Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hola Monday

Yesterday Monstro had Spanish class after school.  It's so cute to have him come home and speak his little kid Spanish :D  I wanted to subtly remind him to stay after school so his katsu is waving an "Hola" banner at him.

He was originally supposed to have "katsushi" but then decided that morning that he didn't want it.  That was a good thing because we are totally out of nori (well, not totally, we have scraps with little faces cut out!) AND out of katsu sauce.  I used an ice cream cone shaped cutter/stamp for the rice.  I just sat the ring in the box and packed the rice in.  Then used the stamp like a plunger to push the rice through.  The cherry is homemade BBQ sauce (that's more there in the little squirrel cup) and I added little strips of carrot for the waffle cone effect.  He's got baby cucumber rings a carrot flowers as usual.

I actually used a method I saw on Facebook for the carrot flowers.  You cut strips from the whole carrot then slice off little flower slices.  Genius!

What kind of cool tricks do you use?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Head Spinning....

For some reason I always wait until I haven't blogged in forever and am completely overwhelmed by the prospect before I decided to post.

I intended to do a round-up of lunches from the past few weeks.  But, blogger has decided to turn nearly all of my pictures sideways and I just can't see putting them up like that!  So, instead, we have 2 lunches here from after our little trip to my Mom's.  The Adventure Time charaben was on Facebook right after making it but I'm so proud of it that I'm posting it again! ;-)

The first lunch has wavy cut carrots and kiwi.  I don't know if you know this, but everything tastes better cut with a wavy cutter!  It's fact.  I scientifically tested it on Monstro's preschool class a few years ago!   Anyway, I tried to keep with the orange and green theme so there are also pistachios, hunks of sharp cheddar cheese and flax seeds hidden inside the little green box.  He loves flax seeds.  Plain.  I dunno about that kid some times.  I also gave him a nice dessert-y vegetable in the left frog cup- roasted acorn squash with butter, brown sugar and cranberries (YUM!).

The charaben was explained on Facebook but, again, super proud!  Monstro dug through the supplies and gave me the different baran to act as extra characters.  There's Tree Trunks with her apple, the Party Bears down covering up some cucumbers and pink grass to look like LSP is floating in Lumpy Space.  Finn is made from a slice of Provolone cheese, bologna face and nori eyes/mouth all propped up on pieces of an everything bagel.  I just free-handed the cheese and bologna but used a nori punch for the rest and trimmed the mouth into a little smirky smile.  LSP is made from a micro-baked purple potato.  I just sliced it until I got an appropriately outlined shape then used a round cutter to make some lumps to layer on top.  Her arms were cut free-hand, the star was a cutter and the face was a nori punch then I trimmed pieces.  Peppermint Butler is a BabyBel but he didn't turn out as well as my first one.  I cut it by hand and used a nori punch for the face.  The carrots were sliced then cut with tiny cookie cutters. 

I'd like to do another Adventure Time charaben with Jake, Lemongrab, Hot Dog Princess and Gunter.  I really want to do Princess Bubblegum but I'm not sure how I'd do that without food dyes.  If you've got ideas let me know!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mom lunch - best leftovers lunch ever!

I have been reading so many rave blog reviews about smelt that I decided to grab some at the store.  They were about $5/lb which I paid happily before realizing that I would NEVER pay that much for ANYTHING.  It turned out to be a pretty good deal though because we all got stuffed at dinner and I had these guys left over for lunch the next day!  Plus, they are really, really pretty!  I ended up staring at them in the colander for the longest time, just tipping it from side to side to make them shimmer. 

I used a combination of Steamy Kitchen and Alton Brown recipes (with a few adjustments, of course) for the smelt and they were so good!  To get them ready for this lunch I just tossed theleftovers straight on the rack of the toaster oven for a "light toast" cycle then let them cool.  They stayed nice and crunchy in the muffin papers even with the moist rice next to them. 

The fried rice is just left over rice from the night before stir fried with onions, carrots, yellow squash and a spicy sauce made from sambal, soy sauce, braggs, fish sauce and sriracha.  Once it cooled down I sprinkled it with chopped spicy nori snacks.

Some days I'm so excited to eat what I've packed that I end up taking my lunch break way too early and I'm starving by the end of my shift.  This was one of those days!  I don't think I even made it 2 hours into my shift before I couldn't stand the wait any more!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Back To School g2.0

Well "summer" is over and school time has begun.  I'm sure all parents have the same mixed feelings at this time of year- glad for the peace but sad to see them growing so fast!  I, personally, was so very ready for school to start about a month ago!  But, then, Monstro started being the sweetest little thing the 2 or so weeks leading up to school starting and I felt bad for wishing school time on him.

We didn't do much bento over the summer so I'm feeling a little rusty.  All in all I'm pretty happy with our first 2 days of 2nd grade lunches!

For the first day we have "Power Pasta" - Power Rangers branded pasta.  For sides there's a sweet red pepper in a party hat, carrots, apple bunnies and GIANT cucumber slices from my Mom's garden.  The green star in the center was propped up with carrot pieces and dyed with natural green dye we bought for a birthday cake a few years ago.  I have to say that the natural dyes I've used have been mondo disappointing.  Hopefully, India Tree dyes will show up in my Christmas stocking this year!  Monstro wanted a special note for the first day so I used an assortment of glitter glues to make a little card.

Second day lunch was pretty funny to make.  I asked Monstro on Sunday to write a menu for the week.  I let him know that it needed to be foods we already have on hand and that each day needed 1 protein/1 fruit/1grain/2veggies.  His menu for today was:  "Peper Jack Cheese, Radish Mice, Banana, Long Horn Colby Cheese."  Hmmm... we seem to be missing a few things here!  So, we worked together to adapt the menu to include all the categories and to drop the items we don't have.  We've got cucumber stars (the left over centers from yesterday), wavy cut carrots, zucchini-pineapple bread (from Gramma's house), peaches with apple stars and wavy cut pepperjack and colby cheeses.  I made sure to include the foot as a little surprise.  I also put in a little note with a silly joke on it and wishing him a good 2nd day.

Both lunches were packed in our new LunchBots Trio.  We bought it at the grand opening of The Green Nursery's new location to support a great local business and to give us something to look forward to at the start of the new school year.  I am LOVING this box!  I've been using a LunchBots Eco for a while and love it for myself.  It's way too big for Monstro unless he's having something like a sandwich but I can fit my lunch plus a mid-shift snack in there for me!  It fits perfectly snug into the bottom compartment of his new lunch bag too.  We also found a great drink bottle at Old Navy that fits perfectly in his lunch box, doesn't have tiny parts to wash and (so far) doesn't leak!

I've been looking back through past lunches to get inspiration.  Where have you been finding great lunch ideas?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Outside the (bento) box

We've been having quite a few "odd" lunches in our house lately.  It's kind of refreshing really.  Monstro and I were getting pretty settled into a standard sandwich meal - cute sandwiches garnished with cute veggies - but sandwiches nonetheless.

Here are a few of our "break out" lunches!

First we have the Creepy Bunny of Doom lunch... it's a wrap so I get it if you're thinking "Really?  THAT'S your idea of a sandwich break?"  But trust me this was a huge win for me!  Monstro NEVER eats wraps.  He hates cream cheese and they just don't hold together well without it.  With this one I was able to camouflage it with a little smear of ranch dressing!  It's got Chicken Parmasean lunch meat with spinach and cucumber.  And look at those ADORABLE mini-Triscuits!  I've been waiting and waiting for him to agree to the Triscuits so I could show how freakin cute they are!  I added some extra cucumbers, carrots, purple cauliflower and pepperjack cheese.  Then the ultimate creepy lunch accessory...that hideous bunny face!!!  Big thanks to Marsh Supermarket for selling the heebiest Easter cakes ever!

Next we have quesadillas.   We were on quite the quesadilla kick for a few days and he had them for multiple meals.  We like to add all sorts of veggies to ours.  These are spicy grilled chicken and cheese with a little olive oil to help crisp them up- no veg to prevent soggy-sad-panda-lunch.  There's brown rice under that enormous pile of corn planks (yay for first corn of the season!) plus swords of tomato and a giant strawberry.  That cow has some Florida's Naturals Fruit Nuggets inside.  I got the both on super clearance at Target after Easter.  We love the Fruit Nuggets.  They're more expensive than your typical fruit snack but they have no artificial colors in them and they've actually got juice in them!  Monstro has been BEGGING me for desserts in his lunches.  He's the only poor, deprived child who doesn't get cookies or candy bars!  Usually fruit is dessert but I've told him he can earn desserts by showing that he'll eat the healthy stuff each day.

My husband made some fantastic meat sauce for pasta one night.  I left out a couple tablespoons of it to use for Monstro the next morning.  He had star pasta with the meat sauce, garlic cheese bread, ridge-y cut carrots, purple cauliflower and a little heart of Short Stop peanut butter fudge.  I used some alphabet pasta that I found for $0.33/bag to remind him of a few spelling words.  Unfortunately, after I arranged them, it seemed like I was giving him some sort of creepy religious message.  As soon as I started to place the "M" in promise I realized it but it was too late to go back!

We used to eat more traditional bento like this one pretty often.  It's certainly not standard Japanese by any stretch but it's closer and the flavors in the chicken are Asian.  He wanted "Mommy's Spicy Marinated Chicken" and rice.  My marinade is pretty simple and it somewhat mimics my beloved Sati Babi.  Oh how I miss jamming wooden sticks into my gums and tongue as we attempted to snarf down our meaty, juicy treat while walking around the uneven ground of the Banks Of The Wabash Festival at night.  So, he has the chicken and rice as well as the usual veggie assortment - cucumber, carrot and purple cauliflower.

I think I've saved the best for last.  Today's lunch is an unconventional lunch masterpiece!  He's got the typical veggies... I won't let him have a lunch without them!  But, his "entree" is a "bowl" of cereal!  We keep finding Mom's Best Naturals on sale and it's so rare that Monstro gets to enjoy a marshmallow cereal.  The Mallow Oats have no artificial dyes so he gets to feel like he's being a little "bad" but it's better for him than most of the other cereals he chooses (Coco Roos anyone?!).  I gave him a little bottle of almond milk to pour over the cereal so he could have the whole shebang.  He was especially jazzed about that mutant marshmallow fusion there towards the bottom!

Those are our "off the wagon" lunches for the last week or so.  It's been much more fun packing things other than sandwiches!  Part of my love for bento is being creative and we were just in a rut.  He was sick, then dad was sick and now I'm sick.  But it can be so easy to make it fun, sometimes I forget how much so!  What are some of your favorite "extra-ordinary" lunches?

Monday, April 16, 2012

"Gear?! Like I ever drove before!"

I love checking unexpected places for bento gear.  Now that I have easier access to all of those quick-snap pictures on my phone, here's some gear I scouted at Target.

The first is an actual lunch box and it's pretty darn cheap!  Only $6.99 in the baby feeding section.

It's hard to tell from this picture but it has 2 sections with a large lid and a secondary lid over one compartment.  It has dividers and a spot on top for a note or photo.  This thing is pretty big.  I didn't bust out my laser-line but it's about 10 inches by 12 inches I'd say.  Larger than a standard sheet of paper for sure.  You can see in the picture that the outer packaging shows a banana in one side!  I wanted to try this out but Monstro doesn't have a lunch bag this beast of a lunch would fit in!  It might work for "lazy day" lunches when there are no "attachments" to get jumbled around though.

The next one is a baby feeding set with individual containers that snap together.  It's in with the diaper bags and travel items.

The containers snap side-to-side and then fit into that handy black insulated carrying case.  One very cool thing that you (again) can't see in the picture is that the top of the carry case has a spot to secure a water bottle (or a baby bottle).  Each container is roughly 3 inches by 3 inches and has a tight fitting lid.  I seriously considered this one also because we have a hard time getting a drink bottle in Monstro's usual lunch bag.  It's a touch on the expensive side, especially when you consider that for $16 you could get an airtight bento set with bag and chopsticks.  I think the real advantage here would be for kids (or grown ups!) who don't like foods to mingle.

The last little treasure I found is supposed to be a stacking snack bin.  It's made to carry formula powder, dry cereal, teething biscuits and things of that nature.  I think it would make a FANTASTIC bento because it's totally clear, you can choose how many boxes to attach and each compartment keeps foods separate from the rest.

Cute right?  Each little box is about 2 inches by 3 inches and clicks to the box above it with a little snap lock.  It does have a little blurb on it saying it's not for use with food.  Isn't that food in the picture?!  If you don't carry food in it, what else would you use it for??  This one is $9.99 and will probably come home with me in the very near future!

I've also seen some great containers at Target over in the "Tupperware" section.  There's a new divided cube with an ice-pack top that looks like it'd be good for an adult lunch.

What sorts of "re-purposed" items do you use for lunches?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Contest on a "sister blog"

MeetTheDubiens has paired with AllThingsForSale for one heck of a bento giveaway!

 She's offering this box in a choice of colors, a bento belt, the silicone food cup set, a food pick set and the cutters to make those adorable animal wraps!  This would be a fantastic starter kit for someone just getting in to bento or for a seasoned vet who wants some extra gear.

Jill has one of the best casual bento blogs I've seen in a long time.  I really like her site and hope you will too!