A Lame Lunch and an Awesome Butternut Squash Lasagna

Today's lunch was not very exciting or pretty. More functional than fancy. It was field trip day AGAIN and it got cancelled due to rain AGAIN. But, I got the cancellation e-mail on my Blackberry while I was driving to the school this morning, so it was obviously too late to change things up. So, field trip lunch part four...

Fruit Bites, Sugar Snap Peas, Carrot Chips, Baby Banana, Pirate Booty, Hot Dog Wrap
Although it was kinda lame, there were a few yummy things.
-First, carrot chips - YUM! They are crunchy and sweet and a little salty. They are obviously not as healthy as fresh carrots, but are great for a bit of variety.
-Then, I found out that a HOT hot dog will stay warm until lunch when wrapped in several pieces of aluminum foil. One of the dance teachers at the chic's dance studio suggested this when I was complaining about field trip lunches and it worked wonderfully! I just wrapped it in the tortilla and heated it in the microwave. Then I wrapped it in a couple sheets of aluminum foil and stuck it in the bag as far from the banana as possible. I'll remember that little trick for future field trips!
-I have to share an awesome recipe that I found a few days ago - Baking and Books' Butternut Squash Lasagne. Everyone in my family loves butternut squash so I try to keep it around in the fall. I love the combination of butternut squash and pasta. Butternut squash lasagna is always awesome BUT what made this one different, and in my opinion far superior, were sage and thyme. Sage is such a great fall flavor and it made the lasagna stand out from the others. Here it is fresh out of the oven:
and a slice (one day I'll have a good camera!):
This one will be in my permanent fall recipe collection. It was scrumptious!
-There's no lunch for tomorrow (student council pizza day) so this is my last post of the week. Everyone have a safe and happy Halloween with your little trick or treaters!

More Halloween Fun

Well, after all my lunch whining, the field trip was cancelled today due to "flooding concerns". It's kinda funny, though cause although it's been raining A LOT lately, today there isn't a cloud in the sky. Would have been perfect weather for a field trip. They've rescheduled it for Thursday, so I guess I have to make the field trip lunch again. Ugh!

SOOOOO, another field trip lunch Thursday and Student Council Pizza day on Friday means that I had to go crazy with the Halloween theme for tomorrow's lunch. It may be my last Halloween lunch this year!

Jack-o-lantern mini peppers, Celery slices, Honeysweet yellow tomatoes with nori skull and Crossbones, Bat shaped cheese quesadillas, Pumpkin pie flavored yogurt, Apple eyeballs and blood orange slices.
-My friend Amanda got this skull and crossbones punch the other day for her son's lunches. While she was here, I had to go ahead and punch out some nori, for the chic's lunch this week. I thought they would work out pretty good on the tomatoes...I was wrong. I am praying that these stay on the tomato until her lunch tomorrow. Nori does NOT want to stick to the tomato. I don't know why either - it seems to stick on other things like that? Hmmmm??
-Stoneyfield Farms came out with a seasonal flavored yogurt for the fall - Pumpkin Pie! The chics really like it. Hopefully it will stay available through Thanksgiving!
-For the apple eyeballs, I used a small cookie scoop to make a ball from a peeled apple. Then I cut a baby carrot into slices and used a hole punch to make a hole in the center. I cut a chunk out of the apple at the top so the carrot slice could be recessed into the apple. Next, I cut a few dried cranberries in half and placed a half into the middle of each carrot slice.
-Lastly, blood oranges...I love making things with them cause they are so unexpected and really really do look like and orange that is bleeding. They used to be pretty hard to find but now they're available almost all year round. They taste pretty much like a regular orange but are so much more fun!

Field Trip Lunch

Tomorrow is another field trip. This time they will be eating at their destination so lunch has gotta be disposable and not require refrigeration.

Peanut butter, honey, and sunflower seed monster sandwich, Celery sticks, Jack-o-Lantern tangerine, Pirate's booty, Granola bar, Baby carrots, Fruit bites

Sometimes the chic has a hard time peeling tangerines. I cut the tangerine like a jack-o-lantern and then used the orange peeler tool (that orange thing from Tupperware) to cut through the skin. This made it look more like a pumpkin AND she will have an easy time peeling it tomorrow.

I have to admit that I am hopelessly unmotivated by the plastic baggie lunch. It seems that the chic will have a lot of field trips this year so I would LOVE suggestions for more creative field trip lunches!!


Well, I've waited and waited to do some Halloween lunches, and the week is finally here. I'm starting off slowly with a Sand"witch".

Watermelon cubes, Cottage cheese and blueberries, Hummus and carrots, Sand"witch", Martha's pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese frosting.

Sand"witch" is sandwich topped with ham. She has a nori hat and eye, Cucumber hair, carrot mouth, and sugar snap pea mole on her chin.

The cupcake is going to school in this cool little cupcake holder that I found at Williams-Sonoma this summer. The little spikes grip the cupcake so that the frosting remains in tact. Love it!

I get asked all the time how I get the chic's lunches to stay in place. After all Kindergartners are not exactly gentle with their lunchboxes. The answer - Press N Seal. I LOVE this stuff! The Laptop Lunchbox's outer container does a great job keeping the food in it's container, but when I make something like the witch sandwich or the apple tree from last week, I have to do something extra to make sure everything stays where I placed it. Here's what I do:

Tear off a piece of Press N Seal and place it directly on the food. Press the food down slightly while running your finger around the outer edge of the food to kinda shrink wrap it in there. The container had to be clean and dry in order for the Press N Seal to stick. (pardon the Zebra nails - Halloween party)

Continue pressing the Press N Seal to the container until it's completely covered. Here's what it looks like when it's finished:

The method is the same when I do something like the Quinoa Garden. I just attach the Press N Seal to the sides of the container instead of the bottom while pressing in on the quinoa. Next time I do one of those, I'll take pics! I hope this makes sense and helps those of you wondering how to get the stuff to stay in place!


I'm one of those people that can never pick ONE thing at a restaurant. I want to try everything. I love eating with groups of people cause that means there are more things to sample. If you don't want my fork on your plate, you'd better not go eat with me! My favorite dining companions are other foodies that just pass plates around so everyone can try everything. The hubs is used to my food obsession now and just shrugs when I order two entrees or several different sides "cause we're out of town and may never get to come back to this restaurant and I can't come here and say I didn't try _______." I guess that's why I've always loved the idea of amuse-bouche. Amuse-bouche is a French term for little bites of this and that. They're not really an appetizer or an hors d'oeuvre because they are only one bite. But it enables you to try a bunch of things without getting full on only one item. They are supposed to amuse your mouth. How can you not love that?

When the chic was very small, I used to make her these little tea sandwiches with all sorts of decorations and fillings (picture below). So, yes, I guess I've created my own food monster. She loved it cause said that it was what princesses ate. And throughout the past couple years, she's become my little eating companion and she also wants to try a little bit of everyone's everything. So, for her lunch tomorrow, I thought she would enjoy an amuse-bouche. This one did take a little longer than normal. I probably spent an hour in the kitchen getting it all together. But, since there was only one bite of each thing, I wanted to make each one of them special. I'm imagining lots of smiles when she opens her lunch tomorrow.

(left to right starting with top row) Strawberry filled with Nutella and topped with choc chips, Cheese and spinach ravioli, Cucumber filled with hummus, Mini hot dog, Heart Pb&J, Babybel cheese, Chic boiled egg, Snap pea stuffed mini pepper, Apple dipped in peanut butter and hazelnuts.

If you'd like a chuckle...here is the very first decorative lunch I made the big chic. I can't believe I actually found it! We've changed cameras and computers three times since then! I did get to look through lots of baby pics while searching for it though, which is always fun. This picture was taken after she had dropped the plate so some of the toppings are a bit messy. This was the summer of 2005.

"Fast Food"

Costco finally restocked their Coleman hot dogs and my chics are happy that there are once again hot dogs in the house. If you've read my blog for a while, you probably already know of my distaste for hot dogs, but the chics dig em - as all kids do, so every once in a while, I gotta give in to popular vote.

Hot dog coins with carrot spears and ketchup for dipping, Sweet potato fries,Frozen blueberries, Powerball, Caesar Salad.

Coleman hot dogs are all natural - no hormones, antibiotics, nitrates, fillers, msg, or any other freaky hot dog ingredients - just beef. So, as far as hot dogs go, you can't get much better. I did see some grass-fed beef hot dogs one day, but they were $7 for 6 hot dogs and I gotta draw the line somewhere! (Okay, so really, the hubs drew the line after I begged him to get them and described all sorts of horrible things that could happen to our children if we fed them "other" hot dogs. He was unmoved, holding firmly to his wallet. Fun Hater!)

When you let the three year old help...

The three year old loves to help in the kitchen. She's usually in there with me when I'm getting her sister's lunch made so she's seen many many lunches created. Today, she really wanted to make her sister's lunch. And since I had nothing planned except soup, I let her. I asked her what she wanted to make and she said "a kitty". So, with her guiding me, I cut out the pieces she requested and helped her put it together. I thought the kitty should have had more whiskers, but I was "informed" that "kitty cats only have twos whiskwers". How can you argue with that? I think she did really well for her first lunch and I think the big chic will love the fact that her sister made it for her.

Kitty cat sandwich, strawberries, Yellow cherry tomatoes, Sweet Potato chicken and rice soup, Fruit Bites

**I added a granola bar to the lunch. After looking at it, I thought it needed a little more super-sizing!

You might have noticed that this is a new box. I found it last night at the Sanrio store (thanks to Amber who told me that the Sanrio store carried bento boxes!) and had to add it to our collection. The Laptop Lunchbox is definitely our favorite by far, but it's fun to have a few smaller boxes for snacks and whatnot. I also like to send the smaller bento boxes when she takes soup.

Apple Orchard

I am so glad to be feeling better today and the chic seemed pleased with her lunch even though it wasn't tricked out with cuteness. She knew I wasn't feeling well, so I think she's giving me a sympathy pass. And she ate all of it except a few veggies. Guess we're sticking with the super-size! Tomorrow, she has a field trip to an apple orchard, so I did an apple theme. They are also learning about bees so I used honey in her peanut butter roll-up. They are coming back to the school for a picnic lunch so she's able to take her usual lunchbox. YAY!

Apple Tree, Cheese Flowers, Freeze dried Apples, "Apples" made from cherry tomatoes with cucumber stems, Pirate's Booty

For the apple tree:

Leaves - Mini cucumber cut into coins

Apples - Red bell pepper cut into dots

Grass - Cucumber peel

Trunk - Peanut butter and honey roll-up on a Sandwich Thin

Basket - Sandwich Thin

I found a new fruit snack option this weekend at Costco and wanted to share. We are always on the lookout for fruit snacks cause ya know the kids love them but it's hard to find ones that are made with only fruit (or with any fruit at all for that matter!). Stretch Island Fruit Co Fruit Leathers are our usual favorite, but it's hit or miss whether Costco will have them. I can get them at some of the stores around here, but they are much cheaper when I can get them at Costco. Anyway, we found these Fruit Source Mini Bites and decided to give them a try. They are made with ONLY fruit and are shaped like little square fruit snacks (see yesterday's lunch photo). The girls loved them and 14 pieces are equal to two servings of fruit! WOW! The fruit leathers are only equal to about half a serving. I haven't seen them anywhere else yet so I hope Costco keeps carrying them!

Super Sized Chicken Salad

I think the chic must be going through a growth spurt. Her lunchbox has been coming home the past few days completely empty and she's famished by the time we get home. She told me this weekend that she wanted me to pack her more food in her lunchbox. It's kinda funny because I thought that maybe I was packing her too much food. Little did I know that I've been starving her! So, now I'm super-sizing her portions and we'll see how much of it comes home.

We've had a crazy weekend, and I have not been feeling great today (just a little cold) so the last thing I wanted to do was make the chic's lunch for tomorrow. BUT there's no rest for the weary, as they say, and especially for moms, so I used my afternoon burst of energy to whip out a lunch as fast as I could. Good thing I had been to the grocery store the day before so I had lots of options to facilitate speedy lunch packing. I was really glad that I had grabbed a rotisserie chicken. Personally, I love the availability of rotisserie chickens. They make it really easy to whip up things like chicken salad without spending so much time prepping the chicken. So, a whole lunch made and I didn't even bust out the food cutters. It may not be the prettiest lunch, but it'll do the job.

Veggies (sweet peppers, sugar snap peas, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, carrots, banana peppers), Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad, Mutli-grain Wasa, Fruit Bites, Cottage Cheese and Strawberries.

Pumpkin Trifles

The chic's class is in the midst of a Fall unit and are sampling all sorts of pumpkin treats today. So, when the teacher asked for parents to send something, you know I was totally into it! Problem was, I couldn't decide what I wanted to make. I figured that pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie were too predictable. But I also didn't want to make something that was beyond your average Kindergartner's palate (like pumpkin mincemeat bars which I think are to die for!). Plus, the chic insisted that I make something "cute", AND I had the hubs saying, "You know this is your debut at the school. They all know you like to cook. They're gonna be waiting to see what you come up with." Good thing I work well under pressure! I decided that all Kindergarteners like pudding and they all like cake. So put it all together and what does that spell? TRIFLE!

Pumpkin Trifle (for 20 mini-people)

2 large boxes Jell-O Vanilla pudding mix

4 cups milk

2 cups Pumpkin pie filling (yes the filling, not the solid pack pumpkin)

1 loaf pumpkin bread, cut into small cubes

Cool Whip

20 Pumpkin Mallowcream Candies

Combine the pudding mix, milk, and pumpkin pie filling. Stir for a few minutes until it begins to get thick. Refrigerate until firm. Divide pumpkin bread cubes in half and place in the bottom of 20 small plastic cups. Top with half the pudding. Place remaining bread cubes on the pudding and layer the rest of the pudding on top. Just before serving, put a dollop of Cool Whip on each one and place a pumpkin candy in the center. (The candies will run a bit if you let them sit in the Cool Whip too long.)

For a thrown together little pumpkin treat, they turned out really good. I'm thinking of making a more adult version for Thanksgiving with a Bourbon whipped cream layer and candied pecans. I'll keep ya posted!

Quiche Face

The family loves quiche. I think it may be the hubs favorite food, and it is up there in the faves list for the chic as well. I made a rosemary bacon quiche for dinner last night and took a bit of it to make a muffin sized quiche for lunch.

Rosemary bacon quiche - Trail mix with Whole Grain Cheerios, dried cranberries, and pecans - Banana crumb muffin, grapefruit segments

The quiche is based on an awesome recipe that I spotted on Foodgawker. The recipe (here) has a hashbrown crust and used Swiss cheese. I didn't have any potatoes so I made a rosemary pie crust instead. I also used Havarti cheese instead of Swiss. The family loved it. We ate all but two pieces of it for dinner and the hubs and the oldest chic ate the other two pieces for breakfast. The face was made with carrot and sugar snap pea eyes, a red bell pepper mouth, and rosemary hair.

Lastly, if you have a Facebook account, I've created a Foodie Footsteps group. I've been posting links to my blog posts on my wall because some of my friends follow me through Facebook. I know, though, that not all of my Facebook friends want to see what my chic is eating for lunch, so I've always felt kinda bad about filling up their home screen with my lunches. Now, I can post my blog links on the Foodie Footsteps wall and only the group members will see them. I felt kinda silly creating my own group, but if you've spent any time on Facebook, you know that there have been far far more silly groups formed! Just click on the button in my sidebar to join!

The Ultimate Chocolate Brownie (and a lunch, too!)

First the lunch, then the brownies...

Snail Sandwich Roll-ups, Babybel Cheese, Baby Carrots, Ultimate Chocolate Brownie, Apple chunks topped with Feed Coconut Cranberry Granola

Snail Roll Ups are just sandwich rolls (in this case goat cheese, red bell pepper, and spinach) stuck onto a pickle spear. I used green toothpicks for the antennae. The chic walked in while I was making them and said, "awwww, how cute" before she said, "Oh, I'm not supposed to see it" and ran out. They ARE cuter in person than in the picture.
Now for the brownies...
Brownies are my weakness. I cannot resist that slightly crunchy crust atop a chewy fudgy center. Mmmmm! I saw a brownie recipe a long while ago that caught my attention just by the mere outrageousness of it. I swore that the next time I was having a serious chocolate craving, I would make them. Time passed and I forgot about the recipe...until last week when I was cleaning up my Internet bookmarks and it came up. I'm supposed to be on a diet which just makes my sweet tooth go into overdrive. I decided that I just had to try them before I forgot about them again.

I have to admit that occasionally I make things that I'm just embarrassed about because they are so blatantly unhealthy. These brownies are one of those things! The hubs came home and asked what kind of brownies they were and I said, "Just eat one and then I'll tell you". Well, around our house you can never tell exactly what that means. I've made the brownies with spinach puree, applesauce, peppermint candies, whole wheat pastry flour, etc...so he was a little apprehensive. He finally made me admit what was in them before he would try one and I had to confess...TWO GIANT MOVIE SIZED SYMPHONY BARS. That's right, movie sized. Symphony bars are those chocolate bars with toffee pieces and nuts. Kinda like a poor man's version of a Toberlone (my other weakness).

So you mix up a box of brownie mix and put it in the pan. Lay the two GIANT sized candy bars on top and then mix up another box of brownie mix. Pour it over the top and bake. I seriously read the directions about ten times cause I was absolutely sure that there was no way THAT much chocolate was supposed to be used. But it was...and ya know what? It was fabulous! You're supposed to wait to cut them till they're cool, but I thought that the hot brownie with the melted chocolate center was just about the most heavenly thing ever. The hubs and I decided that they were so so wrong, yet so so right!

Supposedly you can make them with any GIANT sized candy bars, so I'm thinking Carmello's are next! AFTER my diet!

Back to the Laptop Lunchbox!

So after several days of weirdness, we are back to the good ole Laptop Lunchbox and I couldn't be happier about that!

Tofu is a staple in our house. We've never made a big deal about whether or not they eat it and it's always been served very nonchalantly. It's just another protein. They learned to like it before their friends and family could voice their own opinions about tofu. My father really hates it (although I'm not sure he's actually ever eaten it?) and he and the oldest chic go around and around about it. It's gotten to be a game to them. She says she loves it, he says, "Gross!" and she just keeps rubbing it in his face that she loves something that he thinks is gross. We even threatened to make him a tofu birthday cake last year, but I could never find a recipe. (Anyone got one?) Anyway, she saw the package of tofu in the fridge the other day and asked me when I could make it. So, here it is...

Udon Soup, Asian Pear, Powerball, Carrot/Cucumber ring (I had one leftover from yesterday), Sesame Crusted Tofu with Teriyaki Dipping Sauce

The sesame crusted tofu is ridiculously easy. Drain a package of firm tofu (tofu should really be on your "must buy organic" list if at all possible). Press the liquid out as gently as possible between paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Slice and press again. The drier the better! Brush each piece with teriyaki sauce, tamari, soy, whatever you like, and then roll in sesame seeds. Pan fry in a bit of oil until golden. (Maybe not as golden as mine are, but I was arguing with the chics about whose Twinkle Toes shoes are whose!) So, that's it. Yum!

Here's the soup that I make when the chics want "noodle soup". It's really just a base idea and can be adjusted to whatever veggies you have on hand. This is what I did today.

Speedy Udon Soup for One

1/2 package Cooked Udon Noodles

3 Baby Carrots

3 Sugar Snap Peas

1/4 cup Shelled Edamame

1 cup Beef broth (low sodium)

pinch Five spice powder

pinch Curry Powder

Place Udon noodles in a bowl. Mix remaining ingredients together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil 10 minutes or until veggies are softened. Pour over noodles and stir until noodles separate. (I find that pouring the hot soup over the cold noodles helps cool the soup just enough for little mouths!)

And if you haven't visited Laptop Lunchbox's blog lately, you need to! Their last blog post was about Foodie Footsteps! I was thrilled and honored to actually be mentioned on the site that started me on this whole lunch journey. We LOVE our Laptop Lunchbox!!

The Sack Lunch

Tomorrow is the chic's first Field Trip. This means I had to pack a lunch that did not require ice packs and that was completely disposable. I did it, but by no means did I like it. If anything, packing this lunch made me appreciate my Laptop Lunchbox even more. There are such limitations with plastic baggies, and I'm still worried that her sandwich will get smooshed in that bag. I went with the traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and tried to jazz things up as much as I could.

Jack-o-Lantern napkin, carrot sticks inside cucumber rings, pb&j pumpkin sandwich, granola bar, honeycrisp apple.

I kinda feel like I'm letting her down without the usual pomp and circumstance associated with her normal lunch. Hopefully, she will have so much fun on her field trip tomorrow that her lunch will be unimportant. I gotta admit that I'm looking forward to getting back to her Laptop Lunchbox tomorrow!

Lunch Jars are the new Thermos

School lunches seem so short. The chic gets 30 minutes and by the time they get in their seats and get their lunches out, it seems like 10 minutes has already passed. She is allowed to use the microwave to re-heat food, but that just takes more time out of her already precious lunch. So, I went looking for a thermos so she could take warm foods in her lunch without having to use the microwave.

I soon discovered that what I knew as a thermos has been re-styled and re-named a "Lunch Jar". It sounds so fancy. I imagine some really sophisticated looking woman lounging on a chaise with a super breathy voice saying it really slowly..."L u n c h J a r". And did I mention that they are ridiculously expensive? I spent twice as much on a "Lunch Jar" as I do on insulated Starbucks mugs! But, what are ya gonna do? So, since we've had a streak of Fall weather, I made soup. And since she's got a new "Lunch Jar" burning a whole in her lunchbox, she's taking soup tomorrow.

Tomato soup, Cheese sandwich, Edamame, Fruit Roll

We made Michael Chiarello's Tomato Soup cause he is awesome and the person to go to if you want anything fresh and full of flavor.

I decided to defrost an ice pack and refreeze it in the bottom compartment of the bento box. I'm hoping that will do a good enough job of keeping her sandwich cool. (fingers crossed)

The chic has her first Field Trip Tuesday, so I'm trying to come up with something yummy that doesn't have to be refrigerated. They also want to be able to throw all the packaging away. Ugh! I've got my work cut out for me. Especially since it also has to contain "flowers or faces or anything pretty"! :)

Definitely not a Lunchable

I like the idea of a Lunchable, just not the reality. They are a nutritional nightmare. Read this article about them and you'll understand why: Ridiculous Food Products: Lunchables. I've always disliked them for their questionable nutrition, but had never thought of the packaging/environmental impact. When I was teaching, seventy five percent of the students would show up with these things on field trip days. My classes probably filled their own landfill worth of trash from these things!

It's just as easy to make your own version of a Lunchable with healthier ingredients. We use all natural, hormone free meats and cheeses with baked whole wheat crackers. (and I can make it cute!)

Havarti and Cheddar hearts, ham and turkey picks, strawberries with Nutella dip, molasses cookie, whole wheat barnyard crackers, sugar snap peas with bell pepper hearts

Nutella is the consistency of peanut butter - not ideal for dipping. I thinned it out with a bit of water so that the chic could dip her strawberries in it easily.

We snack on sugar snap peas a lot. We like to eat them raw. They're crunchy and a bit sweet and they are the perfect size for using with dips!

Extreme Lunch Makeover!

Usually, the chic's lunch is a surprise to her. But, when she takes something that needs to be heated, I show her the lunch before we pack it up so that I can give her heating instructions. So, this morning as I'm packing up her Turkey Meatloaf Muffin lunch, she starts begging to buy lunch in the dining hall. I'm standing there looking at her in disbelief. Is this the same kid that NEVER wants to buy lunch? What is going on? And to add insult to injury, the lunch today - Grilled Ham and Cheese sandwiches! My wonderful lunch was getting thrown over for a ham and cheese sandwich! I did the only rational thing that I could...seeing that it was 7 am and I hadn't yet had enough coffee to engage her in an argument...I went ahead and let her buy hot lunch. BUT she had to agree to take her meatloaf lunch tomorrow.
I could not imagine what the change in attitude was toward her lunch. Especially a lunch that contains meatloaf. She loves the turkey meatloaf muffins so much that she eats them for snacks when we have leftovers. So, I knew that it couldn't be that she just didn't like the food. I decided to question her about it after school.

Turns out that I've created a little lunch monster. She was disappointed that there were no "faces or flowers or anything pretty" in the lunch. Oh how quickly we spoil! So, I took it in the kitchen and gave it a makeover (and removed the pomegranate seeds cause she's "not that much a fan of them") and now she is perfectly happy with it! So my lesson learned - pretty lunch means happy chic!
Turkey Meatloaf Muffin Makeover

Sesame cucumbers with rice wine vinaigrette, dried fruit strip, powerball, kiwi, much prettier meatloaf muffin

Turkey Meatloaf Muffin

The chics always like it when we make food in a miniature version. Meatloaf is a great food to make in all sorts of shapes and sizes and by using turkey and adding a buncha veggies, you can make a pretty nutritious meal. Fortunately, the oldest chic has a microwave in the dining hall, so she's able to take meatloaf for lunch.

Cucumber slices with sesame seeds and rice wine viniagrette, Powerball, kiwi stars with pomegranate seeds, turkey meatloaf muffin

Any meatloaf recipe can become meatloaf muffins. For turkey, spray your tins, fill and bake at 400 for about 25 minutes. A 1.3 lb package of turkey makes about 12 muffins. I use The Joy of Cooking's Classic Meatloaf recipe and substitute turkey for the beef and add shredded carrots, red bell peppers, and mushrooms.

Powerballs are kinda like a no-bake cookie but a bit healthier. This is a great kitchen project to get the kids involved in! There are tons of versions of these little guys, but here's the one I use:


1 cup honey

1 cup natural crunchy peanut butter

3 cups old fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup ground flaxseeds
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raisins

Mix the honey and peanut butter together in a large bowl. Add oatmeal and flaxseeds and stir until well incorporated. Mix in remaining ingredients. With slightly damp hands, roll into a 1 1/2" balls. The mixture is very sticky. I also like to use a cookie scoop for this! Place balls in mini muffin tins and refrigerate overnight. I then freeze them in a large ziploc bag. Makes 48.

Hermit Crab Eye Salad

I know what you're thinking..."HERMIT CRAB EYE SALAD? What??" But in order to explain hermit crab eyes, I have to discuss frog eyes first...If we have a family gathering, you can bet there will be Frog Eye Salad somewhere. Frog Eye Salad isn't actually made from frog eyes. It's a fruit salad with a pineapple custard and Cool Whip base. The addition of tiny round pasta called acini di pepe is how it gets it's name. These little pasta balls actually resemble the size and shape of a frog's eye. I cannot tell you the astonished looks and comments that I've gotten from people before I tell them that I did not, in fact, use real frog's eyes! The recipe came from the hubs' aunt who got it from the back of the acini di pepe box many moons ago. Although very very delish, it's not very healthy.

So, a few years ago when I was on Weight Watchers, I came across a recipe called Four Cups and an Apple. It reminded me so much of Frog Eye Salad but I couldn't really add pasta to it and consider it a healthy choice. I guess I was too famished from dieting to think about the marshmallows? Anyway, at the time it made sense. So, I added some cooked quinoa to it and the texture was really really close. I ate it whenever I needed to satisfy my sweet tooth. Quinoa is a bit smaller than acini di pepe so the chics decided that it looked more like their hermit crab's eyes (shout out to Hannah, Carly, and Lily!). So mommy's diet version became "Hermit Crab Eye Salad".

Well, today I was in the Frog Eye Salad mood and just happened to have some leftover quinoa. The chic really likes this (or anything with mini marshmallows) so it's in her lunch for tomorrow.

Sliced strawberries, sliced red bell peppers, boiled 'chick' egg, frog eye salad, turkey and asparagus wrap with whole wheat barnyard crackers.

.the chick for my chic (nori eyes, bell pepper beak)

Hermit Crab Eye Salad

1 cup Crushed Pineapple

1 cup Mandarin Oranges
1 cup Mini Marshmallows
1 cup Fat Free Sour Cream
1 Apple, diced - tart apples taste best
2 cups Quinoa, cooked and cooled

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and let sit in refrigerator several hours before serving.

Eastern European Black Bread

(I'm hijacking my own blog for all my baker friends today. Lunch posts will resume next week after the chic's Fall break.)

I finally got up the nerve to try to make Eastern European Black Bread in my new-ish (after 6 loaves, it's not so new anymore) Pullman pan. What kinda intimidated me about it were all the soakers, starters, and sours. Take a look at the recipe and you'll see what I mean Easter European Black Bread Recipe I've used starters for bread a buncha times, but the soakers and sours were new territory for me. Plus I had to strategically time these things. The starter was a week ahead of baking, the soaker 24 hours ahead, and the sour 15 hours ahead. But, I decided to just go for it and see what happened.

(clockwise from top) sourdough starter, rye soaker, rye sour

I wish I would have taken a picture of the sour after it's resting time. It starts out looking like paste but ends up all puffed up and full of air bubbles. It was pretty cool. I gotta tell you though, that the soaker and the sour were stinky! I went back and re-read the directions to make sure that I wasn't supposed to put them in the fridge and still didn't believe it so I looked up a few more rye recipes. Nope - counter. Just a warning to anyone else that might decide to make the bread and then worry all night that you are poisoning your family. You're not! So after making sure that no one would die from my bread baking adventure, everything else went smoothly.

Ready for the oven
Once cooled, you're supposed to wait 24 hours before slicing it. After waiting for a week to make the bread and spending two days on prep, I wasn't waiting a minute more. I sliced into that sucker and tried a slice. And so what...they were right...I shoulda waited cause it really tore up the piece that I sliced, but it was still good. The Hubs, who normally dislikes all black, brown, rye breads actually liked it. I think it was the textural difference. The black bread I've bought in stores, and even at the bakery, had a drier, more fine crumb to it. But this was the opposite, soft and moist. I reminded me of the black bread I ate while in London when I first fell in love with it- almost like a steamed bread. Maybe that's what the lid helps with...steaming it a bit.

I let it cool completely and sliced off my impatient end and the rest of the bread sliced beautifully. So despite all the smelly ingredients and the week long prep work, it was a hit and I would definitely make it again!