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.)
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