Dinosaur Bento Box
The boys in my little girl’s pre-K class evidently have some strong opinions. She is forever lamenting that they think she wears too much pink, she likes cats too much, and her lunches are too weird.
It was seriously bumming her out.
Most of her lunches are super girly, but this one is great for boys, too. And apparently, it made the cut with the boys in her class because she happily told me that they wanted one, too.
It seems fussy, but if you omit spelling out “dinosaur” with mini-cookie cutters and cheese, then this comes together in just a few minutes. It’s really simple.
You can substitute a regular hard boiled egg, but if you can find these guys at your farmers’ market, you can make lunch time magic. When I asked my favorite farmer at our market for some eggs, he said they were out of chicken eggs and would I like to try quail eggs?
Quail eggs? Why not?
They’re basically the same as chicken eggs, just tiny and in adorably speckled shells. They just seem like little dinosaurs ready to hatch. I boiled all of them while I was making dinner one night (just half the time as regular chicken eggs) and kept them in the fridge for simple lunches.
Besides the quail eggs, you’ll need some greens for the “nest.” I used some torn spinach. Kiwi seemed fun and dinosaur looking – I’m not sure why this is but my daughter agrees with me – so I peeled one with a vegetable peeler and sliced it up.
I put some pomegranate seeds in the smallest compartment, store-bought carrot “chips,” Single Serving Greek yogurt dip that you can make in seconds, a strip of cheese for “DINOSAUR.”
But the dinosaur? That’s the fun part. It’s super easy – you just have to use short grain rice. Regular long grain rice won’t stick together, but short grain (also called sushi rice) sticks together naturally, which means when you pack it down in a cookie cutter, it’ll hold the shape.
I have a rice cooker, so I set it to cook the rice overnight. I wake up to fully cooked, warm rice that’s ready to be packed. When you set the rice cooker the night before, take a second and peel and grate a small beet (be sure to use the smallest side of your grater). Stir the beet into the cooked rice, pack it into a dinosaur cookie cutter, and pop that into the lunchbox. I decorated it with a few frozen peas, some tiny basil leaves from a plant I had in the kitchen, and nori seaweed for the face. But this looks cute on its own, so don’t feel like you have to decorate it.
Dinosaur Bento Box
Vibrant, healthy, and a guaranteed way to get roars of approval!
1/4 c + 1/8 c short grain rice
1/2 c. + 2 T. water
1 small beet, peeled and finely grated
optional decorations: peas, little basil leaves, nori seaweed* and nori seaweed smiley face punches
1 hard boiled egg (or 2 hard boiled quail eggs)**
a few spinach leaves
1 strip of mozzarella cheese
a few carrot "chips" (or baby carrots)
1 recipe Single Serving Greek yogurt dip (seriously simple)
a few pomegranate seeds
dinosaur cookie cutter
mini-alphabet cookie cutters
- Rinse your rice and toss it in your rice cooker with water the night before. Peel and finely grate the beet.
- In the morning, stir the beet into the cooked, hot rice. Let it sit for a minute to cool enough to handle and let the color saturate the rice.
- Grab a vegetable peeler and peel the hairy skin off your kiwi. Slice it up.
- Stir the Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, and Greek seasoning into a dip container (see link above for measurements). Toss some carrot chips into a silicone muffin liner.
- Get a dinosaur cookie cutter and pack the rice into it, pressing down as much as you can. Pop the rice out of the cookie cutter. Decorate your dinosaur if you want.
- Lay some spinach into a compartment and put the cooled hard boiled egg(s) on top to make a nest.
- Cut the word "DINOSAUR" out of the cheese with mini-alphabet cookie cutters. (If you omit this step, this lunch can be prepared much faster).
- Put some pomegranate seeds (or another dinosaur approved treat) in the middle compartment.
*Nori seaweed might sound weird, but it's a bland, black seaweed - the kind that's wrapped in sushi. You can find it at an Asian market, a health food store, or a well-stocked grocery store.
**I make a bunch of hard boiled eggs early in the week so I have them for breakfasts and lunches.
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