Monday, April 30, 2012

Shapin' Up to be a Tasty Lunch

Thursday, 4/19/12 - For our lunches between Little Gym and preschool, I by random chance chose a shapes-theme. Packed in our EasyLunchboxes, since we were eating in the car (surprise surprise.)

It's Shapin' Up to be a Tasty Lunch
Ham and cheese wraps, dried fruit snack mix, cucumbers, carrots, starfruit

Her lunch is nut-free and artificial dye-free.

Since I didn't have any "glue" to keep the sandwich wraps from unrolling, I chose the Wilton Fun Pix purely by chance - they were long enough to skewer the whole roll, and more interesting than the plain ones from Dollar Tree. But then, when deciding what fruit I wanted to use, I saw the star fruit I had just bought to try. We've never had one before! The star plus the shapes on the picks made me decide to stick with a shapes theme.
I used small heart cutters on some cucumber and carrot coins (the carrot cutter is slightly smaller than the one for the cucumber. It was from a plastic bento set.)
In the square muffin cup, I mixed dried currants and chopped up dried pears from our April NatureBox, plus I chopped up some kind of weird chewy mango log thing wrapped in coconut I got from the bulk section at Winco to try out.

She ate the wraps. And the dried currants. And after a big to-do about how the star fruit wasn't really star-shaped because the ends weren't pointy (the online guide on how to eat it TOLD me to cut off the spines!) she tried the star fruit. Wasn't a big fan. She also ate one carrot heart and one cucumber heart.

Mama's Lunch
Spinach and lettuce salad with carrot and cucumber scraps, assorted raisins,
pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and raspberry vinaigrette. Mini cupcake, starfruit
My lunch is nut-free.(And except for the cupcake, dye-free too! Yummy, yummy dyes!) My salad is mostly organic - not sure about the pumpkin and sunflower seeds from my Naturebox snack mix. (They originally came with assorted dried fruits, but a certain little someone ate all the fruity bits out of it.)

I wasn't a huge fan of the star fruit. Didn't hate it though. It kind of tasted like apple. With the consistency and texture of a grape. Too bad she wasn't excited about it. I could see a lot of fun lunches with these.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Eco-Friendly Disposable School Field Trip Bento Lunches

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Thinking Outside the [Bento] Box
Every time a field trip at school rolls around, I always dread reading those words on the permission slip: "Please enclose $5 cash." Kidding. I wince when I read the "Please send a disposable lunch with your child." Ughhhh. Not only do I hate the thought of all that waste, but I don't even have the requisite supplies lying around. 153 reusable bentos, yes. Packet of paper sacks and cheap plastic baggies, not so much.
And I hate seeing all that plastic destined to lie around in a dump somewhere. You could argue that the paper bag will biodegrade, but you can't just dump all the food in there willy-nilly. That's one of the reasons I started using bento boxes in the first place! To keep my sandwich un-squished, and chips un-broken!

Since it's end-of-school-year field-trip season, this seemed like the perfect time to post!

Recyclable Bento Options

Plastic baking trays:
The first time I was faced with this issue, I had remembered reading once about using an old berry clamshell container to pack a disposable lunch in. Sadly, we were fresh out of those. So I tore through my supplies, trying to find something, anything I could use. I ended up finding a plastic 12-cup mini-muffin-type tray that had once housed some Trader Joes mini quiches. I had saved it with the idea of maybe using it for a Muffin Tin Meal someday. Instead, I cut it in half and made her a pumpkin patch field trip bento. The tray itself was recyclable, and I used aluminum foil wrapped over the top to cover it. Also recyclable! Sadly, the pumpkin patch didn't have recycling bins to utilize. But still.
And while it was nice getting to show off my efforts to the teachers and other volunteer parents, and getting the acclaim I so richly deserve, the real reward was watching her eat every. single. morsel!

Plastic Produce Clamshells:
Candy Girl at BentOnBetterLunches not only re-used a tomato container, she also washed and refilled a recyclable bottled water!

Jenn at Bento For Kidlet packed this Harry Potter lunch in an old tomato container too!

Shannon from What's For Lunch at Our House packed this lunch for a NASA field trip in a repurposed blackberry clamshell. She even made custom disposable picks out of toothpicks, stickers, and cardstock!
And while not technically recyclable, check out the re-used "doggy bag" styrofoam container bento she made for another field trip!

Keeley from Keeley McGuire Blog not only packed a disposable lunch in an old strawberry container, but she personalized it and used a ribbon to keep it closed! Too bad Hubby made me throw out my collection of ribbon scraps last Christmas! I knew they might come in handy some day!

Sherimiya from Happy Little Bento, however, is the mistress of re-using containers for disposable field-trip bento! My favorite is her Domo-kun bento.

Although I like how she re-uses a recyclable fruit cup in her Mousie bento...
...and re-uses a disposable lidded bowl for her Ponyo bento!

So after being inspired by these fabulous Mamas, here's mine for her trip to the Children's Museum.

And a half-size strawberry container for another class trip, this time to the zoo!

Other plastic containers:
I re-used a plastic muffin/cupcake box for my lunch for a field trip to the zoo.
Tracie from Lunch, Snack and "Sninner" re-used a disposable compartmentalized pre-packaged meal container for her daughter's field trip.

Compostable/Biodegradable Bento Options

Confectionery boxes:
Candy Girl from BentOnBetterLunches did a snack tray in an old Valentines chocolates box.
I love this idea because if you used paper cupcake liners and wooden/paper toothpick flags, the whole thing is compostable! (with the foil-free variety of chocolate box.) If, like me, you didn't happen to get the gift of chocolate last Valentines Day, or forgot to save the box, you can also do this with the regular old square boxes. What? But this brand-new box is still full of delicious chocolatey goodness? Well, guess I'll have to take one for the team!

Cardboard Egg Cartons: 
While this one from Bento Minions shows a styrofoam carton (which is still re-using, so good on ya!) you could use a cardboard carton instead.
To help keep the food from falling out the open side, if you were using half a carton, you could use parchment or wax paper to form a "wall." I would probably also use cupcake liners to keep the food off the original cardboard, if I was feeling squicky about it.

Re-Purposed Cereal Boxes:
Check out this DIY cardboard bento box for a field trip from Mommy Unglued!

Eco-friendly Wrappers
While wax paper is technically biodegradable, it can leave behind traces of petroleum. Yum. Better than plastic though!
Parchment paper and butcher paper are both biodegradable and compostable!
Aluminum foil is recyclable, if clean (all food oils washed off.) So not as easy, but more places have can-recycling bins versus composting bins.
Paper muffin cups are biodegradable and compostable as well. And super cute!
Twine or raffia to tie them closed, or a rubberband with instructions to wear it home again on their wrist rather than throw it out.

Bagging Options
You can always use a store-bought paper lunch sack. But since I don't have a slew of paper bags lying around, I save and re-use the smaller-sized heavy-duty paper shopping bags with the handles. Starbucks uses them, instead of plastic. So I still had one lying around saved one from when I got all her teachers gift cards last Christmas. Some Hallmark stores have them too. They're not only recyclable/compostable... they're also free!*
*with purchase, obviously!
Thanks to a comment I got just after posting this, here's another option: a bag (or box) that your fast food or kids' meal came in [not that *I* would ever get fast food, right? Hah!] Now I'm going to scour my house to see if I still have an intact Happy Meal box*! Wahoo!
*Due to my housekeeping skills, or lack thereof, chances are very good I'll find one.

You can also call the field trip venue in advance, and ask if they have receptacles for recycling or composting. If they do, be sure to coach your kids in advance on which parts go where!

"Baby Fish" Bento

Monday, 4/23/12 - At Z's co-op preschool, one of the songs the teacher does is called "Baby Fish." It's really simple and involves bigger and bigger finger, hand, and arm motions to go along with the Mommy Fish, Daddy Fish, and Giant Whale that come after. [Looked on YouTube. Couldn't find a video of it.] I skip the Whale and add a 'Big Sister Fish' in between Baby and Mommy. I started singing "Baby Fish" to Baby E to calm her down, and I hold her feet and rotate her legs when I do it. She loves it! Calms her down and helps relieve her gas! So I started calling her Baby Fish when I'm talking to her, or talking about her to Z. Hence the name of this lunch!

I packed her Baby E-themed lunch in one of our EasyLunchboxes.

Baby Lunch
Baby spinach, yellow carrot flowers, apple-and-cookie-butter "sandwiches,"
ham and mozzarella on a tortilla, Baby E, baby raisins (currants,) and Baby Goldfish Crackers
Her lunch is peanut-, tree-nut, and dye-free. (The Goldfish crackers and Trader Joe's fruit leather use natural food-based dyes.)

Baby Foods: My NatureBox this month had a packet of dried currants in them. Z, who for quite a while now has refused to eat raisins, demanded I add some to the trail mix (also from my NatureBox.) She loved the "baby raisins" so I *had* to add some to her Baby Lunch!
And a while ago Goldfish Crackers were on super sale ($1/bag!) so I bought a variety to fit potential future lunch themes. Baby (Gold)Fish! Perfect!

Apple Sammies: I thinly sliced apples and spread some Trader Joe's Cookie Butter (like Biscoff spread) in between. Yum!

"Baby Fish": To make Baby E, I used my faces cutter to make a head out of mozzarella and then cut facial features into it. I cut hair out of some fruit leather (and saved the rest in a baggie for another time.) I put half a leaf of baby spinach behind the cheese face to make the features show up better.

Mama Fish's Lunch
Spinach salad w/red and green lettuces, purple and yellow carrot scraps, dried pear bits (chopped up from dried pear slices from my NatureBox;) and dried cherries, sesame seeds, Chex crumbs, and cashews left over from a fancy Chex Mix Gramma Barp made a while back, that SOMEONE ate all the Chex's out of... Tossed on some Rainbow and Baby Goldfish Crackers to see if I like them with the Raspberry Vinaigrette (they taste crazy-good with Russian dressing!) Special K Savory Herb Crackers, extra slices from her apple, and crunchy peanut butter. [I prefer the Goldfish with the Russian dressing. Nuts or seeds add a more complementary crunch with this sweeter dressing.]
Normally I would keep the Goldfish separate, but I had planned on eating lunch within an hour from prepping my bentos, so I figured they'd be safe. And they didn't fit with the crackers and the Smidget container in the little compartment. In hindsight, I should have moved the Smidget to sit atop the salad, like I normally do. Ah well. They weren't soggy, but they weren't as crispy either. No worries. I forgot to pack a fork as well, so an epic fail all around. 

I got a big "THANK YOU for the cookie spread on my APPLES!" Yay, me! While I had to trot it out a few times throughout the day (lunch before school, snack after school on the way to E's 4-month check-up, and as an after-appointment snack,) she ended up eating everything except the Baby E face. Because it was "too a-doy-rah-bow!" [adorable]
faces cutters 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How Can You FACE It? Bento Cutter Review and Giveaway! (Ended)

AllThingsForSale is a great place to find all sorts of fun bento gear. Not only do they carry most of the same stuff as the other bento supply sites, but they're based in the US, so you don't have to pay heinous international shipping charges! And if you register, you can save your shopping cart over multiple visits, in case your husband catches you shopping you don't have time to look at everything in one go. And, my favorite part - you can set up a wish list! Scooooore! Since you'll want to keep track of all the things to get when your husband isn't looking birthday money rolls in.

One of my favorite bento tools from allthingsforsale is my face cutter set.
faces cutters
Unlike many picks or cutter sets with specific themes, these cutters are very versatile. You can make people or animals, or add features to cookie-cutter animals. 
Or add a face to just about anything!

They are ideal for cutting lunch meats, sliced cheese, fruit leather, egg sheets, and tofu wraps. They also work on nori, cucumber or carrot peels, cabbage, spinach, or other lettuces.

Just look at all the faces in this set! There are 15 faces (#11-15 are smaller versions of #1-5,) 2 heads, 2 circles, 2 long hair shapes (to go behind the heads,) 2 bushy hair/cloud shapes, and 2 jagged bangs (makes great cracked eggshell shapes too!)

Sometimes, to get just the right face, I'll use them along with nori punchers... 
large face: eyes from this punch, mouth from #1
small face: eyes from
 this punch, mouth from this punch.
Other times, I might cut out some features to use with sugar eyes.
face #1 (eye used as a nose)
You can use them to cut features out of something... 
Top: heads from A, hair from B. faces 3 and 2
Bottom: heads and hair from C, faces 11 and 14
Or use the little cut-outs to add features onto something else.
#13 and #14. 
eyes from #2, mouth and nose from #10, 
whiskers and ears from an animal cutter set. 

You can even use them to imprint faces into hot dogs (be sure to do it before cooking them!)

Pretty awesome tool set, huh? Want one? Allthingsforsale is offering a lucky reader one of their very own!
Open to anyone, anywhere! And there are four chances to enter:
1. Go to and tell me what other item you want the MOST!
As an added bonus, she's also throwing in her favorite dip cup set! (I use these for sprinkles or salt too!)

Be sure to leave a separate comment for each thing you did. Also, be sure your Google profile has a way to contact you, or else leave your email in one of your comments. Anonymous entries MUST have their email in each entry, or they will be deleted. 
Contest ends midnight, 4/30. 

Winner will be selected randomly using If I select a winner who has no contact information, I will randomly select someone else immediately. If the winner does not respond within 7 days, I will randomly select someone new.

Disclaimer: I was given a set of these cutters to review. No other compensation was given. All opinions, photos (except stock photos from allthingsforsale/BentoUSA,) and lunch designs are my own. 


Almost totally forgot to pick a winner for my AllThingsForSale faces cutter giveaway! Oops!
Congrats to tiffdance! Please reply to my email within the next week!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

In case you missed my post about being a part of the EasyLunchboxes Trader Joe's Cookbook,
I'm gonna be in a cookbook!
Since I'm being "featured" in this book along with about a gazillion other talented cooks, bloggers, etc a few others, I would need a few pictures of myself to submit. Preferably in the kitchen, making a bento. Well. Fat chance of THAT! YOU guys don't even get to see my kitchen in all its mess glory. And no one really wants to see pictures of me cutting my fingers, flinging ham angrily across the room, or discovering that my cucumber went bad. And there's no way I'm showing off all my gray hairs!
So, since I'd need to dye my grays, I might as well get a cut, maybe a style too, eh? It's only been ten years five years a while since my last cut. I was due!
One of the moms in my MOMS Club happens to be a stylist working out of her home, which was right in my price range! So we met at the beauty supply store to find a shade to match my hair to cover the grays... where I made an impulse decision... what if... I... went RED? I've ALWAYS wanted to be a redhead, but the do-it-yourself in a box just never did the trick. And I've been too cheap to pay salon prices. But here I was paying for a dye-job anyway...
So I went for it!





Et voila! A new me!

Stay tuned for scenes from our family photo shoots!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ladybug Bento Lunch

Thursday, 4/12/12 - Lunches to eat between Little Gym and preschool.

Ladybug bento
PBHoney sandwich, mozzarella and Colby Jack cheese cubes,
Skittles, braising mix lettuces with snap peas, strawberries
I've been itching to use my new Ladybug sandwich shaper, so whipped it out when I wanted to do a fancy-ish lunch in a hurry. Wooden/paper Ladybug pick came from a set at World Market.
She ate the ladybug portion of the sandwich, the Skittles, the strawberries, and most of the cheese.

Mama's Lunch:
Green and red leaf lettuce salad w/ carrots, purple cabbage scraps, and
cucumber strips. Cadbury Creme Egg, strawberries and pineapple,
Goldfish Crackers, mozzarella cheese bits, Russian dressing (under cheese.)
My lunch is nut-free. I decided to go for a more savory salad, so I added Goldfish for some crunch, and Russian dressing. I chopped up some mozzarella cheese scraps to sprinkle on as well.
To get the cucumber strips, I just used a peeler down the length of the cucumber. I did the whole cucumber that way, then stored the extras in a reusable container in the fridge.
Cadbury Creme Egg because, well... if I don't eat them now, I'll hoard them because they're only available for a short time, and then end up not eating them and discovering where I stashed them again NEXT Easter!

Fork and mini red muffin cup from Dollar Tree. Both lunches packed in our EasyLunchboxes.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Earth Day Bento Hop! Leave No Scrap Uneaten!

To celebrate Earth Day (which will be this Sunday, 4/22/12,) my Bento Blogger Friends decided to do another fun Blog Hop. We're doing this one early, to hopefully give you all some time to incorporate any new inspirations! You'll see some great food ideas for reducing waste, recycling, re-using, choosing a healthier and more natural diet, conservation, and just celebrating the Earth. As well as some other fun themes and ideas!

Both of our lunches are dye-free, nut-free, and (mostly*) all-natural, preservative-free, or organic. And 98% waste-free (I threw out the carrot tops.) My lunch is even vegetarian!

*the Special K crackers in my lunch are the one exception. I just stocked up so didn't want to go buy a special box of organic crackers and have so many crackers that some would go bad before we ate them. Hardly honors my waste-free goal with this lunch!

Rainbow Family
Organic braising mix lettuces, yellow (green) and purple carrots, raspberries and blueberries.
All-natural tortilla, ham (and scraps) and cheese. Terra Exotic Vegetable Chips.
Our family in ham, cheese, organic spinach and all-natural fruit leather
Her lunch not only has our family, made with a face cutter set from, but also all the colors of the rainbow! Red raspberries and beet chips, orange carrots and cheese, yellow carrots, green lettuce, blue blueberries, and purple kale and carrots!

I made our family from ham, assorted cheeses, and fruit leather. Spinach added under facial features to help them show up.
Left to right, top to bottom: Daddy, Mama, Little Z, Baby E
Mama's Scrap Heap Lunch
All the spinach, carrot, fruit leather, and cheese scraps from her lunch went into my lunch. So in a way, my lunch is also recycled/re-used!
Organic spinach, green and red lettuces. Organic carrots and scraps. Fruit leather
scraps and organic raisins. Cheese scraps, Special K crackers, organic
apples and all-natural TJs Cookie Butter. All-natural raspberry vinaigrette dressing.
To help keep our lunches waste-free, I'll be trotting out our new cloth napkins from Red Poppy Designs on Etsy! I got Z some Hello Kitty ones... and they arrived lightning fast! So then I went back and ordered Strawberry Shortcake and bunnies as well! Squee! And of course I packed in our EasyLunchboxes, which are also washable and reusable!

So hop on to see what Crystal from Crystal's Ramblings created, then keep on hopping! 

Making cute shapes out of our foods can create a lot of waste, so I often get asked what I do with all my scraps. To be honest, I usually eat them right then and there. Or Z will come and want to eat her beautiful lunch right away, so I throw scraps her way as a distraction. Soon I'll have another little mouth to placate with scraps. I also will toss them into my lunches, or store them in reusable containers in the fridge for another day. Another option is to keep scraps in the freezer until you have enough for something big. I usually cut out my bread before adding spreads, so they could be saved for home-made croutons, bread crumbs, meat loaf, or Mamabelly's French Toast Casserole. (Honestly I usually toss mine out the back door for the birds though.) For veggie scraps, Candy Girl from BentOnBetterLunches has a great recipe for Bento Scrap Soup. And meat and/or cheese scraps could be used in pocket sandwiches (so the little bits don't all fall out) or Candy Girl's quiche (which could also be done in muffin tins for a portable breakfast!)

I like doing bento-style meals, since so much of the stuff is reusable. I only throw out the paper cupcake liners and wooden and paper picks. But since they are compostable, we can put them with our other food garbage in with our yard waste, and I don't feel so wasteful. I avoid the foil-lined cupcake wrappers, since they aren't.

And by teaching her to bring everything back, she not only doesn't throw out my silicone cups and plastic picks, she brings back uneaten food. So I can trot it back out as a snack, or roll it into the next day's lunch. Or, if it's too gross, toss it in with the compostables.

 faces cutters