Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Happy Hearty Bentos

Today's bentos were supposed to have heart-shaped eggs in them, but my first attempt at that was a fail (picture below) and by then the rest of the eggs had cooled too much to shape - so instead I decorated the eggs with cut out carrot shapes. Bean Sprout had the heart bento and Baby Bird had the happy face. Sprout asked for green grapes and mozzarella cheese, while Birdie opted for "all colours cheese and grapes", and they each got a croissant. I really doubt these bentos could make the trip to preschool in their lunchboxes and arrive intact, but we were home today so all was well :)


Pickle got peanut butter sandwich kebabs. I used cocktail swizzle sticks as skewers, they're brightly coloured and blunt-ended. Pickle LOVED his sandwiches on a stick!



Bella had a MOMables lunch again, slightly modified to her taste. In case you missed yesterday's post, MOMables is a healthy, kid-friendly lunch menu subscription service. I probably won't post many pictures of MOMables lunches, because they are for subscribers :) If you are interested in seeing more, check out their website or facebook page !


See my egg fail?
I followed Anna the Red's instructions, but I was clumsy and slow, and my eggs cooled too much and cracked. Also, I only had child's chopsticks, that might have been part of the problem. Oh well, better luck next time!

Oh, and if you click the link above, be prepared to be blown away by Anna the Red's bentos - amazing is putting it mildly!


Monday, August 29, 2011

Have A Ball !

Sprout & Birdie had a ball with today's muffin tin meal ! They had watermelon, honeydew & canteloupe balls, peanut butter graham balls (recipe below) cherry tomatoes from their Nanna's garden, a rice ball with soy sauce, and mozzarella chunks & cheddar balls. I found out that cheese is not easy to cut into ball shapes! Hence the mozzarella in chunks, not balls :)


I also made waaaaay too many melon balls (I got carried away with my OXO melon baller tool - it was fun) so Sailor Boy got fruit salad with his lunch :) I made the muffin tin lunches up last night & put the rice in silicone baking cups so I could easily pop them out & warm them in the microwave before serving.

       

Peanut Butter Balls

¼ cup honey or light corn syrup
½ cup peanut butter
¾ cup crushed graham crackers or graham crumbs

Combine honey (or syrup),  peanut butter, and ½ cup of the graham crumbs in bowl. Quickly mix into dough. Knead with hands to combine ingredients well. Shape into balls of desired size. Roll in remaining graham crumbs. Chill in freezer for 10 minutes, then store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

       

I thought about making Pickle's peanut butter sandwich look like a soccer ball, but decided plain ball shapes would do. Really, I'm not an artist, and I don't want to spend too much time making lunch, after all, I do have 5 kids to get out the door on time! Pickle was pleased enough with the round balls, his teacher said he stacked them from largest to smallest before he began eating them. 


Beanstalk and Bella are having MOMables lunches. What's MOMables? It's a great new service that takes all the guess-work out of packing a healthy kid-friendly school lunch. MOMables chefs prepare a weekly menu, complete with recipe, photos and grocery list - all I have to do is get the ingredients and put it together! Visit www.momables.com for more info!


       

Stuff used to make these lunches:


Friday, August 26, 2011

Waste Not : Bento Scrap Quiche

"Tell me honestly, are you wasting a lot of food with all the cutting? I'm curious about the little scraps and what happens to them."


This was a question a friend asked recently. And I can see how one might think there'd be a lot of food waste, but the answer is No! Really! Sure, if I was to throw out all the post-cookie cutter remnants, then yes, that would be wasteful... but I use the scraps :)

I actually think making all these scraps is benefitting me! I used to pack the sproutlets their lunches then go on with my busy day, and often it would be late afternoon before I'd stop to eat, and most of the time I would be so hungry or tired I wouldn't feel like taking the time to make something, especially just for myself - so I'd just grab a Monster or Red Bull - bad huh? But since I started making their lunches with shapes & themes, I have all these little scraps of cheese, ham, fruit or whatever, that I scrape into a container and put in the fridge, so later on when I am hungry, I have something to toss into a salad or fold into a quesadilla, or mix with an egg in a bowl and cook into an instant omelet in the microwave, or just nibble on as finger food. So the scraps are actually getting put to good use! I have even planned dinner around the scraps I will make with lunch - for example, when I made the Hugs & Kisses lunch above, I knew I'd have lots of ham & cheese bits leftover (and I ended up with more than I anticipated since I made too much and they didn't finish it) so I planned to put them in a quiche for me & Sailor Boy to enjoy. I can see that becoming a regular thing, I love quiche.

Now Pickle's PB sandwiches have always made crust waste - and sometimes I eat them, but a lot of the time they do end up in the trash. One of my readers, Amy, shared this recently: "I cut the bread before adding the other ingredients, then put the bread "scraps" in a freezer bag. I get them out and put them through the food processor any time I make a recipe that calls for breadcrumbs. You could also save them in a "feed the ducks" bag." Thanks for the good tips, I'm going to start doing that!

       

No fun lunch photos today. The sproutlets had some little friends over, and I made the bunch of them macaroni & cheese from a box. The blue box, of course, gotta be KD! (My fellow Canadians will know what I'm talking about!) Oh, Pickle did have his usual PB, but I didn't do anything special to it. In lieu of bento pics, here's one of a yummy quiche I made, and my recipe of sorts:

Easy Cheesy Quiche

Easy Cheesy Quiche

Ingredients:
  • Pastry dough (I'm no baker - I use storebought refrigerated)
  • At least 3 eggs
  • 1½ - 2 cups cream or half & half. If I don't have half & half I use whatever milk I do have, but I decrease the amount and add more egg. It makes for a more omelet-like, less creamy quiche, but it's all good :)
  • Salt & pepper (I don't measure, I just add a good shake of each into the egg mixture)
  • Herbs & seasonings to taste (depends on my mood and what else I'm putting in it - but dill is almost always in there)
  • 1 cup of grated cheese, plus enough sliced cheese to cover the bottom of the pie pan
  • Various chunky ingredients such as ham, spinach, cooked chicken, leftover steamed broccoli or carrots, onions, peppers, etc. Sailor Boy would probably love it if I used mushrooms but ew, I don't like them. Pretty much if you can put it in an omelet you can put it in a quiche.
Directions:
  • Press the pastry dough into a pan. Line it with a layer of cheese. I usually use swiss for the bottom layer, but anything goes.
  • Add the chunky ingredients, distributing evenly on top of the cheese, to about halfway to the top of the crust.
  • Beat the eggs, cream/milk. Beat in salt, pepper, & seasonings.
  • Pour the egg mixture over the chunky ingredients.
  • If there's still room, and you have any more, add more chunky ingredients, just make sure to leave room for the grated cheese.
  • Top with grated cheese.
  • Bake in 375 degree oven until browned and set. This takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour in my unreliable oven.
  • Let cool, and enjoy! It's even good cold!

Our family is off to Beautiful British Columbia for the weekend, to visit our Canadian family - and you can bet I'll be hitting the supermarket to stock up on the Canadian brands I can't get here in Washington!

Happy Weekend Everyone!

Like the look of our EasyLunchboxes? Get some!
And the Mini Dippers, and the cookbook too!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Play-Doh Bento

Recently I saw some cute little containers in the supermarket, meant for snacks with a dip, and nearly put one in my buggy before the cheapster in me regained control :)
"You have so many containers", I told myself, "you don't need this!" I put it back, but I didn't forget about it completely... Bella does love a little caramel dip with her apples - the container with the built-in dip well would be so handy... or would it? After all, it wouldn't stack with my other containers, so it would take up more cupboard space, and give us yet another square lid that only fit a certain container. Wouldn't it be more handy to just have a little lidded dip cup that I could put in whatever container her lunch was packed in? I have seen them at bento supply shops - but maybe I had something around the house I could use...

Yep, I did. In the same place I found some "free" shape cutters a few weeks ago...
the Play-Doh bin! This one was even empty already :


So here is an example of what can be done with what is already in the house, no need to purchase any special tools or containers to cutify your kidlet's snack. I used an ordinary sandwich box we've had for years, Play-Doh cutters, and the washed out mini Play-Doh container. I think it came from a goody bag. Since my Bella likes me to name her lunches nowadays, I'll call this one "I ♥ Nature" :


Apples, Cheddar Cheese & Caramel Dip

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Butterfly Family Lunch

Today's lunch was chopped up and thrown together while I was on the phone catching up with a friend in Hawaii, so not much thought was put into it, but the sproutlets liked it. They wanted ramen noodle soup which was quick & easy, and I cut up some carrots, apples & cheese to go with it. A plate full of chopped fruit & vegetables is much more appealing when arranged artfully (Kulinary Kids wrote a great note about this yesterday on their facebook page ) so this is what I hastily did with the hand not holding the phone:


The plates went in the center of the table for them to eat family-style.

Here's Pickle's peanut butter sandwich. I told him that it's our family as butterflies, so he decided which of each of the little butterflies was who, and ate himself last :)


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lucky 13

Today's lunch makes 13 different ways I've prepared Pickle's peanut butter sandwich since I challenged myself to 101 - only 88 more to go!

For fun, here are some snaps of my little PB lover 5 years ago, at age 2. I think these might be the first pictures of the Pickle wearing his favourite sandwich spread - but they definitely aren't the last! He really loves the stuff. These were taken the summer before he was diagnosed with autism, when we thought his refusal to eat anything else was just a quirky phase :) Isn't he just so cute you could die?! I ♥ him so...

  
Oh, and this mess was my lesson not to leave the peanut butter jar out on the counter :)

A-Camping We Will Go!

Our camping weekend was so much fun, none of us wanted to come home Sunday! Next year, I think we'll go for a whole week. To bring back a little of the fun, I made a camping food theme for today's muffin tin lunches. Also, I'm not quite caught up on the laundry yet so the campfire scent from the baskets of clothing sitting near the kitchen table added to the atmosphere :)

Sadly, my cheapie camera has now joined my good camera in retirement, so today's photos were taken with my phone. I'm a bit sad because they just don't look as yummy in the pics as they do in person. My birthday is in a few weeks though... I'm hoping to be able to take better pictures then... are you reading this darling husband o'mine?

Anyways, back to the lunches! Muffin Tins for Bean Sprout & Baby Bird:

  • Trail Mix & Popcorn cakes - mmm, ever have Jiffy Pop cooked over the campfire? (Birdie LOVED these)
  • S'mores Goldfish - gotta have s'mores!
  • Ovaltine "hot chocolate" 
  • Turkey hot dogs on sticks  (Wouldn't a little tealight candle to roast them over have been cute? Too dangerous for tots though, oh well)
  • Baked beans - a camping staple and one of my childhood favorites 
  • Pancakes wedges with syrup dip - Sailor Boy's special "Daddy Pancakes" (secret recipe, I don't even know it). He makes big batches and we freeze some for me to thaw as needed. He made them fresh on our trip and they were all the better cooked out in the open air :)

Bella & Beanstalk got an Easy Lunchbox version. Their beans and hot dogs I sliced and put in a Thermos Funtainer - beanie wienie!


I am really impressed with this Thermos. 4 hours after I filled it the food was just the right temperature for eating. Oh, and that's a Tritan Spork by Light My Fire.


Pickle's daily peanut butter sandwich fits in with the camping theme.
He had a pancake tent with his PB evergreen trees under a night sky :)


I think today's lunch could have been healthier - it was a little lacking in fruit - but they had apples for snacks later on. And I was surprised that none of them liked their brown beans! I love baked brown beans, especially beanie wienie! Silly sproutlets, don't know what they are missing. Ah well, more for me! :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

No lunch today

OK, that's not really true, there was a lunch, just not prepared by me :) We got home from camping late last night, and I needed to restock the fridge today. Sailor Boy made lunch for the sproutlets while I was out grocery shopping, so our Muffin Tin Monday meal has been bumped to Tuesday.

But look!
I got a set of 101 cookie cutters! Oh, the possibilities!


I sorted them and the cutters I already had into categories and put them in big zipper bags until I figure out a better way to organize them. For now, I put the bags in the "lazy susan" cupboard (must google the origins of that name) I have all my lunch stuff in.

I'd love to hear how others store all their lunch-making supplies; please feel welcome to leave a comment to share your system!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle... Refuel


There's no theme behind what went in today's bento lunches, they were just bits and bobs of what was in the fridge - I needed to use up the fresh foods before our family leaves for a camping trip.

Bella, Sprout & Birdie had sliced ham & mozzarella roll-ups, grapes, tomatoes & clementines on skewers, pea pod snacks I thought were cute but they didn't really care for, baby carrots, crackers (Goldfish for the little girls, Ritz for their big sister), and Bella also got cucumbers by request. Picky Pickle had a peanut butter sandwich puzzle (which he LOVED, thank you Lunch Punch!), yogurt, and an oatmeal cookie, cut into wedges to fit.


So what's with the title of this post then? ...Today's lunches were packed in lunch meat containers! ... If you've been thinking of packing bento-style lunches but hesitate to invest in containers, consider stocking up on lunch meats that come in reusable plastic containers - they work perfectly for bento lunches, and they aren't priced any higher than the lunch meats that don't come in containers. If you're going to be buying lunch meat anyways, why not reuse the packaging ? I usually buy Hillshire Farms Deli Select brand (as you can see above) and reuse the containers for Sailor Boy's lunches. Their Variety Pack, that Pickle's lunch is shown in, is about the same size as an Easy Lunchbox. The containers are actually Gladware so they're sturdy, seal well, and are microwaveable and top rack dishwasher safe - and I won't cry if they don't make it home or get destroyed somehow ;)

Well, it's s'mores and wienie roasts for my family for the next few days...
See you Monday!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I ♥ Lunch

Today's lunchboxes are full of love ♥

For the girls, Easy Lunchboxes full of heart-shaped yummies:
  • Homemade pita chips (using stale pitas from last week's Fry Day lunch)
  • Ham & cheese bagel sandwiches (open face for presentation, they can put the bagel tops on themselves if they wish)
  • Grapes (OK not heart-shaped but they like grapes)
  • Strawberries - so easy to make heart shaped with a lil' notch :)

For the boys, good old peanut butter sandwiches, with a touch of love
...whether my too-old-for-cute-lunches Beanstalk likes it or not :)

♥ I got the pita chips recipe from Eat well, Eat Cheap
I seasoned them with parmesan, sea salt & cracked black pepper.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lunch Fairy, Lunch Fairy, where are you?


I could have totally used some help from a lunch fairy today. The cupboards and fridge are bare! As soon as Sailor Boy gets out of the shower I am going to have to go out for groceries, like it or not. I don't enjoy grocery shopping. It takes me a long time and I always feel worn out afterwards. I'm not a fan of fluorescent lighting, I get over-stimulated, and usually put my list down somewhere and forget to pick it up again. *sigh* It has to be done though, so off I will go, fortified with coffee and my ADHD pill :)

I packed the sproutlets a little lunch to eat while I am out. Fairy PB sandwiches with cheese and pretzel stick wands for the girls, a plain one for Beanstalk, cheese diamonds and stars, fruit snack jewels, and for Pickle, a frog prince PB sandwich with his usual yogurt and juice. Oh, my squeaky clean hubby just came in the room ...
heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it's off to the store I go!

Like the look of our EasyLunchboxes? Get some!
And how about some of those fun Lunch Punches too!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Brunch Lunch

I was going to make brunch today but I was up most of the night with itchy little girls (allergies & eczema from our weekend away) so when I finally did get to sleep I did not want to get up - lucky for me Sailor Boy is on leave so I got to sleep in until past brunch time! As a result, brunch was actually served at lunch time :)


They had carrot mini muffins, scrambled "eggies", cheese, yogurt, oranges, and juice. This is Bean Sprout & Baby Bird's. Bella had the same thing but on a regular plate, and with a regular size muffin, and Beanstalk had lunch with a friend. Pickle wanted a muffin tin lunch too, so here is his peanut butter sandwich version, that he helped make:


The little girls really like getting their lunch in the muffin tins - and they don't have preschool on Mondays so it works out well :)

Two Firsts

1) I decided to bake carrot muffins in the silicone mini muffin cups I've had for years. It's the first time I've used them for their actual purpose! I thought they might bake faster than regular muffins but they took the same amount of time. And oops, I forgot to spray the cups with cooking spray! Luckily the muffins popped right out nonetheless, and the cups washed up easily as well - which was a relief, as some of the reviews I've read about them have said just the opposite, and I was a bit apprehensive. I cut the muffin batter recipe in half which still made enough to fill the cups nearly to the rim - so I did, hoping they wouldn't overflow... and they didn't :) They are so little and cute!

Photobucket Photobucket

2) My mom gave me these ice trays from IKEA. They are some kind of synthetic rubber, not silicone, and I don't think they are oven-safe, they are even labelled FOR WATER ONLY - but I think they'd be handy for lots of things other than ice :) If anyone else has these, or similar ice trays, I'd love to know if you've used them for anything other than freezing water! Anyways, Sprout likes rice, so I thought I'd see if they worked as rice molds... I only had some leftover brown rice with veggies in it, not white as I've seen used in all the real rice molds, but they came out just fine, the shaped rice popped out easily and held it's shape. So here is my first rice shape ♥

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Flower Power!

We're heading out of town this afternoon, and I didn't use the peppers I had bought for fajitas (we had something else) so I needed to use them today or lose them. Luckily, Bella, Sprout and baby Bird like peppers. 

Flower Power bento lunch - Bell Pepper Flowers!
Flower Power lunch for the girls
  • Chicken & cheddar mini bagel sandwiches
  • Bunny Grahams
  • Bell pepper & cheese flowers on a bed of lettuce
  • Carrots (bunnies like carrots)
Bella got her own Flower Power EasyLunchboxes bento, Sprout & Birdie shared one. They all had a good time clowning around with their lunch.

Photobucket

Bella discovered that if you squish a pepper slice it looks like a silly monkey :)


Pickle's peanut butter sandwich was a flower too, made with the blossom Lunch Punch from the Sandwishes set.


He said it was pretty ♥

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

You are my Sunshine

♪ My only sunshine ♫ You make my happy, when skies are grey... 
This morning was another grey one, so a sunshine themed lunch sounded perfect... and by lunchtime the sun was out, so the sproutlets got to enjoy their sunny lunch in the sunlight :)

Beanstalk and Bella each had the Easy Lunchbox version:


A little love note peeked through the lids to brighten their day :)

You Are My Sunshine bento school lunch

They had sunshine shaped three-cheese quesadillas on a bed of Sun Chips with cheddar suns, Clementines, Sun Maid raisins (grapes & sunshine!), honey roasted peanuts, and Teddy Grahams. 10 year old Beanstalk asked me not to make his lunches too cute, so he didn't have sunshine shapes or bears, he had more peanuts instead. Not pictured is a family favourite, sunshine juice (lemonade + orange).


Sprout & Baby Bird had a muffin tin version:

You Are My Sunshine muffin tin meal

Pickle had a smiling sun peanut butter sandwich
(with his usual yogurt and apple juice)


Everybody loved their lunch. Beanstalk blushed at his note but I could tell he was pleased - he hugged me after he was finished eating! And Bella said she definitely wants me to make this for her school lunch. Hooray!

Now lunch is over and the sproutlets are outside in the back yard soaking up some summer sunshine while they still can :) I think I'll go join them ☀


Like the look of our EasyLunchboxes? Get some!
And the Mini Dippers, and the cookbook too!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hugs & Kisses

We're leaving for the park in a few minutes, and will have lunch there. It's kind of a grey & gloomy day, looks like it might even rain, but we haven't had much of a summer this year, and if we wait for a sunny day to go to the park, it could be a while!
I've packed Easy Lunchboxes with a snacky lunch of ham & cheese, crackers, apples & baby carrots. I used little cookie cutters to cut some of the ham and the cheese into little X's & O's & heart shapes for a touch of love ♥


Pickle's daily PB sandwich also got some cookie cutter love ♥


UPDATE: The sun never did come out from behind the clouds, but it didn't rain either :) Once again I packed too much food - Bella ate all hers, but the little girls ended up sharing Sprout's lunchbox and we took Birdie's home and recycled it's ingredients into a chef salad for their Daddy's supper. I had planned to use the scraps from cutting out the ham & cheese shapes to make a quiche but the day wore me out and by supper I didn't feel like making pastry, so instead I hardboiled the eggs and threw them and the scraps in the salad too. It was a huge salad! Here's Bella & Sprout having lunch in the park:



Monday, August 8, 2011

iPeanut Butter Sandwich

Ever unpack your groceries to find the bagger was less than skilled at their job? It seems the one who bagged ours could use a refresher on bread placement. So, we now have squished bread, that our sandwich cutters won't fit. Rectangular bread...
hey, it's an opportunity to be creative, right?

Pickle adores his iPod Touch, so I thought he would get a kick out of an edible one:


He did :)



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