"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Friday, April 27, 2012

Go Green! Lunchbox Review

Here is our lunch from today:

Wheat free.  Apples, carrots, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, malt-sweetened chocolate chips, and 2 different granola bars, 1 raw and grain-free and 1 soaked oat.

I've been awfully distracted from our Bento boxes this week. We made a visit to the allergist this week and cofirmed a number of suspect allergies. Including wheat. Sigh. We're going back to test kamut and spelt because lately we've gotten really good at making no-knead bread!

By far, though, we have enjoyed our Go Green! Lunchbox more than any of our other bento boxes.  You can see the specs on this uber-cool lunchbox at:


It holds a lot of food.  A lot.  If I fill it full, only Isaiah, on a reeeeeeally hungry day, can eat it all.  This is good.  That's exactly what I need in a bento box.  My kiddos will be heading off to summer dance intensives in June and those will be some seriously hungry days for them.

 My favorite feature on this box is the drink section.  If I was using the box, 6 months preggo, or packing it for my husband, I could use it for more food.  As it is, for the kids, it is very nice for everything to be held in one, single-piece tray.  Eating lunch in the car or on a bench makes things tricky, and this simplifies it for little people a lot.

For a smaller lunch, a cloth napkin and silverware fit very nicely in the lower left well. 

The bottle only holds 9 ounces, but the design is great, and my kids fight over it constantly.  I like it better than most sippy cups, and for a stainless steel beverage bottle, it is very inexpensive.  It also doesn't give even a bit of metal taste to the water.  I'm really sensitive and I find that water from many stainless steel bottles eventually bothers my teeth.

Anyway, we give our Go Green!  two big thumbs up and the kids can't wait till we get some more.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hey, what's for lunch?

I was certain this would be a good month to 'practice' with making lunches... getting ready for summer camp!  But instead, I have actually spent most of the last couple weeks dealing with some news from our allergist.  My little darlin', John Paul, has had a very tough spring.  His allergies have been nuts. 

Apparently our area is one of the worst in the country for pollens, which exacerbates food sensitivities. 

I almost ran screaming from the room when I heard the words "rotation diet." 

So, much of my 'food energy' has been sapped learning about food families and puzzle-piecing menus together.  I've been more concerned with just making sure there's food to eat over worrying about presentation!

Nevertheless, tomorrow I will be putting up my review of the Go Green! Lunchbox:


And on Saturday I will be putting up a review on our BEABA food trays and snack pod:


And don't forget to leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for some fun bento tools.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Strewsday Tuesday: Hunting for Heffalumps

My little people have been calling our canyon the Hundred Acre Wood. Ed and I find Winnie the Pooh awfully annoying, sorry Mr. Milne, but all three kids love the stories. (We found a whole bunch of vintage A.A. Milne in a free box once at a used book sale, before both of us had decided we're not big fans of The Bear.)

"Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?"
-Winnie the Pooh

Anyway, Isaiah discovered a canyon that connects to ours at a sharp angle, with a somewhat hidden entrance, which he christened Heffalump Hollow. He reeeeally wanted us all to take a visit, so we went early this morning.

"I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life's realities."
-Theodore Geisel (Dr. Suess)

John Paul was really looking for elephants and vacillated between excitement and terror.

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."
-George Smith Patton, War as I Knew It, 1947

When we found the Hollow, Isaiah proceeded to take us down a nearly sheer rock face and John Paul and I nearly tumbled to our deaths. I was already a bit cross and I really grumbled it up then. (Rock climbing in volcanic dirt is not the favorite activity of most 6-month-pregnant ladies.) We made it safely back up the rocks and I insisted Isaiah find a safer way in for us all.

"You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus."
-Mark Twain

It didn't exist.

"Personally, I would sooner have written Alice in Wonderland than the whole Encyclopedia Britannica."
-Stephen Leacock

So I sat in the shade on the edge while the three of them scrambled about. It was a beautiful hidden place, quite wet from a recent rain.

"Trust that little voice in your head that says "Wouldn't it be interesting if..." And then do it."
-Duane Michals, "More Joy of Photography"

Our little adventure segued into a botany lesson when I realized I was sitting near several green patches, any of which might have been poison ivy, only I couldn't quite recall what it looks like....

"Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."
-G.K. Chesterton

So the hunt was cut short and we booked it home. I stripped everyone and started the washer (extra soap, hot water!) and we all showered, in hot water, with plenty of lavender castile soap. Then we all looked on the computer and we decided not only did we see poison ivy on our hike, but actually our canyon has been full of it for weeks.


Maybe it's a good look-alike, but our pediatrician did warn us recently that our particular canyon tends to be full of it during the spring. Maybe we have a natural immunity or something! I know we do to poison sumac, which grew THICKly in our old yard. Our neighbors were deathly allergic but we found it excellent for crafts, all those nice bendable stalks!

"The hardest thing about reality is returning to it after an hour inside your child's mind."
-Robert Brault, www.robertbrault.com

I think I'll let the children go back to lizard hunting and observation, which has been a favorite activity this week. Most are docile but their most recent catch was an angry biter. Both Rosie and Isaiah were covered with suction-bite marks (they don't actually have teeth) and they mostly deserved it! Better harmless lizard bites than a family outbreak of poison ivy, I'd say.

"I never did very well in math - I could never seem to persuade the teacher that I hadn't meant my answers literally."
-Calvin Trillin

We're all designing some woodworking plans this week, which is great because it involves a lot of math. Isaiah really enjoys math when it results in tangible THINGS, like a new train table. Ours is decades old and has been repaired many times, but it's on its last leg. So when Ed found a bunch of nice waste pine at work, we decided that would be our next family wood project. (All three of our kids play with their wooden train set every day, hours if it is raining.)

"You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea."
-Pablo Picasso

Anyway, several hours have passed and no one is complaining of itchiness, so that's a positive. Hope you and your little people have a great week!

"Whoever wants to understand much must play much."
-Gottfried Benn

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tips for Picky Eaters

I learned a lot about feeding picky eaters from my grandmother. When my oldest was a toddler, she would cut his food up into tiny bites, put it on a dessert plate and stick some toothpicks into some of the pieces. It never failed to amaze me how much more he enjoyed eating with little helps like that.

Over the years I have developed a set of strategies to use with my picky eaters. (My children tend to be pickiest when their allergies are acting up, most notably hay season in the fall and early blooming season in the spring.)

-Problem foods don't live here. For my kids, that means store-bought crackers never come home in our shopping bags. For other children it might mean a long fast from cheese or cow's milk... I know some kids who will literally scream for cheese or milk when other foods are served. These foods might be allowed away from home, when eating with friends. But since the bulk of anyone's eating happens at home, simply excluding 'addictive' foods from your kitchen can be really helpful in avoiding fights over them.

(Is this cruel? That's what many people think. But I don't think so. When my kids ask for crackers I don't say "no," I say, "we don't have any." No yelling, no bickering. And generally kids will eat when they get hungry. I don't think it hurts a child to refuse to eat while figuring out that mom really means there's no cheese in the house.

-Reasonable portioning. When our oldest was a toddler, my husband thought he didn't eat enough. We were putting food on a dinner plate for him and my husband would get upset when he didn't finish. I started serving his food in small portions on a dessert plate and then he would ask for seconds! Don't serve food to little people on big people plates. Use salad plates for 5 or 6-12 year olds; dessert plates for 1-4 or 5 year olds.

Portions for children: If you serve yourself 1 cup of raw carrots, serve 1/4 cup to small children. If you eat a whole pb&j, maybe serve your child 1/4 to 1/2 a sandwich. They will always ask for seconds if they want more! For instance, the newest dietary recommendations for a 2-3 year old: 3 ounces grains (1/2c rice, 1/2c oatmeal, 1 slice bread), 16 ounces milk (or equivalent dairy), 2 ounces meat (1 egg and 1Tablespoon pb), 1c fruit, 1c veggies, and 3t fat (butter, salad dressing, etc). This is not that much food. You add extra servings for extra-active kids, like mine!!!

-Always let the child shop with you. Even if your child is a terror in the grocery store! Take him or her and let him or her choose a couple bright fruits and veggies to try. If your child screams for cookies when walking down that aisle, it may need to be an extra trip you take with your children, after the basic shopping is done. Go straight to the produce and only shop there. But I'd rather put in this type of positive effort than fight at the table, myslef. It's about teaching lifelong habits and developing good health habits, too. Hassle? Yes. Worth the work? Yes.

-Make food fun. Tiny bites, eating with toothpicks or chopsticks, using an icecube tray or other snack tray like this trayfor individual bits of food, cookie cutters in your child's favorite shapes, and the like seem time-consuming and annoying, but it pays off.

is not a bento box, but a baby-food storage tray. We have repurposed it into an AWESOME nibble tray/ toddler bento box. It is made by the company BEABA and I'll be doing a full review next week. (It's lid is water tight!)

Hobby Lobby usually has sturdy cutters for 50 cents or a dollar. Let your picky eaters each choose a couple, for apple slices, sandwiches, cucumber, etc. Also, Amazon sells this setof super-fun shape cutters great for bananas, zucchini, carrots, apples, you name it.

-Let yourself and your children get hungry. Again, some mamas think this is 'mean,' but I totally disagree, and this comes from a very gentle-discipline sort of mother. Go to the park or take a loooong walk with a big water bottle, but no snacks, while your lentil casserole cooks in the crock pot. It is AMAZING how much better food tastes when you are REALLY hungry!

-Let the children 'cook.' Here is Rosie sprinkling "cheese" (nutritional yeast)
on her homemade personal pizza. She rolled the bread dough out, spread the sauce and ground beef, and after cooking decorated it with "cheese." She ate every bite! Your little person might like to cut lettuce with scissors for the salad, sprinkle nuts or seeds on the oatmeal, use cookie cutters on their sandwiches or toast, etc. Have them stir the ingredients into the granola, push the buttons on the blender, anything they want to help with!

(I recently purchased John Paul a set of train silverware for his meals because we're low on kid forks and he loves them. Silly things like this really help a 2 year old try new foods, in my experience.)

I'd love to hear YOUR tricks for picky eaters! Leave a comment and get entered in the drawing for some fun lunch tools at the end of April.

"How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?"
-Paul Sweeney

Friday, April 20, 2012

More Lunches and Another Great Box

OK, after a wild and wooly week, I've got more bento pictures and ideas for you.

This is another kid's lunchbox called the Go Green! Lunchbox, with a typical BreadwithHoney lunch inside:
You can read more about the Go Green! Lunchbox at this dandy cut-and-paste link:
and I'll be doing an in-depth review of it next week.

If you can't tell from the picture, this lunchbox holds A LOT of food.

Lunch in Go Green:

Same lunch in the ECOLunchbox:

The Go Green also makes a great way to take snacks for all of us on an outing. Here it is packed with hike snacks for four:

Anyhoo, weather is great, bread is rising, and I've got a lot to do! So enjoy these self-explanatory bento pics:

Wasn't that fun?

"It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!"
-Mark Twain

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Strewsday Tuesday: Where Have You Been?

Between stress and the recurrence of morning sickness, it's been, may I say, a bad week.

I knew this would be a stressful month, and I thought bentos would be a nice distraction for me. However, instead I've been focusing very intently on my little people. And staying off the internet.

"When the student is ready, the master appears."
~Buddhist Proverb

Sometimes the internet is a helpful diversion and sometimetimes it feeds stress.

Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every conceived notion, follow humbly wherever and whatever abysses nature leads, or you will learn nothing.
~Thomas Huxley

This week we've been back in the swing of making all our own bread. We don't eat a ton of bread, as I avoid wheat in our menu at both breakfast and dinner, but even so, it requires quite a bit of bread to get us through the week. The children LOVE making it. And there's a lot of math and science in breadbaking. Not to mention economics, as it saves us a pretty penny... since the only stuff I will buy costs between $3.50 and $4.50 a loaf. Ouch!

"I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught." ~Winston Churchill

More time in the the canyons and the parks. Rosie wants to learn the name of every flowering thing she sees, and Isaiah wants to learn the name of every rock and pebble. Need to aquire a few more nature guides!

"We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself."
~Lloyd Alexander

(Don't know Lloyd Alexander??? We adore him around here. Best read-alouds ever. And as a bonus, Dad or Mom will want just one more chapter, too.)

Isaiah continues his blog of drawings at www.isaiahsimages.blogspot.com. It's fun to see him so motivated. In addition, he's chosen to start a journal in which he writes every day. I find when projects like this are internally motivated, the outcome is far more exciting and 'educational' than when I plan and asign them. Sometimes it just takes a little person being ready, then finding the spark of inspiration. In this case, it was Eustace from Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

"The one real object of education is to have a man in the condition of continually asking questions."
-Bishop Mandell Creighton

John Paul is into my belly- a lot. He talks to the baby and about the baby constantly. "Hold the baby. Kiss the baby. Come out baby." We have a particularly nice book of unborn baby photos we all look at frequently. Does that make it more real to him? Lots of age-appropriate discussion of human anatomy and how babies get born.

"I prefer the company of peasants because they have not been educated sufficiently to reason incorrectly."
~Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

And, I think I have mastered my own granola recipe. It invovles soaking or sprouting several of the ingredients, then mixing, then almost dehydrating in the oven at 170 for 12 hours. Involved, yes, but SO worth it. I'm planning to post it, as well as our bread recipe and a couple other things I've been working on (while I was supposed to be making bento box lunches, right?). If cooking and nutrition were on the SAT, I teel ya' my kids would get full-rides to Yale and Harvard.

"We seem to be going through a period of nostalgia, and everyone seems to think yesterday was better than today. I don't think it was, and I would advise you not to wait ten years before admitting today was great. If you're hung up on nostalgia, pretend today is yesterday and just go out and have one hell of a time."
~Art Buchwald

And that is a little snippet of our week in review.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Here are some pictures of just some of the helpful things in this month's lunchbox giveaway:

ECOLunchbox Furoshikis
What are these for? They are like origami lunchboxes. They include directions for tying up your lunch or snack and after you've eaten, they take up virtually zero space in your bag. And you can use 'em as a placemat, too! Isaiah is upset we are giving these away. He likes to tie up bundles hobo style to carry into the woods, and he declares these work WAY better than bandanas.

Fun bento tools
The blue thingy is a sandwich cutter. It makes 2 dolphins and a heart. Works well on most bread but not so great on Ezekiel bread or homemade spelt/kamut bread... we promise! Normal bread? Yes. The white thingy is a rice press. Awesome for making onigiri. Oni-what?

Onigiri are really yummy homemade rice balls, eaten room temperature. Why haven't you seen any in my kids' bento lunches? Because sadly, their Latino blood makes it impossible for them to enjoy cold rice. (Apparently- "Hot, mama! Make hot!") I highly recommend Googling recipes for onigiri (personally I love the recipes including sesame seeds). Great way to use up leftover rice, too!

I've also got a couple other things that belong in this drawing but Amazon had a mix-up and the other items should be here any day. Because what bento giveaway would be complete without a rabbit egg mold?

You wouldn't believe the difference some of these dorky little tools will make for picky eaters. It's amazing. Especially helpful if you are just beginning a transition to healthier lunch fare.

So leave a comment and you'll be entered into the drawing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Product Review: ECOlunchboxes Three-in-One

ECOLunchboxes is an amazing company. The more I read about them the more impressed I am. Their Three-in-One Lunchbox is a perfect choice for the 'natural materials' purist. It is by far the least expensive stainless steel bento box I've seen available in the States.

At first, I thought it was just too small to hold the hearty lunches my little people and I need after a long morning of activities. Maybe big enough after a morning of snuggling up with read-alouds....

But on the contrary, because a bento box is designed to be packed tightly, even a pretty darn hearty lunch fits just fine in here. (In fact, one day I stuffed it and Isaiah couldn't finish.)

Besides the obvious drawback of being unable to go in the microwave, here's my biggest beef with this cool contraption:
Not that it's just this box... I've yet to find a bento-style box that fits a whole sandwich! Not that big a deal to the kids, actually, as they usually prefer their sandwiches cut in pieces. But for an adult lunch, it would be nice not to HAVE to cut it up.

My much smaller beef is that contrary to pics I've seen on the internet, the separate small container does NOT fit on one side of the container, but only fits down the middle... a very small quibble, just gets on on of my very few OCD nerves. It usually works fine since I usually serve more than two sides for lunch.

My third beef is just that it doesn't work too well for a lap lunch with the 2 separate containers and sometimes we have to eat in the car, as hard as I try to avoid it. It doesn't bother Isaiah, though. He says he loves it.

That little box that nests in the upper container is my favorite part. It doesn't have a plastic or silicone gasket of any kind, but it closes snugly and is almost water-tight. I wouldn't actually put water in it, but so far not even really juicy fruit has leaked out of it. I'd like a few more of just this little box for carrying snacks in my purse, and they do sell it by itself.

Overall, I give this lunchbox 2 thumbs up. I made the unfortunate discovery that ECOlunchboxes also makes some stainless steel divided plates, which I am now coveting for lunches and snacks at home, specially when we eat outside on the cement patio. Oh, and as a tip for many of you who use them, many of ECOlunchboxes' products are available through Frontier Co-op- wink-wink-nudge-nudge- at very nice prices.

Ecolunchboxes also sent me 2 of their beautiful Furoshiki lunch wraps to try out, AND GIVE AWAY!!! (The other part of the giveaway is a set of bento tools which I will show you soon.) I don't have a picture at the moment because in addition to making lunch today, I hit all the grocery sales, made a triple batch of granola, a quadruple batch of soaked bread dough, and continued to build a whole baby from scratch. And I'm really. Really. REALLY. tired. So I'll give you a pic of the gorgeous Furoshikis tomorrow, pinky promise.

I'll pack more of our lunches in the Ecolunchbox as April progresses, but I also have a couple other neat-o bento boxes to show you, so stay tuned for those, too.

"Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life!"
-Albert Einstein

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What's for Lunch??

I have a pretty limited lunch repertoire, to be honest. Yes, our diets need variety, but on the other hand, we mothers need sanity. And though I love food, sometimes it makes me nearly hyperventilate to start another meal juuuuuust as I finish cleaning up breakfast! So as long as lunch is healthy and whole food, there’s no need to stress, in my opinion, if raw carrots are the lunch veggie of choice for days on end. And some kids really like routine. Mine do. ( If I try to serve something other than oatmeal for breakfast Monday through Friday, the frowns are very serious.)

In fact, in addition to eating oats EVERY MORNING for breakfast, they would be happy to eat pb&j for lunch EVERY DAY. However, I don’t think peanuts, even organic ones, and wheat, even organic wheat, need to be on the menu every day. So I reaaaaally try to stay out of the lunch rut. I definitely need a few easy lunches. Ok, at least more than 1!!!

So here’s my list of easy lunches that work well as lunch-on-the-go or lunch at home around the table:

-PB&J on whole grain bread (organic pb with no sugar or oil added, no-sugar added fruit spread or raw honey or sliced banana) with raw veggie of choice (cucumber and carrot are our faves) and fruit

-Hot dog octopuses (organic, grass-fed, uncured hot dogs, Applegate Farms is the best) with onigiri (rice balls, a traditional Japanese lunch food) and veggie of choice (edamame, cucumber, carrot, broccoli) and fruit

-Hummus with wasa or other whole grain cracker, veggies and fruit

-Ham roses (uncured chemical-free variety, of course) on a bed of spinach, ranch for dipping, fruit and crackers

-Tuna salad (my kids have a love-hate relationship with tuna salad…) with crackers or toast, fruit and veggie

-Marinated tofu with bread 'n butter, fruits and veggies

Fillers: a few raw nuts, a scoop of granola, some raisins or dried papaya, a single dark chocolate

That gets you through a whole week of cold lunches! That’s pretty good, in my opinion. Lots of weeks we will have soup or leftovers for a lunch, so not all of these lunches get made every week. And like I said, some weeks we have the old PB&J more than once!

Here is my kids other favorite lunch, the hot dog octopus lunch (see how nicely that allows you to avoid nasty old hot dog buns?), from a plate to the ECOlunchboxes Three-in-One lunch box:
(That’s a big lunch for little people who’ve been running in the canyon all morning!)
The ECOlunchbox didn’t look big enough to hold it all, but it did.

To make the hot dog octopuses, cut each dog in half, then make (2) 1" slits up from the cut end. Boil in water for 5 minutes and the tentacles will curl right up! At this point a Japanese mother would deocrate the octopuses with eyes and such... but for this lazy American mama, the sea creatures are straight-up done at this point.

Come back tomorrow for a full review of the ECOlunchboxes Three-in-One lunch cube.

"Above all, the child must be well-fed."
-Charlotte Mason

Monday, April 9, 2012


What's a bento? Bento (technically o-bento) is the Japanese art of the box lunch. And it's really an art!

A few years ago bento was all the rage, but foodie fads come and go like fashion fads. Things sorta moved to the raw rage as bento rage faded....

But bento is awesome. The reason I like to make bento lunches is you get a visual of whether or not your meal is balanced and complete. Bento box meals should be visually appealing, and mamas in Japan spend hours making them so.

Naturally, I will not be showing you how to spend a LOT of time making bento meals, instead I will be sharing my tips for how to make them using the absolute minimum of time, effort, and tools. Lots of tools used to make fun-shaped food can be a boon to the mother of a picky eater, but a knife and some ingenuity is all you really need.

A bento meal is usually 4 parts starch, 3 parts protein, 2 parts veggie, and 1 part sweet. (However, I have seen these ratios varied depending on the source.) And ideally they include something green, something yellow, and something red. (No, fd&c # anything doesn't count!)

In Japan, you can find a whole host of amazing boxes, trays, and do-hickeys to tote your bento lunch. (In India, the tiffin is a very similar lunch-carrying box.) Here in the States you won't find so much variety, but many companies are jumping on the green bandwagon and offering lunch sets that will do nicely for a bento lunchbox.

In the end, though, it's not the box, it's the food that should steal the lunch-time show... so even a rectangular Rubbermaid container is fine. Traditionally the divisions between food were made with more food- thinly sliced cucumber, strips of seaweed (YUMMM), leaves of lettuce, and the like. These days you can buy little plastic sheets of 'grass' to separate food and even more recently, companies have been making really fun bento-style boxes with divided wells. These keep foods separate, which is uber important for some picky kids (and adults).

I'm "practicing" making lunches so when summer and summer camp season hits, I'll be an expert! Also because we are SO busy these days with life, plus packing and baby nesting, that lunch so easily gets shuffled to the side (go make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!). And my small people really need a good sit-down lunch every day. We all do!

A few wonderful green companies have given me samples of bento boxes and bento helpers for me to review- and give away!- this month. ECOlunchboxes, Go Green Lunchboxes, and Beaba baby products have all sent some very cool things.

At the end of April, I will draw from followers who have left comments for a set of bento tools (sandwich cutter, veggie cutters, egg molds, and rice mold), and also a furoshiki snack wrap from ECOlunchboxes!

Here's an all-day bento meal for a really hungry pregnant mom and her thieving brood of little people:

"A daydream is a meal at which images are eaten. Some of us are gourmets, some gourmands, and a good many take their images precooked out of a can and swallow them down whole, absent-mindedly and with little relish."
-W.H. Auden

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


I really do have an April theme and giveaway!!! But I forgot this week is Holy Week, so I am taking the week off for prayer, fasting, and celebration.

Have a blessed week and I'll be back- finally- with the details on Monday.