Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Shoyu Garlic Spinach

This is a quick way to prepare a delicious and healthy vegetable as a side for bento (or dinner). One bunch of horenso (spinach) will shrink down considerably, so you may need to cook a second batch. Simply toss the washed spinach into the pan with olive oil and chopped garlic, and stirfry until wilted. At the very end, add a splash of shoyu for flavor and sprinkle with sesame seeds. That's it. Easy, right? You may notice that I cook a lot of things in this exact same manner. Well, it's true that I like quick prep meals, and fewer ingredients also means there's less to remember, and you will probably have everything you need already in the house. Always a plus :)

I'd also like to say Thank you Michelle at Foodie Footsteps for the Over the Top Award!

The rules of this award are to (I'm copying Michelle's words here): answer the questions with only one worded answers (those are below)- thank the blogger who gave it to you over and over and over (that's exaggerated a bit) :)- pass it on to 6 of your favorite blogs. I hereby grant this award to:

Sally's Kitchen

Gourmet Mom on the Go

Cake Wrecks

Mothering Corner

hapa bento

Judy's Bento Box

1. Where is your cell phone? ...pocket
2. Your hair?...long
3. Your mother? ...awesome
4. Your father? ...supportive
5. Your favorite food? ...chocolate
6. Your dream last night? ...realistic
7. Your favorite drink? ..matcha
8. Your dream/goal? ...happiness
9. What room are you in?
10. Your hobby?...bento
11. Your fear?...missed opportunity
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years?...working
13. Where were you last night?...home
14. Something you aren't?...tall
15. Muffins?..cappuccino
16. Wish list item?...laptop
17. Where did you grow up? ...Hawaii
18. Last thing you did?
19. What are you wearing? ...Tshirt
20. Your TV?
21. Your pets?
22. Your friends?...lifelong
23. Your life?
24. Your mood? ...calm
25. Missing someone?
26. Vehicle? cooper
27. Something you're not wearing?
28. Your favorite store? .. Daiso
29. Your favorite color?...lavender
30. When was the last time you laughed? ...5m ago
31. Last time you cried? ...last night at the news
32. Your best friend? ...the hubs
33. One place that I go over and over? ...Safeway
34. One person who emails me regularly?
35. Favorite place to eat? ...Little Italy

Have fun everyone!

Goldfish Handmade Vegetable Cutter

This is what my goldfish cutter looks like. Similar to the double flower one, it is mounted on a "handle" for easier manipulation, and also to provide stability to the design while pressing.

This one has lots more detail, including rounded eyes and a cool fantail. The eye circles are soldered to the handle to stay in place. These pictures all show the bottom of the cutter; the part which actually cuts the vegetable. The metal is very thin and gives a nice sharp edge. The eyes are so tiny, though, that the carrot gets stuck...and must be removed with a straight pin :)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Koffing Bento

Koffing Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Koffing Pokémon, made of Okinawan sweet potato with satsumaimo and regular sweet potato detail. Toxic yellow cauliflower "gases", atop homemade vegetarian pad thai. Peapods, purple cauliflower, and "lotus cut" radish. True lotus should have been more curving at the bottom; I will try again next time. It added a bit of bright red accent to this side which I felt it needed.

Fruit section has red grapes, strawberries, raspberries, green plum, orange sunsugar cherry tomatoes. No-salt cottage cheese with pumpkin seeds and wheat germ. Usually I put fruit in here, but probably my boy will eat it with the berries anyway.

MisterMan has currently interrupted his Star Wars phase to obsessively read the series of Pokémon books he inherited from his cousins when we visited over Labor Day... he would stay up all night if we let him :|

Monday, September 28, 2009

Jade Rice

Jade rice is white rice that has been infused with bamboo extract, lending it a lovely green color. It is supposed to be highly nutritious, with 10g of fiber, 5g of protein and antioxidants in each 1/4 cup. The company brand name that I found is Lotus Foods, and you may be able to find it in a natural food or gourmet grocery, sold in bulk. As you can see, it is very pretty.

You cook it as you would cook white rice. In my batch, I mixed it with brown rice, which probably diluted the color, but even when cooked alone, the green color washes out, unfortunately. The resulting cooked rice looks much like regular white/brown rice.

But, it really does have a distinct flavor, something vegetative... it's nice and lightly aromatic. If you can find it, you might like to try it yourself!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Making (Vegetarian) Pad Thai

Pad Thai is a very popular noodle dish and one of the few Thai recipes that can be adjusted nicely to suit those who favor less spicy flavoring. It also has the added benefit of providing a means of offering all kinds of vegetables that kids might not otherwise be likely to eat on their own! You might like to try it with your own kids, or other picky non-veggie eaters. Besides the veggie aspect, the fact that it is a noodle dish makes it a great standard, and one we often turn to in our kitchen. It's quite easy to prepare at home.

First, start with the noodles. You will use rice sticks, the kind which are wide and broad. Soak them first in hot water until they soften, about 20 minutes, and then boil them for 5 more minutes or so until they are just done, but not mushy. You may have to keep watch on them, and taste for done-ness. When they are done, drain and rinse. Let rest in a colander. In the meantime, you can prepare the vegetables: I used bean sprouts, julienned carrots, chopped bok choy, green onion. I don't stick to traditional recipes; it's okay to use whatever vegetables you like. Also, you should use fried tofu, which can be purchased in the refrigerated section of your local Asian grocery.

Chop the tofu into small cubes. Heat the wok or skillet, and saute some chopped garlic in olive oil for a few minutes. Add 3 lightly beaten eggs, and scramble. Then, throw in your chopped veggies, noodles and tofu. Stir fry until everything is heated through. Add a mixture of 1/4C fish sauce (note: there is a vegetarian fish sauce, available at Vietnamese groceries. It does not have the anchovy, but it contains a mixture of soy beans, salt, sugar, water, chili, and citric acid as a preservative since this type isn't fermented), 1/4C lime juice, and 2T sugar (double if necessary). If you like it spicy, you may add crushed red pepper, chili sauce or sriracha -- but in our house we add it after serving, to suit individual varying tastes. Toss in chopped peanuts and green onion.

Now doesn't it look good? You may also serve it with a slice of lime to garnish, and cilantro on the side. Enjoy! Don't forget, pad thai is excellent the next day, and makes a great bento lunch :)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Stainless Steel Tiffin Bento

Here's an empty view of my new bento box. It has two tiers ~ a shallow one on top (shown on the right), which fits over the deeper bowl on the left. There are two locking mechanisms to ensure a tight seal, and two handles on the lid which can be raised for carrying, and folded flat for packing. It's quite sturdy and strong, and I expect it to withstand at least a year of 6-year-old swinging lunchbag action! (hopefully ;)

Right now it's so shiny and new...and full of bento lunch possibilities for the year ahead.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pad Thai Garden Bento

Pad Thai Garden Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Homemade vegetarian pad thai, which the kids LOVE! I made a huge batch so you may see this lunch again in a slightly different form. Top shallow tier is lined with lettuce and filled with pad thai, with broccoflower, purple and yellow carrot skewers, and tomato flowers with peapod and yellow carrot detail. Lower tier has strawberry, tangerine, Dapple Dandy baby plum, green plum, raspberries, and satsumaimo elephant.

Did you notice my brand-new stainless steel two-tier bento?! I found it at the Autumn Moon Festival in San Francisco and it's so neat and cool I can barely stand it. The shallow top tier fits snugly into the top lip of the bottom. The tight-fitting lid even has handles you can lift up for carrying and press flat for packing ~ isn't it cute? ;)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Making Wontons

The good thing about wontons is that they are easy to put into soup for a healthy, tasty meal...and they also go well in bento because they taste just as good cold or room temp. There is a bit of preparation time involved, but not too much. I used ground pork, which is traditional, but you could easily substitute turkey or chicken if you prefer. Season with shoyu, salt, sugar, pepper, garlic and a little cornstarch. I mixed in chopped baby bok choy because I like the crunch and the green color it adds. You can also add chopped green onions. The filling should look something like this.
Next, place a tiny amount in the center of the wrapper. I like to use square ones, because that is how my mom taught me. I thought these were square, but it turns out they were rectangular! Oh well, it doesn't matter that much, I guess.
It's important that you don't overfill them, as it will be difficult to close, and then you run the risk of them popping open later. Dip your fingertips in water and wet two adjacent edges of the wrapper. Press those edges to the other side, folding the wrapper into a triangle. Try to press out any air pockets.
You can see here that my triangle is imperfect, due to my rectangular wrapper.  If you bought square ones, you will get a nice, perfect triangle. Good for you. Oh, and make sure you use medium thickness, not thin, as they will hold up better during cooking. Next, make a pinch in the bottom edge and bring the two side corners down to meet and overlap.
Wet the corners to seal.
Repeat with the rest of the filling, till you are done! If you calculated right, you should come out even. Today, I got lucky! Filling and wrappers came out even. Yay!
Halfway done. Look how cute they look, sitting together like that. When you are ready to cook, set a pot of water to boil. Place the wontons in gently and make sure they don't touch the bottom of the pan, or they might stick there. Cook for one more minute after they float to the surface. This is how my mom taught me; she really did not give me a more specific cooking time than that. You should watch them, because it won't take more than 5 minutes or so.
All done! Drain and cool. You can serve them in a chicken broth-based soup, with some choy, onions, mushrooms, garlic and green onion, even spinach. This is what we did for dinner tonight. It was a hit with everyone, especially the kids :) The leftover wontons made it into bento for tomorrow; see my latest on my flickr photostream.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New Flower Cutter Bento

New Flower Cutter Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Yeah, it's the hand-cut metal flower cutter with internal flower cut-out... and I love it!! I used it to cut satsumaimo (Japanese sweet potato) and regular sweet potato flowers. There is also a yellow carrot flower, peapods, purple and yellow cauliflower, cherry and pear tomatoes, and purple carrot skewer. Main meal is leftover pasta with sausage and mushroom, onion and peppers. Fruit side has the sweet green plum, strawberries and grapes underneath.

We spent the day at the Autumn Moon Street Festival in SF Chinatown, and got back late, and it was too dark in the house so I had to take the pic outside on the patio... so this explains the stray twigs and grass (no time to sweep for a neat photo).

I did get more hand-made vegetable cutters... and I will post about them when I get around to using them. One in particular is quite large, and I need to find a vegetable with enough girth to use it!!

Homebaked Bread

In our family, 4 toasts every morning and the occasional sandwich for lunch means we go through a loaf of bread a I turned to homebaked bread for economical reasons. But what I discovered is that there are other pleasures of homebaked bread, including the way it makes the house smell so homey and warm. MisterMan announced as soon as he walked in the door after school, "I see you're baking bread!" Also, there's nothing quite so much fun as add-ins...and we've tried all kinds of nuts and dried fruits, spices like cinnamon and cocoa, and even healthy stuff they'll never notice like flaxmeal and wheat germ. This loaf has whole wheat, 10 grain cereal, honey and walnuts. Next week, maybe sour cream and pistachios?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mini Pizza Bento!

I have a kind of obsession with miniatures, and you may see a few mini bento when the mood strikes me, and when I have extra time to *waste*. I like to use only edible stuff, since they usually are part of an actual snack bento for my toddler girl, TinySprite. This bento features a mini pizza, made from a whole wheat tortilla and spread with real tomato-basil sauce. The toppings are chopped green peppers, mushrooms, real pepperoni rounds, and shredded cheddar cheese. It is "raw", as I didn't actually bake it :) The rest of the bento includes champagne grapes, yellow pear tomato, pasta spirals, broccoflower, peach wedges, blackberry, strawberries, and spinach leaf. She really did eat it all, even the spinach leaf.  :)               
And a close-up view of the pizza :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Red & Orange Ravioli Bento

Red & Orange Ravioli Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
MisterMan gets vegetable & cheese ravioli, yellow and purple cauliflower, yellow and purple carrot skewers, peapods, sweet potato and satsumaimo flowers, radish, cherry tomatoes and ocean salad. All-red fruit side includes Elephant Heart plums, red grapes, strawberries and organic raspberries.
Hm, looking at it now, it's kind of flowery and "heart-y"... but I don't think he'll mind!
I'll be sure to make him a "boy" one next week for sure, eh?

Bamboo Steamer Basket

This is the tiniest size, about 5 inches in diameter. I am showing its original appearance as purchased, as I plan to alter it for a special project! ^ - ^

My new hand-cut double Flower Cutter

This is how the cutting edge looks. The flower petals are crimped and soldered to stay in place and connected to the little center flower. It's so cute and supercool at the same time! They had lots of other designs and I will definitely want to go back for more :)

And here's how big it is. The cutter itself is attached to a sturdy "handle" to allow for easier pressing!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

San Francisco Chinatown Autumn Moon Festival

Well, it was a beautiful day for the street festival, and if you follow me on twitter you know that there were all kinds of stuff to be seen and eaten. But the highlight for me was finding cool vegetable cutters and a couple new bento boxes, including a bamboo steamer basket that I need to customize for a special mini bento in the works!

Chasoba Bento

Chasoba Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Chasoba (green tea soba) with surimi, ocean salad, sauce in container, edamame skewer, tomato, peapods, purple carrots and quail egg. In cute round bento!
Fruit square has Elephant Heart plum, strawberry and red grapes.

Little pea hen was lost on MisterMan... he didn't notice it at all! Perhaps I should be a bit less subtle with the facial features next time ;)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Salmon Misoyaki Bento

Salmon Misoyaki Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Wild salmon misoyaki with roasted asparagus, peapods, purple and yellow cauliflower, tricolor cherry tomatoes skewer, purple and yellow carrots skewer, and satsumaimo & sweet potato.

Fruits include strawberries, blackberries, Dapple Dandies plum, and red grapes (underneath).

The kids ate the salmon in sandwiches with crusty French bread for dinner, and used the sauce on all the veggies :) This bento box has a clear lid, and I should have taken a pic of it in MisterMan's lunchbag -- it looks so cool, like a little garden in his bag ^ - ^

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Kitty and Mouse Bento

Kitty and Mouse Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Chicken & spinach all-natural nitrite-free sausage, peapods, purple cauliflower, enoki mushrooms, purple carrot skewer and cherry tomatoes. Kitty onigiri is made of carrot rice with carrot, nori and yellow pepper detail. He is sitting on a sweet potato.
Fruit side has strawberry mouse with golden raspberry ears and purple carrot eyes, blackberries, grapes and (yellow) plum.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Chili Pasta Bento

Chili Pasta Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Chicken chili over pasta, with superbright purple and gold cauliflower (from farmers market today), cucumber dividers, peapods, purple carrot discs, 3 tomato skewer, flowers made from satsumaimo (Japanese sweet potato), regular sweet potato and yellow carrot. Broccoflower underneath.
Fruit cup has Dapple Dandy plum (supersweet!! from farmers market today too), blackberries and golden raspberry.

I took this photo outside since it was such a cloudy, dark day (too dark in the house), and it looks so much brighter (and overexposed) than usual! Right as I was taking it, it started to pour, so I got lucky ....

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bijou Toddler Bento

Bijou Toddler Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Radish hamster (I know, she doesn't have ribbons but I didn't have anything blue), quail egg "sunflower seed" with nori detail and red pepper bow, satsumaimo flowers, peapods, strawberry, tangerine, golden raspberries, and grapes below.

A tiny snack for TinySprite :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Happy Face and Flower Bento

Happy Face and Flower Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
This is a happy and fresh one to remind us of those long-lost days of summer *sigh*
OK, it's only been 2 weeks, but still.

I made shoyu chicken with thigh meat, which the kids love. I also threw in some new potatoes, which soak up the sauce and get nice and soft and flavorful, but they ate them all up so there is none for the bento. I also roasted asparagus and red / yellow / green capsicum with olive oil and garlic powder. The broccoli is steamed plain, but it tastes very good dipped into the shoyu sauce, which is how the kids ate the whole head :) The white flowers are Japanese sweet potato (satsumaimo), with purple carrot detail -- I think they look like a certain daffodil... The tomato flowers have green olive centers and peapod detail.

Fruit side has half a black plum, black and red grapes, strawberries, golden raspberries, a blackberry and a champagne grape smilie.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Star Wars Bento #3

Star Wars Bento #3, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
It's.... Master Yoda (brussel sprout head, cucumber ears and hands, tortilla & hummus robe and cuke lightsaber -- too short, as MisterMan immediately pointed out : )

I made fishcakes using halibut mixed with wild rice, rolled oats, green onion, yellow pepper, an egg, dry mustard, Old Bay and some flour. I refrigerated it to try to get it to keep its shape better, but it still made kind of a crumbly patty...there are 2 patties under Yoda. He also gets broccoli, broccoflower, tomato, peapods, purple carrot skewer, and sweet potato "blossoms".

Fruit side has yellow plums (I forget what these are called; I was sure they would be sour and I wouldn't need to get them again...but actually they are very sweet and I love them...too bad I can't remember which to get again :( strawberries, blackberries, golden raspberry and champagne grapes.

For all of you younglings, remember the wise words of the Master: "There is no try, only do."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hamtaro Bento

Post-Labor Day Vacation Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Bento of oyakodon, with okra and chive detail, purple carrot stars, sweet potatoes, one of the last remaining yellow pear tomatoes on my now-scraggly bush, olive and feta. Dinosaur Egg plums and black grapes.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pretty Pink Bento (Bento #200!)

TinySprite's bento had: nitrite-free ham, cream cheese, roasted red pepper and spinach rollups, honeydew nectarines, broccoli, carrot stars, tamagoyaki with spinach, strawberry, blackberries, yellow pear tomatoes, and champagne grapes. Oh, and cheese flowers right on top!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Frogs in the Garden Bento

Frogs in the Garden Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Another garden bento for MisterMan inspired by the kids' backyard play: these 2 frogs have moved into the fold of my favorite lounge chair, so now we don't lounge -- we only peer at them and see how they are doing, sometimes spray them with mist to cool them down from the summer heat.

The two cucumber frogs are resting on some red wine vinegar chicken, with roasted asparagus and garlic enoki mushrooms. Also, peapods, sweet potato and Okinawan purple potato, purple carrot skewer, and rice underneath. Fruit side has lychee, pluot, strawberries, blackberries and champagne grapes.

Stay cool, little froggies :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Star Wars Bento #2

Star Wars Bento #2, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
This is especially for you, young Padawan (Jedi Apprentice) MisterMan!
Everyone's favorite droids, C3PO (yellow pepper and radish) and R2D2 (quail egg, radish and lettuce detail)!
Butteryaki salmon, cucumbers, purple carrot skewer, roasted asparagus, peapods, black & white rice underneath. Also, black plum, lychee, strawberry, grapes and cantaloupe.
MisterMan recognized them right away (whew!) so I guess I did alright :) He's such an immense fan, he can tell me the color of everyone's lightsaber, and who uses Sith Lightning, and which episodes featured which battles. I'll hone my talents so I can do more characters for him :o)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Garden Bento

Garden Bento for MisterMan, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
My first-grader gets rice vermicelli with barbequed pork (Bún thịt nướng) from our local Vietnamese restaurant, with 2 shrimp. The "garden" part is from the purple carrot "pansy" and the radish "mushroom", as well as the tomato and the purple potato slices all served atop a bed of lettuce. The fruit bowl consists of honeydew nectarine, strawberries, pluots, grapes, blackberries and lychee.

I thought of making a garden bento because he and his sister had so much fun playing together in our garden yesterday after school, catching frogs, picking up leaves, and climbing in the lounge chairs... it was almost like summer is still here...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tomato Man Bento

Tomato Man Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
For MisterMan: Teriyaki salmon with peapods, 2 kinds of sweet potato and golden beet "maple leaves". Purple carrot disc skewer, and tomato frog man. Strawberry, champagne grapes, blackberries, and lychee.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pesto and Semi-dried Tomatoes Pasta Bento

Besides the pasta, MisterMan has yellow peppers and enoki stir-fried with olive oil, garlic and shoyu. Purple carrot skewer, cukes, peapods, sweet potato flowers, tomato and Spanish olive salad with feta, and fruit section of strawberries, kiwi, red grapes and honeydew nectarines -- these smell fantastic, but sadly, they don't taste as sweet as the black plums or pluots, my all-time favorites.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Doggie With Bone Bento

This one was for TinySprite, to keep her occupied while brother does his own thing for awhile...
Carrot / zucchini meatloaf on the bottom, with a nitrite-free ham dog lovin' her swiss cheese bone. Purple potato, cheese and strawberry details. Carrot flowers, yellow capsicum rings, tiny organic strawberries, and a couple peapods.

This is the teeniest stainless steel container they have at Daiso, but doesn't it hold a lot? 'Course, I didn't close it up, but still...