Friday, December 28, 2012

Let It Snow! - Snowflake Salad and Simple Sammies

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Thursday 12/13/12 - I actually managed to get up early enough to make her this fancy lunch in the morning before school. Which is good, since I had forgotten to pack one the night before! I made mine while she was at preschool. Both in our EasyLunchboxes.

Z's "Snow Much Fun" Lunch
PB-chocolate almond butter sandwiches,
string cheese nibblets, grapes, kohlrabi and carrots
Snowy Sammies: snowflake cookie cutter press made her cute sandwiches quick and easy. (Tip: Wendolonia has a great tutorial on how to make the imprint stand out nicely. I always try to cut the bread first, before adding the fillings because the edges come out neater, but I was pressing the filled sandwiches until I read her tips. MUCH better now!)
They rest in a snowstorm of string cheese nibblets and fun snowflake rings.

Grapesicles: I spent so much time on the carrots I didn't have time to get cute with fruit, so I just tossed in some grapes with a snowflake pick.

Veggies Are "Snow" Yummy!: I had a vision in my head of making these great carrot snowflakes, so when they turned out to be harder than expected, I refused to give up. The plastic snowflake fondant plunger cutters were very difficult to push through the carrots and kohlrabi slices, no matter how thinly I sliced.  After pressing down as hard as I could on the cutting board, I had to pick them up and use my thumbs to push the carrot up into the design before popping them out. They turned out great, but ate a lot of time, and my thumbs hurt for a few days after!
(I just made enough to cover the top layer. Underneath were a few coins with the image just imprinted on them, and then simple flower ones cut with a metal veggie cutter.)

I had heard someone at the organic farm we go to talk about putting kohlrabi on her salads raw. Raw? It had never occurred to me to try it raw! So this was our test-run. I had made a random-veggie dish the night before and used most of the kohlrabi there, and saved a few thin slices for our lunches the next day. I just put one kohlrabi snowflake in her lunch to try, and saved the rest for me.

She ate every single morsel! Even the kohlrabi!

Mama Loves Salad "Snow" Much
Hail Merry Macaroons, Farm cheese and Special K crackers, spinach and lettuce salad w/cabbage and carrots
(tucked under,) kohlrabi, broccoli, purple cauliflower, dried blueberries, sunflower seeds, dressing (not shown)
This lunch is the first one I've ever made that I regretted having to eat. It was just so pretty! But when I decided to try raw kohlrabi in my salad, I immediately thought of snowflakes, since it's white. Like with the carrots, the snowflake fondant plunger cutters were a major pain to use. But since Baby and I were just tooling around at home while Big Sis was at school, I was in no hurry.

That's "Snow" Ordinary Salad: I chopped up the kohlrabi scraps, and the carrot scraps from Z's lunch and mixed them with the cabbage and spinach, then put a layer of spinach over the top to hide them so the kohlrabi snowflakes would stand out more. I added purple cauliflower too, since it always looks stunning in a salad. Plus it was going to go bad otherwise! And broccoli for the same reason. The going to go bad part, not the stunning-looking part.

I put some sunflower seeds for crunch and dried blueberries for chewiness in a Mini Dipper so they would stay fresh and not get soggy in with the salad until I was ready to eat. Since I would be eating it at home later, I opted to not root through my unorganized mountain of bento stuff still needing to be put away get a dressing container dirty and added the dressing just before eating.

Snow and Crackers: My original plan had been to just toss in string cheese nibblets as "snowballs" or whatever, but I had this weird Farm cheese stuff, and the kohlrabi snowflakes just looked so gorgeous. The cutters did not work well with the Farm cheese. It's softer than mozzarella, and I think would even be moldable. So it was squishing around and sticking to everything and was generally a pain to work with. But you can't argue with the results! Just lovely!

Just Desserts: With my snowy-themed lunch, I immediately thought of some macaroons from Hail Merry I had been sent to try, since the lighter ones look like snowflakes. But the Salted Caramel and Strawberry ones were so goooooood, and I only got a few of each to sample, I didn't want to gobble them all down in one lunch. So I put one of the Strawberry ones on top of some Chocolate ones. They're all tasty, but the Salted Caramel are my hands-down favorites! So I'm saving them for last!

Mama's lunch is nut-free. Yum! And if you pretend I used soy cheese, and vegan crackers, it would be vegan too.

*I just found out that the Special K crackers use petrol-derived BHT as an artificial preservative (how on earth did I miss that before?!) so we won't be getting them again. *sigh.* We had to say farewell to my Honey Bunches of Oats and our Chex cereals (for home-made Chex mix *sniffle*) as well, since they're bad too. Even though *I* can eat them, I choose to vote with my wallet and no longer bring foods into my home that we can't all enjoy. As long as Americans are fine eating petrol, they'll keep feeding it to us.

Tools of the Trade

Monday, December 24, 2012

All I Want For Christmas Is... Braaaaains!

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Monday 12/17/12 - On Sunday night Little Z had asked to switch with Baby E and have Mama lie down with her, and Dadda put Baby to bed. So as we snuggled, I asked if she had any suggestions for the next day's lunch.
She said "A zombie!" "Ooo! A Santa zombie?" "No." "An ELF zombie?" "No." "Reindeer zombie? Gingerbread man zombie? What do you mean?" "Just a zombie." Blargh.
She had a whole slew of ideas how I could do it, and suggested broccoli to make the skin green, among other things.
Ham and cheese with mustard sandwich, dye-free taffy, cheese letters, dye-free pickles, blackberries and raspberries
Braaaaaaains!: My Bento Blogger Friends did a pick swap over the Summer, and everyone who signed up got a pick from everyone else who signed up. It was a lot of fun choosing the pick that represented "me" the most, and then seeing what everyone else chose, and why, as well. One of the picks I received was a zombie hand cupcake pick. (The other came from a grab bag assortment from a bake shop.) I love how they're clawing up out of the pile of braaaaains! "Bwrains aren't bwack and WRED, Mama!" So I told her they were bloody and rotting ones. She was appeased.

Zombie Flesh: She asked me what the pink bunny pick in with the dye-free pickles was for, and was delighted when I told her that it was a screaming victim. "Help! Help! Don't eat my Braaaaaaain!" That's my girl! (I would have included more, but I only had the one from our pick swap. They're on my allthingsforsale wishlist though. *hint hint*)
Zombie: Even though she had nixed the gingerbread zombie, I opted to use a gingerbread man cutter anyway. I just didn't decorate it as a gingerbread man cookie zombie. Before gluing the cheese bits on, I mixed a drop of blue and yellow from my natural food colors with some water and painted it on the head and limbs using a plastic bristle paintbrush that I keep with my bento tools. For colors not being used on cheese or meat (or anything with rotty proteins,) I mix my colors in some contact lens cases with the colors marked on the caps, so I can save the extras. I keep them in a baggie in the fridge to prevent mold or bacterial growth. You could also use a 7-day pill box from the pharmacy, but they might not be water-tight, and my fridge isn't organized well enough - I can't have anything in there that won't stay intact after falling out onto the floor!

I had originally planned on having the cheese on the inside of the sandwich with the ham. so had slathered mustard on both slices of bread. But I didn't have a slice of cheese large enough for the whole body, and the two smaller slices looked like clothes after I'd cut them. So I flipped the head of the cutter upside down to chop off the cheese head and make a collar. Then used a knife to make the sleeves and legs raggedy, and slathered on more mustard to glue them in place. (Luckily she loves mustard. Freak.)

I used a straw to cut circles out of some whiter splotches of the Colby Jack scraps and stuck in some black sesame seeds for the pupils. Glued on with mustard, of course.
Another straw hole for the mouth (would have been easier and a cleaner cut if I had thought of it before assembling her sandwich! Doh!) and I used beading tweezers to dip some more black sesame seeds in mustard and stick them in the bread mouth like rotting teeth.

This was my first time using the tweezers, and they were a HUUUUUUGE help! I was able to get the cheese eyes dipped in mustard and on the face with a minimum of muss and fuss. Normally I would have glued at least one to my finger first, then flicked it onto the floor by accident trying to get it off without destroying it. And I would have lost about 1,592 sesame seeds in the process of getting the teeth in.

More Braaaaains!: I cut a dye-free taffy from Trader Joe's that had a pink and white spiral pattern into three thinner circles, but one got cut wrong and didn't make the whole circle. So I ate it. That left me with two that I stretched and smooshed to break up the spiral pattern a bit to look more like a brain. I had also pulled out a light pink taffy, and Z had suggested I could use a toothpick to make it look like a brain, but Hubby thought the dark pink spiral one looked more brain-like already, and why make more work for myself? She loved them, and didn't even notice I hadn't carved in little brain lines!

Hubby recently shoveled all my loose bento gear into totes, and I couldn't find my mini cutters. So I used the 1"alphabet cutters that I was able to find to cut the word "BRAAAINS" out of some cheddar, and laid them out on the bottom of the EasyLunchbox. If you press them down a bit, cheese will stick nicely to the plastic (and probably to stainless steel ones as well) and stay in place until lunch!

She initially suggested "carrots for the hot lava" (because everyone knows zombies and hot lava come together!) and I was going to try and cut some into flames and such, but the dye-free pickles looked more zombie-like! And I was tired...


Sunday, December 23, 2012

'Twas the Last Snack Week Before Christmas...

Monday, 12/17/12 through Wednesday 12/19/12

'Twas the last snack week before Christmas and all through the house excitement was stirring, with nary a grouse. The snacks were all packed with a mom's loving care, and were all sent to school for her to eat there.
The foods were all nestled in their little "beds," to get eaten by Little Z - or so she had said. Carrying her snack bag, in her coat and her cap, she went off to school... then Mama took a nap!

White cheddar popcorn, apples
 Quick and simple!

apples, Colby Jack cheese, rosemary crackers
I had apple chunks and cheese slices left over from an earlier snack, so this was quick and easy to throw together as well! I threw in some rosemary crackers to go with the cheese, since she loves the rosemary bread we get at the farm, and I was hoping to entice her away from just filling up on Goldfish crackers. She knows they're "safe" for her, and tends to choose them over her healthier snack if they're available.

Pirate Booty, Unreal candy, gummy stars, carrots
Since we have an hour in between preschool classes for lunch, I usually just pack her snack then. So she has a lot more input than when I was packing them the night before with her lunch if we were going to be out and about all morning.
She requested more candies like had been on her Christmas tree sandwich that day for lunch, and more carrot trees. Since I didn't want to just give her a ton of candy, I sprinkled a few Unreal candy-coated chocolates and gummy stars on some Pirate Booty. Sneaky! And used my mini tree cutter on some more carrot coins. (They're hiding in stacks - there's more than just the three you see!)

(Box came from the Disney Store. It's an arrow shape with CARS on the lid, but I thought it was kind of tree-shaped, to go with her tree lunch that day.)

While technically not Baby's first Christmas, it was her first Santa picture! She was born on the 22nd, and we didn't leave the hospital until Christmas Day, so too late for Santa photos!

Santa pictures have always been an ordeal for us with Little Z (after her first one at 6 months. She was happy for that one!) Because of her sensory and social issues, she didn't like people she KNEW talking to her or touching her. Much less weird strangers in red suits! So we usually go on a weekday morning, so there are no weekend crowds to deal with. And no rush. We would stroll around and "stalk" the Santa area for hours, eating our lunch nearby so she could watch how other people interacted with Santa. And she would pick out a small toy to "earn" by getting her photo taken for Mama.
But this year I had two to wrangle, so when Hubby called in sick to work one day, I snagged him and we raced to the mall in between morning and afternoon preschool classes, and Z finished her lunch in the car. So we got the skeevy Santa, instead of the jolly fellow we've had the last three years (I find out his schedule in advance and we go on one of his days!) Oh well.

Tools of the Trade (stuff I used, or similar)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

3 Quick and Simple Holiday Lunches

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Three quick, easy, and healthy holiday-themed lunches in our EasyLunchboxes. Picks, cupcake toppers, muffin cups and cookie cutters turn quick and simple lunches into FUN quick and simple lunches!

Wednesday, 12/12/12 - Super Simple Santa
PB-chocolate almond butter sandwich, GoGo Squeeze,
seaweed snack, string cheese nibblets
It practically took me longer to open the package of Trader Joe's Seaweed Snack than it did to put this lunch together! A Santa cupcake ring and holiday lights cupcake rings make it fun and festive, with almost no effort at all.
The GoGo Squeeze pouch came in my December allergy-friendly Savorfull box - they're processed in a facility free from the Top 8 allergens! 
(Use code BITINGMYHAND to get $1 off one month, $9 off six months or $20 off a one year Savorfull subscription.)

Thursday, 12/6/12 - No Time Like The Presents
Pickled green beans, pomegranate arils, ham and cheese on rosemary bread,
Peppermint White Chocolate Pretzel Thins
We got some pickled beans from the pumpkin patch we went to back in October. I'd just found them again, so figured it was a good time to try them in her lunch. They were a bit spicy for me, and turned out to be too spicy for her as well. Oh well. The holiday light cupcake ring made them more for though!
Just for fun, I put a Santa hat cupcake topper on the sandwich. Whee! (It came from a bakery supply shop somewhere. It's nice having bento friends around the world!)
To keep the Trader Joe's White Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel Slims from getting moist against the ham sandwich, I used a silicone baran to separate them.
The pomegranate seeds are in a present-shaped cupcake cup - one of my favorites! (I found mine at Target a few years ago, but they've been seen at AC Moore and a few other places.)

Tuesday, 12/11/12 - Bagel Wreaths
Mini bagels with peanut butter, Colby Jack cheese, grapes, edamame
I used some graduated bow cutters (also found in the clay section at craft stores) to turn her mini bagels into quick and simple holiday wreaths! A holiday sign cupcake pick and some gingerbread candy men cupcake picks and make a so-so lunch fun and festive!
(I discovered through trial and error that if I press cheese down a little against the bottom of the lunch box, it stays put! In this case, the bagels pressed the other cheese bows up against the lid too. Easy peasy!

For some reason I seem to be running low on clean red and green muffin cups lately. Huh.

Tools of the Trade:
   Food Decorating Pick Puffy Ring Santa Christmas Tree Elf   Reusable Silicone Japanese Bento Baran Sheet 5pcs Microwavable  Food Decorating Pick Puffy Gingerbreads Food Decorating Pick Happy Holidays Message