English muffin sandwich bento lunch

Bento lunches don’t have to include rice, in fact sandwiches are a popular item in children’s bento boxes in Japan as they’re easy for little hands to hold. You can use all kinds of breads to make interesting sandwich variations: mini bagels, English muffins, croissants, dinner rolls, sandwich bread cut into shapes, cocktail bread for teeny sandwiches, biscuits, regular bread roll-ups, or even focaccia or regular bread packed in a collapsible sandwich case. What’s your favorite sandwich bread to shake things up a little?

English muffin sandwich lunch for preschooler

Contents of preschooler lunch: English muffin sandwich with herbed cream cheese on a lettuce garnish, crisp Fuyu persimmon slices, steamed broccoli, cherry tomato, hard-boiled quail egg shaped like a car, and diced mango.

Egg & rice molds for bento lunchesMorning prep time: 12 minutes, using a molded quail egg from an earlier batch (stored in cold water in the fridge). In the morning I quickly made the sandwich (not toasted, as per Bug’s request), sliced the fruits and veggies, and steamed the broccoli in my microwave mini steamer. I shaped the quail egg with the yellow quail egg mold shown on the right: shell a hard-boiled egg while hot, quickly put it into the mold and close it up, then toss into a cold water bath for 10 minutes or so for it to take on its shape. If you don’t have an egg mold, you can use common ice cream sandwich molds to shape chicken eggs. (Click on any photo for a larger view.)

Packing: The mango went into a reusable plastic food cup to keep it contained, and a plastic food divider kept the sweet persimmon away from the savory broccoli (I cut the divider to size and reuse it after washing). I’ll cop a guilty plea for unnecessary garnish: I put the muffin sandwich halves on curly leaf lettuce for color contrast. If this were my lunch I would have thrown in a pre-filled sauce container with vinaigrette, and made a mini salad out of the lettuce after I’d eaten the sandwich. That, or put the lettuce inside of the sandwich itself and let it hang out of the sides for a similar visual effect. The lunch is packed in a three-tier 495ml bento box from Daiso (US$1.50) which unfortunately is a little tricky for little kids to put back together as the lids are not interchangeable. We practiced beforehand, but his teachers had to help him put this box back together. I may mark the lids and their corresponding tier with marker or nail polish to help Bug match them up by himself (self-sufficiency, hooray!).

Verdict: Too big. Bug ate both halves of the sandwich at preschool, but totally left the rest until afterwards. In the afternoon after playing he did eat everything but the persimmon slices, which had gotten a little warm from sitting too long and had stuck together. I should have left one half of the sandwich out, and just sent him to school with two tiers instead of three. (Click for details of the second lunch with curry packed with the “rice lid” method…)

Curry rice bento lunch for preschooler

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Contents of preschooler lunch: Japanese chicken curry with rice, tangerine (a.k.a. mikan or satsuma), blueberries and raspberries. It’s tangerine season, and Bug is crazy about them (once the white stuff is picked off).

Morning prep time: 6 minutes, using leftover rice and curry. In the morning I preheated the thermal food jar with hot tap water while I microwaved the curry and rice.

Insulated bento setPacking: I peeled the tangerine and picked off the white strings to make it easier for Bug to eat quickly during lunch. I used the “rice lid” technique with the curry, covering the remainder of the curry in the thermal food jar with a layer of warm white rice after taking the photo. This kept both rice and curry warm until lunchtime, although it’s important not to overpack the food jar (which would squish the rice deep down into the curry). Lunch was packed in a 560ml insulated bento set (240ml rice jar and 160ml side dishes), minus one of the side dish containers to make it a better size meal for a three-year-old. In the empty space in the bag I packed a little Thomas the Tank Engine oshibori hand towel so that Bug could clean up after eating the fruit with his hands.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Bug ate all of the curry and rice (a favorite), and maybe a quarter of the fruit at preschool. He and his friends polished off the remainder of the fruit at the playground right after school. He did inform me that he doesn’t like the rice on top, though, and wants the rice packed separately next time.


Published by Biggie on December 4th, 2007 tagged bento, curry, eggs, poultry, rice, sandwich or wrap, thermal lunch jar, lactose free, for kids, equipment | Print (no photos) Print (no photos) | Email this post Email this post

22 Responses to “English muffin sandwich bento lunch”

  1. Brandi Says:

    This is my first time commenting, but I LOVE your blog!! I was so excited to see the link to the William-Sonoma ice cream molds for eggs-you’re brilliant! Anyway I went there straight away and lo and behold they are now on sale for $6.99 for the 3 pack! I am so excited, thanks again!!

  2. Biggie Says:

    @1 from Brandi: Ooh, great tip on the sale on ice cream sandwich molds at Williams Sonoma! Great price (and thanks for the nice words, it means a lot).

  3. The Art of Food (and Travel) | Viator Travel Blog Says:

    […] simple recipes and make myself a DIY in-flight bento box meal. Chicken or fish? No way, give me an English Muffin bento box every time! Or a spinach tamagoyaki bento box. This will revolutionize my in-flight dining […]

  4. babesmom Says:

    Agree that the bento lunch doesn’t always need rice. Usually, I’ll pack homemade sandwiches, cupcakes or muffins and cookies for son’s snack box for school.

  5. cowgrrl Says:

    Re: interesting sandwiches. While I know some places don’t allow peanut butter, my kids love tortilla roll-ups made with cinnamon sugar tortillas, spread with peanut butter & sprinkled with ground flaxseed. I live in TX & can get the cinnamon sugar tortillas at Kroger. They also make salsa tortillas which I’d love to try smeared with cream cheese & sprinkled with cheddar cheese & chicken.

  6. Kate Schultz Says:

    A more fun way to help your toddler assemble his 3-tier is to find matching stickers (Dollar Tree has tons of small, appealing ones) and put say blue stickers on the one set of box and lid that go together, yellow on the other set, green on the other. Then all Bug has to do is to stack the lidded boxes one on top of the other, which I assume is sm, med, large? if trouble w/ that, still use stickers-small, medium, large.

  7. Biggie Says:

    @4 from babesmom: I’ve been avoiding cupcakes and cookies as my son’s preschool gently asked us to avoid sweets, but muffins I’m all over. Once I go through the cornbread mini muffins in the freezer I’ll make another savory variation…

  8. Biggie Says:

    @5 from cowgrrl: Wow, cinnamon sugar tortillas?! I’ve never heard of those! I’d love to try them; do you think they’re available in Oklahoma too? We’ll be there (and Florida) in a couple of weeks visiting family.

  9. Biggie Says:

    @6 from Kate Schultz: I thought about the sticker solution, but doubted that most of our stickers would hold up in the dishwasher. Maybe the plastic kind would, though… I’ll reconsider, thanks!

  10. Laura Says:

    I just discovered your blog a few days ago and I am fascinated! I had never heard of bento before. The pictures you post of your son’s lunches make me happy - they’re so bright and cheerful and colorful and full of healthy options. I am inspired to do the same thing for myself. Thank you!

  11. VeggieGirl Says:

    another photogenic lunch! I love using the Ezekiel sprouted-grain breads/english muffins for sandwiches (which you can find, here): http://www.foodforlife.com/

  12. VeggieGirl Says:

    P.S. is that a house-shaped container that the mango is in?? too cute!! :0D

  13. cowgrrl Says:

    Re: cinnamon sugar tortillas. Kroger is not in Oklahoma & the store I visit has its own little tortilla factory so I’m not even sure they’re at all Krogers.

    If you have a tortilla recipe, you might be able to make them. The thing that’s different about these is that the cinnamon sugar is mixed in the dough. Its not sprinkled on top like cinnamon tortilla chips you get at Taco Bell.

    Sorry I’m not more help.

  14. Biggie Says:

    @10 from Laura: Welcome to the fold, and thanks for the nice comment, Laura! Please feel free to ask questions or leave comments even on old entries; I keep up with them all via the Recent Comments widget on the site.

  15. Biggie Says:

    @11 from VeggieGirl: Ah, I remember Food for Life from when we ate gluten-free for nine months (husband was misdiagnosed with celiac disease) — I got their GF bread sometimes as a backup (usually I baked my own with Bette Hagman recipes). Thanks for the link!

    That *is* a house-shaped food cup, BTW — I couldn’t resist a new set when I saw them at Daiso (uh, where else?). Glad you like it! It came in the set with the car-shaped cup that looks like a cow head when you turn it upside down.

  16. Biggie Says:

    @13 from cowgrrl: Actually, you’ve given me enough information that now I know exactly how to make them! I had pictured cinnamon sugar just coating the outside, not mixed in with the masa. Time to pull out my tortilla press and make a quick trip to La Palma Mexicatessen (my local tortilla shop that sells fresh masa).

  17. Yvo Says:

    Mmm, I love love LOVE that bento set (and now have my own in red! though I still want a blue one!) and it really does keep everything pretty hot. I must make some curry again soon. Ooh, I have chicken in the fridge right now, maybe I’ll make curry tonight! Awesome! Thanks!

  18. melmelish Says:

    first time poster - but have loved your site for a couple of months now. it is very well designed, and the lengthy descriptions are great for beginning bento makers.

    i live in sf too, and would love to know where you find quail eggs.

    also, i got a wonderful book in japantown with tons of great ideas and pictures, but it is in japanese (of course) and i am having a lot of trouble identifying a food that the author seems to use quite often. It is a pink thin flat food that can be rolled or cut into shapes. it’s almost like ham or something. i thought it was fishcake, but i can’t seem to find any that are big enough….any suggestions from biggie or anyone else out there?

    the book, by the way, may be called obentou tamatebako..or it may not..but that is on the back in english.


  19. Biggie Says:

    @17 from Yvo: It definitely is chilly enough that I want to pull out the thermal food jars and exist on stews, chili, curry and soup… Mmmm…

  20. Biggie Says:

    @18 from melmelish: Thanks for the nice comments, melmelish! In San Francisco, I can find fresh quail eggs at most Asian markets. Japanese markets like Nijiya and Mira in Japantown stock them, and of course so do the many Chinese or pan-Asian markets (New May Wah, Sunset Supermarket, Wah Lian, many hole-in-the-wall Asian markets in Chinatown, Clement Street, Irving St., etc.).

    The pink and white stuff is kamaboko (fish cake), that you can definitely find at any Japanese market and also at many Korean or pan-Asian markets locally.

  21. Yvo Says:

    Haha Biggie chilly in San Francisco is what, 40? It’s been in the mid-20s here! I did indeed make curry last night though and will be posting soon :)

  22. Biggie Says:

    @21 from Yvo: Ha ha, yup, I’ve become a weather wimp! But we’ll be going to see family starting this weekend, so I need to go buy a serious winter coat for Bug so he doesn’t freeze with ACTUAL cold weather and all. The thought of real winter is making me crave warm comfort foods…

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