I’ve decided to show off my bento collection. In use. There’ll be links so you can buy to your heart’s content if you so desire.
Why am I doing this? Pretty much just because.
Also, since I’m gluten-free, wheat-free, and dairy-free, this may help spur ideas for similar allergen-free lunches. I’m not allergic to corn, peanuts, soy, or nuts in general, but I’ll note when they exist.
Note: these aren’t necessary healthy lunches. Make and eat at your own risk.
Bento in Action!
On the left, you can see the undivided container. That’s half a cup of cooked white rice, with a simple slow cooker chicken recipe on top (recipe: chicken pieces in slow cooker, dump good jar of spaghetti sauce over chicken pieces. Make sure cooker is half-full; I like a small 2.5 to 3 qt cooker for this dish).
On the right is the divided container. Unlike many other divided bento containers, there are actually little slots in the top lock-down lid (not pictured) that actually keep food separate. That’s ~20g of apple cubes ((Arkansas Black, if you must know.)), grapes ((Red flame grapes.)), wonderfully addictive almond thin crackers with the most unbelievable non-dairy home-made cheez ever. Without casein, this cheez still melts while being solid at room temperature.
Here’s a block of it. ((Yes, that’s a “Kiss of Fire” lyric in the description.)) It’s basically 32 calories per 2 tablespoon slice. It’s strangely mild and yet cheesy, and definitely reminiscent of a real Colby cheese. If you’re worried about agar agar being made of seaweed, the agar agar product itself has little to no taste; it’s just there to gel, kind of like plain gelatin (note: I have no idea if gelatin will work in this recipe).
You can find the recipe in The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook. The agar agar can be a bit difficult to find in the west (ultimately I bought agar agar from Amazon), but it’s the magic ingredient here (along with the nutritional yeast and other ingredients for flavor and, oddly enough, a radioactive orange color).
Let me tell you, crackers and cheez, as do crackers and real cheese, don’t meet well together in the enclosed space of a bento. I’ll keep them separate next time, because it’s quite worth it.
There’s also a little sin included in this bento (alongside a mandarin/satsuma, not that it really balances it all out): dairy-free carob fudge. Oh my gods, it tastes wonderful and acts just like fudge (thick when cold, a bit sweaty when room-temperature yet still thick and solid). It’s… slightly healthier than most chocolate dairy fudge recipes but, um, kinda only just. Almond butter isn’t exactly low on calories; that little piece has 180 calories in it still.
The little box isn’t actually included in the bento box package, it’s simply something I managed to pick up from somewhere that was the perfect, perfect size.
The Bento Box Review
This is a double-decker bento box from Lock & Lock, who make wonderful, wonderful water-tight sealing food boxes. They created a bento set as well, complete with insulating bag. It’s quite utilitarian, but very serviceable.
I have the double-decker version that adds an additional PETE water bottle on top, which I never use, because I have a rather trusty stainless steel Klean Kanteen I rather like better. ((Not for any particular evangelical health-related reason, I just like it and it looks pretty. And you can buy it in decent capacities as well.)) This costs more than the shorter version, but it means I’ve room for a utensil ((Believe it or not, a spork is quite handy. I feel crazy for saying that.)) and/or an ice pack. More often I use it for fruit or… well…
Admit it. We all love a naughty dessert from time to time (or more often) in a lunch. I often use a rather small container as a “snack bento”, and rather tiny ones will fit handily into the roomier bag. I can’t find any Amazon links, but they tend to be maybe 2.5 to 3 inches long. Just enough for something a bit high calorie, but not for too too much of it.
An additional pro about the bag—it easily fits many other double-decker style bento boxes, including more traditional Japanese designs. Thus, I’ve got an insulated lunchbox with style.
Why a double-decker? Well, I put it in my laptop bag, and its upright shape keeps lunch—generally—from tipping over, which is a problem in my other favorite bento-style box, the Laptop Lunch, but that’s a discussion for another day.