Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bento (14) - Attack of the Bunnies

Apparently this week had a bunny theme - so I finally caved into temptation and made quail egg bunnies today. I didn't have time to attach their eyes ::sniffle:: - but was really pleased with how these bentos turned out.

The white stuff is milk jelly (ingredients: milk, sugar, and agar agar powder - which corresponds to gelatin). The small orange thing in the middle with an edamame flower on top is a sweet potato muffin. Very very VERY yummy . . . MmmmmmMMMMMmmmmm. The bunnies are sitting on top of a cucumber salad, and the lone bunny is presiding over cheese tortellini and spaghetti sauce with a monterey jack cheese flower. Any unidentified greenery is either kale or green beans.

The new bunny box worked out fabulously - although I was used to having a little "head room" with the green leaf boxes. This box seals tight and I had to smush the bunnies. T. assured me they survived their mooshing just fine. In fact . . . around four co-workers saw him with his awesome pink and purple bunny box. ^-^

Goose spilled his milk jelly (no more milk jelly bentos for him) - so I'm not sure if his bento resembled anything like the picture by the time lunch rolled around. After school, he admitted the jelly spilled because he put his lunchbox upside down. Good thing I love the little critter! I guess he was exploring what everything tasted like coated with milk jelly. Nothing but the kale and spaghetti sauce was left . . . go figure.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bento (13) - Bunny in a Field

I don't know what I was thinking with this bento. I had edamame . . the next thing I knew, I was making flowers . . . and then I realized I had a pink bunny sauce holder. The main dish was Costco chicken and avocado complimented by potato salad and kiwi strawberry skewers. In retrospect, I'd probably get rid of the strawberry/kiwi closest to the chicken and go with a few cheese stars as an accent . . . but eh . . . hindsight is 20/20.

I split the car-shaped boiled egg between T.'s bento and mine. Maybe my bunny is escaping a crazy driver :P :P :P At least my co-workers seemed to get a giggle out of "Bunny in a Field."

On the bright side, I went to Pacific Mercantile and discovered that they are now carrying quail eggs (SCORE!) and bento boxes (DOUBLE SCORE!!) I just had to purchase one for many reasons . . . the most practical being that this bento box has a sealable lid so I can do soup or other liquidy type meals - and I wanted Pacific Mercantile to know folks are interested in the boxes - so keep ordering! Non-practical reasons . . . I thought the purple bunnies were too cute!! >.<

I thought I would have to justify the box - and then T. forgot his at work . . . proving that having an extra bento box on hand is . . . well . . . handy! So I'll be trying out the storage capacity tomorrow.

Bento (12) - Experimentation with Egg Molds and Onigiri

And thus, I tried to make the traditional triangular onigiri. And thus, I learned it is a LOT harder than it looks. The best part of this whole bento turned out to be the ham and cheese stuffed tomatoes . . . . although I liked how Goose's fishie egg turned out (add boiled egg to egg mold - pull out fishie). Green stuff is edamame. Heart shaped jello is commercially bought - though I was very excited to find a jar of these little fruit jellies for roughly $5.00. YAY!

T.'s bento was just . . . . yeah. His doctor has asked that he switch to brown rice - which I discovered does not hold onigiri shapes (or at least, I haven't figured out how to cook it dry enough so that it holds onigiri shapes.) Either way - his triangular onigiri completely disintegrated and became a field of brown. I threw a squash on it for color - but the squash was in its raw unrefined form - so I swapped it out for a pepper from T.'s 15 lb. bag (let's hear it for fresh picked farm veggies!) before T. ran out the door. I meant to add a car-shaped boiled egg for protein - but forgot - so T. had a vegetarian bento. Tee hee!

Not the bento comeback I was hoping for . . . but I guess there's always tomorrow!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bento (11) - Pot Roast Flowers

This is sort of my first free-hand bento. Pot roast flowers may sound weird . . . but really - what can you do to make pot roast cute? Needless to say - I'm still recovering from what was apparently influenza (though I don't know if it was of the piggy plague variety). Next week I should be back in full bento form.

To share one of the good things that happened to me - I was stopped by an adult at Goose's school who eats with the kids and saw the lunches I've been making for Goose. She was very enthusiastic and asked if I was a chef! OMG. How cool is that ^_^??!!

Presenting . . . pot roast flower - with cornbread, blueberries and mandarin oranges, and two dinosaur chicken nuggets (which will provide most of the protein - since I'm pretty sure Goose won't touch the pot roast).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bento (10) - The Art of Arranging Chinese Leftovers

My small dry cough turned into some sort of hideous lung infection over the weekend - although it seems to be a fast moving and I was almost cured until I had to venture out in the wind and the rain to report to Jury Duty today. Se la vi. Needless to say, I did not plan on spending my whole weekend wrapped in a blanket on the couch - so I was unable to prep properly for a new week of bento making. I did, however, manage to garner enough energy to surf the web and buy a nori punch though . . . tee hee! (2-4 weeks delivery though ::sniffle::).

So Sunday night, we ordered Chinese. And since I couldn't bear to send Goose to school without something cute in his lunch, I managed to make a cute critter out of half a hard-boiled egg. I don't know why, but it vaguely reminds me of Ponyo. I might have to try my hand at a Ponyo-themed bento sometime. Hmmm . . . .

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bento (9) - Star Spangled Spaghetti

Since I had a bunch of star-shaped bell peppers that I cleverly made Sunday night (and then never really used :P :P :P) I decided to make star-spangled spaghetti. And since I'm about sick to death of blueberry and stawberry salad, I went with mandarin orange and cucumber arrangements. Of course - I ran out of cucumbers for T. - so to make up for it, I threw a few green grapes into his salad. I wonder if he noticed? Heh. The yellow stuff in the bottom level to the right is buttered corn drops (corn mixed with eggs and scrambled) - to which I added more bell pepper. It looked sort of blah to me still . . . so I eventually threw in blueberries.

Goose got egg salad sandwiches and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Check on the turtle food pick . . . KAWAII! And no peppers in his eggs. Goose despises peppers.

No bento tomorrow (seriously - Goose has pizza day at his school) and frankly, I developed a dry cough that sounds like a jackrabbit's laugh. If it gets any worse, I may be staying home :(

Jaa mata! (See you later.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bento (8) Rise and Shine Sushi Rice

I wasn't going to make bento today, but Goose caught me looking through Kawaii Bento Boxes and actually pointed to sushi rice and said "Mommy, can you make that tomorrow?" AWWWWWW. So here is my totally unplanned thrown together bento boxes. As a sidenote, I was only making 2 boxes since T. had a medical appointment and had to fast - but there was so much leftover rice and flower veggies that I went ahead and made a third bento (it's good practice, right?) and gave it away to a lucky co-worker. Ooooooo. Of course - I think it's a Japanese way of saying "I like you" if you offer to make a member of the opposite sex bento boxes, so I better be careful who I give my lunches too!

The sushi rice is rice that I added vinegar to and topped with flower cutouts of cucumber, carrots, ham, and provolone cheese. The rolls are taquitos (I told you I ran out of time) - and the fruit salad is (as usual) blueberry strawberry (this is what happens when you buy fruit from Sams club. I also found some leftover apple sweet potato salad from earlier this week to throw in my bento. YAY me! Of course - the child that hates lunch meat picked off the cheese and carrots, but ate all the ham flowers . . . go figure. I guess ham flowers are hard to resist!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bento (7) Kung Pao Piggies!!

Mostly I just like saying Kung Pao Piggies. Today's bento were mostly leftovers and came together quickly . . . until I experienced piggy construction delays. Suffice it to say - the lesson of the day was - place piggy eggs in bento box FIRST - then attach eyes, snouts, etc. Otherwise, when you pick them up - you experience piggy implosion. The following bento is rice with furikake sprinkles (which I discovered T. despises :P :P :P), leftover kung pao chicken with a colby/jack cheese star, blueberry and strawberry fruit salad and a piggie made from a boiled quail egg, yellow food coloring, carrot ears, and a carrot snout.

Goose had an eggie chick, too!! As Goose is not a fan of kung pao - he had a spaghetti bento with velveeta cheese stars.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bento (6) - Froggie Bento

And to start the week off - I tried froggie onigiri bento! These turned out almost too cute to eat! I made the rice green by chopping up broccoli florets and mixing them with the rice - and much to my surprise - Goose ate a good portion of his frog! Yeah, me! Yeah for tricking my child into eating a form of vegetable! I used Kale for the green leafy seperator. The dish to the right of the top frog is bacon wrapped green beans (with kawaii plastic food picks!) smushed next to Buttered Corn Eggdrops topped with a red star cut from a bell pepper. Bottom is strawberry/blueberry salad with provolone flower. The froggy eyes are more provolone with nori pupils (and a hole punch has officially become a cooking utensil!)

Goose froggy:
And last (but not least) MY FROGGY!

And since I promised a size comparison shot - I included a can of Sprite to give an idea of relative bento-box size. Small - but they fit a surprising amount of food! I had already begun eating my bento when I remembered to take the picture . . . so my apologies for the partially mauled froggy. (Froggy onigiri were injured in the making of this bento blog.)

Bento (5) - Saturday Morning Madness

Something is seriously wrong with me. I woke up on Saturday and VOLUNTARILY spent the next few hours happily bento-ing in the kitchen. As a matter of fact - I was late to a 10:00 appointment because I was adding finishing touches to my lunch. The following bento has sweet potato and apple salad, chicken/cucumber/mozzarella skewers, edamame and carrot salad, and leftover beef from "beef in sweet soy sauce" I made for dinner last night - and whole wheat spaghetti noodles. The elephant and baby chick sauce holders have the soy broth inside - to keep my noodles from getting soggy!

Goose had another sandwhich bento - with the edamame salad. Which he didn't touch. Not one bite. :(

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bento (4) - Sandwich Rolls Revisited

I threw this bento together for Friday - and as I had Panda Express leftovers, I figured I would be fine without my bento. Much to my surprise, I actually missed my bento box. As much as I love Panda . . . something was missing, and I ended up snacking on popcorn all through the afternoon. Three days, and I'm HOOKED. In the morning rush, T. ran off with Goose's box . . . so Goose had room for sandwich rolls AND chicken nuggets. And T. went a little hungry :P :P :P.

Not my prettiest bento - but I did like how the strawberry/kiwi salad with provolone cheese cutouts turned out.

Bento (3) - Onigiri

Day 3 - experiment with onigiri. Definitely my best bento yet. The sweet potato apple salad was awesome! The small brown things are bacon wrapped scallops (MMMMMMMMmmmmm) and the small salad in the green silicone cup is chicken/cucumber/mozarella salad inspired by the skewers. Since Goose won't eat much lunchmeat (another reason I'm searching for lunch options with carbs), I made him chicken nuggets (commercial frozen nuggets shaped like dinosaurs) instead of the scallops and chicken salad. The little red piggy is ketchup in a small piggy sauce holder. YAY!

Bento (2) - Sandwich Day

Day 2 of bento making . . . . I tried the peek-a-boo sandwiches and rolled sandwiches from my Kawaii Bento Boxes cookbook. The potato salad from yesterday morning came in handy - and I carved the apples into apple-bunnies. There was still room (these little boxes really do hold a surprising amount of food!) - so I added a boiled egg for protein (the red stuff is ketchup - I thought it would taste weird - but Goose loved it). And I made cucumber, chicken, mozarella ball skewers for T. and I. My food picks hadn't come in at this point - so the skewers were held together with toothpicks.

Bento (1)

Day one of bento making. The alarm clock was set for 5:00 a.m. I actually dragged up at 5:15 . . . and I completed THREE bentos roughly on time. Timing is a little difficult since my ex leaves at 6:00 a.m. and Goose and I don't have to leave for school until 7:20 or so. Potato salad went well, but didn't cook in time to make it into T.'s lunch.

The bulk of these bentos were leftovers from the Texas Roadhouse (beef tips and rice). I used cucumbers to separate the beef tips in T.'s lunch. To supplement, I then made apple/kiwi skewers, cut out cheese stars, and added lettuce and grapes.

My bento (the baby seal) has the potato salad squished in in an aluminum cupcake holder. I also discovered Velveeta cheese stars melt. Who knew?

Goose's bento - with cucumber apple salad and rather unattractive sausages. I'm sure there are ways to make them cute. At least I know Goose liked them. The next day he asked if I could make the sausage sandwhiches again. AWWWWW!

Kawaii (Cute) Bento Supplies

The bento supplies trickled in all of last week, and after much jumping up and down and frantically tearing open packages, everything is finally clean and stored in a special box for ease of locating cookie cutters and keeping food picks from joining the dust bunnies under the fridge.

I am currently making bento for myself, my son (who just started Kindergarten and is the major inspiration for this whole project) and - oddly - my ex-husband, who is still living with me at the moment - but this blog is devoted to bento and not personal drama - so suffice it to say "I have my reasons" - one of which is - he helped pay for the bento supplies. However, he oddly refused to let me send him to work with the white harp seal bento. :P :P :P

I am now the proud owner of three bento boxes (and I'm sure that number will grow!), onigiri molds, cookie cutters, vegetable cutters, egg molds, silicon cupcake holders, food picks, sushi grass, and unbearably cute sauce bottles.

Let the bento begin!

And So It Begins . . .

Monday, August 31, 2009

And then I discovered Bento. MU HA HA.

hese first few posts are being copied over from my previous blog in order to prove I had already discovered I would need to join a 12-step program to assist my bento obsession BEFORE the article was published in the New York Times.


The concept behind bento is to: 1) for adults: make food look so appetizing that you WANT to eat it and 2) for kids: make food look so CUTE that you WANT to eat it. And when I say cute - I mean cute. Hello-kitty, carrot stars, and little cats cut out of baloney cute.

The funniest part of the whole story being that I found a site called Adventures in Bento Making - and the author happened to be bemoaning her strange obsession with bento - which apparently includes insane behaviors like taking pictures of food you create and posting it on-line. And I felt oddly at home. Seriously - click on the link and take a moment to look at her lunches! OMG!!

(And yes - I've already placed an order for some bento making equipment. FEAR ME!!!!)

But before anyone laughs at my new obsessions . . . look at the following:

Bag of Gyoza (potstickers) $3.79. (With enough pieces to feed a 3-person family for two meals)
Shelled Edamame $1.27 (Ditto. . . )
Cup of Rice $0.50
Dumpling Sauce $2.79 (Which, given the amount needed per meal, will probably live in my refrigerator for months.)

20 minutes of cooking time . . . . and VOILA!


And not only am I officially posting pictures of my food . . . I have a SECOND new obsession as well. Please take a moment to notice the kawaii (cute) soy sauce dish I found at Pacific Mercantile. I've always been able to resist knick-knacks because they aren't functional. Well not anymore! MU HA HA.

Whoa nelly . . . let the obsession . . . er collection begin!

Thoughts on Asian Cuisine , , ,

Monday, August 24, 2009

[modified from the original post]

And speaking of dinner - I recently purchased a book of Asian recipes because it seems that a) Asian food is healthier, b) Asian food is cheaper, and c) Asian portions tend to be smaller (and yet VERY filling). Since there is not a lot of meat readily available in Japan (I won't speak to Korea, China, Vietnam, etc.) there tends to be a heavier reliance on vegetables, rice, and spices. So the very first step was to actually stock my larder with some standard Asian cooking materials. This led to a fascinating hour wandering around the Pacific Mercantile market learning how ingredients are categorized (let's see . . . this aisle is seaweed and curry - alrighty, then). Luckily, most of the labels sport English translations - but I'm confident enough in my hiragana and katakana that I think I could have located all of my ingredients even without the assistance, which is a neat feeling. Four grocery bags later (I bought sesame oil, chile oil, two kinds of sesame seeds, daikon radish, tofu, green onions, fresh ginger, canned pink sushi ginger (MMMMMMMmmmmmm), rice vinegar, mirin, srirracha sauce, frozen dumplings, frozen edamame, dumpling dipping sauce, and a 1/2 gallon of soy - okay, maybe not a half-gallon - but it's a huge bottle!) - the register rang up at around $40.00. Oh, yeah. I could get used to that!

And my first experiment was a sweet sesame tofu dish with a side of daikon/carrot salad. Aside from the fact that "sweet" apparently meant "burn your tastebuds off hot (the recipe called for a tablespoon of chile oil), it turned out beautifully and tasted wonderful!

For someone who lived off of Raviolis and fast food for 1/3 of her life . . . I'm not doing too badly! The funny part is, I think I might take to Asian cooking like a took to Japanese. For some reason - it makes sense to me. I like the ingredients. I love the recipes - and for someone who is usually a little timid about trying new things - I've actually enjoyed the experimentation. Apparently I can't stop myself from taking pictures of my culinary creations. Heh.

Of course . . . if I keep this up, I'll actually have an excuse to buy all of the absolutely adorable Japanese serving ware at the Pacific Mercantile. MU HA HA!!!