Weekly Lunchbox Highlights: Homemade Crackers, Marinated Portobello, and the Obligatory Kale

by Gena on November 8, 2012


It has been a week of particularly nice nice lunchboxes over here, which is the result of my efforts to perfect a recipe for carrot oat crackers and the fact that I roasted a kabocha squash over the weekend. It is also the result of some lovely and giant portobello caps that I found at the market over the weekend, and quickly got about to marinating.

My standard portobellow marinade is based on the one from my recipe for raw “steak” and potatoes—portobello steak, of course. This time, I reduced the marinade just slightly, since I was only making it for 2 caps. Here’s the marinade I ultimately used:

1 1/2 tbsp avocado oil
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp nama shoyu or tamari
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

It’s heavy on the vinegar, which I love, but do reduce to 2 tablespoons if you love it less. I usually slice my mushrooms prior to marinating because it makes the marinating process a bit easier, but you can certainly marinate them whole if you want. Be sure to gently cut out the stem (without breaking the mushroom). And if you’re craving something warm, go ahead and bake or grill these after marinating—I love the simplicity of simply marinating and eating them on the spot!


The carrot and oat crackers are a work in progress:


These started as a raw recipe (with the usual juice pulp leftover from making carrot juice) but I’m now working on a cooked version for all of my dehydrator-free folks (I like to give options!). They’re not quite ready for you guys yet—soon, soon—but I have been enjoying polishing off all of the test batches Winking smile


This all came together with some veggies for snacking, my simple tahini dressing (tahini, lemon, a touch of tamari, a touch of maple syrup) and some of my raw chocolate walnut maca balls:


My next lunchbox features my all time favorite of autumn squash:


There are few culinary duties I dislike more than opening, de-seeding, and roasting a giant kabocha squash, but until pre-cut kabocha is available, I’ll stop my whining and keep my cleaver handy. Kabocha squash, as you may have heard on countless blogs, is heavenly stuff.


A friend of mine recently told me that kabocha squash is fabled to be an aphrodisiac. While I’ve never experienced that particular impact from eating it, nothing would surprise me. Kabocha confers all sorts of bliss. If you’re interested in exploring more of my favorite uses, check out my kabocha squash flatbread or my kabocha and avocado sandwich!

And I’ve always thought that kale and kabocha go nicely together—though I think kale goes nicely with just about everything.


That’s kale massaged with some of my creamy walnut curry dressing. I threw in the last of my crackers for good measure.



My schedule for weekly food prep was thus:

Saturday, after class: roast kabocha squash, make walnut and tahini dressings
Sunday, mid morning study break: Carrot and oat crackers, whisk together mushroom marinade
Sunday-Monday overnight: marinate mushroom
Monday: Massage kale + go!

The pieces may individually seem like work, but the whole comes together easily with a little planning.

What’s in your lunchbox today? I’d love to hear!


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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Meg Rushbrook November 8, 2012 at 8:14 am

Cute lunch boxes! Those carrot oat crackers sound awesome! I can’t wait to try them! I had leftovers from last night… something I call Vexican Mac & Cheese or vegan mexican mac & cheese! You have to see the story behind it! I will be posting about it on my blog soon! http://www.empoweredway.blogspot.com!
Also, I LOVE kabocha squash! I live in Korea and we just call it little green pumpkin (since it looks like one) I use it as a replacement for anything pumpkin-like in recipes! It’s INCREDIBLE!!!


Houston November 8, 2012 at 8:28 am

“Obligatory Kale” love that since it is so true. A week without kale is very rare for me.


Abby November 8, 2012 at 8:51 am

This will sound blasphemous, but I’m not a fan of squash (gasp!) of any variety. Perhaps I just haven’t had it prepared quite as deliciously as every other blogger out there, but I’m also not big on sweet, so that could have something to do with it. However, I would climb the highest mountain for mushrooms and kale, so I think that things might even out ;)

My lunch is always eaten at work and doesn’t vary much from the standard bowl of grains (brown basmati rice, farro, quinoa or wheat berries), a bean of some sort, veggies and Earth Balance. It’s quick and easy and I save my more creative endeavors for good dinners and big PM snacks!


Gena November 8, 2012 at 9:02 am

Blasphemy!!! Heathen!!! Get thee to a nunnery, go!

I think you’ll just have to let me make some squash for you ;-)


Half-Crazed Runner November 8, 2012 at 9:10 am

Love Kale. I dry it – it’s easier to digest (Crohn’s). Just bought some portobello mushroom (trying to satisfy daughter’s budding interest in veganism) – thanks for the marinade – I’m gonna try it.


Hannah November 8, 2012 at 9:14 am

Gena any thoughts on the safety of eating raw mushrooms? I always grill them and have never tried them raw but you have quite a sensitive tummy (:p) and I’m guessing that if they don’t bother you, then they should be ok?

Also, I had that kale salad with baked squash too! But I used some English mustard for a kick rather than curry powder and it is so yummy. I threw in some avocado too, inspired by that sandwich. I want to put some squash with the orange-walnut dressing as well because I do love squash and citrus!



Gena November 8, 2012 at 9:34 am


I don’t really notice a difference in terms of digestion between raw mushrooms and cooked–though I don’t actually eat mushrooms very often, so perhaps the difference would be amplified if I did. I’ve heard some cautionary things against raw mushrooms, but again, I eat them rather infrequently, so I don’t worry too much about a toxic effect.



shannon November 8, 2012 at 9:27 am

I have a thrown together jumble (I was on my way to bed last night when I realized I’d done nothing about today’s lunch) of quinoa, kale, chopped carrot, sauteed mushrooms and red onion, and a few pinto beans. I haven’t yet decided if it’s going to get microwaved or eaten cold.


Catherine November 8, 2012 at 9:56 am

Hmm. I am not a huge fan of raw mushrooms (something about the texture), but I’ll eat them if they come on a salad or something. I’ll have to try the marinade, though.
My lunches are usually leftover soup, pasta, etc. from previous dinners, but today’s is a giant mixed green salad topped with radishes, carrots, dried cranberries, & goddess dressing. I also have a desk drawer full of a banana, satsuma, & honeycrisp apple to snack on.
I love these lunch posts. I’ve never had that particular squash. Must try it soon!


Alexia @ nAMASTEYOGA November 8, 2012 at 9:59 am

mhmm avocado oil! first time i see it on your blog! i absolutely love the flavour of the oil and its so nice in y lemon vinaigrette! I am about to go to Bali for holidays and cant wait to ditch lunch boxes and have a wonderful meal in the sun instead! yay


Rebecca November 8, 2012 at 10:21 am

Amazing post!!! I just finally found Kabocha squash in France (they even have kale here now, of course now that I am leaving!) so have been putting it into EVERYTHING. Current fave: kabocha purée with cinnamon – great hot or cold in a lunchbox with a side of quinoa and some broccoli. I call it “Kaboch-oh là là” :) I’ve never heard about its aphrodisiac qualities, but I am madly in love with it so perhaps there’s something to be said about that? ;)
And since you asked…. another lunchbox fave currently is sweet carrot “pâté” (carrots, almond butter, ginger, date, miso, splash of lemon juice mixed in food processor) either in nori or rice cakes (or perhaps some crackers à la CR?) – filling yet not heavy.
Hope you are surviving the crazy E coast weather and hope to meet you for real one day in NY once I am American again officially (a few weeks, ahhh) ! xx Lunchboxlover in Paris


Fiona Young November 8, 2012 at 10:45 am

I like seeing your example of when you prepared each item! Great lunch ideas! Thanks!


vanessa November 8, 2012 at 11:35 am

I used my day off yesterday to whip up some snacks – mostly from your blog, wisely yet unintentionally ;) I made two kinds of energy balls: raw chocolate chip with maca (a twist on a Navita’s Naturals recipe), and the basic raw brownie with some cayenne and sea salt added. Then I made your Spooky Green Chia Pudding, packed into individual jars and frozen for some healthy post-workday treats. I also made your Zucchini Muffins, tweaked to be gluten-free and include carrots and chocolate chips. Oh, FYI, I also added cocoa powder to half the recipe and they turned out GREAT!

Day two of my “weekend” today will be dedicated to making kale salad :)

Thanks for the inspiration!


Kim November 8, 2012 at 12:21 pm

This looks great! Can’t wait to try it out =)
My favourite crackers to make are from a recipe out of VegNews. I’ve been following your blog for several months now and *just* realised the recipe in VegNews is yours ;p
It’s the carrot flax ones with ginger & holy crap are they ever good! I’ve tried making a few other kinds of raw crackers, but they just aren’t as good as yours =)


Karen November 8, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Coincidentally, I’ve got mushroom recipes on my mind today too. Your marinaded ‘shrooms look great. And, you’ve been tempting me all week w/ that adorable portable lunch tray. I must buy it now!


Sarah @ Kids Heart Real Food November 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Great series Gina. There is nothing I love better than a mish-mash lunch of various random things. My husband calls it a “garbage disposal” meal because I will basically eat whatever is in the fridge that I need to get rid of.
Your cute little lunch box makes it look so much more appetizing than being thrown together in one tupperware :)


Sylvia November 8, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Yum! Looks delicious and fresh. At first glance I thought they were sardines or herring, and I was shocked! Gena’s eating fish?!?! ha ha


the delicate place November 8, 2012 at 2:37 pm

my lunch today was homemade butternut squash soup with some chopped sundried tomatoes and broccoli in it, brad’s raw tomato flax crackers and leftover white fish prepared vera cruz style from my dinner last night.

i’ll have to try that marinade, sounds delicious!


Jill in Chicago November 8, 2012 at 3:38 pm

My lunch today was a deliciously simple sweet potato-carrot-curry soup. It’s funny, when I first vowed to give up eating processed/frozen foods from a box, cooking 2-3 meals a day seemed like a chore. But now its just habit and when I got home at 9:30 pm last night and wanted to make lunch for today, it was no big deal at all to chop and cook a sweet potato and carrot and blend everything together (all while cooking brown rice and pressing/marinating tofu for tonight’s dinner!)


Claire November 8, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Those lunchboxes are so adorable! I’ll have to see if I can get one in the UK. Today my lunch was 2 large packs of sweet organic red grapes. It seems to be all I fancy, until I shift the cold I have! But dinner was in response to a large craving for romaine with a beautiful tahini-lemon dressing, so maybe it’s on it’s way out after-all. The guys at work thought Gena was eating mackerel for lunch when they saw the portobellos, I had to correct them on that!


Lisa @ The Raw Serenity November 8, 2012 at 3:59 pm

That squash looks just like pumpkin, is it very similar?
My lunch box for work is usually the same. Salad, tub of nuts with sultanas go goji berries and an apple. I have a container of raw cacao at work so I drink to huge cups of that with stevia in place or coffee.
Those crackers looks yum!
I need to start making dressings and prep foods for the week like you do.


Lia November 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm

I have yet to simply marinade mushrooms. I am a fan of cooked, but I have had some wonderful marinaded ones at restaurants. I like the sound of your marinade. It’s funny, we should team up: I love the process of opening and de-seeding squash. I find it very meditative, especially cleaning the seeds for roasting.

My take to work food: leftover vegan marinated portobella panini (Not even joking) with white truffle aioli and vegan motz, a small salad with a hummus dressing, and a red miso soup to be made here.


Therese November 8, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Is that some sort of collapsable Bento box? I’m intrigued…


Janet @ the taste space November 8, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Love seeing your lunches Gena! I adore grilled portobellos and my favourite marinade is similar to yours with some garlic and herbs (thyme, rosemary, whatever I have) thrown in, too. I haven’t tried them raw yet. I am intrigued. I am on a fennel kick right now and had a lovely fennel and quinoa salad for lunch. :)


Hannah November 8, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Ever since arriving in Toronto, I’ve been eating a whole (mini, though) roasted winter squash at least every two days. Kabocha, acorn squash, and my favourite, sweet dumpling squash. I feel you may have just explained why this squash obsession has coincided with my spiralling into a fourteen-year-old-esque obsession with boyzzzzzzz. (The extra “zzzzz” is to indicate that, aphrodisiac or not, all I’ve been doing is sleeping. Alone.)



Kait @ yogabeautylife November 8, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Leftover kale salad and sweet potato/black bean salad plus an apple with peanut butter and some crackers with 1/2 an avocado. Nom nom nom


Lindsey @ Pas de Deux November 8, 2012 at 10:25 pm

I’ve never marinated mushrooms before– can’t wait to try it! My lunch today featured kale salad with quinoa and lentils that were leftovers from a dinner I made earlier in the week. Tomorrow my kale will be topped with avocado, and I can’t wait! “obligatory kale” is such a true statement for me, too.


Janie Kaiser November 8, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Yum! As a student myself, you inspire me in so many ways, Gena. If only I could be so organized and pull together such great weekday lunches. You make it look so easy but I know that is quite the feat!


Caroline November 8, 2012 at 11:27 pm

My lunch today was an idiomatic version of Angela’s winter salad (http://ohsheglows.com/2012/11/05/fall-detox-salad-hurricane-sandy-fundraiser-update/… I hate carrots so I used extra celery instead!) and brown rice with Bragg’s.

Dinner (for the second night this week) was a PB&J on Ezekiel cinnamon raisin bread, which makes a really gorgeous PB&J. The things of which we become connoisseurs while dining in the library! :)


Heather November 9, 2012 at 12:02 am

Your lunches look delish Gena! I want to try your crackers. I recently made another batch of your sun dried tomato bread – just love it, especially smothered with avocado and sliced tomato. Mmm.


Nada (One Arab Vegan) November 9, 2012 at 2:41 am

I swear we must be spiritually intertwined in some way. I was at the supermarket yesterday picking up goodies for a barbeque and on a whim I bought avocado oil instead of olive and portobello mushrooms! (which I never got around to marinating so just left them at home)
Will definitely be trying this soon.

Also I apologise for my absence as of late, but man is it good to be back <3


Lisa @ Lisa the Vegetarian November 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Never heard of avocado oil before, but how bad could that be? Also on my to-try list sometime in the near future: kale. I can’t believe I haven’t given it a try yet!


Julia November 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm


I always love your lunchbox highlights! They are adorable! I must know, where did you get your container? It seems so convenient!


Lauren (@poweredbypb) November 9, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Oh I love kabocha so much, I’m not able to get it very regularly so I miss it a lot!


Ruth November 9, 2012 at 4:15 pm

I’m glad I’m not the only one who eats raw mushrooms! I don’t marinate them (looks great, though), I just snack on one or two when I’m preparing them for cooking. If you don’t think we’ll die of it then I trust you!

I made your pumpkin pie today! I’m English and the only other time I’d eaten it before was when I made it from a vegetarian recipe a few years ago. It wasn’t very nice. But this pie is amazing! It’s how I thought pumpkin pie should taste, from the pictures :D


Hannah November 13, 2012 at 7:47 am

Hey Gena, from one busy student to another–your lunchbox ideas are gorgeous and much appreciated. Would you mind posting a slightly more detailed recipe for the tahini dressing? I always try to make something like this and it comes out gross– I think my proportions are way off.


keishua November 14, 2012 at 12:12 pm

i really like your lunch boxes. lately, i am doing salad jars and it is very fun. i really want to branch out but i like get a little lazy as the week goes on.


Ana November 15, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Your meals always look so delicious!
I have been looking for the crackers recipe… are you going to share soon? The crackers in this post look so good, can’t wait to try them!


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