Monday, July 23, 2012

Edible Art

Sometimes getting children to eat can be tricky, but really its all in how you present it. My youngest son Mason (4) wouldn't even taste rice until I found this link and turned an ordinary rice ball into a panda bear! I just put sticky rice in a measuring cup to make a round shape for the face and he added black olive details. It was a hit!

 If it looks like something you shouldn't eat then you have to eat it right?  Toddler philosophy there. Its amazing what a child will eat if you make it fun. Its even better if the child can help put it together. The following photos are some of the fun things myself and my children have made for snacks, meals and parties.

This is Tom, he's a TRex. I made him out of a watermelon as a snack for Mason's 4th birthday. His eyes are green olives and his nostrils & eyebrows are pieces of the rind. His toothpick teeth were used by the party guests to pick up pieces of the watermelon. I found this neat idea here.

Crackers & Cheese, a yummy snack! Add in some black olives, grapes, carrots, whatever you have on hand. Let your child make faces on the crackers. Mason even made a fish with a grape and carrot fins.

Cucumber Aliens with cheese stars. I simply cut a hole in the cucumber with a frosting tip for his mouth and used that round piece to make the eyes. The center is a mustard seed. Cookie cutters were used for the cheese! I used cookie cutters for cheese all the time. Its a great way to serve cheese at a party with a theme. Ive done dinosaurs, trains and stars to decorate a Christmas tree made with veggies. Original idea found here, though its just a photo, no step by step.

That right there is an Alligator Map. It was made during our study of gators. The original idea came from Katherine Marie and honestly hers is much nicer looking than mine. My swamp is green jello with Swedish fish gummies. The alligator bait is kix cereal. The scales are pickle slices. The Tails with Mud are celery sticks with peanut butter and the gator eggs are green olives.

Dinosaur sandwich with cheese spikes and a celery tree. Diced tomatoes added since Mason loves tomatoes with a passion.   I have a sandwich cutter in the shape of a dinosaur, though Im sure a cookie cutter would do just as well and you can always cut the shape yourself with a knife. 

Crab pancake! Mason's favorite breakfast.  His face and claws are pancakes, his arms and face details are bananas and his legs are lil sausages cut in half lengthwise. 

Kitty sandwich.  I used a large cup to cut the sandwich into a circle, then used the edges to make ears.  Cheese and olives make up the facial details.  

Potato Boat.  Mason's favorite food ever in life is potatoes. Any kind of potatoes, mashed, baked, fried, any and all, so really I didnt have to make it fun for him to eat it, but who wouldn't love a potato boat with a cheese sail?  The sail is held with a green onion.  The boat itself is a loaded baked potato, recipe found here on RS. 

Another snack idea that little ones can help with.  Bat Olives with cheese wings.  I cut the pieces up he put them together. 

This is our Guinea pig cookie, modeled after our very own furry baby, Princess Socko Nug Nug. Its a peanut butter cookie with raisin eyes and bran flake ears.

My oldest son, Stone loves Sonic The Hedgehog, so we decided we had to make our very own hedgehog using an orange, black olives for eyes & nose and lil smokies on toothpicks for spikes. The only problem was he wanted to save it forever.  Original idea found here. 

We love fish as pets but not to eat, except in the case of a sandwich that merely looks like a fish.  Cheese fins, and a tomato tail with grapes and cut up turkey as gravel. 

Elephant biscuits for breakfast!  This is a snack that Mason helped with. Using a butterknife he cut the biscuit pieces to form ears and the trunks.  The eyes are raisins and we sprinkled on some cinnomon and sugar.  Recipe found here with lots of fun Elephant crafts. 

For a little boy you cant go wrong with an apple that looks like a frog!  The original idea came from here, though my design is a little different.  His legs are made with grapes, his eyes are mini marshmallows with raisins and his tongue is a piece of tomato. Mason added the raisin to his tongue, he said it was  fly. :)

We had elves come visit us over Christmas, Im certain you will be hearing about their adventures here on RS  soon.  Because of them we decided to make an elf plate. This elf face is made up of various things, his hat and ears are sandwiches, his eyes are hardboiled eggs with olive centers.  His nose is a piece of hotdog, his mouth an apple slice and mini marshmallows make up the details of his hat. Sliced lunch meat sticking out of the hat makes him appear to have hair.  Idea from Little Nummies

Who wouldn't want ice cream for breakfast?!  Waffles cut in triangles with banana slices an a cherry on top. Idea found here.

Lady bug crackers, we made during our Bug themed learning time. Idea from Taste of Home.  Mason loved putting these together.  Cheese spread on a cracker was used to adhere the ladybug pieces.  Cherry tomatoes cut in half make her wings, while black olives with tiny pieces of green onion make up her head.  The black dots are frosting, which you would think sounds awful for a savory snack, but it was quite delicious.

One of Mason's all time favorite snacks.  Hardboiled egg Mice with cheese and apples.  The cheese is monzeralla as he doesnt care for swiss, so we had to make the holes with a frosting tip.  Mason says mouse cheese has to have holes in it. :)  The ears are made with apple pieces, the eyes are tiny pieces of black olive and the tails are a piece of green onion.  Got this idea from Disney Family Fun.

Mommy's favorite way to eat a pizza.  I love owls, so much that my baby girls room is decorated with them. We made this during our Owl learning time, its biscuits placed together in an owl shape and flattened. Topped with pizza sauce and pepperonis to look like feathers.  The eyes are round cheese slices topped with pepperoni and black olive slices.  His ears and feet are pieces of cheese cut to shape.  He had a cheese nose but somebody named Mason ate it before Owly made it to the oven.  Original idea found here

Obviously this creation impressed Mason to no end.  He loves hotdogs just like any kid does.  A few slits to one side forms an octopus, who knew?  Ours is a cheese dog, it didnt slice properly, original idea found here

Another creative sandwich.  He asked for a turkey sandwich and leftover blackbeans from taco night.  Cut the sandwich to shape, add bean details, sprinkle in some shredded cheese and a rocket is born.

And last but not least, the best snack for two little boys to make, a fruit snake!  The boys loved piecing together this coral snake made out of bananas and strawberries onto a wooden skewer.  A tutorial for this crafty snack can be found here

Hope you enjoyed looking at our edible art! Please share your comments and let me know what kinds of fun snacks you've created for you little ones! 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

When you're freezing and its a good thing...

Today we will be focusing on purchasing and prefreezing meats & meals.  The first thing you need to do is get your shopping on.  I have a large deep freeze so I was able to hit up the local grocery store  and purchase some pretty good deals.  I came home with 20 lbs of ground beef, 2 boston butt roasts, 2 beef roasts, 2 packs of chicken quarters, 2 packs of pork chops a rack of ribs.

I focused on a different type of meat each day to prep and freeze.  I did not do all this in one day, it was over the course of a week.


My favorite product of recent is the 10 lb+ chubs of ground beef my local store has been carrying.   You can go with their special sale ground beef which is $5 for less than 2 lbs of meat or you can pay $22.58 for 10.31 lbs. That's only $2.19 per lb, whereas the other is an average $2.50+ a lb or go to other stores and pay $2.99 a lb.  I think not. I happened to come across two of these lovely money saving chubs on my last shopping trip and yes I snatched them both up.

They are restaurant quality meat and have less fat than your normal ground beef but a little more than the lean, but its way cheaper.

Once home, I separated each of the  ground beef chubs into 8 equal chunks, about 1.2  lbs each, which gave me 16 equal pieces. 9 of those chunks went into quart ziplock bags to be frozen for later use.

1 1/2 chunks were sliced into 6 hamburger patties for premade burgers.    I placed one patty on a piece of wax paper, covered it with another, used a rolling pin to flatten it a bit, then placed the 2nd patty on top of the wax paper, covered it with another piece and rolled it.  They were all then placed in a gallon ziplock back for freezing.

2 1/2 chunks went into the Ice Queen for that nights dinner of  meatloaf.   The remaining 3 chunks were used  to prep two different tomato sauces and stuffed pepper filling for freezing.

For the first sauce, I borrowed a recipe from my friend Kristin and it was made especially for me, as she uses bell pepper and onions.  My husband will not eat either of those, hence why its labeled "Kristin's Sauce for Lesha."
  • Sweet Sausage
  • Powdered Italian Dressing mix
  • Garlic cloves 
  • Diced Onion 
  • Diced bell pepper 
  • a can of tomato paste
  • 2 big cans of crushed tomatoes 
  • honey 

There isn't really any measurement to this which made quite easy for me as I just tossed things in as I went along.   I didn't have any sweet sausage, so I used ground beef instead and compensated by using atleast 2-3 tbs of honey to make it sweet.   

Cook the sausage/beef  and when its half way done add the garlic, onion, pepper and dressing mix. Cook until done, then drain off the fat before adding the other ingredients.  I let this simmer for a few hours before bagging it to freeze.

 In the future I plan to try the sweet sausage as this sauce was fantastic, the sweet with the veggies made it delicious.  I will admit I ate some of it while it was cooking....just sauce by itself, it was that good!

Visit Survivor Mom for more recipes from Kristin and some helpful couponing advice. 

My second sauce was also borrowed from a friend.  Dana's recipe will be used for the husband and children who just don't appreciate the art of a sauce with veggies.
  • 1 lb ground beef 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 onion (omitted by me)
  • 1 tb basil 
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 tbs brown sugar 
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1 can (29 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 2 (6 oz) cans of tomato paste 

Brown the meat with the garlic, drain fat.  Add in the rest of the ingredients and simmer for atleast 45 minutes.  Again I let this simmer for hours before bagging it.  Another fantastic sauce that I will definitely  be using again!

Obviously the stuffed peppers are for me as well, since my family wont eat peppers or onions in anything they certainly wont eat anything out of them.   I made up a good amount of filling and prefroze two stuffed peppers just as an experiment to see if they freeze well.

My Stuffing
  • 1 lb of ground beef 
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice 
  • 1 cup of tomato sauce 
  • 2 tsps Worcestershire sauce 
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp basil 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper 
  • cheddar cheese

The first thing I did was blanch the peppers.  Drop them into a pot of boiling water for about 2 minutes, making sure they remain firm.  Pull them out and let cool on paper towels.

Cook the ground beef and onion until done, drain fat.  Add in the cooked rice and seasonings.   After the mixture cooled, I added in some cheddar cheese then stuff the bell peppers.

I bagged the remaining mixture in a quart ziplock bag, then let the stuffed peppers stand in the freezer on a cookie sheet to freeze slightly.  Then I wrapped the peppers individually in plastic wrap, the prefreezing makes it so none of the mixture sticks to the plastic wrap.  Then I stored each of them in a separate ziplock in the freezer.

For reheating, I will let thaw at room temperature, then warm in the oven, adding some tomato sauce and cheddar cheese to the top.


I placed a pack of thawed chicken quarters in a pot of boiling water and another pack in the crock pot covered in water.  I added in some seasonings (weber's garlic & herb) and let both simmer all day until the chicken fell off the bone.  

Strain the chicken, reserving the broth and pull the skin and bones out.  I tossed the chicken pieces into The Ice Queen and using the dough hook, I let it shred.  I was able to get 4 quart bags of shredded chicken and two gallon bags of broth out of those two packs of chicken quarters (4 lbs each).   I have used the shredded chicken for salads, soups,  quesadillas, chicken salad sandwiches, and Chinese potstickers.  The uses are unlimited.


For the pork, I did our usual BBQ rub, consisting of two things.  Dry BBQ powder (Rendezvous seasoning)  and mustard.  Plain old yellow Mustard.   First you rub the pork with the mustard then sprinkle on the seasoning. (We prep ribs the same way!)

Wrap the roast in foil and cook in a 200 degree oven for hours until the meat is cooked and fall apart tender.  (usually 6-8)  I usually do two roasts.  One I shred and freeze and the other we have for that night's dinner.   I freeze it alone and add homemade BBQ sauce (a la the Husband) to it when its served.

With the pork chops, I just freeze 4 chops in a gallon ziplock bags for easy thawing for a future night's dinner.  Usually I end up with 4 packs of 4 from 2 large packs of chops.


With the beef roast, I just crock pot it and cook it.  Usually we eat the entire thing in one meal, Ive never prefroze any, though it would probably make for great stew meat for later use.

I do however save the broth for the purpose of soup or stew.   Using two ice cube trays, I freeze individual cubes of broth, then store them in quart ziplock bags to add to soup stocks later on.


Using 2 bags of potatoes (3 lbs each), I decided to make up a few things for later use.  My first experiment was Twice Baked Potatoes.  Using my normal baked potato process, I drizzled olive oil on 12 potatoes, sprinkled on some kosher salt, wrapped in foil and baked at 200 degrees for about an hour.   When the potatoes were done and cooled, I sliced each of them and spooned out the insides, tossing it into the Ice Queen.   To the potatoes I added,
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • ranch dressing 
  • salt n pepper
  • milk
  • green onions
Mix it all up real good, then using a frosting bag, I piped the filling into the potato halves and topped several of them with a slice of cheddar cheese & bacon bits.  I placed all of them on a cookie sheet and stuck them in the freezer for about 30-45 minutes until the mixture and cheese was solid, then wrapped each half individually in plastic wrap before placing them in gallon ziplock bags.

These are great snacks and can be heated easily in the microwave.  They are perfect for my potato loving boy, Mason.  He believes they are all his.

Next I decided to make some hashbrowns.  I had done this before but it turned out horrid.  Apparently  you are supposed to cook the potatoes before you shred them, who knew?    So I tossed 10 potatoes into a casserole dish with a lid and baked them for about an hour, then let them cool.   After cooling, I peeled the skins off (quite easily!) and then using a cheese grater, shredded them up.  It was so easy I couldn't believe I hadn't done it before...

I cooked some up for breakfast that morning and  bagged up 3 more servings (for a family of 4) in quart ziplock bags. The process was the same as the twice baked.  I spread the hashbrowns out on a cookie sheet and froze them first before putting them in the bags so that they didn't stick together.

That is all the freezing experimenting Ive done for now, but I do plan on doing more in the future.  My next goal is to prep some casseroles to freeze as I am expecting a little one in June and  I think already having meals on hand would be a blessing for me and a great help for the Husband.

Thanks for taking the time to read this entry, please comment and let me know some of the prefrozen meals you have prepared and link me to any blog entries you may have on the subject.   We always give credit to any outside information we use in our blog here.   Thanks so much!