Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hoo Are You? #38

A fun little crafting blog, Night Owl Crafting, does a weekly link-up on Tuesdays where bloggers can post a little about themselves and read about each other, called Hoo Are You?
Here are this week's questions (and my answers):

1. What is your favorite magazine?
Probably Games Magazine's World of Puzzles. But I haven't been able to sit down and do one in years. It's easier to read a magazine while my husband drives, versus trying to fill in crosswords in a moving car! It's also harder to do pencil puzzles on the toilet; juggling magazine, pencil and click-eraser (I prefer click-erasers to the pink ones. And I like refillable click-pencils too, which have erasers about the size of a gnat.) And since these are my primary magazine opportunities, I mostly just get ones to read now. So my current favorite magazine would probably be Family Fun. I like Parents, Parenting Early Years, Parent and Child and Family Circle. But Disney's Family Fun consistently has more crafts and such that I want to try. Not that I ever do...

2. What color are your eyes?
Hazel. Technically, any multi-colored irises are hazel, but mine are the traditional brown/green hazel. But a very browny light-green.

3. Do you go to the dentist on a regular 6-month schedule, or do you put it off?
Both. I now go to the dentist every 6 months, after my molar cracked in half a few months after Z was born. But it had been years since I had gone before. I know I went to get my wisdom teeth pulled sometime in my early 20s. And I had several cavities filled, and fillings from my childhood re-filled some time after that. And then one check-up some time in between then and my broken tooth.
I now have three crowns. Or "Gold pirate teeth! Yarrr!" as I like to call them. On the plus side, when this last one broke a few months ago, Little Z got to see it, and I moaned and whined about how much it hurt to eat sweets, and told her that I hadn't brushed well enough as a child, so now my teeth were starting to break.
She stops fighting us and always agrees to get her teeth brushed when I remind her. So, if nothing else, totally worth it for that alone.

4. Do you use anything to make your house smell good (ex: candles, spray, etc...)?
Denial. I just ignore anything messy or smelly that I don't want to deal with.

5. Do you have any pets?
Har! Yes. Cats. Ludi, Ra, Anna and The Kitten. Z loves "Newdi" the best, as he's too old, fat and lazy to escape. "Wra" is second best, as he's also too old, fat and lazy, but he is harder to find. Anna stays downstairs, and runs away from everybody. Z has probably seen her, oh, five times her entire life. And she loves "The Kih-nehn," (also known as "Meowlmeowl" which is also her name for my sister's cat, Melville) but The Kitten is fast and skinny and wily. She only approaches sleeping toddlers. And steps on them.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Writer's Workshop: Dinner Memories

One of this week's Weekly Writing Prompts is to share a story of a memorable dinner.
Mostly I don't remember meals, specifically. I mean, I can name where we went on our first date (a food court at a mall) but couldn't tell you what we ate. I do remember where we had dinner on the fifth anniversary of our first date, and the night he proposed [before taking another 4 years to be willing to actually tie the knot.] I don't think I had any dinner the night I went into labor. But I might have. Maybe snacked on something while playing World of Warcraft. [And yes. I timed my contractions in between boss mobs and finished the dungeon before heading to the hospital.]
I can tell you what I've had for dinner on Christmas Eve the past [good lord. How many?] Fifteen(!!) years. But that's because my in-laws always have the same thing. Every. Year. French dip. Which I don't like, but my husband loves. And as it's his family, and they aren't raging [w]itches, I eat my sliced-beef-on-buttered-french-bread (without dip) and save up my appetite for Kimmens day, where my family doesn't feel it's a holiday without at least 3 main dishes. And about 50 pies. Just kidding. Mostly. We usually have 2-3 birds/hams and only 5-10 pies. For a whopping 10 adults (12 if you count my step-nephews) and 6 munchkins. For some perspective, there are usually 9 adults, 2 teens, a tween and a Little Z at my in-laws'. So almost the same total volume of potential food consumption. But waaaaay fewer leftovers!

I can probably count the number of times that I've cooked a meal that didn't involve a microwave on one hand... maybe two hands now. Not counting my childhood as slave labor family chef. Rotating chicken/Cornish game hen (same "recipe" for both,) tuna rice casserole, burnt pizza [Yes. Always burnt. Except the one time I dropped it topping-side-down while getting it out of the oven. *sigh*] and [also burnt] toasted cheese sandwiches doesn't really count.

I was going to write about a Thanksgiving meal with just me and my husband. But the burnt pizza reminded me about another ill-fated meal cooked by an amateur for a family of 6. [Yes. Me.] I was somewhere around age 14-16, which would put my oldest younger sister at around 10-12.

Gyoza. Potstickers. Frozen potstickers, to be precise. These were relatively new, at the time. Frozen ones, readily available, I mean. We would get a big bag from Costco. Also relatively new back then. I don't really like Chinese food, and don't particularly like potstickers, but my mom asked for them for dinner one night. She said they were really easy. Hardy-har-har. Previously, only she had cooked them. But she said she could talk me through it. O-o-o-kay.
Mom: "Put some oil in a pan."
Now. When I say that I cannot cook, let me remind you: I'm not exaggerating. Without the definition of "some," I poured oil until the pan was around halfway full. Some. Oil.
Next step?
Mom: "When the oil's hot, put in the potstickers." 
Me: "Um. How do I know when the oil's hot?" 
Mom: "Splash some water in it."
Okay. So I wait a bit, then get a cup. And fill it with water. And toss it into the pan. Apparently the oil was hot enough. I had oil and water and steam fizzing and spraying all over the place. But at the time, I wasn't sure what reaction I was looking for, so I went back in to toss the rest of the water onto the oil. Then I'm standing as far away as possible, trying to toss frozen (adding even more water, from the frost on them) potstickers into the pan. I now have oil, water, steam and frozen death bombs potstickers flying everywhere. Those potstickers flew. At this point my sister (Auntie Kayneen) is trying to fit herself in the cabinet under the sink so she won't have to run through flaming oil showers to escape the kitchen.
At some point I figured out that this couldn't possibly be the right method, so I think I managed to turn off the burner and hide until the ruckus died down. I still have tiny burn scars from flaming drops of oil splattering on my skin.
There was oil everywhere. Ev-er-y-where. It flew so far and so wide, that the sliding glass doors onto the porch had oil splatter on them. As you face the stove, to your right would be the walkway through the kitchen, the counter, the dining area, then the sliding glass doors. Like, 15-20 feet away from the stove. Sideways.

Oh, and my mom? She eventually came out to see what all the commotion was about. Some time after it was all over and the little rat-fink my sister had gone squealing through the house tattling on me.
Photo Credit
I don't even remember what we had for dinner that night. Anything but potstickers!

Mama’s Losin’ It

Sunday, March 27, 2011

MNO - Curds and Weigh

For this month's MOMS Club's MOMS Night Out, our chapter chose to do an informal cooking class. One of the MOMS offered to teach a recipe that many people might find tricky, so that we could see it in action and understand what "stir until it looks done" types of instructions looks/feels like. In this case, she chose lemon curd.

She chose a recipe by Alton Brown, who is, quite frankly, the only TV chef I'm even willing to watch. I enjoyed watching Good Eats loooong before having a child and being motivated to actually try and make some food that didn't come from a box and/or requires use of an actual oven or stovetop.

Alton Brown's Lemon Curd recipe
Prep time: A while.
Cook time: 15 minutes
Serves: 1 pint

5 egg yolks
1 c sugar
4 lemons, zested and juiced (or any citrus juice/zest combo)
1 stick butter, cut into pats and chilled

Step 1: Socialize and eat appetizers while one of the other MOMS zests and juices 4 lemons. It only actually took us 2 lemons, maybe 2.5, to get enough juice (1/3 cup.)

Step 2: Stop paying attention because this is already more work than it's worth, in my opinion. You lost me at "zest four lemons."
-Or- Add enough water to a medium saucepan to end up being around 1" up the sides. Simmer over medium-high heat while you move on to other prepwork.

Step 3: Combine 1/3 c citrus juice (add water to fill to 1/3 c if needed) and zest. Massage. Err. Mix. By hand, apparently.

Step 4: Combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium-sized metal bowl. Whisk until smooth (approx. 1 minute.)

Note: Alton Brown recommends separating the yolks by hand. Literally. Since pouring the yolk back and forth between egg shell halves risks contaminating the egg with whatever is on the shell, he suggests the messy way. Wash your hands thoroughly and crack the egg into the fingers of your upturned hand. Allow the whites to run through your fingers into the bowl. He also recommends having 3 containers. One for the whites just separated from the most recent egg, one for the yolks and one for the rest of the egg whites. I know I've mentioned this before, but having a "quarantine" bowl has many uses. In this case, it's easier to remove shell fragments or the opaque white squiggly bits (albumin?) But also useful for identifying a bad egg before it's contaminated the collective. (You don't need a bowl for each yolk, since you should be able to check for flaws while it's in your hand.) And useful if kids are helping, so each one can take turns adding one egg (or yolk. Whatever.) Or just for one kid to add one-at-a-time to help them feel like they did more "cooking." Without them getting raw egg on their hands. Score!

Note: You can save the whites in the fridge for a while (2-4 days,) or in the freezer longer (4 months.) You can dump them all together in a sealable container, or into a freezer bag(s), or use an ice cube tray to freeze them individually before putting them in a freezer bag. (See link above for thawing tips and other helpful egg-storage information.) Carson did mention something about being sure to have all the opaque white bits out of the egg whites (they can go in with the yolks) for making certain delicate recipes, like meringues.

Great to add to scrambled eggs or omelets (makes them super white and fluffy, plus is supposedly healthier than using a bunch of whole eggs in one meal. But really. Super fluffy and yummy. I think I did a ratio of 2 whites to 1 egg. But it's been over a decade a little while since I've done it, so I may be remembering wrong.)
Also great in meringues and other recipes. My husband makes some chocolate-chip peppermint meringue cookies for Christmas. Oh. My. God. Love them. Maybe I'll take pics and make him let him do a guest post this winter. Too much work for me though. But he loves me. And he makes them slightly wrong so that they are flat and chewy for me, rather than light and fluffy and tongue-meltery. I love chewy firm peppermint. I usually have to wait until my candy canes get stale. I also love stale Peeps. Well. If I have to eat them, I prefer them stale. I don't go out of my way to buy them for myself. But. You know. If it turns out my freaky kid doesn't really like marshmallows, even though I got three bags of them in various shapes and sizes, plus 2 packets of Peeps (they were buy-1-get-1-free)... Well. I take one for the team.

Step 5: Add juice and zest to egg mixture and whisk until smooth. Or snap a few pictures as Miss Carson does it for you. Either way.

Step 6: Once water is simmering (and mixture all mixed, obviously,) reduce heat to low and place bowl on top of saucepan.
She made up a cool packet with recipes and illustrations from Alton Brown's books. One of the pictures showed cross-sections of 3 wrong ways and one right way to make a double boiler. For the "right way," around 1/4th to 1/3rd of the bottom of the bowl rested in the pot, with several inches to spare between it and the water.
The 3 wrong ways showed a too-large bowl, barely in the pot; a bowl on a shallow pot resting in the water, and a bowl just touching the top of the water level. I couldn't find an image online to link for you. Sorry. You'll have to buy one of his books. All the illustrations, tips, tricks, and information she gave us about eggs, double boilers, and curds came from I'm Just Here for MORE FOOD and GOOD EATS The Early Years.
Whisk until thickened or until mixture is light yellow and coats the back of a spoon. Approximately 8 minutes. Stirring. Constantly. You don't have to stir vigorously or anything, but make sure all the diapers are changed and kids are napping or watching Spongebob educational shows or something before starting this step. This is not a step where walking away for a quick hollerfest disciplinary action is advisable.
She showed us what the "coats the back of a spoon" thing means, but I was too busy snarfing food engrossed to remember to take a picture. Basically, she held the spoon horizontally, with the back facing out (so any soup would dump into your lap. If there was some in the bowl. Just sayin'.) Some dripped off, then she swiped a finger horizontally across the middle of the back of the spoon and said that you shouldn't see the curd on top dripping down into the newly swiped spot.
It wasn't. Naturally. Mine would have been dripping like a clogged gutter during a rainstorm. Erm. Not that our gutters are clogged.

Step 7: Remove promptly from heat and stir in butter, one pat at a time. Make sure each pat is melted completely before adding the next.
Here's where I came in, since I was stuffed at this point felt I should at least do something. I sliced the butter. Yup. I'm just indispensable like that. But if you're doing this without an assistant handy to have the butter cut up just in time for the curd to come off the stove, pre-cut it and put it in the fridge until this step.

The butter should be enough to cool this for immediate consumption, should you so desire. It's handy if you happen to have a batch of scones already made. Just sayin'. [Note: Carson says she prefers dried cherries instead of currants or cranberries in her scones, so that's how she made them for us.]
Or you can put it into a clean container and cover with a layer of plastic wrap right on the surface of the curd. May refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

We (and by "we" I mean Carson, mostly) made up a batch of lemon curd and then a batch of lime curd. I think we all agreed that we preferred the lime. But the lemon was pretty tasty too.

Uses for curd: 

  • Spread onto biscuits, cake, gingerbread, scones, bread, pound cake, etc
  • Fold into souffles
  • Fill a pre-baked tart shell (bake 15 minutes)
  • Use as layer-cake filling or for thumbprint cookies
  • Top ice cream, berries or yogurt
  • Bake into lemon bars
  • Fold into whipped cream and top berries and/or angelfood cake

Each of us got to take some of both kinds of curd home with us. And as I was getting ready for bed Sunday night, I remembered in a panic that it was my turn to bring snack for the Parent Ed group at our co-op preschool the following morning (we alternate weeks. Half the parents are in the classroom with the kids, the other half in Parent Ed socializing and snacking discussing childhood issues and questions.)
I had a tube of refrigerated biscuit dough and a tube of butterflake crescent roll dough in the fridge, which I keep on hand for when I need to make something in a large or unusual shape for a bento or muffin tin meal. Or for random last-minute Parent Ed snacks, apparently.
I got up early Monday and baked up some crescent rolls with pesto inside, and biscuits. Then I brought a jar of home-made pluot jam from a friend (a ribbon-winning jammer at fairs, I might add) and some butter and the lemon curd. (Did I mention I preferred the lime? Yeah. Not sharing that.) I chopped up some apples, and when I went to slosh them in some apple juice, found that I didn't have any. Just cinnamon pear cider (from Trader Joe's. Yummy hot or cold!) Good enough. And the cider gave the apples a very interesting, surprisingly pleasant, yummy flavor. The lemon curd and pluot jam were big hits. If Miss Carson hadn't been in our Parent Ed class, I might have taken all the credit. Maybe. I *did* mention my crucial assistance in cutting the butter. For both batches. Just sayin'.
Princess spent most of the time with the class, which is a fairly new development. Last school year she'd only leave the Parent Ed room for snack time, then towards the end of the school year, she'd have me put on her coat for large muscle group (outdoor play, or, when raining, they set up a small indoor climber/slide plus a trampoline and other active toys) and then go out with the group. All but once she came crying back to me before large muscle time was over.
This year she's spent one entire class without ever coming in to find me. But she's staying in the classroom more often than not, and is willing to go back once she's showed me whatever she came in for, or made sure I'm still there. And she's willing to talk to the teacher, when she remembers, to tell her she is coming to find me (so the teacher doesn't worry.) And she has let various mommies help her get her coat on for large muscle. So yay!
I remember one day, when I was in the class, one of the kids' dads had come. I was almost in tears of joy when Z went and talked and interacted and played with him. I couldn't help but laugh at myself too. Here I was, going "Yay! She's talking to a strange guy! I'm so excited!" But she has just been soooooo resistant to interacting with people (adults and kids) for so long, I'll take what I can get. And I consoled myself with the reminder that I keep telling her that school is safe and everyone is there to help her. Plus she tends to adapt to people faster in a familiar setting. I was worried we'd be back at square one this school year, since we had a new teacher, plus mostly new mommies and kids. But she tolerated people talking to her much faster, and was never as clingy and weepy as last year. But if we're out and about, she still grunts and whines and looks away if waitresses or salesclerks or random people try and talk to her. So there's no fear of her taking off with some random yahoo just yet.
She will, however talk to a waitress or sales clerk if she wants something from them. I've been making her communicate with people, instead of just doing it all for her. And there's nothing cuter than her flagging down our waitress and saying "Ah-cyooz me. Can I haff more see-rup peace?" [Excuse me, can I have more syrup please]

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday - Pink-Z-licious!

I had planned on doing a Pinkalicious MTM weeks ago, but we were all out of cheese, and my husband was out of town, so I just let her make her own. Then I did the ill-fated Seuss one, for his birthday, and saw a Pinkalicious MTM by Cookie Cutter Lunch! Nuts! So I didn't want to do mine so soon after hers. So then I did a St. Patrick's one, and then forgot last week (but had done an extra one with my nieces.) So this week, I wanted to do it for sure!
So naturally we couldn't find the book anywhere in the house. We found Goldilicious. We found PurpliciousPinkalicious and the Pink Drink and Tickled Pink. Even the brand-new Silverlicious. But our copy of Pinkalicious? No. *sigh*
Cream cheese and jelly roll "cupcakes," pink grapefruit, PB flowers;
marshmallow, PB/pretzel star wand, Pinkalicious fairy bread, green broccoli
Basically, in the story, Pinkalicious eats too many pink cupcakes and turns pink! The doctor diagnoses her with Pinkititis, and says that she has to eat only green foods to turn back. Well, she loves the color pink, and wants to stay that way. But then, at the park, her friends can't see her when she's standing next to some pink flowers, and bees start landing on her. But she still sneaks one more cupcake after bedtime, and turns red! So then she eats her greens and turns normal.
I like this story, and refer to it when I need a "too much of a good thing" lesson example. I think Purplicious is about staying true to yourself, instead of trying to follow the crowd, and Silverlicious is about being gracious, even when disappointed. I'm not really sure what the moral of Goldilicious is supposed to be though. Be nice to your jerky little brother even though you hate him?

Pink-and-Greenalicious: At a recent trip to the store, Little Z chose a pre-packaged cuppie of pink grapefruit near the produce section. I'd been saving it just for this meal! She was super eager to try it out, so I let her have a little as I was putting some into the silicone liner. Not a fan. She was about to spit it back out, into the rest of the grapefruit, until I reminded her that she could spit food into the garbage can. I tried adding sugar sprinkles to it, and she seemed to like that okay. So we're a go!
And the broccoli should be obvious. It's green. To turn Pink-Z-licious back into just Z.

Flowerlicious: I just slapped together some peanut butter flower sandwiches using a sandwich cutter and stamp (came with a yellow bear and pink bunny head too.) I used a "medium" tiny flower cutter and accosted a Peeps pink bunny to make the little sugar marshmallow flower. [The cutter is from a Bella Bistro Mini Cookie Cutter set from Toysmith, which seems to no longer be readily available. I'm so glad I got it. Super cute, super tiny cutters. I use this one a lot!]

Fairylicious: Pinkalicious runs around in a fairy costume and crown, so I had planned all along to make a crown of some kind. But after seeing the wand from Cookie Cutter Lunch's MTM, I was inspired. [I haven't actually read the book, or seen all the pictures, which is why I hadn't thought of doing a wand initially. My husband reads to her at bedtime, and so I've only overheard parts of the story, and seen some of the pics. And the cover. Obviously. She picks different books for me to read to her. Weird.]
I used a Wilton crown cutter on Swiss cheese (because it was white, and already sliced. I did the crown last, so was starting to get a little lazy.) I tried to pipe on some pink cream cheese, but it wouldn't stick, so I just shmeared it onto spots and called it good.
For the wand, I used a mini star sandwich stamp cutter (looks like allthingsforsale doesn't currently have them. It came with a bunny and a bear. They just have the vehicle ones right now.) I had a package of Chio Stickletti (extra long, extra skinny pretzel sticks) and stuck one in the PB between the bread slices before pressing. Ta-da! Sandwich pops! I put a little PB on the center star design and then hand applied some pink sugar sprinkles.

Cupcakelicious: I brainstormed these little babies while laying awake one night. I wanted to make a Pinkalicious lunch, without giving her a tin full of dessert. So I was trying to think of things that I could make look like cupcakes, without actually including a cupcake! I don't have a cupcake-shaped cutter, or I would have made a sandwich probably. But I like these much better, even though they were kind of a PITA to make. Since I can occasionally always learn from my mistakes, it will be much easier next time.
My initial idea had been to combine cream cheese with strawberry jelly to make a pink frosting, and filling for the tortilla rolls. I have these cool squeeze "decorating bottles" from Pampered Chef, so I figured the easiest way to mix and then transfer the "frosting" would be to squish it in a Ziplok and cut a corner and squirt it into the froster.
Turns out jelly and cream cheese do not mix well.
So I decided this would be the filling for the rolls, and I just mixed a drop of pink food coloring with some more cream cheese to be the frosting.
Much better. Looks so much like frosting, I kept being disappointed every time I licked my fingers. Err. I never lick my fingers while preparing food for others. I mean... um. Licked the fork after I was all done. Yeah.
I used a butter knife to transfer it into the bottle, a little bit at a time, to fit it through the opening.
It did not like to be piped. At. All. I had chosen the tip with the largest opening, and as a bonus it had a flowery shape, to make this nice rippled effect on the piped frosting. But it was soooooo hard to push through. I had even let it sit out and get soft while I made the rest of the tin. Maybe adding a little milk or cream would have helped. Although with my luck, I would have just made it all gloopy and runny. *sigh* And then the piped cheese refused to stick to the rolls. I ended up just doing a small circle as near to the roll edge as I could, and used my fingers to make it stay as I pulled the bottle away. Not very professional, but since this is for a kid who sticks her fingers up her nose regularly, I don't think she'll be worried about my lack of food hygiene. I used red Sixlets left over from Christmas as the "cherries" on top! And I put them in mini pink liners from Bake It Pretty, which I think made it all the difference. They look cute, and obviously like cupcakes, rather than the amateurish effort that they really are.

Pinkalicious: I had toyed with the idea of making Pinkalicious' face, versus just chopping up a Pink Lady apple to fill that spot. I wasn't sure how to get her hair to stick, or what to do for facial features. But she's really a bunch of basic shapes and lines, unlike my Skippyjon Jones fairy bread, so I decided to give it a shot. I used a biscuit cutter on a slice of bread for her head, then spread butter all over it. I globbed on some peanut butter, just where her hair was going to be, then broke up some more Sticklettis into strands of "hair" and stuck them on. Success! Finally! Something working as planned! Then I start rooting through a tub of brown chocolate jimmies (from a Halloween sprinkles mix) to find the perfect ones for her eyebrows and nose. And I turn around to see Z using the circle handle of my star sandwich punch to make eyes and a nose on the bread for me. After some yelling and crying I calmed down, I decided to just go with it and put the pink sugar on in the hopes that the circle marks would be covered. I felt kind of bad, since Z was so proud of the face that she had made, but I wanted it to look like the picture in the book. So I decided that just leaving it would let her know that I valued her collaboration, versus chucking it and starting over. But we had a snuggly talk about telling me her ideas first, rather than "helping" without guidance or consent.
She was too upset to put on the sugar, which was the job she'd pretty much been waiting for the whole time she was bothering helping me in the kitchen. So I dumped most of it on, then she came in at the end to help me tamp it down into the butter. And lick her fingers. And the stray sugar off our work surface. And then "accidentally" spill some more onto our work surface. And lick that off her fingers as well.
I used small tubes of black and red frosting left over from Halloween and Christmas decorating kits to make the eyes and mouth. I'm glad I decided to try jimmies for the eyebrows and nose, since the icing was all kinds of terrible to work with. It didn't want to stick, and when I'd pull away, it would just come, bringing sugar with it. Argh. I had to use fingers, fingernails, and swear words to get it looking passable. I had planned on putting the crown in one of the muffin cups, with the wand, but Z insisted that it go on her head. And she kept putting the wand "in her hand" (on the tin next to the head.) I decided that this input was not only welcome, but clever, and I'm glad she got to feel like a part of this project. Since, you know. It's her lunch and all. I feel like such a terrible mommy, saying "Stop eating your food! No! Put that broccoli back! I want to take pictures first!"

The wand went into her gob before I could turn the camera back on. Luckily the pretzel broke, which made her pause so that I could get a good picture when she tried again.
She licked the "frosting" (and Sixlets, of course) off the "cupcakes," but never even took a nibble out of the roll-ups. She offered me one of her flower sandwiches, but didn't eat the other. The pink grapefruit went untouched, despite the addition of (yet more) pink sugar sprinkles. Well. Maybe she had a small piece. But she had tried several chunks while we were making the lunch, so she did eat some, and tried something new! And tried it again, even though she hadn't liked it 10 seconds before! She ate most of the cheese crown, half the wand star (and pretzel handle,) and over half of the broccoli (without dip!!)
Overall not bad results, considering this meal featured way more sugar than I would normally like. But I didn't put any honey on the sandwiches, and didn't sweeten the "frosting," so maybe it's a wash, as far as actual grams of sugar goes. And I was shocked that she ate any of the broccoli at all, and amazed that she ate so much of it, considering all the yummy pink sweeties to be had in her tin. She tried the marshmallow, but asked to spit it out. No problem, kiddo!
I really enjoyed this tin, despite her grabby hands our misunderstandings, and she was excited about all the elements. (Well. Except the broccoli. It's not very exciting.) She loved waving the wand around until I yelled at her, and was excited to try the pink grapefruit (until she actually tried it. But these were particularly bitter and nasty tasting.) She was thrilled about the crown, and the face. And the sugar sprinkles (and rejected chocolate jimmies that fell onto the table.) And the cupcakes. But especially the frosting, even though it was just pink cream cheese. She wanted to taste both attempts at frosting, before I ever even got out the candies to go on top. And she didn't act like I had cruelly fooled her by not sweetening them. I guess calling it "frosting" instead of "pink cream cheese" made a difference!
She kept saying "I ate all the pink cupcakes, so now I'm pink! Now I ate some broccoli! I'm me again!" Super cute. When she was done, we went and dug through her plushie menagerie and found her Pinkalicious pink doll, which had been a potty prize at some point. Then I played on the computer read her Pinkalicious stories until she decided that she needed a nap after all and fell asleep sitting up.

Check out the other fun Muffin Tin Meals every Monday!
Muffin Tin Monday at Muffintinmom.com

I will also be submitting this to JDaniel4's Mom's Read. Explore. Learn. on Friday!

Shibley Smiles


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Shamrock and Flower-y Bento Lunches

St. Patrick's Day bentos
3/17/11 - After a late-night drive out to my sister's house, I was able to be there to watch the girls so she could observe at the elementary school all day. Since it was St. Patrick's Day, and since I had to pick up Tually from preschool, I made simple shamrock bentos, with the limited tools available.  
Carrot sticks, sandwiches (varied,) Colby Jack and white American cheese,
broccoli, grapes and "Chewy bars"

The top EasyLunchbox was for Z, and the middle box for Tually. I decided to do a test run in a Ziploc box for Pilu, to see if she could now be trusted to hold her own lunch in the car. Without tossing it into my hair when she was done. Hopefully.
Z and Pilu had PBJ on wheat bread, and I hadn't asked Tually what kind of sandwich she wanted for lunch before she'd left, so I made half of hers plain jam, and half plain butter.
Since I couldn't find a shamrock cutter (and, to be honest, I don't even think *I* have one in my extensive cookie cutter selection) I decided to use four mini hearts to shape into a shamrock. The hearts were a big hit, but everyone thought that they were butterflies. Ah well. But good to know, for when I want to make a butterfly theme! They all agreed that the mini flower cutter used for the cheese kind of looked like shamrocks (which is why I chose it.)
They ate more of their lunches than I would have guessed, and Pilu surprised me by having an empty container at the end, and no trace of sandwiches or carrots on the floor. I did end up finding approximately one heart sandwich and two nibbled carrot sticks after removing her from her car seat, but those were more accidental, I think, than a direct attempt to thwart my "no throwing food in Aunt Kenner's car" edict. On a side note, after all these visits to my sister's house, when I took Z with me to my doctor's appointment and asked if she remembered what my name was, to listen for the nurse to come tell me it was our turn, she said, "Yes. Aunt Kenner." Smartass.
I had scoured their cutter collection for anything small enough to cut the chewy bars into mini shapes, but alas. No joy. But my sister led me to her teensy-weensy cutter stash after she got home that afternoon, so I have hope for the future...

Quickie at-home Flower bento
3/21/11 - After preschool on Monday, Z and I brainstormed a "beautiful lunch" idea. I chose her pink Sassy On-the-Go box, since I could remove most of the compartments and all the lids to have less stuff to wash after. 
Snappea Crisps, apples and raspberries,
macaroni and cheese with hot dog flowers
She had asked for macaroni and hot dogs in the car on the way home from school, so I asked if macaroni with hot dogs in it would be acceptable. It would. And I wanted to try out my new(ish) hot dog tulip cutter, so I chose a flower-y theme. Well. Apparently it was designed for the mini-hot dogs, and it just kind of smooshed and imprinted into my regular-sized dog. [Middle tulip] I had to cut the petals out with a knife. So I just free-handed it for the other end to make another tulip, and it came out okay. [Upper left tulip] I saved the scraps [upper middle] and cut the rest into chubby coins and cross-hatched them, as I've seen done on other sites before. 
The tulip cut with my cutter came out all warped and deformed, but the one I cut looked great! And the crosshatched "flowers" came out okay too.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

WFLW - Ribbit, Rabbit!

It's Spring. I know. And Easter is coming up soon, yes. And I have a ton of cute chickie/ducky/bunny stuff. But... my new frog bento box arrived last week, and I never got a chance to use it before haring off to my sister's house! And it was on sale! Squee!
So. You get a froggy bento!
Lower tier: The green grapes were on their last legs, so I weeded out the firmest ones I could find, to add a little more green to the color scheme. Plus brand-new raspberries we bought on Sunday, and a few apple slices left over from my turn to bring preschool's Parent Ed snack Monday morning. I sloshed them in some cinnamon-pear cider from Trader Joe's, since I didn't have any apple juice. Apparently it made for a very pleasant taste.
For the pasta in the green silicone muffin cup (mine are from Cost Plus World Market,) I used some spiral noodles I had bought originally to do a spaghetti monster for my Halloween monster bento. Tossed them in some olive oil, and added "powdered cheese sauce" from the bulk section at Winco. These are actually leftovers from Monday's lunch. I popped in a pink frog face fork pick (now they come in green, darnit!)
I used a bear head cutter to make the frog face cheeses, and my food writers to draw on the features.
Green grapes and raspberries, spiral pasta with cheese sauce,
apple slices, and Swiss cheese froggies
Top tier: We have some garlic hummus wasting away in the fridge, and she loves hummus, so I thought it would be fun to put some into my silicone bear cup, which can be made to look like a frog! I was lazy and just punched a face out of Swiss scraps, rather than bother with the nori. I put in way more celery and carrots than I think she'll eat, so I compensated by making my lunch very small. And I've got a little disposable cuppie of Ranch to bring along because she'll hog all the hummus in case she eats all the hummus without eating all the veggies. And I figured she might enjoy hummus on the whole wheat pretzel rods, so I tossed a few in to fill out the box.
Celery, baby carrots, pretzel logs, garlic hummus
My lunch:
Sweet potato bite, pesto crescent roll, crackers, orange chicken;
Celery, raspberries, Swiss scraps, PB, apple slice
I think this is the first time using my red rabbit bento box as well. I had to have it. I love the tiny little bunnies looking up on the lid! Plus it's Year of the Rabbit. And I was born in the Year of the Rabbit... so I'll be turning 36 24 this year!
The top tier of my bento has a sweet potato bite from Trader Joe's that I made for my MOMS Night Out on Saturday, as a potluck appetizer. Flaky shell, sweet potato, and candied pecans. Yum. I tucked in a pesto crescent roll (one of only two left over from Monday's preschool Parent snack!) I cut it in half to make it fit. I also added some leftover orange chicken, but since I didn't have any leftover rice, I put in a crisp flatbread cracker (with everything. Garlic, caraway, onion, salt, etc.) that I snapped in half to fill up the space. Just found these at Costco. Pretty tasty.
For the bottom tier, I packed some celery for me, but instead of hummus, I put some peanut butter in a mini red silicone cup. I tucked in the last apple slice (it didn't fit nicely in her bento, and the three in hers fan out so well!) and a few raspberries to fill in gaps.
I don't really like Swiss, but I hated seeing the scraps from her froggies go to waste, so I packed it in a square cup from Daiso. But I couldn't resist putting the bit with the face punched out of it onto the PB for contrast!
I used my plastic grass baran in both lunches rather than the reusable silicone ones because the grass fit the theme a little better. Plus. You know. I have a ton of it.

After scooping out and eating most of the hummus with her spoon, she ate a few noodles and a pretzel, then saw my peanut butter. She had a little celery with my her peanut butter, and ate most of the pulp (leaving the strings.) After jabbing the froggy face cheese a few times with the froggy fork pick, she ignored the cheese. Under duress (because she wanted the Trix yogurt I had brought as well) she ate some carrots and a few more noodles. Fine by me!
I ate *all* of my lunch [except the bulk of the peanut butter, which she bogarted.] Plus the rest of her veggies.
And other tha the cheese face on the hummus, she didn't seem to appreciate my efforts. Well. The other mommies thought it was cool, so at least I had a mildly appreciative audience! Plus she did a great job at gym class, staying with the group, instead of clinging to me and making me stay with her the whole time, so I'm a little more forgiving!
*BPA-free green fork and spoon came with a travel case for $1 at DollarTree

Check out the other (far more) creative bento meals submitted this week!
Bento Lunch