Friday, September 13, 2013

Fun Back to School Lunches

Picked up some cool, new lunch box accessories while we shopped for back to school this year.  We needed another Bento Box since I'll be preparing two lunches now that I have a second grader and a very excited preschooler.  Honestly, the oldest asked me why he can't take a regular brown paper bag to school like some of the other kids (BECAUSE THIS IS LEXI'S LUNCH BOX!  Oooo, deep breath before I scream answer.)  "Uh, because it's friendlier to the Earth."  I have no idea the amount of fossil fuel that goes into these plastic containers but that response sounded reasonable enough and he went on to complain about something else.  : )


Turkey sub on wheat, peaches and the angry bird is made from a Babybel cheese

I continue to try to give the kids choices, have them help grocery shop and have a say in what they would like for their lunches.  Although I've found it easier to prepare the lunches after they've gone to bed instead of having them hover over me in the morning when they are supposed to be eating breakfast.  The cutesy lunches are now embarrassing for my oldest so I've had to evolve a bit to still make his lunches appealing and special for him.  He was excited to pick out several new containers such as a mini Thermos to help keep the warm stuff warm.  I usually pack lasagna in that.  He also has small Tupperware cups for dressing and this thing, that helps to just switch things up a bit.

The new bento box

My preschooler is my picky eater so I struggle to think of food to pack that he will eat.  However, his enthusiasm is off the charts so I can turn a little Babybel cheese into his absolute, all-time favorite character and suddenly I'm Mom-of-the-year.  His special talent--long-winded, one-sided conversations about all things Star Wars Angry Birds.  It's incredible.  He never runs out of topic.  Per his request,  I'm stuck trying to figure out how to make a Han Solo Angry Bird frozen in carbonate Halloween costume.  At least he gave me advanced notice.   

Friday, August 30, 2013

G. M. No-No's

The Bento box has been handed down (just like everything else) to the youngest.  I bought these crazy eyes in the baking aisle and it's taken lunch box art to a whole new level!

A little ham and cheese, IDK, bunny?  Sliced and peeled apples and homemade granola bar for the first day of preschool!  

A friend, who knows me well, sent me a video on genetically modified organisms, which has brought to light another important concern regarding food choices.  Basically, genetic engineering is the science of altering genetic material in food in order to create a more sustainable shelf life, resistance to disease, pesticides and even frost or cold weather in the hopes of gaining a higher yield.  Some have argued the intent is to cure world hunger, while others might feel it's a big-big bottom line deal for major chemical companies.  Either way, it's a controversial topic due to the lack of conclusive research on the long term effects this chemically changed food can have on not only the human body but also to our soil, air quality and overall environment.  Another concern is the general lack of information provided to the consumer about weather any particular whole food or ingredient has been in fact genetically modified.  At this point, it is my understanding there is not yet a law in place requiring GMO labeling.  I'm a compulsive food label reader and I've found these two (2!) processed items my family loves to enjoy with information I'm looking for: 

Speaking of labels, you know that four or five digit number on the little sticker on produce?  This is the easiest clue on how that apple came to be.  If the sticker label PLU has four numbers it means it's been traditionally grown with the use of pesticides.  If there are five numbers on the label beginning with the number nine, it's organic.  Finally, if there are five numbers beginning with the number eight, it is a genetically modified fruit or vegetable. 

This is great once we have this information but think about the food filling the cupboards and pantries.  I've always thought of processed foods as Cheez Whiz, the Tuna Helpers, TV dinners and frozen burritos.  Guess what else is processed?  Yogurt, 100% whole wheat bread, multi grain crackers and no sugar added applesauce, which are all 'healthy' everyday items found in my kitchen. 

It's extremely difficult to find bread, even at a bakery, that does not have soy or canola oil in it.  Try it for yourself.  Same thing with crackers.  Supposedly, a high percentage of corn and soy grown in this country has been genetically modified.  Soy and canola are in so much processed food because it's on the cheap. 

Genetic engineering is remarkable and had created unbelievable advances in technology and life improvement in many living things.  Since it's been introduced into our food supply back in the 90's, maybe coincidentally, there seems to have been an increased percentage of people suffering from something on list of hot health topics.  I personally know at least one or many people with the following health challenges:  infertility, thyroid and hormone problems, food allergies, asthma, Crohn's, ASD, Celiac disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer. 

Panic is clearly my choice of emotion when I hear anything that challenges the healthy choices I thought I was making for my family.  I've seriously gotten on my husband's last nerve with the whole GMO talk but it feels really good to get these thoughts written down, hopefully, in an inoffensive way.   With my husband being an actual chemist, good with numbers and a LOGICAL thinker, he was positively able to talk me down from the ledge.  I can't explain it as well as he, but he reminded me that percentages can seem worse than they are.  Information gathering is better than it's ever been.  Either side of an argument can be filled with numbers data to freak people out and encourage them to join that side. 

Though this genetic modification on food really does bother me, I feel like I'm a more informed consumer.  I have a different (more complete) view on processed foods.  I love that my community has a farmer's market.  What better way to buy fresh food and support and get to know others who like what you like?  I've seen many positive changes while living in this community that gear towards more healthy lifestyles and ultimately that's what I want for my children. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Already Thinking Spring

The holidays were great, I'm pumped to start a new year and ready for some warm, sunny weather!  Unfortunately, the summer wardrobe remains in deep hibernation for us Northeast Ohioans for quite some time.  We did have a successful thaw that melted the snow in order for me to see the 20 pounds of dog poo I have to pick up, but as usual, these unseasonable temperatures are just a major teaser.

My youngest brother and sister in law came home for the holidays from California.  They left Ohio for the first time ever a few years ago but have quickly been spoiled by the West Coast's gorgeous climate {jealous tone.}  They wore heavy, winter coats here in Ohio, continuously, for 10 days straight (pretty confident my SIL slept in hers!)  They seemed surprised by our tolerance for gloomy days.  Our single sunny day during their visit was not even sunny enough for them.  Really?

My prospective changed a bit during the holidays this year.  It was definitely more about spending time with friends and family than anything else.  The kids are getting older and are better able to handle the 'marathon' celebrations, the whole family took time off from work to be together (extremely grateful for that), and we simply slowed everything down. 

Pasta bird nests, cheese eggs and newborn zombie meatballs (definitely not my best work but was too funny not to post), with black beans for eyes and sliced carrot for open beaks, edamame and cucumbers

My parents gave me a juicer for Christmas (love how my family knows me)!  Now, I've juiced (legally {hee-hee}) in the past, before kids, and yes it was a short lived fad for mostly two reasons:  First, all juicers are a pain to clean, and second, they do take quite a bit of food to make an 8 ounce drink.  The taste and health benefits I love (I'm never going to find a tasty way to chew kale no matter how hard I try but I will drink it with lots of oranges and apples.)

Here are my new predictions of why this time, juicing will play a longer lasting role in my household:  I hate waste.  Tossing food out really bothers me but I also refuse to become a human garbage disposal for fear of turning into the size of a truck.  The kids might eat half of a piece of fruit while the other half goes back into the refrigerator to brown over the next couple of days.  I peeled a whole carrot to make those monster-baby bird beaks.  I try to use those leftovers for dinner but it doesn't always work out.  Have you ever bought one of those wooden boxes full of clementines only to be disappointed that they are past their prime even when they are in season?  Instead of going into the garbage, those go into my juicer.  They are still fine to eat but just aren't as yummy if they're not perfectly ripe.  Juiced, however, they are still delicious!  Therefore, money not wasted. 

Turkey meatball bagel thin with American Cheese, oven baked fries and steamed baby peas

Obviously it is important to eat and chew whole foods for the fiber.  I'm just saying, in moderation with everything else, I'm having a healthful drink with the leftover good stuff!  Now, I'm finding myself craving these fresh, raw drinks.  Some weight loss programs encourage people to not drink their calories and I do agree with that, especially when it comes to soft drinks and alcohol, but why not drink my breakfast on those days I wake up not that hungry and I know how important it is to not skip breakfast?  I've heard before it may take on average 30 days to change a habit.  I feel changed already--kinda like that California sun did to my brother : )