Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fall Bento

I really like to "plan" a bento box, but I didn't have time for that this morning.  Our little man has school and gymnastics today, so he needed enough to have a substantial snack in addition to lunch.
The red and yellow containers interlock. They belong to different sets, but since they are both fall colors and the theme is "fall", I thought it appropriate.
The red container has 3 full-size silicone baking cups. The first holds carrots and a fruit leather pumpkin.  The second holds fruit bites and a headstone.  The third holds banana chips and a witch's hat.  I added the detail to each piece of fruit leather with a toothpick.
There's an "Aussie apple" and a small container of peanut butter.  No, it's not the usual organic, but it works for me in a pinch.  The Aussie apple is an apple that's cut and put back together with a rubber band to keep it from browning.  That means no need to soak them in lemon juice!
The dish on the left holds ranch for the carrots.  (I was in too big of a hurry to find the condiment container that's smaller.)
The yellow container holds 3 pieces of homemade cinnamon almond "bat" bread and a mini-silicone container of raspberry yogurt covered pretzels.
I know our little guy was excited.  I try to keep his lunches a surprise, but he was peering up on the countertop this morning at what cutters were left out on the cutting board.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Girl's Room Makeover

I've been working on a room-makeover for a 6 year old girl.  Her favorite color *was* purple.  She wants blue and brown for the makeover, and I'm creating something that should be able to grow with her.  (This will be the 3rd "room" she's had since she was born.)  I'll start with some Before pictures. 
You'll have to stay tuned to see the room as it comes together.  We made quite a bit of progress over the last week. More pictures coming soon!


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Amish Friendship Bread

I received an Amish Friendship Bread starter about a month ago. The first time around, I baked all of it except for one starter to take with me to a big family gathering. I did cinnamon oil with cinnamon chips, espresso, devils food with chocolate chips, and lemon.  This time, I used vanilla pudding mix and added extra vanilla, a little almond extract and some cinnamon.  I baked 2 instead of 1 of them.  Not everyone wants to bake consistently, but many of my friends and neighbors enjoy fresh bread! I give away fewer starters, but it doesn't require much more effort to have a fresh "gift" for friends.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fish or Flowers?

This bento is conflicted.  The tall side is fish and the short side is floral.
Goldfish, PB & J with a fruit leather scene, mandarin orange and cherry flowers, tomato skewer, apple with a flower.  The apple was done with a cookie cutter.  I cut the peel with the cookie cutter and removed the apple peel with a knife.  Easy and cute.  I wrapped the whole thing with fish bento bands from All Things for Sale.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Orange Pecan Stuffed French Toast

Are you looking for something *different* for your weekend breakfast.  We have some "standard" breakfast menus at our house that we love, but sometimes, I want something special.  This is one of our family's favorite breakfast treats.

(perfect for breakfast in bed!)
Filling:                                                    Batter:
1 pkg (8oz) cream cheese                  4 eggs, beaten
1/3 C sugar                                           1 t vanilla extract
1/3 C toasted, chopped pecans        ¼ C milk
1 T orange zest                                    
1 large loaf french bread

2 T butter for the pan (not for the batter)

Blend the cream cheese , nuts, sugar, and 1 T orange zest in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.  Cut the French bread loaf into 1 inch slices.  Then, cut each slice again 2/3 through to form a pocket with a hinge of bread at the bottom.  Place a spoonful of cream cheese mixture into each bread pocket and lightly press to close around the filling.  Set aside.

Whip eggs in a medium glass bowl with a fork, and then add vanilla and milk.  Stir again.  Pour the egg mixture into a shallow dish or pie pan.  Briefly dip each filled bread pocket on both sides.

Heat a large pan over medium heat and melt the butter.  Place the bread in the pan and fry on both sides until golden brown; about 5 minutes.

1 C pure maple syrup
¼ C toasted chopped pecans
1 T orange zest

In a hot medium sized pan, add all 3 ingredients.  Heat until bubbling.  Remove from heat and pour on top of each French toast pocket.


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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Homemade Garlic Olive Oil

While my husband and I were in Temecula Valley wine country in California earlier this year, we were in a winery that had a bottle of extreme garlic olive oil.  It looked amazing. Amazing. However, it cost about $28 or more...for 12 oz.  I couldn't bring myself to buy it.  We bought a few bottles of wine from that winery, and 2 of them were truly gorgeous clear glass bottles.  So, my mission began.  I was determined to make my own olive oil and fill these bottles.  My first one was successful, my second was not, and I began scouring the internet for what to do and what not to do. 

Dawn's Homemade Garlic Olive Oil
3-5 heads of garlic
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1-2 C white vinegar
25 oz. bottle of light olive oil
Completely dry bottle for dispensing the oil.  (Do not use a paper towel to dry it out, because it can introduce bacteria.  Let it air dry completely.)
First, put 3-5 heads of garlic in white vinegar in an air tight container, and place it in the fridge over night.

Remove the heads of garlic and peel the cloves being careful not to introduce any water to them.  Yes, they will wreak of vinegar, but resist the temptation to rinse them.  Water can cause bacteria to grow which is why we soaked them in vinegar to begin with.  It will not compromise the flavor of your oil. 
Smash the garlic cloves with something flat (large knife blade will work.)
Coarsely chop the garlic.
Take 1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns and grind them.
Add the ground peppercorns and whole peppercorns to the garlic and light (not extra virgin) olive oil over medium low heat on the stove. The light olive oil can withstand higher cooking temperatures than extra virgin olive oil without ruining the oil or the food that you are cooking.  Many times, people use extra virgin olive oil not realizing that high temperatures actually change the properties of the oil and destroy some of the health benefits that it was chosen for in the first place.  In the end, you'll be much more willing to reach for this less expensive option and use it liberally as you begin to enjoy the wonderful flavors and cooking benefits it will offer.
Allow the mixture to cool only slightly before using a funnel to pour it into the oil dispenser of your choosing. I use the "fat" end of a chopstick to push the garlic bits through the funnel.
**I highly recommend having another set of hands to help you with this particular step. One to hold the bottle, one to hold the funnel (slightly up to allow air to flow freely), and one to hold the pan. The 4th may be required to gently scoop the garlic.**
Carefully seal the bottle, and clean the outside without getting water inside.
When you first seal it, the oil will look foggy.  That will clarify over time.  Yes, it's better to store this in the refrigerator, but I haven't had a problem using mine in a month's time, and it hasn't "gone bad" in that time.  I keep it right by the stove where it's in arm's reach!
As it begins to run low, you can heat some more light olive oil and add it directly to the bottle.  I usually add a tablespoon or two of prepared (jarred) minced garlic when I add to my existing bottle to keep the flavors full.  I only add to it once or twice before discarding the garlic and starting again from scratch.
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Going Bananas for Cars!

This Bento box was actually very simple.  I had grand visions, but it wouldn't all fit.  So basic it is!
Colby Jack cheese, deli turkey, cherry tomatoes, Ritz crackers, and my favorite...the BANANA!  How did I do it?  I "rocked" the car cookie cutter back and forth on the banana peel last night.  Just before bed, the outline was clearer, but I took the "wrong" end of a paintbrush and went over the outline, and it browned up perfectly by this morning.  I cut the banana this morning, and into the box it went.
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Monday, September 20, 2010

Dan Dan, Dawn Dawn Noodles

Are you looking for something that's easy to feed to a large group of people, but you're sick of lasagna and enchiladas?  Try this (and you can moderate the heat level and let people add their own at the table if needed.)

1 small jalapeño, minced**                 ¼ cup peanut oil                     
1 small garlic clove, halved                 ½ cup raw peanuts                  
One ¼-inch slice of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce                2 T water                                
1 ½ T rice vinegar                              1 T Sriracha chile sauce**       
1 T sugar                                           1 t Asian sesame oil
Kosher salt                       
12 ounces Asian wheat flour noodles (or linguine)
Grilled Chicken, sliced (*optional)
Cucumber matchsticks, sliced scallions, chopped cilantro, sesame seeds and lime halves, for garnish

In a large skillet, heat the peanut oil. Add the peanuts and fry over low to medium low heat until golden, about 8 minutes; let cool slightly. Transfer the peanuts and oil to a food processor. Add the jalapeño**, garlic and ginger and process until minced. Add the soy sauce, water, rice vinegar, Sriracha**, sugar and sesame oil and process until smooth. Season generously with salt. (**If preparing for children, omit the jalapeño and Sriracha, remove some of the sauce to set aside for children, and then add those two things in to the remaining sauce for the adults.)
In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the noodles until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water; pat dry. Toss the noodles with the dressing and mound in serving bowls; top with the garnishes and serve.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rainy Day Fish!

It's a very rainy day here, and appropriately, today's bento box is full of fish.  I asked my sweet little man last night to name a "thing."  He said, "Fish!"  I was thrilled, because I had been thinking "fish", but I wanted him to feel involved.  He asked what it was for, and I told him he would find out tomorrow.  Today, when he opens his lunch, he will find a fish shaped egg, Shark bite fruit treats, goldfish, and whale-shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
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