Packing for the Perfect Picnic…The Corkscrew

  
A corkscrew is seonf important tool to pack for the perfect picnic. 

Corkscrews run the gamut as far as design—gears, threads, gas pressure, hooks, prongs and rack and pinion mechanisms—and  people have been busy inventing and patenting several thousand various cork “pullers” around the world ever since the invention of wine bottles in the 1600’s. 

So how do you choose the perfect corkscrew for your next perfect picnic…Factors to consider when choosing the perfect “cork puller”  include…

      1.  Easy to Use…Corks can be a major pain to extract, especially if you have to wrestle with a difficult opener,and opening the bottle should require as little brute force as possible.

      2.  Efficiency

      The ideal corkscrew has to be able to fit and open all the bottles in your collection.

      The ideal corkscrew must do the job safely without any problems such as “explosions,” cracked glass, and broken corkscrews.

      The pulling action of the ideal corkscrew should not disturb any sediment in the bottle by shaking the bottle up. 

      The screw on the ideal corkscrew should go in perfectly straight so that the cork stays intact.

      3.  Elegance…Crkscrews are available in an infinite variety of designs and sizes, and choosing the perfect corkscrew should be based on the image that you are trying to portray and how much space you have available.

      4.  Expense…How much are you willing to spend on the perfect corkscrew.
      All things being considered, how do find a corkscrew you’ll actually like.
      Like buying anything else, first you must explore your options…in this case, you must know the the different styles of wine openers on the market today, and which type will do the job most easily and quickly.
      So what are the different styles of wine openers on the market today…

        
      Butlers Friend Style Corkscrew

      1.  Easy to use...two prongs are simply slipped in between the cork and neck of the bottle, gently wiggled and twisted…pulling the cork up completely intact…requires some upper body strength, stability, practice, and skill to use,  so  may not be appropriate for less agile drinkers and not likely to be your go-to everyday opener…

       2.  Efficiency…the perfect solution for aged bottles with older, dry, brittle corks that would crumble if a regular corkscrew were used, but not the most versatile opener as it does not work well on slippery synthetic corks…

      3.  Elegance
      …compact and not flashy, but incredibly practical

      4.  Expense
      …usually I nexpensive..the one shown here is from .Le Creuset and costs $60…but, hey,it’s Le Crueset.

           
        Cork Pops CO2 Gas Opener 

          1.  Easy to Use...slide the needle into the cork and press on the canister in the back to forces carbon dioxide gas into the bottle The gas enters with such high pressure that it pops the cork right out of the bottle…Easy to use…Works fast…does not have a spiral…works especially well for fragile corks…will open almost any bottle with ease  

          2.  Efficiency…makes opening even the most stubborn bottle a cinch…Good for aged corks, but doesn’t always work well on synthetic or particularly long corks

          3.  Elegance…impressive way to entertain guests…impressive design makes it a fun addition to your cellar…

          4.  Expense…but requires the additional long-term costs of  purchasing and replacing replacement cartridges. Here on Amazon, the opener costs $15.49, and the replacement cartridges cost $8 for a set of two.

            
          Double Lever Corkscrew
          1.  Easy to Use..uses a gear and rack mechanismto to turn the two handles into efficient levers when pulling the cork

          2.Efficiency…the double levers help reduce required effort  by 50%

          3.Elegance… Looks like a Swiss Army knife

          4.Expense…this example is from Trudeau and costs. $14.99

              
          Lever Type
          1.Easy to Use...clamp on the device, push the lever down and then pull it out…very simple, very easy

          2.Efficiency…will pull a wine cork in 3 seconds flat, and then quickly and easily ejects the cork from the worm after uncorking

          3.Elegance…black ergonomic design with soft rubber grip pads, butbulky and less aesthetically pleasing than some of the other models

          4.Expense…This Black Rabbit Corkscrew from Metrokane can be found at Wine Enthusiast for $49.95

            
          Screwpull Lever Style

          1.  Easy to Use…easy to use, even by older or less-agile wine lovers…clamps easily around the neck of the bottle and then inserts a spiral long, strong screw made of relatively thin Teflon-coated wire completely into the cork…after the lever is pulled and raised, pulls the cork right out

          2. Efficiency…offers extra stability, power, leverage, and control for  less physically agile users…forcefulness of the lever can push a cork partway into the bottle

          3.  Elegance…makes opening a bottle look effortless…aesthetically pleasing…sleek design 

          4.  Expense…may need to buy replacement spirals as they dull with age…not easily stored…takes up a lot of space

              
            Waiter’s Friend
            1.  Easy to Use…
            consists of a simple handle and auger or spiral, a lever, and a short cutting blade…the simplest, yet most universally effective opener on the market…easy for a savvy drinker to use, but might be more difficult for older or less agile consumers to maneuver

            2.  Efficiency…works well for any type of cork, from composite, to natural, to synthetic…offers user control regarding the force, speed, and angle of insertion and extraction…Teflon coating eases the spiral more smoothly into the cork, preventing bits of cork from breaking off and falling into the wine…

            3. Elegance…compact, can slip easily into a briefcase, purse or picnic basket for those unexpected or on-the-go pours

            4. Expense…typically cost between $10 and $15…

              
            Wing Type
            1.  Easy to Useoffers stability and control for older wine lovers who need additional  leverage

            2. Effectiveness…offers a decently efficient way to extract your cork for everyday bottles, but truly only useful for your everyday table wines as its high force extraction is likely to snap an aged, dry cork

            3. Expense…one of the most common openers on the market… typically inexpensive

            4. Elegance…not the most elegant or compact of openers…clunky and doesn’t offer anything that other, more effective models don’t have

                May Editorial Calendar in Progress

                  

                  
                So hard to believe that another month has come and gone…seems like Christmas was only a week ago…oh, how quickly this year is flying by.

                  Today I have been sitting here gathering ideas for future blog posts and contemplating ways to make the month of May, especially Mother’s Day, special for our family.

                    In my last post, I listed some of my blogging  and life goals for May. They were…

                       Some days I feel like I am writing about so many different topics that there seems to be no method at all to my madness…but my goal is to actually walk through each part of my day and share some things that I have learned that month. So looking back on April…the month that I have been crossing my t’s and dotting my i’s with the Pantone color of Niagara… 
                         

                        STARTING THE DAY OFF RIGHT...character studies about the different women in the book of Genesis…starting with this book about Sarah, first in a series written by Orson Scott Card.
                             

                          GETTING DRESSED...forty piece wardrobe that I have finally finished creating, do a segment on foundation, and hopefully start working on my laundry room.
                             

                            EATING BREAKFAST...resources to help you write and publish cookbooks, and possibly other books, in order to have a cookbook published in time for Christmas.
                                

                              DROPPING THE KIDS OFF…survival game plan for the timespan that my daughter is home from Ole Miss for the summer.
                                   

                                HEADING OFF TO WORK…command center that will eventually become my reception/reservations center for our bed and breakfast.
                                  

                                  LASTING THROUGH LUNCH…start by finishing this series and then work through the subjects further down on my list…have too many draft posts still hanging around.
                                    

                                    MAKING DINNER PLANS…new weekly series of posts on Sunday’s called “Taking up Baking.”
                                      

                                      SATISFYING THE SWEET TOOTH...weekly “Taking Up Baking” posts.
                                          

                                        CREATING A HOME...clear, organize, and decorate our laundry room.    
                                          

                                          GETTING HEALTHY…the best foods to meet your daily protein recommendations.
                                             

                                             CELEBRATING LIFE/SEWING A STRAIGHT SEAM…get my sewing room back into working condition, write my review of Stalin’s Daughtet, and begin another selection from my book list.
                                                

                                              The month of May has been designated, by some authority that exists, as…

                                                • Better Hearing and Speech Month
                                                • Haitian Heritage Month
                                                • International Mediterranean Diet Month
                                                • Jewish American Heritage Month
                                                • Mental Health Awareness Month
                                                • National Barbecue Month
                                                • National Bike Month
                                                • National Blood Pressure Month
                                                • National Chocolate Custard Month 
                                                • National Egg Month
                                                • National Hamburger Month
                                                • National Loaded Potato Month
                                                • National Military Appreciation Month
                                                • National Osteoporosis Month 
                                                • National Salad Month
                                                • National Salsa Month
                                                • National Strawberry Month
                                                • Older Americans Month 
                                                • Skin Cancer Awareness Month
                                                • Date Your Mate Month
                                                • Foster Care Month

                                                  

                                                Each day in May has been designated, by some authority that exists, as… 

                                                  May 1

                                                  • National Raisin Week
                                                  • May Day
                                                  • Mother Goose Day

                                                  May 2

                                                  • Brothers and Sisters Day
                                                  • National Chocolate Truffle Day

                                                  May 3 

                                                  • National Chocolate Custard Day
                                                  • National Herb Week
                                                  • National Raspberry Popover/Tart Day
                                                  • National Teacher Appreciation Day 

                                                  May 4

                                                  • National Candied Orange Peel Day

                                                  May 5

                                                  • Cinco de Mayo
                                                  • National Day of Prayer
                                                  • National Enchilada Day 

                                                  May 6

                                                  • Military Spouse Day
                                                  • National Tourist Appreciation Day
                                                  • National Nurses Day
                                                  • No Diet Day

                                                  May 7

                                                  • National Tourism Day
                                                  • Nurse’s Week

                                                  May 8

                                                  • Iris Day
                                                  • Mother’s Day 
                                                  • No Socks Day
                                                  • V-E Day
                                                  • World Red Cross Day

                                                  May 9

                                                  • Lost Sock Memorial Day 
                                                  • National Shrimp Day
                                                  • National Teachers Day

                                                  May 10 

                                                  • Clean up Your Room Day
                                                  • National Receptionist Day 
                                                  • School Nurses Day 

                                                  May 11

                                                  • Eat What You Want Day

                                                  May 12

                                                  • Fatigue Syndrome Day
                                                  • National Fruit Cocktail Day

                                                  May 13

                                                  • Blame Someone Else Day 
                                                  • Friday the 13th
                                                  • National Hummus Day

                                                  May 14

                                                  • National Buttermilk Biscuit Day

                                                  May 15

                                                  • National Chocolate Chip Day
                                                  • Police Officer’s Memorial Day

                                                  May 16 

                                                  • Love a Tree Day
                                                  • Wear Purple for Peace Day

                                                  May 17

                                                  • National Cherry Cobbler Day
                                                  • Pack Rat Day

                                                  May 18

                                                  • I love Reese’s Day
                                                  • International Museum Day
                                                  • National Cheese Souffle Day
                                                  • No Dirty Dishes Day
                                                  • Visit Your Relatives Day

                                                  May 19

                                                  • National Devil’s Food Cake Day

                                                  May 20 

                                                  • National Quiche Lorraine Day
                                                  • National Pick Strawberries Day
                                                  • National Pizza Party Day

                                                  May 21

                                                  • Armed Forces Day 
                                                  • National Strawberries and Cream Day
                                                  • National Waiters and Waitresses Day
                                                  • World Whisky Day

                                                  May 22

                                                  • Buy a Musical Instrument Day
                                                  • National Vanilla Pudding Day

                                                  May 23 

                                                  • Lucky Penny Day

                                                  May 24

                                                  May 25

                                                  • National Brown-Bag-It Day
                                                  • National Wine Day

                                                  May 26

                                                  • National Blueberry Cheesecake Day

                                                  May 27

                                                  • Don’t Fry Friday 

                                                  May 28

                                                  May 29

                                                  May 30

                                                  • Memorial Day

                                                  May 31 

                                                  • National Macaroon Day
                                                  • World No Tobacco Day

                                                    

                                                  Finally look at what blog topics usually trend in the month of May

                                                  • Finals/Exams
                                                  • Kentucky Derby
                                                  • Stanley Cup Fever
                                                  • Weddings 

                                                  So all that being said, won’t it be interesting to see what I do actually blog about in May(?!)…

                                                   

                                                  Method to My Madness…May

                                                   Some days I feel like I am writing about so many different topics that there seems to be no method at all to my madness…but my goal is to actually walk through each part of my day and share some things that I have learned that month. So looking back on April…the month that I have been crossing my t’s and dotting my i’s with the Pantone color of Niagara… 

                                                     

                                                  STARTING THE DAY OFF RIGHT...My goal for the year has been to bury my head and study the Book of Genesis for the entire year. 
                                                  In April I finished the Wiersbe series on Genesis. 

                                                  In May I will move on to character studies about the different women in the book of Genesis…starting with this book about Sarah, first in a series written by Orson Scott Card.

                                                         

                                                    GETTING DRESSED
                                                    …My goal for the year has been to establish a 40-piece capsule wardrobe, convert to organic skincare and cosmetic products, and transform my laundry room and bedroom closet into places that I would proudly post on both my blog and Pinterest. 

                                                    In April I studied purchasing and applying concealor.

                                                    In May I will share the forty piece wardrobe that I have finally finished creating, do a segment on foundation, and hopefully start working on my laundry room.
                                                       
                                                      
                                                    EATING BREAKFAST...My goal for the year has been to start putting together a cookbook of Southern breakfast recipes that I can sell at my bed and breakfast. 

                                                    In April I explored making breakfast in the crockpot.

                                                    In May I want to gather resources to help you write and publish cookbooks, and possibly other books, in order to have a cookbook published in time for Christmas.
                                                        

                                                      
                                                    DROPPING THE KIDS OFF…My goal for the year has been to make sure that the quantity time that I spend with our three year old is quality time also. 

                                                    In April I found resources for art projects to do with toddlers.

                                                    In May I want to develop a survival game plan for the timespan that my daughter is home from Ole Miss for the summer.
                                                       

                                                      

                                                    HEADING OFF TO WORK…My goal for the year has been to move closer to the opening of our bed and breakfast. 

                                                    In April I listed sites where freelancers can possibly find writing assignments.

                                                    In May I hope to create a command center that will eventually become my reception/reservations center for our bed and breakfast.

                                                      
                                                    LASTING THROUGH LUNCH...My goal for the year has been to create a system of keeping healthy, portable snacks and lunches available to grab as we hurriedly run out the door each morning. 

                                                    In April I wrote about “food in jars,” choosing the right lunchbox, and got sidetracked on parking the perfect basket.

                                                    In May I will start by finishing this series and then work through the subjects further down on my list…have too many draft posts still hanging around.

                                                      
                                                    MAKING DINNER PLANS…My original goal for the year was to study one different cooking techniques per month. I have decided that this was much too big of a goal…instead I will look at one cooking method per quarter..stRting with baking.

                                                    In April I started many draft posts, still unpublished.

                                                    In May I will begin a new weekly series of posts on Sunday’s called “Taking up Baking.”
                                                      
                                                      
                                                    SATISFYING THE SWEET TOOTH…My goal for the year has been to to start a binder with seasonal desserts to use as a reference once our business is open. 

                                                    In April I started many draft posts, still unpublished.

                                                    In May I will focus on starting my weekly “Taking Up Baking” posts.
                                                        

                                                     CREATING A HOME…My goal for the year has been to create minimalistic systems and organization so that “everything can be done decently and in order.”

                                                    In April I started many draft posts, still unpublished.

                                                    In May I hope to begin to clear, organize, and decorate our laundry room.    

                                                      
                                                    GETTING HEALTHY…My goal for the year has been to start exercising again and to learn to prep foods that are more appropriate for my diabetic husband. 

                                                    In April I started many draft posts, still unpublished.

                                                    In May I hope to study the best foods to meet your daily protein recommendations.

                                                             

                                                           CELEBRATING LIFE/SEWING A STRAIGHT SEAM…My goal this year has been to do some things honestly just for me…such as finish the umpteen thousand sewing projects sitting around here, start a historical biographies book club, among other things.

                                                          In April I started many draft posts, still unpublished.

                                                          In May I hope to get my sewing room back into working condition, write my review of Stalin’s Daughtet, and begin another selection from my book list.

                                                              

                                                              Now, it’s time to turn the calendar page to May and crossing my t’s and dotting my i’s with the Pantone color Primrose Yellow.

                                                                  

                                                                Packing for The Perfect Picnic…The Picnic Blanket

                                                                  
                                                                It is important that you choose the non-food items that will go into your picnic basket as carefully as you choose the food items that will go into your picnic basket. Nothing will ruin the mood as much as getting to your picnic site and realizing that you forgot something important, such as a corkscrew to open that very expensive bottle of wine that you were so looking forward to sharing.

                                                                  Today I am going to pack the ultimate picnic basket, or at least the picnic basket that I would absolutely love to be able to pull together.

                                                                    1.  The Blanket…The ideal picnic blanket should be stain-resistant, machine-washable, and waterproof. The blanket should measure at least 5’x8,’ yet fold into a reasonably small size. Padding is definitely a plus also.

                                                                      Check customer reviews for any picnic blanket that you are considering to see whether a blanket’s fabric tends to fray or whether that blanket’s threading has a tendency to unravel.  

                                                                        The following article has a slew of ideas as to Picnic blankets to purchase or to make.

                                                                          I chose the above Mambe Picnic Blanket. This Mambe Essential All Season Blanket. This machine washable, 100% waterproof and windproof blanket comes in two sizes…

                                                                          • Large…58″ x 84″ …which is ideal for one to four people
                                                                          • XLarge…84″ x 116″…which is ideal for five or more people

                                                                            I chose the larger size. 

                                                                              The large blanket folds into the included ultralight stuff sack…to a portable size of 9″ x 15″…and a weight of 3.5lbs.

                                                                                The extra-large blanket folds into the included ultralight stuff sack…to a portable size of 14″ x 18″…and a weight of  7lbs.

                                                                                  The blanket is made of a mid-weight Genuine Polartec ® Classic 200 Fleece on one side, and black waterproof nylon on the other side. 

                                                                                    The blanket comes with a lifetime guarantee, and is available in ten different colors.

                                                                                      I chose the burgundy blanket to take tailgating at Mississippi State.

                                                                                        Insulated Lunch Boxes…Picnicking in the Park

                                                                                        Each month I have run a segment on Lasting Through Lunch, tweaking this section as I go along…(in fact, tweaking every section as I go along…guess that’s what people do when they attempt to blog, right)…

                                                                                        Anyway, I have stumbled across the fact that there are basically three types of lunch boxes worth investing in—the bento box, the insulated, and the heavy-duty metal—and each basically calls for its own type of menu and recipe ideas.

                                                                                        So each month from now on, or until I get another brilliant, or not-so-brilliant, idea…I am going to post three lunch menus in my Lasting Through Lunch segment…

                                                                                        1.  Breaking in My Bento Box...a Japanese and not-so-Japanese bento lunch menu based on the book and website Just Bento.

                                                                                        2. Picnicking in the Park...a salad and sandwich based lunch perfect for what else…but picnicking in the park.

                                                                                        3.  Packing the Stanley for the Manly…a heavier soup, meat, and potatoes lunch designed for real people with real appetites doing real work and needing a real lunch.

                                                                                        Today I want to share options as far as good quality, functional and durable insulated cooler lunch boxes designed for keeping your lunch at a safe temperature even in the dead of summer in our infamous Texas heat.

                                                                                          
                                                                                        1.  EasyLunchboxes Insulated Lunch Box Cooler Bag

                                                                                        • Colors Available…seven
                                                                                        • Easy to clean…Machine washable in cold water. Use gentle soap/gentle cycle/air dry. 
                                                                                        • Material…the highest quality 300D polyester
                                                                                        • Price…$7.95
                                                                                        • Size…9 x 6.5 x 6.5”
                                                                                        • Reviews…Amazon

                                                                                          
                                                                                        2.  Hango Insulated Lunch Box Cooler Bag (Set of 2 Sizes)

                                                                                        • Colors Available…two
                                                                                        • Lifetime Guarantee
                                                                                        • Material…high density polyester 300D with stainless steel Zipper 
                                                                                        • Price…$30.00
                                                                                        • Size…set of two…large bag–6x6x10…small bag—5x5x7.5
                                                                                        • Reviews…Theresa’s Reviews

                                                                                          
                                                                                        3.  LunchBots Duplex Insulated Lunch Bag

                                                                                        • Colors Available…six
                                                                                        • Easy to clean…wipe clean with damp sponge and mild soap. Air dry.
                                                                                        • Material…durable polyester fabric 
                                                                                        • Price…$34.99
                                                                                        • Size…overall: 9″ x 8 x 6″…bottom section: 9″x 3″ x 6″ 
                                                                                        • Reviews…Toys Demo

                                                                                           

                                                                                        The Just Bento Cookbook…

                                                                                          
                                                                                        This book is a guidebook about the health and economic benefits of the bento written for bento beginners and aficionados alike to show how the bento lunch can easily be incorporated into anyone’s lifestyle.

                                                                                        This book sparked my interest because learning to make healthy, attractive, and economical bento-box meals might inspire me to actually eat better lunches more often.

                                                                                        The title, The Just Bento Cookbook, is appropriate for the book because the book contains twenty-five attractive bento menus and more than 150 recipes…as well as sections on bento-making equipment, bento staples to make and stock, basic cooking techniques, a glossary, and a planning-chart section to show readers how to organize their weekly bento making sessions.

                                                                                        The author of the book is Makiko Itoh.
                                                                                          
                                                                                        Makiko Itoh was born in Tokyo and raised and educated in Japan, England and the U.S. 

                                                                                        After years of living in New York City, she moved to Switzerland, where it was difficult to find authentic Japanese cooking. 

                                                                                        This inspired her to go back to her roots and learn how to cook the food her mother and grandmother used to make, using the limited range of Japanese ingredients available to her. 

                                                                                           
                                                                                          
                                                                                        In 2003 she started a blog about Japanese cooking called Just Hungry, currently the most popular blog about Japanese cooking written in English.

                                                                                            

                                                                                        In 2007, she started a companion blog about bento box lunches called Just Bento. Today Just Bento boasts more than 220,000 subscribers and millions of page views per month.

                                                                                          The Just Bento Cookbook is a continuation of her passion for spreading the word about healthy Japanese home cooking around the world.

                                                                                            The book is organized into two main sections, the Japanese and the Not-so-Japanese. 

                                                                                              The Japanese section includes classic bento menus such as Salted Salmon Bento, Sushi Roll Bento, and Chicken Karaage Bento…

                                                                                              …while the Not-so-Japanese section shows how Western food can be adapted to the bento concept, with delicious menus such as Summer Vegetable Gratin Bento and Everyone Loves a Pie Bento.

                                                                                              The Just Bento Cookbook is a treasure trove of delicious recipes, such as the following…

                                                                                                   

                                                                                                Deconstructed Salade Niçoise Bento ….

                                                                                                1.  Large bento box...Fill with salad greens and lettuce. 

                                                                                                2.  Medium bento box

                                                                                                • Wash, peel, and cube one medium potato. Put the potato pieces in a small pan. Add enough cold salted water to cover. Boil 10 minutes. Drain well. 
                                                                                                • Boil and peel one egg.
                                                                                                • Put the potato and eggs in the medium bento box. Decorate with the cherry tomatoes. 

                                                                                                3.  Small bento box

                                                                                                • Combine 2Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 2tsp red wine vinegar, 1tsp Dijon-style mustard, salt, and pepper.
                                                                                                • Put well-drained tuna, capers, olives, and dressing in box with the vinaigrette. 
                                                                                                • Nestle the small bento box in the greens. Cover.
                                                                                                • When ready to eat, stir all the salad components into the large bento box.

                                                                                                  
                                                                                                Chicken and Three-Color Pepper Stir-fry Bento …

                                                                                                1.  Chicken and Three-Color Pepper Stir-fry...Heat 1/2Tbsp olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add 3Tbsp roughly chopped green onion, 2tsp peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger. Stirfry 2min. Turn the heat up to the highest setting. Add cubed bell pepper. Stirfry 5min. Cut 2oz boneless, skinless chicken into 1/2″ chunks. Add chicken to the pan. Finish cooking the chicken. Add black pepper and soy sauce. Turn the stir-fry from the pan onto a cold plate so that it cools rapidly. When cooled, pack into the bento box, using lettuce or shiso leaves as a divider. 

                                                                                                2.  Instant Cabbage and Cucumber Pickles…Cut out the tough vein of one large green cabbage leaf, and slice the rest of the leaf into strips. Thinly slice a 2″ piece of English cucumber.Sprinkle the cabbage and cucumber with 1/2tsp sea salt. Massage well with your hands until the vegetables go limp. (Yeah, recipe actually says that)…Let rest for at least five minutes. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. Squeeze out any excess moisture before puting into a bento divider cup and into a bento box. Can be eaten immediately or stored in the refrigerator for four days.

                                                                                                3.  Blanched Broccoli

                                                                                                4.  Basic White Rice


                                                                                                5.  Cherry Tomatoes

                                                                                                  Bent on Bento

                                                                                                    
                                                                                                  Since my last post introduced four good options in bento boxes, I thought this would be a good time to share some ideas and tips that may be helpful as you pack your next brown bag lunch in your new bento box. 

                                                                                                  The bento box meals that I am most interested in making are the practical, everyday bento boxes, not the ornate or super-creative…I am usually Super-Hungry, not Super-Martha or Super-Paula.

                                                                                                  I am looking for meals that are…

                                                                                                  1. Inexpensive
                                                                                                  2. Neat and appetizing
                                                                                                  3. Quick and easy to prepare
                                                                                                  4. Reasonably healthy and nutritionally balanced
                                                                                                  5. Tasty

                                                                                                    
                                                                                                  Planning ahead always helps save time and money…so when it comes to bento boxes, base your plan on…

                                                                                                  • what ingredients you will need from grocery stores…
                                                                                                  • what meals you will be cooking throughout the week
                                                                                                  • what you already have in the refrigerator

                                                                                                    
                                                                                                   
                                                                                                  A well-packed bento box should at least have four types of food:  carbohydrates, proteins, vegetables, and fruits.
                                                                                                  Sticking to a specific ratio like this can help with nutrition and weight loss. A good ratio would be four parts carbs, two parts protein, one part vegetables, and one part fruits.

                                                                                                  1.  Carbohydrates…Fill half of your bento box with carbs….such as bread, brown or white  rice mixed with frozen peas and a splash of soy sauce, couscous mixed with olive oil and Parmesan, pasta with pesto or peanut sauce, roasted or boiled baby potatoes tossed with olive oil and herbs, sandwiches, and wraps. Let any hot ingredients cool completely before closing the bento. Otherwise, the steam will condense inside the box and make the food soggy.

                                                                                                  2.  Proteins…Fill a quarter of your bento box with protein…such as boiled eggs, cottage cheese, edamame, tuna salad, beef, chicken, pork, tofu, and beans.

                                                                                                  3.  Vegetables...Fill half of the remaining space with cooked and cooled vegetables, or raw vegetables that won’t wilt such as steamed asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and carrot sticks.

                                                                                                  4.  Fruits...Finish filling your bento box by adding fruit…when choosing fruits, choose bold colors to provide visual impact…good choices would be apples, grapes, strawberries, plum, raspberries, nectarines, oranges, lemons, banana, and kiwi.

                                                                                                  Once you have chosen the foods to include in your bento box, it is important to pack the foods tightly so that the food doesn’t shift around, leaving a pile of “garbage”  in the bento box. You don’t want to see messy bento when you open the bento box at lunch time. 

                                                                                                  Pack your bento as a three-step process. First pack pre-shaped or bulky food…next, more flexible-shape food…finally small accent foods like cherry tomatoes and steamed broccoli to fill in any small gaps and prevent food from shifting.

                                                                                                  Here are some tools that will help when packing your bento box…
                                                                                                    
                                                                                                  1.  Cups…such as this set of five silicone cups from Bento USA…keep wet things away from dry things and hold loose items like blueberries in one place. These are reusable and come in many different sizes and colors.
                                                                                                    
                                                                                                  2.  Dividers…such as these from BentoLand…separate one food from the other, without mixing up the flavors. These are also reusable and come in many different sizes and colors. Lettuce leaves and other produce can also be used instead of paper or silicon.
                                                                                                    
                                                                                                  3.  Picks...such as these panda picks from Little Bento World…come in many shapes, patterns, and colors and help keep small foods, such as meatballs and berries, together.

                                                                                                     
                                                                                                  4.  Sauce Containers...such as these from Bento USA…store sauces separately so that food stays dry until lunch time.

                                                                                                     
                                                                                                    They say that learning to make a bento box…a lunch that both looks and tastes delicious…requires time and effort…and that you should start with basic bento and then “work your way up.”

                                                                                                      So join me each month as I learn to make bento and work my way through Just Bento Cookbook (preview coming up).

                                                                                                          The Bento Box

                                                                                                            
                                                                                                          Perhaps one of the best ways to inspire yourself to pack, remember, and actually eat healthier brown bag lunches is to buy a new lunch box that also looks smart, sophisticated, and stylish.

                                                                                                          Your lunchbox should match not only your needs, but also your personality.

                                                                                                          Things to consider when choosing a new lunch box include it being easy to clean, material, microwavablity, number of containers, price, and size.

                                                                                                            
                                                                                                          Bento Boxes…Bento Boxes are sophisticated and stylish compartmentalized containers. these lunch boxes are composed of at least two tiers so that  you can  keep your foods nicely separated instead of becoming one great big pile of mush before you get the chance to sit down and enjoy your meal.

                                                                                                          Executive men and women have been carrying bento lunch boxes as far back as the 5th century in Japan.

                                                                                                               

                                                                                                            1.  Bentgo All-in-One Stackable Lunch/Bento Box, Green

                                                                                                            • Contribution…5% of the sales price of this lunchbox will be donated to Feed the Children
                                                                                                            • Easy to clean…dishwasher safe
                                                                                                            • Material…BPA-free plastic
                                                                                                            • Microwavable…yes
                                                                                                            • Number of compartments…two 
                                                                                                            • Price…$14.99
                                                                                                            • Size…
                                                                                                            • Top Container…6.8″ x 4.3″ x 1.7″ (2 sections with divider, each section 3.4″ x 4.3″ x 1.7″)
                                                                                                            • Bottom Container…7″ x 4.5″ x 2.5
                                                                                                            • Review…The Kitchn

                                                                                                              

                                                                                                            2.  EasyLunchboxes 3-Compartment Bento Lunch Box Containers

                                                                                                            • Easy to clean…safe for dishwasher
                                                                                                            • Material…FDA-approved, high-quality polypropylene #5 plastic; No BPA, PVC, or phthalates
                                                                                                            • Microwavable…safe for microwave
                                                                                                            • Number of compartments…three
                                                                                                            • Price… $13.95
                                                                                                            • Size…9.4″ x 6.1″ x 2″
                                                                                                            • Review…A Merry Life

                                                                                                              
                                                                                                            3.  Happy Lunchboxes 4-compartment Bento Lunch Box Containers

                                                                                                            • Easy to clean…safe for dishwasher
                                                                                                            • Material…FDA-approved, BPA-free high-quality polypropylene
                                                                                                            • Microwavable…safe for microwave
                                                                                                            • Number of compartments…one large and three small sections 
                                                                                                            • Price… $13.95
                                                                                                            • Size…8.5″ x 2″ x 8.5″
                                                                                                            • Review…Wendolonia

                                                                                                               

                                                                                                             

                                                                                                            4.  YUMBOX TAPAS Larger Size (Antibes Blue) 4 compartment Leakproof Bento lunch box for Pre-teens, Teens & Adults

                                                                                                            • Easy to clean…safe for dishwasher, top rack only…hand washing the outer shell and/or removing it before the heat dry cycle is highly recommend to preserve the seal. 
                                                                                                            • Material…All food-safe materials, BPA-free and phthalates-free. Sturdy ABS (outer box), Tritan(tray) and Silicone (seal).
                                                                                                            • Microwavable…safe for microwave
                                                                                                            • Number of compartments…four
                                                                                                            • Price…$28.00
                                                                                                            • Size… 9.5 x 6.9 x 1.8 
                                                                                                            • Review…Kidgredients

                                                                                                              Granola Bars…Lasting Through Lunch

                                                                                                                
                                                                                                              Homemade Granola Bars

                                                                                                              • 3/4 cup brown sugar 
                                                                                                              • 1/2 cup sugar 
                                                                                                              • 1/2 cup butter
                                                                                                              • 2Tbsp honey or corn syrup 
                                                                                                              • 1/2tsp vanilla 
                                                                                                              • 1 egg 
                                                                                                              • 1 cup flour 
                                                                                                              • 1tsp cinnamon 
                                                                                                              • 1/2tsp baking soda 
                                                                                                              • 1/4tsp salt 
                                                                                                              • 1 1/2 cups quick oats
                                                                                                              • 1 1/4 cups crispy rice cereal, crushed corn flakes, or crushed graham crackers
                                                                                                              •  1/2 cup wheat germ
                                                                                                              • Any of the following…1/2-1C chocolate chips, coconut, peanut butter, nuts, raisins, dried apples, apricots, fruit preserves

                                                                                                              Cream sugars and butter until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients. Press firmly into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes. 

                                                                                                              10 Meals in Jars That Don’t Look Like Salad Bars…Lasting Through Lunch

                                                                                                              • Believe it or not.there are also lunches that can be stored in jars that are not salads. Here are a few examples of non-salad options…
                                                                                                              •    

                                                                                                              1.  BBQ Parfaits…Just a Pinch…instant mashed potatoes, canned baked beans, pulled pork, bbq sauce
                                                                                                                
                                                                                                              2.  Burrito Bowls…Strictly Delicious…quinoa, chicken, bacon, sweet potatoes, lettuce, cheese, cilantro
                                                                                                                
                                                                                                              3.  Chicken And Dill Instant Noodles….Serious Eats…peas, onion, chicken, noodles, dill leaves
                                                                                                                
                                                                                                              4.  Chicken Pot Pie In A Jar…Betsy Life…pie crust, onion, garlic, fresh vegetables, chicken
                                                                                                                
                                                                                                              5.  Deconstructed Sushi…Spoon University…brown rice, seaweed, carrot, cucumber, avocado (diced), lime juice, pickled ginger, wasabi
                                                                                                                
                                                                                                              6.  Lasagna In A Jar…tomato sauce, pesto, cream sauce, pasta, ricotta, mozzarella

                                                                                                                 

                                                                                                              7.  Sesame Ginger Noodle Cups…Sweet Peas and Saffron…sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, spaghetti, veggies, chicken, sesame seeds
                                                                                                                
                                                                                                              8.  Skinny Burrito In A Jar…Skinny Ms…salsa, black beans, cheddar, sour cream

                                                                                                                  

                                                                                                              9.  Thai Peanut Noodles…peanut dressing, sriracha, carrots, scallions, bell pepper, baby plum tomatoes, broccoli, vermicelli rice noodles, beef, cilantro, spinach, watercress, arugula, sesame seeds

                                                                                                                

                                                                                                              10.  Zucchini Pasta Salad With Avocado Spinach Dressing...Sugar Free Mom…zucchini, feta cheese, olives, edamame, chicken