Friday, May 30, 2014

Maleficent Bento

Today marks the opening of the Maleficent movie that my daughter has been waiting for since first seeing the trailer many months ago.  Maleficent is her favorite Disney villain, and she can't wait to see her on the big screen!  

To celebrate the movie, I made a Maleficent bento today, which my children were thrilled with!  My Maleficent is hand-molded rice colored a very soft green (in honor of the original villain), and covered in nori paper with spinach, provolone & radish accents.  It was a lot of fun to see the image I had in my head come together and work out so nicely.  
What's in the Box?
Maleficent - Rice, Nori, Spinach, Provolone & Radish (see above)
Lettuce, Snap Peas, Cherry Tomatoes, Carrots, Raspberries
Raw Corn on the Cob, Baby Cucumber, Strawberry & Blackberries

Bento Tools:
Bentos on the Bayou
Check out this awesome Maleficent bento by OMGiri that totally inspired me when making mine today.  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

One Lunch - Three Ways

I made lunch for the four of us today and decided to use the same items, but to configure the lunches 3 different ways.  

The ingredients were pretty basic:  Ham & Cheese Sandwiches, Raw Corn, Baby Cucumbers, Baby Carrots, Grape Tomatoes, Red Bell Peppers, Strawberries & Grapes.  

This first lunch was for my son, who is 5.  I've been wanting these large skewer picks from Bento USA for awhile and finally ordered them.  I am so glad I did.  I love them even more than expected, and so does he!  
Next up is my 13 year old daughter's lunch.  Hers is basically the same as his, but I cut the corn off the cob for her since she currently has braces.  That being considered, I am not counting this as a different configuration.  She was a big fan of the skewer picks, too.
This next lunch was mine.  I basically threw my mini-sandwiches into a silicone cup, rather than using skewers.  I also lined my box in lettuce.  
This last lunch was for my husband.  His was prepared as a standard sandwich with the veggies arranged around the box wherever I could squeeze them in.  
I think we all agreed that the skewers were the most fun and the favorite format across the board.  It was fun to prepare the same food in different ways.  I always use any bento scraps in a salad for me or in other recipes, but this was a slightly different approach, as it was entirely the same food.  I think something as simple as a different arrangement of the same food would help keep lunch boredom and monotony at bay.  

Bento tools used for these lunches:
Bentos on the BayouBentos on the Bayou

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sweet Bunny Bento

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my family recently moved, which took a lot out of me.  That resulted in a break not only from blogging, but from bento making, as well.  I unpacked the last few boxes earlier this week, so I hope to be back in full bento-swing and to be blogging regularly again!  

To help get me back in bento-mode, I ordered a few new supplies from Bento USA.  One of them was this adorable set of bunny picks that I've had my eye on for months.  They are even cuter in person, and as soon as I opened the package, I knew I was going to make one of the bunnies out of rice.  

The same day my Bento USA package came, I received a  surprise gift from my sweet blogger friend Cristi from BentOnBetterLunches.  One of the things she sent was a set of cute flower egg molds.  I knew the daisy mold would work perfectly with my bunny bento!  

I colored the boiled eggs in beet juice after I removed their shells, making the soft pink color you see below.  The muzzle and ears of the bunny were cut from one of the eggs, as well.  
What's in the Box?
Bunny - Rice, Boiled Egg & Nori Accents
Lettuce, Asparagus, Yellow Bell Pepper, Grape Tomatoes
Hard-Boiled Egg, Cantaloupe Balls
Clementine, Celery, Carrots, Pear Tomatoes
Red Bell Pepper, Cucumber, Golden Beets

Bento Tools:
Bentos on the Bayou   Bentos on the Bayou  Bentos on the Bayou
Bentos on the Bayou   Bentos on the Bayou   

Monday, May 19, 2014


What's in the Box?
Toasted Turkey & Avocado Sandwich
Cucumber, Celery, Bell Pepper, Golden Beets
Tomatoes, Carrots, Raw Corn
Strawberry, Kiwi, Banana

Bentos on the Bayou

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bento Boxes and Food Allergies

Food Allergy Awareness Week

Living with severe food allergies can be difficult.  When my son was 2 years old, we discovered that he has a severe anaphylactic peanut allergy.  He has also tested positive on both the skin & blood tests to several tree nuts, so for now we avoid them all.  His allergy is severe enough that he has had a reaction even when eating a food that was processed in a facility that processes peanuts, even if the item itself did not contain any nuts.  He has also ended up needing his EpiPen with a subsequent trip to the ER due to cross contamination at a restaurant, and has reacted when I ate something and then kissed him on the cheek hours later.

His pediatric allergist has told us that we are so lucky to be a homeschool family.  The biggest hurdle and concern for many families is school, and that is simply not going to be an issue for us.  My prayers go out to all those families that struggle with that daily fear as they send their children to school.  However, we don't live in a bubble, and life in general presents plenty of challenges.  

When he was diagnosed, our family decided immediately to be fully supportive of him and his needs.  Therefore, all 4 of us avoid every item that he cannot have.  They are not in our house, and we don't eat them elsewhere.  Even when he is not with us, we simply do not consume them.  While we want him to grow to understand the severity of his allergy, the last thing we ever want is for him to feel different.  I guess it is natural and unavoidable that he will sometimes, but we are not going to be the ones to make him feel that way.  We basically all live as if we have his allergy, unless it is unavoidable.

As you can imagine, eating out is a challenge.  There are a few places we know are safe, but due to the issue of cross-contamination and ingredients possibly being contaminated long before they make their way to a restaurant, many places simply aren't safe.  We don't want to live in constant fear, but it also isn't worth the risk of being careless.

We have a system in place for playdates, church, etc.  I always wipe down tables and carts, with special wipes to eliminate any possible nut residue from a previous customer.  We avoid places where we know shelled peanuts are served (circus, baseball games, etc.).  Friends and family members know about his allergy and are generally very supportive and careful when we get together.  

Last year, we discovered a new challenge.  We were invited as a family to attend a party being hosted by a co-worker of my husband.  We realized as we planned our attendance that dinner would be served at the party.  We found out what the menu would be and decided it would be risky for Super Tot to eat at the party.  We realized, however, that in this situation, it might send the wrong message for the rest of us to avoid eating.  As I mentioned above, we try very hard to all avoid anything that he is not able to have.  This was a first for us, so we had to come up with a new plan.  As I prayed about what to do, I realized I already had the perfect solution...BENTO!!  

As the party was approaching, I had been making healthy bento lunches for my children for a long time, and they LOVED them!!  To this day, they are so excited each afternoon to see what is in their boxes, and they are eating so many healthy foods.  I realized that I could make a super fun bento for our son to take to the party, and he wouldn't miss out on anything.  In fact, HE would be the one with the coolest food at the party!  I created the fun Alligator Bento pictured at the top of this post and took it to the party.  Indeed, he was thrilled with his special meal.  He never felt like he was missing out, and he was excited about having a bento for dinner that day.  Of course, he was having so much fun at the party that he barely ate anything, but he certainly didn't miss the party food that was being served.  And the rest of us were able to eat without feeling like we were being rude to the hosts, or to our son!

All this being said, I realize wholeheartedly that I am still not in control.  God is.  I am absolutely going to be proactive for my son, but I ultimately trust God to care for him and keep him safe.  I know that God chose us to be his family, and I trust that He did that knowing that we would do our part to keep him healthy and safe.  The biggest part of that, though, is trusting God to intervene and do what we cannot.  Food allergies or not, I am so blessed and thankful that God chose me to be this boy's mom.  

And on an obvious lesser note, I am thankful that I learned about the fun art of bento, and the blessing it has quickly become for my family in so many ways.  

As you probably know, all of the bentos and recipes posted on this blog are peanut and tree nut free.  Many of them are gluten-free and/or dairy-free, as well.

I have several friends who make bento lunches for their food allergy children.  I know that if my children attended traditional schools, I would feel much safer knowing I was sending safe and fun lunches to school with them each day. 

Check out some of those friends' blogs here:

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Caprese Salad Bento

Sorry I've been MIA lately.  My family is in the middle of a move, which has really thrown me for a loop.  Things finally seem to be settling down a bit, so I should be back to blogging and making bentos very soon.  Until then, I thought I would share a quick, healthy and delicious bento I made recently.  

I love Caprese Salad, but no one else in my family does, so this was a real treat for me.  I used fresh mozzarella pearls, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil, tossed with a bit of organic balsamic and herbs.  It was delicious and a perfect addition to this simple lunch.
What's in the Box?
Caprese Salad (see above)
Turkey & Avocado on a Bagel Thin
Sliced Orange Bell Peppers, Carrots & Celery
Mixed Fresh Berries

Bento Tools:
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