I've been feeling inspired and amazed lately by some of the wonderful Japanese bento blogs out there, like Bento Corner and Cooking Cute (wow!). What a different state the West would be in if we more closely emulated the Japanese diet, rich in vegetables, soy, and rice, and emphasizing variety (look at the array of vegetables even a three-year-old gets in his itty-bitty bento!)
In my Japanese-inspired lunch box are rice shapes made with molds I picked up at the Bento TV shop. Regular paper punches are used to make these cute nori seaweed designs.
Tamago yaki (Japanese omelet) is a common addition to the Japanese bento box, so I wanted a vegan version. I started with Bryanna's Tofu Omelet (scroll down), added soy sauce and sugar, and sprinkled the top with swiss chard that had been cooked, squeezed dry, and chopped (you could also use crumbled ajitsuke-nori, spring onions, or other cooked greens). I baked the omelets in small squares, let them cool, then carefully rolled and cut them.
To finish the lunch I packed cherry tomatoes, cooked carrots cut into little flowers, and some of my niece's baby apples. (Explanation: My 2 yo niece is the pickiest eater I've ever met. Ever. She refuses most foods but likes apples. She shook her head and turned away from grapes until sneaky grandma told her they were "baby apples". "Bayee apples? Oooh!" She ate a whole bunch.)
Verdict: Shmoo's favorite part of this lunch? The carrots, he said, were particularly tasty. He picked off the chard but liked the tofu tamago yaki, and now wants to know if he can eat every meal with a little platic toothpick. 4 stars.