Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bentos 94 - 97: Second Week of School

Sigh. . .One month into school and I'm already way behind.  I'm not good at this blogging thing. Here are the bentos for the second week of school.  I forgot to take a picture on Friday morning, we were in a bit of a rush, so there are only four again.  

Bento for Baby 94:  Baby Girl had some leftovers from dinner the previous night.  My mother gave me a few pounds of roma tomatoes from her garden, so I made a fresh tomato sauce from one of my Lidia Bastianich cookbooks.  This was packed into a Lunchbots thermal container.  Along with the leftovers I gave her a zucchini apricot muffin from the freezer, some halved cherries, and some sunflower and pumpkin seeds in the medium Nesting Trio container.

Bento for Baby 95:  Tuna white bean salad dressed with lemon and olive oil in whole wheat pita, sugar snap peas, grapes, and some cantaloupe pieces in the tiffin box.

Bento for Baby 96:  Two mini pizzas on whole wheat pitas from the freezer, some sugar snap peas, bing cherries an some pretzel sticks in the U Konserve Rectangle.

Bento for Baby 97:  Some more leftovers from dinner the previous night in her Lunchbots thermal container - our favorite Bittman spaghetti and meatballs, along a few grapes, a strawberry and a few sugar snap peas in the medium container from the Kids Konserve Nesting Trio.

Items similar to those used to pack these bentos:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

First Week of School Bentos! Bentos 90 - 93

And, we are back. . . back to school, back to blogging, back to bento-ing.  I have actually been bento-ing every school day since my last blog post, but I lost my blogging initiative for while.  Since the school year is starting, and we are all always looking for new lunch ideas, I thought I'd try to get my mojo back.  I'm going to try different formats to see what is the easiest way to keep posting, so bear with me.  For this post, I'm going to give a brief rundown of all the bentos I packed this week.  Since Monday was a half day, I only needed to pack lunch four days this week.  So, here's what my "baby," now 2.5 year old, ate this week.  

Bento for Baby 90:  In the bottom section of our favorite tiffin box, a cream cheese on a whole wheat cinnamon raisin English muffin sandwich, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, a few pretzel sticks leftover from summer travel that my daughter insisted upon.  The top section was a fruit and veggie mix of watermelon cubes, green grapes, sugar snap peas and baby carrots.  

Bento for Baby 91: A snacky bento of crackers and cheese, "woven wheat" crackers with Baby Girl's favorite cheese - Creamy Toscano Cheese Soaked in Syrah, along with some raisins, mini sweet peppers and sugar snap peas. This was packed in the top section of our favorite green tiffin box. This was accompanied by another leftover travel snack, a pack of crunchy dried apples.

Bento for Baby 92:  Baby Girl had an apple sandwich with sunbutter on this day.  I've found sunbutter to be much runnier and messy in apple sandwiches than good old peanut butter, but we cannot send peanut butter to school.  To help with the mess I mixed a little raw oatmeal and coconut with the sunbutter and then rolled the sides of the sandwich in a bit more coconut.  This  gave the sunbutter more structure and allowed for cleaner eating.  Since these are half the ingredients in Baby Girl's favorite sunbutter oatmeal balls, I didn't worry about her not liking the additions.  Along with the apple sandwich, she had some halved cherries, baby carrots, sugar snap peas and more pretzel sticks.  This bag of pretzels is like loaves and fishes, I'd like them to be out of the pantry, but the bag never seems to get any emptier.  

Bento for Baby 93:  Another cream cheese sandwich for Baby Girl on this day, but this time on homemade whole-grain cinnamon raisin bread.  I made this using a recipe from the Smitten Kitchen blog.  I'll just provide a link to the recipe since I couldn't possibly write about or photograph the bread any better.  I made the recipe pretty much as written, but I did add a few more whole raisins to the swirl, since Baby Girl loves raisins.  The bread is very tasty, but it is not a quick, make-during-nap recipe.  I think it is worth the effort, though.  Along with her sandwich Baby Girl had more halved cherries, some mini peppers and frozen edamame.

Items similar to those used in these bentos:


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Bentos 83 - 89: Bento Catch Up!

I have been slacking horribly in blogging lately.  I've been in a bit of a cooking/lunch packing funk lately.  I'm tired of the of the available winter produce and ready for the fresh flavors of spring!  As a result bentos haven't been particularly interesting lately and I haven't had much enthusiasm to photograph and blog them.  Rather than try and do a bunch of individual posts to catch up, I thought I do one large post with the various bentos that have been clogging up my camera the past few weeks. I'll just do a quick list of what's in each bento, please comment if you want any further detail.   

Bento 83: Apple sandwich, raisins, steamed broccoli and some pieces of oven fried chicken with the breading peeled off.  I made the chicken with my favorite recipe from the Joy of Cooking, which uses a bit of cayenne in the marinade and breading.  Unfortunately the breading ended up a bit too spicy for toddler tastes.  After her traumatic dinner experience, she refused to touch these leftovers even with the breading removed.  I think she might be off chicken for a while.

Bento 84:  Spaghetti and meatballs, unsweetened banana chips, grapes and steamed green beans dressed in olive oil and lemon zest.

Bento 85:  Goat cheese on whole wheat pita, raisins and walnut pieces, apple slices

Bento 86:  Oven fried chicken with breading removed (second attempt, she didn't touch it this time either), grapes, two whole wheat biscuits and green beans dressed in olive oil and lemon.

Bento 87:  Apple sandwich, two zucchini and apricot muffins, unsweetened banana chips, dried cherries.

Bento 88:  Clementine, chickpeas, two ants on a log (celery with peanut butter and raisins), two pizza palmiers.

Bento 89:  Leftover Moroccan chickpea and vegetable tagine with couscous, clementine, unsweetened banana chips, cube of feta cheese.

Supplies similar to those used in this lunch:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bento for Baby 82: A Hearty Lunch

I went a little crazy and made a Valentines Day themed bento for Baby Girl last week.  As far as themed bentos go, it's still pretty low key, so I didn't completely lose my mind.  I wanted to do a little something special for Baby Girl because it was Grandparent's Day at her school and she was one of the few kids there without a parent or grandparent in attendance.  We don't live close to grandparents and neither of us could miss work that day.  Plus, she's really into shapes these days, so I thought she'd get a kick out of all the hearts.

I packed it in a bit of a rush, so it's not as cute and neat as it could be.   Looking at this picture, it's driving me crazy that I didn't stick another strawberry on the far left.  But as we're all aware, that really doesn't matter. So, here's the info that really matters, what all the food is!  The main attraction was two heart shaped freshly ground peanut butter and raspberry conserves sandwiches on homemade bread.  My husband bakes all our bread using recipes from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and white whole wheat flour.  This flour allows you to make bread with a nice light crumb, while getting all the benefits of eating whole grains.  With her sandwiches Baby Girl had one large strawberry cut in half and shaped a bit to look like hearts, a few grape tomato hearts filled with hummus and some snap pea crisps.  The snap pea crisps are really glorified chips, but they were a special treat (but she didn't really like them, anyway).  I made the tomato hearts by cutting the tomatoes in half on the diagonal, smearing a tiny dab of hummus on the cut ends and then putting the tomato back together with the pointy ends together.  It works best with the more oblong tomatoes.

Items used to pack this bento:

Monday, February 9, 2015

Bento for Baby 81: Spaghetti and Meatballs with Spinach Cake and Apple Sandwich

This bento was a resounding hit with Baby Girl.  I gave her some leftover spaghetti and meatballs I made for dinner the night before.  This was made from a fantastic recipe by Mark Bittman for Spaghetti and Drop Meatballs With Tomato Sauce, which makes a quick (about 30 minutes) and delicious meal.  In addition to being delicious, this recipe also very well written, the steps are laid out in a logical progression, are very easy to follow, and you can actually complete it in the stated prep time, unlike most recipes.  I made it pretty much as written, using whole wheat spaghetti and grass fed beef.  Anyway, Baby Girl absolutely loved it for dinner and polished off the leftovers in her lunch the next day.  

Along with her leftovers, Baby Girl had an apple peanut butter sandwich, some segments of clementine, a spinach cake from the freezer and a couple cubes of cheddar cheese.  This bento came back completely empty, so I now felt comfortable to declare the lunch strike officially over!

Supplies similar to those used in this lunch:

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bento for Baby 80: Brussels Sprouts Pasta and Hummus Pita

Baby Girl's bento was a bit eclectic on this day.  This was packed several days after the end of her lunch strike, but I was still a bit afraid to push the envelope with the food I gave her.  So, I gave her a few things I knew would be devoured and a few others that she might turn her nose up to.  The sure-to-be-eaten items in her lunch on this day were half a whole wheat pita filled with homemade roasted red pepper hummus, a clementine and a mix of walnut pieces and raisins.  Things I wasn't so sure she would eat were some leftover Brussels sprout pasta from dinner the night before, and a few small carrot sticks.  Honestly, this bento is from so long ago that I cannot exactly recall how much she ate.  I have a vague memory that she ate most of this lunch, except for the carrot sticks.

I used a handy little lidded glass bowl that my mother-in-law passed on to me for the first time in this lunch.  It is the perfect size for a toddler-sized portion of leftovers, the glass is nice and thick so there aren't any safety concerns, and it is safe to pop in the microwave.  You'll be seeing a lot more of this little container in future posts.  I've found that her little thermal container is still a bit too deep for her to eat out of easily, and it's a mess when they dump it out into her other containers at school, so I'm going to hold off on using it for a little while.

Supplies similar to those used in this lunch:

Monday, January 26, 2015

Bento for Baby 79: Palmiers and Banana Bread

For her bento on this day Baby Girl had a few more favorites.  Although she had eaten her whole lunch the previous day, I wasn't yet convinced that her lunch strike was over.  Thankfully, she again ate most of her lunch, except some of the black beans shown here in the green silicone cup.  Along with the black beans, she had three spinach pizza palmiers from the freezer, some unsweetened banana chips, a clementine, one sunbutter oatmeal ball and a small piece of whole wheat sugar-free banana bread (which was actually leftover from her breakfast on this morning.)

Items used to pack this bento:

Monday, January 12, 2015

Bento for Baby 78: Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

This day's lunch marks the height of my frustration with Baby Girl's eating strike.  That might be apparent in the disheveled appearance of this bento. Thankfully, it also marked the turning point in her strike.  This bento came back mostly empty!  And, she has continued to eat since, although some days are better than others.

It's not surprising that Baby Girl decided to eat on this day, this bento is chock full of her favorite foods.  The main attraction is a freshly ground, no additive peanut butter and Earth Fare brand low sugar raspberry conserves sandwich on homemade whole wheat bread.  The bread is my husband's creation, made with 100% white whole wheat flour using a recipe adapted from the book The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  Baby Girl has never turned her nose up at "Papa bread."  With her sandwich she had some sugar snap peas, a clementine, one sunbutter oatmeal ball and some raisins.

Items used to pack this bento:

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Bento for Baby 77: Hoppin' John with Apple Sandwich and Zucchini and Apricot Muffin

We got some lovely field peas with our CSA this week, so we made our favorite Hoppin' John recipe for dinner.  Baby Girl got some of the leftovers in her thermos the next day for lunch.  Along with the Hoppin' John, I gave her an apple and peanut butter sandwich, a zucchini and apricot mini muffin from the freezer and some walnut pieces and sunflower seeds in the red silicone cup.  This was all packed in the top section of the small green tiffin box.

I thought you all might be interested in seeing how the new thermos fits into her lunch box.  Baby Girl has a flip top lunch box from LL Bean.  I like it because it loads from the top, keeping the lunch upright, which reduces the chance of everything getting tossed around in her bento box.  I put an 8-ounce bottle of whole milk with a flexible ice pack in the pocket in the lid.  Her tiffin box and thermos fit nicely in the rest of the lunchbox, with plenty of room for ice packs.

Supplies similar to those used in this lunch:

Handy little 8 ounce Lunchbots Insulated Thermal.

Bento for Baby 76: Pasta with Spinach and Walnut Sauce

For her lunch on this day, Baby Girl had some leftover Pasta with Spinach and Walnut Sauce in her 8-ounce Lunchbots Thermal.  This is one of our favorite recipes.  Baby Girl will happily eat any type of wilted greens if it is covered in this delicious creamy walnut sauce.  I made the quick version of this pasta for lunch the previous day using frozen spinach and sauce.  I also made a couple pots of beans to restock our stash in the freezer that afternoon, so I gave Baby Girl a few garbanzo and cranberry beans to round out her lunch the next day. Along with the beans, I packed some steamed green beans, a sunbutter oatmeal ball and some raisins in the top section of the small green tiffin box.

Supplies similar to those used in this lunch:

Handy little 8 ounce Lunchbots Insulated Thermal.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Bento for Baby Recipe: Pasta with Walnut Sauce and Greens

This recipe is a simplified version on a delicious classic dish from the Liguria region of Italy, Pansoti in Walnut Sauce.  Pansoti are pasta filled with herbs and bitter greens tossed in a walnut and cream sauce.  I tasted it for the first time dining at a small harbor side restaurant in Vernazza, one of the charming little villages that make up the Cinque Terre.  It was one of my favorite meals during our trip to Italy.  In my pre-child days, I would make the fresh pasta to fully recreate the dish.  But the days when I have ample time to make fresh pasta are currently very few.  Thankfully, the sauce is actually really quick and easy to make, so these days I can recreate the flavors by tossing whole wheat pasta with the sauce and some wilted greens.  It is still really delicious and transports me back to that wonderful experience.  As long as your child can eat nuts, this is a very child-friendly meal. Baby Girl loves this dish.

I love the decadence of using whole cream in the sauce, but if you want to make it a bit lighter, milk does work, the sauce just isn't quite as rich and thick. You can throw a slice of white bread (without crusts) in the processor with the nuts to thicken the sauce if you decide to use milk instead of cream.

I have used frozen spinach in a bind when I don't have any fresh greens in the house.  It's not as good but it does work.  This sauce freezes well, so you could make a large batch and freeze the extra. Then on days when you're short on time, you can make a delicious meal in the time it takes the pasta to cook using frozen sauce and frozen spinach.  Just thaw the spinach in the microwave, squeeze out excess liquid and toss with the pasta and sauce.


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup walnut pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
4 tablespoons whipping cream1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 cups (or more) fresh greens - kale, chard, spinach, mustard. . .any or all of the above
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
salt and pepper
5 cups dried whole wheat pasta


Fill a large pot with water and place over high heat.

Wash the greens well.  When water is boiling season it with ample salt, and then add greens and cook until soft but still bright green, ~2-3 minutes.  Remove greens from water using slotted spoon or spider. Put greens on large cutting board, gather into mound and chop into bite sized pieces.

Return water to boiling and add pasta.  Cook until just done, about 7 minutes.

While pasta cooks, combine nuts, garlic and cheese in a food processor or blender. Blend while slowly pouring in oil until mixture is smooth. Pour into a large saute pan. Add cream to pan. Warm over low heat.

When pasta is almost finished cooking, scoop out 1/2 cup of pasta water and set aside.  Drain pasta and add directly to sauce.  (Or if the pan with the sauce is not large enough, put the pasta back into the empty pot over low heat and then add sauce.)  Toss pasta with sauce until well coated.  Add chopped greens, nutmeg and most of the basil.  Toss until thoroughly combined.  Add some reserved pasta water if mixture is thick.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately topped with the rest of the basil and additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Bento for Baby 75: Apple Sandwich and Pizza Palmier

You may notice that the next few bentos have much less food than I usually pack.  Baby Girl went on a bit of an eating strike at school in November and December.  Most of her bentos came back barely touched, even when I sent her favorite foods.  To encourage her to eat her lunch, I stopped packing items to supplement her morning snack.  I also packed more foods I knew she liked, but still tried to provide variety and a few new flavors.  It was a frustrating time. I was worried about her getting enough to eat and annoyed at the waste of food.  Since my mind was on other things, I often forgot to take pictures of her bentos, so the next few posts aren't a complete record of the few weeks before the holidays.  Thankfully, Baby Girl started eating with gusto again the last week before the holiday break!  However, I think her appetite is smaller these days as her growth rate slows in toddlerhood, so I'm going to continue with just packing food for lunch and not supplement her school-provided morning snack.

So, for her bento on this day sometime in early December, I gave her an apple and peanut butter sandwich (on an organic Fuji apple, which she let me know was much too tart for her liking. . .), two pizza plamiers from the freezer, some unsweetened banana chips and a couple carrot sticks.  This was packed in the top section of her small green tiffin box.  I think on this day all she ate was one bite of the apple sandwich, some of the banana chips a half a palmier. . .sigh.

Supplies similar to those used in this lunch:

Bento for Baby 74: Dan's Awesome Pancakes and Goat Cheese Tortilla Rolls

Back to bentos after a holiday hiatus!  Before we start with the new bentos packed this week, I need to catch up on several lunches I never got around to posting before the holidays.

This bento is from the beginning of December.  For her morning snack I gave Baby Girl a couple of Dan's Awesome Pancakes from the freezer and some frozen blueberries in the white silicone cup.  For the lunch portion of the bento, she had some goat cheese and thinly sliced cucumber rolls on a whole wheat tortilla.  With the tortilla rolls I gave her a few slices of apple and two sunbutter oatmeal balls.

Supplies similar to those used in this lunch: