I was also trying to make it in a hurry cause we were supposed to have some relatives visiting today and I wanted to get lunch packed early. I'm glad that I stowed away a few slices of spiral sliced ham from Thanksgiving. We discovered that the chic really liked it so I grabbed some thinking that she would like it in her lunchbox this week. The rest of the lunch is a modge podge of things in our pantry.
Heirloom cherry tomatoes, Celery stuffed with cream cheese, cranberries and dried peas, Red grapes, Spiral sliced ham, Whole wheat and Havarti cheese Christmas trees with carrots and peas.
According to the award, I have to list seven random things about me and pass it on to seven other bloggers. I will list my blog choices later this week, but for now, here are my seven things:
1. I'm claustrophobic.
2. I have a weird photographic memory for phone numbers.
3. I bake when I'm stressed.
4. I am a night owl.
5. I prefer winter vacations to the beach vacations.
6. I live next door to my parents.
7. I love board games.
1 3/4 cup milk
3 T butter, softened
1 t vanilla
3 T sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 c ground flax
2 c stone ground whole wheat flour
3 c all purpose flour
3/4 t salt
1 T vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 T yeast
4 T butter
1/2 c white sugar
2 T cinnamon
2 T butter
4 T sugar
large pinch cinnamon
4 T flour
Oatmeal Raisin cookie, Fruit Bites, Carrot Chips, Flaxseed Cranberry and Pecan Crackers, Wallaby Organic Berry Yogurt, "Turkey" Sandwich
I say "Turkey" sandwich cause it's actually peanut butter and raspberry jam. The eye is a dry roasted pea, the beak is a carrot and the gobbler is red pepper. The feathers are strips of red pepper, carrot, celery, cucumber, and cheese.
I discovered that the Hello Kitty bento fits perfectly in the Laptop Lunchbox with a yogurt and the Laptop Lunchbox water. I've been really impressed with the Laptop Lunchbox insulated bag. I put a slim ice pack in the mesh pocket and her lunch stays cold WAY past lunchtime. The water bottle was surprising also. It doesn't look very impressive. Kinda flimsy actually. The first time I pulled it out of the box, I rolled my eyes. Here I spent all this money on a lunchbox, and THAT was the bottle included? But the thing is awesome! It hasn't leaked one time all year! Not once!
(Everything gettin ready to simmer)
I mashed them with a potato masher and continued to cook, uncovered, until they got a bit thicker. This was only supposed to take 15 minutes or so, but I let it cook for a total of about 30 minutes. Next time I will only do 15 minutes, though. I think I let a bit too much water evaporate. You'll understand why in a minute.
(I don't know why my dad's camera keeps doing this, but this is the best one I have of it after I mashed it)
Then I stuck it in the blender and pureed the whole thing. It thickens up quite a bit when pureed. And as a warning...boiling hot strawberry puree WILL fly out of the top of the blender spout, burn your hand, and make a mess out of your kitchen when you hit the "on" button. Just sayin...I ended up putting a pot holder over the spout (after I treated my scalded hand, that is!)
(You shoulda seen the floor around the blender!)
Everything I read says that you should line a baking sheet with "oven safe" plastic wrap. My plastic wrap is just store brand plastic wrap and it didn't say anywhere on the box that it was "oven safe". I stuck a piece in the microwave to test it and it didn't melt. That was good enough for me, so I used it. Four cups of fruit will make one baking sheet worth of fruit leather. I must warn you, however, that after being in the oven for a while, the edged do shrink up a bit, but the plastic under the fruit was just fine. After lining your baking sheet with plastic wrap, you pour the puree and level it out. This is important because otherwise it won't cook evenly (I know because MINE didn't cook evenly.)
(Ready for the oven)
Turn the oven to "warm" and wait...
and wait...(you can start seeing where it was thicker and not drying as fast)
(This is right out of the oven. I tore off the bottom left corner. You know I'm an impatient cook! The bright spot is the sticky spot where it was too thick.)
I left mine in the oven for about 7 hours before pulling it out. It is supposed to be done when there are no sticky spots left, but since I didn't level mine well, I still had a thick spot that was sticky. I decided to pull it out, though, cause I didn't want the rest to get too dry.
Once out of the oven, the plastic wrap just peels off the back.
I tore it into strips and put it in a plastic baggie. At first I thought that it wasn't such a success. I cooked it too long in the initial thickening stage and when I took it out of the oven, parts of it were more crunchy than dried. And I had the sticky spot in the middle because I did a bad leveling job...okay NO leveling job, whatever. BUT I cut out the sticky spot and after being in the plastic baggie, the crunchy bit softened a bunch.
The last thing to do was test it out on the chics. And as luck would have it, we had one of our friend's kids over that day. So, I gave them all a piece and stood back to watch. It's hard to act like you don't care what they think of it. I was standing there trying to act aloof about it, all the while trying to read their facial expressions without outright staring at them. Anyway, a few minutes later, they came back for another piece, and then another. Pretty soon, they had eaten almost the entire baggie! It was a success!
Next time I make it, I will change a few things...I won't cook it for 30 minutes and stick to the 15 minutes in the thickening stage, I will put a pot holder on the blender BEFORE turning the switch on, I will level the puree, and I will make two pans! Oh, and I think I'm gonna try raspberry!
I started off with all intentions of making a salad tonight with a honey goat cheese dressing. I even went today and bought more spring mix. But when I came home and started scooping ingredients in the Magic Bullet (which is a blender, btw), I found that my goat cheese smelled a bit off. I'm a little freaky about the whole spoiled food thing. If there's a date on it, by golly it's goin in the trash that day. So, although the goat cheese said it didn't expire until December, I chunked it. I had to come up with a solution quick since almost all the other dressing ingredients were in the Magic Bullet and I wasn't wasting 2 tablespoons of very expensive wild honey that I had already measured out. So, I decided to substitute sour cream since it is similarly tangy. I measured it out, turned the blender on, and crossed my fingers. Although it wasn't as thick and creamy as goat cheese would have made it, the sour cream was a great "in a pinch" substitute.
Cranberry pecan salad with honey "goat cheese" dressing, Panko crusted chicken drumstick, Cherry yogurt pretzels, Powerball
We came across a sale on organic free range chicken drumsticks last weekend. I usually don't buy drumsticks, but I couldn't tell you why. The chics really loved them. I rolled them in a bit of a mustard concoction and breaded them with panko bread crumbs. Then I baked them on a rack so the whole coating would get crispy. They turned out really well. The little chic even ate two of them.
And to continue yesterday's camera tirade...my cracker submission got rejected on Foodgawker (as usual) due to shadowing. I thought it was a great picture, but what do I know? But it DID get published on Tastespotting! My dad is letting me keep the camera till the weekend so there will be plenty more gratuitous photos I'm sure! Just look at the pecans...oooooh...close up...
There really is a lunch involved in all this camera hoopla. Her lunch for tomorrow is some leftover Pad Thai from one of our favorite Thai restaurants in the area. I went for lunch today and felt guilty the entire time. The chic loves Pad Thai, and I could just see her sitting in the cafeteria eating her crappy hot lunch because I was too busy last night to pack her a lunch. I felt the only right thing to do was to bring her some leftovers!
Chicken and Tofu Pad Thai, Chocolate chip cookie and Fruit Bites, Dry roasted peas, Flaxseed, Cranberry, and Pecan Crackers and cheese.
Here's a close-up of the Pad Thai just cause I COULD take a close-up that was in focus.
Mix first seven ingredients together until combined. Stir in pecans, cranberries, and milk. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Remove from refrigerator and on a floured surface, roll out to 1/8" thick. Cut into desired shapes and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
The beets are experimental. A year or so ago, I made beets and the chic hated them. It's the only food I've ever heard her declare to "hate". I love beets, though, and last night as I was getting ready to stick some in the oven, the chic walks in. She asks what they were. Knowing that if I told her they were beets she would never have tried them again, I lied and said that they were red potatoes. She tried one and she loved it! She kept grabbing them off of the baking sheet and ended up eating a handful before I could get them in the oven. I'm hoping that maybe she's changed her mind. So, the leftover beets are going in her lunch just to see what happens. She may bring them home untouched, but she might not!
Croque Monsieurs are soooo good! Basically they're just a ham and cheese with the addition of a cheese sauce. When La Madeline restaurants became popular years ago, it was the hubs favorite thing on the menu. I decided then that I'd better learn to make them. It's hard to vary on them much. We've made turkey versions also but the rest of it always remains the same. Here's how I make them:
Melt butter in saucepan and stir in flour until smooth. Slowly add milk and continue stirring until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg, salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, and 1/4 cup Swiss. Stir until cheese is melted.
Spread Dijon mustard on four slices of toast. Place mustard side up on a baking sheet and top with two slices of ham and a slice of cheese per sandwich. Spread thin layer of cheese sauce on the remaining toast slices. Place them cheese sauce side down on the sandwiches. Ladle remaining cheese sauce on the top of the sandwiches. It will be a pretty thick layer of sauce. I usually let it cool a bit to make it thicker so it doesn't run off the sandwiches. Sprinkle the remaining Swiss cheese on the top. Bake 400 degrees until brown and bubbly on top.
If you read my blog regularly, you know that my big chic hasn't been too crazy about all the freaky scary Halloween stuff so tomorrow's lunch will be more girly.
The butterfly sandwich was turkey (she loves turkey), swiss, and sprouts. It was probably a good thing that I made the sandwich early because I used Susan Yuen's stencil idea with food color spray on the butterfly bread. She always has really creative ways to handle lunches. Her bentos are always beautiful and fun at the same time. Anyway, I had some purple color spray leftover from a birthday cake, so that's what I went with. The extra time let the color dry completely on the bread. I will have to play around with the color spray a little more. I think the purple was a bit dark for bread but it seems that there are lots of possibilities with other colors.
While I was taking pics of the lunch, the chic walked in and saw it. She clutched her heart and said, "Oh my gosh! It's so cute I could marry somebody." I think that means she liked it??
Here's how our Pumpkin Fairy works...when we get home from trick-or-treating, we dump out all of the candy on the table. The chics are able to keep any toys, stickers, and Play-doh, but the candy they must sort through. They are allowed to choose a certain amount of candy depending on their age. This year we said twenty pieces but after all the negotiation and grandparent persuasion, it was more like thirty. Then, they put the remaining candy in a bag and leave it out on the table (I weighed it this year - it was over 5 lbs!). While they are sleeping, the Pumpkin Fairy comes and takes the candy and replaces it with a toy. We usually don't spend a ton on the toy. This year it was Tinkerbell and High School Musical make-up sets.
The girls love it and don't have a problem giving up their candy at all. We've done it from the very first Halloween so now they just expect it. We told them that the Halloween Fairy must be invited to visit your house and that not everyone asks her to come. This was really just a way to explain that their friends would probably have no idea what a Pumpkin Fairy was. Honestly, I have no idea where this idea came from. Maybe I read about it in a magazine or on a website somewhere...I really don't remember. But, it's worked really well for us and thought I'd share. If your family does something like this, I would LOVE to hear about it. I've never met anyone else that does a fairy for Halloween, but I know we can't be the only ones.
So after all the Halloween festivities, I decided to clean out the Halloween bento supplies and the chic walks in and asks if I would make her a "star" lunch for Monday. She wasn't crazy about all the Halloween stuff, so I think she's ready to go back to the "pretty" lunches. What can I say? She's a girly girl!
Almond butter and raspberry jam star sandwiches, Carrot star cutouts, Havarti and cheddar star, Banana with red pepper stars