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February 2012

  February 2012  


In this issue you'll find:


What works...Success Stories

All The Children Were Oohhing and Aahhing

"Thank goodness I came across your ad in a family magazine! I bought two systems, one for my 7 year-old and one for my 13 month-old. I just knew that a year from now she'd take one look at her big brother’s lunch and would want one too, but it was her system we used first. We had a doctor's appointment, and I packed my baby some finger food just in case we were there for a while. Thank goodness I did! She ate all her food, and it was nicely kept and presentable. She was very curious about the boxes, and all the children were oohhing and aahhing at it. She was able to drink her water out of the water bottle, and I put a damp baby wash cloth in the silverware slot. Perfect!”

    -- Sandra, San Antonio, TX

Received Lunch Totes Today

“We received our lunch totes today. The children are almost sad that there is no school tomorrow. Almost.”

    -- Jennifer Garen, Round Rock, Texas

Can't Wait For It To Arrive!!!  

"I finally broke down and ordered the 2.0, replacing the original that I've had for almost three years. I can't wait for it to arrive!!!”

    -- Melissa Ezell, Republic, MO

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

New Retailers

Whole Foods Market
989 Aloma Avenue
Winter Park, FL 32792
(407) 673-8788

Whole Foods Market
255 E. Basee Road, Suite 130
San Antonio, TX 78209
(210) 826-4676

Whole Foods Market
1001 Plymouth Road
Minnetonka, MN 55305
(952) 797-5600


From Our Desk to Yours

Introducing The "Pay It Forward" Campaign

It’s February, and we’re kicking off our Pay it Forward campaign, slated to run through March 31st. If you’ve been using your original Laptop Lunches Bento Box for years and have been eyeing the new features of the Bento 2.0, this program’s for you.  We know it’s hard to justify ditching your tried and true bento box since it’s still in great shape and works perfectly well, but have you considered paying it forward to someone who will love it as much as you do?  If so, we’ve got two Pay It Forward options to choose from:

  • Give your original Bento Box to a friend or co-worker, or donate it to a school or family shelter, and we’ll give you 10% off your next purchase. Simply use coupon code: PayItForward-10 when you place your order.
  • Send us a photo that depicts how you’re paying it forward (or who you’re giving it to), and we’ll send you a coupon code for 20% off. Along with the discount you’ll also receive an extra-large container for your new Bento Set 2.0. Email your photo to [email protected] with “Pay It Forward” in the subject line, and we’ll send the coupon code your way.

BEST OF MOTHERING AWARD: We’re thrilled, honored and full of gratitude—because you voted for us! That’s right; we were recently nominated and selected to receive the prestigious 2011 Best of Mothering award in the Nutrition and Good Eating category. Thanks so much!

PINTEREST: Whether you’re a seasoned Pinterest user or are hearing the word “Pinterest” for the first time, we hope you’ll connect with us there. What’s Pinterest? It’s a cool online place where you can organize and share all the fun things you find on the web. Use your pinboard to plan events, decorate your home, and organize favorite bento menus. Find something you like at Simply pin it! See something you think we’d like? Please invite us to connect with you! We’re at We hope to see you there!



From Your Kitchen to Ours

"My family adores Laptop Lunchboxes. When my daughter began taking lunch to school in first grade, I was packing her lunch in an insulated 'sack' style bag, and it seemed like every day she was grumpy and hungrier than seemed proper by the end of the school day. Even the short car ride home was too long because she was 'so hungry.' When we'd examine her lunch bag, there were always foods she'd not realized were buried under other foods. She couldn't see everything, and couldn't plan what to eat for snack in the morning and what to save for lunch later on. It was a mess.

When we switched to Laptop Lunches, it was like a switch was turned on. Four years later, and a couple of Laptop Lunch bento kits later (and sooo many inserts) we are planning on a similar setup for her younger brother next year. In fact, even their father is thinking about an adult bento system for his work lunches.

In short, we love your lunches. It's fun to make pretty lunches and surprise my kids with little treats."

    -- Kristianna, San Jose, CA

Food for Thought: Ginger

Photo Credit: Melissa Braun

Ginger has long been used to prevent or relieve gastrointestinal discomfort. It is commonly used to treat upset stomach and is helpful in reducing nausea associated with both motion sickness and morning sickness. Ginger is used in the treatment of coughs and colds, and it helps boost the immune system. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and has been used to relieve migraine pain, heartburn discomfort and menstrual cramps. It also helps lower cholesterol. Studies have shown that ginger has been beneficial in slowing the growth of colorectal cancer cells and in killing ovarian cancer cells.

Ginger is often found in cookies, cakes, pies, and teas. Fresh or powdered ginger can easily be added to salad dressings, rice dishes, sautéed vegetables, and cooked carrots or sweet potatoes. It goes particularly well in almost any dish that has soy sauce or tamari, and adds a flavor "kick" to most apple creations, as well.

For ginger recipes, visit:


  • Provides Gastrointestinal Relief
  • Acts as an Anti-inflammatory
  • Has Anti-Vomiting Properties
  • Offers Relief From Morning Sickness
  • Helps Relieve Migraine Pain
  • Relieves Nausea From Motion Sickness
  • Stimulates Circulation

This Month's Recipes: Dressings From My Japanese Table
The following recipes are reprinted with permission from Debra Samuels, author of My Japanese Table, A Lifetime of Cooking for Friends and Family.

Soy Ginger Vinaigrette

The tang of lemon juice and the zing of ginger juice give this dressing a snappy flavor. Use it on mixed salads to give them an Asian flair. Sprinkle on a combination of toasted sesame seeds and a sprinkle of sea salt or kosher salt just before serving.

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce, preferably low sodium
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp ginger juice*
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp sugar or honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

*You can make your own ginger juice. See instructions below.

Yield: 1 cup

Combine all the ingredients in a glass jar, cover and shake. This will keep in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks.

How to Make Ginger Juice

Take a knob of ginger and, using a Japanese porcelain grater or microplane or using the smallest holes on a box grater, grate the ginger into a mound. Pick up the grated ginger with your fingers and squeeze to release the juice into a small bowl.

Akiko's Sesame Seed Dressing

This dressing may be used on steamed vegetables, as a salad dressing, or on steamed fish.

  • 1/2 cup white sesame seeds, toasted
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sugar or honey


Yield: 1 cup

1. Place the toasted sesame seeds in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 3 times until the aroma is released.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and process for 30 seconds or until the desired consistency is achieved.
3. Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator. This will keep for several weeks.

In the Spotlight: Interview with Debra Samuels

Debra Samuels and My Japanese Table

About Debra Samuels:
Debra Samuels, cookbook author, food and travel writer and cooking teacher, has been working with children, families, and food for over twenty-five years. Since 2000 she has been a regular contributor to the food section of The Boston Globe. She is co-author with Taekyung Chung of The Korean Table (Tuttle Publishing, 2008) and her new cookbook My Japanese Table: A Lifetime of Cooking with Friends and Family, has just been published by Tuttle this year.

Debra has lived abroad for more than a decade in Japan and Italy, where she studied Italian, Indian, Korean, and Japanese cuisine. She has done countless cooking demonstrations and classes on food culture in the Boston area as well as for the Japan Information and Culture Center of the Embassy of Japan in Washington DC, the United States Embassy in Tokyo and for its American Cultural Centers around Japan.

She lives in Lexington, Massachusetts, with her husband. They continue to go to Japan annually for month-long stays in their "second hometown" Tokyo.

1. Your book, My Japanese Table, does a wonderful job of demystifying Japanese cooking. How did you come up with the idea for the book?

Well the idea for the book actually came from my publisher, Eric Oey.  He thought I had a unique outlook on Japanese cuisine because of our long history of going to Japan (40 years!) and being so closely involved with daily Japanese life. Raising and feeding a family broadened my experiences to include making  bento for a school aged child.  Eric also felt my intimacy with both American and Japanese kitchens enabled me to write with direct knowledge of how these recipes could be used in the States. The other advantage is that I have been teaching home-style Japanese cooking and know what recipes are popular, work well, and are very do-able.  

2. Why do you think people might be intimated by cooking Japanese food at home?

I think we first come in contact with ethnic foods in restaurants, and the cuisine remains restaurant cuisine until ingredients and equipment begin to appear in standard supermarkets. It happened with Chinese ingredients like good soy sauce, fresh ginger, Hoisin sauce and woks. A wok can now be found in most cupboards and stir-frying is as familiar a term as sauté, probably more so.  This is true with Japanese food as well. Tofu, panko, edamame, sushi rice, rice vinegar, roasted seaweed and bamboo rolling mats can be found in local markets.

But issues arise when people don’t know where to start or how to cook something like short grain rice properly. They get poor results and set everything aside. I like to suggest that people start with a favorite dish, get familiar with it, and then add it to their repertoire.

One other big barrier is that Japanese food looks beautiful; the arrangement and attention to detail seem unattainable. I assure you it is not. However, we do have to be prepared to bring some thought and effort to setting food on a plate. It is truly the small things that can make a difference like placing a small fish fillet slightly off-center and at an angle on a plate with a simple garnish like a cherry tomato cut in half and set against the flesh of the fish. You “eat with your eyes” is a well-known Japanese saying.

3. What staples do you recommend having on hand for Japanese cooking?

There are about 14 basic ingredients you should have, most of which are available at a well-stocked supermarket:

For your Pantry: mirin, sake, soy sauce (I use low sodium) bonito flakes (katsuobushi), kelp (kombu), wakame, roasted seaweed (yaki nori), roasted sesame seeds, short or medium grain rice, sesame oil, rice vinegar, dried shiitake. Even though it has sugar and MSG, the powdered bonito flakes (hon dashi) is useful in a pinch.

For the Fridge: miso, tofu

4. What suggestions do you have for purchasing fresh seafood?

Well there is just no substitute for buying from a reputable source, whether it’s your neighborhood supermarket or a fish monger. Good fish doesn’t smell, and that goes for previously frozen seafood – which is perfectly fine to buy.  Americans don’t buy whole fish very often, so to suggest that you make sure the fish is clear-eyed and not giving you the hairy eyeball, may not be helpful. The flesh of fillets should be firm with a healthy glow – just like your skin.

When buying fish for sashimi or making sushi, keep in mind there are no bargains and there shouldn’t be. Furthermore, it’s often preferable to buy fish that has been “super frozen.” This means the fish is immediately frozen at very low temperatures as soon it’s caught. This temperature kills parasites. Since you’re not cooking the fish, this is a key point.

5. My Japanese Table is an informative work of art. Who came up with the aesthetics for the photos?

Thank you.  Well, I would have to say for the food shots, it was a collaborative effort with the photographer and food stylist. I had a vision of what I wanted to use in the photos; old Japanese fabric squares, photos, collections of kitchenware, pottery, areas of my pantry and home. Then when a recipe was cooked, the food stylist, Catrine Kelty, a true artist, would look at the various options and choose the backgrounds and plates she thought worked best. If I had a specific plate in mind for a particular dish, she would work with it or select another, explaining why it wasn’t going to enhance the food. And then the extremely talented photographer, Heath Robbins, would make the food pop off the surface. The artwork and layout was done in-house at Tuttle. I was lucky to be consulted along the way. The publisher, Eric Oey, is very committed to beautiful photos, and there is almost one photo for each recipe, which is not the norm for cookbooks these days because it’s expensive to do.

6. What tips do you offer for making attractive, nutritious bento lunches?

Color, color, color!  The Japanese, as well as other Asian cultures, use the colors red, black, green, white and yellow to guide their food choices. They believe that if all of those colors appear on your plate or in you bento box, you have a well-balanced nutritious meal.  I also like to suggest reducing volume and adding variety. Along with the 5 colors, think about 5 different kinds of foods, and that includes, in my opinion, a dessert, whether it’s a cookie or some fruit. And in a bento it can be both!

7. Where’s the most interesting or unusual place you’ve taken your bento?

An airplane!  It’s perfect. The Japanese have the tradition of eki-ben, bento you buy from train stations – that are often the specialty of a region or just filled with a variety of different food. I like to call mine hikoki (airplane) ben.  Airlines don’t provide meals any more, even on long distance flights and who wants to wrestle with floppy plastic containers of overflowing salads and boxes of melting pizza? It’s horrible sitting next to or in front of someone dripping this stuff all over the place. So I travel with my favorite box wrapped with a cloth (which becomes my placemat), and I work my way through a box that is designed for a self-contained meal – which is what you need in these crowded circumstances. I am asked very often, “Where did you buy your lunch?”  Airports need an obento seller! It is a natural fit.

8. What’s your favorite Japanese food to make?

I love eggplant, so I really enjoy making a simmered eggplant dish that is cooked in a dashi broth with the very classic seasonings of soy sauce, sake and mirin. It’s served with just a little grated ginger and a flourish of bonito flakes. Very old fashioned flavors.  I also enjoy the process and challenge of making the sweet rolled omelet tamago yaki. 

9. What’s your favorite Japanese food to eat?

It’s tough to pull out one thing, so I would say any kind of tofu cuisine. I particularly love fresh soft custard tofu served in a bamboo basket, again with grated ginger, soy sauce and bonito flakes. It’s so pure.

10. What’s your favorite bento to eat?

I love picnic bento.  There is such a large variety of food laid out in several containers.  Since the Japanese tend to group like foods together once the boxes are opened it looks like a patchwork quilt of food:  delicious brown ginger fried chicken (kara age), crustless  individual little sandwich rectangles of tuna and potato salad, balls of seaweed wrapped rice triangles (onigiri) and broccoli in little foil cupcake cups with a drizzle of sesame dressing. 

11. What’s your favorite lunch?

That depends on whether I’m eating in or out; in the States or Japan. I love leftovers, so when I am home, I love a meatloaf sandwich. If I’m out for lunch and I have access to a good deli, I’ll have a pastrami sandwich with kosher pickles. If I’m in Japan, it’s usually onigiri (rice balls) stuffed with a spicy roe or oyako domburi, a rice bowl with a chicken and soft egg mixture topping. Oishi! (It’s delicious!)

To learn more about Debra Samuels and her new book, My Japanese Table, visit:

In the News


Let's craft lunch

Lunch in a Japanese-style bento box has eye, thrift, eco, and nutrition appeal. It can even be an art project.

Despite Jamie Oliver's best intentions, the obstacles to making healthy homemade school lunches are still daunting: busy working parents, limited food budgets, picky kids, the temptations of processed foods at every turn.

Yet the solution, for some lunch-packing parents, might be as simple as finding the right container: trading in the American brown bag for the Japanese bento box.

With a long history in Japan and variations in Korea, India, and the Philippines, the multi-compartment bento box is not new, but in recent years it has gained popularity as a lunch box among health-conscious parents.

"More people are talking about bento" for lunch boxes, "and more families are seeking them out," says dietitian Emma Fogt, based in Ardmore. And as someone who works with kids on improving nutrition, she heartily approves.

To read the full article, visit

Agoura Hills Patch

Thinking Outside the Lunch Box

Packing a Bento lunch for your kids will have you and them thinking inside the box.

Now that school is in full swing, my kids' backpacks are just beginning to be burdened by 30 tons of books and paperwork, and the novelty of eating their lunch out of a paper bag is beginning to lose some of its blush.  

In fact, one week into the new school year, I've already been given a litany of items that shouldn't be packed in the aforementioned bag, because, a) it gets mushy, b) it doesn't taste good, c) no one else's mom packs that in their lunch.

...In my search to build a better lunch, I came across the lovely people at These folks take lunchtime to an entirely different level, and they even have an army of Bento Box devotees who chronicle on a daily basis efforts of their creativity. For the uninitiated, a Bento, according to Wikipedia, is "a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese Cuisine."  

To view the full article, visit:

Green Opportunities

WOOLLY POCKETS – Want to do some gardening this winter? Create an indoor or outdoor hanging garden with Woolly Pockets. Grow edibles, annuals and perennials on walls and fences. They are a Do-It-Yourself system for vertical gardening that becomes living art on your wall. These breathable "pockets" have internal moisture control and are made from recycled plastic bottles in the USA. To learn more, visit:

10 FRESH WINTER SALAD RECIPES – Do you think of salads as a spring or summer food? Try using winter produce to make salads with lots of fresh new ingredients. To check out the recipes for winter salads, visit:

LUNCH LINE, A DOCUMENTARY – Lunch Line is a film that follows six kids as who set out to fix school lunch and end up at the White House. The documentary takes a new look at the National School Lunch Program, now over 60 years old, and explores its past, its current challenges, and its opportunities for the future. To learn more, visit:, and to watch the trailer, visit:

Featured Web Site: National Heart Lung and Blood Institute's Healthy Eating

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) provides global leadership for a research, training, and education program to promote the prevention and treatment of heart, lung, and blood diseases. Their program strives to enhance the health of all individuals so they can live longer and more fulfilling lives. The NHLBI Healthy Eating Web pages are a great source of healthy recipes, with cooking and family resources.

Their We Can!® initiative is a national childhood obesity prevention program.

To find out more, visit

On This Site:
  • Healthy Eating Recipes
  • Cooking Resources
  • Family Resources
  • Online Toolbox
  • Healthy Eating Videos
  • Events
  • We Can!
  • Cookbooks to Download

Contact Us

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