Bento for a preschooler

PatriciaM
Bento-ing from: Quezon City › Philippines
Joined: 20 Feb 2010
User offline. Last seen 2 years 49 weeks ago.

Summer vacation is nearly over. My 4 y.o. daughter will be starting school again in less than a month, and I am considering making bento for her. In the previous schoolyear, she mostly had rice and chicken nuggets. I want her to try other stuff as well. I have a few ideas on what to put in her box:

Small shaped onigiri
Tamagoyaki
Shaped hotdogs/sausages
Cheese slices (cut with cookie cutters)
Noodles with no sauce (she doesn't like sauce on her spaghetti for example)

All of those above I have experience making. Do you have other ideas on what I can prepare? What do you prepare for your kids?

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bronwyncarlisle
Moderator
Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 36 weeks ago.
Re: Bento for a preschooler

My granddaughters can be induced to eat vegetables when they're mixed in with fishcakes. Mix mashed potato, tinned tuna or smoked fish or any strong flavoured cooked fish, some frozen diced vegetables (or cook some up - peas and corn and diced carrots), maybe a bit of grated cheese, and an egg to bind it all. Shape it into little patties or croquettes, roll in breadcrumbs and then fry them until they're browned all over.

Little savoury muffins like the ones Maki posted on Just Bento today would be good.

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Bronwyn

My blog is Food and Shoes

PatriciaM
Bento-ing from: Quezon City › Philippines
Joined: 20 Feb 2010
User offline. Last seen 2 years 49 weeks ago.
Re: Bento for a preschooler

The croquettes sound like a great idea! They will probably look like chicken nuggets anyway, and she's quite familiar with that. I didn't realize I could actually make my own nuggets (I buy the ready-made ones from the supermarket) and add "secret" ingredients that she would normally not eat.

I would love to try the muffins but I don't have an oven. :(

bronwyncarlisle
Moderator
Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 36 weeks ago.
Re: Bento for a preschooler

You could steam muffins. They wouldn't be exactly muffins any more, but it'd work and they'd still taste the same. Put the mix in silicon containers and then in a steamer.

Loretta
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Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 17 weeks ago.
Re: Bento for a preschooler

My own daughter is still very, very young (8 and a half months) but she's already eating textured food and showing strong preferences.

As well as soba noodles (you can wrap these in nori sheets to make a sort of sushi roll from them, this makes them bento friendly and they don't need sauce) the big hit for my daughter has been quinoa. As long as you can get the already washed grains, it's very simple to do... particularly if you have a rice cooker already (use the quick rice setting).
My little one also loves rice - especially when she can suck it out from between layers of nori - but it can constipate her. Quinoa has none of these problems.
The other staple grain she enjoys is Barley Couscous (normal couscous is made from refined flour, again, another belly blocker).

If your daughter enjoys white rice, I'd urge you to try cooking it with a few additional seeds and grains - Maki covers the subject here: http://www.justhungry.com/zakkoku-mai
You can make up your own mix dependent on your own child's likes and preferences and add as little or as much as she wants. The mix I use includes buckwheat kernels, quinoa, linseed/flax, barley, black rice/kokumai and white poppy seeds.
If you want to get it ready mixed in a bag, you can find it in Korean stores as well as those selling Japanese foods.

There are some recipes for steamed 'muffins' in this thread
http://justbento.com/forum/mushi-pan-variations-dough-and-topping
These are really easy to do (particularly the recipes I posted with yogurt). You can grate carrot into these and they should still be appetising to a young child.

An alternative binder for the home-made croquettes/patties Bronwyn mentioned is cooked cannellini beans (or whatever white kidney type beans are available). Just mash these up, add drained canned fish and some grated cheese and whichever vegetables you want to slip in there. Then shape (I make them into small sausages), dip into a beaten egg and cover with bread crumbs. It's similar to using potato but lighter.

I don't know any children who don't like Spanish omelet. Maki has posted a foolproof recipe that's simple and quick to do
http://justbento.com/handbook/recipe-collection-mains/my-version-spanish...
For a child who doesn't eat many vegetables, I'd suggest grating a zuchini/courgette and adding it to the grated potato in the recipe (you could always try grating another kind of squash instead). In Spain, onion (and sometimes red peppers) are a common addition to the basic egg and potato version.

PatriciaM
Bento-ing from: Quezon City › Philippines
Joined: 20 Feb 2010
User offline. Last seen 2 years 49 weeks ago.
Re: Bento for a preschooler

Thank you for these great ideas! I shall certainly try these that you've mentioned. My rice cooker has a steamer setting, so I can try the mushi-pan.

erisgrrrl
Bento-ing from: Bloomington › Indiana › USA
Joined: 28 May 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 30 weeks ago.
Re: Bento for a preschooler

My son just graduated from preschool this week and I sent bentos with him often. Most of the things you mentioned are things he has taken in his lunches with much success. Brown rice is great to substitute for white rice - I thought he wouldn't like it because it's different but he chows down brown rice even better than white!

Some of the things he's loved that you might try:
-lemon chicken nuggets from Maki's recipe (we also do lime ones and tamarind ones)
-basic sushi rolls with cucumber, avocado and/or spicy tuna (made from canned tuna with a few sardines mixed in and slightly less spicy than I would make for an adult)
-lemon pepper shrimp (thawed shrimp quick sauteed with olive oil, pepper and a smidge of salt then doused with fresh lemon juice once it's cooked. saute just a few minutes more to form a "glaze")
-sugar snap peas
-carrots cut into shapes or in long thin strips
-lightly steamed broccoli (especially with a bit of salt and a tiny drop of sesame oil)
-Maki's beef soboro and the tuna "sprinkles"
-chunks of imitation crab meat
-mini inarizushi (I would suggest serving this at home a couple of times first because it can seem a little strange for children!)
-pan fried marinated tofu cut into shapes with a cute cutter (my son maintains that he doesn't like tofu but eats it regularly when he doesn't realize what it is)
-beef, chicken and pork bulgogi have all gone over very well with pork being the favorite

Good luck! :D

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