Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Foodie Penpal - July 2012 #foodiepenpals

I discovered a fun new swap, called Foodie Penpals. Anyone wanting to participate can sign up each month, and you're assigned someone you'll be sending up to $15 worth of fun foodie-things, local food items, or home-made treats. And someone else is assigned to send some to you!
It's kind of like those other monthly food sample boxes, like NatureBox (use code CRISTI for 25% off your first box) and Savorfull (tell 'em Keeley Wilson sent you!) only MUCH more personal, since you get to "meet" each other via email, and make personal selections for your new penpal, and receive personally selected products from another!

It was my first time this month, and I've already made two new friends! (Also both "newbies" this month!) Mrs. Dreamer from Journey of a Dreamer, and my Foodie Penpal, who doesn't have a blog, so I'll let her remain private. She does have dogs though, and "dog" rhymes with "blog," so almost the same thing, right?

Check out what I got from Mrs. Dreamer!

My Loot
Annie's Organic Summer Strawberry Bunny Fruit Snacks - I've heard from several people that this is their kids' favorite flavor, but I've been too cheap to buy them and they haven't been on sale. Scoooore!
It was super nice of Mrs. Dreamer to think of my kiddo, since I like to share things with her. And bunnies happen to be her absolute favoritest animals ever.

Annie's Organic PBJ granola bars - Never even heard of these before, but what a fun flavor! I go through a lot of "chewy bars" since I often forget to feed myself, and don't realize I need to eat until we're headed out the door, so I grab a piece of fruit and a granola bar, since they're easy to eat while driving on the go. These are kid-sized, so I'd need to eat two of them I'll save them for Z. She think's they're the best thing since sliced bread.

Emerald Vanilla Roast Almonds (Vanilla Bean flavor) - These were the only thing in the box with anything artificial, but I had told my penpal in my email that artificial flavors were sometimes okay. And usually the fake vanilla is Vanillin, which as far as I know Z isn't sensitive to. Not that I'll share these. Oh, golly they're tasty! Omnomnom!

Crystal Light Pure drink mix packets (Mixed Berry flavor) - When I first saw the box, my heart sank. I'd looked at Crystal Light products in the stores, and they all had fake colors in them. But when I checked the label, only natural colors and flavors in this one! Woot woooot! We've been doing a lot of drink packets to jazz up our water, since we can bring them into stadiums and movie theaters and pay $5 for a fricken' bottle of water make our own dye-free drinks.

Organic RAW Pure and Simple Hot Cereal (Multigrain with Flax and Pomegranate flavor) - I'm often still up late at night/early morning, and it's hours after dinner, so I'm hungry again. I don't feel like making anything, or re-heating seconds of whatever's leftover from dinner, so I usually grab a bowl of cereal or oatmeal. Hooray! Very yummy. Normally I'm a butter and brown sugar kind of gal, but these are really tasty! I got some brown sugar flavored oatmeal from Trader Joe's and it tastes plain. I keep having to remind myself that I should actually eat dinner at dinnertime, and save these for breakfast or "midnight feast!"
The Lean Green Bean

Monday, July 30, 2012

BRAVE - Quickie Merida Bento

Wednesday, 7/18/12 - First day of camp for "Fables and Folklore" week at The Little Gym, which Z dubbed "Pwincess Camp" because the sign for it had a princess on it. (Plus a knight and a dragon. But she only had eyes for the princess!)
I literally threw this lunch together last-minute... I only got to take photos because I told Hubby I'd bring it out to the car while he strapped Z into her carseat - and I snapped a quick one on the front porch!

Merida from BRAVE
PB-chocolate almond butter sandwich, carrots, peas, cheese, raspberries
The Queen - I used a bear head-shaped cutter on some cheese, and a faces cutter for the faces. And I did each one this time, since she hassled me about giving up halfway through the last time I did bear faces, since they split the cheese apart in the middle.

The Triplets - Raspberries... get it? Bear-ies? With three little bear head picks to represent the boys.

Merida - I was inspired by the one I saw at Bento Fun Lunch. I used my biscuit cutter to make two circles of bread, then slapped on some peanut butter and Trader Joe's Chocolate Almond Butter (she prefers Nutella, but it has Vanillin in it, which is an artificial flavoring. Some dye-sensitive kids react to it. Although I think she's fine with it, I'd rather avoid "fake" ingredients altogether. It's not like there's a health benefit to eating them! Plus Hubby discovered my stash of sandwich spreads. He seems to think that two flavors of chocolate PB (dark and white chocolates,) chocolate almond butter, sunflower seed butter, soy butter, "cookie butter," and 3 kinds of regular peanut butter (crunchy, creamy, and with flax seeds,) is excessive. So I haven't restocked the Nutella.)

Large grated carrot shreds would probably have been better, but I didn't really have time. So I just whisked a peeler around some stubby organic carrots.So the hair isn't as curly-looking as I would have liked, but it got the job done.

I used a nori face punch on a spinach leaf for the nose and mouth - the "nose" is actually an upside-down smiley-eye punch!

For my quickie DIY dye-free candy eyes, I used white chocolate chips and mini semi-sweet chips. I microwaved the white chips for 30 seconds, then 30 more, then I smooshed in the mini semi-sweet chips for the pupils. It wasn't perfect, but looks good from afar. The white chips kind of split at the bottom, but I was able to smoosh them back together. It wouldn't have been an issue if I'd had time to let them harden, but I didn't, so I was mangling them all up trying to transfer them onto the sandwich using a butter knife as a spatula.

"Princess Camp" Snack
Parmesan Goldfish with dried edamame beans, raspberries
My Bento Mama Friend from Bentoriffic sent Z this "pwincess" snack container, which was not only perfect for this camp theme, but also purple, Z's favoritest color! I used a pink bear silicone cup to go with the bear-themed lunch, since there was plenty of room in there for the legs to stretch out! (Mine was imported from England on eBay. I've only found brown ones anywhere else.)

   faces cutters animal cutters  Japanese Bento Pick Cute Food Pick 25 pcs with CaseBento Nori Cutter Seaweed Puncher 3 Design Series 1

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dye-Free Summer - Camp Snacks - July

Tuesday, 7/3/12 - Little Gym camp snack - Un"Lock" the Possibilities!
Clockwise from top: Pea pods, carrots, Pink Dip; popcorn,
Rainier cherries, Parmesan and Baby Goldfish, 
I packed a slightly larger snack in one of my burgundy Lock N Lock square boxes with dividers (it actually comes with burgundy dividers too, but I probably someone had put the clear ones from the clear box inside by accident after the dishwasher. Works the same, functionally.) Way more than she'd need and have time for (they normally give the kids roughly 5 crackers or cookies each, to prevent tummies from getting too full and throwing up when they go back in for more exercise.) But I figured she could eat the rest on the way home.
I'm liking that she's choosing some of the fresh produce each time, and not just the snacky options. And she's liking having her own snack. I guess it makes her feel special. Better than feeling excluded or singled out!

Friday, 7/13/12 - Little Gym camp snack - Home-Grown
Garden raspberries, garden peas, Parmesan Goldfish
The day before, she had helped me harvest the raspberries from the canes my sister gave me to transplant in the Spring of last year (this is already more than we got all last Summer!) I made sure to save some for her camp snack. We have mostly golden raspberry bushes, but one red one, with a tiny little volunteer bush that makes more red berries than the huge one.
And I picked the fattest looking pea pods from some peas that she had planted at a little seedling playdate that actually started growing, so we transplanted them outside. The seeds and starts that *I* planted in the planter with them all died. These ones are some variety where you don't eat the pod, I'm guessing, since they are tough to chew and are very stringy. So I split them all open for her to extract the peas, which she loves doing.
I could have made this a home-grown trifecta if I'd had some kind of home-made baked good, but fat chance of that!

Friday, 7/20/12 - Little Gym camp snack - Happy Princess
Freeze dried cinnamon apples, Veggie Straws
We had originally planned on seeing a concert in the park at a local spray park, but it was raining and neither of us was in the mood to sit out on the grass in the rain. So I signed her up last-minute for another "Princess camp" - hence the silicone crown cup. (The fun snack container is from my Bento Mama Friend at Bentoriffic! I think she found it at Target's Dollar Spot, but my location was all out.)

Monday, 7/23/12 - My Gym camp snack - Lock-Out
Whole Grain and Parmesan Goldfish, Rainier cherries, sugar snap peas
I'm not a huge fan of My Gym (or "Monkey Gym," as we call it, since that was her name for it when she first started going, because of the monkey logo. And the "My" causes all kinds of confusion otherwise. "YOUR gym, Mama? Or MY gym?") But they had an open house where she got to play for an hour and they offered 20% off their camp packages. And I could get a 10-camp pass for $225-ish. So minus the 20% off for buying it that day, we got it for around $180. $18 per 3-hour drop-off camp is nothing to sneer at, and she'd been doing well at their camps during President's Day week (mid-winter break,) and Spring Break.

Her first Summer camp here, back in June, had a rocky start, but she did better this time. Until pick-up. I decided I didn't need the diaper bag to come and pick her up real quick, so I locked the front door and just took Baby E with me to the car, which I had kept unlocked after we got back from dropping Z off at camp. Guess who clips her keychain to the diaper bag so it doesn't get lost? Doh! Luckily, I have a back-up. Spare keys in my walle... hmm... where's my wallet? Crap! Well, since the car is unlocked, I can use the garage door opener and crawl through our junk and get in through the basement door... except it's locked. Whaaaat? It's never locked! Ever since we first moved in umpity-umpteen years ago, when I locked myself out of the house and camped out in the garage, freezing under a few spare blankets that were in there for some reason. (This was before I had a cell phone, so I just had to sit around and wait for Hubby to get home!)
Apparently Hubby locked it. Yay. So the locksmith said he'd be there in 20-minutes. The gym agreed to let Z sit in the lobby and color while she waited for me. Okay. Even though she doesn't cope well with me being late for pick-up. Nothing I can do... 20-minutes go by... 30-minutes... 45-minutes... Where IS this guy? And I don't even know what company, since Hubby called them for me, and now he's not answering calls or texts! And the driver's number is blocked, so I can't call him back!
So I go to the neighbor's house and ask Z's friend's Grammy (who watches them during the day) if she'd be willing to take the older one (Z's friend, so Z might feel more comfortable getting in their car with them) to pick up Z. She could use the younger brother's car seat, and I could stay there with him and Baby E.
She did me one better and let me borrow her car while she watched Baby. Whew!
The locksmith eventually CALLED me, by the time I finally arrived at the gym, roughly an hour after he'd initially called me to tell me he was 20-minutes away! Z and I got home and played with the neighbors for a while before he actually GOT there to pop open our front door! Sheesh!
And I still got charged the $200 "rush" fee. Jerks. If I had known it would take over an hour, Hubby could have taken the train back to his car and come home and let us in FOR FREE!


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Baby Kale Mash - CSA Kale Baby Food Puree

After three weeks straight getting Kale in our CSA box, and not doing anything with it, I was getting desperate. So I sorted out the Dino Kale and larger green and purple leaves for Honey Kale Chips, and turned the rest into baby mash!

The recipe is fairly simple. Wash, cut, microwave, mash.
After rinsing the leaves and leaving the water on them, I mostly separated the stems, but I chopped them small and tossed them back in with the leaves to cook. (I only did a quick rinse, since my Kale was all organic. I didn't feel I needed to scrub each leaf or anything. Just wash off the dirt and slugs or whatever!)
I'm not sure how much I had overall, but my ceramic crock pot crock was pretty full. I had to press it down to get the plate on top to microwave. 7 minutes per pound of Kale, so I just did 7 minutes.

After it was steamed, I tossed it all (with any remaining water from the pot - it's filled with vitamins that leeched out of the leaves) into my food processor, and churned it up.
You can see how chunky and fibrous it is
Since I had over two bunches worth, I chopped, cooked, and mashed up most of the green Kale first, then portioned it out into the freezer tray. Then I did the purple Kale that hadn't been used for Kale chips in a second batch.
The bottom row looks a little different. It's the purple/green mix
The bunches were nowhere near comparable in size to one another, so I'm not sure if what I used for mash would be the equivalent to two bunches at the grocery, or three. Either way, it made over 30 ounces (21 1-ounce freezer portions, roughly another 8 ounces for the smoothies, and still a little Take-N-Toss bowl full of extras.)

The Kale Mash wasn't as mashery as the Bok Choy. Much more fibrous and less of a creamy texture. Baby E liked the flavor, but had a hard time eating it. I mixed it with some store-bought puree and it was a little easier for her to swallow. She ended up spitting most of it back up though, as far as we could tell. She was urping it up for a while after. So I'll save it for a month and try her on it again.

In the meantime, I used roughly a cup or more of the puree in some fruit smoothies. I didn't even have to rinse out the Cuisinart! I just scooped out as much as would fit in a freezer tray, and kept the rest in the food processor and added the smoothie ingredients. I also added some to pureed squash and some curry spices to try her on soon...

You can also just make this - cooked or not - and puree it up and freeze into cubes to have on-hand to toss into smoothies or tomato sauce to add some extra nutrients. (For baby you want cooked. They shouldn't have uncooked greens until after 10 months, or when your pediatrician recommends.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Gold Medal Winning Lunch - Olympics Blog Hop

In honor of the Summer Olympics this year, my Bento Bloggers and Friends decided to do another Blog Hop! We chose today because of the Opening Ceremonies. Links should all be live by 9am PST.
So click on the link in each post to see another fun Olympics-themed bento, and keep going until you come back around!
Olympics Gold Medal
Snow peas, PB and Chocolate PB on sandwich thin w/zucchini and carrots;
cherries, raspberries, blackberries; carrots, broccoli and Pink Dip
I was very pleased when I realized that this lunch was also a rainbow!
Red: raspberries, cherries, and radishes (in the dip)
Orange: carrots 
Yellow: carrots 
Green: peas, zucchini, and broccoli
Blue/Purple: blackberries, purple carrots

I arranged the peas up top to kind of look like a ribbon holding a medal, but in hindsight I should have laid them underneath coming upward. Oh well. The carrot flowers on it were just to jazz it up a bit, since it looked pretty boring, initially.

Since I didn't want to bother mixing my natural food colors to make the Olympics ring colors, I just cut some tiny little zucchini I found at the Asian market into coins and used a straw to poke out the middles to turn them into rings. And again, in hindsight, it might have been fun to use the colorful fruits and veggies and arrange them in the logo pattern so that they at least looked like circles. Oh well.

Check out what wacky (but brilliantly creative and probably wickedly funny) lunch Karen managed to pull off for her son, John, with the thinnest of technically-Olympics-themed logic at What's in John's Lunch Bag?


[This post contains affiliate links.

[I mock YOU with my monkey pants, Karen! You should re-name it to "WHO's In Mom's Lunch Bag!"]

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Honest Company - All-Natural Products, Very Affordable Prices

When I first heard about The Honest Company, I'll admit it only piqued my interest because I saw a photo of Jessica Alba. Hubby and I are big geeks, and big TV watchers, so Dark Angel was a no-brainer choice for us to watch. Plus, let's face it. Jessica Alba certainly isn't hard on the eyes! So we became big fans. We even watched Honey!
But I liked what I saw about the company too.
The Honest Company, which is now a certified B-corporation, was started by Jessica Alba and her husband, to provide non-toxic, eco-friendly, natural products to other parents, just like them, who were searching for conscientious products that were also affordable and effective.

An interesting twist with their products is that they offer monthly subscription "bundles" as well.

The Honest Diapers
The Honest Diapers Bundle sends you wipes and diapers based on an average monthly usage for each size group. And as your child grows, you can change your bundle. For for $79.95 (plus $5 shipping*) per month your diaper and wipes needs are all but taken care of. (You still need to change the diapers yourself. Darnit.) That's less than $3 a day! (based on a 30-day month.)
Their diapers are plant-based, so your child doesn't come in contact with any harsh chemicals! And the majority of the diaper is biodegradable too! The wipes are 100% biodegradable! [I wonder if that means I can put them in my yard waste bin...] And I cannot squeeeee! enough over how stinkin' CUTE those diaper prints are!

Now, let's compare. For the Size 3 diaper, which is where Baby E will be any second now, the Honest company sends you 216 diapers per month, so an estimated 7.2 used per day. [Erm. Apparently I should be changing her more often!] And 360 wipes, at 12 per day.

Seventh Generation diapering products, which are lower in chemicals than the "leading brands," are mostly not biodegradable (the wipes are rayon-polyester and the diapers contain plastics. Although they argue that anything in a landfill isn't going to biodegrade anyways.)  On Amazon, which is the best average daily price you're going to find, the size 3 diapers ($16.79/76) come out to roughly $.22 each, or $1.59 per day (based on 7.2 per day.) The wipes are $31.49/840) come out to roughly $0.037 each, or $.45 per day (based on 12 per day.) For a total of $2.04 per day. And these prices are with both Amazon Mom and Subscribe and Save.

The Honest diapers gets you 138 to 320 diapers (varies by size) in a month, plus four packs of 80-count wipes, for only $84.90, including shipping. So it comes out to $2.83 per day, based on a 30-day month. Not bad for chemical-free, plant-based, mostly-biodegradable diapers and wipes! And they arrive at your door in convenient month-supply-sized bundles!

Step 1

The Honest Cleansers
For $35.95 (plus $4 shipping*) per month, The Family Essentials Bundle lets you choose any 5 personal or household products each month, customized to what you need each time. That's less than $8 per product after shipping - safe, gentle, all-natural, full-sized personal or household cleaning products. From sunscreen, shampoo, lotion, bubble bath, and hand soap (to list a few) to laundry detergent (70 loads!) dishwasher gel, dishwasher pods, dish soap, rinsing agent, and multi-surface cleaner.
I paid more than that for my smaller tube of baby-friendly sun screen (with some ingredients I know are still bad for her, like Vitamin A, which actually makes your skin more sensitive to the sun!!!)
You can also buy the products a la carte, but they cost more. Or, a more fun way to view it... "Bundle and Save!"

*Shipping is free if you buy both bundles each month.

As an added bonus, most of their personal care products are vegan as well, which means there was no animal testing. So for the same price as one lip balm at the Body Shop, you can get a whole bottle of Honest Shampoo, and still feel good about it! [Just kidding. Possibly. I don't really know how much a lip balm costs. I just know that while I love that their products are not tested on animals, I just can't afford to be animal-friendly, at their prices!]

And with every product you purchase, The Honest Company donates product, money, and time to addressing critical health and social issues affecting children and families. This year, their nonprofit partner is Baby2Baby – who supplies families in need with essential baby clothing and gear, like baby diapers.

So What?
As we're venturing forth on our new artificial-dye-free diet (and as a precaution, also avoiding artificial flavors and preservatives,) I haven't yet gone through our personal care items, other than the ones that go in her mouth, like toothpaste. But considering that she got her Daddy's eczema, and her Mama's allergies (which causes itchy skin for me, especially around artificial fragrances,) all-natural dye-free body products are the next logical step. I've already noticed that I'm sensitive to petrochemicals, such as Vaseline, as well as many artificial fragrances. Heck. Even hanging around the car mechanic's or a tire place gives me a headache! Some products or people surrounded by a huge miasma of stinky perfume cause my throat to get scratchy and tight-feeling, and get my sinuses tingling and swelling. Just from one sniff! The only thing that's been holding me back is that the "good stuff" that I can find at the drug stores is either heinously expensive, or not 100% natural.

But at the prices I usually have to pay for safer, gentler, more natural products, I end up just buying "the good stuff" for the baby (which is really only 80% good, if you read the fine print on the labels,) half-assing it for the preschooler, and buying whatever junk's on sale for myself. (Hubby's on his own!) So we still have itchy days, and rashy days, and scaly-patchy days. I think I've just found us an affordable alternative!

Interested? Compare the Honest products and prices versus both leading natural brands as well as regular brands. Then request a free sample pack from either bundle (or both) and pay only $5.95 shipping (total,) but be aware that it will automatically enroll you in their monthly bundle(s.) So unless you decide that these products are perfect for you too, remember to cancel within 7 days after receiving your kit(s.) But don't let that scare you off. They will send you several reminders first.

And starting today, Plum District has an awesome deal with The Honest Company available! Spend $20 and get $40 to spend towards their eco-friendly product line! You can use it on a Bundle and Save, or towards individual items! Deal ends 7/31/12, so nab it soon!

*Disclaimer: I was asked to post this deal and write something up about the company in exchange for a sample pack of products. When I get it, I'll be sure to tell you guys what I think. On my Facebook page, if nothing else!

Raspberry-Spinach Baby Food Puree Recipe

I had some huge, beautiful, organic raspberries from our CSA going bad (we are getting a small handful of raspberries from our backyard bushes every day or so, plus we had just filled an EasyLunchbox with some more from my sister's house, and would be visiting her again before we'd eaten them all up.) And a bag full of spinach bunches (with stems) from our CSA that were over a week old.
I didn't want to just wait until the berries went bad, but I had more than enough raspberries to put in the one lunch Z would need before going back to my sister's house again (and getting even more berries,) so I thought about freezing them. Or feeding them to the baby somehow... *I* like raspberry vinaigrette dressing and assorted fresh fruits on my spinach salad... Hmm...

Raspberry-Spinach Baby Mash
Makes approximately 1.5 cups

4 cups spinach leaves and stems
1 cup raspberries - mashed and with the seeds strained out*
Water for washing

*To de-seed the berries, I used a mesh strainer and a spoon and mashed the juice and pulp through. I saved the seeds and the pulp that I couldn't get through and tossed them into my smoothies.

Step 1: Rinse the raspberries. While still wet, place in medium or large saucepan and set aside. Wash the spinach thoroughly. It often still has sand particles [aka: silicon dioxide - so tiny particles of glass] and there's a risk for E. coli. Even if you got it from a trusted source, who knows what you exposed it to on the way home or in your fridge! Do not drain or leave to dry. You should not need to add additional water for cooking, since enough of it clings to the spinach and berries after rinsing.

Step 2: If you have spinach with long stems, like from a farmer's market or CSA share, chop the stems into small pieces. You can chop the leaves into smaller pieces or leave whole. Place into saucepan with berries.

Step 3: On Medium heat (4-6,) cover pot and let sit for a few minutes. Check the spinach. Should be wilted but still a bright green color. If not wilted yet, wait another few minutes.

I looked up how to cook the spinach properly, but it didn't specify what setting to have the burner at, so I chose Medium. And I cooked mine a bit longer, which didn't seem to hurt anything.
(those yellow things are golden raspberries from my garden)
Step 4: In blender or food processor, or with an immersion blender, puree spinach-raspberry mix until smooth-ish.

Step 5: Store and/or freeze in individual serving-size portions.
(Baby Bok is the green stuff on the left)

The Verdict
No thanks, Mama!

I missed a critical step, in that I forgot to de-seed the berries. Doh! (I perfected my technique the next time I made something for her with them, which I'll post about later.)
Baby E has her Daddy's gag reflex, and she kept gagging on the seeds. So I don't know if the flavor was too tart also, or if her problem was just with the seeds. I tried adding applesauce to it, which seemed to help, since the seeds weren't so concentrated and the apples sweetened it up. After much wincing and gagging and stalling, she finally finished the one ounce trial.

We'll save the rest for when she's older.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Basic Butterfly Bento

Monday, 7/16/12 - We were planning on going to go to an art activity, but opted not to, for some reason. I made these for lunch and for her to snack on to and from swim class that afternoon.
These were "use 'em up before they go bad" lunches. We were down to the last of our CSA cherries, the last of the pita bread, my bagel thins and our ham slices were nearing the end of their reign, the grapes were on their last legs, and I'd been accumulating uneaten peas and berries from her previous lunches. The CSA lettuce is always ready to go bad, since we aren't huge leaf-eaters. I've been forcing myself to add a leaf or two to my salads, but I prefer spinach. Lettuce tastes fine in my dip sandwiches, and gives a nice crunch, but I only needed two leaves for all these sandwiches. So we're not exactly plowing through it at an alarming rate!

Basic Butterfly
Lemon Pistachios, Ranch, ham and Very Pink Dip sandwich,
peas, blackberries, raspberries, Rainier cherries
Pretty basic lunch. The loose peas and the blackberries were left uneaten from previous lunches. The golden raspberries were from our garden.

The Lemon Pistachios were from my July NatureBox. She LOVES them. She actually loves four out of the five snacks we got in our July box, only because the fifth one was too spicy. She still likes the spicy one, but can only eat it sparingly, until the heat builds up too high for her! (If you're interested in getting a surprise assortment of healthy snacks delivered to your door each month, go to NatureBox.com and use code CRISTI for 25% off your first box and give it a try!)
She likes to lick the shells too, so she insisted that I open each pistachio for her, but include the shells and the nuts.

The sandwich is a little bit of red lettuce, ham, and Very Pink Dip on mini pita pockets from Trader Joe's. Really yummy, but she doesn't like the VPD as much as the regular Pink Dip. *sigh*

I decided to spruce it up a bit by making a quickie little butterfly out of four of the loose peas and a little strip of green onion in her Ranch dip. 

Mama's Lunch
Ham and Very Pink Dip on Everything Bagel Thins,
grapes, snow peas and Asian PB Dipping Sauce
My sandwiches are the same as hers; red lettuce, ham, Very Pink Dip; except that I used Everything bagel thins instead of pita bread. I couldn't fit two full sandwiches in, since I had kind of piled on the ham, so I cut them in halfes and lay them fanned out to fit. But I couldn't get all four halves in. So I ate one as a midnight feast! (I also ate the last of the grapes, since there was no point in putting the five that wouldn't fit back into the fridge!)
I initially added some loose peas onto my Asian Peanut Butter Dip to make a shamrock just for fun. But it's what inspired me to decorate her Ranch dip later. I just used four peas, plus a half-pea stuck in sideways for the stem, that had been cut by accident when I was making my pods smaller to fit in the compartment.

She totally surprised me by eating most of her lunch - everything except half of the sandwich, some berries, and one of the pea pods. Then she busted into MY lunch! She ate my grapes!

    Japanese Bento Box Accessory Food Pick 20 pcs In Love

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Crab Summer Rolls and Asian Peanut Butter Dip Recipe

Since I had a few Spring Roll sheets left after making my Lumpia rolls, and some CSA greens to use up, I decided to try some Summer rolls. I've usually had them either as all-veggies, or with shrimp. I didn't have any shrimp, nor was I interested in learning how to make them, but I did have a can of crab...

Crab Summer Rolls
2-3 leaves Bok Choy
Approx. 2 cups spinach leaves and stems (packed loosely)
1 carrot, grated or peeled into strips
6-ounce can cooked crab meat
4 Spring Roll wrappers
Water (to prep wrappers)

Step 1: Slice the Bok Choy leaves off of the stems. Cut leaves into two strips, and stems into three or four 1/2" wide strips. Divide into roughly four equal piles. Set aside near where you'll be prepping the wrappers. Divide carrot peels and spinach leaves into four roughly equal piles. Set aside near prep area.

Step 2: Fill a large shallow dish with water. I used a square casserole dish, but a pie pan should work as well. Gently wet one Spring Roll wrapper for 30-60 seconds, then lay on a tea towel and blot off excess water. (I used paper towels. I don't have tea towels, and my bath towels are too fuzzy. Don't ask me how I know this.)

Step 3: Starting 1" from the edge of the wrapper, start laying out spinach, carrot, Bok Choy, and 1/4th of the can of crab meat in a long strip at the bottom. 
(You can't really see the wrapper, but it's there!)

Gently fold both sides in, then roll the wrap with fillings toward the top, trying to keep it tight, but not so tight that the wrapper splits. Set aside.

Step 4: Repeat Step 3 with the remaining three wrappers and piles of ingredients. Cut each roll in half with a slight diagonal cut at the middle. Enjoy with dipping sauce of your choice.

For the dipping sauce, I kind of followed this recipe. Kind of.

 Asian Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup peanut butter (chunky or creamy. Could also substitute almond or sunflower seed butter. I chose chunky, since that's Hubby's favorite.)
2 Tbsp teriyaki sauce or glaze (I only had glaze)
2 Tbsp sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (or 3 tsp minced)
2 tsp powdered ginger
salt and pepper to taste
(optional) 2 Tbsp hot sauce (I don't like hot, so I opted out.)

Step 1: Combine all ingredients and whisk or stir well. Serve with Summer Rolls or vegetables.

The Verdict
The Summer Rolls were good, but definitely needed a sauce of some kind. The sauce was very tasty with these, but totally drowned out the crab flavor. Might have been a more subtle flavor with SunButter instead. Ah well. 
Would definitely make these again. Hubby said shrimp would be good, but I don't want to actually cook shrimp, so probably not, unless they come pre-cooked in a can! (Seriously. Do they?)

Saved the excess sauce to dip veggies. Yum!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bok Choy Baby Puree - Extra CSA Stuff? Feed it to Baby!

Since I can barely keep up with all the produce coming in my weekly CSA box, I've had to find creative ways to use them so that they can freeze and keep well.

When I complained that I can't figure out what to do with all the lettuces and greens I'm getting, Laura from MOMables (and Super Glue Mom) suggested that I puree them up and add them to tomato sauce. Brilliant! It will only make a dent in the problem, since I'm getting 3 to 4 heads/bunches a week, and we don't go through gallons of spaghetti sauce in that time, but it's a start.

I decided to try Bok Choy first, since the other greens I had in the fridge were a red lettuce (tastes like dirt to me,) two bundles of kale (which Z loves to gobble down as Kale Chips,) and some spinach (which is the only leaf I actually like to eat. Other than the Kale Chips.)

I had used a few leaves of the Bok Choy in my Crab Summer Rolls, but still had most of the bunch left. I separated and washed each leaf/stem, and then began chopping.
For half of the leaves, I cut the stems off in big V-shapes (see second photo down.) I then cut them into small chunks and put in an airtight container to try later in another version of my Veggie-Ham Bake. The leaves went with the rest of the Bok Choy into the mash.

Baby Bok Mash
Makes approximately 2 cups

1 bunch Bok Choy (organic is best in this case, as it should contain fewer nitrates from chemical fertilizers)
Water for washing

Step 1: Wash each leaf thoroughly. You should not need to add more water, as the excess water from washing should be enough. (So obviously, do not drain or leave to dry.)

Step 2: Cut the stems into smaller chunks so they can cook faster. Cut the leaves just into strips, or leave whole. Place into a large microwave-safe dish. (I used my ceramic crock pot pot with a ceramic plate on top. Photo above shows a metal pot but I changed my mind last-minute and decided to try the microwave method instead of stove-top.)

Step 3: Microwave covered, on High, for 7 minutes per pound of greens.

Step 4: Using blender, immersion blender, or food processor, blend until smooth[-ish.]

Step 5: Allow to cool, then store or freeze in individual serving sizes, and/or add some to pizza or spaghetti sauce!
Green ones are Bok Choy. Reddish ones are Raspberry-Spinach
For my home-made baby food (and excess jarred food that won't be used up any time soon, like older-staged-foods that Z wanted to try but didn't like) I use a freezer storage tray system from Mumi and Bubi. I wanted something with a lid, since there would be a high likelihood of me putting something in the freezer and completely forgetting about it for a while, which pretty much ruled out the silicone trays. And I didn't want to spend an arm and a leg; the only silicone ones I could find with lids were crazy expensive. 
I also wanted something where the food could be easily removed without having to partially thaw the cubes to get them out, as with the plastic trays. 
The Mumi and Bubi trays fulfilled all my requirements. Lid? Check! Affordable? Check! Easily removed? Check! (and verified in the reviews. Double Check!) Hooray!
On a side note, I've forgotten and left food cubes in the tray for weeks before moving them, and they're still good. Double hooray!

While looking up how to prep Bok Choy for baby food, it said to treat it like Kale. The Kale article mentioned that cooked greens are not recommended for babies until 9 months (raw greens at 10 months,) although another article points out that the nitrate issue doesn't really apply to most babies. So please be aware, do more research, and talk to your pediatrician if you want baby to try them earlier. Don't sue me please.

We Do the Mash! We Do Spaghetti Mash! Spaghetti Mash! It is a Dinner-time Smash!
I added roughly half of my Bok Choy puree to an entire 26-ounce can of spaghetti sauce, which turned out to be a little over-zealous. My sauce is now funny-colored. Oops. Should still go unnoticed on pizza, but next time I'll just get two spoons dirty and add a spoonful at a time and mix, rather than adding a bunch at once and discovering too late that it may have been too much. Taste-wise, I didn't notice a thing though, so this will still be an excellent way to get rid of those pesky greens!
...I'll just have to hope that Baby E continues to go hog wild over any kind of baby mash, regardless of flavor, and make her eat the rest of our random greens, since none of the rest of us are big leaf-eaters!
With the 26-ish ounces of sauce (I had used a few teaspoons for her Cauliflower Pizzas) plus the cup-ish of Bok Choy puree, I had roughly 4 cups of sauce. I froze most of the sauce in 1-cup servings in zip-seal freezer bags, and kept one serving in the fridge to use sooner. 

We don't normally go through a whole can of tomato sauce before it goes bad, since I don't usually think to freeze the remainder. But Z has not been liking most of my new CSA food experiment dishes lately, so I'm thinking having smaller batches of spaghetti pre-made might be a good option for her on leftover nights when she won't want the food again that she hadn't liked the first time. And I won't feel like a short-order cook, since on leftover nights we often each have something different anyway, depending on how much is left of something, and who likes it the most. 
Plus I have a ton of cute-shaped noodles filling up the pantry...

The Verdict
Baby E loves her Baby Bok. She's struggling with the texture, as it's a little chunkier than she's used to, but her only complaint was that I wasn't shoving it into her gob fast enough.
Z has yet to try the sauce, as far as I know, despite being fed it twice. They've been on "leftover nights" where we don't sit down and eat together, since we're prepping whatever we can scrounge up and all eating different things in different places. She hasn't said she hates it when I offer her spaghetti, but she's not eating more than a few bites. I, however, really enjoyed eating her leftovers, even cold. I don't know if it's the brand of sauce we got, or if it's the Bok Choy, but I'm really enjoying the depth of flavor in the sauce.

*Disclaimer - I was not asked to review or rewarded for reviewing the Mumi and Bubi freezer tray. You're welcome.