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: