Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Snowy Lunch

Honestly the worst kind of lunch is the kind that you whip up first thing in the morning at 6:30 am. I will give myself a little bit of credit though the lunch I whipped together did turn out cute. Of course its not exactly the healthiest but it will do for a day like today

The snow man I created was from circle cookie cutters.They are egg salad sandwhiches with the exception of Maggie's sandwhich which was a jelly sandwhich. I topped the snow man off with raisin eyes, raisin buttons ( I ran out of chocolate chips making cookies for tomorrow's Santa's Workshop). The nose was made out of carrot and the arms are two pretzel sticks.
For desert a chocolate chip cookie and applesauce with some gluten free sprinkles. If I would of had the time I could of whipped up some pudding and added some of the coconut I had for a snowy effect. But since there is four of them and one of me, it wasn't going to happen this morning.
Okay like I said, not the healthiest. But it did turn out pretty cute. Not in the picture was the candy cane I added for a little bit of a little cheer.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pumpkin Face

Today was a little bit of a more low key day today as far as Bento making. Even though its not as cute as the last one its a bit more practical since one out of the four enjoyed the last one. Sigh.
I'm finding that getting my girls to eat better is quite a challenge as kids would rather suck down sugar and junk then anything healthy.
My girls also are the total opposite of me. I was not a picky eater for the most part growing up as a child. If it was on our plate we had to eat it. If it was made, well that's what your getting for lunch or dinner. I wasn't crazy about carrots and potatoes, or pork chops. Other then that everything else was fair game and I ate it. I never remember telling my mom I didn't like that. Even if it was something on our plate that we didn't like, we still ate it without as much as a word. We were a big family with not much money so whatever food we had in the house was it.

Anyways I'm sure you really didn't want to know that but its true.
So with further adue today's lunch:

This is Marilyn's Bento but all of their lunches are pretty much the same except what is inside the sandwhich.
I used a pumpkin cookie cutter and either their sandwhiches contained turkey or ham with lettuce. The Face was made with Sesame seeds and Nori for the eyes and mouth. I wrapped them in plastic wrap to keep it from moving off of the bread. Their veggie is celery and carrots with a chocolate peanut butter dip (except for Maggie's lunch, her lunch contained ranch dip.) Along with Stoneybrook Strawberry Banana yougurt topped with flaxseed and a strawberry. Their snack was either an oatmeal pumpkin cookie (which only Marilyn has this as the cookies were super soft and broke apart easy and her cookie was the only one that didn't) , or a Paul Newman's tiny cookies. So there you have it folks. Tomorrow is my day off from making lunches as the 8th grade class is serving meatball subs to the kids at school. Phew. Even I need a break now and then. LOL

Sunday, November 7, 2010

John Deer

Since it was Sunday today I figured I'd let the girls look through the Bento Diary that I've made to pick out what they would like for their lunch tomorrow.
Each night I sit down and look through lots of ideas in books or online , or heck I do come up with a few of my own and I draw them into my composition book that way I have them for something to look back on while I am creating the girls' lunches , and for future reference of course.

If your wondering what a Bento diary may look like here is a picture to give you an idea. No, its not my drawings. Mine more more well elementary looking than this since I use crayons. This person took the time to really draw it well.

As you can see, there is a before and after picture. Your Bento may not look exactly like the picture you draw. But it does give you an idea of what you want to put in your lunch box.

Of course I could scan the one I drew but I'll save you the details in that I was pretty much able to put what I wanted into their lunches. I always have to remember that I have to downscale their lunches because they don't eat as much as the grown ups do.

I think this creation would make Father Tom proud as he's a connoisseur of John Deer tractors. I will admit for me being an amateur of Bento this one turned out pretty cute.

This lunchbox consisted of creamed tuna. Actually its not as bad as it sounds. Its bascially, sauteed onion, tunafish, cream of mushroom, peas and crushed up potato chips. Mix and cook it all together and its honestly really good.
I added that to the bottom and sprinkled some sprouts on the bottom. Then added some cheddar cheese and carrot leaves. With a piece of cooked broccoli on the side.
On top is the John Deer tractor. Sushi rice as this is the best rice to use to form molds and it sticks together nicely once you take away the cookie cutter. Bascially it keeps its shape. This was colored with some broccoli water and a few drops of blue and yellow food coloring and voila! Green rice.
Nori was used for the black of the wheels and cheddar cheese for the inside of the wheel. Along with a piece of pepper cheese for the stripe. I finished this off with an egg yolk as the sun. I had to slide that one in there as I didn't have much room to work in.
This of course will be followed with some fruit and a small snack for snack time at school.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Simpler things in life

I bet after reading my last blog you thought to yourself, " I don't have the time to do something so intricate everyday for my kid's lunch." Well you don't have to make your Bentos that intricate , though it would be pretty fun. Remember you are in control of what you make and how you make it. You control how much time you spend in the kitchen.
Here is a great article by Parenting on how to make some quick and simple American Bentos

If your like me our Bentos have to be centered around the fact that we don't have a microwave at school to warm them up. Which is a big bummer because I could get even more creative than I can. BUT, that's okay. It just makes me work a bit harder on creating 'cold' Bentos for the girls' lunches that's all.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bento Books

Since Bento lunch box making is still fairly new to us in the States. One needs a book for ideas on how to even start Bento making. There are websites, Youtube videos and even books.

Now mind you, you can let your imagination go wild with Bento. If you Google Bento lunchboxes and click image you can see tons (and I mean tons) of fun Bento boxes. From the most simpliest to the most complex Bentos that I wonder if I could even do myself. Some of them are so cool looking that I'd probably have more fun looking at it then eating it!

The goal for Bento box making is to get our children to eat healthy without really even knowing it. At least that's the goal.

What do I need to make a Bento? Well, you can go as simple as buying some Tupperware containers to add inside a lunchbox to the more stylish American Bento boxes that I mentioned in my first post. To even going outright Japanese and purchasing a real Bento box. You can find the Japanese style Bento boxes on Ebay.

Next you want some of the wares that go with it. Right now the most I have is some cookie cutters. Both plastic and stainless steel cutters are both handy to have as the plastic ones are good for cutting soft foods such as lunch meats, cheese and omelets. There are even Bento box plastic cutters but honestly any will do when you first start out. Stainless steel work great for veggies , and even cooking eggs, and meats if you want to shape them like I did in my first Bento ( the pumpkin burger).

You will also need something to cut the Nori. You ask what is nori? It is dried seaweed that you will want to use for faces , body parts, etc on your Bento creations. Nori works really well for this though it is an aquired taste. Unless you and your child have eaten sushi rolls you will want to start out simple such as adding a mouth to something. Then the next eyes, nose and mouth until your child is willing to eat it in bigger amounts on larger creations.
You can find Nori in your Asian section of your grocery store. Along with other little Asian foods I found that my girls really like ( the Hello Kitty marshmellows and chocolates I found close by the Nori...LOL).
You will also need something to cut out the face parts. Some say you can use scissors but I found it to be tough. Unless your really good at cutting small parts I really don't recommend it. What you can use is a hole punch (make sure its for kitchen use only and you haven't already used it on paper) for the eyes,and nose. Mouths are a little easier to cut out then the eyes and nose but it really is handier to have a Nori punch . You can also use straws to make eyes and mouths, to make different shapes you can just bend the end of the straw a little into the shape you want. Japanese manufactures make them and you can fine them on Ebay. Even better if you don't want to wait you can use regular face paper punchers that you use for scrapbooking. They work just as well. Make sure you have plenty of toothpicks on hand to transfer these little pieces for your Bento, even tweezers if you have them work too. Honestly there are so many things they have available for Bento lunch boxes that the best book to start with is the Yum, Yum Bento Box.

This sweet and quaint Bento book will easily get you started and help get those creative juices started on how to make fun, healthy , tastey lunches. It also has links to websites where you can purchase Bento supplies and it also has helpful pictures of the recipes and supplies that will help you get off to a great start with your child's lunch box.
My daughters have been enjoying thumbing through the pages and letting me know which lunch they would like to try next.
I hope I can get my creative juices flowing more to create Bento boxes for those will allergies like Maggie. Many Bento lunches contain egg and well, as much as I wish she could have them , she is allergic to egg. I am planning on giving a trial of egg again to see if she's outgrown it yet.
There are a few Bento books I've been wanting to get my hands on such as this one:

There is also a second course book as well:

There is also the Kawaii Bento Cookbook as well:

And once I get more comfortable doing Bento's I think I will pick up this one for my older two girls:

These two books I think will be on my Christmas wish list if I don't buy them before Christmas. He, he.
So to end the blog here are a few Bento creations from the most simplest to the most complex I've seen so far...

Tomorrow's lunch

Since tomorrow is Friday the girls decided they wanted to eat the spaghetti and meatballs at school tomorrow. So I won't have a picture of a lunch for Friday.

This gives me some time to plan for Monday's lunch. The girls would like a monkey lunch. So this should be very interesting. Plus I will have to think of an alternative for Maggie since this lunch requires and egg. I haven't quite thought of what I can use to substitute the egg yet for it. Any ideas anyone? With this dish the 'monkey' (egg) sits on top of pink sushi rice.

More to come on Monday.....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Our first Bento

Hello and welcome to our Bento/Obento blog. This is my first time doing this as I just learned about it not to long ago. I am using this in attempts to get my daughters to eat healthier. I think it will be a fun way to get them to try new foods, and will be fun to share ideas with others.

What is Bento? Actually bento is slowly becoming a new rage here in the US. In a nut shell Bento originated in Japan in about the 5th century when the Japanese left their homes to till the fields , hunt , fish etc. It was a convienient way to eat a healthy lunch on the go. Which in those days consisted of rice, fish, millet.
Today Bento is making its way to the US, though it has been over in Hawaii for quite some time.
More families here in the US are using the Bento lunch to help teach their children to eat healthier and to make less waste, as the use of plastic ziploc bags, paper bags, wax paper are not needed when using a Bento lunch box. Which reduces garbage and waste.

We learned about Bento a few years ago when Hannah was in Kindergarden and we were learning about Japan. Little did I know or realize that it was something being done here in the US. I recently began learning more about it when a friend of mine told me about a fundraiser called Easy Lunchboxes . That began my searching into a fun new way of making lunches for the girls as some days I just began to feel like I was throwing things in their box and really wanted it to be much more healthier then it has been.

Recently when we were at Wegmans I came across the Laptop Lunchbox in the organic isle. These are another great American Bento box that is simple and easy to use. So we bought one ( as each of them are about $30.00) and we began with Marilyn since her lunchbox was the one I didn't care for the most so we needed to replace it. I'll be replacing the girls lunch boxes one at a time.

Though I may just get Maggie the Easy Lunchboxes as its easier for her to open because she's so little. I'm just waiting for them to get their next shippment of containers as its so popular that they had a shortage. LOL.
There is also another Bento called Planet Box which I REALLY like but its a bit more pricery than the Laptop Lunchbox. Though I may splurge at some point and just get the container. I like the fact that its stainless steel rather than plastic.

So with further adue I'll share with you our first Bento. I really think the girls will enjoy their lunch at school tomorrow. I will admit this did take some time to do. I did make a drawing so I knew what I wanted to do to begin with. Keeping a little drawing journel does help and it helps to keep ideas for future lunches instead of having to reinvent the wheel over and over again.
I basically made the same lunch for the girls other then that Hannah's Bento didnot have her name in cheese letters as she doesn't seem to care for cheese.
I'll also apologize in advance as the photos I took with my video camera since my regular camera isn't working right now so the poor quality doesn't pick up how colorful this lunch really is.

Marilyn's Bento was fun to make and I honestly can't wait to replace the other girls' lunch boxes with the Laptop Lunchboxes as they slide nicely into our little fridge verses the big bulky containers I have right now.

Bascially these bentos consisted of a bed of Romaine lettuce. A small hamburger patty which was cooked in my stainless steel pumpkin cookie cutter in the spirit of the Thanksgiving season. I topped the hamburger with two black olives for eyes and a little bit of Nori for the mouth. Along with this were small carrot pieces, grape tomatoes and red onion. I have lots of cookie cutters and used them to cut their names out in cheese. Well the shorten version of their names at least. With that I added ketchup to small dip container. In the upper container I made cucumber rings. They were easy to make. I just cut the cucumber, cut the middle out with a peiring knife and then cut a small slit in each of them to connect the chain. Then onto the fruit. I made fun fruit cabobs. I used fondue skewrs as I couldn't find the regular ones. I cut pineapple, bannana (which I soaked in lemon juice to keep it from browning), and grapes. I gave the girls one skewer each and just cut the sharp tip with scissors and then cut the skewer in half to make two. For the snack are strawberry filled marshmellows which were Hello Kitty, and the little chocolate/strawberry candies on top were also from the Asian isle.

I think this is really a great start to something new and fun for the girls and their lunches. It actually makes me want to have one for myself. You know what? I just may get one.