A Prescription for Bento

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My family’s experience with bento, until recently, was a brief but energetic experiment I had been all-consumed by when the kids were smaller and more likely to be impressed with “cute” food.  Inspired by the concept of showing my kids that I loved them by putting a little time and creativity into their lunches, I sent my family to school with “bento boxes”, the components of which were easily found in my local Target store.  I recall having enough enthusiasm for everyone at the start, but quickly running short on ideas and time.  Lunches quietly returned to a less thought-out production and the change prompted no complaints.  My motivation was pushed aside; “Too simple for my sophisticated brood…” I thought.

Fast forward 4 years. My kids are in Jr. High and I have spent the summer in the early stages of recovery following a serious car accident.  Spine, neck and head fractures and post-concussive disorder  have left me unable to work and struggling to run the household.  For this reason my initial reaction to the lunch situation for the new school year was to enforce mandatory hot lunches. This plan met with heavy resistance so I sat down to make a Costco list for my husband, items to be chosen based on ease with which they could be thrown into a lunch bag.  My absence at year end the previous school cycle had prompted my husband to teach the kids independence and responsibility by having them pack their own lunches.  I had witnessed the final days of this and saw my kids’ pride in accomplishment and an attitude of “family first”, but a startling lack of variety in their food choices.  I called out to the kids, asking for lunch favorites, hoping to put off the massive waste that was inevitable as the kids grew bored with their menu options but offered no practical alternatives.  Lunches would find their way back home, uneaten.

My expectations were tempered by experience so I was prepared for the “nothing” or “I don’t know” that would surely be my twin 11 year olds’ response to anything that didn’t involve electronics. That Connor was the first to speak was surprising in itself as remaining mute was usually his first defense against an adult inquiry.  I was so unprepared for constructive comments that Connor’s words didn’t register immediately.  To hear him ask, “Could we have those bento boxes again Mom?” was a happy surprise.  I slowly came to attention.  Finn chimed in “Yeah Mom, lets have those boxes again.”  My 13 year old daughter signaled her approval.  Where had these smiles and this laughter come from?  No one returned to their computer screens.  The kids talked over each other, recalling those first bento creations.  This is how the plan was hatched.

As I write, I am realizing just how important this was for my family.  Sharing this is going to involve more than just posting pictures of my kids’ lunch fare.  This moment may have changed the trajectory of my recovery and how I relate to my kids.  My husband had juggled everything while I was in the hospital and then moved to a skilled nursing facility and the kids had to mature overnight.  I had missed soccer games, teaching Anime, helping with homework, end of year parties…the list goes on.   I had always scheduled around my kids so even work hadn’t yanked me away as the accident had.  I thought they had gotten comfortable with my limitations and used to doing for me instead of me  doing for them.  I thought our relationship had been permanently altered.

This was the start of our return to normalcy.  This was how they let me know they still needed me.  The philosophy behind the bento boxes hadn’t been trite to them.  They weren’t tiptoeing around my injuries; they were asking me to be well enough to do something for them.  The kids were asking me to show my love and provide them with the security that comes from being parented.  They wanted me to give them my time and either needed to believe or needed me to believe that I still had the capacity to be creative.  This time, my family’s enthusiasm was enough for me.  I ignored the little voice of doubt in my head that reminded me of all I couldn’t do.  I was going to make this happen.  Suddenly, I believed in myself and was blown away by what the kids had offered me.  They had come up with an attainable goal in my recovery, one that I might find more manageable than paying bills, using the computer or getting back to work in this moment.

Fast forward two months.  I have been making bento boxes for my kids lunches since August 10th and have honed my skills.  My early efforts were traditional Japanese fair, but even Anya grew tired of this menu, so I suppose we are using the term “bento” rather loosely.  My recipes and ingredients come from many cultural influences and are more kid-friendly than sophisticated.  I am doing away with most processed menu items and seeking out creative vegetable recipes as I balance health and taste preference.  No more Naked Juice, we are making our own juices and smoothies to round out lunch.  I am planning a week of lunches in advance so that costs can be kept down and recipes carried over during the week.  I recognize that time will become more challenging so am organizing my week so that most cooking/preparation occurs on Sunday and ensures that school mornings are not rushed.

We are on a very tight budget.  We have met our maximum out-of-pocket in medical expenses and I am not bringing in any income.  That being said, it costs more to eat healthy and if my kids don’t have weekly changes in variety, food comes back uneaten and they go hungry.  We will eat well and stretch elsewhere.  My original goal was to keep lunches under $3 which is the cost of hot lunch here, but the kids’ days are so long, they need snacks and I’ve found that a power drink (fresh fruit, vegetable extractions, sometimes with homemade yogurt) adds spice and nutrition to lunch and pushes Finn towards “full” which is almost impossible.  I add more to lunch sometimes than just what fits in the bento box, especially with soccer three days a week.  Middle schoolers need a lot of healthy food.  So my challenge is fiscal, nutritional and inspirational; I need to keep lunches between $3 and $5, hopefully with no waste, and produce sated, healthy kids.

I hope to post lunches everyday the kids are in school, but my post-concussive symptoms vary, so I am prepared for bad days.  One symptom I have is loss of vocabulary.  The words I am searching for stay just out of reach, so I describe what I am trying to say.  I’ve had a little more time with this first blog as the kids are on fall break, so I google my descriptions to try to get back my normal vocabulary and express myself concisely.  This method may not work on a daily basis, I don’t know.   I also have a lot of memory problems, mainly new information. I combat this by  making a lot of lists, but currently I have so many things written down that I can’t keep them straight.  An appointment with the neurosurgeon may have been missed due to this disorder.  Concentration and focus are big struggles as well.  I don’t remember much of what I read.  I go over and over my kids’ Algebra 1 concepts and still get them backwards.  Pain and fatigue are par for the course with my injuries.  All that being said, making the kids’ bento boxes is what I do best right now, really the only thing I do well.  Of course, I’m not comparing myself with traditional bento creators.  I use taste, composition, nutrition, color and fun in my boxes.   I come up with two lunch menus a week, then determine the remaining bentos from the ingredients I will be using.  My kids love Anime, which I used to teach at their school, but they don’t always want Japanese food.  This is very American bento geared towards a middle schooler’s pallet.  We do love Totoro and Spirited Away, however, so characters will pop up occasionally.

If anyone is wondering at how I can feed three kids the same menu, don’t.  I have to make adjustments to at least one bento daily so that it doesn’t come back.  And every week my husband tells me to add more to Finn’s lunch, and I fill it to where absolutely nothing else will fit in his lunch box, let alone his bento box (we put this inside an insulated case).  Still, I consider this experiment to be a success.  I want to share at a minimum, my bento creations, the ways this activity is promoting my recovery and how this hyper-focus on lunch is helping me bond with my pre-teens and teenager.  I’m sure I will digress into gardening (I’m a former Colorado Master Gardener), non-bento recipes, kid stuff and more, but I am starting with a focus on healing via bentos.   This may seem like a silly purpose, but it is huge for me.  An interesting side effect of being slower and less smart is that I listen better and truly hear what people and (maybe) the universe are trying to tell me.  I might have the information on a little delay, but I hear it and truly absorb it.  Before the accident I was full steam ahead with my own agenda.  Now I have time for people even when I have no time.  And I think my heart is bigger.  I care more about everyone; I smile at strangers.  I’m not dismissive of anyone or anything.  So my goal with this blog is to continue to help myself and my family, but maybe help someone else as well.  I hope I can be of service.

The kids go back to school the 17th so I hadn’t planned a lunch menu for this week but I’m feeling like bentos for brunch.   FYI, my kids’ bento boxes are from Costco and not true bento boxes.  When my husband told me Costco had sets of three, I told him to pick up a selection and didn’t want to complain when he came home with Rubbermaid Lunch Blox.  They are colorful, easy to clean and stack around an ice pack if needed.  Where else could you get three bento boxes for $11?  I found the perfect soft-sided cooler to hold their boxes in place at Target and our adorable no-leak kitty cat thermoses fit beside them with room for snacks or noodle bowls.  I feel a little silly packing their brunch in their lunch boxes when they aren’t going to school but I hate to deviate from the theme day one. So, on to brunch ideas!

We have green tomatoes from the garden and I can’t remember if I have made fried green tomatoes in the past or not, so today will be the day. I am adapting a recipe from a neighbor to fit what we have on hand so the results will be a surprise.   I will also make hash browns and bacon wrapped egg “skulls” as Halloween is my kids’ favorite holiday.  (FYI, don’t order the Egg-A-Matic skull egg shaper from Amazon as it doesn’t work and damages your egg.  My own designs are much more fun, though I will try a fried egg skull mold for Halloween breakfast; the yolks are the eyes.)  We harvested tons of red jalapenos from our garden before the freeze so I will be using them in every recipe today.  Anya loves them and I’m sure the boys palettes won’t be far behind.

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Fried Green Tomatoes

Ingredients

4 medium green tomatoes

2 eggs

½ cup milk

1 cup flour

½ cup blue cornmeal

½ cup jalapeno kettle chips (from Sprouts)

½ tsp Himalayan Pink Salt

¼ tsp coarse ground black pepper

16 oz (at least) Safflower oil

Slice tomatoes making thick wedges.  Grind the kettle chips in a food processor until fine and set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk eggs and milk together. Fill a small bowl with the flour and another with the cornmeal and kettle chips.  Mix the salt and pepper into the cornmeal mixture.   Heat oil in deep fryer or heat skillet on medium high.  (I use a small Fry Daddy)  Dip tomato slices in flour, then egg, then cornmeal mix.  Deep fry in small batches until brown on both sides and remove from oil.  My oil is always hot enough that blotting isn’t necessary but have a paper towel handy just in case.  Garnish with sliced red jalapenos and fresh oregano.

Jalapeno Hash Browns

Ingredients:

3 servings frozen Ore Ida Hash Browns (These were in my freezer and needed to be used)

¼ yellow onion chopped fine

1 fresh jalapeno sliced (We have lots from the garden and some have turned red)

4 Tbsp Canola oil.

Heat oil in skillet on medium high.  Add onion and jalapeno and cook until onion becomes transparent.  Add hash browns and cover cooking for 5 minutes before flipping with a spatula to cook covered for 5 minutes on the other side.  Remove cover and stir blending onion and jalapeno with potatoes. (The onion and pepper give the hash browns flavor but I make the onions small enough that my boys can’t see them and the jalapenos big enough that they can)

Bacon Wrapped Skulls

Ingredients:

6 eggs

6 slices of bacon

1 red jalapeno

1 purple bell pepper

Place eggs in medium sauce pan and add enough cold water to cover.  Heat on medium bringing water to a gentle boil.  Allow to simmer one minute.   Remove from heat and let eggs stand for 12 minutes.  Drain water and dip eggs in an ice bath for a few seconds.  Carefully crack and peel egg.  Set aside.  Cook bacon in long strips until brown but malleable.  Wrap bacon around eggs and set aside.  Slice one red jalapeno to produce thin round “eyes” and cut small thin strips of purple pepper to make “teeth”

A Bento Christmas Story

Today’s bento box is full of hidden vegetables.  Voila, my Tofu-Kale Vegetarian Egg Rolls and Secret Vegetable Fried Rice.  My husband splurged on a crate of pomegranates at Costco, so we will be eating seeds all week and for snacks I have made Just Chex Mix and Extra Chocolate Muddy Buddies. I have also made a Cranberry Surprise Smoothie. Both the egg rolls and fried rice are full of vegetables, but they remain hidden.  The egg roll wrap obviously hides its healthy contents, but the fried rice is almost magical in its ability to camouflage the nourishment it offers.  One by one as I stir-fried vegetables into the rice, the colors and textures of lovely vegetables became one with the rice/oil mixture and only specks of color remained to prove their state.  Now, if this recipe were for adults or just Anya and not the boys, I would cook less and show off the beautiful variety this dish renders.  Connor and Finn actually do like everything in this production, but given the opportunity they will argue the opposite.  This fried rice boasts more vitamins than most and the boys will eat it without disparaging zucchini, win-win!  I left out my usual dessert fare for a Chinese menu, my homemade, hilarious fortune cookies only because I just made a huge batch or gingerbread and strawberry-marshmallow fudge and the bakers rack is loaded with Christmas baking the kids and I produced last weekend with Grandma Ben and Aunt Mary.  We have a Christmas Eve tradition of dining at Twin Dragon with a mandatory order of duck and a viewing of “A Christmas Story” and I was thinking I should make a batch of holiday inspired fortune cookies to consume while we watch the movie.  These fortune cookies are delicious, not stale restaurant quality specimens.  I do use a machine because I have it, but following my recipe and using a makeshift cookie folder of cardboard or the like would work just as well.

 

Five Spice garlic soy

wait on chopsticks growing cold

No MSG here?

 

Only Anya and Connor are going to school today. Finn has a terrible strep and the medication is not working and the pharmacist says it is not the best choice for this illness so I am very frustrated.  I am trusting that the doctor will call in a prescription for penicillin this morning and that Finn will be back in school tomorrow.  He has missed too much school and we have been made aware of some extreme and bizarre policies at our current location regarding excused absences that have put a big cloud over our holidays.  I am trusting that reason and a more personal approach will prevail here as well and Finn will have his needs considered and this issue will be dropped. I miss our old school more than ever.

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Kale-Tofu Egg Rolls

 

1 pkg egg roll wraps

1 bunch fresh Kale, shredded

2 c shredded organic tri-color carrots

1 c fresh bean sprouts

1 small onion, chopped

4 bulbs garlic, pressed

1/2 c frozen spinach

2-12 oz pkgs firm tofu

2 Tbsp sesame oil

1 Tbsp coconut oil

2 tsp garlic powder

4 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp sriracha

fresh ground garlic salt and pepper

peanut oil to fill fryer

Add sesame oil to skillet and crumble drained tofu into pan stirring often on medium high heat.  Cook until browned slightly and set aside.  Saute onion and garlic in coconut oil until onions are translucent and brown on edges.  Add bean sprouts, carrots, kale and spinach, stir-frying on medium high heat until flavors are well-blended.  Add tofu and mix well.  Sprinkle garlic powder over mixture, followed by soy sauce and sriracha, taste and adjust as desired.  Generously salt and pepper.  Fill fryer with oil and allow to heat while wrapping egg rolls.  To wrap, wet perimeter of wrap and fill with 3 Tbsp filling. Fold two corners toward center, sealing on sides to prevent leakage.  Take one of remaining corners and fold over roll, wrapping as if a burrito. Repeat, filling all wraps (should have minimal left over filling). Deep-fry, one at a time until dough bubbles and browns. Remove from oil and set on paper towel.  Repeat until all egg rolls are fried. To serve, slice at a diagonal down the middle of each roll, producing two 1/2 rolls.

 

 

 

Vegetable Fried Rice

 

3 cups uncooked Jasmine rice

3 Tbsp + coconut oil

2 Tbsp garlic butter

2 small onions, chopped

1 1/2 c shredded carrots

2 small zucchini, shredded

1/2 cup shredded kale

1/2  frozen chopped spinach

1 orange pepper, chopped

3 eggs

4 bulbs garlic

1 tsp garlic powder

soy sauce to taste

sriracha to taste

fresh ground garlic salt and pepper

Place rice and water to level in rice cooker and cook.  Set aside.  In wok, heat 2 Tbsp of oil and add onions and pressed garlic.  With heat medium high, stir-fry,  adding carrots and zucchini once onions are transparent.  Continue to cook, adding shredded kale, spinach and pepper, still stirring.  Add garlic-butter mixture and saute.  Generously salt and pepper vegetables. Add remaining oil, then rice, breaking apart clumps and mixing with vegetables.  Stir-fry, mixing well and adding additional oil as needed.  Break three eggs into center of wok and scramble, distributing through rice mixture. Sprinkle 1 tsp garlic powder over rice, then generously apply soy sauce, stirring and tasting and adding more if needed.  Add a conservative shake of sriracha, mixing well and tasting again to gauge heat. Continue to cook until flavors are blended and rice is coated with oil.

 

Just Chex Mix

 

3 cups each, corn, what and rice Chex.

6 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

 

In small bowl, microwave butter until melted and stir in seasonings.  Set aside. Mix all Chex cereals in large microwave safe bowl and pour butter mixture over, mixing until all cereal is coated.  Microwave on high for 6 minutes, stirring every 2.  Spread on paper towels until cool and dry.  Store in airtight bag or container.

 

Extra Chocolate Muddy Buddies

 

1 box Chocolate Chex

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 extra large or two large baggies

 

In microwaveable bowl, melt chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter on high for 1 minute. Stir.  Microwave in 30 second intervals until when mixture is stirred it remains smooth.  Stir in vanilla and pour over cereal.  Mix well to coat evenly.Pour into extra large or two large baggies.  Add powdered sugar to either one or split between two and shake until cereal is completely coated.  Store in cool dry place.

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Cranberry Surprise Smoothie

1/4 c fresh cranberries

1 banana

1/2 c fresh strawberries

1/2 c fresh blueberries

1 c coconut water

1/8 c kale

1/4 c applesauce

2 Tbsp Agave

Place all ingredients in 24 oz Nutri Ninja cup and blend.  Makes 3 servings.

 

 

 

 

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My hiatus went on longer than expected as I found a true measure of progress and subsequently felt the need to solve my employment question rather than write.  Lunches continued but unaccompanied by photos or dialogue, I find they take much less time.  Employment requires more time and effort and continued progress and I am not finding such activities inspiring enough to move by leaps and bounds as I seemed to when the focus was bentos and blogging.  I believe it is these very activities that made the progress that trumped them possible so I am going to attempt a compromise to allow for creative time in between practical time.  When fine gardening was my career of choice it had a creative outlet built in and after twenty-some odd years I rather expect that from a vocation.  I am going to have to use creativity to find creativity in my current pursuit.  Perhaps this will help.  I have an idea for a children’s book that frustrates me because I want to illustrate it as well and that would require yet more time and practice. So lunches it is.  I actually created a really great recipe yesterday for gingerbread men that makes cookies that stay soft, but keeps their shape only I didn’t keep track or really measure much so it will have to be repeated before I share.  I probably won’t post about every lunch, just when inspired so that this effort does remain a compromise rather than a distraction.  Maybe I’ll just write a haiku for every bento box I deign to photograph. Hmm, veiled threat or great idea…

Go Fish

Fish

I imagined I had nothing to say, but found myself collecting ideas and starting conversations, excited for the family to unite at day’s end.  What will elicit a smile or generate laughter?  5:00 brings, instead, frowns and protests.  Expectations unmet,  my unimpressive agenda sinks under the weight of stress and moods and frenetic activity.  Even I don’t know why I bother speaking or what of my experience is relevant.  It isn’t enough to simply cause no harm, my progress must be exponential to make a difference for my family.

Time Out

Fish

My husband has gently reminded me that I have other items besides bento boxes and blogging that require my attention in the run up to Thanksgiving. I am still making lunches, though less time-consuming options and am trying to refrain from photographing until I have made some progress on household chores. (We have everyone to our house for Thanksgiving) I remain flexible and will give attention elsewhere as logic dictates. Motivation to move faster! Never fear, I will still put effort into lunches, just less into posting about the same in order to create an environment that reflects our joy at having loved ones with us during the holiday season. I must admit, the morning went faster with no photos or posts, though the process felt a little incomplete. I’m not even going to set a goal, rather just do my best and see what transpires…here are my previous posts containing “Fish”…

Irksome

Time-challenged for the foreseeable future and not quite on top of my game, I am attempting to combine bento boxes with the daily prompt once again. I must admit that I found my first attempt (and failure) at homemade ravioli yesterday to be irksome. I wanted to deep fry ravioli to accompany today’s waffles, and at Sprouts Anya and I decided it would be best to make our own. I admit to having some reservations as I was not feeling quite up to speed. I found myself inexplicably between moods and energy levels. It was kind of hard to diagnose my symptoms (too many options) and hard to admit defeat, but yesterday I simply was not in a place where I could whip up homemade ravioli with no experience or instructions. A good idea or novel concept and an old stand-by recipe to get me started is my usual M.O. with bento box creations and I have to be firing on all cylinders to push through. I gave up without too much of a struggle or monumental waste and my pivot resulted in homemade egg noodle spaghetti with pesto. I think I am lucky to have managed the lunch I did with how out of sync I was with my capabilities yesterday. Rising early enough to finish details and make waffles this morning was challenging as well. I still feel I could go back to sleep, and morning is usually my best time. No untapped reserves of energy left, I guess. I was actually still making smoothies when my husband needed to make his own breakfast this morning which is a situation I avoid to keep the morning routine running smooth. I am very proud that my kids went to school with a bento box lunch that wasn’t comprised of processed foods from Costco today (well, I did include Goldfish… ), but I am thinking that I should have back up just in case I have a morning where I can’t manage as well. A stash of easy stand-byes could save the day in a pinch. Much worse to suffer hot lunch than a less than stellar bento box from home. And I haven’t given up on my menu for this week…maybe we will fry homemade ravioli another time, or maybe we will find an organic option at Costco. Progress not perfection.

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Today’s bento box has these adorable fish waffles made from bacon and cheddar. I had leftover starfruit which now look like starfish! I admit, I am just now realizing all the potential my pesto spaghetti and apple-onion relish had to be sea creatures, but my delay worked against the creative mind this cycle. Use your imagination, I’m sure my kids will!fullsizerender

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Ingredients: Bacon and cheddar waffles with starfruit and purple carrot hearts; homemade egg noodle spaghetti and pesto (see “Halloween Bento Boxes” for egg noodle recipe and simply use spaghetti attachment rather than fettuccine and “One Monster After Another” for pesto recipe); Apple and Onion Relish (see “Relish as Inspiration” post-I substituted Jazz apples for Granny Smith as it is what we had on hand and sacrificed color perhaps, but Anya says not taste); whole grain Goldfish crackers and Yogurt-Papaya Coy Candy.

Bacon and Cheddar Waffles

I needed an easy week, especially after my ravioli fiasco, so I simply used Krusteaz Waffle Mix, enough to make 2 c of batter and added 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese and a couple pieces of crisp, crumbled bacon. My waffle iron heats directly on the burner and I keep it sprayed with non-stick canola oil and cook “fish” two a a time. My fish waffle maker is an old Amazon find.

Yogurt-Papaya Coy Candy

1 1/2 c yogurt chips

1/4 c chopped dried papaya

1 Tbsp organic vegetable shortening

Melt yogurt chips with shortening in microwave, cooking in 30 second intervals and stirring in between until smooth. Sir in papaya. Fill coy fish mold with yogurt mix and refrigerate for 2 hours. Makes 7 fish. (Once again, mold is an old Amazon find. It caught my eye after Connor had spent the day gardening at my favorite property and had admired the coy pond)

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No-Waste Smoothie (or another Almost Compost)

1 c black grapes

1/4 c white grapes

1/2 c fresh papaya

1/2 c fresh honeydew (garden)

1 medium banana

1 Tbsp agave

1/2 c pineapple juice

1/2 c coconut water

Place ingredients in 24 oz Nutri Ninja cup and press Pro Extraction. Allow to blend for 1 minute to emulsify grape skins and serve.

Primp

I no longer primp or take care with my appearance. My being has become utilitarian. When nostalgia reminds me to spend time on impressions I seek out my daughter and she shows me how to look nice. When did her opinion become authoritative? It wasn’t that long ago that I picked out all of her clothes and approved hairstyles. (Yes, I did approve the shaved head, she was beautiful) I’ve passed the baton, but maybe in haste. One must practice self-love to teach.

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Today’s bento boxes contain Red Velvet Zucchini Waffles, Peanut Butter-Bacon-Banana Pinwheels and Cheesy Crab Bites. As I am still using up papaya, today’s smoothie is Tropical.

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Ingredients: Red Velvet Zucchini Waffle recipe with persimmons and purple carrots; Peanut Butter-Bacon-Banana Wrap recipe; Cheesy Crab Bites recipe; Yogurt Papaya Coy Candy (see “Under the Sea Bento Box”) and fresh red plum.

img_1206At the last minute, I decided to throw in some pretzel rolls.

Red Velvet Zucchini Waffles

2 c flour

1/4 c sugar

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 Tbsp cocoa powder

3/4 tsp salt

1 1/3 c buttermilk

1/3 c butter

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

red food coloring (a lot)

3/4 c shredded zucchini

Mix first four ingredients in a large bowl. Separately, combine next five ingredients and beat together. Add wet mixture to dry and stir until smooth and even-colored. Fold in zucchini. Heat and oil waffle iron and cook until edges of waffles begin to brown.

Peanut Butter-Bacon-Banana Pinwheel

3 slices crispy bacon, crumbled

1/2 c natural peanut butter

3 small bananas

lemon juice

small whole wheat tortillas

Spread peanut butter evenly over three whole wheat tortillas, covering completely. Sprinkle with bacon pieces. Slice banana and arrange on tortilla. Roll and slice. Brush bananas exposed to air with lemon juice to prevent browning.

Cheesy Crab Bites

1 can lump crab meat

1 c cream cheese softened

1 c sharp cheddar cheese

1 box Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

Safflower or peanut oil to fill deep fryer

Heat oil. Combine first four ingredients and mix well. Form into 1 ” balls. Fry in small batches until golden brown. Makes 30 bites.

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Tropical Smoothie

1 c papaya

1 banana

1/2 c fresh honeydew (garden)

3/4 c coconut milk

3/4 c pineapple juice

1 Tbsp agave

Place all ingredients in 24 oz Nutri Ninja cup and blend for 30 seconds. Anya is still missing her thermos so I will fill the boys’ cats and save half for tomorrow.fullsizerender-1

Anya is still missing her thermos, so she will have Matcha Love again.

Time-Out

via Daily Prompt: Fish

My husband has gently reminded me that I have other items besides bento boxes and blogging that require my attention in the run up to Thanksgiving.  I am still making lunches, though less time-consuming options and am trying to refrain from photographing until I have made some progress on household chores. (We have everyone to our house for Thanksgiving)  I remain flexible and will give attention elsewhere as logic dictates.  Motivation to move faster!  Never fear, I will still put effort into lunches, just less into posting about the same in order to create an environment that reflects our joy at having loved ones with us during the holiday season.  I must admit, the morning went faster with no photos or posts, though the process felt a little incomplete.  I’m not even going to set a goal, rather just do my best and see what transpires…here are my previous posts containing “Fish”…

Irksome

Time-challenged for the foreseeable future and not quite on top of my game,  I am attempting to combine bento boxes with the daily prompt once again.  I must admit that I found my first attempt (and failure) at homemade ravioli yesterday to be irksome.  I wanted to deep fry ravioli to accompany today’s waffles, and at Sprouts Anya and I decided it would be best to make our own.  I admit to having some reservations as I was not feeling quite up to speed.  I found myself inexplicably between moods and energy levels.  It was kind of hard to diagnose my symptoms (too many options) and hard to admit defeat, but yesterday I simply was not in a place where I could whip up homemade ravioli with no experience or instructions.  A good idea or novel concept and an old stand-by recipe to get me started is my usual M.O. with bento box creations and I have to be firing on all cylinders to push through.  I gave up without too much of a struggle or monumental waste and my pivot resulted in homemade egg noodle spaghetti with pesto.  I think I am lucky to have managed the lunch I did with how out of sync I was with my capabilities yesterday.  Rising early enough to finish details and make waffles this morning was challenging as well.  I still feel I could go back to sleep, and morning is usually my best time.  No untapped reserves of energy left, I guess.  I was actually still making smoothies when my husband needed to make his own breakfast this morning which is a situation I avoid to keep the morning routine running smooth.  I am very proud that my kids went to school with a bento box lunch that wasn’t comprised of processed foods from Costco today (well, I did include Goldfish… ), but I am thinking that I should have back up just in case I have a morning where I can’t manage as well.  A stash of easy stand-byes could save the day in a pinch.  Much worse to suffer hot lunch than a less than stellar bento box from home.  And I haven’t given up on my menu for this week…maybe we will fry homemade ravioli another time, or maybe we will find an organic option at Costco.  Progress not perfection.

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Today’s bento box has these adorable fish waffles made from bacon and cheddar.  I had leftover starfruit which now look like starfish!  I admit, I am just now realizing all the potential my pesto spaghetti and apple-onion relish had to be sea creatures, but my delay worked against the creative mind this cycle.  Use your imagination, I’m sure my kids will!fullsizerender

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Ingredients:  Bacon and cheddar waffles with starfruit and purple carrot hearts; homemade egg noodle spaghetti and pesto (see “Halloween Bento Boxes” for egg noodle recipe and simply use spaghetti attachment rather than fettuccine and “One Monster After Another” for pesto recipe); Apple and Onion Relish (see “Relish as Inspiration” post-I substituted Jazz apples for Granny Smith as it is what we had on hand and sacrificed color perhaps, but Anya says not taste); whole grain Goldfish crackers and Yogurt-Papaya Coy Candy.

 

Bacon and Cheddar Waffles

I needed an easy week, especially after my ravioli fiasco, so I simply used Krusteaz Waffle Mix, enough to make 2 c of batter and added 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese and a couple pieces of crisp, crumbled bacon.  My waffle iron heats directly on the burner and I keep it sprayed with non-stick canola oil and cook “fish” two a a time.  My fish waffle maker is an old Amazon find.

 

Yogurt-Papaya Coy Candy

1 1/2 c yogurt chips

1/4  c chopped dried papaya

1 Tbsp organic vegetable shortening

Melt yogurt chips with shortening in microwave, cooking in 30 second intervals and stirring in between until smooth.  Sir in papaya.  Fill coy fish mold with yogurt mix and refrigerate for 2 hours.  Makes 7 fish.  (Once again, mold is an old Amazon find.  It caught my eye after Connor had spent the day gardening at my favorite property and had admired the coy pond)

 

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No-Waste Smoothie (or another Almost Compost)

1 c black grapes

1/4 c white grapes

1/2 c fresh papaya

1/2 c fresh honeydew (garden)

1 medium banana

1 Tbsp agave

1/2 c pineapple juice

1/2 c coconut water

Place ingredients in 24 oz Nutri Ninja cup and press Pro Extraction.  Allow to blend for 1 minute to emulsify grape skins and serve.

 

Primp

I no longer primp or take care with my appearance.  My being has become utilitarian.  When nostalgia reminds me to spend time on impressions I seek out my daughter and she shows me how to look nice.  When did her opinion become authoritative?  It wasn’t that long ago that I picked out all of her clothes and approved hairstyles.  (Yes, I did approve the shaved head, she  was beautiful)  I’ve passed the baton, but maybe in haste.  One must practice self-love to teach.

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Today’s bento boxes contain Red Velvet Zucchini Waffles, Peanut Butter-Bacon-Banana Pinwheels and Cheesy Crab Bites. As I am still using up papaya, today’s smoothie is Tropical.

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Ingredients:  Red Velvet Zucchini Waffle recipe with persimmons and purple carrots; Peanut Butter-Bacon-Banana Wrap recipe; Cheesy Crab Bites recipe; Yogurt Papaya Coy Candy (see “Under the Sea Bento Box”) and fresh red plum.

img_1206At the last minute, I decided to throw in some pretzel rolls.

 

Red Velvet Zucchini Waffles

2 c flour

1/4 c sugar

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 Tbsp cocoa powder

3/4 tsp salt

1 1/3 c buttermilk

1/3 c butter

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

red food coloring (a lot)

3/4 c shredded zucchini

Mix first four ingredients in a large bowl.  Separately, combine next five ingredients and beat together.  Add wet mixture to dry and stir until smooth and even-colored.  Fold in zucchini.  Heat and oil waffle iron and cook until edges of waffles begin to brown.

 

Peanut Butter-Bacon-Banana Pinwheel

3 slices crispy bacon, crumbled

1/2 c natural peanut butter

3 small bananas

lemon juice

small whole wheat tortillas

Spread peanut butter evenly over three whole wheat tortillas, covering completely.  Sprinkle with bacon pieces.  Slice banana and arrange on tortilla.  Roll and slice.  Brush bananas exposed to air with lemon juice to prevent browning.

 

Cheesy Crab Bites

1 can lump crab meat

1 c cream cheese softened

1 c sharp cheddar cheese

1 box Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

Safflower or peanut oil to fill deep fryer

Heat oil.  Combine first four ingredients and mix well.  Form into 1 ” balls.  Fry in small batches until golden brown.  Makes 30 bites.

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Tropical Smoothie

1 c papaya

1 banana

1/2 c fresh honeydew (garden)

3/4 c coconut milk

3/4 c pineapple juice

1 Tbsp agave

Place all ingredients in 24 oz Nutri Ninja cup and blend for 30 seconds.  Anya is still missing her thermos so I will fill the boys’ cats and save half for tomorrow.fullsizerender-1

Anya is still missing her thermos, so she will have Matcha Love again.

 

Or worse?

Or

Maybe this was too emotional, or maybe it needed to be said

https://www.change.org/p/electoral-college-electors-electoral-college-make-hillary-clinton-president-on-december-19?recruiter=630847733&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink

 

Vegetal

My husband says I need to water the kale and cover it as it gets cooler if I want to enjoy it through the winter but my stomach hurts too much to talk about kale or lunches or much of anything. I have been pushed too far.   I try to remain unaffected by politics, but I am not sleeping well.  I am finding myself unable to make excuses and feign tolerance for behaviors driven by the worst possible propensities in our culture.  The wool has been pulled from my eyes and I am struggling to bite my tongue.  I am not proud of my country.  My children can’t hear more excuses for behavior that can’t be excused.  A rich and powerful contingent that manipulates and deceives the poor and uneducated into voting against their interests is destroying our planet in the interest of lining their already fat pocketbooks and it is just business as usual.  I pity those who don’t know any better as they will suffer for their err.  I am afraid to put to words what I feel for those who know better, yet vote for yet another tax break while tomorrow is not assured. I am speaking to no one, because I am afraid of what I will say.  Is this hate?  I am unfamiliar with it, but can I feel less for those who gamble with my children’s future?   Maybe my husband is right and our new president’s unpredictable nature will yield some surprise wins, but I am not soothed.  That this could happen at all, especially under the hand of the electoral college, had robbed me of faith.  Capitalism without restraint is a monster and we are rewarding sin and corruption with power. I can’t even say the word this political situation brings to mind, it sounds true dramatic and religious, but I feel it in my stomach.  Connor votes that we take up residence in Denmark, but my husband says we stay and fight.  As a mother, I suppose I have no choice.

I do have a choice.  I am choosing not to hate or fear or exist in this dark place.  I had to live in it for a while to see truth.  I am choosing light.

Or else?

Or

Every time I think I have an ending to this story I am faced with another “Or…”.  Is this real progress or all-consuming hobby? Is my experience divine inspiration or merely wishful thinking?  Is time the healer of all things, or an enemy I must confront?

I have included a couple of earlier posts, maybe I’ll find some answers there, though I think I am remiss not to look at bento box entries as that is where this journey began.

Rearrange

I used to rearrange furniture and household objects on a regular basis.  It was the only way I could motivate myself to clean up.  I needed a fresh perspective, inspiration, a creative twist to liven up the doldrums of everyday household chores.  My husband never understood my process and used to complain.

I used to rearrange plants and flowers in my garden designs.  First on paper, then again, on site.  When I was in the groove I would be all-consumed with color and light and my imagination was boundless.  My clients knew their money was well spent.  I could ignore the frustration of my laborers as I asked them to start and stop and start over again.

We had to rearrange our lives on April 6, 2016.  My husband had to pick Anya up, cancel soccer practice and meet the EMT’s at the hospital.  Friends and family had to schedule meals to feed my family and deliver them to house or school.  Carpools had to be arranged to accommodate the schedules of three kids with activities.  Replacements had to be found to take over my professional obligations.  Money had to be borrowed to manage our finances.

The accident has rearranged my perspective.  We hand pick our facts to focus on the positive.   Any prognosis that denies hope is completely ignored.   Our attitude of “family first” and “all for the greater good” is a constant.  We pay no heed to poignant reminders and trust that this story is going to have a happy ending. We have rearranged a tragedy and by chance fostered a miracle.

Transformation

Her transformation was made possible because I am having trouble with 8th grade math.  The consequences of my accident are far reaching.

Anya’s symptoms came to light when my injuries prevented me from continuing to play doctor and counselor and tutor to my 13 year old daughter.  My efforts had put a band-aid on her troubles and left my husband completely unawares.  Anya suffered for it.  When I spoke of having failed her, she didn’t disagree.

Anya  stated clearly and repeatedly that she couldn’t concentrate at school. We explored various avenues, seeking assistance.  My husband and I were adamantly opposed to medication and we weren’t certain of a diagnosis.  I couldn’t accept that I wasn’t able to fix this.

We turned a corner when Anya let me off the hook. She gave me permission to fail at tutoring her from home; “You don’t have to be the one to teach me, Mom…” she said.  My surrender came in the form of a questionnaire and a new psychiatrist.  My husband, Anya and myself each rated Anya’s symptoms and the doctor spent almost two hours listening and asking questions.  A diagnosis was made. We filled the prescription.

The change has been overwhelming, the difference night and day.  My daughter no longer thinks she is stupid or unteachable.   She no longer suffers from low self-esteem.  We receive emails from teachers, telling us that Anya is now focused and engaged.  She is completing assignments at school and concluding work in advance of due dates.

Anya’s counselor now describes her as a happy child,  one who is motivated and energized and excited to learn.  Her depression is waning and she makes healthy choices.  Her creativity has no limits and she advocates for herself and her siblings. You can tell Anya feels beautiful by the way she carries herself and speaks her mind.

Anya’s transformation was made possible because I am having trouble with 8th grade math.   The miracles around my accident are far reaching.

 

Eerie

I get an eerie feeling when I open the Progressive statement.  The pages of my monthly bill are haunted.

The last time I saw my car, it was perfectly fine, but I have been told by people I trust that it no longer exists.  Most of the time, the evidence of my car’s demise is overwhelming: I’ve met the agent who inspected my vehicle and deposited the check for it’s replacement; I’ve sorted through my vehicle’s contents and witnessed my husband’s trauma;  My spot in the driveway is empty, even though I am not absent.

I have a ghost car.

My insurance premiums have gone up and I’ve found it expensive to insure nothing, though less perhaps than what a cancelled policy would illicit.  For many reasons, a replacement car is now imminent:   I’ll be ready to drive any day now and my husband needs help carpooling;  We are paying for insurance anyway, so why not insure something tangible; (But maybe we are safer with the spirit of my suburban…  what price peace of mind?)

 

via Daily Prompt: Smoke

We sit down to eat together as a family and no one mentions the smoke. It simply isn’t a priority.  Our new normal takes no notice of hazy dining, but it is proof of lowered expectations.  Before the accident, this situation would’ve been unacceptable.  Complaints would have been voiced and the situation resolved.  Post-accident, we avoid drawing attention to my limitations and quietly trust that one day I will be well enough to remedy the situation.  The problem isn’t a new one.  The door locking mechanism on the stove hasn’t worked in years, thus preventing use of the self-clean program and a simple solution to the smoke.  What is required now, and used to be expected, is oven cleaner and gloves and lots of bending and straining of the neck, which now proves impossible.  To passerby, a simple solution might be for my husband to take over the job.  What they couldn’t know is that he has taken over everything I used to do, and has no time to take a breath.  It just isn’t a priority.  Friends ask if we will still be hosting Thanksgiving.  Of course, I say, nothing has changed.  My husband has always cooked the turkey, so what  will be different?  Except that the turkey will cook for hours.  The house will fill with smoke.  I imagine which guests will ignore it and which will pass judgement, this evidence of my failings.  Compounded by the shrieking of smoke alarms placed in close proximity to each other.  Fear of fire used to keep me awake at night.  Now I don’t remember to be afraid.   Smoke is no longer indicative of danger in our house, it is a mark by which to measure  progress.  What is the prognosis for a smoke-free holiday?  Is a smoky house conducive to a healing brain?  More questions my neurosurgeon can’t answer; Indoor Air Quality As Measure of Post-Concussive Resolution ?  As Mark of Mended Fractures?