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Posted on Apr 24, 2008 in Bento, Gluten Free, Lactose Free, Meat | 25 comments

Lamb & spaghetti squash bento dinners

Lamb & spaghetti squash bento dinners


It’s been a really topsy turvy month around here! First the website was hacked (boo), then my bulk freezing tip went viral with write-ups all over (yay!). In the latest of the ups and downs, on Tuesday my computer bag was stolen from behind a store counter where I had checked it as per store policy. Mercifully, my computer wasn’t inside, but my checkbook and digital camera were (along with photos of lunches from the past few days). Filing police reports and doing paperwork is a pain, but upon reflection it could have been so much worse — I had my wallet, phone and car keys on me so Bug and I were able to drive home afterwards with minimal inconvenience. We dodged a bullet! I picked up a replacement camera on Wednesday, so the blog will go on. :-)

Spaghetti squash & lamb bento lunch

Today I’m going back to some small bento dinners that I made for my husband and I to take to our running club last month, to supplement the snacks served after our run. According to the bento box size guidelines, they’re both too small for adults on their own. They’re filled with things that my three-year-old had previously rejected at dinner, so I packed a plain sandwich bento for him (not shown).

How to make decorative banana wedges

Contents of my bento dinner: “Confetti spaghetti” (roasted spaghetti squash with sauteed red bell pepper and zucchini, recipe from Kitchen Playdates), Moroccan-spiced grilled lamb (recipe from Steve Raichlen’s The Barbecue! Bible, my husband also made the same dish last year for this lamb lunch). Roasted asparagus, Moro blood orange and a banana segment round out the meal. Because the banana was just for myself, I didn’t bother cutting it into decorative banana wedges.

Afternoon prep time: 5 minutes, using all dinner leftovers. In the afternoon I cut the fruit, and microwaved the meat and squash to take the chill off. (Read on for an additional lunch, details, and a cookbook review.)
Pon de Lion bento box from Mister DonutPacking: When eating the lamb at dinner, we served it with tiny salt dishes filled with a cumin/salt mixture to dip it in for just a little extra oomph. To get a similar effect in a bento box, I sprinkled a little of the cumin & salt over the lamb before packing — heavier spicing is helpful when you’re eating foods at room temperature (see my earlier post on cold vs. hot lunch packing considerations). The lamb and asparagus went into reusable silicone baking cups, and the lunch went into a 2-tier 465ml Pon de Lion limited edition bento box from the Mister Donut chain in Japan.

Verdict: Upon reflection, the squash dish wasn’t really well suited to eating at room temperature because the brown butter used in the dish solidifies when cold. I had heated it up prior to packing and it wasn’t sitting for long before I ate it, but it still wasn’t ideal (d’oh!). Substituting a vinaigrette for the brown butter and lemon juice would have given a similar flavor without the unfortunate textural issue.

Cookbook: This was the first recipe I tried from Kitchen Playdates: Easy Ideas for Entertaining That Include the Kids. Kitchen Playdates is a glossy book by Laura Bank Deen, a former producer of Martha Stewart Living Television, with recipes for Californian-style adult food that I’d probably make anyway. The child-friendly twist is the notes on each recipe with ideas for how your children can help with the prep, customized for both older and younger children. I like the premise of this book — that you can involve your kids in the kitchen for regular meals or as an all-out activity, making it fun for everyone involved. It’s helped me think of new ways to get my three-year-old involved in our cooking — he’s at the age where he really wants to help and be with me, so I should enjoy it while it lasts, right?

Bug enjoyed using a fork to tease the spaghetti-like strands out of the roasted spaghetti squash, although something about the finished dish didn’t appeal to him at dinner and he gave it the thumbs down. My theory is that by having him help with food prep, he’ll be more open-minded about food and less likely to become a picky eater (see my post on bentos & the picky eater).

* * * * *

My husband’s snack bento has the same thing as mine, just packed without silicone baking cups in a single 350ml subdivided box from an insulated Lock & Lock lunch set.



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  1. That sucks about the stolen bag and camera! I hope the store management could explain that lapse in security, especially if they make you stash your bag with them.

    What kind of camera did you end up buying? All your photos are really nice and sharp.

  2. Did the store end up reimbursing you for some costs of the camera, ect?? it really should be their fault, since they require you to check the bag, the responsibility of the bag should be in their hands while they have it!!!!

    what store was it??

  3. oh gosh what is it with all these stolen camera crap these days O_O only not long ago I read that someone on flickr had lost her camera too =_= Glad you were able to pick up a replacement camera, tho it’s definitely a pain… greedy thieves!

  4. Damn! Sounds like a cruddy couple of days! All the stupid paperwork sucks! Good thing your computer wasn’t there though although the camera and checkbook is bad enough.

  5. I would be so peeved at the store and call the corp. office. If it is their policy they should be resposable.

    I want to know the store, just out of curiosity.

    BTW I don’t comment on here too much but I love your site, my husband call it the small food site. LOL.

  6. I am so sorry about your camera. I would freak if mine disappeared.

    This meal looks amazing, and I really appreciate the cookbook notation. I just went and put myself on the wait list for it at the library.

  7. @1 from KittyPants: The store just said, “People steal” after apologizing. I’m never checking anything there again — the register area is right in the middle of the store and one end is open.

    I wound up getting a Canon PowerShot 590 to replace the 560 I lost. The bad part is that the 560 wasn’t even mine — our friend Vincent lent me one of his while my 520 was in the shop. Arg!!!

  8. @2 from Summers: I agree that they should be responsible — we’ll see how cooperative they are (I should hear their decision tomorrow). Sounds like they’re going to be cool, but you never know. It was the Goodwill on Haight Street, BTW. I find interesting-looking plates and bowls there on the cheap for food photos.

  9. @3 from fallm00n: Thanks for commiserating!

  10. @4 from vampyra1: Well, it was the Goodwill on Haight Street (I find interesting plates and bowls there for food photos). Given the number of street kids who panhandle in that neighborhood, it probably makes sense that there’s a theft problem. The store’s not being belligerent about it so far; we’ll see if they agree to comp me for the loss according to my police report.

  11. @5 from chun: The shame for me is that it wasn’t even my camera! Mine was in the shop, so I had borrowed one from a friend. I felt bad telling him that his camera was stolen, but at least I replaced it with a newer model that was in stock. Now to see how hard it is to get reimbursed by the store…

  12. @7 from Katie from Cali: Thanks for delurking to post a comment, Katie! “The small food site” — that’s pretty amusing. Anyway, I agree about the store’s liability; we’ll see if they do as well (and how hard I need to fight to get reimbursed). It was the Goodwill store in the Haight, BTW — I get interesting bowls and plates for food photos from thrift stores.

  13. @8 from Robin Rivers: The thing I like about the cookbook is that I can use the approach in other cooking that I do, not just from this cookbook. Inspiring.

  14. Spaghetti Squash is one of my fav foods. Absolutely great with spaghetti sauce. :)

    I’m sorry about all the bad luck. I hope things will start looking up for you!

  15. @14 Biggie, for sure. None were harmed and as annoying as it is with the paper stuff , it beats carjacking.

  16. I just found your site. I love it! I love the papers and great ideas.

  17. Man, that’s really awful, sorry you had to go through that. I can’t believe they said “Well, theft is a problem” - why would they make you check your bag if someone could potentially steal it then! (I understand they’re trying to prevent theft as well… but still!) Well, good luck with what they say, definitely let us know… I would FREAK…

  18. I mean pictures, not paper, haha!

  19. I’ve been to that Goodwill many times, and it does have interesting stuff. That’s a pathetic excuse for their lack of attention, though.

    Blood oranges! I’m totally into the blood oranges now- I convince myself that they taste different, but maybe it’s just the great color. But they look fab in a bento!

  20. What a bummer about your bag! I really hope that the store takes responsibility for the loss considering it was their policy that you leave it and no one was watching it.

    I’m so glad that most of your important objects weren’t in the bag. Good luck getting everything sorted!

  21. @19 from Sile: Well, I’ve learned an important lesson that I used to know, but kind of forgot. Take EVERYTHING of value out of my bag before checking it anywhere. Fingers are crossed on reimbursement; we’ll see if the store steps up and accepts responsibility.

  22. @20/22 from Katy: Thanks for the kind words, Katy!

  23. @21 from Yvo: The store manager was very compassionate and apologetic about the whole thing, so I’m not out of sorts about how they handled it at that level. I’ll be singing a different tune if they contest the reimbursement, though!

  24. @23 from KittyPants: I find the blood oranges I get from my market to be sweeter than other oranges. Plus my twisted child gets a big kick out of saying we’re eating BLOOD oranges (and playing with the juice). Pretty funny — totally worth seeking them out just for that!

  25. @24 from Amber in Portland: Thanks for the crossed fingers, Amber! I believe I’m going through all of the appropriate steps on my end, so we’ll see what happens in terms of reimbursement. I do intend to fight if they refuse responsibility, though.