Vegan Lunch Box by Jennifer McCann: Cookbook Full of Healthy and Tasty Dishes For Kids & Adults

When Jennifer McCann started her blog Vegan Lunch Box back in 2005, she probably had no idea what a success it would be (or who knows, maybe she did). After winning several blog awards it saw the daylight in print form in 2007. The self-published book quickly sold out, but now Vegan Lunch Box (Da Capo Press, ISBN 978-1600940729) is available again.

The book is divided into two sections. The first 50 or so pages list lunch menu ideas, including special ones like Easter and Thanksgiving menus and Ethnic “adventures” from Japan to Greece. The menus are followed by almost 250 pages of recipes. According to the foreword, all the foods have been rated five stars by the author’s seven-year old son James, who originally inspired her to start blogging.

The first glance into the book is a bit disappointing: no pictures? Luckily the first impression turns out to be false. There is a full-color picture insert showing about a dozen incredibly cute bento boxes containing melon balls, cookie-cut sandwiches, sushi, and mini vegan pizzas. Just looking at them makes one think “Who says I can’t have a lunch box”?

Most dishes are simple and contain fewer than ten (often just 3-5) ingredients. The recipes generally have detailed instructions, and the more exotic ingredients are explained. There are also short, informative guides, like a guide to getting picky kids to eat things they don’t like.

Tasty and Healthy
The simple recipes and the fact that the foods are meant for a kid’s lunchbox might lead one to think that they are bland, but this is far from the truth. There are vegetables in tarragon vinaigrette and Ethiopian and Thai foods. There is a wide variety of different vegetables and other ingredients. All the food is adult-friendly and most of it also omnivore-friendly.

There are dishes from all major categories, from salads to stews, even a few drinks. For some reason there are very few pasta dishes. The majority of the foods are healthy and nutritious. Some desserts, like vegan fudge, are obviously a little less healthy, but there are dozens of baked goods full of nutritious ingredients like spelt, barley, nuts, seeds and dried fruit. There are even fat-free and sugar-free banana oatmeal cookies.

This book is well-suited for those with allergies, as all of the recipes are milk-free and egg-free. Compared to many other vegan cookbooks, the book uses tofu, tempeh, and other soy products sparingly. Most of the recipes are gluten-free, including many baked goods. At the end of the book there is a list of recipes that are nut-free, soy-free, gluten-free, or wheat-free.

The tofu “fish” sticks were not all that fishy, but tasty nonetheless. They definitely ask for a sauce or a dip, though. “The best brussels sprouts” convinced this reviewer that brussel’s sprouts not only aren’t that bad, but that they are in fact delicious. While only slightly cheesy, cheesy roasted chickpeas prove that a simple recipe can produce addictive results. The back-to-school chocolate chip cookies were wonderful (perhaps not a surprise).

Vegan Lunch Box is highly recommended to every vegan who has kids. It should probably be recommended to every vegetarian, even if they don’t have kids – and everyone who wants their kids to eat healthier, vegan or not.