Thursday, October 7, 2010

Obento, My Bento

Redwood Village is big on fostering independence in its young charges. As such, they prefer that parents prepare uncomplicated lunches kids are able to feed to themselves. Concerned that my petite Boo might not get enough from many kid-friendly American options like PB&J and mac 'n' cheese, I decided to go bento.
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Bento is Japanese in origin, and it means "meal in a box." Traditional bento have a 2:1:1 ratio of carbs/rice, meat/protein, and veggies. I don't go out of my way to adhere to this rule, but I find that many of the bento I prepare end up following these guidelines anyway. Bento-making seems to lend itself to healthy eating because it encourages you to include a variety of foods in small portions. Aside from being healthy, bento are also just so damn cute! I know this sounds ridiculous, but I love admiring my finished bento in all their kawaii glory. No, looks aren't everything, but what can I say? This is LA, baby!
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Preparing bento lunches is super-easy. It is, however, very important to follow proper food prep and storage guidelines. I've found the website Just Bento to be a huge help in this area. As far as tooks are concerned, you don't need much. You can find a wide variety of bento boxes in any Japanese market, but the Sassy containers available online or in Babies R Us are just fine, too. Fun extras are silicone baking cups in different sizes and egg molds. Oh, and don't forget something to pack it all in! I like to use an insulated lunchbox (with an ice pack, of course) in which I can place the finished bento flat so that it stays nice and pretty.
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So what do the Boo's bento look like? Here are a few recent ones...
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Hard-cooked egg (molded in an egg mold to look like a teddy bear); goldfish crackers; peas and diced carrots; and PB&Js cut into little heart shapes with mini-cookie cutters.
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Frittata of pureed cauliflower and broccoli, mozzarella, and egg nuked in a silicone baking cup; cantaloupe chunks; and whole wheat toast squares with dip made of peanut butter, honey and a little water.
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Cut-up cheese stick; goldfish crackers; PB&J; hard-cooked egg molded to look like a rabbit and tinted with a little dark soya sauce.
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Fried egg and turkey ham cut into strips and rolled together; plain onigiri (rice balls) with turkey ham in the center; baked yam cubes; and apple spears brushed with lemon juice.
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Frittata of egg, cauliflower, carrots, cheese, and peas; wheat crackers; banana; and cantaloupe chunks.
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Edamame; onigiri; cantaloupe chunks; and hard-cooked egg (molded to look like a car) tinted with dark soya.
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You've probably noticed there are several staples: rice, eggs, fruit, pureed veggies, and yes, even PB&J. I find that by offering Benjamin smaller portions of a variety of things he's more likely to eat what he's been given. I try my best to incorporate as many unprocessed, whole foods as possible. I'm also big on raw fruits and veggies. But at the end of the day, what are my favorite bento? The ones that come back looking like this:
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4 comments:

blonderland said...

You're the coolest mommy ever! These are so cool. Reminds me of http://veganlunchbox.blogspot.com/

Maybe I should start packing bento lunches for Sean :).

Jean said...

Wow! Benjamin's lunches look gorgeous and delicious! Where did you get his lunch bag and bento containers? Here's a website you might be interested in checking out: http://wendolonia.com/blog/. She's up here in the Bay Area.

lilyliuchan@gmail.com said...

Thanks, guys! Jean, I got a lot of Benjamin's bento containers at Nijiya Market (a Japanese grocery store). The clear Tupperware-looking thing with the single divider is from the Container Store, and the colorful plastic containers are all by Sassy. As for Wendolonia, I LOVE her blog! :)

lilyliuchan@gmail.com said...

I just realized that you'd asked about his lunch bag, Jean. That I got at Target for a whopping six bucks. Gotta love Target!