Don't take the name of the post wrong, I am NOT a no bread kind of girl! Give me all of the bread, all of the time and I'll be a happy camper! It just so happened that I did not want what the kids were having for lunch, so I made myself something completely different. Usually I'd just throw together a wrap or something, but I was a little pressed for time this morning and just didn't feel like putting a sandwich together.

My lunch for today consisted of lunch meat (turkey and pepperoni), a string cheese, olives, grapes, a kiwi, and mini Triscuit crackers.

Super easy lunch, took me all of a minute to throw this together. What took the longest was trying to find the little orange container that goes with this set... Which I still cannot find. A gremlin must have ran off with it :(
You'll see things like this all over pinterest if you do a search for school lunches. The kids were super interested, and since I had leftover taco meat, I figured this would be a good way to use some up. Another super fast lunch, completely done start to finish in about 15 minutes.

You'll need the following items:
Leftover taco meat
a couple of tortillas
a handful shredded cheese
sour cream

Preheat oven to 350F.
Using a drinking glass or circle cookie cutter, cut your tortillas to be slightly larger than the cavity on the mini muffin pans. Press the tortillas into the muffin tins, fill with a spoonful of meat and top with a bit of cheese. Bake for 5-8 minutes, or until the tortillas have hardened and the cheese is melted. Watch them carefully, they really only take a few minutes! Cool slightly before putting into lunch containers. Serve with a side of salsa and sour cream!

In addition to their taco cups, the kids had a kiwi, sugar snap peas, and grapes!
So, my oldest chose to have Tuna Boats for lunch today (hollowed out halves of cucumber stuffed with tuna salad). For the life of me I couldn't find anything other than giant cucumbers at the store, so I just made up some tuna and gave them some crackers and cucumber slices to go with it. I'm not a big tuna fan, and I hate mayo, so this was a kids only lunch today.

Easy Tuna Salad:
1 large can of chunk tuna in water
a couple of pickle slices, diced (from the garden!)
a handful of olives, diced
a heaping spoonful of Mayo
a squeeze of spicy mustard
-Throw all ingredients into a bowl, stir gently until combined.
Along with their tuna salad they had mini Triscuit crackers, olives, cucumbers, a granola bar, and some banana chips. I've had these cute little plastic spoons forever, they come in a pack of 50-100 in the party section at Walmart. They are coming in quite handy now!
Since I'm a no mayo girl, I made myself a salad. I added a couple of pieces of precooked frozen chicken breast. I also had some cucumbers and olives, a container of applesauce, and instead of crackers I packed a small bag of popcorn (which I ended up not eating). I had my smoothie for breakfast, so none in my lunch today.
Our first full week of school lunches went pretty smoothly! I was able to get everything ready in the morning before leaving for work, taking about 10-20 minutes, depending on what they were having. The longest one was the pizza, just because it had to cook for 10 minutes and cool a little before I could put them in their lunch boxes.

Friday's lunch was another easy peasy day. Quesadillas, carrots, blueberries, and some cherry tomatoes from the garden.
The only one of the kiddos who are really adamant about picking something out off of the menu so far as been my oldest, and she always picks the weird things, lol. She picked tuna boats for tomorrow. I didn't see any cucumbers that would be a good size for these when I was at the store today, so I think I'm going to switch it up to tuna, crackers, and cucumbers. Almost the same thing!

Here is our menu for this week:
I ended up having a lot of items on hand this week, so my shopping list was pretty minimal. The taco cups are leftovers from taco night. We still have carrots from last week. I buy applesauce in bulk at Sam's Club, so that was on hand. And crackers from last week that we never ended up using. I'm pretty excited for this week's menu!
This was a total cheater lunch yesterday. I just started a new job the day the kiddos went back to school, and let me tell you, I have been exhausted every day! It's not the job or kids that are making me tired, but the fact that I have woke up at 5am every day. Didn't matter what time I went to bed either, soon as 5am hits, I'm awake. Anxiety at it's finest: Realizing exactly what I did wrong the day before. Worrying about what I will do wrong this day. Wondering what will happen with the now realized mistakes. Worrying about making an impression.  And since it's a new job, with a lot of small technical aspects, worrying about making the same mistakes again, and all of the new ones I will make. I am a worrywart.

So, this lunch was toss together in all of 5 minutes. Turned the oven onto preheat before I hopped in the shower. Got out, got dressed, then threw these into their lunch boxes.

These pretzels were from the Schwans truck, and is one of our favorite things to order! They take no time at all to make, and are super delicious! They also got a string cheese, half of a pear, a handful of grapes, and leftover olives from yesterday. I had a smoothie with mine, since I was far too tired to make one this morning. I made myself a homemade iced coffee, Starbucks macchiato style.

(My recipes for homemade Starbucks can be found here: Green Straws!)
So far so good on our lunch planning! Yesterday they chose pizza, so we had mini pizzas that I saw on a long time ago. Most of the recipes I saw said to use refrigerated pizza dough, but I found a 4 pack of biscuit dough on sale for $2!

For these pizzas you will need the following items:
1 can of refrigerated biscuit dough
1 jar of pizza sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
10 slices of pepperoni
Preheat your oven to 350F.

Spray your muffin tin generously with cooking spray. Flatten out each biscuit with your hands until it is really thin (don't rip them though!). I totally couldn't get a good photo of this because I just did it right on the cook-top of my stove... I made these minutes before they left for school... Oops! After you flatten them, press them into your muffin tin.
Spoon a bit of sauce in the middle of the dough, I just used a small spoon from my drawer.
Press a small amount of cheese into each muffin tin and top with a slice of pepperoni. I added a little more shredded cheese on top when I was done, just to make them look pretty!
Pop these bad boys in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until your biscuits are starting to turn golden brown! Watch how fast your kids come running at the delicious smell that will soon fill your house! Take them out of the oven and run a knife around them to unstick any cheese that stuck to the pan. Let them sit for a couple of minutes before you pop them into their lunch containers.
The rest of their lunch consisted of carrots, olives, and grapes, and a granola bar. They choose their own drink, so I have no idea what they had. Usually we have juice boxes, caprisuns, or they have their own reusable water bottle. Lately when I make my own smoothies in the morning, I have been freezing the leftovers in Ball freezer jars (for canning), so the kids (or I if I'm being lazy in the morning) can have one for lunch. So far they are perfectly defrosted by lunch if I do not put my lunch bag in the fridge at work.
If you're interested in the containers at all, I found the ones the pizzas are in at Ross in the kitchen department (and have seen them at Burlington Coat Factory, too) for $4 for 4 containers, and the ones with their own dip section came from the Dollar Tree! So far they are my favorite containers, and they were only $1! The small orange and green ones with my carrots and grapes were part of a set I got at Walmart. They have their own ice pack that they snap onto, as well as a sandwich sized container that fits on top of them.
Each year we have a small garden at our house. Just your basic things, like tomatoes, peppers, herbs, etc, and each year, it is a total learning experience. I've learned that pumpkins will take over your garden and rip out any other plant in it's way (my poor little snap peas!). Tomatoes need a LOT of room per plant. A lot of rain will ruin your soil and you'll have to test it regularly to maintain the correct levels of things like magnesium and calcium. And grasshoppers are the worst thing ever, and if your child picks one up, it may pee on her... hehe!

Even if you only have a little bit of room you can make a pretty great garden! I used cinder blocks to create the garden bed, so my garden is less than 2ft wide.
So far we've grown our own pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes (roma, vine, beefsteak, orange wellington, and big boy), peppers (bell, sweet, pepperoncini, big bomb, tobasco, and jalapeno), strawberries, and herbs (sage, basil, mint, cilantro).
This year instead of pumpkins I planted cucumbers. I ended up yielding about a gallon and a half for pickles, eating 4-5, and giving away about 10. I probably would have had a second crop this year, but I ended up getting an infestation of beetles that were ruining the plant and fruit.
I went on a canning spree... Once you start, you just can't stop! I made pickles, pickled brussle sprouts, pickled garden mix, dill relish, pepper jelly, and jams (strawberry-blueberry-raspberry, strawberry-apricot, raspberry-apricot, and strawberry-peach). I hadn't canned since I was a little girl, and never on my own. I was pretty intimidated, but once I got going, there was no stopping me!
My garden has been my favorite place to hangout lately, makes the house seem more friendly and inviting. The only problem is the insane amount of mosquitoes out and about this year! They are CRAZY. Just going outside to water or collect tomatoes means becoming one giant mosquito buffet. Normally I don't get bit by them, but I guess they are hungry enough even to go for me this time around!

Next year I will plant sunflowers again, the bees went crazy for them! I ended up having to hand pollinate all of the cucumbers this year because it rained so much we never saw the bees.
June saw record-breaking rainfall for Springfield, we're talking more rain than June than any other year, since they have started recording the rainfall over 100 years ago. It rained Every. Single. Day. My poor garden had that tarp over it until the end of July. We're talking this much rain, every day...
For years now I have had this problem of having really bad stomach cramps after I would eat certain foods. It started all of a sudden a few years ago after I had my favorite dish at my favorite local Mexican place. This was something I ate all the time, so I figured maybe I just got a bad batch of beans or meat and had a case of food poisoning. After that first time, I didn't have any problems for about a year, but after that I was getting cramps much more frequent. I was finally able to narrow down which foods would most likely cause it, and always was careful not to over eat (that would cause it every single time). Nothing fatty or greasy. No dairy. No heavily spiced foods (spicy was fine, just not a lot of spices). I pretty much lived off of crackers, toast, noodles, and plain boneless-skinless chicken breast meat. I went through a battery of tests at the local hospital, and no one seemed to know what was causing all of it.

Except my boss. She nailed it on the head the first time it happened. She said I had gallstones.

Fast forward about 5 years to December of last year, and things got crazy. I wasn't able to eat anything at all except crackers. I ended up in the ER several times, and they determined I had gallstones. Not only did I have gallstones, but they were stuck in the neck of my gallbladder, causing extreme muscle spasms. They scheduled me for surgery right before my birthday in January, and I can't believe I was so happy to have an organ removed from my body!

The surgery went fine, and a few days later I was able to start eating real food again. However, I was that "1 in 100" who would develop chronic diarrhea from not having a gallbladder. So I was back to a bland diet, trying to figure out what foods exactly would cause it. Which was pretty much any food...

I've done some research lately, and was reading up on chia seeds. Yeah, those little black seeds you used to use to grow yourself a chia pet back in the 80's. Apparently they are the new "superfood". Normally I don't buy into any fast new trendy diet mumbo-jumbo, but at this point, I was seriously ready to try ANYTHING.

Chia seeds are packed full of fiber, which is great for those of us who are bathroom challenged. They have a lot of other good stuff in them, just do a quick google search and you'll find all kinds of information. Also, they will fill you up, and keep you full. I usually have a smoothie around 8am, and am not hungry until lunch time.
So, I went to our local grocery store, and sure enough, they sell them in bulk. So I bought about a cup to test out.

So, my smoothie recipes have been about this:

1.5-2 TBS chia seeds
1 container chobani greek yogurt (usually coconut or vanilla)
1 banana
1 cup of other fruit (berries, pineapple, peaches, etc)
1/2-1 cup of liquid (milk, green tea, orange juice, etc)
and as an option, 1-2 TBS of powdered peanut butter
Ice to desired thickness/coldness

You can do one of several things with the chia seeds. Soak them in a bit of water for 10-15 minutes. They will become gel like and not add much texture to your smoothie. You can use a coffee grinder and grind them into a powder (make sure to use ground chia seeds within a few days, they spoil faster). Or you can just toss them in your blender with the rest of the ingredients. If you don't soak them, they are a bit crunchy, but honestly, it's not too noticeable.

Just toss all of the ingredients in your blender and go!
So far I've lost about 8lbs, and I have only had one day in about 2 weeks where I've had bathroom problems. Chia seeds are my new super hero! I'm almost out of that first cup that I bought, and I will be going back to the store for more!

Treya Lynn
Well, it is totally that time of year again! School here starts back up next Monday (happy dance anyone?), and so we've been discussing how to make some healthier lunches to bring to school. The new "free lunch for everyone" program is TERRIBLE. I spent the last hour trying to find some of the photos the girls have sent me of their "lunch", and have realized I really need to get better about organizing my cell phone photos lol. Pizza full of disgusting orange grease. A bread stick and a slice of cheese. Mystery meat on a piece of white bread. Bread is either so hard you can cut through glass with it, or so soggy it has to be picked up with a spoon. In other words, the kids hate their school lunches!

Last year I made sure we were stocked with lunch essentials, such as bread, lunch meat, sliced cheese, granola bars, apples, chips, etc, and if they wanted to bring a lunch they had to make it themselves the night before or early that morning. This year all 3 of the kids will be taking lunches, and I don't want them to just have the same old thing every day. I also don't want to be making three different crazy fancy lunches every day, so we came up with a system.

Together we scoured pinterest for interesting lunch ideas, and we wrote down everything they were interested in. I plugged them all into a spreadsheet and printed it out. I went to Bed Bath and Beyond and bought 2 white boards for the kitchen. One is a monthly calendar, and the other a weekly. The monthly one will be used for school notes (appointments, practice schedules, dances, etc), while the weekly one will be our new lunch menu. Each weekend they will pick out what they want for the upcoming week, so I can go shopping and have everything ready well beforehand.

Here is what our new "menu" looks like:
And here are our calendars:
Here is the link to my pinterest board for lunches, maybe it will give you some ideas!

Once school starts and we start making these, I'll post the recipes and photos of each lunch box. Next up, organization of lunch supplies!
I have always been intimidated by traditional macaroons. Every recipe I read differed so greatly, and they all had that "if you don't do this exactly as I say they will fail" vibe, so I never even bothered trying them myself. Until a friend offered to help me start up a bakery. Then I thought to myself, well, I can't own a bakery and honestly say I have NEVER tried to make a macaroon... So, after days of research, and even more days planning, prepping, and testing, I've come to learn that they are a lot more forgiving than most recipes state.

I've tried many different ways to make them. Every kind of egg whites you can imagine, aged, cold, room temp, farm fresh, and even carton egg whites. I have bought almond meal, and tried grinding my own (messy, but much cheaper!). I've sifted, and not sifted. I have let my macaroons sit for anywhere from 20 minutes to 4 hours (oops, forgot them on the counter...). And I haven't had a batch fail yet.

So, do not be intimidated by the naysayers! Just give them a try! They are a very interesting cookie to say the least!