Thursday, 25 November 2010

No.74 Four Vegetarian Bento

Here are a few of my son's school lunches from November. My daughter is still taking in bento to school, but she doesn't like the food to be presented in a bento style any more because it draws attention. She takes hers in separate pots all packed into one larger container. 

November has been a month I'll simply call 'interesting'. With too many big highs and big lows to summarise here. On one of the high notes though, I did celebrate my 30th birthday, with a wonderful collection of friends old and new, some brilliant sci-fi costumes and plenty of laughs. 

I continue to use leftovers for bento main sections and add a fruit and snack layer too. 

Pasta parcels bento
 Feta cheese and caramelised onion pasta parcels bought at Morrisons, with a homemade pasta sauce made from simmered tomatoes, finely chopped onion and courgette with garlic and paprika. In the fruit layer are persimmon slices and a mini pealed satsuma.

Vegetable samosa and beetroot bento
 These mini vegetable samosas are big hits with my children. Four mini samosas, carrot sticks, a tub of sliced pickled beetroot. In the fruit layer a chopped plum and pealed mini satsuma.

Quorn goujons bento
 Every now and then I come across these Quorn goujons in supermarkets and they always go down well for lunches. Here I've sent them with a pot of ketchup, some cheese biscuits and a halved plum.

Falafel bento
This one got me lots of praise from my children. For some inexplicable reason they love coleslaw as if it's going out of fashion. I don't eat the stuff, but I recognise that they are getting some good nutrients out of it if I buy or make it with quality ingredients. Good chunky grated carrots, cabbage and onion, with reduced calorie mayonnaise. I should really try making it with vegannaise, then perhaps I wouldn't be so anti-coleslaw in my own diet. In this bento they have a good dollop of coleslaw, some leftover falafel balls, green olives, strawberries and a halved plum. Yum yum!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

No.73 Foxy Pizza bento

Pizza Friday again for the bento! This time I've made one of the wedges into a foxy face with a chopped olive for eyes and nose and cucumber triangles for ears. There are three pieces of pizza in there under the olives. Grapes and strawberries in the second layer. My son is now the proud owner of a banana case, so he'll be taking along a banana. I draw a face on the banana as a surprise and tomorrow has a cat face (yesterday's was a Totoro).

Ahhh, more rain today. We missed most of it on our morning walk though. I've got nothing against walking in the rain, and usually enjoy it, but even though we are very well equipped for harsh weather this particular rain is torrential! Cold, wet feet aren't fun.

Tomorrow will be the 5th of November, and the children and I are greatly looking forward to going to a bonfire and fireworks display in the evening. We've never been to this particular one before, and we've been told it is the best in the region. I'll let you know how it goes along with the next bento.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

No.72 Raccoon bento

Okay, so it could be any kind of animal! I agree, but when I put the raisin eyes and red icing mouth on this slice of crusty bread I thought instantly "raccoon!". So here is our raccoon bread in a layer with a plum and two ginger biscuits. In the main layer is pasta with a simple tomato based sauce I whipped up and a sprinkling of grated mature cheddar.

We didn't walk home from school today because we accepted the offer of a lift from a lovely friend of ours. It has been raining particularly heavily for the past few days. We're die hard walkers but every now and then the elements get the better of us and we just want to get home with dry feet! This morning however, we did have a nice walk into school. We found the most beautiful little frog. It was on it's way into the road and it wasn't clear where it might have come from, so I picked it up and gave it a lift to the opposite side of the road. We were quite happy thinking that the little frog would then make it's way into the friendlier territory of the fields and wetlands beyond.

Tonight I am exhausted. On top of the usual chores we went to our karate training. Good times! Good training. But it has left me contentedly tired and ready for a good snooze. We have our first belt grading on Saturday. Fingers crossed for us!

Monday, 1 November 2010

No.71 Persimmon Fishies bento

Ooo, we had a lot of fresh veggies and fruits today! Everything looking green and yummy. The children fancied a nice juicy salad for lunch tomorrow so I made them some fruit and veggie layers which I will give them along with yoghurt and a cereal bar. In the larger layer is shredded lettuce, cubed cucumber, green pimento stuffed olives and a spoonful of chunky coleslaw. In the fruit layer are grapes, strawberries and little persimmon fishies! Persimmon is a delicious, mildly flavoured fruit, for anyone who hasn't tried it. I think I'll try cooking a more savoury dish with it sometime. I'm sure it would add a pleasing sweetness to a curry. 

It's frosty on our school walks now. Although the mornings aren't cold enough to form a visible show of ice, the pavements are still slick with an invisible film of frozen dew. The grass crunches a little and the leaf drifts are crisp. It's truly beautiful to be walking just shortly after sunrise now that the clocks have gone back. We're awake before most of the birdies are now! Including our own pet pigeon, who snoozes away contentedly while I'm busy getting ready. My six o'clock starts in the morning are very wearing, but the Christmas holidays are so tantalisingly close. I'm such a holiday hopper, jumping tentatively across the days in between as if they were crocodiles. 

Sunday, 31 October 2010

No.70 Halloween Monster Sandwich bento

It's Halloween! I had planned to keep some of my Halloween party food for Monday's bento but the little people gobbled it all up. Instead I have created a Halloween monster sandwich out of a triangular seeded wholemeal roll. The sandwich has cheese and vegemite, with a red pepper tongue and eyes salvaged from tonight's chilli. In the second layer there is the ubiquitous satsuma that appears in nearly all of my son's bento (yes, he REALLY likes them), with this one made into a mini pumpkin with some chocolate sauce features and a bit of lettuce for a stalk. I have also added one of the marzipan tombstones and a marzipan zombie hand from our Halloween party cake.

And, of course, a picture of our Halloween party cake!

No.69 Nine Simple School Bento Ideas

It has been cake season in my kitchen for the past two months! A time of year where most of the family and our friends have their birthdays and other small celebrations requiring cake. All the baking and associated cooking really made a dent in my bento creation time. That didn't stop the bento, but it did stop me from spending so much time getting decorative with them. The following are a selection of the simple but nutritious bento that I have made recently.

1. Falafel pita bento

Falafel and salad mini pita wedges with carrot and cheese. Satsuma slices and dried banana in the second layer.

2. Cottage cheese pita bento

Cottage cheese and salad pita wedges with mandarin orange segments and a cheese and onion roll in the second layer.

3. Spicy vegetable samosa bento

Sliced spicy vegetable samosa with carrot, satsuma segments, dried banana and a Frusli bar.

4. Jammy heart bento

Jam sandwich hearts on wholemeal bread, dried cranberries and banana, melon wedges and a satsuma.

5. Veggie sausage and cheese roll bento

A vegetarian sausage, cheese roll, strawberries, dried banana and a Humzinger fruit bar.

6. Tomato pasta bento

Pasta twirls in tomato and garlic sauce, cheese cubes, Quorn vegetarian nuggets and a second layer of dried banana chips.

7. Pesto pasta bento

Basil pesto pasta with satsuma, dried cranberries and mini Oreo cookies in the second layer.

8. Mini samosa and pesto potato bento

Mini vegetable samosas with baby new potatoes in green pesto, melon wedges and satsuma.

9. Cheesy tomato pasta bento

Cheesy tomato pasta bento with green seedless grapes and satsuma.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Giant Bounty Bar

Rather than make a cake for my husband's birthday I decided I'd make him a GIANT BOUNTY BAR! By all accounts it was a beast of a chocolate bar. Well loved and respected by all who beheld it and took part in the devouring of it's delicious form. Here it is in it's various stages of existence. BEHOLD!

No.68 Butterfly Sandwich bento

Hoo-boy am I worn out this week! Both of my childrens' birthdays fall in September so it has meant some preparation time and extra baking on top of my normal kitchen routine. My bentos have been fairly undecorative but just as wholesome as always. Tonight's bento is notable because my daughter's is packed in a non-bento box on her request. Apparently the contents are now fine for senior school lunch, but the clasps on her 'burger' bento box were a bit fiddly and she wanted a regular box. Aww, sadness! I love that burger bento box!

Here is my son's lunch, in his bento box:

The contents are Vegemite butterfly sandwiches topped with a cut out slice of mature cheddar, carrot sticks and humous dip, cucumber wedges and a pealed satsuma. There is also a cereal bar and small pot of yoghurt. I'm sending in a home made chocolate muffin too, since we have a glut of them this week.

My daughter's bento has the same contents, but with slightly bigger portions as usual (four sandwiches rather than two, more humous, more carrot).

Here are a couple of images I took of some of the other bentos this week.

Couscous, olives, cheese, crackers, kinder treat.

Leftover vegetable lasagne, green salad, olives, grapes, cheese biscuits, kinder treat.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

No.67 Carrot Stars Bento

Last bento of the week! I have a busy weekend ahead of me, with two birthdays happening and all the associated baking and creating. Since I love baking and creating, that's not a bad thing! This bento has Quorn nuggets, wholemeal sub roll, spicy couscous and carrot stars. In the fruit layer are kiwi slices and green grapes. I'll send in yoghurt and a chocolate chip cereal bar for break and dessert. Since they have nuggets tomorrow I'll pack a little pot of ketchup.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

No.66 Little Duckling bento

A little carrot duckling bobbing along in his couscous pond. Spicy couscous with vegetables, queen olives and a cheese and onion pastry. In the fruit layer, green grapes and watermelon.

Tonight was our karate night, and despite having eaten a good assortment of Korean food delicacies, home cooked and given to us by a good friend, the children came home hungry from our training! They had shortbread and milk before bed, but had their eyes on the little cheese rolls I had for their bentos. These will be the last of them, so I'll have to come up with something different for Friday.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

No.65 Pac-Man Bento

It's Pac-Man! Under the watchful eyes of two ghosts. I seem to be using a lot of green lately, but perhaps that's not a bad thing. On a bed of lettuce I've packed a mini cheese and onion pastry, some Queen olives and cucumber slices. Pac-Man and the ghosts are hand cut from cheese slice and coloured. The fruit layer has some very juicy watermelon. My daughter's bento has two mini cheese pastries, since she needs to eat more.

Wind and rain greeted us on our school walk today, both walking there and back. It really feels like Autumn is in full swing. Everywhere we go we are wandering through drifts of the most gorgeously colourful fallen leaves, pine cones and conkers. That has to be one of the great, and sometimes unappreciated pleasures of living in a very green, small city.

For dinner this evening the children asked for some of the leftover vegetarian cottage pie from the big batch I made last night, with green beans and crusty bread. Yummy. I love how my 'hearty' cooking is appreciated so much on colder days.

Monday, 13 September 2010

No.64 'Snakey' bento

If you look closely at today's bento creation, there is a wholemeal snake! Vegemite sandwich made from half a wholemeal sub roll, more of my homemade potato salad (which the children were talking about on the way back from school - so tasty!), two mini onion bhajis and some cucumber shapes wedged at the rear. A handful of grapes and half a kiwi sliced in the fruit layer.

The snake sandwich has cucumber skin scales, fresh peas for eyes and a little sliver of red coloured cheese for a tongue. I think he's after that potato salad.

We brought home some more conkers and colourful leaves for our Autumn collection bowl today. It's a jumble tumble of Autumn! The pretty coloured leaves looked gorgeous in candlelight while we ate dinner. Here they are:

Sunday, 12 September 2010

No.63 'Autumn Leaves' bento

This weekend has flown by! On Saturday we visited a local National Trust house, which takes the form of a mock Norman castle. We had a wonderful time enjoying the architecture and artwork, but didn't stay to explore the gardens because it had rained quite heavily.

The bento decoration for tomorrow was inspired by the Autumn themed table that my son has at school and the 'Autumn collection' bowl we are filling at home, with colourful dried leaves, conkers and pine cones. The meal itself consists of a portion of home made potato salad, chopped vegetarian sausage and a mini onion bhaji. The fruit layer has honeydew melon, pineapple rings and red currants. I made the potato salad fresh this afternoon from some cubed, steamed potatoes with the skins left on, a dollop of mayonnaise, a teaspoon full of vegan pesto and a dash of white pepper. The Autumn leaves on the top are hand cut from a cheddar slice and coloured with food colourings.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

No.62 Pizza Friday Bento

I arrived home late today so my bento prep had a little less time than usual. No cute details I'm afraid, but lunch for tomorrow still has something special: Pizza Friday! Each bento has two small slices of pepperoni pizza, along with a slice of garlic bread, a pot of olives, some cucumber slices, a peeled satsuma and a radish. The grapes and strawberries are separate in my son's lunch because his boxes are a little smaller and I couldn't fit them in. I'll send some yoghurt and a raisin and cereal bar for break time.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

No.61 'Little Frog' Bento

I'm pleased with the colour in today's bento. The little froggy is sitting on top of a stack of freshly cooked little olive pancakes, which I made with quite a thick plain pancake mixture and then combined with finely chopped olives and pimento. Under the cucumber lily pads is a layer of quinoa and lettuce, with some carrot sticks and a radish to finish it off. In the fruit section there are satsuma segments, pineapple rings, strawberries and grapes. This is a real 'five a day' bento!

Below is my daughter's portion, which is a bit bigger and has some added pesto pasta in the main section and some of her favourite physalis with the fruit. Her froggy turned out a bit smaller! I cut them by and from cheese.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

No.60 'Dragonfly Salad' Bento

Hurray! No bento negativity was brought home from school today, so that's good news. Both of the childrens bentos were completely devoured also, with barely a crumb left. For the past couple of days the bentos I've made have been quite heavy, with the pasta content making me feel very sluggish after lunch in my office (since I've been having the same content in my own bentos). For tomorrow I've gone for much lighter content, which is simply two kinds of salad; one fruit and one vegetable. In the main section of our boxes we've got: lettuce, cucumber, radish, green olives, grated carrot and a little grated cheese. In the fruit section there are strawberries, black grapes, kiwi slices and red currants. We'll take along a small package of crackers and a pot of yoghurt also, to round out the meal and have a snack for break time. As a little decoration I cut out some cheese slice dragonflies to sit on top of the salad. It all looked so fresh as it was that I decided not to colour the cheese, leaving everything natural instead.

Monday, 6 September 2010

No.58 'Tattoo Heart' and No.59 'Cupcake' bento

I've made two different bento details for Tuesday. The reason being that my daughter experienced a lot of bento-caused teasing in the dinner hall today from the senior children. At first, after coming home, she was declaring that she would never-ever-ever take another bento to school. I reassured her that she could take plainer sandwiches and fruit if she liked. It was another sad moment in our bentoing, because I realised that going over to just sandwiches every day would mean a less nutritionally balanced meal. Her father and I explained (again) that being 'different' in any way shape or form can attract negative attention, but being exactly the same as everyone else just to avoid notice isn't necessarily the road to happiness (or good nutrition!).

I was just about to make her a pack of cheese and pickle sandwiches as requested, when she came into the kitchen, saw all the bento food out, and asked me to make a bento! Go my girl! I decided I would use one of my new cutters to make her a very rock'n'roll 'tattoo heart' shaped cheese and pickle sandwich, decorated with a cut out and coloured slice of cheese on top. It's surrounded by strawberries and black grapes. In the middle layer are some mini ring doughnuts and in the base layer is pesto pasta, radishes, cucumber and a square of leftover falafel.

I decided to use another cutter for my son's jam sandwich, featured below (I was on a new-cutter-roll). Because his cupcake shaped sandwich was sweet I decorated it with writing icing and sprinkles like a real cup cake. he exclaimed "Oh wow! My friends will love this!". Which is exactly what I wanted to hear.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

No.57 Cute 'Ice Cream' Bento

Monday's bento! Well, after two days of bentos eaten with the senior department last week, my daughter had no success in finishing her food during the limited lunch period. Despite this fact, rather than asking for less food, she has asked for more! I don't understand her logic but I'm going to go with it and see if she gets her lunch times sorted out. Tomorrow she's going to take our largest bento box (the burger shaped one). I've make pesto pasta for the main layer, finely chopped strawberries and red grapes for the second layer and in the top layer she has three vegemite sandwiches in the shape of ice creams (we have some lovely new cutters!), with cheese detail to one. She also has a few redcurrants and a single physalis. She was thrilled to see it when it was made up, so I just hope she gets to enjoy it tomorrow! I think it's a shame when a school doesn't think of lunch as important enough to give a decent length of time to.

The following bento is the version I made for my son, who needs a much smaller portion. It's in his usual 'busy ant' box.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

No.56 'Ooglies' bento

Since I was putting in a few little portions of different foods, my daughter suggested that I simply put eyes on a few of them so that they could be 'Ooglies'. I liked that idea. The Ooglies are food items with eyes that get up to adventures in a children's stop-frame animation series. The first day of back to school bento went well, with both boxes coming home almost empty and the last few morsels in them eaten before the boxes went in the wash. Apparently very tasty. I had similar food items to pop in the boxes for this next bento, but I reduced the quantity of rice and replaced it with easy to eat bite sized pieces of other foods instead. With limited time for their lunch break it can be difficult to get through a largish portion of rice (so I was told today).

In today's bento (which is sadly not very colourful), they have two vegetable samosas, some chopped vegetable burger, sliced radishes, cubed cheese and a little curried rice onigiri. In the fruit section, some grapes, red currants and physalis. They'll also take a small pot of chocolate mousse as the treat and a cereal bar for break.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

No.55 'Sleepy Yellow Cat' Bento

'Twas the night before school, and all through the house, nothing was stirring, not even a mouse. Well, here it comes! Back to school tomorrow. A bit of a surprise for me this evening when my daughter, who had previously told me that she needed 'serious' bento for this year, asked me to make tomorrow's bento cute! Wow. Well, I suppose we'll see how it is after her first day.

I asked them what theme they wanted for their lunch tomorrow and they both said 'Indiana Jones'. Well, thank you children, you had me completely stumped on how to turn vegetable samosas and curried rice into Indiana Jones. I'm afraid I didn't manage the requested theme, but I did warn them it might be something different. Instead I have attempted to make a large onigiri 'sleepy cat' modelled on a small wooden ornament we're quite fond of. 

The rice has been coloured yellow with a little curry powder in it's cooking water (adds a delicate flavour too). The face and tail are cut from a mild cheddar cheese slice. It's pillows are the vegetable samosas and it has colourful radish balls to play with when it wakes up.

The lunch above is my daughter's slightly larger portion and the one below is for my seven year old son. The rice layer dominates in size for my daughter's meal and the fruit layer dominates in size for my son. It works out that way, since my daughter will prefer her savoury dish and my son would rather fill up on fruit. Although having said that, there is physalis in there, which my daughter is particularly fond of. Apart from the physalis, there are grapes, red currents and mandarin segments for my son, who is less fond of the physalis.

So, back to school we go, bento packed and looking smart!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Counting down to Back-to-school Bento

It has come around faster than I'd have liked, and the day after tomorrow the children will be back at school! We're well prepared for it at least, with new uniforms already hung out and name-tagged, shiny shoes waiting and books and pens organised into their bags. I always find that first day of sending them back to school difficult, even though, all-in-all, I've had school aged children for seven years. It never gets easier being apart from them during the day for that first week back at school. Their company is so delightful. Thank goodness that this first week is a short one, with only two days of school before the weekend.

My almost eleven year old daughter has revealed a new bento creating challenge for me. Although she is technically still a junior for another year, at their school the last year of juniors is incorporated into the senior school. She informs me after her senior department taster day that her lunch break will be a little shorter than she's been used to, and the lunch culture of the department is a lot more serious. This means that really complex looking food art creations might be out and needing to be replaced with simpler fare. I'm hoping that this doesn't mean I need to completely avoid a little touch of cuteness here and there, but I'll see how it goes. Since she still wants to take in bento style lunches, 'serious' ones or otherwise, I'm just pleased she'll be having her usual nutritionally balanced lunch.

As well as back-to-school bento, I'm going to be making my office bento a more regular thing. I will often go to great lengths to create healthy bento for the children and then let myself down with a lunch of a quite unnecessarily huge pot of leftover pasta or rice. All carbohydrate. It usually leaves me sleepy and unable to concentrate after lunch on those bento-tardy days.

Here is an example of one of my office bento over the summer. Leftover thai red vegetable curry and sticky rice. Not terribly attractive, but it was a controlled portion size and quite nutritious.


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