Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Butterflies: #28

Another easy (lazy) lunch, but there is a little bit of a story. This week sweetPea and her class have watched Swallowtail butterflies emerge from their cocoons. They were in a container in the classroom, but I'm not sure how long they've had them. So today's lunch has a cheese croissant sandwich with a chocolate egg on the left side. On the right are strawberries, cucumber butterflies, and carrot flowers so the butterflies can collect some nectar.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sailboats: #27

What do you do with all the leftover hardboiled Easter eggs? So far, I've made deviled eggs, egg salad sandwiches, and today I've made sailboats. The little sails are made from strawberry fruit leather. In the background are cheddar chicks and sliced kiwi. She has water to drink.

This one took me maybe 3 minutes to throw together while I was chopping up the other eggs to make egg salad. Frankly, peeling the eggs took longer than anything else. Fresh eggs from backyard chickens don't peel the same as eggs from the store that have been sitting around for weeks. I normally make sure to use our oldest eggs for hard-boiling, but we made so many I just didn't bother. Makes you wonder how old the eggs they sell really are, huh?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hatching Chick: #26

I almost decided not to post this one, but I figured I may as well. My attempts are definitely not all perfect, as this illustrates. The important thing is that Pea likes them and is inspired to eat her lunch. On the left is a deviled egg with an attempted chick face made from carrot and some kind of seed. I can't remember what I ended up with, but I remember that celery seed was too small. I tucked broccoli around the egg to help keep it stable. On the right are strawberries and carrots. I also included some kind of organic juice box that she got for Easter from her aunt and uncle and a small container of ranch dressing.

The Verdict: She said the deviled egg was "too spicy". I apparently added too much hot sauce. Oops.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I Speak for the Trees: #25

I thought Earth Day deserved a special bento, so I give you The Lorax guarding his remaining truffula trees. The blue background is made with sushi rice dyed with red cabbage juice mixed with just a smidge of baking soda. The green field is made with brown jasmine rice mixed with smashed peas. I also added a little coconut milk to all the rice since sweetPea adores it so.

The truffula trees are made out of jicama. The pink one was dyed with beet juice. We attempted to dye the white one yellow using orange juice, but it didn't really work. It changed color a little, but not enough to really tell. I think next time maybe I'll try turmeric. For some great ideas on natural dyes check out this article from Just Bento. I'll probably also use some of those ideas for egg dyeing.

The tree trunks and the Lorax are made out of cheddar cheese with nori and provolone details. I also added little red cabbage bushes at the base of the trees. I got that idea from a post by Anna the Red. Her Lorax is made from sweet potato, which I thought was a great idea. I wish I could have done that, but Pea has suddenly decided she no longer likes sweet potatoes.

How long did this take? A ridiculous amount of time, but we had a great time. Pea and I were having fun with the dyes. It was pretty cool how just a touch of baking soda turned the purple cabbage juice into a beautiful blue. Talk about practical science. We also talked about how making bentos is earth friendly because we reuse our boxes and make our own food rather than using packaged items. I feel like it was time well spent.

Added to What's For Lunch Wednesday. Check it out for more great lunch ideas. :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Teeth: #24

On the bottom are two onigiri shaped like teeth. They're happy because Pea had a dentist appointment today.  She also had strawberries, cucumber, and cheese slices.

The Verdict: She didn't have much appetite today. She said she dropped one of her rice teeth on the floor. She washed it off, but it still grossed her out so she didn't eat it. (Well, yeah, but good try.) She left the cheese, the cucumbers, and one of the berries. She just said she really wasn't very hungry.

I was happy with the way the teeth turned out though. It was really easy to shape the rice however I wanted. I just put a few spoonfuls into some plastic and mushed it around until it was the right shape.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bunnies Galore: #23

In our new LunchBots Uno sweetPea has a mama bunny made out of provolone cheese on half a ciabatta roll with cheddar cheese details. She has 3 baby bunnies made out of apple slices. The bunnies (and Pea) are feasting on broccoli, carrots, and blackberries. Those are actually some of the same things the bunnies like to eat from our garden. I tried to make a little barrier between the bread and the blackberries using a slice of carrot. We'll see how it went when she gets home.

I know it's a little off topic from the bento theme, but I wanted to share a fun craft idea. I spent yesterday making these with Pea's class, which is composed of kids ages 3 through 5. I did a lot of helping, but the kids loved choosing the little details and filling their socks with beans. I worked with one child at a time and when he or she was finished, the bunny was supposed to be placed on a shelf until time to go home. Some of the kids were convinced the bunny wanted to spend the day with the child rather than sitting on the shelf. One little girl thought her bunny needed to go to the bathroom with her.

Pea spent a lot of time after school teaching her bunny how to be the Easter Bunny. Apparently "Loppy" needed to go to Easter Bunny school after taking a timed nap. Then Loppy hid plastic eggs around the house for me to find. Then it was my turn to help Loppy hide the eggs for Pea to find.

In other words, it's a great craft that lends itself to lots of imagination. Just make sure to tie the sock closed tightly. I was able to help about 20 kids make bunnies. I think altogether it took about 4 hours - about 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon.

Monday, April 18, 2011

JellyBean background

Pea decided she wanted to pimp my blog. She chose the jellybeans as a special Easter background. Then she told me a story about her friend at school that has brought some sort of jellybeans that are nasty flavors that she doesn't even end up eating. I suspect they're a version of the Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans from the Harry Potter series.

Thunder Over Louisville: #22

Thunder Over Louisville is the big opener of the Kentucky Derby Festival. It is held on the 3rd Saturday before the actual Derby race is held. I've gone many times over the years, but we've yet to take sweetPea. Frankly, I'm afraid the long day would be too much for her to handle and the loud noise would freak her out. However, we tend to catch it the day after on the interwebs since the fireworks don't even start until 9:30. The rest of the day is filled with fighter jets and other various aeronautical displays. Some day we'll take her, but this year she'll get to experience it through her bento. :)

We always watch the display from the Kentucky side, but I thought it would be prettier to pretend like we're watching it from Indiana and can see the Louisville skyline. So she has a cheddar cheese skyline with beet and jicama fireworks. The rice is the last of the Forbidden rice. It's packed in our brand new LunchBots Uno.

People keep asking me how long it takes to make these lunches. Really it depends on how detailed I get. This one only took about 15 minutes this morning. I used leftover rice from last night and had already peeled and sliced the beet. Then I just had to slice a bit of jicama and cut all my shapes. Pea stood on a chair at the counter while eating her oatmeal and watched me.

The Verdict: She ate all of it.

Heart Beet: #21

This was her lunch for last Friday. I got a little behind on posting. She had Beets & Greens Risotto that I attempted to shape into a heart. On the top are blackberries and kiwi. As a special treat, I included a homemade brownie that isn't pictured here. 

The risotto might sound gross, but it's really good. I'm not a beet fan by any stretch of the imagination, but we kept getting them in our CSA share. So I either had to throw them away or learn how to use them in a way that didn't make me want to gag. After some experimentation, I realized I don't mind them sliced raw in salads. And I actually like them in this recipe. You basically throw grated beets and some kind of greens - the beet greens themselves work really well, but this time I used kale - into cooking risotto. At the end you add lemon zest and juice and a dusting of parmesan. For some reason this combination makes beets not only palatable, but really good. The full recipe is in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.

The Verdict: I was the lunchtime volunteer in Peas classroom last Friday. She ate every bite of her lunch. It was kind of funny that her best friend also brought beets in her lunch, but they were roasted. (Gag.) However, they girls thought that was just great.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Another Sushi Bento: #20

I think I'm getting a tiny bit better with the sushi. She also seems to love it and will eat it even when I include items she won't normally deign to touch - like avocado. So on the left are strawberries, blackberries, and pineapple. On the right are sushi rolls made with avocado, carrots, and cucumbers. She has milk to drink.

Whoooo's Ready for Lunch? - #19

I'm a little late posting, but this was Tuesday's lunch. She had Forbidden rice with a cheddar and provolone owl. He's a little rough around the edges, but I didn't feel like redoing him. He's sitting on a carrot log. In the right side are carrot sticks, cucumber slices, pineapple chunks, and blackberries. I also included some ranch dressing and milk.

The Verdict: She ate pretty much every bite. There were a few grains of rice left, but that's it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring Chicks: #18

Poor Pea was not very happy to be going back to school today. She loves her teachers and friends, but says the day just goes on too long. At least she had some cute little chickens to keep her company. In the top container are carrots, cucumbers, blackberries, and strawberries. On the bottom are a Barred Rock hen (like our own black-and-white speckled hen named Beauty) and two little Buff Orpingtons.

The big hen is made from sushi rice and Forbidden rice mixed together after cooking. She actually does have eyes, but they blend in with the black rice. I guess I should've used something other than nori to make her eyes. Her comb is strawberry and her beak is carrot. The other two are made from my first attempt at tamagoyaki. I made it using two eggs in a small round cast iron skillet. It definitely wasn't as easy as the pictures and directions insinuated, but I think it worked out. If the girl eats the little yellow chicks, it'll give her a good boost of protein. We also have adult buff orpingtons in our flock, but sweetPea decided it was a mama and her two babies.

The Verdict: Blargh. I tried to pull a few over on her and both backfired. First, I accidentally (on purpose) failed to send ranch dressing for her to dip her veggies. So she didn't eat her veggies. Then I told her that the tamagoyaki was "scrambled eggs that have been shaped into chicks". She said it tasted "weird". So she ate her rice and the fruit. 

I'm really trying to get some protein in her other than dairy and it just isn't working. We don't eat meat (I've been adding fish back into our diet, but she'll have none of that), she can't eat nuts and certain seeds due to allergies, she thinks beans are the grossest things in the universe (other than meat), and tofu is "yucky"; so really all that's left is dairy. Occasionally she'll eat eggs, which is what I was attempting to capitalize on here. I'm hoping if I stick it in her bento every  now and then she'll get used to the flavor. 

Spring Break Bentos: 16 & 17

I was trying to get us out the door, but I knew she'd be starving if I didn't bring any food. This was kind of a "snack" that I brought along on our hike. It contains cheese & crackers with blueberries, red grapes, and cucumber slices. sweetPea hiked all 1.5 miles without even asking to be carried once. Once she tripped and said it was hard to pay attention to where she was going when she was looking at "all this beauty". 

The Verdict: I didn't pack enough food. Apparently this is plenty for a relatively sedentary day at school, but for a 1.5 mile hike she needed more. She ate every bite and then had several more snacks when we got home. 

I took this along with us to a trip to the Science Center. On the left is purple cole slaw with a cheese butterfly. On the right are red grapes and kiwi. I also took along some cheese and crackers in a snacktaxi.

The Verdict: It was a disaster. Apparently putting cole slaw in a Lock & Lock container works just fine when the box will stay fairly horizontal. This was carried in my backpack for several hours. The juices from the cole slaw leaked over into the other container. The kiwi was tinted from the purple, which left it a very odd color. The grapes were also swimming in the sauce. Pea said, "I don't want to eat this. Who would?" Luckily I'd taken along the cheese and crackers so she ate those. Lesson learned.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Zoo Friends: #15

sweetPea is on spring break this week so I made a list of both sunny day and rainy day excursions. After yesterday's thunder storm, we decided to head out to the zoo. The food at our zoo is great, if you consider soggy pizza, processed chicken strips, and hot dogs that have languished under heat lamps to be food. We've learned to pack our own snacks and lunch.

In the top section are a provolone cheese zebra with nori stripes and a provolone giraffe with cheddar cheese spots. The are playing in a field of broccoli and carrot flowers. On the bottom is a rice tiger with nori stripes and cheddar ears. I added grated carrots to the rice for color. I also stuck some red grapes next to the tiger. You can see that I tried to put the grapes on both sides, but there just wasn't room. The poor fellow got the left side of his face smooshed from my attempts.

I also put together my first adult bento.

Clockwise from the top right are kiwi, purple coleslaw with carrot sticks on top, red grapes, and a leftover popover.

The Verdict: The lunches stayed perfectly packed even after being slogged around in my backpack. In fact, the first thing we did upon arrival was sprint to the far end of the zoo to catch the tiger feeding. So I know they were jostled quite a bit. I've never actually watched Pea eat one of these lunches so I was surprised at how she deconstructed it. She picked up each little piece and popped it into her mouth. She even tried to eat the features off the characters. She ate most of it in the end. She left her leaves, even though I'd packed romaine lettuce instead of spinach. She was pretty distracted though - we ate at a table beside a big playground at the zoo and her friends were calling to her to come and play.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sushi Bento: #14

I've never made sushi before, but sweetPea told me the other day that she "just loooooves sushi". How could I argue with that? It surprises me a bit because the nori has such a strong fish flavor. She completely turns her nose up at all fish.

Most sushi we find locally is made with sesame seeds so we can't just stop at the Whole Foods deli and pick up a few. She's allergic to tree nuts and many seeds. So I watched a few videos on Youtube and figured I could give it a shot. My very first roll was pretty ridiculous looking (but still tasty). The second one was tucked into this very simple lunch.

Included are four sushi pieces made with rice, carrots, cucumber, and avocado. On the right are red grapes. 

I obviously had the nori wrapper and the rice, but I don't have any special sushi equipment. Instead of a bamboo sushi mat, I used a placemat covered with plastic wrap. She missed school today, because she was complaining of ear pain. This lunch was quickly made as we were rushing out the door on the way to the pediatrician.  

She ate two of the pieces and all of the grapes while we were in the little room at the doctor's office. We were seen pretty quickly and it turns out she's fine, just really congested.

When we got home I made us a very tasty nutritious treat I wanted to mention because it's so very very good. I've been following Weelicious and she had a program on making avocado shakes. While making the sushi, I noticed that our avocados were really ripe and won't last much longer. She has a specific recipe on Weelicious, but I simply threw in stuff until it tasted good. I used one avocado, one banana, some milk, some coconut milk, and a spoonful of honey. Oh, and I threw in a few ice cubes.

Yum. I think I want another.