A Dose of Totoro

We are having a Totoro week.  Every day I am going to try to send a different Totoro bento for the kids. Planning lunch menus comes more easily to me when I have a theme, so this funny cat/racoon creature from the anime film ,”My Neighbor Totoro” is my current inspiration.

“My Neighbor Totoro” is one of my kids’ favorite anime films and  the title character lends itself to bento creations more easily than most.  Hence, the Totoro marathon.  Totoro and the Soot Sprites are magical creatures and I love giving my kids’ a week’s worth of enchanted lunches.  Symptoms of the weekend and regrets are forgotten and my family starts the week believing in the impossible.  And perhaps I should have a better opinion of my dust bunnies.  Maybe they aren’t evidence of my defects, but  rather a sign a of untapped potential.


My Totoro bento is a raisin-cinnamon bread triple decker finger sandwich with layers of organic cashew butter and organic strawberry preserves. ( Each of my kids has a slightly different variation on this)  At Totoro’s feet are my cocoa-almond soot sprites.   Totoro and soot sprite eyes are sugar sheet and sprinkles iced in place.  Totoro’s belly is strawberry and black grape skin.  Sides and snack include sliced seedless black grapes with baby carrots, muenster cheese cubes with uncured pepperoni slices and  sliced Irish soda bread.  I filled thermoses with a new smoothie, Protein Parfait.

I made the soot sprites and soda bread yesterday and had thought that I would make sandwiches last night, but I was exhausted. Mornings are my best time, so  I assembled  today’s bentos early, before I roused my family. Using the Totoro cookie cutter leaves a lot of wasted bread, so I am saving the remnants to make bread pudding.  Too late, I had the great idea to use immature strawberries sliced thin and cut into orbs and black grape skin pupils to make all of the eyes instead of using so much sugar.  Next time.


Cocoa-almond Soot Sprites

i c chopped slivered almonds

8 oz shredded coconut

1 c condensed milk

1 1/2 tsp almond extract

2 c bitter chocolate chips

1 Tbsp water

Combine almonds, coconut, milk and extract.  In a medium bowl, microwave chocolate and water in 1 minute intervals, stirring in between, until melted.  Add to coconut mixture, stir and knead to combine.  Roll into 1 ” balls.  Makes 30.

Irish Soda Bread

3/4 c raisins, soaked and drained

4 c flour

4 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 c unsalted butter

1  c buttermilk

1 egg

1/4 c melted butter and 2 Tbsp buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease baking sheet.

In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, soda and salt.  Cut in 1/2 cup of the butter.  Stir in 1 c of buttermilk and egg.  Gently fold in raisins.  Knead dough slightly on lightly floured surface and shape.  In small bowl, combine melted butter and 2 Tbsp buttermilk.  Brush top of loaf to coat.  Sprinkle with sugar if desired.  Bake 40 to 50 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.


Protein Parfait Smoothie

1 medium banana sliced

1 c organic whole milk yogurt (we use homemade)

1/2 cup almond milk (we use homemade)

4 large strawberries, sliced

1/3 cup organic frozen blueberries

2 Tbsp granola

1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder.

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in 24 oz Nutri Ninja cup.  Blend for 30 seconds.

Years ago, we got in the bad habit of grabbing McDonald’s yogurt parfaits for snacks.  This smoothie has the same taste, but is organic and whole milk, with added protein.

My boys missed having Anime with me this year, so Connor and I sat down this summer and watched all of the movies I had shown to my class.  I was surprised that the boys had any interest in Anime, as though I had introduced other activities over the years, the main objective was to learn to draw in that particular style.  The Japanese snacks I brought in to class were a big draw at the school, but my kids got those at home.  Anime class was created for Anya, and was something special we could do together.  I think the boys wanted that same connection with me and were willing to make art to get it.  Watching the movies with Connor had made me sad and I felt I had introduced loss and regret into his summer.  Connor and Finn always got second best from me because I wore myself out meeting Anya’s needs first.  I should’ve understood from their excitement over a “mommy/boy night” (no Anya, no daddy, usually movies and dessert)  that they needed special attention too.  Post-accident, I haven’t missed a soccer game and Connor and I planted pansies together, but nothing to compare with a class created just for them.  I hope the opportunity to do something as big as Anime for them presents itself.  My accident robbed the boys of Anime this year, but it also opened my eyes to their need for me.  Maybe the latter will prove more important.


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