Circus Week – “Magic Bunny” VPK School Lunch

I feel like circuses have magic shows. Do they? Like, with a magician in a tux, pulling a rabbit out of a top hat?

I might be stretching it a little. I only have so many circus-themed cutters.

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I made a magical bunny shaped PB&J and added details for his ears (very instrumental to his magic show), eye, ad nose. I also packed a few banana chips, a few TJ’s organic PB sandwich crackers, two dried dates, an aprium, colby jack cheese, a Tim Tam (thank you Australia!!!), and a homemade granola bar.

And for my Smalls:

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I packed half a PB&J, trail mix, an aprium, TJ’s PB crackers, colby jack cheese, and a cotton candy Oreo. He’s got a granola bar for snack.

I made the granola bars for Teacher Appreciation Week a few weeks back. They were delicious!! I thought I’d make them again for my own family.

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They were super easy to put together…

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…and had ingredients I both had on hand and could pronounce.

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AND they are easy to individually package and freeze!

http://happymoneysaver.com/no-bake-homemade-chewy-granola-bars/

A hint – if you are out of honey, as this recipe requires a LOT, you can use corn syrup as a sub. I don’t love using that, but I do keep it on hand for some recipes.

Do it!

Kristin

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The Three Little Lunches

Tomorrow is my Co-op day. I love those days where I get to be a Helper Parent in my Bigs’ class. It’s so fun. I love seeing him do his VPK thing, I love spending extra time with him, and I love sitting on the teeny chairs next to him and his friends while eating lunch.

Here is what I packed Bigs:

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I made a vanilla bean cream cheese and apple cranberry butter (from Trader Joe’s) sandwich. I also packed some dried cranberries, a few banana chips, some freeze dried apples, assorted raisins, seasoned corn, a few mini sausage links, a few pretzels, a banana, and a couple of teeny chocolate pieces.

For me:

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I made the same sandwich for me as I did for Bigs. That cranberry apple butter is to die for. I also packed the same dried fruit, and added a Gala apple (my favorite).

And for my Smalls, who has Mom’s Morning Out:

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He has a PB&J, pretzels, banana chips, dried cranberries, assorted raisins, and three itty bitty chocolate pieces.

Hope you have a great night! I better rest up! Spending the day with a boatload of 4 and 5 year olds kicks my bum bum! Hats off to teachers!

Blessings,

Kristin

Mummies and Pumpkins and Cakes, oh my!

What a fun weekend we had! I participated in my first bake-off. I am SO not competitive, by nature. It gives me anxiety, like, for real. But I LIVE for baking (and you know, my kids, husband, Jesus too). And it was a friendly competition, hosted by my wonderful friend, judged by two chefs that she knew. And I knew we’d ALL be winners, you know, eating all of the desserts. I wanted to do something seasonal, so I decided on a pumpkin cake. To me, that would be perfectly acceptable on its own, because…#pumpkinallthethings, but this was a competition.

The cake itself was so pretty. The recipe called for an entire can of pumpkin, which I hadn’t seen before. I knew it would be rich with fall flavor and moist.

It was heavenly. While that was baking, I went to work on  next project – the cake’s decoration.

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Melting chocolate – isn’t it magical?

Halloween Candy Bark!

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I meannnnnn, forrealz! This is a thing! I ran across the recipe in my research and fell in love with it. It’s so festive! I could have used any candy, I suppose, but the blog used these and I loved how it looked like the inside of a trick or treat bag, but with eyes.

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It was so pretty. I can’t even handle how cute it came out.

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It’s my new favorite. Of everything.

http://www.justataste.com/2014/10/halloween-candy-bark/

Since my pumpkin cake recipe called for 3 8-inch rounds and I only had two, I made three smaller cakes to go with the 2-layered big one.

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I decorated the big one with the Halloween bark, cut into shards, and I used candy corn, more shards, and eyeballs to decorate the smaller ones. Not the cleanest work I’ve ever done, but it worked out because my creation won “Most Innovative”! I was so happy. It really was a delicious cake (and the bark was SO good).

This cake would be an incredible addition to a Thanksgiving table. It’s maple cinnamon cream cheese frosting takes it to a new level.

http://www.thenovicechefblog.com/2012/10/pumpkin-dream-cake/

Since my long-suffering husband is both and dairy and gluten free, I couldn’t let him go to the bake-off with nothing to eat. I made him a Chocolate Pumpkin Sheet Cake.

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I could tell by the batter that it was going to come out delicious.

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And I was right. It was HUGE too, enough to feed a gluten and dairy free army. It puffed right up like a “real” cake! This was my first successful attempt and GF DF from-scratch baking (cakes). I left off the frosting (since it was filled with dairy).

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I’ll be using this recipe again and again. It called for over 1 can of pumpkin, but I just used one and it turned out beautifully.

http://www.thebakingbeauties.com/2010/10/gluten-free-chocolate-pumpkin-sheet-cake.html

All of the desserts at the bake-off were delicious. That was a fun night. I’ll have to up my game for next year’s competition.

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And lastly, I made mummies. Not real ones. Because that’s gross. And unheard of. In these modern times.

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I’ve made these before (here). They are too easy for words and make a big impact (to kids, mostly, I think).

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They’d be great dipped in ketchup. But that would look bloody. And grody. We don’t do bloody. Unless it’s a lip or knee. And not on purpose.

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I was going to make them all like the one on the left, but then nobody had time for that.

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I packed that little guy in my Bigs’ lunchbox, along with seasoned corn, banana chips, raisins, pineapple, red grapes, a Halloween cookie, and some orange and black chocolate covered sunflower seeds.

Boo!

Blessing to you!

Kristin

Whiny Wednesday

Ugh. You know that feeling when you’re having a good day, and then all of sudden, you aren’t? That was my day. It wasn’t so bad at first. But then I got overwhelmed with life and also I took in some of my old purses to a resale store and they told me (not so much in words, but with rejection) that my Vera Bradley’s print and style was “old”. I felt washed up. It sort of set a tone for the rest of my day. It was just little things like that, happening for the rest of the day. Oh well. I’m not THAT old.

And I know it could be a lot worse. And a LOT more serious. We’re keeping it light around here tonight.

But still.

And then I had to get to karate, back home, make dinner (pre-fab chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs, whatever), and three lunches for tomorrow. I want to soak in a garden tub filled with bubbles, and surrounded by lightly scented candles and silence.

We don’t have a garden tub. Or silence.

On the upside, tomorrow is my day at the Co-op, to work in my Bigs’ classroom. I’m very excited for that. This week they are learning about the five senses. Tomorrow is a taste test. Perfect!

For my Bigs’ lunch, I went with dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets (so what if I’ve said, even here on this blog, that I would only ever make my own chicken nuggets from scratch from then on). Mama’s tired.

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I packed four of those not-so-good-for-you nuggets, some ketchup, a homemade honey zucchini muffin (that IS good for you), grapes, pineapple, dried oranges, and banana chips.

For my Smalls:

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I made a PB&J half sandwich. I also packed some banana chips, two dried orange segments, some mini cinnamon rice cakes, and an applesauce squeezy fruit.

And for me:

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For myself, I packed a salad (iceberg lettuce, orange tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and a packet that comes in my Publix’s pre-packed salads (dressing, nuts, cranberries). I also packed grapes, pineapple, and a yogurt.

Blessings to you!

Kristin

I need this Bible verse tonight:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. – Romans 12:2

Rise and Shine!

My Bigs goes to school Tuesdays through Fridays. It’s sort of nice to have our Monday “off”. Monday comes with such a stigma, that is mostly and completely based on truth. Mondays mostly stink! It’s hard to get back into the weekly routine after a busy weekend.

For Bigs’ lunch tomorrow, I packed a breakfast-y one. He LOVES eating big, breakfast-y breakfasts and we only seem to have time for that on weekends (and not even every weekend, sadly!). This will make him really happy, I think.

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I made peanut butter and honey sandwiches out of mini pancakes. I used frozen pancakes this time (they’ll also stay cold on their own and be thawed by lunchtime). I put PB on each pancake and made a little divot in the middle for the honey (this will prevent them from getting soggy from the honey and will prevent the honey from leaking out, causing a sticky mess). I cut up some cooked turkey bacon. I also packed some banana chips, colby jack cheese cubes, fruit salad (yellow watermelon, pineapple, cotton candy grapes, and blueberries), and applesauce.

Have a blessed day!

Kristin

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23

Gettin’ ham ‘n’ cheesy with it!

My Bigs had a great first day in VPK! And guess what? He ate his whole lunch! Every crumb! I think making raccoon masks and spelling works up an appetite. I know it does for me. For tomorrow’s lunch, I made him a ham and cheese sammy.

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I found Martin’s whole wheat mini potato rolls at Publix when I last went. I hadn’t seen those before, in mini-size or in whole wheat! I put Applegate Naturals ham and provolone cheese on it, with a light smear of mayonnaise. I put a flamingo pick in his sandwich, for fun. His class mascot is a flamingo – I couldn’t believe my his luck! I adore flamingos! I also packed a fruit salad (raspberries, blueberries, watermelon, pineapple, and nectarine), Trader Joe’s banana chips, seasoned corn (just a little bit of S&P), and applesauce for dessert. I think he’ll love it. By the way, he told me that the Trader Joe’s pizzas from today’s lunch were “really yummy” and that they were “so good he wants to eat all of them”. I’d call that a positive review!

Have a blessed day!

Kristin

He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

– 1 John 5:12

A Tree-Hugging Trader Joe’s Review

So. We’re back from vacation. School is about to start. Summer is coming to a close. Things are changing. I should be able to keep up with my blog posts now, right? RIGHT?! Right.

Back to biz.

You guys know I have a serious sweet tooth. It’s well documented. You might not know that I also have a health food tooth (I feel like that’s less sparkly and lovely than a sweet tooth). Is that a thing? I love all vegetables, fruit, tofu, and other healthy fare.

Salad is one of my top favorite foods. I love going to salad buffets. And eating all their yummy veg. I even love beets. BEETS. Even as a kid I loved them. If you don’t like them, I have recipes that will forever change your mind about them.

I digress.

I went to Trader Joe’s this past week to try their healthier food (and some not so healthy food…blog posts on those to follow).

My kids love dried fruit as snacks. My Mom dries her own fruit and it’s delicious. Since I don’t have a dehydrator, I don’t mind buying them (or eating my Mom’s).

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We tried the TJ’s Dried Flattened Banana. I’ve never had this before now. They were really good, like banana fruit roll ups (if you rolled them up). The ingredients were bananas and something to keep them from browning. At $1.29, it was a bargain.

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Organic Banana Chips: They were good, crunchy, and delicious. Like any ol’ banana chips. They were $2.99 and there were a lot. I’d call it a deal.

Dried Sweet New Zealand Apples: These were delicious. Despite only having apples (several different varieties) as the only ingredient, when I opened the bag, they smelled like fall. They were chewy, moist, and full of apple flavor.  And the bag wasn’t skimpy on quantity. Also priced at $2.99, I think they were a deal.

Dried Fruit Mandarins Soft & Juicy: I’ve never had these before either. These were the only dried fruits we tried that had sugar as an ingredient. I’d serve these more for a lunch dessert. When I opened the package, the fresh, bright, citrusy scent of mandarin oranges hit my nose. The flavor copied that. They were delicious and sweet. They cost $2.69. I’d get them again.

Freeze Dried Mango: The only ingredient was mango. I like to see that. They were crunchy and yielded a nice bite, but also melted in my mouth (like most freeze dried fruit). They were also delicious. They also cost $2.69.

Lastly for the fruit and nuts category, we got some slivered almonds. They were delicious and like any other slivered almond. I like to put these on my oatmeal and in granola bars. I got quite a bit for $3.69.

I’d get all of those again.

I also picked up some gluten free pasta. Trader Joe’s has a good selection of such pastas. They offer both brown rice and corn pastas (perhaps more, but those are all I looked for). They had different shapes too – fusilli, penne, spaghetti. It’s great to see GF pasta becoming more mainstream.

I picked up a box of brown rice penne, brown rice fusilli, and brown rice spaghetti. They were $1.99 each (which is comparable to Aldi’s and far better than grocery store prices).

A few nights ago, we tried the brown rice spaghetti.

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It was delicious. I love that they give you a whole pound. Some GF pastas come in smaller packages. It was nice to feed the whole family from this (very cheap for GF) pack.

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It was delicious. We really couldn’t tell the difference between this pasta and flour-based pasta, in the best way possible.

It’s a must-buy for us now.

I also restocked my TJ’s sprouted tofu. I can’t wait to eat that. It, too, was delicious, the last time I made it.

Enjoy your day, go hug a tree, and eat something healthy!

Blessings,

Kristin