Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gluten-free Bento Lunches, Part 1: Getting Started

Bento: Getting Started

Any parent who has embarked on changing their families diet to gluten-free has come across the dreaded question: what about school lunches? After Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution a few years back in American public school systems, I started to really try to get my kids off of school lunches altogether. Going gluten-free was something that was not only going to make home lunches an option, but a necessity.

I started my foray into gluten-free eating with bread. Bread is an absolute necessity in kiddo's diet and staple in our everyday lives. So I spent the first few months just working on perfecting a bread that my family would not only tolerate but actually enjoy. Though I am a fan of some healthier grains, my family is a white bread kind of crowd, so my White Sandwich Bread was born. Additionally, I had a way to make school lunches with a variety of sandwiches.

If anyone knows any child, they know that there is only so long that you can hand them a sandwich without a miniature revolt eventually taking place. Our lunch revolt happened only a few weeks into our gluten-free eating. Lil sis was fine with her sandwiches, but kiddo was tossing them. I guess I had the advantage that he at least was unable to lie to me about it, he is honest to a fault. So when one day I asked how his lunch was and I saw a knowing look on his face, I said "you're throwing them away, aren't you?" He said yes, so we had a sit down to talk about school lunches and how I can make them better for him. The answer came quickly, I was making boring lunches.

Garden Salad bento with apples and cheese

So I decided to research into how to make interesting lunches for my gluten-free kiddos and the answer came to me: Bento. I remember bento box lunches when I was a kid in school. I had a number of Asian friends who's moms prepared amazing looking lunches in cool little boxes for them. Since those days of watching my friends in dining awe, I never really thought about bento lunches until now. There are a number of great sites out there that are focused on bento lunches for kids and amazing ideas on how to keep kid's lunches interesting. With kiddo and his sensitivity to texture, taste, color and smell, it makes bento making a little it more of a challenge in addition to being gluten-free.

For this Gluten-Free Bento Lunches Series I will: 

  • Create at least 10 bento lunches over the next two weeks
  • Review materials for bento lunch making including containers and tools
  • Do at least 3 tutorial style entries to learn technique for bento making
  • Include at least 6 bento lunch recipes that you can build on

Bento making is a long tradition that we are just diving into so I am referencing some amazing bento bloggers like What's for Lunch in Our House, Lunch in a Box and Laptop Lunches as I get going.

My first try turned out to be a "Garden Salad" and "Garden Sandwich" for kiddo and lil sis. My first go into quiche was a fail, but the rest was received very well. Lil sis was thrilled with her salad and was showing off her "flowers" (apples and cheese made with cookie cutters shown above) I think kiddo is a little more apprehensive, but is now asking what his next bento is going to be. Yay! Next stop, stuffed sandwiches!

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