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zarfkitty

Bento Box Saves School Lunch! Onigiri Rocks!

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My husband and I both teach high school, so we're off for the summer. But starting tomorrow and for three weeks, we are attending a training and our 8 year old will be in YMCA camp. So far, all of her restricted diet has taken place outside of school, since school let out at the end of May.

For the last few weeks, I've been dreading the lunch question. In the past, the most time I ever spent on her lunches was remembering to load her lunch account with money. **guilty smile**

Gluten free bread hasn't been a hit with her, so sandwiches weren't looking like my go-to food.

Then, I remembered seeing a thread on this site about the "Mr. Bento" lunch jar. (If you've never seen it, google it. It's waaaaaaaaay cool.) I think I saw my first mention of "Laptop Lunch" on this site also. (Google it too. It's uber cool.) Both of these items are Japanese style bento containers.

I settled on "Laptop Lunch" as a convenient way of sending non-sandwich foods to school without a bunch of disposable waste. I bought three so hubby and I could have one too. But I hadn't really considered bento itself. Until I googled bento and saw how much fun people have with it. So on Friday, I made our first bento lunch: onigiri stuffed with tuna salad; and sides of baby carrots, strawberries & blueberries, cashews, baby spinach w/dressing and Gluten-free Casein-free chocolate chips.

It was a hit!!! If you've never had an onigiri, please try it out. It's almost like a rice sandwich. You use sushi rice to fill a mold (I'm using cookie cutters). To stuff one, fill your mold half way, add a filling, and put more rice on top. You can eat them cold or warm.

So tomorrow, dear daughter has one PB & J onigiri (star shaped with a raspberry in the center!), one corn onigirl, fruits & veggies, etc. Bento encourages homemade food with edible decoration. And the laptop lunch encourages lots of variety and reasonable portion sizes. It's all around GOOD.

What was that stuff called again? Bread? It came out of a plastic bag? I'm not sure I remember....

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In my excitement, I didn't check to see if there was already a thread about bento. And of course there is... I hope everyone can forgive my exuberance. :) I'm gonna get pictures of tomorrow's bentos for ya, also. Please stand by...

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awesome! i have yet to try the bento-style lunch myself. can't wait to see your pics :D

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Dad's bento (leftover arroz con pollo, spinach salad, dressing in the small container, rice with tortilla cutout & paprika, carrots, raisins, cashews, chocolate chips, tortilla along side the silverware)

http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=4tsdfna

Mom's bento: (cow shaped PB&J onigiri w/ chocolate chip eyes & raspberry nostrils, raspberries, blueberries, cashews, chocolate chips, spinach, salad dressing, carrots, celery, tortilla "chips" which are cookie cutter stamped tortilla toasted on the stove)

http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=6b0cjg8

Daughter's bento: (PB&J onigiri w/ rasperries, carrots, corn onigiri w/ corn, blueberries, celery, raisins, tortilla stamps in flower shape, PB & J "dip" in the small container)

http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=4u3nktt

I think I'm hopelessly hooked. I didn't say that I've already tried molded hard boiled eggs (turned out good but daughter didn't like) and fruit cut like flowers & birds. This is too fun.

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This is PERFECT......okay, forgive my complete ignorance (can I blame it on lack of sleep since my 1 year old started waking up twice in the middle of the night???Lol) but is Bento the style of lunch, and the containers you have it in is the Laptop Lunch boxes??? Is that right?

I was actually going to order three laptop lunches for my kids today, and then saw this thread. How perfect is that?? I love this board. My 5 year old is starting kindy this year, and with two kids in school now taking their own lunches five days a week...the amount of plastic baggies I would go through is terrible. And my 8 year old is very aware of taking care of the environment...reduce, reuse and recycle is his motto, lol......so I figured he would love this.

Love the pictures by the way, very cute lunches. My kids would love these, and then I wouldn't have to spend so much money on bread! I have found that kids will eat a much bigger variety of food if it's presented in a creative way. I bought some cheap lunchroom type trays from Walmart last summer, and those things have been the best ever. The kids love having their food in seperate little compartments, and will eat anything!

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I swear by Bento and Laptop Lunches. It makes lunch SO EASY to pack and she LOVES her lunchbox (and so do all the other kids). All the other kids at her day camp voted her "best lunch" without even knowing she was eating gluten-free! :D That made her feel awesome!

She usually eats leftovers from dinner and I'll add in a fresh fruit. It's also awesome for sending salad because the dressing is kept seperate and she has a favorite salad she eats a few times a week. I've even sent taco salad stuff, baked potatoes, gluten-free mac-n-cheese.

It's a HUGE hit at our house! (I think I want one!)

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Okay, quick question for you laptop lunch users!

Are the carrying cases really necessary for kids, you think? I'm ordering three...and if I just get the laptop lunch, w/out the case, they are only $18 a piece. But with the carrying case and water bottle, it's $30 a piece. I'm just wondering if the boxes by themselves will be sturdy enough to be thrown in the kids backpacks, or if they really need to be in the case. Thanks!

Wish I had ordered these earlier, they really would have come in handy over the summer, since our fast food days are out now, lol.

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These look really awesome :)

Has anyone used the Mr. or Ms. Bento containers? Do the plastic containers in the Mr. Bento or Laptop Lunches get kind of icky after using them for a while? That would be my only hesitation, but the Ms. Bento lavendar jar with the carrying bag just looks sooo cool LOL. I want to order one :)

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I definitely say go with the carrying case. I'd be afraid it would pop open in a backpack or something, especially since the containers inside the box don't always have lids. Plus, with the carrying case, you can slip in a thin ice-pack (which you can order as well) to help keep cold foods cold.

I seriously balked at spending what I spent on a lunchbox, but I find it so easy to pack the "right" lunch now.

I bought the full set with an extra set of inner containers/silverware and it was around $50 with shipping. Eek!

Okay, quick question for you laptop lunch users!

Are the carrying cases really necessary for kids, you think? I'm ordering three...and if I just get the laptop lunch, w/out the case, they are only $18 a piece. But with the carrying case and water bottle, it's $30 a piece. I'm just wondering if the boxes by themselves will be sturdy enough to be thrown in the kids backpacks, or if they really need to be in the case. Thanks!

Wish I had ordered these earlier, they really would have come in handy over the summer, since our fast food days are out now, lol.

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These look really awesome :)

Has anyone used the Mr. or Ms. Bento containers? Do the plastic containers in the Mr. Bento or Laptop Lunches get kind of icky after using them for a while? That would be my only hesitation, but the Ms. Bento lavendar jar with the carrying bag just looks sooo cool LOL. I want to order one :)

They ARE really awesome. :D

I've only had the Laptop Lunches thing for a little more than a month, so no real way to tell as far as ware. However, I don't put the containers in the microwave. (I slip in a paper plate if she wants to microwave her food--she'll only be able to do that at day camp, though, school doesn't have a microwave). Plus, only top-rack in the dishwasher and I try to hand-wash as much as possible rather than machine washing.

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I was a kid who never ate school cafeteria food and I was always so embarrassed about my lunchbox that I often wouldn't even eat. I'd splurge a bit just so your kid is happy at lunchtime. There's nothing worse than being "different" and being self-conscious about it.

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Allright, I ordered three...one pink (my little girl is going to flip over a totally pink lunch box) and two whimsical. I got the whole bit, carrying case and all. It was over $100...EEEK. Hubby is going to think I'm nuts for spending so much on lunch boxes, lol. But I think it will actually save us money in the long run...I can get a little more creative with lunches, and won't have to send sandwhiches all the time. Thanks all!

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I think I gave my hubby a heart attack when I told him I spent $50 on a lunchbox but now that we've used it (like, every single day) he is much more supportive (I even saw him bragging about it to his folks).

I don't go all out with bento shapes and stuff, but I do try to make lunch colorful for her and I always seem to be able to pack something different every day for her.

Allright, I ordered three...one pink (my little girl is going to flip over a totally pink lunch box) and two whimsical. I got the whole bit, carrying case and all. It was over $100...EEEK. Hubby is going to think I'm nuts for spending so much on lunch boxes, lol. But I think it will actually save us money in the long run...I can get a little more creative with lunches, and won't have to send sandwhiches all the time. Thanks all!

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FIRST BENTO REPORT:

We haven't picked up our daughter yet, but everyone at our dyslexia training was **so jealous** over our lunches. We got comments like "how organized!" and "are you bringing an extra one for me tomorrow?" and "where can I buy that?" They are very much worth the money. They'll pay for themselves in plastic bags I don't have to buy, anyway! :)

I hope my daughter liked hers as much for day camp lunch. She has the all pink one, but for hers we didn't buy Laptop Lunch's carrying case. We got her a girly pink butterfly one instead. (Hubby and I have the carrying case & water bottle with ours -- they're really great.) We're all using plain ol' Blue Ice for cooling.

Jane - I've been all over airandangels. Cool stuff. Also (for anyone else that's interested):

Bento TV

Cooking Cute

or just google image search "bento lunch" for some amazing stuff.

I have yet to buy any nori (dried seaweed) which I'll need to make some of this really fancy stuff. I think I might also pick up some craft/scrapbooking punches to make the teensy little nori shapes.

Geez, who knew you could have a whole new hobby in less than 72 hours?

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DAUGHTER'S BENTO REPORT:

She says I packed too much food. Easy to fix that one.

Her classmates and counselors oohed and ahhed over it and made her feel special. She gave them a mini-lecture on bento and onigiri and her special diet. Neat.

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Ooooh...where did you get the girly butterly carrying case????

At a local Austin, Texas store called "Toy Joy." But the brand is Crocodile Creek. I bet other stores carry the brand.

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In my excitement, I didn't check to see if there was already a thread about bento. And of course there is... I hope everyone can forgive my exuberance. :) I'm gonna get pictures of tomorrow's bentos for ya, also. Please stand by...

LOL!! With bentos....you can't help but be exuberant!

My dd isn't going to kindergarten for another year but I've already been looking up bentos like mad. And I've been packing them for myself already (though still waiting for the official kit/container...which does take away from the presentation a bit). It's been kind of funny at work taking in these lunches because now everyone wants to see my lunch and what I've packed. And all of a sudden...there's a new high being reached on employees packing their lunches!

I really love the bentos for the simple fact that you can pack an extremely healthy lunch in an incredibly appealing manner. And I can't tell you how wonderful it is to hear feedback such as your daughter being told she had the best lunches. Now THAT is a great and wonderful thing for a child with food sensitivities to hear. :)

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I am dying to try onigiri......but one quick question! Does the rice stay soft after it's been chilled, or is it a crunchy texture? And does it stay put together pretty well? I think I'm going to try the tuna salad one first...I have about 100 cookie cutters, so I could do all sorts of fun stuff. Love the cow one in your piccie, that is adorable. Thanks.

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I'm answering before reading the whole thread but DH has been taking onigiri for lunch for years so here goes,

To make onigiri, use FRESH hot sticky rice, wet your hands a little-I keep a bowl of salt water at hand for this purpose- scoop out enough hot rice for one onigiri into your hands and shape, tucking in any filling such as a bit of cooked salmon, roll in sesame seeds, etc or place a strip of nori around it. If using a mold, to shape the rice, wet the mold a little with the salt water. A little salt helps flavor and preserve the rice-just a tiny amount. Some stores sell onigiri refrigerated but it really should not be. The rice gets hard and dry. The onigiri will keep all day at room temp just fine, as long as you're not exposing it to extreme temps. Use care with mayo though-the unrefrigerated onigiri will be OK in a lunch box with an ice pack 'till noon if it has mayo in the filling. If you use the sticky rice, you'll have no prob. with it holding together. Be sure to buy the sushi nori in the large notebook size pieces. The smaller cut Japanese nori is often seasoned with soy sauce and not gluten-free. Although small sheets of Korean nori is seasoned with salt and sesame oil and often gluten-free.

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shayesmom - OMG!!! We had a whole crowd at our [grown up] lunch table today to see what we packed.

Today's pics, if anyone wants them:

River's Bento (River is my daughter's name.)

Dad's Bento

Mom's Bento

Everyone got tuna salad. Mom's & River's are in trays for dipping with wasabi rice crackers (OMG! sooooo good!) and Dad's is in his onigiri. He doesn't like wasabi. The black "stuff" is nori seaweed paper.

The "IDR" is supposed to be "IRD" which stands for "Initial Reading Deck." It's something I'm studying in my dyslexia training and it amused my trainer.

taweavmo3,

If you buy sushi rice, the onigiri hold up really well in the fridge. I made three dry cups of "sweet brown rice" in my rice cooker on Sunday, which made a ridiculous amount of cooked rice. I've kept it in a freezer grade ziploc in my fridge and have been onigiri-ing with it all week with good results.

I got my "sweet brown rice" at my local asian market for cheaper than whole foods or grocery store.

EDIT: I forgot to say that I've nuked the day's portion of rice with a smidge of water before working with it each day. It needs to be warm to work with it.

Who else has bento pics? Please post!!!

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I must say, I am 17 and am always looking for ideas for lunch and this is such a great way to be really healthy and not feel totally different because the foods are just healthy...you can't even tell they're Gluten-free Casein-free! I am Gluten-free Casein-free also, so this is GREAT! My one question, does the tuna "contaminate" the strawberries if packed together. In other words, does the strawberry and other foods taste like tuna? That has been my only hesitation in buying one. Let me know! Thanks!

Also, I LOVE THE PICTURES!!! They're amazing!

Kassandra

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I must say, I am 17 and am always looking for ideas for lunch and this is such a great way to be really healthy and not feel totally different because the foods are just healthy...you can't even tell they're Gluten-free Casein-free! I am Gluten-free Casein-free also, so this is GREAT! My one question, does the tuna "contaminate" the strawberries if packed together. In other words, does the strawberry and other foods taste like tuna? That has been my only hesitation in buying one. Let me know! Thanks!

Also, I LOVE THE PICTURES!!! They're amazing!

Kassandra

Hi Kassandra!

I don't think the tuna flavor carries over, but someone with a more sensitive palate than me might think so. You can always do something that "marries well" with strawberries, though. Like maybe nut butter or a BLT. (Bacon and strawberries go well together, isn't that weird?)

Thanks for the compliment on my pics. I'm such a noob at it though... some pics I've seen online are crazy good.

If you want to try bento without buying a bunch of equipment, you can always use one of those cheapie "gladware" style containers. Either the shallow rectangle or the segmented one. At least with the segmented gladware, you'd be sure your strawberry and your tuna won't get intermingled. ;)

If you find yourself making bento in gladware everyday, you could always "upgrade!"

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Thanks for the reply! I went tonite and got a few cookie cutters so I could try experimenting with foods. I am going to a support group for teens soon and I thought it would be a neat idea to bring some pics of my experimentations. I am really artsy and crafty so this is RIGHT up my alley! Thanks again.

Kassandra

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