Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thursday Treats: Bento-style Kid Lunches

Hello everyone! Hope you've had an amazing summer!

While I've taken a little break from my (not so) Randomly Reviews - focusing on family, overseas travel and preparing my girl for Kindergarten among other things - I'm now officially "fall"-ing back into blogging, as the new season is slowly settling in.

Today's Thursday Treats is focused on back-to-school bento-style kid lunches rather than a single recipe. Packing lunch and two snacks for my Kindergartener every day has been a change for me this year, and I've discovered that bento-style lunch & snacks is a healthy and easy to prepare option that my girl seems to love (judging by the empty containers she brings back home!). Take a look at some of the lunches I have packed for her:
Here are the details of the main lunch items:
  1. Ham & cheese toasts - my daughter has always loved these. They are open-face toasted sandwiches that are done in about 10 min. You can check my recipe here.
  2. Whole-grain plain or blueberry waffles - I use a few frozen varieties my family likes and these take just 2-3 minutes to toast in the morning. I then cut in shape and spread my daughter's favorite jam on top and voila!
  3. Steamed white rice and Canadian bacon slices. My kids and I prefer Trader Joe's Organic Jasmine Rice. It is tasty, nutricious and ready in minutes.
Here are some of the unofficial prep "rules" I follow to make the bento lunch both easy and nutritious:
  • Offer nutrition and variety: include a mix of 4-5 items for an interesting and healthy lunch.
  • Always pack fruit and / or veggie (usually both), a side and a treat / dessert in addition to the main lunch item. 
  • Try and "fit" the prep & pack time into 20 min in the morning for one lunch box and two snack boxes. I do spend ~ 10 min in prep time in the evening for things like washing fruit and veggies, slicing (if not pre-sliced) meat & cheeses, etc.
  • Have a simple and tasty main lunch item that can be prepared hot on the morning before school. While hot, the recipes are simple enough to not take much time and they don't have to be served hot when she eats them at lunch.
I've done quite a bit of research on best bento-style kid lunch containers before the start of the school year and here is a list of the containers and accessories I use daily:
Takeya's 650 ml Lunch Bento Box - Green and Pink varieties. I really like these boxes. They are smaller and thus, do not take up the whole lunch bag, so there is space for my kid's water bottle. Also, they are easy for her to open and close by herself. Finally, they come with a bag that I both to pack each of her snacks.
Shaped Crust Cutter - after trying a few that didn;t really work, I prefer this Evriholder Products Sweet Bites Crust Cutter. It cuts well through the crust and the shapes remain perfect. 

Reusable Silicone Baking Cups - there are various brands out there. I use the Wilton variety and they wash & work well. These are very useful for separating the different foods in the box. In addition, they look super cute and colorful.

Do you prepare bento lunches for you or your kids? What recipes have you found that really fit this style? What boxes and accessories do you use?