Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympic Lunch

Several weeks ago, The Bento Blogger Friends brought up the idea of doing an Olympic themed blog hop for the day of the opening ceremonies and I jumped right in.  We love the Olympics at our house.  Be sure to click on the Olympics Blog Hop link at the bottom to hop along with us.

8 year ago, we had a brand new baby that was up all hours of the night.  The one good thing about being up in the middle of the night was that the Olympics were live on TV.  That baby was Molly and boy how times have really changed for us since then.  

The kids have been swimming all summer and can't wait to see the swimmers.  We are all excited to watch the running, gymnastics and soccer.  The Olympics are so fantastic because they show the kids that they should get moving.  Also, they prove that if you work hard enough, you can accomplish incredible feats.  
Our main entrée is an all American ham and cheese sandwich.  We used our cookie cutters to cut out a 26.2, the length of a marathon.  We are long distance running fans at our house and are giddy with anticipation to see these amazing athletes accomplish what we can only dream about doing.

Our vegetable side is carrot barbells.  We used thin pretzel sticks for our bars and then carrot slices for the weights.  The weight lifting competition is an anomaly to us.  Those men and women are simply awesome.  The fact that they can lift double their own weight or more is so impressive.  

Our fruit side is an apple and blueberry soccer ball with some watermelon stars.  We cut an apple in half, cored it and took the skin off.  Then, we cut some large blueberries into pentagons, cut them in half and used them to create our soccer ball.  Finally, we used our food safe marker to make the stitching on the soccer ball.  We like the "world flavor" that soccer/football brings to the games.  It is one of those sports that speaks to the nations in one language.  The watermelon stars are for all of the Olympic athletes because no matter how far they go from here, they have gotten further than most already and are big stars in our opinion.

Finally, our dairy/dessert is our favorite Chobani Champions Vanilla Chocolate Chunk Greek yogurt.  We didn’t need to do anything to this side to match our theme because Chobani Champions is a proud sponsor of the United States Olympic Team.  The branding on the top of the yogurt container worked perfectly.  We just want to say, Way To Go Chobani Champions for being an Olympic sponsor!

We added a few sports rings to the top of our lunch box in the colors of the Olympic rings.  These may show up in other lunches in the future.  They are so fun!

We are so thrilled to watch history being made on the television.  GO TEAM USA!  Click here for the full Olympic website.  

Now, please join Karen at What’s in Mom’s Lunch Bag for her take on the Olympic theme.  She’s going for more of a London theme in honor of the host city.  Plus, she’s incorporating one of our absolute favorite TV shows.  You can’t miss it!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Back to School Lunch Essentials List

It’s that time of year again.  The store shelves are lined with back packs, pencils, crayons, paper and tons of back to school accessories.  Let’s not forget about lunch though.  There are lots of things available to make your child’s (or your) lunch fun and healthy.  *I’ve included several links and some discount codes within this post.*

1.      The Lunch Box
We have been using the Laptop LunchesLunch Box for the last few years.  It is a great system and although it seems a bit pricey, this is our third year using the same one and we’re still going strong.
*I would recommend any of the 2.0 Kits or Systems by Laptop Lunches. 
*I would also recommend getting a set of Bento Buddies so that you would have the option of a large container and a couple of the smaller ones in case one was in use or dirty.
*I would recommend the Laptop Lunches plastic drink bottles.  We’ve never had any leak problems with them.

My Bento Blogger Friends also can’t say enough good things about Easy Lunch Boxes.  They are BPA free, light weight and dishwasher/microwave safe.  We can’t wait to try them.
*They also have a carrier that keeps lunches cold and it is easy to clean.
*There are 4 boxes in each set so you’ll have one ready without having to run the dishwasher every day.  (We pretty much do anyway though. J)
*They are now going to be carrying Mini Dippers so that you can have a leak proof small container to put in your Easy Lunch Box for dips and salad dressings. Plus, we’ve heard a rumor about another leak proof small container to hold things like applesauce, yogurt and cottage cheese.
****UPDATE****  We LOVE our Easy Lunch Boxes and use them so often that they are always in the dishwasher.  They are great for leftovers for grown ups and lunches for kids.

2.      The Drink Container/Thermos
As I mentioned above, we’ve had great luck with the Laptop Lunches plastic drink container and would highly recommend it.

We have a Thermos drink holder with a straw.  Molly takes that to use in the classroom when she has a cough or if it’s really hot.  (With the teacher’s permission, of course.)

We also have a Thermos food jar for warm foods like soups and pastas.  These stay warm from the time we load them in the morning until lunch time. (*note: we fill the Thermos container with hot water while microwaving the food that will go into it.  Then, we dump the water and fill the Thermos with the food.  It seems to help with keeping things warm.)

3.      Keeping It Cool
We’ve been asked by several readers how we keep Molly’s lunch cold during the hot months of school.  It’s pretty easy with the Laptop Lunch Box because there is a small pouch in the carrier that can hold an ice pack.  There is also room in the Easy Lunch Box carrier so that the ice pack is right on top of the lid and keeps the food cold.  We’ve used the blue gel kind and also ones that look like ice cubes.  The biggest thing is to get something that lies rather flat.  Molly is in charge of putting her ice pack in her lunch in the morning and putting it in the freezer when she gets home.

4.      The Fun Stuff
We are lucky enough to have an amazing bake shop very close to our house and they have a great supply of cookie cutters and cupcake picks.  Our kids will eat more of something if it is cut out in cute shapes and decorated.  If you don’t have a place like this near you, check out your local craft store or the internet.  We have purchased a lot of things from AllThings For Sale
Here’s a list of our recommendations:
            *Cookie cutters for sandwiches.
            *Mini or micro cookie cutters for fruits, vegetables and other produce or sandwiches.
            *Silicone cupcake liners. They are nice for separating foods.
            *Cupcake picks, food safe rings or bento utensils.
            *Food safe markers
            *Sprinkles (dye free if your child is sensitive)
            *Lunch notes (available at Lunch Box Love or you can hand write them) (ps - use coupon
              code MOLLY to save 15% off Lunch Box Love Notes)
            *Cloth napkins
            *A container to put everything in (it’s important to be organized so that you can make 
              your lunches quickly and easily)

5.      A Plan
We try to write out a weekly menu but sometimes that becomes difficult when we get busy.  We usually look at the grocery store ads and start there so that we know what is on sale and what we have on hand.  If that seems like too much, there is a website called MOMables that does it all for you and even includes recipes and a shopping list.  We’ve used it and have had wonderful results.  They even have sample menus on their site to see if it would suit you.  *Stay tuned for a MOMables giveaway within the next few days!*

Theme lunches can be fun too.  We will look at our cookie cutters or cupcake/bento picks and go from there or look at the school calendar for inspiration. (ie: yellow day or Dr. Seuss’s Birthday)  We also look at the school lunch calendar just to see if we can make something similar but healthier. (ie: pizza or chicken nuggets)

6.      The Food
Like I said, we usually have a plan but there are some staples that are always good to have on hand.
            *Natural peanut butter/Sunflower Seed Butter
            *Low sugar jam/jelly/preserves
            *Whole grain or gluten free bread
            *Hard Boiled Eggs
            *Yogurt/Greek Yogurt (We like Chobani Champions)
            *Cheese sticks or Babybel Cheese
            *Cooked whole grain pasta (for pasta salad or to heat up with sauce)
            *Bagged salad
            *Baby carrots
            *Frozen or canned vegetables
            *Apples (we like MacIntosh or Empire because they don’t brown as quickly)
            *Fresh fruits and vegetables that your kids like (we usually have berries, peppers and 
              cucumbers in our refrigerator at all times)

Feel free to ask any questions below and have a great new school year! ☺