Tuesday, December 30, 2008

After nearly two years of consuming the alphabet of vegetables the Great Big Veg Challenge is entering a new phase. We're going mobile. From next week, when the new school term starts, we are going to be making our own lunches to take in. And Freddie has dusted off his scoring cards and will be marking each meal out of 10. The challenge is to make cheap, hot meals,using seasonal vegetables. I've cleared two shelves in the freezer and bought two new food flasks which look like steel time capsules. And on the Naming and Shaming fridge I've stuck a reminder - a copy of last year's school lunch bill which came to around £1200.00 for both children. For the last few months, Alex has been leading the way. Her brother finally decided to join in when we perfected hot dogs with home-made wholemeal rolls and chicken and sweetcorn soup. We've found a site, Think Vegetables, which tells you what's in season each month. For December, ideas include Desiree, Wilja and Maris Piper potatoes, cauliflower, kale, savoy cabbage, mustard cress, baby leeks and something called 'Teen Spinach'. I imagine teen spinach can be tricky to deal with, refusing to get out of bed, arguing with you when you try and cook it, looking sullen when you pick it up with a fork. "Talk to the stalk, cause the leaf ain't listening."
Anyhow I've started tasting sessions with Freddie. First off was a very simple macaroni cheese dish. You can see his score....

Macaroni Cheese with Leek and Ham
Makes around 6 portions for a 50l food flask
1 medium leek, very finely sliced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
150g of reduced fat cheddar cheese
350g macaroni pasta
100g thickly sliced ham, diced
450ml of skimmed milk
50g reduced fat spread or butter
50g flour
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
100 ml of vegetable stock
For the topping
40g grated cheddar or parmegiano
40g stale breadcrumbs
1 tsp smoked paprika
1. Saute finely sliced leeks with the crushed garlic in the olive oil for about 8-10 minutes on a low heat until the leeks are softened.
2. Cook the macaroni pasta according to packet instructions
3. Melt the butter or reduced fat spread on a low heat. Stir in the flour and make a smooth paste. Little by little add the milk and vegetable stock until you have a thickening sauce. Season with salt and pepper and add the dijon mustard. Stir in the grated cheese until it is fully melted and absorbed into the sauce. Turn off the heat. Stir in the chopped ham and sauteed leeks. Pour into an oven-proof dish. Mix together the topping of breadcrumbs, cheese and smoked paprika and sprinkle evenly over the macaroni cheese. Put in a preheated oven (180C) for about 25 minutes. (This makes around 6 portion sizes for the 0.5l food flask.)
Posted by Picasa
If you have any favourite meals, that would work in a flask, using anything that is in season, let us know and we will try them out.


  1. Great stuff GBVC! I have spent the last couple of days trying to remember the recipe for a delicious leek tart - which included yoghurt and cheese. So this recipe for leeks is very welcome!
    Happy New year to you all

  2. How long does the flask keep things hot for? i have a plastic one, i aquired via freecycle but have yet to use. I've only ever thought of using it for soups but feel encouraged try it with something les liquid now.

  3. Anonymous6:45 PM

    A good place to get ideas from for packing lunch is the Vegan Lunch Box (http://veganlunchbox.blogspot.com/).

  4. Can you post a quickie conversion for those of us in the US? I'm awful when it comes to converting grams to ounces.

  5. Charlotte at Great Big Veg Challenge10:25 AM

    Jenny - each flask is different. We are trying out a few - but the one that works well is a Thermos one - which keeps it hot for around 5 hours. There are others that are more industrial and can keep food hot for 8 hours or more. Then there are the microwave ones that are a little less insulated - as they are made of plastic. They work for about 4 hours or so.

  6. Charlotte at Great Big Veg10:34 AM

    Poists - of course.

    150g of cheese - 6 oz
    350g of macaroni pasta - 12 oz
    100g ham - 40z
    450ml of milk - 15.85 fluid oz
    50g of butter/reduced fat - 2 oz
    50g flour - 2 0z
    100ml stock - 3.5 fluid oz
    40g cheese - 1.4 oz (roudn it up!)
    40g breadcrumbs - as above

  7. thanks charlotte. mine is plastic and old so i guess its a case of try and see!

  8. Another excellent adventure Charlotte. My daughter luckily had hot meals made at school that were quite affordable being only about $32 a month...less than we could make at home..then again that was 10 years ago. Have a safe, happy and tasty New year. I look forward to everything in 2009 from the great Big Veggie Challenge!!!

  9. Your new adventure is a great idea, Charlotte. Definitely worthy of export.

  10. Charlotte at Great Big Veg11:01 AM

    Ed B - Thank you. I hope it captures the interest of my North American and Australian readers too.
    Happy New Year

    BV - I was on the Underground yesterday in london and noticed city workers coming in with food flasks - no more 5 pound sandwiches!

  11. Great idea and a great recipe as well!

  12. Happy New Year Charlotte and the gang!

    Hope 2009 is an even better one fr you all.

    David x

  13. my my my does that look tasty! i would love to have you write a guest post on kid appeal, your naming and shaming fridge idea is genious, and i'd love to share it with my readers!

  14. Charlotte at GBVC5:36 PM

    jenna - Love to help - just let me know when you need it by...email me

  15. Hi Charlotte, I've just came across your blog and absolutely love it! I just wanted to ask if your blog has an archive system so I could navigate through your old posts? The only way I've found to do this is by clicking on "Older Posts" at the bottom of the page... I'd like to go back to your posts from 2007 but I can't unless I click on "Older Post" many many times. :) I know it worth it though.

    On a different note, I'm not sure if you're familiar to the idea of "Bento", the japanese art form to prepare lunch boxes? Here's a good blog that explains about Bento and also has lots of good links about it:


  16. Happy New Year to you all! I hope it will be a great one for you :)

  17. Charlotte12:34 PM

    Holler - same to you!
    Have any hot flask meals up your sleeve?

    Marcia. I will work it out for you. Others have asked for that. Wait a few days and I should have a system in place.
    And thank you for the link to the bento site - very inspirational.

  18. Charlotte, thank you for your reply. I managed to find your old archives by typing some keywords in the "search blog" box on top of your blog. I'm sending you another 2 of my favourite Bento blogs:


    And just one more for cuteness sake:


    You'll soon realise that Bento is a whole new world to spend your paycheque. Wait until you find out about "egg molds" and the cutest Bento accessories...:


  19. Hi Charlotte - glad to see you have a new challenge to work on. I'll be sure to stop by often, as I always run out of lunch ideas for my kids, too. Plus - some of your recipes would be great for dinner too! Thanks!


We always love to read your comments - thank you