Well, like many of you I'm back at work tomorrow after 2 weeks off, which has been lovely. It's meant that I have been able to enjoy time with family and friends and take Marco on longer walks than normal, bliss!
Getting something to eat for lunch in the small town where I live is rather difficult so you need to be organised and take a packed lunch to work with you.
Whilst putting together a menu plan for next week I thought it might be a good idea to share my top ten ideas for a vegan packed lunch.
1) Bean & Noodle Salad
I made this during Vegan Mofo on a Work with it Wednesday theme. I never used to like peanut butter, I'm still not a massive fan but I have come a long way. I used to retch after tasting just a little dollop, I'm sure this stems from a very early memory. At my friends 6th or 7th birthday, we were all blindfolded and given something to eat and we had to guess what food it was. I was sick after tasting peanut butter for the first time! However, I am pleased to inform that it's a work in progress and I am using it more and more.
Houmous is so versatile and so easy to make yourself in no time at all. You can eat it with vegetable sticks, such as carrots, celery, red pepper or cucumber. Or eat it with crackers, I like it with the No-No Guacamole crackers, but any vegan crackers are good. My all time favourite though is in a sandwich or granary baguette with lettuce, tomato, spring onion, beetroot, pickled gherkin, olives and vegan mayonnaise. Absolutely delicious. If you fancy making your own houmous try this recipe.
3) Refried Beans
Like houmous, refried beans can be used as a dip with vegetable sticks or crackers. I also use it when making fajitas, chillis or even a spicy cheese sauce! For lunch though when you need a go to lunch that is quick, you cant beat a wrap with refried beans, salad leaves, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce. This is easy so easy to put together using store cupboard and fridge staples.
These can easily be sourced in most supermarkets but be careful some brands aren't vegan. They can easily be made at home too although I've never posted the recipe that I always use. [Note to self must photograph and post recipe]. Again these can be enjoyed with salad or in a wrap with rocket, homemade tomato salsa, sweet chilli sauce and vegan mayonnaise. They always feature as part of a picnic too! Whether it is a simple lunch for Mum or a vegan girls lunch!
5) Bean Sushi
Now you don't have to use beans in your sushi, but once again I put this together during Vegan Mofo and the beans worked really well. Try it and see what you think. In this version I used green beans, avocado and grated carrot but there are plenty of other ideas out there. I've also used shredded lettuce mixed with a little vegan mayonnaise instead of the beans which works well too. Other combinations include cucumber, carrot and smoked tofu strips or basil tofu strips, red pepper and marinated aubergine. Just try a combination of three ingredients and serve with a little wasabi or pickled ginger and you have a very tasty lunch. Your work colleagues will be envious.
6) Mushroom Tart
Puff pastry is a handy thing to have in you fridge or freezer, especially the ready rolled version. It can be used to whip up a tasty tart in just a few minutes. Be careful which puff pastry you buy though as not all are vegan, I use the 'jus roll' puff pastry which is vegan as long as you don't buy the "all butter" variety! The mushroom tart can be enjoyed hot or cold and I've used leftovers as a packed lunch many a time. This recipe uses just three ingredients to whip up a tasty topping and is seasoned with salt & pepper. There are plenty of other tasty combinations you can use to top puff pastry, why not try Mediterranean vegetable medley, red onion caramalised tart, or puff pastry pizza.
7) Broad Bean Pate
This is one of my more popular recipes and I'm not surprised because it is delicious even if I say so myself. I have been know to eat it before it even makes the plate! Serve with crusty bread, salad or as one of a number of dips.
The plus side is that I have found broad beans are one of the most easiest vegetables to grow. You can't get fresher than picking your own and within 5 minutes cooking them and making a delicious pate.
If you haven't tried this then it's a must, go buy some broad bean seeds and sow to your hearts content.
8) Olive Tapenade
Yet another vegan pate come spread depending on how smooth you like it. You can buy this ready made and even vegan varieties, but in my experience it tastes so much better when you make it yourself. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy your lunch in a sunny place, it will transport you back to Greece in an instance, well it did me! Of course when you make it yourself no fish are harmed, the majority of Greek tapenade contains anchovies, so I'm told.
Yet another dip, I feel there is a pattern emerging here! Dips are so easy to transport, and all you need is a vehicle to scoop them up with! When that dip is guacamole there is no other vehicle than a tortilla chip in my eyes. Now, that doesn't mean you have to go out and buy a bag of chips full of nasty MSG, you can make your own using pitta bread or flour tortillas. Cut them up to the desired size and bake in a low oven until crisp, simples. If you want to jazz them up a little spritz with a little olive oil spray and sprinkle with paprika, chilli, garlic or mixed herbs.
10) Lettuce wraps
I suppose you can stuff anything into a lettuce leaf, but I rather like them stuffed with a Thai coleslaw. It is crunchy, light and refreshing with a hint of spiciness. Of course you don't have to use it as a stuffing it's very nice on its own with salad and grilled tofu.
If you don't fancy the Asian variety coleslaw you could always make the traditional variety but make it more colourful by using red cabbage instead of the traditional white cabbage.
Use different vegetable combinations and make your own, influenced by flavours from a different country. Why not try Chinese Five Spice with water chestnuts, babycorn, spring onion and beansprouts.[Note to self, must try this combination!]
I hope this has given you some great healthy lunch ideas, of course if you have access to a kitchen and a microwave to heat food up the world is your unharmed oyster!