#11 Chicken Spaghetti

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

One of my favorite bloggers is Ree Drummond aka The Pioneer Woman. I've been following her blog for a while. She now has a cookbook, a kids book, taped a Throwdown Challenge (Thanksgiving) against Bobby Flay and now have her own show on Food Network. She's real. She's a wife of a rancher. She's a mom of 4 kids whom she also home schools. And she's a great cook.

We have tried out a handful of PW recipes and one of our all-time favorites is Chicken Spaghetti.  I made this when we hosted our small group from church at our house. We had a lot of leftovers (because I always seem to cook for a small army--a trait I learned from my mother) so guess what's in our lunch boxes the next day...

Chicken Spaghetti w/melon and yogurt (Miss C) 

So as I was packing Miss C's lunch I remembered that I had forgotten her fork every time we use that Thermos bowl. I grabbed a red fork and put it on the counter... but of course I forgot to put it INSIDE her lunch box. *sigh* And she said that her yogurt exploded a little bit from the silicone ice pop thing. I think I have to freeze her yogurt so that it does not happen again.

I did not end up eating my lunch yesterday (I ate it today). My coworker convinced me to get lunch from Chili's since 100% of their net profit from yesterday's sales was donated to St. Jude's Children Hospital. Great cause. And I like Chili's. So it did not take a lot to convince me to save my lunch for the next day. 

#10 all things round

Monday, September 26, 2011

Jelly Sandwich with apple, crackers, mozzarella cheese and vanilla cookies
(all things round!)

I went to a Pampered Chef party that a friend of mine hosted and I bought Cut-N-Seal. Its a round cutter that cuts your sandwich, but also presses and seals the edges of the bread. Pretty nifty. I can see making empanadas or  ravioli or homemade pizza rolls or homemade toaster strudel/pastry puffs. 

Miss C picked that apple all by herself during a field trip to a local apple orchard. :) We also bought a 5 lb bag of apples. I'm sure we will not be able to eat all of it, so I'm in the hunt for a good apple crisp recipe!

#9 ham rollups

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ham rollups using flat bread. Steamed carrots.
with vanilla cookies, party/trail mix (no nuts), mandarin oranges
Here is a picture of the cute HK bento I got from Ebay:

My lunch is leftover cavatappi with my husband's spaghetti sauce. Once in a blue moon, we do a cooking blitz where we cook 3-4 dishes, worth 6-8 meals in one night and freeze them. Usually we incorporate one main meat ingredient (chicken or ground beef) into 3 or 4 recipes and double the recipe. For example, one night we bought ground beef in bulk. We made 2 meatloaves, 1 batch of meatloaf muffins, taco meat (2 meals), a big pot of spaghetti sauce (divided into 3 meals), and Cuban rice (a Filipino stew--don't be fooled with the name--with rice/gr beef/potatoes/carrots).  The freezer meals come in handy for those busy weeks. And we try to cook our favorite recipes for our freezer meals instead of trying out and freezing a new reicpe. I'll write more about that on a future post.
I need cute bento boxes too... *sigh*

why do I do this?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I have been asked numerous times why I started this blog. Why I take pictures of our lunches everyday. Why would anyone care? Well, below are my reasons... and if anyone cares, great! If you don't, then just move on...

1.) I have to.

Miss C started preschool with "play&stay".  She goes to pre-k in the morning, then have a structured extended afternoon at the school. The preschool does not serve lunch due to state regulations so she needs to bring her own lunch. And she's not packing it herself. She's 4.

2.) I'm try to be healthy and 3.) save money by eating lunch at work everyday.

I'm trying to break this habit of eating out for lunch all the time. And even though we are trying to be budge-conscious, we throw out  a lot of leftovers because we forget what we have in the fridge. While my husband and I do try to cook at home, it may not always be organic or extremely healthy. If things are on sale, we choose organic and healthier foods... but on a time crunch or budget-wise, I'll admit I'm a semi-homemade type of girl. While other food snobs and chefs throw tomatoes at Sandra Lee, star of Semi-Homemade Cooking on The Food Network, I actually like her style.  I am not ashamed to say that I used jarred spaghetti sauce, spaghetti and frozen chicken patti and call it "chicken parmesan". For me, my husband and child, its dinner. I'm sure I'm not the only mother around here that does that.

4.) I love Japan.

My mom lived in Japan for a couple years for graduate school. Though my brother and I lived with our aunts, we were able to visit her there. I was only 8 and I remember the foods and restaurants. I began my Sanrio crush. I love all things Sanrio: Hello Kitty, Badtz Maru, and my all-time favorite is Keroppi.

photo credit: Sanrio
I love Japanese food and one of the things that stood out to me were lunchtime foods. I remember stands with rice wrapped in nori (seaweed) shaped like a triangle. I remember soba noodles in these divided lacquer boxes called bentos.

photo credit: Wikipedia

5.) I have a theory that if it looks fun, kids will eat it. or not. But I am undoubtedly blessed with a child that is not as picky as other kids. A child that will ask for sushi and crab if asked what restuarant she wants to eat at. A child that eats half a cookie and announce that she's done. A child that will rather eat fruit than candy. Yeah, I'm gonna brag about that. I sympathize with some of my friends that have picky eaters. While Miss C will have a day where she will not eat or try anything, I can pretty much bet on it that if we have it the next time, she will end up trying whatever she didn't like the day or week or month before.

6.) Its fun and I like being creative.

If its not fun, I'll lose interest and it will become a chore. If I get bored with it, lunches probably won't be a priority and I'll end up just tossing whatever is easy and convenient in Miss C's lunchbox.  Probably PBJs and lunchables... but wait, she can't have peanut butter at preschool (and I hate peanut butter), so lunchables every day is probably will not be the healthiest thing to eat everyday.

7.) I'm crazy. I'm insane. Just ask my friends.

8.) I hope to inspire someone, or give ideas, or share recipes much like other bloggers have inspired me.

9.) I want to be as proactive and involved in my child's life... as a working mom can do.  I love the smile Miss C gives me in the mornings when she tells me "That. is. SO. cute, Mommy. Take a picture of me with my lunch!"

10.) Did I mention I'm crazy?

So far so good... and Pinterest.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Its been two weeks and so far so good.  I told my husband that I'd be surprised if I last 2 weeks... but I have not lost interest in this yet.  Much like with cakes, I look at food in a different way. "How can I make this (dinner or an ingredient) into something fun for lunch?"  I get my inspiration from sites like Bentobloggy, Lunch in a Box, and Cute Foods for Kids. And Pinterest.

Oh, yes. Pinterest. If you have never heard of it, it is sort of a virtual pinboard. You can "pin" an image you find on the web on Pinterest on a board, then you can go back to that board at a later date and it will take you to the original website you got that image from. It sure beats right-click/save then trying to figure out what website that idea originated from. I have boards of recipes I want to try, stuff I want to do in my home, party ideas, and of course, inspires bentos/lunch boxes, and many many many more. (Just ignore the "baby fever" board.) I can get lost "pinning" for hours....

One of the awesome ideas I got from Pinterest is a lunch-making bin or box for the fridge. The image linked me to Jen of  "I Heart Organizing".
Most of the things you need to make lunches is in one container. 

Here is mine:
I also have one shelf in my fridge for this box and other things that can't fit in the box, like tall bottles, plastic containers with leftovers, etc. (Sorry, my fridge is not blog-picture-friendly.)  I also have a box with her little containers, lunchboxes, food picks, fun cutters and molds, etc so that I can easily find them. And I bought a 3-drawer plastic container where I can put pantry-stable foods like crackers, raisins, and canned items. This idea totally streamlines my morning as I'm not digging through my fridge or pantry for stuff.

From waking up to loading up the car, Miss C's morning routine is running at about 40 minutes every morning.  I fix her lunch while she's eating breakfast, usually only about 10-20 minutes. Then I fix her hair right before leaving. If I take longer with packing her lunch, she usually ends up in a ponytail. If I have a little more time, I may attempt to braid her hair, as I do have a Pinterest board for hair braiding. Ha!

#8 Pancit (Filipino Rice Noodles) w/Recipe

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Miss C's favorite Filipino dish is pancit. My mom (C's Lola {Tagalog for "grandmother"}) makes it all the time because its one of her most requested dish. Sometimes we get to come over and eat leftovers--and take more leftovers home! :)  Pancit Bihon is a very simple dish. It's flavored with just soy sauce so the flavor is mild and not strong and overpowering. It's not greasy and does not have a lot of exotic ingredients. A lot of our non-Asian friends and kids love this noodle dish.

Pancit (Filipino Rice Noodles), watermelon, carrots w/ranch
(dip transferred to a small container with lid because
I totally forgot that this was going inside C's lunchbox)

Pancit Bihon   (pan-sit bee-hohn)

1 package (8oz) thin rice noodles (bihon, or sometimes called rice vermicelli)
1 T oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 large carrot sliced/julienned (I use 1c precut matchstick carrots)
1 c shredded cabbage
Opt vegetables:
1/2 c julienned green beans or
1/2 c sliced green or red peppers
or broccoli
or snow peas
or green onions
1 c. cubed chicken (or use shredded cooked chicken or cubed pork)
1/8 c. soy sauce (divided)
2 T oyster sauce (optional)
1 c chicken broth or water (more if needed) 
Black pepper

  1. Saute garlic in 1T oil. Add onions.
  2. If using raw meat, add chicken or pork and stirfry until meat is cooked.
  3. In the meantime, soak the rice noodles in hot water to soften.
  4. Add vegetables and season with a little bit of soy sauce (2-3 Tbsp) and salt and pepper. Stir fry until half-cooked (not soggy).
  5. Spoon out the meat/vegetable mix into a bowl and set aside. Make sure the juices/broth from the stir fry remains in the pan.
  6. Drain rice noodles.
  7. Add 1 c chicken broth (or more water) into the pan, Let it come to a slight boil.
  8. Add noodles into the simmering broth. And cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with soy sauce, oyster sauce, and pepper.
  9. Stir in meat/vegetables mixture and serve hot.

#7 noodles & egg

Miss C's lunch consisted of leftover teriyaki noodles,
with hardboiled egg (see below), watermelon kabobs, and frozen "gogurt". 

My lunch consisted of leftover noodles, leftover chicken, and leftover egg that I peeled very badly and did not make the cut to be in the molds.

I had been browsing lunch blogs for over a year now, and besides the "lunch box" bento idea, these egg molds keep popping up on posts from various blogs. So I bought some molds. Because they are too cute. Then I ran into this YouTube video on how to use the egg molds. The most difficult part of it was peeling the hot eggs, because you have to put the peeled egg into the mold while its still warm.  

#6 SBJ roll

Monday, September 19, 2011

SBJ Roll Up
w/pita chips, watermelon, raisins (w/fruit snacks) 
and yogurt (read more below for if you're curious about that green thing)

my lunch... grilled chicken breasts over mixed salad w/spinach and yogurt.

I tried to do a sandwich sushi that looked like this...
...but it turned out really messy to cut. I left the sandwich (made of Sunbutter instead of PB) in just one roll.  I cut the watermelon into shapes with flower cutters I got from Chinatown in Chicago used for veggies and fruit. Now what is that green thing up there? Those are silicone ice pop makers (from Amazon). I first saw these at Lunch Fit for a Kid. These can be used for making homemade push-up popsicles or fill them with yogurt (think Gogurt)! I was afraid that it was going to explode in her lunch bag, I actually wrapped it in Press&Seal, but it didn't. I love this thing!! 

I am still trying to get into this daily posting groove. I don't know how a lot of these super bloggers do it! Blogging daily! It's a lot of work! I'm a couple days behind! (actually, 5 days behind, since I don't usually blog weekend food.) And I also have some recipes and little tidbits that I want to post, so sitting down and actually composing them is challenging with me working, being a mom, and trying to keep my head above water when it comes to house chores like laundry (ugh). So bear with me, I'll be a little bit more diligent in posting in the future!  If you have any questions, just ask! I'm also on Facebook

#5 potatoes, vegs, & chicken

Thursday, September 15, 2011

For dinner the night before, we had grilled potatoes and one of those steamer veggies. Miss C wanted the leftovers for lunch and I mixed in some cut-up grilled chicken. She also wanted cottage cheese. Pineapple and carrot chips and ranch rounds up this lunch.

I've been collecting little plastic containers, thermos bowls, and fun bento-style lunch boxes. The one above is a Dora insulated/thermos bowl I found on clearance at Target. These fun square cups with multi-colored lids I found at Meijer. You know how they hang random stuff at aisles? I think I found these hanging by the juice/pop aisle. I found her Hello Kitty lunchbox at Martin's (regional grocery store) on sale for $5.99 with coupons inside for free bread, $1 off kids' toothbrush, $1 off kids' toothpaste, and $0.75off for yogurt! SCORE!

day 4: "lunchables"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Miss C loves Lunchables. For those who don't know what Lunchables are, they are a popular prepackaged lunch with crackers, some kind of cold cut meat, and cheese that the kids can stack. And most of the time they come with a candy bar.
Typical lunchable

I decided that a homemade version of a Lunchable is more budget friendly, earth friendly and kid friendly. I used some circle cutters that I use for cookies and baking to cut the ham and cheese, stacked them with Ritz crackers. Pineapple chunks speared with a heart pick and salad with ranch.  
Right: Miss C's Lunchables
Left: My lunch with scraps from cheese and ham from circle,
cottage cheese, pineapple and soup (that I didn't end up eating).

I was worried that Miss C won't eat her salad but she ate it up. She even said that there are some kids that brought salads as their lunches! I was very impressed with this group of 4-year-olds since I know more than a handful adults who won't even touch a salad with a ten-foot fork! But then again, we are blessed with a "weird" kid who wanted crab and sushi after her Monday soccer practice. 

day 3: Sunbutter Jelly Sandwich

Monday, September 12, 2011

Due to severe nut allergies, the preschool has a nut-free policy. This means no PBJ's for Miss C.  Which was fine by me because I hate peanut butter and gag everytime I make peanut butter jelly sandwiches. When Miss C found out that she would be bringing her lunch, her first lunch request was PBJs. So off to the store I went to buy a $100 jar of Sunbutter. Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit. But for a $5 jar of Sunbutter, Miss C better eat her lunch!  Sunbutter is made from sunflower seeds, and it tastes a bit like peanut butter with a sunflower seed aftertaste.

I'm not packing mine. I did not eat my previous lunch (chicken penne) at work, so I had that for that day. Plus, I hate peanut butter (did I mention that already?) or any kind of alternative nut/seed butter... Though I have yet to try Nutella... that one has chocolate, so I may like it.

SBJ sandwich with carrot dots
party mix, grapes, mozz. cheese

SBJ Verdict:  Mixed. -- Miss C ate up the sandwich and said it was very good. But then again on Sunday, she told me that she does not like Sunbutter. But maybe she will if there is only a little bit of SB with strawberry AND grape jelly inside. Which is fine by me because that stuff is expensive!
Also, Miss C informed me yesterday that I neglected to put a fork and spoon with her previous lunch (chicken pasta) and the teacher had to give her disposable ones. She made sure she informed her daddy as soon as he picked her up. Oops. I'm still on a lunch packing learning curve here!

day 2: leftover chicken penne

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My husband and I both work full-time so we share cooking responsibilities... I have to admit, he does more cooking than I do lately. This is what he made last night:

Easy Chicken Penne:
2 boneless chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 package (1/2 lb) of penne pasta
2 cups broccolli (we used frozen but fresh is also good)
Philadelphia Cooking Creme (Savory Garlic) (find it by the cream cheese at the store)

Directions: Cook pasta according to directions. Brown and cook the chicken. Stir in the broccoli until its half-cooked. Throw in the pasta and add cooking creme. Stir for 3 minutes until hot. Voila!

chicken broccoli penne
carrot sticks+ranch, yogurt, juice

This is my lunch... I should have grabbed a little ziploc bag of carrots. And I want to get fun lunch boxes, but I have a cabinet full of these gladware at work since I have a bad habit of leaving them there. Once every 3-4 months, I take a big bag of containers home.  

the first one.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

For this lunch, I give it a "B-" for effort, "D" for creativity, and "B" for food.  (Should I give grade evaluations on every lunch? Probably not).  We played too much during Labor Day weekend so I did not get the chance to go get groceries. Nor had plans or menus for lunches or dinners.  So on Tuesday, Mr. Awesome (since my friends always exclaim that I have an awesome husband--I know!--that spoils me rotten.) made egg burritos as I cleaned out searched the fridge for anything lunch worthy. To be honest, I've been shopping for fun and cute and adorable lunch boxes and bento-esque tools that I neglected to think about what FOODS actually go inside those cute Hello Kitty boxes.  Don't worry, I'm going grocery shopping tonight I even pinned a great organizational strategy for my fridge on Pinterest... I heart Pinterest.

So here's our first lunch:

Miss C's 1st preschool lunch
ham and cheese rollups
with goldfish crackers, raisins and a bit of fruit snacks for color
and my mom made a lime jello with pears that Miss C absolutely loves.

My lunch
leftover egg burrito and a banana

I had less than 10 minutes to whip up these lunches... again, poor planning on my part. Thank goodness Miss C didn't want her hair braided because we were running behind on time as it is. Also, I never know when to use flash on close up food shots with my little point-and-shoot camera. I've been struggling with this issue when photographing my cakes, so any pointers, settings, etc, I'm all ears... but keep in mind I have less than 30 seconds to snap a picture.

this is going to be fun. i think.

My sweet, adorable 4 year old started preschool today.  She'll be going 4 days a week for morning preschool then going to "play & stay" in the afternoon. Play and stay is like an extended afternoon preschool, there's no curriculum, but it will have structured play time, creative time, music time, and learning time, correlating with what they are learning during the morning classes. We felt that this is a great way to ease her transition to all-day kindergarten next year. 

I now have to pack her lunches--Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Pre-planning and packing lunches are definitely not my forte. I tend to eat out for lunch during the work week, despite many attempts to try to pack a healthy lunch.

So now I'm presented this challenge to pack my child's lunches every day. Do I crumble at the pressure and resort to easy PB&J every day? No. I can't because there are a couple students with severe NUT ALLERGIES so her school is a NUT-FREE school. Of course. So because I normally don't do things the easiest and simplest way, I am going to attempt fun bento-style lunches (inspired by Emily from Bentobloggy). Now, my lunches will be nowhere near creative than hers... but I did "pin" a lot of ideas on Pinterest, so we'll see what I can come up with this year. I know that there are hundreds of blogs out there dedicated to fun lunch box ideas so the twist to this blog will be that I will pack a coordinating Mommy lunch for work at least twice a week.  Notice I did not write that I will coordinate mine with her lunches every time, I am a bit of a realist knowing that every other week, my coworker, Janet and I get takeout from our favorite Chinese place.
So there it is. Its out on the World Wide Web. I'm posting this blog so that maybe I can get a sense of accountability. Maybe post my menu planning so I can plan on dinner leftovers for lunch too. Maybe recipes that I've concocted or inspired by others.  I told my husband that I give this whole lunch ordeal 2 whole weeks.

P.S. Bethany and Bridget: forgive my grammar and punctuation mistakes... Just cringe and email/FB me and I'll gladly correct them. ;)