The last few weeks have been spent struggling with the dilemma of what lunch to pack for the kids since at this time of writing school starts in two days. If they liked the same things this would be easy, but turns out they don’t. One likes easy-and-fast-to-eat food with simple, straightforward flavours and is generally averse to anything being too hot (basically all cooked food), while the other prefers warm food that is packed with flavours and moulded against a carb base like rice or noodles. On top of all this, the school does not allow any nuts or chocolate, so nutella spread is out (not that it was very nutrient dense to begin with but still..) as are granola bars and peanut butter and brownies and chocolate chip cookies and oreos and cupcakes and just everything in my world.
After much deliberation I somehow managed to come up with a lunch that my son would enjoy, is easy to eat, doesn’t drip or slip everywhere and could possibly hold more nutritional value in its filling. I have no idea what to call it though, they’re like giant ravioli bread buns to form a kind of sandwich that’s completely sealed up. A bunwich if you like. I used my favourite Richard Bertinet bread recipe, the one he calls Sweet bread, as it has milk and well, is a little sweet, and I thought that might entice them into liking it a bit more. I rolled the bread dough out long and thin and proceeded to fill it up like I would a ravioli. I tried the following combinations:
- ham and cheese
- tomato sauce, cheese and chopped spinach
- salmon, pesto and tomato sauce
- teriyaki minced beef
- minced beef and cheese (cheeseburger!)
The salmon was the least favourite amongst the four of us, but the rest were ace, the teriyaki beef mince being the favourite (the husband likened it to char siew pau, though how he thinks he knows what that would taste like, I don’t know). The bread held together easily, the fillings cooked through in the 12 minutes the buns were in the oven, and the final result was soft, fluffy bread, and tasty insides. I froze the rest of what we didn’t eat, and two days later took two buns out, sealed them in a lunch box and left them on the kitchen counter for about four hours. At room temperature the buns tasted perfectly fine, and the bread remained soft. The little man affirmed that this, he would eat. Success!
Now on to the madam.
Since I can’t give her a thermos food jar because she wouldn’t be able to open it herself, I thought of perhaps putting her little snackbox into an insulated lunch bag to keep it warm. We went a-hunting at the mall, and let me tell you, typical insulated lunch bags are huge. The only decently sized ‘lunch bag’ I found was in the Sanrio Hello Kitty store at Red Sea Mall, which is really just a foiled canvas wrap-around for lunch boxes, with no seal. It resembled those foil bags one would find at the supermarket to transport your frozen items home, except with Hello Kitty on it and without the nifty clippy handle. I didn’t buy it. Feeling around the inside of the enormous lunch bags again, deliberating if I should make this child carry it to school along with everything else she’s lugging, and I realised that the material is the same as the frozen lunch bags we already own. Perhaps, if I didn’t freeze the bag, could it keep a hot lunch warm?
PackIt Lunch bags are really cool (pun), because the entire bag is made of gel packs, and it folds flat when empty. Stored in the freezer, the gel packs become rock solid keeping the contents of the lunch bag cool for a few hours. In Singapore, we were experiencing about 32deg C heat everyday, which really felt like 35 or 37 deg most days because of the mad humidity levels. I would pack for the little man his sandwich, some fruit and a frozen-solid fruit smoothie. He’d give me an update at the end of the day, that the fruit smoothie was a smoothie, neither cold nor warm, so I’d say the PackIt bag was a mild success. At least nothing had gone bad, and it wasn’t a yucky Singapore standard room temperature.
Used thawed and tested at home, the PackIt bag does not however keep anything warm. Fail.
But things have turned and I need not worry any more because my test run for a bento lunch packed inside the frozen PackIt bag was a success. The rice and salmon fish fingers , cucumber and mayonnaise were cool in their little lunch box, and apparently delicious because they both ate everything! Because the Egyptian rice we bought is similar to Japanese rice (though I’ve just been told there’s another brand of Egyptian rice that is closer; keen on getting that one), its starch content makes for easy scooping as everything sticks together; both of them appreciate this. The flavours were simple but the mayonnaise made it tasty enough for even the madam to enjoy.
When our shipment arrives, I may try giving the little man a warm lunch from time to time in his Crocodile Creek thermos, but who knows, he may just want his cool bento lunches in his army camo PackIt instead, we’ll see, and of course the bunwiches. But my daughter will continue with the bentos in her chevron PackIt for the time being until at least she can unscrew a food jar herself. I also found quail eggs in the supermarket and she’s so enamoured with them, that eggs are in her size, she’s really looking forward to having them in her bento this week.