Archive for September, 2007
Silicone cupcake liners work well as removable food cups in packed lunches, separating foods to keep different textures and flavors from mingling. Because the cups are made of silicone, they’re flexible and fit into odd spaces, with the added benefit of being reusable. They come in all sorts of fun shapes, sizes and colors to fit a variety of food and containers (click for a representative sample of silicone baking cups). Housewares, kitchen, and crafts stores such as Michael’s often sell them — if you find a coupon you can bring down the initial cost as well as save on the cost of disposable paper cups down the line. I finally found the large ones for a good price at Bed Bath & Beyond and used a 20% off coupon. Hooray, I’m finally a little greener!
Contents of husband’s lunch: Slow-cooked salmon (simple recipe here) with a container of sweet-hot Nonya sambal sauce, chicken fried rice, blueberries, and salad with mango, strawberry tree fruit (a.k.a. arbutus berries) and poppy seed dressing.
Morning prep time: 7 minutes, using leftover salmon, fried rice (from San Francisco’s popular Ton Kiang restaurant), torn lettuce, and a pre-filled sauce container with salad dressing to save time. In the morning I just cut the mango and arbutus berries, briefly microwaved the fried rice to restore the texture, and packed everything together.
Packing: The silicone baking cup kept the fried rice away from the salad and blueberries, and was tough enough to stand up to salad dressing once the salad was dressed (more durable than a paper cupcake liner). There are two layers of salmon, one on top of the other. Packed in a 650ml Leaflet box with movable divider (similar to the 500ml version below), and both sauces in small containers.
Equipment: The standard-size silicon baking cups (Wilton brand) were 12 for US$6 at Bed Bath & Beyond (use their omnipresent 20% off coupon and it gets even more reasonable). I got the four pastel mini cups as a set for US$1.50 at Daiso in Daly City (Japanese dollar store with branches internationally).
Contents of my lunch: Same as my husband’s, but with pesto sauce instead of sambal, and no salad.
Morning prep time: 5 minutes.
Contents of preschooler lunch: Roast chicken drumstick, chicken breast, strawberry tree fruit, mango, blueberries, and fried rice. I wrapped the end of the drumstick in decorative aluminum foil to create a clean “handle” (similar lunch and foil details are here).
Morning prep time: 5 minutes.
Packing: I included a small Anpanman pick for the chicken breast and mangos, and packed a spoon on the side for the rice. The silicone cup squished nicely into the available space to hold the fruit without touching the chicken. Packed in two tiers (280ml and 180ml) of a four-tier nesting Thomas the Tank Engine bento box set.
Published by Biggie on September 8th, 2007 tagged bento, eggs, equipment, fish or seafood, for kids, poultry, rice, salad | 39 Comments »
My preschooler actually gets distressed if his hands get messy when he eats, so I used some decorative aluminum foil to create a clean “handle” on a chicken drumstick for him. Success! He dove right in and grabbed the chicken leg without complaint, gnawing happily.
Contents of preschooler lunch: Roast chicken drumstick, strawberry tree fruit (a.k.a. arbutus berry), mango, blueberries, and pasta salad with roasted corn, cherry tomatoes, cilantro and chipotle chiles (recipe from Cookâ€™s Illustratedâ€™s The New Best Recipe).
Morning prep time: 5 minutes, using store-bought roast chicken from Costco and leftover pasta salad.
Packing: In addition to using decorative foil to make a clean “handle” on the chicken, I also used plastic sushi grass to keep the sweet fruit away from the savory chicken. The pasta salad is packed in a disposable condiment cup with a lid, although I forgot to put the lid on and some of the corn escaped the cup in transit (oops!). The entire lunch is packed in a 350ml Power Rangers bento box.
Equipment: A while back I picked up some yellow and pink aluminum foil from Daiso in Daly City (Japanese dollar store with branches internationally) for US$1.50 each (click on the photo for a larger view). It’s Ciao! brand, which puts out a popular line of bento lunch accessories such as food cups, rice ball wrappers, picks, cutter, dividers, antibacterial lunch sheets, etc.
Contents of my lunch: Smoked hamburger that my husband the grillmaster cooked over the U.S. Labor Day holiday weekend, red-leaf lettuce, container of poppy seed dressing, and the same fruit and pasta salad that Bug ate.
Morning prep time: 5 minutes, using leftover smoked hamburger and pasta salad. In the morning I just cut the fruit and hamburger.
Packing: I used red-leaf lettuce as an edible food divider to keep the sweet fruit away from the savory burger, and cut the burger into bite-sized pieces to avoid in-box cutting. I grabbed a pre-filled sauce container with salad dressing from the refrigerator, and used it to dress the lettuce as a mini-salad after I ate the burger. Last week I filled three little sauce containers with leftover salad dressing from a store-bought salad, which speeds things up when I pack lunch on the fly in the morning. Packed in a 500ml Leaflet box with movable divider.
- Pasta salad box lunches
- Freezing unsauced pasta
- Hot vs. cold lunch packing considerations
- Need for speed: A mommyâ€™s lunch manifesto
- Food safety for packed lunches
- Biggieâ€™s list of top speed tips, tutorials and equipment reviews
Published by Biggie on September 6th, 2007 tagged bento, equipment, for kids, lactose free, meat, pasta or noodles, poultry, salad | 14 Comments »
Tuesday was our son’s first day of preschool, although it wound up being more of a sneak preview of the school as students are required to actually be three years old before they can attend on a regular basis. Bug will turn three in October, so although we were able to attend the first-day orientation and help him settle in today, it’ll be another month until he’ll go regularly. Like many schools now, his preschool has an allergy policy that restricts what foods parents can send along. As I understand it, we’re not to send along nuts, nut products, milk or yogurt.
This reminded me of why I got into making bentos in the first place. A few years back, my husband was misdiagnosed with celiac disease, and we ate gluten-free for nine months before he was given the all-clear. At the time, cross contamination via dropped crumbs, hands, utensils, etc. was a major concern, and I could only begin to imagine how hard it would be to keep a child with celiac disease away from traces of gluten in school.
So I’m motivated to make sure our lunches won’t pose a significant danger to the children with allergies in Bug’s class. I started looking at food policies at other schools, and thinking about how this will change how I pack Bug’s lunches. It appears that nut and milk bans are fairly common nowadays, but our varied diet is going to require some scrutiny. How will this affect Bug’s bentos? Mine and my husband’s can remain unchanged (click photo for details of the allergen-laden lunch packed in a Laptop Lunchbox).
1) No Peanuts or Nut Products
This is probably the most common lunchroom restriction, serious because exposure is hard to avoid and symptoms can be severe. In addition to peanuts, other nuts include almonds, beechnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, hazel nuts, hickory nuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts. Nut products can hide in a number of places, including baked goods, crackers, health bars, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, etc. — there’s a more complete list of products that can contain peanuts here.
Impact: For us, this will mean Bug will do without the following at school: peanut butter sandwiches, nut-crusted fish, peanut-based curries, nut garnishes in salads and sauteed vegetables, “sesame” noodles using peanut butter, Nutella, bourek fillings that include nuts, salad dressings using peanut butter as an emulsifier, etc. This is livable, but I’ll try to keep it top of mind to minimize the chance of hidden nuts products. Possible substitutes include soy nuts or crunchy snack peas for texture in salads, mustard or tahini as a salad dressing emulsifier, etc. (sesame products are allowed).
2) No Milk or Yogurt
Less severe than a full-on lactose ban, we’re to avoid packing liquid milk or yogurt. For example, baked goods that include milk as an ingredient are okay. Cheese is also fine, so the little cheese triangles and Babybel cheeses will continue to make an appearance.
Impact: This rules out cereal with milk, Greek yogurt with fruit, yogurt sauces, spicy curries that I tame by adding yogurt, etc. Soy milk would be a possible substitute for regular milk, but as Bug will be eating breakfast before school I don’t think it’ll have much impact on us other than yogurt sauces for things like tamales. I wonder if sour cream and crema are also out of the question for Bug…
How have you adjusted to lunchroom food restrictions, and was there anything surprising to you? Let us know in comments if you’ve got any helpful advice!
Published by Biggie on September 5th, 2007 tagged for kids, tips | 78 Comments »
(EDIT: These are already sold out; please disregard. I’ll post again if I find more of these.) I don’t usually sell things directly, but yesterday I found seven of the rare Lock & Lock lunch sets that I use all the time and snatched them up in case anyone’s interested. They’re orange, and detailed product info is here. There are two 350ml rectangular food containers (one divided, one not), a 300ml drink container, and a non-insulated carrying bag with zipper and handles (click the photo for larger view). Safe for dishwasher, freezer and microwave; I’ve put mine through its paces for the last year+ and it’s held up unblemished. Unfortunately I found them overpriced at Kukje Supermarket, so I’m asking US$20 each plus shipping (I’ll ship internationally), payment preferably via PayPal. If you’re interested please shoot me an e-mail at lunchinabox (AT) gmail (DOT) com; first come first served.