Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dinosaur Bento Box

As promised, I am showing you the super fun sandwiches that I made for the bento box from my last post. My daughter is in love with them, and keeps asking for them, especially in the morning when she wakes up! So, without further ado, I give you the grilled chicken and cheese dinosaur sandwiches!

Okay, okay, I know I made them just a tad bit crispy, but my daughter never once complained! This sandwich was made with some leftover shredded chicken. I love to bake a whole chicken because it will feed my family for four to seven days! Here is how I used it in this fun little set of sandwiches:
I got this little beauty at the grocery store, near the bread. There are other fun shapes available, but I wanted to do a boy friendly version of bento lunches. Oh, and I am fully aware that this particular dino did not, in fact, have scales down the back, but it added a special touch to the sandwich! Now, let's get started.

1. Butter one side each of two slices of bread. With the butter facing out, slide a slice of cheese between the bread. Carefully line up your cutter on top of the bread.
*My bread was smaller than the cutter, so I just made sure that the head was cut properly because you won't see the feet as easily once it's in the bento box. Also, be sure to use a super flat surface, or you'll only cut out the top layer of bread.

2. Seperate the dinos, and set them right side up. Slip the top slice of bread off the top of the dinos, and add your shredded chicken. Be sure to have the edges of the chicken hang off the edge along his back if you want it to look like spikes. Then replace the top slice of bread.

3. Carefully place the dino into a pan, which has already been heated on medium low-medium heat. Brown on each side, being careful not to lose the chicken when you flip them. * I find that if I stick the sandwiches in chicken side down, and cheese side up first, they flip easily when I go to brown the other side.

4. Place the two dinos in your bento box. While they are still warm, cut out a small piece of cheese and stick it on the dino for an eye. Fill the rest of your box and you're all set!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fruit How-to

I love fruit, but when it comes to feeding my little one her lunch, the first thing she'll eat is the fruit. Many times she will only eat the fruit and claim to be "all done" before she touches any of the other healthy foods on her plate. So, it is absolutely essential for me to limit the amount of fruit she has during her meals. One way that I do this (which also happens to be a wonderful way to make your fruit last all week long without buying a ton of it) is cutting the fruit into shapes that contour to the lunch boxes a little better.
Strawberry prep
Strawberries are great fillers, and are great for adding a pop of color to your bento. I slice several long cuts from the top of the strawberry through to the bottom. I make sure they are all parallel, and about a 1/4" thick, but really it doesn't need to be perfect. Be sure to leave about a 1/4" of the berry uncut below the green stem, or the strawberry will fall apart.
Add a touch of pressure with a gentle squeeze and help the fan shape with your fingers. Not only is this pretty, but it helps the strawberry have some flexibility when you put it in your bento box along with other foods.
Orange prep

I like naval oranges. These ones are pretty big, so I get more mileage out of them. I start by cutting off the two ends. Be sure to cut the navel end, and the end where the stem used to be. That makes it so you can see the center of each slice, and it is easier to eat. Next, I cut it in half going parallel with the previous cuts.
Now I cut the halves again, so I have four rounds. With each round, I slice it in half (you'll end up with two half circles), and it is ready to go into my bento box.
* If you are going to make a fruit salad, you can easily peel off the rind, and cut the oranges into bite-sized pieces. I also save the top and bottom that I cut of first, and squeeze the juices into the mix. MMMM!*
Here they are, side by side in my daughter's German lunch box. There is enough room for a sandwich if it is cut diagonally, or in fun shapes (hint: check out my next blog to see the sandwich I added to this particular box). With this lunch box, the lid is as deep as the bottom, so the possiblility of food flying around during transport is pretty high. That is why I reserve this box for sandwiches or leftover pizza. They won't be too damaged if they move around a bit. Neither will the fruit!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bentos are great for weight loss!

Lately, I've had a really hard time knocking off my holiday weight, so I decided to use my bento boxes to help me slim down. I am the kind of person who cheats on diets. Alot. So I've stopped "dieting" and set up some personal guidelines for losing those pesky pounds.

First of all, I realized that I wasn't eating vegetables like I should have been. In fact, there were days that passed by without any vegetables at all! Vegetables are a powerful ally in weight loss. They are packed with vitamins, taste great raw or cooked, and don't pack alot of calories.

Metabolism is a tricky thing to outsmart, and if you feed your body veggies when you feel hungry between meals, you can help your body's metabolism stay on top of things. In my mind, if I eat more vegetables than anything else, I am right on track!

Second, I make sure to eat at least one serving of fruit each day. Fruit is a great little snack to have on hand when cravings get strong for something sweet.

Third, I took my meat portions and started to rethink how much I consume. Proper portion sizes are much smaller than what I normally would cook, so I made the decision to cut back the amount of meat I use for my family. I will use one full chicken breast and a tenderloin (there are three of us, one of whom is three years old) or about a cup and a half of shredded/chopped chicken/beef/pork.

I also have a few days where I add either vegan and/or vegetarian dishes. I don't do anything drastic, just a super tasty stir fry with rice. I also embrace shrimp and fish, and add a couple of dishes with that in them, too. Mmmm, tuna melts!

Fourth, I make sure to have two or three servings of dairy. I have skim milk in my cereal each morning, and eat some cheese and greek yogurt during the day, either in my bento meals or as a little snack.

Fifth, I stop eating three hours before bed. I have a friend who used to describe the feeling of slight hunger as her body eating her butt! Hahaha! So, her mantra "EAT MY BUTT!" runs through my head when I feel just a little uncomfortable. It makes me smile :)

Finally, I watch how many processed foods I eat. I try to stay with the outer isles at the grocery store while shopping, (with the exception of rice, pasta, bread, and cereal). I like sticky rice because it's easy to shape, it's filling, and I can use it with my stir fry. Plus, it freezes beautifully. Oh, and leftover rice is wonderful for easy rice cassoroles, as well as for fried rice.

When I make bentos for my husband, I fill a whole bottom tier full of rice, and the top tier with the vegetable stir fry. For me, I fill my top tier with stir fry, and my bottom tier I divide in half so I can fill half with rice, and the other half with raw veggies/fruit/cheese. My bento box is the one above. Isn't it cute?!

Oh, and I should mention that my milk is skim milk, my tortillas are wheat, and my bread is wheat. I can't give up my full fat cheese, though. No way!