Earth Day

As I packed lunch this morning, I realized how much packing bento-style lunches has cut back on my waste.  I no longer use lunch bags, paper or plastic, since my compact little bento boxes fit better inside the fridge at work and are more easily distinguished from other people’s food (an important consideration since some of my coworkers having been taking/eating others’ foods).  When I do need a bag (when I bring multiple small containers), I usually use a reusable, insulated bag I received as a freebie from a hotel.  The little sauce containers, silicone cupcake liners I use as dividers, and eating utensils are all washable and reusable.

Packing lunches so far has proved to be cheaper than buying, healthier than the options I’d pick when buying, and appears to be better for the environment.  Talk about a win-win!  If you’re not already packing lunches for yourself, I highly recommend it.  I don’t manage to pack lunches for both of us every day, but I try to pack as often as I can.

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Dueling Elephants Bento

This is the first bento I made with the rice molds I won from Rachel’s giveaway.  They’re so cute, and a perfect size for bento boxes – not too large to fit in traditional bento boxes with shallow layers but not so small that they leave you hungry.  Thanks, Rachel!  I look forward to experimenting more with the molds.

The cranberry eyes make them look a little scary.

From top to bottom:

The sky is made from pieces of bell pepper with some catsup hiding in the corners.

The mountains are grilled vegan burgers (Boca brand).

Elephants are vinegared rice with dried cranberries for eyes.

Grass is edamame pods.

I used one of our large, shallow tupperwares for the container.  It holds 1000 mL, which is why I traditionally only use it for my husband’s meals since that’s an appropriate size for him.  Since I need much fewer calories for my own lunches, I made sure to leave a good portion of the box empty.  Even with that, it was too much food and I brought home a lot more leftovers than I usually do.  Overall, it tasted great but definitely benefited from reheating before eating.

Spinach Veggie Bake

In the ongoing quest for filling, healthy, kosher-for-Passover meals, I remembered that I had a file of Passover recipes lurking on my computer that I had located years ago and never actually tried.  This is one I adapted from the pile.  It didn’t look anything like I imagined, but has a lot of flavor and tastes great reheated in packed lunches.  I thought it would look and taste quiche-like, and I bet it would if I upped the egg count, but I liked the heavier focus on the vegetables.  I’m not normally a fan of cooked spinach, preferring raw, but the baked spinach here does not resemble the mushy, globby cooked spinach of my memory.  I packed slices of the Spinach Veggie Bake for lunch for both my husband and I along with some matzah and Muenster cheese on the side.  It proved tasty and very filling.  Since it was so yummy and easy to make, I plan to continue making it after Passover for bento lunches.

Making this meal a little lighter, we substituted egg beaters (fat-free, cholesterol free egg white mixture) for the eggs.  We had a little trouble smashing the bouillon cube to powder, so mixed it with a very small amount of water and then smashed it.  Monkey chopped the vegetables while I sautéed the onions, which cut down on the time it took to get the dish into the oven.  You could easily add in your own favorite vegetables to this dish.

  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 5 carrots, sliced
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 20 oz fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 Cup Matzah Meal
  • 6 to 9 eggs (you decide the consistency you’d like best)
  • salt
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube, smashed to powder
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 Heat oven to 325 — Prepare 9 x 13 pan — grease well.

2. Saute onions in 1 T oil.

3. Combine all ingredients together in a big bowl (you can add the sautéed onions right to the mixture without cooling).

4. Mix thoroughly. The egg will pretty much disappear into the mixture, but make sure you mix it up so all the spinach and veggies appear coated and so the onions and carrots look pretty evenly spread out.

5. Put into prepared pan. Bake 45 mins to 1 hour. Should be firm and set. This also freezes really well.

Slow Cooker Ratatouille

The following is the recipe I use for Ratatouille.  It’s adapted from a recipe posted by Geema on RecipeZaar.  Depending on the thickness of your veggie slicing and the size of your crockpot, you might not be able to fit all of the veggies you chop into the pot for the Ratatouille.  We always pop the leftovers in a tupperware and dice them up to add into everything else we cook over the next few days.  So far, I’ve diced up some of the leftovers to toss with a drained can of tuna for a quick mayo-less tuna salad, and chopped up some more, gave them a quick saute, and then made some veggie scrambled eggs.  There’s just something about having already washed, peeled, and chopped veggies waiting the fridge that makes it a lot easier for me to see the possibilities for adding in more veggies to my diet.

Anyways, about the recipe: I love eating it plain, heated or cool, topped with some grated parmesan, tossed with pasta, as a pizza sauce, eaten with chunky bread on the side, or, as I’ve been doing this week, with some melted Muenster on matzah on the side.  It is colorful, healthy, and easy to pack for lunch the following day, so it is perfect to make when you’re trying to set up bento or lunches for the week.  Use a heavy hand when adding the dried herbs, they really make the dish.

Slow Cooker Ratatouille

Ingredients

  • 1-2 large onions, cut in half and sliced
  • 1 large eggplant, sliced, cut in 2 inch pieces
  • 4 small zucchini, sliced
  • 2-4 minced garlic cloves, depending on your love of garlic
  • 2 large red bell peppers, de-seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon  fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • red pepper flakes, to taste

Directions

1.  Layer half the vegetables in a large slow cooker in the following order: onion, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, green peppers, tomatoes.

2.  Next sprinkle half the basil, oregano, sugar, parsley, salt and pepper on the veggies.

3.  Dot with half of the tomato paste.

4.  Repeat layering process with remaining vegetables, spices and tomato paste.

5.  Drizzle with olive oil.

6.  Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours.

7.  Refrigerate to store.  May freeze up to 6 weeks, but we always end up eating ours fresh. Serves 8.

Note: If you want to be sure this is kosher for Passover, check the ingredients on the can of tomato paste.  The can I used was 100% tomato, but one of the other options on the shelf included corn syrup or corn starch.