Friday, September 28, 2012

No Pics Today

Every year at the school Princess and Bean go to the PTA hosts a family BBQ, inviting all of the parents (or grandparents, aunts, uncles, non-school siblings, etc.) to join their child for lunch in the cafeteria and spend $3.50 for a hot lunch. It's sweet, spending the lunch and recess with your kid. So today was the first day this year Bean did not take a lunch to school, and the first time ever for Princess.

I was actually kind of impressed with the school lunch. The burger was bland and what flavor it did have was not good, but it was on a whole wheat bun. They had two kinds of lettuce (shredded iceberg and cut romaine), baby carrots, oranges, and pickles in the cold veg area. In the hot veg area they had hot baked beans and hot corn kernels. And then they had a table full of condiments ~ ranch dressing, mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard. Each lunch also came with a chocolate chip cookie, a small bag of chips, and their choose of milk, chocolate milk, or apple juice. Kids were encouraged to take as much of the veggies and fruit as they wanted, no limit. I was happy to see a lot of kids actually eating and enjoying the orange wedges and the carrots. The lunch aides walk around the cafeteria, helping kids who need it with opening things, and they also encourage kids to take bites and try new things. It was nice to see the emphasis on healthy balanced eating. The cafeteria also has a big poster on the wall encouraging kids to "eat a rainbow plate" ~ to fill their plates with a variety of colors of fresh natural foods. Way better than the gooey grey puddles of goop I remember from the cafeteria when I was a kid!

Something that surprised me... apparently, I'm a bit of a star there! Bean's lunch was first, so I arrived at the school for her lunch, went through the line, etc. with her. As we were filling our plates two of the lunch aides came over. "No special cute lunch today?" "This one, oh my goodness, her lunches are just great!" A teacher walked over as we were talking and the lunch aides told her all about how amazing the lunches Bean and Princess bring are, how they're so colorful and how everything looks so neat in the little containers I send. They also said that every day all of the kids around each of the girls gather around to see what they have brought each day. One said her favorites have been the pancake shapes with the little tubs of syrup and the tiny tortilla sandwiches.

It is so very nice to know that the work I put in to their lunches is noticed and appreciated! The girls have told me about the crowds they gather, but I thought they were just exaggerating a bit. Apparently not! They were telling the truth, and actually *downplaying it* quite a bit.

The bento lunches I make do NOT take a lot of time. The lunch aides thought that they must take a lot of time each day to make, but they definitely do not. If they did, I would not be making them. I do not have that kind of patience or energy in the mornings for sure! Usually I spend about 15 minutes each day making the girls' lunches for school. That's it. If I do something super fancy, like sandwich sushi rolls or things like the tiny mini sandwiches, that might take about five minutes more. The first few times I did them, they did take a lot of time. An hour or so, easily. And they CAN take a lot of time, especially if you're doing super fancy character bentos or similar. But for the most part, they really don't have to. Once you get into the groove of things, once you figure out how things fit together and what goes well where, it can go fast and smoothly. Especially if you keep all of your bento supplies organized and semi-tidy in one area.

They don't have to be expensive either. Bento boxes can and do cost upwards of $25 each, but there are also many options which cost a whole lot less. Easy Lunchboxes are my favorites, and they only cost $13 for a set of four. Sistema boxes can be found for $5. Silicone baking cups can be had for $5 per 12 pack, if you get a coupon and go to JoAnn's or Michael's. You can make your own cute decorative food picks with a toothpick and a couple of stickers. Things can cost a fortune, and there is definitely a tendency (for me, anyway) to go all BUY ALL THE THINGS!!!! and hoard as many cute supplies as possible, but it's not a requirement.

Bento lunches can be done at a reasonable money and time cost, for sure. If anyone is interested in money or time saving tips, let me know and maybe I can help!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

SSDD - Same Stuff, Different Dishes

These are two different container sets, but hold very similar foods and amounts.
Princess has her lunch in a set of four boxes I bought together at a store in the mall. It's a Hello Kitty nesting bento box set ~ very cute, and perfect for lunches! Because it's four differently sized small boxes instead of one big box it can fit into an oddly shaped lunch bag, which is a nice sometimes because it allows us to use the tall vertical bag.
Princess has a turkey sandwich on wheat bread with a white bread apple cut into the middle with chocolate graham pieces tucked in to the largest container. The next size container has red grapes and a half banana with a Hello Kitty sticker decoration. The third size container has Cheez Its and a Hello Kitty fruit snack pack. The smallest dish has yogurt with a little pinch of sprinkles.

Stickers, temporary tattoos, and edible markers on bananas are easy and quick ways to add a little decoration to a lunch.

 Making the cut out sandwiches is easy. Just cut a piece of bread with a cookie cutter and use the same cutter on a differently colored piece of bread. This would have worked better with a darker whole wheat base. The bigger the difference in color between the two breads, the better the cut-out stands out.

Tower o' Bento!

Bean's lunch is the same ingredients in a Sistema Klip It To Go Cube. In the large section she has a sandwich, chocolate grahams, and a pack of Hello Kitty fruit snacks. In the divided smaller section she has red grapes, banana chunks in a star shaped silicone baking cup, yogurt with a pinch of sprinkles in a Solo cup, and Cheez Its.

I love stickers and silicone cups. They're such an easy way to add a little spot of color!

Bean's apple sandwich, opposite colors of the sandwich for Princess.
I really need to re-organize all of my bento stuff. It's starting to take over the kitchen again. Too little cabinet space, too much stuff!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hot Food, on the Go!

Last year I packed soup for Bean once for lunch. I had purchased three Crayola insulated jars on clearance and gave one of them a shot. When she came home she reported that the soup was cold and mushy at lunch time. I tucked the Crayola jars back in the cabinet and never got around to using them again. I didn't trust them to keep the food hot.
Well, last night we had lasagna for dinner, one of Bean's favorite foods. She asked to take some for lunch today. I was cautious, not really trusting that the Crayola jar would keep the food hot. I keep meaning to buy a Thermos or two, but the price tag keeps tripping me up. So, I packed up her lunch with a warningt hat she might want to be ready to buy lunch, just in case the dish was cold.
Apparently I needn't have worried. When she got home she reported that the lasagna in the Crayola jar was hot and delicious at lunch. Success!
So, for Bean's lunch she has hot lasagna, a salad with cheddar bits and mini pepperoni with ranch dressing on the side (topped with a cheddar heart), kiwi chunks, and a homemade nut free trail mix.

Princess liked lasagna at dinner last night, but decided this morning that she doesn't like it so much anymore. Ah, fickle youth! Her lunch has a salad like her sister's, with cut romaine, cheddar bits, mini pepperoni, and ranch on the side. She also has a cup of homemade nut free trail mix, half a banana, kiwi slices, a small stack of cheddar hearts, and a few thin sliced turkey rolls.

Beaker helped to run errands today, so I packed a small snack for him to bring with us. The same trail mix the girls have, the other half of the banana from Princess' lunch, a cut up kiwi, cheddar sticks and thin turkey rolls. Thank goodness, too. He is going through a bottomless pit phase.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Breakfast is happy to see you!

Well, dinner, but it was breakfast-for-dinner night.

I bought the cutest, most squee-elicting pan the other day. It's a non-stick griddle pan which makes silver dollar sized pancakes with smiley faces. Can't stand the cute!

My kids were thrilled. For dinner I made happy smiling chocolate chip pancakes with happy smiling fried eggs. They ate every scrap and declared the smiley faces too cute for words. I think this weekend we may give the pan a shot for grilled cheese sandwiches.

This is the pan I bought, but I bought it at Costco and paid way less than that. I bought it for under $20. It was a little bit of a pain to flip the pancakes, and the griddle cooked them much faster than I thought it would, causing them to overcook slightly as I adjusted to the cooking speed, but it should be much easier once I work the kinks out. Using a fork to flip the pancakes worked out much better than a spatula. You also have to be very careful to only use a small amount of batter, so that it doesn't spill over.

Things have been busy here! Dude and I are both in school ourselves, and the new term began on Monday, so we've been adjusting to the new schedule and keeping busy. Plus we've had some issues with uploading pictures, so I didn't get a post up on Monday or Tuesday yet. So here they are! Two days worth of lunches.

Bean and Princess had identical lunches both days, so just one shot of each.

For Monday:

Raspberries and green grapes, yogurt covered pretzels, tortellini salad, pretzels, and heart shaped frozen yogurt.

For Tuesday:

Homemade Lunchables! Kiwi chunks and flower shaped apple rings with bits of apple 'stamin' in the center, peach yogurt with sprinkles (I put a strip of Press-N-Seal over the yogurt and it stayed in place perfectly), Ritz crackers with flower shaped cheese and turkey bologna, with two little chocolate bars for dessert.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

This Lunch Brought to You by the Letter P!

P is for...
A ham, cream cheese, sprouts, and tortilla pig, to be more precise. Also, Pretzels, Pirate's Booty, Peaches, Pears, Purple licorice, and "P" mozzarella and cheddar cheese! Finished off with a tub of blue Jello "water" for that little piggy to drink.
Princess had her "P" lunch in an Easy Lunchbox.

And Bean had her "P" lunch in a two section divided dish from the Dollar Tree.
How to Make a Tortilla Pig:
First, take two tortillas. Spread both with cream cheese on one side. Place one tortilla cream cheese side up on a cutting board. Sprinkle on sprouts and top with a layer of ham. [Note: You can skip the sprouts and do any other lunch meat, or no meat, or add mustard or any other thin veggie. They can also be made with bread instead of tortillas. They're pretty versatile.] Top with the second tortilla, cream cheese side down. Use a large plate or other flat item to press down, to slightly flatten the 'sandwich'.
Then, gather three circle shaped cookie cutters in graduated sizes.

Use the cookie cutters to cut three different sizes of circles out of the 'sandwich'. Two ten inch round tortillas can make three pigs, if laid out carefully.

Place circles in a stack, off center from each other, to form the main body, the head, and the snout.
Using the scraps, cut two small triangles and tuck into the head for ears.
With edible food markers or decorating gel you can draw in the details. Eyes, nostrills, a crooked smile, and a curly piggy tail complete your cute little piggy.
If you're concerned about the pig layers shifting during transport, you can use a toothpick carefully pushed through the snout to hold them together. If you prefer, you can use dried seaweed or little bits of veggies to make the face details instead of decorating gel/food markers, but the gels just go faster in my experience. No tiny bits to fiddle around with.
Also, after putting everything together I was a little concerned about the possibility of the Jello shifting and spilling out of the cups, so I wound up switching it to a Solo cup with a lid instead of the open silicone cup. When the Jello is poured into the silicone cups to set it holds just fine with no spilling, but with these I had poured the Jello into a larger bowl to set and then scooped it out for these cups. Much less secure that way and it made me nervous. So, under a lid it went!

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Today is the day before the last day of summer. How did summer fly by again so quickly?! Tomorrow is the official last day of summer, and then Friday begins fall. Time to pack up the flip flops and pull out the sweaters.

And the weather this morning definitely heralds in the new season. We woke this morning to a damp, foggy day. A thick cloud hid everything from sight within a few feet and stepping outside felt like stepping into a sponge. The walk to school is very short, but was still enough for my shirt to be soaked with mist by the time I got home and Bean insisted on bringing her umbrella.

We will be stuck in a 9 month rain cloud very soon, but I'm still holding on to summer with both hands. Lunches today pay tribute to my favorite season with a little beach lu'au theme. I have never been to Hawaii, but the lovely beaches and sunshine of the tropical island chain seems to sum up summer nicely.

Princess and Bean's summery lu'au lunches start with barbecue pulled pork with a half of a French roll and a little tub of extra barbecue sauce (leftovers from dinner last night). I used edible food safe markers to sketch a heart on each half roll and write in the Hawaiian greeting "Aloha!" A big shady umbrella toothpick is tucked into the 'beach', while Goldfish swim just beyond the grass baran reef next to the blue Jello ocean. Sandy yellow pineapple tidbits and 'beach ball' grapes hang out in the smaller compartment of the Easy Lunchboxes, with a baby Baybel cheese and Sun Chips in the medium section.

Brick wanted leftovers in his lunch also, so below is a more "grown up" version of the same foods above. Barbecue pulled pork with barbecue sauce and a French roll, baby Baybel cheese, Sun Chips, pineapple tidbits, grapes, and blue Jello, all in a Sistema Klip It To Go box.

Mahalo! A hui hou kakou!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Arrrr, Mateys!

Ahoy, landlubbers! Today be Talk Like a Pirate Day! Ye'll be fergivven me the urge to be soundin' like a mighty buccanear, goofy as it might be. Hoist the anchors and keelhaul and scurvy dogs and a barrel o' ale and grog and wenches!

Okay, now that I have that out of my system...

I had hatched a plan to build Pirate themed lunches to celebrate the fun day, but I went to three different stores and could not find chocolate gold coins. I couldn't find Jolly Roger cupcake toppers either. I was going to make my own with black construction paper, toothpicks, and white out, but Beaker was in full on wild-child mode and I could barely put a sentence together, let alone a fun themed lunch. So, these are what I fixed up instead.

Princess has celery "palm tree trunks", pretzel "peg legs", tortilla "buried bones of keel-hauled enemies" (tortillas cut into bone shapes with a cookie cutter), kiwi chunks to prevent scurvy, "lost island" spinach dip, Pirate's Booty puffed corn, grape tomato "innards", shredded lettuce and shredded pork carnitas with cilantro, with two bars o' silver for dessert (Hershey's chocolate nuggets. Gold would been more suitable, but the gold wrapped ones have almonds, so silver it is).

Bean didn't really like the carnitas, so for her lunch she has shredded lettuce with "Tortuga Isle" pepper turkey rolls, scurvy-preventin' kiwi slices, peg leg pretzel sticks, celery with spinach dip, Pirate's Booty, bone shaped tortillas, and bars o' silver.

G-man didn't want a full lunch, prefering the pizza in the cafeteria instead. He did request a snack pack to take, because he has been getting hungry by mid-morning lately. Keeping with our theme, I packed Pirate's Booty, pretzel sticks, and silver bars.

I had promised squeaky Beaker a picnic at the park after library story hour today, so I made a lunch up for him and I to share. Celery stalks that crunch like bones, with pepper turkey rolls and spinach dip, pretzel peg legs, Pirate's Booty, Goldfish caught off the port bow, kiwi chunks, slices of sourdough baguette, and bars o' silver. Unfortunately, Beaker woke up sick in the middle of the night. Nothing says "you're a parent" quite like stripping two beds, showering three people, and getting a load of laundry going at 1:30 in the morning. So, story hour was nixed and the much-improved-by-midday Beaker picked at his snacky lunch while snuggled on the couch watching a Leap Frog video instead.

Here's hoping for an uneventful night tonight!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pretty eggs!

Now that the chickens are finally laying, we are getting a whole lot of eggs! This? Is three days worth. I'm not certain how many of our 8 chickens are laying yet, but I think at least 5, if not more. Within three days we have 18 eggs. Good thing we love eggs here! I love the variety of colors the chickens give us. I think the speckled ones are the prettiest.

This morning I was seriously dragging. It was just a no energy kind of day. I managed to pull myself out of bed at 6:45 to see Brick and G-man off to school (both elected to get lunch at school today instead of taking theirs. I have to admit to a bit of relief there. Putting together two lunches at 7am, one of which would be for the World's Pickiest Kid, was definitely not on my list of abilities this morning) and then put together lunches for Princess and Bean before waking them for school. I think I was pretty much sleepwalking through the morning, but luckily I was lucid enough to put some stuff in boxes for them to eat. Don't be too impressed though. I'm pretty sure I fed them Pop Tarts for breakfast.

Princess took an Easy Lunchbox packed with an orange Jello with a mandarin orange inside. Also included is a small tub of homemade spinach dip with sourdough baguette slices and celery, rolled up turkey secured with princess crown picks, and butterfly apple slices.

Bean has the same lunch, packed into a two section container that I picked up last summer, I think at K-Mart.

I always get a little bit of a happy thrill when I pick them up from school and they tell me they loved their lunches. Today was definitely one of those days! They are both big fans of spinach dip with sourdough. Princess told me that every day the lunch aides walk by her table and stop to admire her lunches and tell her how great they look. She said they tell her that hers are the best lunches they have ever seen. Thank you for the ego boost! Also, this afternoon Bean said that the vice-principal walked past her table, did a double-take on her lunch, and then told her that it was really great to see such a healthy lunch and gave her a high-five for it. Kind of like being singled out by a rock-star when the VP tells you you're awesome. Bean was very much impressed.

The butterfly apples were super easy. Just like the bear apple rings from Beaker's lunch a week or two ago, cut the apples into slices (I used a chef's mandolin for easy evenly cut slices) and then cut the core out with a small cookie cutter. Took about the same amount of time as cutting them into wedges.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Curse You, Allergy Season!

Blech. Every year, twice per year, a plague descends upon our home. It is as predictable as the changing of the seasons. Mostly because it is caused by the changing of the seasons. When the leaves start to fall and when they start to re-appear, allergy season kicks in to full gear. The Dude and I both have airborne seasonal allergies, and unfortunately our kids all have the same. Brick is a ball of misery today and wasn't much fun yesterday either. Beaker was full on ill yesterday, with a fever and more. Bean is congested and Princess is sneezing, Dude and I both have nasty sinus headaches. So far G-man is the only one who feels halfway human, though I suspect he will be snuffling and sneezing soon, too. Hot tea, warm compresses, and Kleenex become our dear friends during this time.

Miserable allergies aside, I do love the changing of the seasons. I am a hard-core Summer lover, but I also have a soft spot for Autumn. It is the most sensory-filled season, I think. The soft noisy crunching of leaves under your feet. The cool snap in the air. The smell of coming cold, wood fires burning in chimneys, and a hint of compost in the air. The riot of colors to see. A million ways in which Nature tucks herself in for a season of sleep, and we get to watch. It's almost magical.

You know, except for the watery itchy eyes, sneezing, sinus pressure, and general feeling of misery.

Beaker's lunch on Friday was fun, and I didn't get around to posting it until today. I wanted to play with my new cupcake cookie cutter (which I did post about with the girls' lunches on Friday) and made Beaker a Sweet Treat themed lunch.

He has a watermelon sundae, made with scoops of watermelon (just use a melon baller to scoop out the watermelon) and a light toss of sprinkles all in a flower shaped silicone baking cup. Vanilla cupcake flavored Goldfish grahams swim around the base of the 'sundae'.

He also has a cupcake shaped turkey and cheese sandwich with a raspberry 'cherry' on top. The details on the sandwich are drawn on using tubes of glitter gel found on the baking aisle at the grocery store. The gels are made for decorating cookies and cakes, but aren't terribly sweet or strongly flavored, so they work out well here.

I also included some carrot sticks wtih a little cup of ranch dip and three colorful gummi bears. The ranch dip is held in a mini silicone baking cup. Beaker ate the gummi bears first, of course, and then devoured the carrots and begged for more. He wound up eating four servings of carrots! As a general rule he doesn't really eat carrots, he just likes to gnaw on them and then spit them out, so this was a nice change. He loved the way the carrot sticks were small and had their own special dip. He also ate the whole sandwich and most of the watermelon and crackers, too. Seeing him eat an entire plate of food is big. He is usually very much a grab-and-run kid and only grazes at meals, preferring to eat his food in small nibbles and bits as he runs all over. I have found that decorative bento-ish meals like this really grab his attention and keep him in one place while he eats, getting him to eat more and solving the afternoon crankies.

And they're just more fun!

Brick requested a salad for lunch today, and I was happy to oblige. He discovered recently that at his school cafeteria he can't just buy a side salad. They offer a salad bar every day, but in order to get the salad you have to buy a main entree. They are allowed unlimited salad, but it annoys him that he has to buy and waste the main entree when all he wants is the salad. So, he will bring his own!

I packed his meal in the Sistema Klip It To Go box. I love this thing, but it does hold a lot of food. Perfect for a growing 13 (almost 14!) year old to bring a good hearty salad. The salad itself is iceberg lettuce with clover sprouts, pepperjack slices, and a roll of turkey, with a small tub of ranch dressing. I also included a little container of roasted sunflower seeds, oyster crackers, and a hard-boiled egg in one of the smaller compartments. The other small compartment holds mini sausage links, red and green grapes, and a raspberry cheesecake.

The rest of the kids took leftovers for lunch. We had pancakes yesterday, and they travel well for kids who don't mind eating them cold.

G-man has pancake slices with a little tub of syrup for dipping. He also has a hard-boiled egg, a raspberry cheesecake, mini sausage links, red and green grapes, and some Goldfish crackers. This container was purchased at the Dollar Tree. I am actually very surprised at how well it works. For a buck, I was not expecting much. The container will not hold up well over time, but so far has lasted a little over a month and is still in good condition. It also came with a fork and knife tucked into special slots on the lid. Not back for $1!

Bean has a bunny lunch. I used a cookie cutter to cut leaping rabbit shapes out of a pancake, and another to cut the small flower pancake accent, and tucked in a little tub of syrup for dipping. She also has a skewer of mini sausage links, red and green grapes, a small salad, and a raspberry cheesecake. A hard-boiled egg shaped like a rabbit head and a few Annie's bunny grahams round out the theme lunch.

Princess has the same items for lunch, but in a bear theme. Bear shaped pancakes with a bear head hard-boiled egg and a little bear food pick to hold her mini sausage links. I also added a cut grape tomato to her little salad ~ she loves grape tomatoes, but Bean is not a fan. The Annie's bunny grahams don't really fit into the theme here, but I didn't have any Teddy Grahams in the pantry, so just roll with it.

Beaker wanted a special bear-y cute breakfast this morning, and I was happy that he was feeling better enough to eat. He has bear shaped pancakes with a mini silicone cup of syrup, half a banana, red and green grapes, and a cup of yogurt with a few sprinkles. Quick, easy, and so cute it caught his attention long enough for him to eat most of the food, instead of grabbing a bite or two and then pushing it all away and complaining of hunger five minutes later.

The raspberry cheesecakes I packed in for the kids lunches were made over the weekend. Brick wants to learn how to bake, so on the weekends when we have more time we are starting to teach him a few tricks in the kitchen. He chose cheesecake for last weekend and you bet your buns I leapt on that! Unfortunately, he felt too awful from allergies to really learn or do much, so I wound up baking them on my own and we'll have to teach him how to bake cheesecake another day. He was certainly happy to eat them though!

These cheesecakes are made with eggs from my chickens (so free range organic eggs), have an organic raspberry jam center, and are topped with homemade whipped cream, a fresh raspberry, and organic chocolate mint sprigs from my garden. Hello, delicious! Notice how many times I used the word "organic" in the description? That's to distract you from the billion calories each little cheesecake probably holds. I am pretending that the organic-ness of them makes them calorie and fat free and chock full of very good for you things. Now if I could just fool my hips into believing that...!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Watermelons and Cupcakes!

Friday is a good day for a little fun!

Yesterday I stopped by the World Market store. That is where I bought the Sistema Klip It boxes for only $5, and where I found the cute flower shaped silicone baking cups for only $2.50 for a pack of 6. I love walking into World Market. It's so clean and everyone there is polite and friendly, and it always smells good, and every direction you turn is something interesting to look at. And this time I found something new - a cute little cupcake shaped cookie cutter!

See... doesn't it leave the most adorable trimmings behind?

So, of course I knew that I would need to use it to make a cupcake themed lunch, and soon! Who can resist that level of cuteness for long? Especially after I found vanilla cupcake flavored Goldfish grahams at the grocery store. Yep, a cupcake lunch was inevitable. But I also found little watermelon gummies and had half a watermelon which needed to be eaten before it went all gooey-soggy. Oh! The decisions one must make. It was like Sophie's Choice all up in my kitchen, y'all.

So I did both. Now, logic and common sense would say that one of the girls could have had a watermelon themed lunch and the other could have had a cupcake themed lunch. But logic and common sense are not my best friends first thing in the morning. And really, if I had done that then they would have been fighting about who got what and why. So, I did the only sane and reasonable thing possible. I made both lunches with both a watermelon and a cupcake theme!

Expect to see a lot of that cupcake cookie cutter. Hello adorable! The sandwich is just two slices of whole grain white bread with a slice of cheese in between. Fast and easy! I used glitter icing tubes to draw a few basic cupcake-y outlines on the top.

Bean and Princess both loved the mini sausage links from yesterday and I still had most of the pack in the fridge, so they made another appearance today, with another little tub of barbecue sauce for dipping. They also have a flower shaped cup of cherry Jello with a pitted cherry floating inside. I tucked fresh ripe raspberries in the gaps to keep the little sandwich from shifting around. They also have watermelon balls, pretzel sticks, vanilla cupcake flavored Goldfish grahams, and two little watermelon gummies. It's a very red-pink lunch today! They both came downstairs as I was finishing up and got a good look at their lunches before I packed them into the lunch bags. There was much hearty approval and both were counting the minutes until lunch time even as they ate their breakfast.

So, somebody asked what I do with the trimmings. The bits left over after using the cookie cutters to cut out cute shapes. Well, usually there aren't a lot of trimmings. The cookie cutters fit pretty closely with the bread and I'm careful about layout, to make sure as much is used as possible. When a lot is left over, but not enough to cut with a cookie cutter, I often cut the rest into bite sized pieces and tuck in under the main shaped piece. Most of the time all that is left is the crusts, and either Beaker snacks on them while I am putting together the rest of the lunch or I give them to the ducks and chickens. However, today there was quite a bit of cheese sandwich left after cutting out the main piece. And a really adorable sandwich, too. Who can resist a good cupcake?

Beaker was just waking up as I finished things and didn't want a cheesy sandwich for breakfast. He wanted eggs. And I was happy to oblige!

I took an egg and scrambled it lightly with some milk. Then I melted some butter in a small frying pan. I dropped the negative-cupcake sandwich into the butter, being careful not to move the layers too much. Then I poured the scrambled egg into the center and put a lid on top. I fried them together until the center was less gooey and then flipped it over to fry the other side. Voila! Cupcake shaped Bullseyes* + grilled cheese, all in one! No picture of the final product, as Beaker wanted to eat it all up. Plus, the egg leaked out the sides and it didn't look very pretty or cupcake shaped by the time it was done. But it did taste good! Beaker said, "It's makes my mouf happy!" A pretty good compliment!

* I have heard these called many different things. Dude calls them Bullseyes. I've also heard/seen them called toad-in-the-hole (which I always thought had to do with sausage, but apparently there are different versions), as well as Eggs in a Nest. To make a 'regular' version, you just use a round cookie or biscuit cutter to cut a circle hole in a slice of bread and crack an egg in the center, frying them together. Next time I will stick to the usual method instead of scrambling the eggs ~ much less messy that way.

So, I'm curious. What do you call that dish?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Watermelon Hearts

This morning while I was putting together lunches, I had two girls and a little boy peering over my shoulder. And suddenly I am reminded why I usually do this at night! Finally I was able to shoo them away with the reminder that they needed to brush their hair and put their shoes on still before heading off to school. I love it when they help with their lunches, I really do. It's great to get their input, to hear what they want and don't want, to know that what goes in for sure will be eaten because they chose it themselves. But only one-on-one. When all three of them come at me at once, it's too much. Too many cooks spoil the soup, and too many voices overwhelm the mom!

Bean and Princess have identical lunches today. To keep myself from getting bored making them, I used different colors for the silicone cups and the food picks. Okay, it's a very small difference, but simple things amuse me!

For their lunches today they each have a peeled hard-boiled egg, Ritz crackers, and 2 chocolate sandwich cookies, kept separate from everything else using silicone baking cups. The cups keep the crackers and cookies dry and sog-free, and add a nice splash of color to the lunch. They also have heart shaped watermelon pieces, with small scraps of watermelon tucked into the edges to help keep things from shifting. Finally, each has two skewers of cheddar cheese and small sausages with barbecue sauce for dipping.

The boxes I used for these lunches are our "mall bentos". I bought them at a small Japanese imports store at the Lloyd Center Mall in Portland. They were $8.50 each, which is more than I would normally spend on a container, but the girls worked hard in school and earned them. Princess chose Hello Kitty and Bean chose Chococat. Each of the bento boxes is a fairly large single layer square and in the lid is a covered compartment which holds a matching spoon and fork. They don't really work well with sandwiches due to their size and shape, but for meals like this they are perfect.

Watermelon Shapes

Fun, and seriously easy to make. They add a little pop to the lunch, a little bit of decor, and aren't terribly time consuming.

Just slice watermelon into large rings, cut away some of the green rind, and use a small cookie cutter to cut shapes. That's it. Easy!

Any small scraps can be tucked underneath the shapes in the box and used to fill in gaps. The rinds are great for compost. I toss them in to our chickens and ducks for snacks.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

It's a Beautiful Morning

The sun is shining brightly in the sky. The air is crisp and cool, but the promise of afternoon warmth hangs waiting. Not quite cold enough for a jacket, but cool enough to whisper of Autumn coming.

But for now, it's still technically Summer, and I'm holding on to it until every last leaf has fallen and the ground is white with frost.

So today, we have bright summery foods!

Princess asked for a sandwich for lunch again, and I was happy to oblige. It's hard to tell, but the sandwich is shaped like a butterfly. I tucked grapes in around the butterfly to fill the gaps. Also included is a heart-shaped silicone cup of raspberry Jello with a raspberry sealed inside. The other container holds plum slices, oyster crackers, pretzels with Laughing Cow cheese, and grape tomatoes. These containers are both sandwich boxes. Each one cost $1 at Target, in the dollar bins near the entrance.

Bean's lunch has most of the same ingredients, but put together in a different way. Changing little things, like the way food is presented, helps to keep things interesting even when the ingredients are mostly the same. Bean has a frilled heart shaped pastrami sandwich. Hiding under the sandwich and filling a gap at the top are green grapes. There was plenty of room in the small box to place a layer of grapes on the bottom of the container and lay the sandwich on top. This saves space and keeps the sandwich tucked in tightly, to prevent shifting and sliding. The bottom tier of the other box holds pretzels sticks, Laughing Cow cheese, and oyster crackers, and the top tier holds plum slices and raspberry Jello with a raspberry inside.

This is what those containers look like all packed up. The small box, the three-tier bento, and the bento band were about $3 each at . They fit nicely in just about any lunch bag and together hold plenty of food for a kid lunch.

Beaker's lunch is brought to you by the color orange. He chose cheddar cheese, canteloupe, orange Jello with a mandarin orange slice, oyster crackers, and "a fishy sandwich." So I dug through my bin of cookie cutters to find one shaped by a fish. Roughly two hundred cookies cutters and not a single one of them shaped like a fish! So I pulled out a penguin cutter and turned it on its side. Beaker took one look and said, "That not a fish, that a pingin." He gave me a Look, the kind of look only an exasperated three year old can give, and agreed to eat it anyway.

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