Because I’m not my son’s personal short-order cook, I love to use dinner leftovers in our bento lunches to minimize prep time. But eating the exact same thing for multiple meals can get boring pretty quickly, so finding new ways to quickly transform leftovers into different dishes is always welcome. Today I’ve got a simple Leftover Remake recipe for pan-fried risotto cakes.
With these lunches, I took cold zucchini risotto left over from dinner the night before, and made it into little pan-fried risotto cakes that my five-year-old ate as finger food. They’re reminiscent of Sicilian arancini (deep-fried rice balls stuffed with cheese, meat, or vegetables), but I improvised as I didn’t have a good melting cheese on hand.
Contents of kindergartener bento lunch: Pan-fried zucchini (courgette) risotto cakes (recipe below), teriyaki & pineapple chicken meatballs (my favorite, Aidells brand), red grapes, and steamed broccoli with onion-based salad dressing. For dinner, I’d made the zucchini risotto from a recipe in Marcella Hazan’s classic cookbook Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.
Morning prep time: 22 minutes for the two bentos, including cooling time for the risotto cakes, meatballs and broccoli. In the morning I formed and pan-fried the risotto cakes from leftover risotto, microwaved the frozen meatballs, and steamed the broccoli in my microwave mini-steamer. (Click for full lunch details, an adult variation on this lunch with additional fruit & veggies, and a basic recipe for the risotto cakes.) Read the rest of this entry »
March 24th, 2010 | Categories: bento, for kids, leftover remake, meat, phyllo or pancake or other, recipe, rice | Print This Post | Email this post | 122 Comments »
It’s been a long time since my last bento gear shopping update, so there’s a lot to cover! Today I cover San Francisco Japantown, with a couple of new stores on the list. Highlights are the new Kinokuniya Stationery & Gift store with a variety of bento gear, the conveniently located (but partially hidden) Daiso dollar store, and the Sanrio store with a new shipment of heatable aluminum bento boxes.
Full store info and shop addresses are at the bento gear shopping guide for the San Francisco Bay Area, and you can also find reader updates at the Bento Store Locator with Google Maps. Photos of shop inventory were taken and used with store permission (click on any of the small photos for a larger version). (Click to read the full post.)
* Daiso (NEW)
* Kinokuniya Stationery & Gifts (1st floor) (NEW)
* Kinokuniya Stationery & Gift (2nd floor)
* Daikoku by Shiki
* Ichiban Kan
* Nijiya Market
* Sanrio (NEW)
* Soko Hardware
(Warning: Photo-heavy post ahead!) Read the rest of this entry »
March 11th, 2010 | Categories: SF Bay Area local, equipment, shopping | Print This Post | Email this post | 54 Comments »
Once a year, volunteer language teachers come from Japan to help out at my son’s school, and do a month’s homestay with families from the school. Part of the homestay deal is that the host family is to pack the teacher a daily lunch to eat at school. So that means that I’m back to making adult and child versions of the same lunch while “A-sensei” is with us — I’m finding it stimulating.
It was initially a little weird to be making bentos for a Japanese person. (You know, will she like our food? I don’t want them to look so thrown-together that the other senseis at school wind up gossiping about it.) But we’ve gotten used to each other over the past couple weeks, so I’m less self-conscious now and am learning her food likes and dislikes. The result? I’ve slipped back into my regular old speed bento habits for both lunches.
For this meal I fell back on pasta frittata, a simple egg dish that incorporates leftover spaghetti from the night before. Now whenever I make pasta I just go ahead and make extra, knowing that leftovers will get remade into breakfast or lunch the next day.
Contents of adult bento lunch: Pasta frittata made with leftover spaghetti, shrimp & tomato sauce (see the full pasta frittata tutorial). Sauteed orange bell pepper with garlic & soy sauce, and green grapes.
Morning prep time: 20 minutes for the two bentos, using leftover pasta for the frittata and including prep/cooling time for the frittata and peppers. Thoroughly cooling all foods before closing them up inside a bento box reduces the amount of condensation inside of the box, improving food safety and making it easier to remove the lid of the bento box. (Click for lunch details and a kid-sized version of the same lunch.) Read the rest of this entry »
March 8th, 2010 | Categories: bento, eggs, fish or seafood, for kids, leftover remake, pasta or noodles | Print This Post | Email this post | 21 Comments »
At preschool the children sat three to a table, and the teachers circulated, encouraging everyone to finish their entire meals during the leisurely lunch period. But now at kindergarten the children sit at one long table together, which has got to be more fun but distracting. Couple that with a shorter time to eat, and more bentos are coming back unfinished. (At least they have recess first, and then eat! If it were reversed I think a lot more would go uneaten.)
I look at this as even more reason to pack a bento lunch, so Bug isn’t wasting time waiting in line for cafeteria food and can just dig right in in the short time available. I’ve also been steering away from packing food that I know takes Bug longer to eat, like soup. I can only imagine the challenges for parents of picky eaters!
What about you? How long do your schoolkids have to eat lunch? (If you have multiple kids, go ahead and take the poll multiple times, answering once for each child.) What kind of issues have you had with the time allotted for school lunch, and how have you adjusted your lunch-packing accordingly? Let us know in comments!
How long is your child's lunch period at school?
- 26-30 minutes (27%, 215 Votes)
- 16-20 minutes (22%, 178 Votes)
- 21-25 minutes (16%, 126 Votes)
- 15 minutes or less (10%, 83 Votes)
- 41-45 minutes (6%, 52 Votes)
- 46 minutes or longer (6%, 49 Votes)
- 31-35 minutes (6%, 46 Votes)
- 36-40 minutes (5%, 37 Votes)
- no set time limit (2%, 19 Votes)
Total Voters: 805
- Kids’ Corner discussions on the Lunch in a Box reader forum
- Poll results: How long does it take you to pack a lunch? (poll closed)
- Poll results: What containers do you pack lunches in? (poll closed)
- Archive of all polls on Lunch in a Box
- Bento FAQ and Biggie’s list of top speed tips, tutorials and reviews
March 3rd, 2010 | Categories: poll | Print This Post | Email this post | 42 Comments »
May I just say that kindergarten bentos have been kicking my butt this year? Bug’s new school starts super-early, and I’m NOT a morning person. Most mornings I’m thankful for every time-saving trick I can find, and I’m guilty of not taking many pictures as we rush out the door.
It’s been getting a little better lately, though. We’re hosting a homestay language teacher for a month, which has prompted me to get on top of our crazy morning routine (and declutter the house!).
Morning prep time: 13 minutes, using a leftover dumpling and bulgogi from an earlier meal. In the morning I briefly steamed the broccoli and re-steamed the dumpling (to re-soften the dough wrapper) in my microwave mini steamer, then sauteed the pre-cut mushrooms. (I got a bag of cut mushrooms as sample at a food event, but I usually cut my own mushrooms with a knife or hard-boiled egg slicer.) I let the mushrooms and broccoli drain and cool in a sieve set over a bowl for a few minutes to prevent condensation inside the box once it was closed up (which also improves the food safety of a packed lunch). Read the rest of this entry »