Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's Fall!!

In honor of tomorrow being October 1st, we have an all fall themed lunch!
Salad with orange/yellow and red fall leaves, a rice pumpkin, and cinnamon raisin poached pears!


The Inspiration for the leaves and pumpkin came from the last issue of Parents Magazine.  I did slightly different variations of each. 

For the leaves, I used wheat tortilla dough.  I cut out leaf shapes with cookie cutters, and colored with watered down beet and butternut squash purees.  (I freeze the purees in ice cube trays, then transfer to a freezer bag.  When I need just a little I  just pull out one cube.)  After coloring, I cooked the dough on a hot skillet.

The pumpkin is made from brown rice with a little grated carrot and some of the butternut squash puree added.  The stem is a slice from a cucumber.

over the top award

Big thanks to Michelle for giving me the 'over the top' award. Michelle's blog is entitled Finding Trinity.

So,
The rules of this award are to:
answer the questions with only one worded answers (those are below)

- thank the blogger who gave it to you over and over and over (that's exaggerated a bit) :)

- pass it on to 6 of your favorite bloggers
Picking only 6 was tough.... all the blogs I follow are so great, but maybe next time around.


I would like to give this award to:

 foodie footsteps -my 'real life' foodie friend

I am a sleeper baker  - great pics and recipes

mama latina tips -her recipes make my mouth water

living smart girl -lots of wonderful health information

coupon wahm - lots of great deals and links

mommy has to work - great giveaways and just an all around enjoyable blog.





 So, on with the questions:
1. Where is your cell phone?
..purse
2.Your hair?
...frumpy
3. Your mother?
...awesome
4. Your father?
...different
5. Your favorite food?
...grilled
6. Your dream last night?
...none
7. Your favorite drink?
..coffee
8. Your dream/goal?
...content-ness
9. What room are you in?
..livingroom
10. Your hobby?
...blogging
11. Your fear?
...car accident
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years?
...Alive
13. Where were you last night?
...Home
14. Something you aren't?
...normal
15. Muffins?
..banana
16. Wish list item?
...camera
 17. Where did you grow up?
...Maryland
18. Last thing you did?
...ate lunch
19. What are you wearing?
...jeans,tank, flipflops
20. Your TV?
...off
21. Your pets?
...a monkey horse dog
22. Your friends?
...great
23. Your life?
...great
24. Your mood?
...great
25. Missing someone?
...family
26. Vehicle?
...highlander
27. Something you're not wearing?
...earrings
28. Your favorite store?
.. ann taylor
29. Your favorite color?
...blue
30. When was the last time you laughed?
...5 min. ago
31. Last time you cried?
...not sure
32. Your best friend?
...k-ball
33. One place that I go over and over?
...my parents house
34. One person who emails me regularly?
..my sister - but they are forwards, does that count?
35. Favorite place to eat?
...Brio

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

checkerwich sandboard


Here is a 'mixed up' checkerboard sandwich made of whole wheat bread and homemade wheat/flax zucchini bread squares.  Inside is almond butter and a touch of honey.
Edamame with sea salt and peaches with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar complete this lunch.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Eat a rainbow

The saying goes 'eat a rainbow' - we took that saying literally tonight!


The rainbow is made of plums, red grapes, peaches, pears, green grapes, blueberries, and purple grapes.  It is on a rainbow shaped (close enough - got the top arch anyhow) tortilla coated with a little cinnamon/sugar mix.

Organic cheese and crackers, cucumber and a garden tomato finish it off.

The flop and the heartache...

If you read back through my lunchbox posts, there were two times I let myself get really excited over something my son decided he really liked.

total side track here - It seems like I am always talking about my son and not my daughter - if so, it is because he gets lunch 5 days a week and she only gets 2 a week -well, I feed her everyday, but only pack her a lunch 2 days a week!  just felt like I needed a disclaimer there, lol.

Ok, back to my excited posts....
The first time I was super excited it was the stuffed mushrooms.    My excitement was evident just in the post title - I put three exclamation points at the end.

The second was yesterday when I went on and on about the Okra.

Well, everyday when they come home from school, I ask the kids about their lunch - If they had time to eat it all, what they liked the most, the least, etc.  

Well, the stuffed mushroom was not good cold.  Common sense says 'duh'.  I was just so excited that he liked it that it went into the lunch without any thought. It was a flop.

Now for the okra.  He was being polite to the 'Okra lady' at the farmer's market.  He told me he didn't really like the okra cold, but would like to try it cooked.

I appreciate his honesty, and I told him that.  I am disappointed in myself for not recognizing that he was not really into the raw okra.  How could I read my kid the wrong way?  I'm his mom!   I can tell when he is sick.  I can tell when he is tired.  I can sense that he has to go to the bathroom at the first little twitch of the 'pee pee' dance.  And, I can usually tell when he is lying.  So, how could I not pick up on his 'polite mis-shaping of the truth'??  There my friends in the heartache in this post.

The silver lining in this?  We tried Grilled Okra for dinner and he scarfed it up!

Grilled Okra

About a pound of fresh Okra
3 tbsp. of melted butter
3 tbsp. cajun seasoning or garlic salt (something with a kick)


Roll okra in melted butter and sprinkle with seasoning, place on a HOT outdoor grill.  Place on a pre-sprayed vegetable grill rack.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side.  Should be slightly char-grilled.
YUM!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

thanks!

A special Thank you to Angela at The suburban Jungle, Tanya at The Grab Bag, and Sheila at coupon wahm for all giving me the "One Lovely Blog Award!"


Oh my Okra - who knew?!!

Lunch for tomorrow is almost completely made from items we purchased on our Farmer's Market trip this weekend.

Okra?  Okra was one of those things I would have never even thought that my kids would even try, let alone like.

The 'Okra lady' at the Farmer's Market is my new favorite person. As we walked by her stand, my son pointed and said, "what IS that?"

Luckily for me, she spoke up and answered because honestly, I had no idea what it was.  I have only had Okra covered in a golden crisp of fried fatness.  I had no idea what it really looked like in it's natural state.

She went on to tell him he could eat it raw and handed one to him.  Holding back my germ-a-dirt-a-phobe-y-ness, I smiled to encourage this act of kindness.  He was wide eyes, took a bite, and let loose a grin.  "MMMMM, that's good".
Holy cow.
"I'll take a basket full!" I said.

She also gave us some seeds which we can put in the fridge and plant in our garden next summer!  

So, it is in his lunch for tomorrow while the enthusiasm for this new, green thing still exists!  And yes, I washed them really well!!


Joining the Okra is some of Annies brand 'goddess' dressing as a dip, a plum (NON organic - I'm still mad! - read here), garden tomatoes skewered with organic string cheese, slices of cucumber and zucchini bread.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

farmer's market face

Finally had a Saturday morning where we could get out to the Farmer's Market!  I love taking the kids and letting them pick out foods and get excited about something new. 

After washing up all the foods we purchased, I decided to play with the presentation a little (yes, I know, I have issues...). 

Here is the bounty from the Farmer's Market - total cost was $34


Now, the downside of today's trip...
We are still very new to organic foods, and I am still learning quite a bit.  Unfortunately that means I have to learn through trial and error at times. 

I learned some lessons today.

 Just because it is at the local farmer's market, does not mean it is local OR organically grown.  You (I) have to ask!  It makes me feel kind like a pain in the butt customer, but from now on I will be asking where the food comes from and how it is grown.  There are two farms at the market I typically buy from because they say they use organic practices... BUT that does not mean that all the produce they sell is from their farm!  They want to have variety for their customers and so they will bring in produce from other places sometimes.

UGH, that make it harder to know what you are buying, and VERY frustrating!
 
I came home today with plums, one had a sticker on it... from california.  AND the number started with a 4.  A sign that it is a conventionally grown plum. Well... I could have run up to the local grocery store and bought it there on sale if that is what I was looking to buy today!

  • If the number on the fruit begins with a 3, or 4, then the item is Non-Organic/ conventionally grown. 
  • If the number on the fruit begins with 8, then the item is Genetically Modified. 
  • If the number on the fruit begins with a 9, then the item is Organic!
I also need to learn what is in season for my area.  I am a 'transplant Texan' and am still learning to live in a different part of the country.

$26.01 week


Just a quick trip this week.

organic milk (marked 1/2 price)
organic cottage cheese (marked 1/2 price)
organic cheese sticks (marked 1/2 price)
bananas
bread
organic salad
pita pockets


I must have cleaned the house a little too well, I can't find the receipt to show the individual item prices, but I do know that my total was $26.01.


I am finding that the 'cheap' store in my area is no longer where I shop.  The dairy markdowns are more common at the 'expensive' stores in my area.

This trip ended the month!  Check out how I did on an almost all organic, month of food for a family of four HERE.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A hot guy and some double dippin'!

Since I am still unsure if I will be making a lunch for a kid tomorrow, I figured I would post a yummy, quick and healthy dinner recipe - with a darn good lookin' model/cook (ladies, he's mine)!

Baked Almond Parmesan Encrusted Chicken
Take about 1 1/2 cups almonds and crush up in a food processor until fine.  Add about 3/4 cup grated parmasean cheese - we do a 2:1 ratio of almonds to parm - so adjust depending on your family size.
You can add some italian seasoned breadcrumbs to the mix OR omit breadcrumbs and add just some italian seasoning.
Beat a few eggs in a shallow dish with a little bit of milk.
Pour  1/4 of almond mixture onto a plate.
Dip chicken in egg and then almond mix and place in oil sprayed oven safe dish.
Bake at 375 till chicken is cooked through.

Only pour small amounts of almond mixture onto the plate at a time - anything that touches the plate will have to be discarded, but any unused portion (never having touched the plate) can be refrigerated for later use.

We always try to make more of the almond mix than needed so we can use later in the week to make chicken nuggets for a quick dinner, use as a salad topper OR for nuggets to go in a lunchbox!!

lunch - to make or not to make? - UPDATE


Not sure the boy is going back to school tomorrow - He was fever free on Tuesday (or so we thought) and so we sent him on Wednesday... only to call the school and have them check to see if he had picked up a cough (dr's said to keep a look out for a sudden cough).  The nurse checked and sure enough, fever was back - slight, but there.  SO, he came home Wednesday and stayed home today (has to be 24 hours fever free).

Tomorrow is Friday, (he came down with the flu last Friday), I don't think I am going to even bother sending him.  He has already missed more days this year than ever before - what's one more - ?

ON THE OTHER hand, the district has a strict attendance policy and too many days= no third grade.  So what happens if he gets the flu again  or some other sickness this year?

What would you do?  Give him one last day home or send him knowing he has kicked this flu?

*** UPDATE - um, yeah, he went.  He proved he was back to normal the way he argued with his sister that night!

The silent wheel

I know, I know, this is a blog mostly about lunch, buying organic and saving money...

but I had to share this one!    It is the squeaky wheel that likes to take over our thoughts and get all of the attention.  BUT every once in a while, it is great to stop and appreciate the silent wheels in life.
This is one of those silent wheels...

I love this product.


Yes, It is a toilet seat.

I found these little babies at the local Home Depot about a year ago and pretty soon, all the toilet seats in our house were switched over.  It is the Bemis Easy clean and change.  It just locks on and off the included hardware.  On bathroom cleaning days, I just go around, gather the seats and let them take a dip in a tub filled with some diluted cleaner.
I have a little boy... this seat is a must in any house with a little boy (or.... a big boy that blames the little boy...).
I love these toilet seats - there, I said it.

They run about $14.  I found mine at Home Depot.

can you tell what I am doing today?? Trying to get all the flu germs OUT OF THIS HOUSE!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

going organic - month 2 totals

There are some areas in my life where I am a huge procrastinator, some areas where I do things very halfway, and some areas where I go gung-ho.  Switching to organic/natural foods has been one of those areas.

For me, it was an all or nothing task.  So, month one took it's toll in the pocketbook.  We spent a lot of money switching out all the basics in the house - the little things that add up, added up.  You can read about it here.  This month's total is less because of the drastic route we chose to take last month.

Now we are almost done with month two (will end this saturday) and I wanted to give an update.
My guess/budget was $100 a week (give or take).
 
here are some ways we are saving/cutting back.

To see what I've bought this month, click here.

week 1 - $93
week 2 - $130.66
week 3 - $45.72
week 4 - $26.01
At this point, doesn't look like I will need to go to the store before the weekend, so my friends, that was our month!

Budget - $400  
Actual Total $295.39 

The only items not included were dog food, and alcohol.  We buy our dog food in bulk and have it delivered to the house so it lasts for months. As for alcohol, I did include wine from week one because I will cook with some of it.  But my husband laughingly said his 'beer buying is no one's business.' 

pinkalicious lunch

Here is my daughter's lunch for tomorrow - alllll pink!

We pureed beets, put the mix into mini ice cube trays and froze.  We took out one cube, defrosted and then added a little to both cottage cheese and cinnamon applesauce.

The sandwich is almond butter and cherry jelly, the the salad has the bread heart cut out with a heart fruit strip cut out on top (she ate the rest of the fruit strip for snack today).  The salad, although green now, will be pink tomorrow when she tops it with the raspberry vinaigrette.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

the 'un'sandwich

This is the first turkey or ham and cheese sandwich you've seen for a reason.  My son likes all the ingredients, just not together.  I don't get it and I stopped trying to understand.  So, this lunch has rolled up turkey, with the cheese and whole wheat pita pieces a la cart.  They are touching, but not technically in a sandwich form! 

Fresh peach wedges, cottage cheese with peach, the 'un' turkey and cheese pita sandwich, extra pita pieces and garden fresh tomatoes.

fresh avacado/guacamole tip


A while back, I asked the a guy in the produce department what I needed for making guacamole.  Boy, did I pick the right guy to ask.

Luis's eyes lit up.  Apparently, he is known for his guacamole.  He is the one who makes it all his family gatherings and was known in the store to whip up a batch for the other workers. He started going on and on about how to make it this way or that way depending on my taste.  When he mentioned adding cottage cheese, I didn't hide my 'your crazy dude' expression very well.

"I'll make you some!" he said.  We starting walking all over the produce department and everything he grabbed, I also grabbed and put in my cart.  Once all ingredients were in his bowl, he went off into the back and I continued to finish my shopping. He came out a little while later with his concoction. 
mmmmm.  It was wonderful.

I went home and tried to duplicate and did pretty well.  BUT of course, I neglected to write it all down... so other than adding cottage cheese for creaminess, the only other tip I vividly remember was this:
To keep fresh guacamole fresh, or to save the other half of an avocado, place the seed on top.  It will help prevent it from turning brown.
It works!  I do it all the time (well, whenever we have avocado or guacamole).

I typed this as I finished the other half of an avocado I had cut into over 24 hours ago.  Not a brown spot on it!  Now... if only I had that guacamole recipe!

game on!

Sicky boy was fever free today!
He tested positive for Influenza type A, and without the official state done testing, that it was pretty much, most likely, the H1N1 virus. 
blah.
All in all, it was fairly mild - just have to watch that no symptoms return in the next few days.  But since it will be 6 days tomorrow since the onset, and he was totally fever free today then he will return tomorrow.

In his case, it started with a headache, then fever and vomiting the first night.  The fever and runny nose were his only symptoms after the initial onset.

We chose to keep our daughter home today 'just in case' she develops any symptoms.  She will most likely go to school again on Thursday (her pre-k is T/th only).

Thanks to some storms that rolled through yesterday, it is a randomly cool day here in north Texas - so the windows are open and the house is airing out!

next stop - make dinner and tomorrow's lunch.  Should have lunch posted tonight!

Monday, September 21, 2009

day 2 of no lunch :(

I took the sick boy to the Dr. today since the fever was still lingering.
It's the flu...  
Good news, he is on the upswing but since he had a low grade temp. today, he will be home again tomorrow.

I am choosing to keep my daughter home since she is in preschool but I am going to head into work (I work at the same preschool).   Super dad is staying home with the two kids.

Sooooooooo... sadly, no lunchbox pic today either. 
I would take a pic of my lunch, but it isn't that thrilling.  Leftover chicken noodles and some veggies.

no lunch today

With my daughter only going to school on Tuesday and Thursday, and my son home sick today...  I got a day off from making a lunch.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A new look for lunchbox limbo!

I contacted Veronica of VC designs to design a header for me.  Her prices are super low (they pass this frugal mom's test), the turn around was amazingly fast.... AND best of all, she pretty much is a mind reader.  I gave her a jumbled mess of a kinda sorta description (what we call 'amanda style' in this house) and she ran with it.
I LOVE what she came up with and I hope you do to!

www.veronicachapp.blogspot.com

In fact, I spent a ridiculous amount of time today revamping my blog over and over to try to do justice to the new banner!

now if i could just figure out the html to center the darn thing! --anyone know??

 

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A fungus among us!

We have just had a week of straight rain here in north Texas.  I just went to let the dog out and this is what I found in the backyard.



I was chatting it up with my friend, Andrea, the other day and telling her how my once beautiful lush grass is struggling since my life changing garden experience this summer.  She is a pretty health conscience/ingredient checkin'/over all natural remedy kinda person with a nice lawn, I might add! She told me about a solution she makes up and sprays on her lawn.  Not sure where she got it from (I like to give credit!) but here is the rundown...

In a lawn sprayer, place....
1 cup amonia
1 cup dish soap
1 cup mouth wash
1 cup epsom salts
and top with a beer.
can do as frequently as every 2 weeks during growing seasons.

After a chuckle and asking if she was serious... which she was, I looked to see if we had all those things around the house...


I was telling my mother about this and she mentioned a possible link between antibacterial soaps and dish soaps and hormone levels in the water supply.  Anyone know anything about that??
Sure enough, I had picked up a cheap bottle of antibacterial dish soap in my shopping trip last week.  I heard costco sells a huge, cheap environmentally safe version I will pick up on the next costco run.

I've been turning genderless baby fish into girl fish and didn't even know it! eeek.

$45.72 this week!

I took my grandmother out to do her grocery shopping earlier this week and picked up a few things that were marked down and that we needed.

I had planned to go to the Farmer's Market today.... but my plans were changed on me.  My son got the puke-ies in the middle of the night and my husband had to go into work (don't they know it is SATURDAY!!?! )  so I was stuck in the house today with a sickie.
Soooo did a google search and discovered a whole foods store located 2 miles from my husbands work!  Had no idea it was so close for him (he works 40 miles away, so not so close for me).
Not the farmer's market, but that's just the way it goes sometimes!

 Since we are waiting on the cow, I don't want to stock up on any meats.  I already have chicken in the freezer and a package of ground beef that I can get two meals out of this week.


The whole foods run my wonderful husband made cost $25.01


Kroger - this trip cost $20.71


my most expensive, non sale item was the cooking spray, but we were out. poor planning on my part! $3.09
organic brown sugar -$2.69 (need to get in bulk at costco -I've been baking a lot lately!!)
organic chili beans  - $1.19
organic tri-blend beans - $.89
horizon organic heavy cream - marked down to $1.59
organic half and half - marked down to 2 @$.75 each
organic carrots - $.79 (why did I not buy more to freeze???!!!)
Horizon organic milk - marked down to $2.99
organic salad blend with herbs - (yes, i could get heads of lettuce for cheaper but this is our favorite and it was on sale $1 off!) $2.99


It was week 2 in a row for me without using a single coupon............... weird feeling! I feel naked in the store without the binder. But my new 'little' friend hadn't made it's way into the car and I didn't start out with intentions of buying things for myself when I took my grandmother.

As I was posting this, it dawned on me that I forgot to buy bread.  Guess what?!!  I have everything I need to make my own!  I am stuck at home with a sick kid, so why not!?!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

organic coupon links

Many of these sites you have to register for newsletters so make sure you use an extra email account!
simply organic - click on the 'simple savings' link at the top lef

have a cow, man!


We will be getting the cow soon!  We are going in with some friends to get 1/4 of a grass fed, hormone free light weight steer.  All in all, it will be a little over $2 a pound!  We purchased a freezer for the garage last weekend and should get the meat within a few weeks.  We have not been eating a lot of meat lately so I hope we can continue the trend to really stretch it out.
now... to find someone with chickens...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

yellow with green polka-dots

It's one of those nights.... With tomorrow being friday, it is the last lunch box of the week, the fresh fruit and veggie supply is nearing depletion and so is my energy.  Worn out from teaching preschoolers who have been stuck indoors all week due to nonstop, non Texas like, rainy weather.
So, this is as creative as I could get tonight!


organic wheat pasta with some parmesan and capers, cinnamon applesauce with frozen grapes, homemade rosemary bread.  

I promise you lots of color next week!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The flower, the kissy frog and the 'totally freaky' hand... butternut squash grilled cheeses

Disclaimer #1 -My husband had to work later tonight and the kids and I entertained ourselves in the kitchen.

Disclaimer #2 - I am posting two lunches tonight because the kids helped me make lunches and I let them choose what items went into their lunch.  My son only got a little bit of 'decorative' lettuce because he 'wants a break from salads for a few days' and he 'had a pickle in his lunch today and didn't want one tomorrow'. 

This was one that kinda snowballed.  The only plan I had in place was the grilled cheese with butternut squash, but I/we started playing and this is what I ended up with...


My daughter's lunch has a grilled cheese sandwich with butternut squash puree mixed in with the cheese.  The red is cut tomato.  The flower stem and leaf is just darker lettuce. The 'kissy frog' is made from pickles, black olives, tomato slices, and a carrot tongue. The dipping container has the raspberry vinaigrette dressing and is surrounded by green grapes.




My son's lunch is a hand (he picked out the hand cookie cutter, so I rolled with it).  I added red nails with the cut tomato - we agreed this one may make a comeback closer to Halloween since it is, and I quote, "totally freaky." He opted for cut grapefruit with a little sugar sprinkled on top and some veggie staws for his sides.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ready for some football?!


Ginger miso rice (lundberg brand - really low sodium content!) in the shape of a football with carrots on top is sitting on a bed of spinach salad.  One of the small sauce containers has raspberry vinaigrette and one has a peanut satay sauce to put on the rice.  The kids call it peanut butter sauce (hey, whatever works!). 
Also in this lunch is vanilla yogurt with blueberries, ground flax and granola cereal on top.  The cut up pear was requested again.... he said they did not brown up by lunch time the other day and asked for another one!
all items in this lunch are organic... except the salad dressing.  I will replace with an organic version when it is empty, but since it is his favorite I agreed to keep this one around till it was finished.

Monday, September 14, 2009

shooting stars


Top right are tortilla shooting star sandwiches filled with almond butter and a little honey.  They are garnished with fruit strip (archer farms - target brand) cut into star shapes and kiwi stripes alternating with the seeds.  The little heart in the center is cut out of the kiwi fruit center.
And don't worry, I didn't waste any of the fruit stip or kiwi - vultures were circling the kitchen waiting for scraps! 

I added homemade zucchini bread  to be dipped in a butternut squash puree with some confectioner's sugar mixed in (to sweeten it up a bit).
The top left corner is 'pirate's booty, all natural cheddar puffed rice and corn' for my son.... my daughters lunch is exactly the same as the one above, but instead of the puffs, she has carrots and hummus.  She LOVES hummus.  She asked for it in her lunch tomorrow.  My son, not super crazy about it - but I keep trying!
Everything above is organic except the pickle, tortilla, and puffs but the tortilla and puffs labels are all natural/recognizable ingredients.  I just looked closer at the pickle label, there are two or three dyes in there.  I don't think I will buy that brand again...

mini trip

I mentioned the lack of fruit in my last shopping trip.  We had planned to visit the local farmers market, but with all the rain this weekend, we didn't get moving Saturday morning. My son's soccer game was canceled and we pretty much all stayed in our pajamas till the afternoon.
On Sunday, we ventured out and stopped at central market.  I was lured in with the sale of organic pears...
I did stay right around the $10 mark for the fruit as I said I would.... but then walked the aisles and found a few organic staple items that somehow jumped into the basket.
All in all, I added right at $30 more to the week's total - but my husband thinks I shouldn't have included the wine in my grocery total.... so if you think i should have, then we are at $130.66, if not, then $105.66

tips and tricks to get the kids switched...

I was asked by someone how old my children are and how do they get their children to eat like this.

Keep in mind, last school year I was a coupon queen.  We had a pantry stocked full of processed food items. The favorite cereal around here was cinnimon toast crunch, followed by recces puffs.  A normal lunchbox was a pb&j on white bread with whatever was the cheapest peanut butter and jelly, some fruit snacks, maybe some fresh fruit, and then chips or crackers geared towards kids.

I slowly started looking at labels.  I slowly switched to 'wheat' bread.  Later finding out that I thought I was doing good with the word wheat, but when it is preceded by the word enriched, I really wasn't doing as good as I thought....
I cut out fruit snacks items and usually added a yogurt instead--again whatever was cheapest with a coupon, not neccesarily the healthiest.

But this past summer, I had a 'hit me like a ton of bricks' moment.  you can read more about it here.

I did a lot of research.  I have always been confused as to what is 'healthy'.   But just about every 'healthy' diet leads back to the basics - fresh fruit and veggies, whole grains, natural 'from the earth' items.

It became clear.  I can't control other things, but I can control the food in my house.

I digress.....   but the point is that this was a switch for all of us.   We have not always made the best food choices so switching, as abruptly as we have done, is still a gradual process.  I am still buying vanilla yogurt instead of plain because, well... it tastes better.

My son is now 7 and my daughter is 4.

Find what they like and roll with it!  I ask what their favorite food was on the plate at dinner time and then either add that to their lunch the next day or try to come up with another meal involving that food.  Or I will ask "what vegetable would you like in your lunch tomorrow?" and give a few choices making sure they are ones I know they like (or have claimed to like in the past).  You may notice a lot of feta cheese in my son's lunches - on pizza, on salads.  He has recently discovered that he loves it!  So, why not add it!

Don't categorize them. If someone hears something over and over, they will hold that as being the truth.  If I say "he doesn't like broccoli" that is they way it will be!  Instead, I try to reintroduce the food in many different ways.  Who knows, broccoli covered in feta may be wonderful!  ha.

Reintroduce and reinvent -  The stuffed mushrooms was a great example.  We waited a while since the last time they were choked down by the under 5 foot club around here.  I really did not think they would be a hit at dinner last night either.  I even heard groans and moans as little ones walked by the stove and saw what was cooking.  I didn't win over the girl last night, but the boy has proclaimed that he loves stuffed mushrooms!
I had to hide the look of shock on my face!

The one bite rule.  In our house, you have to try everything you are given.  One good bite of everything.  I give small portions and let the children have more of whatever they would like as long as they have taken a good sized bite of everything on their plate.  If you choose to put it on your plate (seconds) I prefer that you eat it all. 

They really like to be part of the process.   We have been going to the farmer's market as a family and let the kids choose a fruit or veggie they want to try.  Right now, we have eight ball zuchini in the fridge that my son picked out.  We plan to stuff those with meat and cheese and zuchini.
At the grocery store, If I am buying apples, I let them pick out the apples that go in the basket.   As cheesy as it sounds, they feel more connected to that food when they help pick it out.

Get them in the kitchen - this is a hard one for me.  I can get it done faster and with a lot less mess if I get in there and do it by myself.  I have days were the kids need to be out from under my feet and  out of the kitchen.  BUT I try so hard to make sure they are invited back into my space and included in the cooking and baking.  THEY LOVE IT!!!!  And again, that connection and ownership of the food that they helped prepare comes into play.  Plus, the pride and self confidence involved in being able to say, "I made that".


If you have more tips to add, please feel free to comment!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

goodbye old, hello new!...

The OLD Shopping buddy - a HUGE 5" notebook stuffed with coupons.  
(oh, how will I get in an arm workout now??)



The NEW shopping buddy - a widdle 1 1/2" notebook with lots of empty space inside.

The old and new coupon notebooks side by side.

It is true, there just are not as many coupons out there for organic items.  BUT, there are some!  I have always looked at coupons as money - $.50 here and $1.00 there will add up fast.   If someone were handing me .50 to buy something I would buy anyways, I would not turn it down.  Not using coupons on items you purchase anyways is exactly that!   Although I am a lot more choosy over the coupons I am cutting and using, I still look for them to save money.  I still buy shampoo and toilet paper!

yes! he likes stuffed mushrooms!!!!!

 
Salad with feta cheese, almonds and my son's 'usual' raspberry vinegrette, stuffed mushroom, 'yellow' green beans, cut pear with raisins, grapes.

My husband and I have made stuffed mushrooms so many times over the years.  We had not had them in a while because we have been really trying to NOT make separate meals for ourselves than we do for the kids and the last time we made them, the kids turned their noses up at them.  Well... I think we are slowly changing little tastebuds around here!  My son LOVED the mushrooms!!!!  yippee!! In fact, I would have added more to his lunch, but he kept going back for more, that this was all that was left!


We have tried many different recipes for stuffed mushrooms, but have found that a meat, a spice, the stems, and some sort of cheese is a basic set up that hasn't led us astray...yet.

This is a great 'skeleton recipe' - we have interchanged so many of the ingredients based on what is on hand - different cheeses, different meats, and different seasonings.  It pretty much always comes out good! Hint with the mushrooms - pat them dry/clean, don't soak them.

ok, I hate writing recipes so here is the gist:
 Our 'basic' stuffed mushrooms
Brown up ground beef (or turkey/ sausage/ chicken sausage)
Add seasoning- In this case I added some fresh garlic and a dried italian herb mix. 
Remove stems from mushrooms (used baby bellas) and chop stems.  Add stems to mixture. 
Add cheese (we used white cheddar today)
stuff mushrooms  - bake in 350 oven for 10-15. 
Add grated parmesean to top and bake till cheese browns a little.
I can't give you amounts, because I really never measure.  BUT I almost always have filling leftover.  We LOVE to add the filling into a morning omelet or scrambled eggs!



Can I also add that this was the FASTEST lunch prep yet!  We had stuffed mushrooms and green beans and salad with dinner tonight.   So.... those were already out.  I had just washed up the pears and grapes, so those were sitting out too.   Just a quick grab in the pantry for almonds and raisins and it was all made!

At dinner, I asked my son which beans he liked better, the light green or the dark - he said light, so that is what went in the lunchbox.  I have found that by giving him some involvement into what goes into his lunch means he is more likely to eat it all.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I think I've got it!

After the sticker shock of 'the big switch', I think I've got the grocery budget under control.

Last week we spent $93 and some change and this week came to $100.66.  I think I can use my frugality to feed my family of four on $100 a week (more or less).  We may very well have some $60 weeks and some $150 weeks.  Currently, we are stocked up on mostly all household supplies, but I plan to continue using coupons on those items and purchase when on sale.

Here is what $100 bought us for the week at Kroger - $26 of that total was on wine (is that bad? hee hee).  The only area really lacking this week was fruit.  We might go to the farmers market tomorrow to pick up some fruit, but we won't be spending more than $10.

 
The 3 gallons of organic milk were $1.99 each!  I mentioned in a previous post how we save by using only one gallon in a week... well, drink up kids!  I plan to use some of the milk and also the ripe bananas for baking!  I see whole wheat banana muffins in our future!  
The only thing pictured that I am totally unsure of is the sliced cheese.  I can't find organic sliced cheese.  I looked at the cheese labeled as 'natural' and really did not see a difference in the ingredient label from the store brand I purchased. 
.
The most expensive items I purchased were the:
Bontera Organic Wines (yeah, no sulfites!) at $11.99 for the chardenay and $13.99 for the merlot.
organic pure maple syrup at $7.29.
The ground beef I bought is not labeled organic, but is marked as hormone free and grass fed. Those were $3.59 each.
.
also pictured above is:
farmhouse eggs for $2.29
organic fresh thyme marked down to .89
organic cereal for $2.99 (so against my couponing days of not spending over $1 a box!)
chocolate soymilk marked down to $1.79
organic applesauce $2.99
organic nutmeg for $3.99  (still switching spices over...)
organic cumin for $3.99
organic baby portabella mushrooms for $2.99
Hansens natural soda for $3.32
ajax dish soap for $.99
organic vanilla yogurt for $2.99
organic fennel for $1.69
organic butternut squash for $4.88
organic shredded cheese  for2 @ $2.99 each
kroger brand deli cheese 4 @ $1.25 each
organic bananas - marked down to .49
organic fingerling potatoes marked down to .99
organic cucumbers marked down to $1.00
organic bell peppers marked down to $1.00
organic salad blend marked down to $1.49
The item I a most excited about is the green celery looking thing... fennel.  I have never seen it before let alone cooked with it!
.
After three years of major couponing, it was soooo weird for me to not use a single coupon.   I have ditched the 5" binder and have gone down to a 1".  The 'new' coupon book organized and ready to be taken on the next shopping trip...although, the coupon pickings are slim for organics!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

personal pesto pizza and a parmesean patty pan


Here is my son's lunch for tomorrow.  My son helped me make the whole wheat pesto, feta pizzas tonight at dinner.  He doesn't like 'big' tomatoes, so they were left off of his piece, however he does like the little tomatoes from our garden (? go figure ?), so I added those on the side.
We picked up some patty pan squash from the farmers market and I sauteed that up in some organic toasted sesame oil and added some garlic and other dried spices.  The small container has parmesean cheese for him to sprinkle on top.  It is a neat little squash - looks like someone, well, squashed it flat.  (see a pic here)
Lastly is a sliced orange.

personal pizzas

I made up a few batches of homemade organic whole wheat beer pizza dough (recipe found here, I used a 2:1 ratio of whole wheat flour to white) a while back and froze it for nights just like this one!  You know 'those' nights.  You've worked all day and barely have the energy to walk in the front door. I knew tonight would be one of those nights...

I needed something thawed and ready, so I put the dough in the fridge last night and set out on the counter when I got home from work today.  The big pile of produce from Saturday's farmers market trip is winding down.  The tomatoes have those little wrinkles starting on top, like they are crying out to be used up.

I started to stretch out the dough to fill the pizza pan, but I just couldn't seem to get it stretched  large enough.  My son walked up and asked to help.  After a much needed hand washing, he jumped in on the fun.  I have no formal dough stretching training under my belt.  In fact, I am probably as novice as they come.  I think anyone who walked in the house at that moment would probably know that right away.   The more we stretched it, the more it would tear.  My son, sensing my frustrations, said "hey, why don't we do lots of mini-pizzas."  The kid is brilliant! 

I think he also has mastered the art of manipulation because he had an alterier motive.  He wanted to make sure his pizza was plain cheese without the 'other things' creeping over to his slice.  The only things going on this pizza were pesto, feta cheese and tomato.  My brilliant, manipulative, son is also a little picky.   He ONLY likes the little tomatoes from our garden, NOT the large tomatoes which were sliced and ready to go on the pizza.

Here is the final result - mini pizzas for all!  (can you tell which ones are for my son?)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

honey makes everything taste better!


  We tried homemade grilled polenta cakes at dinner tonight.  I was afraid the kids would turn their noses up at it so my husband and I had ours with tomato, black pepper and onions on top and I eased (teased?) the kids into trying the polenta with just a little honey on top only.  Worked like a charm for one of them...my son loved it!  Soooo, he got the extra one from dinner in his lunchbox.  My daughter opted out of this one.  Her lunch has extra strawberries and kiwi.
The star sandwiches are made on whole wheat bread with almond butter and blueberry jam.  Yes, a tree nut, buuuuut not a peanut!  Since their are no allergies in my daughters class, her teacher said it would be ok!  yeeeees!
Heart shaped kiwi, strawberries, and edamame with sea salt rounds out this lunch!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dino-dilla


I used the 'tortilla land' brand natural uncooked tortillas that I picked up at costco a while back (they freeze great!).  Prior to cooking, I let the kids pick out cookie cutter shapes to shape the dough.   I cooked both sides of the dough, loaded them up cheese and put on the top tortilla. 

The tortillas are sitting on a bed of spinach lined in carrots.  The purple container has his staple dressing - raspberry vinegriette.  He keeps getting it because he eats all his salads with it in there!

The vanilla yogurt is sprinked with ground flax - sometimes I mix it with granola so they don't know any different but we are at the point where they are learning my tricks and seem ok with it!  Plus, the big fat strawberry and the blueberries make up for it!

The last container has more fresh cut strawberries and kiwi fruit cut into star shapes.

All items are organic, expect for the tortilas and the cheese.  Both are natural with nothing goofy added.

Monday, September 7, 2009

teddy bear picnic


Last week, the preschool my daughter attends had a Teddy Bear theme for the first week of school.  The children were able to bring teddy bears to class... but, the Teddy Bears have now graduated and are not allowed back!  Sooooo, mom is going to smuggle them in to school in her lunch!  ha ha.

The big bear in this lunch is made from homemade rosemary bread.  I made a big batch of dinner rolls to freeze, but shaped a few into teddy bears before baking!  The recipe I use is from the allrecipes website.  If you have ever been to macaroni grill, this is a perfect knock-off to their bread!  I make with fresh rosemary instead of dried and like to add a little extra.  I also use milk instead of water for a slightly less crunchy crust.  I place in the bread machine on the dough setting and then bake in the oven at 375 for 30-35 minutes for loaves, or 25-30 for the rolls.  The bear is sitting on top of romaine lettuce and the small container of red is a raspberry vinaigrette for her to spread on her salad.
The ants on a log are a favorite around here, and pretty much the only way my kids do celery.  These are filled with humus, topped with raisins and have a few little winnie the pooh animal crackers added for fun.. and more bear friends!
The strawberries have a little container of vanilla yogurt for dipping.
All items are organic, except the raspberry vinaigrette.  The label wasn't too bad so we are using it up.

And then there were two!

I've been deceiving you.
As I stated in the 'why of it all' post, we only purchased one full laptop lunch system plus some extra containers for my daughter.  However, I found myself using the containers for my son also.  Many of the posted lunches were his, but the pictures were taken in her box!  They were then mushed and mashed in his current lunchbox and sent to school.
I waited and waited for the laptop lunch website to come out with the 2.0 versions in SOLID colored bags.  Being a big time 2nd grader, I felt the 'alien' bag was a little cheesy. 
At last! the solid colored bags were available!!  I called him over to pick... blue, black,...  he shouts out "ohhh look at the alien one!  can I have that?!!"
so....... i sucked in my controlling pride and clicked the purchase button for the alien lunch system.
Yes, these systems are a little pricier than a regular lunchbox, but with four of us taking lunched some days, we had been using up to 20 little plastic bags in one day!  no more! 
Lunch was much easier to make today.  No mushing and mashing.  It was an almost flawless assembly line fashion!  I will not deceive you anymore...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

tips and tricks to spending less

I am a thrifty girl and I love to brag about my finds.  If you tell me that you like my purse, no matter how hard I bite my lip I will end up telling you I bought it at the thrift store in brand new condition for next to nothing.  I have always been like that - my family will tell you.  I have good taste, don't get me wrong.  But anyone can go into a fancy department store and shell out money for a high end item (or put it on credit... in most cases).  But what fun is that?  I pride myself on getting great stuff in random places no one else would think to look.  The local town wide yard sale is a thrill for me.  I won't let friends go with me in fear that they would slow me down!  I have on multiple occasions purchased high end items, in like new condition for fractions.  I have scoured clearance racks off season to furnish wardrobes for chump change.  Yes, I am a bargain hunter and a buck stretcher and proud of it.  My house is nicely (I think) decorated, but go ahead, pick out anything and I can tell you how surprisingly little I paid for it!

ok, brag fest over - well, kinda.

now, on to food.

We spend about $100 a week on organic/natural groceries for our family of four.  We rarely eat out.

I agree, eating natural and organic foods is more expensive.  But, I believe I counter that by paying more for individual items, but buying less stuff.
For example, I used to by 3 gallons of the cheapest store brand milk a week.
Instead of paying 2.99 a gallon for 3 gallons of milk a week, I pay about 4.99 for one.   look at that!  I just saved us about $4 a week!

So buy less, but pay more for what you buy?!  Does my fridge echo?  Is my pantry bare?  no.

Here are some areas in which  I have drastically changed the way I shop to be able to afford to eat almost all natural/organic foods....

Breakfast - I save a lot on cereal - we eat less.  period.  (which really helps with the milk consumption!) We alternate with homemade breakfast items, that I make and freeze, smoothies in the summer and homemade oatmeal in the winter.

Bakery - I don't buy frozen waffles or bakery muffins, we make our own.  I have stocked up on organic whole wheat flours and go on baking sprees.  I double or triple a batch and then freeze in.  The waffles go right in the toaster in the morning the same way prepackaged ones do!  The muffins can be defrosted or taken on the go frozen and will thaw by the time we need a mid-morning snack.  Saturday morning pancakes turn into breakfast for many a rushed school mornings. 

Fruit - I only buy what is in season (with the exception of a few frozen bags in the winter).  Fruits not only taste best when in season, they are the cheapest too!  I try to stock up and freeze for baking.  Last summer, I stocked up on organic strawberries, blueberries, peaches,and grapes and froze.  I can use in waffles, muffins, smoothies (no ice needed!) or pack the frozen grapes in lunches for a lightly icey treat!

Meat - We are eating less.  We are eating MUCH less.  For people who are used to eating meat at almost every dinner, this has been an adjustment.  We went in with a few friends and bought a quarter of an organically raised, grass-fed cow and paid a little over $2 a pound.  You can find farmers near you (in the U.S.) at www.localharvest.org

Spices - buy in bulk.  Sure, 10.99 a pound sounds like a lot, but you are most likely buying just a few ounces at most.

Juice -I rarely buy this.   The kids are eating plenty of fruits and at $3-$5 each, we don't really need the added expense.  The kids are getting used to drinking water or non caffeinated orange tea.  I fill a washable water bottle every day with water to pack in their lunches.

Sodas - I used to pick up 4 to 5 twelve packs at a time.  We drank them like they were going out of style. My husband is still getting used to this one... but I have found some brands made with real cane sugar instead of HFCS.  They are pricey, so I have only purchased one or two 6 packs at a time, but we have really stopped grabbing a soda 'just because'.  A nice rum and coke here and there is still on my husbands 'don't take away from me' list!

The garden - Last year, we didn't get an overabundance of food - lots of fresh herbs, salad tomatoes, some cucumbers and peppers.  Hey, every little bit helps!  This year, with a lot more pre-planning and reading, we are tripling our garden space!  Have a small space?  Check out the square foot gardening approach!  No time for gardening?  Check out Farmer's markets and CSA's - find one near you (USA) www.localharvest.org

Costco - I am amazed at their organic pantry selections!  Lets just say that I won't be running out of sugar anytime soon!  They also carry various organic produce throughout the year.  Be prepared to freeze or split with a friend.  Most of the organic produce is sold in larger, bulk quantities but at a great price per pound.

Freezing - I am amazed at how many foods can be frozen!  Buying in bulk and freezing in smaller portions (preseasoning for faster meal prep when possible), making double batches and freezing meals for busy nights,  making homemade dips and sauces and freezing in ice cube trays, freezing soups, veggie purees, etc. Many dairy items can be frozen as well.  Here is a great resource for freezing and the lifespan of frozen items
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/FactSheets/Focus_On_Freezing/index.asp#1

Shop the perimeter - the best advice for a diet, AND organic eating.  Other than some cereals, sugar cane sodas from time to time and the baking aisle, I pretty much steer clear of the interior of the grocery store.  Sure, there are items here and there, but NOTHING like my mega coupon days!

Markdowns/ Manager specials - You'll see a lot of the yellow and orange manager special stickers on the items I purchase.  Why not?  We are going to consume most of what is purchased within a few days.   I have noticed that some of the typically 'more expensive' stores have the better mark downs on dairy and produce - so don't rule out the pricier grocery store near you!   Check dates and plan! Many marked down vegetables and fruits can usually be cooked or chopped and frozen.   Many dairy items can also be frozen!

Generic Organics - Many stores offer generic/store brand of organic items.  These are usually more affordable.

Coupons!  - As a former mega-coupon shopper, I get frustrated at the lack of coupons.  I have however, noticed that many organic coupons have a much longer usage time with expiration dates well in the future.  Some health food stores carry coupon books (often behind the counters!), all you have to do is ask!  The Organic deals and coupons  blog is a wealth of information and links for great coupons! 
I also find that if you email the makers of your favorite products and ask for coupons, they usually send them in the mail! 


Cutting back on processed 'kid' stuff - Coming up with fun lunch items that are not entirely from prepackaged lunch foods saves money.   The few prepackage lunch items I have purchased are sticking around the house longer!!  I have really been able to stretch out their consumption and save money in that area! Check out some of the lunches my children have enoyed this year.

and of course....  my blog keeps my spending accountable.  I post pictures and track dollar amounts.  Check out my shopping here.

We are a work in progress, but the progress we have already made is pretty darn amazing!  I hope some of what I have learned will help someone else on their journey!
amanda

The BIG switch - one month down.

There is more to this than school lunches...

This is about the one month mark for a grocery overhaul in our house.   The number one comment we have gotten from people when we tell them we are buying mostly all organic is.... "But aren't organic items more expensive?"
Our answer... "UH, HUH,  BUUUUUT..."  you knew there was going to be a but there, didn't you?!  "We are paying more money on individual items, but we are buying less."

Now for the total hypocritical statement - this past month, my grocery bill was close to $1000!!!!!!!!!

A little background info. here..... I was coupon queen!   At one point in my crazy couponing days, I had 6 of every coupon and would match store sales with coupons for rock bottom prices.  It was normal to open my pantry and see a rediculous amount of  mustard, ketchup bottles, bbq sauces, cereals, fruit snacks and a full shelf overflowing with brownie and cake mixes that I didn't even pay a single cent for!  I have stocked my house and pantry on $250 a month (including toiletries AND dog food!).  A MONTH!
That is what I just averaged a WEEK!

so... am I freaking out a bit about my spending this month?  no.  I am remarkably  calm.  I see the bigger picture.   Have you ever moved before and tossed all the open containers?  I have.  3 times in the last 8 years.  Each move we kept what we could, but tossed anything nearing it's date and gave away whatever would not make the month in storage  (side bar - why do moves never run smoothly?  I don't think I have ever gone directly from one house to another!).  Each time we moved, the first few shopping trips were ridiculously high.

Well, we have moved.  Not physically, but we have moved none the less- into a new phase of life - attempting to educate ourselves a little more about what we put in our mouths.  Now, please don't think I have blinders on.  I know I can't control the world around me.  I know my kids are still asking me to buy dora cereal or GI Joe fruit snacks. I am aware of what I am competing with!  My homemade food is not as fun as dora, or as shoot 'em up cool as GI Joe... but I' working on it!
I am not trying to shelter my family from the rest of the non organic world - but If I can make more meals at home, try new things and keep them fun and exciting, I can at least control what goes into our bodies about 90% of the time.  I figure with 3 meals a day, plus snacks that 90% of the time, meals come from our house.  Yes, they will eat gummi worms from Grandpa, and eat who knows what at friends houses, but if our diets are 90% free of chemicals, HFCS, and genetically modified foods, then I am ok with that!  It is a 90% change from where we were!

So back to the cost - The first few weeks were the most expensive.  There were a few costco and specialty store runs in there to overhaul the fridge and pantry.   There are still a few items I would like to switch over, but for the most part I think I have done it!   I even hit up a few pantry item clearance/overstock sales at the chain grocery stores in the area (guess the rest of the area isn't buying organic?) I feel pretty competant now that my fridge and pantry are loaded with basics.  My grocery bill this week consisted of $70 at Kroger and $20 at the farmer's market.  That is $90 a week.  I think I can do this for under/right around $100 a week.  Winter may bring some new challenges, but I am up for it!  I am sure it is fluctuate a bit, but as I said above, we are paying more for less.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

rah rah, sis boom ba... goooooo couscous!

Tonight was one of those nights 'screw it, I wanted to just grab the prepackaged stuff' kinda nights.  BUT, I didn't.  I worked all day, ran some errands after work, was tired, blah blah blah...  My biggest problem... I had not devised a plan AHEAD OF TIME for lunches tomorrow. So, after dinner I scavenged the fridge and internet and came up with this...



Found a recipe for couscous I wanted to try. I did a variation of this recipe here but left out the green onions and PICKED out the sundried tomatoes for my son's lunch (he says they are 'super nasty'). I made plenty of this dish for my husband and I to have for lunch tomorrow as well.   The lettuce received a nice feta topping.  My son recently announced that he loves feta cheese so I am taking full advantage!! (notice there is a little feta on the couscous too?!?!)   I'll put it on anything if it will make him like it!  The orange is... well, an orange.  And the egg pom poms are something I stumbled across online here and told my son I would try once we had eggs again... well, my husband picked some up last night and my son has the memory of a.... well, i forget.  But whatever animal it is that has a really good memory! so, since he finished all his homework, he helped me make the egg pom poms.
      *** disclaimer.... I know the basil sprig looks rather shi-shi, but I have a garden with a lot of basil in it so I had plenty to spare.  I reserve the right to go as shi-shi as I want, lol! And anyways, It needed something after I picked out all the sundried tomoto.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

x's and o's

was inspired by a picture of a tic-tac-toe english muffin tuna 'pizza' topped with cheese in a kids cookbook for this one. BUT this lunch is for my son and... he doesn't like tuna.



My son asked for a PB&J, so making that into a tic-tac-toe was easy enough.  I warmed the jelly just a bit and placed in a plastic baggie.  I made a small snip in a corner and drew on the design. *note to self, pick out the chunks of berries next time!   I had half an apple leftover from my lunch today, so I gave it a fresh slice and rubbed a little lemon on it.  I used organic fruit strips (archer farm brand from target) to make the design on the apple.  For the black and white board, I used some black licorice for the grid.  Yes, a little sugary but the overall ingredient list was surprisingly not too bad.  I made up for it anyways with the addition of leftover cauliflower.  I filled the bottom half of the container and placed some of the rounder headed pieces standing up for the 'o's'.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

salad bowl

I found the idea of using a tortilla to make an scrambled egg basket. Scrambled eggs... not so great in a cold lunchbox.  Since I have discovered my son likes feta cheese, salads are making a come back in his world.  I thought this tortilla basket would make a great salad bowl and could entice him into the salad loving world a little more.  Since I worked all day, and had back to school night 'stuff' at the elementary school, lunch making could have easily slipped back into old habits.  BUT I refrained from just tossing prepackaged 'stuff' into the lunchbox.  I figured this was easy enough to do - just puff and stuff!

Love Costco.  Found these raw tortillas there, when you heat them up in a skillet, they are warm and puffy - love them.   You could do these with already cooked tortillas also, but they would need to be slightly buttered or oiled till pliable.  Then just shape over the bottom of an inverted muffin tin (I used small glass pyrex dishes) and bake for 5-10 minutes.  If using raw dough, oil the muffin tin or glass dish.  I then removed it just before it cooled completely, added the lettuce, feta, and cut up two little (all that was ready today) garden tomatoes to make a happy face.

As for the rest of his lunch, I found this neat way to cut a banana (or cucumber) on the Just Bento website.  It was super simple.  I really want to do this chigai-giri cut on a cucumber, but that will have to happen when I actually have a cucumber on hand! There is also a homemade organic muffin made with whole wheat flour, blueberries, banana, applesauce and a few other ingredients.  The recipe is from the allrecipies website.  Other than using blueberries instead of strawberries (which also make a yummy muffin) I like to cut the brown sugar down and add 1/2 cup of rolled oats and some ground flax.   More of the farmers market watermelon was added (per his request!) and a small amount of raspberry vinigarette dressing.

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