Archive for July, 2008
Today is a big milestone day for this blog: One million visitors and three million page views since Lunch in a Box started here at its own domain thirteen months ago, in June 2007 (source: SiteMeter)! Now that’s nowhere near the size of food blog giants like Simply Recipes or 101 Cookbooks, but I’m content with my first blogging foray. A big thanks to everyone for tuning in and sticking around as I worked out the technical kinks over the last year. Bento lunches are becoming more popular and mainstream; it’s an exciting time to be blogging about them. To commemorate my 1,000,000-visitor mark, I’ve created a page for community announcements of packed lunch blog events & contests. Details below.
2. Bento contest and blogging events
For all of you who take photos of your lunches and put them up somewhere on the web, I’ve put together a Lunch Blog Event page where I’ll link to current contests and blogging events specifically focused on packed lunches. Think of it as a miniature version of Is My Blog Burning focused solely on packed lunch events. If you run a contest or blogging event for packed lunches of any kind (bento box, Laptop Lunchbox, thermal lunch jar, Tupperware, brown bag, etc.), let me know via e-mail at lunchinabox (AT) gmail (DOT} com and I’ll update the page. Regular lunch-packers can check this page to stay up to date with the latest lunch blogging events.
We’ve got one new bento contest in addition to the ongoing Wholesome Lunchbox event over at Coffee & Vanilla. To commemorate her 100th bento lunch, “Bento Pet” of On a Bento Frenzy is holding a contest for “regular people packing regular bentos” (not kyaraben food art), and she’s put together a nice stash of bento gear as a prize. The entry deadline is July 29, 2008; check out the contest and prize details for your chance to win free bento supplies. (I’m also attending the BlogHer ‘08 blogging conference in San Francisco this weekend, and attending a restaurant meet-up of food bloggers on Sunday.)
Published by Biggie on July 14th, 2008 tagged admin | 24 Comments »
I popped into the large Kamei kitchenware store in San Francisco yesterday, and was surprised to see about a hundred small Hakoya-brand bento boxes cheaply priced at $10.50 regardless of size or design! The store tells me that they just got them in this week, and plan to keep them in stock. They’re not with the rest of the bento boxes in the left-hand section of the store, but are in a middle aisle of the store’s right-hand section by the sushi molds and juubako multiple-person serving boxes.
Made by Japanese company Tatsumiya Shikki Co., Ltd., Hakoya-brand bento boxes, chopsticks, and kinchaku lunch bags are of high quality and available in traditional Japanese designs. This marks an expansion of Kamei’s bento box selection, which up to now has leaned towards the utilitarian and plain (many Lock & Lock, GlassLock, Chinese off-brands, and the occasional Asvel man’s bento box). (Read on for details and more photos of Kamei’s Hakoya bento box selection.)
Published by Biggie on July 9th, 2008 tagged Containers, SF Bay Area local, bento, equipment, shopping | 48 Comments »
I usually wind up packing my son’s lunch in the morning, but if I really had my act together I’d pack more lunches the night before when we’re cleaning up from dinner. Leftovers feature prominently in our lunches anyway, so evening packing would just be getting a leg up on the next day. But what I CAN manage is partial packing: where I throw one or two elements into a box for the next day, then finish up the rest in the morning.
Some foods do better without an overnight stay in the refrigerator, though. The texture of rice particularly suffers in the refrigerator, and needs reheating before packing to make it soft and warm again. If you have a cool rice cooker with a timer, though, you can set it to have freshly cooked rice ready in the morning.
Contents of preschooler bento lunch & snack: Roast chicken drumstick, baby carrots, cherry, kiwifruit, blueberries, and mild curried mushrooms (khombi tarkari).
Cooking: For dinner this weekend I tried out a mushroom recipe from Moghul Microwave, Julie Sahni’s cookbook of convenient Indian food. I didn’t need to tone down the spiciness for my three-year-old as I used a mild Madras curry powder for flavor. It didn’t thicken sufficiently with the amount of cornstarch called for, though, so I wound up doubling that. I don’t think I actually saved much time by making this in the microwave oven as opposed to the stovetop, but it was a warm afternoon when I was cooking and it was nice not to heat up the kitchen in the summer.
Morning prep time: 6 minutes, using leftover rotisserie chicken and curried mushrooms. The night before, I put the drumstick in the box when cleaning up from dinner. In the morning I peeled and cut the kiwi, and plated the mushrooms. To speed up my morning even more I could have assembled the entire lunch the night before and kept it in the fridge overnight — no rice to get hard and unappetizing in the cold. The kiwi is a little nicer when sliced fresh, though. (Read on for packing details and a Singaporean skate wing lunch.)
Published by Biggie on July 8th, 2008 tagged bento, curry, fish or seafood, food jar, for kids, glutenfree, lactose free, poultry, recipe, rice | 21 Comments »
At first glance this may not seem like a particularly interesting lunch, but I’ve actually taken a couple of new approaches to packing that can be applied to other dishes. Double-decker heating of multiple dishes in the microwave oven saves time and energy, and I created a do-it-yourself thermal donburi bento box for a child out of an adult-sized thermal lunch jar.
Morning prep time: 6 minutes, using leftover curry and rice. In the morning I microwaved the rice and curry in microwave-safe ceramic bowls while preheating the outer thermal food jar with hot tap water. Preheating the outer thermal jar helps the container retain heat longer, keeping your food nice and warm.
Gear: Although microwave ovens are usually a pretty good size on the inside, the limiting factor on how much food I can warm at once is usually the diameter of the round glass carousel on the bottom. It makes sense to take advantage of the oven’s vertical space to warm multiple dishes at once, though, reducing the time the microwave is running and saving money on electricity.
I’ve found a few different stands and plate covers that let you stack plates and bowls on top of each other in the microwave or refrigerator. I keep them next to the microwave and reach for them every day — the covers are faster than reaching for plastic wrap when nuking even a single plate of food, and the plastic doesn’t touch the food directly. An added benefit is that they’re reusable and reduce kitchen waste. I happened to pick them all up at at the Daiso discount store in Daly City, CA (branches internationally) because at US$1.50 they’re cheap there, but you can also find these sorts of microwave plate covers on Amazon in different designs. (Read on for more microwave covers and lunch packing details.)
Published by Biggie on July 5th, 2008 tagged bento, curry, equipment, for kids, lactose free, poultry, rice, thermal lunch jar, tips | 16 Comments »
There aren’t that many English-language bento cookbooks out there, so when I saw that The Manga Cookbook (available now) was going to be sold bundled with an Urara bento box set in September 2008 I was curious. Was it a cookbook with bento how-to tips and recipes, or a straightforward Japanese cookbook in manga style? As with my review of the coffee table book Face Food, what’s important here is for people buying this book to know what it is and what is not.
In Japan, as in France, comics aren’t just for kids: There are interesting and popular comics (manga) for adults, and even product manuals for complex consumer electronics often feature playful drawings and cartoon characters to illustrate directions in a fun manner. As a result, it’s not immediately clear that The Manga Cookbook is intended to be a cookbook for children, not adults. In fact, I too had assumed it was for adults until the book’s editor e-mailed me describing it as a book for kids, which put it into context. (Read on for the full review.)