I packed number of unusual fruits and vegetables in our meals today, the most interesting of which is the striking red fruit of the strawberry tree (“arbutus berries”). I haven’t seen this fruit in stores, but our friend Vincent from the African island of RÃ©union picked them from trees in the neighborhood with Bug. I find them faintly sweet and a bit mealy when eaten out of hand, but they make a very nice jam or couli. We didn’t have enough strawberry tree fruit to cook up into anything much, so into the bentos they went, to be eaten out of hand. Suite 101 tells us they can also be made into “jellies, syrups, candied fruit, distilled and fermented drinks, such as wines and liqueurs. In Spain, they’re made into a highly flavored wine, called medronho.”
Contents of preschooler lunch: Honeydew nectarine, strawberry tree fruit (arbutus berries), sliced cucumber with herb oil from marinated bocconcini (we shared this), and a curry that Vincent made with chicken, potatoes, banana squash, tomatoes, mushrooms, chili, coconut milk, peanut butter, lemongrass, and keffir lime leaves, simmered with Parmesan cheese rind for flavor complexity. This particular honeydew nectarine was disappointingly mealy, but another one we had a day early was sweet and medium-firm with (not surprisingly) a hint of melon. There’s an interesting article on fruit hybrids here.
Morning prep time: 10 minutes, to reheat leftover curry that Vincent made, and cut the nectarine and cucumber.
Packing: I pre-heated the thermal food jar with hot tap water before packing to maximize heat retention, and dipped the nectarine in lemon juice mixed with strawberry banana juice to prevent fruit from browning without making it sour. Packedin a 560ml insulated bento set (240ml rice jar and 160ml side dishes).
Contents of husband’s lunch: The same curry, pre-frozen gemelli pasta, plum tomatoes, broccoli and orange cauliflower florets with red wine vinaigrette, and a mini pudding cup. The orange cauliflower tasted just like regular white cauliflower to me; I bought it at Safeway so it should be widely available. (Pasta is pushed to one side for the photo only; I re-covered the curry with pasta after the photo was taken.)
Morning prep time: 10 minutes of mostly microwave time, to warm the curry, defrost the frozen unsauced pasta, and quickly cook the broccoli and orange cauliflower in my microwave mini steamer (speeds cook time by 50%).
Packing: This lunch features a variation of the “rice lid” technique that I first described here, where you pack a container mostly full of your stew or curry, and cap it with a layer of rice to keep things warm and intact until eating. We were out of cooked rice, so I pulled out a little packet of pre-frozen pasta and microwaved it to use instead. I had serious doubts that pasta would work as a lid, so we purposely tipped it on its side in the car to really put it to the test. Result: it actually kept the very thick curry in place without leaking out of the loose rice container lid, but this definitely wouldn’t work with a thinner broth. The top tier is divided by a little plastic gelato spoon that I kept from a gelato takeout shop. It did double duty as both food divider and spoon for the pudding; it’s the perfect size for box lunches so I wash and reuse it. Lunch packed in a cheap Chinese thermal lunch jar, bought locally.
- Pack a â€œrice lidâ€ on top of stew/curry in a food jar
- Freeze cooked rice in the shape of your lunch container
- Freeze unsauced pasta
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