Saturday, January 8, 2011

Healthy O-Bento: Rabbit Apples and A Trick

I keep meaning to post about things you can put in an o-bento lunch, but a combination of things (dirty kitchen...) keeps forcing these posts onto the backburner.

But a request for more food posts, an available camera-man (Koshi), and my noticing that the kitchen was relatively clean today, means that you get an o-bento post!  I'll show you the one of the very first things I learned how to make when Koshi started Yochien:  Usagi Ringo!  (Rabbit Apples)

Why bother cutting apples into shapes?  Why not just put a whole apple in the lunch bag?

Blasphemy!  This is The Land of Cute--you're not allowed to put boring apple slices into a lunch box!

The first couple of times I made these, I got the cut right, but Koshi complained that they were brown by the time lunchtime came around.  He didn't want to eat them.  What to do?  Right--ask a mommy friend.  The nice thing about living in company housing is that there are so many other moms hanging around downstairs waiting for the buses, watching their toddlers play--very easy to collar somebody and demand to know how to keep cut apples from turning brown, a feat which clearly everybody else but me had mastered.  When my friend told me how to do it, I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it myself.

Dip the cut slices in salt water.  That's it.  Really.  You can put the slices in a ziploc or in saran wrap if you want to, but it's not necessary.  The slices will stay white and fresh (though not cold) inside a bento lunchbox as is.  In fact, a scientific experiment is in progress as I type this to prove to you how effective this stupid pet trick is--I dipped one rabbit apple in salt water, and did nothing at all to the other rabbit (apple).  Time-lapse photos are below the video:-))

To make the rabbit, cut an apple into eighths and v-cut out the core.  Turn the apple length-wise and cut a deep V, point towards the end of the slice (picture the rabbit's ears flattened back against its head), then cut off the peel starting at the other end of the slice up to the point of the V.

See the rabbit shape--ears flattened back against his head?

It's probably easier if you watch me do it:

See?  Easy!  Also, cute.  And, a reasonable amount of apple for a 3 or 4-year-old starting kindergarten--much less waste if you give her two rabbits that she eats all of instead of half an apple she takes three bites of and throws away the rest.  Desho?

The Experiment:

The apple in its nylon plastic sleeve to avoid bruising (the amount of plastic used in packaging here is horrific....)

2:52.  The apples are cut.  The apple on the left (orange plate) is the control.  The apple on the right (green plate) has been dipped in salt water.   Warm or cold water--makes no difference.  (I stirred the water with my finger.  If that fusses you, use a spoon or a chopstick.) hour and twenty-three minutes after being cut...

...the control apple is starting to brown.  The saltwater apple is still white.
(Please excuse me--I'm having an insane urge to say "Relax!  It's Palmolive!"  No idea why.)

The control apple on the left is clearly starting to brown due to oxidation.  The saltwater is clearly preventing oxidation of the experimental apple on the right...
(I don't have a deep Carl Sagan voice, but you're welcome to imagine one here;-))

Below is Koshi's first O-Bento that I made--not with Usagi Ringo, because I wasn't sure yet how to fit them into his lunchbox, but with  Himawari Gohan (Sunflower Rice) and Tako-San Weiners (Octopus Sausages)... but those will have to be for next time:-))

Mata asobou, ne!


  1. Wonderful video, with a real experiment, too! I wish I had gotten o-bento lunches as a kid.

  2. first off, rabit apples are adorable! Second off, can it really be so easy? Salt water? GENIUS!
    Though i have to say, the apple wasn't nearly as browned as i thought it would be. When i slice apples even 10 minutes before dinner they're super brown by the time we eat. I wonder if certain types of apples brown faster...
    it seems another experiment needs to happen

  3. My mum used diluted lemon juice to prevent sliced apples and pears browning.

    They have Thomas the Tank Engine in Japan?! Marvellous..I think Rev. Awdry would be so chuffed!

  4. Usagi ringo kawaii desu! Tried making one once and it was a total fail. I did make one out of playdough though for a school project. It makes sense to have a lot of those this year seeing how its the year of the rabbit. :)

  5. Jerry--I was slightly jealous of my own kids for getting bento lunches, and I don't make anything *nearly* as uber-cute as some moms here do (o-bento making for kindergarten is something of an art form:-))

    Sarah--glad you like them! I secretly think rabbit apples taste better, in spite of being an adult... And I, too, thought the apple didn't brown as much as I thought it would. temperature? It's winter here, and no central heating...we'd been out all afternoon, and the room was still pretty chilly. Would sugar content of the apple affect the rate of browning? Another experiment it is!!

    Martin--yokoso! (welcome!) You're exactly right--diluted lemon juice is the other way to do it! I use salt because 1)it's cheaper than cutting a lemon, 2)the salt shaker is right there on the backsplash behind the counter, and 3)I can't ever remember to buy bottled lemon juice. So--I use the salt. And yes, Thomas is *HUGE* in Japan. Up to elementary school, when Pokemon takes over. All three of mine *loved* Thomas (and my youngest is a girl:-)), and that o-bento bako in the photo was actually a hand-me-down from the older sister of one of Koshi's classmates (a girl--older sis liked Thomas, younger sis was into Kitty-chan and Pretty Cure, so Koshi got the lunch box:-)) Dear Rev. Awdry--your creation has taken over the world:-))

    Ezmirelda--Cho kawaii, desho! Watch the video and try again--and make sure your knife is good and sharp:-)) Dekiru, yo! One of the Nengajou stamps I found was of a rabbit sitting next to a rabbit apple--come to think of it, I should have taken a picture of that, too...

  6. Your hands were damp with salt water when you cut the second rabbit. That's why it didn't go as brown as expected, perhaps.
    Way cute, btw :)

  7. Anonymous--yokoso! Ooohh--I bet you're right! I don't think I rinsed my hands after I stirred in the salt, although I only used one finger for that....Oh! I cut the saltwater apple first! Must redo...must redo... Very sharp, Mr. A! I will reverse the order in the next experiment, and also try using different types of apples. Any other suggestions to improve the experiment?

  8. Haha really cute! ty this is really useful, with the salt thingy too, i never thot about it turning brown till u mentioned it n i was like oh yeah...

    Thank you very much for the clear demonstrations ^^

  9. Shelly--cute, huh? My kids love those rabbit apples, too:-)) And the salt thing *totally* works! Apples stay white all day!