25 September 2013

Bento Lunch 9-25-2013

Dino got a couple of surprises in his lunch today - a new Avengers box, a yogurt smoothie, and apple bunnies! The Avengers box has a sliding compartment on top and came with a spoon and fork. This lunch did not require utensils, so I packed veggies in the compartment.

Snack: Chocolate chip Quaker chewy granola bar and 2 peeled cuties (clementines)

In the sliding compartment: baby carrots and sugar snap peas (he hasn't liked these in the past, but I am all about presenting foods multiple times - eventually he might decide to like them - he suddenly decided to like broccoli a few weeks ago!).

Inside the box: honeycrisp apple bunnies, shredded colby jack cheese, Genoa salami, and Wheat Thins crackers - the apples and salami are in foil-lined muffin cups to separate the flavors and to keep the crackers from getting soggy

Drink: Dannon Danimals yogurt smoothie ("drinkable yogurt") in Strawberry Explosion!

I made his lunch the night before and put the whole thing in the refrigerator. In the morning, a big ice pack added underneath the food keeps everything nice and cold until lunch time!


Dino told me the other day that one of his friends takes lunch to school (a different school) every day and asked if he could take his lunch every day too! In typical 6-year-old-boy fashion, the story went on to include kids at the friend's school getting sick from the school lunch, and because Dino saw 2 whole kids get sick at school this year, their lunch must be bad too :-p

The verdict: Dino ate every bite! He said he ate all the snap peas even though he didn't like them... His favorite part of the meal was the "pizza shaped" salami! He loved the yogurt smoothie but wished it had been bigger. He asked what the apples were supposed to be shaped like - when I told him they were bunnies, he said he thought they were shark teeth!

Disclosure: Though this post contains affiliate links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together. 

23 September 2013

Recipe - Elote

On a recent trip to Dallas, we had a late-night dinner at the famous Fuel City Tacos. Best tacos in Dallas. Best tacos anywhere. Simple, traditional, and absolutely delicious! This box has picadillo on corn tortillas and chicken on flour. The little cup is hot sauce, not boring ol' mild salsa! They also have a green sauce that makes grown men nearly cry, it's so hot! All of the tacos are topped with chopped cilantro, diced onions, and a lime wedge.

Fuel City Tacos isn't a restaurant - it's a kitchen attached to a gas station convenience store. They have an order window inside and an order window outside, and both windows had dozens of people lined up the whole time we were there. The people in line at Fuel City Tacos were young and old, preppies, thugs, hipsters, and at least 3 motorcycle gangs. Clearly these tacos have wide appeal! While you wait for your food, you can go inside the convenience store to get something to drink. There is a new covered porch to the side with rows of picnic tables so that you can eat there if the weather is nice.

But the best thing about Fuel City Tacos (in my opinion...) is the food cart just down the sidewalk.  They sell corn, a Mexican corn dish called Elote. You guys, this stuff is amazing. Absolutely delicious. All the layers melt in together. It is tangy, salty, and spicy - so spicy that you want to stop to take a drink, but so delicious that you don't want to stop eating it for anything! 

I recreated this deliciousness at home. The amounts are up to you. I found cotija cheese and crema at Kroger (our local grocery chain), in the dairy case near the Parmesan cheese. If you can't find cotija, try grated Parmesan or crumbled feta cheese.

Amy's Elote
inspired by the corn cart near Fuel City Tacos, Dallas, TX

Layer in a cup, mug, or bowl
(do 2 layers of everything, so all of the toppings are spread throughout):

hot corn kernels
lemon pepper
cayenne pepper
squeeze margarine (or softened butter)
sour cream (or Mexican crema)
hot sauce (I used Tapatio)
crumbled cotija cheese.

I really need to take better food pictures, but here ya go:


Disclosure: Though this post contains links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together. 

20 September 2013

Recipe - Amy's Tzatziki Salad

Inspired by this article about Savory Yogurt Toppings on The Kitchn, I decided to experiment with a new recipe. There is a Greek food cart near my workplace called Woo Woo Greek Food - the explanation is that it's the sound a train whistle makes, and their cart was decorated to look like a train car! Their gyros are delicious - soft pita bread filled rotisserie meat, lettuce, tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce!

Tzatziki is a condiment made from strained yogurt (aka Greek yogurt), diced cucumber, and seasonings. It is served as a dip or as a delicious topping for sandwiches, wraps, or even pizza. Tzatziki is  is vegetarian, gluten free, heart healthy, high protein, low carb, and lowfat!

I decided to make a chunkier version of this dish as sort of a yogurt salad. It ends up tasting like chopped veggies smothered in tangy ranch dip!

A few notes about the ingredients:
Cucumber: I used a large cucumber because it was the only option at the grocery store - I would have preferred to use an English cucumber (long and thin, usually wrapped in plastic), because they are sweeter and you don't have to scoop out the seeds. If you use a regular cucumber, slice it in half longways and scoop out the seeds with a small spoon or melon baller.
Tomato: I used 4 golf-ball-sized vine-ripened tomatoes, but 1 large tomato (or 2 medium, or 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes) would work fine. You don't want to include the watery, seedy centers - just the firm outside flesh. Slice the tomato in half side-to-side, and gently squeeze out the goopy seed packets.
Herbs: I used a combination of dill, parsley, and Italian herbs.
Yogurt: Make sure your yogurt is plain. Vanilla is not plain - vanilla is sweetened and flavored! Many recipes recommend that you strain your Greek yogurt for 2-3 hours, with cheesecloth or coffee filters suspended over a bowl or large measuring cup, for a thicker consistency. If you are using regular (not Greek) yogurt, you will need to strain the yogurt for 14-15 hours for the right consistency.
Pita chips: I like to eat this with flavored pita chips, like Stacy's Parmesan, Garlic, and Herb.

Amy's Tzatziki Salad
Servings: 4 main dishes or 8-12 side dishes

1 large cucumber (or 1 English cucumber)
1 sweet bell pepper
1 large tomato, seeds removed
1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper (black or white)
1 tsp dried dill (or 2 tsp fresh)
1 tsp dried parsley (or 1 Tbs fresh)
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 cups plain lowfat Greek yogurt
Pita chips, for serving

Finely dice or grate your cucumbers (drain if it seems watery - you don't want watery tzatziki!). Dice the bell pepper. Dice and drain the tomato. Add all of the vegetables (yes, I know all 3 of these are technically fruits...) to a large bowl. Zest the lemon and add about half of the lemon juice to the vegetables. Stir in garlic, salt, pepper, dill, parsley, and olive oil.

At this point, I divided the vegetable mixture among 4 lidded containers so I could take individual portions to work for lunch. Add 1/2 cup yogurt on top right before leaving in the morning, and stir it all together at lunch time. Eat with pita chips!

Disclosure: Though this post contains affiliate links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together.

19 September 2013

Bento Lunch 9-19-2013

Today's school lunch menu entree choices were Grilled Cheese (which Dino will tolerate but isn't crazy about), or Honey BBQ Pork Bites (which he valiantly tried once and declared "gross").

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day!!

Lunch contains Ritz crackers, pepperoni, turkey rounds, shredded colby jack cheese, broccoli and carrots, veggie dip, and mini golden Oreo cookies.
Snacks are parmesan Goldfish crackers AppleBanana squeeze applesauce.
(I didn't end up including the fruit cup - he needs a bigger lunch box!)

Cheese and dip are packed in EasyLunchboxes "Mini Dippers"
To make it a bit piratey, the crackers, meat, and veggies are tucked into these pirate-themed cupcake papers! Arrrr!

Disclosure: Though this post contains affiliate links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together. 

12 September 2013

Bento Lunch 9-12-2013

Packed lunch for me this time!

"Homemade Lunchables"
Ritz crackers, turkey rounds, pepperoni, mild cheddar and colby jack cheese
Carrots on top of broccoli on top of awesome Light Veggie Dip
Fruit salad (yummy, yummy)
Mini Golden Oreos (I couldn't find a link to the mini size)

I also packed a small container of grainy mustard to 'up the ante' on uninspiring cracker stacks, and a bag of Popchips for afternoon snack.

I'm having basically this same lunch 3 days in a row this week. Gotta eat up this fresh food!

Disclosure: Though this post contains affiliate links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together.

09 September 2013

Bento Lunch 9-9-2013 - UPDATED

Today's school lunch was mandarin orange chicken and rice or mini corn dogs. Ok, I probably wouldn't like school lunch "Chinese" food either, but corn dogs?? As much as Dino loooves hot dogs, and he likes cornbread too, how does he not like corn dogs? Ah, well.

On the left side of today's lunch was a colby jack cheese sandwich on Sandwich Thins, cut in half with an all-beef hot dog in the middle. I used a small cookie cutter to cut out cheese stars to decorate the top (the cut-out cheese is inside the sandwich).

The right side of the box has silicone muffin cups with an apple from my mom's apple orchard in one, and broccoli and carrots in the other (with that awesome veggie dip in the yellow container).

Underneath the fruit and veggie cups were two surprise chocolate chip cookies! Eat your healthy food first, then you get a treat. I hope he finds them!

 He said it was all good! Ate every crumb!

Disclosure: Though this post contains product links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together. Have I mentioned how good that Marzetti veggie dip is??

04 September 2013

Bento Lunch 9-4-2013

Dino again opted out of today's Mexican-food lunch offerings - taco with cheese and chips and rice, or fiestada pizza. I packed him the rest of his French bread pizza and apple slices from Monday's dinner at Mellow Mushroom, carrots and broccoli (more carrots underneath), ranch dip (more about that in a minute), and an all-beef hot dog (some of which was paired with bits of carrot to make "hot dog flowers").

I got this box at the local Dollar Tree store. Actually, I got 3 of them - green (shown here), blue, and red. The box has a built-in compartment perfect for something liquidy, like dip or applesauce, with its own little tight-sealing lid. I also used silicone muffin cups (one round and one square) to separate the fruit and veggies from the proteins. I didn't think he'd care if the hot dog and pizza touched.

Dino ate every bite and said it was good. All the pieces returned home this time after telling him the only thing that gets thrown away is the paper napkin!

Ok, let's talk about this ranch dip. This ranch dip has to be the best ranch dip I have ever tasted: Marzetti Light Ranch Veggie Dip. It is found refrigerated in the produce section of the supermarket, does not taste "light" at all, and actually has bits of veggies chopped up in it. It is thick, creamy, and perfectly tangy. I've always been a Hidden-Valley-mix-with-sour-cream kind of girl, but I'll be looking out for this stuff from now on! Ranch dip gets my boys to eat sooo many more fresh veggies. Dino suddenly decided he liked broccoli with ranch a couple of weeks ago, and this week he even liked fresh zucchini! Win!

Disclosure: Though this post contains product links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together. I just really like that dip!

03 September 2013

Labor Day Weekend 2013

Our long weekend, illustrated with terrible cell phone photos!

Saturday, we went shopping. All day. The boy was thrilled >>cough, cough<<

We started the day with brunch at IHOP! Yummmm!! I had the Two x Two x Two, with Harvest Grain and Nut pancakes. Tim had strawberry-banana French Toast. Dino had his usual Silver Five mini-pancakes, which he dipped in all the flavored syrups.

First we bought him his Cub Scout uniform. We bought the shirt and pants a size too big, counting on his continuing Scouts for a good long time! 

Then we took a trip to the pet store. While I took Dino around to see all the animals, Tim had the aquatic experts test a sample of his fish tank water, because he hasn't been able to keep anything alive... Ph, Nitrogen, hardness, everything was good levels... except Ammonia! That was off-the-charts bad! They recommended a 50-70% water change, and a better water conditioner. The next day, we drained about 60% of the water then added fresh tap water and the new conditioner. Tim will take a new water sample for testing at the end of the week to see if it is suitable for sustaining life now! While the water level was down, he also wrapped the water filter intake with a piece cut-to-fit filter material (made for air conditioner intakes, but cheaper at Lowes than the very same stuff they sell at the pet store at a higher price) because fish would occasionally get stuck when swimming by. The filter helps disperse the intake pressure so they won't get stuck! 

Next was a trip to the mall. I distracted Dino with a Chick-fil-A kids meal with nuggets and fruit while Tim shopped for a new shirt. Then I got distracted by shiny things at Glitter... We wrapped up our mall trip with a stop at the frozen yogurt bar!

The sky was starting to look a little gray, but we headed out to Kart Kountry anyway! We raced single and double Karts, and Dino got to drive the Kiddie Karts! 

After a quick walk through a flea market, we went to a shoe outlet store. Dino had great fun picking out the brightest, gaudiest shoes he could find for me, and couldn't understand why I didn't want to try on any of his picks! He found a great pair for himself:

 (Wonder how long those size-15s have been on the shelf??)

Saturday evening, we had a delicious dinner at Buca di Beppo. Dino requested the kids macaroni and cheese, his favorite! For the 4 adults, we ordered 2 salads, 2 entrees, and 2 pasta dishes:
  • Apple Gorgonzola Salad
  • di Beppo 1893 Salad 
  • Prosciutto Stuffed Chicken
  • Chicken Saltimbocca
  • Chicken Carbonara
  • Spicy Chicken Rigatoni
(clearly we like chicken!) Each dish was "small" size, serving 2-3 people. So by my count, we had enough food for 12-18 people... There were a lot of leftovers. Tasty, tasty leftovers.

This charming advertisement greeted me in the restroom:

As I understand it, the men's room features vintage photos of chubby little boys relieving themselves. Very eclectic art at Buca!

Sunday after church, we stopped by the wedding venue to count and measure tables.

We didn't do much else on Sunday, except eat leftovers and attend to the fish tank.

Labor Day Monday, we went to Familypalooza at Southeast. Dino got to check out a Police helicopter!

Dino had a great time! Hot dogs for lunch, crafts, inflatables... Not just any inflatables - inflatable water slides! 6 of them!! But when he was about halfway through the inflatable water slides, it started to rain. By the time he had finished, it was a downpour. We scrambled under the awning with everyone else, then decided to cut our losses and head for the car. The storm had dropped the temperature quite a bit, and Dino was freezing and miserable. Impressively, the KidWay performers kept right on singing and dancing on the outdoor stage in the middle of the rain and wind, to keep everyone's spirits up!

After cleaning up and drying off at my house (and after a quick trip to Kmart to buy some flip-flops since the boys' shoes were soaked through), we went to Mellow Mushroom for an easy dinner - French Bread pizza and apple slices for Dino, and build-your-own pizza for us with sausage, pepperoni, salami, roasted red peppers, and spinach!

Disclosure: Though this post contains affiliate links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together.