The girl has started morning session this year and this means a total overhaul of our schedule and lifestyle. Her mealtimes have changed and I now have to worry about what she eats for breakfast and recess. Recess time didn’t use to be a challenge the past two years because there were only Primary One & Two cohorts in the afternoon session. Now that she’s in the morning session and joining the P3-6 cohorts, recess time can be quite a challenge. This is worsened by the fact that my girl eats super
slowly leisurely, so she practically doesn’t have enough time to queue up, buy and eat all within recess time. That resulted in Mama waking up a little earlier every morning to prepare bento/ lunchboxes for her to bring to school so that she can at least cut away the queuing time, and still get to eat something.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. I thought and thought for several days, and devised ways where I can prepare a good bento (at least a pleasant-looking one) with all the food that she enjoys eating and do it really fast. I give myself maximum of 20 minutes for the entire preparation and 5 minutes for washing up, before dashing out of the house to catch the school bus. Sleep time is precious, you know? I don’t want to wake up too much earlier just to spend time on the preparation.
Now, what constitutes a good bento, you think? My bentos need to fulfill the following 5 criteria:
1. It must be food that my kid eats (and not only what I want her to eat).
This is obvious. You never know what your kid does with the food at recess time. Does she finish everything or throws certain things away before bringing home the empty containers? It must contain food that she likes to eat on any other normal days to ensure that everything goes into her stomach, just like you planned.
2. It must be food that can be consumed even after 4 hours.
That’s how many hours later she gets to eat anything once she leaves the house. Recess time is at 10am, and the food is prepared around 6am. Her classroom is not air-conditioned, and so I don’t put in stuffs that can potentially turn bad, such as milk or cheese.
3. It must be food that taste alright even when it turns cold.
Not every bento box I own is a thermal one, so sometimes, the food turns cold by the time she eats it at recess time. Again, this is to ensure that she actually finishes the food, and not throw them away. You will notice from the bento ideas I am introducing later that would contain all these kinds of food. For food that I need to really keep warm, I would opt for the thermal pot. Otherwise, normal plastic bento boxes would work.
4. It must be visually appealing.
This does not require you to be extra creative in decorating the food. For goodness’ sake, 6am in the morning is hardly time for anything too fancy. As long as you play with the colours of the food – Make sure there are a few colours so that it looks colorful and nice, that’s good enough. On less-rushed mornings, you can use food cutters or puncher to do up simple decor. When you do not have the luxury of time, cute and colorful food picks can perk up any bento.
5. It must be a balanced diet.
This is not always easy, especially if you have a picky kid at home. I try to always incorporate carbo, proteins, veggies and fruits if I can. But the truth is, as long as the kid finishes her food, I am happy. If I can get all the nutrients in at the same time, that’s a bonus.
So, here are 5 different bento ideas that you can take reference from. They are the 5 bento meals that my kid had this week from Monday to Friday. I probably will repeat them in different combinations next week.
Bento # 1
Boiled fusilli with frozen vegetables thrown in for color
Steamed prawn wantons
This can effectively be done in 10 minutes flat. Just boil a pot of water, throw in a handful of fusilli and the frozen vegetables, add salt & extra virgin olive oil then let it boil for about 7 minutes. In another pot of water, boil the prawn dumplings & edamame.
Bento # 2
Fried Rice with Eggs
Sausage & Cucumber Skewers
If you have the time and energy in the morning, you can fry the fried rice in the morning (cook your rice the night before though), but if you don’t feel like to it, you can fry the rice the night before and put into fridge to be warmed up only in the morning. That would save you a lot of time. The sausages are easy – Just boil them in a pot of water and then skew them together with cucumbers. Tip: If you want your cucumbers to stay crunchy, cut them into slices/ strips the night before, soak in tap water for 15 minutes, drain off and keep chilled in fridge till the next morning. That’s a tip from my mum!
In a separate bento box, I put in honey stars, mandarin orange slices and seedless grapes. This is what I call the School Bus Bento – Mainly for the girl to consume when she is taking the school bus home. The journey is long, and she gets hungry before she gets to eat her proper lunch at about 3pm, so this will fill her up temporarily. I know some school buses don’t allow the kids to eat onboard, but my girl’s school bus makes allowances if the food cannot be spilled. So, these are good choices and easy to eat as well.
Bento # 3
Golden Kiwi fruits
I bought frozen pizzas (Sunshine brand) for mornings when I am in a rush. These are easy – Just pop into your airfryer or oven, and they will be done in 5 minutes. Remember to defrost your pizza the night before though. The mandarin orange slices help to clear the smell in the mouth after eating the pizza. =P The kiwi fruits and grapes can be eaten on the bus if she doesn’t have time during recess. The girl loves the pizza very much and kept asking me to make exactly the same thing the next day! =X
Bento # 4
Fusilli with mushrooms in tomato pasta sauce
Steamed broccoli with prawns
Sliced Japanese Cucumbers
Using a mega huge bento box with compartments means that you run the danger of overpacking, and that was exactly what I did. =X Anyway, I prepared the ingredients the night before – cut the broccoli, de-shelled and cleaned the prawns, cut the carrots into alphabets and stars, etc. In the morning, I boiled everything and cooked the fusilli, and we’re good to go. The prawns and broccoli are boiled in salt water, and drizzled with sesame oil when done.
In the School Bus Bento, I put in green grapes, half a mandarin orange and a biscuit.
Bento # 5
Onigiri with seaweed
This is extremely fast and fuss-free. Just pop the seaweed chicken into the airfryer/oven and get working on the onigiri. I used moulds to help shape the onigiri (rice was cooked the night before), then wrap it with a strip of seaweed. To make it more interesting, I used the puncher to cut out star shapes. Meant to make Spongebob Squarepants (left) and bear (right), but they unfortunately turned out looking like Ninja Turtles. In another container, I packed some grapes for her as well. It’s not a very filling bento, but the girl stays back for supplementary class on Friday, so she gets to buy her own lunch at 1.30pm. Hopefully, it can last her till then.
There you go, 5 simple bento ideas that can be done in under 20 minutes! Have fun packing pretty and nutritious bento meals for your kids! =)