Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Lunchbox-Friendly Deconstructed Fried Rice Recipe

This lunch was sponsored by the American Egg Board.
I love anything quick and easy for lunch, especially if I can use ingredients prepped ahead in bulk for multiple meals. For this recipe, all you need is some cooked rice, hard boiled eggs, soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari soy sauce,) and frozen veggies. (And a chopped onion, which I don't bother with.) All of those can easily be bought or prepped ahead. I always like to make a big batch of rice once a week or so, freeze it into "pucks" in a silicone muffin pan, and pull them out to thaw and use as needed. Same with hard-boiled eggs. Boil or bake up a bunch at once, and use as needed throughout the week.

Lunchbox-Friendly Deconstructed Fried Rice
Serves 2-3

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium white or yellow onion, diced (optional)
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 cup frozen veggies (peas, corn, green beans, or a mix)
3 cups cooked rice (cold) [can sub cauliflower "rice"]
2-3 hard-boiled eggs, diced
1/4 c soy sauce or gluten-free tamari, divided
Ground black pepper (to taste)

In a 12" frying pan, heat oil over Medium to Medium High heat until hot but not smoking. Add chopped veggies (onion, celery, carrot) and saute until onions are transparent and carrots are crisp tender (about 5 minutes.)

Add frozen veggies and cook 1-2 minutes more until thawed.

Slowly mix in cooked rice until all ingredients are well blended. (If you prefer cooking the soy sauce into the dish, add it before the rice. Or add just a little now and send some in the lunch to be added later.)

Divide into 2-3 lunchboxes or plates, and evenly divide the chopped hard-boiled eggs over the top (fried rice should be cold or room temp when adding the eggs to pack for lunch. Can add eggs to hot rice if serving immediately.)
Serve with soy sauce (1-2 Tbsp per person) or send with soy sauce packets or fill your own sauce containers.

Notes: If your kids are like mine, they tend to eat around the veggies, Chopping them smaller makes them harder to avoid. This trick helps me add more veggies to my own diet as well! Takes more time, but I'm worth it! *wink*

Whenever I make rice, I always cook a blend of rice (jasmine, brown, wild, etc) with quinoa or buckwheat groats for an added nutritional punch. (The meal shown features brown and jasmine rice with white quinoa.) My kids are now used to a rainbow of different-looking and tasting dishes that I all call "rice," and don't even blink an eye anymore. Whenever we go out for Asian food and I order brown rice instead of white, our servers stare goggle-eyed as my kids eat it without complaint. Now to get them to eat their veggies...

You can prep the dish up to several days before, but wait to add the egg until you are packing the lunchbox (the night before or morning-of) or when you're ready to eat it.

My kids like adding soy sauce themselves, and love the little travel packets and "squeezy fish" versions that I send in their lunches. So I cook this without the soy sauce, for them to add later.

 [This post contains affiliate links.

Tools of the Trade

Friday, August 21, 2015

Disney "Descendants" Dolls and DVD Dinner Party!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #Disney #VillainDescendants #CollectiveBias
I've always been a "Well, yeah, but NOW what?" person at the end of a book or movie, so I'm a big fan of shows that expand upon the "happily ever after" and bring us the next generation of fairy tale characters! So when I saw previews for Disney's Descendants movie released July 31, I made sure my girls and I were ready to watch! It was a fun change for my kids to see characters delighting in being mean and evil - every kid WANTS to be selfish and ignore the rules! So it's exciting to live vicariously through the wicked protagonists as they discover they have a choice in who they really want to be. And just like every child, the descendants of the storybook villains are constantly faced with opportunities to make a better choice.
My kids also got to struggle to comprehend a different parenting dynamic with the Villains, where the parents were still attentive and present, but controlling and selfish; parents who did not love their children unconditionally. These will be some interesting themes to discuss further and explore through play.

When I went to Wal-Mart to buy some of the new fashion dolls, I made sure to grab the DVD and soundtrack as well! I may or may not have been seen listening and singing along to the soundtrack in my car even AFTER the kids had both been dropped off at school...

My 7-year-old prefers to read or play on her computer versus playing with dolls, but she loves looking at beautiful things, so kept her Audrey doll in the box to display on her bookshelves. My 3-year-old, however, was highly impatient to meet her new friends, and threw about five tantrums while we frantically tried to open her Evie and Mal doll packages fast enough! I only managed to convince her to wait to open so she could take photos with me by reminding her of the unboxing videos she likes to watch on her YouTube Kids app!

Now that we had the dolls and could watch the movie DVD any time we pleased, I decided it would be fun to have a little DVD party with some Descendants-themed foods to munch on while our new doll friends "watched" the movie with us... All the foods I came up with were quick and easy, but still super fun!

While Mal doesn't actually have a wand in the movie, her mother does, and the entire plot of the movie revolves around Mal stealing the Fairy Godmother's wand.

So for our movie-night snacks, Mal's "Magic Wands" are just three different colors of grapes on some fun fringed skewers. The purple, black, and green grape colors all go with Mal and her mother Maleficent's color schemes!

Luckily they were so fun to wave around that my kids didn't mind the loose connection to the character!

For Cruella's son Carlos, I was originally brainstorming ideas like half-and-half cake balls or "Cruella deVilsfood Cake." But then sanity returned and I realized that I had zero interest in baking! Then BOOM! It hit me! Pasta with olive "spots!" 

I just made a white cheddar macaroni and cheese (with gluten-free noodles and goat milk cheddar) and added some sliced black olives on top. It was such a big hit that my husband didn't actually wait for me to tell him it was okay to dig in... So my photo shoot came to an unexpected halt! Hahaha!

Z was torn between enjoying what would normally be a favorite food, and lamenting my choice of words. She was very sad about the poor spotted puppies that went into this dish...

For Jafar's son Jay, I made some "Prince Ali Kabob-wa" skewers. I had toyed with tying Iago's name in there, because of the chicken [parrot... chicken.. see where I'm going with this...] but opted not to traumatize my kids! Ha!

I had some leftover rotisserie chicken, so I just skewered some chunks of that along with some sweet gherkin pickles and whole kalamata olives, which my kids looooove! I would have included some cherry tomatoes and other veggies instead, and then served with a Ranch dipping sauce, but we were all out of fresh veggies!

Food on a stick - crazy easy, and extremely fun! Both my girls initially balked at these, despite them being loaded with two of their favorite foods. I put one on each of their plates and told them that they didn't have to eat them, and then we went to watch the movie. Both girls gobbled theirs down, and my oldest went back for seconds!
(If your kids are too young to be trusted with wooden skewers, try snipping off the pointed end after you've assembled your kabobs, or else try swizzle sticks instead!)

My 7-year-old liked the Evie doll best, but ended up choosing the Audrey Coronation doll because the dress and accessories were "prettier." I got them both anyway! Teehee!

These apple slices were not only super easy, but they were also addictively yummy! I melted some white chocolate chips with a little coconut oil to thin it out some, and then kind of flicked it onto the apple slices, since apparently it still wasn't thin enough to drizzle!

Of all the Descendants, I think I like Mal best, but that's probably because she was the main character, so we got to see more of her personality and personal journey to discover who she really wanted to be when she was finally on her own without her mother there to ensure that every action was done with an evil purpose. Plus her mother Maleficent was played by the very talented Kristen Chenoweth, one of my personal favorite actors. Mal's burgeoning magical powers are pretty cool too!
But my favorite villain of all-time has got to be Ursula. I love her deep rich voice and her swishy swirly movements, as well as her unwavering self-confidence. She also embraces who she is as a person [fish?] even though no one else likes her. I wonder what her kids would be like!

Who is YOUR favorite Disney villain?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Breakfast for Lunch? Egg-cellent!

Leftover pancakes and hard-boiled eggs make for an egg-cellent bento lunch!
This lunch was sponsored by the American Egg Board.
Making and freezing extra pancakes or waffles from a weekend breakfast not only makes for some time-saving options on a hectic weekday morning... But when paired with a healthy protein like a hard-boiled egg, they can make for a fun and easy lunch to help fuel your child through a long afternoon of learning!

Hard-boiled eggs are another great plan-ahead hack to make weekday lunches quick and easy! Boil up a bunch at once on the weekend (or whatever day you can squeeze in some weekly meal prep time,) and use them as-needed throughout the week!

Dye-free gummy "eggs," organic carrots, leftover GF pancake with maple syrup, 1/2 hard-boiled egg, raspberries
My grade-schooler does not eat a lot at lunchtime; both because she tends to be a slow eater, and also because she doesn't do well with time limits. So I tend to pack lighter for her than you'd expect for a First Grader. I saved the other half of her egg for an after-school snack!

The gummies were a sweet find [see what I did there?] by my friend at Eats Amazing in the UK who helps me find dye-free versions of the stuff we can't have here in the US, and they were perfect for a "breakfast" lunch! So I couldn't resist including them.

Leftover GF pancake w/maple syrup, hard-boiled egg;
organic carrots, tomatoes, raspberries
My 3-year-old, on the other hand, saves her bird-nibbling for breakfast and dinner, and tends to pack it away at lunch time. So she often gets as much or more food than her Big Sis! She got a whole pancake with maple syrup drizzled inside, just like her sister, but a whole hard-boiled egg (she lo-o-o-oves eggs!) and extra veggies.

Tools of the Trade
 [This post contains affiliate links.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

IFBC 2015 - Seattle in September!

It's almost time again for one of my favorite bloggery events of the year -  IFBC International Food Bloggers Conference! It's one of the few conferences that happens in my neck of the woods - usually I have to get on a plane and get a hotel room if I want to attend anything fun. I love that this event is not only close by, but also extremely relevant to me. It's not just a food expo. It's not just a general blogger conference. It's a food-filled event stuffed full of  blogger-friendly brands, and speakers and workshops with info and advice specific to food bloggers and food photography, writing about food and recipes, and how to help get our foodie voices heard!

[Disclaimer: I received a special discounted price in exchange for blogging about this event.]

Organized by and Zephyr Adventures, IFBC was the first-ever conference for food bloggers, back in May of 2009. They focus on three themes: Food, Writing, and Technology. This event will feature high-quality educational sessions, personal networking opportunities, and pretty much the best food and wine of any blogging conference! This will be their SEVENTH annual conference, in beautiful Seattle, Washington!
Last year was my first time going (it had sold out too fast the year before!) and boy, was it a treat! My hand was sore from taking notes, my phone so full of pictures from the presentations that I had to dump images of my kids to make more room, and my back was sore from lugging around all the goodies from the brands and sponsors each day! My sister watched the girls for me since Hubby was out of town that weekend, and she really enjoyed all the bonus gluten- and dairy-filled swag I passed her way!
These were just the take-home goodies from the FIRST night!
AFTER I culled all the stuff for my sister!
And I was so stuffed full of safe-for-me (GF/DF) options at the breakfasts, lunches, and receptions (included for all conference attendees) that I only had to venture out twice over the three days for supplemental meals!

Excited yet? Here’s a sneak peek at who’s speaking and leading hands-on workshops this time:
  • Kim Severson (Keynote Speaker): Award-winning food journalist and author
  • Renowned food photographers Christopher Testani and Todd Coleman
  • Andie MitchellThe New York Times best-selling author and blogger
  • Award-winning blogger/photographer Aran Goyoaga, Cannelle et Vanille
Plus, exciting workshops such as:
  • Intro to Blogging, a 3-hour pre-conference session focused on making the most out of Wordpress (i.e choosing and customizing a theme), demystifying search engine optimization (what is it and how does it work?), and a primer on content and marketing
  • Basic and Advanced Photography Sessions
  • Sparkling Wine and Food Pairing
  • Working With and Pitching To Editors
  • Editorial Calendars and Marketing Your Content and Blog
  • Developing Your Personal Narrative
  • And More! Check out the full agenda here.
And, as with every IFBC, attendees will enjoy two nights of amazing food, wine, cocktails and gifts from generous sponsors. How do fresh oysters on the half shell sound? You'll also enjoy gourmet food from some of the best restaurants in town, artisan salumi (from Mario Batali’s dad!), hand-crafted ice cream…and that’s just the beginning!

For anyone who's interested in finding out more for this year or maybe next, be sure to go to the website and register now and be sure to sign up for the mailing list! (On the right sidebar, scroll down a bit.)
IFBC 2015 When: September 18-20
Where: Seattle Sheraton
Registration: $195 for active bloggers/$495 non-blogger participants