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Posted on Apr 20, 2007 in Bento, Fish or Seafood, For Kids, Meat, Onigiri or Sushi, Sandwich Case, Sandwich or Wrap, Tips | 19 comments

Stromboli lunches and travel food

Stromboli lunches and travel food


Bug and I returned safely from our trip to Philadelphia last night. On our trip, we brought along a couple of small bento boxes, a collapsible sandwich case, and a couple of sauce containers so that we could have freedom on the road instead of needing to break to find a restaurant mid-day. This turned out to be a good approach, as the boxes neatly held our lunches on the plane going out (no purchasing nasty airline “snack boxes”), restaurant dinner leftovers for the following days (held overnight in our hotel room mini fridge), cheesesteak sandwiches, and fruit and hoagies (Philly submarine sandwiches) from Wawa for the plane trip back.

Morning prep time: 3 minutes. While hoagies and cheesesteak sandwiches are pretty well known Philadelphia food, I rediscovered strombolis this trip. Essentially a stuffed pizza, a stromboli is like a loaf-shaped calzone that is supposed to have originated in the Philadelphia area in 1950. There are many variations, from the no-sauce classic Italian (with meats and mozzarella), to sauced strombolis like meatball, steak, chicken steak, pizza, etc. They’re also wonderful eaten at room temperature, making them tasty lunchbox food. Here it’s paired with a sliced nectarine, grapes and cherry tomatoes (plus leftover marinara sauce in a container for Bug to dip his sandwich into).

Stromboli lunch Italian stromboli

The Italian stromboli below is from Pinocchio’s in Media, with ham, cappicola, salami, pepperoni, cheese and green peppers. Evidently the strombolis from Pinocchio’s are an interesting variation because of the green peppers, as opposed to straight meat and cheese. I used to eat at Pinocchio’s when I was a little girl, so this was a fun trip down memory lane.

Italian stromboli

Stromboli lunch for toddler

Bug’s lunch is the same — two layers of stromboli with grapes and marinara sauce in a pig container.

Morning prep time: 5 minutes. I brought the following lunches along for our plane ride to Philly. My collapsible sandwich case was great because after I ate I was able to fold it up flat. Here it holds a tuna salad sandwich with cheese and dandelion greens on a ciabatta roll, two wrapped cheesees, and sugar peas and cherry tomatoes with ranch dressing for dipping. I was able to put this together in about 5 minutes because the tuna salad was leftover from making tuna/mayo onigiri for the Bug’s playgroup at our house the day before. I just added some cheese and pickles to the tuna salad, assembled the sandwich, filled the sauce container with dressing, and plugged the gap with veggies, cheese and the sauce container.

A tip when making sandwiches on rolls: use your fingers to tear out some of the soft bread inside of the roll, which creates a convenient space for messy fillings that would otherwise fall out. This technique kept the tuna salad nicely contained in the sandwich, instead of all over the airplane table.

Speedy sandwich lunch for airplane

Morning prep time: 3 minutes. Bug and I split the two airplane bentos, so this is the remainer of our lunch: chicken and apple mini sausages from Aidells, grapes and blackberries. The pig container holds ketchup for the sausages (Bug’s favorite lunch pasttime is dipping). This was a fast bento as I just threw the slit sausages into the microwave to heat through for optimum food safety (heat even pre-cooked processed meats to kill any bacteria).

Speedy airplane lunch for toddler




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  1. welcome back! Those are beautiful lunches you have there. I hit up Kamei Restaurant & Supply this afternoon from your Bento shopping guide, but there wasnt a whole lot there. I did find some beautiful clear yellow and lavendar picks for bentos though and some rice seasoning and pudding cups at the market down the street.

  2. Friended your blog several weeks ago, and thoroughly enjoy your posts. The meals look very nutritious, and have such eye-appeal!

    Are traditional bento meals unrefrigerated? I’ve read about using anti-bacterial liners, etc, is this in lieu of refrigeration?

  3. okaeri nasai! really missed your blog… now my “before go to bed ritual” is back : )
    Good idea to bring bento on flight. Last week my husband’s flight back from NYC was delayed three hours, and UA didn’t prepare dinner for poor frustrated passengers, so they just gave away nuts and drinks! Plus, bento is so much nicer than yucky lunch package they sell on flight…

  4. Hm, how big are the airplane bentos and do they fit into the liquid/food container bags? I’m going to be flying (across borders in Europe) a lot in the next 3 weeks and bringing a bento sounds interesting…

  5. Ooh, you went to New May Wah Supermarket, right? I LOVE that place!!! Excellent prices, good pan-Asian selection, very fresh fish and seafood, good produce. If I can find Japanese ingredients there, I’ll always buy them there instead of at the more expensive Japanese markets. How do you like that matcha pudding?

    Too bad about the bento selection at Kamei. They’ve got a lot in the way of thermal food jars and an excellent selection of kitchen/cooking equipment.

  6. Arigatou! It’s good to be back. I really enjoyed the independence the plane bentos gave us — I like to do this on all of my flights now (especially with a little one in tow). Another benefit of travel: because I wasn’t blogging every day I had more time to step back and really read a Japanese speed bento cookbook I took along — I’m brimming with new ideas!

  7. Yessss, New May Wah, it was amazing that place! I LOVE it, they have so manyyyyyy snacks and seasonings and everything you could ever want!!! I will definitely go back there. The matcha pudding is OK, I couldn’t see it in the package before I brought it, it was in a solid colored bag that hid the pudding. I had this idea in my head that the pudding would be light green and very beautiful, but instead it was almost olive green and brown and sort of unappetizing looking. However, when I ate one, I was surprised. I love the regular pudding cups a lot better though, but the matcha will be fun for bentos for a change.

  8. Thanks for the kind words, spocks_girl!

    Yes, historically bento meals were unrefrigerated — thus the use of packing methods and ingredients to stave off bacterial growth (salt, vinegar, umeboshi, wasabi, shiso, etc.). Now there seems to be a new trend in Japan toward better food safety for bentos (using insulated lunch bags with freezy packs, etc.). Forgive me if you’ve already read it, but you might want to check out the lengthy post I wrote about traditional vs. new methods of food safety for packed lunches. I found the info on foods with antibacterial properties to be particularly intriguing.

  9. I was wondering how you and your food dealt with TSA. At least any given bento sauce bottle is far less than 3oz/100ml.

    Last flight I took, they wouldn’t let us through security because my quasi-sister was carrying a cafecito that she’d purchased less than 10 feet away from the TSA agent who stopped us.

  10. That is a super idea! have not made that is a while and the leftovers will make a great packed lunch for the next day! Thanks for the idea.

  11. Biggie, sorry the Love the idea was my comment.


  12. Thanks tvj! Maybe you can use some of the speed bento ideas to throw one together quickly…

  13. Thanks Meeta!

  14. Yeah, no problem with TSA, although I find it’s really hit or miss depending upon the airport. Some places they want to open up my bento and look at it, other places they don’t care at all. All places give me a free pass on large quantities of juice when I travel with my two-year-old, though (written into the rules).

  15. I’m sure you’ve mentioned it before, but which sausages are those?

  16. Chicken and apple mini sausages from Aidells — my favorite of all the mini sausages I’ve tried so far. No gluten or MSG, short/natural ingredient list. Aidells has a guide on where to buy in the US here:

  17. Yay! There’s a store in my city that sells the brand! Thanks, love =)

  18. Biggie, I’ve been following you and your website for some time as my preschool aged son doesn’t eat sandwiches (oy!). I’ve learned so much from your website and you’ve really helped me pack some AWESOME lunches for my child. And some damn good dinners for the whole family too.

    But today, from this post, I learned that you grew up going to Pinocchios. Which means we grew up very close to each other ( I went to Media Friends School in Elementary School and to Marple Newtown for secondary and grew up in Broomall).

    This made me laugh - its such a small, small world.

  19. @21 from Beth Fleisher: You’re right, it IS a small world! I started elementary school at Media Elementary School (I think — have to check with my parents), moved away to Colorado partway through, then moved back to the area and finished high school at Strath Haven. My grandfather went to Swarthmore College WAY back in the day (1920′s), and my cousins went to Friends (H.S.) nearby.