Friday, September 5, 2014

Fancy Sandwich Friday - September 2014

  Fancy Sandwich Friday is back for the school year! Every first Friday of the month from September until May, you can come here and link up your sandwich posts if you have a blog, or just find a lot of great ideas for making sandwiches all in one place.

  Are you new to the whole Fancy Sandwich Friday thing? Since it's been a while (okay, a really long time) since I've done a Fancy Sandwich Friday link-up party... I'll tell you how it got started, what it is, and what you can do about it:

  Fancy Sandwich Friday got started a couple of years ago when my son and I were having a funny conversation about a YouTube video. The guy in it says, "Care for a sandwich? It's a very fancy sandwich". We decided to showcase as many fancy sandwiches as possible on my blog, and invite everybody to contribute. You can read all about that, and see the video here on my Fancy Sandwich Friday page. If you click on that link, you can also read a detailed description of how to join this link-up ( and again down below).

  Meanwhile, here's a little bit about my fancy sandwich:

  This lunch contains some chips, Laughing Cow cheese, and grapes with a leaf cut from a thin slice of carrot.
  Below that is my fancy little squirrel ham and cheese sandwich, which I made using a squirrel cookie cutter from this set from Ikea.

Next to the squirrel are some acorns made from two ends of a turkey hot dog attached to two mushroom caps. I secured them with toothpicks and cooked them in a pan with a little worchestershire sauce.
After they were done, I removed the toothpicks and replaced them with these cute leaf and ladybug picks, which you can find out more about by clicking the pictures of them right here:


 Psst! One more thing - in case you're interested, you can buy that cloth napkin with the leaves and acorns in my Etsy shop  :)

 Now it's your turn! Show us your fancy sandwiches!

 Here's how it works:
  If you've got a blog, I'd love it if you'd link up one (or more!) of your blog posts - present , past, or even the distant past that features a sandwich in some way. A bento with a cute sandwich, or a great recipe for a sandwich, or a great tips for packing sandwiches in lunch boxes, etc. If it's about a sandwich, it'll work!

  Just copy the URL of the blog post that you want to share, and click on the little blue button that says   " add your link"  at the end of the current Fancy Sandwich Friday post. Then follow the simple instructions.  You will have all weekend ( until Sunday night) to add any of your links before the linky party closes ( it will show how many hours are left right next to the Add Your Link button).

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Healthy Food Bento Bag, and a Fun Lunch

  Today I made a lunch based on a cute fabric I bought a while ago for my Etsy shop. I have used this fabric to make 2 styles of bento bags, and I've also made it into cloth napkins.

  Here's a close-up of my lunch:

  I made this one for my daughter. In it is a sandwich made on 5-Seed bread, along with some blueberries, carrots, cucumbers, cheese, egg and mini tomato. I used this pick set for the hat and bow tie on the egg man: ( click on the picture below for more info)

  And I used this leaf  set for the tomato leaf:

  And this set contains the nori punch that I used for all the faces - it's really versatile:

 The bento bag is for sale in my Etsy shop, and you can buy it here: BeneficialBento Etsy Shop. It is lined, insulated, and comes with its own double-sided cloth napkin!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Doctor Who Blog Hop - OOdles of Noodles!

 For our Doctor Who blog hop this year, I decided to make an Ood bento!  If you aren't familiar with the Ood, they first appeared on Doctor Who in 2006 in an episode called "The Impossible Planet"You can see what they look like and read more about them here.

 Here's my version of an Ood, turned into ... food! ( you knew I had to say that, didn't you?)

   This bento has a foundation of Pasta Leggero, with a side of steamed broccoli, green and waxed beans, carrots, and beets.

  Mister Ood is made of polish sausage, spaghetti, nori for the body, and goat cheese for his hand-held "orb". Here's how I made his head:

  I pushed dry spaghetti into a piece of polish sausage. Then I dropped it into boiling water ( I made two of them in case one failed) until the spaghetti was cooked through.

  I added red bell pepper pieces for his eyes, nori for his body, and cheese for his hand.

  This is one of the weirdest food creations I've made ( well, next to Admiral Ackbar) but it turned out as well as can be expected if you're planning on eating an Ood for lunch, I suppose  :)

 Now, let's see what Venia over at Organized Bites has made for the Doctor Who Hop! Just click on the button below to hop over to her blog, then you can hop around from there until you see everyone's lunches:

Friday, July 18, 2014

Bento Tutorial - How to Make Pretty Carrot Flowers

 YUM.  I made the Best Salad the other day - and yes, those capital letters are on purpose, because this salad was that good!

  I haven't given it a good name yet, but for now it will be called "Chicken and Herbed Goat Cheese Salad with Green Apples, Pecans, and Carrots". That name is too long, I know. I'm thinking about just naming it "YUM". I'll work on the name and post the recipe in a future blog post.

  The main reason this salad is here today, is to show off those lovely purple carrot flowers. And I'm going to show you how easy it is to make them!

 But first of all, don't you love those purple carrots? I was so excited to find them at Trader Joe's, that I almost did a little dance right there in the store! They are called Organic Carrots of Many Colors, and they are only $1.99 a bag!

 They come in yellow, white, and orange, but the most beautiful carrots are the purple ones - deep purple color on the outside, with a bright yellow center!

  Here is a picture tutorial so you can see how easy it is to make them ( below the picture I will add a few important tips) :

1. Use a steel cutter, not a plastic one, for raw carrots. Click on the picture below to see where to buy the one I used in the photos:

2. Press down hard for a clean cut. Use your palm - if this hurts your hand you can place a small plate over the cutter and press down on that.

3. Push it out, with a chopstick, swizzle stick, or narrow handle of another kitchen utensil.

4. take a moment to admire your work :)

5. Put a small dab of honey in the center of the carrot so the seeds will stick. These are black sesame seeds, which I found at an asian market. Regular sesame seeds also look pretty in the center of flowers, so don't feel like you have to run all over town just to get some.

6. Dip a toothpick in just a little bit of water to pick up the sesame seeds with ease. The water tension will make the seed cling to the toothpick just long enough to transfer it to the carrot flower. Make sure your work surface is totally dry to make this process easy-peasy!

7. Touch it lightly to the honey coated surface until it sticks. This might take a little practice, but once you get just the right touch it's like riding a bike - you'll be super fast at this in no time!

8. Dip the toothpick in water for each seed. Just do it. It really is quicker this way.

9. Isn't it pretty? It reminds me of a purple pansy! Just a couple of these added to a lunch is all you need to elevate an okay lunch to the level of a Work of Art  :)

  And by the way, here is how you make the sugar snap pea leaves ( basically just cut the pea pod on the diagonal) :

    To make saving this easier, I'll give you a pinterest-worthy image below so you can save this idea and use it later when you're looking for ways to perk up a lunch. While you're there, you might want to take a look at my Pinterest board, Lovely Lunches. I have everything from fun ideas for kids lunches to beautiful bento works of art.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

10 Good Reasons Why You Should Use Cloth Napkins

  So, why should you use cloth napkins? Is it that big of a deal anyway? Well, I have gathered together 10 good reasons why it might be of value to you, along with a little help from my lunch packing friends:

1. It's fun for kids to have their own cloth napkins. You know how fun it is to pick out a new lunch box and backpack when shopping for school? Yeah, cloth napkins can be like that too. And you can get a lot more styles and colors for very little money. Even grown ups appreciate a great lunch - including a nice cloth napkin :)

2. napkins can fill in gaps in lunch boxes. When you take the time to pack a bento lunch, you want it to still be in one piece by lunch time. Napkins can help keep things from shifting around if you have a kid who likes to swing their lunch box as they walk.  Cristi, from BentOnBetterLunches, describes this very nicely in this post, My Bento Packing Secret!

3. Choosing a cloth napkin to go with a holiday, birthday, or whatever your child's current interest is another way to show your kids that you love them and  are thinking about them when they're away from home. Kendra, from Biting the Hand that Feeds You, shows how she used a cupcake ring as a napkin ring in this adorable Easter themed lunch: Simple Easter Lunch!

4. When you eat away from home, you don't always have control of how clean the table or other surface is when you sit down to have your lunch. Spread out your cloth napkin and use it as a mini table cloth, so at least you have a small clean surface if you need to set down your fork or your apple between bites.

5. Cloth napkins are so soft! They just feel better, sturdier, more homey. Who wants a flimsy paper napkin with its papery lint? So cold and unfriendly! If you're packing a homemade lunch anyway, you should top it off with a soft cloth napkin. As you wipe your mouth with it, you might smell a little of that fabric softener you use, and it will remind you of home... and then you can use it to wipe that small tear that may escape from the corner of your eye, if you really love your home that much :)

6. They can be tossed in the wash with other loads, so you don't have the added burden of wondering when you'll have time to wash them all. They are small, so even a dozen napkins can fit in with any regular load of clothes or towels. * Kendra, from Biting the Hand that Feeds you, keeps a bag in her kitchen to toss the used napkins in - then empties the bag in the washing machine. No sweat!

7. Paper can't hold up to most spills like cloth can. Once my husband, son, and I were riding in the car. I had packed us all bento lunches, which included small containers of ranch dressing. My son's exploded when he tried to open it, and it ran all over his hands and arm ( you can read about that here). I tossed him one of my cloth bento bags and he cleaned it up quickly, and nothing spilled on the car. Okay, I know that was a bento bag, but a cloth napkin would work just as well!

8. It doesn't cost much to buy cloth napkins to match whatever your child is into at the moment. It can be a big commitment to buy a lunch box or back pack with a specific theme, though. How can you be sure your child won't get tired of it halfway through school? It may help the back to school shopping negotiations if you agree to buy some special themed cloth napkins for lunches, and in return your child can tolerate a plain colored lunch box ( which can last more than one year and save you money in the long run!)

9. It saves money. Did you know that the average person uses 2400 – 3,000 paper towels at work every year? You could buy a set of cloth napkins from my Etsy shop for $11.25. Using those at lunch time will cut down on the money wasted on paper towels, and they'll last for possibly hundreds of uses - as opposed to those one-use paper towels.

10. It's so much better for the environment. According to Going Green Today, 42% of all global wood harvested is destined to become paper. And did you ever consider that the typical takeout lunch consists of 1/3 paper, 1/3 plastic, and 1/3 food?  It just makes more sense to pack lunches in lunch boxes and use cloth napkins! Erin, of Feeling a Little Lunchy, describes how she has replaced paper with cloth in this post: feeling a little earthy

  Now that you have some good food for thought, if you are starting to think some cute little lunch-sized napkins might be just the thing you want to buy... I can help you out! I now sell cloth napkins in my Etsy shop, and you can find them here: Beneficial Bento 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Everyday Bento Book Review

   Let me tell you about one of my favorite new bento books, Everyday Bento by Wendy Thorpe Copely.

  Wendy, who's the owner/writer of the blog Wendelonia, has written a pretty comprehensive book that is perfect for people who are new to the idea of bento, and want to make their lunches using more "american" ingredients.

  Event though I'm not new to bento, I found many ideas and tips in this book that I wanted to incorporate in my lunches right away. Actually, that's the real beauty of this book- it's filled with practical, easy ideas that immediately make you think " I could do that!"

  Two of my favorite sections in Everyday Bento  are two simple lists: "Bento Box idea List" and "Bento Foods by Color". I turn to those lists frequently when the lunches I'm packing just need a little something but I just can't put my finger on it. Looking at those lists help me put together just what I need, and quickly too!

  Here is a lunch I made, inspired by Everyday Bento.  It was for my son, who still appreciates legos... especially if they're made of food!

  This lunch was made with Glutino gluten free crackers, ham, sugar snap peas, and cheese in the top tier of our Goodbyn Bynto box.

  I decided to add a little message on the top cheese slice  by using this fun tool:

  In the middle tier of the box, there's cucumbers, dip ( in the blue lego container) and edible legos made from carrots and more cheese.

  Anyone can make food into legos using the instructions in Everyday Bento, a knife, and a straw. It was easy, and everyone who saw it loved it!

  The bottom tier of this bento box is filled with grapes and strawberries to round out this simple, fun lunch.

  What is that cute little cloth napkin that is to the right of the bento box, you ask? Well, you can find those right here in my Etsy shop: Beneficial Bento  :)

 Here are more of the things used in this lunch, and where to buy them:


Sunday, May 4, 2014

C-3PO Star Wars Bento - May the 4th Be With You!

  Happy Star Wars Day everyone! Today is one of my favorite days to make a bento - I love a good excuse to make a Star Wars lunch :)  And so do all my bento-packing friends - that's right, we're having another blog hop! After you finish reading my post, then you have the chance to click on the link to my friend's blog, and on and on until you have seen all of our Star Wars lunches!

  This is the third year I have been a part of the Star Wars blog hop. The first year I made Admiral Ackbar out of refried beans and spanish rice:

Star Wars Bento - It's A Trap!

And last year I made Chewbacca out of kalua pork:

Star Wars Bento - May the 4th Be With You

  This year's lunch features a turkey sandwich with 3 different cheeses on wheat bread, topped with C-3PO made from cheese and nori ... you might call it my "3 Cheese - P O" ( har har har )

 Anyway, on the side there are some carrots and cucumber topped with a storm trooper helmet made from a boiled egg, with nori for the black details.

  Up in the corner there are some mixed berries with a frozen yogurt R2D2 - I used this mold to make it: (click on the picture to learn more)

 Also in the picture is one of my Star Wars cloth napkins, which I will soon have available in my Etsy shop.

  Now, why not hop on over to see what Anna from Becoming a Bentoholic has made, by clicking the link below:

Or clicking on our blog hop button:


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