Friday, October 2, 2009

Where Am I?

I have been absent from my blog lately because I got a new job.  So, as I go from stay at home mom to working teacher mom, I haven't found a way to post my bento pics.  I have a few more sitting in my camera that I will put on here eventually.  I just don't have the same time in the morning to take pictures while making lunch for 3 and breakfast for 3 plus getting us all dressed and ready to go.  I didn't realize how good I had it before!  The girls have now eaten hot lunch at school a few times.  My brain is getting full and lunch ideas are not there, so when the menu is right, we go for it.  Having that extra paycheck helps there. 

This mom is adjusting to being in the working world.  Daddy has been home on vacation time for the first 2 weeks of my job.  The girls have enjoyed Mr. Mom after an adjustment period.  Yes, Daddy can brush your hair.  He can help with homework too.  Yes, he can find the way to the bus stop too.  Silly girls! 

Now they are going to before and after school care since Daddy has to work.  Another adjustment to make.  Bummer!  Two days down, each with one girl crying as I left them, different one each day.  I'm sure they will settle in, but this transition is hard on all of us.  It was very different when we did the daycare thing when they were little.  There was no homework to still be done as dinner is being made and they just want to relax.  I didn't have to worry about them getting to bed early as I was sure that they would have a nap at daycare.  Now, when they choose not to eat breakfast because they are just too sleepy, they are starving by the time they get to school. 

Meanwhile I get to eat "lunch" at 10:37 each day.  Considering I have breakfast around 6am, I guess it works, but boy am I hungry when I get home. 

I can't wait to get over the new stuff and catch up at work.  Maybe that will never happen, but I can hope, right?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Catching Up!

Why is it that a holiday just throws me off.  I am starting to slack here.  Instead of a post for each day, because I just didn't do that, I'll post the highlights all in one. 

Tuesday: On this day I did a homemade lunchable:  turkey circles, cheese flowers, wheat crackers, carrots, strawberry slices, granola bites, watermelon on the side and sixlets for dessert.  Do you remember Sixlets?  I found them at the dollar store and couldn't resist.  They are perfect here as they can add extra color and fit into a small space. 

This day I was really paying attention to moisture levels.  On the left I tried to keep all the "wet items," while the right had dry things.  It worked pretty well.  E's lunch came home with a few crackers and they were still crispy.  She didn't like the granola bites, so we had those.  K ate everything!  

Wednesday:  This was a serious leftover meal.  We had chicken and Crash Hot Potatoes (my new favorite way to make potatoes).  They are much better fresh, but just fine room temp.  I also squeezed in some mango jello that I found at an Asian market recently.  The second container had raisins and goldfish crackers.    The lunch was packed in two new containers I found at the Asian market.  Perfectly shallow for little meals like my kids eat.  E ate much of everything.  K ate all but the chicken.  She didn't like it cold and without a sauce.  I couldn't figure out how to give her the sauce without it going all over the whole container.  K said her friends gave her a hard time about the little containers.  Oh well!  At least I know she is eating pretty well as opposed to when she eats school lunches and I never know how much she ate.  

Thursday:  On this day I had made mini corn dog muffins.  They are paired with carrot sticks, grapes and strawberries, and a teeny apple jello.  E was the only child with a lunch this day as K had a dentist appointment.  She loves the corn dog muffins but only ate 2 of the 3 that day.  She didn't like the apple flavor of the jello, so that was a bust.  The lid didn't quite make it back on the container after she ate, so there was ketchup all over the inside of her lunch bag.  Yuck! 
This next meal was mine!  I got called to sub as a librarian very late that morning.  Luckily I had pre-made E's lunch.  I threw together the last of the chicken and crash hot potato meal and paired it with frozen green beans and grapes.  I took a cue from K's complaint and added a small container of teriyaki sauce.  The sauce container is really a travel toiletry item.  I found it at the Container Store and it fits the bill just right, especially being leak proof.  I have to say that I really dislike this photo though.  I put the green beans in the container still frozen so they are really frosty.  Not the best for color in my lunch, but they were perfect by lunchtime.  I packed my lunch so I could pull out the grapes and sauce to microwave the rest.  I'm high maintenance, what can I say?  I like my hot food hot and my cool food cool.  Remember this commercial?  Did that ever really work?  
Friday:  Here we did leftover pizza.  E's lunch was smaller as has been her appetite lately.  So small bites of pizza, apple bunnies, cheese shapes (one has an imprint of a bird on it, just for fun!), Texas pretzels and sixlets. E ate half the pizza, one of the cheeses, two of the apple bunnies and most of the pretzels.  She ate all the sixlets, of course. 
K had a bigger portion but most of the same things.  I added a few carrots under a bread stick to raise it up and keep things from shifting.  Also, under the heart shaped cheese is a yaki onigiri (also heart shaped).  It's basically a shaped rice ball, pan seared so crispy and brushed with soy sauce.  K loves these (as do I) but E doesn't care for them.  They freeze well and I just warm up to room temp in the microwave in the am.  Gotta love eating rice with your fingers! 

Monday:  OK, this is a boring repeat lunch.  I love how cute this monster sandwich is.  After struggling with the face falling apart, I tried something new.  After spreading the jelly on the bread, I used my cutters to cut out the eye shapes.  When I put the sandwich together, I had some nice sticky peanut butter on which to place my chocolate chips.  They stuck very well.  I know this because E's lunch came home with this half of the sandwich intact, even the chocolate pieces.  Hmmm, I guess she really did run out of time to eat if she left chocolate in there.  She ate only the bottom part of the mouth and a few grapes as well as the other sides.  Oh, the nose was an accident.  As I was assembling the lunch one of the grapes fell there and I thought it looked cute.  Yes, I realize it's under the teeth, but this is a monster after all.  Anything goes, right?  
Long enough post for you?  I thought so.  I'll stop typing now. 

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What To Do With The Odd Stuff

I found that there are just some things that I pack in lunches that just need their own space.  Some things just have too much moisture content to mix with drier things.  Or something is just too fragile to let float around in the box freely.  Or there are little pieces that I don't want to travel.  The odd stuff. 

The ideal way to do this is with little containers, like cupcake holders.  Paper holders were not practical or reusable.  I found these cute little silicone pinch bowls at my local Walmart, similar to these.  They came in a pack of 2 for about $2.  They are not as flexible as the silicone cupcake holders I finally got at Michaels.  I used a 40% off coupon so for a dozen, I only paid $6.  Fifty cents each is not too shabby.  Plus I could someday use them for actual cupcakes.  But I would have to be really inspired for that to happen.  I like their moldablility.  They mush into corners of the box and let me maximize my space while keeping foods separate as needed.  Plus they add a pop of color in the box.

Thermos Trials

E's meal was leftover hamburger helper in a new handy dandy thermos, mandarin oranges, goldfish crackers and a mini cookie.

She ate the side dishes in their entirety and maybe nibbled on the hamburger helper.  Thermos failure!  I will try again, but am looking for ideas to make it more interesting. 

K had the same except leftover macaroni and cheese in her thermos. 

She ate most of her macaroni and all her side dishes.  She said it was not warm at lunchtime.  So I guess I need to warm things to seriously hot before putting in the thermos.  I am pleased that she ate so much though.

Chicken Nuggets Thursday

Today both girls got chicken nuggets (from the freezer, zapped in the micro in the morning), cheese shapes, carrot sticks, grapes, pretzels and a mini cookie.  The carrot sticks went under the side of the pretzel cup and I put one on top in the middle to reduce shifting in transit.  Oh and I threw in a packet of ketchup from my random stuff drawer.  (Doesn't everyone have one of those?)

K ate everything but some of the cheese.  Yay!  E ate all her chicken, most of the cheese and pretzels.  She finished the carrots after school but ignored the grapes.  E commented that she didn't have room for the ketchup so she had to put it on her grapes (EWWW!)  Now I understand.  I explained that next time she should use her lid for the puddle of ketchup.  Kayla showed her how she did that.  Overall, it was a successful meal though. 

Wednesday Eggs

Yesterday's trial with rice prompted me to try something with eggs.  E's lunch had a hard boiled egg as she has liked these in the past.  I also included half a grilled cheese sandwich from the previous night's dinner.  K's lunch had a thin scrambled egg with cheese rollup.  I guess it was more like an omelet.  She also got a handful of carrots as filler.  They both had a cup of goldfish crackers, with grapes hiding underneath, and apple bunnies. 

It seems they both decided they didn't like the eggs. I could tell they tried them, but rejected them.  E ate her grilled cheese and about half of the side items.  K ate her apples, crackers and some of the grapes/carrots.  She also ate the granola bar I threw in as extra.  What I disliked the most was opening the boxes after school.  The egg in both cases had made everything leftover unappealing and disgusting. Usually they can eat some of the leftovers afterschool, but not this time.  Lesson learned. 

Leftover Rice

Here I went for our trial run of leftover rice.  I tightly packed it into the side container and added soy sauce.  The other half had grapes, baby carrots, cheese and turkey squares.  I liked the colorful presentation.  This happened to be on a morning that mommy forgot to set the alarm(ooops!), so it was seriously thrown together in no time flat.  It's not cute, but it still has some appeal.  See, it doesn't have to take a long time to be cool.

After school, K had eaten all the rice and some of the other side.  E had eaten almost everything except the rice.  It seems they could have shared a lunch this day.  If only they ate at the same time.  Seriously though, they were starving after school.  If they eat most of their lunch, I'm happy, but half?  We have to do better!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Sandwiches

                                                                                                    Happy Monday!  We did pb&j sandwiches in various shapes.  E got a gingerbread man since her class went hunting for a gingerbread man at school to learn about all the important places.  K got a large heart shape and some small flowers.  They both have grapes filling the bottom of their containers, baby carrots and "Texas" shaped pretzels (cowboy boots and the shape of the state).  Only in Texas can you find pretzels themed to the state in a regular grocery store.  Silly, but fun!  E also got some stacked american cheese shapes.  They both had a few mini cookies in a bag on the side. 
I did a great job with K's box.  It was filled to the brim.  E's was a little lean as she doesn't have the same appetite.  She got the one gingerbread man sandwich.  I could only fit one on her bread, so it was more than half a sandwich.  That seems to be what she's eating these days, so I didn't want to make another sandwich just to "fill the box."  I tried to build up the cheese stack to hold it all in place and add variety, but I'm sure it was all tossed around. 
K ate every last crumb.  She even ate the granola bar I threw in.  E ate the sandwich, cheese,some of the carrots and a few pretzels.  It looked like all the grapes were left, with tree carrots and the rest of the pretzels.  So, I was right about not making more sandwich for E.  The pretzels were soggy after school.  Wonder if they were that way at lunchtime or if it was because they were rolling around with grapes and carrots, both with water content.  Things that make me go, "hmmmm..." 

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Friday's Bento

Today's lunch included 2 heart shaped pb&j sandwiches, half a banana, grapes, cucumber flowers, cheese stick, pretzels, carrots and 3 mini peanut butter cookies.

After I took the pic, I realized that the cookies needed to be raised up as the lid adds another inch or so of height. Heaven forbid the precious cookies get thrown around enroute to the lunchroom. So I added a few grapes under the little cup so it was higher.

K ate all but the cheese stick, a few carrots and some mushy banana. She said it ended up all mushy and brown on the end. Not her favorite! E ate the sandwich, banana, cheese and cookies. She nibbled on the remainder. Most of the rest came home. Because of the banana mush, the leftovers were not edible. Bummer! Lesson learned.
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Leftover Lunch

For this lunch I portioned out some of the leftover spaghetti from the night before. (Actually I packed the two portions in one box sealed in the fridge overnight, splitting them in the morning and adding the other stuff.) The rest of the lunch includes: parmesan cheese on the spaghetti, carrot flowers, wheat crackers, grapes and sugar snap peas. Mandarin orange cup on the side.

As it turned out, K ate the left side and E ate the right side. That's right, if they ate lunch together, they could have shared a lunch. E ate all her spaghetti and the oranges and brought home the rest. K ate the side items, but not her main dish. So now what do I do about that? Maybe I need to look for a little thermos to send with them. Perhaps it was the lack of warmth. Gotta look for a good deal. It's not worth paying full price. Maybe there will be sales on the remaining "back to school" things as school has started in this area. Maybe.

I was pleased with how everything fit in the boxes and mostly how it looked. Next time, I'll try to use red grapes for more color variety.

Day 3 Bento

For the third day of school we did quesadilla rollups, carrot sticks and flowers, apple "bunnies," and a banana bread mini muffin.

K ate about half of her quesadillas as she decided suddenly that she doesn't like them. What?! when did that happen? She also ate her carrots and apples. She picked at but didn't eat her muffin. Another sudden dislike. Here I thought I was being ingenious when making banana bread by making a few dozen into mini muffins that I can freeze and pop out for lunches. Oh well! I was only half brilliant this time. E loved hers. She ate all her quesadilla and left a few apples for after school.

Monster for Day 2

This lunch was for the second day of school. It was a "Monster" peanut butter and jelly sandwich with pretzel "hair," cheese and mini chocolate chip "eyes," and a grape nose. Also in the bento were more grapes, carrots and a fruit roll up.

K's box came home empty. E's box was only half full this time. She finished most of it after school. She ate about half the sandwich, the face and the fruit roll up. Better than nothing, but we're working on getting her to actually eat during lunch time.

I asked K how the face looked after the journey to school in a backpack. She said it was all over the place. There were just spots of peanut butter where it was supposed to be and she put it back together. Her friends thought it was cool. So my question is, how do I keep the cute stuff looking cute by the time it gets to school? Keeping the box flat is not realistic. I guess I need to figure a way to elevate the sandwich so it pushes against the lid and thereby pressure fits it in place. Thicker bread? Cardboard filler? Find a shallower box? Am I really thinking this much about lunch?

First Day of School

On the first day of school, I decided to give the girls a lunch that I knew would be a hit as we had tried all the elements at home in "practice sessions."

In their lunches today: turkey and cheese stick rollups, sugar snap peas, crackers, fruit by the foot and cheese cutouts. Outside the box was a cup of peaches.

After school, K had 2 rollups left and a few scraps. She finished those in the car right after. E had almost all her lunch remaining. Apparently she was talking to her new friend. She didn't want to talk with her mouth full, so she talked instead of eating. Ugh! She also finished her lunch after school.

Bento Lunches

This year, I am dabbling in sending my kids to school with bento lunches to school. I stumbled upon this site and I was intrigued. We are trying to a) save money, b) eat healthy and c) be "green."

Bento lunches have their roots in Asian countries, but seeing some of the Americanized versions opened my eyes to the possibilities. While rice is a traditional ingredient, I have found many other fun things to play with.

Current struggles:
  • differences in taste preferences between the girls.
  • differences in portion sizes for the two girls.
  • ways to incorporate leftovers in lunches.
  • ways to make lunch look fun and stay that way.
I love that bento lunches mean that I'm using fewer plastic bags, which means savings at the store and for the environment, so that's always a good thing.

In this blog, I plan to share some of the lunches I have made for the munchkins. Stay tuned!