My children have been nagging me for ages to make them packed lunches. I admit it, I’m pretty lazy and if I can get away with not doing something I will. Making three packed lunches at the end of a busy day just didn’t seem appealing to me, nor did the thought of the mundane task of making boring sandwiches day in and day out. My own packed lunch as a child consisted of a plain peanut butter sandwich. With no milk! It was awful and put me off peanut butter sandwiches for life!
I’ve finally given in to the nagging and I’ve agreed to prepare packed lunches, but I’m doing it my way! Some years ago I heard about the Japanese food art of Bento, a single portion portable meal. Oekakiben or “picture bento” is a variation where the food is made into shapes or characters. Personally I think this is a much more appealing way to eat ones packed lunch and my children (and partner, since he’s requested a packed lunch for his work too!) love it!
I’ve only just started experimenting with bento but I’ll share some tips as I learn them. First off I thought I would share the basic sushi rice mould technique. This is quite a simple and appealing way to serve plain rice in a packed lunch and the only limit for the shapes is your imagination. Sushi rice is very sticky and lends itself well to being shaped. Cling film can be used to shape the rice but I picked up six different inexpensive sushi rice moulds (a bear, rabbit, star, fish, heart and car) on ebay, and these plastic moulds can also be used to shape warm boiled eggs.
My children have induced lunch box envy in their school now with their Bento boxes! I have to confess that I love preparing their lunch boxes, something I didn’t think I would enjoy before I started with Bento. I love the lunch boxes themselves too. I picked up four of these Polar Gear Bento boxes on the Internet for around £5 each because they looked neat, sturdy and compact, perfect for a school lunch. Sometimes when you buy cheaper products on the Internet you get what you pay for – poor quality tat, but these, oh my goodness, I’m well impressed with these BPA free 1.1 litre stackable lunch boxes. Each box comes with three separate food sections and a dividing tray with a sturdy spoon and fork. The layers clip together and the whole thing is leak-free (at least there haven’t been any accidents so far). This cuts down on packaging waste too, as each item doesn’t need to be individually wrapped. There are two colours available: turquoise and berry purple (I’ve bought both colours and they’re both appealing). Yes, I’m well impressed with these!
This month sees the second instalment of a brand new food blogging challenge by Louisa over at Eat Your Veg and Vanesther over at Bangers and Mash: Family Foodies. This month Vanesther has challenged us to share our lunchbox ideas and tips for tasty and appealing fillers for packed lunches.
Besides the sushi rice shapes I’ve a few other lunch box ideas pictured above:
1. Bread sticks – portable, quick and will definitely get eaten by my children, at least
2. Babybel cheese – again, portable and fairly inexpensive if you can get them on offer at the supermarket
3. Seeds – a rich source of nutrients and great for small fingers to nibble
4. Ants on a Log – this is something my grandmother used to make for me. Sticks of celery filled with peanut butter and dotted with little raisin ‘ants’. My children absolutely love these, but only make this if you school is ok with you sending peanuts (mine is). Make sure your celery is bone dry before you make these or the peanut butter won’t stick!
5. Kiwi fruit – quick, portable and packed with vitamin C. I used to spend ages peeling and chopping kiwis before I discovered I could just cut them in half and hand them to the children with a spoon. Easy peasy!
6. Salad with vegetable shapes – Flower cutters come in handy here and make a carrot look so much more appealing!
7. Banana muffins – I’ve added 100 grams of supermarket brand white chocolate to my usual recipe to make these a little more tempting. I’ve just realised I’ve not yet blogged my usual recipe – this must be amended! These freeze well so you can make a batch when your bananas are going off and then keep them in the freezer until needed.
- 250 grams sushi rice
- 400 ml water
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: Makes 10 shapes
I have included a product review in this blog post simply because I love the product and want to tell people about it. I bought the lunch boxes myself and Polar Gear have not sponsored this post.