Wednesday, May 11, 2016

When the kid throws a curveball

"I want something different."

Miss Mads uttered these words during our daily rush - that flurry of activity that comes as she finds her outerwear paraphernalia for school and I work to assemble a winning lunch in 3 minutes or less. I had a feeling I knew what she was talking about, but I hoped I was wrong. Most of the morning school drop-offs of late had been inching closer and closer to the "have your kid here by this time, we totes mean it" threshold, and I was really hoping to buck the trend today.

So, I asked for clarification from her, my fingers mentally crossed.

"I mean I want something different!"

Ok... How so? Something different to wear? To drive to school in? Something different in terms of weather pattern? In the color of the walls?

I listed off anything I could think of, finally ending with what I knew and feared to be the answer. Something different for lunch?



And, after the line of questioning, I was now down to 2 minutes.

Fortunately, I had picked up a package of hard boiled eggs at the store yesterday. Hmm. It sounds schmaltzy, but this curveball was turning into an opportunity. An opportunity to pull out a little bento tool I hadn't used in awhile.

It worked! The combination of hard boiled eggs and cashews, along with some pea puffs and a strawberry, was different enough to pass muster with Miss Mads. Mission Success!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Strawberry Ice Cubes

The weather is warmer, which means it's time for cold drinks. The problem with ice cubes, though, is that they melt. Melty ice cubes mean watered down drinks. Yuck.

This is why I love Strawberry Ice Cubes. When they melt, they add a zing of strawberry!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

I Dream of Strawberry Water

Look what I have...

Look what else I have...

What if I did this?

And this?

And this?

I bet it would lead to this:

Mmm. Tastes like summer!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sandwich Cutters

Sandwich cutters add variety to the average sandwich. And, if you're like me and have a kid who's "allergic" to crust, it cuts it off in one go. Now, there's a chance she'll eat the whole thing, instead of taking 2 bites before declaring the rest "crust".

They're so easy to use - 2 steps, less than 30 seconds required.

Step 1 - Position Cutter on Sandwich

This apple cutter is the one I use the most. It perfectly fits the brand of sandwich bread we usually buy.

Step 2 - Push down on Cutter

Roll the cutter around a little as you push, being sure to push firmly on all the outside edges. You may have to use your hand to separate the bread along the cut lines. 

And that's it!!

If desired, you can decorate the sandwich on the outside, or just leave it as-is. 

Cutters can be found in lots of stores. I've had best luck in Target and Supermarkets around back-to-school time. 



And Triangles! Oh my!

This triangle one cuts sandwiches a little differently, but that's something for a different post...

Monday, May 2, 2016

3 Ways to Pack a Sandwich Without Using a Plastic Baggie

3 kinds of reusable sandwich containers

I'm a big fan of using lunch containers that can be easily washed and used another day in another lunch. Sandwiches are in heavy rotation in Miss Mads' lunch, so all of these methods of sandwich packing see regular use in our house.

1 - Plastic Sandwich Case

This case was given to me in a swap a number of years ago, but I've seen similar ones in Target and supermarkets. Other than the brand name being gradually erased from the top due to repeated washings, it's held up well.  

The case is deep, so you can put other foods in there aside from the sandwich.

2 - Bento Sandwich Cases

Sandwich cases I've gotten through import stores are a little different than ones I've seen in local stores - they have vents!

The idea is that the vents will prevent the bread of the sandwich from getting overly soggy. 

Some have additional compartments - the pink one above has a lower level to hold sides - so they would require a band or belt to hold them together (unless you like to live dangerously).

My favorite part is that they collapse down when empty; easier to carry home, easier to store. 

3 - Fabric Sandwich Cases

These are the cases that get used most often for Miss Mads' lunch. It's only been more recently that I've started trusting her with some of the more "fragile" pieces I've acquired over the years. 

These cases are more than just cotton - most of the ones we have are made by Lunchskins, which have a velcro close and are made of a fabric originally used for pastry bags. They're dishwasher safe and pretty durable. Some ours have been in use for about 4 years and are still kicking. I've found them on clearance at various points at Target, which is nice, since our supply has been depleted from bags wandering away. (I'm not affiliated with Lunchskins or compensated in anyway, just had a good experience with the product)

We have one from Skip Hop as well, but it doesn't get used as much. It's not dishwasher safe, because of the printing method, I guess, and who has time for that?!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Thursday Lunch

I love this box. The problem is that it's really designed to hold a Rice Ball, which is not on the list of foods that Miss Mads will consume. At least thus far.

So, put a sandwich in the top part. Box gets used, lunch gets eaten, kid gets fed.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Wednesday Lunch

Nothing complicated - a little deviation from the norm. 
  • Ritz Crackers
  • Cheese
  • Carrots
  • Blackberries
  • Cashews
  • Yogurt (not shown)
According to Miss Mads, she ate it all, so score one for the veggies!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How to Pack a Lunch in 30 seconds

  1. Grab last slice of cheese pizza out of fridge.
  2. Listen to excited cheers of Miss Mads because today is a day she likes pizza.
  3. Grab container, realize pizza is just a little too long. 
  4. Decide cutting crusts of pizza is faster than finding a bigger box.
  5. Listen to exited cheers of Miss Mads, because there is never a day she likes pizza crust.
  6. Decide lunch needs something more in the spectrum of "healthy".
  7. Grab carrots.
  8. Hear complaints from Miss Mads because you dared to add something healthy.
  9. Add yogurt and apple sauce. 

Epilogue: Discover that the only part of lunch that was returned was the three carrot sticks. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Separating food using baking cups

Some foods go well together. Chocolate and peanut butter create their own little slice of heaven when combined. Some foods just plain antagonize each other, and should never be mixed. 

Keeping food separate in a lunch box is pretty easy if you have an individual container for each lunch component. If you're using a larger container, like a bento box, then baking cups come in handy. 

Miss Mads is a berry fiend, but the pea puffs I packed in her lunch can shed little bits of pea puff dust, and I couldn't imagine that a blackberry with a pea puff coating would be particularly tasty. So, to separate out the berries and to provide a bit of visual pizzazz, I put the berries in a festively colored baking cup. 

There are two types of baking cups I tend to use - paper and silicone. 

Above are two examples of each. The blue cups are silicone, the multicolored ones are paper. Both kinds have advantages and disadvantages. 

Silicone cups

  • Reusable - It's cheaper in the long run, and the same cup that was used in your lunch can later be used to bake a cupcake
  • Liquid-proof - If you use it to hold something that's a little bit wetter than the rest of your lunch, like orange slices, you don't have to worry about the liquid seeping through the cup
  • More variance in shape - One of the blue cups is square shaped; there are tons of other shapes out there, like hearts
  • More expensive - While they aren't as expensive as they used to be, the per cup cost of a silicone cup is significantly higher than a paper one. 
Paper Cups

  • Cheaper - A single paper cup is a fraction of the cost of a single silicone cup
  • More variance in color and pattern - It's much easier to find brightly colored paper cups, and packs of cups will often include 3 or more colors and/or designs
  • More malleable - If you're trying to squish something in, paper cups can be folded and bent
  • Can be leaky - Not so much of an issue if you're packing nuts, but wetter foods can leak through
  • Not as sturdy - If you look above, you can see that one of the paper cups is a bit squished. Paper cups need a little more care in storing; some of mine had something lean up against them at some point
  • Not reusable - These are usually one use only. 
I ended up going with the paper cups for Miss Mads' lunch, mainly because I'm not sure I can trust her not to accidentally throw away the silicone cups. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Standard Lunch #2

The other favorite lunch of Miss Mads is the eternal lunchbox favorite (barring allergy restrictions): the Peanut Butter Sandwich. It's been eclipsed as her go-to meal request, but has otherwise stayed strong in the number 2 spot.

What you see above:

  • Peanut butter on wheat, cut into quarters
  • Carrot Sticks
  • Applesauce

Friday, April 15, 2016

Standard Lunch #1

When I ask Miss Mads what she would like to eat for lunch, 70% of the time she will answer "cheese and crackers".

So, she eats a lot of cheese and crackers.

What you see above:

  • 4 cracker-sized slices of cheese
  • 4 Ritz Crackers
  • A small handful of pea puffs
  • 1 cup of yogurt
  • 1 packet of applesauce
As Miss Mads is still fairly small, this is enough of a lunch for her. Someday, when she manages to top 36 pounds, she may need a bit more. 

The Hello Kitty yogurt was a bit of a treat - usually I pack something with less sugar - but as far as lunchbox treats go, that's probably one of the more innocuous ones. I hope. 

Is this the worst lunch in the world? No. There's some protein, some veggies, and some fruit. Most of the time she will eat it all. It's also pretty quick to put together. My main concern is the frequency in which it appears in the lunch rotation. In other words, she eats something similar to this 2-3 times a week on average. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Metamorphosis

There was a time when I had time to think of and plan creative bento. Excited about what I had created, I shared a few pictures with my mother. She, in turn, shared those pictures with her sister.

My aunt's comment? It's obvious she doesn't have kids. The implication there, of course, is that while she appreciated the aesthetics, there was an obvious sign that I had time to burn.

She was right, to a point, but only for a period of time. The time I had to spare for spending 30 minutes on a lunch disappeared once life changes occurred. We bought a house, changed jobs, and had a kid.

Then, the kid got older, as they do tend to do. Now that she's older and a little more responsible (and I know they won't be placed in a microwave by a well meaning school assistant), my assortment of boxes has found renewed use. My stash of food ideas, however, has been met with a new challenge.

The picky eating of a 4.5 year old.

Currently, we rotate through 2 standard lunches. My challenge? To shake up the lunches, while still staying within the blurriest of categories: what my daughter will actually eat!