Thursday, January 22, 2015

Another Pizza Lunchable with Garden Veggie Sticks

Nuthin' fancy here. Just another Pizza Lunchable that Big Sis requested to take last week. :)


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In this lunch:
  1. Nature's Own Whole Wheat Flat Sandwich Rounds
  2. Trader Joe's Pizza Sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese
  3. Carrot Chips with Marzetti's Simply Dressed Ranch Dresssing
  4. Snyder's of Hanover's eatsmart Naturals Garden Veggie Sticks
  5. Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake left over for Little Sis' Birthday
Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment, joining my blog in the top right corner or liking my on Facebook at MyEpicureanAdventures - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)

Here are some items used in this post. To see a full list of my favorite bento gear and such, just visit my "Products I Love" page! :) Any purchases made through these links earns me a little extra cash to support my bento habit, which my hubby would really appreciate. haha! So thank you!!! if you choose to use any of 'em! :)

   

My favorite Bento supplier @ All Things For Sale.  Just click on the pix to view/purchase now! :)

Japanese Bento Accessories Sauce Container set of 4 Lovely Mayo Cup 


Disclosure: Affiliate links are used on this blog. :)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Fun with Jars and Labels

Is it just me or does seeing this just make you want to cook more, too? :) I can't help but smile a little when I open my spice cabinet now. It's the little things like this that make cooking that much more enjoyable for me. Silly but true.


Let me start out by saying that I don't think that I'm one of those hyper-organized neat-freak type people that makes other people feel bad about themselves when they come into my house. If you were to stop by for an unexpected visit, most likely you will find a nice layer of dust on at least 60% of surfaces, playmobil worlds set up in at least a couple living areas while a nice rockin' American girl party is raging in in another and other little fun and not-so-fun disasters. I have clutter. Lots of it. I love my stuff but do not like the messiness of it, so admittedly, I do love to organize things, whether they be notebook binders, toys (though the upkeep is largely out of my control), baskets for papers and stuff, lists in Excel spreadsheets, you name it. And, if my organizing of such things happen to occasionally arouse a little envy or slight feelings of inadequacy, I promise you, I have plenty of dust bunnies lurking in dark corners, not-so-neat piles of paper litter the kitchen island, miscellaneous stuff cluttering up my dining room table and plenty more. Somethings are just too hard to fight, ya know?


My most recent organizy thing has been to store stuff in mason jars. It first started with salt, kind of inspired by The Pioneer Woman, as I just love how she grabs pinches from an open bowl of salt and other basic spices while she's cooking. Of course that's not really practical in my every day life, as I don't have nearly the counter space as she does, but I made it work for me using mason jars. I've expanded to some more spices, based on all of the following criteria:
  1. how often I used it
  2. how much of it is typically called for in a recipe, ie my tablespoon measuring spoons don't fit into the standard spice jars and it drives me bonkers!
  3. how often do I like to use pinches of it, because pinching it out of a mason jar is much more fun than pinching it out of a standard spice jar
  4. how much cabinet space I have to store it
  5. how painful is the original packaging (kinda goes back to #3)
Here are the list of spices and such I've put into my mason jars:

Ball Jar Crystal Jelly Jars with Lids and Bands, 8-Ounce, Quilted
  1. Salt (love to pinch it)
  2. Italian Seasoning (love to pinch and sprinkle abundant amounts of it)
  3. Cinnamon (often use tablespoonfuls of it)
  4. Chili Powder (use tablespoonfuls of it)
  5. Cinnamon Sugar (use tablespoons of it, plus I mix it myself)
  6. Corn Starch (the organic stuff comes in painful packaging)
  7. Baking Powder (thinking about moving it to a mason jar)
  8. Baking Soda (thinking about moving it to a mason jar)
Ball Wide Mouth 16 oz container:
  1. Girls' Chewable Vitamins (painful child-proof packaging and will turn sticky if not airtight)
  2. Brown Sugar (the most painful packaging of all cause it's so darned messy!)
  3. Tea bags (I use 'em enough that I don't always want to go to the pantry for them)
Oggi Acrylic Airtight Canister with Clamp, 51-Ounce:
  1. flour
  2. oatmeal
  3. sugar
All of these mason jars were bought years ago for other various purposes. The canisters I've owned since my early married years, some 17+ years ago, but all have been spruced up by these cool chalk board labels you see running rampant on Pinterest. Funny how something so simple can give old things a new life.

I bought my set of chalkboard labels on Amazon from MagicMil - Set of 48 writable chalkboard labels and white pen. This set had lots of awesome reviews and lots of varying sizes and are freezer and dishwasher safe.


If you want them all the same size and shape, you might want something like this set of uniform labels instead, but double check on dishwasher/freezer usage. I kind of like it that mine are all slightly different, though. :) The pen that came with this set was too thick for my taste plus it was erasable, so I went and found myself a more permanent pen: American Craft Medium Point White Chalk Marker. I've tested it and it won't wipe off with soap and water but it will come off with dry erase cleaner and a paper towel. Sweet!

It's the little things like this that help me feel a little bit in control when sometimes the rest seems like it's spiraling out, you know what I mean? And you know what they say: If mama's happy... ;)

Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment, joining my blog in the top right corner or liking my on Facebook at MyEpicureanAdventures - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)

Here are some items used in this post. To see a full list of my favorite bento gear and such, just visit my "Products I Love" page! :) Any purchases made through these links earns me a little extra cash to support my bento habit, which my hubby would really appreciate. haha! So thank you!!! if you choose to use any of 'em! :)

Storage Containers:




Disclosure: Affiliate links are used on this blog. :)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Turkey and Cheese Sliders

I guess I've been into mini things lately because we've been enjoying these mini buns in addition to our mini bagels. ;) Here are two lunches I made this week for the girls.

Note that Little Sis has some leftover Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake in her lunch while sadly, Big Sis did not because she ate her treat without eating enough of her lunch the day before. She wasn't very happy about that, but those are the breaks, sista! However, she was given a second chance to get her treat after school, provided she did a better job on lunch that day, and that she did. Yay!



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In this lunch:
  1. Applegate Turkey and Muenster Cheese Sliders on King's Hawaiin Sweet Rolls (with lettuce too for Big Sis)
  2. Carrot chips with Marzetti's Simpy Dressed Ranch Dressing
  3. Homemade Dilly Snack mix
  4. Kiwi for Little Sis and Peeled Snacks' Apple Clusters for Big Sis
  5. Annie's Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies
  6. Cliff Kids' ZBar Protein Bar
Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment, joining my blog in the top right corner or liking my on Facebook at MyEpicureanAdventures - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)

Here are some items used in this post. To see a full list of my favorite bento gear and such, just visit my "Products I Love" page! :) Any purchases made through these links earns me a little extra cash to support my bento habit, which my hubby would really appreciate. haha! So thank you!!! if you choose to use any of 'em! :)

    

My favorite Bento supplier @ All Things For Sale.  Just click on the pix to view/purchase now! :)

Japanese Bento Accessories Sauce Container set of 4 Lovely Mayo Cup Japanese Bento Accessories Silicone Colorful Food Cup 6P 

Disclosure: Affiliate links are used on this blog. :)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Bacon, Egg and Cheese Mini-Bagel Sandwich

I've been on a mini-bagel kick lately. The girls love 'em. They're just so cute and won't fill them up with too much bread. Plus they fit nicely in my EasyLunchboxes! :)


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In this lunch:
  1. Thomas' Mini-Bagel with fried egg, bacon and muenster cheese
  2. Annie's Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies
  3. Carrot sticks with Marzetti's Simply Dressed Ranch Dressing
  4. Blackberries
  5. Krispy Kreme's Mini-Cruller
Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment, joining my blog in the top right corner or liking my on Facebook at MyEpicureanAdventures - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)

Here are some items used in this post. To see a full list of my favorite bento gear and such, just visit my "Products I Love" page! :) Any purchases made through these links earns me a little extra cash to support my bento habit, which my hubby would really appreciate. haha! So thank you!!! if you choose to use any of 'em! :)

   
    

My favorite Bento supplier @ All Things For Sale.  Just click on the pix to view/purchase now! :)

Japanese Bento Accessories Sauce Container set of 4 Lovely Mayo Cup Japanese Bento Accessories Silicone Colorful Food Cup 6P  

Disclosure: Affiliate links are used on this blog. :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake


Homemade Cookie Cake - Made healthier, cheaper and nut-free!

My girls just love cookie cakes but there are very very few that I trust to be nut-free what with their peanut/tree-nut allergies, so I've gotten to making my own. Little Sis has requested one for the past 3 years, so I'd say they're a hit!

The additional bonuses are that they're super easy to make (way easier than cookies), you can make it a little healthier by sneaking in some "good stuff" AND they are WAAAY cheaper! It's a win-win in my book!

I always use my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe from Ghirardelli. Why re-invent the wheel, I say? I often make this cake straight up from this recipe, but sometimes, I like to add a couple things to make it a leeeetle bit better for you and they never seem to notice. :) Here's that recipe:

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake, a wee bit healthier :)
adapted from Ghiradelli's Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
by happyvballgirl @ My Epicurean Adventures

Ingredients:

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups unsifted flour (1 1/2 cup white flour + 3/4 cup whole wheat flour) - mixing flour is optional of course!
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons ground flax seed (optional)
2 Tablespoons wheat germ (optional)
11 1/2 ounces Ghirardelli chocolate chips (I always do half semi-sweet and half 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips)

Directions:
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350ºF. 
  2. Stir flours, flax seed and wheat germ with baking soda and salt; set aside. 
  3. In large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color. 
  4. Add eggs and vanilla, one at a time. Mix on low speed until incorporated. 
  5. Gradually blend dry mixture into creamed mixture. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. 
  6. Place dough into a greased 13 x 9 inch baking pan for a thicker cookie or as large as ~15 x 10 inch jelly roll pan for a larger, thinner cake. Spread dough into prepared pan. Check out the technique I always use:  Cooking Tip #1: Smushing sticky stuff like cookie dough into a pan.:)
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. 
  8. Let sit and frost and decorate when it is completely cooled. 
  9. Have fun!!
This year Little Sis just had 1 friend over for a sleepover so I made her a smaller cake in a round 9" baking dish using only half of the recipe. It was actually the perfect size, because as much as you love having leftovers, you hate having leftovers, get my drift? :)

Here are the other two cakes I made for her. This pirate themed one was made in 2013. It's not very fancy, but that's sadly what happens when your birthday is so close after the Christmas holidays. lol.
This one was baked in a jelly roll pan using parchment paper to easily remove from the pan and place on this melamine platter. 

My Epicurean Adventures: Homemade Cookie Cake - Made healthier, cheaper and nut-free!

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Last year's was a Minecraft-themed birthday party which meant Little Sis NEEDED a Minecraft cake. Not a Minecraft THEMED cake but the actual type of cake they have in the game itself. We were able to embellish it further with some figures she got for her birthday. This cake was made using the same jelly roll, but cut into squares then placed in a 3 layer square, with frosting between each layer, using 27 smaller square cookie pieces. Caution: when serving the lower layers, kids may whine and complain that they are not as nice as the top layers so some touching up may be required. Yes, I speak from experience. ;)

Homemade Minecraft Cookie Cake - Made healthier, cheaper and nut-free!

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Happy cookie cake-making to you and have fun with it!

Homemade Cookie Cake - made 3 ways. So easy, cheap AND better for you!


Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment, joining my blog in the top right corner or liking my on Facebook at MyEpicureanAdventures - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)

Here are some items used in this post. To see a full list of my favorite bento gear and such, just visit my "Products I Love" page! :) Any purchases made through these links earns me a little extra cash to support my bento habit, which my hubby would really appreciate. haha! So thank you!!! if you choose to use any of 'em! :)



Disclosure: Affiliate links are used on this blog. :)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Happy 8th Birthday, Little Sis!

Happy 8th Birthday, Little Sis! You are growing up waaaaay too quickly. I've never been a sappy sort, but lately, when baby pictures stream across on our screen saver, often times it gets me a little teary eyed. What happened to the sweet little babies we used to cuddle in our arms?

I know, they're growing up into lovely young ladies. And I've come to realize that instead of pining for the past, I need to focus on the present, because they are still littler than they will be next month or next year and 5 years from now. THEN, I'll be missing what I have here and now. So I keep reminding myself that they are still little and give them as many hugs and kisses as possible, while their cheeks are still soft and chubby and oh so yummy (and while they'll still let me, of course)! :)

Little Sis at the age of 8 has a heart of gold and is quick to share that sweet smile of hers. She's a hard worker both at school, piano, soccer and home. She's kind, thoughtful and easy going - NORMALLY... but lately she's been rather feisty and not putting up with any crap from her Big Sis (or anyone else for that matter) anymore, which is good for her and bad for the family. lol! Oh, and she's a giant. Nearly the size of her Big Sis who is 3 years older and not a shortie herself, so we'd all better watch out! :)

Here's the birthday girl, who got up early this morning to play American Girls with her sis, on a happy birthday call first thing in the morning from Nana and her cousins - what a way to start off the day!

Her breakfast as requested, on her very special plate.


In this breakfast:
  1. Scrambled Eggs and Bacon
  2. Fuji apple slices
  3. Grits topped with cheese and bacon
  4. Homemade chocolate milk
And LUNCH! :) Now it wasn't my intention to send her to school with a gag birthday lunch, but when I started to make the lunch she requested (so much for planning ahead), I realized that we were out of both cheese AND salami. And no cupcake to boot! DOH! I asked her if I could just bring it into school with me when I went to have lunch with her, but she insisted that she wanted to take what she could of her lunch and that I could just bring in the rest. Well, I wasn't crazy about the idea either, so I decided to just trick her and packed her this lunch instead. :) One thought did kept going through my mind though... "You'd BETTER not be late for lunch!" haha.


And the lunch I took in for her:


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In this lunch:
  1. Trader Joe's Golden Rounds with Boar's Head Muenster Cheese and Hard Salami
  2. Strawberries
  3. Maplehurst Bakeries Peanut-Free Cupcakes
  4. Keebler Club & Cheddar Crackers
Yes, I know, I doubled up on the cheese and crackers this lunch, but Little Sis has been asking me for weeks to buy "some of those crackers with cheese that don't have nuts in them that I love" and what better day for it than her birthday. 

Here are some pictures from lunch today. I'm happy to report that I was NOT late! Yay!! And I just loved hearing her say, "Moooooommmy! Where's my real food lunch?!?!?" all the while giggling w/ her friends.




And looky look at who stopped by to wish her Little Sis a happy birthday? I will really miss them being at the same school next year as Big Sis moves on up to Middle School.


Lastly, here's the homemade cookie cake she requested for her birthday. They're always fun and easy to make. Big Sis helped decorate it!


Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment, joining my blog in the top right corner or liking my on Facebook at MyEpicureanAdventures - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)

Here are some items used in this post. To see a full list of my favorite bento gear and such, just visit my "Products I Love" page! :) Any purchases made through these links earns me a little extra cash to support my bento habit, which my hubby would really appreciate. haha! So thank you!!! if you choose to use any of 'em! :)

   

My favorite Bento supplier @ All Things For Sale.  Just click on the pix to view/purchase now! :)

Bento Silicone Baking Food Cup - 12 Heart  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Happy 2015!

Happy New Year everyone!! It's been a crazy fun year and am a little sad to see it go, but I can't help but smile thinking about what adventures the new year may bring.


Our holidays didn't get off to a very good start as Big Sis started to feel not very good within hours of starting her vacation from school on Friday. Luckily, she was able to muscle through another round of Salvation Army bell ringing that night.


By the end of bell-ringing and dinner out with friends from Albuequerque who were staying with us for a few days, she was pretty much down for the count. See her with the ice pack on her head as we pose with our friends the next day? Yeah, not a good sign.


By Tuesday, both had been confirmed with the flu. Influenza A, to be exact. My poor sick babies. Apparently, this year's flu shot wasn't a very good match to what's been going around. Big Sis spent most of the week of Christmas in this exact spot on the left while Little Sis, who fared much better, thanks to her general heartiness, love of food and Tamiflu. She always responded "Great!" to my inquiries of "How are you feeling?" Who wouldn't feel great when you get to lounge in Mommy and Daddy's bed watching whatever you wanted all day? :)


This rat's nest was the result of Big Sis' couch-ridden existence without the desire nor energy to comb her hair once in almost a week. Needless to say, what usually takes a lima bean sized dollop of "magical conditioner" to tame this thick, long, full mane took full palmful to detangle. If it took that much for this conditioner that we truly think is magical, I'm pretty sure it would have taken others at least half a bottle! lol.


With all our plans cancelled (visit from family, hosting friends on Christmas Eve, a trip to Greensboro on Christmas and a trip to MD the day after Christmas), we all just spent a quiet, self-quarantined weekend at home. As sad as it was to cancel all of our fun plans, spending the week at home with no where to be was actually kind of nice (minus the sickliness). Big Sis literally went through 6 full boxes of tissues in less than a week's time. Sniff, sniff.

We barely managed to put the decorations on the tree (Christmas Eve is the latest we've ever done it yet!) and got cookies and letters ready for Santa. They managed to give their presents one more shake before heading off to bed Christmas Eve. Poor Big Sis still looks spent while Little Sis barely seemed sick.


Christmas morning, we were happy that Big Sis finally woke up feeling half decent. Yay! It's a Christmas miracle we all declared! :) Actually, the truly miraculous feat here is that neither the hubby nor I got it despite all the the coughing they did in our faces. lol.


Over the next few days, as Big Sis was feeling better and better, we finally got out to add in some 'fun'. First up was our long standing tradition of Christmas lights and donuts. For the past many many years, we've gone out, usually well before Christmas, to check out some pretty festive houses nearby and then hit Dunkin Donuts for some treats. This year, we invited the cousins along, which the girls loved. After being stuck in the house for a week with no social interaction w/ their fellow kiddies, you can bet they had a wonderful time.


The next day, the hubby took the girls over to the cousins' house for some Minecraft action, so I got to (finally) spend some quiet time at home ALONE! I used some of the time to make this headband holder that Big Sis had been asking me for. But not before indulging in this little treat while listening to Pharrell's "Happy". It makes me happy just thinking about it! :)


And THEN it was time to get to work on that headband holder. Not too shabby, right? Super easy and pretty cute, if I do say so myself!


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Finally, the girls were well enough to have some people actually come OVER, like Grandpa and Grandma from Michigan. Luckily, they had 2 other sets of grandkids to visit in NC before they were finally given the OK to come on over to our house. :)


And since everything was delayed, why not make our homemade gingerbread house after Christmas, too? Grandma helped me make them (since I still wasn't up for letting kids recovering from the flu make food - lol) using my new gingerbread house cookie cutters I got from Amazon...


... and Grandpa supervised as the girls excitedly got busy...


We were able to take the girls and those same cousins again bowling (Little Sis hit the jackpot not once but TWICE in the arcade and was super proud of her winnings) and rescheduled our Christmas Eve dinner with best friends who haven't seen each other in about 6 months...


... snuck in a little New Year's Eve celebration with a few friends...


... and even got a re-do of Christmas in Greensboro with the hubby's side of the family. It's always a good time when these guys get together...



One of the most exciting things about the upcoming year is that we have new family in town! The hubby's mom and her hubby aka Nana and Papa have purchased a second home a mere 7 mins from us. For those of you who are wondering, yes, this is a good thing. This is a great thing. No, this is an AWESOME thing! We are SO excited to have them so close by! For those of you who happened to read some of my NYC trip posts, they used to have a place in the upper east side of Manhattan... one we used to visit as often as possible. As much as we'll miss those trips, this is a much better trade-off in my book. :)


Only sad thing is that we weren't able to meet up with my side of the family as planned this time around. That just means we'll have to party it up in January, instead. But my parents still insisted on sending the girls' gifts by mail, so here we are, Jan 4th with Christmas gifts still under our tree. It's the day that just keeps on giving. Now it's off to FaceTime w/ them while the girls open them up. It's *almost* like we're together. :)


So even though we started off on not the best foot, we kicked in high gear towards the end, I'm happy to say. I even got around to give the blog a quick make-over. What do you think?

With that, Happy 2015!!! May your new year be filled with lots of fun, love and joy! And good eats, too, of course!! Hope it's the best one yet!!


Thanks so much for stopping by and please feel free to make my day by leaving me a comment, joining my blog in the top right corner or liking my on Facebook at MyEpicureanAdventures - the more the merrier! :)

Christine, aka happyvballgirl :)

Here are some items used in this post. To see a full list of my favorite bento gear and such, just visit my "Products I Love" page! :) Any purchases made through these links earns me a little extra cash to support my bento habit, which my hubby would really appreciate. haha! So thank you!!! if you choose to use any of 'em! :)

    

Disclosure: Affiliate links are used on this blog. :)