Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Smart Planet Ultrathin SaladBook Lunch Box Review

Today we're using the SaladBook by Smart Planet that I used once previously to pack the Totoro Soba Bento last month. Remember that one? Today I've packed a Salad Bowl containing curried chickpeas, cottage cheese with sunflower seeds, cinnamon apples, pickled carrots and daikon, fresh steamed corn, pickled cucumbers and wakame, pickled red onions, and blackberries - atop tossed romaine lettuce. I am really into the bowl-type bento these days, and this kind of container is ideal because no divided sections are necessary. And there are so many possibilities!

This box is unique in that it is "ultrathin," meaning that the roundish single section container is only about one inch in height yet manages to provide 20 fl oz (591 ml) of volume. 

You can see that this container is quite wide and shallow.

The box has a leakproof gasketed lid which is held in place by four tight clips which are an integral part of the lid itself, and seal by latching to the underside of the box. While this mechanism seems to work very well at keeping the box watertight, I found that the latches are so tight they can be challenging for small hands to pull open.

Here you can see the latching mechanism of the clips. There are 4 clips and they snap closed on the bottom of the container. If your (or your child's) hands aren't strong enough to push off the clip, I've found that pressing the lid and container together will release pressure on the clip and it will be easier to push up.

The box comes with an insulated zipper tote with a handy mesh pocket and a spork in a color that matches the box lid. This is a somewhat minor point, but I found it curious as to why the pocket opens downward so that when you open the lid, the spork falls out. I solved this problem by attaching an adhesive velcro closure, which works very well.

The spork now stays in place in the pocket until you choose to remove it. Yay!

The profile of the entire SaladBook after it's packed and ready to go. I found it to live up to its "ultrathin" billing quite well. I mentioned the box itself being about one inch high; when zipped up the whole bag will only take up about 2 inches of depth in your backpack (or briefcase or similar).

Alternately, you can carry it separately by the short handle strap located at the pointed end of the tote. So convenient!

The last item included in the SaladBook set is a little dressing container. It consists of a collapsible soft silicone pouch with a hard snap-close lid which also screws off for easy filling and washing. It's a great idea, but in my experience the cap opens very easily because of the soft nature of the container. I wouldn't pack it next to the box inside the tote because it might pop open and leak. But I don't think this matters too much because since the box itself is completely watertight, you can simply drizzle the dressing atop the salad before packing. That's what we did in the Totoro soba salad bento and it worked just fine.

The salad we packed today didn't require a separate dressing, so we didn't worry about it. 

Overall, I think the Smart Planet Ultrathin Saladbook is a good buy; it retails for $14.99 and comes with a spork, dressing container, and insulated zipper tote. It is practical, sturdy, dishwasherable, and lightweight. Its storage profile is slim and convenient; it is leakproof and spacious. I recommend this container for kids and adults alike. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Werewolf Bento

What's Halloween without a werewolf bento? A piece of jagged cheese on a mini whole wheat bagel, and a few nori cutouts make this one not-too-scary. Also in our LunchBots Clicks: edamame skewer, carrots, radish, and grapes. I wish I had a wild animal type of fork to use for this lunch; that would have been cool. Good thing we have the upcoming weekend to get ready for the trick-or-treaters; if this year is anything like previous years, we're going to have to majorly stock up. Like bulk candy Costco run!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Frankenstein Bento

Still going with the Halloween bento... here is Frankenstein for TinySprite! She gets a bagel with cream cheese and cucumber, plus extra ham to make her own little DIY sandwich. I also gave her a mandarin jack-o-lantern and a hard-boiled egg (not shown). Couple more days to go! Are you folks going trick-or-treating? I don't know if my kids have outgrown it yet... I guess we'll find out this weekend! Happy Halloweek!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Ghost Buddies Egg Bento

Happy Halloween!
Two halves of a single hard-boiled egg become a pair of ghost buddies in TinySprite's Halloween bento today. She also gets furikake shoyu chicken (surprise!) and furikake rice. Broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, steamed Okinawan sweet potatoes, and a miniature mandarin round out the rest of the square Ecolunchbox Solo Cube.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Hello Kitty Egg Bento

Just a little one for the TinySprite. Shoyu chicken furikake, hapa rice, hard boiled egg, tomatoes, carrot, corn, honeydew melon and grapes. Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Totoro Soba Saladbook Bento!

Hello from Totoro! Yup, it's another Totoro bento. It may be true that we are in the midst of Fall, but we are still digging the cold noodle bento these days. This one is a soba salad, with chopped romaine, shredded carrot, fishcake (kamaboko), nori, grape tomatoes, and steamed Okinawan sweet potato soot sprites. I poured tsuyu directly on the noodles because the lid is gasketed and advertised to be leakproof. Spoiler: it didn't leak! This is a new lunchbox called SaladBook by Smart Planet. It's only the first time we've used it so we'll reserve judgement until we use it again. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Pastrami Egg Roll Eshly Bento

Today I made another recipe from the Lucky Rice Cookbook that I received earlier this past summer. Last time I made garlic smashed cucumbers and it was a perfect side addition to our bento repertoire. I was intrigued by the Pastrami Egg Rolls because I am a huge fan of pastrami and this seemed like a fun way to use it in bento. There wasn't a picture of these in the cookbook so I'm not sure exactly how the author meant for them to look, but I laid the pastrami strips inside the wrapper neatly in a couple different ways.

I also made a vegetarian filling since I was going to be deep-frying anyway, and it seems more balanced to add at least some vegetables. I preferred the vegetarian rolls, maybe because I ended up packing way more filling in those. But not surprisingly the kids really liked the salty cured pastrami and sauerkraut ones; I also added strips of swiss cheese in the pastrami ones (although this wasn't asked for in the original recipe).

There are two issues with egg rolls in bento: 1) egg rolls are best eaten freshly made, when they are maximally crispy and 2) now I remember why I don't like deep frying. The second reason isn't really a bento problem, it's mostly a personal dislike of spattering hot oil (and then cleaning up the mess after). The recipe, however, is a good one if you happen to like pastrami and sauerkraut. It might be even better with thinner sliced meat packed more fully, but ours was very delicious as well. Hope you can try it and see for yourself soon!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Pineapple Chicken Teriyaki Bento

I used a different recipe for teriyaki chicken - this one uses crushed pineapple, honey, shoyu, garlic, and ginger, and involved marinating the chicken pieces before oven baking. I'm not a fan of cooked pineapple in sauces but the kids liked it a lot. I guess because of the added sweetness in the flavor. Also packed in our LunchBots Quad: sweet cantaloupe, steamed Okinawan Sweet Potato, fresh corn, grape tomatoes, rice with furikake.

Pineapple Chicken Teriyaki Recipe 
(from Weelicious Cookbook adapted by Steamy Kitchen)


1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)


1. To make the teriyaki sauce, place the crushed pineapple, soy sauce, honey, ginger and garlic a bowl, whisk to combine. Pour half of the teriyaki sauce in a resealable plastic bag and reserve the other half. Place the chicken breasts in the resealable bag, close and give it a good massage to coat with the marinade. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to overnight.
2. When ready to cook, turn on the broiler and place the rack in the middle position. Place the marinated chicken breasts on a foil-lined baking sheet and spoon some of the chunky pineapple/ginger from the marinade on top of the breast. It will help keep the chicken moist. Broil for 8 to 10 minutes on each side, for a total of 16-20 minutes. Discard any remaining marinade in the bag.
3. While the chicken is broiling, heat the reserved teriyaki sauce (that you had previously set aside in step 1) in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes or until thickened slightly.
4. When chicken is done, Slice the chicken, pour the teriyaki sauce over top and serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Chicken Katsu Onigirazu Bento

Working on improving my onigirazu technique; today I made oven-baked chicken katsu. There are lots of recipes out there describing this method - basically instead of deep-frying the panko-breaded chicken cutlets, you bake them in a 400F oven for 30 minutes or so. The key is to toast the panko on a frying pan first so that it turns a nice brown color, like how it would look if you had actually deep-fried the chicken. You really can't compare oven baked chicken katsu with real deep-fried chicken katsu, but I thought it came out okay. It will never be as crispy as deep-fried, but it definitely is less oily. And there is very little cleanup involved. I like that!

For this onigirazu I didn't use a mold; I simply placed some rice in the middle of a sheet of nori, then layered with shredded cabbage, a few slices of chicken katsu, a squirt of tonkatsu sauce, more rice, then folded up the four corners and cut in half. I like how it looks, but I can still add more filling. Next time that's what I'll do. Also, I'll fold a little more tightly. The learning experience continues. Also inside our LunchBot Clicks: strawberries, orange cherry tomato, steamed broccoli.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Pikachu Bento!

Totoro got me thinking about Pokemon, and especially Pikachu. I don't think I've made one in a long time, so here's a snack bento with a Pikachu cut from a turmeric hard-boiled egg. I sliced the egg in half lengthwise so I could use the other half for ears, tail, hands and feet. I used nori for detail, and apple peel for his cheeks. Also in our Lunchbot Clicks: black rice, carrots, lettuce, and plum.
There he goes. Can you catch him? ^_^ 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Totoro Char Siu Bao Bento!

Totoro! I was thinking about him this past week because we happened to find the My Neighbor Totoro picture book in the library. It's a little jarring to read the story and descriptives since watching the film is more of a stream of flowing imagery washing over your senses. But it is fun to look closely at the detailed illustrations. In the scene where the sisters are eating cucumbers fresh from the garden, you can see the chewed-up bits of vegetable in Mei's open mouth while she's talking about bringing corn to her mother. Anyway, here is my tribute to everyone's favorite "cross between a bear and a raccoon and an owl." Have a magical adventure today!

Also in the ECOlunchbox Solo Rectangle: grapes, cucumbers, carrots, strawberry, lettuce. Details made from fishcake, nori, soba.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Salmon and Pickles Onigirazu Bento

On a roll with the black rice over here. Why not salmon and pickles onigirazu? First thing I learned from this one is to use more filling next time. D'oh! Besides more salmon I might also add more pickled red onion and pickled cucumber filling (can barely see it here), and maybe add daikon, some kind of sprouts and avocado too. Although you can simply make it freehand, I used a "mold" for this one, which was basically just a box that you fill, then invert onto a sheet of nori before folding. I found it to be awkward and unwieldy to use. I would prefer an open-ended mold that you place directly on the nori, like the ones you see for spam musubi and maki rolls. Also, this one I had to cut into three pieces to fit in the box, so the middle piece might fall apart while eating if it's not wrapped tightly enough. MisterMan ate this one and he gave it a thumbs-up, but stay tuned for my next attempt! I hope to improve my technique😊

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pork Veggie Rice Noodle Makizushi Bento

I made Vietnamese style pork chops and instead of packing them in lettuce wraps, which is how we ate them for dinner and how I usually pack them (which makes for a great bento, by the way), I decided to make more makizushi rolls for the kiddos. I've never put rice noodles in sushi before, but I guess it worked out all right!

I like how the black rice contrasts with the rice noodles (and the white pork). I included nuoc cham dipping sauce too, as well as pickled red onion and watermelon. The roll includes: black rice, romaine lettuce, pork chop slices, pickled carrots and daikon. Everything is packed in a stainless steel container with a leakproof clicktight lid, and an Eco Dipper container for the fruit. Perfect!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Mediterranean Life Without Plastic Bento

There's actually a theme to this bento, kind of, instead of just a hodgepodge of miscellaneous foods, for a change! It's also vegetarian. I was going to make a bento grain bowl, but then I realized I could use one of the dividers in this Life Without Plastic container to keep the fruit separate. So now it's a ¾ bento bowl. The cauliflowerettes and purple carrots are roasted with olive oil and whole garlic cloves over lentils and quinoa topped with halved cherry tomatoes; cumin-spiced crispy chickpeas; and a beet-yogurt romaine salad. The kids like these beets because of the vinegary honey yogurt sauce. Also, I told MisterMan that beets are a natural stamina booster, so he asks for it on P.E. days now!

The cut fruit are a variety of orange-fleshed honeydew called Golden Dewlicious. It's pretty good but not as sweet as cantaloupe. I think the summer season for melons might be drawing to a close pretty soon. We'll have to take advantage of the last remaining fruit while we can. So sad! Has Fall arrived yet where you are?

Crispy Spiced Chickpeas
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
Toss chickpeas with olive oil and spread in skillet (you can also roast in oven instead),
Fry (or roast) over medium heat until crispy, about 20 minutes.
Sprinkle with spices to coat all chickpeas.
Experiment with your favorite flavors, such as garlic powder, curry powder, cayenne pepper, Chinese five spice, Japanese togarashi - anything you like!

Beet Yogurt Salad
  • 3/4 pound beets (2 large or 8 small), trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons honey, or to taste
Wash and dry beets, place in foil wrapper, and roast at 450F until fork tender, about 45 minutes, depending on size. When cool, rub off skins and slice into half rounds or smaller. Whisk together oil, vinegar, yogurt, honey, salt and pepper. Mix in beets - they turn the dressing a pretty shade of pink! Eat as is or atop salad greens of your choice.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Chicken Teriyaki Onigirazu and Makizushi Bento

Hi friends! This is my first attempt at onigirazu. Onigirazu is like a rice ball (onigiri) except it is square in shape and flatter, like a sandwich. In this way, you can have more fillings than inside a round or triangular ball. Onigirazu molds exist, just as they do for regular onigiri, but I didn't have a mold so I freehanded it - placing rice, chicken teriyaki, lightly sauteed asparagus, then more rice on a nori sheet. Then I folded it, wrapped in wax paper, and cut in half so it would fit nicely inside the Eshly Deli Box. I filled out the rest of the box with purple carrot flowers, tomato, broccoli, and a melon sampler. Have you been eating as much melon as we have? It has been a great summer for sweet watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe!

I thought it came out pretty well, and MisterMan seemed to like it. There are lots of possibilities for fillings, and it is a good way to use up refrigerator leftovers easily (ham and egg, tuna salad, tomato bacon lettuce, smoked salmon cream cheese, steak, hamburger, whatever!).

I decided to make TinySprite's chicken and asparagus inside a makisushi roll. I thought it might be easier (and more fun) for her to eat this way. And they fit nicely inside the LunchBots Clicks box, alongside some Dapple Dandy pluots and a sweet strawberry. This stainless steel box comes in a couple sizes and is great because not only does it have a leakproof lid but the lid is translucent so you can see what's for lunch! I love that effect a lot. So there we have a couple of nice cool bento for a warm summer day! Hope you are all enjoying your last bit of summer!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Tacorice Bowl Bento

Tacorice is perfect for bento, especially if you have a bowl-type bento container, which we happen to have shown here. If you don't, a regular box will suffice as well, of course. I like this apple-shaped box because it has a separate top layer where we can put fruit and extras. The lid screws on to the bottom and has an attached handle. It's not super secure (or watertight) so I always remind the kids to support the bottom when they carry it around. It hasn't spilled yet.

Over rice: ground beef with taco seasoning, chopped lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cheddar, cilantro. You can also add avocado and salsa of choice; even tortilla strips or chips. Top layer: mandarin orange, blueberries, and steamed Okinawan sweet potato. Ultraman fork😊

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Oyakodon Ecolunchboxes Tri Bento

Oyako donburi is one of my favorite comfort meals. It consists of chicken and egg simmered together in a shoyu-mirin-sugar sauce with onions before adding to a bowl of rice with scallions. I added mushrooms and sliced red bell pepper to mine. Also, I cooked the egg completely instead of leaving it slightly runny since it will be packed into bento and stored at room temperature before eating. It may not be very photogenic, but trust me - it's delicious! I like this one-bowl type of meal because it's quick and easy, and it's a hit with the kids too. I put shichimi togarashi on mine, but they like furikake on theirs. Packed on the bottom layer of this Ecolunchboxes Tri Bento, I put some hapa rice (half white half brown) and scooped some chicken egg mixture over, topping with cilantro and chopped green onion, I put a romaine lettuce pickled baby cucumber fresh corn tomato salad in the middle with vinegar dressing and cracked black pepper, and super sweet fresh cut cantaloupe on the top. I asked MisterMan what he thought of this bento and he said "very good because there's lots of food inside!" Okay then. ^_^

Monday, August 29, 2016

Chow Mein Life Without Plastic Bento

We are using the Life Without Plastic lunch container again, this time with the removable dividers in place to test out the separating quality of the separators (last time I used the box with just a round cup in the center of our somen salad - that worked very well). MisterMan doesn't usually care whether the food happens to touch each other or the pickle juice gets into the strawberries, but I still wanted to find out just how much mixing occurs. I did use a silicone cup for the pickles, as I usually do, but I probably didn't really need to.

I placed chow mein in two of the four sections, then fruit (cantaloupe, raspberries and strawberry) in one of the remaining sections and sliced Okinawan sweet potato and pickles in the last. The box held everything together without much movement of the food inside; nothing leaked or spilled. Yay!

I used spinach noodles for the chow mein, and stir-fried fresh green beans, chopped baby bok choy, and beech mushrooms alongside. I seasoned with oyster sauce and shoyu to taste, plus garlic and onion. Top with a drizzle of sesame oil and chopped green onions. Quick, easy, and tasty!

On a side note, The Whole Foods Market blog wrote a piece focusing on Bento Box Lunch Ideas, and I share some bentomaking tips from Happy Little Bento over there. Please click over and take a look if you're interested! It's called:
Bento Box Lunch Ideas: 6 Easy (and Insta-worthy!) Options 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Teriyaki Salmon Eshly Deli Box

Are you ready for back-to-school? It's coming up too soon for me! We're going to max out the rest of the summer while we can but I'm also excited to get back into bentomaking. Especially when there are so many different kinds of bento supplies and boxes to be used! 

Today's Eshly Box (first used and reviewed here) contains teriyaki salmon (pan-fried and then drizzled with teriyaki sauce) sprinkled with furikake (can also squirt with kewpie mayo first) and wrapped in romaine, some brown rice and quinoa with Okinawan sweet potatoes in a silicone food cup, steamed broccoli, grape tomatoes, and mandarins. Really kind of loving the look and feel of this wooden box more and more. The lightweight quality and the clean lines make me feel healthy and ecologically sound. I paired this box with stainless steel chopsticks, which are small enough to slip under the elastic band securing the lid. A perfectly portable lunch!

Friday, August 12, 2016

New Bento Box Review: Yumbox

Today's review is on the Yumbox. This box is designed by a pair of moms who wanted (from their website): "a bento-like tray, with one lid that sealed all compartments; designated food groups to encourage and assist parents in packing a balanced meal; built-in portion control; a cool design and illustrations to make this little box more of an adventure in good nutrition than just plain old lunch!" 

The boxes come in a variety of sizes and with different numbers of sections. The one I have has 6 sections; there are other versions with 3 and 4 sections as well. They come decorated with different themes on the bottom of each section, like Pirates, Mermaids, Circus, and Rockets. The theme of mine is Parisian Pink. It's very cute!

The graphics are very colorful and artistic. They are labeled with different food groups, in order to help with balanced and nutritious meal planning. The image is applied to the underside of the plastic so there is no risk of scratching from the food. The inner (clear) plastic compartment is removable for easy cleanups.

Our first bento contains a bunch of different foods, and this type of bento would be ideal for kids who prefer to graze upon smaller portions of lots of variety of foods.

I packed: spiralized zucchini raw "noodles" with fresh off the cob sweet corn and shredded mozzarella cheese, pickled napa cabbage and beets, garlicky smashed cucumber pickles, steamed Okinawan sweet potatoes, purple carrots, peaches with homemade granola, and little chocolate bear cookies because they fit perfectly into the tiny circular section. This box worked very well, kept everything separate, and prevented leaking of any liquid. The latch was easy to use and young kids will have no problem securing and opening it on their own. It would also work well as a snack box for an older child.

The garlic smashed cucumber pickles came from the Lucky Rice Cookbook, authored by Danielle Chang, who came with her crew to film a segment with Happy Little Bento for Lucky Chow a couple months ago. I thought her cookbook might contain lots of fun ideas for packing into bento, and I was right! I'll show you more of them in the future. Happy weekend, friends!

Disclosure: Yumbox generously provided me with this product for use without cost to me. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Homemade Granola Recipe

I decided to make my own granola this past week because I keep hearing about how easy it is, and why not make your own so that you can be sure to include all your favorites? Plus it's good in bento and easy to take along as a snack during your kids' summer adventures. One of the best things about a recipe like this is that you can change it up however you like to your taste; there's no making a mistake here. I didn't add any dried fruit this time, but I might try raisins and dried apricots next time, since we always have those lying around the house. Just as I was spooning some out into my kids' cereal bowls, I heard about a recipe contest over at for National Trail Mix Day, which is coming up this month. Well, I had just made some granola so... in honor of National Trail Mix Day, here's my:

Basic Granola Recipe

1 1/4 C rolled oats
1/2 C each chopped assorted nuts (I used almonds, pistachios, and hazelnuts)
1/2 C pepitas
1/2 C sunflower seeds
2T uncooked quinoa

2T olive oil
2T honey
1 egg white

Combine all the dry granola ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together the oil, honey and egg white, then pour over the dry ingredients and toss to coat everything. If you have a lot of dry ingredients, you may need to increase the oil and honey.
Spread the mixture in a sprayed baking pan.
Bake at 325℉ for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
After cooling, I tossed in a few spoonfuls of cacao nibs for fun. These aren't sweet, so I didn't use too much. You might use chocolate chips instead, or sweetened cacao nibs.
This granola comes out crispy and crunchy and tastes delicious on fruit, ice cream, yogurt, cereal, smoothies, and more... such as on its own as a Trail Mix!

Chop chop chop.

Then just spread in a pan and bake.

We ate some sprinkled over a bowl of fresh cut mango and cottage cheese. Yum!

You can also sprinkle cinnamon into the cooled mixture; it's a delicious addition. Hope you can try it!