How to liven up lunchtime in the office


Made In the Office - tasty meals in the office kitchen


I really liked the premise of this book, Made in the Office, as there are many days when a sandwich at lunch in the office is really not very inspiring. This is all about how to step it up a gear with just a kettle, a toaster and a microwave, which I think most offices can run to.

Now, the breakfasts are lots of versions of porridge, but most of these sound better than the sachet stuff that goes in the microwaves at our office. The thought of trying eggs florentine at work is interesting, but I might give it a go at home first.


Easy eggs florentine in the office

I like the sound of the lunches, although some of them sound like they’d have people tutting in the microwave queue as they take a little while. I mean, 6 minutes for quinoa and then another 1 minute, and there’s going to be a bit of eye rolling going on. And cooking salmon in the microwave in the office is a little unsociable I think, but other than that things like a burrito bowl with chicken, feta and sweetcorn sound amazing.


Salmon on Asian Slaw


Covering breakfast, light and more substantial lunches as well as some snacks to keep you going, this is a lovely little book. I think it makes a great gift because it’s just a bit different as a theme for a cookbook, but a situation that many of us can relate to. Written by Rachel Maylor and published by Frances Lincoln, this is currently £12.08 on Amazon.


The Friday Five – pack some excitement into packed lunches


So the countdown is really on for all schools to be back (apologies to Scottish readers, I know, your kids have been back for weeks already). This week I’ve featured lunch boxes already, but you’re going to need good stuff to go inside them. It’s really easy to fall into a rut with packed lunches, which, like most things, is when they get dull and unappealing.

The ideas in these books are definitely neither of those!


Yum Yum Bento Box

Yum Yum Bento Box – let’s face it, the Japanese are masters at this, and I’ve loved my trips to Asia where I’ve come across all kinds of gadgets to make these kind of lunches. I’m not suggesting that many of us have time to do these every day, but they’re certainly fun, and would cause plenty of conversation at lunch. I’m quite fancying rice chickens for Monday though!


The Best Homemade Kids' Lunches on the Planet


The Best Homemade Kids’ Lunches on the Planet – well, it’s quite a title to live up to! Plenty of suggestions, and even ideas if your kid needs gluten, soy or nut free. But with 200 recipes that should see you through the next school year!


Funky lunch - Happy food for happy children

Funky Lunch – this is probably a more British version of the bento ideas, as it’s more based on having fun with sandwiches than messing around with rice. I could see this being more accessible to most of us on a more regular basis (I mean am I the only one who made houses from luncheon meat as a kid? Surely not?). Who doesn’t want a smiling giraffe sandwich in their lunchbox?


Mason Jar Salads


Mason Jar Salads and More – I think it’s optional for it to be a Mason jar, and possibly not a good idea for young kids, but if it’s more about your lunch then this has some really appealing ideas for something a bit more interesting. Let’s face it, a damp lettuce leaf isn’t interesting at home, it’s certainly not going to be after hanging around your lunchbox for a few hours.


Just Bento Cookbook


The Just Bento Cookbook – this is bento for grown ups, and is more about healthy combinations than cute rice concoctions. This is definitely about making stuff that’s “healthy” interesting and flavoursome, and then presenting it in ways that look enticing, without too much faff!


So, let’s make this term about something more than a cheese and pickle sandwich and a packet of crisps! If you’ve got a new lunchbox it deserves better!


Back to school time – lunch boxes for everyone


I’m sure debates will rage again about school meals versus packed lunches as the school year restarts. If they’re good, then personally I think they’re worth having. In our house, MGG has school lunches, and I try to take my own lunch as often as possible, so we have a variety of lunch boxes going on!

My favourite, particularly if I’m making some form of salad is the Smash Nude Food Movers Meal Box. I love that it has its own little pot for dressing, although the built in fork is not that useful. It has a vent in for using it in the microwave, but I have to admit I’ve never used mine in the microwave.


smash food movers


I also really like the Sistema Breakfast to Go Container. I have used it for breakfast, or maybe to carry fruit and yogurt, or you could even have things like rice in the base and a curry in the top and reheat it.


Sistema Breakfast to go


If I was thinking of a new lunchbox for my own “back to school” then I am quite keen on the Black+Blum Box Appetit, with its own carrying bag which converts into a mat. Given that lunch is eaten at my desk 90% of the time, then I think this is a great idea, not to mention it’s all very neat and tidy. Again, this has an inbuilt sauce pot, which I love, not to mention a sauce dipping area. Perfect.


Black+Blum Box


I think like anything, lack of variety can be what gives packed lunches a bad name, so having a lunch box that means you can fit in more than just a round of sandwiches has to be a good thing. This kit not only has a bag and an ice pack, but sizes of box that allow for a variety of things to be packed up. There’s lots of good things on the Becky & Lolo site, worth a look.


lunch box kit


So, get ready, the morning ritual is about to return! Organisation, and inspiration, seem to make it a lot easier to cope with.


Need a new lunchbag?


Then I think these are the most stylish I’ve seen in a long time. From a Norwegian company, the Compleat range has some great looking lunchbags and boxes, but with great practical application too.

The Foodbag is made of food grade silicone, and can go straight in the microwave and then dishwasher, plus once it’s empty it folds down really small. Perfect if you’re commuting and always have too much stuff.


Foodbag from Compleat - a very neat solution to lunchtime

This one is available in the UK already, currently exclusively at Harvey Nichols at just £9.95.

I also really liked the Foodbook, probably the slimmest lunchbox ever, but perfect for slipping into your computer bag. Though not great if you like big doorstep sandwiches!



And for kids I love this one, as you can slip an anti bac wipe under the clip, and write a message to remember to use it, or anything else you like. Worth a go!




The team were hoping to get further UK distribution, and I hope they do as I thought these were really interesting, well designed lines. You can order from their website, which is priced in Euros, but has a deal at the moment of buy 3 lines and shipping is free, so worth a look.


What I’m thinking of from Cox & Cox


I love Cox & Cox, I may well have mentioned it once or twice before. So I always enjoy it when their new catalogue arrives, and this is what I’m thinking could make good foodie gift choices for this season.


EAT Red Metal Letters – in case anyone didn’t know what a kitchen was really all about! Great decoration for the heart of the home.

Glass cake stand – of course, I don’t really need another cake stand. But when did need ever come into it?

Glass Bird Pitcher – I do need one of these. I mean it’s a fairly poor show when you’re mixing Pimms in a plastic jug!

A-Z Insulated Lunch Bag – I’ve been converted to taking my own lunch to work this year, part of our austerity measures, but actually delivering much more on the taste front. If you’re going to take lunch then you need a proper lunch bag, and this is a nice bright one, not one that you’re going to misplace in a hurry!

Heart Chalk Board Clips – these are great for table settings, or for using on jugs of drinks or different dishes if you’re having a get together. And brilliant that you can use them time and time again.

So just five new items that are worth taking a look at, as you start thinking about gifts you might need as we move into the festive season. Worth keeping an eye on their website for new stuff coming too.


Take your own


Take your own lunch and keep all kinds of New Year's resolutions


It’s that time of year when many might make resolutions, some will even keep them for longer than 24 hours. One resolution that I think should be easier to keep is taking your own lunch to work.

Why? Well, you could have many different reasons to do so, or multiple reasons, which possibly might make it easier to keep. So, if you want to lose weight, it’s easier to avoid temptation if you’ve taken everything you need with you. If you want to eat more healthily, you can be sure what’s gone into your lunch. Or if you’re just being more frugal then you’re going to get a lot more lunch for a lot less cash.

I have two things that I love for making taking my lunch easier. The first is new: a very beautiful insulated lunch tote that BFF gave me. Roomy, made from neoprene so good for keeping cool, funky design, I love it.

And it’s big enough to hold my little flask. I love this flask, perfect for enough soup for lunchtime, and will never forget the spoon as it clips into the top. And because it’s a wide mouth, then I’m not just limited to soup. I’ve taken daal and pasta as well as some great homemade soup. Just because it’s a packed lunch doesn’t mean flavour can’t rule, so I also drop in a little container for additional flavours, like soured cream for my beetroot soup, or spiced yoghurt for the daal.

Then I just need a decent water bottle to do away with any attempt to buy bottled water. Or to do away with plain water, as I am rather fond of mixing it up with a Belvoir Cordial, especially ginger at the moment.

So, make your packed lunch interesting for many reasons, and support  many resolutions. And is there any better gift for a foodie than making sure they have great taste with them, even stuck at their desk?


The Friday Five – bring your own


Bring your own lunch. You have to be able to do better than this!

Bit of a frugal theme this week! After yesterday’s helpful tools, we’re moving onto one of those big areas for savings: the packed lunch. But with a bit of planning, imagination and inspiration then you can push memories of those bland clingfilm wrapped sarnies to the back of your mind!

501 Bento Box Lunches: 501 Unique Recipes for Brilliant Bento– whether you’re a beginner or Japanese food enthusiast, then this would give you plenty of inspiration for something very different to a round of sandwiches. Although pork pie bento possibly has less Japanese roots than Melton Mowbray! Get your bento box out and get chopping.

Lunchbox Bible – actually quite tricky to find a lunchbox book aimed at adults rather than kids. This one is a good compromise, and I like that it covers make ahead food and also using up leftovers from the night before. Lets face it, if we’re being frugal there’s going to be a lot of this going on!

Raising the Salad Bar: Beyond Leafy Greens–Inventive Salads with Beans, Whole Grains, Pasta, Chicken, and More by Catherine Walthers – good long title, giving a good range of ingredients that would definitely give you a whole range of different options for lunchtime. Perfect if you’re not big on bread, or even just don’t want bread every day.

Soups + Sides by Catherine Walthers – I don’t know if Catherine never has a proper meal, as this the second of her books I’ve chosen, but I like this as another option for lunch. Sometimes soup is not enough, so a good side order to go from home can make the difference between average lunch and great lunch.

Leon: Ingredients and Recipes by Allegra McEvedy– If I’m in London (and pre my frugal days) then Leon would be my choice of places for a quick but fabulous lunch. I blame Lisa Eldridge, she made me escape there once from a press show, and a new addiction was born! I even lobbied them on Facebook for the return of the sweet potato falafel.  The book gives you the recipes you need to try and create as something as fabulous for your lunch as they would dish up for you. Love it, it will be my bible for new lunches!

So, we might be saving cash, but we’re not cutting back on taste! Get planning and get creative! Fantastic photo of a dull lunch by Luis Del Rosario on Flickr.


More than a bookstore


I’m a pretty big fan of Amazon, for bringing so much stuff within reach of our rural location. Yes, I would support my local bookshop, but their inventory is nowhere near this size, and my reading is quite niche.

And Amazon bring all sorts to the door. Except I don’t tend to think of them for anything outside of books,DVDs and CDs. So a bit amazed when looking at what’s in the Kitchen and Dining section. Loving some of these new things!

* Lego Lunch Box – I love these! Really wide age appeal I should think, boys and girls, young and old. As we all settle in for a frugal winter, if you’re going to be taking packed lunches, do it in style!

*Delonghi KG79 Professional Burr Grinder – I think this is just relatively new to Amazon rather than completely new. Still, if you’ve got a caffeine freak or home barista, then they need a decent grinder, because they need to be grinding their own beans.

* James Martin Digital Steamer – I’m not mad keen on excess gadgets in the kitchen, but I guess a steamer is not a bad one, if that’s a style of cooking that you like a lot. Personally, I’ll be sticking with the old fashioned steamer over pan of water approach, but if you love gadgets this may tick the boxes for you. Maybe I need to give one a dry run to see if we use it.

* Philips HD7860/60 SENSEO Quadrante Coffee Pod System – if you don’t want the fuss of all that grinding and tamping, not to mention cleaning, then maybe this is the coffee maker for you. My mum in law has an early version, and it does produce a good crema, and it depends on how richer a pod you buy. I prefer this to the aluminium pod system that’s around, at least you can compost what you use with this! Styling is sleek, results could be more than passable.

* I was never a great fan of Ready Steady Cook, but their new baking range with silicone handles seems like a very practical development.

* I really like Joseph Joseph, and I really like this new worktop saver. The utensils design is great, and the monochrome colour scheme will work for lots of people and colour schemes. 

And here’s one no kitchen/tea drink needs: the toilet mug. Happy shopping!


The Friday Five – the kawaii side of Japanese food

Face Food

I’m feeling a bit jealous as some colleagues have gone off to Tokyo for the week. I am really lucky in that I’ve been three times for work, which means I’ve probably done more high end dining there than if I’d gone under my own steam. But the thing that fascinates me most is the bento box, especially the really kitsch stuff. So much of the Japanese restaurants here do the formal, very beautiful stuff, so I wanted to celebrate the stuff that just makes me smile, if not just laugh out loud!

And who knew how many books there were around this subject? If space were unlimited, I’d have all of these. As it is, I may just try to sneak one of these in! See what you think.

1. Face Food: The Visual Creativity of Japanese Bento Boxes – talk about playing with your food! Show me a kid or an adult who could resist the Frog Party salad! Got a boy who won’t eat his packed lunch? Super Mario to the rescue! Lunchtime may never be the same again.

2. Kawaii Bento Boxes: Cute and Convenient Japanese Meals on the Go– Kawaii means cute, and then a bit more, and is a bit of an obsession in all kinds of things in Japan. And this book really gives a good view on it when applied to the art of the bento box. I particularly love the rice sheep!

3. The Manga Cookbook– we’re definitely in niche territory here, but definitely an interesting one to have on your bookcase. Manga is huge in Japan, and apparently food appears a lot in the comics. Food sounds good, including onigiri (rice balls), yakitori and oshinko (pickled vegetables). Which are all popular with your average Manga character.

Yum Yum Bento Box

4. Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook – I enjoyed nights in an izakaya more than many of the meals I had, just as it was bit more relaxed, and felt more real than eating beautifully prepared sushi and sashimi in private dining rooms. This is great for a more relaxed style of Japanese cooking, but don’t think presentation goes out the window, far from it!

5. Yum-Yum Bento Box– I know, I’ve featured Face Food and Kawaii Bento Boxes, but this one is just so cute as well, it’s hard to pick between them! Smiley mushrooms, pig sandwiches, chickens made from rice, frogs made from rice…well, at least that’s a new use for the leftover rice!

So explore the fun side of Japanese food, especially if you have kids. These are the sorts of books that will really get kids excited about food, from choosing it to preparing it and then really tucking it and enjoying it. Or just surprise them with a very different lunchbox one day! Can you imagine their faces? Fantastic!

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