Good Eats: Bento

This month’s Good Eats is all about bento, or Japanese boxed lunches.  They are delicious and nutritious meals great for school and play.  Let’s learn how to make them and have some food fun!

Bento Box Kids Lunch

Did you know?
– Children and adults love bento!  Bento traditionally features wholesome ingredients instead of candy or processed foods.  They have perfectly portions of rice, protein, fruit and vegetables and are packed in reusable containers.

-These popular laptop meals have cousins in India and Korea.  Friends in North America have caught on to the trend of these moveable feasts and make bento-style boxes filled with cuisine from Italy, Greece, Mexico, Morocco and many other places around the globe.

-Moms and dads like these lunches because they are easy to make since ingredients can be leftovers, made ahead of time and frozen for later.  They can also be made vegetarian or for allergy-friendly eaters.

Bento Box Kids Snack

Here are four tips to make your best bento-style box:

1. Make it tasty
Pick four to six ingredients.  Foods like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (if your school allows them), crackers and hard cheeses from Jarlsberg or Woolwich Dairy, rice or noodles and a variety of fruits and raw vegetables are smart choices.

2. Keep it simple
Bento makers can get really creative and spend lots of time making bento art!  Keep your assembly time to twenty minutes or less.  Even the most plain and simple bento can look cool.

3. Make it safe
Pick foods that keep best at room temperature.  Meat, poultry, seafood, dairy and egg products need refrigeration or they can spoil and cause food poisoning…yuck!  Pack perishable items with an insulated lunch bag, a cold pack or a frozen juice carton.

4.  Have fun
Make ingredients eye-catching by making shapes with tiny cookie cutters that you can find in craft stores.  There you can also find reusable silicone baking cups in cheerful colors and spill-proof containers for wet ingredients.  Don’t forget fun notepaper for words of encouragement on important days.

Are you ready to make tomorrow’s bento lunch?  Pick your favorite gluten-friendly option below, gather up your tools and get going!

Lunch Bento for 3-Section Container

Oven roasted turkey breast
Woolwich Dairy cheddar cheese
Mixed greens
Gluten-free tortilla wrap
Gala apple
Gluten-free granola
Non-perishable condiment packet
Coconut macaroons (see recipe below)

Instructions:  Roll slices of oven roasted turkey breast, Woolwich Dairy cheddar and mixed greens in a gluten-free tortilla wrap.  Secure with toothpicks and cut sandwich to fit inside the largest section reusable container.  Next, cut a Gala apple in half then arrange the slices over ¼ cup of gluten-free granola placed in a smaller section.  Add two homemade coconut macaroons for a sweet treat in the remaining section along with a non-perishable condiment packet.  Do not forget to pack napkins, a cool pack and a beverage of your choice to complete your laptop lunch!

Snack Bento for Square Container

Jarlsberg classic cheese
Gluten-free crackers
Snow peas
Gluten-free granola

Cut Jarlsberg classic cheese into ¼” thick slices.  Use tiny fondant icing cutters bought at a craft store to make eye-catching shapes.  Alternate eight cheese shapes with gluten-free crackers and place in two stacks in the middle of the container.  Wash and dry one cup each of snow peas and blueberries then carefully arrange on opposite sides of the cheese and crackers.  Fill the remaining spaces with ¼ cup of dried cranberries and granola.  Pair a cool pack or frozen juice box with this snack bento.

Tip:  Leftover cheese from shapes can saved in a container for quick breakfast add-ins or a mid-week grilled cheese.