Tuesday, September 16, 2008

bento boxing

so, for several reasons we have started making bento box lunches for the whole family. For A because he goes to work every day and needs to bring lunch, for E because she is in school through lunch time now and is SO sick of peanut butter sandwiches (which she loved last year, but apparently is totally done with now), and for me because I never seem to find time when I am at home with a cranky toddler to make a decent lunch unless I put it together in the morning when I am making everyone elses lunches... L doesn't really get much of a bento right now, she is little and doesn't eat a whole container worth of food, but I sometimes make her a tiny one in a very small Ikea container with whatever fruit I am cutting up and some cheese and pasta or rice... but more often for L I just pull out some cheese and slice it as she gets hungry or give her a mini corn muffin or whatever she is after at the time... she doesn't really do meal times anyway!

So, anyway, back to bentos. We have been having fun making bentos... E likes getting to take sauce bottles and dip containers (she has always LOVED dip... think "you can eat this with ketchup? to the tune of "It comes in pints?"... if that doesn't make sense to you, well, go watch LOTR) . She loves anything that can be eaten with a sauce or a dip, so we send her a lot of chicken with a dipping sauce or salad bits and pieces that can be dipped in dressing... that sort of thing makes her very happy for lunch. A and I stick have been having more traditional bentos this week... fried rice with lots of garlic, grated carrots, chicken, and soy sauce (plus more things than i really want to list right now). We fill half to two thirds of our bento boxes with that and the rest with veg and fruit.

The cool thing about doing bentos has been that it has made me pay more attention to how much protein, carbs, and veg goes into each of our lunches. The deal is, a bento is about 1/2 carbs (traditionally rice, though we do rice, cous cous, pasta, bread, whatever seems to go with what we are eating.), then there is the other half (think of the whole box as 6 equil sections... 3/6 or one 1/2 is carb, then the other half is the other 3/6), which is 2/6 (or 1/3 for those who can do math) veg, and 1/6 protein. We usually swap our veg and carb and make it half veg and 1/3 carb, but we're kinda loose about that. Anyway, thinking this way about how much of each thing should go in has really helped me think about what to put in. I just go through the process... pick a carb from what we have on hand, say rice or noodles, a protein, say chicken, and a vegetable, say carrots.... I fill it all up in the appropriate amounts for the box and fill the gaps with things like strawberries or grapes... and it all works out great. If you want to check out my inspiration go to lunchinabox.net and check out useful things like where to get bento supplies (boxes, dip containers, small utensils, rice ball molds, etc.), or find out how big a bento you need for your age and gender. Its a great site and I highly recommed it to aspiring bento packers.

Oh, and bento is a cheap lunch option.... its a good way to use up leftovers.... hopefully I will put some useful bento box food recipes soon... until then... happy lunch packing :)

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