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Recipe: Chicken Pot Pie (that is light enough to have seconds without guilt!)

My continued absence from here is annoying even me, so pushing myself to share something.  This is my new favorite recipe that I have been busting out all week, and it’s a variation on the Bisquick Chicken Pot Pie recipe found on the box (I actually found it online since the box I have didn’t actually have it).  The hardest part is the chicken, the rest takes all of about 5 minutes to throw together.  First, here’s the recipe:

  • 1 Cup of Chicken
  • 2 Cups of Vegetables
  • 1 Can of Cream of Chicken
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 Cup of Milk
  • 1 Cup of Bisquick mix

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix the chicken, veggies, soup and spices in a casserole dish, flattening it out when done.  Mix the egg, milk and Bisquick and then pour over the top of the chicken and veggies, spread it out as evenly as possible.  Put it in the oven for 30 minutes (or until the top is browned), makes 6 servings.

I had leftover chicken from the weekend so I started with that, however, I wanted to make more and ended up springing for a rotisserie chicken from the store.  This provided me with at least 3 cups worth of chicken – I pulled one serving from the breast, and finished assembling the dish.  While it was baking, I pulled the rest of the chicken off, shredded it, and put the leftovers in the fridge for next time.  It’s also just as easy to bake a couple of chicken breasts and dice/shred them.

How to make this dish HEALTHIER…

Grab the lower-fat version of the Cream of Chicken (Heart Healthy line of Campbells was even better than the store version of low fat cream of chicken), use low-fat milk, and bulk up on the vegetables – last night I used a can of corn niblets as 1 cup of veggies, and frozen peas and carrots as the other cup, however the corn was a bit abundant, so I will likely go with frozen mixed vegetables next time.

ENJOY!

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Bento Books Arrived – Full Reviews to Come but Here’s a Preview…

I was SO excited to see my bento books arrived in.  I have been looking to expand my lunch packing and meal-making skills, so I found some good deals on three books that got good reviews on Amazon…

I’ve had a chance to check out all three and thought I will be happy to provide more in-depth reviews, I can share my initial thoughts.

The first book I really looked through was Hawai’i’s Bento Box Cookbook by Susan Yuen.  The bentos are ADORABLE.  They are perfect for small children who would certainly delight in opening their lunchboxes to find whimsical scenes.  I love that it’s in a spiral-bound book, which makes it VERY easy to lay flat and go through the steps without having to struggle to keep the book open.  The book is broken into two main sections: the artistic bento hints and the recipes.  The artistic bento IS indeed artistic, and for the most part extremely easy to do provided you have the right tools.  The AMOUNT of tools you need in order to do them, however, can be a overwhelming.  Nori punches or scrapbooking punches, cookie cutters (butterfly, cat, bear, bunny, pig, chick, fish, flowers, leaves, not to mention the plain circles, ovals, hearts, stars, etc), straws, sausage cutters, musubi (rice) molds, and a WHOLE lot I didn’t even mention.  I would estimate that if I wanted to create the bentos in the book, I would need about $150-200 worth of tools in order to do them.  On the other hand, I certainly appreciated the recipe section, which offers a variety of dishes that can be used in bento boxes, most of which need only a few “fresh” ingredients and then usually spices you would normally have around the house.  I found several recipes that I would LOVE to try and do not seem intimidating to someone without a great deal of culinary finesse.  Overall, the book is great to offer some fun ideas for your young child, just be aware you’ll need to designate a special drawer in the kitchen for all the accoutrements.

The second book I was reading was Yum-Yum Bento Box by Crystal Watanabe (aibento.net) and Maki Ogawa (cuteobento.com).  This book is a bit more in depth than the Susan Yuen book, includes a bit of history behind bento, and a more comprehensive list of items one might use to create bento.  Again, make sure you have a drawer designated for your bentomaking tools, but I got less of an overwhelming feeling from this book than the previous book, and I think it is due to how it is presented.  There’s five full pages dedicated just to the tools used, and short explanations of what they are, how to use them best and where you might even find them, but I didn’t feel particularly pressured to acquire EVERYTHING.  They even include two pages of different ways to create aspects of characters… for instance ears can be represented with deli meat cut outs, cheese cut outs, meatballs sliced in half or even two fried noodles.  Once they move into highlighting their bento creations, the recipes are right there, along with estimated time it takes to make them, and tips for alternatives if you do not have all the ingredients or tools.  Lastly, they offer a great deal of reference – a lot of websites to learn more about bento as well as places to purchase items you might not find locally, etc.  As with the Susan Yuen book, the recipes look fairly easy to follow and create myself.  Overall, I think the bento from this book would definitely appeal to not only my 11 year old daughter, but many dishes would definitely appeal to my husband (minus some of the cute faces).

The last book I picked up was The Just Bento Cookbook, Everyday Lunches To Go by Makiko Itoh, who also runs the website JustBento.com.  This book is much different from the first two, in that there are no cute faces or characters – this book is dedicated to creating meals that are healthy portions, include healthy ingredients, are tasty, and are aesthetically pleasing.  The recipes are almost stupid-easy, and Itoh is kind enough to mention how long something will keep in the fridge or freezer (this point is a real bonus for me!).  The recipes are not just traditional Japanese foods, either.  One group of recipes focuses on lamb or beef koftas, baba ghanoush and hummus, all of which look and sound incredibly tasty.  There is also a section of bento staples to keep in your pantry and fridge, as well as a detailed description of many typical Japanese ingredients and where you can find them.  Overall, aside from not being spiral bound, this book is just about perfection!

All three books offer something to me – I did not feel I wasted my money on any of them.  I am eager to try recipes and ideas, and see how they go over with my family.  As time permits to put each of these books through their paces, I’ll be doing a more detailed individual review.  Enjoy!

Weird Hobby #267 – COUPONING!

With the semi-popularity of Extreme Couponing, I wanted to share my own personal love of couponing.  I came to couponing several years ago, well before the TV show, and while I do not get the same kind of deals the people on TV get, I do save a significant amount of money.

First of all, please know that the people on the show are TRULY extreme cases (and achieved by some very extreme people).  That’s not to say it’s impossible to achieve those kinds of savings, but it seems like the stars all have to align in the just the right place for those kinds of deals to happen.  For instance, many stores have coupon limits, perhaps allowing you to only use up to 4 of the same kind of coupon per visit.  Or they have item limits, where you can only purchase up to a certain quantity.  Many stores also will not allow you to use expired coupons (some stores actually will, but they are rare).  And then there is the problem of having the items in stock.  When you have other people who shop at the same store you do who also like to coupon, you often run into shortages, requiring you to ask for rainchecks and running the risk of your coupon expiring.

BUT, there are some really great deals to be had out there every week, and despite the occasional negatives, it’s well worth the effort.

My zippered folder, bought cheaply at Walmart - I use the front pocket to hold pens, calculator and scissors.

When I started out, I joined a website called GroceryGame.com.  There are other couponing websites out there with similar goals, but I liked GG, it was easy to use and the people on the forums are always incredibly helpful and kind.  The program on GG is fairly simple – you sign up for stores you shop at in your area, the weekly deals are put together in a List, you choose the items you want from your List, then you print it and gather your coupons.  Each list will even tell you where to find the coupons for your items.

But gathering the coupons always seems to be the biggest challenge.  Sunday papers usually have inserts from several sources, most notably Redplum, Smart Source and Proctor & Gamble, and the spines of the inserts will tell you the date they were printed.  There seem to be two main ways to keep your coupons among the GG crowd – the Weekly Binder or the Baseball Binder.

With the Weekly Binder, you simply put each circular into a binder that can hold about 3 months worth of inserts.  When you print your List, it will tell you to look for a coupon you need in the Redplum insert printed on 2/26.  Then you pull out that insert, thumb through for your coupon and clip it.

The inside cover has these pockets, perfect for holding inserts I haven't cut up yet, or for holding coupons I won't use to give to others.

The Baseball Binder can be a little more time consuming, but I’ve found it so helpful that I use this method.  I have a zippable binder with baseball card inserts that are separated into two sections, and then alphabetically.  The first section is for food/consumable items, the second is non-food/medicinal items, and I alphabetize by brand.  When I get an insert, I clip all the coupons I think I would be interested in using, I sort them, and file them into the little pockets.  When my List is ready, I simply flip to the brand, pull the coupon, and I am ready to go.  The reason I find this method so much better than the Weekly Binder method is because I have, on occasion, found discontinued items or special markdowns that would not appear in a national grocery store circular (GG is very good about putting unadvertised sales on, but I am talking about a specific store’s “dent and scratch” discount area).  By being able to open my binder and quickly flip to the brand, I can decide whether or not it’s a really good deal for me.  Additionally, I do shop at non-List stores sometimes, and if I have my binder with me, I can take advantage of sales I find there as well.  If I left coupons in their original inserts, it would take me way too long to flip through them to try and find that one coupon I think I remembered seeing… not worth my time.

I used plastic pocket folders to easily separate coupons per store, and grabbing the coupons I need is easy with the alphabetical system

The goal of couponing is two-fold.  Not only do you want to save the most money by stacking weekly store sales with manufacturing coupons, but you also want to stock up on the items you use so you have them when they are not on sale.  Why spend $3.59 on a jar of peanut butter every 3 weeks, when you can buy 4 for $1.59 each and have 3 months worth for less than 50% off?  It may not seem like much money, but it adds up.  So why not save that money for something else?

If anyone has any questions, I’m happy to chat more about it – otherwise, go forth and SAVE!

Bat!…Banana!…Kitchen!…

This is a bat eating a banana in the kitchen. Your argument is invalid.

 

It’s also the funniest thing I ever saw on FARK.  I still gigglesnort at it.

Product Review: Bento Lunch Box by Black + Blum

Small Bento Lunch Box by Black + Blum

As I said, I LOVE bento, which means I also love bento boxes!  I have a fondness for containers in general, but bento boxes are in a class all their own.  I have seen everything from the cartoon-y Hello Kitty bento boxes marketed for very small children (and college girls who want to be adorable), to some very sleek, modern styles marketed for professional businessmen.

I had a wonderful friend even send me a couple of bento boxes and accessories right from Singapore – I cannot tell you how freakin’ excited I was to get THAT package in the mail!

So in my grand search to find the perfect bento box, I discovered a set from Black + Blum.  Researching their other products, they have a style reminiscent of IKEA – clean, simple and functional.  Since I am a fan of ReUseIt, a website dedicated to reusable, recycle-able or otherwise environmentally conscious products, I chose to purchase the small and large lunch boxes from them (hint: they do run sales).

While waiting for my new bento boxes to arrive, I decided to read reviews about them.  I was very glad I did, because there were some complaints.  Some people were upset that the clear top of the box got scratched and became opaque, others found that even putting the items on the top rack of a dishwasher caused some warping, and others greatly disliked how the side tabs broke off and rendered the product useless.

I’ll admit, I was a little worried.  Had I fallen for the pretty packaging and would I be left with a worthless product and less money in my pocket?

Then they arrived.  For a couple of weeks I just left them on my shelf, admiring the design and cleanliness of them, and afraid to use them for fear of wrecking them.

Yeah, I was afraid to use them.  I’m a moron like that sometimes.

But when I started really getting into learning how to make sushi rice properly, there came the realization that I could do something similar with my 11 year old daughter’s lunches.  I wasn’t feeling confident enough to try packing her sushi for lunch (well, onigiri really since sushi obviously has to be made fresh and and consumed quickly), so I made wraps and sliced them like sushi…

her first bento lunch

Bologna in a wrap, a few carrot sticks and broccoli, and the little sauce pot had veggie dip.  Yeah, it’s wasn’t spectacular by any artistic means, but she LOVED IT.  The container made her feel so sophisticated, and for about 2 weeks straight she didn’t use anything else but this container.

Each afternoon I made sure to get it back from her, hand-washed it (I have no dishwasher anyway) with the soft side of the sponge, and let it air dry in the dish drain.  Easy!

There was one time that my daughter neglected to remember where she put it.  She swore she had it in her hand when she left school, but it was nowhere to be found.  After two days she finally pulled everything out of her backpack and discovered it at the bottom, with one of the side clips popped off.

I was devastated!  I read reviews where that had happened to other people and it was useless afterward.

Except, apparently the company read the same reviews I did and did a little REDESIGN, and I was one of the people with the new design!  Once I cleaned all the pieces (I remember the soy sauce… everywhere), it was a simple matter of popping the clip back on.  Simple, easy, and no problems.

REVIEW SUMMARY:  I freakin’ LOVE this bento box!  It looks small, but once you pack it with food, it really is just the right amount.

I also have the large version (below), but have not used it extensively yet.  The smaller one is perfect for tightly packed food (noodles, sushi, etc), the larger would work great for lighter, more airy foods like salads so people who are into portion control can put them to the best use.  Enjoy!

Large Bento Lunch Box by Black + Blum

 

 

Oh how I love BENTO!

I absolutely adore bento!  I am fascinated by how incredible some bento makers are.  There’s everything from geometric to artistic, all making colorful, edible meals.

I have learned how to make some very basic bento meals, but I am still quite the novice.  I learned how to make sticky rice with sushi vinegar (makes a HUGE difference!), and have collected some rice forms so I could make onigiri (the family seems to like that a lot).

I have several websites I like to peruse often, including Just Bento and Lunch In a Box.  I have a Pinterest page with some of the best bento I’ve found so far, so check it out.  Here’s a preview:

even jawas love bento!

cutest ever!

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