How to Pack Love Into Your Kids’ Lunch [Bento]a/k/a Miracle Cure for Traumatic Brain Injury [My Personal Experience]

We are in the home stretch of Totoro week with yesterday’s Totoro and Soot Sprite meatball sandwich becoming my kids’ new favorite lunch item.  Expect to see the recipe morph into non-Totoro bentos as pleasing my kids’ palettes is as important as making lunch attractive.  A typical bento box week for my family does NOT mean five days of Anime characters and this week has been a challenge.  I spent more time on lunches than I typically do, so much so that my husband expressed concern.  My early morning bento adventures were happy and relaxed, but evenings spent attempting to get ahead of schedule brought me down and eventually started to affect my mood into the next day. ( I should qualify this explanation, in case this is not obvious in my posts; I make three bento boxes every day, although I only photograph one)  My post-concussive symptoms leave me easily fatigued which leads to frustration which spirals into feelings of despair.  Paradoxically, the best cure I have found for all of those symptoms is creating new bento boxes for my kids.  Results of my not-very-scientific experiments treating TBI symptoms with bentos/blogging indicate that a slightly more moderate approach to the week’s menus is unlikely to aggravate and almost certain to benefit my TBI symptoms.  My kids find the most comfort in my gifts of bento when the process does not exhaust me.  To hear them rave about their Wednesday bento inspires me; I don’t want to be too tired to smile when they say “Thank You”.   I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m complaining; This week has been a lot of fun.  A less frenetic pace may be the solution to wrinkles in my short term plan, but keeping the menus exciting ensures a healthy dose of fun and a solid sense of accomplishment on my end.  Just as important, it keeps my kids smiling and sated.

Today I show my kids love with yet another rendition of the title character of “My Neighbor Totoro” and Anime’s ubiquitous Soot Sprites.

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Totoro is made from sushi rice, rice vinegar, food coloring, nori and udon.  Soot Sprites are made from Cashew Butter Candy Recipe, sugar sheet and sprinkles.

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Today’s bento is rice-ball Totoro ( I included a small bottle of soy sauce in their lunch box), Cashew Butter Candy Soot Sprites, organic strawberries and blackberries, leftover Irish Soda Bread (see “Totoro” for recipe) and one of the kids’ favorites, Nongshim Spicy Shin Bowl.  Anya discovered the noodles at Sakuro Square in downtown Denver and we bought so many that Pacific Mercantile gave us a discount.  Now that my travel is limited, I order them from Amazon for about .85 cents a bowl.  Today’s extraction is Another Green Tea Smoothie.

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Another Green Tea Smoothie

1/2c honeydew melon (garden)

1/2 c baby kale (garden)

1 organic kiwi sliced

2 Sierra Honey plums sliced

1 organic peach sliced

1 c almond milk (see recipe previous post)

1 Tbsp Agave

1 tsp sweet matcha

Place ingredients in 24 oz Nutri Ninja cup and blend for 30 seconds.  Makes 3- 8 oz servings; A perfect fit for three kittycat thermoses (see previous post for link)

Cashew Butter Candy Soot Sprites

1 c organic cashew butter

4 c powdered sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 stick butter

1 cup bitter chocolate chips

1 Tbsp water

black and grey decorative sugar

Combine cashew butter, sugar and butter in bowl and microwave 30 seconds.  Knead together.  In a separate bowl microwave chocolate and water for 1 minute, stir and microwave an additional 30 seconds or until smooth.  Combine chocolate and cashew mixture and stir until color is uniform.  Allow to cool for 1 hour.  Roll into 1 ” balls and coat with sugars.  Refrigerate overnight or place in freezer for 1 hour.  Makes 30 balls.  (Normally, I serve these cold as thy soften without refrigeration, but they were just too perfect for a different Soot Sprite dessert and the bento box structure ensures their integrity until lunchtime.  I am also using the Lunch Blox cold packs) Be sure to send a napkin or moist towelette to school as these delicious treats can make for chocolatey fingers!

Halloween is just around the corner and as it is my kids’ favorite holiday, we have amazing memories of fall.  The weather changing brings physical challenges, but is a definite boost to my mood.  Pansy-planting with Connor was fun, but it didn’t quite satiate my desire for fall foliage.  Decorative kale is edible and would be a nice addition to out traditional variety.  I think I need a flat, maybe purple to go with our purple cauliflower.  Its a little late in the season to plant, but with 80 degrees days, why not!

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Connor’s “brain” pumpkin from Nick’s
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My favorite from our pumpkin patch
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Anya’s find while waiting for her brothers to finish soccer practice.  She was determined to eat one and had to be dissuaded as buckeyes are poisonous to humans.  I promised her a buckeye look-alike dessert in the near future, but put a little extra food in her bento today, just to be safe.

Coming up soon:  Dehydrating strawberries in the oven and my homemade strawberry pocky recipe, a variation on Cashew Butter Candy that looks like buckeyes (Yes, Anya, you can eat these), my mom’s instructions for making edible acorns and Totoro Final Friday!

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