Sunday, March 31, 2013

Foodie Penpals - March 2013 #foodiepenpals

Coconut donut thing, chocolate chip cookie, pumpkin bread muffin thing, mystery bread
This month's Foodie Penpal was super thoughtful, and found me stuff at a local bakery - Babycakes NYC - everything is vegan and gluten-free, and of course, no fake stuff! Plus they deliver nationally, and have cookbooks and stuff to boot!
She thoughtfully sent an email when my package was shipped, and I tooled around for a while, waiting. La la la... At some point, I got some little orange slips in my mail box, about shipments I wasn't home for needing my signature. Ooo fun! Maybe I'll go tomorrow... tra la la... And then, like, a week passed. Where is my Penpal package? Huh... Oops. My packages! So I go pick them up... one is from my Foodie Penpal! Woop! Except that one of the items didn't survive. Luckily they were all individually sealed. The mystery bread, which may have been pumpkin or may have been some kind of cranberry bread, was riddled with mold. Waaaaah! The world will never know what flavor it really was! I'm still kicking myself over that! DOH!
But the rest of the items were juuuuust fine, if a little smooshed.

Coconut donut thing: YUM! Mama didn't even TELL the kids about that one! I nommed that bad boy down  after-hours!
Chocolate Chip Cookie: Good stuff! Still all intact and crunchy and perfect. The girls and I split that as an after-school treat.
Pumpkin Muffin Thing: This had gotten smooshed and deformed, but no one cared. I had piled the girls into the car a little early to nab my packages on the way to Z's afternoon preschool, since the Post Office is right in between, and the lines are longer after school. So Z was insatiably curious about my mail. She LOVES getting mail. She is THRILLED when those stupid free local useless newspapers are tossed into our driveway. She is beyond ecstatic when a solicitor leaves a flyer tucked into our screen door. So to steer her away from a highly anticipated package from Japan, I told her that the other package was from my "food present friend."
So she would not rest until she had gotten to sample the goodies. The muffin seemed safest, since I wanted the donut for myself, and maybe the cookie... But between her and the Baby, who she shared little hunks with, I didn't even get to try a single crumb. They sucked that muffin down in the 5-7 minute drive to school!

I sent my foodie package to Calee at Life + Running.

The Lean Green Bean

Here’s a detailed explanation of the Foodie Penpals program:
-On the 5th of the month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treatsThe spending limit is $15The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you can choose to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring Garden Bunny!

garden bento organic purple broccoli rabbit nigiri
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I make up a big batch of brown rice and quinoa each week or so for the girls and I to supplement the gluten-free breads and crackers and such, since many gluten-free items are higher in starches and don't have whole grains. I crammed as much as I could into a reusable container, but there was some left. For some reason, I decided I would rather try and form an untested pile of cooked grains into onigiri for the next day's lunch than find a larger container or get a separate smaller container! Haha! But it worked!

I was trying to remember if I knew how to use egg molds to mold rice, or did I have a bunny rice mold... and then I remembered a bunny onigiri from Bento, Monsters that had looked doable, so I took my inspiration from there. I don't really know what I'm doing, but so far have had amazing luck making my onigiri turn out nicely.
garden bento organic purple broccoli rabbit nigiri
Organic strawberries, Naturebox Lemon Pucker Pistachios, gluten-free tamari sauce, organic brown rice and quinoa, organic carrot details, organic purple broccoli and sugar snap peas. Not shown: Stonyfield organic yogurt tube

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I packed everything in my stainless steel Lunchbots Uno because it was clean I wanted this to look more like a traditional Japanese bento, and most of my Japanese-style boxes are 2-tier. I didn't want to have to think hard enough to arrange everything nicely in TWO layers!

Pucker Up: I put some Naturebox Lemon Pucker Pistachios (her favorite!) in a mini silicone bento cup (my carrot one was found on eBay.) She loves pistachios, and really loves these flavored ones. Plus she can mostly open them by herself now. And I needed a little more protein that would fit in the little cup without ruining the look of the lunch!

Bunny Garden: I needed something for the bunny to be peeping up from behind, and decided that the sugar snap peas would be a good option. I had to pile them in two layers to make them thick enough for the bunny's hands to rest on.

I was so excited to see purple broccoli in my weekly organic farm share the week before. I hadn't even known it existed! This is too exciting to waste in soups! I didn't think she'd actually eat it though, so only put a few stalks in, like tall flowers.

The rest of the space was filled in with strawberries. And a little bunny sauce bottle with some gluten-free tamari sauce to use to flavor the rice.

Easter Bunny: I was quite excited that the rice and quinoa mix actually worked for this. I know it's hard to do onigiri with brown rice. You need short-grain rice, which this happened to be. And you need to rinse it well first, which I did, since I was rinsing the quinoa anyway. I figured I could try and make rice balls or something with some of it.

I basically spooned rice onto a piece of plastic wrap and wrapped it tightly to squoosh it together and then mashed it around until I got the shape I wanted, before unwrapping it. Same principal for the ears and hands, except smaller and more annoying, since I was trying to make things that were the same size as each other.
I broke off bits of uncooked (gluten-free) spaghetti noodles to help secure all the parts to the head, which was more annoying, as bits of the face would "crack," and I'd have to smoosh it back together again. So not as easy to work with as white rice.

For the ear decoration, I used a carrot cut with a sakura flower veggie cutter stuck onto a bit of uncooked noodle. I cut the little carrot free-hand, and used a noodle to secure it as well. The "stem" is a tiny leaf from the broccoli.

The bunny's face is nori (I bought a pack at an Asian grocery near me,) and I used bits from two different nori face punches. I wet my finger and wiped it on one side of each piece to help glue them down.

Keeping It Together
I warned her that her lunch might be all jumbled up, since I wasn't sure how the onigiri would hold together in her backpack. But that she could see the pictures when she got home.

To prevent stuff from shifting around too much, though, I used a folded-up cloth napkin from Red Poppy Crafts to help fill the space. It did the trick, since she brought it home mostly uneaten, which I had expected. Not because she didn't like it, but because she likes to suck on the Lemon Pucker Pistachio shells first, then the nuts, and then eat them. Which used up most of snack time. She had eaten an ear and half of the sauce too.
But everything had stayed in place when it came home. Where she ate everything but one strawberry, a few grains of rice, the broccoli, and the empty sugar snap pea pods (she only chews enough to get them open and eat the peas out - I feed Baby the chewed pods, or chop them up and toss them into soup. Hey. We're all family here.)

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Egg-Hunt and Easter Bunny Lunches for Some-bunny Special!

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 Both lunches are in our new EasyLunchboxes Brights. Cloth napkins from Red Poppy Crafts on Etsy.

Easter Bunnies
Chocolate caramels, Naturebox spiced almonds, organic sugar snap peas, GF PBJ, honey Greek yogurt, raspberries

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Rabbit Pellets: I got these chocolate-covered caramel balls from my foodie penpal last month. I wanted an excuse to use my new bunny cup, and they looked kind of like rabbit plops! Hahahah!

Nutty For Bunnies: In the little purple bunny box, I packed some kind of spiced almonds from Naturebox. I can't remember what flavor. Not the cinnamon ones though. Those are ALL MINE! The bunny came from Target in a set with other little animal "eggs" for Easter egg hunts.

Pink Bunnies: Little Z loves pink bunnies. Looooves them. Purple ones are good too. So I HAD to have these pink bunny picks! So cuuuute! 

Bunny Sammie: I cut my Udi's gluten-free bread with a bunny head cookie cutter, and jammed in some dye-free chocolate-covered sunflower seeds for the eyes and nose. I used some extra peanut butter to glue on some dye-free jimmies sprinkles whiskers. The sprinkles lasted the night well enough, but the color sloughed off the sunflower seeds. So I had to replace them in the morning. Noted!

I added some more dye-free sprinkles to jazz up the yogurt, and HAD to include my pink bunny spoon for eating it!

This time I actually remembered to include a Lunchbox Love note! Woo! 

I like to tease her about how fun her lunch is when I send her off on the bus, both to distract her from having to part from me, but also because it's almost always a surprise. When I do a themed lunch where the theme is totally obvious, I tell her she'll never guess what the theme is. Then first thing when she steps off the bus, she announces that she knows the theme. "It was a Spring theme! I could tell because of all the bunnies!" Yeah. Spring. Doh!

Easter Egg Hunt
GF PBJ sandwiches w/cheese details, string cheese nibblets, Unreal 54 candies, kale chips, organic grapes

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Easter Bunny: Mostly just to fill empty space, I put some string cheese nibblets in a bunny cup (don't worry. I didn't actually get the same one washed fast enough to use again so quickly! The set comes with TWO!)

Egg Hunt: I used a bucket cup as an Easter basket, and filled it with some Unreal 54 candies (dye-free version of peanut M and Ms.) I also "hid" some in with her grapes and kale chips. The 3-D Easter egg pick in the kale chips came from a grab bag of cupcake picks somewhere.

Easter Eggs: I made two small sandwiches with an egg cookie cutter (I don't remember egg-actly, but I think I was able to use one slice of bread for each sandwich... Maybe that was the bunny one. Oh well.) I decorated them with cheese cut with tiny shape cutters, an arch cutter, and a scalloped edge cutter that I got a long time ago. The pink "dye" is actually beet juice. I sliced open a beet from my weekly farm share and rubbed it around the top of the bread. When it started pooping out on me, I'd just wet it a little and go again. I got the idea to use beets to color bread from Rachel's Random Ramblings. Who got the idea to use beet juice to dye foods in general from me. The circle is now complete.

Z was egg-stra excited about her "Easter Bunny themed lunch"... Oh well. Close enough.

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 Red Poppy Napkins Biting the Hand        

Food for Thought


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Something On A Stick Day Lunches For My Girls

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March 28th every year is Something On A Stick Day, to celebrate things on sticks! (Somewhat obvious, no?) As far as I can tell, it's intended for foods on sticks, like popsicles, kabobs, corn dogs, etc. But I don't see why it couldn't include pinwheels, garden decorations, balloons on sticks, etc. So celebrate it however you like! There are no things-on-a-stick police gonna come and make you do it their way!

Check out some more fun stick-y lunches at Bent On Better Lunches' Food-On-A-Stick Linky!

Little Z's Lunch-On-A-Stick
Strawberries, GF ham and cheese sandwich bites w/mustard, sugar snap peas, carrots, and Chioggia beets

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I fell asleep with Baby the night before, so didn't have a chance to make lunch in advance. So I got up a bit early and put this together while the girls ate breakfast.
Since I needed something that wouldn't bust up and crack the cheese and carrots, since I was in too much of a hurry to use a straw to punch through first to put them on a thicker skewer, I used tinsel "fireworks" skewers for everything.

For the sandwich I used my FunBites Cube It on a slice each of bread, uncured ham, and cheese. I squirted some mustard onto my cutting board (I use thin washable plasticy ones, so I can pop them in the dishwasher and grab a new one each time,) and spread it on the parts of the bread squares that would touch meat or cheese as I went. I hate mustard, so didn't want to have to lick any off my fingers!

The veggie skewer is some organic sugar snap peas cut into halvsies, alternating with organic carrot and Chioggia beet coins cut with a sakura flower veggie cutter. The strawberries should be easy to figure out what I did... Heehee.
I used my kitchen shears to trim the pointy ends off, since her teacher requested no pointy toothpicks at school. Plus they fit in the box better that way! Ha!

I just got several Glit and Brillia 2-tier bento boxes in greenblue, and pink. So I mixed up the sets to each be three colors. Love it! You could also use just two colors, with one in the middle and the other for the top and bottom, and then the opposite for the second box. What fun!

Baby's Lunch On A "Stick"
GF ham and cheese bites and scraps, 1/2 banana, garlic rice and quinoa w/cheese, frozen peas

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I packed a lunch for Baby in an EasyLunchbox, since it's less messy and fewer dishes than serving her on bowls and plates, plus I can grab and go if she didn't finish in time.

For her "sticks," I skewered some extra bits of FunBites Cube It! uncured ham and cheese and gluten-free bread squares from Z's lunch. I had wanted to try a longer skewer, but couldn't find any that I felt were safe enough that weren't way too thick for this. I didn't want anything thin or a brittle enough plastic that she could snap it apart in her mouth, or anything too pointy on the end. So I turned to my bag of Easter picks for inspiration.
I ended up choosing a Happy Easter cupcake pick and a vintage-style Spring animals bunny cupcake pick (got mine online somewhere.) The ham and cheese scraps just got tossed in to the side there.

The rice and quinoa is a mixture I happened upon by accident that turned out to be a big hit. Since I need to be more proactive about healthy whole grains on a gluten-free diet, since they often won't get enough from breads, noodles, and crackers alone, I started making big batches of rice and quinoa mix to save in the fridge and freezer and serve throughout the week. But it gets boring after a while. Z doesn't like cooked veggies, or pretty much anything I cook, so there aren't a lot of options to mix-in to change it up.
I offered her some melted cheese on top the night before, and added in a little garlic powder and a grind of salt. She loved it! And Baby got jealous, so I had to make HER a bowl too, even though she had already eaten a bowl of my veggie-rice-quinoa curry for dinner. A Mama-sized bowl, since it had originally been for me.
And then Z asked for SECONDS! When she asked for thirds, we redirected her to a bowl of frozen organic peas instead. My girls love frozen peas! Freaks.

Now you might assume that I left my 15-month-old unattended with the cupcake picks. Or maybe I let her have them in the car while I drove somewhere.

Or, you could assume that we all sat and had lunch together. Supervised.

Whichever one makes you feel more comfortable with my parenting choices... Hahaha!

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