Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bento Leftovers - May (and April! Yikes!)

Thursday, 4/19/12 - Since Hubby was working late, I packed bento dinners in our EasyLunchboxes for Z and myself to take to my MOMS Club monthly board meeting.

Her dinner: Root Chips,  Pink Cookie, kalamata olives, frozen peas, mac-n-cheese
Since I had the room (normally I don't, with a sandwich in there,) I chose a silicone bear cup to keep her olives separate.
When she was with me, she was under strict orders not to eat her cookie until she had eaten her peas and macaroni. And for some reason, she listens and respects my requests. But when Daddy swung by and picked her up, she felt she was allowed to eat her cookie, so filled up on that and only ended up eating her olives and some of the TERRA Exotic Vegetable Chips.
My dinner: leftover penne w/tomato sauce, sweet dark roll,
peanut and pretzel M-and-Ms, peas (cooked)

Saturday, 4/21/12 - Quickie fun bento lunch in my Lock-and-Lock for her to eat outside while we cleaned the garage
Special K Crackers, apples, carrots, tuna spread
She was very excited to use one of her little plastic IKEA knives to spread the tuna fish (mixed with mayo) onto the crackers herself. She ate everything but the carrots.

Wednesday, 4/25/12 - Quickie bento to eat on the way to school, and between school and swim class.
PBHoney sandwich, organic carrot, string cheese,
Rainbow Goldfish, broccoli, apple and orange slices

Tuesday, 5/8/12 - Since I had been busy packing lunches for her teachers the night before and delivering them that morning, we just had a quickie lunch at home before school. So I packed her a snack for after school and t-ball practice.
Pita chips, gummy penguins, hummus, melon and mango flowers
As part of my switch to making her food free from artificial dyes, I stocked up at Trader Joe's for some fun sweet treats to offer as substitutes for the stuff she's become accustomed to. They had these fun gummy penguins with liquid in the bellies that she was very excited to try. So I put a few in with her snack.
She ate all the hummus, and actually asked for more! I was floored. She has been refusing to eat her hummus lately, when I offer it with veggies. She tried the mango and honeydew flowers (extras from the teachers' fruit bouquets,) but said she liked the "red flowers" (watermelon) the best.

Tuesday, 5/15/12 - Since we haven't been doing as many morning activities (since it's hard for me to get everyone up and fed and out the door in time,) Z's been eating her breakfast later. So her lunches are either small right before school, or planned to tide her over the rest of the afternoon. This lunch/snack was to nibble on in the car to school, and again after school, and before and after t-ball practice.
Cinnamon-raisin bagel w/cream cheese, carrots, strawberries and raspberries

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hey, Baby! What's Your Theme?

Thursday, 5/10/12 - Lunch for after gym class (and any leftovers as an after-school snack!)

The "What Themed Lunch is This, Mama?" "Uhhh... Flowers?" Bento
diced olives, jelly beans and fruit jellies, PB-Nutella pita pocket,
yellow and purple carrots, broccoli, strawberries
I had some diced olives still sitting around from when I was experimenting recipe submissions for the Trader Joe's EasyLunchboxes Cookbook, so I put some in a mini silicone cup and gave her a spoon. (BPA-free spoon from Dollar Tree baby section.)
We're reaching the end of our fun yellow and purple organic carrots. I hand-cut each yellow coin to give the "flowers" more petals. I opted to leave the purple ones as-is, so more of the color would show.
The dye-free jellybeans and fruit jellies (Trader Joe's) are in a container I found at Easter time. 3/$1!
If you notice that I'm giving her more treats in her lunches, my purpose is twofold. One: since we're going dye-free, she's beiug denied treats and even staples that she's been accustomed to. So to help get her to be more supportive and involved in saying no to dyes, I'm offering her more dye-free treats until we get acceptable replacements for everything else (like pickles! I forgot to get them when I was out at Trader Joe's. All the grocery-store ones have dyes in them! And popcorn!) And Two: she's been refusing any veggie other than carrots lately, so I'm putting in small amounts of green veggies and telling her she can't have her "dessert" until she's eaten it all up. I'm hoping that exposing her to more tastes again will get her to like it once more.

I'm in trouble now. She's started asking me what "sseem" (theme) each lunch is. And sometimes she criticizes me that whatever answer I give her isn't what she's learning in school right now. Doh! I've created a monster! It's harder to match her lunches to school or gym, since Little Gym no longer posts the following week's theme up on the white board. And her drop-off school only gives me the general curriculum for each month. I have to ask from week to week, and I usually forget.
She ate everything except the purple carrot coins. Note to self: make them into flowers no matter what!

Mama's Bento
Spinach and romaine salad w/strawberries, carrot scraps, raspberry
vinaigrette, Skinny Cow Dreamy Clusters, pretzel M-and-Ms,
broccoli w/SunButter dip
Same-old, same old. But I think the butterfly carrot scraps from our first round of teacher appreciation lunches makes my salad look quite pretty!
The SunButter dip (in orange silicone cup) was left over from our second round of teacher appreciation lunches. I changed the original recipe a little and like my version better.

Doing my best to eat up the dye-filled goodies laying around. Yummy, yummy dyed-filled goodies!

My lunch is technically nut-free (the desserts have possible exposure to allergens warnings.)


Friday, May 25, 2012

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Lunch

At the beginning of the school year, I had bought tickets to take Z to see Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Tales at Seattle Children's Theater. And we've been eagerly awaiting it ever since! I couldn't NOT make a Hungry Caterpillar bento!
Even though I totally stole her idea was inspired by the one done at Keeley McGuire Blog*, mine is clearly superior. Mine haz jellybeans, yo!
The Very Hungry Kiddo
Ham,, mozzarella, American sandwich, cupcake, broccoli, strawberry, apple,
spinach, granola bar, jellybeans
Very Hungry Caterpillar: I used a mini circle cutter on a slice of bread and made as many circles as I could (Seven. And it was the heel! Bonus!) I made some circles out of the scraps from the "wedge" of American cheese, as well as some mozzarella and canadian bacon. I made one circle out of a strawberry slice to be the face, and used Nutella to "glue" on the cheese and spinach eyes and mouth. I put a circle of mozzarella underneath to keep the strawberry from getting the bread underneath all soggy. I used an uncooked spaghetti noodle as antennea, and another piece of noodle vertically through a slice of cheese underneath into the cheese under the face and the strawberry face, to keep it in place.
The noodles got soggy overnight. Not that she cared!

He ate through a cupcake...: I took most of a slice of American cheese and folded it up to make it thicker and then cut it into a wedge shape and used a straw to make a hole through it. (I made some circles for the body and eyes out of the rest.) I also cut a hole through a strawberry, apple slice, broccoli, and mini cupcake (with Nutella frosting.) Just like in the book. What? There's no broccoli in the book? Well, she ate it, so I call it good!
After he ate all the food, he felt sick, but ate through a leaf and felt better. So I put in a bunch of spinach leaves, (one with a hole, of course!) which she loves eating out of our garden. (And by "garden" I mean the pot of spinach that magically re-sprouted from last year, some weak pea vines, and overgrown raspberry canes that have fallen over. Other than the peas she planted as part of a little gardening playdate, nothing we planted this so much as sprouted.)

Beautiful Butterfly: I had originally planned to include circles from an Archer Farms granola bar into the caterpillar body as well, but then the body was too long to fit, so I put them in the butterfly cup instead. And filled it with some all-natural jelly beans.

The Very Hungry Mama
Spinach salad w/strawberries, dried blueberries, almonds, dressing.
Dutch waffle cookies, apples (underneath,) ants on a log
For my ants on a log, I used a peanut butter with flax seed that I found at Trader Joe's. I thought the flax would be ground up. Nay nay. So there's this disconcerting gritty crunch as you chew the flax seeds. It's weird. Z didn't notice, so I'm sneaking it into her sandwiches when I can, since I don't like how it feels. I figured I could try it with these, since I'm getting a crunch from the celery already, plus different textures with the raisins and mini chocolate chips (I like it both ways, so did a little of both!)

Naturally, after I stayed up until after 1am putting her lunch together, she asks for a huge breakfast. "Peaduh-buddah-choklit sanwich with stawberries. An' a hot dock wif ketchup!" I tried talking her down, since we'd be eating lunch soon after, but she wouldn't go for it. So I made her a half-sandwich (PB-Nutella,) and a hot dog with ketchup. I also added two small strawberries, to satisfy her request without filling her up too much. She ate it all!
Then at lunch roughly an hour later, she ate all her spinach and broccoli, most of the cheese and ham, the cupcake and the jellybeans. After the play she ate more cheese and ham, some of the bread, strawberry, and apple. She didn't eat any of the granola bar, which kind of irritates me, since she insisted that I buy that flavor at the store, and it's not one that interested me.

I ate all of my lunch, plus a meat pie (roughly the size of a large muffin) that my friend bought to try, but she filled up on a hamburger and didn't have room. Omnomnom. Mama had room!

The way they did the puppet show was really neat. The two performers (and their stage manager) wore all-black, and the puppets and props were all painted with fluorescent paints. Then they shone black lights on everything, so that the puppeteers were invisible and the props all popped. They did Little Cloud (which E and I missed due to a poop-mergency,) and The Mixed-Up Chameleon before the main event.
Z was enchanted. But Baby E went gaga over it!  When the zoo animals came out during the chameleon story, she was squealing and chattering and practically leapt out of my arms. She actually slept through the Hungry Caterpillar part, she was so exhausted from excitement!

Naturally we read the book as part of our day's activities! I didn't know what other stories they'd be doing, so I couldn't plan ahead and have those books from the library.

It's Playtime at hands on : as we growBento Lunch

Shibley Smiles

  space cutters

*Sorry Keeley. I lied. I couldn't remember any of the witty things I had composed in my mind.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Flutter By, Butterfly Bento

Wednesday, 5/9/12 -  A bento in an EasyLunchbox for lunch and after-school and after swim class.

PB-Nutella sandwich, mozzarella butterflies, mini cupcake w/Nutella frosting,
yellow and purple carrot flowers, strawberries
I made a peanut-butter-Nutella sandwich and used my butterfly Lunch Punch to make it fun. It looked kind of plain, but I'm getting rid of all my sprinkles, food pens, and icing writers, since they all have artificial food colors. I'm hoping the white jumbo daisies quins from Wilton don't have any dye in them. But they might. White marshmallows have blue dye to make them look whiter! So I used them for this, but I'm still getting rid of them. I got some mini fondant cutters to try and make my own (with dye-free marshmallows and natural food-colors.)
To keep with the butterfly theme, I cut up some mozzarella with my mini butterfly cutter and put them in a silicone butterfly cup.
I cut up some organic rainbow carrots with my veggie flower cutter for the butterflies to land on.
The mini cupcake was left over from Unka Seesee's birthday. I substituted mashed banana and some pear/spinach/peas baby food puree instead of oil. I frosted it with Nutella since I already had it out.

She ate pretty much everything throughout the day, but I didn't get any pictures of her eating it. I did get some of her rolling down the hill during Large Muscle time at preschool, though.

    garden cutters

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

She Sells Seashells By the Seashore

I am SO behind on posting our lunches! I even found some from April still! Here are some from earlier this month.
Monday, 5/7/12 - We had a field-trip to the beach with our co-op preschool, and then E and I had a baby swim class after. We ended up skipping the beach, since I had a raging migraine. I did get us up and ready in time to go, but Z said she didn't want to go, and I wasn't in the mood to fight her. So I took one of my leftover post-op C-section pain pills and took a nap. (Baby was safely napping nearby. And Netflix is very good at keeping Z occupied for a little while!)
Since I had packed our EasyLunchboxes the night before, she she got to eat hers at her computer, and then we took it with us to eat on the way to and from E's swim class.
She Sells Seashells By the Seashore
String cheese nibblets, sandwiches, mini cupcake, kale chips, strawberries
I can't remember what kind of sandwich it was. Either PB-honey or PB-Nutella, I imagine. Maybe SunButter instead of PB, since our school is nut-free (even though we weren't going to school. And none of the kids in our class has an allergy. We were combining with another class for the day, so maybe I was being thoughtful. Hey. It could happen.) I chose a seashell cutter since we were going to check out tide pools and such at low tide, and it was the closest I could find to fit the theme. I put on candy eyes for fun.

The cheese nibblets are in a paper bento cup with a boat graphic (I have beachy ones somewhere but couldn't find them.)
I made the kale chips the night before, hoping they'd stay good in the fridge overnight. They did!

I am especially pleased with my mini cupcake. Unka Seesee's birthday party was the day before, and he doesn't like frosting. So I made cupcakes instead of a cake, so I could leave some unfrosted for him. I only had enough regular-sized muffin tins to make 18 cupcakes, so I used the rest of the batter for mini ones. My favorite part is that I substituted mashed banana plus some pear-spinach-pea baby food puree instead of oil. And no one noticed!
Side note: This was her last lunch that I knowingly packed artificial colors in (the sugar eyes. And possibly the frosting.) From here on out, we're dye-free!

Mama's Lunch
Spinach salad w/almonds, strawberries, dried blueberries and raspberry vinaigrette.
Pink Cookie (cut to fit,) green and purple kale chips
I am not restricting artificial colors for myself, even though I probably should. But I will try hard not to buy new artificial treats for myself, since it's not fair to her. Since I've been eating more dyed foods than normal lately to get them out of the house, I've noticed I'm more irritable, more headachy, and it's been harder to focus on things. I have also been fighting a sinus infection this past month, so it could just be that too.
I will miss you, Pink Cookies!

After baby swim, we hung out outside and Z played with her "outdoor bucket" which stays on the front porch. It's an old kitty-litter bucket that we keep her sidewalk chalk, bubbles, small bucket and some cheap plastic gardening toys in.
She drew "little me's" all over the porch. As you can see, she wants reeeeeally long hair!

     vehicle cups

Wordless Wednesday 5/23/12

She's been commandeering my DrawSomething game and drawing whatever she feels like and stumping my friends. Here she's drawing a "beautiful lunch" in an EasyLunchbox! (The black blobs are the compartments.) 
She said she was drawing the one I made with our family in it. Hence all the little stick-figure people. It's hard to see, since she chose the palest peach color.

Big grin!

 T-ball game. Rockin' her new pink unicorn purse.

 Almost-5-month-old Baby E eating her first "solid" solids - Mmmmm Baby NumNum!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

To "Dye" For

I've been thinking lately. About artificial dyes. In foods. I saw a shocking post about how familiar big-name companies have dye-free versions of their products in other countries, like the U.K., but continue to put them in the same foods for US consumption. These huge companies have already gone to the expense of finding safer alternatives and implementing them into their products for other countries - but can't be bothered to change over the US versions!
And while my daughter's behavior doesn't seem too extreme to me, reducing or completely removing the artificial dyes from her diet can't possibly be a bad thing. Giving her fewer potentially harmful artificial additives? Reason enough to start the switch. And if it affects her behavior in any kind of positive way, even better!
Other than those hidden in foods (blueberry waffles with no actual blueberries, anyone?) it should be fairly easy to weed them out of her treats. Holidays will be a little tougher, since people will want to give her candy. And what will I do now with my precious stash of artificially-colored sprinkles?

I know I can make my own colored sugars fairly easily, so I just have to get my hands on some natural food dyes ( and Chocolate Craft Kits have some.) But I've been collecting various confetti quins shaped sprinkles to fit various themes; all chock-full of artificial colors! How to replace those? That's been a major road-block to committing to this dye-free goal. I just can't give up my cute sprinkles! But I found a recipe for making my own! And one for making my own jimmies too! (There's a vegan version too, if you're concerned about the raw eggs.)

I found an awesome online candy store where everything they sell is free from artificial dyes and colors, preservatives, flavors, and sweeteners, as well as free from hydrogenated oils. They even have a section where their items are grouped for special dietary needs, such as vegan or allergen-safe. So this will help out for holidays and birthday treats.

I know Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers use natural food dyes already. And Annie's Homegrown makes dye-free bunnies crackers and gummies. Plus I now know how to make my own dye-free fruit juice gummies (you can use agar to make a vegetarian version, but I don't know the ratios.) Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are all dye-free as well.

We can replace her cheap-o dessert popsicles with home-made fruit-juice ones, for when my arch-nemesis the Ice Cream Truck rolls by too.

Dye-Free Bento Inspirations
Karen from What's in John's Lunch Bag has been using the powdered food dyes from Chocolate Craft Kits to make amazing painted lunch creations for her son, and they look astounding! (Here's a link to her tutorial, but she used artificial dyes for that one.

All of the amazing lunches at Veggie-Bento and Pink 'N Punchy Lunches are artificial-dye-free, so be sure to check them out for more ideas, resources, and recipes! I know I will!

The hard part will be to get Hubby on board. He doesn't see the need for it, behavior-wise. And it will be hard for us both to give up our M-and-Ms. So I can't commit us to a completely dye-free lifestyle. But I am aiming for a lower-dye lifestyle, where possible. Then I don't have to be completely uptight about it, if she gets something at school.*
*Not that parents who get upset when their child is accidentally given a banned food are uptight. Whatever their reasons for restrictive diets; allergies, behavior, lifestyle, or religion; they are entitled to make that choice and expect it to be respected to the best of everyone's ability. I just mean since it isn't a serious issue for us, we don't have to take it as seriously for ourselves.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Vive la Revolucion!

Today is Food Revolution Day. I would like to say that I had planned this, since I'm a food revolutionary. But it wouldn't be true. I recently decided to try cutting artificial dyes out of my daughter's diet, since I had heard that artificial colors cause behavioral issues in many kids (enough so that they're being banned in countries across Europe - and now even China!) After a one-week semi-trial (I controlled her intake as best I could at home, but didn't regulate what she ate at preschool) I noticed the occurances of her daytime screaming fits had been greatly reduced. And she had been prompter to respond and more cooperative when getting ready to go in the mornings. So I decided to crack down and do it for reals. I'll be working on artificial flavors next, since they seem to have the same issues.
Everywhere I turned there was something new with artificial dyes in it. Macaroni and cheese. Her toothpaste. Fluoride rinse. Vitamins. Her cough and fever medicines (her allergy medicine was dye-free though!) Everywhere I turned there was some new opportunity for her to eat dyes that I was unprepared for. Like at the movie theater - yellow-sprayed-popcorn and bright-blue-and-red-ICEEs have been our staple treat at movies. And the Japanese buffet - her favorite food, and the reason we keep going back: the fish eggs on the sushi. Even at t-ball! Her coach keeps bringing candy and treats to bribe motivate the kids after practice.
Anyway, last night, prompted by a recent post at Die, Food Dye! I decided to go through our pantry and pull out everything with artificial colors. Just in time for Food Revolution Day, apparently!

Today was a t-ball game, and letting her eat the after-game snacks (as well as watching what the parents are feeding their other kids during the game) have been an exercise in politeness over sense for me. Last week's "snacks" were a packet of mini-Oreos and a Capri Sun. Since they were both dye-free (although filled with sugars and artificial flavors,) I let her eat them. The week before was a PowerAde and a packet of cookies or crackers of some kind. And before I decided to cut the dyes. Lemme tell ya. When it's my turn for snack, these kids are going to be sorely disappointed!

So here was today's "snack":

Kool-Aid Jammers Cherry-flavored drink pouch
Ingredients: Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Apple Juice from Concentrate, Contains less than 2% of: Ascorbic Acid [Vitamin C,] Artificial Flavor, Citric Acid, Calcium Disodium EDTA (preserves freshness,) Red 40
Serving Size: 177ml
Calories: 80
Sodium: 15mg
Total Carbs: 20g
Sugar: 20g
Vitamin C: 100% DV

Keebler Animals Cookies Iced
Ingredients: Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate [B1,] Riboflavin [B2,] Folic Acid,) Sugar, Vegetable Oil (Soybean and Palm Oil with TBHQ for freshness,) Contains 2% or less of: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cinnamon, Salt, Baking Soda, Cornstarch, Propylene Glycol Alginate, Soy Lecithin, Color Added
Serving Size: 6 cookies (30g)
Calories: 140 (from Fat: 40)
Total Fat: 4.5g
Saturated Fat: 1.5g
Sodium: 100mg
Total Carbs: 22g
Dietary Fiber: Less than 1g
Sugar: 8g
Protein: 2g

Welch's Fruit Snacks - Mixed Fruit
Ingredients: Juice from Concentrates (Grape, Pear, Peach and Pineapple,) Corn Syrup, Sugar, Modified Corn Starch, Fruit Purees (Strawberry, Orange, Raspberry, and Grape,) Gelatin, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Ascorbic Acid [Vitamin C,] Alpha Tocopherol Acetate [Vitamin E,] Vitamin A Palmitate, Sodium Citrate, Coconut Oil, Carnauba Wax, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1
Serving Size: 0.9oz (26g)
Calories: 80
Sodium: 10mg
Total Carbs: 19g
Sugar: 11g
Protein: 1g
Vitamin A: 25% DV
Vitamin C: 100% DV
Vitamin E: 25% DV

All total: 300 calories. Since the average preschooler should get 41-45 calories per pound of weight. So my little whippet should get 1353-1485 per day - or 1419, to average that out. This "snack" constitutes 21% of her daily recommended calories!
45-65% of those calories should be from sugar. So let's average that to 55%, for a total of 780 calories from sugars per day. So the 39g of sugar all total in these foods adds up to 124 to 150 calories (high fructose corn syrup has slightly more calories per teaspoon than white sugar.) So even at the low end, this is 16% of her daily sugars.
And the 5-20% of her calories that should come from protein and 25-40% from fat are only represented by a total of 3g protein and 4.5g fat. Sugar REPRESENT!
Plus 125mg of sodium. So only 10-12% of her daily limit.

Since Every. Single. Stinking. Thing. had fake colors, I had to offer to trade her when we got home, as I was woefully unprepared (I now keep some all-natural GLEE Gum, peppermints, and lollipops in my bag to trade for offered treats on the fly.) I had some dye-free Emergen-C Kidz Vitamin C packets to add to a mini water bottle (she thinks it's like soda, so it's a fun treat - I now keep both the packets and mini bottled waters on-hand for her to drink at restaurants and parties,) but she wanted her fake cherry pouch, and would accept nothing less than a substitute pink drink.

Our substitute snack (after she ate her peanut-butter-jelly sandwich, carrots, and raspberries to re-fill her body with nutrients burned while exercising at the game):

Instead of the "cherry-flavored" drink, she had raspberry lemonade.
Instead of the animal cookies, she chose a Trader Joe's cookie.
Instead of the "fruit" snacks, she had some fruit gel candies (we're out of my home-made fruit juice gummies, which would have been my first choice.)

Langers Raspberry Lemonade

Ingredients: Filtered Water, Sugar, Lemon and Raspberry Juice Concentrates, Natural Flavors, Ascorbic Acid [Vitamin C]
per 4-ounces (roughly 120ml)
Calories: 60
Sodium: 0
Total Carbs: 14.5
Sugar: 13
Vitamin C: 100% DV

Trader Joe's Spring Cookies
Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Barley Malt Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid,) Sugar, Unsalted Butter (Milk,) Palm Oil, Egg Whites, Contains 2% or less of: Vanilla Bean Paste (Pure Bourbon Vanilla Extract [Fine Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans, Alcohol, Water,] Sugar, Vanilla Beans, Xanthan Gum, Water,) Salt, Baking Powder (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Cornstarch, Monocalcium Phosphate,) Vegetable Colors (Red Cabbage Extract, Alfalfa Extract, Red Beet Juice, Caramel Color, Turmeric, Beta Carotene,) Vegetable Glycerine, Soy Lecithin, Sodium Bicarbonate, Powdered Sugar (Sugar, Cornstarch,) Sugar, Water
per cookie
Calories: 85 (From fat: 40)
Total Fat: 4.5g
Saturated Fat: 2.5g
Cholesterol: 7.5mg
Sodium: 15mg
Total Carbs: 10.5g
Dietary Fiber: less than 1g
Sugar: 4.5g
Protein: 0.5g
Vitamin A: 1% DV
Iron: 1% DV

Trader Joe's All-Natural Fruit Jellies
Ingredients: Beet Sugar, Corn Syrup, Water, Pectin, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors (Orange, Lemon, Grape, Raspberry, Blueberry, Mandarin,) Sodium Citrate, Vegetable Colors (Carotene, Curcumin, Anthocyanin,) Ascorbic Acid [Vitamin C,] Cornstarch
per 3
Calories: 84
Sodium: 6mg
Total Carbs:
Dietary Fiber: less than 1g
Sugar: 17.4g
Vitamin C: 12%

DV/Daily Value based on a 2000 calorie diet

Only 229 calories, but still pretty close. Same amount of sugar - 39.4g, but only 21g sodium. Same amount of fat, and less protein, but I'm much happier with the ingredients she ingested. And I got to control the portions. I could have watered down her raspberry lemonade to reduce the sugars as well, and skipped the fruit jellies entirely (she would have been happy with just the cookie.) But I wanted to make this "snack" as close to the original as I could. My own fruit-juice gummies would have been better too. Normally I would only offer her one or the other with her lunch, not both.
And while my snack had fewer vitamins and such, she more than made up for it by filling up on healthy foods first.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Gift Idea Bento Lunch. Part Deux

Last week I did bento lunches and edible fruit arrangements for her two drop-off preschool teachers (plus the other four teachers at the school.) I had wanted to do the same for her two teachers at our co-op preschool as well. But our co-op class is only on Mondays and Wednesdays, and one of the teachers only works Mondays. Which means if I wanted to feed them both at the same time, it would have to be on a Monday. But last Monday was a field trip to the beach. (We ended up missing that because I had a raging migraine. I still got everyone up and ready on time, but when I asked Z if she wanted to go, she said no. I wasn't going to fight her, so Baby and I went back to bed and I fell into a drug-induced stupor in between baby-feeding sessions. But it worked! Migraine went away!)
So I conferred with the teachers and we decided to bump it to the week after Teacher Appreciation. After all, it's the thought that counts! Plus it happens to be our last week of school for this class (the drop-off one runs through mid-June.)

I did another pair of fruit bouquets, since I still had half a honeydew and a quarter of a cantaloupe left over. I also had a few kiwi, plus the mango flowers I had forgotten the first time were still good. I had bought another mini seedless watermelon and fresher strawberries, and had found some kumquats at Trader Joe's to try a fun idea. Had planned on getting another star fruit, since I wasn't going to bother with another pineapple for just two bouquets. Plus it was a major pain to work with. But I forgot the star fruit anyway. Booo.
Because I didn't have any "featured" fruit (like the star fruit,) I did 11 skewers per bouquet, instead of the 10 on the original ones.
Strawberry "buds," mango, cantaloupe, honeydew, kiwi,
and watermelon flowers with grapes.
Since I was only making two lunches, I decided to be more ambitious. So I decided to make my Rainbow Curry and Crisps. Only this time, I doubled the rice, water, and seasonings, and added a cup of assorted lentils (1/3 cup each red, yellow, and green split peas.) I also chopped up the last of a head and stalk of broccoli. I cut the stalk into really small pieces, in case of toughness. For the crisps, I was inspired by Bobbi's Bentos' taco bowls, but I didn't want to pack too much curry or have the crisps take up too much space, so I made really mini ones.
Since the curry has a kind of Moroccan flair, I thought that including this tasty Broccoli with Peanut Sauce would kind of tie in with an Asian theme. I used sunflower seed butter instead, which gives it even more of an Asian flair... almost a sesame flavor. And since my first batch was too vinegar-y for my tastes, I halved the amount of vinegar for the teachers' batch. (And only used 1.5 Tbsp of soy sauce. Figured I could always add the other 1/2 Tbsp if needed. It wasn't.) I also didn't steam the broccoli, since I prefer mine raw. And then they'd have to heat it up, which means they'd either have to eat everything not to be heated up out of their EasyLunchbox first, then heat the rest, or else they'd have to remove the other stuff and have to set it somewhere while the warm foods were cooking. I hate setting my bentos up like that, since I hate making another dish or area dirty. Or setting my food on an unsanitary surface.
I still had two Secret Recipe granola bar hearts I'd saved from the batch for the other teachers. I was sorely tempted to make mini apple crisps instead, so I could gobble them down myself, but I resisted. It was hard. Really hard.

I did up another batch of Minty Green Tea Lemonade as well. Only this time instead of sending over the whole pitcher, I got them each a little BPA-free re-usable drink container. They were on sale at Fred Meyer. This way Z and I get the rest of the drink. Yummm.

After I was all done with the teachers' food and bouquets, and packing lunch for Z and myself, I was digging through my Trader Joe's bag and found the kumquats. Doh! Almost forgot! For these little babies, I went ahead and opened the cellophane bags back up to add some kumquat butterflies. I got the idea from some kumquat bees I had seen in a magazine once. To make them look less like fat flies and more like fat butterflies, I used a heart cutter to make wings out of the peel from another kumquat. They fell out overnight, so I used half a toothpick to skewer them through before packing everything into the car to take to school. Then one wing fell off each butterfly on the way to school. Argh!
But they looked crazy stinkin' cute for a little while at least!

I was worried that my curry wouldn't be up to snuff, since for some reason it was really bland. I doubled the rice, but I also doubled the spices! Oh well. Maybe the lentils sucked out all the yum. But the teachers said they really enjoyed their lunches.
However, they also tell us they enjoy being trapped in a room for two hours with our little monsters, so they are clearly accomplished liars.


Next-to-Last-Day-of-Preschool Picnic Bento

I was excited about making bento lunches for her co-op preschool teachers. To bento-fy the Rainbow Curry, I scooped as much as I could fit into a silicone muffin cup, then instead of making triangle or cookie-cutter-shaped crisps, I made little scoops! I used a biscuit cutter on two whole-grain tortillas and got five circles per tortilla. Then I used an olive oil cooking spray on one side and sprinkled on my curry/garlic powder/salt mix before attempting to stuff them oiled-side-down into a mini muffin pan.
I pushed too hard initially, and they tore at the bottom. Bobbi recommends you warm them up in the microwave first to make them more pliable. But I wasn't sure if that would hold up while I sprayed and sprinkled them. And I didn't want to spray them first. Oh well. About halfway through I got better at getting them to fold in the middles on two sides.
Once they were all in the tin, I sprayed them again on the bare insides, and added more of the seasoning mix. My reasoning behind this was that since the outside touches the tongue first, you'd taste more of the seasoning on the outside. But I didn't know how well it would stick, so I did the insides too, to hedge my bets.
They kept trying to un-fold and pop out the top, so I used a baking tray over the top to keep them down, and I toasted up the tortilla scraps with more of the seasoning mixture on them.
I baked them at 400 F for 8 minutes, but they were still a little bendy at the bottom. The scraps were done, so I took them out and popped the scoops back in for another 2 minutes.

Teachers' Lunch
Curry Crisps, SunButter Veggie Dip, Rainbow Curry, broccoli, granola bar
Other than some of them being torn at the bottom, I was really pleased with how my mini tortilla chip scoops turned out.
Z's Lunch
Curry Crisp scraps, hummus, strawberries, peas, mac-n-cheese
I was excited that she had chosen leftover mac-n-cheese instead of a sandwich, since that meant I could use the larger compartment for some ginormous strawberries. I hate having to cut up such beauties to fit in one of the smaller compartments.
 Mama's Lunch
Leftover garlic chicken and brown rice, kumquats, kiwi scraps,
dried vagina pears, Oreos, dark chocolate PB cup

Were you paying attention? If so, you read that right. Take a closer look. 'Nuff said.

Yes. I am aware my lunch is veggie-less. I had a busy weekend, a Mother's Day on my own with the kids, and a very late night putting together fruit bouquets. So with a choice between a compartment full of treats and a compartment full of veggies, I chose treats. I did fill in with the pears, you'll notice. Fruit heavy? Sure. But no one got stabbed for getting in between me and my chocolate, so I call it a win.

Since we got to school early to drop off the lunches, we sat outside and had a picnic. Until an ant crawled on her leg. I managed to calm her down with the promise of an Oreo for being brave and trying again. Until another ant crawled on her. So she moved her picnic to the top of the play structure. Until too many flying bugs upset her. By then we were only 5 minutes away from the start of school, so we went inside to eat in the "Mommy Room" (where the Parent Ed classes are.)
She ate over half of her mac-n-cheese and peas, all the strawberries, and she tried the crisps but didn't like them. (She loved them the first time. I was a little heavy-handed with the seasoning this time, since my curry was so much blander for some reason.) She did scoop up and eat some of the hummus with her finger though.

Baby E gets really steamed watching us eat and not sharing with her. But she had to wait until class started, and then she got her bottle with a chaser of organic sweet potato baby mash (store bought. It was on clearance for $.33/jar.) She's not very good yet at being spoon-fed, but she's a very enthusiastic learner!