Yummy easy vegan dry goods things I can make at work and eat in the PM?
July 1, 2014 4:49 AM   Subscribe

I'm working long hours and have breakfast fixings set up in my office for when I skip eating til I get to work. I have oats, shredded coconut, sultanas, cinnamon and ginger to make porridge. Sometimes I add nuts. I go out for lunch if I haven't brought my own. But I'm often working back til late. What healthy pantry staples can I stock up on for the evening meal?

As a start I've bought some of those microwave sachets of brown rice, pistachios, and garam masala.

Difficulty: vegan, whole foods, no or minimally processed food. Packet soups etc are quite high in sodium.I hate baked beans.
Storage: my desk. No fridge. Dry goods preferred.
Tools: microwave, sandwich press, boiling water.

This is for the times when all else fails and I'm starvin' Marvin with nothing but chocolate and chips to (all too easy) hand.

Also: I'm in Australia, it's winter and I'm freezing! Warm things would be lovely.
posted by t0astie to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Various nut butters and crackers or crispbread to eat them on
Microwaveable popcorn (if no one is around to be bothered by the smell)
posted by neushoorn at 5:20 AM on July 1, 2014

I often leave sweet potatoes at work to zap in the microwave for lunch.
posted by geegollygosh at 5:26 AM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tinned lentils! The brown kind are the best. They go with everything.
Any chance you can stop off to get groceries a couple of times a week? A tub of houmous, an avocado or two, and a head of broccoli could really liven things up.
Porridge can be savoury. I like to mix miso into it, sort of in homage to the Scots tradition of putting salt into porridge.
A tin of coconut milk and a few vegetables make a very good microwave soup.
posted by Acheman at 5:55 AM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like Spiral Foods range of Japanese noodles, soups and snacks. Generally low in sodium and microwaveable. Add some dried shitake mushrooms to a soup with some soba noodles for a warm, satisfying and umami-filled evening meal.
posted by evil_esto at 5:56 AM on July 1, 2014

Best answer: Could you keep a knife and cutting board at work to prepare veges?

Here's what I'd do/do do:

Tomatoes (maybe keep a punnet of cherry tomatoes in your desk drawer? The fridge is a crime against tomatoes)
Fruit bowl friendly fruits (apples, mandarins, bananas etc)

Little tins of beans, lentils, etc
Spices (cumin, always, salt and pepper etc)
Oil and vinegar
Pumpernickel (always keeps me going longer than crackers)
Vegan-friendly jarred pesto, tapenade etc
Chia seeds (a bit woo, but I love stirring a spoon of chia seeds into a glass of water, letting it sit for 10 minutes or so, then drinking it - tastes like cucumber and weirdly filling)
Nut butters
Tin of refried beans to approximate beans and avocado on toast, if you can find vegan friendly refried beans

Maybe a tupperware of cooked tempeh bacon to keep in your bag and snack on?
Kale chips are a good way to keep veges on hand, but a bit of a faff to make and pricey to buy

How could you combine this? You could cut up a few tomatoes and fork them together with a little tin of chickpeas, a squeeze of lemon, a lot of olive oil and a ton of cumin for an Emergency Salad. Do the same with white beans or lentils with a bit of pesto for Emergency Pesto Salad. Mash an avocado with a bit of lemon and smear it on the pumpernickel with a couple of cut up tomatoes. Cut up an apple and eat it with some nut butter for a surprisingly filling snack. Have a slice of pumpernickel with some nut butter and sliced banana etc etc etc.

I personally try to lean on vegetables, proteins and fats for office snacks - too many grains and sugary things leave me feeling crazy hungry. Good luck!
posted by nerdfish at 6:06 AM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Getting a rice cooker would open up your options like crazy. I have this one (which was about half the price then; "fuzzy logic" isn't worth all that IMO).
posted by supercres at 6:17 AM on July 1, 2014

Have you tried any of the TastyBite meals? Yes, they have sodium, but they aren't junked up with a lot of artificial ingredients and you don't need to eat them every day. With judicious shopping, you can also find shelf stable tinned soups and soups in aseptic packaging that are lower in sodium as well.
posted by gudrun at 6:21 AM on July 1, 2014

Best answer: Totally hit up your Asian grocer for dried vegetables. Dried mushrooms are amazing and you can generally find a few different types. You can also get organic miso is sachets - there are a few brands that skip the fish stock, so avoid anything with "bonito" as an ingredient. I used to microwave some shitakes in miso with some noodles when I was working retail. Very tasty. You can also get dried leaf veg and dried zucchinis and other things like that. Just dried. Minimal processing. You can also find a whole lot of interesting pickles too. The good thing about imported food in Australia is our customs require ingredients and nutritional info to be listed on the back in English, so even if the nifty looking jar of whatever is totally in Korean, that little list of ingredients will stop you eating squid by mistake. It's also not uncommon to find soy "meats" that only require soaking in hot water from the kettle for a bit before they're ready to go. I tend to view them as shelf-stable tofu, more or less. They are a bit outside the "whole foods" angle, but for shelf stable and nutritious they're pretty good. I've also had good luck with shelf stable udon noodles in vac packs from Asian grocers if that's something you're willing to try.

From a more western angle, tinned chickpeas are fabulous - Edgel do a can that's about 100g and perfect for your desk pantry. Actually they do a lot of canned veg in that size. It's not as good as fresh, but it's better than chocolate.

You do not need to use a rice cooker or those wretched sachets for your rice! Regular rice can be cooked in the microwave. My home microwave has a sensor setup that means I have no idea what a general guide is, but getting it boiling for a minute or two and you can let it soak up the rest. Fun fact: Stirring miso powder into rice is pretty sweet.

Potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, and those small whole pumpkins will keep for ages. But be kind to your co-workers and keep any veg securely wrapped so you don't get creepy crawlies eating them. Probably goes for your whole pantry, really.

You can steam veg in a ceramic bowl with a plate on top. I used to use a noodle bowl - one of those deep monster numbers. Bonus: You can then eat it out of the bowl. Also if you have some tetra packs of non-dairy milk of your choice you can always mash your pumpkin/taties into the milk and have soup instead. You can even get powdered coconut milk for ultimate shelf stability.

Getting spice blends rather than individual spices will help with storage and ease of meal construction. That way you only need the Italian blend in one jar rather than parsley, basil, chilli flakes, dried capsicum, coriander, etc in a bazillion jars.

I lived on bigass bags of macadamia and cashew nuts for a while there. Fairly sustaining.
posted by Jilder at 6:34 AM on July 1, 2014

Response by poster: These are great! Just to be extra clear, I'm well aware I can buy fresh vegetables but need other options. Fresh is best but that's not what I'm asking about here. I'm *only* looking for dry goods that I can store in a desk drawer and make a meal from.
Dried mushrooms are exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for - and would never have thought of. Thanks AskMe :)
posted by t0astie at 7:16 AM on July 1, 2014

Minute Rice makes a 1-minute microwaveable rice bowl, about 1 cup worth, that works way better than other microwaveable rice products. Add your favorite salad dressing, for satisfaction. (I also keep tahini, soy sauce, and lemon juice for a breakfast version.)
posted by mmiddle at 7:44 AM on July 1, 2014

If you haven't seen it already you might want to look at this question which I asked a while ago, and which is sort of relevant. At the time I wasn't trying to eat vegan food, although now I am. Some of the recipes are relevant though, like making soup from tinned chopped tomatoes, olive oil and basil.

Bottles of lemon juice are pretty good to have around. Dried seaweed also - it contains iodine, which is useful for vegans in particular. You can get bundles of a long, thin seaweed called 'sea spaghetti', which can indeed be used as a pasta replacement but basically rehydrates in hot water rather than requiring cooking.
posted by Acheman at 7:57 AM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A great idea I've heard is to mix some dehydrated veggies, instant rice noodles, and veggie bullion (buy low sodium or make your own). Store it all in a thermos, then shortly before serving, add hot water. Let it set for 20-30 minutes, and veggie soup!
posted by PearlRose at 10:05 AM on July 1, 2014

I don't know if this counts as a "meal" exactly, but I love roasted fava beans. (link is just to the first search result I found). I've found them at my middle-of-the-spectrum grocery store, in the bulk section, both with and without salt/garlic. The outside husk is edible but not as tasty as the inside bean.
posted by janepanic at 11:25 AM on July 1, 2014

Fantastic Foods brand makes instant hummus and instant refried beans. They can be found in a box or in bulk in a whole foods/co-op type store easily.

If you can't find this brand, you can make your own with chickpea flour, salt, cumin, dehydrated garlic powder, a touch of citric acid crystals, and a spoonful of tahini mixed in at the end. A bit of olive oil would be great too, and fresh lemon in place of the citric acid.
posted by fontophilic at 11:55 AM on July 1, 2014

How long are these things going to need to stay in your drawer for? There are loads of things that are fine out of the fridge for a day or so (fruit, falafel, flatbreads, hummous, peanut butter, microwave jacket potatoes, bagels, cartons of soup, Innocent vegpots, most ready meals). I'm vegetarian and usually take leftovers in a tupperware (I work late 3 days a week), and it's fine, I take the previous night's pasta or risotto or soup or whatever and reheat it. The food sits in my bag for 8 hours but it's no worse for it. I might feel differently if it was meat or fish or dairy, something that might spoil, but vegetable soup won't go actually mouldy in 8 hours.

If you're after staples to store at work long term then you're a bit stuck because the only things that are going to be fine for two months in the back of your drawer are going to be things like packets of dried flavoured couscous or rice, pot noodles, things like that. You will really compromise on taste. Might be fine as a backup option but I wouldn't want to eat dried spicy rice for my tea on a regular basis.
posted by tinkletown at 3:23 PM on July 1, 2014

Best answer: You can get those roasted fava beans fontophilic mentions from Woolies in the health food section. The same company also does a roasted chickpea that's really nommy too.
posted by Jilder at 9:10 PM on July 1, 2014

I asked a very similar question a while back. Single serve shelf stable hummus are very helpful.
posted by Brent Parker at 9:16 PM on July 1, 2014

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