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Newsletter Archive


May 2010

Laptop Lunch Times:May 2010
May 2010

In this issue, you'll find:

  • From Our Desk to Yours...
  • Favorite Photo
  • Food for Thought: Spinach
  • Recipes with Spinach from Nava Atlas
  • Green Opportunities
  • Laptop Lunches in the News
  • New Retailers
  • An Interview with Nava Atlas
  • What works...Success Stories
  • Featured Web site:

From Our Desk to Yours...


A big Earth Day pat on the back to those who have discovered new ways to live a little greener each day. We hope the warmer weather is enticing you to spend more time outdoors engaged in activities that also serve as personal transportation, like walking, cycling, and skating. Finally, we wish all the moms a very happy Mother’s Day. We hope you’ll consider Laptop Lunches for the special moms in your life!


IMPERFECT INSULATED BENTO CARRIERS ON SALE: We've got some slightly tweaked insulated bento carriers with alien print for sale online at for only $9.99 (regularly $19.99). We have a handful of pink, purple, blue and flower print as well, but only the alien print is available online. If you're interested in one of these other colors, please call us at 831-457-0301. Available while supplies last.

ORIGINAL BENTO SETS: We’re in the final stages of phasing out our original Laptop Lunches line. We’ve discounted the few items we have left. Please take a look to see if there’s something you need. (Fear not. We will continue to carry the original inner container sets and replacement parts for some time.) Remaining products can be found at

Amy and Tammy

Got a favorite photo to share?

Email it to us at [email protected], and we'll publish it here!


  • Bean & Tortilla Roll-Ups
  • Cheese Cubes
  • Tortilla Chips and Salsa
  • Banana and Kiwi Slices
  • Two Pumpkin Cream Cheese Folded Sandwiches

"I just wanted to write and tell you I have loved using the Laptop Lunch System. It makes packing lunch fun and easy. I have told numerous people about it and will continue to get the word out. Thank you for making a great product.

I keep a blog with pictures of my lunches, all packed in the Laptop Lunch System. Enjoy!"

                     -- Heather, Camas, WA   ( )

Food for Thought: Spinach

Photo Credit: Melissa Braun

Spinach is available all year long and can be eaten cooked or raw. It is packed with vitamins and nutrients. Some of those nutrients offer anti-inflammatory benefits. Thirteen flavonoids have been identified in spinach that act as antioxidants and cancer fighting agents. The carotenoid in spinach protects against eye diseases and helps fight against prostate cancer.

There are so many ways to easily add spinach to any meal. Try adding a handful of chopped spinach to any pasta dish, soup, sauce or stew. Spinach adds color and nutrients to sandwiches, breakfast scrambles, stir fries, quiches and even breads. Of course, you can just saute it with some garlic and olive oil for a tasty treat.

To learn more about spinach , visit


  • Excellent Source of Iron
  • Excellent Source of Nutrients
  • Contains Antioxidants that Help the Immune System
  • Rich in Vitamins A, C, E and K
  • Heart Healthy Food
Photo Credit: Melissa Braun

Recipes with Spinach

These recipes were provided to us by Nava Atlas. (See her article below.)

Seitan and Polenta Skillet with Fresh Greens

There’s something enticing about the seitan/polenta synergy, and with the addition of greens, results in a great-looking, hearty dish. Seitan is a traditional Asian food, made from wheat gluten and used as a meat substitute. It can be found in health food stores and Asian markets.

  • One 18-ounce tube polenta
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 pound seitan, cut into bite-sized pieces or strips (see Note)
  • 4 large or 6 medium stalks bok choy, with leaves, sliced crosswise
  • 5 to 6 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 4 scallions, green and white parts, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, or more to taste
  • ¼ cup sliced oil-cured sun-dried tomatoes
  • Optional salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

NOTE: If you cannot find seitan at the store, you can make your own. See Nava's recipe for Homemade Seitan.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings


Cut the puckered ends off the polenta, then slice 1/2 inch thick. Cut each slice into 4 little wedges.


Heat a large nonstick skillet. Add a drop of the oil and spread it around with a paper towel to create a very light coat, or use cooking oil spray. Add the polenta wedges; cook in a single layer over medium heat, about 5 minutes on each side.


Remove the polenta to a plate. Heat the oil and soy sauce slowly in the same skillet. Before they get too hot, add the seitan and stir well. Raise the heat to medium-high and sauté, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Stir in the bok choy, spinach, and scallions, then cover and cook until just wilted, 1 to 2 minutes.


Sprinkle in vinegar to taste. Gently fold in the polenta wedges and dried tomatoes.

5. Season with salt and pepper and serve at once.

This recipe is from Nava's Vegan Express.

Puree of Spring Greens

For some years, my family has belonged to a community-supported farm. In late spring, there is a plethora of greens of all kinds—Asian greens, spinach, and lettuce. At some point there seems to be more than can be used in a week, even by my veggie-loving family. That's when I turn to this recipe—it has become an annual tradition! If you love greens and have plenty of them, you will find this nourishing recipe useful as well as delicious. Make sure all greens are very well washed.

  • 2 Tbsp light olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups water with 2 vegetable bouillon cubes or other stock option
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 bunch Asian greens, any variety, thick midribs trimmed, leaves coarsely chopped (see Note)
  • 8 to 10 ounces spinach, stemmed and well washed
  • 2 heads green lettuce, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 cup parsley leaves
  • 1 to 2 cups rice milk, or as needed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Silk creamer for garnish, optional

NOTE: For Asian greens, you can use a small bunch of regular or baby bok choy, tatsoi, or mizuna.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until the onion is golden.


Add the water with bouillon cubes and potatoes. Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer gently until the potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.


Add the Asian greens and cover. Simmer  gently for 5 minutes. Add the spinach leaves and cover; cook just until they wilt down.


Add the lettuce leaves and parsley and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes, or until all the greens are just tender.


Puree the mixture in batches until smooth in a food processor. Return to the soup pot and stir in enough rice milk to give the soup a slightly thick consistency. Season with salt and pepper and serve.


For an optional, pretty garnish, pour some creamer into a small-spouted pitcher and pour a spiral design onto the top of each serving.

Puree of Spring Greens is from Nava's Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons

Green Opportunities

Some earth-friendly tidbits that have landed in our office in recent weeks...

  • ALTERNATIVE GIFT REGISTRY Have you ever wished you could set up a gift registry for non-traditional gifts? Here's a registry whose purpose is to encourage gifts of time, support, second hand items and environmentally sound presents. They make it easy to ask for non-material gifts like babysitting time, favorite recipes, or donations to a designated charity. To find out more, visit:

    • GREEN ART NEWS Interested in finding out about green art supplies, non-toxic paints, or ways to green an art studio? Visit: You'll also find earth friendly art activities for kids and families.

    • TAPPED, THE MOVIE 29 billion bottles of water are produced every year. Tapped is a compelling film about the unregulated water bottle industry and it's effect on our climate, the pollution it creates and the impact on our health. To view the trailer, visit:

    Laptop Lunches in the News

    Palmetto Parent Magazine

    How Your Family Can Go Green One Step At a Time

    April 2010
    by Chris Worthy

    Rethink The Brown Bag
    Amy Hemmert does something few mothers would think of doing. As co-founder of Laptop Lunches, a company that markets reusable lunch systems, she conducts trash audits of school cafeterias to encourage children and their parents to ditch the disposable school lunch and go waste free.

    "We've gone into the school and collected it all," she said. "We sort it by what's compostable, what's recyclable. We train the students on how to compost and how to use the recycle bins. We found that parents were packing produce bags with grapes. We would find a bag with $4 or $5 worth of grapes in it, whole sandwiches, pizza crust and "crust plus" I call it. We educated parents on what we found." To read the entire article, visit

    Health Magazine


    April 2010

    Bento Box
    Forgo flimsy paper plates for reusable bento boxes, like the Bento Box Set (shown at left, $22.99). These traditional Japanese lunch boxes feature compartments that separate foods. "They're like the Japanese version of a TV dinner," Moulton says. "You can pack the whole thing ahead of time for each person." Another perk: you don't need a picnic basket; just place the box in your tote and go. For more, visit,,20354693_2,00.


    March 16, 2010
    by Julie Hammerstein

    Need help packing healthy lunches for the kiddos?

    The first step is to get organized. Join me as I show you how to pack a yummy meal…without all the brain damage. Here’s the link for Laptop Lunches – They ROCK!

    Also, here is an example of how you can make your list, and then play the mix ‘n’ match game.

    [To read Julie's food list and to view the video, visit]


    New Retailers

    Whole Foods Market
    575 Worcester Road
    Framingham, MA 01701
    (508) 628-9525

    Whole Foods Market
    790 DeLong Avenue
    Novato, CA 94945
    (415) 878-0455

    Whole Foods Market
    1601 S. Brentwood Blvd.
    St Louis, MO 63144
    (314) 968-7744

    Whole Foods Market
    753 Cerrillos Road
    Santa Fe, NM 87501
    (505) 992-1700

    Whole Foods Market
    7400 E. Hampden Avenue, Unit D
    Denver, CO 80231
    (303) 488-2000

    Whole Foods Market
    1160 Town and Country Crossing Drive
    Town and Country, MO 63107
    (636) 527-1160

    Whole Foods Market
    3180 New Center Point
    Colorado Springs, CO 80922
    (719) 622-1099

    Whole Foods Market
    5815 Wyoming Blvd. NE
    Albuquerque, NM 87109
    (505) 856-0474

    Orange Elementary
    Corona, CA

    Greener Every Day
    Newton, MA

    La Mariposa School
    4800 Corte Olivas
    Camarillo, CA 93012

    Visit for a complete list of retailers.

    Want to see Laptop Lunches at a store in your neighborhood? Email us at [email protected], and we'll give them a call.

    In A Vegetarian Kitchen: An Interview with Nava Atlas

    Nava Atlas is the author and illustrator of many books on vegetarian cooking, most recently Vegan Express, Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons, The Vegetarian Family Cookbook, and The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet.

    She also has written scores of articles on healthful cooking with natural foods, which have appeared in Vegetarian Times, VegNews, Cooking Light, and numerous other publications.

    In addition to cookbooks and articles, Nava also produces visual books on family themes, humor, and women's issues. Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife was released in 2009, and is a satiric look at contemporary marriage and motherhood through the lens of a faux 1950s cookbook.

    Nava is also a fine artist. Her work is shown and collected by museums and universities across the U.S. You can see her work at Her home is in the Hudson Valley region of New York State, where she lives with her husband and two sons.

    Amy: Hi Nava. Thanks for making room in your busy schedule for us! I've spent a lot of time on your Web site, and I'm always amazed at what a great resource it is. You've got tons of recipes, nutritional information, resources, a blog, and of course information about your many books. (My personal favorite is The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet, though I have to admit that I often throw in additional ingredients that I've picked up at the farmers' market.) Are there particular sections or resources on your Web site that you'd like to highlight for our readers? 


    For your readers, the section Vegetarian and Vegan Kids and Teens might be particularly useful, even for families who aren't vegetarian or vegan. Everyone wants their kids to eat healthy foods, and there are lots of tips, ideas, and recipes in this section, not only by me, but by many other experts. One of them you know quite well-- a certain Amy Hemmert, who, with Tammy Pelstring, contributed the article Making Lunch? Make it Nutritious! Make it Waste-Free!

    Amy: The title Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife certainly caught my attention. It's "flavored with frustration, simmering with rage, and iced with affection" and serves as a humorous commentary on the challenges and joys of marriage. Can you tell us a bit more about it? Who is your intended audience? How did you come up with the idea for this book? What has the response been from readers?


    A few years ago, quite a number of my friends were getting divorced.
    So I concocted a little project that looked like a 1950s cookbook, in which the "recipes" were metaphors for marital problems, and each was paired with a photo of a ghastly 1950s food image. I made a limited edition of 100 copies. My divorced and divorcing friends loved it--the worse the break-up, the funnier they found it.

    Long story short, Simon & Schuster bought the concept. I expanded it and added a more positive chapter at the end, one that includes "recipes" for endurance, romance, family happiness, and hope for the institution of marriage. I also added "recipes" that are about motherhood and all the ridiculous expectations heaped on women, both by our culture and ourselves (two of my fave "recipes": Gender Role Casserole, and Way Too Much on Your Plate. So that's the story of Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife.

    My readers, who have long known me as an author of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks, are getting acquainted with my artistic side, which is often darkly humorous and filled with subtle ironies. The response has been very good; and the book just won a major design and production award from the New York Bookbinders Guild for top quality paperback and top overall trade book in the 2010 New York Book Show. I was kind of flabbergasted about this!

    Amy: How would you characterize the difference between the way people ate in the 50s and the way we eat today?

    Nava: That was the heyday of the burgeoning post-WWII food industry, so there were a lot of new items in cans and packages. The trend was away from fresh food; housewives got the hard sell that convenience trumped goodness. It was not a pretty picture, literally and figuratively; I have a huge collection of 1950s magazines and cookbooks to prove it!

    Amy: How do you think (or hope) we'll be eating 10 (or 20) years from now?


    It's amazing to me that even with the availability of information, Americans are still eating so poorly overall, and that obesity is still so prevalent. I don't see so much of this, as I live in the Hudson Valley, just 1 1/2 hours north of NYC, where there is so much great food everywhere - farmers markets, CSAs, restaurants using local ingredients, both here and in the city. I hope the trend to local eating will continue to grow, and I think it will.

    I love the idea of "edible schoolyards," where kids grow vegetables and learn to cook with them. I think that's so much more useful and important than memorizing useless information and taking tests. As a committed vegan (as is my entire family, even our cat!), I know that hoping the world will go vegan is entirely unrealistic, but I hope that people will learn about the environmental devastation that animal agriculture causes, and that more sustainable, plant-based diets will become more prevalent.

    Amy: You seem to lead a full and varied life: mother, wife, fine artist, author, blogger, and more! What tips or strategies do you have for maintaining balance in one's life?

    Nava: Oy, vey. I'm asked about this a lot. Life is just crazy. I'm not sure there is such a thing as balance in this fast-paced life. And just when you think your plate is completely full, there is something else to do. Like Social Media! Even just one year ago, Facebook was not part of my life. My sons are now 18 and 20, and my husband and I are still very much a part of their lives. They're what's most important to us. Rather than thinking about seeking balance, I just try to love everything I do, to embrace life's imperfections (as well as my own!), and to do something in accordance with my values each and every day.

    Amy: What role does art play in your life?

    Nava: I grew up with a pencil in my hand. I used it both to draw and to write. I've always loved to do both-- and I adore museums and libraries in equal measure. I did study art; I never studied writing or cooking-- those I developed through practice. I've illustrated and/or designed all my books; that's the more of the applied art that I learned; but I'm also a fine artist; my work is shown and collected by museums and universities. A three-person traveling show I'm part of is launching in Denver this month, in fact. [] I think I've always thought of food as a creative medium, too. That's why I was so drawn to veggies, grains, and beans rather than the bland, colorless food my mom (may she rest in peace) made. I think a meal of plant-based foods, beautifully plated, is a work of art!

    Amy: What suggestions do you have for parents who want to improve their children's eating habits?


    First, improve their own--good role modeling is ideal. I think the best, and most fun way to do so is to make children part of the process. I love when I see a parent in the natural foods store chatting with their child about what they're buying, and having the child help choose items. They love to feel part of the process and of the decision making.

    Cooking with kids is also a great way to help them feel involved. The kids were welcome in the kitchen with me. My younger son was more interested in cooking and baking than my older son, but they both felt very connected to the food we ate, and understood the love and effort that went into preparation. I also always liked making several very simple things for each meal, rather than one or two big items that might not go over very well if someone was in a finicky mood. That way there was always something for everyone, and no coercion to "just eat one bite."


    There's been a lot of press recently about the poor quality of school lunches. What ideas do you have for improving the current state of affairs?

    Nava: I wish your bento boxes had been available when my sons were young. They would have adored them! As it was, I always made brown-bag lunches. So that's the main idea I have for improving the state of affairs: send lunch from home. Did I enjoy making two lunches for 14 years? Not especially. But it was really not such a big deal. I realize that there are many situations in which having a good-quality lunch, that can be purchased, is a good idea. I'm a supporter of The NY Coalition for Healthy School Food -- which works tirelessly to bring plant-based meals to kids, especially in underserved areas, and to teach them about healthy food. But there is still something really nice about bringing food from home, especially if it's healthy and tasty.


    What's your favorite lunch?


    In the winter, undoubtedly a bowl of soup. And otherwise, since I work at home, I really like leftovers for lunch.


    Where can our readers learn more about your books?

    Nava: Your readers can go to my main web site, In a Vegetarian Kitchen. The books are listed on the right side of the page, where you can click on them to find out more. VegKitchen will be undergoing a major overhaul in the next few months, so stay tuned! And thanks for posing such interesting questions. I really enjoyed answering them.

    For more information about Nava and her cookbooks, visit

    What Works...Success Stories

    "I love my large stainless water bottle. I left it in a car for two hours when it was 106 degrees, and the water was still ice-cold! In fact, it stays cold when I carry it around with me - from the car to the classroom and on errands - for over 12 hours! Thanks!"

            -- Jeannie Parent, Bakersfield, CA

    "This is our 2nd year with the same lunch boxes. We are just loving them. Even my 2 year old has his own. My oldest child likes to pack the lunches for me. I make up the "menu" plan using the chart you supplied. They are well worth the money and we recommend them to everyone who asks about them. Packing lunches is fun with our Laptop Lunches. I can't imagine life without them!"

            -- Catherine Bennet, Van Dyne, WI

    "I'm loving my new Bento 2.0...and bringing gourmet things such as caprese salad, fresh figs with honey and vanilla bean yogurt or seafood salad. My coworkers feel silly (and lighter in the wallet!) sitting there with their $8 sandwich from downstairs!"

            -- Carolyn, Richmond, VA


    Do you have a success story or photo to share? Email it to us at [email protected].

    Featured Web Site: is your one-stop shop for all you need to know about reducing your impact, reusing what you’ve got and recycling your trash. You can get involved by checking their site for daily news, reading weekly feature stories, surfing product channels and opting into their weekly emails.

    To find out more, visit

    On this site:

    • The Latest in Green News and Lifestyle
    • The Recylo-pedia - Learn How to Recycle Almost Anything
    • Green Business Solutions
    • The iRecycle - Earth911 iPhone App
    • Recycling Center Listings

    June Highlights

    Apricot Recipes, Green Opportunities, and an Obentec Interview


    Comments, questions, concerns? Please email us at [email protected].

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