Popit! for Soba All Summer

Come July, the heat is on. Bare feet scorch on sizzling pavement and even shady trees provide little relief. The only thing that appeals for lunch is either cool, cold, or straight-up frozen. There’s no place for a hot entree on this picnic table.

Luckily, Popit! is here to help! Since both their plastic and glass containers are ideal for advanced prep, you can pull a meal, ready to eat, right out of the fridge. That means you only need to suffer the brief heat of the kitchen once to reap the rewards all week long.

When I saw the small Popit! bread box, also billed as a “lettuce container,” I must admit, I didn’t think about using it as storage for a fresh loaf or salad fixings. One thing came to mind immediately: Zaru soba.

Chilled buckwheat noodles served with a light, brothy dipping sauce is the quintessential summer dish of Japan. Served on a special tray with elevated slats, the mat at the bottom allows excess water to run off, keeping the noodles from getting soggy. With that in mind, I couldn’t see these unique rectangular boxes in any other way. It was simply too perfect to do anything but build a warm weather bento box around that eastern inspiration.

Mentsuyu, the deeply savory dip that accompanies those chewy soba strands, traditionally contains bonito dashi, or fish stock, but is easily veganized by naturally umami dried shiitake mushrooms and kombu seaweed instead. Packed away in a small Popit! snack container, it fits flush right inside the main box. There’s no risk of leakage with those airtight lids locked tightly into place. Perfect for travel and eating alfresco, it also helps prevent messy drips by keeping everything close together.

Lightly blanched spinach is served on the side for a healthy serving of dark leafy greens, enhanced by the nutty flavor of toasted sesame. Tender pods of salted edamame provide all the plant protein you could want in a fun finger food. All together, it becomes a well-balanced, refreshing, and highly versatile meal that will help you keep your cool.

Grab your chopsticks and chill out. Don’t forget to slurp for maximum enjoyment!

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Greeking out with Popit!

June, here so soon? Breezy, beautiful month of June, she’s here before you know it, but gone in the blink of an eye. Inviting us back outside with a radiant warmth, now is the time get that free Vitamin D and soak in the sun. Naturally, dining alfresco is my favorite opportunity to do so, with a homemade meal at the ready whenever weather permits.

Eating outside demands a bit more preparation than cobbling together a meal on the fly at home. That’s why I’m turning to Popit! once more to plan ahead. Stocking the fridge at quiet times means I can just enjoy when I get a break in the action, or perhaps a break in the clouds on a rainy day. These accommodating containers actually make food last longer because they’re 100% airtight, so you’ll never have to worry about spoilage or food waste if sudden storms derail your excursion.

What to put in these efficient boxes, you ask? This month, it’s all Greek to me.

The love of pasta transcends all cultural boundaries and knows no seasonal limitations. As the weather warms and cravings skew lighter, this infinitely adaptable noodle is flexible enough to follow suit. Pasta salad is a summertime picnic staple, gleaming in all the colors of the rainbow with any number of fresh vegetables tumbling over twists or tubes, nestled in shells or toppling out of trumpets. The best salads have a distinct theme to unite these otherwise disparate additions, and an eye for presentation certainly doesn’t hurt.

Greek salad lends itself beautifully to a pasta-based adaptation, ripe with briny olives, gem-like cherry tomatoes, tender artichoke hearts, and crisp cucumbers. Glistening with a light coat of red wine vinaigrette, the whole melange is gently kissed by the invigorating breath of fresh herbs.

Laid out in neat rows like a fancy composed salad, it takes on an air of greater prominence, turning the everyday outing into a special occasion. Of course, feel free to toss everything together for simplicity’s sake. It will taste every bit as good, even if it gets jostled around in your bag while in transit. If closed properly, Popit! guarantees there won’t be any spills whatsoever. You could even take soup or gravy anywhere wanderlust beckons. You certainly don’t have to worry about oil stains from leaky seals, so go ahead, throw caution to the wind and take it outside!

If there’s a chill in the air, don’t despair. This meal is just as delicious heated. You don’t even need to take it out of the container. Popit! can be used in the microwave; simply remove the lid to avoid a vacuum from being formed, stir well, and dig in.

Getting hungry, or just getting tired of being stuck indoors? Grab a Greek pasta box and get out there. Lunch is ready whenever you are.

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Introducing: Meal Planning with Popit!

Perhaps you’ve seen the immaculate rows of perfectly curated lunchboxes captured for posterity on Instagram, or entire shelves dedicated to meal prep and make-ahead recipes in bookstores. Meal planning is all the rage these days, though it seems daunting to dive right in.

Meal planning is not just for busy office workers or students on the go. Even if you’re eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home, everyone can reap the benefits:

  • Prevent mindless snacking by setting aside perfect portions.
  • Save time by cooking in batches.
  • Stress less by knowing exactly what’s for dinner.
  • Maximize your budget by resisting the lure of takeout.
  • Reduce food waste by using up what you already have.

The best containers are durable, lightweight, leak-proof, microwave- and freezer-friendly, easy to clean, and available in multiple sizes. That’s why I’ve chosen Popit! to house my meals. They offer all that, in both glass and BPA-free plastic food storage containers, which snap closed with airtight locking lids. No leaking, no cracking, no discoloring here. Plus, they conveniently nest together for space-saving storage.

Popit! has made it possible to bring you a bold new series featuring fresh recipes every month, to help fill the gaps in your daily menu. I’m excited to kick things off with a simple, satisfying burrito bowl worth throwing a fiesta for.

Brains and beauty go hand in hand for this well-balanced bundle. Colorful, crisp vegetables sit comfortably on a bed of fluffy cilantro rice, with a hearty scoop of black beans for a complete protein complement. Rich, thick avocado crema gets packed alongside to keep everything fresh, but I wouldn’t blame you for breaking out the chips to polish off the final drops. It’s everything you could ask for in a properly loaded burrito, minus the grease, stodgy flour tortilla, and potential wrap malfunctions.

Served cold, straight out of the fridge, at room temperature on-the-go, warmed lightly in the microwave, or hot from the moment it’s made, it’s a delicious combination at any temperature. Designed for two servings, it could be one lunch for you and your partner, two lunches for you, OR double the quantities and containers to maximize your time and effort. Get twice as much delicious food out of the deal, and spend that much less time worrying about it. Get in, chow down, and get on with your life. That, my friends, is the beauty of meal planning.

Continue reading “Introducing: Meal Planning with Popit!”

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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Naan-Sense

Salads aren’t just wilted leafy greens and tired, limp carrot sticks. Stunningly diverse once you peel back that initial concept, it’s difficult to pin down one concise definition of the concept to encompass all of the culinary possibilities. Salads are most frequently thought of as chilled dishes, but they can also be served warm. Though generally the healthier option on the table, some salads can be real gut bombs. Heck, if you can call something with cookies in it a “salad,” then you, too, can be anything you set your mind to.

Today, while I have less lofty aspirations in mind, the results are no less impressive. Simultaneously inspired by the glorious fresh tomatoes and cucumbers at the farmers market and exhausted by the idea of the labor of real cooking, salads are given high priority in my daily diet on hot summer days. All I want is something fresh and satisfying I can cobble together out of the contents of my fridge with an absolute minimal commitment to genuine cooking. Toasting bread, sure, I can handle that, but all the rest feels like too much work after a full shift and long commute.

Unsurprisingly, this has led to some truly questionable salads. Nothing is off limits; cooked grains, nuts, fruit, vegetables are all fair game of course, but what about that loaf of bread sitting on the counter, growing more stale by the hour? Well, why not? There’s a long tradition of thrifty Italians inventing imaginative twists on panzanella, so that only stretches the imagination for the uninitiated. Expanding on that carb-based formula, consider the pita and all it does for fattoush over in the middle east. Thus, it stands to reason, naan should be a perfectly acceptable ingredient in this formula as well, right?

Garlic naan, a thing of beauty in and of itself, seems almost too good to sacrifice to the salad bowl. Chewy, tender slabs of gluten rich oil and pungent minced garlic, is a sadly rare treat to find in ready-made vegan form. Typically prepared with yogurt and or ghee (butter,) it’s one of the few Indian staples firmly off limits for the lactose intolerant among us. Now that California Lavash has expanded its range to include a completely dairy-free rendition, nothing is out of bounds. I’m tempted to bring a package with me even when eating out at top Indian restaurants, but resist the urge by doubling down on my naan consumption at home instead.

It was only a matter of time before I found a way to shovel this glorious flatbread into my mouth by the forkful. Lightly toasting it to a crisp exterior and bestowing it with a golden curry dressing, this is a combination I could eat on repeat all summer long, and well beyond. Feel free to expand upon the vegetable inclusions based on what you have available, or go crazy with your own creative add-ins. As we’ve established, a salad is anything you want it to be, if you just believe in it.

Yield: Makes 2 – 3 Entree Servings; 4 – 6 Side Servings

Curried Naan Panzanella

Curried Naan Panzanella

Lightly toasting chewy naan bread to a crisp exterior and bestowing it with a golden
curry dressing, this combination is unbeatable for summertime savoring, and well beyond. Feel free to expand upon the vegetable inclusions based on what you have available, or go crazy with your own creative add-ins.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Additional Time 15 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Pound (1 Pint) Cherry or Grape Tomatoes, Halved
  • 1/2 English Cucumber, Quartered and Sliced
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt, Divided
  • 5 – 6 Ounces (1 Pieces) Garlic Naan Bread, Cut into 1-Inch Squares
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Divided
  • 1 Tablespoon Lime Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Tahini
  • 1 Teaspoon Madras Curry Powder
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Cup Cooked Chickpeas
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro, Roughly Chopped

Instructions

  1. Begin by tossing the sliced tomatoes and cucumbers with half of the
    salt. Set aside for about 15 minutes to draw out some of the excess
    liquid. Drain the extra water they’ve given off before proceeding.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the sliced naan with 1/2 tablespoon of oil and
    spread the pieces out in an even layer on a baking sheet. Run under the
    broiler in your oven set to high for 10 – 15 minutes, until toasted
    golden brown and crisp.
  3. Simply whisk together the remaining oil, lime juice, tahini, curry
    powder, black pepper, and remaining salt to create the dressing. Toss
    everything into a large bowl, including the drained vegetables, toasted
    bread, dressing, chickpeas, and cilantro, and mix well to combine. Serve
    immediately; this salad doesn’t keep well once dressed as the naan will
    begin to get soggy.

Recommended Products

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 376Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 599mgCarbohydrates: 55gFiber: 4gSugar: 5gProtein: 12g
 

 

 

Griddle Me This

Every dog has its day, and so, apparently, does every food. If I observed every national “holiday” assigned seemly at random to all the various dishes and ingredients on currently listed on the calendar, this blog would become nothing but a giant red-letter day reminder. National Grilled Cheese Day, however, deserves a special mention. Today, like any other day that ends with a “y,” is the perfect time to butter up two thick slices of your favorite bread and stuff them to the point of bursting with any gooey non-dairy decadence your heart desires. Such a sandwich is a staple across the globe, beloved by all and easy enough for even the most novice cooks to whip up with confidence. It was even one of the first foods I managed to create for myself in my tween years, before cooking or even eating roused my enthusiasm. Sure, back then it was plain whole wheat bread and florescent orange slices of unmelting crayon wax that passed for vegan cheese, smashed and warmed into submission via an electric sandwich press, but a strong attachment to the concept still took hold.

Thankfully, we can do better- So much better, and with barely any additional effort. That’s why the sandwich in particular is truly worth celebrating. Even in its most fanciful, fully decorated formats, it will still be piping hot and ready to enjoy in a matter of minutes, at most.

The cheese itself remains a slightly controversial subject, with diehard fans taking sides either for or against various mainstream options, but the good news is that now there are actually options, and scores of them! If you’re not up to the task of starting from scratch, even your average big box store in middle America will carry at least one reasonable alternative to get your grill on. Daiya is perhaps the best known, with shreds, slices, and blocks of many flavors, with their new cutting board shreds leading the pack. Follow Your Heart does indeed remain close to my heart, offering some of the most diverse flavor options that range from pepperjack to provolone. So Delicious is still more of an ice cream powerhouse than anything else, but their classic shredded cheese options are making quite a splash on the savory side of the grocery store. Chao is best known for its smooth, creamy melt and unique coconut/tofu base. New on the scene is Culinary Co, still a bit difficult to track down but fantastic eaten hot or cold, which is quite a feat for most dairy-free cheese. Similarly, Parmela shreds are found in very limited markets, but worth buying in bulk should you manage to locate a good supply. Violife is making a big splash with its US release, once available only overseas but now taking the North American market by storm. Truth be told, this is but a tiny nibble at the larger feast of non-dairy gooey goodness, but we haven’t even begun to dig into the actual savory additions!

  • It’s hard to beat the umami punch offered by your average sauteed mushroom, but you can one-up that basic approach with silky caramelized onions, a touch of garlic, and to really gild the lily, a pinch of truffle salt.
  • For a little sweet and savory twist, crisp slices of green apple add a crunchy, tart punch to the combination, which goes particularly well with a cheddar shred or slice.
  • Spice things up with a generous handful pickled jalapenos, and take your sandwich on a quesadilla-inspired departure with roasted red peppers, black beans, and tender summer squash.
  • Go green to ramp up the health factor by stuffing your bread with a serious serving of wilted spinach, kale, and/or arugula, and play up the fresh herbs like thinly sliced scallions, parsley, rosemary, oregano, and thyme.
  • Keep it classic with juicy ripe tomatoes, or sun-dried if out of season, and a few crisp slices of meatless bacon if you’re feeling particularly indulgent.
  • Consider a more spring-y approach with grilled asparagus and roasted beets ramping up the vegetable factor, and don’t forget a touch of lemon zest and ground black pepper to brighten the whole package.
  • Make something that an avowed carnivore would crave by loading up on cooked beefy crumbles, finished with a dollop of marinara sauce or fresh pesto.With so many fantastic culinary adventures to embark upon, the most difficult part of crafting an excellent grilled cheese sandwich is simply deciding on the flavor destination! Do tell: what’s your current favorite combination?