Monday, February 12, 2007

Book Review: Vegan Lunchbox

I expected this book to be good as I was already a big fan of the vegan lunchbox blog ( but WOW! This cookbook is so much more than I expected, so much more than the title even suggests.

This book is now the first thing I turn to when I am looking for something for dinner - and if I'm lucky, there may be some leftovers for the lunchbox the next day. As I read through the book, I began marking pages of recipes I wanted to try but I soon stopped . . . because I found that I wanted to try just about every single one. I figured I'd just cook my way through the whole book. So far we've tried:

Back to School Chocolate Chip Cookies: Wonderful - chewy and tasty. I reduced the sugar to 1/2 cup brown and 1/3 light sucanet and they were plenty sweet enough.
My family's rating: *****

Pumpkin Carob Chip Muffins: I reduced the sugar to 1/2 cup and omitted the carob chips (since my kids don't like them). They were great. I stuck them in a freezer so they're easy to add to lunches whenever I want. Also, if you want to use a whole can of pumpkin so you're not stuck with 3/4 cup leftover, double all the ingredients and add 1/4 cup apple sauce. I also needed an additional 1/3 cup water as the batter was too dry.
My family's rating: *****

Chickpea Salad: An amazing mixture of flavors and textures. I added chopped green apples tossed in lemon juice and used sliced almonds instead of pecans. My family was not as enthralled as I was but I think it's because I overcooked the garbanzo beans when roasting them. I think next time, I won't bother with the roasting step. I liked the roasted garbanzo's fresh from the oven but they seemed to get rubbery when cooled.
My family's rating: ***

Sneaky Momma's Black Bean Soup: Yummy, yummy, quick and so easy. I recommend doubling this because there was only enough for three of us for a Saturday lunch.
My family's rating: *****

Blueberry Lemon Mini-Scones: Another big hit. I used all whole wheat pastry instead of part white flour and they were still light and yummy. Like all the baked recipes I tried, I needed more liquid than the recipe called for - closer to 3/4 cup soymilk. I also found that Trader Joe's frozen organic wild blueberries work great in this recipe (as well as blueberry pancakes) because they're small.
My family's rating: *****

Chili Con "Carne": This is great because you make it in the crock pot and it's ready for dinner. We ate it over corkscrew pasta- and leftovers went to school the next day. I omitted the TVP because I don't like to use soy isolates, so I reduced the water to 4 cups. I also did not have tomato paste so I used 1 cup tomato sauce. I also added a cup of frozen corn at the end. It was yummy. I think next time I would double this as it barely filled half my crock pot.
My family's rating: ****

Mini Pizzas: My daughter wanted pizza for her birthday dinner so we made these. The crust recipe was excellent - the cornmeal makes it crispy and the girls had a great time rolling out and topping their own pizzas. We did not, however, try the topping suggestions in the book - the girls wanted pineapple and black olives. Leftover slices made it to the lunchbox the next day and were devoured.
My family's rating: *****

Phyllo Triangles: Fun to make and delicious. We made these with tofu and spinach. My girls agreed with the footnote about the tester's daughter that said there was a bit too much crust. Next time, I will try the 'Phyllo Bundles" version or else just try using 2 sheets of phyllo dough rather than 3. We had these for dinner with soup and have plenty left for lunches.
My family's rating: ****

Aloo Samosas: These were just so good. They were first of all so much fun to make with the girls and we all just devoured them for a Sunday evening dinner. The girls both saved one for lunch the next day but could have easily eaten them. This would be another good recipe to double. Also, I used a large carrots instead of one of the potatoes and that made them really pretty and delicious.
My family's rating: *****+

Massur Dal and Carrot Soup: Yummy lentil and carrot soup with coconut milk. Everybody just loved it for dinner and there was just enough left for lunchboxes.
My family's rating: *****

I just love the way this book is written. McCann puts together entire lunch menus and for the items you don't make yourself, she gives suggestions of brands. Tidbits and stories are scattered throughout the book, such as: "How much to Pack," "Fitting In [for vegan kids]," "Let's Hear It for Legumes," and my favorite "And then, a miracle occurred . . . " about the momentous event of McCann's son eating his first salad. McCann has such an engaging way of writing that it's enjoyable just to read through this book.

This is really a great cookbook - and definitely not just for lunches. It's great whether or not you have children, whether or not you're vegan. The recipes are creative and delicious and very well tested. My only critism of the book (and this is really nitpicking) is that I would have liked a better index. If you don't know the exact name of the recipe, it's really hard to find it in the index. But that is just a minor detail and would not in the least deter me from whole heartedly recommending this truly excellent book. I have shelves and shelves full of cookbooks and this is the one I am turning to most.

1 comment:

jenni said...

hmmm... you just may have put me over the top here.. I've been wondering whether I should buy that cook book.. your review certainly sells it !=)