Sunday, February 27, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday - Last Minute Dinner

Once again I hadn't planned ahead for a cute or creative Muffin Tin Monday meal this week, and put it off until Sunday, when we were going to be gone all day for my niece's birthday party.
Asleep in the car on the drive home from the party.
Deely Boppers on her head, and lollipop drool down her seatbelt strap!
So I figured I'd have a second week in a row with no muffin tin meal. Ah well. But after dropping my husband off at the airport for a business trip, Little Z asked for warm hot cocoa. (She's very sensitive to heat. If it's just right for me, it's too hot for her. She can sit happily in a cold bath forever, but if I make it the coolest level of hot that I'd be able to tolerate, she screams that it's too hot. She also specifies 'warm' for hot dogs too!)
I didn't want to give her hot cocoa since she hadn't eaten her dinner that my husband had heated up for her before we had to get him to the airport. So we compromised. She could have (warm) hot cocoa with a "beautiful dinner." Since I had no plans, I let her choose everything. Except I included her uneaten dinner.

Leftover pork chop, String cheese, Carrot (peeled,) Strawberries
I opened up my muffin tin cupboard and showed off her options. She chose this insect one I haven't used yet that I got on eBay ages ago, when I first started doing MTMs.
I didn't try and put something in each cavity, since she'd be going to bed soon after, unlike other days, when I make these for lunch and she can snack on them throughout the day. I also used less of each food, since she hadn't been hungry much all day, so it just wasn't an "eating day" for her.
She had really enjoyed the "chicken" pork chop from Saturday night, so my husband heated up a leftover one for her for dinner Sunday too. He ate leftover meatloaf and I had leftover lasagna. Yum!
She chose carrot as her vegetable, which is good, as the green beans had gone bad and I couldn't find any broccoli. I guess I could have fished out some frozen veggies in a pinch. She wanted me to peel it, but she didn't want me to cut it. At all.
She chose a string cheese stick instead of mozzerella or Colby Jack cheese, which made my life easier, and she refused to allow me to cut it into nibblets. In fact, I had to threaten to withhold the (warm) hot cocoa to get her permission to take the wrapper off and take a picture of her meal!
And this is why (warm) hot cocoa is such a pain in the keister for me. She eats it like soup. And gets it all over whatever adorable little outfit she has just worn for the first time ever. And destroys it. So now I've wised up and have a stash of ruined clothes that most families would call "paint clothes," but we call "hot cocoa clothes."
Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

Friday, February 25, 2011

Project Lunch: Cinna-chips and Taco del Bar

For this month's Kids Cooking Class, I opted to do a taco bar and have the kids make cinnamon sugar tortilla crisps. Since I didn't want the kids cutting tomatoes or lettuce, and I didn't want to be standing there cooking the ground beef while they ran around like maniacs, I prepped all the taco fixin's in advance. I decided to grate the cheese in advance too, even though most of the kids are capable of grating their own cheese on a stand-up grater. It just takes them each about a thousand years to get enough cheese to put on a single taco, and they don't like to end their turn and let someone else go next. Plus you get 1,000 little grubby nose-picking hands on the brick of cheese. I got corn taco shells and small flour tortillas so they could choose soft or crunchy tacos.
My hostess, Miss Cassie had such a great snack spread, so most of the kids (and moms) were full by lunchtime. Ah well. Since there would be very little actual cooking this time, I let the kids play for a while first, then tried to gradually get them started on using cookie cutters to make shapes from larger flour tortillas. I brought a wide variety of cutters, but tried to limit them to metal ones (plastic just isn't gonna cut it on tortillas [pun intended]) and shapes without tiny fiddly bits sticking off of them, since little bits cook faster, plus tend to tear more when getting them out of the cutter.

Cinnamon Tortilla Crisps
Difficulty: So easy a monkey could do it.
Total time: 15 minutes or less (depending on how many you're making, of course.)

Large Flour Tortillas
Butter, milk, soy milk, rice milk, oil, or water.

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 or 400 F. Use cookie cutters or kitchen shears (or let your child use safety scissors) to cut flour tortillas into fun shapes. Or just fold and tear them into triangles and such.
It was really hard for the kids to do this by themselves. I let Z pick out a cookie cutter shape and place it on her tortilla, then I pressed down and shimmied the cutter and tortilla to cut all the way through.
Tip: Don't lift the cutter until the outer tortilla is completely separate.
I kept some of the larger scraps to make chips for myself later.
Photo by Cassie
Step 2: Lightly spread or brush butter onto tortilla shapes. [You can just butter the whole tortilla at the beginning, which makes it all easier, but then you have to wash the cutters!]
Instead of butter, you can use milk, rice or soy milk, oil, margarine, water... anything moist so the sugar mix can stick! I like the golden crispiness that butter gives these.

Step 3: Combine cinnamon and sugar in whatever ratio you prefer. I've read a recipe that uses 2 Tbsp sugar to every 1 tsp cinnamon. 
I tend to use more cinnamon, since I find that it's more visible this way, and then Z is content with having less sugar on her stuff. Works great with cinnamon toast and fruit, as well as cereal. She can SEE the cinnamon, so doesn't insist we add enough until she can see the hard-to-see sugar!

Step 4: Sprinkle as desired on buttered tortilla shapes. Spread tortilla shapes onto foil- or parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet. 
[You can put them on cookie sheet before or after sugaring them. Depends how many more times you plan on using the same cookie sheet to make more. You wouldn't want too much extra sugar burning under batch #3 on the foil from the first batch!]

Step 5: Bake at 400F for around 4-6 minutes, or 350 F for 8-10 minutes. On bake, I never got any burnt ones, even when I forgot about them for a few extra minutes. You can probably broil them at 400F for around 3 minutes, but would want to watch them closely!
Photo by Cassie

Not surprisingly, the cinnamon crisps were more popular than the taco bar, and absolutely every child not only tried the crisps, but liked them. Z and another boy both ate them raw, both with and without cinnamon sugar, but we made extras for them that got cooked.

My favorite part about the cinnamon crisps is that they are so easy to make, and a quick, fun, on-the-fly cooking activity. When I made my tortilla sandwich for my Her Favorite Things MTM, I whipped up some of these for myself with the tortilla scraps.

You're seeing cookie cutter shapes from my Fox Run Marine Life, Dinosaur and Farm Animal sets, crown from Princess set, flowers and a bunny from my Wilton Easter set, Martha Stewart Noah's Ark set, a smaller dinosaur from a set I got at Kitchen Collection, plus some random ones from sets at Daiso.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I have an irrational fear of spiders. A phobia. But a crazy, irrational phobia. It's better now, since I'm trying to be brave for my daughter, and try not to TEACH her to fear things that aren't hazardous. But I was once so scared of spiders, that no amount of rational thought could convince me that a spider wasn't going to jump across the room just to land on me. Seriously. If there was a spider in the bathroom, I would not enter. Period. If I knew one was there, because it had been sighted earlier, but was in hiding, I would not go in.
Funny Pictures
In High School, I dated a guy who had a pet tarantula. He was rooting through his closet for something and handed me a shoebox, but was still looking through his closet for whatever it was. I foolishly opened the shoebox and was attacked by an army of tarantulas. Or, apparently, shed tarantula skins, set afloat by the air whooshing through when I opened the box. I just about peed myself was understandably very traumatized. He of course, thought it was hilarious, but hadn't known about my phobia, and hadn't been trying to trick me. He just thought I might enjoy seeing the shed skins. Gaaaah.
I once lived in a house infested with gigantic wolf spiders. We [and by "we" I mean my roommates. No way was I getting that close!] would adjust disposable lighters to make higher flames, and run them along under the electric baseboard heaters. Literally dozens of dead, crispy wolf spiders would come falling out. *shudder* One of my roommates was cruel, and would place them like trophies, atop the baseboard heaters. If you walked past fast enough, the breeze in your wake would make them move. Out of the corner of your eye, you'd see an army of spiders come to attack you. This roommate also enjoyed putting plastic Halloween spiders on my pillow and in my laundry. Hilarity ensues.
When I met my husband, I told him that if he didn't respect my fear of spiders, irrational is it may be, that it would be a deal-breaker. While it might be funny to watch me scream and freak out when I find a plastic spider in my underwear drawer, it should be equally funny to watch me scream when confronted by a real spider. So just be patient.

I can't even kill them. First off, if I get close enough to slay one, it would jump on me, and secondly, I don't like feeling their little crunchy bodies in the tissue or whatever between my fingers. I don't want to have to scrape them off my shoe. And I'm no medical examiner. They might not really be dead. And I'm certainly not going to bother with a glass and paper to try and shoo them outside. They know where I live! Plus, did I mention? They all want to jump on me!
And even if I can get someone else to kill the spider for me, instead of their bleeding-heart "I'll just put it outside" nonsense, they have to kill it right. You can't just scoop it up in a tissue and flush it. It's still alive, and will thus come crawling back up through the toilet, bent on revenge. Naturally, it will bide its time until I need to use the toilet, and then it will pounce! But you can't just squish it either. It might be faking, just waiting for me to lower my guard. The proper procedure is to squish it (preferably into several pieces) and then flush it.

Well, one night, at the wolf spider house, all my spider-slayers roommates happened to be out. I was slobbing around not cleaning minding my own business when a monstrously large spider ran across my hand (which was on the floor, for some reason. As I recall, I sat on the floor often to watch TV.) Spider. Ran. Across. My. Hand. What to do? I was frozen with fear and indecision. I certainly couldn't co-exist with it peaceably for hours until someone got home to save me. I had no shoes on. And I didn't want spider squish on my shoe anyway. I finally found one of my roommates' shoes and whomped that spider into a bajillion pieces. Then I ran upstairs and was found by my roommates hours later, curled up in a ball in one of the chairs, almost catatonic. Someone scraped the spider off the shoe and flushed it for me. The moral of the story is that I was able to control my fear long enough to deal with the problem before completely losing it. Thereby qualifying me for motherhood. If I can handle that, I can handle anything!

Now, of course, I have a little minion to eradicate spiderdom. She not only likes spiders, but wants to hold them. And she's not exactly gentle. The down side is that I cannot shriek like a little girl or gibber in fear as they crawl all over her hands and up her arms. The up side is that they inevitably get squished.

This post was inspired by one of  Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop Generic Writing Prompts, "What are you afraid of?"

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WFLW - Improvised Bento!

Late last week and early this week, I was at my sister's house to watch her two girls (along with  my own, obviously) so she and Unka Rop could both work on the same day(s.) I could have sworn I had taken a picture of the 'bentos' that I had made for the girls last week when I went to pick up Tually from preschool, but apparently not. But I DID remember to take pictures this time! Since I hadn't brought any of my gear (boxes, picks, cutters, etc) I just scrounged in their "Tupperware drawer" for items to use as boxes.

Carrots, apple "fries," cheese sticks, grapes, sandwiches, and a sprig of broccoli for Z
 I found two ancient Tupperware square boxes (probably from my mom, from when Tupperware first came out we were kids!) And a Gladware (or Ziplock. I didn't examine the pedigree!) reuse/toss container (not sure what they're called. But basically the ones you use until the lids start warping from too many washings, then recycle.) The largest one was for Z, because she eats more.
The large one (left) and the top right one (for Pilu) have PBJ on multi-grain bread. The lower right bluish one was for Tually, and she has 1/2 sandwich total, on white bread. 1/2 of THAT (so 1/4th of a sandwich) is just buttered bread, since that's what she told me she wanted when I asked before her mom took her to school. Just in case she'd eat some plain jelly (her usual preference) I made the other 1/2 plain jelly (home-made jelly!) [Obviously, not made by me. But it's entirely possible that I PICKED some of the blackberries that went into it.]
Not very exciting or artistic, I know, but shows that you don't need lots of fancy gear to make a "beautiful lunch!"

I totally flaked on posting last week, but I made bento!
Last Week's WFLW!
2/11/11 - Since we had a busy day 2 Fridays ago, (MOMS Club craft, then a dentist appointment for me, followed by my annual physical exam) we weren't going to have time to go home to eat. Like, ever. So I made sure to pack enough to make a lunch and a snack for her (I had McD's. Shame on me!)
Top to bottom, left to right: Sweet potato chips, mixed berries, cheese nibblets, pretzel logs; peppermint, apple juice box, Onion w/Chives cream cheese cup; sliced ham, mini pita pockets
I used a little freezer pouch from Rubbermaid that I had found on clearance at Target a while, back, but I had to cut it loose from the sheet. It leaked in the middle compartment, which was kind of frustrating. I guess they're only supposed to be cut into strips of little cooler pockets, rather than individual. Bummer. Luckily everything in that compartment was in manufacturer packaging, so no food was ruined.

2/1/11 - I didn't prep ahead for Tuesday's after-gym lunch, so I threw something together last-minute in my EasyLunchBox.
English Muffin PBJ, PBHoney sandwich "fingers," String Cheese, "Crunchy Peas" (Pea Crips, I think they're called,) strawberries and blackberries

Bento Lunch

Monday, February 21, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday - Shopping!

There's no theme this week (or any week, anymore) for Muffin Tin Monday, and I had planned on incorporating my husband's home-made pizza sauce and dough into an MTM on Sunday, except that our oven stopped working (we still have the 2 burners that weren't already broken. But still.) So I kind of neglected to remember to make other plans for one, and then was going to throw one together Monday, just to have something to show. But instead we went out and bought a new oven! Well... in the same strip mall as the Best Buy, there's a Cost Plus World Market and a Ross Dress For Less (which has a kitchenware section.)
So instead of making a Muffin Tin Meal, I found LOADS of great priced MTM gear!

I got the most stuff from Cost Plus -
The silicone Pig egg/pancake mold was $2, the silicone pink flower "egg poacher" (I'll use it as a muffin cup!)  was $2.50. The sets of 2 silicone "cracked eggshell" cups were kind of spendy at $5 per pair, but the flower, star and circle silicone muffin liners were a steal at $2.50 per package of 6! (12 in the mini-liner package. They also had red mini ones, which I thought I had grabbed, but I must have decided not to since I already have some small red ones.) The Ladybug Cupcake Kit was $8, and the cookie cutters were each $1 (plus they had a few other shapes that I already had.)
The Ladybug Cupcake Kit was kind of a disappointment, since the "picks" are just thick paper. And the grass wraparounds aren't as useful in an MTM (but I can use them grass-side out in a muffin cup, I guess.) And it's not like I needed another bag of cupcake mix, when I still have the ones from Christmas clearance muffin liner sets!
The Pasta was on sale for $2/bag (reg. $3,) and Chocorooms (chocolate biscuit cookie things) on sale for $1.50 (reg. $2) I can't WAIT to do some kind of transportation-themed meal with the vehicles pasta, and safari or zoo or jungle theme with the zoo pasta. Probably a fairy or garden theme with the Chocorooms!

I only found one item I HAD to have at Ross, but it was similar to something I saw and decided not to get from Cost Plus, and cheaper too! Ross also had a ton of other Easter/Spring related goodies you could use for MTMs or bentos, including a variety of Wilton cookie cutters and mini cookie cutter sets easily 40% lower than standard prices!
Blooming Cupcakes Decorating Kit $6 (reg. $10) - includes 6 silicone flower pot muffin cups, plus some medium flower  sprinkles and green jimmies. These will do nicely for Spring flowers, or a garden theme! Plus they're a little taller than regular liners, so may be flush with the lids on some of my bento boxes! Squeee!

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday - Be Mine, Valentine!

This week's Muffin Tin Monday theme is Red/Valentine's Day. This is the last week with a theme. She'll have some suggestions, but there will no longer be a unified theme each week. Awww.

Grape and strawberry skewers, Tortilla PBJ, Red Froot Loops, Raisinettes (in heart box,)
Mozzerella hearts, Carrot hearts, Red-dyed Greek yogurt w/ sugar sprinkles
I used my red heart muffin tin for obvious reasons.

PBeMineJ: I thought I had a scalloped heart cutter when I first conceived this, but apparently not. So I used my largest heart cutter for the top tortilla, and then used kitchen shears to make a larger roughly heart-shaped area around the cutter, and then hand cut a sloppy scalloped edge. I put PB on the larger one, but only in the middle, since the whole point of using a tortilla was for the pasty whiteness. I used my tiny letter cutters on tortilla scraps for the words. Strawberry jelly on the top heart, to provide contrast, and for red, which is part of the theme!

Raisinette Conversation: I got the little plastic heart box from Dollar Tree in a set of 10. Same as the plain ones I've been using, but this set has conversation heart sayings on them! I chose a red one for obvious reasons, and was thrilled that "Be Mine" happened to be on a red one! Since I needed an excuse to use the box, I scrounged around trying to find something to put in it. We had some Raisinettes left over from seeing "Tangled" on Saturday, so I put some in.

I {heart} Carrots and Cheese!: For the carrots and smaller cheese hearts, I used my tiniest cutter, from a mini cutter set. For the larger cheese hearts, I used the smallest cutter in my plastic graduated set from Daiso. I used my red Wilton Food Writer, but they are apparently not good on cheese. Since I was just too lazy didn't want to paint on cheese this time, I just left it at one.

I Pick Strawberries!: While I have a lot of heart picks, the only ones that came in RED, were some from a set at Dollar Tree. Plus they're extra long, so I could make kebabs. I chose red strawberries, again, should be obvious why. We have some mini green grapes in the fridge, and I wanted something to contrast with the berries, so these were perfect.

I thought she'd love the red yogurt with red sugar sprinkles. Not so much. She started squawking for "honey yogurt with honey on top" so I put some honey on it. No good. "NO! I WANT HONEY YOGURT WITH HONEY ON TOOOOOOOOOP!" "It IS honey yogurt! I just made it red, like the cheese." "NO! I WANT WHITE HONEY YOGURT WITH HONEY ON TOP! NOT RED HONEY YOGURT WITH RED SPRINKLES AND HONEY ON TOP!" *sigh*
She loved the red colored cheese. She licked it
for a while and asked a lot of in-depth questions
about it before finally popping it into her gob.
Tasting the red sprinkles.
She had no problems with the red Froot Loops, however. Those, some cheese, and some Raisinettes are all she ate.
Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Easy(Lunch) Does It!

In case you haven't noticed, I now have a great variety of lunch boxes. Japanese-style bento boxes, as well as other compartmentalized or interlocking segment boxes. I cycle through them. I've used each kind at least once or twice so far. But the one I keep going back to is my EasyLunch box. They come in a set of 4 boxes and 4 lids. I used them so much last Summer, at all our concerts-in-the-park, I went ahead and got another set! So far, these are the only lunch box products I have loved enough to buy again! [I'm not counting Japanese-style bento boxes, since I haven't bought multiples of the same one, just different ones in various shapes, sizes, and lid designs. And I still use these far more often.]
 In short, I love these lunch boxes!
Some of the things I love about EasyLunch boxes:

  • BPA, Phthalate, Lead, Vinyl and PVC free!
  • Microwave and Dishwasher-Safe
  • Eco-Friendly. I only use zip-top sandwich baggies for craft storage now, and as frosting bags (with a corner snipped,) or for individual shake-and-bake with my cooking classes. Or the cheapie non zip-top baggies as kid gloves for messy activities! No more throwing out 3-5 baggies after every lunch!
  • Takes up less space to store. The boxes nest together to make a much shorter stack! Lids too.
  • Very durable. I've used mine regularly for 8 months now, and they're all still in great shape.
  • Just 2 pieces to wash. Lid and box. Not a bunch of little fiddly lids and boxes floating around the dishwasher. With all my silicone muffin liners and cookie cutters, my little dishwasher box for washing  nipples and sippy cup valves can only hold so much! The lid fits lengthwise in my top-drawer bowl pegs, and the box lays in the side where I usually wash glasses. As an added bonus, I can put a few muffin liners or cookie cutters on the pegs the box leans against, so that they aren't flying around during the wash!
  • The large compartment is fairly large. Easily enough for a sandwich with any kind of bread I choose. Most of the other boxes I have require creative sandwich mutilation cutting to fit! Plus usually room for some extra food too.
  • THE PRICE! $14/four boxes plus lids, and only $8 for the machine-washable cooler bag.
  • The cooler bag is designed for the box(es) to sit flat. so the food isn't sloshing all around with the box on its side, like every other cooler bag I've seen for similar products. And the short handle not only makes it easier for kids to carry, but also easier to keep the bag upright and flat in transit. Plus the bag easily fits 2 EasyLunch boxes plus an ice pack and drink pouches. Or 1 EasyLunch box plus an ice pack and some smaller containers and drink boxes. Everything Z and I need for a lunch (and snack) at the park!
  • The box is the perfect size for eating off of laps in the car. Since the lid comes off completely, you don't have a lid trying to counterbalance the box off the lap and onto the floor. And the box is short enough lengthwise to fit between the arms of a toddler carseat, but long enough that it's not sliding sideways off the legs. And short enough widthwise that it's not hanging off the knees. I now keep a clean box in the car at all times for unplanned Happy Meals on the road.
Also great tub-side! Fits on the edge of the bath without falling in! She loved having a special "bath lunch"!

Some of the very few downsides:

  • They were designed to not be air/watertight, so that little fingers could open them without adult assistance. This is the only lunch box system we have that Z can open and close on her own, and the only one I foresee her being able to open for a while. The others are tooooo tiiiiiight! *I* have a hard time opening (and sealing) many of the lids on the other boxes and inner containers! So you'd want to avoid watery stuff like soup. For thicker stuff, like dip, salsa and yogurt, you could just be very careful not to tip the box on its side for too long, or you can fit a piece of cling wrap or wax paper over the compartment opening (with a little overlap, obviously) before putting the lid on. I haven't tried this myself, since I'm very careful not to tip my lunches, but I've read several places that this works great to prevent leaks. But, to be fair, my "No Leak" sippy cups have repeatedly leaked all over my cooler bag, while these never have!
  • The compartment number and sizes aren't always perfect for my lunch plans on any given day. As I've become more and more creative in the food variety and art I make for my daughter, I find that I need more flexibility. However, the EasyLunch boxes are still perfect for MY lunches, or for extra stuff if we're just sharing both boxes. And always my go-to box if our plans include eating lunch in the car between events.

While I was watching the video, Z heard the singing and climbed up into my lap. She watched, entranced, with her elbows on my desk and hands on her chin. "I like that show. It's a pretty good show. Let me do it again."

Disclaimer: These opinions are all my own, and I am not being financially compensated in any way for posting them. However, I will be receiving two 50% off coupon codes from EasyLunch and a link from their site to my blog (free advertising! Whooop!) I plan on giving away at least one of the codes, so stay tuned! 
I am an EasyLunch affiliate, and receive 20% of each sale completed through my direct links