wrapped up in summertime revelry, I didn’t even realize that we’re fast approaching doomsday for every child and young adult under the age of 18: The first day of school. Creeping earlier and earlier across the calendar every year, I feel a bit blindsided to learn that local school will be back in session as early as next week. What kind of cruel joke is that, to pull children out of the sun’s golden glow, away from the beckoning beaches and parks, stuffing them into stiffing locked rooms without windows, without joy, without apologies? Hopefully the transition isn’t as harsh as memory suggests, but it’s still a hard sacrifice to make for anyone yearning to squeeze the very last drops of sweetness out of this fleeting season.

If there was anything that could inspire any enthusiasm for this kind of sacrifice, it would have to be the promise of good food. Of course, that’s pretty much the opposite of what you can expect from any institutional cafeteria menu, which is why a properly packed lunch is essential. Though the dark days of school lunches are well behind me, the memories of soggy PB + J sandwiches and stale granola bars are indelibly seared into my memory. No one should have to endure such hardship, especially if they hope to put any positive energy into their education after noon.

Ages ago, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was still in high school, I developed a compact little e-book entitled Lunchbox Bites, filled with all the sweet and savory morsels that got me from homeroom to sixth period. No longer available for sale, it’s been languishing among all the forgotten recipes gathering dust in my digital archive. It seems such a shame to waste this potentially helpful resource, as new generations of young vegans grow up with the same hunger for quality nutrition as I once did.

For the love of food, for the good of the community, I’m now making Lunchbox Bites completely free to download. Bringing back old favorites like Coffee Buzz Energy Bars and Root Beer Pudding, there’s plenty for students of all ages to enjoy. Even if you’re just a student of life, there’s never a bad time to enjoy a big batch of Hummus Crackers, too.

Forgive me, if you would, for the antiquated terminology and terrible photography. Consider it an heirloom, a relic of a bygone era. “Margarine” should be read as “vegan butter,” “soymilk” simply as “non-dairy milk” (any variety will do), and canola oil, while fine, would be better if replaced by a light olive oil, avocado oil, or rice bran oil. There’s still a whole lot of good to reap from these basic concepts, and I must admit, it’s somewhat charming to take in the full glory of this throwback to a simpler time.

Prepare yourself properly for a brand new school year; don’t show up hungry, and if you’re feeling particularly generous, make sure you bring enough to share with the class. Cafeteria food doesn’t hold a candle to anything homemade.

 

 

 

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Squeeze the Day

Limoncello is not any old fruit liqueur; it’s straight-up sunshine in a bottle. Liquid gold, simultaneously tart, tangy, smooth, and sweet, is so much more than the sum of its parts. Three simple, common ingredients are all you need, aside from the intangible addition of time. More patience is needed than anything else, as the infusion grows stronger, more fragrant, more colorful by the day. Though the temptation may feel irresistible at times, summon all your willpower to keep a lid on it, literally.

Intense citrus flavor allows this elixir to mix beautifully with other spirits or sparkling beverages without ever risking dilution. Traditionally enjoyed as a digestif, a simple shot can be equally restorative, waking up the senses with such a boldly fragrant, vivacious lemon essence.

Needless to say, every ingredient counts when so few make the cut. Do not skimp on lesser citrus especially, as none can match the delicate nuances and almost jammy sweetness of Meyer lemons, which come without the harsh acidity of conventional varieties. Likewise, this is the time to break out the good stuff from your secret stash at the back of the liquor cabinet. It’s impossible to end up with unpalatable Limoncello, truth be told, but it’s just as effortless to create something truly unparalleled in quality.

Though the wait time may seem daunting, don’t let that scare you off. The results are worth any delayed gratification, as no store-bought variety will ever taste as fresh.

Continue reading “Squeeze the Day”

Green Chef Gets the Green Light

There is truly nothing more satisfying than a home-cooked meal but sometimes we fall into a rut, making the same easy, go-to meals for lack of time or energy. There’s always trusty takeout and the thrill of trying new eateries but having local restaurants cater for dinner every day isn’t exactly feasible. There’s a ton of hype now about meal kits, but still few promising options for those with alternative diets, and vegans especially. Green Chef’s plant-powered meal plan strives to switch that script. I recently tried a week of this approach to home cooking, and I’m glad I did.

Green Chef is a meal kit delivery service that caters to specialty diets, including vegan and vegetarian. They send organic, pre-portioned ingredients and easy to follow recipe cards that take the stress out of the typical dinner rush. Every week, they have a number of different recipes to choose from, so you can cherry pick exactly the flavors you’re craving. All the ingredients are pre-measured, so there’s less food waste. No more forgotten heads of kale left to rot in the vegetable crisper, or full bottles of obscure spices you’ll only want to use once.

My first experience using Green Chef was actually with a friend of mine who, shall we say, isn’t exactly a skilled chef! She was able to follow the recipe and make the meals without too much trouble, and more importantly, was excited to take away some fundamental skills she had never previously attempted. Simple things like how to roast vegetables or cook quinoa; I take these things for granted, but if you have less experience in the kitchen, this is the next best thing to a personal cooking lesson from a chef.

The first meal from my box was an Israeli Salad. This was a favorite of mine- All of the herbs and spices included were so fresh, so bold, so vibrant! It had a crisp tomato and cucumber salad, creamy tahini sauce, and aromatically spiced chickpeas. The dish was filling without being too much, and all of the flavors and textures complimented each other perfectly. Green Chef is a USDA certified organic company, and sends produce sourced from local farms. A big plus for me was that each recipe was enough for 2 meals. My life can be a little hectic, so knowing I have some tasty leftovers in the fridge for lunch really makes my day a lot easier.

Next up were the Jackfruit Sloppy Joes and Carrot Fries. This was not something I would ever order off a menu or attempt to make from scratch, but I was very happily surprised by the results. The plant-based take on the classic sloppy joe was delicious, and I put my own spin on the carrot fries by cooking them in my air fryer to prevent heating up the oven to roast them as originally instructed. This made them extra crunchy on the outside and even sped up the cooking time.

I love middle eastern-flavors, so I also enjoyed the Green Pea Falafel. It was paired with roasted red pepper couscous and kale cucumber salad, all drizzled in a spiced tahini sauce. Like most of the recipes, there were quite a few components to cook, but worth the extra effort for the ultimate flavor payoff.

I made the same tweak for the Grilled Zucchini and Orzo salad. The zucchini went into the air-fryer for an effortless touch of char-grilled goodness, but I still wasn’t overly impressed with this recipe. The only suggestion for the side of chard was to toss with salt and olive oil (not included), so I had to add a lot of my own seasoning. Definitely not my favorite, this meal felt a bit haphazard and really didn’t come together in a compelling way.

My biggest complaint with Green Chef is that the recipes are a little lengthy. They all took around 40 minutes to make, which is a considerable chunk of time for someone accustomed to whipping up 10 minute meals, thanks to my most recent cookbook. The other major drawback was that each preparation called for a lot of pots and pans to cook all of the components, which meant a lot of washing up afterwards.

Green Chef is a particularly promising option if you’re new to veganism or new to cooking in general. It takes the fear and frustration out of meal planning, if you’re trying to eat healthier but struggle to set yourself up for success. I especially love that most of the packaging is recyclable or reusable. On top of that, all the produce was very high quality, and I love having the recipe cards, so I can recreate the recipes at a later date. Green Chef got me out of my dinner rut, all while stoking the flames of inspiration for new dishes to come!

If you’d like to give Green Chef a try for yourself, you can follow this link to get $75 off and free shipping for a limited time.

Great Shakes

Dessert emergencies are real. Even worse than a bad case of being hangry, they’re often very specific, exceedingly urgent cravings that cannot be assuaged by just any sort of sustenance. 9 times out of 10, I find myself desperately yearning for a milkshake. In those situations when merely “quick” fixes simply aren’t fast enough, allow me to introduce a genuinely instant answer.

No ice cream, no non-dairy milk, no waiting. Homemade milkshake mix has luscious coconut milk powder blended right in for rich, creamy satisfaction as soon as it hits water. Just add ice for a refreshingly frosty sensation. Flavors can be as wild or mild as your thirst dictates. My four favorites skew towards classic nostalgia, with contemporary superfood upgrades.

Vanilla – The warm, lightly floral essence of vanilla shines through, but with a buttery, tropical, and creamy mouthfeel from the underlying coconut.

Mint Chip – This is a pure, natural version of a classic flavor. The mint is cool and refreshing with wonderful crunchy bites from the cacao nibs. The brilliant green hue comes from the spirulina, which lends just a hint of grassiness to the flavor.

Malted Mocha – You might just want to substitute your morning cuppa Joe with this creamy caffeinated blend. It has a mellow roasted flavor with subtle oaky notes and a “biscuit-y” vibe.

Super Berry – The bright citrusy flavors of punchy acai and goji fruit lend a delicious tang to the light sweetness.

Get the details, short and sweet, on GoDairyFree.org.