Thursday, April 23, 2015

Fave Lunchbox - Yumbox Panino

I've tried basic plastic tupperware, some disposable, some not. I've tried Lunchbots, Planetbox, GoodBin, Rubbermaid as well as various cute asian bento boxes and realize that there is no perfect lunchbox. That said, my fave so far is the Yumbox Panino. In a perfect world, I'd make a few tweaks but for now, I'll take it!  Here's why:

There are 4 sections. I put the main food item in the large square compartment. In the 2 medium sized ones, I put fruit and vegetables, and the circle in the middle is great for condiments/dip or a small treat. I adore all the cute bentos you see online with cute rice shapes, cute toothpicks, and cut out food but I don't have the time nor the skill level required. Kids with those moms are so lucky! With the Yumbox, you don't have to do anything fancy. Just fill it and it looks attractive and appetizing, as is.

You don't need 3 or 4 different containers with 3 or 4 different lids. Matching up the lids, washing all the pieces, having all the lids fall through the dishwasher cracks, storing all the containers, picking out the right container for each food item...such a pain! And picture your child at school opening them all...chances of spillage are high and chances the teachers are annoyed each time they have to open a container...haha. It's just 1 container to store and 2 parts (outer box & removable tray) to wash either by hand or in the dishwasher. Done.

It is too limiting for me to pack foods that will not leak. What about hummus, salad dressing, ketchup, yogurt, applesauce, and even soy sauce! Lots of other kinds of food gets a little drippy, even fruit. I suppose you can always buy additional leakproof containers but then you end up with all the annoyances I mention above, not to mention the additional cost. The original Yumbox had thicker walls and an imperfect seal. I found some food seeping into other sections. The newer models have fixed this and seem to maximize the food storage space as well. They also now have slits on the silicone interior of the cover. The thin walls slide snugly in to create the awesome seal. This awesome seal also keeps the wet items away from the dry ones. The dry foods stay dry and don't get soggy...crackers, nuggets, what have you.

It's bright, colorful, all neat & pretty. It's easy for kids to open without help from teachers, and it's fun for them to eat, lunchables style. Ever since I started using the Yumboxes for all three of my kids, there is much less food coming back home. Most days, 2 of the 3 bring home near empty boxes and my picky one has been leaving much less.

You don't need plastic baggies, plastic wrap, or a slew of containers. Less waste and cost. You don't need to buy pricier snack sized, individually packaged foods. Instead, you can put your raisins, yogurt, applesauce, or fruit directly into a compartment.

It's compact and light, but not flimsy. It doesn't take up a huge amount of space when open on crowded school lunch tables. I also know that if I fill the Yumboxes, that's generally the right amount of food for my kids. Sometimes I'll throw in a banana, granola bar or frozen yogurt. Before, my portions were not as consistent and a lot of time I overpacked. Now there is much less waste.

Form & function. What else can you ask for?
Although I do not recommend microwaving food in plastic, if you purchased your Yumbox after May 1, 2013, the tray, not outer box, is microwave safe. It is BPA and phthalates-free.

Solid customer service makes the world of difference these days. I found out after the fact, that Yumbox would have replaced a broken latch on an older, used box I tried. They also offered my "Lunchbox Ideas" Facebook group a helpful discount, no questions asked. Love them.

And why the Yumbox Panino over the regular 6 compartment Yumbox?

I think the 4 compartment Panino is much more flexible for a variety of foods. A friend gave me an older original model which I used almost everyday for months. I found it hard to fit certain foods into the small spaces and it didn't maximize the amount of food I could put in the box - nuggets, sandwiches, quesadillas, etc. Also, after packing 3 or 4 items, I felt the need to put more variety but didn't have anything else to pack which stressed me out. If you have more than 4 items to pack, I just pack a few together in the large space. If I need more compartments on some days, I just use silicone baking cups.

A mom from our Lunchbox Ideas group just informed me that if you do not prefer illustrations on the tray, you can purchase a blank tray & outer box separately from the mix & match section of the yumbox site for only $0.50 more. Just be sure you're getting the right tray for the right outer box.

Please share your thoughts on the Yumbox or any other favorite lunchbox of yours. I'd love to hear your opinions.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Spiralizer

As badly as I want to try out my new sous vide, my fridge is full so I've been holding myself back from going grocery shopping. But being sick is boring! So I decided to try this out instead. Sorry kids! You can have a turn next time!

Now that my youngest is in school a few mornings a week, I've been trying to finally do all the things I've (im)patiently been waiting to do. One of the projects on my list is to eat and cook healthier foods for myself and my family. I've never been your typical "skinny Asian girl" and the main reason is probably because I've always eaten everything I've ever wanted...literally, everything. Portion control, what? Literally, the best I've ever looked, and the most confident I've ever been, was each of the three times I was pregnant, ha! And we all know that women's bodies are not the same after having kids and also with age. So began my little journey towards a healthier lifestyle and this is just one of many steps I'm taking.

I stumbled across this "spiralizer" on the Nom Nom Paleo site. As many times as I've considered getting a Vitamix, I'm usually not too into kitchen gadgets. But this was not an expensive purchase and I really knew I would use this. I love Italian and I also love noodles and pasta. I've lowered my carb intake before but missed the yummy marinara sauces, Rao's being my fave. This was my answer.

Paderno Spiral Slicer

The main reasons why I love this is:
1. added nutrition
2. low carbs & calories
3. quicker cooking time
4. fun for kids

I've been trying to get the kids more and more involved in food decision making, as well as prepping and cooking meals. Getting kids involved with the everyday really does something to their little brains. It's like magic. Suddenly, they're excited to eat new foods, they think everything tastes so good, they think I'm the best cook, and having taken part of it all builds their confidence. I'll take those things any day!

If you want to know more, this chick Ali is the spiralizer guru and goes into the details of all the benefits here.

Getting back to actually using it...
It was very easy to put together, use and clean up. It worked exactly the way I expected with no unexpected glitches.

I was planning on cooking these "noodles" in a pan with a little bit of cooking oil but having no energy, I covered the bowl and threw them in the microwave for a little under 2 minutes. I had leftover sauce and threw some spicy mango & jalapeno chicken meatballs in (Aidells, can be found at Costco) and a few minutes later had this yummy little snack. (Yes, my snacks are mini meals.)

I literally inhaled it. Part of me was expecting it to taste too "healthy" but it was so yummy! And an unexpected plus was that I could use chopsticks! I don't use forks unless there are no chopsticks around.

I was surprised that Bed Bath didn't carry this. If you have a 20% off any item promo code at Williams Sonoma, get one there. Otherwise, Amazon seems to have a better regular price. If you happen to get one there, please use my affiliate link. I get a few pennies and it's no additional cost to you.

There are lots of other veggies and recipes I'm going to try from Ali's site. Take a peek if you're curious. For me, the next step is to make this for the hubs to see his thoughts. Will let you know!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Healthier Eating Step No. 1 - Fruits & Veggies

This post is dedicated to my friend Sonia Chun. I remember when I was shopping for you and thought to myself, "I know Phil loves his potatoes but do they really have to be organic?" You sparked my curiosity and now my family is eating a little bit healthier. You make me want to pray more, too. Thank you!

I've heard that we don't need to buy everything organic. But how the heck are we supposed to know what to buy and what not to buy? Here are some basic guidelines from the EWG (Environmental Working Group), the latest "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" list.

I used to have three grocery lists - Shoprite, Costco, and HMart (major korean supermarket chain). I was avoiding a fourth for so long because of cost but now my priorities have shifted a bit and I now have a WFoods/TraderJoe's list. The Dirty Dozen fruits & veggies now go here. When I see the non-organic dirty dozen with cheaper prices and looking fresh and yummy, I do get tempted. Who wants to go to another store in the middle of our busy days? But then I think back to this video and keep on walking down the aisle. If time and money is really a concern, I just opt for a less pesticide ridden option on the Clean Fifteen list. 

The full list of 50 or so fruits & veggies can be found here.

Update: I want to note that list is not perfect. From what I've read, the EWG bases this list on (1) the number of pesticide residues found (2) the percentage of samples with pesticide residues, and (3) the total amount of pesticides detected. It does not take into account how toxic the pesticides are nor the toxic organic pesticides used on organic fruits & veggies. Are you surprised that there is no simple straight forward answer? Course not.

In an ideal world, we would all just grow our own fruits and vegetables. I do want to start a small garden sometime in the near future. Plus, it's so much yummier. Or we would shop only at local farms where we could ask farmers what kinds of pest control and chemicals they use. Anytime we can do this, great! But realistically, our options are:

(1) blindly just eat what's cheap and easy with no concern for our health - But we're past that already, yes?
(2) buy everything organic - Then I've at least eliminated the synthetic pesticides, right? I wish I could afford to do this but I can't. And I need to still save to buy organic meats!
(3) just stick to this EWG list as a guideline

It's about progress, people, not perfection. And what's most important is eating more fruits & veggies overall. Let's just keep trying new recipes and including more nutritious foods into our daily.

Oh and there are also many Asian fruits and vegetables that aren't even included in this list. Again, I'm aiming for improvements and realistic, doable changes. So for now, I will continue to buy my bean sprouts and Korean melons from HMart and get my organic dirty dozen from Whole Foods or wherever else I can find them.

Why I (Finally) Decided to Make Some Changes To What We Eat

I know a few people who are health food crazies. Honestly, I don't think many of them know why they eat what they eat so I see most of "them" simply as trend followers. Koreans are notorious for this and I actually find it rather annoying. Why would you do something when you don't even know why you're doing it? Of course everyone knows we should all eat healthier but why? I've always enjoyed food and generally thought healthy eating wasn't ever going to taste as good. So why become one of "them"? I'm the kind of person who needs facts and numbers to be convinced of most things. Not that I ever went looking but no one ever really told me the details as to why eating healthier is important.

I've seen snippets of different food documentaries and have overheard my Whole Foods employed sister mention a few things but nothing clicked until I came across this video.

I have three children with peanut and tree nut allergies and one of them also has an egg allergy. Sadly to say, many of my friends have little ones with some sort of food allergy. I've also been praying for friends and their family members with different illnesses including cancer. So naturally, a switch flipped in my head and I decided I needed to start looking into all this and make some changes for my family's sake.

Now, where to begin...
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