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Posted on Dec 4, 2007 | 20 comments

English muffin sandwich bento lunch

English muffin sandwich bento lunch

Bento lunches don’t have to include rice, in fact sandwiches are a popular item in children’s bento boxes in Japan as they’re easy for little hands to hold. You can use all kinds of breads to make interesting sandwich variations: mini bagels, English muffins, croissants, dinner rolls, sandwich bread cut into shapes, cocktail bread for teeny sandwiches, biscuits, regular bread roll-ups, or even focaccia or regular bread packed in a collapsible sandwich case. What’s your favorite sandwich bread to shake things up a little?

English muffin sandwich lunch for preschooler

Contents of preschooler lunch: English muffin sandwich with herbed cream cheese on a lettuce garnish, crisp Fuyu persimmon slices, steamed broccoli, cherry tomato, hard-boiled quail egg shaped like a car, and diced mango.

Egg & rice molds for bento lunchesMorning prep time: 12 minutes, using a molded quail egg from an earlier batch (stored in cold water in the fridge). In the morning I quickly made the sandwich (not toasted, as per Bug’s request), sliced the fruits and veggies, and steamed the broccoli in my microwave mini steamer. I shaped the quail egg with the yellow quail egg mold shown on the right: shell a hard-boiled egg while hot, quickly put it into the mold and close it up, then toss into a cold water bath for 10 minutes or so for it to take on its shape. If you don’t have an egg mold, you can use common ice cream sandwich molds to shape chicken eggs. (Click on any photo for a larger view.)

Packing: The mango went into a reusable plastic food cup to keep it contained, and a plastic food divider kept the sweet persimmon away from the savory broccoli (I cut the divider to size and reuse it after washing). I’ll cop a guilty plea for unnecessary garnish: I put the muffin sandwich halves on curly leaf lettuce for color contrast. If this were my lunch I would have thrown in a pre-filled sauce container with vinaigrette, and made a mini salad out of the lettuce after I’d eaten the sandwich. That, or put the lettuce inside of the sandwich itself and let it hang out of the sides for a similar visual effect. The lunch is packed in a three-tier 495ml bento box from Daiso (US$1.50) which unfortunately is a little tricky for little kids to put back together as the lids are not interchangeable. We practiced beforehand, but his teachers had to help him put this box back together. I may mark the lids and their corresponding tier with marker or nail polish to help Bug match them up by himself (self-sufficiency, hooray!).

Verdict: Too big. Bug ate both halves of the sandwich at preschool, but totally left the rest until afterwards. In the afternoon after playing he did eat everything but the persimmon slices, which had gotten a little warm from sitting too long and had stuck together. I should have left one half of the sandwich out, and just sent him to school with two tiers instead of three. (Click for details of the second lunch with curry packed with the “rice lid” method…)

Curry rice bento lunch for preschooler

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Contents of preschooler lunch: Japanese chicken curry with rice, tangerine (a.k.a. mikan or satsuma), blueberries and raspberries. It’s tangerine season, and Bug is crazy about them (once the white stuff is picked off).

Morning prep time: 6 minutes, using leftover rice and curry. In the morning I preheated the thermal food jar with hot tap water while I microwaved the curry and rice.

Insulated bento setPacking: I peeled the tangerine and picked off the white strings to make it easier for Bug to eat quickly during lunch. I used the “rice lid” technique with the curry, covering the remainder of the curry in the thermal food jar with a layer of warm white rice after taking the photo. This kept both rice and curry warm until lunchtime, although it’s important not to overpack the food jar (which would squish the rice deep down into the curry). Lunch was packed in a 560ml insulated bento set (240ml rice jar and 160ml side dishes), minus one of the side dish containers to make it a better size meal for a three-year-old. In the empty space in the bag I packed a little Thomas the Tank Engine oshibori hand towel so that Bug could clean up after eating the fruit with his hands.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Bug ate all of the curry and rice (a favorite), and maybe a quarter of the fruit at preschool. He and his friends polished off the remainder of the fruit at the playground right after school. He did inform me that he doesn’t like the rice on top, though, and wants the rice packed separately next time.

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  1. This is my first time commenting, but I LOVE your blog!! I was so excited to see the link to the William-Sonoma ice cream molds for eggs–you’re brilliant! Anyway I went there straight away and lo and behold they are now on sale for $6.99 for the 3 pack! I am so excited, thanks again!!

  2. @1 from Brandi: Ooh, great tip on the sale on ice cream sandwich molds at Williams Sonoma! Great price (and thanks for the nice words, it means a lot).

  3. Agree that the bento lunch doesn’t always need rice. Usually, I’ll pack homemade sandwiches, cupcakes or muffins and cookies for son’s snack box for school.

  4. Re: interesting sandwiches. While I know some places don’t allow peanut butter, my kids love tortilla roll-ups made with cinnamon sugar tortillas, spread with peanut butter & sprinkled with ground flaxseed. I live in TX & can get the cinnamon sugar tortillas at Kroger. They also make salsa tortillas which I’d love to try smeared with cream cheese & sprinkled with cheddar cheese & chicken.

  5. A more fun way to help your toddler assemble his 3-tier is to find matching stickers (Dollar Tree has tons of small, appealing ones) and put say blue stickers on the one set of box and lid that go together, yellow on the other set, green on the other. Then all Bug has to do is to stack the lidded boxes one on top of the other, which I assume is sm, med, large? if trouble w/ that, still use stickers–small, medium, large.

  6. @4 from babesmom: I’ve been avoiding cupcakes and cookies as my son’s preschool gently asked us to avoid sweets, but muffins I’m all over. Once I go through the cornbread mini muffins in the freezer I’ll make another savory variation…

  7. @5 from cowgrrl: Wow, cinnamon sugar tortillas?! I’ve never heard of those! I’d love to try them; do you think they’re available in Oklahoma too? We’ll be there (and Florida) in a couple of weeks visiting family.

  8. @6 from Kate Schultz: I thought about the sticker solution, but doubted that most of our stickers would hold up in the dishwasher. Maybe the plastic kind would, though… I’ll reconsider, thanks!

  9. I just discovered your blog a few days ago and I am fascinated! I had never heard of bento before. The pictures you post of your son’s lunches make me happy – they’re so bright and cheerful and colorful and full of healthy options. I am inspired to do the same thing for myself. Thank you!

  10. P.S. is that a house-shaped container that the mango is in?? too cute!! :0D

  11. Re: cinnamon sugar tortillas. Kroger is not in Oklahoma & the store I visit has its own little tortilla factory so I’m not even sure they’re at all Krogers.

    If you have a tortilla recipe, you might be able to make them. The thing that’s different about these is that the cinnamon sugar is mixed in the dough. Its not sprinkled on top like cinnamon tortilla chips you get at Taco Bell.

    Sorry I’m not more help.

  12. @10 from Laura: Welcome to the fold, and thanks for the nice comment, Laura! Please feel free to ask questions or leave comments even on old entries; I keep up with them all via the Recent Comments widget on the site.

  13. @13 from cowgrrl: Actually, you’ve given me enough information that now I know exactly how to make them! I had pictured cinnamon sugar just coating the outside, not mixed in with the masa. Time to pull out my tortilla press and make a quick trip to La Palma Mexicatessen (my local tortilla shop that sells fresh masa).

  14. Mmm, I love love LOVE that bento set (and now have my own in red! though I still want a blue one!) and it really does keep everything pretty hot. I must make some curry again soon. Ooh, I have chicken in the fridge right now, maybe I’ll make curry tonight! Awesome! Thanks!

  15. @17 from Yvo: It definitely is chilly enough that I want to pull out the thermal food jars and exist on stews, chili, curry and soup… Mmmm…

  16. @18 from melmelish: Thanks for the nice comments, melmelish! In San Francisco, I can find fresh quail eggs at most Asian markets. Japanese markets like Nijiya and Mira in Japantown stock them, and of course so do the many Chinese or pan-Asian markets (New May Wah, Sunset Supermarket, Wah Lian, many hole-in-the-wall Asian markets in Chinatown, Clement Street, Irving St., etc.).

    The pink and white stuff is kamaboko (fish cake), that you can definitely find at any Japanese market and also at many Korean or pan-Asian markets locally.

  17. Haha Biggie chilly in San Francisco is what, 40? It’s been in the mid-20s here! I did indeed make curry last night though and will be posting soon :)

  18. @21 from Yvo: Ha ha, yup, I’ve become a weather wimp! But we’ll be going to see family starting this weekend, so I need to go buy a serious winter coat for Bug so he doesn’t freeze with ACTUAL cold weather and all. The thought of real winter is making me crave warm comfort foods…

  19. Hi,
    Can I find these lunch boxes and products, somewhere in Montreal, Quebec. If not, is there a Canadian store that carries them. Is their a Montreal representative or would you be looking for a rep to sell your products?

    Thanks so much,
    Mary
    514-909-1615