Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bento (49) - Sams Sandwich Wheels

Once again, I would love to take credit for the beautiful sandwich rolls, but they come from Sams Club. However, I will take full credit for the lovely corn/pea pathway and pineapple/blueberry salad. The pink bunny is, as usual, filled with dumplig sauce (restocked! YAY!). I also used the premium rice that I received as a gift - but since I didn't make my own bento, I still don't know how it tastes!

Tomorrow I'm hoping to try a new item from Kawaii Bento Boxes (korean barbeque lettuce rolls - YUM!) but we'll have to see if I can drag myself up in the morning - as I'm currently on vacation and the temptation to sleep in is . . . tempting. Guess I'll find out tomorrow!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bento Booty

Apparently my new hobby has inspired co-workers, friends, and family as well. Nobody meant to coordinate gifts - but I had a very merry bento-themed Christmas! I guess nothing brings out the best in folks like an interest in food - because really, in a way, cooking is spiritual . . . and magical. Why else do we have such a fascination for good food? And good food is made better by sharing with good friends - so THANK YOU to everyone for the gifts! They were very thoughtful - and will be put to good use!

From the bento ring (it's probably closer to a sushi ring - but still SO KAWAII >.< !!! To the premium rice (grown in California - oddly enough), gourmet soy sauce, black laquer bento box with chopsticks, and special peeler (I always wondered how in the heck folks were getting such thin "stringy" veggie strips - my carrot peeler just wasn't cutting it . . . literally) -

To the beautiful sake set . . .

To the matching place settings for a fabulous dinner table!

Minna-san, ARIGATOU!! Kore ga dai suki desu. (To everyone, THANK YOU! I LOVE THEM!) I couldn't have asked for better gifts! Now I just need to buckle down and get back to my fabulous bento creations . . . because I have a feeling it will take a heck of a lot of work to fill that black lacquer box . . . but I'm going to try!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bento (48) - Return of the Aquarium Bento

After a week of light bento, it was time to challenge myself and do Take 2 of the hot dog crabs. This time I boiled the little critters . . . and they came out much much better! I'm still not happy with color, so I'll have to experiment with a different type of sausage/hot dog. But overall, these bentos turned out great! My last aquarium bento looked great . . . but tasted iffy - so this time I tried to include more quail eggs (fishies) and other yummies.

The purple fishies came out darker than I intended, but the carrot fis and tails worked perfectly. Grapes and strawberries were a kind of fishie egg nest . . . and carrot and cucumber stars were used for more color variety and accents. The little spiky urchin is a sugar candy that I found.

The fishies are decorated with nori strips (still not sure I like seaweed . . . I know! Sacriligeous!).

Goose starts winter break this week - and as he is going to a different BASE program, I think it is safest to send him with disposable lunches, since I'm not all that sure the bento boxes an such will return to me. Therefore, it may be a light bento week - we'll see how the mood strikes. Bento bento bento bento.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bento (47) - PB&J Monster

LOL! In the non-cute but sort of horrifying category . . . more cold PB&J! Don't ask. It started as an artistic arrangement - then I thought it might look better if I added eyes - and then it was too late to redo anything and I had to take Goose to school. PB&J Monster!

I used corn and strawberries as space fillers. The eyes are grape slices, and the white is leftover pepperjack cheese bits. The upper right is a handful of chedder and pretzel goldfish crackers (which Goose claims he likes but has never touched :P :P :P). Bottom right is strawberries and a grape.

My lunch was a chicken/avacado salad, strawberry/grape salad sprinkled with chedderjack cheese, accompanied by corn, a chicken leg, and mashed potatoes and gravy (the penguin is filled with extra gravy since I like . . . well . . . gravy.

T. had a similar bento with chicken/avacado salad and a small section of strawberry and chedderjack cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy topped with corn, and strawberry/grape salad with corn sprinkles for color. Oddly enough, T. forgot his bento . . . twice. Then I found it in the fridge and took it to work today (I ate the penguin bento yesterday). A co-worker asked if I would like to join her for lunch (prime rib at the Broker . . how could I turn that down?) - so I gifted my bento to another co-worker. For the first time in 14 years, the Broker ran out of prime rib (how's that for bento-karma?! :P :P :P I deserted my bento, so it wreaked food-havoc revenge!!!). However, the co-worker who got my bento became a bento convert (and may even get her own box for Christmas!) - so how's that for a happy ending?!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bento (46) - Kitty Food Picks!

I purchased some pre-made frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for goose (called Jams) which you are theoretically supposed to throw in the kids lunch, and by the time they eat the sandwich at lunch, it is supposed to be thawed and yummy. Goose has informed me that he doesn't like cold PB&J. :P :P :P Well I bought a whole box - so cold PB&J will continue to make an appearance here and there!

I also decided to try throwing in a handful of trail mix - which went over fairly well. Predictably, he ate all the chocolate and raisins - and most of the nuts. The rest of this bento was corn (easily identifiable yellow stuff) and chopped apple.

For my bento, I created a corn/pea/rice landscape with tangy chicken, the rest of the chopped up apple, and most importantly - blue kitty food picks! Those little food picks made a drab bento "pop" . . . and when I opened it at lunch, I couldn't help but smile. I love my food picks!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bento (45) - Ribeye Onigiri Kitty

Or at least it was supposed to be ribeye onigiri balls. I cut the ribeye into itty-bitty pieces to mix with the rice - thinking I would then moosh it all together to make cute little onigiri balls - but my rice refused to stick together! ACK! After 40 minutes of crumbling rice balls I just gave in and mooshed them into sort-of-shapes, then tacked on all the other goodies. Still . . . I'm proud of how they turned out.

Onigiri kitty (I think it looks vaguely Siamese - don't you?):

The left is frozen peas, pink heart jelly, tomatoes, and mandarin oranges. The right is egg corn-drops, frozen peas, and a holder with sauce (soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar).

I made a cute little bear for Goose - who took one look at the "meat" and promptly said: "I hate that." I forced him to eat a piece to ensure he hated it - which he spat in the trash. So, deciding the fight wasn't worth it - I let him have a school lunch today. I'll probably eat his bento tomorrow . . . heh.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bento (44) - Fancy PB&J

This was my idea for a well balanced meal for Goose today. It has protein, fruits, and vegetables - though I don't know why I bother with the veggies - since he won't touch them - no matter how cute they are! :P :P :P

I surrounded his PB&J with corn, peas, and tomatoes. The salad is mandarin orange/kiwi, and the little alien looking thing is half a boiled egg. After I dropped Goose at school I had to throw together my bento in 10 minutes or less . . . so this is what I came up with:

The main portion was thawed tangy chicken accompanied by rice and pea/corn flowers. The bottom level was leftover crab/avacado, the second half of Goose's egg with sesame seed garnish (my garnish skills are still sadly lacking), and mandarin orange/kiwi salad. The green leafy separators are, as usual, kale. (I ate the piece that had the crab/avacado salad, since it had been "contaminated" with lemon juice. Yummy! Side salad anyone?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bento (43) - Flower PB&J

So I've apparently been bitten by the bento lazy-bug (though as near as I can tell, anyone who plans to do daily bento for any length of time figures out how to cut corners and do it in 15 minutes or less - or they give up). I guess you could say I'm over the "honeymoon" stage - and now we find out if I have what it takes to be a real bento-mom!

Take this morning. I hit snooze a few times. Then T. finally got up and I mumbled something like: "What do you want in your bento? Crab? Soy beef? Popcorn?"

To which he replied: "It's a moot point, I have to leave in 6 minutes."

I sprang out of bed and had his lunch done in 3! HAH!

I didn't say it was spectacular . . . just that I got it done on time. (And maybe it really took 6 minutes, since I had to chop the avacado . . . ). The top level was mandarin oranges, edamame, and a car-shaped boiled egg, while he bottom is just avacado/crab salad drizzled with lemon juice and a kale garnish.

And Goose got a creative sandwich arrangement!

He was supposed to have a fishie-egg in the lower right-hand corner, but sadly - when I opened the fishie-mold, the fishie split into two halves, both of which had sealed themselves to the mold like superglue . . . and the yolk fell out. So rather than try my hand at reconstructing egg-salad fishie, I threw in some of the leftover soy beef. The rest is mandarin oranges, edamame, and a commercial fruit jelly.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bento (42) - Sams Club Surprise

I finally made it to the store . . . and the bento kitchen has been restocked. YAY!!!! >.< The main protein in this bento was Sams Club General Tsao's chicken, which is accompanied by a pink bunny filled with soy sauce, rice with decoraive edamae, and a kale seperator. The bottom is kiwi, tomotoes, and a new idea - artificial crab and pepper-jack cheese squares skewered by yellow fish and dolphin food picks. NUM!

You can make out the crab/cheese skewers better in T.'s bento. He has a cute turtle and a snifty purple and pink sea-snail pick.

And Goose actually requested a bento today. For the first time ever! YAY!!! Then again . . . maybe that means he likes storebought Sams Club food better than my cooking! Heh.

Bento (41) - Desperation Bento

This was the very last of my bento food supplies (okay - not really, I remembered later that I had some spaghetti sauce and frozen tortellini that could have made an appearance - but as I totally forgot about them, I don't think they count).

Leftover potato salad, Sweet Soy Beef (which I made last minute from a ribeye steak I meant to cook for dinner but didn't get around too), last of the rice, and edamame flowers (no corn for color . . . ::sigh::). The penguin (in mine) and the green kiwi (in T.'s) are holding a special sauce for the beef. The beef was marinated in oil, sake, and soy sauce and then the dipping sauce is made from sake, soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. MmmmmmMMMMMMmmmmm.

Terrible, isn't it? I debated not posting . . . but it shows the importance of having a good variety of foods and color to work with . . . YIKES!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Bento (40) - Freezer Burn Survivor Bento

Over Thanksgiving, my fridge decided to try life as a freezer and introduced massive amounts of ice into my produce. Grrrrrrrrr. And as I didn't make it to the store over the weekend, this morning's bento was put together from freezer burn survivors. Freezer burn. In the FRIDGE.

Goose got a boring PB&J - though I used a cookie cutter to make it into a cute little flower shape and then cut the flower in half so it would fit in the box. The grapes survived their arctic tour - (as long as you didn't look too close) . . . . and the mandarin oranges were still floating in liquid instead of acting like frozen jello . . . so they made up the fruit salad. Luckily - chicken nuggets already live in the freezer, and I rounded out his box with fresh made potato salad with a ketchup flower (in the hopes that the ketchup would entice him to at least TRY the potato salad. It didn't >.< ) For myself and T. I raided the freezer and discovered I still had bacon-wrapped scallops. YUM! In retrospect, I would have flipped the fruit salad and the potato salad to better balance the white . . . but *eh* T. needed to bolt out the door.

It's amazing what a few pea and corn flowers can do to brighten up rice! And the bacon and potato salad were excellent together. I'll definitely have to make a note to make this combo again!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bento (39) - Las Vegas Slot Machine!

In honor of going to Las Vegas tomorrow (no new bentos until next week :P :P :P unless I get REALLY creative (and bored) over the Holiday) - I just had to make a slot machine bento!

It turned out surprisingly well - the only thing I would change is to cut the quail egg cherry in the lower right in half to make it look like it was appearing "on screen." Otherwise, the top is blueberries and mandarin oranges with two sauce holders filled with soy (my dumpling ran out . . . grrrrrr). The yellow accent and the yellow lemon are both cut from an omelet, the "cherries" are quail eggs dyed red with celery stems, and the dark lines are nori, topped with provolone cheese cut outs.

Goose had a rather boring bento - but as my refrigerator is on the fritz (double grrrrrrr) and froze half my ingredients, I was working with what I had. Goose got rice shapes, blueberries, peas, quail egg cherries, and mandarin oranges. Yum!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bento (38) - Potluck Soy Bunnies

This week was a little light on bento lunches - with a heavy bento session at the end! We had our Thanksgiving potluck today, and I decided to show off my mad bento skills and make soy bunny/edamame cupcakes and somen chickie swirls. Thanks to an HOA meeting, I started boiling eggs, etc. last night at 9:40 p.m. LOL! I got the somen swirls and edamame done last night, but had to get up at 5:15 a.m. to prepare the rest. Good news: I got lots of compliments - Bad News: hardly anyone tried them! (I had 14 out of 24 left!!!). Apparently people fear quail eggs. Fear the chickies! FEAR THEM!!!!

Close-up! The orange things in with the bunnies are carrots. The chickies were accompanied by somen, spaghetti sauce, peas, and corn.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bento (37) - Free Form Kitty Bento!

I decided to pull out all of Goose's compartments and attempt a free-form bento - and I was inordinately pleased with how it came out! Kitty bento!!!

The kitty ears and nose are ham, the eyes are provolone cheese and nori hole-punches, and the mouth is two nori smiles from my happy-face punch. The yellow and orange above the kitty's head is sweet potato/apple salad, the yellow heart is a commercial jelly, the green is edamame, the red are tomatos, and the bunnies to the right are soy bunnies with provolone ears and sesame seed eyes. I included a fish sauce holder filled with dumpling sauce for the rice.

And for me . . . I made my own bird nest bento! Yay soumen swirls!

The upper left is leftover fried pineapple rice from Tuk Tuk. The rest of the ingredients should be fairly recognizable. I received a lot of compliments on the chickies! Who can resist baby chickies?!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bento (36) - Soumen Swirl Bird Nests

I love Japanese noodles!!! These were awesomely easy to cook - and taste WONDERFUL. (Of course, I haven't sampled the finished product - I was just "testing" the noodles to make sure they were done before I attempted the "swirl." The actual recipe for this showed the noodles being topped by omelet cut-outs and cucumber. However, I had an excess of quail eggs - which got me thinking about chickies - which made the soumen into bird nests - and the next thing I knew - TA DAA!!! Soumen Swirl Bird Nests!

I filled the noodles with pre-cooked spaghetti sauce (mmmmMMMMMMmmmm) and topped with a few peas to add color. The upper right corner are dinosaur chicken nuggets (commercial) and the bottom right is kiwi. I ended up tossing in a piggy sauce-holder with ketchup right before sweeping out the door to Goose's school.

T.'s bento is a little to "free form" for my taste - but I only planned the first level - and then filled the second level with leftover potato/hamburger/corn casserole! The white slices to the right are banana - and then I threw in the carrots for color (and with some idea that they might add a little organization to the chaos.

I repeat - not all my ideas are good ones. LOL!

I LOVE how the bird nests turned out and plan on making my own bird nest bento tomorrow. MmmmmMMMMMMMmmmmm.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bento (35) - Sandwich Solutions

Alrighty . . . it's 10:30 at night, and my typing skills are going down-hill fast . . . so here was today's lunch.

T. had egg-salad sandwiches with grape fillers, kiwi/strawberry salad - and the ever unappetizing looking green bean casserole. Most of the crispy french onions have disintegrated into the cream of chicken soup at this point - making a nasty looking but extra-tasty goop!

Goose had PB&J sandwiches with carrot fillers, strawberry/grape salad, and a fishie egg.

I had chicken with mango salsa (I found the manga salsa at Sams) and green bean salad, followed by egg-salad sandwiches, strawberry/grape salad, and a single sad little carrot. I like how "slanting" the sandwiches turned out.

I have a few great ideas I want to try - but I haven't been able to haul myself out of bed in time to try them. We'll see what tomorrow brings. Jaa mata! (See you later.)

Bento (34) - Tangy Chicken with Extra Chicken

Sorry for falling behind on the bento posts . . . for those who don't know, I participate in NanoWriMo (National Novel Writers Month) every November - the goal being to type 50,000 words from midnight on October 31 to midnight on November 30th. Mostly it means that November becomes a haze of caffeine related hallucinations . . . and I'm kind of amazed I haven't done anything crazy - like stick a watch in my bento. Heh!

T. informed me his co-workers are highly disturbed by food that has eyes - so I made extra sure to add a cute little chickie to his lunch! Red stuff is tangy chicken (quick recipe - cut up 4 skinless boneless chicken breasts into bite size pieces, coat with flour and salt and brown in a frying pan, combine with the following ingredients in a deep sauce pan: 2 cups of water, 4 tablespoons melted butter, 4 tablespoons of brown sugar, 2 cups of ketchup, 4 sticks of chopped celery, one onion, and pepper to taste - simmer for 40 minutes. It should make enough to feed a small army :P :P :P). Fruit is grapes ad strawberry. White rice is topped with corn/pea flowers. My bento was very similar to T.'s - so I didn't post a picture.

Goose also got Tangy Chicken . . . though he only ate the rice, carrot toppers, and fruit. All the tnagy chicken and peas/corn were left. ::sigh::

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bento (33) - Texas Roadhouse Take 2

Today was a sad sad day for bento. I don't have a picture of T.'s bento (which is probably good, since I basically mashed his Texas roadhouse leftovers into the box, filled the empty space by mashing in a dinner roll, and called it good :P :P :P).

And Goose's lunch looked wonderful . . . only he didn't eat it ::sniffle::. He told me he "forgot" his lunch and his teachers wouldn't let him go back to the classroom, so he was FORCED to eat a school lunch (does this story sound suspicious to anyone else??) So Goose's bento went into the trash (while he threw a hysterical fit). ::sigh:: Goose had a mini-hamburger (cut in half), peas, corn, and grapes.

I saved 1/3 of my prime rib from the Texas Roadhouse (it looked like such a tiny amount that I almost didn't save it . . . but when I got around to eating lunch today, I couldn't believe how much prime rib I actually had - it just goes to show that plate sizes can REALLY make a difference when measuring your food). Apparently I'm going through a neatness phase where I like my food in orderly rows . . . although the corn fiesta look I had going in the second layer made me smile. The green in the top is avacado - all the red stuff is strawberry, and the panda, as usual, is holding dumpling sauce (which I prefer over soy).

Friday, November 6, 2009

Bento (32) - Rolling with Sams Club

I would love to take credit for the beautiful sandwich wraps, but thought I best fess up right away that these are pre-cooked store-bought Sams club rolls. And they were as delicious as they looked - I highly recommend them! The chicken and peppers are also from Sams - though I chopped the strawberries and grapes myself - so that counts, right? The white fluff with a carrot top is my usual favorite potato salad (with cucumber, peas, and corn). Nummy!

Since I couldn't figure out how to best display the rolls in the boys' bentos, I finally turned to my handy food picks to add a little cuteness and color. I ended up pulling the blue kitties out of Goose's lunch after the photo and putting them in mine (Goose is only 5 after all! - and the kitties are the super-small picks. I don't think he would choke on them - but better safe than sorry!)

Then, in true bento madness style, I remembered one of my co-workers had mentioned that she would love if someone made her a bento sometime . . . and as I had a surplus of Sams materials on hand, I decided TODAY was THE DAY! Let's hear it for a FOUR bento morning!!!

And believe it or not - when she finished, she actually leaned back and said "I'm stuffed! How do you get all that food in that little box?"


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bento (31) - Dominoes!

Believe it or not - these bentos are essentially leftover Dominoes Pizza (surrounded by peas) and their trademark Chicken Kickers. The fruit is kiwi, and the brightly colored plastic things are sauce containers holding ranch and/or hot-sauce for the Kickers. The boys' bentos turned out so well that I decided I wanted to stick with a square format (versus my two oval two-tier boxes) - so I built mine in a square tupperware container.

It took me roughly 10 minutes per box . . . A NEW RECORD!!! I sacrificied a little pizza space to make room for potato salad - which was well worth the sacrifice. However, I think I actually managed to over-cutify my lunch. I had to stare at it for about 3 minutes before I could bear to eat it. And that little penguin stared right back! KAWAII!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bento (30) - Inside Out Sandwiches

Okay - these sounded a lot cuter than they turned out, but I think with a little weekend practice, I can still turn these into one of my best ideas. Here was my first shot at "inside out" sandwiches (i.e., the bread is in the middle). I took the bread, spread mayo and mustard on as usual, and then placed a piece of provolone cheese over the mayo/mustard before wrapping the whole of it in a slice of ham which had a shape cut out with a cookie cutter. I think the trick to these might be to adjust the ham slice to the exact size of the bread and then hold the whole thing together with a nori strip or some such . . . as I said - a work in progress! Of course, if the ham doesn't surround the bread, I suppose it's an "open face" sandwich rather than an "inside out" sandwich. Details! Details!

The sammiches were accompanied by mandarin orange/blueberry salad and ever-nummy cucumber/potato salad (which Goose didn't touch, of course!). T.'s bento has some bacon wrapped scallops for additional protein.

I finished up the boys' bentos and went to make mine . . . only the second container of ham had a distinct "past the freshness" smell to it! AAAARRGGGGHHHHH. So while I took Goose to school I frantically brainstormed a quick carb filler for me. Instead of sammiches I filled my bottom level with brown rice, mushrooms (sauteed in butter and wine), and a pink bunny sauce holder filled with soy sauce. The orange are the leftover outlines from when I stamp carrot stars - not the most attractive - but I was working to bento in under 5 minutes with scraps! I added two extra scallops to my bento as a consolation prize, and called it good.