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April 2011

  April 2011  

Highlights

In this issue you'll find:


Good
Simple
Fun

What works...Success Stories

Amazed and Delighted

“I was amazed and delighted when my lunchbox totes came just a few days after I ordered them online. They are a perfect fit and offer a solution to a long
standing problem I've been having with my current lunch boxes.

I enjoy the newsletters with lunch ideas. Please keep them coming. It really helps get out of the routine lunches I find myself getting into packing. Thank you!”

    -- Connie Belk, Davis, CA

Helps With Portion Control

“My daughter, going into first grade, has been using her Laptop Lunchbox since pre-k, and my younger daughter has been jealous for as long as I can remember. Well, she starts nursery school in a few days and we're going on a trip today so we broke open the package! She can't stop shouting with joy! My kids love the lunchboxes and I've even bought them as gifts for 3 of my daughter's little friends. Although I must admit, I'm not as creative as a lot of the photos on the Website, it does help me with portion control and it forces me to send more than just a sandwich for lunch. I recommend the system to everyone who asks.”

    -- Shani Herschberg, Long Island, NY

Built For the Long Haul

"At the beginning of last school year (2009-2010), I ordered two of your bento systems for my two daughters. I have been very impressed with their quality and durability.

Although I was hesitant to order them due to the price, I do NOT regret my decision to buy them. My daughters carried (and still carry) your bento systems to school nearly every day and I must say I am impressed with how
well they have held up. Other than my younger daughter's insulated carrier being a little dirty, the set is in almost new condition. She was in kindergarten last year, so you can imagine the abuse to which her set was
subjected! My older daughter's set is in like new condition, too.

Also, all of the children and teachers think my girls have the neatest lunch boxes they have ever seen. A few parents have ordered your products after seeing my children's sets.

I am happy that I do not have to buy single serving items. I figure these sets have nearly paid for themselves because I can buy bulk sizes of yogurt, milk, and so on instead of single serving containers. Also, I do not have to buy baggies, plastic wrap, or aluminum foil. In addition, these are not the throw away" lunch boxes parents buy and replace every year. Your bento sets are built for the long haul.

My children enjoy what they take for lunch and what they take their lunches in! I enjoy knowing my children have a healthy and SAFE lunch every day. Thank you for your products and keep up the good work!"

    -- Jessica, Kingsport, TN

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




New Retailers

Whole Foods Market
923 Houston Northcutt Blvd.
Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
843-971-7240

Whole Foods Market
5880 Centre Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
412-441-7960

Whole Foods Market
4944 Shelbyville Rd
Louisville, KY 40207
502-899-5545

Whole Foods Market
13998 Cedar Road
University Heights, OH 44118
216-371-5320

Whole Foods Market
11355 Woodglen Drive
Rockville, MD 20852


Whole Foods Market
5269 River Road
Bethesda, MD 20816
301-984-4860

atoygarden.com












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From Our Desk to Yours

Happy Earth Day!!

Winter has come and gone, and we welcome the sight of the many wonderful signs of spring here and there. It feels so good to finally emerge into the warming weather.

We’re happy to report that we successfully completed our vegan challenge a few weeks ago! Although none of us have switched to a full time vegan diet, we are definitely more conscious about what we're putting into our bodies and more aware of the effects that different foods have on us. It was more difficult for some of us than for others, but we all came away with a renewed commitment to eating well and enjoying more plant-based foods. Did you join us in the challenge? Please share your experience at www.facebook.com/LaptopLunches.

This month-- from April 18-24 --we’re challenging ourselves to eliminate all disposable tableware, including plates, cups, utensils, napkins, and take out containers. Our goal is to prepare more meals at home and to avoid restaurants that use disposables, whether we’re taking out or dining in. We hope you’ll choose to join us this month!

FLAT RATE SHIPPING FOR EARTH DAY: Earth Day is a special day, and to celebrate Planet Earth this year, we’re offering FLAT RATE SHIPPING on all orders shipped via FedEx within the continental US. We hope this entices you to make your lunches waste-free this Earth Day…and every day! Please let others know about this offer. No coupon code required!
LOOSE CONTAINERS: You suggested, and we listened! We’re now offering loose 2.0 containers on our Web site at http://secure.laptoplunches.com/AMAZING/items.asp?Cc=MISC&Bc=. We hope this new offering makes it easy for you to purchase exactly the size and color you’re looking for.

PRICE INCREASE: We thought we should let you know about our upcoming price increase so we can give you an opportunity to order before the increase takes effect on May 1st.  We’re pleased that we’ve been able to hold our prices steady for nearly 3 years by absorbing cost increases from our suppliers along the way, and our plan is to hold our new prices steady for as long as possible. If you’ve been thinking about purchasing Laptop Lunches, we encourage you to do so before the May 1st change.

GRAB AND GO BENTO: We’re launching a cool new pilot program for our resellers! If you’re a Laptop Lunches retailer, click HERE to learn more!

                

Thanks for your support!


From Your Kitchen to Ours





"Laptop Lunchboxes have been a Godsend for my family. The bento concept has provided a wonderful way to offer a variety of foods on a daily basis, not only for my school aged children, but for my husband as well. Our leftovers no longer get shoved to the back of our fridge, which is a huge bonus. I actually look forward to packing the lunches and getting creative each day."

    -- Susan, Brooklyn, NY   www.littleladieswholunch.com

Food for Thought: Kale


Photo Credit: Melissa Braun

Kale is loaded with vitamins and nutrients. It is low in calorie and high in antioxidants. Similar to broccoli, kale has more fiber and calcium than other vegetables. As a good source of both vitamin K and calcium, kale helps strengthen bones. Vitamin K helps prevent the build up of calcium that can lead to stroke and cardiovascular disease. It's high content of vitamin A helps support the lungs. In addition, a kale-rich diet is beneficial in reducing the risk of a number of cancers.

Kale comes in several varieties with different types of leaves; including curly kale, dinosaur kale and ornamental kale. No matter which type you prefer, kale can easily be added to soups, pastas, green smoothies, sauces or combined with other vegetables. It can be eaten raw in salads, or steamed, sauteed, or baked until crispy.

For more information on kale, visit: www.365daysofkale.com.

Benefits:

  • Excellent Source of Vitamins A, C, and K
  • Rich in Antioxidants
  • Good Source of Calcium
  • Helps Lower Cholesterol
  • Benefits the Heart
  • Protects the Liver
  • Boosts the Health of Bones
  • Promotes Regular Digestion

Photo Credit: Melissa Braun

This Month's Recipes: Kale

Lentil Soup with Kale


Yield: Approximately 8 cups

1. In a large pot, combine oil, onions, garlic, celery, and carrots. Saute until tender.
2. Add the tomatoes and parsley to the pot and cook for 5 more minutes.
3. Add the water/stock, along with the lentils, potatoes, squash, basil and pepper. Bring to boil, reduce heat.
4. Simmer for 45 minutes.
5. Add the kale. Allow to cook for an additional 1/2 hour.
6. Add more liquid if needed.
7. Serve as is, or blend the soup if you prefer a smoother texture.


Simple Kale Saute



Yield: Approximately 2 cups

1. Combine oil, onion, and red pepper in pan. Saute for 5 minutes. Stir occassionally.
2. While onions are cooking, thoroughly rinse the kale leaves. Allow to drain and remove excess moisture with a dry cloth.
3. Chop or rip the kale leaves into 1 or 2 inch pieces. Set aside.
4. Stir the garlic and oregano into the pan with the onions. Cook another 5 minutes.
5. Add kale to pan and cook for a few more minutes, until kale is somewhat tender.

In the Spotlight: Article From PCC Natural Markets
The following article is reprinted with permission of the Sound Consumer, a publication of PCC Natural Markets, Seattle.

Questions About Mexican Organics?
by Lola Milholland

Getting to Know Our Neighboring Nation and Its Farmers

In winter and early spring, while most of our regional farms lie dormant, grocery store produce sections remain well stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables. Much of this vast selection comes from Mexico.

For many shoppers, the Mexican sticker sits like a bold question mark, provoking us with all that we don’t know or understand. How did these fruits and vegetables arrive here? If Mexican produce is labeled organic, how do we know that it is reliably organic? Can we trust that it’s safe to eat? Who produced it, how long ago, and under what conditions?


Anything obscure or unknown can be unsettling, but there are real answers to these questions. The story of the organic sector in Mexico is best told by shining a light on its producers.

What Mexico Grows

Americans may not realize how extensively Mexico contributes to our fruit and vegetable consumption. In 2007, we imported 3.2 million metric tons of vegetables and 1.8 million metric tons of fruit from our southern neighbor.

The organic foods we import from Mexico can be divided into three categories:

  1. tropical products, such as coffee, cacao (chocolate), vanilla, agave, mangoes, bananas and avocados, which are cultivated minimally, if ever, in temperate climates
  2. vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, melons and grapes, which supplement our supply when domestic production slackens
  3. labor-intensive crops, such as sesame seeds

As demand for organic food in the United States expands, Mexico’s certified organic acreage has been growing at a rate of 32 percent per year. A 2009 study found an annual organic production value of more than $370 million with 80 percent destined for export.

Organic Certification and Food Safety

For a food to be sold as certified organic in the United States — whether grown in the United States, in Mexico, or anywhere else in the world — it must meet all the requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program. It must be produced without the use of toxic synthetic pesticides, artificial fertilizers, sewage ludge, genetically modified organisms, or irradiation.

Perhaps most important, it must be certified by a USDA-accredited agency. Certification includes inspection of farm fields and processing facilities, detailed record keeping of what inputs were applied to the land, and, if there’s cause for concern, soil and water testing. Currently, at least 15 organic certification agencies operate in Mexico.

The National Organic Program (NOP) has been enforced since October 2002, when the United States implemented the Organic Food Production Act. In February 2006, the Mexican government published its own Law of Organic Products and is issuing regulations soon.

The credibility of the certified USDA organic label stems from ongoing oversight that can and has penalized lawbreakers. On-farm audits and regular border inspections are vital components of organic certification and food safety testing.

“Sometimes I get the feeling that people don’t know that the National Organic Program exists,” says Alejandro Madrigal. Madrigal works for Covilli, an organic farm his family runs in Sonora State, just south of the U.S. border. Covilli grows produce from mid-November through May, including green beans, Brussels sprouts, eggplants, hot peppers, melons and more, all for export.

Madrigal tells me about a visit he took to a food co-op in southern Oregon several summers ago. When he asked customers for their questions, one woman asked point blank, “Do Mexican growers really use human feces?”

“I blushed,” recalls Madrigal, reliving the experience. “I was surprised that people don’t seem to realize that we are subject to the same regulations.”

Covilli has taken food safety precautions very seriously. The farm is certified organic and for food safety by Primus Labs, a company based in Santa Maria, Calif., with offices throughout North and South America. It conducts microbiological testing for E.coli and salmonella and chemical testing for pesticides.

Joe Hardiman, PCC’s produce buyer, says, “I would have surgery in one of their warehouses. It’s that anatomically clean.”

The USDA has begun more regular and extensive testing at border inspections to combat food safety threats. Most Mexican produce travels to the United States via truck and when a truck is set aside for scrutiny, “you can’t move the product until the lab results return,” which can take days, Madrigal explains. If you have something perishable, such as basil or ripe tomatoes sitting in the heat, the delay can be ruinous. There is significant economic incentive for cleanliness and clear documentation of a product’s origins and chain of custody.

“We work with outfits that have been in business for many years, so they’re not ‘fly-by-night.’ We have a high degree of confidence in them and they’re scrutinized under good certification programs,” states David Lively, co-founder and marketing director of Organically Grown Company (OGC), the Northwest’s largest distributor of fresh organic produce, headquartered in Eugene, Oregon.

OGC sources from Mexican producers, including Covilli, to augment its supply and satisfy customer demand. “As a company very committed to supporting our regional agricultural economy, we always will carry a local source when available. As winter comes, we follow produce down to Mexico and then back up,” says Josh Spoden, longtime OGC purchaser.

Who is Farming?

Mexico is estimated to have more than 110,000 organic farmers, considered the greatest number in any country of the world. More than 90 percent farm on less than 9 acres and sell their products collectively. On the other end of the spectrum are large, private producers who farm 250 to 5,000 acres.

An inspiring example of the former is Del Cabo Cooperative, formed in 1987 when two organic farmers from northern California, Larry Jacobs and Sandra Belin, were traveling through Baja, Mexico and came face-to-face with struggling subsistence farmers. The first year,

Jacobs struggled to convince just nine farmers to begin the transition to organic production. He offered training in organic growing, harvesting and handling, as well as startup funds. He also developed a distribution channel and marketing program for the products.

Twenty-three years later, the co-op includes roughly 400 members, who make on average $21,000 a year and receive health insurance. Del Cabo’s claim to fame is its flavorful cherry tomatoes and basil, both featured at PCC. All the farms are certified organic by Oregon Tilth and tested for food safety by Primus.

Lively recalls attending a retreat hosted by Del Cabo that brought together Mexican growers and packers with U.S. distributors, marketers and buyers. “We had roundtables and they asked us, ‘What’s your vision for the future of Del Cabo?’

I remember a group of growers had this cardboard box and paint and glue and glitter, and they built a rocket ship taking their produce to Mars.” He chortles at the memory but becomes serious again. “There are real people living down there and we have an opportunity to support them.”

The majority of Mexico’s organic farmers grow for the export market out of necessity. Many farmers have expressed their frustration at the lack of domestic demand for their products, which stems from minimal consumer education and awareness of the higher price. Nonetheless, Lively recalls that the growers he has met convey great pride in what they do and thankfulness for the opportunity.

These stories expose a rarely considered twist: By importing food from Mexican growers who receive a living wage, such as those who sell products recognized as “fair trade,” we’re empowering farmers to remain in their own communities rather than leave home seeking employment. In the United States, at every link in the agricultural chain — from farm to processor to restaurant backend — labor often comes from Mexico.

The USDA reports that more than half the hired workers employed by U.S. produce growers are believed to be unauthorized immigrants. Del Cabo offers its members economic sustenance at home. The increase in certified organic acreage in Mexico also means a safer environment, free of persistent, toxic chemicals for workers, families and children living nearby, as well as a roster of organic seeds relevant to their climate.

Sustainable Imports

Resource use in agriculture is a difficult issue that dredges up many factors, from transportation to chemical inputs on non-organic farms to the energy use of greenhouses. Does Mexican produce have a bigger “carbon footprint”? There is no single answer, unless we choose a very specific point of comparison.

There’s an easy case to be made for Mexican avocados. In the United States, avocados are grown in arid areas, and growing them requires a great deal of water.

“In Mexico, avocados are grown in areas where avocados want to grow,” says Cindy Richter of Pacific Organic Produce, a broker for fruit tree growers. In Michoacán, which exports 90 percent of all avocados from Mexico, only about half the avocado orchards even have irrigation systems because of the abundant rainfall, making them far less resource depleting. Pacific Organic sources from Global Frut, run by the Rivas brothers who coordinate almost a hundred organic growers. “Mexican avocados just can’t be beat,” Richter exclaims.

Not all choices are as straightforward to untangle. Definitely, eating with the seasons and supporting local organic farmers benefits the health of our Pacific Northwest economy, culture and environment. We also hope that shoppers wouldn’t insist on raspberries in January or asparagus in October, despite ample supplies from Mexico.

But anyone who drinks coffee, eats bananas, or wants to cook with a fresh pepper in January knows that food choices are messy, and hunger cannot be choreographed. We are empowered to play an active role in selecting who we support.

If we follow our gut, we might discover that, more than anything, we want the opportunity to look from the produce aisle to the producers themselves, whether they sit near our backdoor or on the other side of a national border.

PCC Natural Markets began as a food-buying club of 15 families in 1953. Today, it's the largest consumer-owned natural food retail co-operative in the United States. PCC has nine stores in the Puget Sound region of the state of Washington.

PCC Natural Markets values their commitments to:

  • Preserving High-Quality Food Standards
  • Celebrating Food
  • Educating Consumers
  • Embracing Sustainability
  • Building Community

To learn more about PCC Natural Markets, visit: www.pccnaturalmarkets.com

Lola Milholland lives and works in Portland, Ore.

In the News

Mom Cooks Gluten Free

How To Pack a Healthy Lunchbox, Parts 1 & 2

"Back to School" season is already in full swing and one of the most talked about challenges is "how to pack a healthy lunch box." I hear it at work, sitting on the sidelines of soccer games and at school. Add in the "green" theme (at least in our neck of the woods) and it presents a higher degree of difficulty. Some days it is hard enough just to get healthy items in their lunch, let alone leaving out disposable (but not biodegradable) plastic bags and brown paper sacks. Please note that the green bean container above comes with a lid, so if you want to pack hummus, spaghetti, apple sauce, etc., you can! To read the postings, visit http://momcooksglutenfree.blogspot.com/2010_09_01_archive.html.

Albuquerque Journal - Fit

Laptop Lunches Help You Pack It Up

I’ve been bringing my lunch to work for a while now and feeling that, somehow, the grocery bag and plastic snack bags filled with various items are a) not visually appealing and b) not very eco-friendly.

Enter Laptop Lunches. Two moms created this system of practical food containers that promote better nutrition and waste reduction.

The company sent me a “Casual Lunch Date,” which is a bento box system inside a small tote. The tote has room for the bento box (in a thermal sleeve) and a small insulated drink container. It’s perfect.

I love the individual food containers. The system makes it easy to pack leftovers in convenient, portion-controlled containers. To read the full article, visit: www.abqjournalfit.com/2011/03/13/laptop-lunches-help-you-pack-it-up


EcoFare

Back to School with Laptop Lunches!

Ah, the Fall. Surrounded by the beauty of colors changing around us, the summer harvest begins…and the sense of panic that the kids need to be ready for their first day of school.

And these days we are always seeking environmentally friendly alternatives. Back to school should be no different. So, do your thing! Get those supplies; the new backpack, the reusable water bottle, some new shoes and rejoice that your lunchbox doesn’t have to be a sack.

Laptop Lunches to the rescue. They have created a wonderful, washable, reusable bento-box style system that eliminates waste (plastic baggies, etc.). We are in our second year of using ours. We even used it daily during summer camp. Coupled with our beautiful (and machine-washable) Happikins we feel like its been a fabulous solution for us. To read the entire posting, visit: www.myfirstorganics.com/ecofare/?p=612.


Green Opportunities

EARTH DAY 2011: A BILLION ACTS OF GREENA Billion Acts of Green® is the theme for Earth Day 2011. It demonstrates the kind of environmental impact that can be made when millions of people, corporations and organizations make commitments, both small and large, to better their environment. The goal is to register one billion actions in advance of the global Earth Summit in Rio in 2012. To learn more, visit: www.earthday.org/earth-day-2011 or visit: http://act.earthday.org to register your act of green.


100 WAYS TO SAVE WATER – Interested in learning how to save water? Here's a Web page with 100 tips on conserving water. To check out the list, visit: http://wateruseitwisely.com/100-ways-to-conserve/index.php. They also have a daily water saving widget that can be added to your Web site.


BIG GREEN COOKBOOK – Jackie Nugent, RD has created a climate-conscious cookbook with 200 environmentally-friendly recipes and lots of green tips, along with low carbon cooking techniques. In the Big Green Cookbook, Jackie shows us how to prepare meals that maximize flavor while minimizing the environmental impact. To find out more, visit: http://biggreencookbook.com.

Featured Web Site: Mother Nature Network

Mother Nature Network has a mission to "Improve Your World." Just as your world encompasses many different aspects—your family, your health, your lifestyle, your business, your community…AND your planet—so too does MNN.

With a goal of providing the most accurate and up-to-date news and information available, they cover the broadest scope of environmental and social responsibility issues on the internet. And, they do so in a way that is engaging and easy-to-understand. As opposed to scientists, activists or experts—MNN is designed for the rest of us—everyday people who simply want to make our world better.

The content at MNN is divided into 8 different categories—each offering in-depth news and information updated throughout the day: Earth Matters, Lifestyle, Green Tech, Eco-Biz, Transportation, Your Home, Food, and Family.

To find out more, visit www.mnn.com.

Special Features On This Site:
  • In-Depth News
  • The Daily Briefing
  • Eco-Glossary
  • Ask Mother Nature
  • Translating Uncle Sam
  • State Reports
  • Featured Bloggers
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Contact Us

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

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© April 2011 Obentec, Inc.

500 Chestnut Street, Suite 250
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831-457-0301

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