Everyday Bento: 50 Cute and Yummy Lunches To Go, written by Wendy Thorpe Copley, features the Japanese tradition of bento boxes using American ingredients in a fun and nutritious way. Create lunches in a variety of themes such as Space, Butterfly, Breakfast for Lunch, Dinosaur, Choo-Choo Train, Puppy Dog, Robot, Rainbow, First Day of School, Snowman, Antipasti, Flower Garden and more.
Wendy Thorpe Copley first started creating bento lunches after her husband gave her a bento box for Christmas a few years ago. She was hooked and now enjoys continuing to create lunches for her husband and two sons in Northern California. She chronicles her bento adventures in the blog, Wendolonia.
Chapters are divided based on the type of bento: Bentos for Busy Mornings, Extra-Special Bentos, Bentos for All Seasons, and Bentos for Grown-ups.
For those new to packing bento boxes, Copley begins with tips and tricks to help you along the way from balancing the ingredients to the best ways to assemble the box tightly. Charts of possible ingredients are even included and divided based on food group and color to help spark your creativity. The types of bento boxes are explained along with the variety of tools- knives and scissors, toothpicks, silicone cups, cutters, dividers, markers, molds, and punches. There are also templates for a ballet slipper and superhero mask.
At the beginning of each recipe, Copley includes an equipment list, what type of box is needed, and the ingredients. Variations are also often provided. Exact measurements generally aren’t given, but are listed in US Customary and Metric when there is a specific recipe. Every single bento includes a photo of the finished box, along with step-by-step photos of the assembly.
This book is a great pick for those wanting to start packing bento boxes or are looking for new ideas this back to school season. Most of the boxes are easy to put together in just a little bit of time. Many don’t even require any cooking. Most of the ingredients are readily available in the average American grocery store, but specialty tools that may require purchasing online are often used. If you are looking for traditional Japanese recipes and boxes, this may not be the book for you. These boxes focus on more Americanized lunch ideas.
Copley’s last chapter focuses on Bento for Grown-ups (though kids will often enjoy them too) and includes this Cheese Plate Bento Box. Crackers, a clementine, grapes, salami, and almonds are paired with Gouda and Brie cheese. My favorite thing about this box is how easy it is to prepare. No cooking required- just slicing and assembly. It would be perfect for traveling.
This box is made for improvisation. The Brie can be swapped for a little goat cheese and another favorite hard cheese can be used in place of the Gouda.
I also made the Build-It-Yourself Pizza, Star Wars Bento Box, Under the Sea Bento, and Sausage and Salad Bento.
The Build-It-Yourself Pizza was a simple bento box that actually leaves the assembly to the kids. Mini flatbreads are arranged in the box with pizza sauce, mini pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, and chopped orange bell pepper. Copley also offers variations for other toppings based on taste. This one was actually Chad’s favorite.
Evan looked through the book to pick out a box to make and it came as no surprise that he chose Star Wars. It also included two of his favorite snacks, pretzel sticks and cheese. Other ingredients include blueberries, a sandwich (Evan chose peanut butter), cucumbers, and mandarin oranges. I got the light saber picks on Amazon and I already had the Yoda cookie cutter plunger from his Star Wars birthday party in April. Since my cookie cutters are on the small side, I also cut out a Darth Vader and Chewbacca to add to the box. Copley also places a Darth Vader ring around the mozzarella stick, but I did not have one available. Evan now requests the light saber picks every time he eats blueberries and other small fruit.
The Under the Sea Bento uses hot dogs in a fun way. They are cut into the shape of octopuses, then assembled with cucumber shaped like seaweed, star-shaped kiwi, blue tortilla chips, and carrots cut into fish. Also a fun fact, by cutting the hot dogs in this way and placing them into boiling water, the “tentacles” will curl on their own.
The Sausage and Salad Bento was perfect for a more adult-style bento box. An arugula salad is topped with pecans, dried cranberries, and goat cheese formed into a star. It is paired with sliced sausages and a mini baguette.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Tuttle Publishing in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own.
Cheese Plate Bento Box
Adapted from Everyday Bento
Aged Gouda cheese
To arrange the ingredients in the bento box: Slice off a wedge of the Brie cheese and place in the bottom corner of the box. Slice the salami and arrange enough stacking slices to reach the top of the box in the other corner.
Place the clementine between the brie and the salami to act as a divider.
Place enough crackers in a stack above the clementine to reach the top of the box. Cut off a piece of gouda large enough to fit between the crackers and salami. Cut the piece into slices and add to the box.
Place grapes on the other side of the crackers. Fill all the remaining spaces with the roasted almonds.