Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bento (29) - Bento Outside the Box

Okay - so it's not the best Halloween-themed bento ever (hopefully next year I'll be more on top of things) . . . but as I was fixing my lunch today, the bento urge took over, and so I ended up laying out my plate of food in bento fashion (plus, I had to use up all my leftovers for the week).

The sandwiches were artifical crab with a tablespoon of mayo and provolone cheese bits (and just wait until you see my new sammy idea - coming up this week >.< !! Of course, if it doesn't turn out, I'll deny every having made this comment.) The soy bunnies are on a bed of edamame (as usual), and the brown things are mushrooms sauteed in butter and wine. The middle portion is blueberry/strawberry salad with provolone cheese flower.

I may have to try an artful arrangment of fruit and soy bunnies for the Holiday potluck this year . . . hmmmmm. It's either that or partridge cupcakes. We shall see!

Have a Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bento (28) - Blurry Bento

Due to mass popularity in the overall flavor department - the imitation crab and avacado has returned. I should admit that I stole that idea from Pikko at Adventures in Bento Making. Actually - her site is a major part of what inspired me to try my hand and making bentos.

I think a lot of my time issues in the morning have to do with making THREE bentos. T. had to go to work early and Goose had no school due to inclement weather (by which I mean power outage, tree-limb snapping, wreck inducing snow) . . . so I only made one bento - for me. And it took about 15-20 minutes instead of an hour. Imagine that! LOL.

In my top level, I had the crab avacado/salad and edamame with carrot stars. In the bottom, I had stawberry/kiwi salad (which I ended up topping with some errant blueberries), a commercial heart-jelly (think Jello-O with strange floating white squares), and a boiled egg cut into thirds (of which only two went in the box). I also discovered sprinkling sesame seed in an attractive pattern is harder than it looks! I'm chalking it up to the same expertise needed to make attractive ketchup flowers - a skill which I have mastered to Level 3 - but cannot advance to Level 5 until I master my fear of the mostly-empty ketchup bottle and it's potential for raining red destruction on the rest of my carefully arranged bento.

My only complaint about this bento was the lack of carbs. I was thinking about cutting down on rice/noodle consumptions, but by 3:00 I was getting the urge to go find munchies around the office. Must remember carbs = energy in the future.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bento (27) - Sloppy Joe Onigiri Balls

I tried to get a little fancy with Sloppy Joe stuffed onigiri balls. The yellow flowers are egg and the green leaves are diagonal-cut greenbeans. I didn't have any pretty pink fishie flakes - so I thought I'd let the sloppy joe filling seep through and see if that complemented the colors. And now you know why the smaller onigiri ball is hiding in back . . . not all my ideas are good ideas. Heh.

Let's see - the fancy balls are surrounded by carrots. To the right is strawberry kiwi salad with a provolone star and corn with an edamame/ketchup flower. For my bento (and for T.'s) I was playing with making quail egg tulips. YAY protein!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bento (26) - Lazy Bento Day

Monday morning. I had Chinese leftovers and very little motivation, so I decided to go with the "lazy psuedo-bento" and just try to arrange my leftovers into something cute.

I had curry chicken leftovers. (Note the blue kitty - he made the whole box for me!) Unsurprisingly - I've discovered that if you keep your liquid foods (in this case, the curry) away from your rice until lunchtime, everything stays much tastier! The kale makes a great divider, even though it isn't waterproof.

As finishers, I cut up a kiwi and added carrot stars to my bento. T.'s was very similar, except he had beef and broccoli. And a techno-color pepper.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bento (25) - Return of the Sushi Rice and Shy Bunnies

This stuff is super nummy, but I have to work on my layering skills . . . . Goose ate most of his toppers this time (carrots, cucumber, cheese, and ham) - but didn't touch a bite of rice! Bunnies were gone, green beans stayed (really, are you surprised?) and blueberries and heart-shaped jelly both disappeared.

T.'s bento was almost identical . . . but no jelly for him! Hah!

I spent a little extra time on my bento since I was going to show it off at a book club lunch. In a shocking twist of events, no one came (:P :P :P) - so my lunch and I spent some quality time together. And I discovered soy bunnies are nummy - with or without company!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bento (24) - Apple Flower

This was a beautiful bento. I wedged an apple, layered green beans, used mandarin oranges and blueberries for color contrast, and added two little carrot stars to hide the "seam" where the green beans and mandarin oranges meet . . . too bad I built it IN THE LID!!! LOL!!! After I took my picture, I had to tear the whole thing apart and re-create a miniature version in the actual food compartment. Maybe I need to think about having a cup of coffee before I bento! And yet I still got Goose to school on time - impressive, right?

The second compartment is filled with multi-colored cheese-filled tortellini, a small forest of green beans, and a silicon cupcake holder with spaghetti sauce for dipping (and cheese flower for accent). Since a lot of this bento consisted of fruit, I took a hard-boiled egg to make sure I had enough protein for the day.

Goose had pasta (with a carrot topper in his sauce), mandarin orange/blueberry salad, and a fishie egg resting on a bed of green beans. Poor little green beans. They looked awful sad when his bento box returned and they were the only thing left in it!

T. didn't eat his crab bento from yesterday, so I sent him off to work with his aquarium bento. About noon, my phone rang, and T. said "Um . . . yeah. Okay. That bento was really cute." Score another point for me! YAY!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bento (23) - Fun with Food Coloring

Prepare to laugh maniacally - at me, NOT with me. Today's top bento lesson is: Do not assume that because food coloring is edible, it will wash off your hands. ACK! I almost had to explain to everyone at work why I had been petting smurfs. Fortunately, applying large amounts of soap and friction removed most of the blue from my skin - though there were still tell-tale signs under my nails. But I got my blue rice (MU HA HA)! And for everyone who is horrified that I use food coloring - if you've ever eaten a frosted cookie from the bakery, you have no right to yell at me. So, there!

Aquarium bento! I'm still learning how to use my crab cutter, so we had a few crab casualities. Apparently the artificial ocean is a very dangerous place! (And yes, they are crabs - NOT LOGS.) The ocean is white rice with blue food coloring, the "sand" is brown rice, the seaweed is kale, and the two white objects are shell noodles - though you can't see their cute little lines in the photo. The yellow and pink "urchins" are a sugar candy I found at Pacific Mercantile. And the gold fishies are goldfish crackers! (I probably put too many things in - but I couldn't help myself!) The green triangle is a sauce holder that has ketchup and mustard for Goose's crabs.

T.'s bento looked just like Goose's - except I gave him a serving of edamame and carrot flowers instead of extra crabs! The right lower container has sweet potato/apple salad - which I overcooked and ended up with sweet potato/applesauce salad. Still nummy. I topped the salad with a fishie filled with dumpling sauce for the technocolor rice.

And to make my bento special, I had a penguin sauce holder to put my ketchup in! I love the penguin, but it is slightly large for the two tier bento boxes and makes it hard to put on the lid. Overall, I was very pleased with how cute these turned out (although I definitely need to practice with my crab cutter!), but the flavor was fairly bland. I'll have to think of more "textured" items that I can add that will compliment the way an aquarium bento actually TASTES. Goose ate all the toppings, but left his blue and brown rice - after he mixed it up and it really did look like the gravel in my aquarium. LOL!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bento (22) - Finger-Lickin' Fire Rice

Every once in a while I get a good idea :P :P :P So I dug into the 13 lb. bag of peppers from Miller's Farm to help top T.'s bento today. Finger-lickin' fire rice! The bottom level is the ever-present imitation crab and avacado salad (these things happen when you shop at Sams Club) . . . a few carrots for color, and a blueberry/mandarin orange salad.

Goose got an imitation crab flower. And he ate ALL OF IT too! Score one for the mommy! Of course, it could also be mistaken for some bottom-dwelling sea critter - so I think I'll have to work on my flower capabilities.

Unfortunately, after I made the boys their bentos, my creativity ran dry. So I added a little corn for color, stuffed a few tomatos with cream cheese, topped my rice with edamame, and called it good enough for 7:15 a.m. bento work (I have to leave by 7:30 a.m. :P :P :P).

The good news is: I'm getting faster! And I'm getting the hang of it - so more and more of these bentos are my creations and don't come straight from a book. YAY!! >.<

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bento (21) - Decorating Brown Rice

The true challenge is going to be keeping T.'s brown rice decorated . . . though the Nishiki rice definitely held it's shape better than Basmati! Thank you J!! I stuffed all the onigiri with cream cheese and cucumber, so that probably helped hold the rice together. The red stuff is a failed jello experiment (buy hey- it still looks good paired with mandari oranges!!) White circular things are cucumbers, orange is carrots, and crab meat/avacado salad has returned for a second day.

It's a good thing my rice was happy - 'cause I had a rotten day - and it really helped brighten my lunch hour!

After I made Goose's bento I suddenly realized I forgot protein. OOPS! So I asked Goose to take a bite of artificial crab - which he loved! So I tore some artificial crab into pieces and stuffed it in between the grapes.

And just to add fuel to the fire of your imagination as you wonder what my kitchen-life is like in the morning . . . we shall NOT discuss the Frosted Flakes explosion. Good grief!

A Note on Portion Size

Everyone keeps staring at my bento and asking me "if that's enough food." Since I didn't bento on Columbus Day, I took some bento leftovers and measured them out onto a "normal plate." (I've wanted to do this experiment for a while). I did squish the rice down into shapes . . . but I think this proves once and for all that bentos hold an average portion of food - just in smal cute compactness!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bento (20) - Tic Tac Toe Bento

Onwards and downwards - I made Goose a special Tic-Tac-Toe Bento today. The X's are sweet potatos and the O's are cucumber cut-outs. The grid was made with nori. The main protein is a car-shaped boiled egg (let's hear it for egg molds!) and the salad is blueberry/apple. All in all, I was very pleased with this bento! I hope he actually has time to eat it (as I suspect he may actually play a few games first :P :P :P). I included dumpling sauce in a lion container for his rice and eggs (and possibly potatos and cucumbers . . . if it makes him eat them, I'm all for it!).

The blueberries are a little sour :( :( :( In fact, T. was thinking of using them as a dare at work - so I may let them sit for a day or two and hope they ripen a little more. T.'s bento was intentionally non-cute today (with the exception of the panda sauce holder). He has brown rice topped with edamame, imitation crab and avacado salad, blueberry/apple salad, and a boiled egg cut in half and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

I have no bento today as, for some odd reason, my work actually gives us Columbus Day as a day off. Which gives me time to catch up on some housework, blog posting, etc. And I must say I'm surprised that I'm already on Bento 20. Given the amount of work and the ungodly hours I have to wake up in order to bento, I wasn't sure I would make it this far! Let's hear it for perseverance! (Or obsessions - because there is no way in heck I would wake up at 5:00 a.m. to EXERCISE ::grin::).

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bento (19) Taco Sandwich Intervention and Bunnies Gone Wild

I have a rare day off today - YAY! so I only had to make one bento for T. And I think I advanced to bento master Level 3 for freehand creativeness and first use of a kawaii food pick for accent (look for the little yellow monkey in the taco sandwich box). The taco sandwiches started a 12-step cuteness program - and with a crust-cut and the addition of kale separators, they are looking much more attractive. (It just goes to show how much of a difference a little extra step can make!)



Bento (18) - Taco Sandwiches

And so the experiment began . . . with creating taco sandwiches (ingredients: bread, butter, cheese, and buffalo cooked in fajita mix - 'cause I apparently ran out of taxo mix). Unfortunately, I ran out of time while creating T.'s bento - so his piggies are actually just quail eggs wearing Yellow No. 5. The rest of his bento consisted of taco sandwiches (which need a "cuteness" intervention), rasberries with provolone star, grapes, and celery with peanut butter. "Why celery with peanut butter," you ask?

They are mud wallows for the piggies!!!!

I was about to leave my bento uncompleted as well . . . when I remembered I had a book club over lunch, and my bento skills would be on public display. ACK! There wasn't much I could do about the taco sandwiches . . . but I could finish my piggy and add a baby chick!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bento (17) - Five Minute Tangy Chicken

So I meant to hit "snooze" on my alarm this morning - and hit "off" instead. Which equals a school lunch for Goose and I thought I'd just throw some leftover tangy chicken from last night's dinner into a tupperware for me. And then I realized that I have reached bento master Level 2 when I actually whipped together a simple bento IN UNDER 5 MINUTES (proving it is possible - as long as everything is pre-cooked and available in the fridge). Ta daa!!!

In retrospect, I would put a little more greenery under the fruit salad (so it could be easily lifted out for microwave purposes later) - but overall, I was very pleased with this simple lunch. In fact - tomorrow's lunch will probably share a pretty close resemblace - so I may not post. This also proves that you don't need the fancy bento boxes to make attractive bento lunches - unless you've been bitten by the kawaii bug like me >.<

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bento (16) - Happy Rice!

And the lessons for this week - boys and girls - are:
1) Rice cookers are WONDERFUL.
2) Brown rice does not stick to itself. Not without all sorts of saran wrap and tape, at any rate.
3) Tape has joined the hole punch in being reclassified as a cooking tool

How could I not smile when I saw the following in my bento box today?

The rice balls are sitting on top of a fresh yellow pear tomato and leftover roasted zuchinni and squash from last night's dinner. The yellow stuff is corn egg drops - with an edamame and ketchup flower. Goose didn't seem overly impressed (and ignored the ranch in his new dipping cup - which was meant to make the brocolli more palatable. . . grrr). But apparently cooked carrots can go on the list of veggies he will eat. The fruit is mandarin oranges and grapes. And "oh!" - I stuffed the rice balls with a hamburger/onion/ketchup concoction. I'm still trying to get used to the idea that you only need microscopic amounts of food for bentos.

T. apparently caught heck from his co-workers for the smiley rice balls. I defy you brown rice! With the assistance of tape - though shalt make a smiley ball shape!! (If you notice the ketchup . . . it's HARD to squirt ketchup with precision.) T. mentioned he's not so sure about corn and eggs - so the bulk of his veggies are edamame.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Incoming Kawaii Bento Tools from Japan - NORI PUNCHES

For those who think I've already gone around the bend . . . stop reading here. You are about to see why I titled my blog Obento OBSESSION. And for those who are wondering where in the heck I'm getting my supplies - I've ordered the bulk of them from I Love Obento and J-List, both of which ship items in from Japan (it's not the item prices, but the shipping that is KILLER). And as a sidenote for those who venture onto the J-List site . . . they have PG side and an adult side - and they're not kidding. Little old me just shopping for bento boxes got a few anatomical eyefuls . . . so be prepared. I hope one girl was photoshopped, because if not, she must suffer horrendous back pain.

Having said all that . . . my shipment is HERE. I have NORI PUNCHES! WOOT!!!! My rice can be officially happy to see me!

I also ordered a full set of alphabet cookie cutters (what better way to teach your child his "high frequency vocabulary words" than to spell out messages in ham and cucumber on his lunch?!), new sauce containers (for dipping), a penguin spice/sauce holder ('cause he was too cute to resist . . . his little beak is a mini-spoon ::squeal::), animal picks, and a wiener cutter (for HOTDOGS you goofballs!) It will allow me to turn hotdogs into cute little crabs (and isn't that a frightening image?). I repeat FEAR ME!!

Bento (15) Dinosaurs Drinking out of a Milk Jelly Pond

Thursday's bento was a lovely chicken/cucumber/mozarella salad with a side of avocado/strawberry salad topped with provolone flowers, leftover sweet potato muffins, cucumber salad, and for Goose and I - leftover milk jellies. My bento also had potato salad (I'm the only one in the house who appreciates the potato salad) and ham and cheese stuffed tomatoes.

I know . . . I know . . . I should have known better than to put a milk jelly in Goose's box . . . but I couldn't resist dinosaur chicken nuggets drinking out of a milk jelly pond. Of course - Goose's description of them as "goobery" after the inevitable spill has made the final determination that milk jellies are good weekend food, but too messy for school bento. Plus Goose didn't care for the green beans or cucumbers, so the little critter was having a blood sugar melt-down when I picked him up from school. No worries . . . Applebees fixed all :P :P :P