Free Lunch (Box) Thursday (and rice with sausage)

Easy lunch box ideas for kids

Rice is a totally underappreciated lunch box item.

It can be healthy. It can be cooked the night before. It can be flavored any way you like. It can be combined with just about anything.

And on days such as today — when the high is going to barely reach 18 F — it can be packed nice and toasty in a thermos.

I generally keep a blend of brown and wild rices on hand. I just go to the bulk section and buy bags of several long and short grain brown rices, a few varieties of wild rices, and whatever else strikes me. When I get home, I dump them all together in a container, then scoop it out and cook it as I would traditional brown rice.

Parker loves it, especially when I sprinkle it with soy sauce (though he’ll also happily eat it plain).

It’s also easy to cook unattended. I generally combine 1 cup of rice with 2 cups of liquid (sometimes water, sometimes broth), bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer. Let it go for 25 minutes, then turn off the heat and let it sit for another 15 to 20 minutes. Done.

We had the rice with chicken and winter squash curry for dinner last night. Sadly, there were no curry leftovers for this morning. So instead I combined the leftover rice with the last of the leftover sausages and a sprinkle of soy sauce.

To round out the lunch, I added a star fruit, some blueberries and a peanut butter-graham cracker sandwich (sprinkled inside with just a hint of sugar).

For today’s lunch box giveaway, I have a very cool — and pretty large — bento box. I really like this design. It’s not one of those dainty boxes, some of which aren’t big enough to feed my cat. This one is about dinner plate size. Parker would totally approve.

So as before, leave a comment. You have until midnight tonight. Parker will pick a winner at breakfast tomorrow. Good luck!

Free lunch box giveaway

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84 Responses to “Free Lunch (Box) Thursday (and rice with sausage)”

  1. Sarah Jelinek says:

    This is a cool box. Can you give us the name of it? I have been looking for this one for a while. Even if I don’t win, I would like to see if I can buy one.

    Thanks for inspiring us with great lunch ideas!

    • J.M Hirsch says:

      My pleasure! I’ll see if I can figure out the company. I didn’t see any name or markings on it.

  2. Amy H says:

    Yum, now I’m craving rice and sausage.

    Sad that your blog comment section and Chrome don’t play nicely together – but I always keep IE handy for just such occassions :)

    • J.M Hirsch says:

      Thanks for letting me know about the Chrome issue. Not sure what’s up. I use Chrome, too. But will check on it. Thanks!

  3. Allison says:

    Love this blog, glad that you’re turning it into a cookbook!

  4. Amy Wytkewicz says:

    Everything always looks so delicious! I especially love the Star Wars themed lunch items from a few months ago. :)

    • J.M Hirsch says:

      Thanks! I loved those, too. But for some reason Parker has totally gone off egg sandwiches (even when they have Star Wars names). Kids! Ugh!

  5. Allison says:

    Cool bento box. Stay warm!

  6. Heather H says:

    I wish my kids would eat rice. They do eat most veggies without issue, tho. I guess I shouldn’t complain. :)

    • J.M Hirsch says:

      Indeed! The veggies are such a big thing. Parker is warming up to them. Watch tomorrow’s post for an awesome new broccoli I did tonight for dinner that he liked.

  7. evey says:

    i love this bento~! and i love rice too :)

  8. Elissa says:

    Just discovered the blog (via NY Times Diners Journal link). I’m still several months away from the lunch-packing grind (thank goodness our day care provides food), but it’s never too soon to start gathering ideas! Plus I’m hoping to do a better job of bringing lunch to work myself this year.

  9. Fran says:

    Cool bento! And it’s freezing here in CT too! Stay warm.

  10. Jennifer P says:

    I wish my husband would eat as diversely as Parker!

  11. Gena says:

    Breakfast fried rice has been a staple in our family since I was a kid, and was a life-saver when my youngest couldn’t eat wheat. You can also slip in chopped spinach & kale=}. With a fried egg on top is how my oldest prefers

  12. Julie says:

    Looks like a great lunch box!

  13. Sandra says:

    Love the colors of this bento box!

    I think I’ll be doing a lot of rice this year. We’re going wheat-free for three months to see if it helps health issues in the family. Rice is a great carb when you can’t have wheat!

  14. Anne says:

    Thanks for all the great lunch ideas!

  15. Far says:

    Ah this is so colourful. I love it!

  16. AllisonA says:

    That is a super cool bento box! My six year old would love it!

  17. Denise S. says:

    Wow, this has inspired me to make rice for dinner!! My 10 year old will be excited…

  18. veronica says:

    Love seeing how you do your son’s lunches. Can’ wait till your new cookbook comes out and we see just how you filled all these bentos.

  19. Maria R says:

    We use rice quite a bit…only, being from the South, white rice is what we have become accustomed to! We tried converting to brown rice, but old habits die hard…especially where food is concerned! We definitely need to eat healthier, so I think your idea of combining it with the wild rice (which I do like) will make the brown rice much tastier! Love this bento box! My son will look cool pulling this out at lunch time!! Thanks for the opportunity to win!

    • J.M Hirsch says:

      I find the combination of rices makes it much more interesting. I like brown rice anyway, but this just gives it way more texture.

  20. Nancy H. says:

    Love the bento box! Stay warm. Thanks, Nancy H.

  21. Cynthia M. says:

    That’s a pretty cool bento box. I was wondering how do you transport this box to school? Does it come with some type of outer container? Thank you for sharing this information. The star fruit is pretty clever dad!!

  22. Maeve says:

    I’d love to win this Bento Box! I agree that rice is under-appreciated. I always forget about it when I am meal planning, but it does make for versatile leftovers.

  23. Michelle W says:

    Great bento box! Thanks for providing the directions on how you mix and cook the rice! I will be making the rice with sausage today for my boys!

  24. Karen says:

    Wow, that bento box is so cool. My husband and I eat a lot of rice during the week but tend not to incorporate it into our lunches. We have a Japanese rice cooker that we love to use. It’s the one appliance we always keep out on the counter, besides the toaster. Thanks for your blog, I just discovered it through a mention in the NY Times and I’m going through the archive now.

    • J.M Hirsch says:

      Thanks so much! Glad you like the blog. I have a rice cooker, too. I love it. I find it’s great when we need to be out during the time I’d usually be cooking dinner. Parker’s karate class usually falls in this time. So the cooker is great for setting up to cook the rice while we’re at karate.

  25. Michelle Young says:

    I love to flavor the rice water with chicke/beef/veg boullion, garlic, cayenne, whatever. I also add chopped tomatoes for spanish rice.

  26. Gary says:

    Love the colorful Bento box.
    Thanks fir the lunch ideas.

  27. Maria says:

    Happy New Year to you and Parker!

  28. AWirsch says:

    Great idea about mixing all types of rice together.

    Thanks for another chance to win some gear.

  29. Alisa says:

    That’s a cool box!

  30. Daryl says:


    According to Google Translate, that means “Cool Bento Box”

  31. Corina says:

    This lunch box is boss! I love the colors! My boyfriend hates when his food touches so this would be the perfect lunch box for him!! We love you guys!! Hope you had a great holiday!

  32. Susan Hagemann says:

    very cool website. I’ve been following you nearly every school day for a few months. Please don’t stop! Your ideas are inspiring.

  33. Stephanie G. says:

    Thank you for the badly needed box lunch inspiration! Packing school lunches for my 3 daughters is a job I have grown to dread. You have motivated me to expand their menus beyond PB&J. Happy New Year to you and Parker!

  34. lkn says:

    I love this set…especially the colors! Your site is very fun! :-) Lori

  35. I read your posts everyday. You rock the “lunch making” world. Parker, your dad is a superhero. [really!] This mommy should up her game! Happy New Year!

  36. Ashley says:

    Thanks for the great idea about the rice mix! I can’t wait to try it. Please let us know where you got the cool lunchbox too.

  37. misty says:

    Please don’t enter me in the contest. Just have a question about the star fruit. The ones we have here are ripe and sweet when they turn yellow. Is the one in today’s lunch different?

    • J.M Hirsch says:

      Ha! You busted me! No, you are totally right. They are ripe when they get light green-yellowish. The one in today’s photo wasn’t quite ripe, but I decided to see if he’d eat it anyway. I haven’t had time to shop in a few days, so I’m running short on fruit. Good news — he ate the entire thing.

  38. Jackie says:

    I love the colors of this set.

  39. Ann Vaseliades says:

    I love that Bento box! I found your blog recently and I love all of your creative lunch ideas.

  40. Erin says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE the colors on this one.

  41. cathy says:

    this one is to cool

  42. LaurieGo says:

    This bento box looks like it could more than contain enough for my husband’s lunch box needs. It would be perfect for him. Pick me, Parker!

  43. Kristin L. says:

    Love the bento box!

  44. Diane Carreiro says:

    I’ve always wanted a bento box!!!!! Pretty please???

  45. Sharon Marcus says:

    Would love to win the box for one of my kids. Thanks for the chance.

  46. Christina says:

    Looks good to me :-)

  47. Alison says:

    All this talk of rice and bento boxes is making me hungry! Might try making this when school starts back up for us next week.

  48. Rachel says:

    Cool bento – love the colors! I also love the idea of mixing the rices. So simple, yet hadn’t occurred to me!

  49. Melissa Berger says:

    I’ve been reading your blog since you came and spoke at WFM. Your comments echo my thoughts often when I try to decipher what might be a winning lunch for my daughter who isn’t nearly as adventurous as Parker appears. Thanks for keeping humor a central part of the efforts to feed an 8 year old good healthy fun lunches.

    • J.M Hirsch says:

      Thanks so much for reading! And I tend to think humor is essential to good parenting. So is wine, but that’s another matter.

  50. Mishelle says:

    Hope to win!!

  51. agoodgame says:

    My son is 8 years old, too! I’m afraid that his lunch isn’t as great as Parker’s, but he thinks it’s pretty good! Thanks for such a fun blog.

  52. agoodgame says:

    Have you ever seen anything that will keep food warm… other than a thermos? Do the bento boxes retain heat? I just thought that you- if anyone – may have an answer to my dilemma. Thanks for the help. a

    • J.M Hirsch says:

      I wish… I’ve longed for a square thermos for a long time. I want something that would keep toasted sandwiches, etc., warm. Thus far, no luck. The bento boxes generally are not insulated. You could make your own insulation to wrap around them, but that seems like a lot of trouble.

  53. Ann Featherston says:

    Looks like a great prize. Love your blog.

    From Ottawa, Canada. Typical of our weather, Mother Nature realized it was the 3rd of January and turned the heat off. This evening, it is going down to minus seventeen degrees Celsius. Here is a quick poem about cocoa:

    I tipped the cup and drink my drink,
    It warms my heart and breaks the ice,
    Fingers frozen and limbs frigid,
    I stir it gently with a peppermint stick.

    Mahogany, beige, buff or tan,
    Topped with marshmallow, sugar or fluffy cream,
    It wakes my mind or soothes my soul,
    Crispy winter mornings or chilly summer nights.

    On the ice rink or with tasty heated pastry,
    Raspberry, caramel, cheery or mint,
    With friends and fire, or alone with a book,
    Boxed, iced, coated bar or drunk.

    It comes as a bean, and is ground for my purpose,
    Melted into bricks, sold by the pound,
    Boil water, spoon in once, twice, three times heaping,
    Piping hot, thick, goey and spectacular friend.

  54. Jessie says:

    Intrigued by yesterday’s Mac n cheese dish where you steamed the fat out of cheese sauce. May have to check out that cookbook. Appeals to the biochemist in me!

  55. Cris F says:

    As always thanks for the great ideas and the humor that is much appreciated at the end of a crazy day!

  56. Rhonda Hebert says:

    I love your blog so much and your approach to cooking that I bought your cookbook High Flavor Low Labor….just got done eating the chicken with white wine sauce for dinner. I am excited you are doing another cookbook for lunches!