Saturday, August 22, 2015

Happy Bento! Lunches On the Go - Book Review

So, it's pretty clear that I've been on a blogging hiatus, but I can't think of a better way to get back into the groove and get some new inspiration than with this fantastic new book, Happy Bento! Lunches On the Go by Anna Adden of Becoming a Bentoholic.
Happy Bento Anna Adden
This book is full of great lunches for the veteran lunch packer looking for some fresh, fun, new ideas. But, it is also a fantastic resource for those just getting started. While the lunches in this book do call for some specific tools, there is plenty of room for improvisation, and also an extensive section on all the types of tools that Anna has and recommends, including a shopping list/links at the back of the book (AKA a great excuse to shop for some bento goodies). Every lunch is broken down in the book with supplies, ingredients, and directions that are thorough and easy to follow. I love the physical size of this book too... it's almost like a pocket guide that I could toss in my purse to reference at the grocery store. In fact, my daughter has taken it on a couple car trips to peruse while we ran errands.
I figured I might as well let my daughter continue flipping through the book to select what lunches to try first. She chose the one from the cover photo, which was simple, fun, and yummy! Sounds good to me. Anna's instructions for each bento are very detailed, so you can easily recreate her lunchbox ideas with ease, but you can modify them based on food preferences or materials on hand, as well. That is what we did!
Flower Bento
Our lunch included red grapes, turkey and cheese sandwich (we just used food marker to color the Swiss cheese center), whole grain crackers, bell pepper, and an Oreo Thin for a treat.
Happy Bento Flower Lunch

There are so many great ideas in Happy Bento, from holidays and special occasions to seasonal and everyday fun. Even some obscure 'fun' days are in this book. How could you not love a book that includes special lunches for Pi Day, Talk Like a Pirate Day, and Shark Week?! As mentioned before, many of the lunches call for specific tools to create the lunches exactly, but you can use what you have on hand to make the ideas your own or use the book as a reference for your new Bento wish list!
For instance, in this lunch below, we modified again, but you can bet we have an hippo cookie cutter on the 'to get' list now! Plus, Anna's ideas reminded us about introducing some new foods. We love edamame, but it's not something either of the kids have had, so we mixed some in with something she already likes and it was a hit.

Elephant Bento
In our lunch, we used leftover spaghetti with Parmesan, a mix of green beans and edamame, mango and red grapes, and some shredded sharp cheddar cheese.
Happy Bento Elephant

Be sure to pick up your copy of Happy Bento today! Here is the link, as well as to a couple fun tools I used in these lunches...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Kindergarten St. Patrick's Day

Make a green snack for Kindergarten the teacher says, so after narrowing down the green choices with the kiddo, we have lunch and snack fit for the occasion. I really hadn't thought about all the food choices that are green, and there sure are a lot of them! It took some convincing that she didn't need a bite of EVERY green food she came up with. I think I'd need a bigger lunchbox, for sure.While the kiddo has fun in school, mama will be celebrating with some Guinness cupcakes! Bailey's buttercream, anyone? Me, me, me! - in case, you're thinking the same thing...

St. Patrick's Day lunch
Butter croissant with herb cream cheese, grapes, green Goldfish crackers, turkey sausage, and a gold chocolate coin.

St. Patrick's Day lunch
Spinach, Granny Smith apple, cucumber, kiwi, and green grapes.

In these lunches...

Monday, February 9, 2015

100 Days of Kindergarten!

First, let me apologize. I'm totally off my game. I made lunch and snack to match the special day, and we made a special project for school. Did I take a picture to share the project? No. Did I snap a photo of the snack and lunch? Sort of.

Cucumbers, mini pretzel thins (bottom of the bag, as you can see), cheddar/mozzarella cheese, and salami.

The snack, since I apparently didn't get a picture, was grapes, cheese cut in the number '100', and some cashews. I swear when that button project comes home, I'll be adding it to this post if nothing else, for my own sake. It was super cute. Zoe chose to use buttons for her 100 objects and had the idea of making a rainbow with them, with 10 of each color. It turned out really cute. For now, you'll just have to take my word for it.
Wait! Did I mention that it has been 100 days of school! What?? It's all very exciting, but mama can hardly wait for summer!

In this lunch...

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Roundup: 14 From 2014!

Happy New Year (2 weeks ago)!! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday with family and friends, and I also hope that reflecting on the past year brings many cherished memories to hold dear. For us, this is especially true. This year brought a new home, a new adventure with the beginning of Kindergarten, and most importantly, a new member to our family.. a beautiful baby girl. It will be hard to top this year. But, with so much happening this year, other parts of my life took a major back seat. My neglected blog is one of those things. Time to respark the love affair.. not necessarily with cooking and packing lunches, because believe it or not, I've been doing all that.. but the actual sharing of what I've been up to. In an effort to bring you up to speed, rather than do a recap of the 14 most popular posts of 2014, I'm doing some favorites, but also some clean up and posting of things from the past year that never got to make their debut. I'm doing it on the 14th to really get the point across. No, it has nothing to do with the fact that it took me two weeks to pull together this post... why would you think that?! Anyways, enjoy, and I look forward to sharing more with you this year, and getting out there to see what everyone else has been up to, as well. Here's to a wonderful 2015! I can't wait to see what it has in store!

JANUARY - Our year started off just as crazy as it ended. On January 2nd, we sold our house of 16 years. This month also marked Zoe's 5th birthday! Major, major stuff! So, this picture is from a previously posted lunch from her birthday. See the full post and details here.
birthday yogurt
Chobani Greek yogurt frozen into shapes using silicone molds. Yum! (Photo below from the birthday cake, complete with fondant dinosaurs, of course!)
dinosaur fondant

FEBRUARY - Valentine's Day! Yup, seems like a good excuse for a 'hearty' lunch, doesn't it? This is one from last year made in a muffin tin. Read the full post here.
Valentine muffin tin meal
Orange vanilla Greek yogurt, raisins, chocolate chip cookie, cucumber, leftover rice pilaf and baked chicken, and shredded cheddar jack cheese, topped off with some fun heart picks.

MARCH -Simplicity. There were lots of lunches like that this month as we were working on getting in a new home. Just quick, yummy, fun, and done.
Nibble tray lunch
Cucumber w/ a bear pick, Trader Joe's Cheddar Rockets, Swiss cheese, olive/caper mix, grapes, and smoked turkey, all in our Nibble Tray.

APRIL - Technically still 'homeless' and living with my mom made it very difficult to nest before baby arrived, so I had to spend that energy making things for her instead. Two projects were born... 2 nice mid-weight blankets that I use every single day. Seriously, love these things! And, burp cloths. While, I thought I'd never use this pain in the arse to make lovely things, when we transitioned to bottles, they too became and are a daily necessity. Plus, come on now.. they are so cute!
baby blanket
To make these blankets, I used this tutorial from Greener Grass. I used flannel and minky dot and they were super easy. I absolutely love this fabric, too. I could so see a room decorated with these colors and whimsical forest patterns.
baby blanket
burp cloths
For the burp cloths, I used my own mash-up of the tutorial found here at Diary of a Quilter and the one here at The Happy Scraps. The biggest thing I can say is that you have to prewash, dry, and iron all the fabric, including the cloth diapers. This is absolutely not a step to skip. I used flannel pieces and made a general measurement and used the cereal box tip for ironing. You'll see what I mean if you look at the tutorials. They were tedious, but turned out so cute. Seriously.. I want another baby just to use more burp cloths! Will I make you some? Um.. hell no. I would never make them again without some serious incentives.
burp cloths

I even managed to bust out a few bibs with scraps. These were super simple too, and I found a great free template here at Craftaholics Anonymous, but I will admit that I made my mommy sew all the snaps on.
baby bibs diy

MAY - We moved into our new house AND our baby girl was born! Yup.. it was pretty much nuts!
GoGreen baby bento
For hubby - Baby turkey, cheddar, and green apple bagels (both traditional baby colors included since we didn't know what gender we were having), baby Triscuits with Babybel cheese, baby peppers, cucumber, and carrots with guacamole, little Chobani bite yogurt, and Vita Coco to drink, all packed in our GoGreen lunchbox.
easylunchboxes baby bento
For the kiddo - baby bagel with cream cheese, strawberries (baby elephant picks too), cinnamon almonds, baby jelly beans, baby triscuits with Babybel cheese, baby carrots, cucumber, and pepper, all in our favorite EasyLunchboxes.

JUNE - In the summer, I'm all about salads, and taco salad is a favorite. Ours is meat free and always uses Russsian dressing. Yum!
Easylunchboxes bento
Taco salad (chips packed separate), black beans, dressing in our mini dipper, and sesame sticks, all packed in our Easylunchboxes.

JULY -Snack boxes are in full swing around here in the summer, and we got in some great practice and ideas for when school would start, too. Almost always packed and stashed for easy access when in need of a quick snack, an on the go treat, or a last second pick me up when lounging by the pool, these things are more popular than 'actual' lunches. Here are a few examples.
Kindergarten snack box
Cucumber, grapes, and caramel Pirate's Booty in our Lock&Lock box.
Kindergarten snack box
 Mini croissant with Trader Joe cookie butter and slivered almonds.

Kindergarten snack box
Trader Joe's peanut butter pretzels, apple slices, and candy corn (yes we have it year round, thanks to our realtor, mixed with peanuts .. omg so good and tastes just like a Payday candy bar)

AUGUST -With an abundance of zucchini and an obsession with butterscotch, this bread was destined to be born last summer. It is amazing. That is all. Get the recipe here.
Butterscotch Zucchini bread

SEPTEMBER - And, let the Kindergarten adventure begin!
Apple bento
'Apple' cucumbers in cup, checkerboard apple, peanut butter and apple jelly sandwich w/ leaf, apple Pirate's Booty.

OCTOBER - Happy Halloween!
Halloween Lunchbots
Turkey pepperoni in cup, orange bell pepper, Goldfish crackers in Mini Dipper, Muenster cheese, and a chocolate in polkadot container, all in a Lunchbots Trio.

NOVEMBER - Can anyone say leftover turkey with a twist?
Easylunchboxes bento
Grapes, Greek pasta salad, smoked turkey on ciabatta with spinach, Swiss, Dijon, and cream cheese, all in our Easylunchboxes.

DECEMBER - Merry Christmas!
Christmas bento
Smoked turkey with tree picks, cucumber 'trees', holiday Wheat Thins, and Swiss cheese 'trees', all packed in our Sassy box.
 A little 'cheesy' snack for the Kindergarten class! How cute are they? And that's that, then. Here's to 2015!