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October 2007

Laptop Lunch Times: October 2007


October 2007

In this issue, you'll find:

  • From Our Desk to Yours...
  • Favorite Photo
  • Roots and Rice
  • Green Opportunities
  • Laptop Lunches in the News
  • New Retailers
  • Lunch Programs Do Evolve: Interview with Mima LeCocq
  • What works...Success Stories
  • Featured Web site:

From Our Desk to Yours...

NEW ADDITION TO THE OBENTEC FAMILY: We are truly pleased to welcome Nancy Waterous, the newest member of the Obentec team. She has very quickly come up to speed on our many products and company policies and has eased into the position with enthusiasm and confidence. (She even packs a Lunch Date for work every day!) As a former librarian, Nancy brings a wealth of experience in customer service, and she has exceptional research and organizational skills. We're very fortunate to have her on board!

GREEN FESTIVAL 2007: Join us at the San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center on November 9-11 for this big event, featuring more than 150 visionary speakers, 400 green businesses, great how-to workshops, organic beer and wine, delicious organic cuisine, and diverse live music. Find great ideas, positive energy, abundant hope, and earth-friendly holiday gifts. And...don't forget to stop by the Laptop Lunches booth to introduce yourself. At the SF Concourse Exihibition Center, Nov 9-11.

Amy and Tammy

Got a favorite photo to share?

Email it to us at [email protected], and we'll publish it here!
A Spooktacular Halloween Lunch!
  • Bat Tortillas: Cut a whole wheat tortilla with a bat cookie cutter, brushed the bats with olive oil, and bake them until crispy
  • Fingers: String cheese with red pepper fingernails, held on by a dab of cream cheese
  • Pumpkins: cantaloupe balls
  • Ghosts: apple slices
  • Fat-free chocolate cupcake with cream cheese frosting and a "gummy" lifesaver and chocolate chip eye


"This is a lunch I made for my daughters last year at Halloween." 

--Debbie Moors, Berthoud, CO

Roots and Rice 

Golden Beets with Wild Rice

  • 1 ½ cup wild rice
  • 6 medium golden beets
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil

Golden Beets with Wild Rice.
1. Cook wild rice according to directions, using vegetable or chicken broth instead of water.
2. While rice is cooking, quarter the beets and steam until tender. Let cool.
3. Heat olive oil in sauté pan. Add chopped pecans and toast until aromatic and lightly brown. Set aside.
4. Once beets are cooled, peel skin from beets and cut into cubes.
5. Toss cooked wild rice, beets and pecans, and serve.
6. Sprinkle lightly with crumbled goat cheese (optional).

Simmered Japanese Daikon and Carrots

  • 2 medium daikon radishes
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 Tbs. sushi rice
  • 3 cups water

Simmering Sauce:

  • 4 cups water
  • 3 Tbs. light soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs. mirin
  • 4 Tbs. miso paste
  • 1 4-inch by 4-inch piece of kombu seaweed
  • 1 tsp. honey

Simmered daikon and carrots
served over rice.
1. Peel and slice the daikon and carrot. Make a shallow "X" on each daikon piece so the heat and flavor can absorb more easily.
2. Place the daikon, carrots, and rice in a sauce pan, cover with water, and simmer until tender but not mushy. Drain.
3. Place the kombu in a sauce pan. Combine and add the rest of the simmering sauce ingredients. Add the daikon and carrots, and simmer for about 20 minutes.
4. Serve over steamed rice.

Green Opportunities

Some earth-friendly tidbits that have landed in our office in recent weeks...

  • POINT OF RETURN This 17-minute video documentary illustrates what happens to recyclables after they leave the curb and explores the local, regional, and international consequences of recycling. Looking at economic and land policies in Oakland, Northern California, and the Pacific Rim, Point of Return raises awareness among the general public, elected officials, and other decision makers in the US and in Asia. View the video at:
  • JUNK FOOD MARKETING TO KIDS – A new study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine indicates that the annual $10 billion the food and beverage industry is spending on advertising foods to kids is working alarmingly well. The study found that four out of five kids preferred the flavor of foods served in McDonalds packaging as compared to the exact same foods served in packaging without the McDonalds brand. By the time they are two years old, children may already have beliefs about certain brands, and by the age of six they can recognize brands and specific brand products. Not surprisingly, the study found that kids with more televisions in the home had stronger preferences for brands. The authors suggested this study strengthened the justification for tighter regulation or banning of advertising and marketing of high calorie, low nutrient food and drink, and perhaps a ban on all marketing that is aimed at young children. Learn more and take action in OCA's "Appetite for a Change" campaign:

  • BREAK THE BOTTLED WATER HABIT – Pledge today to Break the Bottled Water Habit and pass the word along. Do so and you could win a $4000 week-long stay in Sun Valley, $800 worth of high-end carpets from Flor, or other great prizes. Take the pledge at Americans consumed more than 31 billion liters of bottled water in 2006 nearly 28 gallons for every man, woman, and child. Manufacturing all those bottles required 900,000 tons of plastic and emitted as much greenhouse gas as 500,000 cars! Trucking a bottle of water 500 miles can double its climate impact and some are shipped much, much farther.
  • CLOTHING SWAPS – Want to pay less for quality clothing and help the environment too? Consider attending a clothing swap. Gather up the gently worn or new clothing that you no longer wear, take it to a swap, and exchange it for clothing you love. For more information, visit,, or You might find yourself having fun and meeting new friends as well!

Laptop Lunches in the News

Family Fun Magazine

Building a Better School Lunch: Simple strategies to help your children eat right, whether they bag it or buy it

By Leslie Garisto Pfaff

"The standard lunch bag possesses mysterious powers capable of turning perfectly nutritious meals into (ahem) trash. Combine these cool containers with our inspired (and nutritious) dishes for a midday meal that won't get tossed or traded away. Obentec's Laptop Lunch System A plastic Japanese-style bento box features five individual containers in an insulated carrying case, plus water bottle, utensils, and recipe suggestions. $35;"

Babble Best: Lunch Boxes

By Katie Bayless

"In my former life as a teacher, I was privy to the waste school lunches can leave in their wake chip bags, juice boxes, plastic wrappings from sandwiches, fallen crackers and carrots. Even the healthiest of lunches can create monstrous amounts of trash. Enter Laptop Lunches. This Bento lunch box includes an insulated carrying case (with external pocket, shoulder strap and name tag), a reusable water bottle, a stainless steel spoon and fork, and the Laptop Lunch Bento Box, which is filled with five removable, reusable containers. I had two concerns with this bag: first, would foods really stay in their compartments even though only the dip container has a lid? A rigorous one-minute shake test proved satisfactory. Second, do you really want to pay $35 for a lunch bag? But if I add up the money spent on pre-packaged food and plastic baggies to put everything else in, plus a healthy dose of guilt for adding to the landfill, I figured this bag was priced just about right..." [Read the rest of the article at]

Contra Costa Times

Pack-a-Punch Lunch: First step: Make food fun; Second Step: Make it Wholesome

By Jackie Burrell

"Five days a week, 38 weeks a year, year after year after year ... it's no wonder refilling your kid's lunch box begins to resemble a scene from "Groundhog Day." Morning comes, the alarm clock clangs, and there the lunch box sits once more, waiting for culinary inspiration or at least -- oh God, not another overly fragrant tuna sandwich..." [Read the rest of the story at]

Veg Family

Packing the Vegan Lunchbox

by Cathe Olson

"When my daughters started at public school last year, I was nervous about what the other kids might have to say about their lunches. Would my girls get teased about the healthy, vegetarian fare in their lunchboxes? Also, what would my daughters think about the foods the other kids were eating? Would they bug me to let them get the school's hot lunch? What if they felt left out not eating processed foods or meat?" [Read the rest of the story at]

New Retailers

The Littlest Birds
647 Haywood Road
West Asheville, NC 28806
(828) 253-4747

Earthy Babes
2111 Fenton Rock Lane
Katy, TX 77494

Vertable, Inc.
1719 South County Hwy 393
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
(850) 225-9839

Real Green Goods
35 S. Main Street
Concord, NH 03301
(603) 224-9700

Viva Granola
237 Marlene
St. Raymond, QC G3L 4N2

Stephanie Riley, ND
Tahoe City, CA 96145
(530) 583-0002

Just Add Heat
610 Ford Drive, Unit One
Oakville, ON L6J 7V7
(905) 338-9816

Green Rooms Inc.
88 Dunn Street, Unit 1
Oakville, ON L6J3C7
(905) 337-3373

Butter's Better Lunches
Seattle, WA
(206) 859-1771

Shine the Love Productions
Ellisville, MO 63021
(314) 920-61103

Fisique Health
Toronto, ON
(416) 315-2244

Garden Baby Boutique
821 Bay Street
Port Orchard, WA 98366
(360) 447-8302

Visit for a complete list of retailers.

Want to see Laptop Lunches at a store in your neighborhood? Email us at [email protected], and we'll give them a call.

Lunch Programs do Evolve: Interview with Mima LeCocq

Mima LeCocq teaches French at Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory School (GBK) in Santa Cruz, California. In May 2007, the school realized its dream of moving from its cramped, aging buiding to a spacious, newly renovated campus. The move made it possible to implement a nutritious, environmentally sound lunch program. And Mima, with a wealth of experience and talent, was chosen to head up the transition.

Mima had worked extensively in the area of gourmet cuisine, including a stint as a cook at Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley. She and her husband, Tom McNary, founded a local take-out and catering business, Carried Away, which her husband now operates. At the old campus, GBK offered pizza and soda once a week, take-out bagels on the other days, and tolerated vending machines full of... well...let's not mention that here. The new program, which focuses on homemade, increasingly locally grown, earth-friendly lunches, has been a real hit among students. And the vending machines now contain a selection of more nutritious offerings like trail mix and dried fruit. Amy spoke with Mima recently about her experiences to date.
Amy: Hi Mima. I'd like to start by saying that the new lunch program at Kirby has been quite the talk of the town these last few months. Envious parents joke about GBK lunches being tastier and healthier than lunches served at many local restaurants--for a fraction of the price--and they're right! Can you describe the program for us?

Thanks for the compliment. We launched the program in May on the very first day in our new building. We offer a daily hot lunch special with a vegetarian option, a salad bar, a bagel bar with various toppings & spreads, and a juice bar. Some days we make cookies or have organic popsicles or ice cream sandwiches. Lunch is $5.00, the juice bar is $1.00, and dessert is included in the lunch price. We like to offer dessert whenever we have room in the budget.

Amy: So it sounds like the program is just breaking even. Is that okay?

A food program shouldn't operate at a loss, but sacrificing profit for the sake of our kids' health and welfare doesn't seem too much to ask. I recently talked to a teacher from Piedmont whose school lunch program was being transitioned from homemade to disgusting corporate, and the kids were miserable. The district had mandated that they net a daily profit to support the school. Isn't this what taxes are for?

Amy: Can you tell us a bit about your guiding principles?

We serve wholesome, nourishing food, all made from scratch. The emphasis is on using primarily natural and local, organic ingredients. We have hired a brilliant chef with a lot of experience. The preparations include NO trans-fats, added sugars, or artificial ingredients. The kid-friendly preparations encourage the students to taste before purchasing so they can expand their horizons. They are also encouraged to work in the kitchen before, during, and after school, prepping vegetables, washing dishes, and learning what real cooking is all about. They earn a lunch coupon for every hour worked.

Amy: I understand that you've added to the menu this fall. What's new?

We have expanded the salad bar to include make-your-own wraps, and we'll offer soups in winter. We're hoping to purchase a smoothie machine next spring if we can afford it, and I'd love to offer breakfast sometime in the future.

Amy: What factors do you think have most influenced the success of the program so far?

Our chef's excellent cooking! Rene Serna Martinez has worked for me and my husband at our business for nine years. My husband, a trained chef, has taught him everything he knows. He's family. He works at Kirby Monday through Thursday and at our restaurant on Fridays and Saturdays. He's not quite ready to open his own restaurant, so this is a great learning opportunity for him. We've done all of the leg work together.

Amy: What challenges have you faced?
Mima: The move to the new location was a lot of work. In addition to moving, I was teaching six classes a day and starting the lunch program all at the same time. But, in terms of starting up the program, I've had virtually no obstacles because our principal, Josh Karter, gave me carte blanche to do what I needed to do. There were no committees, no voting, no squabbles. I kept him apprised of my ideas and progress and checked for approval (mostly), but I've been most privileged and fortunate in this regard.
Amy: What parts of the program have worked well to date, and what, if anything, are you planning to change?

Most everything has gone well. Some logistical issues need to be fine-tuned, mostly related to the composting program, the work-for-lunch system, improving lunch line efficiency, and implementing computerized payments.

What experiences do you feel have most prepared you for tackling this project?
1. My childhood. I only ate food made from scratch, often made of lentils and cheap cuts of meat, which I don't like now. (We didn't have a lot of money.)

2. Owning my own business and watching and encouraging customers' children to eat good food. It's important to believe that children can and do enjoy good food. You know what I mean: mommy, with a grimace on her face, says to little Johnny as he tries something green, "You don't like that, do you, honey?"

3. Feeding my kids and their friends, and by extension, my students, when they didn't have a lunch at the old school, and I would share. I brought in lots of samples before the move in order to acclimate them and get them excited about "Rene's cooking." Kids are sometimes dubious at first, but never underestimate them. When they taste something new, they'll often end up liking it. Then they become increasingly adventuresome and trusting.

I encourage students to try just a bite of this or that. No risk involved, and no harm if they don't care for it. They're liking quinoa for crying out loud!
Amy: What recommendations do you have for others wishing to start a similar program?

Don't try to make money. Don't listen to nay-sayers. Some students at GBK threatened mutiny when they found out we were planning to eliminate the junk food from the vending machines. Ha! They came in droves to check out the offerings and were just as excited by the healthy options--like kids in a candy store--pardon the expression!

Amy: What's your long-term vison for the Kirby lunch program?

I'd like to be 100% green, (we're close) and 100% organic (or as close as possible). I'd love to have a garden, cooking classes, and maybe a GBK cookbook some day.


Speaking of being green, what is the kitchen doing to address the issue of sustainability?
Mima: We're working with a waste management specialist, using recycled products, composting, and having the students reuse and recycle extensively. We'll actually be certified as a Green School soon.


And finally, what's your favorite lunch?
Mima: A really good burger, now and then, and I'm a sucker for fries while I'm at it--though they're never as good as in France!

What Works...Success Stories

"My 5 year-old son started school last year and I'd always wanted to prepare his lunch for him as we're a vegan family and I wanted to know he was eating well. I did pack his lunch every day, but rarely did he eat everything I prepared, and I felt limited because of the storage in standard plastic containers. I came across your Laptop Lunches online and fell in love with the concept. I instantly ordered one and upon its arrival my son was ecstatic. I'd never seen him so excited about food!

"Together we pack him healthy wholesome vegan lunches, and he rarely comes home with any food left. It's amazing how much of a shift he's had in the foods he'll eat simply because of the presentation I can accomplish with the bento box and thermos. He'll wolf down hearty vegetable and pasta soups from his thermos and devour multiple containers of fresh organic fruits and vegetables. He's even eating a lot more than he was before, and I feel so good knowing that he's getting such a nutritious lunch and that he's excited about it! I ordered a second bento box so I can pack multiple dipping containers or multiple lidded containers. I'm excited for the day my younger three sons are also going to school so I can pack four healthy bento boxes and send my sons out into the world with them!"

        -- Megan, Everett, WA (

"As much as I try to fight it, I am an impatient person. It's usually exacerbated when I'm waiting on something exciting. You can imagine how I was feeling about the Lunch Date and spare inner containers that I ordered on Monday afternoon - I couldn't wait to get them and to start using them. In fact, this morning, I was feeling cranky that I didn't have an appropriately sized container to put pico de gallo in for my celery sticks. I thought, 'If I had my Lunch Date this wouldn't be a problem anymore...'
Well yesterday, late in the afternoon, I received an email stating that my items had shipped. What exciting news! I wasn't going to have to be very patient at all! I told my coworker - who's using me as the guinea pig for these products - that I'd probably get the delivery next week, or maybe even on Friday.
You can imagine my surprise, then, when I got an email this afternoon (Wednesday) that there was a package waiting for me at the front desk! I ran up and got it, took it back and ceremoniously opened it in front of my coworker. She was as excited to see it as I was. And now I'm so pleased because I'm going to be able to bring my lunch tomorrow and Friday in my Lunch Date instead of my awkward lunch bag full of tupperware and Ziploc bags.

"This set is just perfect. The hemp bag is as cute as it is environmentally friendly and the portion sizes are exactly what I want them to be - enough to satisfy all of my hunger without leading me into the temptation to gorge myself! I simply couldn't be more pleased.

"My coworker, by the way, is making louder and louder noises about getting one of her own. I'm even thinking of making a recommendation to the board that we consider making these an employee gift, to try to encourage healthier eating in the company! Your sets of 24 gave me the idea - I imagine that they were conjured originally with classrooms of children in mind, but I think they could really help our adult population here make better choices, too.

"I just wanted to thank you so much for developing this product, and appeasing this impatient woman. This has been a spectacular buy thus far."

        -- Charlotte Gibbs, Sacramento, CA

"I bought two Laptop Lunches plus an extra set of of the inside boxes, and my kids really like them. We decorated the outside of each bento box and the carrying case with puff paints and stickers to personalize them, and I love that it's environmentally friendly and well organized. I still don't have a solution I'm happy with for snacks, though, which we have to provide each day, as well -- have you ever considered producing a smaller bento box with only two inside boxes for snack time? It would be perfect!"

        -- Leigh, Raleigh, NC

(Note from Obentec: Stay tuned for some exciting new products in the spring of 2008!)

"I love the Laptop Lunch System. I didn't think my kids would like them because they don't feature popular characters, but I was wrong. They get compliments from friends at school! The idea behind it makes me feel good about providing waste-free lunches that are healthy too! Thank you!"

        -- Sharon Wilder, Denton, TX

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

Featured Web Site:

This US Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency, and Renewable Energy Web site provides a wealth of information on fuel economy and energy efficiency. Find information on a car you're driving or a car you're thinking about buying at

On this site you'll find...

  • Your car's Energy Impact Score
  • Tool for finding the best gasoline prices
  • Gas Mileage Tips
  • Information on Alternative Fuel Vehicles
  • New Fuel Economy Ratings
  • The 2008 Fuel Economy Guide

November Highlights

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dishes, Green Opportunities, and School Lunch News


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

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October 2007 Obentec, Inc.

849 Almar Ave., Suite C-323
Santa Cruz, CA 95060


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