Monday, April 29, 2013

Peace and Happiness

I've mentioned before that Bean has a minor obsession with peace signs, right? So, when I found Annie's Organic parmesan mac and cheese, I knew she would flip over them. Mac and cheese shaped like peace signs!

Totally perfect for Bean. It is a wheat pasta, definitely not Beaker-safe, but I followed safe practices, washed up carefully, and Beaker was never exposed. I packed the pasta into two Thermoses for Bean and Princess to take for lunch. One box filled two 10 oz Thermos with a little bit left over (which Brick snagged faster than I could blink. He misses wheat).

Along with the Thermos of hot pasta and cheese sauce, each of the girls had a small dish of fruit, veggies, and pretzels on the side.

For Princess, a peace sign pretzel flower with snap pea stem/leaves, some blackberries and strawberries, and a little side salad.

For /Bean, peace-pretzels with creamy Swiss cheese spread, strawberries and blackerries, a little side salad, and snap peas.

Beaker's lunch is happy to see you!

The cute Cutie face is made with dried seaweed, using a nori punch for the eyes and smile. The "hair" is a handful of blackberries.

He also has pear chunks, turkey-cheese rolls, and a puffed rice stick cut into slices with a handful of Enjoy Life chocolate chips. The big kids might miss 'real' wheat bread and pizza crust, but Beaker is totally happy with his new diet. He has adjusted so well! And for the most part, the rest of us have rolled with the changes, too. Beaker is doing SO great on his new diet that it's hard to be resentful or feel like we're missing out. His eczema is cleared up. The rashes are gone. And even better, he hasn't needed his inhaler even once in over a month! The health benefits for him of clearing his body of the stuff he was reacting to have been awesome.

Switching gears, the Dude's lunch is happy to see you, too!

Simple salmon salad, with a small shout out to the movie Evolution. David Duchovny, Julianne Moore, and Orlando Jones. Such a funny flick, and one the Dude and I love to watch.

His salad is made with spring greens and a hand full of veggies (peas, carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, broccoli), as well as smoked salmon, with a provolone cheese mutated smile. He also has blackberries, strawberries, mutligrain crackers and spicy cream cheese spread with snap peas, and a couple of mini chocolate bars.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Super Simple Lunches

Just some quick simple lunches from a day of errand running and one for school from earlier in the week!

Bean's lunch: turkey-cheese rolls, pears, a clementine, a cookie, and some peace sign pretzels with Laughing Cow cheese.

Princess requested a certain kind of roll from the grocery store, so she and I split that, plus we had these little dishes on the side. I have spicy cheese with Van's mutigrain crackers, a clementine, and pear chunks. She has pear chunks, a clementine, mild cheese with Van's multigrain crackers, and a half cookie.

For Beaker, ham-cheese rolls with a peeled clementine, a few snap peas cut in half, and some potato-veggie chips. He also has some pears, an EnjoyLife cookie, and some Ener-G pretzel rings.

We're getting this allergy thing down pat!

And proof that not every lunch I pack is fun or cute! This is a pretty simple lunch that took about five minutes to pack. 

Bean has a turkey and cheese sandwich with lettuce and mustard on Udi's allergy safe bread, a handful of kettle chips, a few baby dill pickles, and a fruit mix of grapes and cantaloupe balls.

And now for something completely different...

Here is a picture of Beaker with a bird on his head.

And Princess with a mustache!

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Easy Homemade Clam Chowder

Easy Clam Chowder

4-5 cups diced potatoes*
1 small onion, diced
1/4 lb. bacon
pepper to taste
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
2 cups half-and-half
3 cans minced clams

Fry bacon in a pot. When bacon is done, remove bacon from the pan and add the diced onions to the bacon grease. Cook until softened, about one or two minutes. Stir in pepper and add potatoes. Toss to mix, then cover potatoes with chicken broth and water. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are cooked through and soft. In the meantime, cut up the cooked bacon. Add juice from the clams to the soup (but don't add the clams themselves yet ~ adding them too soon makes them rubbery) and half-and-half. Heat through, being careful not to boil. Add clams and cut bacon, mix in, and cook for another minute.

Serve with chives, sour cream, and malt vinegar.

* Potatoes note: Red potatoes give the soup a more chunky texture, while Russets make it more creamy and thick. Some of us prefer the thick/creamy and some prefer the chunky texture, so I compromise and use both. Either or both works! Add extra potatoes for a thicker soup.

This is an easy and pretty quick meal, excellent for nights when I need to cook something fast.  It takes about 25 minutes, but most of that is simmering time.

It's great for lunch, too! Reheated in the morning and poured into a Thermos to keep it hot. Perfect lunch for cool days!

Especially good with a nice salad and fruit on the side.

Like this spring greens salad with balsamic dressing, with strawberries and blackberries, Van's multigrain crackers, a piece of chocolate, and a few bits of beef jerky (special request from Bean). Delicious and hearty lunch for school!

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Where we live it is very wet. It rains a lot, especially in the spring. We also live fairly close to a river, and to several small creeks, watershed areas, and watery ditches. So the fact that there are frogs all over here is not surprising!

Every evening when we go out for a walk we get to hear frog song. It's such a pretty, happy sound. The frogs singing to each other while most of the people settle in to rest. During the summer the frogs, night birds, and crickets seem to be competing, singing their happy hearts loud and clear for who listen.

One of the (many!) great things about living where we do is that any given day when we're working in the flower garden in the front yard, or taking a walk, or just hanging out outside, there is always a good chance we could see little frogs. The kids love that! They are always very careful not to disturb them when they sit and watch. A few times they have even 'rescued' frogs which had wandered into the road or sidewalk, by carefully scooping them up and carrying them back to the grass or flowers.

Ever since taking the dog on a walk and really noticing the frogs sing, Beaker has been semi-obsessed with frogs. Some of his froggy lunches from the last two weeks:

Froggy CuteZCute sandwich for preschool! The sandwich is made with allergen safe Udi's gluten-free bread, cheese, and turkey. His tongue is a strip of carrot, catching a little raisin 'fly'.

He also has a pair of gummy frogs, Ener-G allergen-safe pretzel rings, carrot coins, and raisins.

To round out the lunch, he has snap peas, blackberries, and pear chunks. Yum!

Another CuteZCute froggy sandwich, this time with ham and cheese on Udi's bread.

Cheese letters spell out RIBBIT, which Beaker says is frog for "Hello, you can eat me now."

For sides he has a little fruit 'salad' of cantaloupe and halved green and red grapes, cucumber chunks, Van's Multigrain crackers, popcorn, and a little cup filled with EnjoyLife allergen free chocolate chips and roasted sunflower seeds.

And on another day he took this very simple lunch for preschool.

He has Tings, snap peas, blackberries and strawberries in the bottom layer of this two tier bento box. In the top layer he has cucumber slices, gummy frogs, and ham-and-cheese rolls. For snack he took a Mini Dipper full of sunflower butter, some rice crackers, and a few roasted plantain chips. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

It's Impossible Astronaut Day!

Today is Impossible Astronaut Day!

It is a day for Whovians to be geeky and have fun, drawing tally marks on themselves and friends to mark the anniversary of the airing of the Doctor Who episode 'The Impossible Astronaut'. 

For my fellow Whovian food geeks, it's a perfect excuse for a Doctor Who blog hop!

A mysterious phrase, oft repeated in the sixth season. "Silence will fall." Later we find out more, but we're still waiting for that question to be asked, the question that must never be answered...

Doctor who?

For lunch, the Dude has leftover Italian sausage with a side salad. Cucumber stars and provolone cheese letters decorate the top. On the side he has strawberries and blackberries, a few pieces of coffee-chocolate, and a few veggie crisps.

For Bean I also packed leftover Italian sausage with a small salad on the side. She has provolone cheese stars, cucumber slices, strawberries and blackberries. She also has a wedge of cheese spread with some multigrain gluten-free crackers, and a little bit of vanilla bean yogurt with Enjoy Life double chocolate granola and strawberry stars.

Is that a TARDIS baran I see?! Why yes. Yes, it is. 

I used an Exacto knife, blue silicone baking mat, and this fantastic guide from Oh!Bento UK to make reusable TARDIS baran! They're a little wonky (and the plaque looks like a third window) but I love them to bits and pieces. The silicone is a bit fiddly to cut, especially the corners and small bits, but they were pretty easy to make. I'm still trying to perfect the shape.

For Brick, a small salad with turkey-cheese and ham-cheese rolls on the side. He also has strawberries and blackberries with a few bits of coffee-chocolate, and a small side of potato chips.

"I wear a stetson now. Stetsons are cool." HA! I love River Song's reaction to the stetson...

Now click the button to slide on over to the fantastic Bento For Kidlet!

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Curious George

A lunch featuring the curious little monkey, for my curious little monkey!

Beaker has a mixed greens salad with a homemade dressing I whipped up using sour cream, pepper, and dill. It was okay. Not yet close to ranch dressing, his favorite. Still trying to find a garlic and soy free version of ranch dressing for him! Ranch is his very favorite dressing for salad and dip for carrots, cucumbers, and broccoli, but every commercial version I have found has garlic and soybean oil. So we're on a quest to find a dressing/dip that he loves as much as ranch, but safe for him to eat.

He also has fruit ~ blackberries, strawberries, and pears ~ with a little Curious George decoration on top. A few slices of Canadian bacon and cheese add protein, while an Enjoy Life double chocolate cookie rounds it up with dessert.

Without the Man in the Yellow Hat, Curious George would never have gotten out of the jungle to have his amazing adventures! The yellow hat here is made of a piece of cheese cut into a hat shape with a nori hat band.

And balloons, of course! Cherry tomato balloons, to be more precise. Beaker's favorite part of the Curious George movie is when George and the Man in the Yellow Hat fly away holding the bunch of balloons. 

My curious little monkey <3

And then my lunch was a delicious pear and gorgonzola salad. So very delicious!

My favorite salad right now. I toss some mixed spring greens with extra baby spinach leaves, and then top with warm bacon, gorgonzola cheese crumbles, and fresh sliced pear. Drizzled over the top is a homemade pear vinaigrette - just mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and pepper, and then add the juice from a can of pears. I also mashed a few of the canned pears up and mixed in with the vinaigrette for a little extra sweetness. Light, tangy, and utterly fantastic. On the side I had a cup of strawberries and extra pear slices.

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And remember to enter the giveaway for an awesome set of sandwich cutters and a fab bento box!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Date Night!


Date nights are pretty rare around here. Five kids makes babysitters expensive and often difficult to find. Also, the Dude and I are usually just too busy to take a whole evening off. So when Beaker's preschool offered a Parent's Night Out (siblings welcome) on the same night that we both were free, we jumped on it!

The kids had a blast. The preschool had a Wii set up, and a movie, and lots of games and crafts and toys. They had dinner there, too ~ pizza and popcorn, major favorites!

Of course, Beaker can't eat pizza unless it is specially made to be safe for him (no gluten, no garlic, no nut or soy flours), so I packed up a dinner to send with him. I wanted to make a nice hot meal for him, but was limited in time and transport ability. But hey, that's where the thermos comes in handy!

For Beaker's dinner, I cooked a box of Annie's Organic Rice Mac & Cheese and mixed in a little extra shredded cheese. I tucked a serving in to a Crayola insulated Thermos to keep it nice and hot.

I also packed him a side dish with some mini sausages and ketchup, and some Van's Multigrain crackers. He also has veggies ~ carrots, mushrooms, and snap peas ~ with some sour cream with dill for dipping.

What is that up in the corner? It's a gummy frog! I stumbled across these at a local grocery store. They're adorable, and pretty detailed for candy. Beaker loves frogs, especially the brightly colored Poison Dart Frogs. These taste like gummy worms, and are Beaker's favorite sweet treat.

Unfortunately, I just looked up the company information and found that while the ingredients are Beaker-safe (gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free!), they have a cross contamination warning for all three. I am going to have a very sad little Beaker when he finds that out. And I have packed them in several lunches over the last week... so that explains the little red bumps on his face this morning. 

And that? Is the hardest part of food allergies. Reading ingredients isn't always enough. You have to look up company information to make sure they practice safe manufacturing policies, too. And frequently have to contact the company directly to make sure that there isn't cross contamination from something that isn't listed. And be so. very. careful. All of the time. 

But? They're totally worth the effort and work. Since we started this new diet for Beaker a little over a month ago, his eczema has cleared up. The random rashes ~ often so bad they would bleed ~ have completely gone away. He hasn't needed his inhaler, not even once (where before he was using it often several times per day). He sleeps better, with less snoring. And he seems happier, because his body feels better! Worth every minute of the effort, just to see his happy smiling face each day. 

And our date night was fantastic. The Dude and I got to sit through a grown up movie AND dinner! 

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My First Giveaway!

CuteZCute from AllThingsForSale is my favorite sandwich cutter. So adorable! Easy to use, and reasonably priced, too. Often they are one of the first bento tools I reach for when making lunches, for Beaker and Princess especially. I have also used the cutter for cookies and they made excellent toppers for individual pies.

The CuteZCute Sandwich Cutter and Pastry Stamp Kit is a fantastic all-in-one tool. It can be used to cut sandwiches, deli meat and cheese, cookies, pie crust, and so much more! It can also be used as a rice mold, or to cut thin sliced veggies and fruit into cute shapes. The set comes with six pieces ~ the outside shape cutter, 4 sweet animal faces (bear, pig, cat, and frog) with a cutter on one side and a stamper on the other, and a special tool for popping bits out of the cutter.

I frequently use our set for making sandwiches, like this cute piggy made with multiseed gluten-free bread. I have also used it for ice cream-cookie sandwiches, and it was so easy to use! 

Another fantastic and fun bento tool is this cheeseburger bento box, also from ATFS. Beaker loves this box. It comes with two layers, and the clipping lid is simple enough for even his little hands to get it open. It is small, but still holds plenty of food for younger kids or smaller appetites.

This is a full lunch packed for Beaker to take to preschool, all tucked into the cheeseburger bento box. He has a gluten, nut, and soy free sandwich, some snap peas, a sliced up cheese stick, cantaloupe balls, Wylde GF pretzel rings by Ener-G, and a little mayo cup full of sunflower seeds and Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips. 

A complete and balanced meal, perfect for Beaker, all tucked into this compact, space saving box!

This one is a froggy organic turkey sandwich on Udi's bread (gluten, soy, and nut free, and Beaker's favorite) with a sliced cheese stick, watermelon and mango pieces, celery with cream cheese, and carrot sticks.

In between the two tiers of the box is a flexible lid, which holds a small fork, just the right size for little hands. Tucking it away in between the layers of the bento box saves space in lunch bags and keeps the fork clean and ready.

Now... do you want a chance to win both of these awesome products?

Of course you do!

The amazing BentoUSA/ATFS has offered to send a full CuteZCute Sandwich Cutter and Pastry Stamp set AND a Cheeseburger 2 Tier Bento Lunch Box to one lucky winner! Enter to win below:

(Drawing open only to citizens of the Earth.)

Good luck!

Edit: CONGRATULATIONS!!! to our winner, Heidi B! I hope you love the set as much as I do!

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