Packing Lunch Box for Our Children

One of the challenges of wanting our children to be healthy is to make nutritious meals that they like to eat. Making quick, easy  and loaded with naturally sourced ingredients should be considered in choosing the recipes. However, some kids can be so fussy in their food tastes and food sights that getting them to eat what we pack is a daunting task. We need to have an honest, heart to heart talk with them and be open to what our children will say with regards to their food choices. This could help us come up with lunch ideas that are not only nutritious but also popular to them. Better yet, get them involved in creating a "lunchbox menu" so he can pick which foods he'd like on which day. The more he is into the process of selecting and preparing foods, the better chances that he'll actually eat them. Considering what food matches their taste buds and lunchbox preferences will ensure us that their bodies are replenished.

While children are in school, we cannot personally supervise them. So, if they don't like the food we prepared, it will just end up in the trash. We don't want any wastage, right?  If our children brought their allowance, they will go to the canteen to buy the food they like without us knowing if they made a healthy choice. Unless, they are honest and tells us what they ate but that will be too late already because by that time, the food is already digested inside their tummy.

This is why it is important to prepare the food they like so that they will finish it. Besides, if we cooked their lunch ourselves, we know what ingredients are in there, how it was stored, how it was prepared and cook. 

School is about to start and the pressure of  planning for his snacks and lunch is getting a bit overwhelming. He kind of got tired from last school year's lunch pack I prepared, he has not been finishing his food during the latter part. So, this summer,  I began researching for some ideas on lunch boxes and eventually, my search led me to the colorful, attractive, beautifully crafted Japanese home-packed meals called Bento or Dosirak for Korean packed lunch.


Below is a photo that shows us what Bento looks like.

Photo from ameblo.jp

Yes, bento is intimidating, it entails a lot of preparation, and requires a lot of time. I've been reading and learning how to make bento from a site called Just One Cookbook  and it teaches us some rules and helpful tips on how to make it easier and saves time plus an important article on food safety.

According to Namiko Chen, the author of Just One Cookbook, when preparing bento box, keep in mind to pack nutritiously balanced meal that includes 4 types of food, namely, carbs (energy), protein (building blocks of our body), fruits and vegetables   (vitamins and minerals).  Another important factor to consider is the color. Color plays an important part for our children's appetite. When food is visually appealing, our children would most likely try them. And I'm talking about natural colors, not the artificial ones. Lastly, packed the food tightly to prevent the food from moving inside the bento considering how our kids carry them (they place or grab their lunch bags carelessly).

From the above guidelines,  we can simplify our bento by working first with dishes that we are familiar with then move on to more complex ones.

I tried making one. It consist of brown rice with corn, hamburger steak (get recipe here) , stir-fried zucchini and carrots, kiwi and dragon fruit. 

It is not yet perfect as it should be, but it was a good learning experience to see how it would look like.


Below is the recipe for Hamburger Steak. Take note that I used beef stock instead of red wine as indicated in the original recipe


Hamburger Steak 

For sauteed onion:
1/2 large onion or 1 med onion
  • 1 tbsp. cooking oil
  • salt and pepper

  • For the hamburger mixture:
  • 385 grams ground beef and ground pork combined (65% ground beef, 35% ground pork)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/3 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil for pan frying
  • 1/4 cup beef stock

Sauce:
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp beef stock
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp ketchup
  • 3 tbsp Tonkatsu sauce (or Worcestershire sauce)

To prepare the onion. Chop the onion. Heat oil in a pan with medium high heat. Put in the onion and saute until light brown in color. Season with salt and pepper. Set Aside and let it cool.

To prepare the hamburger. In a bowl, add the ground meat, egg, milk, panko, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add in the onion and mix with your hand until well blended.  Form mixture into 6 balls. Throw  each ball lightly from one hand to another to remove the air inside the mixture. Press the ball gently to form a thick patty.  Keep the meat in the refrigerator for 30 mins before cooking so that the meat is firmer. Take it out only right before cooking. 

Heat oil in a large pan with medium heat and place the patties.  Gently press the center to form a dent because the center of patties will rise with the heat. Cook for 5 minutes until brown before turning over all the patties. Pour the beef stock, cover and lower the heat to medium. Cook for another 5 minutes or more depending on the thickness.  Uncover the pan and increase the heat to medium high until the  beef stock is almost gone. Transfer patties to a plate and leave the residue in the pan.

To prepare the sauce.  Combine the sauce ingredients in the bowl except butter. Using the same pan, heat the butter, put in the sauce ingredients and scrape off the brown bits. Mix well. Simmer for a few minutes while skimming off fats and scum. Pour the sauce over the patties or serve it separately.

Making bento lunch is such a challenging task and it contradicts with my earlier statement to consider quick and easy recipes but why am I doing this? Because it is a complete meal so it is more nutritious making our body healthy. More importantly I want to surprise my child once in a while with a striking lunch pack wherein he is reminded that I love him. Can I do this everyday? I want to. I'll do this once or twice a week first then let us see where this leads me.

For more Japanese Bento recipes,  please click here.




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