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Posted on Jul 3, 2007 in Bento, For Kids, Pasta or Noodles, Phyllo or Pancake or Other, Poultry, Recipe | 13 comments

Spinach bite bento lunches

Spinach bite bento lunches


No tasty leftovers today, so I fell back on frozen food. Having a small stash of bento-friendly frozen food items can really save you on crazy mornings when the refrigerator’s not helping you out with lovely fresh food. I look at the freezer as my emergency backup system, and it came in handy today.

Spinach bite lunch

Contents: Spinach and artichoke cheese bites (Veggie Patch brand, info here) with chipotle cream dipping sauce (recipe below), chicken and apple sausage (excellent, Aidells brand), cherry tomatoes, orange slices, and kiwi.

Morning prep time: 10 minutes plus cooling time for the spinach bites and sausage, during which time I was able to totally pack the remaining items in the two lunches. I could have put this together in 3 minutes had I microwaved the spinach bites, but the texture suffers that way. I cut a chicken and mango sausages into rounds, nuked quickly for best food safety, and cooled it in a mini strainer and bowl.

Packing: Juicy kiwi went into a silicone-coated cup to keep any liquid away from the crispy spinach bites, and the little number pick did double duty for both sausage rounds and kiwi. I put the dipping sauce into my widest-mouth rectangular sauce container as our other containers are too small for comfortably dipping the large spinach bites. Packed in my 500ml Leaflet box. This was a little small for an adult woman according to the bento box size guidelines, so I picked up a freshly made onigiri after Japanese playgroup to accompany it.

Ingredient: My friend Monique recently started packing bentos for her son and recommended the Spinach and Artichoke Cheese Bites from Veggie Patch. Bug tried one of hers and liked it, so when I saw them at Costco I picked some up (evidently they’re widely available in regular supermarkets in the natural food refrigerated section). They’re not bad; if Bug were pickier about eating vegetables this would be an easy way to get some spinach into him. You can either bake them in the oven or toaster oven, microwave them, deep fry or pan fry them — I liked putting them in the oven to crisp up the outside without adding fat. Verdict: Pretty good when crisped, unexciting when microwaved. I may keep some around in the deep freeze for days when I don’t have good vegetable leftovers or fresh veggies around that lend themselves to quick morning prep.

Spinach bite lunch for preschooler

Click for preschooler lunch details and chipotle cream recipe…

Spinach bite lunch for preschooler

Contents: Spinach and artichoke bites with chipotle cream dipping sauce, chicken and mozzarella ravioli with tomato-based sauce, and kiwi.

Morning prep time: 10 minutes plus cooling time for the spinach bites. I’d prepacked the three leftover ravioli from dinner the night before, so all that was necessary in the morning was to crisp up the spinach bites, cut the kiwi, and whip up some dipping sauce (recipe below).

Packing: I cut up the ravioli into bite-sized pieces for easy preschooler eating, and included a tiny pick that did double duty for both ravioli and kiwi. I find that some of our smaller, cuter sauce containers are a little too small to dip something large like the spinach bite into, so I used little wide-mouth disposable Solo cups with lids that you can often find in bulk at restaurant supply stores like Smart & Final (I got a small pack of these at Daiso, not surprisingly). I also used this kind of container to make little juice jello fruit cups before; after lunch you can either throw away the cups or wash and reuse, depending upon your dedication to waste-free lunches. (I’m in the wash and reuse camp, but that might just be because I’m cheap and these were the perfect size.)

Chipotle Cream Dipping Sauce
(adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

(excellent with crab cakes, fried catfish, even on tamales)

  • 1/8 cup yogurt
  • 1/8 cup sour cream (or crema)
  • 3/4 tsp lime juice
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle pepper powder or 1 tsp finely chopped chipotle en adobo, drained

Combine all ingredients and ideally allow to sit for at least an hour before eating to allow the flavors to come together.

Disclaimer: I have no commercial affiliations with any of the stores or brands mentioned in this post.



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  1. Ahhhhhhh biggie you always have the most delicious sauces. I am going to have to try to make this dipping sauce now, plus I am going to Rainbow market later this week, so since I don’t have the chipotle pepper powder - I can get a tablespoon there for cheap! sounds GREAT!

  2. Biggie

    What a wonderful lunch!

    Thank you for all of your wonderful advice on this site.
    It was so much fun taking your list of Bento suppliers and having a quest throughout San Francisco! If you update your list, I recommend adding the Smart and Final stores. You talk about them in some of your posts, so I went to the one in downtown Oakland, and OH!MY! There were so many things to look at! So many little cups and containers.

    Can you recommend a specific location to find the reusable cups? Is Daiso a required stop for that?

    My 14 yo dd is printing off recipes to try during the rest of the summer. She is so excited about her new Hello Kitty bento box that she might be inspired to cook.

    Thank you again.


  3. Yum! I love veggie bites! I usually get the Morningstar kind. Who cares if packing them in a bento is “cheating?” Delicious food is delicious food, I think. Yup. ^^

  4. @1 from Summers Love:
    The sauce is also excellent with some chopped cilantro (coriander leaves) mixed in, but for dipping from a little container I like it better without.

  5. @2 from marycelery:
    That was quite something running into you and your family today in Japantown! Daiso is the only local place I know of for reusable food cups in colors (as opposed to the Solo-type cups) — it’s worth the trip if you can find the time. Interesting on Smart & Final for containers; I’ll have to revisit it and scope out their inventory. Thanks for the note, and my best to your whole family!

  6. @3 from Kopiikat:
    What do you think of the Morningstar veggie bites? Have you tried multiple brands? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts…

  7. To be honest, I’ve only really had the Morningstar brand, and I’ve mostly bought the broccoli cheese type. They were so good that I never bothered to buy the others. I think I might have tried the artichoke ones once…

    I’m not sure why I like them so much… Their bread crumbs are subtly sweet, and when you put them in the oven/toaster oven, it smells a little bit like you’re baking spiced cookies. Plus, my boyfriend is a “vegetarian,” and it’s good to find non-pizza, easy-to-make, hot snacks for him.

  8. We’re big fans of those chicken/apple sausages, too! That company just started making burgers, too, and I just bought a pack of their chicken, portabello and onion patties (Costco!): YUM!

    Thanks for the info about the spinach bites..I’ve seen those and been intrigued.

  9. @8 from Katherine:
    I love that Costco stocks the Aidells products in bulk — makes them much more affordable than buying at the supermarket. I also like their teriyaki pineapple chicken meatballs — delicious! I haven’t tried their chicken/portabello/onion patties yet; I’ll pick some up next Costco trip! Thanks for the tip!

  10. You call it nuked too.. Kelly-Jane, a fellow blogger picked up on me mentioning this. We’ve said it for years but I don’t remember where it came from. Do you? Could it have been Friends, or some other sitcom, or a foodie programme?? It’s this sort of thing that wakes me up in the night… That and world peace of course!

  11. @10 from Amanda @ Little Foodies:
    You know, we always said “nuked” in our house to refer to microwaving; I’m not sure where it originated. If you figure it out, let us know — I’d be interested!

  12. Your pictures and recipes are so exciting! I’d never heard of bento before, but I’ll be telling all my friends to log on to ‘Lunch in a Box’. Looking forward to re-visiting soon - I have to go and get some housework done!
    All the best,

  13. @12 from Eileen:
    Thanks for the kind comment Eileen, and welcome to the fold! ;-) I hear you on housework — I was out all day today and am trying to catch up on laundry and blogging while everyone’s asleep…