Bento lunches and a giveaway

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I read an article in the New York Times recently about the growing popularity of bento boxes for packing lunch. My boys had bento lunches for 3 years while they attended Japanese kindergarten. I was daunted at first but started to enjoy the process after awhile. A few rice balls (onigiri), some vegetables (sometimes frozen edamame just tucked into the lunch box and perfectly thawed by lunchtime), a small portion of fish, meat, egg or tofu (sometimes using leftovers from dinner the night before, sometimes using frozen food sold for this purpose), and then a bit of fruit for dessert. Once I got into a rhythm it wasn't all that overwhelming. Japanese mothers sometimes put a lot of effort into making bento lunches attractive for their children, but I don't think that it really involves that much more time than making a sandwich.

There are a lot of quick and easy ways to make food appealing-looking to children. Keeping portions small and having some variety and balance is important. One trick is to have small cookie cutters on hand. I have tiny flower-shaped cutters which can cut carrots into flowery shapes, and I also have these contraptions that are like paper punches, which cut nori (seaweed) into shapes to sprinkle on top of rice. However, most days call for simple and fast preparation.

We usually have rice every day for dinner, so there is often quite a bit leftover for lunch. Fried rice is really easy to make – best made with cold leftover rice – and you can throw just about anything in there that you like. In Japan it's common to flavor fried rice with ketchup, but I usually use garlic and a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil for something that tastes more Korean.

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My children's kindergarten asked parents to provide a little lunch mat (preferably handmade), and then the children stacked their utensil sets and their little bento boxes on top. They also brought their own little cups to school.

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Our babysitter and my dear friend often helped me out by making bento lunch for my sons, especially when Mia was a baby and mornings were hectic. Here's an adorable one she made, much to my son's delight.

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Another thing that is really useful are these little picks:

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We still use them all the time when serving cut fruit, etc. One or two can be easily tucked into a bento box and make lunchtime a little more fun for your little one.

One more thing that is pretty neat are rice ball molds. These help you form rice into cute little shapes that you can then decorate (if so inclined) to make little faces. I confess I didn't do this that often, but when I did have the time the kids were delighted.

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The molds come in two parts. Take it apart, fill the canister with rice about halfway up:

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and fit the two parts back together again to smush the rice down into the canister.

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Then, take it apart again and turn the canister over. On the bottom there's a little flap you can press on to gently nudge the rice out. It should be formed in the shape of a little bear's face.

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So…..big moment for me, I am going to do a giveaway of these picks and molds! I am so appreciative of all of you who come by and visit, read, subscribe, and comment, and I'd love the chance to send these out to one of you. 

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All you have to do to enter this giveaway is comment on this post down below and mention what is your child's (or your) favorite thing to pack for lunch. The giveaway will last 2 weeks and end on October 11th at midnight EST, and then I will send these items to the lucky winner.  The one caveat is, that is so close to my due date, that there may be a delay in sending – but I won't forget. ๐Ÿ™‚  Good luck.

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83 thoughts on “Bento lunches and a giveaway

  1. Susan C

    How fun it must be to live in a different country and culture! My kids are grown, but my granddaughter loves to take juice boxes in her lunch.
    smchester at gmail dot com

  2. michelledraveski@yahoo.com

    these things are really neat I have been hearing more and more about them. I just went back to school and I would love one for lunch

  3. Nicole

    I love looking at peoples bento box pictures. They are so adorable I can’t stand it. In our family the favorite thing to pack for lunch is homemade chocolate chip cookies

  4. Bezen

    These look so cute. If you leave it to my dd she would have cookies and cookies only at school. I send vegetables, fruit, some cereal for snack and sometimes homemade granola.

  5. Forest

    These would be great for my sons lunch at nursery, it might even get him to deviate from Marmite sandwiches everyday!! If I dont win I will definately start cutting his sandwiches so he has cool shapes to look at!!

  6. Deborah R

    I like to pack many small things – some fruit and veggie pieces, rice or couscous, crackers or toast – mostly whatever’s around.

  7. Miss Mary

    our family loves Bento lunches. They have saved hundreds of dollars because my kids will take lunches when before, they wouldn’t. However, Bento supplies are hard to come by – we live in Arizona. Thanks for the drawing.

  8. Theron Willis

    I’m a burly construction worker type and instead of a blue collar lunch pail, I like to pack a bento!

  9. Janette

    I pack my niece’s lunch, and she loves bento boxes, with some rice, a little meat, and lots of veggies and fruit. She’d love those little picks!

  10. Alexxi Adams

    My boyfriend loves it when I pack him sandwiches in his lunch and sometimes chips & salsa too! He loves chips & salsa. These are so cute though, I’d love to make him little rice balls! He loves sushi and edamame too, and that’d be perfect to fit in his lunch box! I’d make myself cute little rice balls as well! ๐Ÿ˜€

  11. Pamela S

    I have always loved looking at Bento boxes and the lovely way the Japanese go to so much effort to make beautiful and healthy lunches for their children. Some of the pictures I’ve seen are truly amazing! My children usually take just a simple sandwich and some fresh fruit and carrots. I’d love to be able to try out these products and make more creative and fun lunches for my children in the Japanese fashion. Thanks so much! pamelashockley(AT)netscape(DOT)net

  12. Lisa D

    I love to pack fun food. Celery with peanut butter and raisins. peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches cut into fun shapes and sizes.

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