Thursday, December 17, 2009

throw and go

Today is 'one of those days'.  I was up at my school last night helping sort the fundraiser and also getting last minute touches ready for our Christmas program and party today. 
I came home and it looked about how I left it - my dining room table is covered in 'school stuff', there are piles to walk over, and the dishes in the sink are starting to talk to each other and become old friends.
AFTER TODAY things calm down (deep breaths, amanda).

So, upon request here is a quick pic of one of our throw together lunches.  The laptop lunchbox was in the sink under who knows what so I grabbed his LL bean bag today.
salad with raisins and cranberries (he is anti-dressing all of a sudden), a few banana chips, annies cheddar bunnies, a little blends yogurt and a baby bell cheese.  The water bottle is in front.... it is the one with the pink cap.  His sister's was the only clean one!  Dishes are FIRST on the list when I get home today!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

nativity lunch

I had this lunch planned out (in my head) for my daughter's lunch today... but she was still recovering from a weekend attack of the sniffles and didn't go to school.  When your name comes out as BOBBY instead of MOMMY, it's not a good thing.
She has a class party planned for thursday and doesn't need a lunch brought to school, so I went ahead and made this one for my son tomorrow.

Sliced chicken and cheese sandwich with a crust stable roof, and crust manger. Granola sprinkled in the manger as hay, sliced chicken ground, chicken and cheese angel, cheese star and a raisin backdrop as the night sky.
The other containers have cranberry, raisin and peanut butter ants on a log, carrots, and blue cheese dip.

The crazy week!

Oh, so much to catch up on... I was going through pictures and realized I need to post the last three weeks worth of groceries, catch you up on the latest of the lost lunchbox saga, and I have a few recipes to share.  BUT first I have to get through this week! 
Between this kids party, that kids program, my turn for providing breakfast for the monthly work meeting, wrapping all the teacher gifts, my husband working late hours, teaching my own class, my class party, the class christmas program..... and on and on. 
Is my head spinning?!

I hope to do some catch up posts soon! - just not this week!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

snowflake quesadilla

Have I mentioned how much I love the ready bake tortilla dough?  Since it is dough, it is pliable enough to fold many times to cut into .... oh, something like a snowflake.  how cool is that?  
I use these a lot in the lunches because
A.  my son has a wierd freaky thing for quesadillas.  Even plans to open a quesadilla restaurant one day (be on the lookout for a 'quesadilla house' opening near you in.... oh...... say 15 years).  
and B.  It is SO versatile. 

This lunch has two quesadilla snowflake sandwiches, one on top of the other, tortilla stars made from the dough scraps, half an apple, carrots with blue cheese dip, and ants on a log.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

santa, snowman, and lights.

As asked, my son has been getting very plain lunches lately.  I haven't posted them because they started to look the same.   Usually a sandwich, applesauce or yogurt, cheddar bunny's and an apple.  No fancy cutting or anything.  I think he's been missing his special lunches a bit.  As soon as his new lunchbox arrived today, he asked if he could get a santa hat sandwich like his sister did yesterday. 
I was so thrilled that I threw in lights and a snowman too!

Actually, the lights were planned for my daughter's lunch tomorrow but her class earned a pizza party so we were told not to bring lunch. 

The snowman.... well... just kinda happened.

The lights and santa hat are just peanut butter and jelly and plain cream cheese sandwiches.  the lights have almond halves at the bottom.  I wish I had a black licorice string to be the wire, but oh well.   The lights are on a bed of lettuce.  The santa hat is sitting on top of sweet couscous (raisins and cinnamon added to couscous).  The snowman is vanilla yogurt with frozen blueberries for eyes and mouth and a carrot nose.

It's here! It's here!

If you've been following this blog, you know my son has had a love/hate thing going on with his lunches all year.  He has loved his home made lunches, wanted to buy, and wanted a normal 'bag' lunch all in the four months of the school year so far.  A few weeks ago, he lost his laptop lunchbox.  I went back and forth as to whether or not I should order a new one.... 
Every time I made up my mind, I changed it again.   I couldn't tell if he didn't like the lunchbox or the food inside.   He insisted he liked the lunchbox and the food but wanted a "normal" lunch.   Well what the heck does that mean? 
Then, the makers of the laptop lunchbox read my post and offered me a free buddy set (which has the wonderful large container I had packed the day the lunchbox vanished) and a discount on the rest of my purchase (How awesome are they?!!).  After long discussions with my son, WE decided to go ahead and buy a new lunchbox but we agreed he would get more 'normal' lunches in them. 
His idea of normal lunches meant "not decorated".   I didn't like it, but I faked a June cleaver-ish smile and agreed on it.

Well, dag on....  you know what the first thing out of his mouth was when we opened the new set?? 

"Can you make ME a santa hat like you did for my sister?"

hee hee... I think we are back in business! 

his new lunchbox!

Homemade granola

We made our first batch of homemade granola this week.  It was super easy and makes a pretty large batch.
The kids have eaten this as a cereal, on yogurt and just munched on it plain!  Side note - the serving sizes on most granola is less than regular cereals, so use a little less than you would for boxed cereal. 

The original recipe came from  my Earthbound Farms Organic cookbook - Food to live by.  by Myra Goodman.  (LOVE this cookbook btw!)  I tweaked it just a little...

Maple Cranberry Raisin Granola
makes about 8 cups.

4 1/2 cups (18 ounces) old fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shelled, raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
1 cup slivered raw almonds (or coarsely chopped)
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnimon
1 1/4 cups pure maple syrup
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup raisins
3/4 cup dried cranberries.

Preheat oven to 325F
Place oats, seeds, almonds and cinnamon on a large (12x17) baking sheet with sides.  Stir gently to combine.
Add maple syrup and oil.  Mix with hands till dry ingredients become moist.

Smooth out mixture on baking sheet to an even layer.  Bake on center oven rack 40 minutes, stiring with a flat spatula a few times while baking.  Watch closely during the last 5-10 minutes to prevent any burning.

Place cookie sheet on a cooling rack and stir in raisins and cranberry.  Let cool completely.  Transfer to an airtight container and store up to 1 month or frozen for up to 6 months.

Monday, December 7, 2009

santa claus is coming to town

Here is my daughter's red and white themed, santa hat lunch for tomorrow.  The santa hat is an inside out sandwich, where the top bread is on the bottom and she knows how to pull it out and place it on top to eat it like a regular sandwich.
The sandwich is almond butter and strawberry jelly and the white is cream cheese.   It is on a bed of baby spinach and arugula salad with herbs.

The top right container has some of the last of our homegrown tomatoes from this year.  A freeze came through this week and knocked out all the tomato and pepper plants as well as the rest of my basil.  Some of the tomatoes were still on the vine and looked awesome - I got to them just in time!!   However, I am kicking myself for not getting out there to get the basil to make a bunch of pesto!!  The freeze got to it first.   I do have some pesto in the freezer, but I could have easily made another big batch.   Next year....
The remaining items are kashi whole grain crackers, dried cranberries, and white radish slices... we think they look like snow!

After taking the picture, I added a small container of salad dressing to the lunchbox.

Friday, December 4, 2009

End of november shopping

I've gotten behind in my grocery postings.  Here are a few shots I took over the last few weeks but neglected to post.  My husband made a few grocery runs that did not get photographed.

This is a Kroger run, saved $34.31 (does not count manager special item savings) in sales and coupons and spent $56.98

This was a Tom Thumb trip - saved about $35, spent 77.35.  not a great trip since I did not really buy a lot.  But I am a toilet paper snob and we are now loaded up for a while! The lunchmeat and cheese is a good quality too, and a littler pricier.  As for the pizzas... it was just that kind of day that day!!

As for the trips NOT pictured this month, we were in charge of the turkey for Thanksgiving and decided to 'splurge' on an organic turkey. 
We spent $36.96 on the turkey.
$54.86 on a quick costco run.
$9.62, $26.89 on a few quick run in trips my husband made for milk, eggs, etc.
Plus add the grocery runs at the start of the month... and......

Goal for november - $ 400
actual TOTAL for november.....$395.33 !

green and not so green smoothies

Not long ago, it was warm in Texas.  We were walking around in T-shirts and flip flops and craved a nice cold drink.  This was... oh, say LAST week.  Today we have the heat cranked, wood set out for the fireplace, and winter coats by the door.

So, I feel a little silly posting this warm weather drink on a cold day like today.... but, oh well.

Green smoothies.  This may be a new term for you, it may not.  I've seen several variations of the Green Smoothie recipe on the web, but the heart of the recipe comes down to using green vegetables mixed with fruit in a smoothie.  The green veggie most commonly used is Spinach, because it will blend nicely in the drink and not be at all gritty if blended enough.   Fresh spinach is better..... MUCH better... on MANY levels.

Here are some of the variations we have tried depending on your audience...

If you want to keep it GREEN and use cool smoothie names like 'Incredible Hulk' 'Green Goblin' "Super Slime' 'Green Monster' 'Oscar the Grouch', etc.....
Use fresh spinach, yogurt, ice, and.... key ingredient (drum roll please.....) BANANA.  For us, the banana is a must.  It will overpower the spinach, add sweetness but keep the color of the drink GREEN.

Now, if green is not the final result you are wanting... you can do a PURPLE smoothie and call it 'Grape-alicious' 'purple princess' 'purple monster', etc, etc...
Same ingredients as above, but add BLUEBERRIES and STRAWBERRIES.  If using frozen berries, you can omit the ice!

For a PINK version, start with the same basic ingredients as above, but just add STRAWBERRIES, and POM juice. Adding more yogurt/banana to the smoothie and less spinach will create a 'prettier' pink.  Come up with some great 'pink-alicious, princess y' name, and viola!

Really, the sky is the limit - I usually do kitchen sink version with whatever we have on hand. 
Pictured are the smoothies we made last week with some of the POM juice we received to try.
On this particular day, I used spinach, kefir and yogurt (both were almost gone and needed to be used), a small handful of fresh blueberries, banana, frozen strawberries, pom juice.  After tasting, I decided the strawberries were a little tart and added a squirt of honey to the blender!

The kids INHALED it - as did I!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree...

Here is my daughter's lunchbox for tomorrow....

Spinach salad christmas tree with cheddar star, whole wheat tortilla trunk, carrot ornaments, and some extra carrots and sunflower seeds around the edges.  I used a little bit of press n seal to hold it in place and added a small container of raspberry vinaigrette on top of the press n' seal after taking the picture.  Some star shaped wheat tortilla and cheddar and swiss cheese, and a yogurt round out this lunch.

The star is the shape of the month at her preschool this month!  That (and the fact that I need to use up the spinach) inspired this lunch.

My son got the same lunch, plus a banana...   just that his lettuce was not in the shape of a tree.   Mr. Picky pickerton said it was ok to add some star shaped cheese though ;)  

back and forth...

Just when I have my mind made up....
I received an email from Nancy, from the Obentec company. They are the makers of the Laptop Lunchbox.  After reading my last post (how cool is that!!!!), she offered me a FREE new set of 'buddy' containers (the set with my well loved larger box) and a discount on the rest of my order.
Even before recieving her email, I had spent the last few days quizzing my son to find out what a 'normal' lunch is and if he wants another laptop lunchbox or not. 

I needed to find out if it was the box or the food that was 'not normal'.

He says he likes the Laptop Lunchbox but wants more 'regular' foods inside and not the fancy lunches I sometimes make.  It felt like a stab through the heart, but I kept the smile on my face.  Besides, who am I doing 'fancy' lunches for if he does not want them??!!


I am going to humble my selfish artistic pride and get back to the focus of why this blog was created - to keep me accountable while I provide a healthy, organic/natural diet for my family as frugally as possible.   If that means it may not be a showcase of a lunch, then so be it.  If he changes his mind down the road, great.  If not, I am ok with that. 
Although..... (hee hee) my daughter on the other hand LOVES the fancy lunches, so I can still sneak them in a few days a week!  In the meantime, I am going to put an order in for the outer box and a solid color carry bag.  I will write his name on the outer bag in LARGE writing with a PERMANENT marker!  It will make lunch making more streamlined if both children have the same lunchboxes and containers to pack.

Thanks again to Nancy at Obentec!  What awesome customer service!!!  And how cool that they read my blog!

Monday, November 30, 2009

a lot less lunches for the limbo.

After a week off of school for Thanksgiving break, I forgot to make lunch last night.  So, this morning I threw a bunch of stuff into the lunchbag.   My son went to school with a 'regular lunch' (as he calls it).  He had a pb&J in a plastic baggie, a prepackaged organic applesauce, annies bunnies in a bag, and some cheese and crackers thrown into a plastic baggie.

He likes the regular lunch.  I've known this all along... I've just tried to fight it. 

With his laptop lunchbox still missing (and most likely gone for good), I find myself at a crossroads.  Who knew I would put so much thought into lunchboxes.  really.  who stresses over this?

I declared not long ago that I was going to buy a new laptop lunchbox, but I am not so sure.  The kids go straight out to recess after lunch, with many other classes and a few grade overlaps.  He still seems to think someone else picked his up by mistake - really?  I highly doubt someone else has an electric blue/green alien lunchbox, and if so, wouldn't there have been a duplicate remaining in the lunchbox pile by the door? 

Knowing he prefers 'regular lunches' over the laptop, I flat out asked the accusatory question - "did you lose it on purpose?"  he swears up and down he did not.  I do believe him.  He has always been a kid who is super easy to break.  He would have cracked by now if he had anything to do with the mysterious disappearance.  

So, that brings me to this super tiny in the grand scheme of things, yet stressful to my little life, decision.  Shell out $50 for a new system  (lost the silverware, the water bottle, a few containers including one of our  killer awesome large inner containers that is only sold in the separate 'buddy' kit which tacks another $12 onto the system total)
OR, knowing he likes a 'regular lunch', meet him in the middle and just use some of the remaining laptop lunch containers mixed with whateverr tupperware and the occasional baggie or prepackaged item and hodgepodge it into his old (current) lunchbag.

Considering we've had his laptop lunchbox for about three months, I just can't see shelling out that much money when he could possibly lose it again.

so.... that is where I am at:  He is going to still be getting healthy lunches with minimal packaging, but they will just be more 'regular' in format.  I won't use all prepackaged, processed or so much plastic baggies as I did for today's lunch, but they just are not going to be as fancy, creative or decorative since I am limited to use random containers and will have to use some plastic bags just to be able to fit it all into the lunchbag as the bulky containers make arranging enough food, plus a drink difficult!  Being that I have to cram it all together, it just doesn't make sense that I spend so much time on making them look 'pretty'. 

My daughter on the other hand is at a preschool where there is pretty much no possible way her lunch could get lost in the shuffle.  So, you most likely will only be seeing her lunches from here on out.   It will be less often as she only goes to school two days a week.

Here is her lunch for tomorrow...

 A spinach salad with raisins and seeds, cheddar bunnies, small orange, black and orange carrots slices. 
After the picture, I added salad dressing and cut into the orange so she can peel it easily.

Monday, November 23, 2009

grocery shopping but not for us.

School is out this week - there are a lot of children who attend our local elementary school whose main meal of the day is lunch.  With school being out an entire week that can really have an affect on grocery budgets, especially if extra daycare costs or lost work days come into play.
I spoke with the Community in Schools liaison for our elementary school and she referred me to the local food pantry.  There are a large number of students at the school who qualify for services that the food pantry provides.  Between school being out and it being thanksgiving week, they are expecting an influx of need at the food pantry.

I offered to purchase some fresh fruits and vegetables.  I was shocked at how much I could get with so little.
I filled a grocery cart with 45 apples, 45 oranges, 30 lbs. of potatoes, 12 lbs of bananas, 16 lbs of mini peeled carrots, 9 cucumbers, 17 bags of lettuce/spinach.  My main thought was grab and go items for any kids left at home while parent worked, and of course healthy and fresh foods. The food pantry normally wants non perishables, but this week is an exception and they were so thrilled with the donation.

It is eating at me that I purchased conventional produce and not organic, but I knew I could help many more people and that the fresh fruit and veggies were better than alternative foods.

total spent - $115

Ironically, I moved some term CD's around whose time was up and sure enough, the interest made was right around $115.  This means this trip has no impact on our grocery budget!

I took a picture of the groceries in the back of the car using my cell phone, but it turns out it was really a video and I can't figure out how to just add a still from it on here...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pom Wonderful giveaway winners

Thanks you to all who entered!!
CONGRATS to Astrid, Jill and Christa (#'s 4, 16, 28) in the comments. Those numbers were chosen using for the pom wonderful giveway! All are CONFIRMED!  your coupons should arrive soon! enjoy.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

red celery

I teach 3 year olds part time.   Last week was our farm unit.   Most of the week is spent talking about farm animals; we sing animal songs, play animal games, make animal noises, pattern with animals, work with animal related manipulative items - even 'milk' a cow (our easel transformed into a cow with a rubber glove filled with water as the udders).
  We do however throw in a little talk about food grown on farms.  We read books about plants needing water, soil and sunlight to grow.  We pretend to be farmers and pretend to plant, water, etc.  Our science experiment for the week is to take a leafy stalk of celery and place it in water with red food coloring.  By the end of the day, the stalk and leaves have a tinge of red to them and the kids can see how a plant needs water.

I've done this lesson in the past and didn't even give it much thought.  This year, it really struck a chord.  The red dye is was in the water, the plant 'ingested' that dye.  I am sure there is a lot of higher level science involved = size of the particulates, temperature and evaporation rates, blah blah blah.  But the basic, preschool level thought of the day...
If chemicals are sprayed or added to the soil -  The plant will 'ingest' it.
Maybe we should add funky colored dyes to any chemical put on or around conventionally grown plants so people can SEE that those things are actually there in the 'final product'. Oh wait - that would just be marketed as fun, exciting, and would have a character endorsement.
*eye roll*

POM wonderful giveaway ends tonight!

click the link on the right sidebar to enter!

My Pom wonderful juice arrived today.  Good timing!  I am off of work all next week - time to get creative!!

I can't take it anymore!

I am ordering a new laptop lunchbox for the boy.  Wow, I made it how long - only a week before breaking down?!?!

I sent the LL bean one the other day with some rubbermaid containers and a lid did not get tightened before being returned home.  I can't just quickly wash and dry like I can with the hard box of the laptop lunch.  Nope, It needs a date with the washing machine.  What can I say, it has been a busy week and that date has yet to happen... (don't worry, I did wipe the funk out... just needs a deep clean still).
He brown bagged it today and will tomorrow as well.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

squinty corn

You kinda have to squint a little, maybe use your imagination....
It is a piece of corn made out of a tortilla pb&j.  It is on top of a cut apple, lettuce, and noodles with parmesan.

I miss his laptop lunchbox.....   We'll see how long I go without buying a replacement.  I'm still holding out hope that it will appear.  Although...  not sure how funky it will be if it does.

Monday, November 16, 2009

fruit turkey

This will be my daughter's only thanksgiving themed lunchbox.  On Thursday her class will be having a party/feast.  The turkey is made from a pear half, orange and apple slices, with raisin and quinoa eyes.  It is placed on a bed of quinoa with some cinnamon and a tiny touch of brown sugar mixed in.

The kids loved the horizon natural yogurt blends.   The last ones I picked up on markdown had .75 off coupons on the inside of the outer package.  I found them marked down again and used the coupons also.  I paid a total of .75 for a four pack! 
A cut up organic pickle rounds out this lunch.

still MIA

Well, it seems as though his laptop lunchbox is for sure MIA.  I went up to the school today and peeked around, checked lost and found, etc.   It was nowhere to be found.

SO, we go back to how we began the year when only my daughter had the laptop lunchbox.  He uses the laptop inner containers, packed in an L.L. bean lunch bag which he had previously.   I am going to wait and see if it still turns up or not before I do anything differently.

I'm not terribly upset with him.  The kids go outside for recess right after lunch and set their lunchboxes on a table or a bench.  In his class, only about 4 or 5 kids bring a lunch, so I can see how it would be easy to leave it outside after lunch, especially when all of your friends walk right past that area without stopping.

Friday, November 13, 2009

MIA and out of commission!

The lunchbox did not come home yesterday.  I sent him to school with lunch money and a reminder to find and bring home his lunchbox today.  He got off the bus and.... yup, no lunchbox.
I called a friend/neighbor, who is also a teacher at his school and she looked in lost and found before leaving for the day..  no lunchbox.

It is friday.
I last packed yogurt.
IF it turns up on Monday (I'm going to go search for it on Monday) it will smell something fierce, for sure.

So, for now his box is MIA, and upon it's return it will be out of commission - at least for the duration of a few cycles through the dishwasher!!

I am the stalker...

I think I have checked this blog about 20 times in the last two days to print coupons and check for new deals.
So, to Susan at Organic deals and coupons - yes, I am the stalker...

here, stalk for yourself...

shopping trip

Small trip this week - went to central market and picked up just a few things.  See the little white block just above the eggs??!!  It is white chocolate. Not cheap white chocolate either - the good stuff!   I bought just enough to try this scrumptious looking pumpkin white hot chocolate recipe I stumbled across on another blog.  I pureed the pumpkin and was ready for a nice evening treat, and could not find that chocolate!  I've looked all over - fridge, pantry, you name it.  I put groceries away in a rush that day and I may have left it on the counter before walking out the door.  If that is the case.... the dog got it - plastic wrapping and all!  There is no sign of it anywhere!  

I roasted up the spaghetti squash and added toasted nuts (i had pecan chips) and sage (it is in the plastic baggie next to the eggs).  Topped with cheese, and YUM!

Other than the spaghetti squash, sage and missing white chocolate, the other items are: couscous, organic rolled oats, frozen strawberries, organic tater tots, organic sweet potatoes, avacodo, carrot chips, fresh peanut butter, organic green leaf lettuce, cereal, bananas, eggs, and yes, that is ghiradeli hot chocolate!

So, total for the week - 44.97

My husband picked up some milk on his way home this week - so add a few bucks on for that.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

O happy day!

This was a totally kid inspired lunch.   My son came up with this idea - he wanted a total happy face lunch.  I was supposed to buy baby bell cheese today  (the yellow kind) to do a happy face on, and forgot it... so it's one face short.
This one is actually my daughters lunch.   She wanted the broccoli and cheese from dinner tonight in her lunch tomorrow, but him... not so much.  He gagged down two helpings with dinner so that he would not get any in his lunch tomorrow (his idea, not mine.  I have to say it was a good one though).  His lunch is just like this one, but instead of broccoli, he received the rest of the cut apple.

no lunch today

I took a break last night and did not make today's lunchbox.  I had to pick up my mom and go for our hair appointments last night and did not get home till late.  Got the kids ready for and in bed and turned to look at the mound of dishes in the sink.   Once I realized my son's laptop lunchbox was part of that pile, I opted for a brown bag lunch today. 
I guess that means I have to make up for it tonight and pull out something really cool? lol... we'll see...

Monday, November 9, 2009

leftover lunchbox

Haven't done any cutesy lunches yet this week  I spent a good amount of time in the kitchen cooking and baking today, so by the time making lunch came around, a little less effort went into the 'gza gza' of it. 

This lunch has some of the Lemon Garlic Chicken and Honey Apple Pie/crisp I made earlier today.  i also added a little blends yogurt, pickle, ketchup for dipping, spinach lettuce with feta.  My children are about to go on a spinach boycott - I bought a big tub of it and don't want it to go bad, which is why it has been in the last...oh... several lunches!  I think I will pick up some frozen fruit and make some green 'incredible hulk' smoothies with the rest.  They have NO problems eating/drinking it that way!!

Apple pie/crisp

I found this Apple Honey Pie recipe at Finding Joy In My Kitchen .  It is a healthier version of an apple pie, and more of a cross between a pie and a crisp.  Either way, it hit the spot tonight!

Here is a picture of my results, following the recipe link above.

Lemon Garlic Chicken with Chives

I have to admit, I am terrible at following recipes.
I bring the laptop into the kitchen and place it on the island countertop, rendering the island useless for cooking because I don't want to spill food on the computer.  I then cook/bake on a small section of countertop located across from the computer. I spend my cooking time constantly going back and forth between reading the recipe and cooking.  I just about always forget the measurements or ingredients that I need during the two step walk, turn and shuffle it takes to go back and forth.  I must look like a 90 year old man when I try to follow recipes;  Straining to read the recipe, forgetting over and over what and how much... it's a mess.

So, lately I have been winging it... a lot!

I found this recipe online somewhere, but I can't remember where.  I'd love to give credit... but being as I changed it so much, it is probably such a far cry from the original anyhow.

I started by roasting a head of garlic in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  Typically, I would wrap in foil... but I was out.  A quick call to mom saved the day.  She said, "Ina roasts it in a pan all the time, just put some olive oil on it and watch it really well."  Mom is a food network junkie - says Ina's name like they go way back or something...  That's ok, buddy-buddy Ina's advice helped a lot!

Lemon Garlic Chicken with Chives

1 roasted head of garlic
1-2 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. flour
1 cup chicken broth
8-10 chicken strips/tenders or 4 thin chicken breasts
1 lemon
3 tbsp. butter
fresh chives

Lightly coat chicken strips with flour and place in a hot pan with a little olive oil. Cook thoroughly.  
Meanwhile, add one cup of chicken broth to a bowl.  Add the zest and juice of one lemon to the bowl.   Add the bits of roasted garlic to the bowl.
When chicken is finished cooking, add contents of bowl to the pan of chicken and bring to a slight boil.  Reduce heat and stir in butter and 1/4 cup of fresh cut chives to the mixture.

I served with a side of Quinoa (bottom picture) and Green beans.  The kids loved this chicken dish! 

dippity do da lunch - pumpkin style

Our house rule is no eating anywhere there is carpet unless you, personally, can afford replacement carpet.  This pretty much takes care of the under 18 crowd.  I think maybe a few of our grown up friends too...

We made pumpkin dip this weekend and let the kids break the house rule by taking it, and a bag of gingersnaps upstairs to munch on while watching a family movie.  Sometimes ya just got to!

My original 'martha' plans were to make a pumpkin cheesecake on a homemade gingersnap crust.
But in the midst of my friday night sweet tooth, hunger, and rule breaking rampage, there was no time for
'Martha-ing'.   I wanted it, and I wanted it NOW (well, then... you know what I mean...)

The sugar pumpkins I intended to bake and puree are still on the counter.  I shamelessly grabbed the 'emergency' can of pumpkin puree from the pantry and had the concoction whipped up in about 5 minutes.
Someway, somehow, some dip and gingersnaps made it through the weekend unscathed.  The gingersnaps join a cut up apple for dipping.  A spinach salad with feta, and some cheddar bunnies finish out this lunch.

This recipe is on the Nestle/Libbey website, but with double the cream cheese and more than triple the sugar!
we find this version to be sweet enough!

Easy Cream Cheese Pumpkin dip
1 8 oz. package of softened cream cheese
1 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree
1/4-1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 - 1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice (ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves)

In a mixing bowl, blend cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth.  microwave cream cheese for better blending if needed.    Add spices and confectioners sugar to taste.

great for dipping graham cracker, gingersnaps, breads, apples...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

POM Wonderful giveaway

A representative for POM Wonderful contacted me this week to see if I would be interested in trying their products, and develop a recipe using them.  Talk about pressure!  I hope I can come up with something edible!! The juice should arrive on my doorstep in the next week or two, so be on the lookout for my concoction.  Right now, the outcome is a surprise to ALL of us, myself included!

The POM wonderful rep agreed to do a giveaway for my readers!  
3 lucky winners will each receive 4 FREE coupons.  Each coupon is good for one FREE 16.oz bottle of POM wonderful in any flavor!

All of POM Wonderful Juices:
  • contain no added sugars, preservatives or colors
  • are a good source of potassium
  • are gluten-free
  • are flash pasteurized to retain both flavor and nutrients
  • are certified kosher
Flavors Include: 
100% Pomegranate
POM Blueberry
POM Cherry
POM Mango
POM Kiwi
POM Nectarine
see more at: - the POMx coffee drink really has me intrigued!

TO ENTER - GIVEAWAY CLOSED.  Congrats to the winners!  

  simply leave a comment and enter your email address below. 
Giveaway will close Thursday, November 19th at 9pm EST.    Winners will be chosen by

For a second entry (leave a 2nd comment) become a follower of lunchbox limbo (or let me if know you already are!)

Winner will be posted here as well as receive an email (must leave email address so I can contact you), Once notified, winner must contact me with their mailing address within 48 hours to claim prize.

*Disclosure: I will be receiving samples to try/develop a recipe with.  No other compensation was received.* 

Friday, November 6, 2009

shopping trip for nov. 1-7

Last weekend, we went to Costco and Kroger for just a few things at each store. I was thrilled to find organic all purpose flour in 10 lb bags at costco - perfect timing!  We've also decided to stick with natural cheese and just get organic cheese as we can.  The price for cheese per pound at costco seemed pretty good, so we bought a few types to have on hand. 
I ran into Kroger for just coffee creamer and scored discount organic cucumbers, and all those organic bananas for .99.  I had planned to bake with them, but the kids devoured them before I could!  I taught them a long time ago that bananas with brown spots taste sweeter -(so they would eat them) it worked like a charm - and it is true.  A real win/win! 
Total at costco - $54.86
Total at Kroger - $3.98

I also ran into Tom Thumb (safeway) for a few items later in the week.  Hit the dairy and meat department at a great time and scored some clearance deals! HALF PRICE ORGANIC CHICKEN!  wooo hooo! The yogurt, and milk were also half price. But the total was still $28.86 (dang chicken).

Total spent for the week - $87.70

Thursday, November 5, 2009

frogs and bunnies

Lunch tomorrow is a cheesy burrito.  We had a ground beef version for dinner tonight, but since he can not reheat his lunch at school, the cheese version will have to do.  I added green frogs punched out of spinach to jazz things up a bit.  The last of the reduced, near expiration, little blends (love those!), some chocolate chip annie's bunnies, and a spinach salad with cinnamon poached raisins to sprinkle on top finish off this lunch.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I teach at the same pre-school my daughter attends, so I have the inside scoop and know ahead of time that as part of their community helpers lesson,  the town fire department will be visiting her class tomorrow and bringing a fire truck and amblance along.
So, great inspiration for a lunch! 
The firetruck is an inside out sandwich, meaning that the middle is on top for display purposes, she will have to put the bottom bread on top to eat it.  This one is made from cream cheese and strawberry jelly.  The ladder is made from cheese, black is nori.  The sandwich is sitting on top of a spinach salad.  The letters (KFD) on the truck stand for the town fire department. 

I normally do not put packaged items in their lunches.  I ran into the store for milk and saw these horizon natural 'little blends' yogurts in the discount area.  With their expiration date nearing, I went ahead and added it to the lunchbox.  These are all natural with a few organic ingredients.  The part I really love is that they have both a fruit AND a veggie blended into the yogurt (this one is banana sweet potato).

Also in this lunch is half an orange, some annie's cheddar bunnies, and an organic pickle.  It took me a while to find an organic pickle.  My girl loves pickles and could eat them all the time, but most all pickles have dye added.  Since this is something she eats a lot of, I really wanted these to be organic.


I had to make this one in the morning (reason for the late posting).  Simple lunch of warm noodles with parmesan cheese, a pear and some yogurt with blueberries.

For those who follow the blog, you may remember when my husband ran out to buy the cheapest thermoses possible because right in the middle of the home made lunch boycott, my son decided he loved his dad's cinnamon chili and in my frenzie on non-defeat-wantingness, I decided it HAD to go to school with him the next day.  Well, those thermoses were junk.  The chili was cold, it stained and kept a chili odor.  I trashed them and bought new ones.  I know, I know, pretty wasteful. 
The new thermoses, made by thermos brand, and are of spiderman (above) and his friend barbie (yet to be photographed.. guess she is shy?) rock my world.  The noodles stayed nice and warm today.  It cleaned up beautifully and thanks to the stainless - no smell! 

Monday, November 2, 2009

sun, flower

A simple sun and flower combo with what was on hand tonight.  The sun is pear with a sweet potato center.  The flower is cucumber center, stem and leaf on a sweet potato flower.  The background is bulghur wheat pilaf with cinnamon and pumpkin pie spices added.  The side containers have apple, pear and more sweet potato with a little sprinkle of brown sugar.

My daughters lunch is pretty much the same but due to their favorites, she received more cucumber than sweet potato in her lunch. 

butternut squash, goat cheese, hazelnut, chicken pasta

I had butternut squash hanging out in my fridge, cubed and waiting to be cooked.  My foodie friend Michelle, was over one day and started rattling off meal ideas using the butternut squash. 

I had told her of the hazelnuts I had just purchased because of their good price.  She knew I had goat cheese on hand because we had already talked about it (yes, we talk about food... ). She also knew I had basil in my garden, and leftover chicken noodle soup in the fridge.

So, viola.  'Butternut squash, goat cheese, hazelnut, chicken pasta'.  This dish may already exist, and have a fancier name.  But, oh well!
HOLY cow, it was soooo good. 
The goat cheese mixed with the hazlenuts and slight sweetness of the squash was awesome!

I can't give you 'exact' amounts, because I really have no clue as to how much I used..... so here is the ingredient rundown and guessed amount for our family of 4 -  you can experiment amounts for yourself.

Butternut squash, goat cheese, hazelnut, chicken pasta

4 cups cooked pasta of your choice
(1 cup - ?)chicken stock
(1/4 cup- ?) goat cheese
(1/4 cup-?) of hazelnuts, crushed to small chunks
1 chicken breast,
1 medium butternut squash, cut and cubed.
2tbsp. fresh basil, chopped

Cook desired amount of noodles in a large stockpot according to package directions.  Drain water and add or make about a cup of chicken stock.  (I used about 2 cups of leftover noodles already in about one cup of chicken stock, then cooked about another 2 cups of noodles, drained and added to the existing noodles in a large stockpot.)

 Pan cook butternut squash slightly, add to stockpot of noodles/liquid.  reduced to med. heat.
In same pan used for squash, cook the chicken breast.  Add cooked chicken to pot.
Crush hazelnuts gently in a food processor.  You want these slightly chunky.  Add to pot.
Add chopped basil..... enjoy!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Meet Jane

I have discovered that I love themes!  Maybe it is the preschool teacher in me - I am used to planning and teaching around a theme.  I love decorating for holidays or designing themed children's rooms.   But, since it is too early for thanksgiving lunches and with Halloween being old news, I had no theme to roll with for lunch tomorrow.

Sooooo there I was staring at the cookie cutters.  I guess I was doing a little bit of whining about not having a theme, when my husband said, (in a 'sarcastic yet somehow supportive at the same time' kind of tone), "Well, I guess you have to do a plain Jane lunch."  I, (sarcstically, yet lovingly), replied "Ok, fine.  I will make a plain Jane lunch."

So here you have her - 'Plain Jane'.  She is made out of cheese, with stringbean bean eyes, tomato mouth.
Also are cheese and crackers, apples, and sunburst squash.

Friday, October 30, 2009

month 3 budget check

for month 3(of tracking) the grand total spent on all groceries was $625.67 from sept.26- oct. 31st (5 weeks)
$105 of that was the 'rollover' money from being so under budget last month.

Once averaged out between the two months, I did pretty well at keeping to my $100 a week budget for food and household/toiletries, basically, everything except dog food (I have delivered every few months in bulk) and alcohol (we still like a beer now and again).  Really, looking at the amount spent between the two months, I was only over by about $20. 

I do need to note that we did go out to eat once twice this month - once with my parents to try the new burger place in town, and once while out shopping, we went to a cafe.
We also did one night of take out for my husband and myself - sushi!  yum.

Considering we have spent $0 on entertainment (other than the 5.99 netflix subscription I am about to cancel).  That will count as our monthly entertainment! lol - who know burgers and sushi were so entertaining!

shopping trip-dog approved!

I went to Sprouts and Central Market again this week.   I've been trying new recipes and making some 'fancier' (more expensive) meals. I am still struggling to find the balance between cheap, healthy and also keeping things new and exciting.

My splurge items this week were organic hazlenuts and organic cashews - each half price but still $5.99 a bag.  I finally bought organic chicken breasts.  They were huge!  I used one the other night in a chicken dish and will most likely do the same with the other two (I froze them) to really stretch it out.  The chicken was about 1 1/2 pounds and cost over $10!!!  A far cry from my  $1.69 a pound stock up days!  But I have to keep reminding myself of all other stuff we have cut out or have cut down on big time!

Just about everything this trip was organic.  The few items not organic were all natural with nothing funny in the ingredient list as far as I could tell.  My avocados and bananas are not organic - I buy conventional on those since they have such thick shells.

Total cost - $132

dia de los muertos

I chose to finish the Halloween lunches with a día de los muertos styled skull.
This is the last of the rosemary bread I made earlier this week.  I decorated with fruit flowers, representing many of the types of flowers used at the 'ofrenda' alters.  The green are seed pods from inside some cooked green beans, the black is nori.

I really enjoyed this one, because we were able to talk about another culture and traditions.  Feliz día de los muertos!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

5 little pumpkins sitting on a gate...

Since I have focused a lot on scary lunches for my son, this one was geared more towards my pre-school aged daughter.  Here are 5 little pumpkins sitting on a gate (ok, more like a fence).  The pumpkins are carrot chips with nori faces. The fence is leftover noodles from dinner.
Also are rosemary bread, raisins, yogurt with granola and blueberries.

For my son, I had made a tombstone the other day when I made the rosemary bread, and used extra rosemary to spell R.I.P which was my son's clever idea.  The 'grave flowers' (it needed some color) are cut from honeycrisp apples which don't brown as easily (Thank you Michelle for that tip).

If my son's lunches seem to be getting skimpier, it is due to the new fruit bar at school.  They have added a free, fresh fruit bar to the lunchroom.  Both bringers and buyers can help themselves to the fresh fruit.  I am sure it is not organic, but right now I am content with him having a fresh piece of fruit in addition to his lunch brought from home!  

I am so grateful that the Halloween lunched hit when they did - he has not asked to buy his lunch since!  I just need to keep the momentum going AFTER Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

creepy crawly spiders

The web is cut from a bake it yourself wheat tortilla - if you can't tell, I love these things and use them all the time!  I cut a circle out of a larger tortilla.  Then I cut out just a portion of a circle all the way around the tortilla to form the outer edge of the web.  I used melted almond butter placed in a plastic baggie with the end snipped to swirl on the web design.

The large spider is made out of cut nori attached with almond butter to a 'late july' brand organic cookie (yumm, btw!).  The eyes and web silk string are made from cheese.  The mini spiders are cut out of nori using a small sun shaped cutter. The whole design lays on bed of sweet couscous (minus the raisins this time, after the mustache incident). 
I'd love to say I made the orange monster guy eyes... but they are plastic.  They came out of a pumpkin carving kit.  The orange monster guy is made with blood orange slices.  Edamame finishes off this lunch.

Monday, October 26, 2009

bloody fingers

The girl and I did a baking day today, and while making the rosemary bread rolls, I took the liberty to make some of the dough into fun shapes (more to come later this week)!

I made bread fingers with almond fingertips (honey used as 'glue' ), and raspberry vinegrette as the 'blood'.

ok, ok, some of you may think this is too gory for a 2nd graders lunch, but he thinks it is cool and if you have read previous posts, you know what I am competing against.  Well, lunch lady doesn't serve bloody fingers, does she (second thought, don't answer that...I don't really want to know that answer).

The kiwano (horned melon) just looked halloweeney.  I just had to get it.  I had never bought one before and had to read up on how to cut/eat it.  If unripe, the inside tastes like a fruity cucumber. If ripened, it has more of a banana taste.  I bought it because of the orange, spikey outside. Little did I know the inside looked like green slime.  We did a mini taste test with the kids tonight and they said they liked it.  They know to scoop it out and eat the insides, seeds and all.  We'll see how this one goes over... it does have a lot of seeds!)
Last are carrot chips and.. a cookie!

**my daughters lunch is the same, but without the fingers.   We saved her a finger for an afternoon snack.  Can you just hear that one?  "Mommy saved me a finger to eat when I get home today, teacher."  

Sunday, October 25, 2009

jack attack

I went simple tonight.  An AB&J (almond butter and jelly) with a little chocolate peanut butter on top.
Yogurt with frozen blueberries, a homemade pumpkin raisin muffin, celery, and a blood orange (say it in the freaky voice... go on, you know you want to, muahahahaha ).

cinnamon vanilla pumpkin pie

 We tried this twist to the basic pumpkin pie recipe and it was a winner!  Thought it was worth sharing!!

Cinnamon Vanilla Pumpkin Pie
1 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree (or 1 small (approx.)15 oz. can)
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/4 tsp. real vanilla extract (add less if you want just a hint of vanilla)
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice OR 1/4 tsp. each of ground nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, cloves
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (I up all the spices a little - add to your taste)
1 prepared 9" pie crust

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
2. In large bowl, combine pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, sugars, flour, salt, vanilla, spices. Pour into pie shell.
3. Bake for 10 minutes at 450 uncovered, cover with aluminum foil for an additional 10.   After the 20 minutes total at 450, turn the oven down to 350 and bake another 40 minutes.  Uncover for the last 15 minutes or so, keeping an eye on your crust so not to burn (may need to recover).
Total bake time - 1 hour.
Cool completely before serving- tastes great served cold!

Pie Crust - my mom makes a killer pie crust using shortening.  It is the same one her mother made.  I thought I would branch off the family tree and try this one made with butter.

Since I did not make any changes to the butter pie crust recipe, here is the link of the one I tried.  I used my kitchen aid stand mixer (love that thing!) with the dough hook.  I was shocked at how easy this dough was to work with!

pumpkin patch farm trip

We took the kids to a small farm this weekend to buy pumpkins.  We totally avoided the mass crowds at the big pumpkin patch, which after all the rain we have had in previous weeks, I am sure it was nutso there.  The kids picked out carving pumpkins, we pet the goats and had dodge the lone loose chicken who flew the coop!

We hit up the farm store and picked out a few items to purchase this week:
2 sugar pumpkins for roasting/pureeing
2 yellow squash
4 eight ball zucchini (we like to stuff these!)
3 other 'squatty' squash ( i forgot the real name - they are kinda like the patty pans)

not pictured - we also picked up some organic chicken sausage (which we will use to stuff the 8-ball zucchini) and we scoped out the prices for the rest of the chicken (one of my 'C' items!)
and the kids begged for a bag of their peanuts, which cost $1

total spent - $13

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Witch scene lunch OR 'man-witch'

I am having way too much fun with the halloween theme this week!  Since it is still a week early, I hope that someone, somewhere is finding some ideas they can use in their own kid (or their own) lunches next week!

Here is the 'play by play' on the witch scene:
body - a tortilla ab&j (almond butter) sandwich
head/skin  - tortilla with cinnamon/sugar
eye - carrot and cucumber
hat, hair and grass - cut cucumber
broom - carrot
moon - blood orange
background - sweet couscous - raisins kinda look like bats (?!)

(sweet couscous - couscous made with cinnamon, a little sugar, and raisins)

Also in this lunch is the rest of the orange and some yogurt with some Kashi U cereal crushed on top.

The last few lunches were reported to have been all 'mixed up' by lunch time, (major bummer!!) so I am taking my friend, Michelle's advice and using press n seal to keep it in place!  I just placed the witch scene in the laptop lunchbox without the insert, then firmly placed the press n seal all around  it (pressing tightly to the lunchbox) before adding the other containers.  

Oh, and the man-witch part... after taking the pictures, loading them onto the computer, sealing up the lunch, etc., I then notice the raisin in the couscous right under the witch's nose, resembling a mustache!  OH WELL! lol

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Skull and Peeky Eyes and a 2 for 1.

Both the boy and girl have school tomorrow - he is 7 and in public school, she is 4 and in pre-k at a fairly conservative private christian school.... where I also teach. Soooo, she won't be getting any spooky halloween theme lunches, only pumpkins and apples and leaves, etc. Anything too halloweeny would be frowned upon, and since I work there I am going to keep hers tame.
The boy on the other hand, hee hee...  he and I both are lovin' coming up with freaky, fun, scaryish lunches!

Here is his lunch for tomorrow....

HIS lunch has a skull made out of cucumber 'guts' with carrot and cucumber skin eyes, teeth and white of the eyes is made from bits of egg.  It sits on some lundberg brand organic mushroom risotto which was a dinner leftover tonight (and very tasty, btw).  The grilled chicken was also a dinner leftover.  The 'peeky eyes' are hardboiled egg halfs with carrot and cucumber eyeballs.  They are sitting on a bed of lettuce.  The small container next to it is his usual dressing - raspberry vinaigrette.

Lunch 2 is for the girl.  She has simplified eyes (mom tossed some carrots on last minute).  The outside shell of the cucumber from the skull cut out made a perfect carrot stick holder!
The small container has blue cheese dressing.
Notice no chicken or rice in her lunch??  It's cause she protested at dinner and gave them to the dog  the dog somehow got them off of her plate.  I figure an all fruit and veggie lunch for her wouldn't be so terrible!

I think she is turning vegetarian on me??  Great! It's cheaper!


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