Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Smart Planet Ultrathin SaladBook Lunch Box Review


Today we're using the SaladBook by Smart Planet that I used once previously to pack the Totoro Soba Bento last month. Remember that one? Today I've packed a Salad Bowl containing curried chickpeas, cottage cheese with sunflower seeds, cinnamon apples, pickled carrots and daikon, fresh steamed corn, pickled cucumbers and wakame, pickled red onions, and blackberries - atop tossed romaine lettuce. I am really into the bowl-type bento these days, and this kind of container is ideal because no divided sections are necessary. And there are so many possibilities!

This box is unique in that it is "ultrathin," meaning that the roundish single section container is only about one inch in height yet manages to provide 20 fl oz (591 ml) of volume. 


You can see that this container is quite wide and shallow.


The box has a leakproof gasketed lid which is held in place by four tight clips which are an integral part of the lid itself, and seal by latching to the underside of the box. While this mechanism seems to work very well at keeping the box watertight, I found that the latches are so tight they can be challenging for small hands to pull open.


Here you can see the latching mechanism of the clips. There are 4 clips and they snap closed on the bottom of the container. If your (or your child's) hands aren't strong enough to push off the clip, I've found that pressing the lid and container together will release pressure on the clip and it will be easier to push up.


The box comes with an insulated zipper tote with a handy mesh pocket and a spork in a color that matches the box lid. This is a somewhat minor point, but I found it curious as to why the pocket opens downward so that when you open the lid, the spork falls out. I solved this problem by attaching an adhesive velcro closure, which works very well.


The spork now stays in place in the pocket until you choose to remove it. Yay!


The profile of the entire SaladBook after it's packed and ready to go. I found it to live up to its "ultrathin" billing quite well. I mentioned the box itself being about one inch high; when zipped up the whole bag will only take up about 2 inches of depth in your backpack (or briefcase or similar).


Alternately, you can carry it separately by the short handle strap located at the pointed end of the tote. So convenient!


The last item included in the SaladBook set is a little dressing container. It consists of a collapsible soft silicone pouch with a hard snap-close lid which also screws off for easy filling and washing. It's a great idea, but in my experience the cap opens very easily because of the soft nature of the container. I wouldn't pack it next to the box inside the tote because it might pop open and leak. But I don't think this matters too much because since the box itself is completely watertight, you can simply drizzle the dressing atop the salad before packing. That's what we did in the Totoro soba salad bento and it worked just fine.

The salad we packed today didn't require a separate dressing, so we didn't worry about it. 

Overall, I think the Smart Planet Ultrathin Saladbook is a good buy; it retails for $14.99 and comes with a spork, dressing container, and insulated zipper tote. It is practical, sturdy, dishwasherable, and lightweight. Its storage profile is slim and convenient; it is leakproof and spacious. I recommend this container for kids and adults alike. 




Thursday, October 27, 2016

Werewolf Bento


Raaaaaaawr!
What's Halloween without a werewolf bento? A piece of jagged cheese on a mini whole wheat bagel, and a few nori cutouts make this one not-too-scary. Also in our LunchBots Clicks: edamame skewer, carrots, radish, and grapes. I wish I had a wild animal type of fork to use for this lunch; that would have been cool. Good thing we have the upcoming weekend to get ready for the trick-or-treaters; if this year is anything like previous years, we're going to have to majorly stock up. Like bulk candy Costco run!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Frankenstein Bento


Still going with the Halloween bento... here is Frankenstein for TinySprite! She gets a bagel with cream cheese and cucumber, plus extra ham to make her own little DIY sandwich. I also gave her a mandarin jack-o-lantern and a hard-boiled egg (not shown). Couple more days to go! Are you folks going trick-or-treating? I don't know if my kids have outgrown it yet... I guess we'll find out this weekend! Happy Halloweek!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Ghost Buddies Egg Bento


Happy Halloween!
Two halves of a single hard-boiled egg become a pair of ghost buddies in TinySprite's Halloween bento today. She also gets furikake shoyu chicken (surprise!) and furikake rice. Broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, steamed Okinawan sweet potatoes, and a miniature mandarin round out the rest of the square Ecolunchbox Solo Cube.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Hello Kitty Egg Bento


Just a little one for the TinySprite. Shoyu chicken furikake, hapa rice, hard boiled egg, tomatoes, carrot, corn, honeydew melon and grapes. Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Totoro Soba Saladbook Bento!




Hello from Totoro! Yup, it's another Totoro bento. It may be true that we are in the midst of Fall, but we are still digging the cold noodle bento these days. This one is a soba salad, with chopped romaine, shredded carrot, fishcake (kamaboko), nori, grape tomatoes, and steamed Okinawan sweet potato soot sprites. I poured tsuyu directly on the noodles because the lid is gasketed and advertised to be leakproof. Spoiler: it didn't leak! This is a new lunchbox called SaladBook by Smart Planet. It's only the first time we've used it so we'll reserve judgement until we use it again. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Pastrami Egg Roll Eshly Bento


Today I made another recipe from the Lucky Rice Cookbook that I received earlier this past summer. Last time I made garlic smashed cucumbers and it was a perfect side addition to our bento repertoire. I was intrigued by the Pastrami Egg Rolls because I am a huge fan of pastrami and this seemed like a fun way to use it in bento. There wasn't a picture of these in the cookbook so I'm not sure exactly how the author meant for them to look, but I laid the pastrami strips inside the wrapper neatly in a couple different ways.


I also made a vegetarian filling since I was going to be deep-frying anyway, and it seems more balanced to add at least some vegetables. I preferred the vegetarian rolls, maybe because I ended up packing way more filling in those. But not surprisingly the kids really liked the salty cured pastrami and sauerkraut ones; I also added strips of swiss cheese in the pastrami ones (although this wasn't asked for in the original recipe).



There are two issues with egg rolls in bento: 1) egg rolls are best eaten freshly made, when they are maximally crispy and 2) now I remember why I don't like deep frying. The second reason isn't really a bento problem, it's mostly a personal dislike of spattering hot oil (and then cleaning up the mess after). The recipe, however, is a good one if you happen to like pastrami and sauerkraut. It might be even better with thinner sliced meat packed more fully, but ours was very delicious as well. Hope you can try it and see for yourself soon!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Pineapple Chicken Teriyaki Bento


I used a different recipe for teriyaki chicken - this one uses crushed pineapple, honey, shoyu, garlic, and ginger, and involved marinating the chicken pieces before oven baking. I'm not a fan of cooked pineapple in sauces but the kids liked it a lot. I guess because of the added sweetness in the flavor. Also packed in our LunchBots Quad: sweet cantaloupe, steamed Okinawan Sweet Potato, fresh corn, grape tomatoes, rice with furikake.

Pineapple Chicken Teriyaki Recipe 
(from Weelicious Cookbook adapted by Steamy Kitchen)

Ingredients:

1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)

Directions:

1. To make the teriyaki sauce, place the crushed pineapple, soy sauce, honey, ginger and garlic a bowl, whisk to combine. Pour half of the teriyaki sauce in a resealable plastic bag and reserve the other half. Place the chicken breasts in the resealable bag, close and give it a good massage to coat with the marinade. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to overnight.
2. When ready to cook, turn on the broiler and place the rack in the middle position. Place the marinated chicken breasts on a foil-lined baking sheet and spoon some of the chunky pineapple/ginger from the marinade on top of the breast. It will help keep the chicken moist. Broil for 8 to 10 minutes on each side, for a total of 16-20 minutes. Discard any remaining marinade in the bag.
3. While the chicken is broiling, heat the reserved teriyaki sauce (that you had previously set aside in step 1) in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes or until thickened slightly.
4. When chicken is done, Slice the chicken, pour the teriyaki sauce over top and serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Chicken Katsu Onigirazu Bento


Working on improving my onigirazu technique; today I made oven-baked chicken katsu. There are lots of recipes out there describing this method - basically instead of deep-frying the panko-breaded chicken cutlets, you bake them in a 400F oven for 30 minutes or so. The key is to toast the panko on a frying pan first so that it turns a nice brown color, like how it would look if you had actually deep-fried the chicken. You really can't compare oven baked chicken katsu with real deep-fried chicken katsu, but I thought it came out okay. It will never be as crispy as deep-fried, but it definitely is less oily. And there is very little cleanup involved. I like that!

For this onigirazu I didn't use a mold; I simply placed some rice in the middle of a sheet of nori, then layered with shredded cabbage, a few slices of chicken katsu, a squirt of tonkatsu sauce, more rice, then folded up the four corners and cut in half. I like how it looks, but I can still add more filling. Next time that's what I'll do. Also, I'll fold a little more tightly. The learning experience continues. Also inside our LunchBot Clicks: strawberries, orange cherry tomato, steamed broccoli.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Pikachu Bento!


Totoro got me thinking about Pokemon, and especially Pikachu. I don't think I've made one in a long time, so here's a snack bento with a Pikachu cut from a turmeric hard-boiled egg. I sliced the egg in half lengthwise so I could use the other half for ears, tail, hands and feet. I used nori for detail, and apple peel for his cheeks. Also in our Lunchbot Clicks: black rice, carrots, lettuce, and plum.
There he goes. Can you catch him? ^_^ 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Totoro Char Siu Bao Bento!


Totoro! I was thinking about him this past week because we happened to find the My Neighbor Totoro picture book in the library. It's a little jarring to read the story and descriptives since watching the film is more of a stream of flowing imagery washing over your senses. But it is fun to look closely at the detailed illustrations. In the scene where the sisters are eating cucumbers fresh from the garden, you can see the chewed-up bits of vegetable in Mei's open mouth while she's talking about bringing corn to her mother. Anyway, here is my tribute to everyone's favorite "cross between a bear and a raccoon and an owl." Have a magical adventure today!


Also in the ECOlunchbox Solo Rectangle: grapes, cucumbers, carrots, strawberry, lettuce. Details made from fishcake, nori, soba.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Salmon and Pickles Onigirazu Bento



On a roll with the black rice over here. Why not salmon and pickles onigirazu? First thing I learned from this one is to use more filling next time. D'oh! Besides more salmon I might also add more pickled red onion and pickled cucumber filling (can barely see it here), and maybe add daikon, some kind of sprouts and avocado too. Although you can simply make it freehand, I used a "mold" for this one, which was basically just a box that you fill, then invert onto a sheet of nori before folding. I found it to be awkward and unwieldy to use. I would prefer an open-ended mold that you place directly on the nori, like the ones you see for spam musubi and maki rolls. Also, this one I had to cut into three pieces to fit in the box, so the middle piece might fall apart while eating if it's not wrapped tightly enough. MisterMan ate this one and he gave it a thumbs-up, but stay tuned for my next attempt! I hope to improve my technique😊