Do you like vegetables? Like really, really like vegetables? A lunchbox that consists pretty much entirely of vegetables? Well, do I have a treat for you! Presenting a box so stacked full of vegetables that you’re sure to hit the vegetable portions of your 2+5 serves a day in one sitting! It’s also the easiest box to make ever. I mean, it’s literally just vegetables and toasted chickpeas and not a lot else. Whether you choose to adhere to the strict colour coding is up to you. It looks cool, after all, but don’t let it hold you back. Like hey, how did those minted peas and brussels sprouts get it there? Oh right, both those things are delicious and I want to eat them. Into the box they go!
As you can probably see, this lunchbox adheres to the ‘more is more’ school of culinary design. Instead of delicately balancing flavours, there’s just so much going on and so many good combinations that you can get away with just dumping everything in there and making it up as you go. The toasted chickpeas are of course salty, but you’ve also got earthy sweet kidney beans, fresh tomatoes, that verdant side salad and of course, the beet hummus! Go crazy, mix it up. Salty and hearty is great, fresh and hearty works too… it’s basically all good. We also used baby bocconcini for a little burst of creaminess but if you want to make it vegan, adding the beet hummus to the rest of the vegetables feels luxurious enough as it is. Sometimes simple really is best 🙂
- Corn, sweet potato, toasted chickpeas, orange and red tomatoes, kidney beans
- Beet hummus, bocconcini, pistachio
- Brussels sprouts, peas, mint
So excited to share this with you guys! Presenting… the pando bento box! I was so proud of how this turned out. I mean, look at that little guy, munching away on his spring onion bamboo. Kawaii overload right here.
I suppose the real question here is; how did this come about! Well, I was trying to think of some cool things to surprise Amy with, lunchbox wise, and started getting into the idea of making a stylised bento box. I talked with my best friend and she suggested doing panda sushi. Best idea ever! Anyway the panda sushi went through a few iterations, like little sushi pieces that had the fillings and nori make them look sort of pandaeqsue when you laid them flat, face up. Cute! Eventually though, I decided that, while still absolutely adorable, I wasn’t happy with disembodied little panda heads floating about my lunchbox – I wanted full-size ones roaming around in their own little forest! And thus, the panda bento box was born 😀
Being my first ever bento, this presented challenges, but I feel we overcame them in the end. One big thing was balancing ‘this looks like something I want to eat’ with ‘this is visually somewhat representative of a panda’. Edibility factor plays a huge part is these things. I mean, I could have just drawn the features of the panda’s face on with a sharpie and it would have been much easier, but I feel Amy (or the poisons control centre) may not have appreciated it so much. So I had to learn nori cutting the hard way. Hint, it dries and curls up when you’re handling it and is a nightmare! But once that little hurdle was jumped over, the rest just fell into place.
I feel it was especially cool seeing how certain parts fitted into both categories of edibility vs aesthetic. Like the pickled ginger! I used it to make them blush and for some little background decoration, but they actually really lift the flavour of the sushi rice – pickled ginger and sushi are best friends, after all. The little miso watering hole provides the much needed salty element, and the rest of the box are just delicious, crunchy vegetables to chomp on as you make your way through the panda. Needless to say, Amy was thrilled, and i’d highly recommend giving bento making a go – super fun.
- Sushi rice, nori, ginger, spring onion, edamame, enoki mushrooms, pak choi, kale, miso soup, carrots, pickled ginger
Purple potato and green bean lunchbox! This one actually turned out great. And just after I went on about how purple kale was all the rage in purple based awesomeness, suddenly our local supermarket starts stocking purple potato! Taste wise, I’d say they’re identical to regular potatoes. Fun wise – these guys have it locked down by a mile. Why are all potatoes not purple! Well anyway, they’re great, and they can really add a splash of colour to your lunchbox. Moving past that, damn this lunchbox just worked. It’s not the flashiest combination but it’s just so solid. Crunchy green beans, leaves, creamy potato, delicious chick peas and a little bit of thyme to tie it all together.
You’ll notice this one features bean sprouts too! It’s like the whole bean lifecycle in one lunchbox. Love these crunchy little guys – and this is before I got my sprouter, way before. We just picked these up in a big bag and go to town on them – though no matter how many we eat we never seem to be able to race the clock and finish them up before they start looking a little mushy and brown and end up in the bin; these are definitely best enjoyed on day of purchase!
In the background, holding the dessert sections down, are the always amazing passionfruit + yoghurt + muesli combination, and a little watermelon to freshen things up. Give it a try! It’s just a really solid lunchbox 🙂
- Green beans, purple potato, bean sprouts, chickpeas, red and green spinach, thyme
- Muesli, yoghurt, passion fruit
Purple kale! Love picking this up whenever I see it in the stores. Maybe you’re sick of boring old green kale! Perhaps you feel like you want to freshen things up and kick red cabbage out of the previously uncontested ‘purple vegetable’ position in your lunchboxes when you’ve got a specific look in mind. Whatever the case, purple kale is your go-to guy. Throw it in as an earthy base to some fresh tomatoes and creamy spread on crunchy toast and you have an amazing combination! Salt goes a long way here too – and pepper, if you’re so inclined.
Pair the purple kale with some warm hues really makes it pop – we went with rainbow tomatoes but really, anything fiery and bright works. Crunchy vege straws and some fruity muesli yoghurt fill out the rest of the box for a super hearty, crunchy, healthy treat. Have you guys had vege straws? We saw them at the shops and gave them a go – love! Really good to munch on – possibly too good. Anyway, if you’re a tomato lover you can’t go wrong with this combination 🙂
- Cherry tomatoes, cream cheese spread, bruschetta bread, purple kale, basil
- Nectarine, pomegranate, buckwheat kernels, yoghurt, muesli
- Vege straws