Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Beginning Bentos

I decided to start packing the kids Bento boxes for lunch at school.  I had seen them a few years ago, thought they looked neat, and never gave them a second thought.  Lately they showed up again on a few blogs I started reading and I thought that I’d like to give bento boxes a try.  The appeal for me is that small, colorful kid-sized portions would induce my 3-year-old to eat more. 

Bento boxes are Japanese lunch boxes.  The size for a child or adult is measured in mL.  Biggie from Lunch In A Box has a great little chart and explanation on how to choose the right size.  She has tons of tips and recipes as well!

I decided to get enough gear to start us out, then collect more as we go.  I bought my first group of items from e-Bay. bento boxes AM and MD each got a similar Urara 2-tier bento that is 610mL total.  According to the chart, they each only need about 500 mL, so I don’t pack them as tightly.  PM’s cute pink oval bento is 2-tiered and holds 525 mL (350 mL bottom plus 175 top).  PM only needs 400 mL so I also pack hers fairly loose. 

bento gear open

What you also see for gear are silicone muffin cups for separating food in the box (these were from Bed, Bath and Beyond), as well as mini silicone cups.  Animal-shaped food picks in the middle, then in the middle top is a pink sandwich cutter that leaves 4 cute shapes and trims the crust (lets face it, they’re throwing the crust away at school anyway).  Under that is a rice ball, or onigiri maker that does hearts, stars or bears.  The little bottles (square and pig-shaped) are for soy or other sauces with a yellow dropper for filling them.  On the very right are three bags I got with kids’ meals at subway.  They are just the right size for a bento!!

mini cookie cutters

Recently I picked up these mini cookie cutters at a fabric store, they’re great for cheese and veggies!

PM is a notoriously picky and small eater.  My main goal was to pack things she liked, as well as things the other kids liked, that were healthy.  I also wanted to make eating “cold lunch” more fun for the big kids.  Here is my very first attempt at a bento lunch (pardon the cell phone camera):

bento 2-06-10

PB&J sandwiches on whole wheat, banana slices, cheese cubes, carrot sticks, black olives and onigiri (shaped white rice) with soy sauce.  They ate everything.  I was hooked.

I now need to practice the art of real bento box design.  Sure, you can pack them functionally, add the essentials, make sure to have all 5 colors (check this article out).  But there is some real design going on by some moms!  Take a look at the cookbooks Biggie posted about, or Salsa In China’s Flickr set with cute toddler bentos.  I have a ways to go!  Here’s a few of my cute, yet very basic bentos so far (clicking on the image will take you to my Flickr set where there’s a description):

bento 2-11-10bento 3-11-10bento 3-9-10

I’m still working on my creativity (which may surprise anyone who knows me), but that creativity conflicts with my desire to sleep in and not get up earlier to build lunches (which will NOT surprise anyone who knows me).  Biggie (my new guru of bento) has posted several tips for speedier prep in the morning.  I’ll be posting more as I get better!!!


Heather said...

Mel, I love this idea. I'm heading to ebay now. Please keep writing about this...I am totally intrigued.

Unknown Mami said...

Wow, that's a lot of love and attention going into their food. Very nice.

4 Lettre Words said...

Wow...I so LOVE the cheese cut-outs. What a great idea!

Sue said...

Those look great. I'm picking mine up at the end of the week. Thanks for the great idea.