Kettle Corn!

I had to share one of my new favorite toys...the Whirley Pop. My friend Paige made popcorn in her Whirley Pop for a sleepover a couple years ago and it was the best popcorn ever! I've been looking for one ever since. When we were out Christmas shopping a few weeks ago, the hubs wanted to stop in at a tool store. Ugh! We've been to this tool store several times and it is always torture. He can aimlessly walk around that place FOREVER and there is not a darn thing that interests me there. I usually follow him around playing on my Blackberry the whole time complaining that I'm bored (I admit it!). Anyway, I walk into the store expecting the usual and run right into a whole display of Whirley Pops! I was so excited! So, we bought a few for friends and family and one of myself (of course!)

When we got home, I had to try it out. I could have just made plain popcorn for my first attempt, but kettle corn is our favorite so I tried that first. (Why walk when you can run, right?) It took me three burnt batches before I made a good batch! There are a few tricks to the thing that I had to find out the hard way. First, you really have to spin the fast (thus the name "whirley" I guess?) And, if you add the sugar in the beginning, it gets too hot and burns more easily. We like our kettle corn with a hint of sugar and salt and less like caramel corn. I've tweaked the recipe that was in the book a bit to meet our tastes. Here it is:

Whirley Pop Kettle Corn

3 T Canola Oil

1/2 cup Popcorn Kernels (I use whatever's cheapest)

1/3 cup Sugar

2 tsp Salt

Preheat Whirley Pop. Add oil and popcorn kernels and close top. When the kernels begin to pop, quickly open the top and add the sugar and salt.

Close the lid again and spin the! The popping will slow because the sugar cools it off, but keep stirring and it will start up again. When the popping slows, take off the heat and immediately pour into a bowl. Let it cool, COMPLETELY. Even though there are cool spots on the top, the three year old will inevitably grab popcorn from the still-hot center and burn her mouth (just sayin :))

Still loving my new camera, can you tell? Seriously, though, this stuff is soooo good! You can use up to 1/2 cup of sugar and it will be more caramel corn-ish in it's coating. But, again, stir the thing FAST or it will burn and your house will smell like burnt popcorn and sugar for a week. Trust me!

Holiday Sweets!

I can't believe it's been a week since I posted last. We've been busy around here preparing for Christmas and, as I'm sure you've figured out, the chic is on Winter Break so there haven't been any lunches lately. Well, not the packable kind anyway! We just finished our holiday baking so I thought I'd post some photos.

I love to bake with the chics! They really enjoy getting in the kitchen and getting messy so the holidays are a perfect time to go crazy! Last year I came across this reindeer cookie idea. They were really simple to make and the grandparents and the chics loved the way they turned out so, we had to make them again this year! We used M&M's for the eyes and nose, but you can use anything you have. Cherries also make great noses!
After the cookies, we made some candy. My sister in law brought Buckeyes to our Christmas dinner last year and we all went nuts over them. What is there not to love? Peanut butter and chocolate...mmmm! We had never had them before then, but apparently these are a tradition in lots of families. My chics are awesome at the whole meatball rolling technique so I thought this would be a perfect item to add to our holiday menu. They look pretty time consuming, but with all three of us rolling, it went pretty quickly. You dip them in the chocolate with a toothpick and I didn't like the hole in the top left from the toothpick so I stuck a chocolate chip in each one to cover the hole.

The other candy was a variation of a Martha Washington candy. Another candy that I had never heard of until recently. My friend Amber told me about them when I told her that we were making buckeyes. She said they were also a "ball-rolling" candy and that they were coconut. And since I LOVE coconut, we added them to the list. The "variation" was that I used almonds instead of pecans. I thought it would make them more like an Almond Joy. Plus I'm making Pecan Pie Cake for Christmas dinner so I need all the pecans I have for that!

After the morning of baking and candy making, we are exhausted and my kitchen is a disaster! The chics did a great job though and I think everyone will appreciate their efforts! Everyone have a Merry Christmas!!

Two for One

As you are all aware, the week before Winter Break is a crazy one, filled with concerts, parties, dinners, gift exchanges, etc...On top of this, our beloved dog is having some serious medical problems. All these things have kept me away from the computer and away from my blog. I finally had a bit of time today to sit down and update, so I've got two lunches to post.
First is tomorrow's lunch... I have to make sugar cookies for the chic's class to decorate and looked everywhere for a huge snowflake cookie cutter. I couldn't find one. I've been complaining about it at the little chic's dance class and yesterday one of the mom's (Hi Jill!) comes walking in the dance studio with a gorgeous gigantic snowflake cookie cutter. I couldn't resist using it to make something for lunch with it, but the thing is too big for anything but a tortilla. I know I posted a quesadilla last week, but I HAD to use the cookie cutter while it's on loan!

Snowflake quesadilla on dried cranberries (the little heart is a Junior Mint), Cucumber holly leaves and bell pepper holly berries, Triscuits

The second lunch was Monday's lunch and it was a disappointment. This was supposed to be more like a reindeer (ya know those cute reindeer cookies you make with pretzels?), but it ended up looking more like a bear. Plus, I really wish I had the Laptop Lunchbox 2.0 cause it's got the bigger container option. The original Laptop Lunchbox doesn't have a larger container so sometimes I feel like I'm squishing my stuff in there (thus the funky bear ears...I mean reindeer antlers).

PB&J Reindeer/Bear, Reindeer food, Carrots, Cheese stick, Fruit Leather, Rice Krispie Angel

White Christmas

This lunch is supposed to be all white for a "white Christmas" theme. The cucumbers were a little more green than I would've liked, but I'll live with it!

Cheese quesadillas over Pirate's Booty, Cucumber chunks, Homemade yogurt with raspberry on the bottom, Marshmallow skewers and Dried pears.

I learned to make yogurt after the chic started asking for those little sugar filled yogurt drinks at the grocery store. Those yogurt drinks have an ungodly amount of sugar in them and when I found out that I could make my own, I really wanted to do it. I've never been able to get the yogurt as thick as store bought, but the chics like to be able to drink it anyway. It's really easy to make your own yogurt, especially with my handy little yogurt maker. At first I made it in a cooler, but I had to constantly monitor the temperature and it was kind of a pain. The yogurt maker keeps it at the perfect temperature for the entire incubation period. Over the years, I've lost a couple of the jars and really should buy more, but my recipe only fills six jars anyway, so it's hard to decide to spend the money.

I put a tablespoon of homemade jam or fruit on the bottom. The addition of fruit is one of the reasons that the yogurt is not thicker, but, again, they like to drink it.

This batch was frozen blueberries in the back and homemade raspberry jam in front.

The chics just shake them up when they're ready and drink them through a straw.

My gingerbread post is on Tastespotting! Here's the link if you wanna check it out. I love the new camera!

Also, for those of you wanting to get your own Laptop Lunchbox, now is the time! I've posted a link in the right sidebar that will take you directly to their store. If you use the coupon code "foodiefootsteps" you will get 10% off of your order! Who doesn't love to save some money?

Can't Catch Me!

The chic's class is learning about fairy tales right now and when the teacher asked for gingerbread men, you know I was all over it! The interesting thing is that although I think I've made every other variation of cookie ever created, I've never made gingerbread men. Kinda funny cause I've made gingerbread with stamps, sliced gingerbread, even molasses iced gingerbread...but never traditional gingerbread men. Guess there's no time like the present, huh?

I used "Eileen's Spicy Gingerbread Men" and "Sugar Cookie Icing" both from AllRecipes. It was the first try with the gingerbread, but I've used the icing recipe dozens of time. It always turns out well and hardens nicely. The gingerbread was pretty good, but I found that the cookies that had been rolled a few times (thus more flour) baked more smooth and less cracked. I may just add a bit more flour next time.

Veggie Christmas Tree

I can't believe I only have a week worth of Christmas lunches left! The chic has enjoyed the Christmas lunches, but I know that once the holidays are over, she's going to be demanding flowers again! For now, she's getting a veggie Christmas Tree...

Christmas Tree (cucumber, carrots, cheese, bell peppers, turkey trunk), Tropical fruit leather, Pretzels with honey mustard dip

Bell pepper and carrot presents

I made more fruit leather. This time I used tropical fruit. We buy frozen tropical fruit in the summer to make frozen fruit kabobs to take to the pool. (Very popular with the kids! I always make tons so we can share!) The only problem with it is that no one likes the papaya. I don't even bother sticking it on the skewers. I just leave it in the bag. At the end of the summer, I end up with a bunch of papaya left over with a few pieces of the other fruits. I was tired of staring at the bag in the freezer and as luck would have it, it was EXACTLY the right amount for a batch of fruit leather. I thought the girls might not be so opposed to the papaya if it were mixed in with the others. I was right. They gobbled it up!

Frozen Tropical Fruit Medley (Strawberries, Mango, Papaya, Pineapple)

Everyone always asks how I keep the food in place so today I took a picture of the tree after I Press and Seal-ed it. Love me some Press and Seal!

Snowflake Muffin

I made cranberry orange muffins today. I wanted to try out a new silicone muffin pan AND play with the new camera a bit. I learned that I love the camera, but the silicone muffin pan was not my favorite thing. It was really really hard to get the muffins out of the molds in one piece and cleaning it was almost impossible...all those nooks and crannies. I managed to get only one of the muffins came out in one piece so it went in the chic's lunch.

Cucumber slices and red bell pepper tree, Cranberry orange muffin, Blackberries, Turkey skewer and candy cane cheese

The Retro Lunch

For some reason, the chic has been really interested in what my life was like when I was her age. I thought it would be fun to send her with a "retro" lunch to show her what I ate for lunch when I was at school. I had to go to the store anyway, so I was able to pick up the ingredients for tomorrow's lunch.

Kettle BBQ Potato Chips, Strawberry Shortcake rolls, Celery filled with peanut butter, Ham and cheese sandwich
I loved the Little Debbie Strawberry Shortcake rolls when I was little, and found some that were from the bakery instead of Little Debbie. Honestly, though, they tasted the same as the Little Debbie ones that I remember and the Little Debbies are way way cheaper.
Potato chips are a particular problem at my house. The hubs loves them, saying that he needs something "crunchy" with his lunches or snacks or whatever. And after fighting this habit for years and years, I finally realized that I wasn't going to change his habit. So, I will buy chips, but we try to find healthier varieties...flaxseed, baked, whole grain, whatever. The only concession I make to the healthier chip rule is for these bbq chips. I'm not normally a potato chip eater OR a bbq person, but these chips are TO DIE FOR. I have been known to hide in the kitchen eating them so no one will ask for any. Fortunately, they come in a small-ish bag and are on the expensive side for chips, so we only buy them occasionally.
You might notice that my picture quality is a bit better today. THAT'S CAUSE I FINALLY GOT A NEW CAMERA!!! I have been begging, seriously begging, in the anticipation of Christmas. The hubs has been acting nonchalant about it so I thought it was a lost cause. BUT yesterday while we were out Christmas shopping, he dragged me to a few camera stores to look at them. At first, I just thought it was cruel and unusual punishment. I'm NOT a window shopper. It's torture to look at stuff that I want but can't buy. But, I found out that he had been looking at them all along and wanted me to play with them and talk to some people before deciding on one. And as much as I hate to admit it, he was right. I was so so sure about which one I wanted, but completely changed my mind once I was able to shop and do some more research. Apparently, the food blog is a common use cause the camera I got has a "food" setting on it! In the end, he bought me a nicer camera than I was expecting and an awesome zoom lens for my "posting stuff". Now I have to figure out how to use it all! I guess my lesson for the weekend is that I shoulda just trusted that he would come through in the end. (Just don't tell him that!)

My Lunchroom Revolutionary

The chic bought her lunch earlier this week and said it was gross and "not very healthy". So, as she was describing the horror that she had to endure in the hot lunch line, she also tells me that a few of her friends buy hot lunch a lot and she informed them that they are not eating healthy. One of the boys buys every day and it seems that she has made it her personal goal to improve his lunch habits. She told him that he needs to have his mom make his lunch because the hot lunch is bad for you. I'm sure his mom will call me at some point and ask what the heck my kid is saying to her son, but for now, I'm gonna enjoy the fact that she's a little lunchroom revolutionary!

Tomorrow is pizza day and normally she would want to buy lunch. BUT after the trauma of the unhealthy and gross lunch, she wants to bring her lunch from home. I made her a little pizza on a whole wheat bagel with Canadian bacon and mushrooms. This way she can enjoy pizza day AND bring her own lunch.

Banana, Cucumber carrot star cut-outs, Sugar free black cherry jello, Bagel pizza

The instant oatmeal worked out really well, btw. She came home with only a bit of it left and she said that it was really good. I'm sure we won't be taking instant oatmeal often but it's good to know that it's another option!

Yes, it's Instant!

The chic planned this lunch for herself. She wanted to take oatmeal and "breakfast stuff". Soooooooo...the plan is that she is taking the lunch jar (come on, say it with me...lunch jar) with hot water and will mix the instant oatmeal with the water at lunchtime.

Oatmeal, Whole wheat waffle heart, Turkey sausage links, Strawberries, Honey yogurt with almonds.

I know, I know, it's "instant" oatmeal and I'm usually totally against any pre-made food that I can make myself. BUT I was afraid that if I made "real" oatmeal ahead of time, it would be gross by lunch. Anyone else packed cooked oatmeal before?