Saturday, May 29, 2010

SUMMER HOLIDAY!

Summer Break has begun here in Colorado, so during the next two months Colorado Bento will just be a lovely smattering of what we are eating for lunch. It's not necessarily going to be in a bento, well unless we have a reason to pack lunch on the go.

Our goal is to update 2-3 times a week! What's your favorite summer foods?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

We're All Smiling...

My three year old, GL, loves to draw. She prefers pen over big chunky pre-k crayons. I allow her to use pens and even sharpie markers, although both come with some hesitation. When this is the result, I can't help be thankful that I gave her the freedom to express herself.
Our family (left to right GL, Sj, J, and me). GL's drawings have just progressed in the last couple of months to where our arms are now coming from our bodies instead of our heads.

The best part to me, we are all smiling.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

No Bread, Whole Wheat Tortillas A Perfect Substitute

The cantaloupe is cut up, the juice is dripping all over the place, I grab the ingredients for a sandwich. I opened the drawer we keep our bread in to find NO BREAD.

J, did you buy bread the other day? His reply, no.

Yesterday when I went to the store, I didn't buy bread because I thought my husband did. Oh what a vicious cycle, I tell you. So instead I had to make do. We did have Diestel Turkey, cantaloupe, cherries, and barbecue Pirate's Booty. I looked in the refrigerator and found some tortillas. My daughter is a big fan of cheese quesadillas, but today I just made her a turkey wrap. I stick the tortilla in the toaster oven for a minute to soften it a bit (they harden in the refrigerator), added cheese, mustard, turkey, rolled it up, cut it, and called it done!

My take on tortillas:
Tortillas are the one item I won't buy in the conventional grocery store. I always buy them at Whole Foods. Why? The ingredients are far superior. I pay $1.99 for a 1o count of La Mariposa organic whole wheat tortillas. La Mariposa tortillas are locally made, but all Whole Foods stores carry in house made tortillas (with great ingredients).

Why not conventional tortillas? The ingredients. When I see a mainstream brand package of tortillas sitting on the grocery shelf of the market not refrigerated, I cringe. I don't care if they are "spinach, vegetable, whole grain" or what ever marketing tactics they try, just read the ingredients. Our tortillas have to be refrigerated because they are fresh and not full of chemical preservatives. They also will mold very fast if not refrigerated, but I don't mind. I'd rather not have the preservatives to keep them for a month.

Get out your tortillas and compare, the list should be easy to read. Here's the La Mariposa ingredients: Certified Organic Wheat Flour, Water, C.O. Sunflower Oil, Salt, Non GMO Aluminum Free Baking Powder, Citric Acid. That's it. Most importantly, no hydrogenated oils (to prolong shelf life) and no MSG or chemically derived ingredients.

It's the little things that add up, keep your eyes on the label. Always read the ingredients and start to put your purchase power behind companies that produce superior products!

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Disclosure: All products mentioned in this post were purchased by my family. I did not receive any samples or pay by any of the companies mentioned.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Harmony Has Returned Post Yard Sale

For some odd reason my dining room became the staging ground for my yard sale. I wrote a post about my brilliant idea to host a yard sale. About a week ago, I transformed our space to eat into this:

Oh into the wee hours of the morning on either Thursday or Friday, this is what I was doing. Sorting, matching, assessing, pricing, piling, and purging. If anything was stained, had holes in it, or was missing a mate it went into the fabric recycling pile. Our local recycling center has a bin for discarded clothing that can't be reused, it's repurposed. For what, I'm not exactly sure?! I may have to look into that.
I must admit, the last week was a lot of work. I'm not one of those just throw everything out in a heap yard sale hosts, I like order. All toys were properly mated and placed in ziploc bags. All pajamas were paper clipped together and placed on the pajama pile. There were sections for toys, household items, linens, stuffed animals were housed in a kiddie pool, furniture at the end of the driveway, women's clothing, men's clothing, children's clothing of course all sorted by shirts, sweaters, pajamas, jackets, dresses, skirts. I still have visions of the woman that showed up in her pajama bottoms, a tank top, and slippers haphazardly throwing the clothing she looked at. I just wanted to kindly say, those are sorted neatly and I'd like it to stay that way. I'm joking, well kind of.

Funny enough we didn't take one photo of the actual sale. How can that be? We were distracted tallying sales, collecting money, and helping people load our stuff into their cars and trucks! Good riddance stuff, I don't miss you one bit. The sale was a smashing success, we exceeded our goal by a few hundred dollars. All left over items were taken promptly on Saturday afternoon to the thrift store as donations. Three truckloads of donations.

Best part of the weekend, my dining room now looks like this:
My closets, my garage, my shed, and my home in general just feel lighter. The purging was a success. I love spring. Would I do it again, in a heartbeat.

Leftover Pizza, Oh The Delights Of Lunch!

Mondays are the one day a week I let my daughter purchase lunch at school. Mondays are typically pizza day at school! Seeing as this is the last week of school, the calendar just says "chef's choice". Those terms to me basically says, lets use whatever we have left in the refrigerator to feed the kids all week. Now I could be wrong, but I could also be right. So she passed on buying lunch at school today. We just happened to have a few slices of leftover pizza in our refrigerator from dinner last night, so I packed my daughter's first pizza bento.

Grapes and carrot flowers on the side. Voile, Pizza Monday it is!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pears Pretending To Be Apples...

I love using something like an apple corer to also core a pear for school snack. For some reason, a pear or apple cut up in this way are just much more appealing to my girls, then when I slice them by hand. Go figure.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Yard Sale, Was This MY Brilliant Idea?

First it was talks of moving. Then the natural progression was to start preparing the house. I decided before we could start painting trim, doors, touching up, and staging this place we needed to purge. I started to attack the closets, cabinets, and dressers.

The result...That is my dining room. It's the full on staging area for our yard sale. Honestly this is only stuff my girls have outgrown! I could open a boutique with baby girls clothes sized to 2T! Those Lowe's boxes are all full of toddler toys or toys the girls have decided to give up. The two black trash bags near the french doors, are full of cast off stuffed animals! Oh my goodness gracious. I am happy to embrace letting all this stuff go, so we can start fresh with our new home. Although the new home seems so far away in my mind.

Last weekend I indulged in one of these after lots of house purging labor and I'm thinking next Sunday I will be as well. Fingers crossed, our Saturday sale will be a smashing success!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesday Tips: Quick & Easy Asian Stir Fry Dressing

Chinese food is a great doorbell dinner. It's here in a flash, but my theory is why order Chinese when you can make same thing at home in less time? I like to control the quality of ingredients in food that I consume, and in take out it's hard to do that. Unless you have a favorite restaurant and really trust their food (which I don't close by my home), it's better to just prepare yourself. I know there is no MSG in the food I am cooking fresh.

This recipe is delicious and I always have the ingredients on hand. Isn't the saying the secret is in the sauce? This sauce is so simple to prepare and is NOT full of a bunch of chemicals. My girls love this as well. I add it to my stir fry vegetables and serve with brown rice or organic soba noodles. The noodles cook in 4-6 minutes, so if I'm in a rush it's noodles, if I'm prepared it's rice.

Asian Dressing:

1/4 Cup- Soy sauce (we use Tamari)
2 Tbsp- Rice vinegar
1 Tbsp- Sesame oil
1 Tbsp- Canola oil
2 Tbsp- Water

Whisk together and set aside.

This is how the stir fry looks (yes, it's this easy):
  • Cook noodles or rice while preparing vegetables and protein.
  • In a frying pan saute meat of choice, tonight I prepared this with organic tempeh, I saute in canola oil, not even a full tablespoon.
  • Remove meat from pan to use pan to saute vegetables.
  • In a pinch I just grab a bag of Organic Chinese Stir Fry mix frozen, cook in the pan with a couple of tablespoons of WATER (healthy, no fat). I add baby spinach, edamame, garlic, ginger to spice things up.
  • Add cooked protein back into pan with vegetables.
  • Stir in Asian Dressing.
  • Serve with rice or noodles.
Voile your done.

Using soba noodles, a bag of frozen mix, this can be on the table in about 15 minutes tops. No delivery can guarantee that.

Enjoy.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Panda Bento Featuring An Occasional Special Treat

Panda is one of my favorite bentos. I just love the size of it and how cute it stacks up, with the eyebrows being on the band that holds it together. Panda came from the Peppercorn in Boulder. That link is from the fall, but I was just in there this weekend and they still have a great variety of bento boxes (best in the Boulder area, I have to admit).

Today's bento features the classic almond butter and strawberry all fruit spread, cut into the shape of a bunny rabbit (cookie cutters work great). We buy our almond butter in a large jar from Costco at a great savings from the regular market. One ingredient in our almond butter- DRY ROASTED ALMONDS. That's it. No oil, no palm oil, no salt, no sugar, no high fructose corn syrup. Just what you'd expect, almonds. As a special treat I packed a small bag of Annie's fruit snacks. We had some left over from a skiing trip and I included them in Sj's lunch as a surprise. In our home something like an organic fruit snack is a special, once in a while treat. I also placed some fresh blackberries and 365 Brand cheddar crackers in the panda.

Behind you will see a sliced apple, that was her morning snack at school. I always just toss in a few drops of lemon juice to help keep the apple from turning brown before it gets eaten.

Panda came home empty!
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Disclosure, all items mentioned in this post were purchased by our family. They are not paid endorsements or free samples.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Excerpt From A Poetry Anthology- My Dog

My daughter had the privilege of working with a poet in her first grade class over the last six weeks during writing block. They had poetry readings and wrote their own poems. A poetry anthology was published containing poetry by all the students that participated in the outreach program.

Today we attended the poetry reading in her class. I couldn't think of a more beautiful moment, watching my six year old read aloud her poem to an audience. I was a bit saddened that her poem was so beautiful about our dog (that we had to give up). At least it's a reminder of the beauty she saw in him. We have the original draft and revisions, to see the process of a six year old's mind is just incredible. Enjoy.

My Dog

My dog is as black as a dark storm-

cloud in a rainstorm and my dog

has a blue collar. My dog

was born on October 8. He came

from the Humane Society, and his

eyes are as green as the grass in the summer.

I like him more than the snow

that falls on the ground.

I think he is smarter than

ordinary pets. I love him more

than the water I feed him.

He is more intelligent than a cute cat

that does not know how to see

right. His nose is as red as

a cherry. His tail whips

the wall at 3 in the morning.

He eats faster than a bulldozer

picking up food.

by Sj




Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tuesday Tips: Tricks For Keeping Valuables Safe In Public

Now this trick was born out of pure randomness. Last week when I took my daughter swimming I was gathering up my belongings to hit the Rec Center. I packed up all of our stuff in my favorite, .60 cent IKEA reusable bag, which holds everything I need. As I took a look at my purse, I decided I didn't want to drag it along. I do lock up my stuff, but did I really need to drag my purse and wallet with me?

It was a pretty easy decision, I'll just leave my wallet and purse safely at home (cars have been known to have been broken into at the Rec Ctr). I just needed my iPhone, my identification, and some cash I had. I guess the easy go to would've been a ziploc bag if I thought of it. I glanced down at our entry way bookshelf and saw an old on the go wipes container.

Hmm, I thought to myself.

I opened it up, placed my iPhone, money, and identification in it and off we went. Beauty of storing those valuables in a wipes case, they would be overlooked by someone taking advantage of a moment when my back was turned. Even when we hit up the play area following the swimming pool, I wasn't worried about my stuff because it was all safely concealed by my lovely Huggies container.

You're welcome.


Are Pickles A Food Group?

This photos makes me laugh, just a tiny bit. I immediately look at the pickles in the picture, thinking they are just as prominent as the strawberries. For the record it was only half a pickle chopped up and it was a Bubbies Pickle. The ingredients on the pickle jar are as follows, cucumbers, artisan well water, garlic, salt, dill, and spices. No food coloring, no chemicals, just pure old fashioned pickles that are delicious. What is a ham and cheese sandwich with out a pickle on the side? The ingredients are so great in this jar of pickles we could even just call it a happy cucumber.

Today my daughter was lucky enough to have a homemade mini blueberry muffin in her snack (pink bento on the right). I placed a cutie in with it to balance out the snack offering, honestly whenever I can throw in fruit or vegetables I do. The puffs are from Whole Foods, 365 Brand.

Another day, another bento happily eaten.

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Disclosure, all products mentioned in this post were purchased by my family, they are not paid endorsement or free samples.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happiest Mother's Day...

Today is the day I feel honored to be a part of a group of amazing women. My friends and family constantly inspire me to do better, to be the best I can be. Better yet, the support I have surrounds me and holds me up when I most need it. Motherhood to me is celebrations big and small, mixed with those occasional days that are overwhelming but make me stronger.

Today I can celebrate and honor the most important job i've ever had and love, being a mother. A special thank you to my husband for allowing me the great fortune of staying home with my girls. An extra big thank you to my mother for guiding me through out life, your support is incredible.

A glimpse into my morning:
3 little birds, made by Sj, wrapped gently and placed in a box, what a treasure to me.

Breakfast in bed, prepared by J, he even baked the muffins. Yes, I am a lucky woman.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

First Choice, Macaroni and Cheese...

Sometimes, no wait, more times than I care to admit I get bored of packing lunches. I am sure I am not alone in that sentiment. The notion of boredom alone was one of the driving forces behind Colorado Bento. If I was going to publish on a regular basis exactly what I am packing for lunch, it better be post worthy, right?

This morning I just wasn't feeling like sending yet another sandwich into school. I gave my daughter some options, one of which was macaroni and cheese. I don't mind making it in the morning, it's quick and easy and breaks up the monotony of bread based sandwiches. She jumped at macaroni and cheese, as I only offer it typically in a pinch about once a month. We buy Annie's macaroni and cheese by the case at Costco. It works out to be less than a $1.00 a box that way. Her sides today were mandarin organges (.79 cents a can at Whole Foods, 365 Brand), Veggie Booty, an organic pear (on sale $1.00 a pound this week).

What do you make for your kids as a substitute for a sandwich? My fall backs are a cheese quesadilla (softly toasted in toaster oven), macaroni and cheese, left over pasta, and soup. It's May and my repertoire needs refreshing.

Share away...

The Mental Defeat Of Wearing A Swimsuit...

This morning around 8:45 I looked at GL and asked her if she wanted to go swimming. She casually put down her cup of smoothie and paused for a moment. I know she was thinking to herself, swimming?

Her reply, "Sure, I'd love to."

She proceeded to run up stairs in a flash to dig out her swimsuit from the top drawer of her dresser. Recently we had taken some hand me down swimsuits out of storage, so she was eager to chose a suit to her liking. Today she would wear her Paul Frank monkey swimsuit, which I just adore because quite often I refer to her as my little monk-a-la-ronk.

I on the other hand, slowly made my way into my bedroom, trying to conjure up the last time I actually donned my swimsuit. August of 2009, in my backyard. Does wearing a swimsuit in one's backyard even count as having the self confidence to wear a suit in public? I don't think so. I headed to my dresser, but came up fruitless. I had moved my swimsuit to a small storage bin in the back of my closet, with the likes of my sexy nighties, pantyhose, and a random bikini. All items I haven't worn in let's just say, quite some time.

All I could really think to myself was, swimming was this MY idea? I stripped down out of my pajamas and stepped my naked leg into the black lycra swimsuit. That was the first step, seeing if it fit me and it did. Of course I instantly turned around to see how large my ass appeared in the swimsuit, but I must have one of those slimming mirrors because it just looked half way normal. I don't quite know how to explain the body image I conjure up of myself, sometimes when I look in the mirror this is what I believe I will see:
Honestly, that's not a joke, nor is it intended to poke fun at body image issues, but that picture pretty much sums up how I think my ass looks. Really, I don't know how I look from behind in natural lighting in a swimsuit, I just know how a slimming mirror makes me look. I don't even have cellulite in the mirror I own and let me be the first one to say, I know I have cellulite on my thighs. Fact. Oddly not proven by mirror images of myself.

So really, I ask my daughter casually if she wants to go swimming and those thoughts are what's going through my mind. Going out to the rec center with my daughter to swim is quite frankly an absurd notion in my world. I dread swimsuits and swimming.

Then I just take a moment to step away from all the negativity of how I perceive myself to look. The endless thoughts of how I wish I was 25 pounds thinner, about how I wish I looked kick ass in a swimsuit, and how I try to convince myself to just bail on the whole idea. I stand in front of the mirror, shoulders back and look myself in the eye. I tell myself so what, I whisper it to myself, then I say it out loud, "So What!". I put on my Juicy sweats, a t-shirt, grab a pair of panties, and throw them in the bag with our towels.

We arrive at the rec center, lock up our belongings, and head into the pool area. In that moment I feel like I am standing in a public place naked, but I'm not. There's so much working through in my mind to beat the obstacles, the feelings, the disappointment of how I view myself. In that exact moment when I am all wrapped up in my head, GL squeals in delight seeing the alligator water slide. She looks up at the long and windy yellow tube slide and asks if we can go down that one first! She is delighted by our experience at the swimming pool, which by far surpasses any of my body image issues.

I regret not taking my girls swimming more often. Funny enough I come to realize after a few minutes at the pool, I'm not the only woman with cellulite. Truly, no one cares that I do. Maybe someday I'll even post a picture of myself in a swimsuit. Alright maybe not, let's not get too carried away here.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Food Revolution: Walking The WALK

This weekend I was able to sit down and watch the final episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Quite honestly I was brought to tears out of shock, outrage, and sadness for the general state of how we feed our children. There was a backlash by parents of the elementary aged children against the new improved lunch system Jamie instituted. Instead of having their students eat the new healthy options at school, they started sending in brown bag lunches full of crap. Absolute garbage. One little girl had two bags of chips, a baggie of skittles, and a juice box as her lunch!!! Most of the kids didn't even have a sandwich in their lunch, it was Lunchables full of chemicals and processed ingredients and to top it off, blue jello on the side.

I was appalled.

Honestly, when I run out of a basic essential in my pantry like, all fruit jelly I do the best I can. I use real strawberries instead: When I cook too much veggie pasta the night before, I throw it in a bento for my daughter to eat for lunch. Some organic baby carrots, sliced up grapes, and it's good to go. It doesn't take more than five minutes to pack this bento. Show your kids you love them, nourish them, feed them fresh foods. Keep in mind their lunch should contain a variety of nature's colors (not blue jello). We all try hard to keep our kids healthy and I am proud to admit I not only talk the talk, I definitely walk the walk.

Have you signed the Jamie's petition yet, click here and take a minute, make a difference in the lives of American School Children.

Tuesday Tips: Are Your Favorite Vege Burgers Full Of Poisonous Chemicals?

Sometimes I think I'm doing the right thing by purchasing brands I've come to trust. Those brands are typically found at "natural foods" stores and when I read the label, all the ingredients are recognizable. Quite honestly that's pretty much my top criteria for processed foods, if I can recognize ALL the ingredients in simple English, I'll buy it. Obviously it can't contain MSG, artificial colorings, flavorings, or high fructose corn syrup, but where I shop those items are rarely found in products. While we are not vegetarians in our household, my husband and I were vegetarians for over a decade. We enjoy eating meatless dinners about three times a week.

Just last month a friend posted a link to this article, Popular Veggie Burgers Contain Poisonous Chemicals. I clicked through thinking it was going to be a joke, as my friend is a huge meat consumer. But unfortunately it wasn't a joke. The article links to a 37 page report describing the use of "hexane" in the natural soy industry. Hexane is a chemical used to separate the oil from the protein in things like soy beans. Hexane is a known neuro toxin to the body.

Ouch, another strike against SOY.

Let's just be honest, over processed vegetarian products simulating meat are NOT healthier for you. You're better off seeking out local meat products, raised properly in a pasture that hopefully wasn't fed a bunch of soy and corn feed.

We do enjoy soy in our home, a couple times a month. We always buy ORGANIC tofu or soy products. Luckily organic soy products can not be treated with hexane, nor can they contain GMO's (genetically modified organism). I believe over 90% of soy that is grown in the United States is grown with Gentically Modified seeds. There are companies (watch Food Inc) that have dominated the sale of soy seeds and growing of soy crops in the United States for quite sometime because they own the patent on the GMO soy. Avoid GMO soy at all costs.

Click through to the original article to find out which brands of veggie burgers to avoid. Better yet, experiment in the kitchen and make some of your own veggie burgers. Creating fresh food items that we would normally fall back on of the frozen variety, is going to increase your intake of nutrient rich foods. Make a double batch of a recipe you enjoy and freeze the rest. Voile, a frozen go to veggie burger will be ready in that spur of the moment.

Recipe I am going to try: