Monday, May 4, 2015

Happy Star Wars Day, & May the 4th Be With You! Enjoy Your Lunch, You Will!

This past weekend Mia Bella reminded me that Monday was May the 4th. For a moment I forgot the significance, until she said "You know, May the 4th be with you?" Right! I knew that! "So will you make me a Star Wars lunch?" I said I would, & this is it, packed in her PlanetBox Rover:

I think it turned out pretty awesome! Stamping cookie cutter are the best for making a fancy looking lunch, fast. The ones I used (below) are part of a set from Williams-Sonoma that includes Darth Vader, Yoda, a Stormtrooper, & Boba Fett. They don't carry it anymore but you can still sometimes find them & similar Star Wars Press & Stamp Cookie Cutters on Amazon, or eBay.

Bella's Darth Vader & Stormtrooper sandwiches are turkey & cheddar on whole wheat & white. She has two of each, on a bed of lettuce & flanked by sweet mini peppers. The trio of Yodas are slices of honeydew melon. Dueling lightsaber cupcake picks pierce one of a bunch of grape tomatoes.   

I also packed some green grapes, & carved Star Wars into the wax shell of a Babybel cheese, using a v-shaped cutter shown in the tool set below. Carving those words took me longer than it took to make the whole rest of the lunch! And for a treat, I added some "Galaxy Mix" Jelly Belly beans. Our packet had Darth Vader on it, & the beans themselves were iridescent!

I had already closed her PlanetBox & packed it in her Rover carry bag,  & was busy making the younger sproutlets' lunches, when I remembered that I had forgotten to include a Lunchbox Love note!  Caught it in time though,  & opened up her lunch to add the note. So now you get to see what her lunch looks like after the lid's been closed & it's been turned sideways :) See... nothing squashed or out of place, only the jelly beans have moved a little ;)

I also added a Star Wars print cloth napkin made by one of the biggest Star Wars nerds in the bento world as I know it, Kristie of Beneficial Bento. You can get custom cloth napkins & more in her Beneficial Bento etsy shop.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Awesome Autism Day

April is National Autism Awareness Month in America,  & April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day.  Pickle calls it Awesome Autism Day :)   I packed him an awesome autism lunch with a special message:

I used tiny alphabet, heart, & puzzle piece shaped cookie cutters to say "I love you to pieces" with his peanut butter sandwich, & filled the heart shape with cupcake sprinkles in the colours of the Autism Awareness ribbon.  I froze some yogurt in a puzzle piece mold & nestled a piece in some plain yogurt - it holds it shape pretty well as it thaws. And I topped one of his favourite oatmeal muffins with some blue cupcake sprinkles - they're meant to be flowers but I think they look kind of like puzzle pieces :)

If you aren't a regular BentOnBetterLunches reader,  you might be thinking: Cute lunch, but so nutritionally unbalanced!  Maybe you even want to ask: Where are the fruits & vegetables?  The answer most days is:  On his dinner plate, pureed in pizza sauce. Rarely in his lunch box.  Why not?  Pickle has autism, & like many kids with ASDs, he takes picky eating to an extreme.  

The reasons for this are as diverse as the kids themselves.  Pickle has difficulty with food textures*. Graduating from purees to solids was a slow process that took patience, & help from his speech-language pathologist. And he still prefers softer solids - like peanut butter sandwiches :)

But a peanut butter sandwich every day ?!
Autism challenges us daily, turning simple tasks into a battle, so we try to choose our conflicts carefully.  Pickle's diet is just not something worth fighting over.  If he wants to have the same thing for lunch every day, that's okay.  I personally find it boring, but he seems to find it reassuring*.  So, to make packing the same thing every day less tedious, fun even, I challenged myself to make his sandwiches as many different ways as I could, & set a goal of 101 - and I did it! See all 101 peanut butter sandwiches here :)

I like to think that Pickle's lunches are something he looks forward to during his school day.  He loves to learn, but autism can make some aspects of going to school difficult. Sitting still, working quietly, & transitioning from one subject to another take a lot of effort for him, & the noise & crowds at recess & lunch can be overwhelming.  A familiar lunch is comforting :)

Pickle's Autism Awareness lunch is packed in our new Bentology containers. If the bento box design looks familiar, that's because Bentology is the evolution of one of our longtime favourite brands, Laptop Lunches! Bonus - we already had a spork that matches the new turquoise coloured lids :) And last but never least, I tucked in a Lunchbox Love note. I can always find one with the perfect sentiment 



* Sensory Processing Disorder has a higher prevalence among children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
* Many people with autism have a strong preference for routines and sameness. - Autism, routines, & resistance to change.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Rainy Day Monday Rainbow Bento

It's a rainy Monday, but the sun is trying to shine! I packed a little rainbow in Bella's EasyLunchbox. A grey day needs a colorful lunch :)

That rainbow condiment cup is one of my favourites :) I filled it with Chef Kidd's Honey Berry Funagrette. Her colourful lunch also contains:
  • baby carrots, one skewered in a heart shape (here's how)
  • Girl Scout cookies! Do-si-dos,  the peanut butter sandwich ones
  • celery sticks to dip in the rainbow cup
  • English cucumber slices planted with flower picks
  • Babybel cheese with a flower cut out of the wax
  • & turkey & cheddar on wheat, cut in hearts with Sweet Bytes
I also packed a sunny yellow cloth napkin from Beneficial Bento.

Some of the tools & accessories I used:

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Cat in the Hat Pocket Cracker Snack

Here's a little pocket-size bento snack with a Cat in the Hat theme :)

Pocket size Cat in the Hat cheese, pepperoni. & cracker snack

It's a stack of Triscuit crackers topped with pepperoni sticks & string cheese cut & arranged like the famous Cat's hat, packed in a tiny bento box for Sprout to carry in her pocket. This snack was so tightly packed right up to the lid that it was still a perfect hat when she opened & ate it :)

I have more Seussalicious blog posts!
Click here to see them all :)

●  ●  ●  ● 
This Seuss-inspired snack post is linked to the 
Bento Bloggers & Friends Dr Seuss Post Party!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bento Class: DIY Pizzables!

This month & next I'm teaching an after-school enrichment class at my sproutlets' elementary school, introducing kids to the principles of bento & helping them learn to pack their own creative nutritious school lunches! My class is called Bento Lunch Fun - & I think it's living up to the name :)  I know these two have been having fun:

This week's theme was Kid's Choice, & they all wanted to make something with pizza. Like pizza lunchables, they said. That gave me the perfect opportunity to talk about making a lunch that's not just fun, but also nutritionally balanced.  I asked them what they like about pizza lunchables. They were unanimous - "You get to make your own little pizza!" Of course, I agreed, that is fun! Then I asked them what's missing from lunchables. Aha! They quickly realized, & agreed - fruits & vegetables! Right! But when you pack your own version of a lunchable (that my sproutlets call momables - the class liked that) you can include whatever fresh fruits & veggies you like!

Here's my version of a DIY pizza lunchable, with fruit & vegetables, a Clifford the Big Red Dog cupcake ring, a pizza cupcake pick, & alphabet picks:

The kids chose pepperoni & mozzarella cheese for the mini pizzas. For fruit & veg I brought strawberries to show them how to notch the tops to make a heart, apples to show them how to checker the peel (though I didn't use any in my example), mini peppers they could chop for toppings or eat whole, & baby carrots they could decorate with cupcake rings. I brought a tackle box filled with an assortment of my own accessories for them to use - but didn't think to take a photo until after class, so the cupcake rings were already gone :) All the accessories I brought came from BentoUSA.

The students were very proud of their creations :) The little girl on the bottom left pointed out that we could make our pizzables even healthier if we used whole wheat - an excellent point to make,  & another great thing about packing your own bento - you can choose healthier ingredients than what might come in a pre-packaged lunch. These kids did great!



I had actually planned to get whole wheat sandwich thins for our pizzables, but the 3 shops I went to were out that day (I should have bought them earlier!) so I ended up making do with plain mini bagels that I sliced & flattened with a cutting board before class. 

We could fit 3 flattened mini bagel halves in each EasyLunchbox, but some decided 2 would be plenty for their lunch - which brought me to another good point - when you pack your own lunch, you can customize the portions to your appetite, so you're neither left hungry nor with wasted food left over :) 

EasyLunchboxes generously provided my class with reusable divided lunch boxes & Mini Dippers that they got to take home, so they could take their bentos to school for the next day's lunch if they wished! These are the boxes I use most often for my own family - they're so versatile! I also gave each child a spoon that fit in the EasyLunchbox, for spreading the sauce on their bagel, & voila - everyone had their own unique healthier-than-a-store-bought-lunchable pizza lunch! I saw a couple of my students in the lunch room the next day, enjoying theirs :) Our DIY Pizzables were a hit!

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