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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hubby FTW!

My sweet husband woke up late so had to call in to work. Seeing as he then had extra time, he sent me back to bed while he made Paige's lunch and got her off to school. This was sweet in and of itself (though I forgot that I had an appointment, but that is my fault), but he took pictures too! There are three and he really did a great job! I hope that Paige appreciates it, I haven't put that much effort into her bento in a while. I wish I had his knife skills, he never even practiced!

Just look at those oranges! They are adorable with the black raspberry in the center. The little bottle has soy for the onigiri:

It is hard to see because he had to use soy paper rather than nori, but those are two little faces, I think that they are cats. Not bad at all!

Last but not least is a butter roll with chocolate. I am sure that there is a Japanese name for it since Catherine made it and the directions were not translated well. These are delicious by the way.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


As I have mentioned before, I can sometimes get Paige to eat less than acceptable things by putting some sauce on it. Well, that didn't work out for the green beans, but maybe it will work for the chicken. By my calculations she really needs some protein and since beans are out and I had no time for tofu, we are going that way.

The top is whole wheat Udon noodles tossed with a little sauce and a touch of oil to keep it from becoming a brick come lunch. The sauce covered stuff on the bottom is white meat chicken left over from last night, a English cucumber and carrot "salad" is next to it and then a jello shooter (you can find these in Asian markets) and more blackberries since they don't last a long time in the fridge and I don't want them to go to waste.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

School Lunch Day

Yesterday's bento was not thoroughly consumed. She left the little cucumbers, which I don't understand because she loves cucumbers and the green beans. I guess I knew in my heart of hearts that there is no sauce that would make a green bean appealing to her, but I still held out a little hope. She did eat the rice and hot dogs and most of the blackberries. So, back to the drawing board on vegetables. I think I can officially rule out green beans in any form, at least for now.

Today was a no bento day. Maybe a school lunch will make her appreciate it more. Ya right. I had plans, but I fooled around with my alarm this morning to get a little more sleep and ended up oversleeping completely. We had just enough time to get dressed and out the door.

Tomorrow I am going to use the Udon noodles. I forgot which type of grain they use, but the germ is in there too so it isn't just a starch, which I like. I am not sure what else I will serve with it. Probably pot-stickers that we got at a Japanese market in Medford. The market is nice, though I wish that their pre made items were fresher. We usually go on a Sunday and everything is past it's due date. I am guessing that the cook isn't there on weekends or something. I would love to see if Paige likes squid. She says she won't eat anything that doesn't breathe air, but maybe I could sneak something by her.

Does the food in a bento have to be Japanese? Absolutely not! I use some Japanese elements, but Paige doesn't like anything to do with fish, so seaweed is right out. She also doesn't like too much salty food, so there goes many of the pickles that the Japanese make. I have made bento with a sandwich and as you have seen, a pasta salad. Both my kids are somewhat enamoured with Japanese culture, so I try to incorporate some of that in the bento.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A New Week

As I have previously stated, sometimes the presentation can make the difference as to whether the picky eater will actually eat the lunch that is packed or not. Today I mixed some cooked green beans in the fruit and vegetable sauce that I picked up at the Japanese grocery. Paige is currently in Anime/Manga mode, so using Japanese ingredients will sometimes get her to eat something she normally wouldn't.

This bento was pretty easy to put together. I had frozen rice and a hot dog all ready to go, all I had to do was come up with some filler. The only thing I don't like about it is that there are too many empty spaces, but I couldn't come up with anything that wouldn't make the bento more bulky and hard to close.

The top has a container for ketchup to use with the hot dogs, then a pile of sticky rice. Green beans on the side are cooked in Japanese fruit and vegetable sauce. On the bottom are Japanese cucumbers that are practically seedless (less moisture is good) with blackberries that were on sale this week. Then we have the octodogs with black peppercorn eyes. It is find to crunch them, but spicy, so I warned the kidlet to take them out first. Sorry that the bottom is a little sloppy, I had the green beans on the bottom initially, but the hot dogs wouldn't fit properly on the shallower top tier.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Almost Over

The kidlet's vacation is almost over and soon it will be time to assemble bento again. As you could see from the previous list, I will have trouble fitting it all in. I forgot to add to that list, tamagoyaki (Japanese omelet) and tuna. The problem with tuna is that she doesn't like the smell and is afraid of her classmates smelling her lunch. Don't ask me, I just live here. That goes for boiled eggs too, though none of that will stop me from trying to get her to give them a shot.
I will be grocery shopping today, and according to the sales fl yer, mango will be on sale so it will figure prominently in her bentos for the upcoming week. I will attempt at a chicken mango type stir fry with "Fruit and Vegetable" sauce (I don't know the Japanese for this, it is in characters on the bottle) and probably a nice fruit salad. Our weekly vegetable and fruit box was a little slim this week. It is almost time for Spring vegetables though, so until then I supplement from the grocery store.
One of the things I notice often when checking out bento sites is that the boxes always seem overfilled. It looks pretty, but the box won't hold together. While I still haven't found a way to make a bento like that keep its good looks after being squashed by the lid, I do use a thick rubber band to hold the boxes together when I get a little ambitious. The band I use is the one that comes on broccoli stalks from my organic food supplier. They work perfectly. I have used regular bands, but you really should use a really thick one that isn't very big. She has been really good about bringing it home too, though I keep extras just in case.
I am on the look out for some new boxes. The ones I want at J-Box are pricey, so I will probably get a "regular" one and save up for the nice ones with thermoses. Speaking of nice ones, if you are more of a sandwich maker, there is a box that houses a more traditionally American lunch at Laptop Lunches. My sister has a fantastic site with some ideas called The Healthy Lunchbox which she stopped posting on in 2008 because the woman is a hurricane of activity. She has a number of really appetizing lunches there to check out though.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What Will She Eat??

I was asked what Paige will eat and while she won't give me a comprehensive list, we discussed it and this is what we came up with:

No meat unless covered in a sweet sauce of some sort, like BBQ, teriyaki or hoisin.
Broccoli, cooked
Carrots, uncooked
Some vegetables if in said sauce, like green beans, snow peas and sugar snap peas.
Tofu, fried
Most fruits except the peach family and pears
Most lettuces with a sweetish dressing (she is currently using a trader joe's raspberry)
Dumplings, pot stickers and meat buns
Potatoes, pretty much anyway I have come up with
Breads of all kinds
RICE... rice... more rice
Soy, dumpling sauce, tamari, mirin
Small pasta shapes
Asian noodles like Udon

I think that is it. See what I am working with? She really is a good kid, just really picky. And, to top it off, she gets bored and just stops liking stuff randomly. I think that there may be a couple of other things that she likes, but I can't come up with it right now. Fortunately I have all week to think on it since she is on vacation.
Any other picky eaters out there?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I Surrender!

Just for today though. We just don't have enough in the fridge. We have an overload of parsnips, carrots and sweet potato, but nothing more of note. I just couldn't bring myself to make one today. I will put more thought into it tomorrow. There is a list on Just Bento that can be downloaded and used to plan out your weeks bento. I have it on the computer but haven't actually used it. I will try to fit in filling it out this weekend and report back. It is supposed to make things much easier.

Also found out that Paige can not bring peanut products to school any more because some mother got upset that the kids with the serious allergies had their own table. So, a cheap source of nutrition is denied me and my daughter because keeping the kid's safe made one mother angry. I know folks with severe allergies and they say that they are the ones responsible for keeping them selves safe, not everyone around them. What next? Apples? She had a kid in her class who was deathly allergic to even to touch apples. I am mostly angry for the other parents, those who still pack sandwiches. Many in her school are low income and certainly can't afford cold cuts and rarely have leftovers because of a strict food budget.

That is my rant for the day.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday: Meatball Bento

I do try to find out the types of bento that Paige would like to eat all the time. Some days she actually comes up with something I can work with. This week she wanted meatballs and bbq sauce. She was in luck! We had just purchased Trader Joe's "Gourmet" chicken meatballs with sun dried tomatoes. I used to make my own, but I don't purchase enough meat at one time anymore because 1. We are cutting back on the meat and 2. I don't have the time to make them. I will probably make a batch this summer, I do like that mine are far smaller and thus more bento friendly. My meatball recipe is pretty easy, the only thing it really takes is the time. I will post a recipe soon.

Another thing is you may be wondering "why the English cucumber?". That is because the skins are not waxed and therefore edible and they have less seeds which equals less juice. Juicy in a bento can cause chaos, rendering a lovely bento into soup by lunch time. These cucumbers are also quite nice for cucumber sandwiches which I will make at one point too.

Is this a good size picture? Should I make it larger?
Up on the top are some cooked spinach with just a little salt. Darn, I should have grated some nutmeg. The there are the meatballs and some slices of English cucumber with little grape tomatoes. On the bottom is rice with a line of bbq sauce on it because my girl likes her bbq sauce.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday's Bento: Udon and Peanut Sauce

I am trying something new on Paige. Today it is peanut sauce. Having a picky child usually means covering things in sauce. She likes ketchup as much as most kids, but I have been able to expand her sauce repertoire in hoisin, Korean BBQ and soy. Now, in most cases the sauces aren't nutritionally sound, but if I can cover up those things that are good for her, then I can sometimes get her to try the whole dish. Today I only put chicken and peas in it, as they are good basics for trying a new sauce out.

Up top are some little carrots which sometimes she will eat and sometimes no. Maybe if she dips it in with the noodle's sauce? Beneath that are grapes sliced in half and a strawberry fan on top. I have to practice that more. To the right is a dish of udon noodles, peas, and leftover chicken cutlet.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

April 8:Tamagoyaki

There is a special way to make a Japanese omelet (tamagoyaki) which requires pouring the egg mixture (2 eggs, mirin and soy or tamari and a little sugar) a little at a time into a skillet. Between each pouring, you roll the omelet up and then pour a little more in, rolling it back again. Maybe I will take pictures of it. What is produced is a rolled omelet with layers. Paige won't eat hard boiled eggs or egg salad, but she will eat the omelet. Go figure.
As you can see, there are stir fried green beans, grape tomatoes (which she probably won't eat) and the tamagoyaki. On the bottom is her rice with a bottle of tamari.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

No School Bento

Paige was not feeling well so I ended up letting her stay home from school today, but not until after I made her bento for lunch. The box I am using is not a traditional bento box, but one I found from Lock an Lock. It has four little separators that can be removed. So far I have been removing two for the rice or main dish and today I used it for a place to put a sandwich.

You can really use anything for a bento. The goal is to have a balanced meal and to pack it so that there isn't a lot of shifting during transport. Today's bento has vanilla yogurt with diced pineapple in it, so if she did bring it to school she would have to be careful and keep it flat. I have used those cheap containers you can get in the foil and bag aisle at the grocery. Just make sure that you don't microwave anything that isn't safe to microwave. The traditional type of bento I have can be microwaved with the tops off of it, not that Paige has access to a microwave at school.

This bento has a peanut butter and nutella sandwich with the crusts removed and cut in half lengthwise (rather than the normal way because it fits better). At the right corner is a nice salad of mixed greens, carrots and mixed dried fruit. The container has raspberry salad dressing in it. On the bottom left is the vanilla yogurt with chopped fresh pineapple.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Springtime Bento

We didn't have a bento on Friday, out of pure laziness on my part. I could barely get out of bed for school to be honest. I had the same sort of morning today, but I had a nice bento already made in the refrigerator ready to go.

Sometimes people ask why I bother with bento. One reason is that it makes Paige excited for lunch and believe me, anything that makes her okay with school and food makes my day. Another reason is waste. There is very little waste associated with a bento. Sure, sometimes there is a paper cupcake liner and we are working on her addiction to the single serve organic chocolate milk, but there is still no paper bags, plastic wrap, plastic bags, etc.. As a family (with pets) we are down to a big bag of trash. We could always fit more in it if we need to, so it isn't full.

This is partly because we have an excellent recycling program here. Everything is taken for free, curbside. They accepts all aluminum, cans, glass (not window or broken though), plastics 1-6 and all paper and cardboard.  They have special days for hazardous waste that does cost money for some things like CRT monitors and stuff. That is when I use freecycle which is a group that you can list what you want to get rid of or what you want, and then hopefully someone says "hey I will take that" or "sure, it has been in my basement all winter". This helps to cut down on throwing away perfectly usable things.

I made all the components last night before bed because I have been having trouble getting up in the morning. On the top there is balled cantaloupe and cut fresh pineapple with a cherry on top. Then there are a few chocolate chip cookies (Famous Amos). The main dish is a pasta salad with ham and though it is hard to see, the carrots and rainbow radishes are both cut into tiny little flowers for decoration. There are also some slivered snow peas in there for greenery.  Pasta salad is easy to make, throw some protein and vegetables in with some small pasta and toss with you favorite dressing or mayonnaise.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Our entire family had trouble waking up this morning. I blame the overcast skies which are still overhead. Still, I got dressed and made Paige's lunch and still got to school on time. Of course it was made entirely of leftovers and I just realized that I forgot to include bread for the falafel.

Yesterday she had school lunch. They ran out of soup, so she ended up with the regular hot lunch. She told me it looked like vomit and she had no idea of what it was. Not only that, but after we paid, she was told that we owe another 4 dollars! How did that happen?? She brings lunch to school, and if not I pay for it up front. Needless to say, I am not happy with the school lunch program. This issue has happened a few times before and I just paid it, but not this time. I am done with appeasing this program that doesn't even produce edible, healthy foods.

Here at the top is baby spinach and falafel. On the bottom there is humus, a container of taziki sauce and some dried fruit and slice oranges. The layout isn't as pretty as I would like, but it is a well rounded meal and she likes falafel so there is a plus.