Product Review and Allergen Information: Briannas Poppy Seed and Dijon Honey Mustard Dressings

I love finding great products that I am able to find easily in most grocery stores and that I know we can trust.  With allergies to egg, dairy, peanut, tree nuts and gluten, salad dressings can be tricky.  We make a lot of our own, but sometimes you just need a great dressing you can trust and find easily.  When we travel, or visit family, or even just want a quick grab for dinner, I want to know what to get without having to gamble on something new and unfamiliar.  We have been using Briannas Salad Dressing for years.  I’m convinced that their Poppy Seed Dressing is one of the reasons my kids learned to loved eating salads and we use the Dijon Honey Mustard as a dip for chicken tenders and fish sticks, a sandwich condiment, and all kinds of other uses.  It’s delicious!

Since we use these a lot, they end up in my daily lunch posts on my Facebook page quite often.

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When I send poppy seed dressing, I know the salad container will be completely empty when they get home.

 

 

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The dijon honey mustard is perfect as a dipper for veggies and nuggets.

 

I was asked for more detail on the allergen information and emailed the company today.  I got an answer to my email within fifteen minutes of sending my questions. I asked specifically about the possibility of cross contact with egg, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, and gluten during manufacturing with the dijon honey mustard and poppy seed dressings, and I got information about all of their dressings.  SCORE!  Here is their response…

“We have an Allergen Control Plan in place to prevent cross contamination between allergen and non-allergen products, this includes a complete wash down after each flavor that is followed by pre-operational inspections and sanitation verification. Peanuts and tree nuts are not part of our ingredients and we do not process any other products that contain them.

At the end of last year we revised our labels to show the attributes of each flavor. Those that have “no gluten” are now marked as such. You should be seeing bottles with the new labels very soon. Poppy Seed and Honey Mustard are among the flavors that contain no gluten. I’ve attached an attribute chart for your information.”

This chart is an amazing reference tool. Also, did you know they’re family owned and operated? I just LOVE that there are companies and products like this available to us! Enjoy!

2015 Briannas Product Attribute Chart

*All views expressed in this blog are my own.

Piñata Rice: Egg, dairy, peanut, tree nut, and gluten free, vegan Mexican rice

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Since today is Cinco de Mayo, I had to post one of our favorite fiesta recipes.  We enjoy this as a main course, and usually eat the leftovers as a side dish, so it can work either way.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

8 cups cooked brown rice

1 cup Herdez Salsa Casera (or other salsa)

1 medium onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, chopped

8 oz package of baby bella mushrooms

1 small red bell pepper, diced

3 small tomatoes, diced and seeded

2-3 tbsp olive oil

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

juice from one lime

1 tbsp. cumin

1 tbsp hot sauce (I use Cholula Original in this recipe)

Salt to taste

1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

 

Directions:

Coat bottom of large pan with olive oil and heat over medium.  Add chopped onion, garlic, and mushrooms and sauté until tender.  Add diced tomatoes (seeded to reduce liquid) and diced bell pepper.  Cook about two minutes or until peppers begin to soften slightly.  Add beans, rice, lime juice, cumin, and hot sauce.  Turn heat up to medium high and keep the rice mixture moving in the pan.  If the rice is sticking to the pan, add a little more oil.  When everything is hot and the rice/veggies begins to brown, it’s ready!  Top with fresh cilantro and serve!

*I don’t add salt to this dish because the beans and salsa add it for me, but if yours needs it, you can toss some in.

This dish makes a great main course, side dish, taco/burrito filling, thermos school lunch, etc.  Happy Cinco de Mayo!

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Recipe: Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

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Ingredients:

1 large (or 2 small) roasted red peppers*

2 cans garbanzo beans, drained

3 tbsp. sesame seeds (ground or whole)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

2-3 cloves garlic (or 1 tsp. garlic powder)

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cumin

3/4 tsp. paprika

3/4 tsp. ground coriander

3/4 tsp. onion powder

2 dashes of cayenne pepper

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Combine all ingredients in food processor or blender and puree until smooth.  I use the tamber to move all ingredients toward the blade while pureeing with the Vitamix.  If you need to, stop and stir during processing to make sure everything gets incorporated and your hummus is smooth.

Mmmmmmmmmmm-licious

I mixed my spice blend and just tossed it in when I was ready to make the hummus.  I like to do little things in advance to make life easier when the littles are begging for lunch.  Also, the lemon pictured was a dry as it looks.  I supplemented the juice from it with some bottled lemon juice from the fridge.

*You can roast your own red peppers or buy them already roasted.  These that I used are from Costco and the peppers are whole.  I have also roasted my own and it works well.  Just cut your pepper in half and remove seeds.  Place halves with the opening face down and place under the broiler on low.  Keep a close eye on them so you don’t burn them.  When they start to char, flip them over.  When the underside starts turning brown, remove the pepper halves and cover them in foil.  Let them cool for about 15 minutes.  The foil will keep moisture in so they will continue to steam and soften.  They will be ready to use when cooled.

Coconut Crunch Granola Bars: GF, Vegan, Peanut and Tree Nut Free

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My girls have pretty active sweet tooths (sweet teeth?) just like their Mommy.  One of their favorite treats is a granola bar.  Cascadian Farms makes two granola bars we have found that are egg, dairy, peanut, tree nut free.  They are Harvest Berry and Oatmeal Raisin.  The girls love them, but they can be difficult to find.  Stores around us are inconsistent carrying these and the other Cascadian Farms flavors are not safe for us.  It can be quite frustrating to search for a product in two or three stores where you have seen them before and come up empty handed.

This seems to be happening more and more, which is driving me to find or create more recipes for the foods we love.  There is nothing more safe or guaranteed healthy than a homemade version because I can control the ingredients and the process.  I know these are made in an allergen free facility because I’m the kitchen manager.  (Self proclaimed, of course.)

I started by searching for yummy looking granola bar recipes that I could modify.  I found these on the Bless This Mess blog, which I love, and they looked so good to me… Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Granola Bars.  Of course, for us, there are at least three reds flags in the name alone (chocolate=dairy, PB=nuts, pretzel=gluten), so I knew I would be in for some big changes.

My version does have coconut, so if you can’t have that, all you have to do is replace the coconut oil with safe “butter” alternative of your choice and omit the coconut flakes.

These are going to be a new staple at our house.  The best part is, I will never have to go on a hunt for safe granola bars again.

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Coconut Crunch Granola Bars

Ingredients:

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1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup honey (substitute molasses or agave for vegan version)

1/2 cup WowButter

2 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract

3 1/2 cup gluten free oats

1 cup brown rice cereal (I use Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice Cereal)

2 cups Glutino pretzels

2/3 cups Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

4 tbsp. Unsweetened shredded coconut

2 Tbsp. Chia seeds

First, the fun part.  You need to schmoosh your pretzels.  The girls helped with this task, as they are professional food schmooshers.  We do it with ziplock bags and toy hammers, but any way you want to crumble them up will be acceptable.

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Combine your pretzel pieces, oats, rice cereal, coconut flakes, and chia seeds in a large bowl.

In a small saucepan, heat the coconut oil, brown sugar, honey, Wowbutter, and vanilla over med heat, stirring constantly.  It will bubble slightly as you stir.  Keep stirring until it looks smooth and the sugar looks dissolved, then remove from heat and pour immediately over the oat mixture.  Stir together until well combined.

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Press the mixture into two square 8×8 pans or one 9×13 rectangular pan, which has been lined with parchment paper.  If you have two helpers, like I did, I recommend using two pans.  Then sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top and press them into the bars.  They will begin melting, so be quick or your hands will be covered in melted chocolate.  Resist the urge to cut them right away.  I tried and they fell apart.  Place them in the fridge until they are cool and solid (about 15-20 minutes should do it).

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Then lift them out of the pans, paper and all, cut them into your desired shape and enjoy!

A good sharp knife works best.  I thought a pizza cutter would be clever, but it didn’t work too well.  A good sharp knife.

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Recipe: Black Bean Hummus

All I can say is, after eating this hummus, you will never again be satisfied by store bought.  You have been warned.

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Black Bean Hummus

Ingredients:

2 cans garbanzo beans, drained

1 can black beans, drained

3 tbsp. sesame seeds

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. salt

2-3 cloves garlic or 1 tsp. garlic powder

3/4 tsp. coriander

3/4 tsp. onion powder

2 dashes cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor.  You can grind the sesame seeds first in the food processor, or just leave them whole.  I do it both ways and I am not bothered by whole seeds, so choose your preference.  Blend to a smooth texture.  With the Vitamix, I use the tamper to move everything down toward the blades, but if you need to stop your food processor and stir it around for this purpose, do what you need to do to get it all smooth.

That’s it.  It’s too easy not to try.  Play around with the spices and customize it to your own tastes.  Don’t be afraid to add extra flavors or reduce others.  It can be really fun to experiment with the flavors.

A word to the wise…If you’re trying to get a photo of this stuff, you had better work quickly.  I turned my back for a split second and little sister had already swooped in.

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NO this, NO that…What CAN you send to school for lunch?

I know that many parents struggle to find school lunch ideas, even without restrictions.  For some, finding themselves in a nut-free school or allergen free classroom is a huge inconvenience.  Although my daughter’s school is not nut or allergen free, I know that many of the other parents make an effort to send in lunches that are safe for her so she can sit with friends without worrying about their food or hands touching her.  For the record, I am not suggesting that everyone should pack allergy free lunches.  I just like to share some of the things we pack in hopes that others might see something they like and can use.  I have been asked many times what I send for lunch and I feel like the options are extensive, despite being dairy, egg, peanut, and tree nut free.  Below is my post from last year with all of the lunchtime details.  I promised to add more to it, so here they are.  I have photographed lunches these first two weeks of preschool so you can see what I send.  Notice that there are two in several of the pictures.  My non-allergic daughter goes to school a few days each week and she eats the same lunch as my allergic daughter.  It’s not “special” food.  It’s just FOOD.

School Lunch:  Keeping it Simple (The original lunch post)

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Turkey rolls, tomatoes, steamed green beans, berries, and popcorn.

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Quinoa salad, turkey rolls, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, strawberries, fruit smashie pouch, and juice.

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Turkey rolls, steamed green beans, carrots, tomatoes, mixed berries, hummus, crackers, fruit smashie pouch, and juice.

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Nectarine, raisins, and hummus with veggie dippers: green peppers, carrots, sugar snap peas, cucumbers, tomatoes.

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Rice cake, turkey rolls, tomatoes, green peppers, and apple slices.

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Turkey rolls, green beans, tomatoes, apples, crackers, and hummus.

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Apples, green beans, red grapes, green olives, somersaults sunflower seed snacks, tomatoes, and turkey.

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Tomatoes, red grapes, frozen peas*, frosted mini wheats, raspberries, sweet potato sticks, Triscuits, and hummus.

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Hummus, crackers, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, kalamata olives, cucumbers, blueberries, and carrots.

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Fruit smashie pouch, honeydew, strawberries, mini banana muffins*, kidney beans, carrots, green beans.

A few notes:

*1) I pack the frozen peas straight from the freezer.  I don’t thaw at all.  If I pack the night before, they thaw by lunch time.  If I pack the morning of, my girls eat them frozen.  They actually love them frozen as much as thawed, if not more.

*2) I made a double batch of mini vegan banana muffins before school started and popped them in the freezer (wrapped in sets of 4).  I take out a pack of 4 the night before I want to pack them and put them in the fridge.  They are thawed by morning.

3)  You will notice I pack a lot of hummus.  I have learned to include a spoon because no matter how many dippers I give, the fingers will end up in the hummus by the end if there is no spoon.

If your kids really love their nut butter sandwiches, fear not.  There is an option even if your school is nut free.  We are big fans of WOW Butter.  It is school safe and has the texture of real peanut butter.  The flavor is great too.  There are a lot of alternatives on the market, but after trying many of them, this is our favorite.

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If you peel back the label, there are even little sticker labels to put on the sandwich wrapper so you can be sure it won’t be mistaken for peanut butter.

*All views expressed in this blog are my own…until I change my mind, at least 😉

Empty Tear Ducts, Full Promises

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Today is Elena’s last first day of preschool and Olivia’s first first day of preschool.  It’s a big day.  This is different from the past two years when Elena went off to school for a few reasons.

This is the first time I have sent a non-allergic child to preschool.  It’s incredibly different.  When she got out of the car, I didn’t feel panic that it might be the last time I see her.  I didn’t worry about what the other children in her class might bring in or might have eaten for breakfast.  I know that, even if things don’t go perfectly for her today, Olivia will be safe.  That’s not to say it’s easy to let her go or that I don’t have any concerns for her.  I really hope she has fun, and makes friends, and makes it to the potty every single time.  If not, though, I know she will have another chance.

With all of the recent news of children losing their lives to food allergies lately, this year was the toughest for me.  Last night I was restless.  I have always promised Elena I would keep her safe, but this year that’s not enough.  I have a few more promises I need to make.  Elena, I promise not to let you see my fear as I drive you to school this morning.  I promise to get all of my tears out when you’re not around, so you don’t have to wonder what might be causing them.  I promise I will be strong and brave and I will not let my fears prevent you from living.

When every bite of food your child takes could take her life, it is terrifying to know she will be eating when you’re not around.  Even though I have checked and packaged all of her food myself, I won’t be able to breathe easy until I see her face at pick up.  I will smile and try not to hug her too tightly.  I will act like it was a normal day.  I will pretend like I enjoyed my break while the girls were at school.  Mostly, I will say a prayer of thanks that she is back under my watch.

I have many prayers of thanks for this day.  I thank God that Elena doesn’t seem crippled with the fears that are eating me alive.  I thank God for the brave parents,  like Natalie Giorgi’s mom and dad, who use their own loss to bring light to the subject and make all of our children safer.  I thank God for the wonderful and loving teachers and director at Elena’s school who “get it”.  I thank God that He gave me such a wonderful partner to navigate these challenges with.  My husband is strong when I’m weak and he is able to help me avoid making emotional decisions against my better judgement.  Finally, I thank God for the strength to let her go and live that life He gave her.

Since I was up all night getting my tears and fears out anyway, I put together this video.  Get a tissue.  You have been warned…

Here are a few helpful resources if you’re sending your child to school this year with Anaphylactic Food Allergies…

Get Schooled In Anaphylaxis

FARE Food Allergy Action Plan

Top 8 Food Allergies (and how to eat around them)

Lunch Ideas (egg, dairy, peanut, tree nut free)

We rocked out the night before school started to Kyle Dine‘s CD’s.  They’re really fantastic for getting the kids thinking and asking questions.  I also like sharing these songs with our non-allergic friends.

Please post in the comments if you have resources that helped you with the task of sending your allergic children off to school.  Most of the best resources I have found in this journey have come from other mothers.

How to Crush a Food Allergy Mom: A Tutorial

This is an easy to follow tutorial for how to crush a food allergy mom.  I’m offering the top 5 most crushing blows I have heard from other parents regarding my food allergic daughter or as commentaries on food allergies, knowing I have a food allergic daughter.  I know these work because I myself have been crushed by them.  Truthfully, you don’t need to follow each step.  Just pick your favorite and it will probably get the job done.  Of course, the more you use, the deeper the crushing.  Some of these have been said directly to me or in front of me.  Others were passed along second hand.  Either method seems effective.  Let’s get started.

Top 5 phrases for crushing a food allergy mom:

5)  “My child’s food preferences are as important as your child’s.”

Why it works:  This not only shows that you consider avoiding allergens to be a choice rather than a necessity, it also shows that overprotective food allergy mom that the effects of eating something other than cheese or peanut butter for a snack or meal are every bit as damaging as the effects of exposing her child to potentially “life threatening” allergens.  Just because the snack could kill her child, doesn’t mean yours shouldn’t eat it.  It’s not like kids ever transfer food particles around the classroom or playground.  If your kid NEEDS these snacks, other kids just need to deal with it.  Its not YOUR responsibility to keep her child safe at school.  She just wants everyone else to do her job for her.  (Last line was borrowed from a particularly fed up mother who was tired of the food allergy moms relying on others.)

4)  “If it’s that severe, you should just homeschool.”

Why it works:  This is the best way to show that food allergy mom that her child has no right to public education if they can’t tolerate being around your child’s favorite foods.  Why should THAT child even be here if everyone else has to change the way they pack lunches?  If his food allergy is that severe, he should just dig a hole and never climb out of it.  That will keep him safe for sure and nobody else will have to worry about it.  You know that if it were your child, you would just abandon all hopes and dreams for their future and change the plan.  After all, it’s not like they will EVER be able to function normally anyway, so why even bother trying to exercise options that should be reserved for “normal” parents?

3)  “Food allergies are not real.  They are made up by attention seeking parents.”

Why it works:  This works for two reasons.  It shows that the parent is to blame for the condition, while also pointing out the inauthenticity of food allergies.  You need to show these mothers that they can’t pull the wool over your eyes.  As if contact with a smear of ranch dressing could really KILL a child with an egg allergy.  What kind of a dimwit does she take you for?  Certainly it would just be a mild rash or a tummy ache.  Those who DO suffer breathing difficulties, anaphylaxis, and even heart attacks following ingestion probably only do so because their parents have caused such anxiety about everything the child eats.  Those parents should be ashamed of themselves.  After all, if you don’t fully understand a disease, it probably doesn’t exist.

2)  “Ick.  I don’t know how you can eat that stuff.”

Why it works:  This is a great one.  You don’t have to actually express disbelief in the food allergy to get this jab in.  After working for her child’s entire life to find/create safe alternatives to the foods your kids enjoy without a second thought, you can use the food allergy mom’s own efforts to crush both her and the child.  Chances are, she has convinced her child that their alternative is every bit as tasty as what your kids are eating.  She might even believe it’s true.  Pffffffffft.  Can you imagine?  Be sure you say it in front of the child, so the mother HAS to address it with them and to be sure they won’t feel so satisfied with their alternative in the future.  Maybe if we take away the acceptance of alternatives, she’ll drop the ridiculous charade.

1)  “Maybe it’s just nature’s way of weeding out the weak.”

Why it works:  This one hits hard in a totally different way.  With this one, you can admit that perhaps exposure to the allergen would actually kill her child.  The fact is, who cares?  Is she is so full of herself that she thinks the loss of such a small percentage of the population would impact us?  These children are obviously defective anyway.  Maybe if her child dies from an exposure to their allergen it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.  I heard it put best, “maybe if we just all turn our heads for about 5 years, the whole food allergy problem will just fix itself.”

There you have it.  Just put on your pleasant parent face and deliver any or all of these lines in a sweet voice.  Chances are, nobody will stand up for her, and you will have successfully crushed a food allergy mom.  Honestly, there will be nothing she can say or do, so you needn’t worry about it coming back to you.  She’s going to have to maintain her focus on food and she really can’t afford to make any enemies.  She really can’t even react because she’s not going to want to bring any more attention to it in front of her child, who is already likely teetering on the edge of being a social outcast.  After all, food is central to all social events.  The most she can do is go home a cry about it after the kids are in bed.  Pathetic!

If you’re not interested in actually crushing her, but just want a few little digs to let her know you truly don’t understand or agree with her ways.  These are good to keep in your back pocket and slip into conversations with food allergy mom as needed…

-That’s a little over the top. (to be used for any precaution she takes)

-It’s too dangerous for the non-allergic children to have an Epipen in the classroom.

-I feel so sorry for your other kids because they have to live with this.

-Since there is likely a genetic component, I guess it was a tough decision to have more kids.

Happy Crushing!

Just remember this.  If you ever change your mind and heart, there are ways to help rebuild some of the rubble others have left behind.  Here are a few things people have said to me that make my heart feel fuller just thinking about them.

5)  “I would be doing the same thing if it were my child.”

4)  “These precautions are really not hard.  Anyway, it’s worth it to keep every child safe and included.”

3)  “I would like to pack a completely safe lunch/snack so our kids can play together without you having to worry.  What are some good food ideas?”

2)  “I just wanted to give you plenty of notice that I plan to bring in a treat for my child’s birthday.”  (followed by details of what they will be bringing so I can provide a comparable safe treat.)

and the biggest, best, most delightful way to build up ANY parent…

1)  “I LOVE your child.”  (End it right there.  This should not be followed by “but…”)

School Lunch: Keeping it simple.

School lunches are a challenge for many parents.  Especially those who find themselves attending a school that enforces mandatory exclusions to protect other children from allergens.  If you are not used to avoiding certain foods, it’s even more difficult to pack a lunch without them.

One of the most common questions I get when I tell people what all Elena is allergic to is, “What do you feed her?”  In fact, that’s the question I had in my own head when I first got her diagnosis.  We started with the basics and had a lot of fun with it.  We do a lot of “cutting board” dinners in the summer.  I just go to the cutting board and prep all kinds of produce and sometimes bread.  It’s simple, quick, healthy, and I don’t have to heat up the oven or stove at all.  We do this a lot using muffin tins, ice cube trays, or other sectioned containers.  The girls love it.

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One of our muffin tin lunches last summer. I can’t believe how little the girls looked.

The lunches I pack for school are very similar to this.  I love doing it this way because I can just throw in whatever we have in the fridge.  She likes the variety and she rarely has the exact same lunch twice.  I always give her a juice box and usually a fruit puree pouch, which we call “smoothies”, or “moosies” if you’re Olivia.  Here are some of Elena’s actual lunches she has taken to school.   You won’t believe how simple it really is to pack an allergy friendly meal.

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This is a Hummus dipper lunch. Get a single serving pouch of safe hummus, or spoon some into a small container. Then all you have to do is give some crackers, veggies, or other dippers. Of course, our usual “smoothie” and juice box are here as well.

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Bento style lunch. Fruits, veggies, craisins, and pasta in this one. Anything goes.

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Pasta salad with veggies and mixed fruit. Yes, the pasta is heart shaped. I usually just use bowties or penne.

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Here we have edamame, berries, crackers, tomatoes, and turkey jerky bites. Ok, so it’s not ALL healthy. The tomatoes are in a silicone cupcake baking cup. I use them as dividers a lot.

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Obviously, this one was from Valentine’s Day. Cucumbers, red peppers, and a sandwich. I don’t remember what kind of sandwich this was, but probably either turkey or sunbutter and jelly.

I also always try to throw in a special napkin.  I get character napkins from the party section at Target or use the extra party napkins from various celebrations.  She really likes having a colorful napkin, since we don’t typically use those at home.  Elena also has a very special way of reminding me to send a fork.  I owe a big apology to her teachers for those days I forget.  I know it doesn’t slow her down one bit…

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