Monday, February 10, 2014

What are Bento Snack Boxes?

I call my snack boxes "bento" but they are not true bento boxes.  A bento is a popular boxed lunch in Japan.  They are usually made up of rice, seaweed, fish and vegetables.  The food is carefully tucked into the bento box in intricate and creative ways.  There are some amazing bentos out there.  I borrow inspiration and some techniques from these bento box lunches for my snack boxes.

My boxes are not complete lunches, they just serve as a snack or accompany a lunch.  The ingredients I use are decidedly western; usually a combination of fresh or dried fruits, vegetables, nuts, crackers, cheeses, cold meats, yogurt, dips and occasionally something sweet.  You could use anything you want but I generally try to stick with healthy foods.  I will occasionally dress up the boxes using bento accessories or making a themed box, usually I keep it simple.  Choosing vibrant colorful foods and arranging them neatly is the key to a beautiful snack box.

The boxes are fun to make and fun to eat.  Its a great way to add a variety of different tastes to a lunch without having to buy costly and wasteful individually packaged snacks.  The foods I use are usually nothing exciting, but when packed together you might find yourself looking forward to snack break even more than usual.

There are many different types of bento boxes to choose from.  Generally they are made from plastic or metal and they will often have cute cartoon characters or pictures on them.   You can buy bento boxes from Asian supermarkets or online.  I prefer to store food in glass whenever possible but any food safe container will work.  The majority of my snack boxes are in a 3 cup 7" x 5" glass food storage container by Pyrex.  I like the wide shallow container to arrange the food in.  You can also use round storage containers.

 You don't need a lot of trinkets or accessories but a few basic ones can help you build great snack boxes.  I use silicone cupcake liners to separate and corral foods.  I really love these flexible cups because they can squeeze between foods, can hold moist foods like yogurt or pudding, they are dishwasher safe and reusable.  To hold together firmer foods, like cheese cubes or grapes, you can use food picks.  Toothpicks, cocktail picks or even those funny plastic swords will work.  If you serve these boxes to younger children, avoid anything sharp or that they might choke on.

 click here to see more snack boxes.

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