I really liked the stainless steel bento box; every one we had. “Had” because each of them has met an unpleasant end. Turns-out, if your backpack is unzipped and your metal box bounces down the stairwell, the lid is not going to fit correctly anymore; and, even with your name painted on the bottom, you can still lose it. This year, we have new  Food Boxes.

So far they are working-out pretty well. (I have my fingers crossed as I write this) The new box is from a Camp Outfitter. The box is ridged plastic – the microwavable type, though I never put ANY plastic in a microwave oven.

The ‘microwavable” distinction is important because all the really bad chemicals that turn up in plastic are not used in microwavable containers. It’s made of Polypropylene. It’s BPA-free and completely recyclable. The cost is under $10 – good, because without a gps chip, it can become permanently lost, and replacing it will be far less most bento boxes.

At 5″x 2″x 6.2″, I wish it were just a little larger. Cascadian makes a larger box (6.2″x 3″x 7.8″) – but at nearly 8″ long, I think I’d find it too large.

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My family does not participate in the school lunch program. This does not mean that the foods served at our school don’t matter much to me – they do. My children are members of a school community, the students in their school are their playmates and friends; at times their confidants and supporters. We care very much.

I believe the new federal guidelines have improved the quality and variety of foods served in our elementary school. My kids told me about the fruit and vegetable bar, and I was eager to see it for myself. On the day I visited, the fruit was canned and not optional, vegetables were available from the “bar”. While the container of chick peas appeared untouched, I was pleased to see the tossed lettuce salad was popular. Not surprising to me, the container of broccoli “trees” was nearly empty. Yay!

Yes, at James Monroe Elementary the new food is appreciated by parents and kids. I was interested to know how other communities feel about the changes and found that not everyone is as pleased as I am. Complaints include the meals are too small, and some entrees are not well liked. I think the upside is that kids have options; they can load-up on fruits and/or veggies from the self-serve bar.

So it seems I’m a defender. I hope everyone can keep in mind that the program is new. It is entirely possible that feedback – both positive and negative will be reflected in the 2013/2014 program.

Have you noticed changes in your school’s lunch program? Would you like to share your observations? Please leave a sentence or two in the comment space. I’m very interested in the opinions of other parents…and kids.

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When the early green beans arrived at our Farmers Market I posted a Tabouli inspired recipe, Green Beans & Bulgar. On this hot Summer day, I’m lacking in green beans, but overloaded with small tomatoes. We’ll have a healthy salad made from bulgar wheat, tomatoes  and basil.

On a seriously hot day, the kind of heat that might send you to a restaurant just to avoid cooking anything, bulgar is a must have pantry staple. Unlike pasta, bulgar (cracked wheat, also Bulgur) does not require cooking. Bulgar is whole wheat. Nothing is added to wheat to produce bulgar. Don’t get me wrong, I like rice and pasta, but bulgar is a terrific no-cook option.

  • 5 cups small tomatoes or tomatoes cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup bulgar wheat (can substitute couscous for bulgar, cooking method is the same)
  • 1/3 cup chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas (optional)
  • 1/3 cup Olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper

If you make this recipe ahead, it’s better. But don’t refrigerate it- never refrigerate tomatoes.

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