Tag Archives: portable

It’s B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

Vegan MoFo 2011 - Vegan Month of FoodDid you know that a machine has been invented with the sole purpose of turning your frozen bananas into frozen desserts? What specialty gadget will they think of next?



I’m all for this healthy idea, but I have a machine that does this already. It’s called a 13-year-old blender. I guess I’m not a specialty kitchen gadget kind of person.

brown smoothie

My blender made this oddly-colored smoothie many times last week. It has a base of frozen bananas and SoDelicious Vanilla coconut milk, plus kale, dark red cherries (or strawberries, I can’t remember), cocoa powder, and hemp oil. It tastes very much like a chocolate shake, has no refined sugar, and is completely kid-approved. Lance asked for it every day last week. We’ve been plowing through bananas like a herd of wild apes around here.

sausage muffin

When I’m not in the mood for a drinkable breakfast, I’ve been heating up some Herbed Breakfast Sausage patties from the freezer and eating them on toasted English muffins, along with some vegetable juice or a piece of fruit. The patties are from Vegan Diner. Like bananas, they also freeze well.

When it comes to breakfast, the freezer is your friend. It’s easy to keep a few containers of frozen fruit on hand, and a container of non-dairy milk in the fridge to make smoothies. My frequent mix-ins like cocoa powder, agave nectar, cinnamon, and ginger are all within an arm’s reach of my blender. And kale is an easy addition. Just rinse it off, strip off the stem, and place it in the blender. I have the best results when I add the milk first, then put the kale on top of that, then top it off with frozen ingredients. The kale seems to blend more finely when it’s on top of the heavy frozen stuff.

Are you eating breakfast? Did you know that eating breakfast is a characteristic common to successful weight loss maintainers and may be a factor in their success?


Baked Peach Pecan Oatmeal

peach pecan baked oatmeal

Vegan MoFo 2011 - Vegan Month of FoodI like oatmeal for breakfast, but sometimes I need a change of texture. This baked oatmeal can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to a week. It can be eaten hot or cold, but I think it’s best served warm, with a drizzle of agave nectar.

If you’re not familiar with agave nectar, it is a sweet syrup extracted from the succulent agave plant, the same plant used to produce tequila. The carbohydrate in agave nectar has a low glycemic index, which provides sweetness without the unpleasant “sugar rush” and unhealthful blood sugar spike caused by many other sugars. Amber agave nectar is darkly colored and adds a subtle maple flavor in addition to sweetness. If you would like to substitute agave for other sweeteners, refer to this guide.

This oatmeal could be made with whatever combination of fruit and nuts you desire. I would try blueberries and slivered almonds, dried cranberries and walnuts, or apples and raisins.

This recipe was adapted from the Fooducate blog. It’s not a vegan blog, but has a lot of interesting articles on whole foods and nutrition.

baked oatmeal in a pan

Baked Peach Pecan Oatmeal

Serves 8.

2 tbsp flax meal
6 tbsp cold water
2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup non-dairy milk
3 tbsp amber agave nectar
2 1/2 cups chopped fruit (I used frozen thawed peaches)
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine ground flax and water with a whisk until well combined. Set aside. Mixture will thicken.

Lightly grease an 8×8 baking dish or round casserole. In a large bowl, combine oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Add remaining ingredients and flax mixture to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Spoon into pan and cover with foil or lid. Bake for 20 minutes, remove foil or cover, and bake for another 25 minutes until golden brown.

Enjoy hot, cold, or room temperature. If well covered, this will keep in the fridge for one week.

The Red Herring is Back!

The Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant is back in the lunch business after a long summer vacation. I ate a lot of vegetarian meals in college, but never visited the Herring until last year. What a shame! I guess I need to make up for lost time.

The Herring’s menu features a popular array of delicious vegetarian options, most of which are vegan or could easily be ordered as vegan. The sandwiches are served on hearty, homemade breads or pita. Portions are generous, and prices are very reasonable for fresh made (and often local and organic) fare.

Salads are topped with homemade dressings. A daily soup offering (vegan Cream of Broccoli on the day I visited) and vegan chili are great if you need a warm-up, and are served with moist, delicious cornbread. They also offer falafel plates, rice and beans, breads, a daily special entree, fair trade coffee, tea, juice, sodas, and desserts.

Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant menu

Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant menu 2

Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant menu 3

I chose the BBQ Seitan sandwich because I really missed it this summer. It’s tender strips of seitan, dressed with a homemade barbecue sauce and topped with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and vegan mayonnaise. It was served atop a little nest of popcorn with a pickle spear. Lance ordered the PB&J, and devoured it before I could take a picture. The raspberry jam tasted like it could have been homemade, and the bread was the same fluffy and hearty whole wheat english muffin bread pictured with my seitan.

Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant BBQ Seitan sandwich

Though their processing machine was not working when we visited, the Herring now accepts credit cards. I don’t usually carry cash, so now I have yet another option for a great vegan meal on campus.

Be sure to “like” The Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant on Facebook to get all the latest specials and up to date hours. You can also give them some love on Yelp.com. They’re located at 1209 W. Oregon Street in Urbana, IL. Here are some more pictures of the Herring’s funky and friendly atmosphere.

Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant - welcome locavores!

Red Herring Vegetarian Restaurant artwork - let's make pie!

The monkey on the left says, “let’s make pie.” I’m down with that.

the john, aka think tank

the divine throne room - the seat of revelation

you are here.

Today’s Smoothie with Zucchini

I hope that today’s smoothie helps me fight off whatever annoying bug is trying to take over my body. I woke up with a foreboding throat tickle and sinus congestion. Yuck.

vegan smoothie with melon, cherries, romaine lettuce, and zucchini

Cinnamon and ginger are going to be a regular addition to smoothies. And though it’s not listed on the photo, there is a little agave nectar in here too.

The zucchini is just some “scraps” left over from making zucchini pasta ribbons. I peel the outside meaty parts off with a vegetable peeler, and save the seedy insides for smoothies. You don’t taste the zucchini at all.

Veggie Burgers and Pretz-A-Bagels

I have had mixed experiences with store-bought veggie burgers. Some are tasty, and some try too hard to be meat-like. My favorites are those which have interesting flavors, such as the Gardenburger Original (cheese, rice, and mushrooms), the Morningstar Tomato Basil Pizza Burger (self-explanatory, soy-based), or the Morningstar Spicy Black Bean Burger (mostly beans and corn). All of these contain cheese and/or eggs, and many other vegetarian burgers contain dairy and egg ingredients.

Why not try to make veggie burgers at home? There are a ton of recipes to be found on the web using easy-to-find ingredients. I picked up The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet, an excellent book that’s a virtual world tour in burger form. It’s a complete celebration of the burger, offering plenty of recipes, including buns, condiments, sides, and even homemade bacon bits. Most ingredients are easy to find in supermarkets.

I’ve made other veggie burgers before with great success, and I love that they freeze well for later. Just separate them with waxed paper or parchment, and pop them into a bag or plastic container.

Tonight’s high-energy cooking session produced two patties. First, a Millet and Black Bean Burger recipe from Terry Walters’ book “Clean Food”, spotted last week on the No Meat Athlete blog. These were very good on their own, or eaten in a wrap. I topped mine with cilantro lime mayo, onions, and salsa.

millet black bean burgers

I had to add some extra water and lime salsa to make the mixture stick together, and as the last patties were assembled there seemed to be too much corn left that didn’t stick in the patty. I would use less corn next time.

The Bacon Cheeseburger patties come from The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet. I didn’t have maple syrup, so I used some unrefined sugar (less than called for) and water. Next time I would eliminate the sugar entirely, and cut back on the peanut butter. They’re a little too “peanutty” for me. We’ll see how they reheat. My barbecue sauce may also have been too sweet. Overall, these are very good, and definitely have a “cheesy” flavor from the nutritional yeast.

bacon cheeseburgers

And they’re really not burned, I swear! I just like them very crispy. I plan to take one or more of these to work, along with these new bun-like things I discovered: Mini Pretz-A-Bagels! They’re like a bagel on the inside, with a chewy, caramelized texture of a soft pretzel on the outside. Lance likes them for sandwiches in his lunch. I like them dipped in hummus.


Quick Polenta with Black Beans and Mole

polenta with black beans and mole

Today’s lunch is brought to you by the secret word: drool.

Here we have a few slices of prepared polenta and black beans, topped with Doña Maria Mole. This prepared mole comes as a sauce that you can use right out of a little square Tetra-Pak, about the size of a juice box. It’s convenient for our family, because I can serve the omni-people their chicken with mole, and save some sauce for topping my veg protein of choice. (I should try it with tempeh.) It all comes together in under 5 minutes, minus cooking the Mexican Rice on the side (which takes about 25 minutes).

I packed up two lunch portions in these Pyrex “frozen dinner”-sized containers. They’re about the same size as one of those overpriced meals you buy out of the freezer. I’ve eaten my share of Healthy Choice, and they never compared to my own leftovers. I’m trying to phase out plastic containers and use more glass for reheating. These containers come with plastic lids which do an adequate job of sealing, except for really juicy foods. When I’m concerned about leakage, I seal the container with plastic wrap under the lid.

Pyrex lunch containers

And… check out my new To-Go Ware utensil set! It’s made from bamboo, and includes chopsticks and a fabric carrying case (not pictured). It fits in my small purse, so it can go to restaurants, or wherever I eat my packed lunches. The sets retail for $12.95 each at the manufacturer’s web site, but Common Ground Food Co-Op has them for only $9.99.


A Batch of Breakfast Burritos, and Mexican Rice

breakfast burritos

I made ten breakfast burritos last weekend, which I froze or refrigerated for future grab-and-go breakfasts. Each burrito contains:

  • a flour tortilla
  • a smear of vegetarian refried beans
  • Mexican Rice (see recipe below)
  • basic scrambled tofu
  • breakfast potatoes
  • a little hot sauce (Cholula is good)
a batch of breakfast burritos in a bag
Why not use the tortilla bag to hold them together in the freezer?

The process took about an hour. All components except the refried beans were prepared from scratch. A lot of the time was not hands-on, such as when the rice was simmering. I could have used two separate skillets for potatoes and scrambled tofu and cooked them simultaneously, but I wanted to keep dirty pans to a minimum. I cooked the breakfast potatoes in the skillet, followed by the scrambled tofu.

The breakfast potatoes are simply diced potatoes sauteed in olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper.

These burritos are very filling. I prefer to let them thaw a little in the refrigerator overnight (or longer) before microwaving. I heat them on medium power to avoid hot ends and a cold middle.

I tossed one in my bag this morning and it was an excellent post-run breakfast.

Mexican Rice

This recipe makes more than double what you need for ten breakfast burritos, but reheats well. Use any type of rice you prefer, including long-grain or basmati. I used a medium-grain rice because that’s what I had on hand.


  • 3 cups medium-grain rice
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 8-oz can tomato sauce (not spaghetti sauce)
  • 2 tsp vegetable stock concentrate (Better Than Bouillon is what I use, or substitute 2 cups of broth)
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

In a deep saucepan, heat canola oil over medium heat. Add rice and stir to coat. Toast rice for a few minutes while preparing liquid mixture, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a 4-cup measuring container, combine tomato sauce, spices, and vegetable stock concentrate or broth. Add enough water to make a total of 4 cups of liquid.

Stir liquid into rice. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes. (Be sure to follow cooking time guidelines for the rice you’re using.)

Uncover rice and remove from heat. Stir to separate grains and let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

Tip: When reheating rice, it helps to sprinkle a little water on it before microwaving, in a covered dish. It keeps the rice moist.

A Salad Tip

I like to bring big salads to work for lunch. When I ride my bike to work, I can’t always fit everything into a trunk bag. With a lunch, clothes, wallet, keys, and extra shoes, space is a priority. When I don’t have room for a separate salad dressing container, here’s what I do.

kale salad

1. Grab a good-sized salad container.

2. Pour in a serving of your favorite dressing. I used a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

3. Top the dressing with chopped vegetables or other salad ingredients. I used chopped crimini mushrooms, roasted chickpeas, and imitation bacon bits. Chopped raw asparagus would have made this combination even better.

4. Add chopped kale, enough to cover the dressing. You can stir it up a little to get some dressing on the kale, or carry it with you as you ride your bike to work – this will mix it up a bit! The idea is to wilt the kale a bit and marinate the vegetables.

5. Top with the more delicate salad greens of your choice. I used spinach, but any type of lettuce will work. It sits above the dressing, and should remain unwilted and crisp until lunchtime.

Chickpea Salad Wrap with Hot Cherry Peppers

chickpea salad wrap, arugula salad with grapes and sesame

Chickpeas are my Swiss Army Legume.

Steep them in spiced tomato sauce for channa masala. Mash them up with Vegenaise and whatever you fancy for a Chickpea Salad sandwich or wrap. Roast them for a crispy snack. Bake them into burgers. Grind them smooth to make hummus. (I made a wonderfully spicy southwestern-style hummus last week that I’ll post very soon. It disappeared before I could take a pic.)

I could go on, but… Chickpea Salad. This is a new family favorite. My son asked for this wrap in his lunch today, with the hot cherry peppers and everything. He’s six, and he has always liked spicy foods.

I don’t follow a recipe for this salad, but I’ll try to give some general guidelines. The result is something like tuna salad. I love to serve it with hot cherry peppers because it reminds me of the Jimmy John’s Totally Tuna sandwiches I used to order, “with pep”. It disappears instantly.

Today’s lunch: Chickpea Salad Wrap with Hot Cherry Peppers, and Arugula and Grape Salad with sesame seeds and sweet onion dressing.

Chickpea Salad


  • One 32-ounce can of chickpeas, drained
  • 4 tbsp Vegenaise
  • 4-5 slices white onion, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
  • 1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • a few twists of black pepper


Coarsely mash chickpeas in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Serve on bread, in a wrap with baby arugula and hot cherry peppers (as shown above), or on crackers.

Edit: Makes about 5 large-sized wraps with Mission Spinach Herb tortillas.

Smoothies with Chocolate: Still Learning

I’m not a person who needs chocolate daily to survive, but I like it. I’ve been experimenting with smoothies for breakfast, and wanted to try some chocolate combinations.

cherry cacao smoothie

The Cherry Cacao Smoothie above was a good first attempt. Part of this was a total win… frozen tart red cherries, frozen banana, unsweetened coconut milk, some Pure Via powdered stevia, a scoop of Vega Whole Food Smoothie Infusion, and a few leaves of boston lettuce. Yum. I always try to include a leafy green in my smoothies, and boston lettuce is sweet, watery goodness.

Then I added about one tablespoon of raw cacao nibs. They blended up just a little, resulting in a crunchy-weird texture, but they were not bad. I enjoyed the bursts of strong, dark chocolate flavor. I will try this again, but grind the cacao nibs before adding them to the mix.

chocolate strawberry smoothie
Round Two: Chocolate Strawberry Smoothie

The Chocolate Strawberry Smoothie turned out with a better texture, although I opted for a fresh banana versus the frozen ones I usually use, mostly in the interest of time. (Note: when freezing bananas for smoothies, peel them first, then throw them into a gallon-sized freezer bag or plastic container.) This one contained almond milk, which worked well with the unmeasured amount of cocoa powder I dumped into the blender. I added too much cocoa powder, as you can tell from the dark, rich color. I also added some green ingredients (Vega Smoothie Infusion and boston lettuce) and powdered stevia to balance out the bitterness of the cocoa.

With a bit less cocoa and a frozen banana, this would taste like a really good milkshake. Not bad for breakfast.