Friday, September 30, 2011

Apple Orchard Bento

Our first school field trip was to an apple orchard. Sadly, the orchard they usually go to had no ripe apples, so they found an organic farm/orchard in Tacoma called Terry's Berries. Also without apples for us to pick, apparently. It was still a super-fun farm trip. But I would have gone with more of a farm-theme, had I known!

Top (Z's lunch): apples, Apple Straws, green beans,
apple PBJ and PBH, Baby Bell cheese
Bottom (my lunch): apples w/crunchy PB, carrots w/hummus,
Everything bagel w/cream cheese
For both our lunches, I used leftover organic apple slices we had bought from Costco for our turn at Soccer snack the previous Saturday. I added some hummus to my carrots since I was reaching for the Ranch and remembered an article I had read somewhere about using hummus instead, since it's healthier and has more nutrients. *sigh* Not as yummy though!

For her lunch I broke out the bag of Apple Straws (same makers as Veggie Straws) that I had bought on a whim during my last grocery trip. They are kind of like chips, and super yummy. 
I used an apple cutter from a Wilton set for her sandwich (PB and apple butter! Home-made by a friend of ours who is a master-jammer!) The other half of the bread was used to make a regular PB-honey sandwich. 
I used a mini apple cutter to cut out some of the wax from the Baby Bell cheese. And since it came out clean, I placed the wax apple cut-out on the beans, for visual effect.

At the farm, the kids got to ride in a tractor-pulled hay wagon to the far end of the farm. (The mommies and teachers had to walk. In the mud. SO glad I brought my boots!)
The lady doing the tour (turquoise jacket) did a really great job. She'd take them to an area with stuff planted, then ask them questions to see if they could guess what was growing there. Our first crop was potatoes.
The farmer used a pitchfork to loosen the soil, then each child got to harvest 3 potatoes!
After a walk back along the (muddy) path, the next crop was carrots! Teeeeeeny tiny carrots. Each child was invited to pick 3, although apparently my child stole an extra 2.
In addition to apple and plum trees, potatoes, carrots, raspberries, assorted lettuces and herbs and assorted other foods, this farm also has chickens (and farm-fresh eggs!) The guides carried baskets of bread scraps and lettuce for the kids to feed the various animals.
They also had a pen of turkeys, another with goats, and yet another with ducks!
"Heeere turkey! I have some yummy leafs for you!"
They had big bins of already-picked apples out in front of their store, so each kid got to choose 3 apples to add to their stash too!
Bento Lunch  

 It's Playtime at hands on : as we grow Classified: Mom
Bento of the Week

Monday, September 26, 2011

September Lunch Catch-Up

Here are the less-exciting lunches from the month of September. All using my EasyLunchBoxes, since they're easier for us BOTH to eat out of in the car (I can rest mine on the parking brake if I have to eat while driving. Most days I get to eat after dropping her off at school, except my working-parent days at the co-op, or the days I have my prenatal massage scheduled during school.)

Tuesday, 9/6/11 - 
Top (my lunch): Onion bagel w/cream cheese, carrot sticks,
apples w/crunchy PB
Bottom (Z's lunch): Cinnamon-raisin bagel w/cream cheese,
pea  pods, mini Hostess cupcake, blackberries
The blackberries were picked from our very own overgrown jungle backyard.
There's a Hostess outlet store up by Nana's, and the stuff there is SO CHEAP (but the trade-off is that they have short expiration dates. Not that I'm convinced that Hostess stuff ever really "expires"...) So anyway, when we visited her the weekend before, we stocked up. The mini cupcake is from a 100-calorie pack, where you get 3 cakes per packet. So this one's really only 33 calories. Such a nice little treat, and not as filling as a regular-sized cupcake or treat. The other two didn't survive the lunch-making process... *buuurp!*

Wednesday, 9/7/11 -
Top (her lunch):Box w/sprinkles, mini cinnamon coffee cake,
half a cinnamon-raisin bagel w/cream cheese, black-and-blue-berries, pea pods w/carrot flowers
Bottom (my lunch): Onion bagel w/cream cheese, mini cinnamon coffee cake,
carrot sticks, apples w/crunchy PB
Since she hadn't eaten many of the blackberries the day before (see above) stating that they were too sour, I mixed in some blueberries and added fun picks to eat them with. Plus a little container of sprinkles to dip them in, to add a little sweetener. I got the music note picks from Daiso, and I think we had a free-trial Kindermusik class that afternoon, which is why I chose them. The little bunny-graphic sprinkle box was from, and the mini cupcake liner is a pink striped one (NLA) from an assortment I bought from Bakeitpretty.
My mini cake is in a pretty Dancing Daisy baking cup from Wilton (NLA. It was available around Easter.)
The mini cinnamon coffee cakes were from a Hostess 100-calorie pack (3 mini-cakes/packet.) Since they had a really short expiration date, they were giving a box away free with every $10. To my surprise, The Princess actually likes these better than the lemon or strawberry cupcakes with frosting!
Monday, 9/12/11 -
Top (her lunch): Mozzarella cheese 'Z' and scraps,
blueberries, green beans, PBHoney sandwich
Bottom (my lunch): carrots, tomatoes, broccoli and beans,
apple slices, CoJack cheese, PBJ
Just for fun I used my mini letter cutters to make a 'Z' out of cheese. That was pretty much all I had time for that morning, as far as jazzing up her lunch. I was running late. (We had swim class at 10, then my prenatal massage at 11:20, then her 'Meet the Teachers' interview at the co-op preschool at 12:50.)
The mini-tomatoes came from the Farmer's Market on Saturday. Z expressed an interest in trying them, even though she swears she'll "never, ever eat a tomato." So my husband bought A POUND of them! Sheesh! She ate one then refused to have any more. So I guess they'll be in MY lunches for the net while..

Wednesday, 9/14/11 -
Top (my lunch): Onion bagel w/cream cheese, mini coffee cake,
carrots and tomatoes, blueberries
Bottom (Z's lunch): PBHoney, mini coffee cake, carrot sticks,
Another rushed lunch prep. We had swim at 10, then her first day at the co-op preschool (this year. We've gone the last two years as well) at 12:15.

Tuesday, 9/20/11 -
Top (her lunch): Half a berry bagel w/cream cheese, trail mix,
string cheese nibblets, carrot flowers w/broccoli, 1/2 black plum w/grapes
Bottom (my lunch): Onion bagel w/cream cheese, CoJack cheese, trail mix.carrots w/tomatoes and broccoli, 1/2 black plum w/grapes
We had a fun playtime with one of our mommy groups this day, then preschool, so I didn't have a lot of time to make lunches before we had to go (and we were still late!) I used the Wilton Snappy Stripes baking cups (turned inside-out, so you can see the design!) for her trail mix and cheese. I also put in a long heart-topped skewer/pick from Dollar Tree (100/$1!) that she used to skewer her grapes, cheese and plum slices.
My lunch has a slice of Colby Jack cheese that was used to make the letter 'C' a while back for her Clifford lunch. It was on its last legs. Tasted great with the plums though!
Cheese-and-grape kebabs! Loooove it!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

WFLW - Octopus' Garden Bento

I lost the curriculum sheet from her drop-off preschool, but based on her comments about Tuesday's class ("I put oatmeal on a letter O!") I was able to deduce this week's theme! She hasn't been eating much lately, but I made her a full-sized lunch anyway, since I was going to be using a full hot dog and a full cheese stick to make the octopususes [yeah, yeah. I know. Octopi.]
"Octopus Ink" (ketchup,) Hotdoctopus, Cheese-opus, granola bar bits,
pea pods, raspberries
My lunch: carrots and broccoli, plum and grapes,
bagel w/cream cheese
I'll start with my lunch since it's least interesting. Our dishwasher broke a while back, and we're still playing catch-up with our new one, which seems to think that drying the dishes is over-rated. But long story short, I was out of clean EasyLunchBoxes, so had to use a Snapware one that came in a set of various sized containers from Costco. It's okay, but I wouldn't have bought the set JUST for them, nor would I buy them alone. I can't imagine they're a better price than the ELBs, and they only have two compartments. I was too lazy to bother with muffin cup dividers, and the fruits and veggies were leftovers from her uneaten lunch the previous day and had already been snuggling together. So I just dumped them in and kind of segregated them for the picture. Another drawback for this lunchbox that I discovered after opening it to eat is that the divider isn't flush with the lid, so some of my carrot flowers escaped. Not a big deal with this lunch, but might be annoying with something involving sauce or moist surfaces.
Since my MOMS Club Board Meeting was at a Safeway the night before (with a Starbucks and tables, of course!) I ran around after and bought myself an "everything" bagel for this lunch. We had plain cream cheese at home, so I was going to just suck it up and be happy with that, but they had a sale on the Philadelphia tubs, so I picked out an onion and chives flavor too! Woot! My favorite! While I was at it, I bought some raspberries (on sale) and those pea pod things.

I saved my last clean ELB for the podling's lunch. 
Octopus Ink: In a pink plastic-lined paper bento cup (from Daiso) I put in some ketchup for dipping. The cup has a little blue octopus design on it too!
Octodogtapusses: I cut a hot dog in half, then sliced in lengthwise a little over halfway up into fourths, then turned them on their sides and cut those fourths in half, making eight "legs" each. I tried gouging in eyes with my knife, but they didn't turn out well. I microwaved them for 30 seconds to kill any potential listeria, which has the added benefit of enhancing any features or shapes carved in. So some of the "legs" cooked into curvier shapes. I ended up using my food coloring pens to make eyes.
Just under the octodogs, you can see a small pink and orange roundy shape. That's the handle to a little plastic bento fork (Daiso) with an octopus on it! Scoooore! (She refuses to eat hot dogs with her hands, and always insists upon a fork. Plus it totally matched the theme!)
Cheesetopusses: Just like the hotdogs, I cut a string cheese stick in half, then sliced up little legs lengthwise. I used my food writers for the faces. In the interest of full disclosure, I accidentally sliced the front of one of them into thirds, which forced me to cut the side either into half (making only 6 legs,) or thirds (making 9 legs.) I went with 9. Turned out not to matter, as she didn't count the legs, nor, to my utter shock, did she eat them!
Oatmeal Bites:  Since my granola bars are mostly oats, I called them "Oatmeal bars" and broke them up into smaller pieces (while still sealed in the wrapper, of course. Much easier that way!) "Oatmeal" went better with the "O" theme than "granOla" would have! :) I put them in a paper muffin cup from IKEA (they're taller, and stay flush with the lid. And it held both broken granola bars.)
Octopus' Garden: The peas and raspberries don't really fit the "O" theme, but I wasn't going to give her Okra and Olives, and couldn't think of anything quick and easy. So think of them as the "garden" for the octopi! Green pea pod "seaweed" and raspberry "flowers" (complete with octopus bento pick - also Daiso.)

To my utter shock and amazement, she ate every single scrap of food, except the cheese stick, a pea pod that fell between the seat and the door, and two peas that fell out of a pod. Oh, and I found an octopus head hiding under the muffin cup ("It's his hat, Mommy!") But otherwise she ate more food than she'd eaten EACH DAY for the previous two days!
Bento Lunch 

Friday, September 16, 2011

WFLW - "C is for Clifford"

At Z's new drop-off preschool, they sent out the year's curriculum in advance, which for me is awesome, since I can plan little Tot School activities to go along with what they're doing, plus I have built-in bento and MTM inspirations!
C - Clifford

PBHoney "Clifford," Cinnamon Cupcake, Cheese bone w/C,
Carrot Coins, Blueberries.
I was super excited that I had the time to make this lunch, since lately we've been sleeping in, or just rushed for whatever reason. I did have to skip making myself a lunch, but I was able to console myself with some McFattening food and a Sweet Tea while she was at school.
In an EasyLunchBox (I used a red lid, since it was also 'wear red to school' day to celebrate Clifford Week,) I made her peanut-butter-honey sandwich in a dog shape with a cookie cutter (she later pointed out that "cookie" and "cutter" both start with a "C.") If I had been thinking, I would have put a sugar eye on it, since it's cute and she loves them. I didn't want to bother painting the bread red, since it would have taken forever with my food writer, and I was too lazy to mix up some food coloring water and find my food brush. I've seen someone using some kind of spray-on food coloring, (available with baking supplies) for use on cakes, but I don't have any. Yet.

I put a Hostess 100-calorie-pack mini Cinnamon Coffee Cake (33 calories, 3/package) in a mini muffin liner. She likes the cinnamon ones more than the frosted cupcakes, plus there were more Cs!

I used a bone-shaped cutter for the mozzarella, and my bento letter C with Colby Jack. I had planned on making more Cs, but it was such a PITA to get it out of the cutter without breaking it (my cheese was sliced too thick. And this was my second attempt at a C that day already.)

And while "Carrot Coins" have more Cs than "Carrot Flowers" she eats more when they're cut into flower shapes. So I called them Carrot Coin Carnations just to stick with the program.

I have no excuse for the blueberries. They were pretty much our only fruit option, and we want to use them up before they go bad. Plus I couldn't think of any "C" fruits.

She ate her lunch in the car on the way from gym class to preschool ("Miss Clarey starts with a C!") and ate some leftovers from it after school. She also refused to wear any red, and insisted upon a short-sleeved shirt, despite the cold weather. I forced her to wear red Elmo socks (Target Dollar Spot) so she wouldn't get upset being the only one with no red for "red day," but busted out the new sparkly pink Sketchers light-up Twinkle Toes shoes I'd been saving for a fun surprise. (They were great fun at the Puyallup Fair later that day, and the Weird Al concert that night! The flashing lights when she walked made it easy to keep track of her too!)
She ate some carrots, the cheese, and the cupcake thing, and maybe a few bites of sandwich. After school, she ate more sandwich and some carrots and berries. She finished off the carrots the next day when I busted them out with dinner. The berries didn't survive the long night left in the car (by accident.)

I had her identify the "C" foods, and did pretty well. She said that "bone" doesn't start with a "C," so I got to explain that "cheese" did. She also pointed out that "dog" wasn't a "C" word, but accepted that "Clifford" was. And then insisted that the sandwich wasn't a dog like Clifford. No. It was a dinosaur. Rawr. And then she proceeded to be adorable and play with it and have it roar and stomp all over her lunch, then had it cry for help as it was being eaten.
She was very pleased to 'sound out' more "C" words - C-C-Sandwich! (Since it has a sss sound like cinnamon and celery.) She also tells me that cat starts with "K." But I'm just thrilled that she's thinking about the sounds, rather than just memorizing the standard "a is for apple, b is for ball," etc.

*I would like to note that due to the muffin liner this isn't a "waste-free" lunch, but the paper liners are compostable (my waste services lets me put compost and food waste in with my yard waste, so we started doing that.) [The foil-lined baking cups and plastic-coated paper bento cups are not compostable or recyclable, however.]
Right now it's a non-issue, since she always eats with me, but later I plan to have her bring all her waste and scraps back. That way I can compost or re-use leftovers (like some of the uneaten veggies and fruit,) and get an overall sense of what she's eating. Plus the leftovers make a handy after-school snack! And she won't be in the habit of throwing things out, so I'm less likely to lose bento picks, silicone muffin cups, sauce containers, etc.
Bento Lunch

Project Lunch: Apple Pie Purses

To celebrate Fall (and the apple theme at our co-op preschool this month,) I chose mini apple pies as this month's Kids Cooking Class recipe. I found a fun, kid-friendly pie recipe online, where the kids mix the crust ingredients in a plastic baggie, but I didn't want to do the math to divide it up so each kid could have their own bag, and didn't want to have to go over them all again to make sure it was really combined properly. So I opted for a little biscuit-pie purse-type recipe.

Mini Apple Pie Biscuit Purses
Makes 10
12-oz refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough tube [We could only find 16-oz and 10-oz, so we went with a 4-pack of the smaller ones.]
1 medium-sized tart apple, peeled and finely chopped [I chose Granny Smith]
1/4 cup raisins [I skipped these. I hate cooked raisins, and they aren't always popular with kids anyway. Plus, who ever heard of apple pie with raisins? Ice cream, yes. Raisins? No.]
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp butter [read on...]

Step 1 [Steps 1 and 2 can be done in any order]: Combine apples, sugar and cinnamon. Oh, and raisins. [Yuk.] Mix well.
I had pre-prepped the apples, since I didn't want to be doing a lot of knife-work with a bajillion kids underfoot [Okay, 7.] So to help them feel like part of the process, I passed around the bowl and asked them to smell and look and try to guess what the little food bits could be. One boy said they looked like fruit, which was going to be one of the questions I asked (fruit or veggie?) to help them along. Yay! Then I let everyone taste some, and they all identified the apples right away.
I let the kids sniff the cinnamon (I had no takers for taste-testing it.) For the sugar, I poured some out onto a plate and let them taste it (always a very popular one, for some reason...)
Then the kids took turns adding in a teaspoon of cinnamon or tablespoon of sugar. I was making a triple batch, just to be sure I'd have enough that they could each make a few. So that meant 3 tsp of cinnamon and 9 tbsp of sugar. I only put in 7 tbsp, and there were no complaints.
Whoever wanted to mix got a turn at mixing, and then everyone got to reach in and take a bit to taste-test. I think the bowl went around two or three times... it was very tasty, apparently!

Step 2: Roll out the biscuits into 3"-4" circles.
This time, I cleverly brought along flour to prevent sticking! Score! But I could only find one of my two rolling pins, and my plastic pastry mat kept curling back up. Luckily my hostess had nice little rubber pastry mats, plus extra rolling pins!

Step 3: Place a tablespoonful of apple mixture onto each biscuit and dot with butter.
Um. Oops. Totally forgot the butter. But at 2 tbsp/10 biscuits, that would be roughly 6 tsp of butter, so a little more than 1/2 tsp butter patty on each one. And since my biscuits were smaller than the 12-oz package, we did roughly 2 tsp of mixture, depending on who did the scooping!

Step 4: Pull/pinch sides of dough together at the top to form a purse.
We had a few sealed purses, but mostly open pouch-looking things. But the apples stuck to the dough while baking, so they all turned out okay.

Step 5: Place in muffin tin cups and bake at 375 F for 11-13 minutes, or until golden brown.
The recipe I got this from said to bake in ungreased muffin pans, but mine have grunge permanently affixed to the bottoms, and I know from past experience that this biscuit dough sticks to paper liners, so I PAM'ed my tins, and they popped out great and weren't all greasy or anything... although I had forgotten the butter...
Darnit! I forgot to take my muffin tins home too! Good thing my hostess and I go to the same co-op preschool and our kids are on the same soccer team... I'm sure I'll see her again soon! Plus she lives, like, only 6 or 7 blocks away... Uphill though.

Step 6: Enjoy!
I wrote down on a piece of paper which kid had made which one (based on the muffin tin slot it went into,) and then labeled paper bowls to put them in after cooking, but no one asked to verify that they were eating THEIR apple pie, so maybe I needn't have bothered.
They were tasty, but the butter would have made them a little moister and, well, buttery-er! Since the tops end up being big clumps of dough (with fewer apples, since they tend to shrink a little and stick to the bottom,) the butter would have been nice. Ah well.

I had 7 kids, aged 1-1/2 to 5ish (6?) The 1- and 2-year-olds mostly did tasting, but they each rolled out a biscuit and ate it after they were cooked. The older kids each made two. Then I made one for each of the MOMS, so we could try them too!
This was definitely something that kids aged 5+ could do mostly on their own (after you cut the apples.) They might even be able to do most of the peeling. Since the measurements don't have to be exact, as long as they don't grossly overdo it on the cinnamon and sugar, they can even measure it themselves. And since the apples baked right in, even when the tops weren't sealed, as long as someone can help them keep the apples in the dough pouch to get it into the tin, they don't need to do a perfect job sealing the purses either.
The 2-year-old was able to help pour in measured ingredients (she could have done it on her own, but my spoons were heavy and linked on a ring, so I didn't want the whole bunch to unbalance her hand.) And even the 18ish-month-old was able to help pour in measured ingredients (with me helping hold the spoon steady and get it all into the bowl,) and even did a rudimentary job of rolling out her biscuit.
All-in-all, a very kid-friendly recipe!

I had brought along the book Apple Pie Tree, to read while they cooked, but the kids were having fun playing, and I was busy making sure everyone washed flour and biscuit dough off their hands and took off flour-y aprons before joining the collective, so the kids were all scattered. By the time I was ready to read, the timer went off. So Z and I read it together later.
The story follows the cycle of an apple tree through the seasons, and even incorporates how some animals interact with the tree and the process (bees pollinate the flowers, birds nest in the tree, etc.) A fun book for season-awareness and nature cycles. Plus there's a recipe for apple pie in the back!
I'm having a problem with my Amazon Associates links, so I'll update later with a picture of the cover.

Check out some other fun storybook-related activities and lessons!

Shibley Smiles
Also linking up with:

 Classified: Mom
It's Playtime at hands on : as we grow

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Writer's Workshop: Locked and Loaded

I chose the Writing Prompt "Locked Out" from Mama Kat's prompts this week.

Once upon a time, there was a Mommy who was ultra prepared, all the time. In her car at all times, she had bendy straws, cut shorter and stored in a travel toothbrush holder (for those restaurants without kiddie cups, or without bendy straws (so the kid wouldn't have to tip the cup horizontally to get the straw into the mouth!)) She had not only a change of clothes (in warm/long sleeve AND cool/short sleeve) for the child, but also a spare shirt and pants for herself! Just in case. Changing pad, diapers, swim diapers, sun block, sun hats for herself and child, swim suit, small pail with sand toys, sweater for child, umbrella, rain coat, wipes, extra wipes, tossable sippy cups and toddler utensils, plastic plate and bowl, bib, disposable stick-on placemats, emergency juice box and snack baggies. Plus a few books and toys, of course. You name it, she had it. 

Fat lot of good it all did her, locked in the car.

So I'm visiting my OB/Gyn for [something most of you probably aren't interested in hearing about, and really has nothing to do with the rest of the story.] I have my 18-month-old with me, since I've found that it's easier to just drag her along than make her cry for a few hours with a sitter. Plus it teaches her that not all doctor appointments involve shots! Her anxiety level about seeing her own doctor went down drastically once I started bringing her with me to the eye doctor, my OB/Gyn (aka "pooter doctor") and my GP (who happens to also be her doctor, since he's a Family Practitioner. I don't take her to the dentist, since I can't hold her or talk to her, so we'd just all be miserable.) I decide not to drag the whole diaper bag in, since it has enough supplies to support a family of 5, I had just changed her diaper before going in, and she already pooped the day before. [She normally poops every other day, which is kind of nice for me.]

Tra la la. Off we go. So I'm sitting on a paper sheet, wearing a paper gown, feeling a chilly draft up under my paper "blanket" waiting for my doc to come in. And then... a look of intense concentration. She turns away from me. PbbBBBbBlllt! PBbbBBbbBblllt! Sploot sploot! I watch as her diaper bottom literally balloons out, cartoon-style. I see the brown stain spreading up her back and down her legs. No. Effing. Way. Oh, yes way. 
I get paper burn on my bum as I slide off the table to get to my clothes to whip out my cell phone and call the front desk to see how much longer my doc's gonna be - do I have time to go out to my car and change her? Oh, very yes. The doctor would appreciate it. Okay. No problem. 
Clothes back on, child in HazMat carrying hold (my hands under her armpits, holding her as far away from my body as possible,) out the door, down the hall, out the building, up 4 flights of stairs to the parking garage... Really? REALLY? Every single human on the planet has to stop me along the way and tell me how cute my child is? NOW?
Finally out at my locked car... where I see the keys taunting me on my seat. Pressing my nose to the glass, they are less than two-feet away from my face.
You gotta be kidding me.
Nope. Oh gawd. Well, the office is located in a hospital, so I could probably go to the pediatrics area and pay them $50 for a diaper... Oh wait! Luckily, luckily, I recently locked myself out of my car [What? Shocker!] and my husband made several copies of my car key. One for himself, one hanging in the house, and one in that useless little 5th pocket in my jeans! Scoooore! I go through about 15,000 wipes and finally get her clean, then go back inside with my diaper bag, even though I probably (hopefully) won't need it. Visit goes uneventfully, and the room smells better already.  The Little Pooper was charming as ever, of course, and won the doctor over. Kiss-up.
And Mama learns a valuable lesson. Always bring the diaper bag? Pshaw. No. Always keep spare car key in a pocket! 
Mama’s Losin’ It

The Times Between: July Bento and Fun Lunches

7/1/11 - Picnic lunch for after soda-making with my Kids Cooking Class.
Z's Lunch: String cheese nibblets, leftover mac-n-cheese,
U-Pick strawberries, broccoli
My lunch: PBJ (home-made mango jelly) and blueberries.
I wasn't very hungry, apparently.  
7/4/11 - Quickie snack lunch before heading off to Bob and Jessica's annual 4th of July Extravaganza!
Leftover McD apples, broccoli, cream cheese mix, Wheat Thins
My husband was making jalapeno poppers for the BBQ potluck, so he had some extra finely shredded cheddar mixed with cream cheese. She wanted cheese and crackers for snack lunch. Voila! I came up with the brilliant idea to let her spread the cheese herself, which she loves doing. I'm usually in too much of a hurry, or she's busy playing when I'm making sandwiches or whatever for her to spread the stuff. Plus she's sloppy. But here, I didn't care if she blobbed on too much cheese, or if it was all globbed onto one side, like I would with, say, my sandwich.
-7/1 lunches in an EasyLunchBox and a SnapWare sandwich box (from a set at Costco. Which came with a BUILT lunch bag that I'd been coveting for a while! Squeee!) Silicone flower liner from... either World Market or Marshall's. 
-7/4 lunch on a plate from JoAnns (I waited until it was on clearance. Boo-yah!) and knife from Ikea.

Monday, September 12, 2011

WFLW - Back to School Bento

The first day of preschool this year also happened to be her first day of drop-off preschool (we've been doing a co-op the past two years, where I've been there the whole time.) And this was also the first time she's ever been left with virtual strangers. (She got to meet the teachers once last May and again a week before class started.)  I worked all Summer preparing her for the concept, and we spent countless days at Little Gym and ballet camps to get her used to spending 3 hours having fun without me and looking to teachers for guidance and help (while I stayed in the lobby in case she needed me.) We read her story books about being scared of starting preschool like Froggy Goes to School, coping books like The Kissing Hand, and books about how much we love her like I Love You Because You're You. And we moved her to the child-teacher gym class once she turned 3, instead of a parent-child class, also to get her used to trusting in, accepting help from, and seeking praise from an adult other than me.
Since our first day of school also happened to be on a Little Gym day, so we had gym class first, then an hour before school. So I decided that an in-car lunch was in order, and wanted to make it extra special.

Back-to-School Bento
PBH 'apple' w/cheese ABC and gummy worm, Cheddar Bunnies, mixed veggies,
sprinkles (in bunny container,) apple slices, Greek yogurt w/ABC sprinkles
As with most of my eating-on-the-go lunches, I opted for one of our EasyLunchBoxes.
I used an apple-shaped cutter to make a small peanut-butter-honey sandwich, and tucked a sour gummy worm coming out, just for fun. I also used my plastic ABC super-mini cutters to make mozzarella ABCs to go on top. I used a toothpick to poke small holes for the A and B, since these cutters are just the outer lines of the letters. (Wilton also makes a set for cutting fondant, with the inner bits cut-out too, but they only work on really thinly-sliced cheese, and this was already pre-sliced too thick for them.)
The Annie's Cheddar Bunnies were a special request she had made the night before, plus I had space to fill in my box. :) I turned a Wilton Snappy Stripes liner inside-out to keep them separated.
I used another liner for the veggie assortment. We had two snap-peas and a few carrot flowers leftover from a previous lunch, plus some cherry tomatoes from the Farmer's Market. I tossed in a sprig of broccoli to make it look more festive.
I sliced up a Gala apple and sloshed it in some apple juice to prevent browning, and put some in each of our lunches (and the slices that wouldn't fit went into a Take N Toss bowl in the fridge (what's the point of avoiding plastic baggies in the lunches if I'm just gonna waste use them to store leftovers in the friggie?))

In the little green bunny-head box (bento supplies, bought on eBay. Search for bento sauce, mayo, or condiment cups or boxes) I used a mix of unsweetened Kool-Aid powder and ABC/123 quins sprinkles for the yogurt. We usually get Greek Honey-flavored yogurt, which is plenty sweet already, which counters the tartness of the Kool-Aid powder. But if her yogurt is 'plain,' she demands honey, which just adds more sugar calories. I like the quins (the flat wafer-y type ones,) as well as non-pareils (tiny balls,) and jimmies (wormy-looking ones) instead of sugar sprinkles because they have less sugar per tsp, but are still fun and exciting. Plus the unsweetened drink powders, for added flavor and color. [For those of you concerned with artificial flavors/colors, look into True Lemon, which is an all-natural crystallized fruit juice. They make lemon, lime, orange, lemonade and raspberry lemonade.]
To make it more fun for the picture (since she likes getting to add the sprinkles and powder herself at lunchtime,) I painstakingly placed ABC and 123 quins on the yogurt.
I don't have a photo of her with her lunch, since she'd been anticipating getting her new "first day of big-girl preschool" bribe present after gym class. She chose a Lalaloopsy doll we found at Wal-Mart the week before while trying to find some rare items for her school supplies and emergency pack list (solar blanket and 5-oz cups. Not 3-oz. Not 7-oz. Sheesh. I hear Target carries the cups but not the solar blanket, Fred Meyer had neither, and we had been passing by a Wal-Mart for some reason, so I just bit the bullet and went in. *sigh*) She spent every single day since I bought it asking to open the doll, and singing songs about "Tippy Tumbelina" (the one she chose.)
So I took pics of her playing with her doll and handed over the lunch just before taking off for school, rather than spending time watching her enjoy her lunch before driving off.
"Shhh... Tippy TummeNEEna's seeping!"
She ate the sour gummy worm, the cheese ABCs, most of the apples, all of the Cheddar Bunnies, and drank up all the sprinkles and yogurt through a straw. She prefers using a straw for her yogurt, ever since my April Fool's yogurt drink trick, and it's not nearly as messy as eating dribbly yogurt in the car with a spoon! I warn her that the sprinkles may clog up the straw, but so far we haven't had any problems. [I cut a plastic bendy straw a little shorter to fit in the box and also to make the reach from mouth-to-box just right. I also save the cut-off end to cut up smaller for stringing crafts.]

This school has a system for dropping off the kids where we pull into numbered slots and form lines and they come get our kiddos and take them into the school. (And then bring them back out after for pick-up.) I opted to get her used to the system on Day 1, rather than park and walk her in. *sniff sniff* Bye-bye Baby!
My proud little Preschooler was super excited that they gave her her "very own bag" with her name on it (every kid gets one for memos and projects coming home or notes, permission slips, etc going in.) I hadn't gotten any 'first day of school photos' at our front door before leaving the house, since she was in her gym class clothes, and I hadn't wanted to put her school clothes on just for a picture, then change her into gym clothes, then back into school clothes after gym. So I walked in to pick her up after, so I could be sure and get a photo!
Despite all my worries and preparation, the only tears at preschool were mine as I drove away... and I'm blaming them on pregnancy hormones and her forlorn little expression, rather than a sense of loss for my little girl growing up. So far I've never looked back and wished she was back in a previous phase of her life, and I would have been happy to do drop-off preschool earlier, only I didn't feel she was ready for it (she would cry at NANA's house every 30-minutes until around age 2-and-a-half, and only stopped being upset when left there after being there with her cousin Tay to amuse her as well for a few times. Now she loves it there.)

But I was very pleased that her day went well, since I foolishly had left my phone in the car, so wouldn't have known to come charging to the rescue, had I been needed!
Bento LunchJust a Bunch of Momsense