Friday, October 1, 2010


Since childhood, I've loved the line in a poem: "October's Bright blue weather" - a day like today!

With fall & return to school, it's a great time for all of us to think about packing lunches - & what fun options are available theses days!!
I was admiring stainless steel sets on-line, looking for 'the right one,' & a friend gifted me with this sweet three tier 'tiffin' - which closes with bails - rather like my dad's old aluminum mess kit!
They're sitting on a napkin I made last winter - there's a pocket for the chopsticks & spoon in the middle. This is reminiscent of one of the first 4-H sewing projects - a roll up placemat with pocket for utensils - I carry it in my purse! The Half moon napkin is double sided, & folds into a cute 'Christmas tree' - I made a bunch using fat quarters for my MOMs group gals last holiday season.
I've been reading about ideas for packing bento & tiffin sets, even the recommended amounts. Whew!! The height conversion chart puts me at 165 cm (typical Japanese woman is shorter, at 157) so the lunchtime amount would be closer to 800 calories (the recommendation for 157 cm is 600 calories/boxes containing ~ 600 ml).

Each tier of my 'tiffin' holds 2 cups, about 480 ml - so the contents of two well packed tiers is about the 'right' amount for lunch!! As 'Biggie' says: "So you ordered a bento box online, it arrives and you’re shocked at how tiny it is. People try to tell you to just eat less, but you have a sneaking suspicion that you may have accidentally bought a bento box sized for a 2-year-old instead of an adult."
LOL - that's exactly how this looks - & the amount of salad I'd normally pack explodes out of one of the tiers - so I intend to get a glass storage container to keep in our large fridge at work for several days worth of greens, & pack other veggies in the tiffin!
There's also a sweet tutorial on tying a furoshiki - which does double duty as a wrap for lunch & placemat! Since I already have the napkin & utensils, I'm set! I may also get a larger stainless steel container (our natural foods store carries several options) for days I'll be elsewhere & want a bigger salad! I also have a couple of stainless steel water bottles (two sizes) for days I'm not at the office.

I'll make my first furoshiki out of a couple of 'fat quarters' binding them with solid red or brown bias tape. I've thought of making a bag as well, but may just do this!! Love the comment "The Japanese Minister of the Environment recognizes the furoshiki as ideal for helping to minimize the waste of plastic bags." A small basket is another option.
This is a lovely way to meet your own dietary needs - gluten free, low carb, diabetic . . . just pack what YOU can eat!!
* use rice, quinoa or other GF grains; you can add sauted veggies to the grain or lightly stir fry - & think 'nutrient dense' - quinoa & amaranth are two of these super foods!
* pack small fairly solid veggies - cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, olives, shredded carrots & beets - eat from the rainbow - choose bright colours for maximum nutrition
* my set has a small sauce/dressing container, save your 'wet' ingredients for that
* when you're cooking for the week, make some of a main dish in ramekins or cut small servings from the main dish - freeze some for a variety of meals (label & try to use fairly quickly!)
* add spices to yogurt or kefir for dipping veggies - savory or sweet
* Keep some 'basics' at work - gluten free tamari or Braggs Liquid aminos, flaked nori, wakame or other seaweed to sprinkle on salad, a container of your homemade salad dressing (most commercial dressings are made with corn, soy, safflower etc. oils -stick to coconut & olive oil for maximum health!
* Pack your favorite eating utensils, & find napkins in colours you enjoy - anything you can do to make meals more fun & colouful.
* Pack whole, in season fruit separately when possible
* Think of creative ways to use leftovers (planned overs!) - I cook my grains (usually quinoa w/ a T of teff & one of amaranth) without seasoning, then season according to the meal, grate stirfry some veggies to add, etc
* if you have kids, engage them in packing/ choosing their own lunch fixings.
* when preparing veggies, toss onion skins, garlic, veggie trimmings (no dirt or mold) into a bag in the freezer to make stock - you can freeze some of the stock in an ice cube tray, then pack in a covered container to toss in when you're cooking veggies or soup!
* Peruse the bento sites for more beautiful & creative ideas for making your packed meals something to look forward to!
* Friends of mine have a blog with meal & recipe suggestions for using the veggies from our local CSA shares - this is another great resource! Check their archives for what's in season where you live.
* Tiffin/bento packing is great for increasing your consumption of local, in season food.

Please share your ideas for fall meals & ways you 'pack your lunch' - Happy eating!


Jane said...

Thanks for your visit to my blog. I can't wait to dig around here. I'll be visiting often for sure!

I have a plastic "laquer" bento box and I love putting my lunch in it. The only problem is that it doesn't have hinges or even a tight fitting lid. I like the looks of this metal one and it seems like it can hold a lot more than the one layer standard bento. I don't know why bento hasn't caught on more. It is such a nice way to eat and it helps in portion control.

Happy weekend!

Dia said...

Here's a link to some great Indian Gluten Free recipes - love the curry spice mix! & Quinoa is my favorite grain :)