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March 2009

Laptop Lunch Times: March 2009

March 2009

In this issue, you'll find:

  • From Our Desk to Yours...
  • Favorite Photo
  • Recipes from The Vegan Table
  • Green Opportunities
  • Laptop Lunches in the News
  • New Retailers
  • Conscious Cooks: An Interview with Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
  • What works...Success Stories
  • Featured Web site:

From Our Desk to Yours...

Spring is in the air, and with it come so many exciting changes here at Obentec. Read on!

NEW ONLINE STORE: We are pleased to announce the recent launch of our new online store! We've been working feverishly on it these last few months and are very excited about this new, improved addition to our Web site. You'll now be able to:

  • Check your order history online
  • Create a Wish List to share with family and friends
  • Make online changes to an order up until the time it ships
...and much more!

Web Store

reusable lunch containers

RED INNER CONTAINER SETS: Inner container sets are now available in FIVE color selections. The red sets are now available online at Stay tuned for more exciting new products in the coming months!

Due to the overwhelming success of the primary and whimsical bento bundles we launched a few months ago, we've decided to offer them in all five colors. Look for them in our new online store!
Japanese bento box set

Need to replace a lost or damaged container or lid? They're now available in select colors online at -- while supplies last.

Amy and Tammy

Got a favorite photo to share?

Email it to us at [email protected], and we'll publish it here!
Thanksgiving Lunch
  • sliced turkey
  • cranberry relish
  • roasted vegetables
  • mashed potatoes
  • gravy
  • stuffing

"Parents like the convenient size of the Laptop Lunch set, and kids love the fun, colorful containers. It’s amazingly easy to customize for any lunch type. For our store, the book makes the set much more than just a lunchbox. Families concerned about both the environment and their kids’ health should definitely check it out."

                     -- Luan Stauss, Laurel Book Store, Oakland, CA

Recipes from The Vegan Table

Three-Bean Chili

Delectable and dramatic, this dish – with its many vegetables – is a mosaic of colors. It also makes a delicious filling for burritos. Make it a one-, two-, or three-bean chili, depending on the type of beans you have on hand.

  • 3 to 4 Tbs. water for sautéing
  • 3 bell peppers (red, orange, yellow), seeded and cut into 1/2-inch squares
  • 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • One 16-ounce can diced tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes – see below)
  • 1 can corn, drained (or 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn, thawed)
chili for lunch
Photo by Cheri Larsh-Arellano

Yield: 4 to 6 servings
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves or fresh parsley (optional)
1. Heat up a few tablespoons of water in a soup pot over medium heat. The water replaces the oil that is often used for sautéing, and you won’t know the difference. Just use enough water to coat the vegetables so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
2. Add the peppers, onion, garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, oregano, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, until the onions turn translucent.
3. Stir in the tomatoes, corn, and all the beans.
4. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper, and turn off heat. Serve in shallow bowls, and top with the chopped cilantro or parsley.

Serving Suggestions and Variations

*If you use fresh tomatoes (3 diced tomatoes would be sufficient), just be sure to add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water. When you use canned tomatoes, there is enough liquid from the can, so no additional water is necessary.
*Add a dollop of nondairy sour cream or guacamole on top of the chili once it’s plated.
*Add more cayenne and chili powder to make it hotter, less to make it more mild.
*Serve with different color tortilla chips: white, red, and black/blue.
*Oil-free, wheat-free, soy-free

Copyright 2009 The Vegan Table: 200 Unforgettable Recipes for Entertaining Every Guest at Every Occasion. To be released June 2009.

Panini with Lemon-Basil Pesto

Fortunately, you don’t need a Panini maker to create this delicious hot sandwich. To mimic the appearance of a sandwich pressed in a Panini maker, flatten the bread with a heavy rolling pin before grilling. You can also use a table-top or indoor grill.

  • 8 large slices Italian bread, such as Ciabatta
  • 2 medium roasted red peppers, cut lengthwise into slices
  • 3 zucchini squash, sliced and roasted or grilled
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced
  • 1 to 2 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Lemon-Basil Pesto (recipe below)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil for brushing

panini for lunch

1. Divide the peppers, squash, onion, tomatoes, and avocado evenly among 4 slices of bread. Drizzle each with the vinegar, spread on some of the pesto, sprinkle on the salt and pepper, if desired.
2. Top each with the remaining bread slices, lightly brush the outside of the bread with a little olive oil, and press in a Panini maker or table-top grill. Press until lightly browned and hot. Serve immediately.

Serving Suggestions and Variations

Add the lightly oiled sandwiches to a skillet instead of grilling, pressing them down with a heavy pot or pan.


Lemon-Basil Pesto

  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 whole garlic cloves peeled
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • Salt, to taste

Combine the basil, garlic, pine nuts, and salt in a food processor or blender. Process until finely processed. Add the oil and lemon juice; process until smooth. If not using immediately, store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Yield: 1/2 cup


Copyright 2009 The Vegan Table: 200 Unforgettable Recipes for Entertaining Every Guest at Every Occasion. To be released June 2009.

Green Opportunities

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

  • BENTO HUMOR – We received the following link to a bento comic strip from a newsletter subscriber a few weeks ago. The 4-strip series starts at After viewing the page, click on the "next" button to see the other three. Can you relate? Thanks, Erin!
Better World Books
  • BETTER WORLD BOOKS – Looking for an eco-friendly bookstore? Check out Better World Books at
Better World Books collects and sells books online to fund literacy initiatives worldwide. They’re a self-sustaining, triple-bottom-line company that creates social, economic and environmental value for all their stakeholders.
  • GREENPEACE RECYCLED TISSUE & TOILET PAPER GUIDE – Take a stand for trees every time you go shopping with the new Greenpeace pocket guide. They've ranked various brands, based on the amount of recycled content and chlorine bleaching. Green Forest, Natural Value, Seventh Generation, and the 365 brands are high in recycled content and have a low impact on our forests. For more information or to download the guide, visit
recylcled toilet paper

real food

  • WHAT IS REAL FOOD? – The Farm to School Program ( conducted a YouTube contest recently, asking entrants to create and submit a video on the subject "What is Real Food?" At least one of the videos included a shot of a Laptop Lunch! Nine-year-old Olivia, a cancer survivor, takes us first to her farmers' market and then to her school cafeteria. You can view this video and others at

Laptop Lunches in the News

Weight Watchers

Lunchtime? Practice Perfect Packing

By Carol Cambo

How can you make sure you're eating a healthy lunch? Bring it yourself. Read on for our tips, and favorite portable recipes.

It's human nature to eat what's handy instead of making the extra effort to eat right. Use this tendency to your advantage by bringing healthy, low-calorie foods wherever you go. Follow our tips, and you'll be a legend in your own lunchtime. [Read the rest of the article:]

The Buffalo News

Stylish lunch boxes aren’t just for kids

By Susan Martin, HOME & STYLE EDITOR

My, how the lunch box has grown. Today’s meal totes are all about high-tech design and styling — for people of all ages. Combine that with consumers’ growing appetite for going green, eating healthy and saving cash and it makes sense — especially in tight economic times.

Many people are brown-bagging it — but not so much in brown paper bags. [Read the rest of the article:]

Black Mountain News

‘Green’ movement takes root in Black Mountain


A new movement is slowly creeping into American households and stores extending its green tendrils to take root in American culture. The concept is based on living and evaluating purchases based on their affect on the environment. Local business owner Becky Andrade, of the Copper Ox, chose to place organic products in her store following her purchase of it in December 2007.

“I came from a corporation where we made it our personal care to recycle,” Andrade said. “We made it our own battle. We would resell our pallets and came up with all sorts of ways to recycle other items. Ultimately we saved ourselves money and helped out the environment.”

Andrade took that philosophy with her from Florida and strives to implement it in practical areas to further aid the consumer in their “green” pursuits.

“I strive to find new and useful everyday items, but a few things I currently carry are bamboo and organic cotton bath towels, natural skin care and facial lines, indoor composters, and landfill free lunch systems,” Andrade said.

One of the arguments against organic products is the difference in price but in Andrade’s opinion the cost is worth it.

“Yes, they are a little more expensive to buy but that’s because they are more expensive to produce,” Andrade said. “Plus the products are eco-friendly and they last longer.”

Besides the life expectancy of the organic products there are other benefits for the consumer.

“The bamboo towels are a great product,” Andrade said. “What is chopped down grows right back and you don’t have to use pesticides to treat it, so it’s all organic and grown naturally. Bamboo is a plant that is compared in strength to steel, so the products have great lasting durability because the towels and sheets are made up of its ground up fibers. Also, bamboo contains natural antibacterial agents so the towels are great to use in the kitchen.”

Living an organic and ecofriendly lifestyle is something that people of all ages can participate in. The landfill free lunch system, called Laptop Lunch Boxes, are intended to teach children from a young age to use reusable containers.

“I think it’s important to start small in our own households,” Copper Ox customer Susan McCrackin said. “You can start with something as simple as a child’s lunch. Teach them about why it is important and what they are doing to help the environment. By the time they’re our age they’ll be geniuses on this stuff.”

The Copper Ox is located at 135 Broadway, 669-9334.

New Retailers

Blue River Clothing
123 E. German St
Shepherdstown, WV 25443
(304) 876-0506

M. Nature And Suns, LLC
287 S. Main St.
Barnegat, NJ 08005
(609) 517-7101

Sprout Soup Inc.
4310 N. High Street
Columbus, OH 43214
(614) 267-7768

3724 Frankfort Ave.
Louisville, KY 40207
(502) 897-8999

Whole Foods Market
911 Soquel Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
(831) 426-9901

Whole Foods Market
2607 West 75th Street
Naperville, IL 60540
(630) 579-7700

Urban Green Goods
Anchorage, AK 99504
(907) 333-2276

Whole Foods Roseville
1001 Galleria Blvd
Roseville, CA 95678
(916) 781-5300

Isabella's Copper Pot
118 N. Ofsego Ave.
Gaylord, MI 49735
(989) 731-9700

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.

Compassionate Cooks
Photo by Cheri Larsh-Arellano

Conscious Cooks: An Interview with Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Having earned a master’s degree in English literature, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau uses her writing and communication skills to raise awareness of the animal issues about which so many people are unaware. A sought-after and inspiring public speaker on the spiritual, social, and practical aspects of a vegan lifestyle, Colleen has appeared on the Food Network, is a columnist for VegNews Magazine, and she is a contributor to National Public Radio. She is very grateful to have the opportunity to witness transformations taking place in people as they gain the tools and resources they need to reflect their values in their daily choices.

Amy: Hi Colleen. Thanks for joining us! I'd like to start by asking you about Compassionate Cooks. Your stated mission is to empower people to make informed food choices and to debunk myths about vegetarianism and animal rights through cooking classes, recipes and resources. Can you tell us a bit about how you came to this mission?


I was raised on a meat-, dairy-, and egg-centered diet and was comfortably unaware of the conditions under which animals are bred and killed for human consumption until one book changed the course of my life. After reading John Robbins’ Diet for a New America at the age of 19, I was shocked and disturbed by what I learned. Growing up, I had been encouraged to have compassion for certain animals (dogs, cats, birds) but to disregard others (those raised for food). After reading Robbins' book, I began a journey that led me to become fully awake to my compassion and desire to live according to my values of nonviolence and peace.

When I "became vegan," not only did I find that my food choices were more plentiful, I experienced a heightened sense of joy at making lifestyle choices that reflected my values. No longer was the world divided between animals who deserve to be violated and killed and those who deserve our love and affection. Quite naturally, my activism increased, and through outreach and education, I continued to raise awareness about our treatment of animals. I found that people had the same reaction I did; they didn't want to contribute to violence and they wanted to be healthy, but they had all sorts of questions about what to eat, how to cook, where to shop, what to do at the holidays, when traveling, and when people responded with hostility and defensiveness. I realized a huge gap needed to be filled, and so I founded Compassionate Cooks. That was 10 years ago.

Amy: How does Compassionate Cooks fulfill its mission?


Everything I do through Compassionate Cooks is with the intention to give people the tools and resources they need to reflect their values in their daily choices and to eat healthfully and compassionately. I've been teaching cooking classes for 10 years, I produced a cooking DVD as an extension of those classes, I've written two cookbooks (The Joy of Vegan Baking, which won VegNews' Magazine's Cookbook of the Year, and The Vegan Table: 200 Unforgettable Recipes or Entertaining Every Guest at Every Occasion, due out in June), I produce a weekly podcast, called Vegetarian Food for Thought, which is coming up on its 100th episode and 3rd year, and I'm currently building the Compassionate Cooks Academy, through which I can train people to become certified Compassionate Cooks instructors to teach classes and lead workshops all around the world.

Amy: What are some of the myths about veganism you are hoping to debunk?

Colleen: One of the things I encourage people to recognize is that what we call “vegan food” is food they are already familiar with: vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices. In the case of baked goods, it's flour, sugar, cocoa, chocolate, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, cornstarch, and yeast. I focus on the normalcy of what we call "vegan food" - whether it's cooking or baking. One of the things I emphasize about “vegan baking” is that though we’ve all been taught that it’s about eggs, cow’s milk, and dairy-based butter, the truth is that’s not what it’s about at all. When we bake, we need binding, moisture, fat, and leavening. That’s it, and those elements are abundant in plant foods. The response to the book has been tremendous. People tell me they are baking again after years of being unsatisfied with other recipes. Non-vegans tell me that my cookbook gave them the push they needed to make the switch, as they lamented they would never be able to bake again. I'm so thrilled.

Amy: Does vegan baking offer health advantages?


Even though I wrote a cookbook for baked goods (The Joy of Vegan Baking), I’ll be the first to tell you that we have no nutritional requirement for sugar. I think it’s important to recognize that by the time we reach for dessert, we’re doing it for the pleasure it will bring – not because we’re trying to fulfill any nutritional need. I believe there’s a time for broccoli and a time for chocolate chip cookies; if you want broccoli, have broccoli. If you want a chocolate chip cookie, have a chocolate chip cookie. If you want a healthful cookie, have broccoli. :) Having said that, vegan desserts, though not “health food” are certainly healthier than their animal-based counterparts, since they are free of unhealthy saturated fat, cholesterol, lactose, and animal protein and, they are prepared with the lowered risk of foodborne illnesses, such as Salmonella, which means you can lick the bowl 'til your heart's content!

Amy: Can you offer some tips for eating healthfully?

Colleen: I always say: If we don’t have time to be sick, then we have to make time to be healthy. Here are some tips for making healthful food choices.

1. We should never decide what to eat for dinner at dinnertime. That will set us up for failure every time. We should know each morning (at the latest) what we’re having for dinner that night. Ideally, we should know the night before so we can prepare.

2. Aim to eat a pound of raw and a pound of fresh vegetables per day. Even if you fall short, you’ll be way ahead of the curve.

3. When you get home from the grocery store, never store all the veggies away in the bin right away. Take a few minutes to chop them up and store them in the fridge before doing so. That way, when it’s time to eat, you’ll actually eat the food instead of complaining that it will take too long to chop up.

4. Let food cook while you’re watching TV or sleeping. Make a big pot of bean chili or vegetable stew or brown rice while you’re watching TV or reading. Now you have dinner all ready for the next day. Or freeze it for the future.

5. Frozen veggies and canned beans are better than none at all. Fresh veggies are best, but frozen is second best and better than none.

Amy: What recommendations do you have for families wishing to move towards a plant-based diet?

Colleen: 1. Identify the craving. I’ve heard people say they tried giving up meat but really started craving it. And I assure them that they were not craving meat. We’re not true carnivores. We don’t get really excited when we see a deer or a cow or a squirrel. We’re not lions. Lions would die without meat. We thrive without it. It’s not the flesh of the animal we crave, but we do tend to crave fat, we crave salt, we crave texture, we crave familiarity, we crave flavor – and all of these things are found in plant foods.

2. Give your palate time to adjust. The more you leave off fatty, salty, processed foods, the less you actually crave them. Your palate definitely changes. Trust this process and give it a little time.

3. Celebrate the flavor of the vegetables themselves. Most of us grew up with vegetables that were overcooked, boiled to death, or drowning in cream sauces, butter, egg-based sauces, and oil, so we have no idea what the vegetables themselves taste like. The flavor in food comes from plants: herbs, spices, vinegars, BBQ sauce, mustard, relish, onions, garlic, worstershire sauce, chili paste, miso, tahini, ad infinitum.

4. Get to know your spices. Most people have adorable spice racks lined with cute jars of spices and dried herbs that they never use. First of all spices and herbs do have a shelf life (about 6 months for dried herbs and 1 year for spices), and though eating stale herbs and spices won’t kill you, but they will have lost their flavor. Don’t be afraid of the herbs and spices. Don't be afraid of experimenting with them. That’s how you learn. Experiment, and have fun.

5. Repeat after me: "There is Life After Cheese." When it comes to cheese, it’s really about the salt, the fat, the texture, and the familiarity. So for instance, when people sprinkle a little parmesan on their pasta, it’s really about the salt and the fat. Instead, toast some pine nuts or walnuts, and mince them up with some salt. This is just one example of identifying the craving and satisfying it through plant foods. I’m not a huge proponent of the non-dairy cheeses. I think they’re great novelty foods or occasional foods but shouldn’t be the foundation of our diet.

Amy: What suggestions do you have for parents wishing to improve the quality of the lunches they pack for their children?

  • I definitely recommend choosing whole foods (unprocessed) as much as possible. For instance, a small but effective step a family can make is to buy peanut butter (or any nut butter) that is just nuts and maybe salt - but not laden with oil, sugar, and preservatives. Choose "products" with fewer than 5 ingredients; make treats out of dates (which are nature's candy anyway!); keep in mind that we have no nutritional requirement for any beverage other than water. Eliminating artificial and sugar-laden juices and sodas from our diets has a huge impact on our health.
  • I have a podcast episode called Food for the Road: Packed Lunches and Picnics that has a bevy of information about healthful meals to pack for children (and adults!). That includes everything from sandwiches and wraps (nut butter and jelly, eggless egg, better-than-chicken, hummus and favorite veggies, burritos, lettuce wraps, sloppy Joe's, portabello mushroom, and veggie burger); and salads (green, pasta, bread, bean, corn, macaroni, noodle, taco, grain, and fruit!). Chickpeas make a fantastic snack, avocado and hummus are delicious and nutritious spreads for sandwiches, and non-dairy yogurt is a great option.


You have a wonderfully informative Web site at Can you offer some highlights?

Colleen: Through our Compassionate Cooks Membership Program, people can become part of the Compassionate Cooks Club. Members receive 50 recipes, a special members-only monthly newsletter with lots of tips and resources, discounts on all Compassionate Cooks items, and discounts for various compassionate companies, products, and services. In addition, we have lots of recipes, resources, cooking tips, health information, articles, essays, and stories. We also have other Web sites: for the podcast, for the baking cookbook, and, our message board which is filled with the most wonderful people offering community and support. We hope you can join us there!

Vegan Cookbook

And finally, what's your favorite lunch?

Colleen: I know it may sound boring, but my favorite lunch - especially in the warmer months - is a big ol' salad. I vary it each day, changing the dressing, the veggies, and the nuts. When I'm not eating salad, I'm usually eating homemade soup or stew.

For more information about Compassionate Cooks, visit

What Works...Success Stories

"When my son started preschool four years ago, we bought a cheap vinyl lunchbox for him. After reading of a recall regarding his lunchbox, we were looking for something better. I ran across an article about Laptop Lunches, and I was hooked! My sons (ages 7 and 8) have been using your lunchboxes for 3 and 4 years, respectively. These lunchboxes take A LOT of abuse -- these two rough and tumble boys take lunch 4 out of 5 school days, and we are still using all of the original components. Only now, after four years, am I starting to see some parts that could use replacing. I just ordered a Bento set for "parts" along with a new one for my husband and myself. Thank you for an incredible and dependable product that helps me pack creative and nutrious meals in a earth-friendly way! "

        -- Gwen Schroeder, La Crescent, MN

"My 5 year old, who just started kindergarten, takes his laptop lunchbox every day by choice. I went to visit him for lunch one day, and when he opened up his lunch, two little boys sitting across from him said with their mouths wide open, "Wow, what do you have!!!" I was grinning from ear to ear. I had hoped that my son would want to take his lunch because I knew it would be much healthier, and then when I saw his lunch compared to the tray lunch offered by the school, I understood why he's been requesting his Laptop Lunchbox. Also, it beat the lunches that the other children were bringing by a mile. Thank you so much for a FABULOUS lunchbox. We will be ordering another one soon for our youngest."

        -- Martha Yim, Daphne, AL

"I just want to thank you for promptly replacing my damaged lunchbox. I was very disappointed at the time when I realized the outer box had been damaged in transport. However, I found your customer service to be very courteous and responded to needs in a professional manner. I just received the replacement box today and everything works perfectly. My 5 year-old son is looking forward to using it, and I am happy that we finally found a lunch container that is free of toxins. Again, many thanks for your service, and I will surely recommend your lunchbox to other parents I know."

        -- Tricia O'Halloran, Cold Spring, NY

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

Featured Web Site:

Find a Local Composting Facility

This site, sponsored by the Biodegradable Products Institute, provides an interactive tool for locating a composting facility by zip code or state. They also provide a Resources Page, as well as links to international, federal, state and local composting and organics diversion initiatives.

On this site:

  • Search for a Local Composting Facility Near You
  • Locate State Organics Recycling Coordinators
  • List Your Composting Facility