It’s been an enormously long time since my last proper post! One thing I’ve definitely learnt these past few months is that single parenting, full time study for the final year of my degree and blogging aren’t really a good mix. However somewhere I have found the time to become increasingly infatuated with creating bento boxes for the wee monkey. She’s a notoriously picky eater, but one day we were watching My Neighbour Totoro (one of her favourite films) and the wee character May has a bento box made by her sister. So it gave me the idea of trying one out on the monkey to see if it encouraged her to take an interest in food a bit more. It’s fiddly but once you have the right equipment it’s actually quite straightforward. Below are some of my early creations, and they can be deemed a huge success as the monkey has gone from picking listlessly at what’s in front of her to eating every last bit. Cute (kawaii) lunch boxes are the way forward! 🙂
So first of all – the kit you need. Metal biscuit cutters are great as they create great sandwiches quickly and double up as moulds to fry American style pancakes in too. Available widely and cheaply these days but definitely on Amazon if you don’t have baking shops nearby, we’ve got dinosaurs, hearts, flowers, easter themed ones (that came free with a magazine), so a bunnies and chicks and gingerbread men in a range of sizes. Also get a set of cutters that are flower shaped or similar that go from very small to quite large. Great for creating nice colours and shapes in the box. I also found surprisingly cheap imports of bento box equipment from Hong Kong on Amazon. Panda shaped moulds for sushi rice and cutters for nori paper to create little faces were one of the things I found. Small animal shaped cutters and intricate faces to go with them which include plastic tweezers and a pin to assist (sounds fiddly, I know but if done the night before it’s not took bad I promise!). Egg moulds are really easy to find on Amazon too very cheap. I also found little tooth picks with pandas and animals on which you use to display blueberries or edamame beans. A bento box is also pretty essential. I found the stacked square Totoro box to be the best style as it allows for more pictorial displaying of the food. You can group items together and stack things neatly in rows using silicon cupcake cases in bright colours too. Some of the boxes below have been created just with biscuit cutters and silicon cupcakes cases and the bento box itself so I’d say those 3 are your bare minimum things that you need. I’ve also just started to arrange things on her plate nicely and use the cutters for most food now as it’s easy and she loves it.
A big part of the bento box is just displaying things neatly and in contrasting colours in a way that is aesthetically pleasing, Stacking carrots next to cucumber sticks and making sure they’re the same length – an easy way to make things look a lot better! Also display sandwiches and rice shapes on curly lettuce. Hopefully the pictures below will be self explanatory and just give some really simple ideas of how to start. There’s far more elaborate bento boxes around but I think these simple ones are a great start if you want to try and entice a picky eater to start eating a big array of food. There’s always a big mix of foods in the boxes and monkey doesn’t seem to mind. I put broccoli and carrot with edamame beans and blueberries, raspberries and oranges, kiwis, there’s always sandwiches and sometimes little pancakes (no sugar). I’ve done cold potato shapes with cheese faces that look really cute.
The egg moulds are also great, although it’s definitely been trial and error with these. 6 moulds arrived in a bag from Hong Kong with no instructions at all – being an idiot I thought the eggs would go in raw so spent ages gaffing about trying that. Don’t! it doesn’t work… you boil a large egg (it says medium but I don’t agree large is much better). You then run it under cold water to allow you to peel the shell off although the actual egg should still be hot. You then place it in the mould and soak in cold water for a minimum of 15 minutes. It would have helped if they’d said all that but the journey of discovery and mess was worth it. Teddy bear shaped eggs are very cute!
Nori paper is probably the fiddliest thing you have to deal with. I don’t use it all the time as I’m in a rush in the morning but it is great for doing faces on rice items! I hope this helps people see how easy bento boxes are though, biscuit cutters and patience are probably the only things you need 🙂