Summer Treat: Edible Arrangement

Spring is birthday season in our household– all three of my boys were born in March or April, almost exactly 24 months apart. That means that the spring is a busy time as we celebrate with parties, special dinners, and special school celebrations.

For school celebrations, especially, I want to bring something healthy but fun for the kids. The fruit skewer, in many different variations, has been in heavy rotation this school year.

Homemade Edible Arrangment

For Pepper’s 4th birthday, I made this homemade edible arrangement. After he did his school’s traditional walk around the sun four times, he helped me pass a fruit kebab to each of his school friends to enjoy. This fruit arrangement was very simple to make.

First, I sliced the pineapple, about 1/4″ thick. I didn’t even bother pealing the fruit, which can be time-consuming. My husband used the leftovers in his morning green vegetable juice for sweetness.
sliced pineapple used to make cutout star shape

Next to give the kebabs a bit of extra flare, I used a small cookie cutter (fondant cutter, technically) to cut out shapes stars.

Then, I placed the pineapple, along with strawberries and grapes, on bamboo skewers. You’ll see I halved the strawberries. I only did this because they were somewhat large and I wanted to have the same fruit on the skewers for each child — an important detail for this age set.

Fruit Skewers with strawberries, grapes, and pineapple

Finally, I halved a cabbage. I placed the cabbage, cut side down on a plate and positioned the skewers to make a full-looking design. To finish off, I covered the cabbage with a napkin, just for aesthetics.

Here’s an alternate arrangement I did for a baby shower.

Mardis-Gras themed

I spent a little more time polishing off the finished product for this special occasion. I added extra loose cut fruit at the base. To go along with the baby shower’s the Mardi Gras theme, I added some decorative skewers with images I found online.

Candy Crush Bento

Chicken circles and seaweed "special candies", red pepper, grapes, cheese, inserted into grid

I had successfully avoided the game Candy Crush until a recent trip to the Apple store to replace my phone. (I am now the proud owner of a replacement iPhone and an Apple care plus plan, which apparently I should have purchased in the first place.)

While I was being helped, I let my sons play on the iPad games that are conveniently set up at a low table for kids. Before I knew it, my 5 year old was addicted.

He’s so enthralled with the game that he decided to make an instruction booklet. Here is the page that shows what happens when you combine two special candies:

Instructions on how to combine two special candies in candy crush

Candy crush is a great theme for a bento lunch, because you can use all sorts of foods with wonderful colors. For my bento, I constructed a cardboard grid to keep the items in place.

Half-inch strips of cardboard, mini-cutters

Arrange cardboard into a grid


  • Thin cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Mini-cutters


Create a grid is to keep items from shifting out of place. Keep the grid as low-profile as possible.

  1. Cut thin strips of cardboard, about 1/2″ thick.
  2. Starting 1/2″ from the slide, Slit cardboard strip every 3/4″, just over 1/4″ deep.
  3. Connect twocardboard strips on their outermost slit, matching slits on both pieces of cardboard you are combining to connect securely.
  4. Continue connecting strips to create the grid.

The goal of creating the grid is to create something low-profile that will keep items from shifting out of place.

To create the shapes, I used my Ateco Mini Cutter Set that I love so much. For these lunches I used:

  • chicken decorated with seaweed strips (circle shapes)
  • cucumbers (the squarish shapes)
  • grapes
  • red pepper strips

For my five year-old, I also cut up scraps of what remained into chunks and included in a second container so he would get enough to eat.

Here’s the second Candy Crush bento lunch (made for my 3 year-old). I snapped a shot of it without a grid, just to see. I think you could easily do the lunch without the support grid, but you’d need to be very precise in cutting shapes a similar size and packing the items tightly.

Chicken circles and seaweed "special candies", red pepper, grapes, cheese

Choosing a lunchbox: Best boxes for big and little kids

"Where diid you purchase yoru bento lunch boxes? Do you think that they would be big enough for lunch for my boys?"

I was very happy the other week to get a text from a friend asking for recommendations for lunch boxes. I haven’t kept up with my blog as much as I’ve liked since I started my own business last October, but it was nice to feel like I can still be a resource.

My friend wanted to take the plunge and purchase a reusable lunchbox.
"I think I might try them out this year. The cost of the tin must offset the cost of all the reusable lunch baggies my boys lost last year! It looks like it might fit in their current insulated lunch boxes too!" "Did you get one? They are expensive :( I don't know that they offset the cost of disposable bags but I certainly feel better using them."

It just so happened that I had just ordered a few things on Amazon to round out my supplies and had the perfect recommendation. I have posted before about Lunchbots and am a huge fan. This time, I came across an Ecobots three in one container that seemed like a really good value.

Eco Lunchbox Three-in-one set

Her boys are a bit older than mine, and they can really put food away. That makes this double-decker perfect for them. This box has been super handy packing group snacks for outings to the park.

A big change this year is that my youngest child is starting in the toddler program at pre-school. He’s just one-and-a-half, so I needed to find a container that he would be able to work mostly on his own.

(Side note: I’m super excited about this change. They have a “Little Chef’s” program twice a week where they cook lunch with the kids. A lot of what I’ve learned about cooking with kids, I’ve learned from them.)

Best Lock & Lock Mini Lunch Box with Bag

We piloted the lunchbox today (on our first lunchtime visit), and it went well. The snapping containers are very easy for him to manipulate. The boxes do fit quite snugly in the sack, but I realized that is mostly a concern for me when I am packing the lunch. It will certainly be easier for Peanut to take the container out. Frankly, he can toss it in sideways when he’s done. I just need to make sure it all comes home.

"Cool! Does it have a carrier too? Insulated or not?" "No carrier or insulation  - just the tin." "Ok thx!"

The last item I bought was a three-pack of ice-packs. I don’t always use these, because most of the food I pack is OK to sit out for a few hours. I’m lucky with the moderate Bay Area climate. Still, I thought it would be nice to have some on hand.

Green Sprouts Ice Packs

When I first became so interested in bento lunches, I did some reading on the subject early on and was surprised to realize that the reason traditional bentos contain pickled vegetables because these will not spoil easily in hot climates. So clever.

Have a great school year! Stay tuned for pictures of my new bento supplies in use.

Cat and the Hat Birthday Cake

You could not, would not, want to miss a celebration quite like this!

Cat and the Hat Cake

All three of my children have birthdays in a five-week span. I wish I had the wherewithal to do separate parties for each of them. I had intended to do something to honor them each individually. But, as the time approached, I realized they older two weren’t going to complain about having a joint party (yet, at ages 5 and 3). Since many of their friends come in a sibling packages, it worked out quite well.

In terms of party planning, I chose a nearby park and provided bagels and coffee to try to keep most of the prep simple. This left me free to focus my energies on the cake. I chose a Cat and the Hat theme, because my kids are big fans. A friend found an awesome cake from Le Petite Sweet that I used as inspiration:

Awesome Cat and the hat birthday cake

I have never used fondant, but I decided I could do it for some key elements if I put my mind to it.

I baked two sheet cakes– I made the base using Martha Stewart’s devil’s food cake recipe. My sister-in-law gave me the Martha Stewart cupcake book for Christmas last year. The recipes crazy-delicious and worth the extra effort!

I topped the cake with butter cream frosting, which I tinted blue.

Cake Base

When I realized I wasn’t going to have enough cake, I used a box of cake mix to make an extra sheet cake, which I needed for decorating. I cut out square pieces and then used a circle cookie cutter to make the layers of the hat. I stuck the layers together with frosting.

Spare Cake

Cat and the Hat: Cat's Hat

Next I rolled out the fondant, which I bought at Michael’s. (Mine came as a dough, not rolled.) I kneaded red food dye into a section of the fondant and rolled that out, too. With flat white and red pieces, I made the shapes I needed.

I  traced a small plate to form the brim of the hat, and used the same circle cutter I used on the cake pieces for the top of the hat. Notice I originally cut the brim in red, before I realized I needed a white brim.

Hat Base

Top of Cat's Hat

I also cut strips of red and white for the hat, diamonds for the kites, and triangle pieces for the kite tail. Then, I remembered the alphabet cutters I have, which are apparently fondant cutters. Up until now I’ve them on everything but fondant. I cut out letters for “Happy Birthday.”

Fondant Kite

To assemble the cake, I placed the brim I had made in one corner. Next, I frosted the cake base I had made, wrapped alternating strips of red and white around it, then placed it on the cake. I positioned the kites I had made. Finally, I placed the “Happy Birthday” lettering.

Chocolate Cake frosted with blue-tinted butter cream. Topped with fondant kites and "Happy Birthday." Plus a fondant-wrapped mini cake made to look like a red and white striped hat.

To add to the party theme, we made Cat and the Hat cups, based on ideas found here: Instead of painting them I bought white duck tape and had my kids wrap the red party cups.

I also splurged on a Thingamajigger piñata. It was HUGE (as in, the size of some of our smaller guests).

Thingamajigger Piñata

Both the cake and the piñata had very short life-spans once introduced at the party 🙂

Planet Pancakes




We are headed to my son’s school tomorrow to celebrate his 5th birthday. There is a proscribed “birthday celebration” at Montessori schools. At our school, this includes the child walking around the sun once for every year of his life. Parents are invited to join the celebration and bring a special treat. We will also share 5 stories about our son with his classmates.

I wanted to tie the snack into the space theme, so I decided to make planet pancakes. planet_pancake

This was fairly simple. Continue reading

Food on the Go (10/8-10/21)

I was intrigued to discover cucumber lemon at the Farmer’s Market over the weekend. Cucumbers are a lunch staple and lemon juice has magical powers that make almost any food delicious. (Seriously, my boys even eat kale if they can squeeze lemon on it.)

Loves: Cucumber, Loves: Lemons; Does not love: Cucumber Lemons

Unfortunately, my son did not follow my logic. So, when I included cucumber lemon in a simple lunch, it came home uneaten.

Bento lunch

Rice, egg, cucumber, applesauce, and cheese.

Believe it or not, this bento was the pre-cursor to my Goldilocks bento. I got excited and made the rice and hard-boiled egg without realizing I didn’t have the right ingredients to finish the rest. This turned out to be a plainer, but still tasty and healthy lunch for my guy.

Later in the the week I sent a simpler snack-for-lunch bento for both boys. I used tea cups from their play set for the hummus.

pastrami, cheese, crackers, carrots, hummus, apple, dried mango and pretzel nuggets

Bentos for Two: pastrami, cheese, crackers, carrots, hummus, apple (for the little one only), dried mango, raspberries, and pretzel nuggets

I’ve been whipping up several Halloween-themed bentos, which I’m saving for a separate post. Stay-tuned!


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Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Rice bear, 2 egg bears, and Goldilocks orange pepper with cheese face and curls

Goldilocks and the Three Bears Bento: rice and egg shaped with bear molds; Goldilocks made from orange pepper, cheese face, and shredded cheese curls. The faces are decorate with nori.

This lunch has been in the works for a while. Over the summer a friend emailed and mentioned she was shredding cheese and thought it would work well as hair in some way.

It took me quite a while to work out that I could use the rice and egg molds. (I used one egg and cut it in half.) I had a bear cookie cutter that was huge and I just couldn’t get past how that wasn’t going to work.

Once I figured out the bears and Goldilocks, the rest flowed easily from there. If only I had room to put some porridge in there…

I rounded out the bento with greens, a ham flower, carrots, radish and apple flowers, and pepper and radish hair bows.

Bento Tools

Here are some of the tools I used to make this bento:

Bear and Rabbit mold

Bear and 2 faces rice molds

Ateco Mini shape cutters


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Food on the Go (10/1-10/7)

Fall is one of my favorite time of year. First comes Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas. It just keeps getting better.  I’d been feeling like I was in a bit of rut with lunches lately, and this change of season has been just the thing to kick me into high gear again.

I have a leaf cookie cutter that I break out this time every year. (Well, this is only the second year, but that’s as long as I’ve been doing this.)

Fall leaves from tofu and nori

Tofu leaves, carrots, green pepper, cheese cubes, and rice

Fall leaves from tofu and nori

Tofu leaves, carrots, red pepper, cheese cubes, strawberries, and banana bread balls

I’m also starting to work on some Halloween-themed lunches.

Continue reading

Food on the Go (9/24-9/30)

Monday’s lunch was a breeze. Our good friends and neighbors hosted a birthday party for their toddler over the weekend, and of course there were leftovers. This lunch was super-yummy, super colorful, and super-healthy– times two!

Leftovers from a birthday party make a great and easy lunch

Salami, cheese, edamame, carrot sticks, celery, grapes, and crackers.

Continue reading