Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nutty Popcorn

My mom used to make "Nutty Popcorn" when we would go on trips.  It was a good snack that could provide fiber, protein, and satisfy a salty or sweet craving.  I've made a couple of additions to the recipe, but it's still a favorite.  I make this every time we go camping, and the bag always comes home empty.
12 C unsalted popped corn
1 C toasted whole almonds
1 C toasted pecan halves
½ C butter
½ C brown sugar
½ t vanilla powder (optional – this is Dawn’s addition)
½ t almond extract (optional – this is Dawn’s addition)
½ t salt

Combine popcorn and nuts. 
Melt butter. Stir in sugar, salt, vanilla powder and almond extract.  Cook about 30 seconds.
Pour over popcorn and stir.
Spread on jellyroll pan or cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes at 350 stirring once.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Pushing Up Daisies! Laptop Lunch Bento

Last time I did the "fingers and eyeballs", I did "sleeping with the fishes."  Today, it's "Pushing up Daisies."  After I took this picture, I realized that I hadn't put the headstone fruit leather over the pretzels and Cheez-Its, but the lunchbox was on it's way out of the door before I could grab the camera again.  I'm sure you get the idea even without it, but I wish I'd snapped a picture of it when it was complete.
This bento is in a Laptop Lunch box. (Coupon code "earleyfam" for 10% off AND a donation to area schools.)
The top left box holds cucumber discs that have the edges decoratively scraped, flower-shaped cucumber cut outs, halved cherub tomatoes, carrot slices, and ranch dressing dip. 
The top right container has grapes and "eyeballs" (peeled grapes.) 
The bottom left container has the turkey dog "fingers."  Directions can be found here.
The last container holds raspberry-yogurt-covered pretzels and white cheddar Cheez-Its (and a tombstone fruit leather cutout - not pictured.)

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sweet Potato Pecan Maple Bread Pudding

If that doesn't sound like autumn, then I don't know what does.  Maybe Apple Cider with Sweet Potato Pecan Maple Bread Pudding?  I ran across the recipe for the bread pudding on, and I filed it away to try when I could.
Today, I could.  I nixed the cranberries when I made it, because it seemed like it had "enough" already.  It's good.  It's sweet, as you would expect from bread pudding, but not disgustingly sweet as some can be.  I suppose you could add more maple syrup if it's not sweet enough for you. 
I would recommend pureeing the sweet potato as opposed to just mashing it.  A stringy bite of potato is not welcome when enjoying bread pudding. 

Sweet Potato Pecan Maple Bread Pudding
Adapted from

1 loaf cubed French or Challah bread (about 6 cups)
2 cups vanilla almond milk (or use heavy cream)
3 eggs
2 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes (I think pumpkin puree would also be good.)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup maple syrup
First, trim the sweet potatoes from any "ugly" marks.  Steam or wrap them in foil to bake until cooked through.  Remove the skin, and puree.
Preheat the oven to 375.  In one large bowl toss the bread cubes with the almond milk until everything is coated and moistened and set aside for about 30-60 minutes.
In another mixing bowl, beat the eggs and then add the sweet potato, brown sugar, spices, vanilla, and salt.
(I actually prefer slightly more cinnamon and vanilla.)
Mix well.  Try to smooth as many of the lumps of potato out as you can.  It really helps if the sweet potato is at room temp when you begin.  If you need to, puree them.  You don't want stringy lumps.
Now, add the cranberries (if you use them) and fold into the sweet potato mixture.
Add the cubed bread to the large bowl and fold together until all the cubes are coated.  Make sure you use the large bowl.  Then you can put the entire mixture into your greased baking dish (Butter is recommended, but cooking spray will work) and even out.
Top with handfuls of chopped pecans....
Now at this point you can cover and refrigerate and bake the next day if you want.  When you're ready to bake, pop the dish into your 375 degree oven for 40-50 minutes.  It should still be slightly creamy in the middle and the top slightly crunchy.  If you like it firmer, continue baking for another 10-15 mins.  While it's still warm, drizzle maple syrup generously (or honey!) all over the top, and let stand for at least 30 minutes.
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Friday, October 22, 2010

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

I have been intending to make pumpkin muffins for about 3 days now.  This morning, I was determined to make them despite the madness in our home today (1 kid is sick, 1 has homecoming, the sheetrock/paint guys are coming to make some repairs, etc.)  I also decided to attempt these as an eggless recipe (replace each egg with 1 packet of plain gelatin and 2 Tablespoons of warm water.)  The muffins were amazing, BUT with the eggless option, they stuck to the wrappers (both silicone and paper) and created a "crust" almost where they touched the wrappers.  So, unless you MUST make them egg-free for allergy purposes, I would recommend using the eggs.  Next time, I will probably make the cream cheese portion egg-free and then split the muffin batter to do 1/2 with eggs and 1/2 without.
My little guy with the allergies was VERY anxious to have these out of the oven and in his mouth.  He ate 2 whole muffins, and I think he'll probably ask to eat them for lunch!  Happy 14 months, little man (and princess, too.)

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

adapted from AllRecipes


Cream Cheese Topping
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons brown sugar
Streusel Topping
4 1/2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour*
5 tablespoons white sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons chopped pecans
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups canned pumpkin
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and flour 18 muffin cups, or use paper liners.
To make the filling: In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese until soft. Add egg, vanilla and brown sugar. Beat until smooth, then set aside.
For the streusel topping: In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Add butter and cut it in with a fork until crumbly. Set aside.
For the muffin batter: In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and add eggs, pumpkin, olive oil and vanilla. Beat together until smooth.
Place pumpkin mixture in muffin cups about 1/2 full. Then add one tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture right in the middle of the batter. Try to keep cream cheese from touching the paper cup. Sprinkle on the streusel topping.
Bake at 375 degrees F (195 degrees C) for 20 to 25 minutes.

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Laptop Lunch - Tortellini Bento

Our formerly great eater has become increasingly picky over the last year.  I hate that.  He loves pasta, but he wants it hot.  I made the tortellini in the morning just before school, and I added marinara and fresh tomatoes.  He eats lunch at 10:40, so I thought it might still be warm enough.  He disagreed.  I will need to use a thermos container in order to get him to eat soups and pastas.  The other containers hold raisins/dried bananas, animal crackers/fruit juice snacks, and popcorn.
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Monsterous Laptop Lunch

This "monster" in a Laptop Lunch box is by no means perfect, but my 5 year old figured it out which was good enough for me.  The top bin holds tomatoes and the "eyes" made of deli-sliced turkey, colby and cheddar cheese "sticks", and bell peppers. The "mouth" bin consists of 1 apple and almond sliver "teeth."  The other bins have white cheddar Cheez-Its, raspberry yogurt-covered pretzels, and popcorn.  I'd love to hear your ideas for how to make healthy "monsters!"

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010


For those of you who have joined my life or blog-world within the past year, then you may not have seen this one.  I attended an event last year, and thought these were adorable.  I made the ones pictured below. Just as I was about to take them in to my son's school and realized I hadn't snapped a picture yet, I took this one with my camera phone.  They are Rice Krispy treats cut into rectangles, covered in green icing, adorned with halved raisins or mini chocolate chip "eyes", trimmed Tootsie Roll "pegs", chocolate sprinkle "hair", and red gel "mouth" and "scar."  I haven't had a chance to make any yet this year, but I thought you may be interested in filing it away in case you needed to make a fun Halloween-themed snack this month.
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Thanksgiving Invitations

I saw some adorable invitations online, and I wanted them for myself.  Unfortunately, Thanksgiving invitations are not a budgeted item in our household!  I created these with fonts I had on my computer combined with the time it required to adjust the individual letter spacing to work for the layout, and I love them.  I added a ribbon, a bead, and a tag about the ribbon and bead.  On the invitation behind the tag is the same image of the tree without the gold ring or the writing around the perimeter of the tag.
If you want a printable with your own information, let me know, and if you are only changing the name, location, time, and RSVP information, I'll charge $6 for the customized pdf of 4 invitations.  This is for the "white" piece of the invitation only.  If you need for the pdf to include a background paper, let me know, and I will work up something custom for you.  If you need tags or stickers, let me know about that too!  I'll add the tags that I made to the blog later.

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Laptop Lunch - Halloween Bento 1

Our little man LOVES the Laptop Lunch box.  I was in a big hurry this morning, and I wasn't feeling super creative.  I struggled.  I know he loves apples that are "fun."  I didn't have time for checkerboard apples, and the Laptop Lunch box is so much bigger than his other bentos, that I don't have room in his insulated lunch box to add an Aussie apple.  I cut the apple in quarters, removed the core, and used cookie cutters and a knife to make pumpkins and bats. 
The container next to it has vanilla yogurt swirled with about 3/4 teaspoon of raspberry jam and 1/2 teaspoon apple butter.  I put the yogurt in the freezer while I finished getting everything else together so it would stay cold longer.  There's a piece of bat fruit leather on top.
The 3rd compartment holds a honey wheat, peanut butter, apple butter, raisin sandwich, and 3 "bat" pecan chocolate chip cookie cut outs. 
The green container has ranch dressing in the dip container and cherub tomatoes.

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Bentobloggy is giving away a Bento Pack!

If you don't already follow, you should consider it.  Right now, she's doing a giveaway for a bento pack; it would rock if one of my readers (or I) won!  You will frequently find her latest posts in the blogroll on the right side of this page as well.  Good luck!

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Laptop Lunch - Lunchbox arrived!

Like many of you, I was hesitant to spend $30 (even with the 10% discount coupon code "earleyfam" that also donates a portion of the proceeds to area elementary schools) on a lunchbox for my 5 year old.  I wanted to make sure that he would like the bento lunches, and that it was something that I liked, too.  Here we are almost 2 months in to this venture.  Our little man loves it so much that on one morning when I made a sandwich, used a Lunch Punch, tossed it in his normal sandwich container, and threw a few other items (banana, etc) into his lunchbox, he came home and asked if he could help me make his lunch for the next day.  I asked what he wanted, and he said, "First, you start with a bento box...."  I knew at that point, that we had a "winner." 
So, here is his first lunch in his Laptop Lunch.  Peanut butter and honey sandwich on honey wheat bread, sliced in 1/3's, colby jack "leaves", and a provolone ghost fill the first compartment.  The second container has a lid, and it holds pretzel sticks and kettle corn. The 3rd container also has a lid, and it's full of grapes, mandarin oranges, and dried blueberries.  (He said he needs this every day.)  The 4th compartment holds the mini dip container of Ranch dressing, another colby jack "leaf", baby carrots, and skewered cherub tomatoes.
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Easy Bento

I won't claim that this is my most creative Bento. I was in a big hurry this morning, and this was easy and what I had on hand.  The top contains a tortilla wrap with peanut butter, apple butter, and banana slices, yogurt covered cranberries with a fruit leather "negative" that I had leftover from a recent bento (I keep the extras and "negatives" in a Ziploc for mornings like today), raspberry yogurt covered pretzels, white cheddar Cheezits.  The bottom has skewered red grapes with another leftover fruit leather negative, and some cheese sticks.
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bento - Sleeping with the Fishes

In honor of Halloween, I made a "sleeping with the fishes" bento lunch for our son.  I considered putting a note on it that said something cute about not sleeping with the fishes, but since he's just learning to read, I decided that the adult that helped him to read the note may not find the same humor in it that our son would have.
 Peeled grapes as eyeballs, boiled all natural kosher hotdogs, boiled onion, and ketchup as "fingers." Slice the hotdogs, cut the knuckle slits, and remove the nailbeds prior to boiling.
 Golden raisins with a headstone fruit leather, fruit snacks with a bat fruit leather, mandarin oranges and maraschino cherry as a "flower" for the deceased. (I saved the "negatives" of the fruit leather in a ziploc for use on tomorrow's lunch.)
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Monday, October 11, 2010

Learning As I Sew is now included on!  You may notice the Foodieblogroll box on the lower right corner of the blog.  Stay tuned for special features and contests.
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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Real Simple's Four-Week Dinner Plan - Week 1 Day 5

Steak with Roasted Vegetables....My recommendation would be to make steaks how you like them.  We prefer to grill ours, and we favor filets.  The vegetables were very good, although I did add fresh bell peppers from our garden, and I used garlic olive oil instead of regular olive oil.  I think the bell peppers added great texture and flavor contrast.  The carrots and onions were so sweet, and the bell peppers and the sauce added a nice little "kick."  We loved the vegetables.  When we make steaks, my focus is usually the steaks and a starch: rissotto, potatoes, fresh bread, etc.  This was a fantastic addition to a normal steak dinner.  It was easy, yummy, and good for us!  I'm including 2 pictures of tonight's dinner. One is with the bell peppers that I added, and one is without.  Not only did they add flavor and texture, but they add nice color, too.  My sauce wasn't as thick as the one shown on the RealSimple website, and I was out of white wine *gasp* (I know, it's atrocious.)  I used sherry instead of the white wine in the sauce.  In the end, I'll add the vegetables and sauce to my "keep" recipes. 

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Real Simple's Four-Week Dinner Plan - Week 1 Day 4

Pork Cutlets with Spicy Noodles were simple and very good.  The noodles were a little too spicy for our little ones, but if you pull some out of the pot for them prior to adding the pepper, it would be perfect for the whole family.  My husband is a huge fan of baby bok choy, so I fully expected that he would want to add some to this dish when we make it again, but I was wrong!  He loved it as it is.  I will say that we've found that we don't like shiitake mushrooms that have to be reconstituted, but we do like the ones in a jar.  They aren't as bitter and are less pungent.  I kept the pepper intact and put it in my husband's dish as opposed to slicing it.  He tends to like things spicier than I do.

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Laptop Lunches Coupon Code!

So, I'm just excited, and I can't insert the coupon code (earleyfam) for the click-through link yet, BUT if you want the amazing BPA free Laptop Lunch box or accessories for 10% off, enter "earleyfam" as the coupon code during checkout, and part of the proceeds will be donated to Austin area schools! That's a discount for you AND a donation to a school!

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Real Simple's Four-Week Dinner Plan - Week 1 Day 3

I'm a bad blogger.  A very bad blogger.
I made the Turkey Burgers with Creamy Romaine Slaw that I was "supposed" to from Real Simple's Four-Week Dinner Plan, and it was YUMMY!  Easy, yummy, and overall, pretty good for you.  I forgot to take a picture before each and every one of us cleaned our plates.  If you go to their website, you'll see this image:

But I thought you should know that I suck.
Anyway, we used King's Hawaiian "The Original Hawaiian Sweet" Sandwich Rolls.  They were perfect with these burgers.  I did serve them with pickles on the side, but I didn't serve chips or fries; they simply weren't necessary.  Being the "spicy" girl that I am, I added a little Walkerswood Jonkanoo sauce and some extra pepper (and went easy on the salt), and they were very good burgers.  My husband loved them, and my 5-year-old ate an ENTIRE burger.  They were really good.  So good that I've added them to my "What's For Dinner?" app on my smartphone.  Now, if I'm in the grocery store, and we see ground turkey meat on sale (or a burger just sounds good), I can pull up the recipe on my phone and "add" the items to my grocery list!  LOVE it!  If you have a recipe that I should try (and potentially add to my "What's for dinner?" recipe box, send it to me.  I'd love to try it.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fall/Halloween Bento

As I look at this image, I see so many other things I could have done with this morning's lunch.  I guess I should take the picture, look at the picture, and then add/change things....Note to self.
(HA!  As if I have time for that in the mornings.)
Black olives on a skewer, baby carrots, spinach artichoke hummus with a colby jack "leaf", and a mini pumpkin-maple whoopie pie.
Mini white cheddar Cheezits, pretzel sticks for dipping, yogurt covered pretzels, banana chips, cherry tomatoes on a skewer, and yogurt-covered craisins.  Two colby jack "leaves" and a provolone "ghost" finish off this section.
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