Bento Box Lunches in a Snap
One little word that instantly brings both happy anticipation and a sense of relief: Lunchtime! Whether on-the-go or leisurely, lunch is still a welcome break in the day and a chance to recharge your internal batteries after a busy morning. But is that same-old plain-old turkey sandwich in a brown paper lunch bag gonna hit the spot day in and day out? Didn’t think so. Time to think inside the box. Pack up your next lunch in a fun and creative bento box. First, a quick history lesson: Bento boxes originated in Japan centuries ago. Still extremely popular, today’s versions have evolved into intricate works of edible art that feature anything from a field of flowers to popular cartoon characters. Not surprisingly, Americans are jumping on the bandwagon. And why not? Bento boxes promote sensible portion control, make good use of fruits and vegetables, and are an easy way to use up leftovers…plus, they’re incredibly cute!
COLLECT THE RIGHT CONTAINERS
When it comes to bento box lunches, the container matters as much as the food. In Japan, some bento boxes are made with lacquered wood, but for everyday purposes, a sturdy plastic container—BPA free, of course—with a tight-fitting lid will do the trick. You’ll want to invest in a variety of sizes, for every sized appetite! Get started with a Snapware® 24-PC Airtight Food Storage Value Pack or mix and match glass or plastic options from the Snapware® Total Solution Collection. Then get packin’!
FOLLOW THE FORMULA
Compartmentalization is at the heart of a well-packed bento box and makes it easy to include a variety of foods. Always try to include an item from the four basic food groups—vegetable, grain, protein and fruit—making sure to give each about a quarter of the box. Refer to The Balanced Plate for some tasty ideas, then check out these fun bentos from Meet the Dubiens.
PACK IT TIGHT
Since the beauty of a bento box lunch is in the presentation, you don’t want things sloshing around in transport. Pack your ingredients tightly together and stack food high until it reaches the rim of the container. For “messy” items—like hummus, dressing or condiments—try using paper or silicone muffin cups as dividers…they can easily be squeezed to fit between your stylish creations!
LOOKS ARE EVERYTHING
It’s been said that we eat with our eyes, and that’s why bento boxes are so fun! Colorful foods cut into cool and familiar shapes make them especially appealing to kids. When it comes to bento box food, creativity is the name of the game. But who has time for intricate cutting or ornate assembling? Never fear…cookie cutters to the rescue! Inexpensive and available in nearly any shape imaginable, cookie cutters make quick work out of cutting items like sandwiches, cheese, cucumber slices, melon and quesadillas.
PICK A THEME
Using a theme to guide your bento box creation adds even more fun. For example:
- Go geometric with cool shapes. Rectangle finger sandwiches, carrot sticks, round cherry tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, cubed melon, pita bread wedges and cylinders made from rolled deli meat are easy ideas.
- Take a walk on the wild side with bear, dog and panda faces made with balls of cooked and cooled white or brown rice. Simply add raisins for eyes, julienned carrot for whiskers or whatever else you dream up. A hard-boiled egg tricked out to look like a mouse or a chick is sure to bring smiles. Pressed for time? Throw in some animal or fish-shaped crackers.
- Pick something purr-fect. If you love kitties, then you should pounce on this lunch idea from Bent-logy.
DECONSTRUCT THEIR FAVORITES
Kids love to take apart their food. Give them a head start with a lunch that features their favorite meals deconstructed…so they can re-create it as they wish. Make a pizza bento box by packing a piece of flatbread, a stack of pepperoni, red pepper strips, cheese flowers and a side of sauce. Or try a throw-together pasta salad, complete with cooked and cooled pasta, chopped ham, fresh or frozen (cooked and cooled) peas, chopped lettuce, mandarin oranges and shredded cheese. These are just a few ideas, but a bento box can accommodate any style or cuisine you choose. Part of the appeal is the freedom to arrange and pack your bento box your way, so contain your lunch but release your creativity! YOUR TURN: What would you pack for a tasty bento box lunch?