Spring Bento & Bentoverload

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The idea for this Spring Bento is directly taken from the book referenced in the last post: The Just Bento Cookbook. In the book the sandwiches are little bunnies and the photography is well..professional. This was taken in a rush on top of my washing machine with my phone in the middle of herding the kids out the door trying to get to school on time.  And just in case you are wondering, this is what the kitchen looks like once I get home because I RARELY have time to clean everything up before I leave.

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LOTS of Bento shrapnel for this one. If you can see on the LH side on the colorful rainbow tray, I am also building Leif’s “second tier” lunch with the Bento scraps. It looks pretty good as far as leftover scraps go. 

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But let’s back up a bit. Would you like to enter the WORLD OF BENTO? I’m going to show you just ONE store. Just one. And just imagine on this teeny tiny island of Okinawa this is just ONE store that sells Bento products. Just to show you the vast array of Bento boxes I had to make a collage:

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From Top R clockwise you  have cute colorful and polkadotted kids bentos, bento boxes that look like books, round bentos for soup, solid color and metal bentos for grownups, colorful and polkadotted bentos for grownups and then more kids and character bento boxes. They cost around $10-$20.

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Character Bento boxes

 

Just to see some of these up close:

 

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Lego Bento box

If you are wondering which my kids use- I’ll take photos of all of their lunch accoutrements in a later post. But I will say that I did get Leif one of these lego boxes. I recommend having 2 boxes for each child. That way there is a little variety and if for some reason you are missing the part of one or it is in the dishwasher you have the spare. They also obviously differ in sizing/compartments, so it is nice to have different kinds which fit different type of meals.

Once you have your Bento box, you are not done though. First you need a cute chopstick/utensil kit.

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Leif is picking one out for you.

 

 

You also need a special box for your onigiri. (rice ball).

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I like these onigiri boxes.

 

Some days you might need to keep your lunch cool with an ice pack. And it needs to be a cute one.

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Here is my ice pack pick.

Here is my ice pack pick.

Not pictured is a little washcloth to wipe your hands and a cute container to put that in. You need that too. I’ll show you that later. First, though, pick out a bag to put your bento box and accessories in.  These are more for women. Characters are very popular for kids & usually have a drawstring top.  I made my own for my kids.

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Don’t forget your colorful waterbottle.

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Did you realize you needed a case for your waterbottle? Of course you did.

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A hundred dollars later you have your complete Bento kit and are ready to start making Bentos! Don’t put your wallet away though, because there are  hundreds of tools to help make this happen.

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The aisle where Bento making dreams come true…

Let’s look at some of these things up close…

 

I’m not super sure what this is, but it appears as though you can imprint things on bread?? Who knows, but as long as it involves a cute animal face I’m sold.

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 All sorts of cute containers to stare up at you while you eat.

 

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These are punches you use on nori sheets (seaweed) to make cute faces for your already cute shaped rice balls.

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Look at this! You can make adorable penguins, snuggly pandas or super-cool Shinkansen (bullet train) onigiri!!

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nd on the days you make a boring sandwich with bread, you can still make it look cute with these sandwich thingamajigs.

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And my personal favorite bento accessory: cute toothpicks.

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Finger foods are more fun when you have adorable toothpicks stuck into them.

As you can see…I could go on and on.  I don’t have any of these fancier tools, although I may pick up a few before we leave here. You don’t need ALL these fancy tools to make cute and nutritious obento. It would have been great if I had bought some of these and demonstrated a bento lunch using them. However, in a way showing you the opposite is good too. To make this spring bento lunch, the only thing I needed was a knife, a small cookie cutter and about an extra half-hour.

 

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I used super-thick Japanese white bread for one sandwich. I spread a layer of cream cheese and then jelly. Put bread on top and cut out with a flower cookie cutter. The other flowers are hot-dog tulips, just cut out with a little paring knife. The cucumber leaves were pretty simple to figure out. I did another sandwich with wheat bread and lunchmeat. The apple tulip was a bit harder to finagle, but turned out nicely.  Seriously though- plain old apple slices are what I will be doing 99.9% of the time.

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I think that photo of the half-made sandwich made this post seem like it was going to be a step-by-step tutorial? Sorry! Buy the book or check it out from your library or google bento tutorials if you’d like that. Do you think I have time for making the bentos, dressing my kids, getting dressed myself, kids to school on time AND step by step photos?? No way. Of course I DO have the time to line everything up like this on the cutting board just because it appeals to me and I like knolling, even if imperfect.

The book calls the apple thing “Apple Bunny Wedges.” I see the bunny ear aspect, but I also think it looks like a tulip too.  Here’s how it looks all together:

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The last thing I wanted to add had to do with all the extra bread that could potentially be wasted. Here’s a trick I learned from a fellow preschool mom. You take the crusts  or pieces of bread you don’t use and then toast them in a pan with butter and sugar. They make really good little snacks. If you want to save them up for a while, put them in a ziplock in the freezer. However, that would only be for bread without anything already spread on it and doesn’t work if you are making a sandwich like I did here and only cutting out part of it. Then you would need to just eat the remaining pieces yourself if you didn’t want to throw them away- or fob them off of course on an unsuspecting younger sibling or an understanding husband.

And this photo below has really little to do with this post except it was taken also in a store and I like it.

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My cute little Fiona.  Till next time! I’m obviously not achieving the one-post-a-day series like I wanted to do, but I’m at least plugging away at it! More bento posts to come…

 

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