Salmon today is furikake salmon. What is furikake salmon, you say?
Here's what I do: Get a nice filet of wild Alaskan salmon and squirt kewpie mayo and sprinkle our favorite nori fumi furikake on both sides. Pan fry till cooked through, flipping carefully halfway. That's it! Super yummy! I can practically guarantee your kids will love it. Also good traditionally with mahi mahi.
Since the fish is so flavorful I thought I could get away with packing a musubi (there's furikake in here too). I made a face with nori and radish, and topped with a crown pick. This little box still had room to pack some steamed peapods, broccoli and purple carrots (which I cut into flowers and skewered on a cute tulip pick). Fruit section has super juicy Cara Cara orange slices, strawberry and a grape. This box is a bit on the small side (450ml) compared to what I usually use, but I think I still managed to squeeze in enough to make him a substantial midday meal ^_^
Salmon today was broiled in olive oil with pepper, garlic and lemon juice. I served it with potato "chips" that I tossed in the same pan to crisp up. Also in this bento is steamed broccoli, yellow carrot flowers and cherry tomato ladybugs with nori detail. I stuck the nori on with olive oil. You can't use water; you'll find the nori will just curl up and fall off. The bugs are sitting on steamed baby potato halves. Everything looks so garden-y in the lettuce leaf, doesn't it?
For fruits he gets red grapes, a kumquat for contrast, a luscious strawberry and some cara cara orange wedges. These oranges are back in stock in a big way at my local market. Yay! Good thing too, since we probably each eat one a day.
Don't forget to enter the Hawaii's Bento Box Cookbook giveaway here!
You may have heard about this new bento cookbook by Susan Yuen. It's brand new, and filled with lots of useful tips, information and recipes for any bento maker -- from novice to pro. I should know; I've got a copy myself!
Susan has been such a great bento pal and source of encouragement and support to me. She's always happy to share from her experience, and this book is a perfect example of that generosity. If you've ever admired her bento and wondered if you could ever learn to make such cute charaben, I can tell you that you'll learn tons of her techniques in this book. She shares a lot in here! I love it so much I want to share it with you. Well, one of you, anyway! I have a brand-new, autographed (by the author, not me) copy and I want to give it away! Maybe to YOU!
All you have to do to qualify for the random drawing is leave a comment below by 12:00 midnight PDT Saturday, telling me something you've learned about bento since you've started bentomaking; or if you're new to bento, why you're interested in starting. Or, feel free to share anything else you'd like. I'll also throw in a surprise bunch of bento goodies to get you going, too. Can't show you because I don't have it yet, but I'll go shopping this weekend. Good luck!
I haven't used this panda bento box in awhile, and I really love it a lot. It's so cute! I forgot to include the top in the photo last time, and I forgot again this time. Oops. It looks a bit like the face I made on the brown/white rice with freehand nori cutouts. Underneath the rice is yet more chicken adobo; the last of it. I put as thin a layer of rice as I could, and added extra sauce in the container for him to mix in if he likes. In the lower tier I placed some fruits: strawberries, mandarin and grapes, and a little sprig of broccoli. I know, there are barely any vegetables in this bento. Why didn't I toss in some carrots or sweet potatoes? Well, they did eat a bunch at dinner, so that's okay.
The Before and After Bento Project came about when my fellow bentomakers and I were sharing photos of our bento from days long past. Debra (Hapabento), Megan (Bento Zen), Susan (Hawaii's Bento Box Cookbook) and I had a laugh over how much our styles have changed over the months and years. After all, we can't help but learn and grow from experience -- what tastes good, what holds up well, what looks good. Debra had the idea for us to each take our first posted bento and "remake" it, using the same ingredients and the same box, to see how it might turn out today. What an interesting project it turned out to be.
First of all, I had been making bento for my son for many years, although it never occurred to me to make them "look good". The first time I posted a bento on flickr was just out of curiosity. I had been reading Just Bento and happened upon the flickr group there. So here goes; my first "published" bento, from February 16, 2009:
As it happens, I still have this box, and use it from time to time, but I have since come to realize that it's pretty large for my kid's appetite. As you can see, I don't come near to filling it up. One thing I've learned over the years is that a tightly packed smaller size bento box forces you to think about the type of calories you choose to fill it with. As a bonus, the foods are less likely to move around in a tightly packed box. However, I wanted to see if I could use this box and the same foods, and arrange it in a more pleasing manner. I was happy to discover that basically all these foods are ones that I still make and pack. So I didn't have to compromise in terms of nutrition. My main objective was to "rearrange". Here's what I did:
So what do you think? I'll admit that my 2009 bento was probably packed in a couple of minutes max, while the re-do version bento took time for me to cut nori and carve cucumbers and carrots. I also took some liberties with the kind of rice (I used a red/brown mix). But, overall I think the extra effort was not unreasonable.
It was fun to do this. Perhaps you might get a kick out of looking back through your old bento archives and reminisce about your changing tastes and techniques as well. If I do it again in another year, I bet I'll come up with something completely different again :)
Don't forget to check out my fellow bento-makers' takes on the Before and After Project. We all have differing bento backgrounds and our "first" bento comes from varying timeframes. You may be surprised!
Today's Earth Day bento contains chicken adobo, a pea/jade rice cup with carrot and nori details made to look like a lion, cottage cheese with blackberries and chopped almonds, a few broccoli spears, and a fruit cup of mandarins and sliced kiwi.
I used Ivoryhut's recipe for the chicken adobo, although there are many variations you can try. Here's the recipe I used, adapted from Ivoryhut:
8 chicken thighs
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 cup shoyu
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 T packed brown sugar
Mix everything together in the pot you'll be cooking in.
Marinate at least 20 minutes.
Bring to boil, then reduce heat, cover and cook 15 minutes.
Remove cover, flip chicken, and continue to simmer until fully cooked, and liquid has reduced.
Super easy, right? The chicken gets nice and dark and tender, and the sauce thickens and becomes rich dark brown. The flavor is tangy and sweet, and the sauce is amazing over rice and with veggies. Your kids will eat the whole head of broccoli if you let them dip it in the sauce. Yum!
Finally, I used all stainless steel for this bento -- the box, cups, chopsticks and spoon (not pictured). Well, the heart and earth picks are plastic. All reusable. Yay!
For MisterMan's bento today I decided to use the split pea / jade rice combo I cooked. I was hoping to end up with really green rice, but the color faded and I was left with slightly pale green pea rice. I made sushi rolls and cut two pieces for snail bodies. Too bad you can't see the nori spiral, but it's very cute. For the snail heads I steamed and cut a tiny baby potato in half, and added nori details. They are snuggling with some baby carrots.
Are you wondering what that red food is on top? It's yet another recipe from The 10 Things You Need To Eat (Lieberman and O'Connor) called Beet and Zucchini "Lasagne", although there're actually no lasagne noodles involved. It's pretty good, and a good way for the family to get a heaping dose of both vitamin C and iron. Here's the quick rundown:
Beet & Zucchini "Lasagne"
-Brown 1 lb. ground meat, season with s/p.
-Add oregano, minced garlic, and one 16 oz can of crushed tomatoes. Cook 15 min, then set aside.
-Combine 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese with 1/8 t freshly grated nutmeg.
-In a glass baking dish approx. 7x11 inches, spread a layer of meat sauce on the bottom.
-Follow with a layer of beets (2 lbs worth, boiled, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick).
-Then a layer of zucchini (3 pieces, peeled lengthwise into ribbons down to the seeds).
-Then spread the ricotta mixture.
-Repeat the layering, ending with beets and zucchini.
-Top with 2 cups grated mozzarella, then bake for 30min at 375F until brown and bubbly on top.
What you end up with is a juicy meat and veggie lasagne, with the beet juice soaking into everything and making it sweet and tasty. I love beets, so it was naturally delicious to me. But the kids aren't necessarily beet fans, so I was happy that they dug in and got their fill of vitamins! For this bento, I cut small pieces for ease of eating. In the fruit section I put some sliced Cara Cara oranges and red grapes. We have been eating lots of the Cara Caras; I love their dark orange-red color and I'm so glad they're in such abundance here. My local market sells them for 25c each. :D
Finally, a couple pics of my jade / split pea combo, before and after cooking:
Today's bento is a spring garden bento, which will be submitted to Hapabento's contest. There's still time for you to enter too!
As you know, my boy is not a big rice eater, but I really wanted to use my red/brown rice as "dirt" for my garden scene. So I put a layer of roast chicken down, added furikake, and topped with just a thin layer of rice. In fact, I think you can even see the chicken below in some places. I really did put the minimum amount. I hope it is acceptable :) I also sprinkled more furikake on top, for taste. It can represent the mulch, let's say. Steamed broccoli form the border below, peapods are the stems, and the three sets of flowers are pink carrot "roses", yellow and purple carrot "daisies", and radish "tulips". I lined the box with green lettuce leaf as well, to further the growing garden theme.
The small box holds half a mandarin and a bunch of grapes. The sunset-hued (real) rose is from my garden (though the name of this one escapes me!). A lot of my roses are blooming now, and they are very lovely and fragrant. I chose every one for its scent as well as color and form. This one to me smells just like pikake; very strong and kind of citrus-y. It's putting a smile on my face right now as it sits next to me while I type :D
Today I fell back on another standard: pasta with meat sauce. This time I used miniature bowties, which I boiled in water I used for cooking beets. I was hoping it might turn the pasta red, but the best I could get is reddish-brown. As a result, it kind of blends in with the meat sauce. Oh well! I topped with a piece of steamed broccoli "tree" and a bright orange kumquat to add some color.
We have lots of ripe blackberries so I sliced some up to flavor the cottage cheese and topped with crushed walnuts and wheat germ. In the third section I tossed some edamame along with a skewer of purple and yellow carrots. Is it a happy meal? I think so :)
Another sandwich bento to round out the week. This sandwich is actually a double decker -- I sliced this wheat pan de sal bun twice since it was so thick, and layered it with spring greens, avocado, chicken and some of the spinach-arugula pesto I whipped up today. It's another recipe derived from The 10 Things You Need To Eat (by Lieberman and O'Connor). I used a bunch of blanched baby spinach, baby arugula, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, walnuts and fresh grated Parmesan cheese. Blend all together and you're done. Mine is pretty thick, almost spreadable, so it's good on bread. It's also good tossed with linguine and shrimp, like we did for dinner. Into this box I also squeezed in a sweet sliced strawberry, some red grapes, and a mandarin. There's some steamed broccoli and carrot flowers too.
For the monkey, I sliced off the top layer of the bun with a sharp paring knife to make his face. His facial details are nori. The eye patch string is a piece of spaghetti and his bandana is apple. I really would have liked to make it checkered or dotted, but it would have been too much work. Next time! I just realized I forgot the monkey's ears, but look -- doesn't it kinda look like he's wearing pirate earrings?
Anyone recognize the inspiration for this monkey? Okay, he's not exactly the same but...
Today's bento contains the ever-popular kid favorite rotisserie chicken, on a lettuce bed. I made a brown bear from a hard-boiled egg by letting it sit in a small bowl of shoyu. After rolling it around to get even color, let it sit on its side for a few more minutes without moving. You'll see that the spot it's resting on will be a little lighter in color than the rest. I used this spot for the bear's nose. His facial details are cut from nori and satsumaimo (Japanese sweet potato).
There's also a cherry tomato half, some kumquats, strawberries, blackberry, grapes, baby carrots, broccoli and peapods. I really like this box too. It's just the right size for my boy's appetite, and all the sections allow me to keep foods and flavors separate.
I'm so happy we're starting to see some colorful fruits and vegetables in the markets. I'm hoping my bento get more and more colorful as a result, as the season goes on... how about you?
Haven't used this cute box in awhile, and I forgot how nice it is to pack. You have to think about four different food groups in four different colors. You can't avoid it. It's an easy way to make sure you have a balanced bento. Today he gets whole wheat orzo with crimini mushrooms in a lettuce cup, sprinkled with fresh grated parmesan. This dish is vegetarian, with no dairy used (except the cheese on top). It is made like a risotto, but with vegetable broth. It's pretty good! I got the recipe from a book called 10 Things You Need To Eat, by Dave Lieberman and Anahad O'Connor.
Here it is:
Cook 10oz roughly chopped crimini (or other) mushrooms and 1 finely chopped onion in olive oil. After mushrooms have "liquified", about 10 minutes, stir in 1t ground allspice and fresh ground black pepper. Add 2C whole wheat orzo and mix together. Add 3C vegetable broth and bring to simmer, stirring often, until absorbed and risotto-like, about 20 min. Top with grated Parmesan and crushed toasted pecans.
He also gets a sprig of steamed broccoli, some purple carrot discs, and baby carrots. I put a bunch of red grapes in, and the red section contains cottage cheese topped with sliced strawberry + kumquat, and a blackberry. I tossed some chopped almonds over that. Finally, I steamed a purple Okinawan sweet potato and cut it into a flower shape, poking a few holes with a straw. The leaves were cut from cucumber. Luckily this box has a convex top, so the flower will not be smushed. I should really use this box more often; it's so pretty. :)
Today's bento was easy: leftover chicken with steamed broccoli, carrots, steamed purple Okinawan sweet potato circles made to look like a caterpillar with nori and cheese details, plus rice stick antennae. There are some red grapes and a sliced orange in the fruit section. I added rice balls made to look like fruit, with their leaf picks and nori faces. You might be wondering whether my boy has finally taken a liking to rice (or you might not).
Well, I mixed this rice with purple potato vinegar, which I found at Marukai. It also contains honey and quince juice, and is rather sweet. According to the label, you can even use it to make a beverage of some sort using sparkling water and milk. Isn't that cool? It tastes great! And on top of that, it's a lovely pink color! I was hoping it would tint the rice, and it kind of did, but a bit too faintly to be obvious in the picture. Well, I hope it means that I will be able to use rice in bento more often... we'll see!
In other news, the winners of the Spring 2010 Bento Contest have been announced on Just Bento, and my Spring Momiji Bento placed 7th. I'm very happy about that, and would like to say a big "thank you!" to all of you who voted for me :) Congrats to megan of Bento Zen and Lia of My Bentolicious, who took 1st and 2nd place, respectively! It was an honor to be included in such talented bentomaking company, and hopefully some of you can enter next year's contest. ^_^
I guess it's sandwich week, 'cuz we've got another sandwich today! Well, wrap. This one has ham, cheese, avocado, green olive tapenade and spring greens all rolled up in a whole wheat tortilla. I wrapped them in wax paper (bottoms are also folded in) to minimize fallout while the boy eats.
This is the very first time I've used this bento box without all the inserts, and I've used it at least 20 times! I was a little nervous at first, but everything just fell into place. I would have taken all the inserts out, but I was pretty sure the panda egg in his asparagus forest would need extra propping up. The panda is a hard-boiled egg with nori and radish (eye) details. I free-cut the nori, and don't know why he's so grouchy looking. Maybe he was hoping for actual bamboo.
I also added a few baby carrots and a half radish in that cup with him. Finally, I squeezed in a few supersweet strawberries and some red grapes. We had another beautiful spring day today! We'll have to appreciate this weather while it lasts, since the rains are coming back this weekend. Have a good one, friends :)
Today was such a fabulous day; I really would call it the first day it felt like spring. The sun was out in a blue cloudless sky ALL day, and it was warm enough to leave the jacket in the car. A whole bunch of things are blooming in my garden, including volunteers I forgot about from last year. I actually have green onions that had been clinging to life all through winter, and now they are growing dark green and tall again. My sweet peas went to seed and now I've got vines shooting up the tomato cages. How's your garden?
Today we went out for lunch and at the same time decided to pick up some banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) for my boy's bento tomorrow. Score!
He gets a pork banh mi, which after I cut into pieces short enough to fit in the tiffin, looked like faces. So what could I do but finish them off with eyes and headgear? I also managed to squeeze in a whole tangerine, a strawberry, a few grapes and a sprig of broccoli. Perfect! This tiffin came with a top tier, but I'm only using the bottom section today -- which means I can fill it up higher. I separated the sandwiches in wax paper to keep them away from the fruits. It's not the first time I've put a sandwich in the tiffin; the round sandwich thins or bagels also work well.
Does your family have a favorite "go-to" dinner menu? Over here, one of them is definitely shoyu chicken. As soon as my boy smells the telltale sauce he says "Yum! It's the sweet chicken!" I used chicken thigh pieces and also added baby potatoes during the 30 minute simmer. After it was cooked I sliced the chicken into more manageable pieces for him to eat in his bento. A quick time-saving tip: you can steam the broccoli and peapods in the same pot by placing them atop the chicken pieces towards the end of cooking. For this bento, I put the chicken, potatoes, broccoli and peapods on top of a green lettuce leaf. I added a cherry tomato which I cut open and stuffed with rice for fun, and decorated with a few maroon carrots cut into flower shapes.
The other side has a cup of red leaf lettuce salad with cara cara oranges and sunflower seeds, and a cup of cottage cheese with chopped strawberry and wheat germ. I made extra chicken to perhaps give him a followup repeat bento, thinking he'd request it, but when he came home today he informed me that today's bento (smoked salmon bagel thins) was "the best bento EVER!" Huh? Okay, so I guess I don't even have to cook to make the best bento ever ^_^ !
Can't believe our week off is over already, though in a way it feels like I've been away for quite a long time! I haven't been thinking about bento at all this past week, so it was tough to get back into the bentomaking routine again. Today was a beautiful day and we enjoyed our lunch outside in the garden. As I was eating, I thought, what a delicious lunch....why not make it for bento?
I used whole wheat bagel thins (just like sandwich thins but with a hole!), spread with cream cheese, and layered smoked salmon. If I had pickled onions and dill I would have added it, but then again I think my boy prefers not quite so many levels of aromatics. I placed some green lettuce around it, and he can put it in the quartered bagelwich if he likes. I also gave him a cup of spring greens with sliced peppadews and twin kumquats. I had this exact lunch myself today, so I know what a great combo it is! For dessert I threw in a strawberry and some grapes. Since this bento looks a bit ordinary, I added a couple of cute animal baran to go along. There; now it's a fun bento!
Seeing as this is a bento-free week, kind of, I thought I would post about my taiyaki adventure.
Taiyaki is a Japanese fish-shaped pancake, often filled with sweetened red bean paste. They are a popular sweet shop or food court food in Japan, and you can make them at home using a few readily available ingredients. While there are special batter mixes you can make, I've found that you can also simply use ready-made waffle mix. I used Bob's Red Mill. As for the bean paste, you can also make your own, but I used a canned version of tsubushi-an. You may be able to find it in your local Asian grocery.
You'll also need a special taiyaki pan.
I got mine from Marukai market. It's made of cast aluminum, and it looks like this. Cute, huh?
All you need to do is make the waffle mix according to the package directions, and put in the fish mold (one side only). Spoon it over the bottom of the pan, about a half inch deep. Then I put a glob of anko in the center. You can smooth it evenly over the batter if you like, as well, all the way down to the tail if you can. Then put more batter on top to cover it.
Cook over a medium flame until the bottom is nicely browned, just like you would a regular pancake. Then, close the pan and flip! This part is fun! Flip "vigorously", so that the taiyaki is sure to dislodge from the pan and flip to the other side. Cook a few more minutes until the other side is browned. You may check it carefully if you need to, by opening the pan a little. The final product should look like this!
You may have to experiment with amount of batter to use, depending on how thick or thin yours is. If you use too much, it'll ooze out the side. Then it may stick and be more difficult to remove. It'll rise a bit, so plan accordingly. Remove and place on a rack to cool.
When you see how easy it is, you may not buy one ever again ;) You might also try other fillings, such as custard or chocolate ~ this is on my list for sure!
I am a former research scientist turned stay-at-home-mom of 2 who got started with bento in an effort to help my kids learn that eating healthy and nutritious foods can be fun and cute. I make a bento lunch for my 11yo (6th grader) son & my 7yo (2nd grader) daughter every school day, and post the pictures on my sherimiya ♥ flickr photostream. Here in this blog is where I describe each bento, and you'll also get a peek inside our family adventures. Thanks for taking a look, and please let me know what you think ^-^!