Tuesday, September 23, 2014

our school lunch system

I've been packing school lunches for my boy for two years now. It's something that stressed me out immensely, so I did my research beforehand. After searching and searching online (Google and Pinterest are my friends) and perusing my local Wally World, I came up with the following basic how-to. It's stood the test of time (or a bajillion school lunches, anyway), and we're quite happy with our system.

Each year, I let him pick out a new lunchbox. He hasn't needed to, as they've lasted and been so great, but it's fun for him to have something fresh and new, I think. Both years he's had a Thermos brand box, and they've been fantastic. Standard size, insulated, zip-up lunchbox (or lunch bag). Like-a dis.

I chose to do kind of a bento-style method. The dishes I use are these: Great Value Large Entree Storage Containers from Walmart. They're $2 for a 4-pack, so pretty cheap, and they've worked great for us! They're easy for little hands to open without help, are the perfect size for a standard lunchbox, and have held up well to numerous (nuuuuumerous) dishwasher cycles (put on the top rack). I chose these over other kinds because I needed several; there's no way I was going to wash the same bento box over and over every blasted day. I'm far too lazy for that!

Inside these containers (to create the bento kind of idea), I use these. Silicone Cupcake Molds/Liners. They're colorful, durable, easily washable, and just $2 for the set of six. Find them in the Wilton cake area of Walmart. Look for the $2 ones; there are some nearby for twice as much. 

If I need to pack something liquid or leaky (like yogurt, applesauce, ranch dressing, humus, syrup, what-have-you), I put it in an old applesauce or mandarin oranges container and top it with Cling Wrap (Press N Seal?). That stuff is magical. It. Works. Wonderfully. 

I put the bento box full of goodies inside his lunchbox, stick a juice box (or Gossner's milk or Capri Sun etc) next to it and an ice pack on top. Don't forget a napkin and (if needed) a spoon! Then zip it up and send it to school! 

What system do YOU use for school lunch? Any tips?? Please share! :)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

corn bread muffins

Original recipe from AllRecipes.com (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/sweet-corn-bread-2/detail.aspx). This is a halved recipe, basically. It's moist and delicious. Yum.

RECIPE: Corn Bread Muffins

Yield: 8 muffins

1/2 c flour
1/2 c cornmeal
1/2 c sour cream
1 Tbsp white sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 an egg, beaten
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp milk
2 tsp butter

Preheat oven to 400F. 

Measure and put all ingredients into a mixer/bowl. Whip until incorporated and kinda fluffy. 

Drop batter into greased muffin tin. Bake at 400F for 15 min.

Serve warm with butter and honey. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

school lunch: hot lunch

bacon pancake dippers


RECIPE: Bacon Pancake Dippers

This is more of a concept than a recipe.  I saw this idea online and thought I'd give it a try for James' school lunch.  I used my From Scratch Pancake recipe (though batter from a store-bought mix would work equally well) and just added cooked bacon into the batter as the pancake cooked.  I tried several different methods: pouring the batter onto the skillet then placing cooked bacon on top before flipping, dredging the cooked bacon in the batter and then cooking, breaking the cooked bacon up into teensy pieces and then adding it to the batter. All of the methods worked, but the first one was probably the easiest.  I liked it but didn't love it.  It's a good way to sneak some bacon into an herbivore's school lunch, though! :)  Mmm... bacon. Crazy kid.

cooking tip: preserving apple slices

Cooking Tip: Preserving Apple Slices

When you're wanting to keep apple slices from browning, perhaps to send them to school in a kid's lunch box as Apple Slice Sandwiches or something equally delicious, first treat them with lemon water!  Just get a kid-sized bowl and put a bit of water in, say 1/4 cup.  Then splash in a tsp or so of lemon juice concentrate (the bottled kind you buy at the store).  Swish it around.  Submerge and swish the apple slices in the lemon water, making sure to cover both sides.  Then boom- done!  Pack them up, set them out, whatev.  They should keep just fine!  Pictured are the AFTER SCHOOL photos of the lemon water treated apples.  Not bad, eh?  Crunch.

Monday, August 18, 2014

pizza cups

I made these for James' school lunches. I saw the idea online and loved the make-ahead concept. Plus, what kid doesn't love pizza?! Let me know if you make them, and what you think! 

RECIPE: Pizza Cups

Refrigerated pizza crust dough
Pizza sauce
Mozzerella cheese, shredded
Mini pepperoni 

Preheat oven to 450F. Grease/spray muffin tins (note: my silicone one made for much easier retrieval). Cut dough into 24 pieces (with a knife or with a cookie cutter). Press dough into muffin tins, making it go up the sides a bit. Spoon a tablespoon or so of sauce onto each dough cup. Top with cheese and pepperoni. Bake at 450F for 10-12 min. 

Best if served warm, but ideal for school lunches. Let cool (on a rack). Then pop a couple into a lunch box! Or freeze for future lunches!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

butternut squash soup

Just a slight variation from an AllRecipes.com recipe*, shared with me via our good friend Missy. Hooray for Bountiful Baskets and the yummy new recipes they encourage! 

RECIPE: Butternut Squash Soup

2 butternut squashes, peel + chop
8 c water
1/2 cube butter
3 Tbsp minced onion
2 Tbsp chicken bullion
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
8 oz cream cheese (1 pkg)
1 c milk
Gruyère cheese (opt)

Peel and chop the butternut squash. Put it in a large pot. Add water, butter and all herbs/spices. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Boil/simmer for 20 min or until the squash is tender.

Carefully purée in a blender (it's hot) with the cream cheese. Pour back into pot and add milk. Serve warm and top with shredded Gruyère cheese. Yum!

*Original recipe here: http://m.allrecipes.com/recipe/12974/butternut-squash-soup?ast=butternut+squash+soup&asas=Mobile+Home+Page&asat=Quick+Search&ase=event10%2Cevent8

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Asian Sesame Chicken

We were thiiiis close to ordering Chinese. But I was strong and whipped this up instead. It was super quick and super easy - and way cheaper than delivery! AND it was well received! Yay! 

RECIPE: Asian Sesame Chicken

2 lb chicken breast (ish)
Asian Toasted Sesame dressing (half bottle?)
Sesame seeds (2 Tbsp?)

Heat a cast iron skillet to med-high (8?) heat. Squirt a bit of dressing/sauce in the skillet (as you would oil) then add chicken breasts. Season a bit (easy on the salt). Let one side sear then do the other. Reduce heat (6?), add more sauce, stir to coat, cover. After a few minutes, cut up chicken (not cooked through yet) into chunks. Coat with more sauce and cover. Cook until chicken is cooked through and adequately glazed. Throw some sesame seeds on top and remove from heat. Serve over rice, with a side of veggies!

Friday, February 7, 2014

cooking tip: quick brownies

Do you love brownies but hate waiting the 30+ minutes for them to bake?? Well, we did. So we tried something new (that may be common practice in most households but was a novel concept in ours): bake them on a cookie sheet*! Using a standard box of brownies, prepared as directed, this reduces the baking time to a mere 15 minutes**! Not bad, eh? We love them! The only problem? You feel like much more of a pig eating half the pan! :)

* Be sure to use one with a raised edge!
** Still at 350F.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

pinoli pasta bake

This is our knock off of a delicious pasta they used to serve at Firehouse, one of our favorite local eats. Derek especially loved it and would get it almost all the time. We thought we'd give it a go and try our own version. It wasn't quite the same, but it was pretty close- and quite tasty! Still, this version was a major hit with the whole family! We will definitely be making this again!

RECIPE: Pinoli Pasta Bake

Yield: 8 servings

3 oz raw pine nuts
16 oz cellentani/radiatore pasta
2/3 c fresh basil, cut into strips
4 oz (1/2 jar) sun-dried tomatoes (in oil), chopped
8 oz fresh Mozzarella Pearls 
6-8 oz Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing
2 Tbs Balsamic vinegar 

Preheat oven to 400F. Put a med pot of water (salted) on to boil. 

Toast the pine nuts. {I do this by dry heating the pine nuts in a frying pan over medium heat, stirring constantly.} Set aside. Dice up the sun-dried tomatoes and mozza, if needed. Also set aside.

Once water is boiling, cook pasta -- only for 8ish minutes, though. It'll cook further in the oven. Drain.

Toss the pasta in the vinaigrette until well coated. Add in the tomatoes, basil, mozza and half the toasted pine nuts. Dump it all into a baking dish (9x13 or other). Top with the rest of the pinenuts. Bake at 400F until cheese is melted, bubbled and brown (about 15 min).

Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Maybe add some basil for prettiness' sake. Serve warm.

Side Notes: 

My preferred balsamic dressing (I use 1/2 to 2/3 of the bottle) is

If you can't find Mozerella Pearls, you can just get fresh mozza and cut/tear it into pieces. I love the pearls, though, as I'm lazy. (You can find these in the deli section of most grocery stores.)

And most ingredients here are "ish" amounts. Add or subtract according to your own preferences.