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Posted on Jan 16, 2008 in Bento, Equipment, For Kids, Meat, Pasta or Noodles, Phyllo or Pancake or Other, Sandwich Case | 29 comments

Lasagna & pizza bento lunches

Lasagna & pizza bento lunches

Packing a bento lunch doesn’t mean you’re stuck with rice, rice, rice all the time. While it’s true that Japanese-language bento cookbooks feature a lot of rice, they also show fun variations like pastas, sandwiches, stews, and salads. And hey, it’s your lunch — pack what you want, artificial rules be darned (it’s not like the Lunch Police are going to issue you a ticket). Baked pastas like lasagna, ziti, and pasta frittata (recipe here) are particularly well suited to bento lunches as they’re boldly flavored and have less of a texture issue that some people object to in plain pasta dishes eaten at room temperature.

Lasagna bento lunch for preschooler

Contents of preschooler lunch: Turkey lasagna with spinach, steamed zucchini with Korean barbecue sauce, grape tomatoes and a decorative banana wedge (how-to here). My friend Jennifer made the fantastic lasagna and brought it over for dinner one night. It’s chock full of vegetables and Bug inhaled an adult portion of it at dinner (I think he’s gearing up for another growth spurt, judging from his appetite).

Morning prep time: 5 minutes, using leftover lasagna. I packed up the lasagna when cleaning up from dinner two nights before, so in the morning all I needed to do was quickly cook the zucchini (courgette) in my microwave mini steamer and slice the banana (dipping it in acidulated water to prevent browning).

Packing: I microwaved the subcontainer with lasagna in the morning to take the chill off, and put the delicate zucchini in a hard plastic food cup shaped either like a cow or a car, depending on how you look at it. Because I don’t spend much time creating beautiful food art, I tend to rely on bento accessories and the color/shape/texture of the food itself to make lunches appealing. It’s much faster for a lazy mom like myself. I am looking forward to checking out the new Face Food book on bento food art once it ships, though — a little bit of bento p*rn never hurt anyone! The lunch itself is packed in a 360ml Disney Cars bento box with one sub-container removed.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Bug ate everything in this lunch at preschool except the banana (which he ate afterwards as a snack). The way he tore through this lasagna at dinner, I wasn’t surprised to find it scraped clean from his bento box! (Click to read the full post with an additional lunch and specialty plastic wrap…)

Red plastic wrap

* * * * *

This actual lunch is a bit of a visual snooze, but I’ll throw it in the mix because of the cool plastic wrap that I found at my local Safeway supermarket. It’s from Glad, a seasonal item available around the holidays. I got the idea from seeing my friend Mami use it to wrap a sandwich in a collapsible sandwich case to contain the crumbs and add a shot of color. I also see moms using this to wrap rolled sandwiches or tiny round rice balls made of fried rice. I’d love to find additional colors; my eyes are peeled!

Contents of preschooler lunch: Apple slices and homemade pizza with feta, zucchini, eggplant, onion and ham. Bug and I made pizza together the night before. In a minor “leftover remake”, I had some leftover veggie-heavy pasta sauce from this lunch, so we used that as the pizza sauce that delivered lots of vegetables under the cheese. Bug helped make this pizza and knew there were all sorts of vegetables in the sauce, but it did feel a little like pulling a Jessica Seinfeld.

Morning prep time: 5 minutes, using leftover pizza. In the morning I briefly microwaved the pizza to take the chill off, and sliced the fruit.

Pizza lunch for preschooler

Packing: I cut the pizza into smaller slices fit for little hands, and dipped the apple slices in acidulated water to prevent browning. Bug won’t eat apple skin any more, so no more apple bunnies! I wrapped the pizza in red-colored plastic wrap, and packed the lunch in a Snoopy-themed collapsible sandwich case, made especially small for a child.

Verdict: A home run. Bug demolished the entire lunch at preschool, no leftovers. Hey, tell me again why I’m making all this effort to pack anything other than pizza? ;-)

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  1. I once made the mistake of getting the seasonal plastic wrap that’s green. It makes anything look pretty unappetizing unless it’s green to start with. I’m glad to know they make red, it’s a lot nicer looking.

  2. Gosh, and I thought I was of the minority because I don’t typically pack onigiri or any rice based stuff in my bentos!

  3. Biggie, Glad wrap comes in pink, purple, blue and green –usually around easter! Or it may be Saran brand, but watch for those colors! I recently got Press-n-Seal with Christmas presents on it and snow men on the freezer press-n-seal!

  4. @1 from Elfir: Ha ha, I guess green-wrapped food could look gross, now that you mention it. Still, I want some of the Easter-colored wraps that reader Vanessa describes (pink, purple, blue & green) here; I’d be able to offer a rainbow in a bento!

  5. @2 from Sophia: Seriously, don’t get me started. It’s your lunch, you go ahead and pack whatever you darn well please — we can pick up some fun packing know-how from the Japanese and all, but there’s no need to totally change your diet just to take a bento lunch.

  6. How the heck did you keep the lasagna in pieces like that? Every time I get or make any kind of lasagna, it’s dripping and sliding all over the place…

  7. Oh, also, I had no idea a new bento book was coming out! I’m really excited to take a look.

  8. I made your pasta frittata last weekend and my kids loved it! I froze some little portions for future lunches, too. ;-)

  9. @7/8 from kopiikat: I got the lasagna to stay in layers by waiting until the end of the meal to cut up Bug’s bento portion. That way the lasagna had cooled enough to retain its shape in the box (esp. after I had to cut it even smaller for easy eating by little hands).

    I’m quite curious about the new bento book as well — I wonder if it’s going to be an English version of those “kyara-ben” magazine/books.

  10. @9 from Amber: Great to hear it! Glad the pasta frittata worked out for you.

  11. They’ve actually had colored cling film for years, for everyday use. One of my visually impaired friends says it’s perfect for her, because she can actually see where it is.

    Your store may not carry all the colors year round, but I do know they exist year round. We’re fond of the pink, yellow and blue.

  12. Hey Biggie! I was at the store today and I saw something that I thought you (and maybe your readers on the east coast, like me!) would like to hear about. The east coast chain of groceries called Wegmans are stocking most of the bento-ish items from this site: http://www.fit-fresh.com/products/transportation/ . Most of them seem to have removable ice packs in them, which is pretty neat. I bought the “Lunch on the go” set for around $7, cheaper than the website listing. (As a note, though, that set is 1240 ml, WAY too big for one person ^_^; I intend to use it to bring food to share.) Anyways, I love your blog, it’s really made me excited about making bentos and inspired me to become a bento-holic. :D

  13. Hey Biggie,
    Just wanted to say I have finally started making myself bentos on a semi regular basis and it is DEFINATELY helping me remember to eat. If I pack my cute baby pink bento properly, I find I can grab an apple for breakfast, eat lunch around 12 and not really need dinner.
    Thanks for inspiring me
    Zelda

  14. The lasgna looks absolutely delish! I’m sort of afraid to put anything tomato-based in my bento box in fear that it will stain the box…does that happen to yours? I know it happens to my Tupperware lol

  15. Hey Biggie! Delicious looking as usual. I just wanted to sya, my dad pre ordered the new Face Food benro book and a late Christmas present, and the release date got pushed back to March. I’m a little upset it got pushed back because I’ve wanted some bento books for a long time now, but at least I know I’ll get it for sure. ^_^

  16. @14 from Bees: Thanks for the Fit ‘N Fresh link — those are a good entrypoint as they’re commonly available and have the built-in ice pack. I find them to be a bit too bulky to be able to cram into my bags, but I have the salad one and the soup/salad one (terrible ice pack, breaks after the first freezing — others on Amazon have had the same problem).

  17. このようなお弁当は作りたいですよ☆

  18. Well unless you are buying organic apples its better not to eat the skin anyways. That is where the pesticides concentrate.

  19. Reynold’s Seal-Tight Plastic Wrap – comes in pink, green, blue and purple. I find it at the dollar store fairly often.

  20. @19 from ストロボEDGE: じゃ、簡単ですので作って下さい!

    How nice that you’d like to make this kind of bento! It’s very simple, so try it out.

  21. @20 from TK: Good point about pesticides in apple skin; sometimes I buy organic, sometimes I don’t.

  22. @21 from Lisa: Excellent; it’s off to Big Lots for me, then!

  23. 残念ながら違います。少年だからこんなスゴイお弁当できないんです。女性が特別な技術あるので。ありのまま可愛いお弁当作りたいと思いますが・・。練習しなくてはいけませんね?お弁当を作り続けて見せてくれてください。
    m(__)m
    ところで ”乙男(オトメン)”じゃないけれど可愛いのは好きです。ビギさんのおべんとうのように★。宜しくお願いします!

  24. I’m very happy to discover this blog… great recipes and I admire your creativity. I’m hosting food blog event Wholesome Lunchbox this month, I would love you to join us.
    Greetings, Margot

  25. @25 from ストロボEDGE: 女性しかできなかったら、いい彼女を見つけてかわいいお弁当を作ってくれればどうでしょうか? ;-)

    Since you say that only a woman can make such a cute bento, why not find a nice girlfriend and get her to make one for you? ;-)

  26. @26 from Coffee & Vanilla: Thanks for letting us know about your food blog event; I’ll link to it in a post next week so my readers get the word too. I’d be happy to participate, but my lunches don’t tend to conform to all five points that you’re looking for. There’s usually a tummy filler, a five-a-day option and maybe a dairy product, but no snack/treat or drink (his preschool serves them water with their bentos and I try not to pack sweets). Would that still be acceptable?

  27. いーなー。可愛いお弁当ができる彼女って凄いですね。 (^-^)v

  28. Hi Biggie,

    Yes, of course, those 5 points are guidelines from some UK health organization, but of course some schools serve drinks, some parents choose not to give snacks… sweets… it all depends on personal preferences and circumstances.

    Looking forward seeing your entry, Margot

  29. Can we get your friend’s lasagna recipe?

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  1. colored wraps - [...] wrap, and packed the lunch in a ... Still, I want some of the Easter-colored wraps that reader ...http://lunchinabox.net/2008/01/16/lasagna-pizza-bento-lunches/Detailed …