Last-Minute Halloween Ideas

October 29, 2014

Every year, I tell myself I’ll be way ahead of the game with Halloween costumes. And every year, I’m scrambling at the last minute to put something together that’s acceptable for the kids. Not awesome, not pin-worthy, just good enough for them to feel not embarrassed of their mother when they go out trick-or-treating.

Halloween is the day after tomorrow, and I still have nothing in the costume department. Nothing.

Halloween-y food, though? That I can do!

last minute halloween food ideas

I’m not into gory and scary, so these tame food ideas are perfect for wee ones or any kid (or, ahem, mom) with a weak stomach. Here are the deets:

1. Ghostadilla

ghost quesadilla

I let this cookie cutter from The Land of Nod do all the hard work, but you can easily free-hand a ghost shape with kitchen scissors. Cut your shapes first, then sprinkle cheese and make the quesadilla on the stove; much easier than trying to cut after cooking. The eyes and mouth were made from purple cabbage using a small hole cutter, but you could easily use olives, blueberries, or even capers for the foodiest of foodie kids.

2. Monster Green Smoothie

monster smoothie with hand

This was a happy accident; my once green-smoothie-loving toddler suddenly said that they look scary, so I ran with it. A banana slice, blueberry, and apple mouth and teeth later, she couldn’t wait to get her hands on it (as you can see). Make sure the smoothie is super thick so that your toppings don’t sink! Here’s our all-time favorite recipe:

  • 2 cups liquid of choice (we use fresh-squeezed orange juice, but have used coconut water and almond milk and both are great)
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup pineapple
  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 1-2 frozen bananas
  • boosts of choice (we use hemp hearts and chia seeds)

3.  Pirate Oatmeal

pirate oatmeal

Dried apricots are humble little things. They don’t look like much, but they’re awesome in oatmeal, granola, sauces, and most importantly, pirate faces. Just slice one in half (or use two) to get the full mustache effect. A blueberry eye and plum-peel patch (or any fruit peel) cut with kitchen scissors make this a fun, five-minute breakfast.

4. Cat in the (witch) hat bento

cat witch hat bento

It’s been a while since I’ve used the cutezcute cutter (review and tutorial here), but the kitty face is perfect for a non-scary Halloween. This is a simple nutella sandwich with a purple cabbage and carrot hat cut with kitchen scissors (see a theme here? Go out and buy a pair if you don’t have one!), mixed berries, and snap peas. I served this at home, and the hat is probably too big and floppy to stay put on the go–but that’s easily remedied with a toothpick.

So there you have it. As you can tell, I’m a big fan of keeping it simple and letting the food shine through vs. constructing something elaborate.

After all, the clock is ticking and I’ve got three costumes to figure out!

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Fall-inspired Bentos

October 17, 2014

Ah, fall. The changing colors inspire me to breathe more deeply and appreciate the beauty of the season. I’ve been taking it slow these days, trying to savor the cool weather before it changes all too quickly to winter.

fall collage

Bentos have been pretty autumnal, too, using simple cookie cutters or a quick jack-o-lantern using kitchen scissors and apple peels. Easy is the key word here. french toast bento

Contents:

  • French toast and strawberry skewers
  • nitrate-free salami
  • pumpkin-shaped cheddar cheese
  • apple slices
  • tangerine with a bit of celery to make a “pumpkin”. Easiest bento trick!

jack o lantern bento

I’m not really big on doing scary/spooky/gory on Halloween, but simple and cute, I can do. I used pancakes here, but you could easily do this on a sandwich, or a slice of cheese, or a bed of rice… honestly, any flat food surface.

Contents:

  • pancakes with apple peel jack-o-lantern face and celery stem
  • hard-boiled egg
  • apple and kiwi
  • yogurt tube

What have you been packing these days?

Taking Over

September 26, 2014

I’m SO EXCITED. Practically Jessie-Spano-on-caffeine-pills excited. Why? I’m taking over Munchkin’s Instagram account this weekend! I’ll be using Munchkin products to showcase food art and bentos. Did you know they made bentos? It’s adorable. Follow the Munchkin account to see what i come up with. Here’s a peek at my first photo: classic mommy and me bowls–nothing too fancy or crazy. Gotta ease them in! Plus, the suction bowl is perfect for this meal. Because toddlers. Because yogurt. I loved using these when each of my kids were little.

 

yogurt parfaits with munchkin bowl

Disclaimer: I received Munchkin products and compensation for this project, but all the ceative content is my own.

The First Week of Bentos

September 12, 2014

We’re finishing up our second week of school around here, and I’m still adjusting. New teachers. New classmates. The mountain of forms to sign. The strict bedtimes. The waking up and hurrying up to get out the door. The carpool. The jockeying for spots in the pick-up line.

And of course, the bentos.

The kids’ school district this year is offering free lunches for all students, and it’s tempting (oh so tempting) to send them out the door lunchbox-less, knowing they’ll get a hot meal. But while food options have gotten a lot better, there’s still a lot of processed, packaged stuff that we don’t normally eat at home. Last year, when my nine-year-old would buy lunch two days in a row, he’d come home with a stomachache–without fail. So as much as I’d love that extra time in the morning, I know that ultimately feeding them good food is what’s best for us.

Here’s what I’ve been packing, usually as caught on my iPhone while the boys ask me for matching socks and my toddler clings koala-style onto my leg.

star naan bento

Contents in a Komax bento:

  • Aidell’s pineapple and bacon chicken sausage
  • naan with cheese stars
  • carrot sticks
  • grapes
  • snap peas

chicken sausage bento yumbox

This is the same lunch for my first grader, but with added cabbage strips, which he LOVES. I love that the Yumbox container has that little section for sauce.

heart stamp sandwich with prosciutto bento

Contents in an ECOlunchbox:

  • PB&J “you rock” stamped sandwich (cutter and letter stamps bought at World Market)
  • red bell pepper strips
  • prosciutto-wrapped nectarines
  • mixed berries

chicken teriyaki bento

Contents in a Planetbox Shuttle:

  • chicken teriyaki drumstick (recipe here, but I subbed organic apple juice for the pineapple juice)
  • steamed carrots and broccoli
  • grapes
  • strawberries

ham rolls bento with Annie's crackers

Contents in an Easylunchbox:

  • Applegate ham and provolone cheese roll-ups
  • Annie’s cheddar crackers
  • mixed berries and nectarine
  • celery with peanut butter

slow cooker flank steak burrito bento

Contents in a Lunchbots Click (top) and Steeltainer (bottom):

  • slow cooker flank steak (recipe here)
  • cabbage strips
  • baby carrots
  • apple
  • Horizon organic milk

breakfast bagel bento

Contents in a Korean-brand stainless steel container (top) and a Steeltainer divided snack container (bottom):

  • egg and cheese bagel sandwich
  • avocado
  • rainbow carrots
  • apple slices

hard boiled eggs snack bento

Contents in the upper tier of a Komax bento:

  • hard-boiled egg with paprika
  • raw yellow squash with avocado
  • nectarines with raspberries
  • Vita Coco flavored coconut water (LOVE this, since it’s only 8g of sugar vs. 20-something of most juice boxes!)

 

turkey rollups bento

Contents in an ECOLunchbox:

  • turkey tortilla rollups with spinach tortilla, turkey, cheddar, mashed avocado, and baby spinach
  • purple carrots
  • apple
  • cantaloupe
  • trail mix cookies from Trader Joe’s (addicting)

 

So there you have it. I survived, my kids survived, and we only have about 38 more weeks of this to go! If you’ve been packing lunch, I’d love to hear what’s been going in your kid’s lunchbox.

Bento 101: Organization

August 21, 2014

So you’ve settled on a bento box, picked out your cute accessories, and now… have to store them all somewhere.

I know the feeling.

For the better part of the year, I had all the little things crammed into a box, and my growing container collection hanging out wherever it wanted to. Some on my dishrack. Some in my corner cabinet. Some lids (omg, all the lids) playing hide-and-seek behind the flour jar.

Yesterday, I decided that if I wanted to survive this school year, I’d better get my act together. So this is what I came up with:

bento organization accessories

TOP LEFT:  plastic cutters in a Container Store accessory box
BOTTOM LEFT: silicone cups and plastic sauce cups, also in a Container Store accessory box
TOP RIGHT: assorted fondant and mini cutters (Duff and Wilton brands) in an old lock n lock bento container
MIDDLE RIGHT: more fondant cutters in an old bento container
BOTTOM RIGHT: picks, nori punches, mini sauce containers, lunchskins reusable snack bags, and lunchbox love notes  in an old lock n lock container

Then came the task of putting the tools and all my containers within the same zip code. It took a bit of rearranging, but I think I’ve come up with a pretty sustainable solution:

bento organization cabinets

Now, listen: I have no organizational prowess whatsoever. There are reasons why I don’t post any pictures of my home here. So if I can do it, you surely can, too. It would be nice if I could group the plastics and stainless steels, but I’ll take it.

Here is the accessory box, at a very affordable $1.79:

The Container Store accessory box

And some other strong candidates I see after browsing The Container Store:

two-sided compartment box, (double the storage!) $1.99-$2.99, great for picks and small cutters:

Container Store Two Sided Compartment Box

 

large compartment boxes, $3.99-$4.99:

Container Store Large Compartment Boxes

 

Translucent Hobby Case, $16.99 (love that it’s an all-in-one. Might get these for the kids’ homework tools):

Container Store Hobby Case

Anything from the Smart Store system, since it’s totally customizable: The Container Store Smart Store System

I’m sure the dollar stores would have something similar, and Michael’s and Joann’s with their ubiquitous 40% off coupons are always a good bet. Whatever you decide, go with what works for you and your needs, and in the spirit of bento, clean and simple.