Thursday, February 28, 2013

Foodie Penpals, February 2013

[This post contains affiliate links.]
TAZO Iced Black Tea - I was so excited about this one. I love sweet tea, and this way I can make my own using organic raw sugar instead of the refined white that comes from McD's or the jugs (the ones that aren't sweetened with High Fructose (GMO) Corn Syrup, anyway!)

Coconut-covered dates - Dates are a wonderful sweet treat. Yes, they have, like, a Tablespoon of sugar in each one. But it's natural, unrefined sugar. So one or two in a lunch makes a nice dessert-y treat.

McTavish Lemon Shortbread - My package arrived pretty much the day after we decided to switch to a gluten-free diet. Doh! So I looked longingly at these for a few days before I found them a good home.

Muir Glen Organic Black Bean and Corn Salsa - Hubby had popped open a mango salsa right when I got this, and we don't go through salsa fast enough to justify having two opened jars. *sigh* So I haven't gotten to try this yet. I love that it has black beans. More protein!

Dark, milk, and white chocolate-covered caramel balls - I used some of these in an Easter lunch (as bunny droppings! Haha!) and I could have sworn I'd put them in another lunch too, but I can't remember. We snacked on them slowly, since I could let Z have one to get her off my back nagging for treats before dinner, without worrying about it ruining her appetite.

Late July Organic Sea Salt Multigrain Chips - I packed some in a snack for Z's afternoon preschool, and we pretty much hoovered the rest of the bag within a day or so after that!

I sent my Foodie Penpals package to Gina at Health, Love, and Chocolate!

blogbadgeAPPLE Foodie Penpals

And now it's time for some details about Foodie Penpals.  In case you’re a new reader, here’s a reminder of what the program is all about:
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The 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!
-On the 5th of every 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! 
-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 are 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. 
-Foodie Penpals is open to US, Canadian & European residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. Same with Europeans. We've determined things might get too slow and backed up if we're trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 
If you’re from the US or Canada and are in participating for November, please CLICK HERE ( to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions. 
You must submit your information by February 4th as pairings will be emailed on February 5th!

*If you're from Europe, please CLICK HERE ( to signup. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lunch Made Simple: I {Heart} Tuna

easylunchboxes school work heart shape food quick easy
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Wednesday, 1/23/13 - Since my chicken salad lunch hadn't gone over too well ("It was too sweet,") I decided to try an old favorite - tuna salad. She normally has it on a sandwich, with (dye-free) pickles. But I'm usually too lazy to go through all that trouble. So fish and crackers it is!
Grapes, cheddar and mozzarella, carrots, tuna salad, Kashi crackers, Ranch dressing (see top photo)
I think this was the first time using our new EasyLunchboxes Brights - guess who is a big fan of the purple lid? 
I wanted to make this lunch fairly simple, so I pretty much just put everything into silicone muffin cups to keep them separate and to add color.
The Kashi crackers are in a square muffin cup (since it looks better than a round one in that compartment of the EasyLunchbox.) 

I cut some "cubes" (more like "rectangles") of cheddar and mozzarella cheese and alternated them on some long heart skewers. I love these picks!

heart pick in the grapes to keep up the heart theme, and some Ranch dressing for the carrots in a Mini Dipper that went into her cooler bag separately.

The little hearts on top of the tuna salad (chunk light tuna and olive oil mayo. Very complex recipe...) are from a dye-free pickle slice. I can't remember where I got that tiny heart cutter, but this one is the closest I've seen to it. 

The little scooper spoon was from an ice cream shoppe. It's #5PP plastic, same as the EasyLunchboxes, so safe to wash and reuse!

Tools of the Trade

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tic-Tac-Toe for my Dye-Free Valentine

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Thursday, 2/14/13 - Since Valentine's Day was going to be a day of treat-filled parties, I packed a very light lunch snackerel for Little Z. And no fruit, since she'd be getting plenty of sugary desserts, and I'd rather have her fill up on veggies or proteins than even MORE sugar, even if it's a healthier form!

Even though it was a small amount of food and I could have used a smaller bento box, I opted to use my new EasyLunchboxes Brights with the pink lid, to give me room to make it even more fun! Plus, you know. Pink!

Valentine's Tic Tac Toe

Since Z thinks that all the Xs and Os she's seen around this time of year are from Tic Tac Toe, and has been mistaking all my "Hugs and Kisses" lunches, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to make her vision a reality!

I made my little Xs and Os using mini alphabet cutters, but the O is really hard to work with. All my pokey-outy tools are too wide to fit through some parts of the cutter, so it's a struggle to get the soft cheese out without breaking it. I gave up after three, and then had the genius idea to add hearts as well! Woot! So I did the rest of the mozzarella with my mini heart cutter.

I just used a steak knife on a slice of cheddar to make the thin lines, and then cut the horizontal bits to fit around. It was easier than I had expected. Normally I'm crap at getting things the same length and such.

Like most people, you're probably thinking that my effort was pointless, since the cheese tic-tac-toe board would get all jumbled up on the way to school, but no. If you press each piece down a bit, it "sticks" to the plastic, much like a window cling.
This is me holding the EasyLunchbox vertically.

Valentine's Party Dye-Free Subs
Dye-free marshmallows, TJ's peppermint chocolate-covered pretzel thins
Since her teachers from both schools had notified me in advance of all the treat activities, I was able to plan ahead. For her AM class, the kids were each getting a cookie, mini cupcake, and heart-shaped marshmallows. Bleh. What a great snack idea right after exercise, when they're hungry and looking to recharge their bodies. Oh yes. And right before they're sent home to be too full for lunch. 
But I didn't want her feeling left out and tempted to eat the dye-filled treaties, so I packed her some safe alternatives. 

She already has frozen mini cupcakes at both schools, so her teacher took one out to thaw that morning. 

I had planned to send some Trader Joe's Joe Joes (their healthier version of Oreos,) or let her pick one of the other cookies I have, but she had snuck some Trader Joe's Peppermint Pretzel Thins before school when I was changing Baby's diaper, so I took them away and sent them instead. (I wasn't going to make her go without a treat at the party, especially since she wouldn't get to keep ANY of the candy with her valentines. And we're working with her on not sneaking around behind our backs.)

All her morning treats fit in a small Kids Konserve container, so in there with the pretzel slims are some fruit-flavored dye-free marshmallows I got from I have found a few different "safe" marshmallows, so I let her choose between these fruity cylinder-shaped ones, some watermelon-looking ones (that really look more like ladybugs! Haha!) and some vegan "regular" marshmallows from Whole Foods.

For her PM class, the activities would include a candy hearts graphing activity, where the kids could eat the candy at the end, and cookie decorating.
Her PM teacher went above and beyond - she scratch-baked sugar cookies using real ingredients, and scratch-made frosting, to be safe for Z. Not only that, but she made another batch sugar-free for her morning class because one of the students is diabetic!
So I sent a little container with some natural pink jimmies sprinkles, and she already had a packet of Unreal 41 candies in her emergency treaties bag at school to eat instead of the candy hearts.

I would like to state for the record that when her lunch came home, all the peas had been eaten. That's right. She took time out of her busy cupcake, cookie, and treats-eating to go for the vegetables!  Her teacher tells me she does this fairly often. In fact, she'll usually eat the veggies before dessert, if I've packed one! *happy dance*
She ate a little more of her lunch in between schools, and then ate the rest as an afternoon snack. Not bad for a junk-filled day!

Tools of the Trade

Monday, February 25, 2013

MOMables Monday - Super Star "Lunchables"

DIY alternative healthy easy school work lunch bento stars
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Wednesday, 1/16/13 - I love our EasyLunchboxes for this style of lunch because there's enough room for everything, even with silicone muffin cups to keep everything separate! And although MOMables wasn't the first place I discovered that I could just make my own Lunchables-style cracker stackers, sifting through my menu and recipe ideas always reminds me that there's more to life than just sandwiches! (If you're interesed in trying the MOMables lunch menu and recipe planning service, you can click this link for a special offer discounted price!)
Raspberries, edamame w/carrots, mozzarella, cheddar, ham and turkey, Kashi crackers

I used a mini star cutter to cut everything into star shapes... mostly because it was the first cutter I found! The meat, cheddar, and mozzarella were kept apart using silicone star cups (mine came from China, via eBay,) but I put the crackers in a square muffin cup. They fit better that way.

For fun, I added some glitter star cupcake picks in with the fruit and veggies.

Strangely enough, my child has never asked for a Lunchable from the store! 

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

February 2013 Preschool Snacks - Week 2

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Afternoon Preschool Snacks; Monday, February 11 through Thursday, February 14

Clementine, TJ's cheese puffs
I sent a lonely little clementine orange - pre-peeled, since she has a hard time with that, and I already got it "started" for her by separating a few of the segments. I used a silicone muffin cup to help keep it together to look whole (she's weird about that kind of stuff sometimes) and stuck in a leaf pick for extra cuteness.

Trader Joes Tuesday
TJ's whole wheat Donut-O, TJ's movie butter popcorn, organic sugar snap peas... from Trader Joes.
At a recent trip to Trader Joe's, Z chose a small container of donut holes, and I was pleasantly surprised later to see that they were whole wheat and sweetened with grape juice. So I decided to let her have one as a special treatie in her snack. I put it in a star muffin cup to make the "dish" look full, so she wouldn't be upset about only getting one.
I balanced the "junk food" out with some organic sugar snap peas (also from Trader Joe's...) And then used some of their Movie Theater Butter popcorn as a "filler."

She gobbled down every last crumb.

Wednesday and Thursday
"Everything Bagel" pretzels, clementine
On Wednesday I had almost forgotten to pack a snack, so I threw this together on our way out the door. I had a suuuuper tiny clementine that fit nicely in a mini muffin cup, and then filled the rest of a Laptop Lunches small container with pretzel rings.

She didn't end up eating it, so I just sent it again for Thursday (Valentine's Day.) She didn't eat it then either... And then we had "Mid-Winter Break" all this week with no school, so I just found it in her snack bag, all moldy and gross. Doh!

Tools of the Trade