Who I am...

A mom who is trying to inspire creativity in her children, provide fun and nutritious meals that are out of the ordinary extraordinary, creating minimal waste and maximum taste in a little tiny space


just a little offshoot of my main blog to showcase our bento lunches and the bentos of others that I find especially remarkable or extremely tasty

Strawberry Shortcake French Toast

Our family loves baked french toast, especially for dinner. We've done several different recipes, and I've experimented to make my own variations. I know there are about a million recipes for baked french toast, but here is our latest favorite. Individual portions have already been frozen for future bentos, as this version tastes delicious cold!

Strawberry Shortcake Baked French Toast

(make ahead, and let sit in the fridge for several hours or overnight before baking)

1 large loaf of Texas Toast (got ours CHEAP at the bakery outlet!)
1 container of of strawberries
12-16 ounces of cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup white sugar
3 tsp vanilla (2 for cream cheese mixture, 1 for egg mixture)
7 eggs
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup heavy cream or half and half
1 tsp Pampered Chef Cinnamon Plus mix
Sprinkle of nutmeg
Sprinkle of ginger

Powdered Sugar for sprinkling over the top after baking, we keep ours in a shaker

Take a few slices of bread at at time and make about 3 to 4 slices both vertically and horizontally, to make about 1.5 inch cubes of bread. Cube about half of the loaf of bread, and spread it into a 9" x 13" pan that has been greased with either butter or cooking spray. Make sure to fill in the gaps and press down the cubes to create a nice solid layer on the bottom of the pan.

Wash, core, and slice strawberries, first in half, and then in about 1/4 inch thick slices. You want them to retain a bit of shape and substance during the baking process, and if the slices are too thin, you will just get jam instead of strawberry chunks. Sprinkle the strawberry slices evenly over the first bread layer. You can really use any fruit you have on hand. We've done canned peaches, frozen mixed berries, frozen blueberries, fresh blueberries. Whatever strikes your fancy, that you have on hand, or is in season :)

Warm up the cream cheese in the microwave for about a minute, stirring after a minute, until the cream cheese is nice and smooth. Add white sugar, sour cream, and 2 tsp vanilla, stir well. Pour mixture over strawberries and smooth over entire surface.

Cube the rest of the bread and add it over the cream cheese layer. It will probably be a tight fit, just squish it all in there and try to fill in the gaps. It's okay to press down a bit with the bread, once you add the egg mixture it will plump it up and soak all in to the layers of bread.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl really well, then add in the the spices and whisk to incorporate. Continue to whisk while adding in the evaporated milk (don't forget to shake the can well first!) and cream. We've also made this mixture using 2 cups soymilk only or 1.5 cups soymilk and a half cup of kefir or yogurt. Carefully pour over the bread, allowing it to soak in a bit if it seems like it will overflow. It really will go down and fill in all the little gaps!

Cover and refrigerate, 4 hours to overnight.

Bake at 350* on the middle rack covered in foil, for 45 minutes.

Uncover and rotate dish 180, bake another 15-20 minutes. The top will get nice and golden.

Remove from oven and let the dish set for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Sift powdered sugar over slices, and watch the family gobble it up!

You can also add a drizzle of warm fruit syrup or maple syrup over each slice. Serve with a slice of warm ham or a couple of pieces of bacon. YUM. This is also great to take to a breakfast potluck, just pop in the oven in the morning before you get in the shower and it's ready to go when you are!

Packs great in bentos, if you can get your family to leave any leftovers!

Been neglecting this blog! Whoops!

Well, I've been taking pictures of our bentos every week, fully intending to blog them, but never actually off-loading the pictures to my computer! I will work on getting back on track soon, but in the mean time, here is another meatball recipe.

I got a grinder attachment for my KitchenAid mixer for Christmas, and have been enjoying grinding my own meat. I've done ground chicken for tacos, ground leftover turkey to crumble over salad, last day meat on super clearance, and today a pork loin chop. I ground up one thick cut, partially frozen chop to add to my ground white meat turkey for these meatballs.

Ikea-like Turkey and Pork Meatballs

Preheat the Oven to 275*

1.5 lbs (or however much you have) Ground turkey
1 Pork loin ground twice (or about 1 lb ground pork)
2 eggs
3/4 to 1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 tsp Ground Allspice
1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 Tbs Garlic bread powder mix stuff from Costco, or just some Garlic powder
1/4 tsp Zesty Lemon Seasoning
2 Tbs Dried onion flakes
Sprinkle of flour over the top before you start mixing

All my measurements are completely approximate. I just sort of throw stuff in and sprinkle seasonings, just winging it with whatever sounds good, so feel free to throw in what you like!

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, adding more bread crumbs until the mixture has a dough-like consistency. Our meatballs were a little soft this time, and could have used less yogurt but I was just dumping in the last of the container.

Use a table spoon to scoop out about an ounce of meat, then grab a child to roll up the scoops into many, many balls of meat. In a saute pan over medium heat, melt a couple of Tbs of butter. Add the meatballs to the pan, and allow them to cook on each side until browned all over, about 10 minutes total. After they are browned, put them into a 9x13 pan that has been coated with cooking spray, and pop them into the oven to cook the rest of the way through.

Turn the pan down to low, and add 3 cups of chicken broth to the pan to deglaze. Dissolve 2Tbs cornstarch in 4 Tbs cold water and stir well to combine. Whisk cornstarch into broth and let it start to thicken. Add 3/4 cup of heavy cream after mixture starts to thicken and stir until it gets to a good gravy consistency. By the time the gravy is finished, the meatballs will be cooked through. Sometimes about halfway through the gravy cooking I will turn up the heat on the oven to about 325* if I've made the meatballs really big.

We serve this meal with a honey and jam sauce on the side and boiled red potatoes with lots of sea salt in the water. If I start the potatoes right before I get the meatballs going, they finish at the same time. The whole meal takes about 30 minutes to prepare! My girls just gobble the whole thing up. We always serve the gravy on the side because a couple of them are not huge fans of gravy.

I freeze the leftover meatballs for bentos as well as the gravy in an ice cube tray so that I can give them individual portions of gravy. The potatoes also freeze well or keep in the fridge for a couple of days, so that I can dice them up and make a potato salad for our bentos. Yum!

I promise to eventually get the last three months of bentos up! In the meantime, go make some meatballs!

November 21st, a manly lunch

Well, at least it was just a quick lunch for my husband. I have been trying to pack his lunch more often, and have been getting up to 3 times a week at least. It's saving us quite a bit each time he doesn't have to eat out! This was the rest of the tuna from the day before on wheat bread. A diced tomato he could eat plain or throw on his sandwich. Carrot sticks for crunch. Diced apples (leftover from the day before so they were a tad bit brown, oh well!) and a half a blondie from Starbucks. Can't believe I let him have the rest!

This box is by far my favorite for packing for my hubs. It can fit a ton of food, it seals well, and he can microwave it at work when there is hot stuff packed inside. I need to find another like it for myself for the days I am packing lunch for both of us. I find it is so much easier when I am making multiple lunches to make them as similar as possible.

weekly bento nov 21

Just a quick lunch

Husband and I both had potlucks last Thursday, so I only had 3 little lunches to make. Since I was in a hurry, and the fridge was running bare, this is probably the fastest lunch I have made so far!

Weekly Bento, Nov 20th

I whipped up a can of tuna with mayo and a little relish, threw in some snowflake shaped ritz crackers, added some already sliced cheese, diced an apple and soaked in lemon juice and water for a minute or so, while I assembled everything. They had apple-cranberry juice to drink and the last of the remaining granola bars for snack.

Weekly Bento, Nov 20th

As far as I know, the girls really liked this easy-peasy lunch, no complaints. They'd been waiting a week to be able to have the special ritz crackers, so I am sure that made their day :) They are pretty easy to please! And my potluck was delicious, tons of yummy soups and breads! I made a delicious apple cider with a sliced orange, brown sugar, apple juice, and mulling spices from Whole Foods in the crock pot. Yum. In fact, I think I am going to make it again (for the third time!!) tomorrow for Thanksgiving. Now if only I could figure out how to make it a cup at a time, hmm . . .

Trying to catch up

I am a week behind, but I have photos ready for my next post too, just have to find a moment to sit down and actually type it out. Its been one of those weeks!

This week's bento consisted of leftovers from the freezer. Each one was a little bit different to accommodate everyone's personal likes and dislikes.

Weekly Bento, Nov 13 2008

In the Mr. Bento knockoff, Husband had leftover grilled teriyaki chicken, leftover fried rice, chopped tomatoes, carrots, and cheese, and ranch dressing in the top portion.

Weekly Bento, Nov 13 2008

I used my little H.O.T. bento because it makes me giggle. It had the rest of the grilled teriyaki, fried rice, pineapple chunks and cottage cheese in the top. It was just enough food with the little side container of rice cakes. Yum.

Weekly Bento, Nov 13 2008

Youngest had fried rice and turkey meatballs with a little container of ketchup for dipping. Top tier is grated mozarella, chopped carrots and tomatoes, and peach yogurt with a few diced pineapple on top.

Weekly Bento, Nov 13 2008

Middle one had the same on the bottom, the meatballs are still frozen and the rice is cold. They like it cold at school usually. Her top tier is more shredded mozarella, a carrot, a rice ball, and cottage cheese.

Weekly Bento, Nov 13 2008

My oldest had more of the same on the bottom, yogurt, carrots, cheese and a rice ball on top. My girls all LOVE riceballs, but the like it better when I remember to pack a little teriyaki sauce bottle to pour over the rice ball. I make them when I only have a small amount of leftover rice. My friend from Korea showed me how to make them when the girls were little. I drop a scoop of rice into a square of plastic wrap covering my hand, gather up the ends of the wrap and squish the rice into a firm ball. We usually dip them into whatever sauce is handy. Next time I am going to try to make some filled rice balls with chicken inside. I take all the rice balls and pop them into a container in the fridge and the girls will grab a couple for snack or as a side for lunch. Easy, healthy, and more fun than just plain rice, I guess :)

Weekly Bento, Nov 13 2008

Overall, it was a well received lunch, and pretty quick to throw together. The girls had cranberry juice to drink in their little spill proof bottles, and caramel mini rice cakes for snack. I feel like I get into a bit of a rut when packing their lunches, and I am trying to be creative. I only do this once or twice a week, I can't imagine how hard it is to be creative when packing lunches every single day! I really admire those of you who do!

Breakfast for lunch, Nov 6th

My girls are big-time breakfast lovers. So I thought I would give them a special treat this week and pack up a complete breakfast for lunch! A few days ago we'd had pancakes, and I always make up extra batter so I can throw pancakes into the freezer and then pop them in the toaster oven to reheat when we feel like a hot breakfast with less mess. This time, I made several silver dollar-sized pancakes specifically to pack in their bentos. I wanted them to be easy to eat with their fingers and dip in the little syrup containers.

Weekly Bento

These pancakes went straight into the fridge because I knew we'd be eating them quickly. I grabbed 3 for each girl, hard-boiled then molded eggs the night before, and had candied some bacon the same day I made the pancakes. Candied bacon seems to keep better, especially when it isn't going to be reheated, and tastes better too. We eat a lot of turkey bacon in this family, and I have found it doesn't reheat too well, but when its candied in maple syrup, its yummy right out of the fridge. Each girl got one piece of bacon split in half. They have lite syrup in their little round containers. A small slice of sharp cheddar cheese, cubed, and diced apples soaked in a little lemon juice round out the meal. They also had mini rice cakes in a separate little container for snack. I forgot to pack them juice the night before, but they lived without and just drank lots of water.

Weekly Bento

Each girl completely devoured her meal. This was probably their favorite bento so far. They were dipping everything in the syrup, even the eggs and cheese, but they are weird like that :) Ainsley didn't finish all her apples at lunch because she was too busy talking and telling me about chemistry solutions. Liberty ate all of it, even the cheese which she normally doesn't like very much. And Melody ate everything and shared her food with all her friends.

This week we were not the only family with our bentos! I have had several moms ask about our bentos since the beginning of school. This week at least 2 other families started packing lunch in their bentos from Ichiban Kan. It was fun to see all the kids talking about their fun lunches, eating their molded eggs, and creating less waste!

Weekly Bento

My husband and I had matching bentos, sort of, this week. I preheated the oven, popped some potatoes in the microwave for a few minutes, and then tossed them into the oven to bake while I assembled the girls lunches. I used some baking cups to contain butter and sour cream. Husband had the rest of the diced apples, rice cakes on the side, two slices of cheese to top the potato, and a hard-boiled egg.

Weekly Bento

I had cottage cheese (which got frozen in the fridge, think I need to turn it down a bit!) and diced pineapple, and everything else he had besides the apples. He said it was a little light for him. I had plenty to eat. Lately he'd said I was packing too much, but I guess I scaled back more than I needed to! My guess is that he could have used a bit more protein, and I should have packed a bit of ham or something to add to his potato, or possibly a side of chili if I were to make this lunch again.

Weekly Bento

I do feel like making bentos is coming more naturally, and that I am thinking throughout the week of how I can bento-ize our leftovers. The girls really enjoy it, and I think my husband and I are eating healthier as well. I also wanted to say thanks for the comments I have been getting both here and on my flickr pictures! It is a great encouragement to me that I can inspire others, as so many others have encouraged me!

Nearly Halloween Bento

The girls got to wear costumes to school yesterday and they were thrilled, but it meant that I needed to be extra speedy this morning making lunches. And it was cold, so everyone also needed a hot breakfast (thank goodness for organic oatmeal packets from Costco! I used to make up indivual packets of ready to add water to oatmeal, why did I stop? Might have to do that again when we run out of this box of oatmeal, in something less wasteful than ziplock baggies. How's that for stream of consciousness blogging?)

Weekly Bento, October 30th

Anyway, on to the speedy bentos. One thing I was sharing with a mom at co-op is how much less food I use per lunch because so much is divided up between the three girls. So for this lunch I will list out just how much I used:

one carrot, peeled and cut into sticks
2 stalks of celery, cut into fourths and spread with a total of about 2 tbs peanut butter
A few raisins, it looks like 30 to me :)
1 half in thick slick of mozzarella cheese cut into cubes
1 container of vanilla yogurt spooned into 3 cups, with a few bites leftover for me
1 mexican tomato, diced
About a cup and a half of leftover spaghetti, sprinkeld with 3 tbs of parmesan
2 slices of canadian bacon cut up
3 small containers full of maybe 1/4 cup of chex mix
21 candy corns (more about that later)
And in the top of each bento, 1 graham cracker each

Weekly Bento, October 30th

Melody devoured every last tomato, most of the yogurt, but didn't really eat much of anything else. They'd had cake and ice cream for snack, and the kid doesn't each much anyway. And her friend shared a bag of chips with her. Oh, and she ate all the chex mix and graham cracker. The cheese was gross because, guess what? Candy corns melt and turn into goo that will spread everywhere. I kinda figured they would in the yogurt, but that is where they should have stayed, or in the top with the grahams! Whoops!

Liberty ate her yogurt and most of her spaghetti, all the chex mix for snack, and the grahams for lunch. She didn't really touch the veggies due to the aforementioned goo.

Ainsley didn't mind the goo and ate most everything.

Weekly Bento, October 30th

I packed myself a frozen chicken and rice bowl and a coke zero. That's what happens when the statue of liberty and Alice in Wonderland can't find the appropriate attire on their own!