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Bento, For Kids, Meat, Pasta or Noodles, Vegetarian | 14 comments

Pasta and pizza bento lunches

Pasta and pizza bento lunches


One thing I’m starting to adjust to is my four-year-old’s growing appetite. It’s easy to look at the bento box size guidelines and figure out what size is right for your child, but they don’t stay that age (and appetite) forever! When he was three, a 350ml box was just perfect. Now that Bug is four, though, I’m finding he needs more of a 400ml lunch. This doesn’t mean I need to throw away the smaller boxes, though! Supplement them with a small side dish container that holds a small portion of fresh fruit, for example.

Pizza bento lunch for preschooler

Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Pepperoni and mushroom pizza, roasted asparagus, blueberries and crispy Asian pear slices.

Morning prep time: 7 minutes, using leftover pizza and asparagus. In the morning I cut up the pizza, asparagus and pear. (Read on for full packing details and an additional pasta lunch with a raw heirloom tomato sauce.)

450ml Disney Cars bento boxPacking: I cut the pizza into smaller pieces to fit neatly into the bento box (and to make them manageable for little hands). My four-year-old doesn’t like asparagus tips, so I cut them off and snacked on them while cutting the rest into shorter lengths to fit the hard plastic subcontainer. (See my post on the top 7 things to do with leftover food scraps for additional ideas.) Bug’s also not big on apple and pear skin, so I peeled the Asian pear (nashi) and dipped the slices in fruit juice mixed with lemon juice to keep the fruit from browning. The lunch is packed in a 450ml Cars bento box with a removable subdivider that I purchased directly from the manufacturer. Bug’s appetite has increased this year, and I’m finding that the 350ml boxes no longer hold enough food for him. 450ml is still a bit on the large side, though — ideally I’d have a 400ml box (in line with the bento box size guidelines).

Verdict: Thumbs up over time. Bug ate the pizza and asparagus at preschool, and had the rest as a playground snack after school. This new box is still a little big for Bug; I may look for ways to pack it a little looser until he grows unto it, maybe using bulkier foods or bento accessories.

* * * * *

This is an earlier lunch from the summer when tomatoes, strawberries and figs were in season. I had a lot of beautiful heirloom tomatoes on hand, so decided to make a very simple uncooked pasta with the same flavors as a caprese salad. I got the idea from Giuliano Hazan’s The Classic Pasta Cookbook , one of the food books in my kitchen.

Mozzarella and fresh tomato pasta bento lunch for preschooler

Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Spaghetti with uncooked heirloom tomatoes, smoked mozzarella and fresh basil. The side dish container holds steamed broccoli, a black Mission fig, and an organic strawberry. Strawberries are one of the few things I make a point of seeking out in organic form as it’s one of the fruits that picks up the most pesticides.

Morning prep time: 6 minutes, using leftover pasta. In the morning I briefly warmed the pasta and steamed the broccoli.

Packing: I microwaved the pasta in a microwave-safe bowl while pre-warming the thermal food jar with hot tap water. I quickly steamed the broccoli in a covered bowl with a little water (my microwave mini steamer was dirty), tossed it with a little vinaigrette when it was done, and packed it inside of a reusable silicone baking cup to keep the sauced broccoli away from the fruit. The lunch is packed in a thermal bento kit from Ichiban Kan with one of the side dish containers removed for a smaller appetite.

Verdict: Again, thumbs up over time. Bug ate the pasta and strawberry during preschool, and had the rest as an after-school snack.



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  1. Mm, even though it’s like 30 degrees out, that uncooked tomato sauce looks scrumptious!
    One random aside: maybe it’s just me, but fork scraping metal really aggravates me, so using that jar tends to skeeve me when it’s for certain items. Haha.

  2. Err, I meant “metal fork” scraping metal… duh

  3. I feel you Yvo. Totally creeps me out. My thermal jar has some weird coating though so I don’t worry about it. I think both lunches look really yummy and now I want to eat again.

  4. @1 from Yvo: You might want to check out Ikea — they’ve got a set of really durable and cheap kids’ plastic utensils (almost full size) that we use sometimes. Very colorful, and would get around the metal-on-metal scraping issue. They’re called “Kalas”, and cost only US$1.99 for an 18-piece set. Dishwasher-safe and pretty indestructible.

  5. Super-cute lunches, as always!! :-)

  6. Great lunch idea! I’m a vegetarian too, so this is a Godsend. Great blog too, btw!

  7. I’m not a mom, but when I am someday, I want to pack bento box lunches for my child. It seems like a really great way to make sure they get a healthy, balanced meal (while diversifying their palate at the same time!).

  8. @1 from Yvo: I totally understand. I also can’t stand metal utensils on metal containers. Fortunately, I have a fridge and microwave where I eat lunch, so I don’t have to worry about thermal containers. If I did need one, I would probably look for one with a liner, like the plastic-lined Thermos brand one I grew up with.

    @Biggie: Do you have any problems with the tomatoes reacting with the metal container? Sometimes acidic food can take on a metallic taste or even discolor a metal container.

  9. Hi I’m dying to get a thermal kit like the one pictured above (thermal jar, and 2 side dishes)
    does anyone know about any online stores where I can get one for an affordable price??

  10. Hi,

    I was wondering where I could order the car’s bento box. My kids would absolutely love one of those.

  11. @11 from Jeanette: I got the Cars bento box at Moritaya in San Francisco’s Japantown, and it was overpriced (as are most bento items at that store). Sadly, I haven’t seen the Cars bento gear online, but I haven’t really been looking. It’s manufactured by Skater, if that helps. Good luck to you!

  12. @11 from Jeanette: Oh wait, my bad — I thought we were talking about my old Cars bento box. I got the new one directly from the manufacturer in Japan (Skater), although they don’t have an online store that ships outside of Japan yet. I’m sorry not to be more helpful; will keep everyone updated if they set something up for direct sales outside of Japan.

  13. @9 from Amy: I didn’t have any issues with tomatoes in this particular thermal container, but they weren’t in there for long.

  14. @6 from vampyra1: This particular thermal bento set (Skater brand) I got from Ichiban Kan a while back — I don’t think they carry them anymore. I’ve tried out thermal bento sets from Tiger and Zojirushi, but they both have serious leaking issues with the lid (esp. the Tiger one). Zojirushi isn’t as bad, but not as watertight as the Skater ones. Unfortunately Skater doesn’t have an online store or reliable source in the US…