Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pretty Layered Sandwiches

These open faced layered sandwiches look super fancy, but are actually pretty easy to make.

All you need is lunchmeat, preferably in more than one color or shade, cheese, one slice of bread per sandwich, and a set of cookie cutters in multiple sizes.

Using the largest cookie cutter, pop out the shape in the bread. Cut cheese and bread in graduated sizes, then stack them up. For this lunch, I tucked grapes and carrots around the sandwich, with an extra layer of grapes underneath.

Honey-wheat pretzels and a soft cheese wedge round out the lunch.

This lunch is the same ingredients, but a different cutter shape.

The cookie cutters aren't terribly expensive either. I think the set for this sandwich was only $2 for 6 sizes.

For a different take on the fancy sandwich theme, I made these simple rolls. They are made by laying a slice of cheese on top of ham lunchmeat, rolling up, and slicing.

Included in this lunch is cantaloupe, grapes, and star shaped crackers.

For the smaller appetite, Beaker has a pair of tiny flowers made with turkey and bologne, topped with a little bit of melty cheese.

He also has GF cheese crackers, halved grapes, and cantaloupe pieces.

For flavor and to keep the sandwiches from shifting, I put a little dab of mustard or mayo between each layer of the sandwiches, or warmed the sandwiches a tiny bit to melt the cheese just a touch.

My kids love these little layered sandwiches, and I love how easy they are to make. Double WIN!

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Baby Chick!

I know I have been a little bit absent for a few weeks. Some big changes in the Chaos house! I started working a new job, in addition to going to school. Grandparents moved in with us. And our computer crashed and burned hard. Also, we went on a vacation and I misplaced my camera. No comp = no blog posts (boo). But now we're settling in to a routine and the computer is back from being repaired (yay)! I have still been packing lunches though, so I'll be playing blog catch up again for a few weeks.

I have mentioned before that we raise chickens and ducks. We also had a rooster, until a few weeks ago (no worries, we didn't eat him. He was getting too loud and obnoxious for our suburban neighborhood so we found someone to take him). So when one of our hens went broody at the end of the summer, it was not a surprise. We didn't really think much would come of it, since it was our first broody hen and it seemed like she sat there for a long time. But just when we were starting to think that it was time to pull the eggs and throw them out before they began to stink...Lulu and Bean went out to feed the chickens one day and heard tiny peeping!

Out of the whole clutch only one egg hatched, but OH! What a CUTE egg it turned out to be! It was Lulu's turn for naming, and she wanted to name the chick after herself. After a few days of confusion, we settled on giving the chick her nickname instead. If I can find my camera, I will add pictures of little Lou!

To celebrate, I packed this sweet little chick lunch for Lulu to take to school:

She has a "CHICK" half sandwich snuggled into a nest of lettuce leaves, with the letters spelled out in colby-jack cheese. She also has a hard boiled egg, baby corn, and a little chick stuffed with gummies for a treat. In the top section she has cheese crackers, baby carrots, cucumber slices, and a peeled clementine.

Lulu loved showing off her little chick lunch and telling her second grade class all about little Lou. She said it was her best show-and-tell day ever!

Now a few weeks have passed and little Lou is getting a lot bigger. Free range chicks are much hardier than human-hatched chicks. She lives out in the yard with her mama, Princess the hen. They spend their days scratching for treats, snacking on bugs, and running around through the garden. During the high garden months I keep the chickens and ducks in their large pen, but during the autumn and winter and early spring they free range, turning the garden soil and keeping it fertile and soft for planting. One of the many benefits of keeping backyard chickens!

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Welcome to the Boneyard

Oh, how I love Halloween. SO much. This year October has been even busier than usual for me, as I just started a new job and have been working quite a lot in addition to going to school and taking care of home and the kids. I am keeping quite busy and barely know which direction I'm moving in lately. Not that I'm complaining - I love it! The blog has been much too quiet lately. But when the lovely BBF'ers were planning up a triple-play Halloween Hop, there was no way I could resist that super fun action!

For my part, I made a Boneyard lunch for Beaker. As are all of his meals, this lunch is gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, peanut-free, egg-free, shellfish-free, and garlic-free. It's also a super simple meal, in a perfect size for a preschoolers little hands and tummy. There is plenty of scary this time of year, but no need for allergies or picky preschoolers to cause a fright!

To start, we have creepy-cool frozen yogurt skull and bones with frozen blueberries. Packing the yogurt and blueberries in while still frozen helps to keep the rest of the lunch at a nice cool temperature. By the time lunch rolls around, the blueberries have thawed a little and the yogurt has softened slightly, making a delicious and easy to eat dessert, which is also healthy. It tastes like a yummy blueberry ice cream, but has all of the nutrients, calcium, and protein of a fruity yogurt. Double WIN, nothing frightful about that!

The simple grave is made from a gluten, soy, and nut free vegan double chocolate zucchini muffin, topped with a rice cracker gravestone.

Beaker also has a broccoli floret 'grassy hill', with bites of leftover grilled pork chop and crunchy apple pieces. 

Making delicious, healthy, and fun lunches doesn't have to take a scary amount of time, either. This lunch took about twelve minutes to pack up, including the amount of work-time it took to prep the yogurt ahead of time.. Freezing the bones was pretty simple - just scoop some of your favorite yogurt into a silicone ice cube tray in a fun shape (skull and bones, in this case) and slip into the freezer for a few hours. I usually keep a tray or three in the freezer covered with plastic wrap for easy grab-and-go when needed or a fast after school snack for the kids. The muffins I also make ahead and freeze in large batches every now and again when I have a little extra time. Super time saver right there!

Have a happy happy Halloween!

Now click the button to see what spook-tacular fun awaits at What the Girls Are Having, and see the rest of the fang-ulous lunches on the hop!

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Monday, October 7, 2013

And Now For Bean

Meet Bean:

Bean is my fabulous, sweet, funny, wonderful ten year old. She just started fifth grade at the middle school this year. She also joined the band and is playing the flute now. Recently she took a three day class to learn about cheerleading, which she thought was super fun. She was also recently diagnosed with a massive list of allergies.

She had been popping up with awful itchy rashes, especially on her face, for months. Also, her mouth would burn when she ate an increasing number of fruits. It was causing her a lot of discomfort and pain, so we took her to an allergist to rule out food allergies as the cause. Instead of ruling them out, they were confirmed.

A skin test was done and blood was drawn for a blood RAST test. The skin test showed a HUGE number of reactions. 62 food and environmental allergens were tested for - she reacted to 32 of them, some very high. That was scary! For two weeks, until the blood test results came back, she had to go on a total elimination diet to clear her body of everything the skin test showed reactions to, in order to see if it helped. Unfortunately, that meant almost everything! She showed reactions to all legumes (beans, peas, soy, lentils, peanuts), all nuts, almost all fruits, carrots, potatoes, chicken, rice, corn, wheat, and nearly all other grains, eggs, dairy, and so much more. The only things she could eat were peaches and pears, cranberries, GF oats, most seeds, pork and beef, and coconut. Trying to feed her became exhausting and super stressful! 

But we survived! We made it through the two weeks. When her blood test results came back, they were great. Nearly everything was negative. She is definitely allergic to latex and to pet dander, and nearly all fresh fruits cause her to break out in rashes. But since cutting everything else out of her diet did not actually improve her health, the doctor gave us the green light to go back to a mostly normal diet. She still can't eat any fresh fruits at all for a month - only cooked or heavily processed fruits (like dried or canned). The allergist isn't quite sure what is causing her rashes, but thinks there may be something in the fruit proteins she is reacting to. He also isn't sure why her skin test was SO bad, with so many reactions. We're testing out different things to see what helps, but so far no luck. We're still hopeful! But even with cutting out fruit she stil had another reaction tonight, so... well, we'll see what we can figure out! Since elimination and trial is the gold standard in allergy testing, we're still trying a few things to see if anything helps.

I am SO glad that she doesn't have to eat that restrictive diet anymore. It was hard! School lunches were definitely not an option, so here are some of the meals I packed for her during that time:

Most hot dogs are made with corn syrup (yuck!), corn starch, or potato starch. Even the all natural ones frequently have one of these. Luckily I was able to find one brand of organic all natural beef hot dogs with almost nothing else in them. They taste delicious! I also found some buckwheat pasta, which was pretty cool. Since she couldn't have corn, potato, or rice, nearly all of the usual wheat-free substitutes were available to her, so I was glad to find the buckwheat!

For this lunch, I lightly grilled a couple of hot dogs and cut them into a pair of fun octopi, resting on a bed of buckwheat pasta with coconut oil and pepper. She also has shredded lettuce with a bit of cucumber, a sliced nectarine, mustard for dipping the hot dogs, and a safe homemade trail mix.

The trail mix I put together using Enjoy Life allergy free chocolate chips, shredded coconut, dried cranberries, dates, and sunflower seeds.

Happy octo-pair! They were so simple to make. Just cut a hot dog in half, split into 8 'legs' with a sharp knife (being careful not to cut all the way down), then add hat picks and eyes (cupcake decor with food marker, but then I realized the cupcake decor was made with egg white, so I removed them and used paper instead).

This lunch has sliced peaches and shredded tuna with a tiny tub of mustard, a salad of shredded cabbage and lettuce with cucumber bits, trail mix, and a homemade allergy free protein bar.

I made the protein bars with... well, no recipe and I forgot to write it down. But they were GOOD! I used sunflower seed butter, GF oats, hulled millet, hemp seed, chia seed, pumpkin seeds, Enjoy Life chocolate chips, coconut... not sure what else. But they were really tasty. If I can figure them out again, I'll post the recipe!

As you can see, her food started getting repetitive. I only had a few ingredients to work with, so I had to find different ways to serve them. Several of the things she was able to eat were things she didn't like, which made it even harder. These same ingredients appeared in pretty much every meal and snack. For two weeks.

This lunch had canned pears with dried cranberries, sliced peaches, ham rolls with mustard, and shredded lettuce with pickle slices.

Bean doesn't like ham, but adding mustard helped.

Pretty peach butterflies!

I packed this lunch before realizing that pepperoni contains lactic acid starter culture... which has dairy. Boo. Basically the same lunch, but with protein bars, pepperoni, and sliced pears (which we later realized caused her lips to swell and itch and red patches to appear on her arms). 

The protein bars. NOM! They were so good. The kids inhaled them. Even my pickiest people loved them!

Sliced nectarines with a sunflower seed butter filled pumpkin. Eyes and mouth are made with allergy free chocolate chips. More chocolate chips and dried cranberries are tucked into the side. She also has green and black olives, a couple of mini pickles, and a few slices of pepperoni.

Canned pears and frozen blueberries, cucumber slices, peeled pear slices, and pepperoni-olive skewers.

She liked the skewers, but it really wasn't enough food for an active 10 year old. She had a big snack when she got home that day.

This one was before the doctor called and told me potato and apple were out, too. She has roasted red potatoes, grilled burger wrapped in lettuce with mustard for dipping, apple and cucumber slices.

Toward the end of the two weeks we were getting used to it. But we were so glad to be able to add in more variety when the tests came back good! Now she eats mostly a normal diet again. No nuts or fresh fruit, but it's definitely an improvement! Now if we could just figure out what is causing the rashes...

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