It's bento season again! (Open thread)

Yipes! It’s been a full month since I posted here last. The time just ran away from me - as I reported over on Just Hungry, our house is still undergoing major renovations throughout; not only do I have no kitchen yet, we are gingerly stepping from tile to tile on partially finished floors, walking warily around small piles of debris and half-demolished walls and the like. There’s stone and brick dust everywhere.

All that has meant that there hasn’t been a lot (well ok, any) cooking, let alone bento-making, for a while around here. But that has to change! Both of us are feeling a bit ill these day, due to meals like this:

French fries roll!

It’s basically a french fry (chips/frites) and sausage sandwich. Yikes! Mighty tasty admittedly, but not at all good for the waistline, the arteries, or anything else. So…we have resolved to get some cooking back on around here, despite the ongoing lack of kitchen (and the construction is moving along again now, now that the workers are back from their vacances). That includes getting away from the sandwich-or-fast-food lunch pattern too. In other words, I’m declaring the re-opening of bento season!

So anyway: How was your summer? What are your bento plans for back-to-school/back-to-serious-work in the fall? Anything else on your mind? ^_^

For more bento recipes, ideas and tips, subscribe to Just Bento via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).

And visit our sister site, Just Hungry for great Japanese home recipes and more.

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Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

Just in time! My kiddos start school Monday! :) I'm hoping to rework my rotating bento menu next week. (I can punt for a week right?)

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

I'm writing up the grocery list and polling the kids on what they want for their school lunches this year, what worked well last year, and what they'd rather never see again. Although my kids are older (nearly 11 and 7 years), they still like the bento model so I'm shopping with that in mind.

Because I work full-time, I rely on things I can make and freeze in quantity for easy packing down the line. We do a lot of homemade pizza rolls, dumplings, samosa, or pierogi in lunches that are then filled in with fruits and veg. I'm starting not to be able to be as cute with their lunches, but they still appreciate having things that are a little different than your basic sandwich/apple combo. The only thing I gave them last year that they said they'd rather not have are pasta dishes. Easy enough to strike from the menu!

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

I too have been absent from bento for about a month. I had to cover vacations for two coworkers, which meant a call time of 4am each day. (Whimper!) I just went to the farmers market yesterday, so bento meals are back again. And tomatoes are finally ripe, so I expect a lot of caprese salad to show up in my bento. Yay! Welcome back, Maki!

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

I'm starting to get organized. I've been making bento for my lunches all summer, but come September, both my son and I are returning to school. He's starting high school and I am going back to college to retrain as an RPN. With two bento to make and early morning classes for both of us, I really need to get my bento stash built up again.

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

I start at college on monday, so I will start my bentoing on tuesday. My school gives lunch for free the first day, and it is actually pretty good food so I don't have to take my own with me, but I will make a little fruit salad to munch on in the evening since I will stay late!

For this school year do I want to be better at the vegetable front. I end up too often with just slices sweet bell pepper :x I want to vary my vegetables more and look for different colours and texture. And maybe even learn one or another pretty looking cut technique!

I wish everyone good luck with the comming bento season! :D

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

All right! School starts Monday (I work at a university), and I've started packing bentos this week. I have some black bean mini-burgers and gyouza in the freezer along with some pre-cut kinpira veggies. The exciting part is that I'm using my brand-new bento box, a hot pink 2-tier box with a built in spot for a "cool pack" (a necessity living in south Louisiana). I purchased it while in Japan this summer at the Loft in Osaka (the 2-week trip was wonderful).

I'm looking forward to seeing your bentos again, Maki!

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

I'm just about to start going through the same situation you've been in.
In a couple of days I'll be taking my daughter to Spain and staying a month there. I'll be with my parents in their very rural mountain house (no electricity - a well in the kitchen, although there is now a water supply to the house) and visiting family and friends.
There's going to be a lot of bocadillos and empanadas ('baguette' sandwiches and Spanish pies). Thank goodness I still breastfeed - 35C+ heat with no refrigerator is a real inconvenience.
On the plus side, My parents, who today are driving through France, managed to get me some flacons of Antesite (the elusive non aniseed - yuck! - kinds). This should help me resist my cravings for sugary drinks.

I'll be back to bento late next month.

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

Well fall semester is almost here so it's back to school for me. At least in college I can get away from school starting on my birthday, what a present that was! I recently became interested in bento because of all the anime I was watching, I think my favorite is probably tamogayaki. (but without the fish flakes) My birthday is on the 26th of August and 4 days before classes start. I have asked for all kinds of bento supplies for my birthday and am really looking forward to using them! I did get one early present, and that was The Just Bento Cookbook! ^_^ The recipes are so easy to follow and I absolutely love all the variation ideas and the ease of mixing and matching the recipes for a new bento box! I highly recommend it! ~Tiffiny

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

Welcoming the little guy I've been growing for the past six months into the world. That's the number one thing. I plan to return to running after he gets here and I plan to cook more once the whole thing about being tired when your pregnant finally goes away!

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

We just moved into a new place and it was such a relief to finally have a (new and improved) kitchen again! I couldn't take not cooking much longer. ;)
Enjoy your new kitchen!

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

+1, as it were.
It's Ramadan season here in AbuDhabi. I've been shooing in sandwiches for lunch everyday, but as we get ready for pandemonium, sorry, school, to start again, i need to get cracking. Maki, thanks for very good timing.
Btw, those sandwiches ... Pah... Have you ever been to the North of France? Get an Americain: 3 hamburgers in a half baguette with the fries and mayo on top. Instant coronary (I think "Bienvenue chez les ch'tis" had a scene where the hero gets introduced to "Americains" and the "Baraque à frites concept".)

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

I am going to tae up bento making this school year. I am so happy that I've found your site Maki, even my mom is getting excited about some of the recipes I plan to make! (and that rarely ever happens) And I know what you mean about the fast food. I was out with family for a while and it was nice but we ate out pretty much everyday. So some nice home made food will be an excellent treat for the new school/work year. Also I don't know what would be some good tuperware containers for bento making. Any small tip would be great.

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

We had a big bento article in the Dallas Morning News the other week (two full pages) and now everyone here is bento crazy.

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

Yay! My son starts kindergarten next Tuesday and I plan on packing lunches for him, myself, and my husband. This means I have to figure out menu items that my picky 5-year old and meat-and-potatoes husband will agree on, that are relatively healthy and will taste good cold (I will be packing lunches the night before and leave in the morning before anyone else is awake). The youngling has been looking at pictures of bento boxes on this site for a bit over a year and is excited by the idea. He calls it "big kid food" because I told him he would be eating bentos at school when he starts Kindergarten.

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

Well, I've been bento-ing for my fiance since March 2011 when I found your site. My fiance is Japanese and he loves me cooking his bento every morning. I currently don't have a job so I have plenty of time in the mornings. Sometimes I ask him what he might want for supper or the next day's bento, but I usually surprise him with super Japanese foods that I've learned to make through justbento/justhungry;
His words: " I didn't think I would get to eat this once I left Japan ". I've also amazed/impressed friends and family members with food that they never would get to/want to try otherwise.

He loves to be surprised with his bento every day, and while I'm still improving, I can say that we are *loving* bento. I read your section on what kind of bento box to use -- we use simple rubbermaid containers that will fit in a lunchpack, some valentines day heart silicone cupcake liners, and a few " baby/toddler " containers for sides and such. You'd be amazed how many cute bento-ish containers you can find in the baby section! ^^

I'm really happy I found your site, Maki. You've really helped me find something I love to do.

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

Oh I can hardly wait for the cooler weather and the quiet that comes with Back-to-School season. Although my kids are not yet school age, I plan on starting to bento just so I can have a little order in my house. My husband is working the evening shift now also so I will be able to use the extras for his lunch the next day. I am terrible about being organized, having a 3 and 4 yo can do that, but since I am a sahm now I can use some of my time making nutritious foods for my family. I would like to shed some weight too. I am already working on some menus to keep me straight as well as getting my freezer ready with easy bento friendly odds and ends.

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

Glad you're back, Maki! I use my bento boxes nearly every day to take lunch to work, and I'm ready for some new inspiration regarding what to put into them. I keep a basic stash in my freezer of homemade meatballs chicken patties, sliced BBQ pork and so on, so its the fresh vegetable components I need to work on. I need to watch my carbs to keep my blood sugar in check, so I'm also looking for slow digesting carbs to replace the rice that is so easy to fall back on. Thanks for a wonderful and inspiring site!

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

My daughter just started kindgertarten and I now have two lunches under my belt. I'm ridiculously proud of the little creature I made for her first day: Eggbert. Eggbert is a hardboiled, peeled egg with carrot feet and nose and two black sesame eyes. He's adorable and she preferred playing with Eggbert before eating him.

:)

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

My daughter got me researching bentos this summer and I've been making bento lunches for myself for 2 months. Lost 20 pounds!! She started school last Monday and is loving the bento lunches I'm making her. She has people stopping by her table everyday to see what she has for lunch =) My fiance started back to work/school yesterday and I added him to the lunch routine. He is enjoying a bit more variety than the usual sandwich and crackers he packed for himself last year.

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

After taking a month off from my diet (family reunion and a wedding), I need to be more regimented about what I am eating. I just made a batch of kinpari gobo (froze the burdock I did not use), two types of quick pickles, and made a batch of mini onigiri with different fillings.
I am pysched about packing my lunch again.

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

Hi there.
Is it a real meal (the picture above)!? Yes, that looks disgusting...and yes, I'm ready for the healthy delicious bento!

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

Hi Maki, glad to see you're back (:

Right now I just went to check if the nigari I'm making is working out. Not much liquid in my plate, but boy is it bitter ahaha. (If anyone has any tips on making nigari from sea salt, they would be greatly appreciated by the way!) Since I don't have school yet, though it is sneaking up on me, I've decided to do some experimenting with tofu. Which includes following your instructions on JustHungry to make it! My boyfriend and I have made a tofu press, (here's a picture! http://a8.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/185386_10150352398665412_...) and it's had some magical effects! He went from the man who wouldn't even grudgingly promise to try a thumb sized piece of tofu, to be willing to eat a dish or two of the tofu from our press. Ahaha, it's quite exciting.

I've also been gathering a stash of pre cut and portioned meat for my bentos. Every time we had an excess of meat, I saved it from being wasted and packed it up before it was too late. I have about one more week of time in which I can experiment with more recipes from your book (which are awesome, btw) and others.

Hope you get back on your feet for cooking; that fast food looks fatal! And good luck with your renovations on your kitchen. (:

M.

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

Hello

Well i'm a beginner in the bento field, makes 2-3 months i'm doing at least 4 bentos a week (for 3 persons) and i plan to do more for my son and husbby lunches. Summer was pretty much a "last minute " meal time. My only trouble is that they are both difficult. With a big majuscule D. So most of the food you show here is a no-no, but it doesn't mean i cannot eat it! Muhaha!

My son is on the spectrum of austim, and i found out that bento are a great way to make him interested by his lunches. Of course, if i don't put the right sort of carrots, he won't eat it, or he will refuse to eat anything else than concomber and carrots as veggies, but the shapes and colors impress him enough to eat the rest! And Yay for fruits for color! And then i've discover than if i put him rice two days in a row, or even in the same week, he doesn't eat it.. It's a puzzle, but as i'm in a maternity leave io can take the full time to discover and search for lunches ideas!

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

Yes, I started 2 days ago again. Making bentos for my 2 kids at school. I picked up 3 cutest bento boxes at Old Navy for $5 each (you can see them here http://oldnavy.gap.com/browse/category.do?cid=45035) for some reason they are in the Maternity category and advertised as a lunch sets for baby, however I can easily pack a lunch for myself in one of those. They are BPA free too!

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

Thanks for that link! My daughter is starting pre-school and we are just getting in the habit of bento'ing 3x per week since I will be back in school too and my husband works! I am off to grab them now!

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

I have been having such great lunches since I started packing! so far my favorite recipes are the potato dumplings with a tuna mayo filling. A life saver is the tuna-mayo-corn-and-green-onion combo on top of rice or in onigiri. Also I love making inari to have for a couple of days. I have plenty or fresh fruit or vegetables to fill me up. I also like packing a nice sweet. candied sweet potatoes in cold milk,mochi, or a snack food. cold soba or somen has been so delicious these days in southern california. A real treat every once in a while is potato salad sandwhich( I like to make my potato salad creamy, so no potato chunks and tons more vegetables than normal. this means less potato and mayo but it is definitely worth all the veggies and eggs that are folded in the mixture.)

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

I'm new to bento, but my I've gained alot of flexibility by shredding (cuisinart) raw carrot, parsnip and rutabaga together on Sunday and using the refrigerated mixture during the week. These three vegetables taste wonderful together raw, blanched, stir-fried, with egg, or with shredded kale (salad, with Ginger soy dressing). They are filling and they add a nice color to my box.

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

This is great since we are so new! We went and bought our bento boxes tonight for school and couldn't be more excited! My pre-schooler is overjoyed she gets to take rice to school and veggies!

Thank you so much for this website it is a great help. I also ordered your book off Amazon and can't wait for it to come!

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

Oh my, that 'meal' definitely looks lethal.
You should have used the no-kitchen-time to try out a lot of healthy raw foods, just fruit, salads and the like.
I don't think raw food is the best dietary way but I dare to say it's better than this :D

Anyway, I'm glad you're back, I always love reading your updates so I'm looking forward to that!
YAY BENTO SEASON! Let's go!

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

I just started making lunches for my husband. He's a teacher and back to school for the last 2 weeks. Prepping ahead makes a huge difference. Take a look at my blog and see.

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

Yep! School starts tomorrow and I've spent a good chunk of today preparing dishes for my bento. I make usually a week worths of something at a time. I'm 15 and waking up at 5:30 AM is gonna be tough, let alone making lunch at that time! Haha, I've prepared carrot kinpira, lotus root, and lots of rice (I keep it in my freezer) and I'm gonna make tamagoyaki in the morning! Plus, I got to go to Japan for two weeks this summer! I came back with a lot of new ideas for my bento and about 400 pictures.
Thank you so much Maki for this site! I love bringing my bento school. Being the only kid at school who eats their lunch with chopsticks is pretty cool.

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

I just read the above post but comments are disabled? Anyway, I just wanted to say that I hope everything is okay and you get well soon Maki.

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

Get well soon!

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

Sept 2, 2011 Bento Season. I also have a question for Maki. I am making a cookbook called "See You In The Morning Cookbook". It is a collection of all of the healthy recipes I have made for my family in the past 20 years. May I have permission to publish the Soaking the Bean. I have it Titled Soy Milk-Tofu How To Part 1, Soy Milk-Tofu Part 2 from an article on the Just Hungry website called Milking the Soy Bean by Maki. The main audience for my book is for people who want to cook healthy meals. Right now I am just self publishing it and it is being given as gifts. Please let me know if I have permission. I plan to publish by November and you will be given a free book. Thank you. bernadinevincent1 [at] yahoo [dot] com I will write this email 10 times in hopes of getting your attention.

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

Sept 2, 2011 Bento Season. I also have a question for Maki. I am making a cookbook called "See You In The Morning Cookbook". It is a collection of all of the healthy recipes I have made for my family in the past 20 years. May I have permission to publish the Soaking the Bean. I have it Titled Soy Milk-Tofu How To Part 1, Soy Milk-Tofu Part 2 from an article on the Just Hungry website called Milking the Soy Bean by Maki. The main audience for my book is for people who want to cook healthy meals. Right now I am just self publishing it and it is being given as gifts. Please let me know if I have permission. I plan to publish by November and you will be given a free book. Thank you. bernadinevincent1 [at] yahoo [dot] com I will write this email 10 times in hopes of getting your attention.

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

Sept 2, 2011 Bento Season. I also have a question for Maki. I am making a cookbook called "See You In The Morning Cookbook". It is a collection of all of the healthy recipes I have made for my family in the past 20 years. May I have permission to publish the Soaking the Bean. I have it Titled Soy Milk-Tofu How To Part 1, Soy Milk-Tofu Part 2 from an article on the Just Hungry website called Milking the Soy Bean by Maki. The main audience for my book is for people who want to cook healthy meals. Right now I am just self publishing it and it is being given as gifts. Please let me know if I have permission. I plan to publish by November and you will be given a free book. Thank you. bernadinevincent1 [at] yahoo [dot] com I will write this email 10 times in hopes of getting your attention.

Re: It's bento season again! (Open thread)

I am still new to Bento, so I am exciteted to find out more about it and look and read about how to pack them. I specifically look at vegetarian options.

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