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December 2006

Laptop Lunch Times: December 2006

December 2006

In this issue, you'll find:

  • Obentec Announcements
  • New Products
  • Favorite Photo
  • Monthly Menu
  • Vegan Lunch Box Holiday Recipes
  • Green Opportunities
  • New Retailers
  • Interview with Jennifer McCann
  • What works...Success Stories
  • Featured Web site:

Thank You, San Francisco Green Festival!

The Green Festival (our 5th!) was a HUGE success again this year. A big thanks to those of you who stopped by just to check in, to introduce yourself, or to purchase additional products. The Green Festival each year offers us a tangible measure of how far we've come in such a short time. We attended our first Green Festival five years ago with one product, a tablecloth, a banner, and a staff of kind-hearted volunteers. This year we had two booths, a truckload of product and display materials, and a paid (still kind-hearted) staff of six. We'd like to thank everyone who contributed to making the show a success and to extend a warm welcome to all of our new subscribers and, hopefully, their friends!

Debi, Tammy, Amy, and Kate posing in Booth 1

Tamara helping a customer at Booth 2

New Recipe Books and DVD available at!

Looking for even more lunch ideas?

The Visual Guide: How To Make A Healthy Lunch For Kids DVD is now on sale at

This affordable, 90-minute DVD is ideal for busy, health-conscious parents. It's packed with valuable information on lunch box-friendly food presentation, healthy lunch ideas, and meal options. It also includes strategies for incorporating fruits and vegetables in your child's favorite meals. The entire family will enjoy watching food and fitness expert Laura Pasetta as she brings to life the seven essential layers of a kid-friendly, healthy lunch.

If you think vegan lunchtime means peanut butter and jelly day after day, think again! From the simple to the sublime, Vegan Lunch Box brings you an amazing array of entirely meat-free, egg-free, and dairy-free lunches.
Transform how you look at lunchtime forever, with…
  • Complete, well-balanced menus to help you pack nutritious, irresistible lunches.
  • Quick lunches that are ready in a flash.
  • Easy recipes that older kids can make themselves.
  • Exciting themed lunches for special occasions.
  • Adventurous lunches made with foods from around the world.
Purchase your copy at!

Ann Cooper and Lisa Holmes explain the basics of good childhood nutrition and suggest dozens of tasty, home-tested recipes for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. The book is also packed with recommendations for eliminating potential hazards from the home, bringing gardening and composting into daily life, and supporting businesses that provide local, organic food.

However, learning about nutrition and changing the way you run your home will not cure the plague of obesity and poor health for this generation of children. Only parental activism can spark widespread change. With inspirational examples and analysis, Lunch Lessons is more than just a recipe book—it gives readers the tools to transform the way children everywhere interact with food.

Now available at!

Amy and Tammy

Got a favorite photo to share?

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

  • Peach yogurt
  • Turkey, lettuce, tomato sandwich
  • Orange wedges
  • Dried apple slices
  • Cucumber rings

We are a family of 9. We have 3 adult children from my first marriage. Gary and I have 4 children together--ages 3 to 11. I am a stay-at-home mom, and my dear hubby is in facilities management as an architect for the hospitals in our area. All 4 children attend school in our community after being homeschooled for their younger years. Jason, our oldest, is a Navy League cadet and plays the drums and the clarinet. Julie (8) and Katie (6) are involved in German dancing and play on a city-run soccer team. Christine (3) is in preK and enjoys play-do and getting into whatever Julie and Katie are doing. Gary is constantly designing ideas for our home, creating a great showcase. I am taking German at the German Language School here in our city and am attempting to teach our youngsters some of what I learn. We are a busy and happy bunch most of the time. We love life and getting to know our province of Saskatchewan by visiting different locales throughout.


"We always include water in the lunches and get the bulk of nutrients from real food."

Monthly Menu

Holiday Recipes

These fabulous holiday recipes were contributed by Jennifer McCann from her new book, Vegan Lunch Box. Thanks for your inspiration, Jennifer!

Native Blend Popcorn Balls

  • 10 cups popped popcorn (1/2 cup unpopped kernels, popped in 1/8 cup corn or canola oil)
  • 1/3 cup roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup roasted, unsalted pumpkin seeds (or buy them raw and toast your own, see below)
  • 1/3 cup dried blueberries
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup brown rice syrup
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • margarine or oil

Makes 12 balls
1. To toast raw pumpkin seeds, preheat the oven to 350º. Place the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and toast, shaking the pan once or twice, for 10 minutes, until the seeds are slightly puffed. Set aside.
2. Pop the popcorn and place it in a large mixing bowl with the sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried blueberries and dried cranberries. Remove any unpopped kernels. Set aside.
3. Place the brown rice syrup, brown sugar, salt, and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils over the entire surface. Stop stirring and adjust the heat if necessary to maintain this constant boil without boiling over.
4. Okay, now you have a choice. If you want soft, somewhat gooey, chewy popcorn balls (my personal preference), boil for about 8-10 minutes (240º on a candy thermometer, aka soft-ball stage). If you want hard, less chewy popcorn balls that crackle when you crunch into them (my husband’s preference), boil for up to 15 minutes (250º on a candy thermometer, aka hard-ball stage).
5. Pour the sugar mixture evenly over the popcorn, stirring constantly until everything is completely coated, being sure to stir from the bottom of the bowl to catch all those little sunflower seeds that like to fall to the bottom. Put some margarine or oil on your hands to keep the mixture from sticking. Scoop up large handfuls and shape into balls, pressing firmly (if you are packing some inside a lunch box, make sure you make them small or flat enough so that they fit with the lid closed).
6. Work quickly before the mixture has a chance to cool. If the mixture gets too firm to shape, place it in a warm (300º) oven for 1 to 2 minutes to soften.

Gingerbread Vegans

  • 1/3 cup non-hydrogenated margarine, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup sweet unsulphured molasses
  • ¾ cup water
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • ½ tsp. cloves
  • ½ tsp. allspice

Makes about 2 to 3 dozen cookies,
depending on the size you choose
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the margarine, brown sugar, molasses, and ½ cup of water.

2. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and allspice. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, adding just enough of the water to incorporate all the flour and form a dough that holds together well.

3. Turn the dough out of the bowl and form into four equal balls. Wrap each ball well with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

4. Preheat the oven to 350º. Line some baking sheets with parchment and spray with nonstick spray. Set aside.

5. Working with one ball at a time, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin. Roll the dough about ¼-inch thick and use cookie cutters to cut out your desired shapes. Use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to the prepared cookie sheets, placing them about 1 to 2 inches apart.

6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the surface is firm. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then decorate with Gingerbread Vegan Icing and sprinkles (optional).

Gingerbread Vegan Icing

Makes about ¾ cup

You may want to make multiple batches of this icing and color each with a different food coloring for some very colorful cookie creations. I prefer the look of clean white icing on my little vegans.

  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1 ½ Tbs. Silk Nog or 1 Tbs. water
1. Combine the powdered sugar and vanilla. Sprinkle in the Silk Nog or water, stirring well with a small spatula and using just enough liquid to form a smooth icing. It should be soft enough to squeeze easily out of a piping bag, but not so runny that it runs out of the bag unbidden. Transfer the icing to the piping bag and decorate the cookies as desired.

2. To pack some frosting for the lunch box, put a small amount of icing into one corner of a sandwich-sized ziplock bag, then twist the filled corner off and secure snugly with a small rubber band and a piece of holiday ribbon. Cut away the top of the baggie, then cut a very small hole in the tip of the bag to squeeze the icing out. Cover the tip with a bit of plastic wrap so the icing does not dry out before lunch.

Green Opportunities

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

  • PLEASING THE VEGETARIANS AT YOUR HOLIDAY TABLE– Whether you are a vegetarian yourself or you have vegetarians coming to dinner this holiday season, there's no need to stress over the menu. Roughly one in ten Americans are vegetarian, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group's Web site. The traditional holiday dinner has a multitude of vegetarian dishes innately built-in: potatoes, beans, corn, bread, cranberries... But for those who would like to offer additional options to their vegetarian guests, or for those who are preparing a strictly vegetarian feast, you can find a list of holiday recipes from successful chefs at

  • SHOPPING FOR WRAPPING PAPER? Before you head out to the store, do a quick inventory around the house. You may already have what you need. Consider decorating brown paper shopping bags with ribbons made from salvaged materials like old maps or scraps of leftover fabric or yarn.

    Some unconventional materials include:

    • Old scarves
    • Travel and tourist flyers from past vacations
    • Photo pages from last year’s calendar
    • Children’s artwork
    • Fabric remnants
    • Subway or highway maps you no longer need
    • Wooden crates or cardboard boxes, painted with festive designs
    • Pages from magazines or comic books
    • Old posters or prints you no longer want
    • Leftover wallpaper or contact paper
    • Construction paper
    • Tracing paper
    • Paper bags
    • The Sunday comics

    If you're looking for more ways to simplify the holidays, check out the"Simplify the Holidays" pamphlet at the New American Dream Web site:
  • THE MEATRIX 2.5– What happens to Moopheus after being kidnapped in Meatrix 2? What really goes on in meat processing plants? And what can you do? To find the answers to these questions, view the latest Meatrix short at

  • CHOOSING THE BEST EGGS– Free Range? USDA Organic? Free Farmed? Vegetarian Fed? Cage-free? Antibiotic and Hormone Free? Fertile? Omega 3? Natural? CONFUSED? Deciphering these claims can be difficult for even the savviest shopper. What do these labels really mean? Here's a brief summary:
      Free-Range eggs come from chickens that have access to outdoor areas, but there is no provision for how long they must spend or how much room they must have outside. USDA regulations don’t require the birds to actually spend time outdoors, only to have access.
    • USDA Organic eggs come from chickens that are fed a vegetarian diet grown without any herbicides, commercial fertilizers or fungicides. They are not given antibiotics or growth hormones.

      Cage-free eggs come from chickens that are uncaged, though they may live exclusively indoors.

      Free Farmed eggs come from chickens that are treated in a humane manner with access to clean and sufficient food and water, and a safe and healthful living environment.

      Vegetarian-Fed chickens are given a more natural diet than that provided to most laying hens, but this label does not set standards for the animals' living conditions.

      Antibiotic and Hormone Free eggs come from chickens that have not been fed antibiotics or hormones.

      Fertile eggs have been laid by hens that have lived with roosters and were probably not caged.

      United Egg Producers Certified eggs come from farms that have voluntarily complied with the United Egg Producers standards. This program permits routine cruel and inhumane factory farm practices. By 2008, hens laying these eggs will be allowed 67 square inches of cage space per bird. (This is less than a letter-size sheet of paper.) The hens are confined in restrictive, battery cages and cannot perform many of their natural behaviors, including perching, nesting, foraging or fully stretching their wings.

      Omega 3 eggs come from hens that are fed a diet containing 10%-20% ground flaxseed, which produces eggs with slightly higher amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

      "Natural" has no regulated meaning. Natural eggs do not contain any artificial ingredients. This label does not say anything about what the chickens have been fed or how they've been treated.

    New Retailers

    A Market Natural Foods
    125 Loring Street
    Manchester, NH 03103
    (603) 641-1829

    Middleneck Pharmacy
    531 Middleneck Road
    Great Neck, NY 11023
    (516) 482-4880

    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.

    Packing a Vegan Lunch Box

    Tammy recently interviewed Jennifer McCann, author of Vegan Lunch Box, creator of The Vegan Lunch Box Blog, and mom extraordinaire. She is also the winner of PETA's 2005 Proggy Award for "Blog of the Year," the 2006 VegWebby Award for "Best Family Blog," and the 6th Annual Bloggie Award for "Best Food Blog."

    Tammy: Congratulations on your new book Vegan Lunch Box. Can you tell us a little bit about the book and why you decided to write it?
    Jennifer: Thank you, Tammy! My book features well-balanced lunch menus that are completely animal-free, i.e. no meat, dairy, or eggs. I start with quick and easy menus and recipes and then move on to more adventurous, gourmet menus filled with exciting dishes from around the world. I also include themed menus for special occasions like birthdays, holidays, and graduations, and an Allergen-Free Index, which identifes wheat-, gluten-, soy-, and nut-free recipes for those with food sensitivities--a growing concern for many families.
    Tammy: How long did it take you to come up with all these wonderful recipes?
    Jennifer: These menus and recipes represent the very best of all the lunches I created for my son over an entire school year.
    Tammy: Why did you decide to focus on the midday meal?
    Jennifer: My focus on lunch started when my son began first grade. Before that, we had never packed lunches to eat away from home. We usually ate hot lunches at home--mostly steamed vegetables and dinner leftovers--so packing a cold lunch each day was a new adventure. I wanted to make sure the experience was fun and positive, so before school started, I began creating vegan lunches that were delicious and well-balanced.
    Tammy: You don't have to be vegan to enjoy the recipes in your book. What is one of the biggest misconceptions that people have about vegan foods?
    Jennifer: That it's all "sticks and leaves" or "rabbit food," or salad, salad, salad! Not that there's anything wrong with a good salad, but vegan food can be warm, hearty, filling, decadent, delicious…and kid-friendly!
    Tammy: What dish do you prepare from your book that has vegans and non-vegans asking for seconds?
    Jennifer: Well, I would have predicted that Triple Chocolate Cupcakes would be the biggest hit. I bake them for all kinds of parties and family celebrations, and even non-veg members of my family ask for them for their birthdays!

    But surprisingly, a lot of people rave about my Tofu Apple Spring Rolls - rice paper wrapped around gingery baked tofu, tart apples, cilantro, and nappa cabbage. One cook told me she had to make two batches of the baked tofu because her "tofu-hating" kids ate the entire first batch right off the baking sheet!
    Tammy: What inspired you to become a vegetarian, and then a vegan?
    Jennifer: There are so many reasons people become vegan or switch to a plant-based diet--health, the environment, animal welfare. For me, it was all about ethical concerns. That's why I feature a link to Vegan Outreach on my Web site.
    Tammy: What advice do you have for someone who wants to change to a vegan diet?
    Jennifer: Take advantage of all the wonderful resources available on the Internet. I wish I had had access to so much information and support when I went vegetarian 20 years ago! Today it's easy to find vegan starter kits, cooking and shopping guides, inspirational food blogs, and great vegan discussion groups.
    Tammy: What's your perfect lunch?
    Jennifer: I actually featured a few of my lunches this summer during our vacation time. They're very different from my son's. My ideal lunch usually involves an enormous mixed salad of greens, beans, fruit, and nuts, packed next to a large thermos filled with vegetable or bean soup, and some whole-grain bread or crackers. I also like to eat the same things more often than he does; I'm happy eating the same soup every day for a week.
    Tammy: What's Shmoo's perfect lunch?
    Jennifer: He likes to have smaller servings of a wide variety of foods, so he can enjoy several different tastes in one meal. It's got to be easy to eat, kid-friendly (no onions), and it must include a treat at the end. Some of his favorites are sushi rolls, vegan fondue dip packed with a big assortment of vegetables for dipping, and fake veggie meats like vegan deli slices or "chicken" nuggets.
    Tammy: I love, love, love your blog. What inspired you to start a blog just about vegan lunches?
    A few weeks before school started, I began jotting down lunch ideas as they came to me. Then one morning it occurred to me that I might not be the only vegan mom out there looking for lunch ideas. I thought if I created a blog and posted pictures and descriptions of the lunches I create, that other parents might find it helpful or entertaining. Little did I know!
    Oh, and I have to say, on that first morning when I packed his very first lunch--sushi nori rolls and edamame, per his request--it was so handsome in his brand new Laptop Lunch Box. It really does make packing lunch fun!
    Tammy: Can you share some inspirational tips for making healthy, creative lunches?
    Jennifer: It's so easy to fall into the lunchmaking rut! I remember packing myself nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and carrot sticks all through high school, so I know how boring it can be.

    With my own son, I wanted to keep things interesting and fun, as I knew he'd get sick of peanut butter really fast! I started by making lists of the different fruits, vegetables, and main dishes that he enjoyed and that I knew would travel well. Then I used them to put together a variety of well-balanced lunches and to identify new recipes for him to enjoy.

    Don't forget to ask for your child's input and help; kids are more likely to eat foods that they have proudly helped create.
    Tammy: Can you recommend a few holiday-themed menus you enjoy making?
    Jennifer: During the holidays, I love to include treats that are as much fun to make as they are to eat. We especially enjoy putting together my Native Blend Popcorn Balls, made with foods that are native to North America, including blueberries, cranberries, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and, well, popcorn!

    Each December I like to feature some winter foods like chestnuts, in my Golden Chestnut Soup, and Best Brussels Sprouts, which taste great even at room temperature. I also bake a big batch of Gingerbread Vegans, and pack some in the lunch box with a little decorating bag filled with icing and some sprinkles, so my son can decorate the cookie at lunch time.

    If you haven't yet visited Jennifer's blog, check it out at

    What Works...Success Stories

    "I just had to write and share our success with Laptop Lunches. My son has multiple food allergies and autism. He loves to have his food "framed" for him in little boxes. When we're home, I use a cafeteria tray, but we've never had anything we could take on the road until now.

    "Before we purchased the Laptop Lunch System, I didn't realize how much we would use it. We've taken it on the town at least half a dozen times. We've taken it to restaurants, where he often can't eat the foods available or can only enjoy a limited selection. We've also taken it to Occupational Therapy appointments, where he has feeding therapy, and to picnics in the park. He just loves his lunch box. I swear he eats more than he would with just a brown bag lunch, and I don't have to haul around a bunch of mismatched containers. Laptop lunches are the best. Now my husband wants one! Thanks for such a great product that makes our lives simpler."

            --Laura Compton, Camas, WA

    "Your newsletter is the ultimate supplement to the product. My company creates marketing materials for customers and our favorite thing to do is to educate about how to use the products. Since we are in the business of using paper (sorry), we want to feel it is put to the best use. I absolutely love that you show pictures and give suggestions. Creating fun, healthy school lunches has been a challenge, but you and your product have restore