Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Sprout by HP is Perfect for Families and Creative Projects!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in conjunction with Hewlett Packard for their new product Sprout by HP. I received compensation for participating in this campaign.
Sprout by HP

Yesterday HP made a huge announcement and showed the world their innovative new device, the Sprout! I was given the top secret mission of playing around with this machine over the past few weeks and I am so thrilled I finally get to talk about it. You know that I am passionate about showing parents new products that can help make their lives easier. The Sprout has changed the way I think about editing pictures, creating graphics, and how my kids interact with the digital world. It is a dual screen device with a Touch Mat that acts as the second screen. There is also a built in projector and camera that captures 2D and 3D images. I know, it sounds like something out of science fiction, so instead of just telling you about the Sprout by HP features that make me excited, I thought I would show you. 

After you watch the video below, scroll down so you can see see more about this family friendly creativity station. For the next few months I will be regularly posting more about the Sprout, from project ideas to how my family is using it, on my social media sites and here on Lunchbox Dad. I don't want you to miss anything.



As you can see from the video, the Sprout is unlike any device you've ever used. There are so many ways that families and creative types can use it. Here are a few of the features that I've enjoyed about it so far.

The Sprout setup is simple. No busy parent wants to spend hours setting up a new device like this. Snap together the plug in the monitor, snap in the Touch Mat, and you're ready to go!


HP Sprout installation

The Sprout makes it simple to scan in physical objects. You just place the item on the Touch Mat, push two buttons, and it's done. We have been scanning in lunchboxes, superhero action figures, and pretty much anything else we can fit on the Touch Mat! From there the pictures can easily be edited using your finger or the included stylus. You then combine these objects with your digital projects for what HP calls "blended reality." We have had so much fun with this feature. In fact, for the picture below, I scanned in actual food made in the shape of the different letters "REIMAGINE."


Editing photos and graphics is ridiculously easy. I have worked with all sorts of photo editing software and the is the most intuitive program I have seen. It is a snap to crop, remove shadow, add backgrounds, and create layers. Even if you have never used a photo editing program you will be able to pick up the basics of this right away.



The kids apps are so fun and creative! My children love playing with the Crayola drawing app. They color in pictures while creating music at the same time. The color and tool combinations seem to be endless. Their favorite part is the stickers feature. They are constantly scanning in Legos, dolls, or even their own hands to add to pictures. Did I mention my 8 year-old and 4 year-old can do all of this on their own? This is a parent's dream!


Sprout by HP

The Touch Mat is washable! If you are a parent you know that no matter how careful you are, accidents and dirty hands happen. Most kids have the superpower of somehow destroying an entire house using only a blueberry muffin. You can just wipe down the Touch Mat using a damp cloth and it is ready to be used again.



The Sprout's technical specs are stunning. From the beautiful 20" touchscreen display, to the powerful Core i7 processor, to the 1TB SSD hybrid drive, this thing runs like a finely tuned sports car. HP also included 4 USB ports and a built in memory card reader just because they never want you to run out of ports. To top it off there is a built in HD webcam for all of the video calls your parents want your kids, I mean you, to make to them.

These are just a few of the many features that I have discovered with the Sprout. I encourage you to go to the Sprout by HP website to see more details and videos that demonstrate what this device can do. I can't wait to show you more of the projects I am working on so keep remember to checking back so you don't miss any of the fun!

#parentproductreviews

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ghostbusters Bento Lunch

Ghostbusters Bento Lunch

Today was one of those days. My wife was gone and I thought I would be industrious and make this lunch during the afternoon with my three kids around. Any parent knows that when you are dealing with three kids, it's just a matter of time before things go sideways. The good news is I got the lunch done. The bad news is that it isn't as "Ghostbustery" as I wanted. But hey, there's the logo and there's slime, so the two most important things are there. 

My kids haven't seen the movie but we had fun putting together the Ecto-1 Lego car last month. Anyone out there remember the cartoon from the 80's? I used to watch it every Saturday morning as a kid. The one thing missing from this lunch would be the best Hi-C flavor ever invented: Ecto-Cooler. Full of sugar but boy did it taste amazing.
Ghostbusters Collage Lego Ecto 1
I made this in a Planetbox container with a Halloween Lunchbox Love note. I also used custom magnets made for the Planetbox from a company called Max and Otis. Make sure and follow me on my social media channels. Also, if you sign up for my email list you will get a free copy of my ebook with exclusive recipes. Thanks for reading!

Ghostbusters Bento Lunch
Ingredients
Red apple
Tortilla
Black food coloring
Yogurt
Green food coloring
Blackberries
Boo Chips
Orange Sweet Pepper
Snap peas
Ghost shaped Peep
Plastic Halloween decorations


Directions
1. Cut the ghost hape out of a tortilla. It is very easy to do with a sharp knife. Make the facial details with black food coloring. You could also make two pieces and melt cheese in between for a quesadilla. 

2. Slice a red apple into pieces and arrange in the main dish in a circular pattern. This was a little difficult so if you could think of another red food that would work let me know. Place tortilla on top and one apple slice on top of that to finish the Ghostbuster logo.

3. Place blackberries in side dish and arrange Halloween decorations on top. In second side dish put sliced sweet pepper and snap peas. Drop a Ghost Peep on top. I thought this kind of looked like the lazer beam the Ghostbusters use to trap ghosts. 

4. In the last side dish put some Boo Ghost Chips. In a leak proof container mix yogurt with green food coloring to make the famous slime that the Ghostbusters got covered with. 

5. Finish with a Lunchbox Love note if desired.


Ghostbusters Bento Lunch

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Halloween Fun Food Linkup

Halloween Fun Food Link Up

Halloween Spooky Graveyard LunchIt's almost that time of year so why not share some great food ideas. Please share your fun food Halloween ideas below! Just use the widget below to easily share your link.

If you share, please also share this link up on your social media so everyone can join in the fun!

Here is my Spooky Graveyard lunch from a few years ago. To see the ingredients and recipe just click HERE.








Monday, October 20, 2014

Black and Bleu Bacon Sliders


I have been on vacation this past week but I thought I would share with you one of our families favorite burger recipes. If you're looking for a burger with flavors that will dazzle your friends at your next party, but is easy enough to whip together in minutes, you've found your recipe. The great thing about this slider is that the mushrooms, bacon, and bleu cheese work together perfectly. This unique burger is always the favorite.

Makes Six Sliders

Ingredients
1 lb. hamburger meat
16 ounces sliced mushrooms
4 slices bacon
1/3 cup bleu cheese
Pretzel slider buns
Dijon mustard (optional)

Directions

1. Mix bleu cheese in to hamburger meat. Form into small patties and heat up your grill.

2. In large pan cook bacon slices until halfway done. Remove and cut into small pieces. Put bacon back into pan along with the mushrooms and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. While mushrooms and bacon are cooking, BBQ patties until they are fully cooked.

4. Place patties on pretzel buns and cover with mushrooms and bacon. You can spread a little Dijon mustard on the bun if desired.

5. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Toy Story Jessie the Cowgirl Lunch

Toy Story Jessie Bento Lunch

You might be wondering why I made this lunch in the middle of October instead of a Halloween themed one. We do family costumes almost every year. This year happens to be Disney Pixar's Toy Story, and my daughter is going as Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl. I have to say this year's costumes on my kids are so awesome! They might be my favorite one's they have ever worn. Anyway, I thought this would be a fun way for my daughter to talk to her friends about what she was going as for Halloween. It has a little more sugar than I normally like to put in, but hopefully it won't affect her too much.

I'm not going to lie to you. This lunch took way longer than the average one that I make. However, I think it was worth it for a special occasion. I think it took awhile because I haven't made faces on bread lately so I am a little out of practice. I just realized that is one weird sentence I just wrote. I better just get on to the recipe now. By the way this was made in an Easy Lunch Boxes container. 


Toy Story Jessie Bento Lunch
Ingredients
Whole wheat bread
Fat-free cream cheese
Food coloring
Peanut Butter (or nut spread substitute)
Slivered almonds (or shredded coconut)
Strawberry jam
Spinach leaves
Star shaped crackers
Red Fruit Roll-Up or fruit leather cut into strips
Babybel cheese
Sliced apple
Cheddar cheese
Black edible modeling dough


Directions
1. Cut face shape out of bread. This is actually pretty easy, don't overthink it. Place dab of cream cheese on and flatten for the eyes. Create facial features with food coloring and a toothpick.

2. Cut cowgirl hat out of another slice of bread. Use a circle cookie cutter to make it easy. Spread jam on the hat and peanut butter on the other side of the bread face. Place two piece of bread together as shown. Put almonds (or coconut) around the edge of the hat.

Toy Story Jessie Bento Lunch3. Arrange red fruit roll strips in the shape of Jessie's hair and braid. Optionally, you can use a yellow piece as a hair ribbon. In main container put spinach leaves and place sandwich on top. Surround with star crackers.

6. Cut boot shape from the wax in Babybel cheese. Place in side dish container.

7. Spread cream cheese over apple slice. Cut cheddar cheese in yellow pocket shape as shown. Flatten and shape black edible modeling dough into "cow" spots. Roll a small amount of red fruit roll up into a rope shape. Place all of these on the apple slice to form Jessie's pattern that she wears on her clothes. Place desired amount of apple slices in a side dish and put the decorated apple slice on top.

8. Serve to your little Toy Story fan or place it in the fridge for tomorrow's school lunch!


Toy Story Jessie Bento Lunch

Monday, October 6, 2014

Creepy Mummy Halloween Lunch

Creepy Mummy Halloween Bento Lunch

I'll be honest. I was gone at a conference for the last four days and came home with allergies or a cold that put my head in a fog. Basically I didn't have the time, energy, or clarity to be super unique for today's lunch. In other words, I had a parenting week that I'm sure you all can relate to. After a busy weekend sometimes you can barely get yourself together enough to make a lunch, much less a fun and creative one. I get it. I understand. It happens. So today's lunch can be put together in a matter of minutes. Seriously, you should try it for yourself you might be surprised how easy it is to make. Every once in awhile quick and simple is best. 


Creepy Mummy Halloween Bento Lunch
Well, the good news is that the holiday season is just getting started so it is pretty easy to come up with some themes. I will throw some Halloween ideas out there for you over the next few weeks. Today's is a Creepy Mummy Lunch for no other reasons other than it sounded fun, I had the food, and and it was easy. I made it in an Easy Lunch Boxes container with a Halloween themed Lunchbox Love note. Make sure and follow me on all my social media channels so you don't miss a thing!


Ingredients
Whole wheat bread
Turkey (or your child's favorite meat)
White cheese
Sweet peppers (red, yellow, and orange)
Dried mango
Dried blueberries
Boo Chips
Black food coloring marker


Directions
1. Cut slice of bread in half and cut off crust. place turkey in the middle of the slices of bread. Slice cheese into strips and cut two small pieces of red sweet pepper and two smaller pieces of yellow sweet pepper.

2. Arrange the cheese on top of the bread like strips of mummy cloth. Optionally you can "glue" them on with a little mustard. Place the red and yellow pepper pieces where shown for the eyes. You can use mustard to "glue" these as well.

3. Place sandwich in main compartment and surround with pieces of dried mango and dried blueberries. This gives it an orange and black "Halloween" look.
Creepy Mummy Halloween Bento Lunch
4. Use a black food coloring marker to draw a jack-o-lantern face on an orange sweet pepper. Place in a side dish. In second side dish place ghost shaped Boo Chips. I bought these at Whole Foods, but you can probably find them another place or substitute in a similar Halloween shaped snack.

5. If desired, use a Halloween Lunchbox Love note to finish the lunch. They have all sorts of options and kids love them!


Creepy Mummy Halloween Bento Lunch


Friday, October 3, 2014

Being a Parent is Hard Work, Being Healthy Doesn't Have to be!

Thanks to Anthem Blue Cross, who sponsored the campaign, for including dads in this important discussion about family health care. My views are based solely on my experience as a parent, and not as a medical professional.
It all goes back to Mrs. Garcia. Many people have asked how I got started making fun lunches for my daughter. This one Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Garcia, changed the way I thought about my daughter's lunches, and in turn our family's health. She challenged us as parents to give more thought to school lunches than just juice boxes, cookies, and chips. I had already decided to make fun lunches for my daughter once a week, but this request added an extra layer of difficulty. I wasn't immediately thrilled. 

A funny thing happened, however. As I struggled to make the school lunches as healthy and balanced as I could, my daughter started eating more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. The process then started to become easier and easier. We looked for produce on sale at the store and whole wheat became the normal bread to use. As it turns out, making healthier school lunches wasn't that difficult after all, it just took a change of mindset. This mindset change ended up affecting our whole family. Here's a quick video showing how my family has fun and works on our health at the same time. 

You can make your own #HealthyDad video and enter to win $100 gift card by posting it on the Healthy Dad Facebook page. You can find all the details HERE.

Soon after making these lunches, we started looking at how the whole family was eating and made choices to improve our health. We even looked at how to make eating healthier an easy thing. As a busy parent in a family on the go, being healthy has to be convenient. Most parents don't have much extra time and they need quick and simple solutions to their issues. Here are 3 simple tips we came up with to make packing healthy school lunches easier:

1. Prep what you can at the beginning of the week. Many fresh fruits and vegetables can be cut up and prepared on Sunday to be used throughout the week. When you cut them up all at once, it saves time during busy nights later in the week.

2. Move dinner leftovers directly into lunchboxes for the next day. If you have extra grilled chicken and rice, don't just put it away, pack it in your child's lunchbox immediately. When you clean up dinner, you might as well skip the middleman and make their lunch at the same time!

3. If fresh fruits and vegetables aren't available, use dried fruit with no added sugar. Dried fruit is tasty and very convenient to pack in lunches. Some brands have added sugar, so skip those varieties and use all-natural ones.

Another simple way to improve your health is by having a health insurance that understands that busy parents need flexible options that adjust to your schedule. Anthem wants to help. Sometimes you need help right away so they offer family friendly options like LiveHealth Online which gives you expert advice using your computer or mobile device. They also have a 24/7 NurseLine to help in situations like your toddler having a fever at 3 am. Not that that ever happens to parents. They also have many other options for busy parents like us. 

Anthem wants to help us be healthy parents and healthy families. So remember to look for easy ways to make school lunches healthier, try to exercise, and check out the Healthy Dad Facebook page for even more inspiration and to win the #HealthyDad video contest they are currently running!