Thursday, August 29, 2013

Here's Lunch #11: Healthy snacks

Heeeeeere's snack in my gorgeous new LunchBots Quad that I won in a recent giveaway!! :) The girls opted to buy lunch at school today so here's the snack I sent along with each of them. Well, Big Sis got the same minus the strawberries since she has a severe dislike of them. :(

Healthy snacks for school

In this snack:
  1. Homemade Handi-Snack using Trader Joe's Whole Wheat Pretzel Sticks with MOMveeta (aka Homemade Velveeta!)
  2. Fresh  organic broccoli florets
  3. Fresh organic strawberries
  4. Trader Joe's Yogurt Cookie Stars
And here's a close-up of that Homemade Handi-Snack:

Homemade Handi-Snack using Homemade Velveeta Cheese (aka MOMveeta)

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And I just couldn't help but include this pic w/ a link to that Homemade Handi-Snack post (AGAIN!!):



* "Here's Lunch" is a series of lunch posts for those days when I really don't have more to say than "Here's lunch". :)

Shout-outs:
LunchBots - for some seriously awesome stainless steel lunch-transporting gear! Check out my affiliate link! :)

Shop LunchBots

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 :)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Homemade Pretzels

Made pretzels for the first time ever a couple months back. Not the prettiest, but boy were they yummy!! Here's the Food Network recipe I used: Food Network Alton Brown's Homemade Soft Pretzels Recipe. They were pretty easy to make, but I have to say a little messy. The boiling water with 1/3 cup baking soda sure did leave a mess on my stove! But well worth it, because the girls and the hubby gobbled them right up! And FYI: they freeze great! Saved a few in the freezer and they STILL tasted great a couple months later!!

Homemade Pretzels with Homemade Velveeta Cheese Dip

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They make great after school snacks along with a side of MOMables' Homemade Velveeta (aka MOMveeta). Check out my post for more Yummy MOMveeta ideas!


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Not only are they great as snacks, they're great for lunch! Take this lunch for example. The girls had been tracked out for a week and it was lunch time. Many of my meals that week were received with mixed reviews, so I was half expecting them to turn their noses up to this one too. When they asked me what was for lunch and I told them to go look and  BOTH of their reactions were "OH cool!! I LOVE these" and proceeded to gobble it ALL up! YAY! I so needed that.

Soft Pretzels and Hotdogs on a stick in #EasyLunchboxes

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In this lunch:
  1. Applegate Hotdogs and Homemade Pretzels on a stick
  2. MOMveeta Cheese Dip
  3. Delmonte Canned Carrots
  4. Diced nectarine for Little Sis and Freeze Dried Asian Pear Crisps for Big Sis


And dinner, which was not served on the same day - haha!!

Soft Pretzel and Hot Dog On A Stick Dinner for kids

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This meal was a BIG hit with the girls. Not sure if it was the pretzel-hotdog combo or the fact that they were on a long stick (aka bamboo chopstick), but they sure did gobble it all up! :)

In this dinner:
  1. Homemade Pretzels and Applegate Hot Dogs on  a stick
  2. Lightly steamed broccoli
  3. Delmonte canned carrots
Shout-outs:
EasyLunchBoxes - love my ELB's!!

Pack lunches fast with EasyLunchboxes

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

Food Decorating Pick Long Pix Stix Assorted

MOMables - for sharing so many delicious and healthy recipes with us!

Applegate for providing organic nitrate-free yet oh-so-convenient pre-packaged deli meats. Check out my FB post professing my love for them: FB post professing my love for Applegate :)

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! :)

MOMveeta: Homemade Velveeta Cheese and Dip

When I first ran across this recipe, I was SO excited to try it out. I just couldn't believe Laura Fuentes over at MOMables came up with a Velveeta cheese replacement recipe! And she really took one for the team because it cost her over $300 in cheese trial-and-error before she was able to perfect it! And perfect it she did. Thank you, Laura!!!

Here's that incredible recipe: MOMables' MOMveeta aka Homemade Velveeta. You can use the true Velveeta replacement variation of the recipe found in MOMnotes #2.

Update 10/30/13: Or if you prefer a little thicker version, like I do, don't add that extra 1/2 cup of milk.

Homemade Velveeta Cheese (aka MOMveeta)

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The trick for me was to find a natural, minimally processed, no added hormone AMERICAN cheese to use. Yeah, right! American cheese, by definition, is "processed cheese"! Well, despite the near impossibility of it, it came to me in a flash and excited me just as much as the MOMveeta Cheese recipe did: to use Applegate's Natural American Cheese which can be found pre-packaged in the deli section!!! It's minimally processed, contains no artificial ingredients and has no added hormones. SCORE!!! There's even an organic version if you can find it AND afford it. Yes, it is pre-sliced, which the recipe suggests NOT using, but I gave it try anyway and guess what?!?! It turned out FABULOUSLY!!!! And way easier - no knife necessary! Just tear 'em up! Pair that w/ your favorite organic milk and just say whoa.... :)


I gotta say that it was a big hit with the family, particularly the hubby. The first time I made it, I just left the block cheese in the fridge and sure enough, every night during our "TV watching wind down", I'd look over to see Sweetie with a ramekin full of cheese dip and chips. :) Ok, so I guess it's kinda dangerous to have around the house ALL the time!

Here just some of the many ways I'm able to use this (aside from the obvious: as a direct replacement in any recipe that calls for Velveeta!). First of all, I basically make a batch of the MOMables' true Velveeta Replacement recipe, use some immediately and store the rest in fridge for later use.

Laura says this can keep in the fridge for about 2-3 weeks and in the freezer for 3-6 months. Cool!

1. Zesty party dip!

Just follow the MOMveeta Cheese dip recipe as is or add even a bit more kick w/ Diced Jalapeno Peppers. Makes a ton for non-stop dipping and snacking.


MOMables' Homemade Velveeta Zesty Cheese Dip (aka MOMveeta)

2. Zesty cheese dip for the hubby and me (smaller portion):

Makes for a perfect-portion, quick and easy nighttime tv snack. Just add the desired amount of cheese in small bowl or ramekin, add some diced jalapenos peppers and/or spicy salsa, warm in microwave for about 10 seconds at a time and mix until melted.

Homemade Velveeta Zesty Cheese Dip

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3. Warm Cheese Dip for the girls:

For a milder cheese dip to serve my girls, I simply warm up the Homemade Velveeta Cheese (ie no seasonings or spices are necessary for them!) and serve with or over Homemade Pretzels, chips, etc.

Homemade pretzels and Homemade Velveeta (aka MOMveeta) Cheese Dip

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4. Cold or room temperature cheese spread (Cheeze-Whiz replacement!!) - WAY COOL!

For some reason, my girls love those processed and unwholesome snacks like Lunchables, Pop Tarts, Cheese-its, Handi-Snack cheese dip crackers, etc. I've been systematically trying to replace those unholy things one by one w/ a more wholesome homemade version. I've been successful with Lunchables and Cheese-its and the Pop Tarts are a work-in-progress. But guess what my most recent accomplishment is? That's right, Handi-snack cheese dip crackers & pretzels!!

homemade handi-snacks using MOMveeta

homemade handi-snacks using MOMveeta

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How funny is this? I had to buy some of these snacks to take pictures of them for this post, so guess what I did? Dumped their contents into trash and filled them with my own goodies: Trader Joe's Social Snackers and Trader Joe's Whole Wheat Pretzel Sticks along w/ Homemade Velveeta. Both have far less ingredients than their counterparts. Pure genius, I say. haha!! :)


You can also be tricky and refill the empty containers like I did! ;)

Homemade Handi-Snacks using MOMveeta

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Update 10/3/13: Just came up with a #5!

5. Cheese and Cracker Sandwiches

I was all excited to come up with a substitute for those Trader Joe's Organic Mini Cheese Sandwich Crackers I had accidentally bought that said "Made on shared equipment with peanuts" with this homemade version - yet another use for MOMveeta Cheese. But they didn't turn out quite as successful as I hoped. Though they are delicious if eaten immediately, they get soggy if packed in lunches and left sitting in a baggie for a couple hours. Big Sis ate hers despite. She said they were a little soggy during her snack time but probably not as soggy as when lunch time came for Little Sis about an hour after, so hers came back untouched. Sorry guys! Next time this will just have to be a yummy at-home snack made on the spot. But don't they look so yummy? :)



Here's how they went to school: one in a snack and one in a lunch. :)

     

All I can say is that I am in LOVE with this recipe and just had to share it with you guys, too! Hope you enjoy it just as much as we do!


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 via affiliate links! :)

Japanese Bento Accessories Sauce Container set of 4 Lovely Mayo Cup

LunchBots Rounds Crocheted Coozies


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I had some major fun kick-starting a LunchBots Rounds Review and Giveaway last week (sorry, the giveaway part is over, but the review's still there!) and making some coozies to go along with them. I thought I'd share the crochet pattern I came up with, in case you'd like to make some for yourself. :) But if you're just not the crafty type and would still love a set, you can email me about buying a set of your own and I just might be able to help you out. :)  $9 for a set of 2 + $3 shipping (for continental US addresses only). :)

LunchBots Rounds Crocheted Coozy Pattern
Adapted from: Bernat Cool Cap Pattern

Materials:
1 skein mulit-colored worsted weight yarn (Bulky 4)
1 US H/8 (metric 5.0 mm) hook

Instructions:
Ch 4. Join with sl st to first ch to form ring.
1st rnd: Ch 1. 6 sc in ring. Join with sl st to first sc.
2nd rnd: Ch 1. 2 sc in each sc around. Join with sl st to first sc. 12 sc.
3rd rnd: Ch 1. (2 sc in next sc, 1 sc in next sc) 6 times. Join with sl st to first sc. 18 sc
4th rnd: Ch 1. (2 sc in next sc, 1 sc in next 2 sc) 6 times. Joing with sl st to first sc. 24 sc
5th rnd: Ch 1. (2 sc in next sc, 1 sc in next 3 sc) 6 times. Join with sl st to first sc. 30 sc.
6th rnd: Ch 1. Sc in each sc. Join with sl st to first sc.
Work 9 more rows like 6th rnd.
Fasten Off.

* Please note that all Bulky 4 yarns do not seem to be created equal. The dark blue yarn, though labeled as a "Bulky 4" was actually a bit thinner than the other yarns and required me to go up to 36 sc in a round.

Eye:
Materials
White worsted weight yarn (Bulky 4)
Black worsted weight yarn (Bulky 4)
1 US H/8 (metric 5.0 mm) hook

Instructions:
With Black Yarn, Ch 4. Join with sl st to first ch to form ring. Join White Yarn.
Ch 1. 2 sc in each sc around. 8 st.
Fasten off, leaving 12 inch tail to attach to coozie. Make 2 per coozie. Or one if you prefer cyclopses! :)

Heart:
Red worsted weight yarn (Bulky 4) or color of choice
1 US H/8 (metric 5.0 mm) hook

Got this awesome pattern from: Cornflower Blue Studio's How To Crochet a Heart - Photo Tutorial

Finishing:
Sew embellishments onto best side of coozie. :)

Tada and voila! :)

Just look at all the fun I had with my Rounds:


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To purchase a set of your own, check out my affiliate link to order your LunchBots products here. All items ship for FREE in the U.S. and Canada. (Canadian residents are responsible for their customs fees and duties.)

Shop LunchBots


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 :)

LunchBots Rounds Giveaway Winner!!

First of all, just wanted to say THANK YOU to all of you who entered this giveaway. I was SO excited to see so many other people SO excited about LunchBots products!

And of course a HUGE thanks to LunchBots for letting me host this fabulous giveaway. It's always fun to share the products I love with my readers that I love. Thank you, LunchBots! :)


So without further ado, here's the winner of those fabuous set of 2 LunchBots Rounds in Blue:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
A big congrats to you, Michelle M.! Hope you love them as much as I do! And now it's time for you to pick your set of coozies to go along w/ your new rounds. Please let me know which color (A, B, C or D) and which embellishment (Eyes, Hearts or Plain and Simple) you'd like. You have 2 coozies coming your way and they don't have to be the same. :)


To read more about these coozies, ie how to make them yourself or buy a set, just check out my LunchBots Rounds Crocheted Coozies post. :)

And finally, another way to fill my Rounds (as well as my Trios). The girls decided to buy the school lunch today (Pork Pepperoni Pizza for Big Sis and Cheese Ravioli for Little Sis) so this is the snack I sent along with them. Big Sis says she needs an extra snack because they get to nibble both in the morning AND afternoon, so she's the lucky winner of the Rounds filled w/ popcorn! :)


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In this snack:
  1. Grapes for Little Sis, Raisins for Big Sis
  2. Organic "crunchy" (aka raw) broccoli w/ ranch dressing
  3. Whole wheat baguette w/ a wedge Light Swiss Laughing Cow Cheese
  4. Annie's Homegrown Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks
  5. NOW Foods' Organic Popcorn
Shout-outs:

LunchBots - for some seriously awesome stainless steel lunch-transporting gear! Check out my affiliate link! :)

Shop LunchBots

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

Japanese Bento Accessories Sauce Container set of 4 Lovely Mayo Cup

Annie's Homegrown for so many delicious and wholesome foods I love feeding my girls.
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 :)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

LunchBots Rounds Set in Blue Giveaway


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It's time for another giveaway for yet another company and product I LOVE - LunchBots! I fell in love with this maker of stainless steel lunch packing gear a couple years back when I went in search of some bento-style lunch boxes. I am the proud owner of 2 Unos, 2 Trios and a Quad. I actually won the Quad in iPackLunch's LunchBots Quad Review and Giveaway. See?!?! It really does pay to enter these things! and I reeeealllly want another one to complete the set. :)

When given the opportunity to do my own review and giveaway for LunchBots, you can bet I was ecstatic and headed straight for the LunchBots Rounds Set Blue. It was exactly what was on my bento wishlist because they're leak-proof and the perfect size for snacky snacks.  



LunchBots Rounds Set Blue Features:
  • Set of 2 8 oz. leak proof containers ideal for single serving snacks on-the-go
  • Food grade 18/8 stainless steel base and BPA-free lids with silicone seals
  • Easy twist-off top is completely leak proof; won't spill in purses, backpacks, or lunchboxes
  • Easy to clean and dishwasher safe
  • Reuse over and over, save money and reduce waste
  • Measure 3" in diameter
  • Retails at $19.99 USD 
Only thing to note here is that these are NOT insulated and therefore not designed to hold hot liquids and foods (ie the outside will get HOT and the food will get cold pretty fast).

When we received them in the mail, the girls were so excited, ALMOST as excited as I was. Little Sis took one out of the box and wanted me to fill it with food immediately, but I told her to hold her horses while I washed them out. :)


Here are just some of the healthy snacks we came up with. We've already thought up many more, as I'm sure you will too!


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  1. Mini Salad - perfect portion for the girls
  2. Annie's Homegrown Organic Cheddar Bunnies Snack Crackers
  3. Sweet, yummy, delicious cantaloupe
  4. Homemade applesauce
  5. Cheerios w/ a side of milk for cereal on-the-go
  6. Fage 2% Greek Yogurt topped with fresh blueberries and raspberries
  7. Organic Valley Cottage Cheese topped w/ some homemade apple-berry sauce and fresh blueberries
  8. Homemade Alphabet Chicken Soup (*These containers are NOT insulated and therefore can get very hot if you fill them w/ hot liquids)
  9. Organic carrot sticks (you can put Ranch in first to dip as you go!)
Here's a picture of how well they fit in our lunch bags along with the Trio:


Remember what I said earlier about how these aren't insulated and not meant for hot liquids and foods? Well, the girls told me they REALLY wanted to take some of my Homemade Alphabet Chicken Soup to school one day the following week so I gave it a test run. Guess what? The containers get really hot to the touch and the soup doesn't stay warm very long, just as any non-insulated metal container would. But, I really wanted this to work since they are the PERFECT size, so I crocheted some coozies for them. :) Now they are safe to handle when hot and actually help keep them warmer a just leeeeetle while longer and look pretty cool, if I do say so myself. :) So guess what? I decided to crochet up a set of two for the winner to go along w/ the Rounds. Winner's choice of color and embellishment. :)


Now it's time to enter to win your very own set of LunchBots Rounds in Blue, courtesy of LunchBots, and a pair of coozies, courtesy of moi! Giveaway is for US residents only. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Shout-outs:
LunchBots - for some seriously awesome stainless steel lunch-transporting gear! :) Thank you thank you thank you SO much for the wonderful opportunity to share this wonderful product w/ my beloved readers! :)

And if you just can't wait to get a set of your own, check out my affiliate link to order your LunchBots products here. All items ship for FREE in the U.S. and Canada. (Canadian residents are responsible for their customs fees and duties.)

Shop LunchBots

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 :)