Friday, August 29, 2014

DIY Mini Pocket Sandwiches

Aren't these the cutest little pocket sandwiches? I pack sandwiches in Z's lunch pretty often, so I'm always trying to think up new fun and creative sandwich ideas. I love using cookie cutters or sandwich cutters, but I don't always want to make a sandwich that's shaped like an animal or something specific. These mini pocket sandwiches were a big hit. They're kind of like a mini version of the frozen Uncrustables pocket sandwiches that you can find at the grocery. Z is not a fan of bread crusts, so a pocket sandwich is ideal for him. They are also mess-free, easy for little hands to eat, and just plain fun. I have one of those Pampered Chef sealed sandwich gadget thingies, and it works great to make big round sammies. But all you need to make these mini pocket sandwiches are a round cutter and a fork. My only issue with these little sammies is that there is a lot of bread waste. Not a problem for me because every little scrap of bread, meat, cheese, fruit, or veggie gets reused in another fashion.....nothing goes to waste in my kitchen! So, go ahead and make some mini pocket sandwiches, and store your bread scraps in the freezer. Reuse them later in meatloaf or meatballs, or make bread scrap French toast muffins. Yummo!!

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To make these mini pocket sandwiches, cut out 6 circles from your bread of choice (very fresh bread works best) using a small round cookie cutter (I used a round 2 1/2" cutter). Then, spread peanut butter on all 6 bread circles being careful to leave a thin edge of bread without peanut butter (this will allow the edges to seal). Then, place a small dollop (I love that word) of strawberry all-fruit spread (or spread of choice) in the center of the peanut butter ("small" being the key word here, or you will have filling squishing out the sides). Top this with the other 6 bread circles. Slowly crimp the edges of each sandwich with the tines of a fork (see below) to seal the bread.

Easy peasy lemon squeezey, huh? We love the mini pocket sammies, but you could also use the above technique on one large round sandwich...or square sandwich, or heart sandwich, or any shaped sandwich, really.

The filling possibilities are endless for these pocket sandwiches, too. Peanut butter and fruit spread are the fave in our house. But, imagine how delicious these would be with homemade preserves. Here are some other scrumptiously yummy filling ideas:
  • almond, peanut, or cashew butter and honey
  • egg, tuna, ham, or chicken salads
  • deli meat and cheese
  • pimento cheese and bacon
  • Nutella and bananas or strawberries
  • cucumber cream cheese

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This lunch is packed in Easy Lunch Boxes.
*peanut butter and strawberry all-fruit spread mini pocket sandwiches
*Rold Gold mini pretzels
*Honeycrisp apple wedges
*green beans and Sunburst cherry tomatoes with Ranch dressing in the orange cup
*Yoplait vanilla yogurt with blueberries
*linked to: Beneficial Bento/ Fancy Sandwich Friday
       What's for lunch Wednesday

Some of the things, or similar things, that I used to make this lunch:

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Lunch in a Pencil Box..... Part 1

Hi Friends! I have a really fun post for you today. As a busy stay-at-home mom, I'm always looking for ways to save money, especially when it comes to stuff for my kidlets. I'm sure you are, too. Did you know that the average cost to raise a child today to the age of 18 is $241,000. WHAT!!!! That's insane!!!!! And I have 2 kids to raise! Hard to imagine, huh? I try to take advantage of any sale I can find, and the back-to-school sales are no exception. Yep!! Just call me Frugal Fanny!

Back-to-school sales are in full swing here in the M-town, and I love them. I like to stock up on Crayola crayons (I can find the 24 pack for $.25 here), markers, and scissors (I have no idea what happens to all our scissors). My local Walmart had the Sterilite pencil boxes marked down to $.59, normally $.99. My first thought with them, of course, was that these would be great boxes to store lunch supplies. My wheels of creativity are always spinning when it come to Z's lunches, so upon closer inspection, I noticed that these pencil boxes were the perfect size for a bento lunchbox. A lunchbox for $.59.....definitely a Win-Win!! Score one for Frugal Fanny! Four of these little jewels came home with me.

Now, I do love some of the more (MUCH more) expensive lunchbox systems on the market today like the Yumbox, the Yubo, and the Planetbox. And I do have a Yumbox (we love it). However, I choose to use Easy Lunch Boxes (these are awesome) and the Munchkin Mealtime Bento Box as they fit into Frugal Fanny's budget much better. And now, I have a $.59 lunchbox to add to my lunchbox collection.

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I have made 2 lunches with the Sterilite pencil box, and I can honestly say that I love it. Again, it's the perfect size for a bento lunchbox (it's about 8"x5"). It has the hinged lid, which is something that I personally like in a lunchbox. It's deep enough that just about any silicone cup or plastic cup will fit in it.....even the jumbo 4" silicone cups fit. I like lunch bags that will carry the lunchbox flat or horizontally, and this pencil box fits in all of the bags that I have. These boxes come in a multitude of colors, and at $1.00 per box (average when not on sale), you can have a whole rainbow of colors. If this box accidentally gets lost at school or damaged somehow, Mama won't be crying a river of tears like she would be if this was a very expensive lunchbox. Ummm...been there, done that!! And, did I mention that these boxes are about a buck?!! 

Just a side note, Friends. Since the pencil boxes are not labeled food grade, I would be cautious and always use a silicone cup or some other container for the food so that it doesn't touch the plastic. In my second lunch, I placed a white napkin under the pretzels and baby carrots just to be on the safe side.

Below is the first lunch that I made in the Sterilite pencil box. My goal this year for Z's lunchbox is to pack more sandwich-free lunches. Both of these lunches are sandwich-free. I also used minimal supplies. Adding a few silicone baking cups to your pencil box lunch will make it super cute. The lidded cup with the applesauce actually came from Rite Aid. I found it in their dollar section...4 cups for $1.

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Lunch #1
*Natural Selects bologna rolls
*cheddar cheese Ritz Bitz
*Kraft string cheese chunks
*natural applesauce
*Sunburst cherry tomatoes with Ranch dressing in the rainbow box

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Lunch #2-
*Natural Selects hotdog slices
*Rold Gold honey wheat pretzel sticks
*green seedless grapes
*Monterey Jack cheese chunks 
*green olives 
*half of a Lucky Charms treat bar
*baby carrots

Again, I used minimal supplies with this lunch. Silicone baking cups add so much color and cuteness to a lunch, and they are very inexpensive. The long yellow container is a piece that I had in my lunch supplies drawer. So, you Frugal Fannies out there, grab a pencil box, a few silicone baking cups, and a $10 box of cookie cutters, and you will have some great and CHEAP supplies to make cute lunches for your kidlets. 

Some of the things, or similar things, that I used to make these lunches:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

That's A Wrap: Turkey Tortilla Pinwheels

Well, my kidlets have been in school now almost 3 weeks. I am still in disbelief that it's already back-to-school time again. We're finally getting back into the swing of things, though. I keep reminding myself that fall is just around the corner (although you wouldn't know it by today's weather....95* for the high....WOWZERS!!) I'm determined this year to not fall into the "sandwich, pretzels, fruit" rut. Z usually will eat just about anything I pack in his lunch, so I can be more creative foodwise with what I pack. One of the foods that he really likes is tortilla pinwheels (a.k.a. Wraps or Roll-Ups). Pinwheels, wraps, and roll-ups are a tasty and fun alternative to the traditional sandwich. And they’re also a fun and frugal way to repurpose dinner leftovers! They make a great lunch/lunchbox option and a delicious, nutritious snack. In fact, my kids have eaten foods they normally turn down, when I roll it up in a tortilla! Apparently, the cute little roll-up makes everything look and taste yummier! The best thing about them, though, is that they are super easy to make and can be changed up a bazillion ways. I've listed some yummy roll-up ideas below along with a few wrapping tips at the bottom of the post. 

 Delicious wrap ideas...
*Turkey and Cheese: Spread tortilla with herb cream cheese, turkey, lettuce, and cheese. (Any type lunch meat or cheese would be delicious.) These can be sliced to make the cute pinwheels like in today's lunch.
*BLAT: Spread tortilla with mayo and add bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato.
*Philly Cheese Steak: Spread tortilla with mayo or spicy mustard and add thinly sliced steak, sautéed onion and some shredded (or thinly sliced) raw cheese.
*Crunchy Veggie: Spread tortilla with mayo or cream cheese and add your favorite raw veggies like shredded carrot, zucchini, spinach, broccoli, cucumber, etc.
*Taco Salad: Spread tortilla with refried beans and/or guacamole; then add chopped lettuce, cheese, olives, and taco meat.
*Peanut Butter and Jelly: Spread tortilla with peanut butter (or nut butter of your choice) and jelly (or fruit spread or Nutella). These can be sliced to make cute PB&J "sushi". 

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This lunch is packed in Easy Lunch Boxes.
*tortilla pinwheels with herb cream cheese, Natural Selects turkey, cheddar and provolone cheeses, and lettuce 
*Rold Gold mini pretzels
*green seedless grapes
*baby carrots with Ranch dip in the small rainbow box
*natural applesauce
*Hershey's chocolate square

Wrapping tips …
---A warm tortilla is generally easier to roll-up than a cold one, and is less likely to break or tear. So once you’ve got the ingredients ready for your wrap, heat a skillet over medium heat and slightly warm the tortilla on both sides. Or, place the tortilla in the microwave for a few seconds. Then add your wrap ingredients and roll, following additional tips below.
---To help “seal” the tortilla, include some form of spread as a base layer (like mayo, cream cheese, nut butter, etc.). Then add your wrap ingredients making sure to leave about one inch of one side of your tortilla free of heavy ingredients. Start rolling on the side with ingredients, so you end the roll-up on the side with spread-only in order to help seal it.
---Once you’ve finished rolling-up your wrap, gently squeeze it with cupped hands, like a sushi chef does with a sushi roll.
--- I recommend wrapping up the rolled tortilla in plastic wrap and refrigerating for several hours if you are making pinwheels or sushi to make cutting easier. If you are doing this last minute and don’t have the time, don’t worry…it will still work.
 ---I didn’t specify amounts of meats or cheeses because it all depends on your taste. I used one layer of meat and two different cheeses, but if you like more meat, you can add more. It all depends on what you like your meat-to-cheese ratio to be.

Some of the things, or similar things, that I used to make this lunch:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mini Meat Kabobs...

My kids love food on a stick. And why not?! Food on a stick is so much more fun to eat, right? I love the 5 inch long heart skewers that I have, but short food picks or cupcake picks make great mini skewers. I found these cute swirl picks at Party City on the clearance rack about a year ago, and they make super cute mini kabobs, huh? Any 2 inch (or a bit longer) food picks or cupcake picks will work as a mini skewer. Cupcake picks are really just blinged out toothpicks, right? Lunch kabobs are a cool (and easy) way to make lunch fun. Today, I made all meat mini kabobs. But, you could change them up everyday.....ham, cheese, and veggies one day and grapes, strawberries, and blueberries the next. The options are endless. So, why not give lunchbox mini kabobs a try, Friends!

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This lunch is packed in Easy Lunch Boxes.
*mini kabobs with honey roasted turkey chunks, mini pepperoni pieces, and Natural Selects hotdog slices
*cheddar cheese Ritz Bitz
*Kraft string cheese chunks
*sunburst cherry tomatoes
*red and green seedless grapes
*Yoplait vanilla yogurt- I added a spoonful of strawberry purée.
*Hershey's chocolate square
*linked to: Following in my Shoes/ I Heart Lunch
                Eats Amazing/Fun Food Friday

Some of the things, or similar things, that I used to make this lunch:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Mini Shepherd's Pie Cups

Last week, I posted a recipe for lasagna baked in the jumbo silicone muffin cups. Several people have asked for more recipes using the jumbo cups. I really like cooking in the jumbo cups because they are perfect for portion control. These Casabella jumbo cups that I have are 3/4 cup capacity and are very sturdy. They are free-standing so they are easy to fill, and they're oven, microwave, and freezer safe and can be placed in the dishwasher. Easy clean gotta love that!! If you are looking for more recipes using silicone muffin cups, check out The Muffin Tin Cookbook. This is a great cookbook with over 200 recipes for meals cooked in a muffin tin. The recipes can be easily adapted to the silicone muffin cups. You can see my recipe for the Lasagna Cups HERE.

So, today I have a Shepherd's Pie muffin cup meal for you. (Hey, I like that...Muffin Cup Meals. Hmmm...could this be the start of a new series here at The Lucky Lunchbox??) Ground beef with carrots, onions, corn and peas in a savory tomato based sauce, covered with cheese, and smothered in a buttery potato crust....OH YEAH!! That is THE mouthwatering definition of soothing, make-you-feel-good eats. And fall is just around the corner. Shepherd's Pie is a perfect cool/cold weather meal. Let's all say it together now....Comfort Food! 

 If you have trouble getting your kids to eat veggies, this recipe is a great veggie "smuggler". The vegetables are buried in that savory tomato and gravy sauce with the meat, covered in cheese and creamy potato mash (most kids do like mashed potatoes)....they will gobble this down like they haven't eaten in a week. They're going to love eating out of these little cups, love individual servings. 
These mini Shepherd's Pie cups are really good, Friends. I hope you will give them a try. Recipe can be found HERE.

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This lunch is packed in Easy Lunch Boxes.
*mini Shepherd's Pie- These jumbo cups actually hold a lot of food....the perfect amount for portion control. You can find the recipe for the mini Shepherd's Pie cups HERE.
*black olives
*strawberries and pineapple- A very dear friend of mine gave me this pineapple. Her sister sent it to her from Hawaii....yes Hawaii. It was A M A Z I N G!!!

Some of the things, or similar things, that I used to make this lunch:

Mini Shepherd's Pie recipe

Mmmmmm...Shepherd's Pie!!! My mother made this dish when I was a kid, and I loved it every time she made it. It’s actually a British classic that is made of a ground meat and vegetable mix in a herb seasoned tomato based sauce, topped with creamy mashed potatoes. The best part of the dish is that it’s then baked till the mashed potatoes form a golden crust. Dig into that and you reach the creamy mash followed by the moist meat and veggies. It’s delicious! Traditional shepherd's pie uses ground lamb instead of ground beef, and does not usually contain cheese. However, my family loves ground beef AND cheese, so I adapted the recipe to our tastes. Hey, everything taste better with cheese, right?

These mini pies can easily be frozen (thaw the frozen pies in the fridge and just bake them per the directions below). And these are a great meal to have on hand in your freezer because these pies taste even better when you come home busy and tired. When I freeze these, I cover them with heavy duty aluminum foil and then place 3 of the cups in a heavy duty Ziplock freezer bag. Pop in the freezer....done!

Mini Shepherd's Pie Cups
Serves 12, using the jumbo silicone muffin cups (Please note: this recipe makes a lot more than 6 cups.  It will make 12 jumbo cups easily (with a little leftover). If you only want to make 6 cups, cut this recipe in half. If you make the full Shepherd's Pie recipe and use only 6 jumbo cups, there will be enough left over to make a 9X9 pan. 

2 Tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 large rib celery, diced
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, quartered (optional, if you don't like them, leave them out)
8 ounces frozen peas and carrots, thawed
1 10 ounce can sweet corn, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
3 heaping Tbsp. tomato paste
1 pound ground beef (I use ground sirloin.)
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup beef gravy- homemade or store bought 
1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Ground black pepper

4 cups mashed potatoes- I did not specify a recipe for these as most people have their own favorite mashed potato recipe. Homemade mashed potatoes would be awesome with this dish. I'm not into making homemade ones, so I buy them in a box and jazz them up to taste like homemade. Click HERE to see how to jazz up frozen or boxed mashed potatoes.)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray the 12 jumbo cups with cooking spray and set them on a foil lined (or Silpat lined) baking sheet. Or, you could also put them in a jumbo muffin tin. 
2 Cook the ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat until well browned, stirring often to separate meat.  Drain off any fat and set aside.
3. Heat the olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter in the same large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, mushrooms, garlic. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
4. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until mushrooms are soft and tomato paste has turned brick red, about 8 minutes more. 
5. Add the thawed peas and carrots, corn, ground beef, the beef gravy, salt, the Worcestershire sauce, and some pepper. Cook all together for about 5 minutes.

******At this point, I like to set up the meat and veggie mixture, the potatoes, and the cheese in sort of a makeshift assembly line. ******

6. Spoon about 1/3 cup beef/veggie mixture into each baking cup. Add 1/4 cup shredded cheese. Spoon or pipe (to make a little fancier) about 1/4 cup potato mash to the top of each cup. If you spoon it, flatten it a little over the top and with a fork, make some lines on top. The ridges are what will brown and form a nice crust.
7. Bake for 20 minutes or until the mini pies are hot and the tops are browned. Allow to cool and set for about 10 minutes before eating.

Friends, these are hard to mess up. Taylor them to your family's taste. You can experiment with other vegetables like zucchini or green beans or whatever veggies your family likes best. Change up the type of cheese...Pepper Jack cheese would add a kick to these. Add some Tobasco for even more kick. Use the traditional meat, ground lamb...yum! You could even make these with mashed sweet potatoes. How good does that sound!! 


Monday, August 11, 2014

Be a Sharp Student

First week of school....DONE!! Well, the first week of school went off without a hitch. We've got our morning routine down, and both kids are happy with their classes and teachers. Mama's just about gotten adjusted to a quiet house again. First week success, I'd say. How about one more fun back-to-school lunch to get the second week started off right. I know many of your kidlets are headed back to school very soon.....hang in there, Mamas!!!! It's not long now!! The graphic below says it all, huh!

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This lunch is packed in Easy Lunch Boxes.
*pencil shaped Natural Selects bologna and cheddar cheese sandwich- I free handed the pencil shape with a knife and added cheddar cheese and bologna on top to look like a pencil. The "2" is cut from a slice of fruit leather.
*white cheddar cheese Nips
*red seedless grapes
*carrot rounds and black olives with school themed pick
*natural applesauce in the blue cup with schoolhouse cupcake topper
There are few pieces of roasted chicken hiding under the napkin beneath the pencil sandwich.
*linked to: What's for lunch Wednesday

Some of the things, or similar things, that I used to make this lunch:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Puzzling Back-to-School lunch

I almost hate to say this, but my kids eat A LOT of sandwiches. They make for such an easy lunch and fortunately, my kids don’t mind them. However, sandwiches can be so B O R I N G!! It's a daily challenge to make a healthy and appealing lunch that kids will eat, isn't it? So, how do you mix it up so the kids don't pull the plug on your easy fix when you need to prepare something quick, simple and healthy for lunch? Try turning an ordinary sandwich into something fun and creative by experimenting with neat sandwich cutters.

Enter The Lunch Punch. "What is The Lunch Punch?" you ask. The Lunch Punch is a creative sandwich cutter set that cuts sandwiches into fun and interactive shapes while cutting off only the crusts. WOW... a fun lunch with minimum waste! The cutters are taller than regular cookie cutters which makes it easy to cut through two pieces of bread and the filling without smooshing (I love that word!) the sandwich. Awesome, huh?! They are also great for cheese, toast, cookies, and Play-Doh. The Lunch Punch  comes in several super fun sets sure to please the fussiest eater, and each set comes with 4 different cutters....a lot of bang for the buck. I love that! Here are some of The Lunch Punch sets. I'm using the Match & Munch set for today's lunch which is a set of puzzle shaped cutters.

So, if you have a picky sandwich eater, give these a try. You (and your kidlets) will really love them.

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This lunch is packed in Easy Lunch Boxes.
*Natural Selects ham and cheddar cheese sandwich cut into puzzle shapes- I cut the letters "A,B,C,D" from a piece of cheddar cheese using 1" alphabet fondant cutters.
*Rold Gold cheddar cheese pretzels
*baby carrots and ranch dip in the green cup
*strawberries with school chalkboard pick
*linked to: Following in my Shoes/ I Heart Lunch
                  Eats Amazing/ Fun Food Friday

Here is a graphic showing how The Lunch Punch cutter works:

Some of the things, or similar things, that I used to make this lunch:

Monday, August 4, 2014

Hello 2nd Grade...

Today is the first day of school here in the M-town (insert frowny face), and the little guy is starting 2nd grade. We had a blast this summer (insert happy face)...lots of pool time and 2 fun vacations. Back to school time always leaves me a bit melancholy. I know that Z has missed his friends, and he's always happy and enthusiastic to go back to school. But, I love having my kidlets home with me. I just miss them when school starts. However, I'm pretty sure that the first kid-free grocery shopping trip (insert enormously happy face) will cure me of the back-to-school blues, and I'll be back on track.

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This lunch is packed in the Yumbox Panino. You can see my Yumbox review HERE.
*peanut butter and strawberry all-fruit spread sandwich- I cut the words "Hello 2nd grade" from a slice of Swiss cheese and sprayed the letters lightly with Wilton Color Mist. A little dab of cream cheese on the back holds the letters in place.
*Rold Gold mini pretzels
*strawberries and grapes with school themed cupcake pick
*green olives
*carrot rounds
*Babybel cheese with a "2" cut from the cheese wax

Some of the things, or similar things, that I used to make this lunch:

Friday, August 1, 2014

Mini Deep Dish Pizza...

Well, summer break has come to an end here in the M-town. My kidlets start back to school on Monday. Summer break always passes way too quickly. Wasn't it just yesterday that the kiddos were doing the happy dance that it was the last day of school? I guess it's time to get my lunch making mojo revved up again whether I'm ready or not. So, this is the last blogged lunch of the summer. And a super simple lunch it is...deep dish pizza popped into the oven with some fruit and veggies. Presto!!! Lunch is served!!

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This lunch is packed in a Easy Lunch Boxes.
*Red Baron deep dish mini pizza- These Red Baron mini deep dish pizzas are huge. It's hard to tell in the photo, but they are an inch and a half thick. Z only ate three of the four pieces (um, Mama ate the fourth).
*carrot rounds and green olives
*blueberries and pears

Some of the things that I used to make this lunch: