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Posted on Apr 27, 2007 in Bento, Eggs, For Kids, Freezing, Pasta or Noodles, Poultry, Tips, Tutorial or How-to | 12 comments

Pasta salad lunches & frozen fruit cocktail

Pasta salad lunches & frozen fruit cocktail


Morning prep time: 5 minutes. This was all leftovers, nothing made just for this meal. We had leftover Greek chicken pasta salad from Costco that I had doctored (adding tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce), leftover peas and egg scramble, chicken salad, and an egg roll from a nearby dim sum takeout place. Tiny tomatoes and a wrapped cheese act as gap fillers to stabilize the lunch for transport.

It was the day of tiny Tupperware, though. I’ve used these tiny containers in lunches before to include mini-portions of leftover curry, but they can also be used to contain loose dishes that would roll all over the lunch (like the egg/peas), pack moist foods, or freeze individual servings of canned fruit (see below).

Pasta salad lunch

My lunch (above) also added a little container of frozen Thai fruit cocktail with pineapple, papaya, guava and nata de coco (Butterfly brand) for a variation on regular fruit cocktail. Frozen in tiny plastic containers as a waste-free alternative to packaged fruit cocktail cups, this also acted as a freezy pack to keep the other two lunches cool and safe. A tip for successful freezing: don’t add much liquid to the fruit, as 1) overfilling will crack your plastic containers when the liquid freezes and expands, and 2) the liquid may leak out if the seal on your container is not 100% secure. A 20-ounce can yielded about seven little frozen servings that can be thrown into a lunch on busy mornings.

Frozen fruit cocktail for packed lunches


Bug’s lunch is the same except for the omission of the eggs (not enough for two people. This was a little large for him (580ml box); he wound up leaving about half of the pasta salad.

Pasta salad lunch for toddler



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  1. After reading your blog for a few weeks, I have to comment on two things 1) you eat extremely well. I’m insanely jealous of the variety and quality of what you eat every day 2)You are blessed with a child that eats WAY more than any other toddler I’ve ever known. I hope I am lucky enough to have foodie babies.


  2. i have always been weary of pasta salads because they seem to lose the “just cook” bite to them. At what point do you stop cooking them and make it into the salad? Does the type of pasta matter?
    great lunch!

  3. Love the frozen fruit cocktail idea. I usually pack just a small amount of fruit cocktail but it never occurred to me to freeze the rest. I usually just rush to finish the rest before they go bad. Freezing takes the pressure off me to rush :D

    Is Bug’s fruit cocktail frozen though too? Cause I usually slip some in mini-cups to fill up my box and I’m worried that freezing it will wreak havoc on the rest of my box’s contents.

  4. Thanks PJ! I agree on Bug’s diet — I really am very fortunate in that regard (and I know it!). I don’t have enough hubris to think that it’s thanks to me or anything, I’m just thankful and hope it doesn’t change significantly. I try not to act too happy or unhappy (or surprised) at whatever he eats or won’t eat, and just give him whatever we’re eating. Knock on wood!

  5. Oh, forgot to mention — Bug’s fruit cocktail is NOT frozen. I’ve been taken a frozen container out and throwing it into the fridge to have one on hand for noshing on at home. Convenient!

  6. What an awesome idea to freeze the fruit salad. I’ve been contemplating buying canned fruit mixes for exactely bento use, but so far I’ve been left with the “oh but it’s not fun with the same dessert several days in a row” - it was “bad” enough with the can of pineapple I used for three days before it was finally used up (and probably the kid was sick and tired of pineapple by then)

    So.. won’t it get totally mushy when it thaws? And is there some kinds of fruit you should avoid? I’d think something like canned peaches would go weird when they thaw, but I hope I’m mistaken :o)

    It’s also a great idea to use it as a cool pack. Saves carrying home a thawed icepack.

  7. I didn’t have a problem with any of the fruit in the fruit cocktail getting mushy when it thawed. I think the heating/cooking process in canning makes any of the canned fruit suitable for freezing — correct me if anyone has had different experiences. I used another of the frozen fruit cocktail packs yesterday as a freezy pack when we went out, and wrapped it together with the bento in an insulated bento wrapping sheet — worked beautifully.

  8. I haven’t researched this — the pasta salad above is just store-bought deli pasta salad that I doctored up. I’ve also been cooking my pasta beyond al dente lately because it’s easier for Bug to eat that way, so perhaps someone else can chime in on preserving the al dente texture. I do find that packing along a separate container of dressing on the side, and dressing the salad just prior to eating it dramatically improves the taste/texture, though (toss the cooked noodles with some olive oil prior to packing to keep them from sticking together).

  9. kohaku and biggie -

    That’s a great question. I’ll try to answer based on my experience. You can use any type of pasta in a salad, but its shape, ingredients (for filled pastas and colored), state (dry/fresh), and the amount of liquids (oils, fruit juices, vinegars, that from other ingredients) you plan to add dictate cooking times. Another factor is how long the pasta salad will stand before it is eaten. Knowing what the optimal times are can take some experimentation. Generally speaking, you’ll want to take the pasta off the fire well before it tastes cooked and plunge it in cold water. It will continue to cook well after it is taken off the fire unless you shock it. Coat it lightly with the oil you intend to use to keep the pasta separated or else use a flavor-less oil

    Tried and tested shapes: penne rigate, mini-penne, bowtie, orichette (yum!), couscous (disclaimer: i love the BIG couscous some delis serve, but can’t seem to find it!), gemelli, soba of various flavors, Annie Chun’s noodles (i mention these by name because they are a good product, but i wish they had a buckwheat flavor!), tortellini, half moons (can’t find these anywhere these days) and … others. A disclaimer: I am not a fan of macaroni salad or putting mayo in pasta salad. Yeesh! You go there on your own.

    Half the fun of this is trying and seeing what works and what doesn’t. Play with leftovers. In the summer I make huge batches of bean and pasta salads. A lot of what I do is based on past experiments and knowledge gained from that. Remember: you will have to eat your experiments!


  10. Thanks for the well-considered, thorough reply, ldp! Very helpful.

  11. You are more than welcome! I’m happy to share what I do know, especially since you dispense such useful information.

    One issue I didn’t address is how much of a flavor sponge pasta and rice seem to be regardless of whether you are using them as a salad base, that is, with oil and vinegar. I tried a new grain/pasta mix this weekend, for example. It was intended as a main dish because of the hearty mix of lentils, chickpeas, Israeli couscous, and red quinoa as well as orzo. I kept tasting after adding seasonings (salt, pepper, dried basil) and thought the balance was good. When I arrived at work with my lunch … no flavor! But the texture was really intersting. I’ve plans to try this later in the week with julienned (chiffonade, really) fresh spinach added.

    I’m interested in reading others’ ideas/experiments.


  12. I’m relatively new to the whole bento scene, but your website is such a great resource! Thank you so much! I love the idea of freezing the fruit salad - where did you get those adorable mini yellow tupperware containers? Cute and totally useful!