Bento box creations

Who would have known that preparing healthy lunch everyday would be so hard!  Most of the time I just buy muffins or pastries from the bakery or cut up mixed fruits.  It’s not that I do not like junk food because I would be lying! It’s just that Iya has this weird taste in which she prefers fruits over anything else (not that I’m complaining — ok maybe wondering in a big way).  
Iya then got a major allergy a few weeks ago and the doctor advised to steer clear of food that may cause allergies.  She should be free of antihistamine medications for seven days before she can have her skin tested.  For the record, here’s the list of what she should not eat.. chicken, egg, strawberry, orange, dalandan, pomelo, or any citrus fruits, tocino, longanisa, seafood, wheat bread, and others left to be discovered.  Henry said that from the looks of it, the only food she can eat safely is rice.  So here’s me trying to figure out what I can come up without getting repetitive and risk getting her like variety a.k.a. junk food.
While browsing the internet, I came across something really cute.  I saw mommies posting bento box lunches of their kids and making it look so easy.  Picture after picture of cuteness got me inspired to make one myself.  I mean if I don’t have a lot of food choices maybe presenting it differently will make up for it.
A bento box is the Japanese equivalent of the Filipino baon made up of 1 part fruit/ dessert, 2 parts protein, 3 parts carbohydrates, 4 parts vegetables.  This is just a guide though because the portions are flexible.  You have to customize it based on what your child wants to eat.  “Decoben” or “charaben” is the decorative kiddie version of bento box.  The mommy gets up in the wee hours of the morning to prepare this for her pre-schooler, who is most often anxious in school, as a way to show her love and to remind him or her of home when they open their lunch boxes.  Other benefits of making a decoben are the controlled portions, great way to eat leftovers from dinner, disguising veggies and healthy food for those who doesn’t want to eat them, and having an outlet to create. 
Here’s how I started:
First, I pestered Henry to go to every Japan Home store I can think of.  I only found some molds and seaweed because the food picks and other accessories were all out of stock.  It’s so frustrating actually because I wanted to start immediately.  I even went as far as Divisoria to get food picks.  So with my super basic supplies I have to make do.
Second, I got inspiration from the countless pictures from the internet to match what my supplies can create. I do not have a puncher so I have to cut the nori sheets manually.  I can only make one or two forms because of my mold so that limits what I can produce.  
Third, I conceptualize (so serious!) the day before so I can be sure that I have my supplies available in the morning.  Iya’s baon is mostly made up of fruits, cheese, bread, and some veggies that I mix and match.
Fourth, I prepare the nori or seaweed decoration, which is the most time consuming part, the night before. 
Fifth, I wake up earlier than before to assemble her lunch. The preparation includes boiling the veggies, assembling the nori with the bread or fruit, placing them in the lunch box, putting up fillers.
I started a week before Halloween so I had the chance to keep up with the theme.  Here’s some of what I created.  

Rice, brocolli, carrots, lettuce, bacon, mango.  I used the rabbit rice mold, cut the nori for the face, drew ketchup for the ears and cheeks.  I boiled the cauliflower and carrots with salt, cut the mangoes and skewered them with the food pick, fried the bacon which was also our breakfast.

Buko Pie, carrots, combos, banana.  Nori for the buko pie and banana face attached with cookie butter, nori bats, boiled carrots, and combos.

Bologna and cheese sandwich, grapes, lettuce, banana.  I cut holes for the sandwich eyes exposing the bologna, put cream cheese for eyes, wrapped with tissue paper.  I reused the sandwich holes for grape eyes, nori for the banana ghost’s face.
Carrot cupcake, melon cubes, apple wedges, grapes, brocolli.  Cheese for the eyes and ears, nori for the mouth, cream cheese for the nose.  The rest are apple wedges with cut out to make leaf, grapes skewered, boiled brocolli, melon slices.
I know this is a bit much but here’s my battle plan.  I have to write or draw things to make me remember!

It is a bit more work than usual but what I did not expect is how I enjoy doing it.  Making something cute early in the morning makes me happy and pumped up to think about designs in the office.  It’s like a switch to get my gears going.  

And the verdict?  Iya loves it! 
That’s all that matters.

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