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All Aboard! It’s A Dinosaur Train Birthday Party

by Shawnda on April 4, 2013

in Dinosaur Train,Menus,Parties & Entertaining

Dinosaur Sugar Cookies

“Mooooo-mmyyyyyy! Have you seen my glass slippers?”

“No, have you seen mine?!

[sigh]

The door hasn’t completely closed on the dinosaurs and bugs and lizards and legos phase… but it has definitely taken a backseat to Pink Princess Pandemonium.

It started with Cinderella. And it now includes Merida (who, by the way, is the coolest ^%$#@ princess ever), “Mapunzel,” Belle, and Snow White (but her mom is scary so we’re only like 50% bought in to that one).

It’s PINK ALL THE THINGS. And while I crinkle my nose at it, I’m really do try hard to embrace it. It’s really a cute phase – not as fun as dinosaurs – but still cute. And as a total dino-geek myself, I’ll never let that one fall by the side. So I was super excited that she wanted a “dinosaur party at my gym” to celebrate her 3rd birthday.

Dinosaur Sugar Cookies

So a Dinosaur Train “Dinosaur A to Z” party at her gym, she got.

Do you know Dinosaur Train? It’s a PBS show about a family of Pteranadons who travel throughout the dinosaur era meeting and learning about the different species. It’s a lot like Land Before Time, complete with the adopted T-Rex brother. Only even less believable due to that whole time-traveling train. And submarine. But it’s awesome and I love it and I frequently watch it even when Landry isn’t around.

This year, my favorite part of the party wasn’t planning a menu – the party wasn’t at home so I wanted the food basic and easily transportable – it was the favors. And making the printables. Because it was all orange and aqua and kiwi and dinosaurs. And only a little pink.

Dinosaur Tail

With the help of a 10-hour sewing lesson from my mom (who has the patience of a saint, y’all), we sewed dinosaur tails for each of Landry’s friends attending the party. Big, HUGE hit.

I had a party room full of 2-5 year old Bootyshakeasauruses. (It’s a word.) And I even ended up making an extra tail the week after the party for one of her friend’s sibling because apparently the girls were fighting over who got to wear the tail. Landry goes to sleep in hers at least twice a week :)

Bootyshakeasaurus

Because the party wasn’t at home (no “company cleaning” necessary!), I kept the menu short and easy.

Dinosaur Sugar Cookies

Menu
Ham & Cheese Sliders
Dinosaur-shaped* PB&J and Ham & Cheese sandwiches
Strawberry skewers with yogurt dip
Veggies & Homemade ranch for dipping
Cupcakes (fresh strawberry and vanilla) topped with strawberry buttercream and a Dinosaur Train smoke stack made out of marshmallow fondant (more on these next week)
Dinosaur-shaped* sugar cookies decorated with sugar cooking (not royal) icing

* I bought this dinosaur-shaped sandwich cutter and used it for the sandwiches and sugar cookies and used it to trace the decoration on the Thank you bags. And now, Landry only eats her sandwiches in the shapes of dinosaurs :)

Dinosaur Train Party Printables

Party Favors
Dinosaur tails (tutorial found on Pinterest from Tater Tots & Jello)
Thank you bags (dinosaur stickers, sugar cookies, and a DIY Dinosaur Train-themed coloring books… THAT I FORGOT TO PUT IN THE BAGS)

Dinosaur Train Party Printables - Thank you tags

Party Printables
Address labels
Buffet tags with the “Dinsoaur A to Z” theme (C is for Corythosaurus… and Carrots!)
Seating tags (L is for Lambeosaurus… and Landry!)
Thank you tags
4-page DIY coloring book

Dinosaur Train Labels

Dinosaur Tain Party Printables - Name tags

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Lettuce Wrap Chicken Fajitas with Onions and Peppers

I’m not gonna lie. That was ugly.

We are just starting Week 2 of The Whole30. If you’re unfamiliar with it, the quick & dirty & vague & incomplete version: it’s an elimination diet where you strip dairy, grains, processed sugars, booze, and beans from your diet for 30 days to “reset.” After 30 days, you add those things back in one at a time to identify what might be causing you issues.

The thing is, I actually know which of those foods wreak havoc on my system but I love them and deal with it. Giving them up for 30 days? That hurts.

I’d recently given up processed carbs to improve some aspects of my health, felt great, and then fell off the wagon. After reading It Starts with Food, we committed to the 30-day regimen of good protein, lots of veggies, and no pita chips. Or hummus. (That one actually hurt more than “no beer.”)

Grilled Tilapia with Orange-Avocado Salsa

The food for Whole30 is… real food. Wholesome food. Salmon and chicken. A little skirt steak fajita salad. Berries. The occasional sweet potato. And lots of asparagus and broccoli. Sounds easy, right? And the food looks and tastes great! I wouldn’t turn down a single thing in a single one of these photos (although those beans actually belonged to my 3 year old)… but on the whole, Week 1 wasn’t even remotely about pretty, picture-perfect food. Not even close.

You’re not supposed to weigh yourself during the 30 days but that’s unrealistic for me. As a female. After week 1, I’m -6. And I’m certain that 5.871 lbs of that was beer and pita chips.

This is what Week 1 looked like in more detail…

Day 1
Breakfast: By the time I had time to actually cook breakfast, it was lunch time. So…
Lunch: 2 poached eggs over leftover roasted asparagus with a slice of bacon* crumbled over top. Seriously, the runny egg yolk + green vegetable is a winner.
Snack: Cashews
Dinner: Grilled Salmon with Strawberry-Avocado Salsa, baked sweet potato fries, and steam-in-a-bag green beans

No one got stabbed. No one was jailed. No one hid in her closet with a bag of pita chips.

And that, my friends, is how I measure success.

*Bacon isn’t exactly a by-the-book Whole30 food. But it’s bacon.

Roasted Asparagus with Bacon Vinaigrette

Day 2
Breakfast: 2 eggs over leftover steam-in-a-bag green beans with a slice of bacon crumbled over top. No really, the runny egg yolk + green vegetable is the THE BEST THING EVER. Oh, also a handful of blackberries.
Lunch: Lettuce-wrapped tuna salad (olive oil mayo whipped up in the blender, soy-free tuna*, boiled eggs, salt, pepper, and green onions), the last of those steam-in-a-bag green beans, and a scoop of leftover strawberry-avocado salsa.
Dinner: Grilled chicken with leftover strawberry-avocado salsa, baked sweet potato fries, grilled asparagus.
Late night snack: handful of cashews

I was not hungry between meals. Like, at all. I even felt like my standard dinner portion was too much… But then I had to fill a dozen plastic eggs for The Little’s Easter party. With candy. I could smell each individual grain of sugar in those Hershey eggs. And then I washed my hands twice because I swear I could still smell candy-coated heaven on me. So I hit the cashews and chugged water. It was not the same :(

I did manage to drink enough water today to raise the water level in the pool out back by at least 3 inches.

*Did you know that almost all canned tuna comes packed with soy? Even the low-sodium tuna has some soy in it. Kind of a bummer when you compare prices of the 1 brand of soy-free tuna to the 10 brands of soyed-up tuna… because soy is very much not a by-the-book Whole30 food.

Day 3
Feeling awesome! No carbs? Or cheese? Or beer? No problem, y’all! This is so easy – everyone should do this! And I pushed that book like a dealer on anyone who got within 6ft of me. (Sorry, Mom. And Dad. And slightly freaked-out stranger at The Little Gym.)
Breakfast: Guess what IIIIIII haaaaaad? 2 eggs over leftover grilled asparagus with a slice of bacon crumbled over top.
Lunch: Lettuce-wrapped tuna salad (see Day 2), leftover grilled asparagus, half a grapefruit.
Dinner: Leftover grilled chicken as lettuce wrap fajitas with grilled onions & peppers and avocado, and grilled broccoli with chipotle-lime butter (made with clarified butter). I really missed my tortillas.

Grilled Salmon with Strawberry-Avocado Salsa

Day 4 – Now with more F-Bombs and Public Melt Downs!
Days 4-6 were mostly a blur. One big ^%$#@ gigantic, f-bomb filled blur which included two childrens’ birthday parties and a holiday and me sniffing a cookie dough candle for an awkwardly long time.

I also discovered coconut aminos* so those 3 days weren’t a total loss. But I did get desperate enough to google “Paleo sushi” and I cried in public. And then in my car in public. And then in the parking lot in public.

Breakfast: Probably eggs over something green.
Lunch: Probably not eggs.
Snack: Does the panic attack standing in the middle of Whole Foods when I saw a $4/pint strawberries (NOT organic – I think those were $6) while hissing, “Those ^%$#@ strawberries are 2/$3 at HEB! How the eff can people afford to shop here?!” at my husband count? No? Then I didn’t have a snack. But I did cry. In public.
Dinner: Tuna & salmon sashimi picked up from the HEB sushi bar topped with diced cucumber, sliced serrano, and the meat from a snow crab cluster. (My mood greatly, greatly improved.) And a bunch of 2/$3 blackberries.

*Coconut aminos, guys. I said I wouldn’t buy any specialty, expensive ingredients to do Whole30 but this will be the only one and it was worth it. It’s like soy sauce. But you know, not. And I’ll never go back. I’ve used it in marinades and drizzled over sashimi. It’s not as overwhelming as soy so I thought it went perfectly for my PPMD (post public meltdown) recovery dinner of sashimi.

Days 5
And I thought day 4 was bad! Day 5 ^%$#@ suuuuucked. The ugliest day yet for sugar withdrawals. And cheese. I really, really missed cheese. No one in this house was happy. I would have punched a baby (just kidding, CPS!) for the crunch of a single pita chip. I tried to beg my way out of the deal. I have no idea mostly what we ate. But it was all Whole30 approved, even if the almond fried chicken pushed it so much that it probably wasn’t really approved. Whatever.

It was definitely more Whole30 approved than the late-night skinny margarita I sneaked in. The psychological effects were noticed by the 3rd sip. I cheated.

And I like to think that it saved a life, even if it was my own.

And then I dreamed about cheesecake and queso. Yep, together.

Grilled Chicken with Pico de Gallo and Avocado

Day 6
The worst was over – and no one got divorced or stabbed! (And no children were punched, CPS.) There was Easter and the tempation of 1000 kinds of Reese’s Peanut Butter treats and mini Snickers in pink foil wrappers that I couldn’t have – and mostly didn’t want to. Except for the Snickers – I really wanted like 7 of those. But I made a monster batch of Roasted Asparagus with Bacon Vinaigrette to take to dinner and bacon made everything better so Easter was survivable.
Dinner: Grilled chicken with pico de gallo and avocado, grilled broccoli, but not the strawberry margarita in the picture. (That’s my go-to recipe for TexMex style grilled chicken. Goes great with everything!)

Day 7
The junkie carb cravings are gone (for me). No emotional roller coasters. Almost back to my normal level of F-bomb usage – that’ll happen when your 3 year-old chides you, “Momma! We say goodness - not those other words!”
Breakfast: 2 eggs over steamed-in-microwave-safe-bowl broccoli topped with crumbled bacon and blackberries.
Lunch: Leftover almond-fried chicken tenders and steam-in-bag green beans with a handful of fresh strawberries.
Dinner: Grilled tilapia with orange-avocado salsa, steam-in-bag green beans and leftover grilled broccoli.
Snack: Some cashews and blackberries.

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Show of hands. Who else spent a couple of hours yesterday sorting through browser bookmarks, magazine recipe tear-outs from years past, Pinterest, and favorite blogs to plan their Thanksgiving menus?

You are not alone.

Roasted Chestnut and Sausage Dressing

My parents and I usually alternate hosting every other year but a glitch in the matrix means I get to host in my “off” year. Thanksgiving dinner in my family is always a late lunch followed by unbuttoned pants comatose football-watching followed by the dragging of the Christmas tree decorations out of the attic.

Me, I could make an entirely new menu every year and be happy. But tradition is important to my dad (and when we’re talking broccoli & rice casserole, my little brother) so I try to work in enough new dishes to satisfy the holiday adventurer in me while keeping enough of the family favorites to prevent disownment.

Roasted Carrots

This year’s menu features decades-long-tradition dishes, a family favorite cocktail, and a few new/madeover dishes (*). The new stuff is getting a test run over the next couple of weeks – if they keep their place on the menu, I’ll share them before Thanksgiving. If they don’t, I have plenty of time to whine about it on Twitter and find a suitable replacement.

Thanksgiving Menu

What’s going on your menu this year? And if you need some inspiration or suggestions, check out some of our favorite Thanksgiving Greatest Hits!

Drinks
Cranberry Margaritas
Blood Orange Margaritas – I’ve already seen blood oranges in the market, hopefully they’ll stick around!
Wine – Riesling, Pinot Noir, and our housemade port
Beer – St. Arnold Pumpkinator and our Christmas Ale, if it’s ready in time

Appetizer
Baked Brie en Croute with Cranberry-Apricot Chutney, served with vegetables, crackers, and toasted baguette slices

Dinner
*Sweet Tea & Citrus Brined Turkey – Go big or go home, right?
*Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Maple Cinnamon Butter and Bacon
Roasted Chestnut & Sausage Dressing – This is my very favorite dressing in the whole wide world.
Dad’s Baked Beans – 5 ingredients. And one of them is bacon.
*Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole – We have 3 rules in my family regarding Thanksgiving dinner and this dish breaks all of them.
Roasted Green Beans – There is always a lack of things that grew in the ground, in close-to-natural form, at our Thanksgiving dinner table. And if the bin of green beans looks sad and picked over…
Thyme Roasted Carrots with Goat Cheese – More consolation prizes should come topped with goat cheese.
*Cranberry-Port SauceClassic homemade cranberry sauce… but with booze.
Black Pepper & Rosemary Dinner Rolls – And a plain batch thrown in for good measure.

Dessert
Not it! I have baseboards to dust. We’re pie people so I expect my familiy to show up with an assortment of sweet potato, pecan, and chocolate pies large enough to feed 3 football teams.

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