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!

Monday, August 8, 2016

New Bento Box Review: Life Without Plastic

More summery bento! And a new bento box! 

There's a brand-new (to me) new lunchbox in town, and it's pretty cool. It's called Round Stainless Steel Airtight Takeout Container with Dividers. I was intrigued because I've used airtight stainless steel containers before (Lunchbot Clicks) and divided stainless steel containers before (Lunchbots, Planetbox, and Ecolunchboxes) but I was always wishing for a bento box container that combined those three highly desirable qualities: stainless steel, airtight, and divided.


Finally, there is one!

The two dividers fit together loosely so the four sections may not separate completely; just enough to keep most of the foods from touching each other and mixing together. If there is any liquid in any of the sections, however, it will probably leak into the other sections.

There is a gasket that fits snugly underneath the lid, though, ensuring a watertight seal once the three latches are secured. So any liquid inside the container should theoretically not leak out into your (or your child's) lunch tote or backpack.

The inaugural bento I made in this container is something we've been eating a lot of this summer:

somen salad!

I think it looks beautiful in this box, and if you chill it, the salad will stay cool for awhile, which I love. Okay, I didn't make use of the dividers this time, but that's on the list next time for sure.

The container I used in the center doesn't come with the box, but if you had one, with a lid, it might be ideal to hold sauce for dipping (or pouring). I packed the tsuyu sauce in a little bottle but you could also just pour the sauce on top before packing, since it is a watertight box! I lay the somen noodles on a bed of chopped romaine lettuce, since that's how I like to eat this salad, but you could also shred the lettuce and lay it on top with the other toppings. I used halved grape tomatoes, sliced steamed Okinawan sweet (purple) potatoes, sliced deli ham, chopped green onions, julienned carrots, and sesame seeds. Sometimes I sprinkle furikake too. The box performed well, is easy to open and close, is watertight as described, and looks elegant enough for adults to use as well as kids. This one is definitely going to get a lot of use, maybe more by me than anyone else! 

Disclosure: Life Without Plastic 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.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

New Bento Box Review: Eshly Deli Box

Hello Bento Friends!
Hope your summer is going swimmingly! If you're like us, you've been making sure you enjoy every last bit of summer vacation before it's gone -- and it's always gone too soon, isn't it? I sometimes feel like we're actually busier during summer than during the school year. Is that weird? Anyway, one of my summer goals was to make sure to try out some new bento gear and develop some new lunchpacking ideas to put in use for the upcoming school year. And I am starting on that project now!

The first new bento box I want to show you is a knockout stunner of a beauty. It's called Eshly Deli Box and it's manufactured in Berlin, Germany from European Ash wood; each round box from a single piece of wood.

This is the interior: the box comes with two removable interlocking pieces which divide the box into four sections. I've also used one of the pieces by itself to create two sections, and because of slight variation in the wood, the piece can wedge into position in certain locations and it works fine.

The craftsmanship is delightful. The lightweight wood is smooth, splinter-free, and the grain and color variations add to the natural good looks of the box.

The loose-fitting lid is grooved on top to allow the elastic band to secure the box snugly without moving around or accidentally slipping off.

Here is my inaugural bento in the Eshly Deli Box. I placed the food inside silicone cups because I was anxious about staining the brand new wood! I need not have worried, though. The product designer assured me that although the wood may take up color from certain foods like beet or berry juice, over time it will fade just like wooden cutting boards. I packed ume soba with halved grape tomatoes, chopped green onions, scallions, romaine lettuce leaves and a tiny bottle of tsuyu as a deconstructed soba salad. I also included homemade roasted five-spice chickpeas, carrots, and lightly steamed corn on the cob. A tiny mandarin and a black apricot round out the meal.

My lunch looks like summer in a box! I found the Eshly box to clean up easily with damp wiping. It is fine to wash with soapy water if necessary, as long as you promptly dry it completely. I imagine the care should be the same as that taken with unvarnished Japanese magewappa wooden boxes as well.

Overall I was very pleased with the performance of the Eshly Deli Box. It is lightweight, well-made, comes with a secure elastic band dyed with natural dye, and is very practical with removable section dividers. I love the fact that it is made of natural and ecologically sound hardwood, of a variety that is more elastic, more resistant to abrasion, more easily bent and less subject to splintering than most other kinds of wood (taken from company info sheet). Furthermore, and perhaps most of all, it is beautiful. I might not send it to school with younger children (not for any reason except the possibility of dropping and damaging), but I'm sure middle schoolers and up will have no problems caring for this box. I love this box and you can be sure I will be packing many more bento in it in the future!

For more info on this box, you may contact the company Atelier Britta Knuppel at or on Instagram @eshlyberlin.