Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

To those of you who have chosen to spend your free time following my blog (ha!), I want to wish you a blessed and Merry Christmas!  Make time this year to celebrate the the One for whom this holiday is all about - Jesus.

Happy Birthday, Jesus!


Saturday, December 18, 2010

ANOTHER cold, rainy Saturday...

I think this is what the weather is going to do every weekend until the new year here in SE GA.  I'm really bummed about it.  So, in my misery ;) I made lunch bentos!  Well, sort of.  I put them on divided plates, but this is all stuff I'd put into a bento box if I wanted to go that far.  Do these count as bento? 

Counterclockwise from bottom left:
Meat and cheese roll ups with veggie cream cheese
Carrots and cucumber with ranch
bananas, strawberries and grapes
Asher has veggie straws, Timothy has pretzel grids.
Snowflake and star sugar decorations

As of right now, the fruit is gone, the sugar decor is gone (of course), and the pretzels and veggie straws are gone.  Trying to get them to eat their roll ups and raw veggies are a challenge some days.  :)


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Last day of preschool snack bento

Tomorrow is the last day of preschool for Timothy before Christmas break.  His teachers asked that we bring a 'good snack' for him as they're going to have meat and cheese trays, etc, after the school's Christmas program.  No childcare for younger siblings, so we'll see how long Asher and I last at this thing.  :)

Anyway, since I had to send something, might as well be a bento, right?  Timothy's teachers comment so often on his lunches.  "His are so cute!"  "You must get up at 5 to do these, right?"  "We're always excited to see what fun thing he has each day!"  Makes me proud.  :)

Snack bento for Thursday in our new LunchBot Pico box!

Angel hair pasta with butter and parmesan cheese
bologna snowman with cheddar hat, cucumber eyes, carrot nose and red pepper mouth
and mini chocolate chips for buttons
clementine segments and blackberries
blueberries and kiwi in silicone cup
Nestle crunch bell

If you had to eat a snack, wouldn't you want it to be fun like this?  Me too!!

I added this bento to's What's for Lunch Wednesday? blog.  Check out all the other fun bentos people are making!  So much inspiration in one place!

Bento Lunch


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rainy Saturday afternoon Bento snack

It's so cold and rainy here in SE GA.  It's been a dismal day, but we've had a lot of fun crafting reindeer shirts to wear and I've conquered Mt Washmore today, so it's been a great day! :)
We needed a fun snack for this afternoon, especially since in spite of the weather, my boys have played so well together and my little guy had a 2 1/2 hour nap!  :) 

Peppermint Peeps Star
Cup holds Fruit Loops and Oatmeal Square cereals
Half a Hawaiian roll with veggie cream cheese wth turkey and mild cheddar Christmas tree
with red and green Christmas tree sprinkles
Clementine flower with craisin center

They're very quiet right now while enjoying their snack.  But that might be because "The Grinch" is on. 


Friday, December 10, 2010

Brilliant Ideas

Over at Bento Lunch, Shannon is having a giveaway in conjunction with Chef Boyardee and BlogHer.  She asked "What brilliant idea makes your life run smoother?"

For me, it's having my kitchen cleaned up before bed.  I'm sure many of you do this already, but I spent the first 11 years of marriage not too worried about leaving dirty dishes in the sink overnight.  It didn't bother me too much to wake up to last night's dinner dishes sitting around.  Didn't seem to bother my husband too much either, because he never said anything.

However, with my husband being deployed to Afghanistan this year, and me having to do both mom and dad jobs, I realized that I was getting completely overwhelmed with how the house looked.  To me, the house was a disaster area.  Toys everywhere, messy kitchen, grimy bathrooms.  I knew that my 2 boys (3 and 1) deserved better than what I was giving them.

**Please understand, this was my perception.  My friends who came over never recoiled at the sight of my house and gladly let their children play and use my bathrooms.  We're always harder on ourselves than anyone else would be.


So in August, I decided that the one thing that I needed to do to start getting my house (and my life) back together was to make sure I cleaned up my kitchen each night.  Being in my kitchen is like nirvana to me.  I love being in there, creating and making food for my family.  And I had gotten away from being creative in there because of how messy it was.  So each night, after the kids were in bed, I cleaned up my kitchen.  I even started doing the dishes during the day so it wouldn't be such an overwhelming job at night.  I scrubbed my sink.  I wiped all the counters down.  I even made sure I put the dishes away that I had washed and put the drying mat back in the drawer.  I left nothing out on the counters except the few things I chose to stay out (coffee pot, paper towel holder, bread box, utensil holder, etc).

And do you know what I've learned?  Keeping the kitchen clean spills over into the rest of the house.  Now, I don't keep everything dusted or scrubbed like I should, but each evening, the boys help me put all the toys and books away, I run my swiffer on my wood floors a bit more often, and I wipe off the sinks in the bathrooms, too. 

This has been a lifesaver for me since my husband deployed because it brings me a sense of peace each night before bed and each morning when I get up.  With a clean kitchen, I feel like I can conquer the day...well, and a big cup of coffee in my hand doesn't hurt either.  :)

If you'd like to enter this contest, check out Shannon's blog (link at the top) and tell her what brilliant idea makes your life run smoother.  If you stop and think, I bet you'll think of more than one!


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

So unexpected...

Where we live, we're about 40 minutes away from 'town'.  We live in a small town in SE Georgia where my husband works as an Army Chaplain at the post here.  One of the surprises of this town is that there's a large health food store here.  They have a juice bar and cafe inside, in addition to all the kinds of things that you would expect to find in a health food store. 

I went in to get some fruit leather because I've bought it there before and it's really good stuff.  I also went in to see if they carried veggie straws, because the bag that I bought and blogged about last week is gone.  Gone.  The boys and I finished it in 3 days. 

I found the fruit leather and was happy to find some veggie straws.  With my goodies in one hand and my toddler in my arms, I started toward the register when THIS caught my eye:

 I couldn't believe it. my little something that I'd only seen online.  I never thought that I'd ever lay my hands on one of these.  It seemed untouchable, like only serious bento makers have these.  (Ok, so I'm exaggerating)  :)

I picked it up and noticed this is the Pico size - the snack size lunchbot.  They also had the Duo size, the one larger than this.  The saleswoman was standing there with me and I exclaimed: "YOU HAVE LUNCHBOTS?!"  Ok, I didn't yell at her, but the decible level was louder than a normal talking voice.  She said, yes, and she thought they had others in the back.  She showed me that they had 2 more Duo size, but I picked this one.  It was calling to me.

Seriously, I can't believe that I found this in our little town.  It really seemed that it was unattainable other than online, and I don't like online shopping.  I have to be able to pick things up and touch them and carry them around for awhile before I purchase them.

This is the niftiest little container.  I love that it's stainless steel, I love that it's shiny, I love that the top is yellow.  I love that it's small enough to carry around and it holds enough food for my toddler.  He had his morning snack in it today when we got home.  

This is a typical snack for Asher - meat on picks, string cheese cut up and veggie straws.  He devoured all of it but maybe 5 straws.  Even silicone baking cups fit inside.  That is a definite plus.

The only thing about it is that it's not leakproof.  The packaging says so, so no applesauce, pudding, yogurt, etc unless it's in it's own container.  The Lunchbot is weighty because of the stainless steel, but it's not so heavy that it's hard to carry around.  My 15 month old carried it around and had no problems. 

Do any of you have a Lunchbot box?  What size do you have and what are your favorite things about it?  What do you pack in it? I'm always needing new ideas for lunches/snacks.  Is there a size you wish you owned but don't?  Share with me!!

I love this box.  I'm excited that I found it here in my little town.  I'm going to have to save up to get the Duo size.  Maybe if I'm good, Santa will bring me one! :)


*Disclaimer - All opinions are mine.  I've not been reimbursed for this blog post.  I like what I found and want you to know about it.  Lunchbots have no idea who I am.  I'm just some small town mom looking for fun things to pack her sons lunches in.  :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

New lunch box and another Fun Food Find!

So, a few weeks ago, Shannon at shared that was having a nifty sign up special.  If you registered with them, they'd give you a $20 credit to your account.  She told us about it, because they were offering Goodbyn Lunchboxes on the site, and with your $20 credit +tax, you could get one for about $3.00.  Sounded good to me, so I ordered one.  I wasn't expecting it until after Dec. 22, but I got an email over the weekend that told me it was on its way!  Oh joy!

I hate to even mention the deal at because it's already over.  Sorry.  :(

When we arrived home this afternoon, it was at our front door!  :)

We ripped open the box and took a look.  I got the blue one and Timothy loves it.  Here's what came inside.

It comes with stickers to decorate the outside.  Timothy immediately wanted to take the stickers and stick them one to another, because that's what he does with all his stickers.  I told him we'd use them to decorate his lunch box later.  :)

It also comes with a reusable drink bottle, which Timothy carried around for 30 minutes before he released it long enough for me to wash it.

This thing is HUGE.  I imagined it would be deep, but seriously, it will hold A LOT of food.  More than my preschooler could ever eat in one sitting, but I don't think that will deter him in the least from carrying it to school. 

Here's a shot of a 'standard' size banana (is there such a thing?).  It fit in the top portion, and another could sit on top of that and still have plenty of room to put the top on.

He wanted to eat his dinner from it, so here's what he had.  What you see is pretty much what he would take for lunch on any given day.  You can see that it nowhere near comes to filling up the box.  But that's the beauty of the Goodbyn - the lid completely separates each section, so nothing would leak, even if I opened that container of mandarin oranges and dumped it into a section.  That's pretty cool in my book.

From the top L corner, going clockwise:
Christmas tree shaped cucumber and carrot sticks with ranch, gingerbread marshmallows,
mandarin oranges with fork, water bottle, string cheese and pretzel grids,
 ham and turkey picks with Christmas tree shaped cheddar

Timothy did end up having to sit on his knees at the table to eat tonight, simply because he couldn't see inside the Goodbyn to know where everything was.  That's the only 'downer' I have about this thing.  I'm so glad I purchased it and am looking forward to getting the one that I won the other day from The Goodbyn Girls.  :)

I found these at WalMart today for a dollah. 

They are too cute and too fun.  Timothy had 4 in his Goodbyn at dinner and ate them right up.  Asher had 4, then I snuck him a few extra after Timothy left the table.  Don't tell him.  ;)

I hesitated about getting them because I was getting them for the boys and they can be kind of picky about stuff like this.  I had some fruit flavored marshmallows once (yuk!).  Timothy wouldn't eat them, but Asher didn't care.  I shouldn't have worried about these gingerbread ones.  No cajoling, no begging, no pleading with them to eat them and not make me regret spending $1 on them.  They'll be gone before Christmas, I'm sure.


*Disclaimer - this blog post is strictly my opinion about Goodbyn Lunchboxes and Jet Puffed Gingerbread Marshmallows.  I wasn't sent anything in the mail to try.  I bought all of these things myself.  They don't have any idea who I am, but Goodbyn and Jet Puffed, if you're reading and need someone to try something out, I'm your girl!  Call me...we'll talk.  :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Fun food find

So, we're not really health food nuts here in our house.  I cook healthy, good food for my family, but I'm not going to give up using butter, or eating something that has a lot of fat and calories in it.  Quite frankly, butter isn't all that bad for you, and since I use MAYBE 2 tablespoons a week, I don't think I'm hurting myself using the real stuff.

*Climbing down off of soap box*

That being said, I DO look for and will buy things that are suggested from other blogs/websites for no other reason than someone said they use it, they like it, so why shouldn't I try it?  I do cringe sometimes at the price and will slowly step away from the product.  But every once in awhile, I find something that is completely worth the cost and my evidence is that my children will eat it.

Enter Mediterranean Snack Food Company.  I saw on a blog (don't remember which one - I look at 20 a day) and this mom had purchased veggie straws for her kids to eat.  I thought the straws were interesting and wanted to find some.  I headed to The Fresh Market in Savannah, because it's  a specialty food store, and they always have something fun and nifty to look at. 

I found this bag of veggie straws and was immediately drawn to the fact that these straws are made from potato, carrot and spinach and that they're seasoned with sea salt.  That seems fancy to me, like it's going to taste so much different than table salt.  The only difference is the size and shape of the grain of salt.  Table salt is pretty uniform in shape, sea salt is actually flakes of salt.  But I digress...

I bought them and Asher and I broke out the bag when we got in the car.  (So much for restraint)  I can't begin to tell you how yummy these things are.  They taste, no kidding, like french fries, but crunchy.  I think that's why the boys love them so much.  Plus, they're fun to eat.  They are literally straws, with a hole in the middle, so I've spent many minutes blowing on the kids through a straw I was holding.  :)  They kind of melt on your tongue too, so that's a fun texture thing.   They also have veggie chips, Baked Lentil Chips and Muiti Grain Chips, none of which I have tried yet, but plan to soon!

If you have the opportunity to try this particular brand, or find some veggie straws of some other persuasion, please do.  It's a great way to add some crunch to your meal, but to ensure your family (read: kids) are getting a few more bites of veggies in their tummies.


*Disclaimer - Mediterranean Snack Food Company has no idea who I am.  I'm just a mom looking for some fun things to add to her children's lunches so they'll want to eat them.  This is not a paid endorsement.  The End. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

I won, I won!!

Ok, so I'm a little over the top about this.  :)  The girls over at The Goodbyn Girls had a giveaway during November, and I won!  Their blog is all about using the Goodbyn box for lunches (or any meal) because they're reusable and they hold a lot of food! 

The concept of the Goodbyn is a great one - everything, even down to the drink, fits inside the box.  There are six compartments and they're all covered with a tight fitting lid, which keeps things separate.  I LOVE this concept.  Timothy has a lunch box that he loves, but it would be so nice to send a Goodbyn and not have to worry about wiping out his lunch box every day after school because something has spilled.

This is the lunch that I submitted as part of the contest:  My Contest Submission.  Of the contest entries, they chose my name randomly. 

Thanks, Goodbyn Girls, for this contest and that I won!  I'm looking forward to filling my Goodbyn with yummy lunches for my family!


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Getting better... packing bento lunches, I think.  For Timothy's lunch tomorrow, we're trying the Mickey Mouse box again.  I asked his teachers how he did with it the first time.  They said it was easy getting into it, but trying to figure out how to put it back together wasn't easy.  I knew that Timothy would have some issues putting it back together, because it is rather finicky about how it wants to fit.  However, I think with time and practice, he'll remember how to put it together, so his teachers can help him.  At least, that's my hope.

Anyway, here's his lunch for tomorrow...

Top Box - 1/2 clementine with raisins, goldfish crackers, pb&j roll ups
Bottom Box - carrots and celery with ranch in the snowman cup, string cheese, pretzel grids, 1/2 clementine

I say I'm getting better at packing bento lunches because I'm starting to realize all the things that I can make or use to fill up the box to keep it from shifting and making a mess.  Now, bentos aren't about how much you can stuff in a box.  It's about WHAT you put into the box.  Is it healthy?  Yummy?  Fun to eat?  All of these things rank right up there on the healthy, yummy and fun lists for Timothy.  We're trying celery with ranch tomorrow.  Celery with pb hasn't been a hit yet, although I've enjoyed eating what he doesn't finish.  :)

Also, I think bentos are about having a compact meal without a lot of leftovers.  I usually end up sending separate containers of things for Timothy to eat for lunch, but I think all he's going to need for tomorrow is this box, a juice cup and he'll be set.  That's nice to know.  Less to wash tomorrow evening! 


***Update Dec. 1 - I added this bento lunch to's  What's for lunch Wednesday blog.  Shannon herself does some amazing bentos!  Check out all the fun bentos from other families! :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Goodbyn lunches

I recently ordered a Goodbyn lunch box for Timothy.  They're a really neat idea for keeping items in your lunch separate.  Great for bento style lunches.  Check them out!  Goodbyn Lunchboxes

At the blog The Goodbyn Girls, they show how they use Goodbyn boxes for lunches.  I've gotten so many good ideas of what to pack for Timothy's lunches so he doesn't get bored with the same old thing.  Of course, he'd eat pb&j with tortilla chips every day, so getting him to try something different is much easier when it's packaged in a fun way.  Enter bento style lunches and the Goodbyn box.

The Goodbyn Girls are holding a giveaway for a Goodbyn box.  I had to make a fun bento lunch and include the 3 C's - Cucumber, Carrots and Cheese.  I think I got those easily and added 4 C's to it - Chicken and Chocolate Chip Cookies.  :)

Timothy's lunch tomorrow consists of:
Apple and Eve juice
Drinkable yogurt
2 Chicken nuggets with BBQ sauce underneath
Mac and Cheese
Carrots and Christmas tree shaped Cucumber with Ranch dressing
2 Chocolate Chip Cookies

Goodbyn Girls - I got 7 C's in my lunch!!!  Does that count extra?!  :)


Muffin Tin Monday

It' Muffin Tin Monday over at Muffin Tin Mom and there's no theme this week, so our theme is "Fix whatever you can that the kids will eat so they'll take good naps this afternoon." Good theme, no?  XD

Top Row L to R - 'ants on a log', mac and cheese, cucumber and carrot with ranch
Botto Row L to R - clementine, more mac and cheese with octodog,
bread and strawberry yogurt spread roll up

I've just recently started introducing celery to my kids.  What better way than with peanut butter?!  It's been mildly successful  -  I'll keep trying!


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Rice Mold Success!

I purchased some rice molds a few weeks ago, having no prior experience using them but having some knowledge of how to use them.  I bought what I thought were single heart, star and bear shapes.  However, they are joined together.  No biggie...

Anyway, so I steamed some sushi rice (Nishiki) tonight in my steamer and covered the top because I had read that sushi rice needs to steam for about 10 minutes after it's done.  The lid on my steamer has holes in it, so I just covered it with a kitchen towel.  Worked great.

I made these molded pieces of rice for my oldest son, who LOVES rice.  I gave my little guy some rice on his plate because he's not been a huge fan of rice in the past.  Next time, I'll be sure to make him a molded rice of his own because he loved the rice!

Here's how my first attempt turned out...

Not too bad for my first attempt with no directions!  Well, there were directions on the packaging, but they were in Japanese.  That doesn't help me out any.  They're a little rough around the edges because I wasn't careful how I was filling the molds.  I'll be more careful next time.  The face of the bear is made with cucumber and carrot.

Here's what Timothy thought of them:

He had no problem eating them.   As a matter of fact...

He managed to shove them in.  He loved them!

I'm so glad that he likes them and I'm glad I bought the molds.  I hesitated, because I thought it would be a lot of trouble.  But it's no trouble at all, if you don't mind dealing with sticky rice.  He told me he'd like to have one in his lunch this week at school.  We'll see what his teachers think about him bringing shaped rice to school!

I'll post soon about making shaped eggs.  Those are as adorable as these!


Monday, November 22, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday - Thanksgiving

It's Muffin Tin Monday and the theme is Thanksgiving.  We have much to be thankful for in our home:  Daddy got to come home from Afghanistan for R&R these last 2 weeks.  He has to go back today, so I'm surprised I even got it together enough to make a MTM.  However, it did provide about 30 minutes of thinking about something else.  :)

I went with foods that they may have had at the first Thanksgiving.  Some of it is a stretch, I know, but work with me.  I figure berries and apples, veggies, and 'turkey' were there.  Turkey shaped PB&J, pumpkin pie and Ranch dressing...probably not.  XD

From L to R - top row:  Apple shaped apples and blackberries, popcorn,
pumpkin shaped cucumbers and carrot sticks

bottom row:  pumpkin pie with cool whip, turkey shaped pb&j, ranch dressing cup

Hope everyone has a safe and blessed Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bento Lunch in a new fun box!

We were in Orlando, FL over the weekend and I was looking EVERYWHERE for ANYTHING pertaining to Bento-ing.  (is that a word?)  We went to Colonial Ave where I knew a few oriental/asian markets were and prayed they had something.  The first one was so cluttered, it was hard to find anything.  However, the pastry counter was divine!  There were things there I'd never seen.  If I hadn't had my 3 year old with me, I probably would have started asking questions and purchased something.  Since pastries weren't exactly on my list, I declined.

The second store I went into, I immediately found out they spoke English.  This helped me out a lot because I felt more comfortable asking if they had any supplies.  I ended up buying 2 kinds of picks (short and long), a heart and star shaped egg mold (which I've already used and LOVE), some rice molds and some sauce containers.  The sauce containers are really small.  I was hoping to be able to use them for Ranch dressing, but I can't even get the dressing in them.  We'll see if I come up with some other use for them.

The third store I went into had a few things, but I heard the cashier being rude and hateful to a customer, so I left. 

Then we ended up at the Florida Mall where there is a Disney store.  On a whim, I asked my dear, dear husband (who had been watching the kids for me all this long while) could we go in and look.  I'd seen Disney character plates, etc at the dollar store, so I was hoping that there would be better quality things in the store.  Was I excited to see that they had not only plates, cups, silverware and sippy cups...they had BENTO boxes!!!  So fun!  And all the 'kitchenware' stuff like that was 3 for $12!!!  Even better!!!!

I ended up purchasing 2 boxes and a package of 2 straws for my little guys to use at home.  One box has Mickey Mouse on it and the other has the aliens from Toy Story 3.  The Mickey one is a 2 tiered box with a clear lid.  The top tier has a divider in it.  The bottom tier is covered.  I'd say the whole thing is about 5-6 inches tall.  Muffin cups fit perfectly in the bottom with the lid on.

The Toy Story one is a round one tier with 2 dividers.  The dividers come out, so you could use both of them, or just one or none at all.  The top for this one is clear as well.  There's no picture for this one yet.  When I send it to school with Timothy, I'll post pictures then.  :)

I had Timothy practice with the Mickey one the other day.  I wanted to see how easily he could get into it and put it back together after lunch.  He's 3, you know, and I don't want to send something to school that would require a lot of extra help from his teachers.  Getting into the box was OK, but he'll need help closing it if it's going to fit back into his lunch box.  We'll see if it ellicits any response from his teachers.

Enough talking about the box.  Let's see what Timothy will be having for lunch tomorrow!

He asked for meat and cheese roll ups, which usually consist of my taking a small tortilla, spreading it with some flavored cream cheese, adding the meat and cheese, rolling it up, cutting it in half and spearing it with a pick.  First of all, I didn't feel like doing all of that.  Secondly, I know he pulls the tortilla apart and just eats the meat and cheese.  So I saved us both some time and did bologna rolls and string cheese on the new ocean picks I got over the weekend.  He also requested pretzels, so those are in a pumpkin baking cup.  In the top are shredded carrots with leaf shaped cucumber on top.  The other side has the requested grapes with blackberries and heart shaped strawberries. 

Here is his whole lunch for tomorrow.  His Mickey bento box, an Apple and Eve juice box we got for FREE at Sam's yesterday, a drinkable yogurt, Sassy sauce container with ranch dressing and Fruit Loops on a stick.  That's just for fun.  I'm sure the fruit loops will be the first thing eaten.  :)


Monday, November 1, 2010

Bento Lunches

I don't know about you, but growing up, the biggest thing about going back to school was what kind of lunch box you would have.  My 5th grade year, Strawberry Shortcake was all the rage.  I even had a huge strawberry that I kept my characters in.  I think my mom still has it in a closet somewhere.  That year, I had a metal strawberry shortcake lunch box.  It was small and had 2 handles, much like a picnic basket.  It was the cutest thing.

In 6th grade, I believe I had a fabric lunchbox with a butterfly on the outside and it came with its own thermos.  Why any kid would want a thermos is beyond me.  I can't count on one hand how many times I took soup or some other hot food to school in that thermos.  Heck, I can't even remember how many times I actually carried the crazy thing for lunch. 

Since Timothy has started school, I've been making his lunch 2 days a week.  The first few days were interesting to say the least.  I don't remember what I sent.  I've slept since then.  I do remember packing WAY too much food, and I'm sure a lot of it was thrown away.  I've gotten better about how much I send because I've been paying better attention to WHAT he eats and HOW MUCH of it he eats.  Duh.

I've also recently discovered Bento lunches.  This is a Japanese way of packing a meal in a compact box but it has everything in it.  A well balanced meal in a small package.  THIS is what I needed to be able to pack Timothy's lunches for school.  Small containers with very concise foods in them.  Not too much fluff or stuff - just what he'll eat and package it in an entertaining way.

Now, by no means am I doing full blown Bento lunches yet.  My bento container for Timothy is a $1 sandwich container from WalMart.  In it, I use silicone muffin cups to separate things like cheese or veggies from everything else.  This is the idea behind Bento meals. I'll post some links later so you can see how they're SUPPOSED to look.  Plus, we're not of Asian descent and we don't eat the things that are typically in a Japanese Bento meal.  But that's the beauty of this - you make it your own and pack it how you want to.

Needless to say, I have had a ball doing Timothy's lunches since I discovered Bento.  I've been able to think of new things to send with him, of course, after doing a trial run at home.  I don't want to send something with him that he won't eat.  I don't want him to be hungry and I don't want it wasted either.

Usually his lunches consist of some sort of protein (ham or bologna usually), cheese, crackers or a tortilla roll up, fruit and veggies, and a sweet thrown in.  That covers all the bases.  And he usually eats most, if not all, of it.  I think by the time lunch rolls around, he's so hungry, he'd eat the crayons off the floor.

I found some great little slider rolls at the commissary this weekend and thought that I'd make him a bologna and cheese sammy with them.  I added some raisins with white chocolate chips, some carrots an cucumber with ranch dressing and some wheat thins.  I spruced up the sammy, too. 

What do you think?

My first attempt at making a face.  I decided not to go too crazy with it because I'm NOT an artist and I wanted Timothy to know what it was.  The mouth was actually a wrinkle in the bun itself, so I went with it.  The shiny stuff over the veggies is plastic wrap.  I'm hoping to keep the dressing inside the cup and not get it everywhere.  We'll see how it goes.  There are sauce containers for Bento boxes that you can purchase, but I don't know enough about them to know exactly what to get yet.  Sooo...I'll try wrapping with plastic wrap.  If that doesn't work, I'll come up with something else.

Timothy will also have a drinkable yogurt and some applesauce to eat tomorrow.  He'll be a happy boy!!

Here are some links to blogs where these amazing moms make bento lunches for their kids on a daily basis!  Check them out!

BentoLunch - This is Shannon in Dallas.  She makes wonderful bentos!

Another Lunch - This is Melissa - she's a mom of 4 who somehow finds time to make bentos for her kids!

A Pocket Full of Buttons - This is Stephanie - she's a military wife like me and loves making bentos for her entire family!

I hope you'll be inspired to try making bentos for your sweet family.  I can't wait to make them for both Timothy and Asher!


Sunday, October 31, 2010

A note about my recipes...

I'm sure you've all noticed that I don't write down many measurements in my recipes unless I'm baking.  I like to have a recipe to begin with, but then it becomes a "feel as I go" kind of thing.  I like to tweak and fix recipes to my liking.  And most of the time, I don't remember from one time to the next exactly what I did, so it's different each time anyway. 

Baking is another matter.  If your ingredients aren't exact, your food won't turn out right.  It's all in the chemistry of the ingredients, something that I have zero knowledge of.  And I'm not ashamed to say it.

For those of you who feel lost without a recipe, I'll do my best from now on to take note of the things that I use and the amounts I use.  I can't promise that every recipe will be exact.  But that's the fun of cooking.  You can take what someone else has done and make it your own.  Try it sometime - you'll feel extremely liberated and you'll want to burn your bra and make up your own recipes!

Well, you may not want to burn your bra.  Unless you have one to spare.  ;)


Greek Chicken Wraps

It's Sunday and I made something that I've had several times at my friend, Katie's, house.  It's a great, easy dinner and since I happen to be rather fond of Greek food and seasonings, it's no trouble to make!  It's even easier than this Greek Chicken recipe I used to make.  Although it is rather good, this way that I'm going to show you is much easier!

I don't have a picture of the lineup of ingredients - sorry.  But here's a list!

boneless, skinless chicken breasts - about 1/2 breast for each person
feta cheese
black or kalamata olives
diced tomatoes
sliced red onion
tzatziki sauce - recipe following
Greek salad dressing
salt and pepper
lemon juice

Cut your chicken into cubes or strips - your choice - and place in a ziploc bag.  Add enough Greek Salad dressing to cover the chicken, a squirt or two of lemon juice, salt and pepper to the bag.  Mush (yes, that's a technical term) it all around and place into your refrigerator for a couple of hours to marinate. 

When I buy chicken and am putting it into ziploc bags to go into the freezer, I actually add the Greek dressing to a couple of bags right then.  That way, on the day I want to make these, all I have to do is take the bag out of the freezer and let it thaw out.  Easy peasy.

Another note - you don't want to add too much lemon juice to the bag either.  Too much, and the acid will start the 'cook' the chicken.  Not pretty and not at all tasty. You just want enough lemon juice to cut the oil from the dressing.

I have to say a word about cast iron skillets.  This is my largest one - 12 inches - and I love it.  I mean, I LOVE IT.  I know this is a horrible picture, but trust this Southern girl.  You'll never find a better retainer of heat than this.  This one is my chicken frying skillet.  Nice deep sides.

These are my three cast iron skillets, nested on each other.  12 inches, 10 inches and 8 inches.  See the cut marks on the 8 inch one?  Those are from the knives we've used to cut the cornbread right when it comes out of the oven.  An 8 inch cast iron skillet is the best way to make corn bread.  It gets crusty on the outside but inside stays nice and moist.  The middle skillet was my paternal grandmother's.  My husband decided one day that it was dirty and needed a good scrubbing - with a brillo pad.  Years and years of seasoning washed down the drain.  I've never let him forget.  I'm still trying to get that perfect seasoning back on it.  :(

Anyway, sorrow aside - let's cook some chicken!

Place a few pieces of chicken in your pan.  Don't crowd them, or they'll steam more than they will sear, which is not what you want.  You want them to get nice and brown on the first side...

Like this!  Ain't it a pretty thing?  After they're nicely cooked, remove them from the pan and add the rest of your chicken.  I only had 2 batches as I only used one large chicken breast.  If you have more chicken, you'll obviously have more batches to cook.

After all the chicken is cooked, it's time to assemble!  Take a warmed tortilla (I nuke a few in a damp paper towel) and spread tzatziki sauce on it (recipe at the end).  Then add as few or as many pieces of chicken on top of that, then top with feta cheese.  Black olives, red onion and tomatoes are especially good, but my children won't eat any of those things, so I left them off.

I also didn't add feta cheese tonight.  Mine had gone bad in the refrigerator.  So I ended up using an Italian cheese blend that I had.  Same difference...

Roll up your tortilla securing all the goodness inside.  And voila!  A Greek Chicken Wrap!!


One more word about cast iron skillets:

See the yummy bits on the bottom of the pan?  Don't even try to scrape them off with a knife or with a blade of any sort.  That's the kind of stuff that seasons your pan - that makes it work even better than you ever thought it could.  The best way to clean a cast iron skillet is this:  When it cools down, fill it with hot water and let it soak for a few minutes.  Then with the hot water running, scrape all those bits out with a plastic scraper.  I have a brush that I use for this very job.  Scrape all the big pieces off, but don't worry too much about the rest.  Then place it on your stovetop on a burner set to high.  This will cause the remaining water to boil off and dry your skillet keeping it from rusting.  And rust is the mortal enemy of iron.  Do cast iron skillets even have a soul?  Maybe they do - that's why they cook so well. 

I hope you enjoy this recipe!  I know I sure do!  And the leftover chicken is great on a salad the next day!

Greek Chicken Wraps

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Greek salad dressing
salt and pepper
feta cheese
lemon juice
black or kalamata olives
red onion - sliced
tomato - diced
tzatziki sauce

Tzatziki Sauce
Sour cream or plain yogurt
about a 1 inch slice of cucumber
fresh garlic or garlic powder
salt and pepper
dried dill or dried oregano

Seed the cucumber and grate it all (even the skin) into a bowl.  Mix in the other ingredients, tasting as you go and adding as needed to get the right consistency and flavor that you're looking for.

Marinate chicken breasts in a salad dressing, salt, pepper and lemon juice mixture in a ziploc bag for a few hours.  Cut chicken into strips or cubes.  Cook on the stovetop until cooked through.  Nuke tortillas for a few seconds to make them pliable.  Spread on some tzatziki sauce, top with chicken, cheese and other toppings.  Roll up to secure ingredients.  Eat to your heart's content and be full!!  Opa!!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

11/1 Muffin Tin on 10/27!

OK- yeah, I know - It's the Wednesday before the actual Muffin Tin Monday for 11/1.  I get that you're not supposed to be making Muffin Tin Monday meals on Wednesdays.  I get it.  However, I had a spark of creativity and when that happens, you just gotta roll with it.  Right? 

So here's the boy's muffin tin meal for next Monday, served Wednesday 10/27.  If I tried to save it until Monday, it would be all gross and icky and not at all cute.  The theme is trees, leaves and harvest.  I'm not sure I hit on all those points, but I gave it my best shot.  :)


There's food for both boys in this 12 cup muffin stone - that's why it looks so full!  Since both sides are the same, I'll only explain what's in them once.

Top row - L to R - Stir fried broccoli 'trees' with apple and cheese flowers, banana muffin with pumpkin pick
Middle row - L to R - Acorn shaped apple cinnamon french toast with 'sap' (syrup) for dipping (to be added later), oak leaf shaped apple pieces
Bottom row - L to R - 1/2 Babybel cheese with apple shape in the wax, bologna sammy on 15 grain bread with cheese leaf - face of cucumber peel.
Sugar pumpkins scattered about...

This was so much fun!  Time consuming, yes.  I spent all of nap time making this.  But I know they're going to love it when they see it.  :)


Update, later this afternoon...

So I served the boys their muffin tin as a before dinner snack.  I decided we'd meet some friends for dinner at CiCi's, and I knew that what I'd fixed for them would be WAY healthier than the copious amount of pizza they'd eat there.  Here are some shots of them enjoying their tin.  :)

Timothy's first look at the tin.

Asher's first look and his first tin!

This is what Asher looked like the entire time!

Timothy is enjoying a piece of cheese.

Here is the afternath of said Muffin Tin Meal.  All that's pretty much left is the broccoli and the banana muffins.  Then we went to dinner with some friends and Timothy ate 1 1/2 pieces of pizza, a breadstick and a half and a piece of apple pizza and Asher ate 1 piece of pizza, a breadstick and several bites of dessert pizza.  Wow.  Lots of food consumed today by my children.  I can't imagine they'll wake up hungry.  :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

I made the most amazing soup today for dinner.  I got the recipe from my sister and I'm so thankful that she shared it with me! 

I love using my crock pot.  I've been using it more often because of how easy it is to throw things together.  I don't like cleaning it though.  6 quart ceramic insert and lid - HEAVY.  I usually stick it in my dishwasher.   ;)

I wish that I had thought to take a picture of all the ingredients together, the process of making it, etc.  I did manage to take a picture of the final product.  Hope you enjoy!

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts - frozen!
1 family size cream of chicken soup
2 boxes Uncle Ben's Long grain and wild rice WITH seasoning packets
Milk (I used skim)
Chicken broth
12 slices of pepper jack cheese

In your crock pot, place frozen chicken, soup and at least 1/2 can of milk.  Cook on low until chicken falls apart (couple of hours).  Shred chicken with 2 forks and return to crock pot.

Meanwhile, cook rice according to package directions.  (I omitted the butter/oil.  Didn't see any reason to use it.)  When rice is done and chicken is shredded, add rice to crock pot and stir to combine.  Begin crumbling pepper jack slices into crock pot - taste as you add the cheese.  Continue to simmer soup in crock pot until cheese is melted.  Add chicken broth to thin soup if it seems too thick for you.  Serve with crusty bread.  :)

Some notes on this soup:

I didn't add any measurements for the milk or broth because I didn't bother measuring them when I added them to the soup.  I poured and stirred until it looked good to me.  Feel free to use as much or as little as you like.  Feel free to use whole milk and organic chicken broth if that's what will make you happy.  I used Great Value skim milk and broth.  That's what I had on hand and they work for me.  :)

About the cheese - I'm not a huge fan of pepper jack cheese, but it's REALLY good in this soup.  The cheese doesn't add any heat to the soup, just a nice cheesy, pepper-y flavor.  I used 11 of 12 slices and wish now that I'd only used 8.  I don't care for the taste of peppers, so 11 slices is a bit much - for ME.  Don't worry, we'll still eat the soup.  I just may not like it as much as I would if it had only 8 slices of cheese in it.

My crock pot has 4 settings - HIGH (4 hours and 6 hours) and LOW (8 hours and 10 hours).  I initially set my crock pot for 8 hours.  I knew I'd have about that much time from when I put the chicken in frozen until we needed to eat dinner.  Set your crock pot however you have to.  There are so many on the market now that do so many things. 

I'm taking my crock o'soup to PWOC tomorrow (Protestant Women Of the Chapel to you non-military folks) to share during fellowship time.  I'm sure there won't be much left.  :)  I just wish it wasn't going to be 90 degrees tomorrow.  Soup is a COLD WEATHER MEAL.  Do you hear me, 90 degree day?  It's the end of October - go away and bring us back our football weather!!!

Go forth and make soup and be happy! :)


Monday, October 25, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

OK, so I've completely fallen in love with this idea.  Putting kids snacks/meals into a muffin tin.  Crazy, right?  WRONG!  Timothy has SO enjoyed this.  I get 2 or 3 made in a week - that's all my creative juices have going on right now.  The sad thing is that I don't plan far enough ahead to really do something extra special.  I know that that's how all these other moms did it - doing what they could with what they had.  Then it became 'part of them' so much so that it's just part of their day.  I long to be at that place!!  My MIL commented recently that I had "too much time on my hands."  I know she was kidding.  I told her no, doing this breaks up the monotony of a 12 month deployment.  Anything to make the day more fun, right?  :)

Anyway, each Monday there is a theme.  This week happens to be Halloween.  I wonder why?  Just kidding!  I stole 5 of the 6 ideas from other tins I have seen recently.  Only one is original, but I'm sure someone has done it in the past.  No matter.  Timothy has never seen it and I've never made a Halloween muffin tin meal.  It's brand new to us!

Top row - L to R
Pumpkin carved orange with mandarin oranges
Banana Bread Bars with Cat pick
Green tinted chocolate milk

Bottom row - L to R
cheese, plain and caramel popcorn with jack o'lantern pick
Banana cream pudding with sugar pumpkins
Vanilla wafers with jack o'lanterns drawn on with pb/nutella mix for dipping.

Love doing this for my little guy.  And I love that I can be creative with it.  Stealing ideas at first, but then making them my own.  Thanks to Michelle at Muffin Tin Mom for this wonderful idea!!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Definition of *BOY*

The definition of BOY, noun...

...a noise with dirt on it.

Loving my noises with dirt on them,


I hate motel noise...

So I'm at Ft. Benning, GA this weekend for a PWOC (Protestant Women Of the Chapel for you non-military folks) conference.  Learning about how to be Christ-like leaders and how to effectively lead our Installation's PWOC for the next year.  I have been immeasurably blessed so far. 

However, all the ladies at the conference are staying at a Suburban Extended Stay Hotel. 
 You know, the kind that you can pay for weekly? 

NOT HOURLY...get your mind out of the gutter...

There are somewhere between 50-75 ladies staying addition to men who are here working locally for whatever reason.  Makes me a little nervous...

What I don't get is why, at 10:40 pm, do people have to be so noisy?!?  The person/persons on the other side of the wall from me are banging around, bumping into stuff, talking loud, etc.  I'm on the top floor, so I don't have to worry about people walking heavily.  Thank goodness...

I do have to remember that I have this whole *room* to myself.  I can sleep in the middle of the bed and I don't have to worry about my children needing me in the middle of the night.  I left them at home with some scraps of food on the floor.  The diaper box says for 22-30 pounds - they mean poop, right?

Just kidding - they're with their grandparents in FL.  I'll pick them up Sunday.

Can't wait to hear the noise they make when they see me,


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pool time!!

The boys and I are visiting my parents in Florida this week and it's finally been pretty enough to get into the pool.  The first few days we were here, it was cold and rainy.  Yes, I said cold.  Low 80's for highs.  That's cold in Florida for the first of July.

Anyway, we got into the pool today, much to the delight of my children.  Timothy, my almost 3 year old, loves the water.  I mean, LOVES.  Has no problem whatsoever giving me a heart attack by standing too close to the edge before there's anyone in the pool to rescue him if he happens to fall in.  We borrowed a life jacket from some friends for Timothy to wear.  I was afraid that he wouldn't like to wear it, or would refuse to wear it.  Thankfully, he stood still while I tightened the straps and got it on him.  It wasn't until we were getting into the pool that my mom said "It's on backward."  Thanks mom...couldn't you have mentioned that a few minutes sooner? 

I have a float for my 10 month old, Asher.  It was actually a first birthday present for Timothy, but he never got the chance to use it.  It's really cool in that it has a place for the baby to sit, and it also has mesh on it so the baby can play in the water.  Asher loved it.  His first time in the pool and he was kicking his feet and laughing.  Precious.  However, he did drink and snort up about 2 gallons of water before he stopped dropping his head into the mesh part of the float.  Takes awhile, that one...

We were in the pool for about 1 1/2 hours.  Timothy even got brave enough to jump off the side into my waiting arms.  I wish that I could've seen that happening rather than being on the receiving end of it.  I'm sure it was hysterical.  I hope soon to make sure to put him under when he jumps.  Maybe that will teach him to keep his mouth shut when he jumps.

I'm just kidding about the putting him under...I think...

Many blessings,
Missy  :)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bread Machine

I bought a bread machine about a month ago with the intention of making a loaf of bread occasionally for us to have.  Bread is the arch enemy and anti-christ to anyone who is dieting, so I'm not sure what my reasoning was for buying it.  "Well, so and so has one!  My sister has one!  I WANT ONE!!!"  Who needs more reason than that?

So, I bought a bread machine and realized that I didn't have all the ingredients that I needed.  I tried my first loaf with some bread flour that I had and the loaf didn't rise AT ALL.  My bread flour was very old.  I think I bought it when we lived in PA, which was about 20 months ago.

So, I bought all new flour and yeast and tried again.  This time, I tried a whole wheat bread.  I like whole wheat bread and I want my children to like it, too.  Dad is gone to Afghanistan, so he won't have to eat any of it.  :)  It turned out better, but it just wasn't what I was expecting.  I need to try to make it again and give the wheat another chance.

This bread machine does it all.  Makes a loaf in 58 minutes, for heaven's sake.  I've not tried that yet. I have tried the dough/pasta setting and have thoroughly enjoyed the pizza dough that this machine cranks out.  The softest dough I've ever felt.   Let's stop for a moment and thank God for pizza.

Moment's up.

Then I discovered this recipe in my book: Oatmeal Date Bread.  It can be made in 80 minutes.  How hard can that be?  And it's got Oatmeal in it - it has to be healthy.

However, I didn't have dates.  Who keeps dates in their pantry?  I did however, have a bag of cranberries, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Oh my good this good bread or what?  Dense, with a touch of sweetness from the cranberries and the 1/4 cup brown sugar.  Beautiful loaf of bread, thank you for baking.

Here's the final product...

It's a good thing this loaf of bread is a gift, or you might not have seen it in this perfect state.  You'd have seen about 1/2 of it gone and half a stick of butter gone. 

 Now, go and run 20 laps because you gained about 15 pounds just by looking at this load of bread.


My boys...

I can't help sons keep me in stitches the live long day.   Let me show you why...

Here's Asher - 10 months old.  He's recently discovered the dog's water bowl and tries to get in it 50 times a day.  No kidding.  I've had to rig a gate across the doorway so he can't get in there. You should see him fight with that gate.  Too funny...

Here's Timothy, just today.  I've had the booster seat out for when company comes over and we need a toddler seat.  But Asher is almost ready to transition from high chair to booster.  Timothy is capable of getting in the booster and buckling himself in.  He's just not able to UNbuckle himself.  He came down the hall like this...

And proceeded to sit in the floor and play whilst still sitting in the booster...

He's such a scream.

I love my kids...