Saturday, March 31, 2012

Top Five - March 2012

Top 5 Posts:
In which I accidentally write The Blog Post That Ate Cincinnati! Holy pageviews, Batman! In the first few hours after I posted this, thanks to my blogger Mama friends and Pinterest, this became my #1 viewed post of all time. By a huge margin!
Oh yes, and I got to create a yummy and healthier treat, free of artificial colors and most (if not all) allergens. 

In which I post a round-up of Seuss-themed meals, and link to a Blog Hop with other bloggess' Seuss-themed posts.

In which I make St. Patrick's-themed lunches and link to a themed Blog Hop. And counting the sandwich where I got my inspiration and the other two leprechaun-face sammies in the hop, mine actually holds its own! Equally cute, if you will. Yay me!

4. Pirate Sisters

In which I make Z her first "Big Sister"-themed bento. Yarrr!

In which I spend less than $10 for 2 very kid-friendly crafts. Two years ago!
I did something right, back when I was a [more] ignorant newbie blogger, since this old post (from 2010) gets a lot of extra traffic this time of year. And my top search results list is full of variations of the title (cheap/easy/simple, St. Patty's/St. Patricks, craft etc.)

Top 5 Referring URLs:

2. Bento Blog Network Woot!

3. EasyLunchboxes' "Blogroll" (usually one of my top 5 referrers! Thanks Kelly!)

4. Family Fresh Cooking's Project Lunch Box post. That I linked to last September!

Top 5 Referring Sites:
1. Pinterest
Not a surprise. My gummies post has had hundreds of pins so far!
5. BentOnBetterLunches (thanks Cristi!)

March 2012 Bento "Leftovers"

Tuesday, 1/31/12 - Just found this fun little lunch. It's been lost a while...
1/2 PBHoney,  strawberries and mandarin orange segments

Friday, 2/17/12 - This one actually went with her Square Meal lunch, but I didn't post it there since I hadn't wanted to clutter up the product review, but my February Leftovers post had already published! Oops!
My lunch: Spinach and kale salad w/broccoli, blueberries, almonds and
carrot scraps. Apple scraps.
Packed in a divided container from a 38-piece Snapware set we got to replace our mismatched storage container cupboard.

Thursday 2/23/12 - Another lost February lunch. We had Little Gym in the morning, then preschool. Not sure whether I made myself a lunch and forgot to take pics, or if I had planned to eat at home after dropping her off. Either way, no evidence that I got fed!
Carrot flowers and shreds, Special K and Mini Saltines
crackers, cheddar and CoJack cheese squares, ham
and turkey squares, strawberries and blood orange
She ate all the meats and cheeses (cut using the FunBites Cube It! cutter,) and the strawberries. She ate most of the crackers and carrots too, but the blood orange was too creepy for her.

My husband has even started getting into packing his own lunch now! Not only to save money ($7/workday for a fast food or deli lunch is $35 per week. $1,750 per year!) but also for healthier options for watching his weight.
Sadly he won't try my  EasyLunchboxes, but he usually packs a sandwich, salad, or leftovers in single-compartment re-usable containers. But he was not afraid to rock my EasyLunchboxes cooler bag in pink! (He couldn't find my purple one. I really should buy him a more manly color...)

Saturday 3/3/12 - Off to an all-day, all-you-can-eat crab-feed with my dad.While my husband and I could get away with not eating before leaving, it occurred to me as we got into the car that making the 3-year-old delay lunch during a 90-minute car ride would not be the smartest plan ever. So my hubby tossed together a quickie lunch.
Hubby-Packed Bento
1/2 PB Honey sandwich, Thin Mint cookie, "baby" orange,
cheese shreds (and spoon for shreds)
Packing lunch turned out to be a good plan, since it turned out to be a 2-hour trip, and she refused to eat any crab (other than the requisite "no thank you" bites.) The crab was crazy delicious, though. It's amazing the difference that truly fresh-caught can make! I had maybe 2.5 crabs before I was so sick of it that I was hoping the bits would fall off my fork so I wouldn't have to eat it. Hubby went for five. But they didn't even need butter for dipping, which is usually a requirement for me. They were caught fresh either the day before or that morning. And I managed to con my husband into shelling 1.5 of my crabs for me! Omnomnom.
But the drive back turned into a 4-hour ordeal! We had to stop roughly 53,459,941 times. My husband can't drive with someone crying in the back, so we'd stop to calm down the un-calm-downable Little Miss E, and in between had to stop for food and potty breaks for Slightly-Bigger Miss Z.

Most lunches were packed  in our EasyLunchboxes.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Hard Days' Lunch(es)

Wednesday, 3/21/12 - While we weren't needing a packed lunch for before school, we had swim class and then an art playdate after, so I wanted to have a snack packed anyway. And since I was already making hers, I made one for myself as well. I ate mine on the way to school, since it was my turn as a "working parent" at the co-op preschool, so I wasn't able to eat during class like I usually do.
Her lunch: Sweet potato chips, PB-Nutella mini pita pocket (from Trader Joe's,) string cheese nibblets, Ranch in the heart container (from Dollar Tree,) sugar snap peas and organic green beans, strawberries

My lunch: Nutella croissant - OMG! SO GOOD! Organic kiwi, organic green beans w/Russian dressing in the Smidget.

Snack Day!
It happened to be my turn for snack at preschool. We brought shredded cheddar and mozzarella mix (my Hubby grated it all for me the night before - thanks, Honey!) and CARS Cinnamon Graham cookies, and strawberries. I sprung for the CARS cookies because they didn't have the Veggie Straws chips, and it's transportation-theme month at school.
The kids ended up eating almost 2 pounds of berries and almost all the cheese shreds I put out (3 little paper boatfuls.) I had some cookies left, but one of the boys didn't want to go out for Large Muscle Group play. "Just one more. Just one more," as he shovelled them into his gob. And then he didn't want to go into the room for good-bye songs. "Just one more." So I told him he could have the rest of the box if he went in for songs. He was ecstatic.
All in all she ate the strawberries and most of the chips and sandwich. Some of the cheese too, I think. And maybe the green beans. I found one under her car seat the next day, so who knows. Plus a bunch of cheese shreds and berries at school. And a few cookies.

Thursday 3/22/12 - Since we needed a packed lunch for between Little Gym and preschool, my husband re-used the box with leftovers from the day before, and added a few items.
Peanut-butter-honey sandwich half, leftover nibblets plus cheese shreds, Cheetos, leftover Ranch, olives (in plastic wrap) and leftover snap peas, strawberries and Circus Animal cookies.
His lunch was much more popular. She ate the sandwich, Cheetos, cookies, and olives. And some of the berries and cheese.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rainbow Curry and Crisps!

I was at the drugstore, and happened to see cans of beans on sale. I had just pinned a bean curry recipe from Lunches Fit for a Kid, so figured I'd give it a try. The store only had black and kidney beans, so I figured I could use the kidney beans instead of white ones. And I was pretty sure I had canned tomatoes plus curry and masala spices at home. Hoo-rah!
Since beans and rice together make a complete protein, you don't need meat, so I thought I'd add some brown rice we had just bought. I made some other changes too, since I didn't have any Vindaloo spice, and my husband thought potatoes wouldn't be as good with the rice.
Turns out I didn't have tomatoes though. Oh well. What I threw together came out great!

Crock-Pot Rainbow Curry
1 cup uncooked brown rice
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can cut green bean -or- 1 cup cut fresh green beans
1/2 to 1 cup carrot coins
1 Tbsp curry powder, your favorite
1 Tbsp Masala powder, any variety* (can find at Indian or Asian groceries, specialty spice stores, or online)
3 cups water

*She used Garam Masala, but I used Tandoori Masala. Not sure what the differences are.

Step 1: Mix curry and Masala spices with 3 cups water. Set aside

Step 2: Add rice into the bottom of the pot, and add vegetables and beans on top. Pour water mixture over everything.
Look at those colors! Red beans,
Orange carrots, Yellow curry, Green beans
and Purple beans! Like a Rainbow!
Step 3: Cook 6-8 hours on Low (or 200 F in an oven) or 3-4 hours on High (300 F in an oven.)

Serve with Curry Crisps or Naan bread. Enjoy!
My tip: eating the chip upside-down puts the seasonings on your tongue first, enhancing the flavor experience. 
And then you don't feel you need to add so much salt!

Curry Crisps
2 wheat or corn tortillas per person
salt (roughly 1/8 tsp per person)
curry powder (roughly 1/2 to 1 tsp per person)
garlic powder (roughly 1/2 to 1 tsp per person)
olive oil or olive oil cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Step 1: Cut tortillas into 6ths with a knife or rotary cutter. Or into fun shapes using cookie cutters.

Step 2: Lay the cut tortillas onto a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Try not to let them overlap too much.

Step 3: Brush or spray on olive oil (or olive oil cooking spray.) Sprinkle on seasonings as desired.

Step 4: Bake at 400 F for 8 to 10 minutes, until crispy and edges begin to brown. Yum! 

I also used a bunny cutter to make custom crisps for Princess Sparklepants. She loved them!
It might also be fun to try this with little tortilla chip bowls you can make using the tutorial from Bobbi's Bentos!

Here's how I almost messed it all up:
I figured that since there was no meat, I could get away with just cooking it for 2 to 3 hours on High. Newp. That stinkin' rice was still crunchy after 2 hours! At that point it was past dinnertime, so in a panic I dumped the whole thing into a pot on the stove and put it on High/10. It did the trick. That rice was only slightly al dente after about 10 minutes... but since I wasn't able to stand there stirring it with a hungry baby on my hands, I left it alone while the crisps cooked. I came back to stuff starting to burn on the bottom. Everything still turned out delicious, but the rice, carrots, and fresh green beans that I used were a little firmer than I was expecting. Another hour or two would have mushed everything up nicely, and made it easier to eat on the crisps.
And it smelled like burnt beans, even though there was no burnt flavor. Ah well. Lesson learned. Make Hubby cook from now on. Plan ahead.
Allergy-Free Vintage Cookery

I Did It Myyyy Waaaay!

Saturday,  3/24/12 - After being gone almost an entire week (right after we got home from a four-day emergency stay in the hospital with Baby,) my husband had to go away for yet another weekend. So the girls and I schlepped up to Nana's for a day. Since I hadn't fed her lunch yet it's an hour drive, I suggested we pack a lunch for the ride. Princess SparklePants wanted to put the strawberries in herself, and wanted them to go in different places than I wanted. So I let her pack it her way. She even suggested all the foods herself!
Strawberries, spinach, purple carrot flowers and shreds, cheese shreds,
an apple slice
She had me cut the tops off the strawberries, and cut the carrots, but she did the rest. She even got the spoon and bear cup (from Sweet Treat Eats set) out of my bento supplies herself!
She didn't end up eating much of it. Just some berries and cheese shreds. And the apple slice. (She only wanted to pack one.) Once we got to Nana's she was too distracted with her cousin TayTay, who was also visiting.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What Happens in Vegas... Fits in an EasyLunchbox

Inspired by Sarah from Bentoriffic, who took a picture of her EasyLunchbox on a beach at sunset, some of the other bloggers in our Facebook group started taking pictures of their EasyLunchboxes in backyards and around town as well.
So I sent one of mine off with my husband while he was in Vegas for a week. Teehee.

Let's see what my EasyLunchbox got up to...

Arrived in Vegas. What a lovely sight!

In the casino. Ding ding ding! 

Check out the nightlife.
Ooo! Fire! ELB's are microwave-safe, but not fireproof!

  Ahhh. Water show. Much better.

Maybe some magic? Hope the tigers aren't hungry...

Walking the strip, enjoying the sights.

Stumbling drunkenly back to the hotel... Notice ELB's got his lid on backwards? Tsk tsk!

No worries. ELB arrived safely back home. So did Hubby.

Wordless Wednesday - 3/28/12

My life is so full of love...

Fun outside at preschool

Princess Sparklepants: 1, chocolate-covered marshmallow: 0

Prepping strawberries for shortcake at kiddie baking playdate. Looks just like a grown-up!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring-y Lunches

Tuesday, 3/20/12 - I packed lunches in our EasyLunchboxes the night before to go to a MOMS Club thing in the morning before preschool, but we ended up not being up and ready in time. So we ate these at home.
Her lunch: Sweet potato chips, snap peas and carrots, string cheese nibblets,
strawberries, mini pita pocket w/ Nutella and PB, home-made gummy

My lunch is nut-free. Spinach salad with alfalfa sprouts, carrot flowers, raisin assortment (from the bulk section at Winco,) and dried blueberries. Russian dressing in the Smidget. Broken Trader Joe's CheeseSticks in the smaller compartment to stay crunchy, and chocolate chip Ants on a Log with SunButter and celery.

 Allergy-Free Vintage Cookery

Monday, March 26, 2012

Crock Pot Cilantro Chicken

I got a bunch of cilantro in my CSA delivery this past week, and had no clue what to do with it, other than some vague notion that pesto is made from cilantro. But I'm perfectly happy buying pre-made pesto. Plus I still have some. So instead I typed "cilantro" into my AllRecipes iPhone recipes app, and found this Chicken Cilantro recipe, but they lost me at "saute." And again at "puree." Once I got to "hominy," I was ready to just try throwing things together and seeing how they turned out. Not only did it turn out okay, but I managed to do it all* while my husband was out of town!

*I cheated. Nana was over and kept the kidlets out of my hair! Bliss!

Crock-Pot Cilantro Chicken
2 boneless-skinless chicken breasts, chunked
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
assorted vegetables, chopped (I used 4 carrots, 4 celery ribs, 1 small head broccoli; all chopped)
1/2 to 1 onion, chopped
3 tbsp garlic, minced
2 cups rice (uncooked)
4 cups water or chicken stock
1 tbsp chicken soup mix or 2 cubes bouillon
1-1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste

Step 1: Put chicken and rice in bottom of cooker. Then add vegetables.
Step 2: Lightly mix seasonings with water before pouring over the top.
Step 3: Cook on Low for 4 to 6 hours, or High for 2 to 3 hours.

Rookie Mistakes:
I was sloppy. I know the chicken should be on the bottom, but it was still thawing, so I chopped up the cilantro first and tossed it in, with the intention of mixing it all up after adding the chicken. Oops. Forgot. So a lot of it just got baked onto the bottom of the pot.
I also added the rice last, so when I peeked in around halfway through cooking, browned spots were beginning to appear. I stirred everything up, and it all turned out okay.

This dish might do better on low, or maybe with more water, so everything is submerged, to prevent the "toasting" effect I found on the top layer when I checked halfway through, and again a little at the end. It's even possible that two-hours on High is sufficient cooking time, since the chicken is cut into smaller chunks that cook faster. But since my chunks were still partially frozen when I started cooking, I wanted to be safe and went for 3 hours.

The Verdict:
Nana said she liked it. And she even suggested we have it again the next night, so she probably wasn't lying. (Although Nanas are known for being sneaky...)
I liked it. If I happen to get cilantro again, I would definitely use it to make this. I wouldn't go out of my way to buy cilantro just to make this though, but that's more of a vague idea that cilantro is probably expensive, and it might go bad before I got around to it, like this bunch almost did.
Unka Seesee said it was overcooked, but he meant the texture, not the flavor. Crock-pot cooking does tend to disintegrate ingredients, but with brown rice or whole grain noodles, that might be a plus!
When Hubby came home, he liked it too. Enough to keep it in our meal rotation, as a break from the Chicken Curry.

Note: **I have been informed that pesto is made from basil. Which just shows you how much more inept I am than even *I* thought!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Muffin Tin Meal - Sharing With a Friend

I was asked to watch the boy next door for a few hours one morning, which I was happy to do. He arrived long before Z normally wakes up (she's a night person, like both her parents,) so he had the run of the place for most of his stay. I knew Z would need breakfast, and it was probably close to his lunch time, or at least time for a snack, so I made a quickie MTM for them to share.
Apples, fruit juice gummies, string cheese nibblets
I cut up an apple, made "ice cream cone" peanut-butter-honey sandwiches with my Lunch Punch Sweets cutter, cut up a cheese stick into nibblets, and added some home-made fruit juice gummies. I put them in a heart-shaped muffin pan I got on clearance from JoAnn's.

Well my efforts were a success with our guest. He asked for seconds on the sandwich and cheese. And too much of a success with Princess Sparklepants. She didn't want to share, and sat there sulking, refusing to eat, until he left.
Muffin Tin Monday at