Monday, May 31, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday, Again!

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

I know, I know, it's not exactly a bento, but it give me a chance to play with our food (again) and sometimes mess around with ideas that may or may not work in a true bento box.

This week, there was no official theme for Muffin Tin Monday, but I like themes, so we had to choose our own and chose BEARS. I like bears and well, I have bear shaped lunch accessories!

The top row includes:
Bear shaped turkey & cheese sandwiches on Nature's Own Honey Wheat bread
Bear shaped hard boiled egg (I need bigger eggs, his ears didn't quite make it)
Sleepy bear cucumber with carrots underneath

The bottom row has:
Bear shaped zucchini spice cookie
Mixed "bear"ies! (LOL, I do amuse myself!)
Sweet potato mini cupcake with a bear pick to match

The bear pick in the cupcake is one of my bento-ish finds from the Dollar Tree. They are baby shower cupcake picks in a variety of colors, something like 24 bears for $1, and they make great kebab sticks or food picks. They aren't with the food stuff, but with the party decorations, so it might be worth a look if you have a store nearby.

Be sure to check out Muffin Tin Monday for other fun lunches. I simply love seeing the other lunches!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Simple Bento for Sunday

Ben wanted a bento for lunch and I obliged. This one is very very simple, with minimal creative aspects, just cutting/slicing the food to fit!

Benjamin has a turkey & cheese sandwich on Nature's Own Multigrain Sandwich Thins (yes, I'm still extolling the virtues of this bread, we love it!). I quartered the sandwich so it fit better into the box, but nothing fancy with it. It's topped with 2 marble cheese stars, my only foray into "work" other than actually making the meal today. There is a bunny shaped hard-boiled egg in the center, but those aren't really work, just peel sooner than later. ;o) He has sliced strawberries, fresh blackberries, and baby carrots to fill in all the gaps.

Simple, healthy, and seriously no longer than making a regular lunch on a plate! I still would have had to slice, cut & prep all the food the same way to put it on a plate or in baggies. :o)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Weekend Bento

Usually we don't do bentos on the weekend, but we had some new items & some leftovers that are photo-worthy.

Both kids had bentos, but Ben was eating his by the time I finished taking a picture of Faith's so pretend there are two of these here!

The kids had:
Cream cheese & strawberry jam sandwiches on Nature's Own Multigrain Sandwich Rounds topped with cheese animals (Faith had giraffes, Ben had bears)
2 happy eggs halves, leftover from Ben's preschool picnic
Celery & carrot sticks, and cucumber flowers for Faith
Sweet Potato Cupcake with cream cheese icing and a few sprinkles
All packed in their EasyLunchboxes!

Minimal work for me, the eggs & cupcakes were already made and the watermelon & veggies were already chopped in containers in the fridge. Just had to make the sandwich and cut out a couple of cheese animals. Bentos don't have to be time consuming!

I think I am going to add this one to KidsDreamWork's "Happy & Healthy" contest. I know it's healthy (even the cupcake is homemade with sweet potato) and the kissing giraffes and smiling eggs make me happy. :o)

Bento Desserts Part 2 - Sweet Potato Muffin Cupcakes

Yesterday afternoon, I decided to start an experiment to find lovely, yummy, and with a bit of nutrition in them, bento desserts. The first effort yielded the zucchini spice cookies.

I also had one last lonely sweet potato sitting on my kitchen counter. Now, I did remember that sweet potato kind of tastes like pumpkin in the pie form, but pies don't fit well in bentos. So what else would work? Regular muffins & breads, of course, but that still wasn't what I wanted.

Enter Sweet Potato Muffin/Cupcakes!

They are mini-cupcakes/muffins but topped with a bit of cream cheese icing and a few sprinkles for color, just the perfect size for a bento, or for little hands.

Another success! The little bit of cream cheese icing helped give it more of a cupcake feel than a muffin feel and both Faith & Shaun said it seemed like a pumpkin cupcake. Ben had nothing else to share, but he ate 2, so I will take that as a "he liked it".

Sweet Potato Muffin/Cupcakes:
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups peeled finely shredded sweet potato

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in egg and vanilla until well blended.
Mix together dry ingredients, add to butter mixture, then add milk. Mix until light moistened.
Stir in sweet potato, mix well.
Spoon into muffin papers or greased muffin tin.
Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into muffin comes out clean.

My note - I cooled these, then iced with a cream cheese icing. They are good plain, but the cream cheese icing made them better.

We got 2 dozen mini muffins, plus 2 regular size ones from this batch.

Our bento dessert experiment will continue soon, after we've eaten some of the last two days worth of food. :o)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Bento Desserts Part 1 - Zucchini Spice Cookies

I was reading an article a few weeks ago, talking about kids & desserts. Yes desserts, no desserts, moderate desserts, etc. This, of course, got me thinking about lunches & bentos and what desserts would be good in a bento.

Since part of the appeal of a bento is portion size & health, the meal kind of loses something when you throw in a Twinkie. Add in the fact that said Twinkie is probably wrapped in individually sold plastic wrappers, you've just lost the environmental angle too. Now personally? I really happen to like Twinkies but I'm not entirely sure they even constitute food and I'd kind of like the kids to eat something just a little bit better than that.

So armed with Google & a kitchen of supplies, we started experimenting with desserts that at least have a few redeeming qualities to them (veggies, fruit, ingredient lists that aren't 50 items long with chemical names). Why veggies/fruit in desserts? Why not if it tastes good? We're not using it in lieu of real veggies, but it can't hurt to have a little extra veggies along the way.

First up, zucchini spice cookies! Why zucchini? Shaun asked that too. It's really no special reason, just that I had two zucchinis on the counter that desperately needed to be cooked.

They actually are pretty good. The kids know what's in them (they like zucchini) and, coupled with Shaun, were more than willing to be taste testers. They've had three each so far, so I assume they enjoy them. Shaun thinks they seem more like cake-like than cookie and the cookies reminded him of muffins I made a few weeks ago from this recipe. I think they are kind of reminiscent of an oatmeal cookie but without the oatmeal. Must be the raisins.

We both think that a cup of raisins is a few too many raisins for the grownups; F&B liked all the raisins. All of us are interested in trying them again with chocolate chips instead. (Remember, I said desserts with a few redeeming qualities, I didn't say chocolate was out!)\

Today's recipe:

Zucchini Spice Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup grated zucchini
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup raisins

Cream together butter & sugar, beat in egg, add zucchini & mix well.
Combine dry ingredients, add into the zucchini mixture.
Add raisins & mix well.
Cover dough & chill for at least an hour.
Drop dough on a greased cookie sheet by the teaspoon.
Bake at 375 for 10 minutes or until set.

My one note - 10 minutes was not a long enough baking time, at least in my oven. Mine were probably 15-18 minutes before they set well.

We got about 30 larger cookies from this!

I also added a "dessert" tag on the left (and to this post) to tag our bento dessert experiments. There are a few from the past as well to check out. All better than a Twinkie. ;o)

Also adding this to the Food Revolution Friday linkie.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gluten Free Bentos - a guest post

I've had a few comments & emails asking about gluten-free ideas for bentos. Only one slight problem, we aren't gluten free, and I'm basically thinking "Fruit? Meat?" ;o)

So instead, I turn to brilliant friends who came to my rescue with pictures, links and recipes for a gluten free lunch for her kids.

My friend Stephanie is a thyroid cancer survivor with two kids, ages 10.5 & 8. She is also finishing up her course of study to be a doctor of naturopathy. Her family is gluten-free and tries to use organic ingredients where possible.

Lunch for her daughter & son includes:
Applesauce spice bread, subbing in Pamela's Baking & Pancake Mix for the flour
Fresh blueberries & strawberries
Gluten free pretzels by Glutino
Trail mix from Costco (left)
Wheat free honey roasted peanuts (right)
Cheese cubes (right), cheese stick (left)

It's all packed in Laptop Lunch cases, so it's nice & environmentally friendly, as well as gluten-free.

Stephanie has all sorts of kid-tested gluten-free recipes on her blog to help other families who are going gluten-free. I invite you to visit her and check out some of her ideas for help if you are looking for gluten-free lunches.

Last Day of Preschool Picnic!

It's a potluck picnic, so we only need to bring water bottles & an item to share.

And of course, it had to be cute!

24 happy little eggs, what do you think?

All the faces are made with cucumber, red lettuce and/or carrots. Ben is quite happy, hoping his preschool teachers will be amused too.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Preschool Bento #51 - Fish in the Sea

Today is Mr. Ben's last day of preschool. :o( We are really going to miss his teacher & this program. Faith went through it as well and we absolutely love it.

Since it's his last day, he needed a really cute bento. I love that his student teachers are intrigued with them too, so I hate to disappoint. I boiled eggs last night, so we opted for an "under the sea" theme today!

Ben has a hard-boiled egg, shaped like a fish. Said fishie is sitting in a sea of pasta salad (yes, I dyed the pasta blue). There are peas, a sprinkle of cheese and a bit of ranch dressing in the salad, and star fish carrots to make it cuter!

I was about to make cookies too, but the recipe requires the dough to chill and I don't have enough time to do both. Cookie post later today!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesday Night Taekwondo Bentos

Once again, Tuesday night is taekwondo night at our house. I've decided that it's definitely cheaper & healthier to bring dinner for the kids to eat during the grown up class.

Since we've been home for most of the day, it was easy enough to go ahead and premake some cute stuff (and blog it)!

Faith has a smiling ham & cheese sandwich on Nature's Own Multigrain Sandwich Rounds (I am in love with this bread, it's also lovely in lieu of hamburger buns). Underneath that, she has a cow shaped egg, some carrot, celery & cucumber stars, and a little container with ranch dip. On the right, she has a piece of blueberry bread, and under that is a fruit salad with watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, strawberries & pineapple.

Mr. Ben has essentially the same thing, but no cucumber stars (he doesn't care for cucumber) and he wanted the piggie shaped boiled egg.

It's all packed in their EasyLunchboxes, so I just need to put those in a cooler, have them fill their water bottles, and we'll be all set for dinner!

Samosa Recipe from Yesterday

Tell me these don't look yummy!

They're actually sliced in half for the picture. Of course, the one I chose to slice in half seems to have very little of the peas & carrots and most of the potatoes, but you get the general idea. I deviated a bit from the recipe my friend sent me since I wanted carrots too, a bit less onion and wanted to add garlic.

Vegetarian Samosas:
2-3 baking potatoes, peeled, diced & boiled
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup frozen peas & carrots
2 tbsp oil
1-2 tsp yellow curry powder (I used 2, we like mild curry)
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt & pepper to taste
Phyllo dough

Peel and dice the potatoes very small, bring to a boil and simmer till cooked.
Saute the onion & garlic in the oil, add curry powder.
Add potatoes, mix well.
Add peas, carrots, lemon juice & seasonings. Stir well to mix curry/oil with veggies until coated.

[Now, the original recipe called for some kind of dough. Since I didn't know what exactly that was, and my kids like the flaky pastry type dough, I used phyllo dough.]

Fold each sheet of phyllo in thirds lengthwise.
Place a teaspoon or two of potato mixture in the bottom left corner and fold up into a triangle. Keep folding it up and back to make little triangles of dough, like this.
Use a bit of water on the end to seal it and place on a cookie sheet (mine are non-stick, you may want some kind of parchment paper).
Bake triangles at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, flip over and bake for another 10 minutes.

We had some immediately and refrigerated the rest. Reheating seemed to work best in the toaster oven to make the pastry crispy again.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Preschool Bento #50 - Simply Samosas!

Samosas have been on my want-to-make list for ages now. However, there are many many recipes online and I'm not exactly well-versed in Indian cuisine, especially not to decide which one looks good.

Thankfully, my friend Robin came to the rescue and sent me a perfect recipe to try, made with yellow curry, potatoes, carrots & peas. They were quite the success with F&B and actually reminded me of an appetizer at our favorite Thai place.

For snack today, Ben took two samosas, topped with an elephant piece of cheese (elephants are Indian, right?), and a few grapes. Lots of veggies in the samosas, and the boy ate a huge bowl of watermelon right before preschool, so I'm not too worried about the low level of fruit today.

Not Quite a Bento, Muffin Tin Monday

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

We haven't actually done Muffin Tin Monday since last summer, but I'm not sure why. I showed it to Faith yesterday and she thought we should start doing it again.

Since they have to eat anyhow, and muffin tins are dishwasher safe, why not? This week, the theme was "Seeds, Plants, & Flowers". We just did an awesome flower bento, so I borrowed a fair number of those ideas.

The top row holds:
2 flower shaped ham sandwiches topped with a cheese flower, cucumber flowers topped with carrots, celery with cream cheese & flower carrot decorations.

The bottom row holds:
Watermelon chunks with a few cantaloupe flowers, cantaloupe chunks with strawberry flowers, and two blueberry muffin bread flowers.

Faith was happy & Ben just wanted a bowl of watermelon. Easy enough.

Snack bentos on the way soon, they are stuffed with yesterday's samosas!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

CSN Giveaway Winner!

Here we go again, winner #3 is ready!

All entries went into my cute little Excel sheet, and Random.Org drew me a number.

It's comment #65 - Mom to Boo & Roo!

Congratulations! Email me at scarino @ gmail with an email address so CSN can send you the email code for your gift card! :o)

Thanks for playing everyone! Hoping to have a few more fun giveaways soon. If you have any ideas or know someone who'd like to sponsor a giveaway, let me know?

Friday, May 21, 2010

And a Star Bento for Ben

Obviously, Faith had her flower bento last night, but I couldn't not let Ben have something equally cute. A sandwich & some fruit was not going to cut it when his sister had everything shaped like flowers.

On the plus side, I did get to give them basically the same food, just presented a bit differently.

Ben's theme was "Stars". :o)

Ben had cream cheese and strawberry jam stars on Nature's Own Honey Wheat. I didn't make them two-toned, we were out of the whole wheat bread. Instead, they are topped with smaller marble cheese stars and even smaller carrot stars. He also had celery stuffed with cream cheese and topped with more carrot stars. For fruit, Ben had strawberry & cantaloupe chunk (not visible), green grapes (kind of visible) and a few strawberry & cantaloupe stars to make it pretty! I was a little tired of making inside out fruit shapes, considering I had cut the regular fruit into bite sized pieces & had to dig through the containers to find any piece big enough to shape. For his sweet, Ben also had one of the fresh berry muffins, topped with (you guessed it) another star, strawberry this time.

His is packed up in another of our EasyLunchboxes. I can fit two of them in one of the coolers and still have room for drinks, napkins and silverware.

And in case you're curious, Ben was quite happy with this!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Flower Bento for Faith

I really wanted to enter the BOMB contest on HapaBento, and Faith needed a light dinner for after taekwondo tonight, so we both win!

This month, the theme is "flowers".

Miss Faith has cream cheese & strawberry jam flower sandwiches topped with carrot flowers. I used the last of the whole wheat bread and the first of the honey wheat bread to get the two-tone effect (one slice each, cut and flip!). She also has flower stems made out of celery sticks, cucumber & carrot inside out flowers, a couple of cheese & carrot flowers, and a stick of fruit flowers, on lettuce "grass".

Next, she has strawberry slices (not visible at the bottom of the fruit section), cantaloupe chunks, then strawberry & cantaloupe inside out flowers. For a treat, she has a homemade fresh berry muffin, topped with a strawberry flower. Had to carry the theme all the way through.

It's packed up in our EasyLunchbox which we're finding works really well with fresh fruit. Nothing else is soggy!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Preschool Bento #49 - Mice & Muffins!

Today is Ben's second to last week of preschool. He told me on the weekend that his student teachers (it's a co-op preschool in conjunction with a high school) wanted to see pictures of his lunches because they want to make them too!

So of course, we needed an extra cute lunch today to share with them.

Mr. Ben had a mouse egg (similar to our chickie eggs, deviled egg with carrot ears & cucumber face), some carrot sticks and chunks of cheese. The other side of the box hold grapes, strawberry/cantaloupe inside out flowers, and a homemade fresh berry muffin that we made this morning. The muffins turned out so good! Chunks of fresh strawberries, blackberries & raspberries. Thankfully, it yielded 24 mini-muffins and 9 big ones, they'll go quick around here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Preschool Bento #48 - Kitty Egg & Sandwich Rolls

Back to school Monday for Mr. Ben! Mondays are my crazy days--normally we leave around 12:30 and I don't make it home other than 10 minutes at 4ish and 10 minutes at 6ish. However, this Monday, we added on a morning coffee time with a sweet friend & her daughter, so the one smart thing I did was make Ben's snack last night.

Benjamin had turkey & cheese sandwich rolls (or as Faith still calls it "faux sushi", yes that's Faith's very first bento linked, back in June 2007!) on Nature's Own Wheat Bread, half a boiled egg decorated with a bit of cucumber to look like a kitty, a few carrot pieces for stability, grapes & strawberries.

A few observations--sandwich rolls work a lot better if you roll them up, put a bit of wrap around them and stick them in the fridge for a few hours. They sliced up so much better than a fresh piece of bread. I also use a rolling pin to flatten the bread which helps it roll out, and microwave it for maybe 10 seconds to soften in first.

Now, since Ben had a kitty egg, I couldn't leave Faith out, and I did have the other half of the boiled egg to work with ...

She got a bunny!

He's basically the same as the kitty, but where the kitty got cucumber pointy ears, the bunny got baby carrot fluffy ears. The eyes & nose are a teeny cookie cutter, but I think a straw would work too. The mouths are the edge of a heart cookie cutter, pressed out twice to make the shape.

I'm loving these two eggs, so cute!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Kitty Sandwiches for Faith!

We needed a cute quick picnic lunch today so of course, it's bento time!

Faith had two kitty sandwiches (Nature's Own Whole Wheat Bread, turkey, cheese) with cucumber features, a cheese bow and a carrot fishie! She also had cucumber stars, mixed fruits (strawberries, grapes, cantaloupes & blackberries) and a mini vanilla cupcake. It's packed in our EasyLunchboxes since two of those fit in their cooler with drinks. There's a link on the sidebar if you'd like to order your own set too.

I'm loving my mini-muffin pan lately. It's the perfect size for F&B treats without giving them too much of a sweet. We're going to make some berry muffins later on and another batch of mini cupcakes since I have icing opened.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bento Soup!

We were all set for a bento with soup yesterday. It was pouring rain in Dallas and dropped to the 60s, which made it perfect weather for a good bowl of soup.

We also have these adorable containers, so we could take our soup with us on the go to taekwondo.

However, round about 4pm, the kids taekwondo instructor called us to tell us he lost power in the building so he was cancelling classes that night. So no soup bentos, but we had soup in a bowl instead. ;o)

Faith was so excited to make the soup, it's veggie lentil and she got to basically make it herself! Other than turning on the stove and bringing the water to a boil, my little chef did the work on her own!

She chopped the zucchini:

Added the garlic, onions & lentils:

Chopped the green beans & tomatoes:

Added a few more spices, bouillon and stirred:

And tada! Lentil soup, a la Faith.

She told me she might want to be a chef when she grows up, "just like at the Olive Garden!" I was holding out for something a little more famous than that. ;o)

Both kiddos are looking forward to official soup bentos, but I saw no reason to use thermoses when I own dishwasher safe bowls.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sweet Potato-Zucchini Croquette & Turkey-Apple-Carrot Meatballs {Recipes}

Faith wanted a bento yesterday too, so she took the same thing as her brother. Again, not our prettiest effort ever, but both kids really enjoyed helping out in the kitchen. They really like to cook, and I love showing them that the food is healthy & still good tasting!

On the left, we have a sweet potato-zucchini croquette, topped with a marble cheese turtle. On the right, we have four turkey meat "blobs" with apples & carrots. They should be meat "balls", but when your sous-chefs are 7 & 4, meat "blobs" are what you sometimes get. :o)

Sweet Potato-Zucchini Croquette:
1 medium sized sweet potato, washed, peeled & shredded
1 medium zucchini, shredded
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp finely minced onions
1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten
pat of butter for cooking

Peel & grate the sweet potato, grate the zucchini (with peel), into a mixing bowl.
Add garlic, onion, breadcrumbs & cheese, mix well.
Beat egg slightly and mix into shredded veggies till well coated.
Roll small scoops (golf ball size maybe?) into balls and flatten into patties.
Cook in pat of butter over low heat till both sides are brown & crisp.
Set on paper towel to drain if desired (I so prefer this).

Turkey-Apple-Carrot Meatballs:
1/2lb ground turkey
1 apple, shredded
4-5 baby carrots, shredded
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp finely minced onions
1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
pat of butter for cooking

Shred the apple & carrots, set into mixing bowl.
Add ground turkey & mix well.
Add seasonings & breadcrumbs, mix well again.
Add egg, mix well again.
Roll into small meatballs, set aside.
Preheat skillet with pat of butter, then add meatballs.
Cover and cook on low, turning the meatballs every little while.
When done, set to drain on a paper towel (again, we prefer this!).

Side note, turkey will burn quicker than ground beef and has less natural fats so it will stick to the pan if you aren't careful!

F&B liked both of these. The turkey meatballs were slightly sweet and very moist. F also preferred the sweet potato croquettes to the regular ones, B couldn't tell the difference.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Preschool Bento #47 - Turkey-Apple Meatballs & Sweet Potato Croquettes

This may not be the prettiest bento we've ever made, but F&B really had a good time creating it all. We were all up a bit early this morning, so figured it was a good day to cook some goodies for preschool. I've had a couple of recipes I've wanted to try and the kids were all set on helping out.

We made sweet potato & zucchini croquettes and turkey-apple-carrot meatballs. F&B even rolled out the meatballs, which are why they are more blobby and less round. On the other hand, they are so thrilled to help make things, the appearance doesn't matter!

For preschool, Mr. Ben took one croquette, topped with a "Peanut" shaped cheese, and 4 meatballs with "Peanut" picks. If you haven't read of his elephant fascination, all elephants are "Peanuts" which is the name of 3 of his 4 stuffed elephants (we have big Peanut, little Peanut, medium Peanut, and Duncan).

Got to run, tutoring for me, then church for F&B, so I'll post recipes later. Both the croquettes & the meatballs are amazingly yummy!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Simple Dinner Bento

We're still trying to figure out a rhythm to taekwondo nights that means everyone gets dinner and it's not from the drive-thru at our friendly neighborhood Taco Bell.

Our new thought is to have a big late lunch at home, then take a light dinner for the kids to our martial arts class. They take class first, then they can eat while Shaun & I take class.

We tried that tonight--had lasagna, rolls & salad for a later lunch/early dinner (around 3pm), then brought these for the kiddos for an extra meal around 6:30ish.

Both kids had an egg salad sandwich in the shape of a duck (cucumber eye, carrot beak, of course), and cantaloupe, pineapple and the rest of the honeydew. They like a simple egg salad, just boiled eggs and a bit of mayo, and I'm pleased to report that we are finally switched over to a much better bread! It's been a long transition from regular grocery store white bread, to Nature's Own White Wheat, to Nature's Own Honey Wheat, to Nature's Own 100% Whole Wheat. Not sure if we want to go one more step with the whole grains yet, I might just enjoy the fact that they'll now eat wheat bread (even Shaun!).

These boxes have a dome-shaped lid, almost triangular that go on top of the white part holding the sandwich and the white part sets on top of the blue compartment holding the fruit. They do need to be secured with a band if you overpack the fruit. ;o)

We're getting low on fruit again too, thankfully the new grocery store ads start tomorrow!

Oh, and *Jamie Oliver* commented on my Twitter earlier and is now following me! How cool is that???

Preschool Bento #46 - Pierogi & Tomato-Red Pepper Dip

Preschool Monday was yesterday, but some of us came home with a headache. After managing to tutor 8th grade math for an hour and a half, then attend a kindergarten orientation, some of us went to bed at 7pm. On the plus side? No headache this morning!

Pre-headache, I decided to experiment a little and cooked up some pierogis for the kids. Now, they aren't as good as my mom's, but they'll do!

Mr. Ben took one cheese & one potato pierogi, with blackberries & grapes, and a little container of homemade dip for the pierogis.

What kind of dip, you may be wondering? So glad you asked! ;o)

It's a combination of fresh roasted red peppers & tomatoes with cream cheese and is so yummy! It's a bit liquidy above, from running through the food processor, but it thickened back up once it was in the fridge again. The kids have decided it's good with crackers & bread, with carrots/cucumber/celery, and with the pierogis.

(BTW, that is my mini-chopper which is possibly my favorite kitchen gadget of all times! I use it constantly.)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

And the winner is ...

Side note, next time I have a giveaway, someone remind me to type in the entries into Excel *before* the night I need to do the giveaway? 320-something entries is a lot to type and some of us are prone to making mistakes and realizing that their spreadsheet has more (or less) entries than the actual blog.

Anyhow ...

Back to and tonight's random number generation ...

Entry #157 which, by my calculations, is Carol Amie! Congratulations!

Email me at scarino @ gmail and we can get this rolling (EasyLunchboxes will ship directly to you, no need to route it through Dallas first!).

If you didn't win and you'd still like to order a set for yourself, we are linked up with Kelly to offer Easy Lunchboxes to our readers! Just click the logo on the right and it will take you right to her site!

As well, enter the code GREENIT at the checkout for an additional 10% off! EasyLunchboxes is proud to be a Participating Company of the Green My Lunchbox Campaign, a national campaign asking 15,000 families to pledge to pack a waste-free lunch to eliminate 1 million pounds of waste going to landfills. The estimate from the EPA is that on average a school-age child using a disposable lunch generates 67 pounds of waste per school year.

We already do this, but wouldn't it be a great thing to start at your kids' schools next year? (Yes, I have my own plans too!!!)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Potato Croquette Experiment from Wednesday

Let's pretend, shall we, that I knew what I was doing, so I used my nice pretty red frying pans instead of my old icky ones. I always use my old icky one for experiments because if they don't go well, I won't feel badly about ruining the nice pretty red ones.

But, the potato croquette experiment was a success! Next time, we're going to try some with sweet potato too.

Don't they look good?

Recipe is basically as follows:

1 medium white potato, peeled & grated, then pressed through a strainer to remove extra water
1 zucchini, grated but not peeled
5-6 baby carrots, grated
1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1/4 bread crumbs (I used Italian seasoned ones)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 egg, well beaten (to hold it all together)

Shred veggies, press as much water as you can out of the potatoes and zucchini
Combine veggies, cheese, then breadcrumbs and seasoning
Beat in egg and mix well
Form into balls and flatten slightly into a patty
Cook over low heat in a tbsp or so of melted butter, turning frequently to ensure potatoes cook through and outsides are crispy & brown

The kids & Shaun had some immediately, then F&B each had one cool later. They are apparently still good cold.

They also were quite the darling preschool snack for Mr. Ben, just topped with a cute cheesy decoration.

Don't forget, the Easy Lunchbox Giveaway closes Sunday!!!

Adding this post to Food Revolution Friday, definitely enjoying the reads on there, lots of food for thought, no pun intended!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Preschool Bento #45 - Potato Croquette, sort of!

Ever read/see something and think "I could do that"? I was reading something last night and saw a mention of potato croquettes. Which, of course, got me thinking "I could do that!"

So I did. :o) Got up this morning, realized I actually still had potatoes in the pantry and made a test batch to see if what I had in my head could actually translate to a plate.

It's a combo of shredded potato (1, normal sized, peeled), about 3/4 of a small zucchini (also shredded), 4 or 5 baby carrots (shredded), a small handful of bread crumbs, the last of the shredded sharp cheddar, and a beaten egg to bind it all together. I rolled them into balls, then flattened those, then pan fried them in just a dab of butter. F&B were quite taken with them (Shaun liked them too, so always a bonus!).

Since I made 5, Mr. Ben got an extra in his lunch. He had a potato croquette, with a cheese bear on top, and a container with ranch for dipping (trying to find the perfect sauce is next). The other side holds pineapple, honeydew, cantaloupe, strawberries & blackberries. The boy likes his fruit!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Giveaway #2 - Easy Lunchbox Set

I'm really excited for giveaway #2!

Kelly from Easy Lunchboxes offered to send us a set to try out and see what we thought. Since we're quite big on trying new bentos, we jumped at the chance. I love the idea of a larger bento, since sometimes, we just need more food for things and the fact that the compartments are separate so certain foods can be kept away from others (no one like soggy crackers!).

We've tried a couple of meals so far in them--the mouse wraps the other day and last night's taekwondo bentos. F&B were able to open them without a problem and the plastic lids & containers are much sturdier than disposable ones. Even better, they are dishwasher and microwave safe! That's actually one of my biggest complaints about traditional bentos, I prefer everything to go in the dishwasher. Ben actually chose the olive green bag above and we were able to stack two containers in it, plus drinks. I also tried an empty third container and discovered that you could stack three, without drinks, in the cooler.

F&B also liked the choice of lid colors, which seem really handy for variations in lunches. In our house, only B likes blackberries and only F likes cucumbers, so they often have almost-identical lunches. It's definitely better to be able to tell at a glance whose is whose without opening boxes.

There are five colors for coolers as well. After some debate, F&B chose olive green, as long as I promised to order a second one later on. F wants purple, but I wanted one that either could use, for now (and I like green!). :o)

Kelly was kind enough to offer a set for one of my readers, so I bring you, giveaway #2! Would you like to win a set of boxes and a cooler for your own use?

Click here for the giveaway!

Lunches on the News Last Night

For those not in Dallas (or even those who are), Channel 8 took another look at the whole "Food Revolution", but what's in the bag, versus what's on the cafeteria tray.

Sad to say, a lot of it isn't much better. :o(

The food isn't very healthy and the sheer amount of prepackaged items and the resulting trash is disheartening. We don't only use bento for health, I like the fact that we are not contributing to the garbage & landfill problem in the country. I'm also floored at the lack of fruits/veggies. I would think, if you are packing a lunch, you should be able to send your child the fruit he/she will eat?

So what do you all think? I'm still processing it all and wondering what next year will be like for F&B.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tonight's Taekwondo Bentos

Monday's are our crazy days. Ben has preschool from 1pm till 3:30pm, which means we are out of our house from about 12:30 to 4ish. I get home and immediately leave to go tutor an 8th grader (who thankfully lives close enough that a 30 minute turn around time is enough). I tutor from 4:30 - 6pm. The kids take taekwondo at 6:15pm, so they head over with Shaun and I meet the 3 of them at the class. They finish at 7:15 and the adult class is from 7:15 - 8:15. If we are lucky, we make it back to our house by 8:45.

Needless to say, warm, home-cooked nutritious dinners don't happen on Mondays, unless, of course, you consider the people working at the drive-thru part of your home. The next best thing I could figure out was homemade bentos so the kiddos could eat while Shaun & I were in our class.

Tonight, our taekwondo bentos featured:
  • a cream-cheese & strawberry jam pocket sandwich on honey-wheat bread (made with my very cool Pampered Chef pocket sandwich maker)
  • a shaped boiled egg (this is Faith's so a bunny with cucumber features, Ben had a bear)
  • cucumber slices, celery sticks & baby carrots with a little container of ranch dressing
  • honeydew, cantaloupe, pineapple & strawberries
  • a mini 3Day cupcake & a mini cheeseburger cookie from yesterday's bake sale. My friend Jackie made the cupcakes and Faith made the cheeseburger cookies to help out!
These are packed in our new Easy Lunchboxes and I was quite happy to figure out that two of them fit in the cooler! I'm giving away a set of these (4 boxes plus a cooler) later this week, so be sure to watch for it!

Preschool Bento #44 - Of Mice & Fruit

Because "Of Mice & Men" would be awfully icky for lunch. :o)

Back to school for Mr. Ben this afternoon! He was thoroughly entranced with the mouse-wraps we made last week, so I made him another one for today.

Side note, since people have asked about box space/lids, the mouse-wrap was pushed back into the box after the picture, you just couldn't see his face unless he was propped up. :o) The lid fits pretty well on this box, so there isn't much shifting of the contents from side to side.

Mr. Ben has a mouse-wrap of tuna salad on multi grain tortilla with carrot/cucumber decorations, and a fruit salad with pineapple, honeydew and a nice plump blackberry for color!

We may have another bento for tonight. All four of us have taekwondo (kids first, then adults), so I'm thinking F&B need to bring bentos and eat dinner there.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Cute Yummy Time Winner

Home from a busy day today. F&B and I helped out at my friends' bake sale for the Komen 3Day (go Lynds & Jackie!), then we had life group, so I'm finally officially home.

I plugged all the comments into my handy dandy spreadsheet. OK, it's really just an Excel page with everyone's name/login name so I can figure out who won. Headed over to, plugged in the numbers, and the winner is ...

#58 - Darlene!

Darlene, email me at scarino @ gmail . com and I will get your book out to you asap!

Another giveaway is coming up this week, so check back soon! It's a great bento set and cooler, courtesy of EasyLunchboxes.

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