Just Bento’s bento box challenge

Just Bento and Just Hungry are two of my favourite sites. I stumbled across them last year when I started taking a packed lunch to work again…something I should have been doing anyway but rarely remembered except on occasions when my Mum hands me sandwiches when I dropped Spider off.

The spur to being more organised was Spider’s pre-school starting a lunch club. As it was on mondays it was an incentive to think about packed lunches over the weekend for the rest of the week (admittedly perhaps FQ and I did spend slightly too much thinking about it and from time to time wasted hours discussing what to put in our childrens lunch bags). Anyway, it worked, for the space of a term I remebered to take lunch with me everyday.

I should point out that when I don’t take food with me, I don’t buy lunch elsewhere – I just don’t eat. Which is a bad thing for many reasons and can contribute to a weight problem as your body gets used to storing calories when it gets them !

I used the internet to get ideas for lunches as I have a limited interest in sandwiches and quickly discovered Lunch in  Box which reminded me about bento boxes, and searching for that brought up Just Bento. Both these sites are jammed packed with ideas not just for lunches but for speeding up preperation of lunches and greater use of the freezer for staple items (I am as you may realise from early posts totally dedicated to my freezer).

I have treated myself to a genuine Bento Box from the Japan Centre but I haven’t used it much – mainly because there was no lunch club last term and as a result I stopped taking lunch – besides  I  found  a cheap partitioned plastic box from a supermarket much more versatile (and its dishwasher safe !).

Anyway, not only is lunch club back this term but Just Bento is running a bento box challenge, starting on the 11th January – it has 3 stages to it Basic, Going Deeper and Weight Loss (in theory the size of your box can be related to the amount of calories it can hold – but that I guess depends on the type of food you are putting in it).

So this is my new years resolution, make lunch for work daily and to keep me on track I am taking the Just Bento challenge…cooking my way through Delia How to Cook 1 & 2 is a personal challenge and not a resolution and I’m giving myself a year for that one due to financial constraints…

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Egg-spert in the kitchen

I know, that is an appallingly bad pun but its “difficult to get excited about a hard boiled egg” (digression – when I was 18 I travelled round europe. In Amsterdam I met some americans, and for want of anything else to talk about I asked them what they thought about their new president (George Bush sr) to which one of them replied “he’s a hard boiled egg” and then explained “its hard to get excited about a boiled egg”).

Anyway, for want of any other plan for the year I decided I may was well cook my way through Delia, especially as we appeared to have all the ingredients for her Egg and Lentil Curry with coconut and pickled lime (except the pickled lime and half the spices are with FG) and the Chorizo Hash with peppers (chorizo is one of my kitchen stand bys).

I was all set to do the Chorizio this evening (Husband doesn’t really do curry) and asked Husband to pick up some potatoes to which he replied by volunteering to do baked potatoes with an idea he’d had involving pate (which needs using).

Anyway, since the potatoes would take 1.5-2 hours (how to cook volume 1 page 174) in the oven I volunteered to do a rice pudding also (page 212)…the potatoes I have done as per the recipe and the rice pudding I have amended a little. With the rice pudding I have upped the temperature a bit (and lowered the potatoes) and shortened the time. I didn’t have any evaporated milk so I watered down some condensed milk…I also halved the quantities as there would only be 2 of us eating it.

Anyway, that’s all doing its stuff with no interference from me and I have just stated hard boiling some eggs (page 17)…only with a slight difference. I can get excited about hard boiled eggs, a good egg sandwich for me is a little bit of heaven. Spider can’t stand them ( a texture thing possibly) but lunch club starts again this week and I need something to perk up his lunch box…so when they have boiled I will be sticking them in ice cream biscuit moulds and plunging them in cold water – for moulded hard boiled eggs please check out Lunch in a Box.

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Picture when they are done…at the moment I’m waiting for the eggs to warm up…Delia doesn’t approve of keeping eggs in the fridge…well tough, I may be following your recipes but I refuse to toe the line !

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BOOK REVIEW: The Toddler Cafe: Jennifer Carden

This is the book I had with me in the traffic jam yesterday.

I bought this book after it got favourable-ish reviews on Lunch in a box. I was having concerns about Spider becoming a picky eater, I’ve since realised from watching the Teenager’s appetite develop over the last 6 years I’ve known him, that he’s not, children take time to develop an interest and taste for food – I just have to be patient.

This book may work for some parents but it doesn’t work for me, because my boy is not the type of kid who will be persuaded to eat something, he has to choose to eat it and no amount of trying to make food fun is going to help.  He’s a very determined boy, when he decides he’s going to do something he usually does, which is why he was dry at night by the age of 3 because he decided he wasn’t going to wear a nappy at night and he  wasn’t going to wet the bed either !

The intro to the book is good, in fact its great, having just read it again I am really fired up to try and make mealtimes fun, to ensure that Spider gets home made good food and to introduce him to new tastes.

There are also in this book some very helpful suggestions about shopping, the essential pantry (with some useful photocopeable shopping lists), recommended utensils and how to make food and eating a fun activity for all. Additionally, throughout the book there are useful hints and suggestions about using leftovers or substitute ingredients (such as making greek yoghurt out of ordinary yoghurt).

The recipes themselves are a bit of a mixture. Some are just serving suggestions (admittedly instant apple sauce is one that I do use but was kinda doing already), or fun ways of playing with food (polka dots: spaghetti and a plate of olive oil and balsamic vinegar). Some of it, surprisingly for a book about cooking proper food rather than convenience food, is a bit “Delia’s How to Cheat at cooking”. The rest, although there are some interesting recipes, are not much different from what you can get from an Annabel Karmel book.

Recipes of note:

  • minty pea pops/corn pops – interesting but not to everyone’s taste
  • lily pad pancakes – a hit with Spider but without the need to pretend to be a frog
  • popcorn soup – variation on the “people soup” from my childhood
  • rainbow rice balls – good way of introducing kids to onigiri (and beetroot)
  • knock knock gnocci – gnocci from instant mash !
  • soup ghosts
  • I heart tofu
  • peanut butter globe globs – protein packed toddler truffles from the store cupboard

I’m going to try going through the book again and getting Spider to choose what we cook, but if he shows no interest then I’ll list it for sale on Amazon.