Lunch boxes and after school snacks

Oh the lunch box conundrum……all the rules. Listen, I understand nut allergies are brutal and going nut free is so easy to do. But it’s still hard when you have a kid with a dairy allergy and schools send you a list of state regulations about how many servings of what kind of food need to go in the lunch box. And I’m pretty sure steam might have been coming out of my ears when I saw that pop tarts were a suggested fruit. This was not the school saying this, but the great state I was living in at the time. So, what do you do? You learn to be creative. I bought a few divided containers and made my own lunchables. I listed out the required categories and then made my own list of what worked for us.

How do I make lunchboxes easy to throw together, dairy free, nut free, reasonably healthy and that require no microwaving? I’ve broken down some of my favorite options (both the ones I make and the brands I found at the store for super busy mornings. I am not an affiliate of any of these companies and have not been paid to write any of this).

Dairy Free subs: in place of regular cheese slices, we like the Chao cheese slices. I’ve even seen these at Walmart, so added bonus. For cheese cubes, my kiddo likes the Daiya blocks cut into cubes. The Tofutti dairy free cream cheese also works well as a sub for regular cream cheese. I like to blend some jam in them when I use this on bagels. For a more savory taste, I’ll use garlic and onion powder with some fresh herbs. It’s best to let this sit overnight so the flavors blend together nicely.

Protein

  • Energy bites
  • Deconstructed sandwiches: Sounds fancy and “top chef-y” but it’s really just my “I’m too lazy to put a sandwich together” or my “kiddo is whining about no sandwiches today but all I have in the fridge right now are sandwich things” lunch option. Roll up deli meat with cheese or cut some cheese into cubes and chop up (or tear up depending on how quickly you need to get out the door) deli meat.
  • Sandwiches: sunbutter and jelly sandwiches, ham with cheese, turkey with cheese, chickpea salad sandwiches (really just hummus with different things added to jazz it up a bit. I’d put these on sandwich thins, in a pita pocket or on a tortilla), veggie cream cheese with roasted veggies (put the veggies in a separate container and add to sandwich thins with cream cheese when you are ready to eat).
  • Hummus
  • Breakfast cookies
  • Granola bars/Breakfast bars (hard to find nut free and dairy free so I make these). The linked site recommends store brands and recipes to make your own. This is a great resource.
  • Muffins: To make these muffins, you only need a blender and a muffin tin. Here’s to not making a giant baking mess in the kitchen.
  • Hard boiled eggs are a good choice.

Fruit

  • Apple slices
  • Berries
  • Mango slices
  • Craisins
  • Dried fruit
  • Banana chips
  • Applesauce cups
  • Clementines

Veggies/Other Snacks

Sweet Treat

Drinks: We always sent a juice box with our kiddo’s lunch. We purchased the ones that are fortified with calcium on the advice of a nutritionist since we couldn’t send nut-based milks to school.

Hacks for Snacks: My favorite hacks for carrying snacks in the car.

1. Save your large creamer bottles or even plastic ice cream pints. Wash them out and pack them with snacks. The creamer bottles are especially good because the kiddos can pass them around with less spilling of snacks.

2. Does your kid have a smartphone? No judgment from me, I swear. iPhones and iPads have saved us on so many road trips. Check out this phone holder that has a place for snacks.

3. Need something that holds a tablet and has space for snacks and activities? This organizer looks like it may be the perfect solution.

** I am not an affiliate for Amazon nor for any of the products linked or recommended here.

Breakfast on the Go

Can we talk about mornings during the school year? Ugh. The insanity and chaos. Trying to get everyone dressed, fed, presentable and out the door on time, no doubt with that last minute “oh, I have to bring 5000 brownies tomorrow” statement from the back seat. No wonder we are all stressed and pissed off by 7:30 in the morning. We’ve just run a marathon at a sprinter’s pace. Ok, not really, but hyperbole and drama y’all….

What do I need breakfast to be for myself and my family in the mornings?

  • Quick
  • Nutritious: admittedly, there is a spectrum here. I need breakfast to be quick, but I don’t want to start the day with a pound of sugar in 1 serving. Some convenience items I’m willing to accept like frozen waffles because who has time to make waffles from scratch? Take the frozen waffles, stick some cheese and ham in between 2 waffles and now you’ve swapped the syrup for protein and some fat. Is it perfect? No. Does it meet my basic requirements? Yes.
  • Can be eaten in the car without covering the car in said breakfast item (I’m looking at all you people who think yogurt parfaits are great for kids to have in the car because they travel well. I wonder if you really have kids when you say stuff like that).
  • “Food art” is not allowed. Thank you Artie on Creative Galaxy for putting that little gem of an idea in my kid’s head (along with using trash to make art because now we can’t throw anything away in our house because….art). Seriously, is this dude related to Caillou?
  • Ideally, nut free. No, my kid does not have a nut allergy but I know enough about nut allergies to know they are no joke.
  • I can easily make these in bulk. I’d rather make a boatload of breakfast bars at once instead of having to make 2 batches a week.
  • I have to like them. Hey, I need breakfast too, right? And, since I’m not running a restaurant, I don’t want to have to make separate breakfast for myself too.

How much time do I want to spend prepping it?

In the morning, 5 minutes max!

On the weekend, I’d like to prep several breakfast items at once. They would even use some of the same ingredients to cut down on the grocery bill. At the very least, I’d like to use some of those ingredients to put together snacks for after school, snacks to have in the car to keep the hangry away. The hangry is real y’all. Throw in driving in traffic, a stressed parent whose nerves were fried before 8 am because of the morning rush and it’s not a good mix.

Recipes: My Top 15 recipes for breakfast on the go.

These are curated recipes from other sites and blogs. One simple substitution of sunbutter for peanut butter will make these nut free. Sunbutter is a pretty legit sub for peanut butter too.

1. Waffle Breakfast Sandwiches. Bacon, egg and cheese can become ham and cheese for a little variety. If you’re feeling fancy, throw some thin apple slices in between those waffles too.

2. Breakfast Cookies 6 Ways. Ah, the breakfast cookie. Such an easy sell to kids. Cookies for breakfast you say? Why, yes, yes I will have cookies for breakfast. You can sneak in some nutritional powerhouses to give these babies staying power. Chia seeds, protein powder, dried fruit, sunbutter, oats, ground flax seed, etc. You could even use pumpkin and make a pumpkin breakfast cookie for a good dose of fiber too. Added bonus: No heating time in the morning unless you forget them in the freezer. I like to make these in batches and flash freeze them and pull out a few at a time.

3. Frozen yogurt cups. Greek yogurt gives these babies some serious protein to start your day.

4. Breakfast Muffins. Not just your typical muffin. These are stuffed with eggs, cheese and bacon. Mmmmmm, bacon. You could easily sub veggies in place of the bacon to really kickstart the day.

5. Cottage cheese and Egg Breakfast Muffins. I’m not a fan of cottage cheese and fruit. It’s such a strange texture to me. I never thought of using it in baking though. These look so yummy!

6. Continuing on with the muffin theme, these apple pumpkin French toast muffins sound ah-mazing.

7. Breakfast taquitos. Who doesn’t love tacos or taquitos? I love love love them. My problem is that I can never get the taquito rolled tight enough to stay and then they are never crispy when I bake them. So, just wrap these up in tortillas and make it a breakfast burrito. Problem solved.

8. Smoked Turkey, Gouda & Egg English Muffin. Sounds fancy, right? Deli slices and cheese slices make these sandwiches so much easier to make.

9. Potato Omelet Breakfast Bites. So many variations on this and even just the egg cheese peppers and tots would be tasty. You could even use muffin liners to easily remove these. Note: the author mentions using cooking spray with flour to prevent these from sticking.

10. Energy bites. Protein, fiber, fat all in one tasty little bite. Make a big batch of these and flash freeze. Then put several into sandwich bags and keep in the freezer. Pull the bags out of the freezer on your way out the door. Boom. Breakfast done.

11. Savory kolaches. Ok, these won’t be authentic kolaches. But, Pillsbury crescent sheets used in place of making your own bread makes these easy to prep and cook in large batches. You can mix these up too for lots of different flavors. Egg, potato and cheese kolaches, crumbled sausage and cheese, sausage links with cheese and jalapeño, potato and egg, potato and cheese and the list goes on and on and on.

12. Sweet kolaches. Want a sweet option for a treat? No problem, use the Pillsbury crescent sheets and just make a filling of cream cheese and jam.

13. Granola bars. So many ways to mix these up for variety.

14. French toast sticks with bacon. I don’t mean going through the drive-thru for those heavily fried and full of bad stuff for you but oh so good French toast sticks. I mean actually making your own (it’s not as crazy as it sounds) French toast roll-ups with bacon in the middle.

15. Pancake bites. You can make these sweet or savory. Another great way to make these in batches and still have the chance to mix it up. The mini-muffin tin is your friend.

So, there ya have it. My favorite go-to breakfast on the go recipes. I hope you enjoy

Mother’s Day Shadow Box

Hi everyone,

I’m here today to show you a shadow box using the Paper Pumpkin March 2018 box. These boxes come loaded with supplies to make about 8 greeting cards usually. But, I decided to branch out and try something different. Hence, the Mother’s Day shadow box. With this craft, I combined both Paper Pumpkin and Chalk Couture to create a unique gift that is easy to assemble and can be personalized in so many ways. Enjoy!

P.S. You can get 2 months of Paper Pumpkin at half price if you sign up before May.

Materials: Paper Pumpkin March 2018 box, paper cutter, Chalk Couture Live Life in Bloom Transfer, White Chalky Paste, Small Squeegee, Shadow Box (I found a 3-pack of these at Michael’s on clearance for about $8.00.

1. Punch Out the Pink flower and green leaf for Card 1 and Card 2. Use the tiny, flat glue dots to stick these together.

2. Cut 1 plum card in half along the scored line with a paper cutter. Open up the Shadow Box and remove the back. Using the flat, tiny glue dots, tape one half of the cut purple card into the upper left corner of the box. I left a bit of an edge of cardboard to account for the extra plastic on the frame insert. Repeat this in the bottom right corner of the shadow box with the other half of the purple card. March’s box had a bonus item of some wood punch-out flowers as part of a 5th anniversary celebration. I used 3 of these little flowers and the tiny glue dots to place those at the top of the purple paper in the top left corner of the shadow box. Add 2 of the 3-dimensional hexagon shaped glue spots on the top of the purple card in the bottom right corner of the shadow box. These will attach to the envelope.

3. Stamp the pink rectangle as described in the Paper Pumpkin instructions. Attach the pink rectangle to the envelope that has writing on the back. I used the 3-D hexagon glue sports for this. Use 2 more of the hexagon shaped glue spots and attach this envelope to the top right corner of the shadow box. Using the envelope that has the roses on the back, use the same glue dots to attach this to the bottom left corner of the shadow box.

4. Add any pictures, quotations or sayings you want to the blank spaces in the cards. I used one of the stamps in my box to show you what that might look like.

5. Reassemble the shadow box. Place the “Life in Bloom” Chalk Couture transfer in the center of the glass. Using the small squeegee and white Chalkology paste, smooth paste over the transfer. (More tutorials on this method to come). Remove the transfer ASAP and wash with water as per manufacturer’s instructions. The great thing about Chalk Couture is that any mistakes can be wiped off with a Clorox wipe and/or a damp paper towel.

6. And, you’re done. This makes a great gift for Mother’s Day.

Full disclosure: I am a Stampin’ Up Demonstrator and a Chalk Couture Demonstrator. If you’d like me to custom design anything, just contact me and/or connect with me on social media.

Let’s talk salads….

Since I’ve moved to the desert, I’m trying to find new and awesome salads to eat for the summer. I know when it’s 100+ degrees outside, I just won’t want a hot soup. Here I’m sharing my favorite salad recipes and tips for mason jar salads that are perfect for work, school, on-the-go meals.

Salad Greens

1. Kale: Hands down, this is my favorite salad green. I buy the dinosaur or lacinato kale. It’s a milder green, doesn’t have to be cooked and holds up to salad dressings without becoming soggy. A couple of tips here:

  • Always remove all the stems from the kale. For this reason, I never buy the chopped kale in a bag because I have to pick over each piece one at a time and remove quite a bit of stems. Buy the kale unchopped to save money and use these kitchen shears to cut it off of the stem and chop for salads.
  • Take the chopped kale and place in a large ziploc or reusable ziploc-type bag and massage the dressing into the kale.

2. Arugula: This green is surprisingly very nutritious. It’s a cruciferous veggie (ya know, the ones with all kinds of good stuff in them) and a member of the mustard family. As an added bonus you can find this in the grocery store year round and it still tastes good.

Kale and Arugula are my top 2 salad greens. I don’t mind lettuce, but these provide so much added nutrition that I have these when I can. I don’t really like raw spinach salads. If I use spinach in a salad, I always toss with a warm dressing to wilt the spinach. Tastes much better to me.

Favorite Salad Recipes: Click the links below for my all-time favorite salad recipes.

1. Rachael Ray’s Statement Salad: I sub the smoked sundried dried tomatoes in this recipe. It gives the salad more of a Southwestern flavor.

2. Panera’s Green Goddess Cobb Salad. I’ve linked to a copycat recipe, but I highly recommend making Panera’s green goddess dressing or just go to Panera. This salad will not disappoint.

3. Asian Cabbage Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing: Turns out I DO like cabbage, who knew?! I just can’t eat it when it’s cooked nor when it’s slathered in mayo. But this….this salad is amazeballs.

4. Sandy’s Kitchen Caprese Salad: I love love love fresh mozzarella, balsamic vinegar and basil. I hate raw tomatoes. Easy solution: roast tomatoes in the oven before using in this salad. Beautiful!

5. Sandy’s Kitchen Shrimp Salad with Peanut Dressing: I love love love shrimp. This salad feels so decadent with shrimp and the peanut butter dressing, but it’s totally healthy. Buy pre-cooked shrimp to make this salad super easy to make.

Salads in a Jar:

Jar salads make quick work of meal prep and having a grab and go option for work. Just make sure you assemble them correctly so they don’t end up a soggy mess.

How to make a Mason Jar salad?

Click here for instructions on how to build a salad in a jar.

Favorite Jar Salad Recipes:

1. Did Someone Say Sushi? Check out this recipe for a deconstructed sushi salad. I’m wondering if you could use riced cauliflower in place of the brown rice. I’m gonna have to try that.

2. Not a fan of Sushi? No problem. How about a quinoa salad that is sure please almost everyone. As an added bonus, this recipe makes 3 servings so you can have lunch or dinner for the family or lunch for a few days.

3. Mmmmmm avocado dressing. I’m sold. And if you’re doing low-carb or keto, you could swap out the black beans for cheese (queso fresco would be my top choice, but hey, it’s cheese so just about any kind of cheese would be awesome). Also, sub in smoked sun-dried tomatoes in place of raw tomatoes (’cause remember, I hate raw tomatoes) and OMG what a lunch! I’m hungry just thinking about this salad.

4. My love for avocados is trumped only by my love for bacon. So salty, so crispy, so awesome. This BLT salad in a jar is classic, easy and amazing. The hard part will be saving the bacon for the salad instead of just eating it straight out of the oven. If you’re not cooking bacon in the oven, try it. It’s so much easier.

5. And to finish it off…..dessert. How about a No Bake Key Lime Pie in a Jar? Yes please!! So creamy, so decadent, so tangy. Love this so much.

Looking for a great set to make your salads and take for lunch at work and/or school? Check out this Make and Take Set. There is even a cup for water to help you stay hydrated.

I need more recipes in my life! Share your favorite links for salad recipes.

Turkey Meatballs and Spaghetti Squash Dinner…..Yummay!

I wanted to share with you all a great (and easy recipe) for dinner because who doesn’t need less time to cook a healthy meal, am I right? About a week ago I started the Optavia health plan to lose some weight and get my butt healthy and back in shape (relax, this is not a post to sell you on a diet). I’ve made some pretty sweet lean and green meals that taste like I’m cheating. More importantly, these recipes have been hits with the hubby and the kiddo (always a win to prepare 1 meal for the family when you’re dieting).

First, the ingredients:

  • 1 jar of Rao’s marinara sauce (or another marinara that is low in sugar and processed stuff
  • 1 bag of Farm Rich gluten free frozen turkey meatballs (I found these at Walmart, yay!)
  • 1 spaghetti squash

And that is IT!!!! How awesome is that?!

For the Spaghetti Squash:

I hate, hate, hate cutting spaghetti squash, butternut squash, etc. I found this awesome hack for microwaving a whole spaghetti squash and it made it so much easier to cut, clean and roast. Click this link here. I did roast the squash after this. I seasoned with a little garlic salt and black pepper, sprayed a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil with cooking spray and put the squash face down on the pan. I roasted for 30 minutes at 375 F. Turns out, this is how long the frozen meatballs take to cook, so double win! Scrape the spaghetti squash with a fork to get the noodles.

For the meatballs:

I sprayed my Pampered Chef RockCrock with cooking spray, heated that on medium heat and dumped sauce and meatballs in at the same time. I let this cook on medium/medium-high heat for the time my squash cooked. The beauty of this pan is that it can go in the dishwasher! I’m seriously getting rid of any pots and pans that cannot go in my dishwasher. Ain’t nobody got time for that! **Full disclosure, I am a Pampered Chef consultant and I’d love for you to shop with me through this link. **.

Finished Product: Yummy! Kid Vote: Best Meal Ever followed by this was a lot better than I expected. Y’all those statements came from a 5 year old.

Oh, and my serving for my Lean and Green: 10 meatballs and 1 cup of cooked spaghetti squash. Yep, that’s right!!! Of course, I am no nutritionist nor am I a coach with the Optavia program. You’ll want to double check portions and serving sizes for your eating plan.

Hope you enjoy!!! Oh, and follow me on social media for more recipes, craft projects, random pictures and shit I find funny.

Welcome to My Kitchen!

Deep breath, cross fingers, close eyes, jump….

Here Goes Nothing

I just moved across the country with the family. Just about everything that could have changed did….all at once. It was one of those moves where you have just a few weeks to get organized, pack up, drive 2200 miles with a 5 year old and 3 cats in 1 car and hope for the best. We bought a house based on internet pictures and a video taken with an iPhone (no, really). Needless to say, we still have boxes to unpack, pictures to hang and about a million other tasks. This has set my anxiety to level 100 in a flash. And when my anxiety gets going, I like to do something to check out for a bit. Enter my crafting obsession. I love love love to make things. Cards, soaps, lotions, outfits, stuffed animals…..I love it all. I’m starting this blog to share some ideas and projects I’ve been thinking about and putting together.

I speak sarcasm so please don’t take these entries too seriously. It’s all in good fun.