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Freezer stash bento lunches
Posted By Biggie On June 5, 2008 @ 10:52 am In bento, for kids, meat, phyllo or pancake or other, vegetarian | 21 Comments
I’m really pleased with how everyone has been adding local stores to the new worldwide  Bento Store Locator (BSL) with Google Maps — thank you! The database has almost doubled in size since its launch on Monday. It’s turning into a helpful tool, but it’s only as good as the information that we all put into it. So please check it out and leave your feedback by adding new stores, commenting on existing stores about what sort of bento gear they stock, places that might have closed down or no longer carry bento boxes and accessories, etc.
Please use the search box to check your area, not just the map’s zoom function (the  BSL only displays the stores nearest to the location in the search box). See the  posting guidelines and a detailed Locator description; check to see if your favorite store is already there before adding as we’re starting to get duplicates (that I delete). Next week I’m expecting an influx of visitors to the site who are new to bento lunches, and am hoping the  Bento Store Locator will be complete enough to help them find local sources for bento gear quickly and easily. More news on Monday, stay tuned!
 Contents of preschooler lunch: Mini burger patties made from meatloaf mix, roasted asparagus and a lemon wedge, cherry tomato, mini pudding cup (shelf-stable Kiku Petit Pudding, found  here online and at Cost Plus World Market’s retail stores in the U.S.), home fries with garlic and rosemary, ketchup for dipping, and blueberries. (Click any photo for a larger view.)
Morning prep time: 7 minutes, using leftovers and little burger patties I’d previously made, fried up and frozen (then stored in my  freezer basket of bento food for easy access). In the morning I filled a lidded sauce cup with ketchup for the burgers and fries, cut the tips off of the asparagus (my preschooler’s not a fan), and arranged the rest.
 Speed tip: Building up a freezer stash with individual portions of different foods can save you on busy mornings. Make a little extra when you’re cooking dinner, portion it out in baking cups or freezer bags, and pop it into the freezer. Think of it as a pain-free time investment for fast lunches. My  freezer basket for packed lunches currently holds rice &  onigiri rice balls,  waffles,  edible ice packs,  unsauced pasta,  ground pork subdivided into usable portions,  inarizushi stuffed sushi,  ginger,  green onions in plastic drink bottles, and  chopped herbs. Remember to  cycle through freezer items quickly to avoid freezer burn, and figure out a way to keep track of what you’ve got in your freezer (such as  homemade magnets, a whiteboard, paper lists, etc.). See the  Top Speed Tips page for more ideas.
  Packing: I used  new food picks from Ichiban Kan to turn the cherry tomato into a balloon, tucked a little plastic ice cream tasting spoon into the side for the mini pudding cup, and put the little burgers into a little plastic bucket for fun. There really was no reason for the plastic bucket from a flavor mingling standpoint, though; I could have packed the burger patties right into the box as is. The home fries went into a reusable  silicone baking cup (a great way to contain small amounts of messy food without resorting to disposable containers), and ketchup went into a lidded sauce container for easy dipping (available at Daiso or  Ichiban Kan discount stores). The lemon slice and blueberries act as  gap fillers to stabilize the lunch for transport. The lunch is packed in a  350ml Power Rangers bento box with subcontainers removed to fit the long asparagus. A 350ml box is just about the right size for my three-and-a-half year old, according to the  bento box size guidelines.
Verdict: So-so. Bug gave the little hamburger patties a thumbs down, which was not that surprising as I wound up overcooking them. Surprisingly, he left the pudding cup until after school, eating it as a snack at the park.
* * * * *
Contents of preschooler lunch: Spinach and cheese spanakopita, cherries, broiled asparagus with lemon, and grapes. It’s very simple lunch using frozen phyllo spinach pies ( Costco’s spanakopita, reviewed here), an easy way to add variety to a meal. (See also my earlier post on  using world appetizers in bento lunches, and a  full list of products I’ve reviewed)
Morning prep time: 16 minutes, mostly inactive prep time waiting for the frozen spanakopita to cook in my  convection toaster oven and cool. The asparagus was leftover from dinner, so in the morning I just toasted the spanakopita and cut up the asparagus. I cooled the spanakopita on my mini cooling rack from Daiso, but I realized that  toaster oven baking pans (found at stores like  Amazon, Target or Bed Bath & Beyond) are only slightly larger and can be used for the same thing. Win-win!
 Packing: Letting the phyllo pies cool before packing them was important to keep them from going soggy once I closed up the box. I used a reusable hard plastic food cup from Daiso to keep the moist asparagus away from the crispy spanakopita (Daiso is a Japanese discount store with  branches internationally; see the  San Francisco Bay Area shopping guide for bento gear or the  Bento Store Locator for sources near you). The lunch was packed in my three-year-old’s favorite  360ml Disney Cars bento box with both subcontainers removed to accommodate the long spanakopita.
Verdict: Big thumbs up. Bug ate everything at preschool, no leftovers.
Article printed from Lunch in a Box: Building a Better Bento: http://lunchinabox.net
URL to article: http://lunchinabox.net/2008/06/05/freezer-stash-bento-lunches/
URLs in this post:
 Bento Store Locator: http://lunchinabox.net/bento-store-locator/
 posting guidelines and a detailed Locator description: http://lunchinabox.net/2008/06/02/new-bento-store-locator-with-google-maps/
 Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lunchinabox/2551767598/
 here: http://www.pacificeastwest.com/4901358013017.html
 freezer basket of bento food: http://lunchinabox.net/2008/04/25/save-time-energy-with-bento-baskets-for-the-freezer/
 onigiri rice balls: http://lunchinabox.net/2007/02/15/speed-bento-technique-making-freezing-yaki-onigiri-onigiri/
 waffles: http://lunchinabox.net/2007/12/12/frozen-waffle-bento-lunch/
 edible ice packs: http://lunchinabox.net/2007/07/31/edible-ice-packs/
 unsauced pasta: http://lunchinabox.net/2007/07/12/freezing-unsauced-pasta/
 ground pork subdivided into usable portions: http://lunchinabox.net/2008/04/11/speed-tip-make-individual-portions-in-freezer-bags/
 inarizushi stuffed sushi: http://lunchinabox.net/2007/10/04/making-lunch-for-the-first-day-of-preschool/
 ginger: http://lunchinabox.net/2007/05/04/speed-technique-freezing-ginger/
 green onions in plastic drink bottles: http://lunchinabox.net/2008/02/03/freeze-green-onions-in-plastic-drink-bottles/
 chopped herbs: http://lunchinabox.net/2007/03/19/speed-bento-technique-freezing-chopped-herbs/
 cycle through freezer items quickly: http://lunchinabox.net/2007/03/09/speed-bento-tip-cycle-through-freezer-items-quickly/
 homemade magnets: http://lunchinabox.net/2007/04/03/magnets-to-track-freezer-inventory/
 Top Speed Tips: http://lunchinabox.net/top-tips/
 Read on for packing details, my son’s verdict, and a prettier lunch with spanakopita.: http://lunchinabox.net/2008/06/05/freezer-stash-bento-lunches/#more-426
 Image: http://lunchinabox.net/2008/01/22/bento-gear-care-and-maintenance/
 Image: http://lunchinabox.net/2008/05/06/childrens-day-bento-lunch/
 silicone baking cup: http://lunchinabox.net/2007/09/08/silicone-baking-cups-salmon-box-lunches/
 Ichiban Kan: http://lunchinabox.net/2008/04/09/ichiban-kan-online-store-accepting-orders/
 gap fillers to stabilize the lunch: http://lunchinabox.net/2007/06/11/guide-to-bento-packing-and-gap-fillers/
 350ml Power Rangers bento box: http://lunchinabox.net/2007/08/18/lox-and-cheese-mini-bagel-sandwiches/
 bento box size guidelines: http://lunchinabox.net/2007/03/07/guide-to-choosing-the-right-size-bento-box/
 Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lunchinabox/2551767660/
 Costco’s spanakopita, reviewed here: http://lunchinabox.net/2007/10/24/spanakopita-lunches/
 using world appetizers in bento lunches: http://lunchinabox.net/2008/02/13/brazilian-salgadinhos-bento-lunch/
 full list of products I’ve reviewed: http://lunchinabox.net/top-tips/reviews/
 convection toaster oven: http://lunchinabox.net/2008/01/26/bento-love-for-convection-toaster-ovens/
 toaster oven baking pans: http://www.amazon.com/gp/search?ie=UTF8&keywords=toaster%20oven%20baking%20pan&tag=luinabo-2
 Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lunchinabox/353163297/
 branches internationally: http://www.daiso-sangyo.co.jp/english/storeinfo/index.html
 San Francisco Bay Area shopping guide for bento gear: http://lunchinabox.net/2007/04/09/award-nomination-sf-bay-area-shopping-guide/
 360ml Disney Cars bento box: http://lunchinabox.net/2007/10/10/carnitas-lunch-in-disney-cars-gear/
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