Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bento Q&A and Egg Mold Tutorial

Some of these questions I've answered before, and some are new- but I just wanted to put them all in one spot for you all :)

Where do you get the containers and accessories? I've never seen them in stores.

I shop online. I don't have local Asian stores in our area.

I really have a ton of containers- I most frequently use my Easy LunchBoxes (where I’m an affiliate) set for Aaron, and I have two more sets on the way for the girls. I can’t wait to get them, they are fabulous! I wrote a review of the system right here. I also use traditional two tier Japanese bento boxes often for the girls. I’ve purchased them from a few places, such as All Things For Sale (use code tatertwins for 5% off) who has great prices and super fast shipping from the US (no waiting for stuff from Japan!), Bento Crazy, who unfortunately has had to temporarily close due to her son's illness, and another online retailer who recently closed their doors to internet sales, boo. There's one other site I've ordered from, called JList- which has an adult section, so not all of the store is work/kid friendly, but after having them mess up two orders in a row, I no longer recommend them.

These places also carry the majority of the accessories I use, including food picks, belts (elastic to hold the tiers together), egg molds, food cutters, and bags. I use the silicone muffin tins in various shapes to keep food separate, instead of the disposable paper ones. I bought those at Michael’s, where you can also find the food-safe markers I occasionally use.

How long does it take to pack their lunches like this?

I really think it takes only a few minutes longer than throwing a sandwich and some chips in Ziplock baggies. I try to stock up on bento-friendly foods, which helps. By keeping small things like raisins, cheese sticks, cherry tomatoes, canned fruit, etc in the house, I can fill up gaps in the boxes after I put the bigger things like the sandwiches, crackers, yogurt in.

What do you do with the leftover scraps of food?

When I make cut out sandwiches or decorate with cheese slices, I am left with scraps. I hate to waste it, so I generally feed them to the twins. They don’t seem to care at this point that they get the leftovers! They eat lots of PB&J crusts for breakfast. Also, sometimes I’ll tuck the smaller scraps, like the pieces left from the cheese shapes, underneath the sandwich where you can’t see them if I don’t give them to the babies.

What do you send them to drink?

The girls each have a SIGG water bottle that they bring. I only put water in them, because I figure the one day I fill it with juice or milk they’ll leave it and it will get nasty. Aaron used to reuse an old Gatorade bottle, but the other day I finally bought him his own aluminum water bottle as well.

Could you show one all put together with the lid on? I am having trouble seeing it in my mind. Thanks!

Sure! Here's a bunch of our boxes shown closed with the bands :)
What do you use to make the little pictures on the sandwiches?

I use Fruit Roll Ups, Fruit by the Foot strips, or even the thicker organic fruit 'leather' that they sell at some stores- and I have a few sets of plastic food cutters to make the scenes. The fruit strips come in so many flavors and colors they are great for making a boring sandwich pretty! The food cutters are also great for sliced cheeses and lunch meat.

Food Cutters

How did you make that butterfly sandwich? Do you freehand stuff like that?

Nope, I don't freehand anything- I have a really cute butterfly cutter. I think I got it at Walmart actually! Then the spots are just a slice of American cheese that I cut with mini cookie cutters and the center is a couple of carrot sticks. Easy peasy! The plastic cutters also work well with cheese and lunch meats for decorations.

I also have dinosaur and heart sandwich cutters that are similar, which were also purchased at Walmart.
Sandwich Cutters
How on earth do you cut the shapes out of the Baby Bel wax?

I use little metal cookie cutters. I've found the plastic ones don't work as well, but the metal ones are sharp enough to cut through the wax.

How in the world do you keep things from sliding into the other sections? Like if I send pretzels or small stuff, they all roll into the sandwich!

Silicone muffin cups! That’s what I use to keep stuff separate. Also baran- it's that fake sushi grass stuff- it also comes it other cute types, like flowers, animals, etc.

I also use Glad Press & Seal to seal off containers that have juicy stuff in it, so it doesn't slide into other stuff.

Plus if you pack it in there tight enough, nothing is going anywhere!
Tell me how you do the shaped hard boiled eggs…

Ok, here's a tutorial on how I do the eggs:

First of all, you need egg molds and eggs. I find size XL eggs fit best. (In these pics, I used large eggs, so they don't fill out the molds all the way... but it's the size I happened to have on hand.) You can buy egg molds here.

Egg Molds

Boil the eggs, and while still hot, peel them. I run them under cold water just to cool them off enough so that I can handle them without burning myself.

Pop them in the egg molds, and put them in the fridge to cool. I leave them in the fridge in their molds until I'm ready to use them, so sometimes they end up staying in the molds for a few days. The longer they're in the molds, the better they hold their shape- however even just 10 minutes will make them look cute!

Another fun thing you can do with eggs is to color them after peeling them and before putting them in the molds. You can use soy sauce, which will give the eggs flavor, or even food coloring.

Just roll them around in a bit of soy sauce for a minute and then put them in the mold.

Now, as I said earlier, these eggs aren't quite big enough, so they didn't fill the molds all the way up. The bear's ears never formed because of this, and the bunny's ears are a bit stunted. With XL eggs, it fits PERFECTLY. Next time I make them, I'll edit this to add pics of with the right size eggs. Poor, inadequate, deformed eggs :(


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