Spinach and 4-cheese (ricotta, asiago, parmesan and mozzarella) ravioli from Costco for today's quick and easy bento. I added a face with nori and radish detail, sweet potato stars, steamed purple cauliflower and sweet corn. Yes, I often use these heart picks for antenna; they're so cute for that purpose. So maybe we could call the stack of ravioli a little caterpillar? Other stainless steel box has a ripe apricot, cherries, black grapes and a little bunch of my garden-grown mini-strawberries! They all ripened at this very small stage; I don't know why. Some other fruit on the same plants are larger and still green. I guess this group was just meant for bento, so in they go! What a treat for my mini-mania!
We're so happy Friday's here too! It's Memorial Day weekend and we get next Monday off. See you later bento friends!
Today's bento has Chinese style steamed snapper: just salt & pepper the fillet, steam in a little shoyu and mirin to taste until done, 10-15 minutes depending on size of the fish, and top with shredded ginger and green onion and a drizzle of sesame oil. I also steamed the brussels sprouts and cauliflower in the same pan to save time. By the way, the vegetables taste really good in the shoyu mirin sauce too! If you're concerned about the fish taste/smell getting into the rest of the food, you could use a box with a separate tier for the fish. Or, you might be able to simply put another lettuce leaf over to keep it more contained. My boy has never complained, so I just pack it as you see here.
I added a few tiny yellow carrot flowers (as usual) for visual interest on the brussels sprouts, and cut a radish into a Pandapple face with nori details. There's also purple cauliflower, raw carrots, a half supersweet apricot, some local cherries and my very own homegrown strawberry. For some reason a whole bunch of them are ripening at a very tiny size; maybe tomorrow I'll cut a whole sprig of them together. They are SO mini and cute. And dark dark red! I ate a few today and they're pretty good!
Yep, another pork and musubi bento. But I didn't make this pork; it's side pork cooked with preserved veggies from my neighborhood deli. Since it comes in a sweet sauce I thought it was pretty safe to add a musubi. This one is made with mixed rice (white, pearl barley, bulgur and lentils) which I sprinkled generously with furikake to make it more acceptable to MisterMan. I added nori eyes and a cherry tomato nose for fun. Also I stuck in some steamed purple cauliflower with yellow carrot flowers, and raw purple carrot slices. Fruit side has a mini mandarin, mini white peach, sweet cherries and a few grapes tossed in. Do you have your summer fruits yet? Every weekend we get more varieties appearing at the farmers markets, and I get so excited to see what's new each time! The apricots on our tree are getting bigger too, so I hope they'll make an appearance in a bento soon :)
P.S. It was a totally gray and rainy day, so I think that's why the photo doesn't look completely washed out today. So, there's one good thing about this wet weather in spring, I guess. Ha!
The bento today has vegetarian chili with kidney beans, black beans, green beans, and corn, topped with grated cheddar. I lay it upon a lettuce leaf in one of the 3 compartments in my white MRB (magic round bento). It's not that liquidy, so it should stay put. The lid is tight-sealing so there's no risk of leakage. Second compartment has steamed broccoli and purple cauliflower, which is the first of the season this year; there also was yellow cauliflower available. I'm looking forward to more purple produce again this summer. Not convinced there are more nutrients, but it looks so cool. Fruits include white peach, which is super sweet, a half mandarin (underneath), a giant black grape (not olive), and cute little homegrown strawberries from our garden. I guess I kind of knew they would be small, as wild strawberries often are, but they are organically grown and a vibrant red color, so I am very pleased. I hope these are sweet too. I'll have to ask him later. To top off the bento, I added a carrot cutout in the shape of an apple, with a yellow carrot half and sesame seed "seeds". Simple.
Happy Monday, bento friends!
Today's bento contains butterfish misoyaki, which granted is best enjoyed fresh, but I love this fish so much I would even eat it at room temp, with a musubi. Well, this bento is for my boy, so we'll just omit the musubi. Instead, he gets a piece of corn, steamed broccoli, carrots and two quail eggs with nori faces that I am calling Mamegoma. The white one is Shirogoma and the pink one is Sakuragoma. If you make them, perhaps you might want to add a tail and flippers, so you don't have to explain yourself. There's also a half apricot, kiwi flowers, and cherries in a cup.
I prepared the butterfish (black cod) fillet using a recipe from Roy's Restaurant, but slightly adapted. Make sure you get the butterfish also known as black cod or sablefish. There are apparently lots of different kinds of butterfish, as I found out. This fish has a velvety, delicate texture and a high oil content, which is what makes it taste well, like butter. Or, buttah.
Per half pound butterfish (black cod/sablefish) fillet:
1/3 cup sake
1/3 cup mirin
3T white miso
3T granulated sugar
Bring the sake and mirin to a boil in a small pot. Boil for 5 minutes, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
Whisk in the miso and sugar until well-incorporated.
Simmer on low heat. Do not boil miso. Recipe says for an hour, but I turned it off after a half hour and I think it came out fine.
Allow to cool, then marinate fillet in a ziploc bag for 24 hours. Make sure you coat the whole fish, and push out the air bubble.
Before cooking, wipe off excess marinade with your fingers. If you have too much miso it will burn.
Sear fish over medium heat in a fry pan, about 3 minutes per side.
Serve with hot fresh rice.
Sweet potato pizza was for dinner and I made some extra for MisterMan's bento. I adapted the recipe from Gourmet Mom on the Go. It's easy and quick to make, and it really does taste great! Really!
Here's what you need: 2 medium sweet potatoes (I used regular ones, satsumaimo, and Okinawan sweet purple ones. All good!) Ready to bake pizza crust (I've used whole grain lavash wrap and pocketless whole wheat pita rounds) 5 oz. mascarpone cheese, or 5 oz. cream cheese mixed with 2T sour cream (I've used the cream cheese mixture and it's delish!) olive oil and balsamic vinegar shredded baby spinach roasted garlic garlic powder, rosemary, thyme (optional)
Here's what you'll do: Drizzle olive oil on your crust and spread evenly with the cheese and roasted garlic. Sprinkle with shredded spinach. Layer the peeled, thinly sliced potatoes over the cheese. Sprinkle with garlic powder and herbs, if using. Drizzle top with olive oil. Bake at 425F for 18-25 minutes or until potatoes are soft and crust is crispy. Remove from oven and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Slice and enjoy!
One of the best things about this pizza is that you can hide any number of goodies under the potatoes. My 3 year old will pull off all the spinach if it's sitting on top, but this way she never even sees it. It's awesome. I put two pieces of pizza in the basket part. These were baked on soft lavash, which crisped up very well. The one in the back has Okinawan purple potato, and the one in the front has satsumaimo. In the lower tier I put my pink bunny molded egg. You can see the details on this one better, whew! It helps to dye it in beet juice, I think. I also added some white peach, a half apricot, half strawberry, red grapes and a sprig of steamed broccoli. Yummy!
Super fast and easy sandwich bento today, since we still have some slow-cooked pork. Sliced up, they make a tasty sandwich tucked with baby spinach between sandwich thins. And since it is a round surface, it spoke "Anpanman" to me. I cut his facial details from grapes and tomatoes, and squeezed some steamed broccoli in the corners to keep him secure. This snap-shut container ensures that the sandwich will keep fresh without drying out, but if I used a basket I would have wrapped the sandwich in wax paper.
The included side box contains fruits which stay separate so that the sandwich won't get soggy: strawberry, blackberries, grapes and a summer-fresh apricot!
Today's bento contains some sliced pork, cooked in the slow-cooker, Okinawan style. Slow-cooking meat is easy and effortless, and you always end up with tender, moist, delicious meat. This recipe is no exception. It's sweet and rich, and the sauce is delicious over rice and veggies. Perhaps you've noticed we like to use all kinds of meat sauces over our veggies. In our house, such a tasty sauce will magically make ANY veggie desirable. Guaranteed. You should really try it with your little ones. Broccoli, choy, cauliflower, even sweet potatoes get dipped in sauce. You might be surprised at what they'll agree to eat!
3-4 pounds pork butt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 inch ginger root, crushed
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup mirin
1/2 cup shoyu
1/2 cup miso
Combine all ingredients except the pork, mix well, put in slow cooker.
Place pork in slow cooker and cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8-9 hours, until tender.
Turn over midway through cooking to brown the other side.
Cool, then slice. Enjoy!
The rest of the bento includes a mixed rice onigiri which is hidden beneath a flower made of sliced radish, purple potato and peapods, steamed broccoli, and a hard boiled egg shaped into a bear face. I know it looks really weird, but I put nori dots in the eye and nose indentations, and a nori strip in the mouth, because I thought you would be able to see it better. Um, I guess I have to change the settings on my camera since a few of the last photos have had a lot of glare and intense brightness. You can't even tell I shaped it; but believe me -- I did, and it came out perfect too, no cracks or anything! Oh well. I'll try again tomorrow.
There's also a yellow carrot flower, white peach slices, a strawberry and some blackberries. All packed in my stainless steel Lunchbots box. This one has no dividers, but never mind; the silicone cups do well at separating the fruit from the rest of the meal. This nice compact box fits well in my boy's little insulated tote.
Oh, and I almost forgot: this one qualifies for Hapabento's BOMB contest for Flowery Bento, yay!
I had extra rice from the last batch of Thai purple jasmine, so I decided to make kimchi fried rice. This time I used chopped onions, garlic, baby bok choy, red capsicum, shredded carrot and green onion. And chopped kimchi of course! This time I added equal amounts of shoyu and kimchi juice; I'm trying to get my kids accustomed to more spicy foods so we can all eat the same stuff. My husband and I LOVE spicy food, the hotter the better. Korean is one of our favorite cuisines, and kimchi jigae is my favorite Korean soup! If we order it at the restaurant, I eat most of it. Wouldn't it be great if the kids liked it too? Then we could all enjoy it. Anyway, back to the bento.
Kimchi fried rice is a good way to introduce spicy food because you can control the level of hotness using more or less of kimchi and kimchi juice. If you like it very spicy you can add a lot, until the rice turns a beautiful orange color. It's a delicious and substantial meal-in-one, and if you add meat it's even more so. Traditionally you can top with a fried egg, and you may remember last time I made a fried egg bunny. Here I fried the quail egg inside a red capsicum ring, which is an idea I got from a flickr friend, Cathryn3. Nori and sesame seeds make the facial details. I also added some yellow carrot flowers for color punch. For fruits I put in a tangerine, strawberry and some kiwi flowers. This is my Pokemon box, which always seems too small to me at first, then ends up being a perfect size for my 6 year old. Go figure.
Today's bento is the very convenient "More Leftovers" bento; yay! Are you familiar with this type of bento? It happens when you make an extra large batch of kiddos' favorite meals, some to eat over the next day or two and perhaps some to freeze for later as well. Love them. I tucked the balsamic chicken pieces in a lettuce leaf and snuggled some steamed broccoli next to them (sound familiar?). I made a fresh batch of mixed rice: this one consists of Thai red rice, white, brown, bulgur, tricolor quinoa and oats. Adding a mix of various grains to your rice gives an extra nutrional boost. Plus, it adds interesting texture and flavor too. It's a lot more substantial than plain white rice and goes great alongside all kinds of food. Luckily we all love it, but if your family is hesitant, try adding just one or two extras, like quinoa or pearl barley, to start. You might be surprised at how much you grow to like it!
Okay, so back to the bento. I used the mixed red rice to form an onigiri, since yesterday's came back totally eaten (yippee!). Piggie details are made from purple and white potato and purple carrot. The usual sides are here: carrots, strawberries, blackberries, grapes and tangerine half. All packed in my new LunchBots divided stainless steel lunchbox. It's very cool; the divider is permanent and the stainless steel lid "snaps" on without latches. It seems pretty secure but I wouldn't put liquids inside since it's not watertight. We'll see what my boy thinks of it tomorrow. Happy Hump Day, bento friends!
Balsamic chicken was adapted from Maki's recipe: I marinated chopped chicken thighs in equal volumes balsamic vinegar and shoyu. Instead of draining off, I just pan-fried the chicken for a few minutes until browned and let the associated marinade reduce during cooking. Sprinkle with sesame seeds after. The reduced sticky sauce is great with steamed broccoli and rice too. I made a batch of Thai purple and white jasmine rice (not the same as glutinous purple rice, or black rice, which I've used before and which turns a much darker black color). I mixed it with furikake to make an onigiri for my boy's bento. Topped with sweet potato / purple potato flowers, this bento now qualifies for Hapabento's May B.O.M.B contest! I also added steamed broccoli, raw yellow carrot spears and a radish. Fruit side contains strawberry, grapes and one of the last remaining Cara Cara oranges. I'm SO sad that they appear to be unavailable suddenly, and the last time I saw them they were $3 a pound! Oh well. I'll have to wait for the summer fruit production. Our tree is now full of apricots, which I hope will mature into bright orange fruit soon!
Yes, we love pasta bento over here. The kids who don't care for rice can suck down the pasta like crazy, even plain. What?! So here my boy gets tricolor pasta all in one section, with the mix-ins in the next section: pan-fried chicken-artichoke sausage, mushrooms and spinach (just tossed in at the end to wilt slightly), with roasted cherry tomatoes and brussels sprouts. Will he actually "mix it in"? Nah, I bet he won't. For fruits I added red grapes and a strawberry, and for decoration I placed two sweet potatoes cut out with my goldfish cutter. I put a whale baran and a fish pick to try to suggest a fishy theme so it's not so haphazard. Did it work? Monday always finds me not really interested in spending a lot of time with the bento. It's a bit drab, but believe me, it's really yummy! I'm a big fan of roasting veggies to bring out the natural sweet taste. All I did after roasting in olive oil is sprinkle some garlic powder. Total yum!
Kireizukin Seikatsu is a San-X character described by Sofia of From Japan With Love as: a raccoon who likes to relax and loves to take a nap. But since Mogura Sensei (mole teacher) covers racoon's head by a red riding hood, racoon becomes "kireizukin" to love cleaning like a tidy housewife. "Kireizukin" can't stop cleaning everywhere. It is like becoming a superman.
He's so cute, and I always thought his head looks so much like a bao. Don't you? Anyway, even though mine looks exactly like a bear, maybe you can use your imagination to envision he's a raccoon. I made the mole from a quail egg, and dyed with purple potato to look blue, and with nori details. Even though he's sitting there on his head, I left the red hood off so he can rest for lunch.
Besides the bao, whose face I cut with a paring knife and kept the cutoff part for the ears (since everyone knows the best part of the baked char siu bao is the sticky brown part) and decorated with purple potato for facial features, the upper tier of the tiffin contains baby carrots, strawberries, grapes, steamed broccoli and garlic enoki.
Today's bento has snapper fried in pepper and lime juice, next to cabbage slaw tossed with red onion, oranges, cilantro, and cumin. At home we made fish tacos with tortillas and I added sour cream and hot sauce, but omitted that from the bento. We have a lot of fruit in the house right now, so I put some oranges, strawberries, red grapes and kiwi in there. I added some purple carrot discs for color and a purple / regular potato "mushroom" in the center for fun. That's it! Quick and easy.
Children's Day (こどもの日, Kodomo no hi) is a Japanese national holiday which takes place annually on May 5, the fifth day of the fifth month, and is part of the Golden Week. It is a day set aside to respect children's personalities and to celebrate their happiness. It was designated a national holiday by the Japanese government in 1948. (Wikipedia)
I don't know about you, but when I was growing up we called the 5th day of the 5th month Boys' Day and the 3rd day of the 3rd month Girls' Day (Hinamatsuri). So May 5th always makes me think of boys, kabuto, and koinobori. To celebrate this holiday I made a boy from a halved hard-boiled egg decorated with nori features and wearing a purple carrot kabuto (military helmet). The koinobori is made from the other half of the egg dyed with beet juice and cut into a fish shape with my small paring knife. I cut the scales with a straw cut lengthwise in half, and the eye with another straw. It's flying from the pole by rice sticks.
The rest of the bento has pasta tossed with my homemade arugula pesto and roasted grape tomatoes, steamed broccoli, carrots, strawberry and grapes. This cool bento box has a raised lid so the boy can look out the window with his carp to greet MisterMan at lunchtime. Happy Children's Day to all kids everywhere! ^_^
*for arugula pesto:
2-3 cups arugula alone, or mix in some basil if you like.
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts
1-2 cloves garlic (depends how garlicky you like it)
Process, and gradually add olive oil (about 2/3 cup) to desired consistency.
Also add 2/3 cup grated parmesan, process until smooth.
I toss with pasta, or use as sandwich spread. Yum!
Today's bento is a very simple and easy one. It's simply 2 sections of chicken burrito in a lettuce wrap, with steamed broccoli, grape tomatoes, baby carrots and skewered yellow carrot flowers all squeezed into the main compartment of the Ecolunch stainless steel bento box. I like that this box comes with a lidded separate container, which I have used to hold "liquidy" food such as yogurt or cottage cheese, or even extra salsa or sauce. Today it holds slices of Cara Cara oranges, a strawberry, some red grapes and a blackberry. I left the lid of the container off, and just covered with the box lid -- which by the way seals very tightly itself.
The only cute details in this bento come from the twin bear picks, which MisterMan said looked like they were sitting cutely on a bench together, and maybe the carrot flowers, which took a couple seconds to cut out. An example of how a perfectly fine bento can come together in a minimum of time and effort, still healthy and fresh-looking, on those days when you have way too much to do rather than work on the bento.
Oh, and it's Mexican food too! Happy Cinco de Mayo week!
Well, before I get to that, I would like to thank everyone for your thoughtful and interesting entries. This is my first ever giveaway, and I wasn't sure what kind of response I'd get. I've been writing this blog since August of 2009 so it's only been 9 months so far that Happy Little Bento has been in existence. Is that right? I actually had to go back and double-check. I've been making bento for a whole lot longer than that, so I can't believe I've met so many folks through this blog already in such a short time. It's great!
While I was going through the entries, I was pleasantly surprised at how many of you are "new to bento" and coming here for ideas and information. I think it's a good idea to read blogs to get started; I wish there were more around when I got started. Now, there are lots of folks bento-blogging, so I'm happy that so many of you are including me in your reading. I got more than 65 entries! Thanks!
OK, so we're gonna do this old-school style. MisterMan is helping me do the "random drawing". I printed out everyone's name on same size slips of paper and the kids helped me fold and put them in a "hat", shake to mix, then pull out a winner.
Are you ready? Sorry for the poor video quality; especially since you can barely see the name on the paper! What's up with that? I could not focus on that tiny piece of paper. I'll read it to you:
Yay! Congratulations Meghan from Chicago! I'll need your mailing info, so please email me :)
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 9yo (4th grader) son & my 5yo kindergartener girl 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 ^-^!