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October 2011

  October 2011  


In this issue you'll find:


What works...Success Stories

So Cute

"I love the new covered boxes which means I don't have to use that nasty sticky wrap stuff. And the largest covered box in the Bento Buddies set is a perfect size. I definitely would have a far more difficult time losing weight without the Laptop Lunchbox. Apart from the enforced portion control, the box is just so darn cute. Thanks for everything.”

    -- Cheryl, Toronto, ON

Keep Up the Good Work

"Thanks for putting together such wonderful newsletters. I absolutely love the ideas, and my husband and son get so much praise for their lunches! Keep up the good work with Laptop Lunches®. Thanks!"

    -- Lizy Solanki, Canada

Makes Packing Lunch Easier

"I love, love, love your lunch box! My husband and daughter take them to work/school every day. I'm always trying to cut down on waste and that was why I bought them, but I'm amazed at how much I like using them. It makes packing lunch easier - just set up the containers in the box, toss stuff in and close! Having extra containers makes it even easier. I just toss the containers from the day before into the dishwasher and stick in the new ones. My daughter has used hers through kindergarten, summer camp, and most of first grade and it is like new. And I pack leftovers far more often now. Thank you for such a terrific product."

    -- R.C., VA

Do you have a success story or photo to share? Email it to us at [email protected].

New Retailers

The Green Life
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Bee Mine Shop
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Earth Fare Dayton
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Suite 176
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From Our Desk to Yours

Happy October

The seasons are changing, leaves are falling, and temperatures are starting to drop. It’s always hard to say good-bye to summer but, at the same time, it feels good to slow down, re-group, and enjoy all that autumn has to offer. As the weather cools and we begin to spend more time indoors,  the kitchen becomes a place of made-from-scratch creativity—with delicious soups and stews, colorful root vegetable casseroles, cruciferous creations, hearty breads, and crisp apples. Good-bye summer favorites! Hello fall! And Happy Halloween to all!

PHOTO CONTEST: Don’t miss out on our Where in the world is your bento? photo contest and a chance to win a $50 gift certificate! We’re putting together a worldwide bento map with your photos. The more creative the better, so have some fun! Photos must be in by October 17th to be considered. Visit for details.

SEPTEMBER CHALLENGE: We ROCKED last month’s life-without-commercially-processed-food challenge by cooking more foods from scratch using whole, raw ingredients. Cooking from scratch took a bit more time, but it definitely helped raise awareness, and we felt more energetic too. If you joined us for this challenge, please share your experience, and feel free to post tips and recipes at

OCTOBER OPPORTUNITY: We’re spending some time this month learning about what it’s like to live a gluten-free lifestyle. We hear regularly from gluten-free subscribers who use Laptop Lunches bento boxes for their on-the-go meals. But what is life without gluten really like? To find out, we’re making some gluten-free lunches, talking with gluten-free members of the community, and collaborating on at least one AMAZING gluten-free meal for all of us to share! Want to share your gluten-free story? Please do!



From Your Kitchen to Ours

"My Laptop Lunchbox has helped me maintain my -158 pound weight loss. It's a great way to visually see my meal is balanced (protein to carb ratio.) It's also great for portion-control (just don't fill the box full of chocolate.) Making this bento was just a ton of fun."

    -- Michelle Vicari, Temecula, CA

Food for Thought: Quinoa

Photo Credit: Melissa Braun

Quinoa is a gluten-free super grain, and one of the most complete foods. It is loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Quinoa contains more calcium and magnesium, iron and zinc than other grains. It is a protein rich food; in fact, a cup of quinoa has more protein than an egg. Quinoa is helpful for digestion as well as colon and intestinal health. The magnesium and riboflavin in quinoa helps reduce the frequency of migraine headaches.

Quinoa can be used in place of rice or other grain in any dish. Use it as a pilaf with sautéed vegetables, with a soup or sauce, or stuffed in peppers. Try it as a breakfast food to start the day off right. Quinoa adds nutrition to salads, wraps, casseroles and even croquettes.

For quinoa recipes, visit:


  • Loaded with Phytonutrients and Antioxidants
  • Helps Balance Blood Sugar
  • High in Protein
  • Rich in Fiber
  • Good for Cardiovascular Health
  • Helps Reduce Migraines
  • Helps Lower Risk of Type-2 Diabetes

This Month's Recipes: From The Bottom Up Food Blog
The following recipes are reprinted with permission from The Bottom Up Food Blog, a blog about making food from scratch.

Root Vegetable Chips


*Red and white potatoes are great; yams and sweet potatoes are also delicious.

  1. Wash and slice the potatoes, ideally about 1/8 inch thick. Using a mandolin works better than a sharp knife because the width of the slices can be more consistent. Variable chip widths lead to variable baking times.
  2. Mix seasonings in bowl. Here are a few combinations of potato types and seasonings to choose from:
    • Rosemary chips: Red or Yukon potatoes with olive or canola oil, sea salt, and minced fresh rosemary
    • Sweet cayenne chips: Sweet potatoes with olive oil, sea salt, and cayenne pepper powder
    • Thanksgiving chips: Sweet potatoes with canola oil, brown sugar, minced fresh ginger, and a pinch of cinnamon
  3. Use your hands to toss sliced potatoes with seasonings, in bowl, working until potatoes are fully coated.
  4. Spread potatoes on a baking sheet (ideally nonstick), either crumpled up or laid flat and bake until crispy, usually about 20 minutes at 400° F. In general, the amount of time required varies by type of potato, thickness of chip, and amount of seasoning. For example, a 1/4-inch yam chip can require as long as 30 minutes, but a 1/16-inch white potato chip can be done in a quarter of that time.
  5. Keep an eye on the chips as they cook, removing chips as they become crisp. Repeat until there are no chips left on the pan. Note: chips crisp up a bit as they cool. Also be careful not to put soggy chips in a bowl with crisp chips, as the former will ruin the latter.

The chips are best eaten hot, ideally straight off the baking pan. This recipe can be found at:

Homemade Crackers

  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F.
  2. Combine all of the dry ingredients either in a bowl or in a food processor.
  3. Add the wet ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead for 5 minutes.
  5. Divide the dough into 4 pieces, roll each into a ball, cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
  6. If incorporating seasonings into one of the balls of dough, do so by rolling it out a bit, sprinkling the seasoning evenly across it, folding it up a few times, and rolling it out again, repeating as necessary. Here are four seasoning options:
  • The neutral cracker. Some folks prefer their crackers to stay quiet and let whatever it is they’re eating it with do all the talking. This makes a lot of sense if you don’t know in advance how you’ll be serving your crackers. For a neutral cracker, either skip seasonings altogether or stick to a dusting of fresh grated Parmesan with a bit of salt and pepper.
  • The sweet cracker. If you want your crackers to be snacks in and of their own right, try making them sweet. Cinnamon and sugar is an obvious choice, but I like ground ginger and sugar. Alternately, try anise extract in the dough with anise seeds sprinkled on top.
  • The herbed cracker. This type of cracker pairs well with cheeses. Just grab a mix of fresh or dried herbs like parsley, oregano, thyme, and chives and then incorporate them into your dough.
  • The seeded cracker. Seeded crackers are also great with cheese. I’ve had success using a blend of 50% white and black sesame seed and 50% an equal mixture of fennel, dill, cumin, and caraway. Seeds should go in your dough and on top. It’s hard to keep the seeds on top from falling off, but if you have them in your dough as well, you’re assured some seed flavor.

Here’s how to incorporate the seasonings and finish these crackers off:

  1. Roll the ball out to about 1/4 inch. And no, you don’t need a pasta maker to do this; a rolling pin works just fine.
  2. If adding seasonings on top, lightly spray the rolled out dough with water. Sprinkle the seasonings as evenly as possible, being careful not to neglect the edges. Then rub them in with your hands.
  3. Continue to roll the dough out until it is as thin as you can get it while still being able to pick it up.
  4. Transfer the dough to a pizza stone (strongly preferred) or floured baking sheet.
  5. Use a large knife to score dough where you want to break it into pieces. You’ll need to score so deeply that you nearly cut all the way through.
  6. Bake for 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Watch while baking, as the crackers can go from done to overdone in about 30 seconds.
  7. Remove from baking surface and let cool before breaking.
  8. Repeat with the remaining 3 balls of dough, potentially changing the topping you use for each.

The dough refrigerates and freezes extremely well, so feel free to set some of the dough aside for later. You can also easily halve or double the recipe. This recipe can be found at:

In the Spotlight: An Interview with Kathi King

Kathi King and the Rethink the Drink Program

Born in Boston and raised in Southern California, Kathi King married her high school sweetheart and has been a TV producer, stay at home mom and environmental crusader.  Since January 2008, she has been a proud staff member at the Community Environmental Council, where she manages fundraising activities in addition to overseeing the Rethink the Drink program. She and her husband, Jeff, enjoy hanging out with their teenage son and daughter, walking their two Border Collies, and eating Jeff’s fabulous home-cooked meals with friends.

1. Tell us a bit about the Rethink the Drink program. Rethink the Drink is a bottled water reduction program for Santa Barbara schools. We began in 2010 with a pilot project to install refill stations and distribute canteens to Franklin Elementary and Santa Barbara High Schools. It was funded primarily by the Orfalea Foundations. We were able to add stations to four additional locations during the pilot as a result of corporate and private partnerships. 

The program has been renewed for the 2011-2012 school year, again funded by the Orfalea Foundations and in partnership with their s’Cool Food Initiative. We are adding four elementary schools, an afterschool location, and a station for the Santa Barbara High gym. Student athletics is a focus area this year because that group consumes a lot of bottled water.

2. How did you get started? The Community Environmental Council has been a highly respected Santa Barbara non-profit since 1970. Our current focus is on energy use with a special interest in products that are energy intensive to produce. Bottled water handily meets that definition since at least 25% of every bottle requires petroleum (through production and transportation). And bottled water is a very water-intensive product as well; it takes 3 liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water (Pacific Institute).

3. What has the reaction been within the community? How have the students responded? Community reaction to Rethink the Drink has been overwhelmingly positive. More and more people are realizing that bottled water, while convenient, is in reality the marketing of a commodity that we receive basically free in our homes! 

Students and staff at pilot project schools have really embraced the refill stations. Each unit has a ‘counter’ that ticks off the number of uses, which effectively equates to the number of single-use water bottles the machine has eliminated. Students enjoy watching the numbers go up – in the first four months of the pilot, the stations were used cumulatively more than 46,000 times!

4. What have your biggest challenges been? Since a primary program goal is bottled water reduction, one of our first objectives is to establish a baseline of usage before installing the refill station. This is fairly easy to accomplish at elementary schools where there is usually a central cafeteria. At high schools and after school facilities, where there are so many sources for bottled water, figuring out usage is much more of a challenge.

We are also somewhat challenged by the fact that schools profit off of bottled water sales. While we fully believe that we are providing an alternative that is healthier, more economical and better for the environment, we don’t want to interfere with school fundraising during difficult budgetary times. We present our program as an option but don’t insist that partnering schools ban bottled water completely.

5. What successes are you most proud of? It’s really fun to drop in on a participating school and ‘catch’ students refilling at the stations! We’re also very proud of the enthusiastic partnerships from school administrators and all the great coverage from our local press.

6. What advice do you have for parents who want to eliminate disposable bottles from their local schools? The refill stations are actually very reasonably priced (about $1000); a school fundraising group could probably raise enough to purchase one as part of a jogathon or other group activity.

PTAs are key partners in promoting no-waste lunches that include reusable bottles. 

Establishing a campus “Green Team” committee is a great way to raise your school’s sustainability awareness profile.

7. Do you know of similar programs in other parts of the country? I haven’t heard of a similar program at the K-12 level, but I’ve read about colleges across the country installing refill stations. Airports are beginning to add them as well. A recent article on the front page of USA Today highlighted this trend and even referenced the Elkay brand of refill station that we are using.

8. What are some of your favorite online resources? CEC’s Web site, blog and Facebook pages (including our Rethink the Drink page), of course!  All the latest on CEC’s efforts to transition the Santa Barbara region away from fossil fuels in one generation – Fossil Free by 33.

Surfrider – Rise Above Plastics - – Excellent multi-media information about the negative impacts of single-use plastics. – Leader in the international movement for climate crisis awareness, led by Bill McKibben.

Environmental Working Group - An amazing cosmetics database with studies on everything from chemicals in plastic bottles to sunscreen safety. 

9. What’s your favorite lunch? I usually eat a sandwich at my desk. I bring leftovers from home or make pb & j accompanied by farmer’s market carrots and cucumbers and polished off with a fudgesicle!   

To learn more about the Rethink the Drink Program, visit:

In the News

Education World

Packing Wholesome Lunches Kids Will Love

With the back-to-school season upon us, parents may be thinking about what to pack their kids for lunch this year. When they bring lunches that are wholesome, delicious and unlikely to be tossed or traded away, students reap both nutritional and academic benefits. It's therefore in educators' best interest to help ensure that kids have "the right stuff" when it comes to lunch.

It might sound like a tall order, but packing great lunches is easier than it seems. To read the full article, visit

Rebalance Life

Build a Healthy Lunchbox!

  • Do you struggle with packing healthy items that your kids will eat?
  • Do your kids get bored with the usual lunchbox fare?
  • Want to get ideas for incorporating more fruit & veggies into the lunch?
  • Worry that your kids are not staying hydrated enough at school?

Worry no more!  Its almost Back to School time – so here are some tips and product ideas to make packing a healthy lunch easy and fun!

A working mom myself, I know how hard it is to juggle it all.  These products and tips can help us think outside “the box” and make packing a healthy lunch easy and delicious – and fun!  If you can bring your kid into the kitchen to pack it – they will be more likely to eat it. For the full article, visit:

Family Fun Magazine

Back-to-School Food

Give kids' school-year meals a flavor upgrade with these A+ ideas for breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and more. Whether you're preparing a hearty lunch or tasty treat, we have new recipes that will hit the spot.

Check out the feature on page 63 of Family Fun's September 2011 issue. The recipes can be found online, at:

Green Opportunities

OCTOBER 8th IS NATIONAL COSTUME SWAP DAY – By swapping half the costumes kids wear at Halloween, we would reduce the annual landfill waste by 6,250 tons. To find out how you can locate a swap near you or learn how to register your own swap location, visit:

COMPANY TURNS PLASTIC BOTTLES BACK INTO CRUDE OIL – Did you know that plastic was made from oil? Well, Vadxx, an Ohio based company, has found a way to use the plastic scraps that can't be recycled, and revert it back to crude oil. Vadxx says that their process will substantially shrink landfill deposits. To learn more, visit:

VIDEO: FAKE BLUEBERRIES IN FOOD PRODUCTS – Mike Adams, an award winning investigative journalist, exposes the food industry practice of faking blueberries. He shows how a number of big name food and cereal companies mislead the public by marketing products as having real blueberries. In place of the actual berries, they use a combination of arificial food coloring, hydrogenated oils and sugars. To watch the video, visit:

Featured Web Site: Ocean Portal

The Ocean Portal is an unique, interactive online experience that inspires awareness, understanding, and stewardship of the world’s Oceans. It has been developed by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and more than 20 collaborating organizations.

At the Ocean Portal you'll find articles, videos, lesson plans, and information on ocean history and current issues, how to take action, and so much more.

To find out more, visit

On This Site:
  • Ocean Life and Ecosystems
  • Photo Essays
  • The Ocean Over Time
  • Ocean Science
  • Encyclopedia of Life
  • Find Your Blue
  • Educators' Corner
  • Ocean Portal Blog

Contact Us

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© October 2011 Obentec, Inc.

500 Chestnut Street, Suite 250
Santa Cruz, CA 95060


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