Bento is, very simply put, a Japanese lunchbox that’s making waves across the U.S.. Traditionally made with rice, meat, poultry or fish and pickled or other cooked vegetables and often leftovers, bento can be as intricate or simple as you’d like. The bento I send always come back empty and the kids prefer them to the usual bagged lunch.
Bento boxes can be as simple or elaborate as the food they hold, from laquered boxes with built-in dividers to reuseable plastic containers available just about everywhere lately. It’s important to keep moist foods separate from dry foods to decrease the risk of
spoilage. Silicone muffin liners are ideal for keeping foods separate, but anything from dry lettuce leaves to waxed paper works as well.
While leftovers are perfect, any food that tastes as good chilled as it does hot will do. To keep foods cold until lunch time, small condiment packets like ketchup, mustard, mayo or relish, when frozen, are the perfect size ice-pack whether meant to be consumed or not.
Fill-ins help food keep its shape and stay put; some ideas for fill-ins are grape tomatoes, grapes, baby carrots, individually wrapped cheeses and dried fruit. Experiment with your and your kids’ favorites and have fun with it, your kids, and you, will have the most envied lunches at school and work.
This bento is so cute and easier to make than you’d think. My local ShopRite also has the freshest and most beautiful (and very often local!) produce to make this not just pretty, but delicious as well.
1) The flower sandwich is made by making a sandwich as usual and cutting it into a circle. Make 6 cuts around the edge almost to the center for petals and add a yellow pepper cut-out to the center.
2) Green pepper strips and cut-out make the stem and leaf.
3) A broccoli floret makes a nice looking bush.
4) The large ladybug is made from a wax covered cheese round colored with an edible black marker (found in the cake decorating aisle). The head is half a black olive attached with cream cheese.
5) The smaller ladybugs are cherry tomatoes drawn on with edible black marker.
6) A small red flower was cut from red pepper and yellow pepper for the center.
7) Strawberry tulips are in the upper corner. They are strawberries cut in an X from the pointed end, stopping before cutting all the way through to the stem, and filled with cream cheese icing.
8) The background is seasoned rice on a bed of green leaf lettuce.
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