Thursday, June 05, 2008

Bento Lunchbox Notes

Ah, school. No time off in the summer for preschoolers. So, we have school days all year. The Kiddo does her best to convince me otherwise. Daily, my morning greeting consists of, "Mommy, school is closed."

"Nice try, Kiddo," I say. "Not today." Though, I have to wonder if she would not be safer at home. I dropped her off this morning out where they all were playing. A small pack of boys were playing the preschool ad-hoc rule approach to football. This mainly means tossing the ball up, then five of them piling on top of whoever grabbed the ball. And fighting. Over and over. Tears. Boys.

I went around the corner, and nearly got run over by two more boys on trikes. They were pulling the trikes to the top of an incline. Hopping on, pedaling as fast as possible, then crashing into the side of the building at the bottom.

I am not too worried about the football game, or the trikes or the stone building. But, the frontal lobe damage could be tricky. Guess it's good that one boy was the owner's son — saves on law suits. Since none of the teachers did anything. I stepped in.

"Hey! You are going to bash your heads. Stop that." See, this parent-taking-charge thing makes the teachers step up. Sure, they hate you, but they step up. I'm used to pissing off the school.

At this point, I am sure of two things:
  1. It's time to have another chat with the management (oh joy).
  2. Damn, it's good to have a girl child.
I mentioned that I pack my kid's lunch every day after giving up in frustration on trying to change her school menu for the better. I also mentioned it's one of those cool Bento-style lunch boxes that is fair-wage, safe plastic, made in US things.

I actually want one myself, but the little boxes are not big enough to handle the ginormous amount of salad greens I pack these days in order to try and lose the extra pounds. My long weekend workouts are a thing of the past with a kid around. And I like food. A lot. Good thing I like salad, too.

You know, fresh, local salad greens are just Spring's way of saying, "Wow, those swimsuits are TINY this season. Uh, you? So. Not. Tiny."

But, I digress.

It's also come to light that said lunch box is a thing of wonder at school. That teachers from other rooms gather to see what the Kiddo brought (got stuck with) that day.

Today's lunch featured; cottage cheese, Cheese Tortellini with Sundried Tomato Pesto, Roasted Asparagus in Balsamic Vinaigrette, and pitted cherries.

When other moms ask me for advice on what to put in the lunch box, I was all stoked to create lunch box recipes. I tried this whole concept of cooking yet more in a week on top of dinners. What I figured out is that the same dinner leftovers I eat for lunch work just great for the Kiddo too. Adding extra cooking work to the workload is kind of setting myself up for failure. Over the course of the week, it does mean making a few extra dishes to make sure we all have lunch AND dinner food. But, it's a lot easier to just cook more of something than to cook more somethings.

Things like the tortellini dish taste great hot the first night, and work well cold the next day. Even lasagne tastes good cold. Many schools have microwaves now as well. But, if you are looking for lunch box-friendly dishes, this site definitely has them. Here's a few recommendations:
Red Cabbage Slaw (in season late spring, summer)
Apple-Cider Sauce (fall)
Red Grape, Blueberry and Almond Chicken Salad
Mac and Cheese with Ham and Broccoli

As far as food safety goes, you should look for the insulated lunch boxes that take an ice/cold pack to keep food chilled. The general rule on food safety (from culinary school text) is keeping food at 40 degrees F to 140 degrees F for LESS THAN four hours. I would lean toward the three-hour mark to be on the safe side. Items that require special care are meats, eggs, mayo, dairy.

If you are looking for creative Bento Lunch box ideas, here are some.

As far as trike safety, well, I'll be having that chat with the school.


Just visiting. :) said...

Just my useless two cents, but perhaps we need MORE let 'em figure it out for themselves rather than LESS.

Although I suppose it doesn't work because we no longer have the 'community morals' of common courtesy inbred in us. So the "club initiation" that my mom and her cousins had of hitting someone on the arm with a stinging nettle if they wanted to join just wouldn't work today. ;) And I meant that as in, they would only hit him on the arm once. And only the arm. That's what's missing... kids today would hit them many times and in the face.

Oh well. I'm glad mine are grown and I wish you peace and safety along the way. It's tough.

Expatriate Chef said...

Yeah, I don't mind the football game. But preventing a debilitating head injury is probably on the side of good ol' logic. :)

MamaBird said...

Ah, yes, the debate between letting kids work it on out and develop independence and saving them from braining themselves (or mentally torturing others). I'm generally an intervener if I think bodily or bullying evil will occur. Helicopter parent labeling and all.

Thanks for all the recipe and bento links! Mmmmmmm. I am a huge leftover girl myself and so agree that it's easier to cook more of something than more somethings. Oh, how I wish I had room for a 2nd freezer...

Rachel said...

I'm with you, B. Football? OK. Brain bashing? Not OK, merely because kids ain't developed enough to understand the concept of "long term head trauma."

Hey, not for nothing, but I reckon there's a real business niche in the whole bento box/Tiffin box, catered school-lunches business. I can see it - distribute brochures through schools, get parents who are too busy/too scared to tackle healthy lunch preparation themselves to buy box lunches for their kids. Delivery to the school mid morning. Charge accordingly.