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March 2004

Laptop Lunch Times: March 2004

March 2004

Plan Ahead: Make April Waste-Free Lunch Month!

In celebration of Earth Day on April 22nd, schools across North America will be experimenting with waste-free lunch programs. For many, this has become an annual affair, for some this year will be a first, and for those who aleady have a comprehensive waste-free lunch program in place, this is a time to celebrate success. If your school or office is planning a waste-free lunch event, be sure to visit for program ideas, sample letters, course materials, facts & figures, success stories, and more. Start planning now. Earth Day is just around the corner!

Also, if you have a waste-free lunch success story, a related link, a research project, or course materials you'd like us to post, please write to [email protected].


In this issue, you'll find:

  • Glorious Grain Recipes
  • Strategies for Reading Food Labels
  • Laptop Lunches in the News
  • Featured Web site:
  • What's in a name? Winner!
  • What works...Success Stories

Glorious Grain Recipes

#1: Quinoa & Black Rice Salad

Makes about 8 servings.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is high in protein, calcium, iron, phosphorus, B vitamins, and vitamin E. It's delicious, easy to prepare, and can be served instead of rice or cous-cous. Give it a try! Here's a favorite quinoa recipe from our kitchen:

  • Prepare 1 cup black rice as directed.
  • Rinse 1 cup quinoa in warm water to remove the natural (bitter) coating called saponin. Place the quinoa in 1 3/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Then simmer until the water has been absorbed (about 15 - 20 minutes).
  • In a large bowl, combine the following ingredients:

    • 2/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
    • 1 cup chopped pecans
    • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
    • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
    • cooked quinoa
    • cooked black rice

  • In a separate bowl, prepare the dressing by combining the following ingredients:

    • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
    • 2 - 3 cloves minced garlic
    • 2 tbs olive oil
    • 1 tbs tamari or soy sauce
    • 1 tsp cumin (or to taste)

  • Garnish with steamed broccoli spears and/or feta cheese.

  • Serve warm or cold .

#2: Buckwheat Pancakes

Makes about 20 three-inch pancakes.

Buckwheat is high in calcium, B-complex vitamins, and vitamin E.

1. Combine the following dry ingredients and mix well:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
2. Mix together:
  • 2 cups nonfat milk, lowfat buttermilk, or soy milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten

3. Combine the dry and wet ingredients with a few swift strokes.

4. Heat a small amount of walnut oil in a large frying pan.

5. When the pan is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles, spoon batter into pan, forming 3-inch pancakes.

6. Cook over medium heat until bubbles appear on the surface of the pancakes.

7. Flip and cook the other side for a short time.

8. Remove from heat and serve plain, with 100% maple syrup, 100% fruit jam, or honey.

**For variety, add fresh chopped peaches, apples, or chopped dates to batter right before cooking.

#3: Apple Cinnamon Bulgur Salad

Makes about 8 servings.

  • Place 1 cup bulgur in a bowl. Add 1 cup boiling water. Cover and let sit until the water is completely absorbed (about 15 - 20 minutes).
  • In a large bowl, combine the following ingredients, stirring after each addition:

    • 2 large apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
    • 1 cup pecans, chopped well
    • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1 tbs lemon juice
    • 1/2 cup apple juice (or until moist)


  • Add the bulgur and mix well.

  • This dish can be served as a side dish, a condiment, or healthy dessert.

Strategies for Reading Food Labels

The following is a list of suggestions for reading ingredients labels. To get a better idea of what you're buying at the grocery store, check every item before placing it in your cart or basket. If it doesn't meet your criteria, consider finding an alternative. If your supermarket doesn't carry the food you want to buy, it may be time to look for one that offers a healthier selection.

  • Remember that ingredients are listed in the order of quantity present. The first few ingredients on the list are present in the greatest quantity.
  • Check to make sure that the first few ingredients are the ones you would hope to find in this type of product. For example, on a grape juice label you expect to see grape juice listed first. If, instead, you see corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fruit pectin and then grape juice concentrate, you know that this product is less nutritious than a product made of 100% grape juice.
  • Beware of misleading food groupings. For instance, breakfast cereal manufacturers often group flour ingredients together so that sugar will not appear as the first ingredient. A label of this type might list the first two ingredients as flour (corn, wheat, and oat), and then sugar. If the flours had not been grouped together, sugar would have been listed as the first ingredient.
  • Beware of products that contain multiple sweeteners. A product may contain, for example, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, and dextrose. Although sugar does not appear first on the list, when added together, the total sugar is present in the greatest quantity.
  • When evaluating foods, think twice about purchasing products with the following red flag warnings on the label.
    • The ingredients list seems long compared to what you’d expect to find in a particular product.
    • The ingredients are unrecognizable and hard to pronounce.
    • The product contains FD&C artificial colorings.
    • The product contains hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oil.
    • One of the first few ingredients listed is sugar (or other sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, granular fruit sugar, sucrose, lactose, isomol, malitol, mannitol, sorbitol, maltose, xylitol, malt, honey, maple sugar, maple syrup, molasses, or rice syrup).
    • The product contains the artificial sweeteners aspartame or saccharin.
    • The product contains modified food starch, which is often used as an inexpensive filler.
    • The product contains a large amount of salt. The human body needs no more than ¼ teaspoon of salt daily. Try to limit intake to 2,400 mg (1 teaspoon) of total sodium daily.

  • (Excerpted from: The Laptop Lunch User's Guide: Fresh Ideas for Making Wholesome, Earth-friendly Lunches Your Kids Will Love, by Amy Hemmert & Tammy Pelstring, Morning Run Press, 2002. Available online at

Laptop Lunches in the News

Hungry Travelers Turn to Laptop Lunches for Their Next Meal

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - February 20, 2004 -In their rush to reduce in-flight food service, many airlines have left passengers scrambling for creative ways to carry meals on board. Laptop Lunches, manufactured by Obentec, Inc. (, provide a convenient, low-cost, healthful solution. This stylish line of lunchware, originally designed for school and work, has become indispensable among savvy travelers.

The Laptop Lunch System

Inspired by the Japanese bento box, the Laptop Lunch System features an insulated carrying case, resembling a laptop bag, a hinged outer container, four inner food containers, a small dip container, utensils, and The Laptop Lunch User's Guide, a book of wholesome menus and recipes. It all fits comfortably on a lap or airline tray table.

Airline Travel

"The last time we flew," explains Obentec president, Amy Hemmert, "we went 'no-frills.' At dinnertime, we set our Laptop Lunches on our tray tables and devoured our delicious home-cooked meals-with envious fellow passengers looking on. That's when I understood that Laptop Lunches could fill a need."

According to the American Obesity Association, 64.5% of U.S. adults are overweight and 30.5% are obese. 30.3% of American children ages 6 to 11 are overweight and 15.3% are obese. This puts Americans at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer, stroke, diabetes and more.

"When I flew back East last month, I was offered a snack-cheese-filled crackers, cookies, and candy," says businessman Steve Chipman. "I took one look and said, 'Where's the food?' No wonder Americans keep getting heavier. No wonder we're having heart attacks and strokes. These 'meals' just don't cut it."

Family Car Trips

Laptop Lunches are popular not only for airplane flights but for road trips as well. "I always pack Laptop Lunches for car trips," says Monica Van Natta , mother of two. "That way I don't have to stop for fast food. Before we leave, I hand the kids their Laptop Lunches. This gives them control, and my husband and I can have a decent conversation."

The Laptop Lunch System, which sells for about $34.00, is available online at and through select retailers nationwide. For a complete list of Obentec retailers, visit

High-resolution images are available for download at For more information contact Amy Hemmert.

What Works...Success Stories

  • "You have a wonderful product. I was able to convince my sister to buy Laptop Lunches for her 4 children. She was concerned about the lack of variety and nutrition in their lunches. After buying Laptop Lunches, she has really enjoyed trying new things. She even bought some very cute blue ice cubes in different shapes to keep their fruits cooler. Congratulations on getting a very Japanese type of idea going in the States."

       --Anonymous, Tokyo, Japan


  • "Our family is very, very happy with our Laptop Lunches. They inspire me to make creative and fun lunches that fit in all the little compartments and my kids find it equally fun to to eat out of them. My kids are eating healthy food, and I feel good about using re-usable containers instead of hundreds (or thousands?) of plastic baggies through the school year! I've told all my friends and relatives about these great lunchbox sets, and I can't wait until I save up enough money to buy one for myself to take to work! :)"

       --Ariel Pettinotti, Boulder Creek, CA

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

What's in a name?

A big thank you to everyone who suggested a name for our newsletter last month. We received so many excellent entries! After much deliberation and discussion, we've decided on The Laptop Lunch Times. Congratulations to Annie Pelayo of Oakland, CA for submitting the winning entry!

Thanks again for all the great ideas!

Featured Web Site:

Are you looking for recycled art projects? For "the largest collection of free art lessons on the Internet, " check out You'll find instructions for a birdhouse, mobile, refrigerator magnet, keychain, drum, candle, coasters, and lots more. Turn your trash into something to be proud of!

April Highlights

Simple spring side dishes, creative Earth Day activities, and recycling from A to Z!

Comments, questions, concerns? Please email us at [email protected].

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© March 2004, by Obentec, Inc.


Feel free to reprint or forward this newsletter with the following acknowledgement and contact information clearly visible: "Thank you to Obentec, Inc. for permission to use this copyrighted material. For more information, contact Obentec, Inc. by email at [email protected] or by phone at 831-457-0301, or visit their Web site at Reprint permission granted with this full notice included."