Archive for February, 2008
A common concern with microwaving (or even packing) lunches in plastic containers is the potential of carcinogens or hormones from the plastic to leach into the food. I’m not here to lecture anyone on the relative danger or safety of plastics and the microwave, but I did come across some interesting material when reading up on the subject.
Some say not to worry: the FDA says microwaving in plastic is fine, Snopes says a viral e-mail about the dangers of microwaving or freezing in plastic is an urban legend, and the FSDA has info on cooking safely in the microwave. The Natural Scientist blog has a couple of interesting science-oriented entries on the safety of microwaving plastic wrap with respect to dioxins and phthalates. On the more conservative side, Green Living at Care2 has a clear list of good and bad plastics here; combine that with the chart of plastics symbols on Reusable Bags’ FAQ on lunch gear health and safety issues and you’ve got a way to identify what kinds of plastics you have in your home and act on your own conclusions. I’m coming up short on authoritative material about the dangers; if you know a reputable article or source please post the URL in comments. For lunch packers, I’ve written previously about metal bento boxes, but their downside is that they can’t go into the microwave. (Click to read the full post with a sample preschooler lunch…)
Published by Biggie on February 11th, 2008 tagged bento, equipment, meat, pasta or noodles, recipe, review, tips | 70 Comments »
When I’m grocery shopping I like to keep my eyes peeled for miniature fruit that can be packed whole inside of a bento lunch, like Manzano or red bananas, Lady apples, or tiny tangerines. Although I can always cut up full-size versions and dip them in citrus juice to keep the fruit from browning, packing whole fruit is safer from a food safety standpoint, especially during warm weather. Japanese-language bento books tout packing whole fruit and vegetables during the summer for this reason, thus we see such accessories as the Banana Guard or the Banana Bunker that protect the delicate fruit from bruising in transit. I like to think that a miniature apple can rival cut fruit like apple rabbits and banana wedges in cuteness, but I may be deluding myself.
Sandwiches don’t have to go into a plastic baggie and get smushed in your bag before lunch. Roll or wrap sandwiches lend themselves nicely to a sushi-style presentation in a bento box, while bulkier sliced sandwiches can fit pretty much intact inside the larger collapsible sandwich cases that I like to take along for airplane meals. These are a couple of quickie sandwich lunches from last week (yes, I’m backlogged).
Contents of preschooler lunch: Turkey and Swiss cheese rolls, tangerine and a tiny Lady apple. Bug adores these darned rolls from Costco, although I find them to be a little bland and in need of mustard. They’re easy finger food, though, and they make my son unbelievably happy, so I humor him.
Morning prep time: 3 minutes, using store-bought wrap sandwiches. In the morning I just peeled the tangerine and scraped the white pith off with my fingernail. (Click to read the full post with packing notes and an additional preschooler lunch…)
Published by Biggie on February 8th, 2008 tagged bento, for kids, poultry, sandwich case, sandwich or wrap, vegetarian | 22 Comments »
1. Ichiban Kan online store set to open April 1, 2008
Ichiban Kan, a Japanese-style dollar store in the San Francisco Bay Area with cheap bento gear and household stuff, has announced that they will open their online store on April 1, 2008. After all of the delays, fingers crossed that they can meet this deadline. The last I heard is that they don’t plan to ship internationally, but keep up with their latest at Ichiban Kan’s new blog and leave them comments with your feedback. Thanks to reader Sara for passing this along!
2. New Daiso store in Newark, CA
Daiso, a Japanese dollar store with branches internationally, has a new store in Newark (southern East Bay in the San Francisco Bay Area, by Fremont). See the updated SF Bay Area shopping guide to bento gear for a full list of local stores. Thanks to reader Jessica for the heads up!
2125 New Park Mall (in the New Park Mall by I-880)
Newark, CA 94560 (510) 742-2410
7,545 sq. ft., opened Dec. 22, 2007
Mon-Sat: 10am - 9pm, Sun: 11am - 7pm
Daiso has a selection of cheap bento boxes, accessories, antibacterial bento sheets and food cups, decorative aluminum foil, freezer containers, cooking equipment, metal bento boxes, mini microwave steamers, stovetop fish/veggie grills, home products, dishes, hobby gear, children’s toys and books in Japanese, etc.
- SF Bay Area shopping guide to bento gear (UPDATED)
- SF Bay Area guide to ethnic markets
- Daiso opens in Mountain View after delay
- New Daiso stores in the Bay Area (and coupon for lead-free lunch gear)
- Biggie’s list of top speed tips, tutorials and equipment reviews
Published by Biggie on February 7th, 2008 tagged SF Bay Area local, shopping | 20 Comments »
Today’s bento is a little hard to swallow, mainly because it’s full of tiny erasers, not food! I spied these in San Francisco’s Japantown and thought you all might get a kick out of them. See if you can find inarizushi, shumai dumplings, onigiri rice balls (both plain and grilled yaki onigiri), grilled fish, mini hot dogs, a quail egg, cherry tomato, strawberry, apple rabbit, corn dog (!) and a cup of tea (!). (Click on the photo for an annotated version with what’s what.)
My favorite is the apple rabbit, which reminded me of a big bowl I spotted at my son’s Japanese immersion preschool last month during prep for a school lunch. (As you may remember from my apple rabbit how-to, the final step is a soak in cold water to get the “ears” to curl up nicely.) The children usually bring their own bento lunches, but once a month parent volunteers get together to make a communal meal for all of the students. As you can see, apple rabbits were on the menu — classic children’s food in Japan.
For locals, I picked up the little bento eraser sets at Ichiban Kan dollar store for about US$1 per box, and then experienced classic bargain-hunter vindication when I saw the exact same thing for sale at Kinokuniya’s stationery store for US$4.15 each. Ha! Ichiban Kan rules. They also sell the erasers loose, so you can choose your favorites. (See the SF Bay Area shopping guide for bento gear.) (Disclaimer: I have no commercial affiliation with Ichiban Kan.)
- Bento box song
- “Obento obento ureshiina” song
- Allergy restrictions in school lunchrooms
- Bentos & the picky eater
- Biggie’s list of top speed tips, tutorials and equipment reviews
Published by Biggie on February 6th, 2008 tagged SF Bay Area local, equipment, for kids | 19 Comments »
With this lunch I tried out a little DynoBytes sandwich cutter that my friends Dana & Jeff sent me from their local Bed Bath & Beyond. I’d seen these in my local supermarket before but hadn’t splashed out for one, so this was a guilt-free way of trying one out (thank you!). Essentially a specialized cutter, it removes the crust and creates two cut-out sandwiches of the same size and design, with minimal waste. This particular one is dinosaur-shaped (perfect as my son’s been studying dinosaurs in preschool lately), but I’ve also seen bear- and somewhat heart-shaped cutters. To use, the manufacturers tout making the sandwich first and then using the cutter to create the shapes and seal the edges, but I find that the sealing of the edges produces a sandwich that’s too dense for my personal taste (your mileage may vary). Cutting each piece of bread separately yields better definition and lighter bread if you have the patience for it, but I can see that this would be a pain if you’ve got multiple layers of fillings like cheese, veggies or meat. I tend to make Bug’s sandwiches with spreads, so it’s fine for my needs. Large cookie cutters would serve the same purpose, but probably with more waste as this is optimized for sandwiches. Here are some ideas on what to do with the leftover scraps.
Contents of preschooler lunch: Dinosaur-shaped sandwiches of cream cheese and Marmite yeast extract spread (sold here) on whole wheat bread, rambutan fruit, blueberries, bite-size pudding cup, tiny tangerine, and sauteed snow peas with garlic and Thai oyster sauce. The shelf-stable Kiku Petit Pudding cups (like a little flan or creme caramel) can be found here and here online, and in Cost Plus World Market’s retail stores in the U.S.
Morning prep time: 7 minutes, using leftover snow peas. In the morning I just made the sandwiches, reheated the snow peas in the microwave, and cut the fruit open. (Click to read the full entry with Asvel bento box review…)