Sandwich Case | Lunch in a Box: Building a Better Bento - Part 2

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Weird Pokemon lunch bag cloth

When I was shopping at Ichiban Kan in San Francisco the other week, I stumbled across a strange Pokemon lunch bag that I initially thought was an ordinary lunch cloth (like a cloth napkin or furoshiki wrapping cloth). When I got it home, however, I discovered that it was actually a weird cross between a wrapping cloth and a lunch bag.

Lunch cloth bag

Lunch cloth bag

The bottom and sides are sewn together so that you can just drop in a bento box and any other lunch gear, then simply knot the top to close it securely (similar to the Otsukai Tsutsumi illustrated in this cool wrapping chart). I’ve used furoshiki, cloth napkins, and dish towels to tie flimsy bento lunches together and throw into a backpack before, but I can see this being a fun way to ease a child into lunch wrapping without a lot of skill involved. I’d seen a similar Shinkansen-themed lunch bag on Amazon before, but it hadn’t really sunk in that this was how it was supposed to be used — now I get it! Ingenious. (Click on any of the photos for a larger view.)

Lunch cloth bag (full)

Here I put Bug’s two-tier pasta lunch inside (shown below), along with a fork, cloth napkin, and damp oshibori hand towel and case. It looks cool, but he went on strike when I asked him to practice opening it, and requested his new Cars lunch bag instead (”I can use just two fingers to open that one!”). We’ll practice some more before I send him to preschool with it so I can be sure he can open it by himself, but it’s hard to compete with Cars!

Radiatore lunch

Contents of Wednesday preschooler lunch: Radiator-shaped radiatore pasta with leftover slow-cooked salmon (salmon recipe here) mixed with tomato-based sauce and sauteed onions with bell peppers. The fruit tier holds gold kiwifruit, tangerine slice and a strawberry.

Morning prep time: 4 minutes, using leftover pasta. The night before, I packed the pasta tier when cleaning up from dinner. So in the morning I just cut the kiwi, cut another wedge off the rapidly shrinking tangerine from the fridge, and quickly microwaved the pasta to restore texture. Very simple lunch this day, nothing fancy.

Packing: Packed in two tiers (180ml and 100ml) of a 4-tier nesting and stacking Thomas the Tank Engine bento box set. I included a small Anpanman pick for the kiwi.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Bug ate everything at preschool except the kiwi, which he ate in the car afterwards.

Bagel sandwich lunch for preschooler

Contents of Thursday preschooler lunch: Half of a bagel sandwich with cream cheese, grapes, grape tomatoes, and a tiny Manzano banana (smaller and drier than a baby banana, with a slight apple flavor).

Morning prep time: 4 minutes

Packing: I started peeling the banana by cracking open the stem end to make it easier for Bug to peel himself. The interesting thing about this lunch is that I lined the child-sized Snoopy collapsible sandwich case with decorative aluminum foil to keep any cream cheese from escaping through the holes in the bottom or sides. Although I usually pack sandwiches directly in these kinds of ventilated sandwich cases without any kind of lining, my friend Mami (Japanese mother of one of Bug’s classmates) tells me that she always lines hers with colorful plastic wrap to keep things tidy and clean. Her theory is that Japanese-language bento cookbooks don’t often show photos of the plastic-wrap-lined boxes because it looks nicer without the wrap. What do you think?

Verdict: Bug ate the bagel sandwich and a couple of tomatoes at prechool, then ate the banana and remainder of the tomatoes in the car afterwards. For some reason the grapes were uninteresting to him, so I wound up eating those myself.


Published by Biggie on October 13th, 2007 tagged bento , fish or seafood, for kids, lactose free, leftover remake, pasta or noodles, sandwich case, sandwich or wrap, tutorial or how to, vegetarian | 13 Comments »

Portobella chicken burgers in collapsible sandwich cases

Burger & chili lunch

Contents of husband’s lunch: Portobello mushroom chicken “burger” on a focaccia sandwich roll with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and chocolate chipotle-flavored mayonnaise. Side dishes of homemade chili and a shelf-stable mini pudding cup.

Morning prep time: 10 minutes, using ready-made chicken patties by Aidell’s (review below) and leftover frozen chili.

Packing: I picked out some of the soft bread from the focaccia top layer like this to make room for the sandwich filling, so that tomatoes didn’t squirt out of the sides when eating. The lettuce and cheese acted as moisture barriers to keep the bread from getting soggy. The sandwich is packed in a collapsible sandwich case (first reviewed here), and threw in a lidded Solo condiment cup with leftover chili that I had frozen as a savory variation of the edible ice pack. These are the same condiment cups that I used for the fruit jello cups, and are widely available (you can even save the ones you get from pizza delivery with Parmesan cheese or pepper flakes). Packed in a US$1 sandwich case from Ichiban Kan (online store coming soon). My lunch is in the blue Feel at Ease sandwich case (below right).

Burger lunch

Cooking: We had extra chocolate chipotle wet rub leftover from making the chocolate chipotle babyback ribs last week, so I made a quick flavored mayonnaise by mixing mayo with the wet rub. You can quickly jazz up regular mayonnaise with simple add-ins like pesto, hot sauce, pureed garlic, etc.

Product: I tried Aidell’s portobella mushroom and onion chicken burgers for the first time after spying them at Costco. I’m a big fan of other Aidell’s products (especially their teriyaki & pineapple chicken meatballs), and was hoping that the patties would be a tasty shortcut to a burger lunch. Sadly, we found the texture to be overprocessed and greasy, and the flavor to be one-dimensional (mushroomy, but not much else). Whereas the meatballs have clearly identifiable pieces of chicken and pineapple in them and a nice meaty texture, the portobella/chicken patties were rubbery and spongelike. Thinking that microwaving might have been the culprit, I pan-fried a patty this morning until it developed a nice crust, and tasted it side by side against their teriyaki and pineapple meatballs. No improvement — I can’t recommend this product and am trying to figure out what to do with the other six patties in the freezer. I could always cut them into strips, bread them with flour/egg/panko and fry them (frying it and dipping it in sauce might mask the texture, albeit at the cost of my arteries). Anyone have any ideas? (I really hope that this is a new product that’s still in development, so they can work out the kinks.)

Sandwich lunch for preschooler

Contents of Bug’s lunch: Chicken salad sandwich with cheese, a wrapped Babybel cheese, and a condiment cup of leftover zucchini with tomatoes and onions (recipe from Marcella Hazan’s definitive cookbook Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking).

Child's sandwich case

Equipment: I picked up a child’s Snoopy collapsible sandwich case that’s much smaller than the adult boxes that I have. I’m thinking this’ll come in handy when Bug starts preschool next month — I won’t need to use a regular bento box or pad out an adult sandwich case with food he won’t eat. Extra bonus is that it’s Peanuts and gender-neutral. Bought at Moritaya in San Francisco’s Japantown (see the SF Bay Area shopping guide) for about US$9, which was pricey, but I haven’t seen the child versions anywhere else and preschool starts soon.


Published by Biggie on August 10th, 2007 tagged for kids, poultry, sandwich case, sandwich or wrap | 26 Comments »

Chicken sandwich lunch

Chicken sandwich lunch

Contents of my lunch: Chicken salad sandwich (with cheese and lettuce on whole wheat toast), tabbouleh, blueberries and tiny Champagne grapes.

Morning prep time: 5 minutes. The chicken salad and tabbouleh were both pre-made from Costco, so it was a quick matter to toast the bread and assemble the sandwich.

Packing: Because the collapsible sandwich case (equipment review here) isn’t secure enough to pack moist food as is, I put the tabbouleh in a separate little disposable food cup with lid (the same ones I used for the fruit jello cups — I tend to wash and reuse the cups). The little cup with lid was really handy as otherwise I wouldn’t have felt confident that the tabbouleh was well contained — it essentially widens the types of food I can pack in this type of sandwich case. To ensure that the bread didn’t get soggy before I ate it, I toasted the bread and used two moisture barriers (cheese and lettuce) to keep the moist chicken salad away from the bread itself. This worked fine, and the sandwich was still in prime condition a few hours later (protected by the hard-sided sandwich case).


Published by Biggie on July 18th, 2007 tagged poultry, salad, sandwich case, sandwich or wrap | 4 Comments »

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

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Published by Biggie on April 20th, 2007 tagged bento, fish or seafood, for kids, meat, onigiri or sushi, sandwich case, sandwich or wrap, tips | 20 Comments »

Speedy sandwich lunches

Morning prep time: 5 minutes each (10 min. total). In a lunch very similar to this one, I packed Costco chicken salad sandwiches on whole wheat toast with cheese and lettuce in two collapsible sandwich cases (equipment review here). Bug’s lunch below is actually quite large as I made it to be shared with his little friend on our outing to the children’s museum. It adds non-messy sides of leftover roasted asparagus from dinner (tips cut off at Bug’s request), dried apricots, a stack of two wrapped cheeses, and cherry tomatoes as gap fillers to stabilize the lunch for transport. The sandwich case is one that I got for US$1 at a local dollar store (Ichiban Kan in San Francisco), held together with a cheap elastic lunch band (from Daiso). They folded up nice and flat after lunch because I didn’t use hard plastic food cups inside.

Sandwich and asparagus lunch for toddlers Sandwich case with elastic

Mine is similar, with the sandwich cut into thirds instead of halves.

Sandwich and asparagus lunch Sandwich case (Feel at Ease) with elastic

In other news:



Published by Biggie on April 5th, 2007 tagged for kids, poultry, sandwich case, sandwich or wrap | 4 Comments »

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