I have a confession to make: I love Jello. I love how bright it is. And how jiggly. And how sweet. For an end of the year school celebration, you can’t beat Jello (nothing says celebration like Jello). This year I was a little pressed for time, so I didn’t do my usual rainbow Jello, which takes hours and lots of precision to prepare. Instead, I went with this fabulous confetti Jello (I’ve also seen it called stained glass Jello). It’s actually quite easy to prepare despite how complicated it looks.
four 3 oz. packages of Jello (whatever colors you want for the confetti)
3 oz. package lemon Jello
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 packages Knox gelatin
Make the four colors of Jello using 1 cup of boiling water to 1 package of Jello. Chill in separate containers until set, then chop into small cubes. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan and arrange the chopped Jello pieces in it trying to mix up the colors evenly. In a separate bowl, sprinkle two envelopes of plain gelatin with 1/2 cup cold water. Once the gelatin has softened, add 1-1/2 cups boiling water and about a quarter package of lemon Jello. Stir in the can of sweetened condensed milk. At this point, taste the milk mixture and add more lemon Jello if you want a stronger lemony flavor. Let it cool and then pour it over the Jello cubes. Chill several hours or overnight. Cut into small cubes and serve while wearing a frilly apron.
I made a small batch of hard boiled eggs on Wednesday night, so that I would have some eggs on hand for the kiddos’ end of the week lunches. On Thursday, the hard boiled eggs are served with a little crumpet pizza (crumpet pizza is a tiny bit fancier than English muffin pizza), sliced kiwi, baby carrots and celery.
For lunch today, I chopped up a couple of hard boiled eggs and made some egg salad with mayo, a little butter, sweet pickle relish, chopped tomatoes, cilantro and salt and pepper. I had some leftover wagon wheel pasta from dinner, which I tossed with salt, pepper and nutritional yeast to make a surprisingly good little snack. A few grape tomatoes, a sliced kiwi and some lentil curls and crispy pea snacks finish off this fun Friday lunch.
There is a wonderful gentleman who delivers packages to my department. He also fishes. Occasionally, he gives us a gorgeous package of fresh fish. Last week, it was four big fillets of cabazon. I thought Cabazon was just a premium outlet mall between Redlands and Palm Springs, but, apparently, it’s also a rather ugly looking, big mouthed fish that tastes quite delicious. We grilled the cabazon and used it to make some darn fine fish tacos. The leftover fish went into today’s quesadillas, along with some pinto beans and mild red salsa. Both Iain and Lily are fish fiends, so today was a clean plate club kind of day.
On the weekend, sometimes I get a little elaborate with our green smoothies. The kiddos get really excited about two-toned smoothies, because they look awesome. The green portion of the smoothie contains banana, mango, pineapple, spinach, grated fresh ginger, rice milk and plain yogurt. The purple topping has mixed berries, mango and soy milk. I’ve been putting fresh ginger in smoothies of late, and the kids LOVE this special blast of flavor.
Lately, I’ve been on a yogurt-making kick. Every few years, I decide to try my hand at yogurt making, but get frustrated when my yogurt doesn’t turn out as thick, smooth, and tart as I’d like it to be. Inevitably, I go back to buying my favorite yogurt at Trader Joe’s like a normal person. Making yogurt is, in theory, a simple process: you slowly heat milk to 210˚and then you let it cool to about 115˚ and then you stir in a little bit of yogurt and then you try to keep it sort of warm for several hours while it incubates and magically turns into yogurt. Nothing too complicated, except that the milk tends to burn, especially on the bottom of the pan, as it comes up to temperature. This means a lot of stirring. So, I tried the crock pot thinking that maybe the milk wouldn’t burn. But it did. Then theres’s the issue of consistency. I’ve made lots of runny, lumpy yogurt; it tastes fine, but is not as satisfying as a nice thick European-style yogurt. I read that adding a little powdered milk can help thicken the yogurt, and this does indeed work. You can also add gelatin, but, in my mind, this defeats the purpose of trying to make a simple yogurt with just milk and a yogurt starter. If you have any yogurt-making secrets, please let me know.
When you have a couple of big jars of homemade yogurt in the fridge, it makes a darn fine kid lunch. Yogurt + jam + Crazy Good Granola = awesome lunch. Or, awesome breakfast. Or, awesome snack. You can call it a parfait, which sounds fancy. You can serve it with some nice fruit. And perhaps a little roll with aged cheddar cheese like a packed in the lunches today.
Yesterday I had to get a few things at Albertsons and I had a little helper—i.e. impulse buyer—with me. My little helper insisted that I buy these funny shaped flatbreads. So, naturally, today’s lunch is flatbread pizza with some veggies and grapes. I often make lunch either while I’m making dinner or right after dinner. I was already heating up the oven, so I threw in the flatbread pizzas. While I was making the pizzas, I realized I needed a plan for grownup lunches today. Well, with a packet of flatbread laying on the counter, the possibilities are endless. I rummaged around in the fridge and found some pinto beans, tofu taco filling and chopped cilantro, so I decided to make a Mexican-style flatbread for the parents. I felt quite productive making dinner, kid lunches and grownup lunches all at the same time. And, after this whirlwind of activity, I got to go out and see Dance Theatre of Harlem (amazing! phenomenal! life-changing!) without having to worry about doing any late night chores.
On Sunday, I decided to mix up our pancake routine with something completely radical: zucchini waffles. Yum! Yet another fun way to use up part of a gigantic zucchini. To make zucchini waffles, just do what you normally do to make waffles, but add about a cup of shredded zucchini and a nice sprinkle of cinnamon to the batter. You can also add in a mashed banana if you happen to have a sad looking, over-ripe (almost black) banana languishing on your countertop. Because waffles simply must be served with maple syrup, I included a cute little container of maple syrup. Tiny bento containers are perfect for itty bitty portions of condiments. I also packed a small serving of yogurt with some plum jam, little heart-shaped cinnamon wheat crackers, and grapes.
This past weekend, we celebrated my sweet Iain’s 8th birthday. While trying to come up with a cool birthday cake concept, I stumbled upon the LEGO cake. Actually, I think it’s technically called the Building Bricks cake, because, LEGO is a registered trademark, of course. But, let’s just call it what it is: a cake inspired by the most awesome kid’s toy ever invented.
For constructing and decorating the cake, I followed the hilarious Rosanna Pansino’s (of Nerdy Nummies) video. Liliana watched this video at least 15 times, so we wouldn’t make any mistakes.
Making the LEGO cake was super fun, but it was definitely a time consuming project. I recommend going with the marshmallow pips, because trying to frost the little mini cupcakes was a nightmare. Also, give yourself two days if possible: one day for baking and one day for decorating. The cake recipe that I used made one 9 x 13 cake and 24 mini cupcakes. The cake gets cut apart in order to make two long bricks and two little square brick cakes, so you will need to make 4 colors of frosting. I doubled Deb’s cream cheese frosting recipe and had just enough for the four LEGO cakes. To see the whole process in 30 sections, check out my little stop action video.
Today’s lunch contains one of my crazy tortilla concoctions: sliced bananas with sunflower seed butter and a little bit of cookie butter on a crispy whole wheat tortilla. I’ve already mentioned that cookie butter is one of the most decadent substances on earth, so it must be used sparingly. I just couldn’t resist spreading a little cookie butter on this sweet tortilla; I knew it would taste amazing with bananas. Since the tortilla is protein packed, I went with fruits and veggie for the sides.
Last night I was feeling slight uninspired about making the kiddos’ lunches, so I put it off for a couple of hours. It the middle of watching the somewhat kid-inappropriate Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1, I got the brilliant idea to made salads. Now, I know as well as you do that green salads can be a tough sell to kids. When I was kid, I only liked a green salad if it was loaded with non-salad items—i.e. meat and cheese. Oh yeah, and sweet canned kidney beans (I was funky on the corn syrup). I decided to take a protein packed approach to this salad: smoked turkey, gouda and edamame. The lettuce is romaine cut into itty bitty bite-sized pieces. I find that romaine is the best lettuce if the salad has to travel: it tends to stay crisp and fresh. There are also some sliced carrots and beets in there. I drizzled a little balsamic vinaigrette on top—just enough for some flavor, but not enough to make a soggy mess. I also included half a whole wheat dinner roll, some strawberries, and a date. This lunch is so pretty and colorful that it makes me want to pack more salads.
I was recently nominated for an Inspiring Blog Award by Sushi Sushi Bento. I am very honored and touched that you find my blog inspiring. I started this blog on a whim last August just as a way to document the lunches I packed for my two kiddos each day. I have been amazed that people have found my little blog and have given me so much encouragement—I love the positivity!
The rules on how to nominate:
1. Display the award image on your blog
2. Link back to the person who nominated you
3. State 7 things about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 other bloggers and link to their sites.
5. Notify the bloggers that they have been nominated and link to the post.
Here are 7 Things about myself:
I am an Air Force brat and was born in the Panana Canal Zone—a place that, technically, no longer exists.
I love pink, fuchsia and red.
I have read Anna Karenina more than once.
I loved Cheez Whiz as a child.
I cry during sappy commercials, sappy t.v. shows, sappy movies, and everything I see any version of Pride and Prejudice. Despite my tendency to cry at such things, I am quite tough.
My mom’s family is from Newfoundland and I love it there: it’s rough and windy and harsh and stunning.
When I’m really old, I plan to stop wearing sunscreen and intend to lay in the sun all day long sipping citrus cocktails.
My nominees (I couldn’t pick 15—this was too much pressure):
Yesterday I was trying to come up with a new and exciting chia pudding for the kids’ lunches, and, suddenly, it popped into my head: kefir. I used to drink kefir like crazy back when I lived in Chicago, having discovered it in my little neighborhood market under the L. I love the tart bite of kefir, but somehow I got out of the habit of buying it—probably as a result of trying to reduce our daily dairy consumption. The other day, when shopping with Lily, she saw a big pink bottle of strawberry kefir in the yogurt section and became quite insistent that “we try it.” Mmm, kefir, I thought. Unfortunately, I am sorry to report that the kiddos don’t seem too crazy about kefir. Maybe it’s the weird effervescent—some sort of crazy fermented probiotic-induced bubbliness. If you are a kefir fan, you might want to try this kefir chia pudding/overnight oat concoction:
Cherry Chia Kefir Oat Pudding
1 cup berry flavored kefir
1 cup vanilla soy milk
1/8 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup oats
1 heaping tablespoon cherry preserves
Stir all ingredients together and let sit in the fridge overnight. The chia seeds will plump up substantially, as they are amazing liquid soaker uppers. Before serving, sprinkle with unsweetened coconut. Makes 3–4 servings.