With schools back in session, the lunchbox dilemma has started again. It's daunting to think of new lunch ideas that your kids will actually eat. Ditch the traditional sandwich and chips, for the new lunchbox craze; bento!
Despite looking fancy, bento really is a simple way to create pleasing lunches out of just about any food. Think leftovers and food styling, and you are on your way to awesome bento. I(Amy) love making bento for the kids. None of mine look nearly as nice as the fancier ones, but the kids are still enthralled and I do learn some interesting techniques. A couple of my favorite things to add to the lunchbox are Onigeri and Tamagoyaki. Here are my directions for both:
Onigeri is simply sticky rice made into shapes. You can stick with simple balls or triangles, or use molds and make them fun shapes like bears and pigs. Amazon is a great place to find all the little molds that you use to shape the rice with.
To make them by hand, cook the sticky rice using the directions on the bag. Then get a bowl of cool, salted water and dip your hands into the salty water before taking a scoop of slightly cooled sticky rice. Shape into desired shape. The water keeps the rice form sticking to your hands. That's it! I usually also wrap each ball with a piece of Nori seaweed (sold in sheets at the grocery store) to make a non-sticky spot for easier holding in the lunchroom.
Tamagoyaki means Japanese omelette. It's a slightly sweet food(although I always leave out the sugar), and it requires a rectangular tamagoyaki pan. You can certainly use a nonstick pan for this, but it's all about the ritual, right? So, mix up your egg with a bit of soy sauce and water. Heat the tamagoyaki pan with a bit of oil and pour the egg into the pan. Tip the pan quickly to spread the egg thinly. It only takes a minute for the thin egg layer to cook. When the egg is almost cooked, start rolling from the short end to the other short end. You will have a little egg rolled up when you finish. Now, once you get the hang of it, add a little bit of color by adding some finely shredded and steamed veg before rolling up the omelet. I often add swiss chard greens, since they steam down very soft and easy to chew, making them bento box friendly. Allow your tamagoyaki to cool slightly and then slice into pinwheels. Tuck these into the bento and it looks amazing!
Here is a video I like about making a fancier version of bento than anything I have ever tackled. Check out how to make Disney's Olaf. So adorable!