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February 2005

Laptop Lunch Times: February 2005

The Laptop Lunch Times

February 2005

New Web site, new pricing!

Our Web site at has been completely revamped to better serve you. We hope our new design and enriched content will prove to be even more useful in packing wholesome, waste-free lunches. Your feedback is much appreciated!

Our new Web pricing features discounts on multiple purchases of the complete Laptop Lunch System. Thanks for letting us know that this is important to you.

Amy and Tammy

In this issue, you'll find:

  • Winter (or anytime!) Casseroles

  • Green Opportunities
  • Laptop Lunches on The Mom Show
  • Making Something from Nothing
  • Featured Web site:
  • What works...Success Stories
Laptop Lunch Photo with Food

Winter (or anytime) Casseroles

Leftovers make great lunches. They require minimal preparation and taste great. If you can involve your kids in preparing these dishes, they'll enjoy them even more! Remember to pack leftovers in your Laptop Lunches when you're doing the dinner clean-up. It'll save both time and energy.

#1: Quick and Easy Tamale Pie

  • 1 brick firm tofu (crumble by hand into fine texture)
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 2 cups frozen or canned, unsweetened corn
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • ¾ cup water
  • Corn bread batter (see below)
  • 1 small can of sliced black olives

1. Cook onion and tofu in olive oil until onion becomes soft but not mushy.
2. Add kidney beans, corn, and taco seasoning.
3. Add ¾ cups of water.
4. Stir and let simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated (about 5 minutes).
5. Remove from heat and place in a casserole dish.
6. Top with corn bread batter (see below).
7. Sprinkle olives on top and bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees (until golden brown).
8. Top with a small amount of honey and cinnamon before serving. (optional)

Corn Bread

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour

  • ¾ cup corn meal

  • 2 Tbs. sugar

  • 1 tsp. baking powder

  • ¾ tsp. salt

  • 2/3 cup nonfat milk
  • or soy milk
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil

  • 1 large egg

1. Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium-size bowl.
2. In small bowl, beat with a fork until blended: milk, melted butter, and egg.
3. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until blended (batter will appear lumpy).


#2: Potato Vegetable Gratin

  • 4 large potatoes
  • 3 cups thinly sliced squash and carrots (or your choice of veggies)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • White pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • 2 cups of milk
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbs. butter

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Peel potatoes, slice thinly and cook in a small amount of water until soft but not mushy.
3. Grease a large, shallow casserole dish and rub with peeled garlic.
4. Add a layer of potato slices, then a layer of sliced veggies, seasoning each layer with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Alternate so that the layers overlap.
5. Continue to add layers until all of the vegetables have been added to the dish.
6. Pour the milk over the potato and veggie mixture and bake for 30 minutes.
7. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and dot with butter.
8. Return to the oven and bake for 15 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and the cheese is golden brown.

Green Opportunities

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

  • If you're thinking about starting a school garden, consider visiting for information on getting started, inter-disciplinary garden curricula, and suggested readings. Some of their material is specific to the Portland, Oregon area, but much of it is easily transferable to other parts of the world.

  • If you're interested in seeing some outstanding photographs depicting the effects of consumerism, be sure to visit We thought this photo of cell phone chargers was amazing! To see the detail, look at the larger version on his site.
  • The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) is working to make food healthier by advocating for more sustainable food production and a less contaminated food supply while supporting family farmers and rural communities. Since food accounts for most of a person's exposure to many toxic pollutants, their efforts include protecting a child's first food, breast milk, from toxic contamination. They've included information for food producers, policymakers, parents and other consumers, and health professionals. They also have a fish calculator which allows you to calculate safe consumption levels of the fish you eat. For more information, visit their Web site at

  • If you're sending flowers this Valentine's Day, consider purchasing from Organic Bouquet at Proceeds from the sale of charitable bouquets benefit endangered species, animal rights, social justice, and the environment.

  • If you're looking for step-by-step instructions for starting a waste-free lunch program at your school, consider subscribing to Green Teacher Magazine, and make sure you receive the Fall 2004 issue.

  • Non-profit E Magazine contains valuable information and in-depth stories on all aspects related to the environment. For a free trial, click here.

The Mom Show Logo
Laptop Lunches on The Mom Show

A big thank you to Michelle Cadwell and Traci Foster for having us on The Mom Show ( on January 13, 2005. We had a great time!

If you missed the show, and you'd like to hear it, visit

Making Something from Nothing

By Marilyn J. Brackney

Many elementary art educators and others who work with young children manage to teach with very little money, and they often resort to making art from solid waste when they're running low on conventional art supplies.

The Imagination Factory

However, working on a "bare bones budget" has some advantages. Besides helping to save landfill space, natural resources, and money, making art from solid waste requires one to think in new ways, and that's the real joy of the creative process.

While it would be impossible to provide a quality program without basic materials such as glue, paste, crayons, and paint, looking at the situation as an opportunity instead of a problem helps one become a more innovative teacher or leader. In addition, kids like working with castoffs, and making something from nothing is fun.

Finding Free Materials in Your Community

Besides reusing household trash such as newspapers, magazines, and junk mail to make art and crafts, there are many community sources or businesses that can provide clean, solid waste. Usually, employees are happy to give customers the materials free of charge. Some of the places one might visit to find such supplies include the following:

Paint and decorating store
Newspaper publisher
Printing company
Interior designer
Home decorating/gift shop
Office supply store

Framing shop
Fabric shop
Craft store
Glass company
Hardware store
Party store
Sign making studio
Carpet store
Photography store
Upholstery shop

By visiting these businesses, one is likely to find materials such as ribbon, wallpaper and fabric samples, cardboard, paper, beads, foam core and mat board, scrap frames, Plexiglas, wood, dowels, cloth remnants, crepe paper, tissue, polystyrene peanuts, envelopes, pvc pipe, streamers, vinyl letters and material, linoleum, slate, carpet remnants, floral wire, and newsprint.

Creative Scrap Exchange Web Sites

In addition to finding materials on your own, there are many organizations that collect and distribute scrap materials for use by nonprofit organization staff members or classroom teachers. If you don't have access to such a facility, perhaps your local recycling center educator may be interested in setting up one in your community.

For example, the Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management Authority, which serves a community of less than 40,000 people, houses an art/reuse facility in a small storage barn
( Others, such as the scrap exchanges listed here, are located in larger cities.

Scroungers' Center for Reusable Art Parts (San Francisco):

Hudson Valley Materials Exchange (New Windsor, NY)

Materials for the Arts (New York City):

Materials Exchange Center for Community Arts (Eugene OR):

St. Louis Teachers' Reecycle Center, Inc.

The School and Community Reuse Action Project (Portland OR):

LA Shares:

Others that Provide Free Materials

ReDO is an international nonprofit organization that promotes reuse as an economical means for managing surplus and discarded materials. Visit ReDo online at,, links businesses, charities and individuals in order to find new homes for excess inventory, possessions or goods. The organization provides a searchable database to help people find or request items. While registration is required to participate, there is no charge for the articles that are exchanged.

The Global Reusable Resource Association, Inc. (GRRA) has written a handbook for creating and running a center. To receive a copy of "How To Create A Reusable Resource Center," send a check ($10) to: GRAA, PO Box 511001, Melbourne Beach, FL 32951, Tel, 407-956-7073, Fax, 407-984-9090.

Copyright 2004 Marilyn J. Brackney

Brackney is host of The Imagination Factory (, an art/reuse Web site for kids, parents, and teachers. Some of the activities featured include drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, papier-mâché, marbling and crafts.

What Works...Success Stories

  • "One of my 2005 New Year's resolutions is to stop using disposable grocery bags. On December 29th I forgot to bring my grocery bags to the store, but I had a large department store bag and two cloth bags in the car, so I took them in with me. At the check-out I asked them to pack my groceries in the bags and explained that this was one of my New Year's resolutions. They laughed and said that I still had two days to go, but I told them that I was starting early. Thanks for getting me started!"

       -- Joan H., Stockton, CA

  • "My girls LOVE their Laptop Lunch kits!!! They help me cut down on buying packaged lunch foods like go-gurts and string cheese. My kids are fairly picky eaters and having the lunch kits helps them break out of their lunch ruts too. We are all being more creative with lunches. Thank you!"

       -- Julia Brunzell, Bainbridge Island, WA

  • "My name is Jonathan. I am 13 years old and I live in Sydney Australia. Mum and I love the newsletter and make some of the recipes. I spent 3 months in the US last year and I could not believe how large the food serving sizes are in US restaurants, and how much diners could eat! Here is a picture of me eating my lunch and as you can see no plastic bags. I am not obese and that is because we do not buy convenience foods, we compost and recycle heaps, and all food, including hamburgers are made in our kitchen.

       -- Jonathan , Sydney, Australia

  • Looking for every last crumb!

    Hello from Australia!

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

Featured Web Site:


Are you working to promote resource conservation at work, home, or school? Check out the large selection of posters, decals, displays and handouts available at Categories include air, water, energy, safety, and more.

If you're looking for concrete ways to reduce energy use and cut costs too, you'll want to read their action plan at


March Highlights

Clever calzones, growing a kitchen garden, and tips for organizing your lunch routine!

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

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February 2005, by Obentec, Inc.


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