Monday, February 28, 2011

Curry Thermal Bento

Curry Thermal Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Tonight I made curry with chicken, zucchini, onion, celery, and Indian squash. I only had medium-hot so I kept the consistency on the watery side so it wouldn't be too hot for the kids. I served it to them over rice and they loved it. I later realized it would be good for curry udon, if we had any leftovers. I'll have to remember for next time. I packed in the Stanley thermal food jar, which I really like for its heat-retention capacity. I actually did a comparison of this jar and the Zojirushi Classic bento jar and was not too surprised to learn that this one was much better at keeping the contents hot after several hours. It also has the benefit of being smaller and less unwieldy than the much larger Zojirushi. However, I had to pack the cool items in a separate bowl. This is my stainless steel bowl (Daiso) that comes with a tight-fitting plastic lid: I was able to fit in some blood oranges, a mini Fuji apple, some blueberries and a carrot. This bento will keep him warm and satisfied on a cold school day.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sweet Pepper Egg Bento

Sweet Pepper Egg Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
I was running dry on ideas for bento by the end of the week. Looking back, they all looked similar to me: same style, veggies and fruits.. blah blah... but then I was making egg-in-the-hole for TinySprite and me for lunch today, and we had extra egg so I asked her if she wanted a pepper egg flower. She said sure! I made one for MisterMan too. The yellow capsicum I had just happened to be shaped like a mushroom, so I went with it. After I poured the egg into the ring I placed some red capsicum circles into the just-setting surface to make a spotted mushroom. Aww! Underneath is a black riceball, sliced teriyaki chicken, peapods and carrot. There's also steamed broccoli, a strawberry, some blueberries and sliced blood oranges.
TinySprite got a flower with a heart center, and some broccoli sprig accents. Plus, the same chicken and fruits. She's been having an eating strike lately, so I packed less than usual. Here's a close-up of the little pepper:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Panko Shrimp Bento

Panko Shrimp Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Today's bento contains panko-breaded shrimp, sweet potato and kabocha with a twist: they weren't deep-fried. They were broiled! What? I saw this "recipe" on the Japanese Timesaving Lifestyle Show, which is where I got the marmalade pork recipe that I used here. I can't really call it a recipe since the whole point of the show is that you can cook your favorite tasty dishes in a fraction of the time, which usually means forgoing the typical recipe and just quickly mixing a bunch of things together. It really looks haphazard on the show because they're madly racing against the clock, but at the end they always show the judges sampling the food and proclaiming it just as delicious as the regular version. So anyway, the contestant had used this method to make shrimp tempura. All you do is squirt kewpie all over the shrimp (and I also used kabocha and sweet potato), dredge it in panko, then broil (or grill) at high temperature until shrimp is cooked and lightly browned; around 15 minutes or so. If you like, you can add salt and pepper before adding panko. It is quick, but it doesn't get as crispy as deep-frying, obviously. You can serve it with tartar sauce, or cocktail sauce, or whatever you like. I steamed the kabocha and sweet potato before breading. In this bento I also added steamed broccoli, a radish heart, a cup of yogurt with chopped strawberries and sunflower seeds, carved carrots, and another cup of grapes and blueberries.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chicken Sausage Zucchini Bento

First bento back after a long President's Day holiday weekend. Ours was kind of tiring: my hubz was working all weekend, MisterMan had a Kung Fu rehearsal and demonstration at City Hall, and I wanted to make a video with the kids since we had such beautiful weather. That may sound unremarkable, but it's a lot more "eventful" when you have no video-editing experience. Let's just say I'm exhausted after the weekend and am actually very happy to see it end for once! This double bento requires no real cooking; just a quick stir fry with sliced sweet chicken sausages, zucchini, mushrooms and kabocha squash. I put a couple of raw carrots in there, a spotted "mushroom" radish, lightly steamed broccoli and an array of fruit: strawberry, oranges and grapes. I finished both bento in half an hour. Woo! The radish was the most time-consuming because I actually couldn't remember how I cut the stem. I ended up whittling it so it had a nice flared edge. But the rest of the food was pretty much just tossed in. This is when the divided boxes really come in handy; you don't have to think about arrangement at all but it still comes out looking nice and neat. I likes that!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fish Tacos and Hello Kitty Bao Bento

Fish tacos, without the tacos, is what I packed for MisterMan in the 4-square bento, and I think it's what I packed in this box the last time too. There's grilled cod with lemon pepper on a bed of lettuce wraps, cabbage tossed with chopped cara cara oranges for citrus zest and topped with cilantro and green onions, a veggie cup with broccoli, yellow cauliflower, carrot, kabocha and peapods, and a fruit cup with grapes, blueberries and strawberry. Looks kinda nice and fancy, even, when you lay it out like this, right?
TinySprite asked for char siu bao Hello Kitty. I said, "Again?" But when I went back to see how many I'd done already, I couldn't find a single one. Could that be right? Am I missing something? I remember going through a huge Hello Kitty phase over the summer, but for some reason I never used baked char siu bao. The closest I could find was the steamed one here. So here we go: the first ever HK char siu bao. I whipped her out in a couple minutes; still not out of practice yet! I got a bow cutter from my cousin that I used with watermelon radish, then poked blueberries for eyes, carrot for nose, and purple carrots for whiskers. And cut two triangular slits for ears. Done! I thought it would be cute to add a separate HK box for the fruit and veggies. Awwww... ^_^

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Portuguese Bean Soup Thermal Bento

Today's wacky weather included warm (50F) sunshine, rain, dark clouds, blue sky and even hail. Whew! This unsettled weather calls for hearty nourishing food. I made Portuguese bean soup, a local Hawaii favorite and a hit with everyone in the family. I adapted Sam Choy's recipe to make mine.
Portuguese Bean Soup

2 smoked ham hocks
4C chicken broth and 4C water (or all chicken broth if you prefer)
1C diced carrots
1C diced potato
1 diced onion
1C diced celery
1 head cabbage, cut into 1" cubes
1 bunch kale, chopped
1 head cauliflower, chopped into 1" cubes
1 can tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 Portuguese sausage, sliced
1/2C dried macaroni

In a large stockpot, boil ham hocks in broth and water, then simmer until meat is tender. This part makes the house smell REALLY good and gives the soup its distinctive rich taste. Remove skin and bones from ham hocks, return meat to pot. Add remaining ingredients except beans, sausage and macaroni and continue to cook about 20 minutes. Return soup to a boil and add beans, sausage and macaroni, then simmer another 15 minutes or until macaroni is done. Garnish with cilantro. You don't even need to add salt or pepper; this soup is very flavorful and delicious. The recipe is easy to adapt to your preferences; you may add or subtract whatever vegetables you choose. My kids each asked for seconds, and I bet yours will too. The recipe makes a lot of soup, and it tastes even better the next day.
I took this opportunity to pack my other thermal jar; this one from Stanley. I'd used it before for chili, and I know it works very well, but I didn't show a picture last time. So here's what it looks like packed. As with the Zojirushi container, I preheated with hot water for a few minutes, then replaced the water with my preheated soup.
The side bowl of fruit was packed separately in his lunch tote. The Stanley jar insulates very well, and the heat doesn't conduct to the outer surface so this method worked well. He gets sliced blood oranges, a strawberry, blueberries, blackberries, grapes, a carrot and some peapods. I love this jar because it comes with a sealing lid as well as an outer cap which can be inverted and used as a soup bowl (shown with a spoon in the picture). A nice option for kids who have a hard time eating out of the jar itself. Can you tell I love this jar?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chicken Wings Double Bento

Chicken Wings Double Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
It's chicken wings again! I know, I know. It seems like it was just yesterday, but I looked back to see when it was we had them last, and it was 2 weeks ago. Really! Of course, we did have mochiko chicken just last week. But then, don't you have chicken at least once a week too? We probably rotate a few standards throughout the week: chicken, fish, pasta and a rice meal usually make an appearance pretty regularly. Today we had chicken wings that we grilled in Korean barbeque sauce, but the ones I packed in the kids' bento were plain. They really love these. If you haven't made them yet for your kids (or yourself), you really should. Click here for the recipe. I used the EcoLunchBox to pack my second-grader's bunch o' wings in a lettuce wrap, along with red kabocha and asparagus that were roasted alongside the wings. There's also a carrot and some tomatoes for color. In the little cup he has cottage cheese with blueberries and blackberries.
TinySprite's bento has another bunch o' wings in a lettuce wrap (which ends up being decorative, unlike her brother's, which he will eat), a cup of the same kabocha and asparagus, a watermelon radish heart, a mini mandarin, grapes and a strawberry. Who can say no to wings? You should see the giant pile we cooked for dinner; and I won't tell you how many went on my plate... Addictive!
Linked this one to What's For Lunch!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mushroom Bacon Risotto Thermal Bento

Today I'm packing the mushroom and bacon risotto in the Zojirushi Classic thermal bento set. It's a fairly large set, especially for my second-grader, but he's game to try it. He practiced with each of the bowls so I'm confident he can open them all. The smallest bowl is meant to contain the soup, but I've packed veggies in it. I put the risotto in the largest container, which is meant to contain rice. The fruit (which I always include in his bento) is packed in the third container. The way I've packed this set is less than optimal; obviously I don't want all his food to be kept warm, so I have to keep the fruit separate. This defeats the purpose of the thermal set, but I don't see what else I can do about it. At this point, I'm wondering whether this kind of set is the best choice for my purposes. Anyway, after I've heated up the thermal outer container, I'll pack the risotto and the veggies, close the lid, and send the fruit alongside. I've already done a temperature test (I'll post about it later in my full review) and I know the food will stay warm; but we'll see what my 7-year old thinks about his "hot" bento. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hearts of Love Bento

Hearts of Love Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Today we're celebrating Valentine's Day! My boy doesn't have school so there's only a bento for my little girl. This is her favorite pink panda bento box. She loves to practice putting it together and carrying it around, so I thought I would pack it full of hearts and love. She gets spinach tamagoyaki, turkey dog, mozzarella cheese sticks, watermelon radish, carrot and edamame in the lower tier, and chopped cara cara oranges, strawberries and blueberries in the top tier. Can you spot all the hearts? I think she will squeal when she opens this one. Happy Valentine's Day, friends!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mochiko Chicken Bento

Mochiko Chicken Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
I made pseudo-mochiko chicken (oven-roasted instead of deep-fried), and used a slightly different recipe this time. The method (I originally found at Hapa Bento's site but adapted a bit) is the same, though.

Per pound of chicken thighs (cut into cubes):
4T cornstarch
4T mochiko
6T shoyu
4T sugar
2T sake
2 eggs
2T chopped green onion (white part), chopped garlic (to taste), and grated ginger (to taste).

Marinate a few hours, then bake in preheated, oiled pan at 400F. Turn to get all sides brown and crispy. It won't be as crispy as deep-fried, but it's still quite tasty. You can sprinkle with sesame seeds after (which I forgot to do) and serve with rice. Yummy! Both kids get chicken, roasted Brussels sprouts, steamed broccoli and yellow cauliflower, sweet potato, and assorted fruits (cara cara oranges, grapes, berries, and a mini mandarin). These bentos look the same size, don't they? Eek! I'm interested in whether she'll end up eating the whole thing. She LOVES chicken so I wanted to make sure she had enough, but she has a tendency to eat the fruits first. Plus, she's a slow eater. My boy's bento is deeper and actually has a lot more chicken, and it's packed a lot tighter than hers. I have no doubt that he will finish his :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Misobutterfish Bento

Misobutterfish Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Today I went back to the usual type of bento, in a single-layer bento box. The results of the thermal bento day were pretty good; the food stayed hot and the kids ate everything. I'm still going to do more testing before I write my review, since there are lots of aspects to consider. Stay tuned! Today I packed some misoyaki butterfish (recipe here) for each of the kids, along with a nice variety of vegetables (kabocha, broccoli, carrot, yellow cauliflower, romanesco and Okinawan sweet potato). We have strawberries now, and so I packed some of those along with blueberries, a mini mandarin for TinySprite and some blood oranges for MisterMan. I've learned -- and recommend to you -- not to give blood oranges to a toddler wearing school clothes, unless they happen to be in the precise same shade of dark red. You're welcome. To add a little kawaii to her bento, I made a bunny from two hard-boiled quail eggs. I rolled one into a long oval shape before slicing it in half to form the ears. The yolk just happened to be teardrop-shaped. So happy to see some color: out in the garden, in the markets, and in our bento! How about you?
Added to What's For Lunch. Go ahead and add yours!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Chili and Roasted Veggies Bento

I just realized I used this same bento in my last post, for sticky rice. I think I've had thermal bentos on my brain for awhile, ever since I received a Zojirushi Classic thermal bento set as well as a Stanley thermal food jar from CSN stores to test out and review. I figured with this being winter and all, it would be nice to pack a hot lunch for my kiddos. This thermal set is one I've had awhile, and while it can keep the contents fairly warm, it's not very good at it. Furthermore, it's not leakproof. I don't normally pack soup or watery stews for my kids, so it isn't usually a factor, but it's nice to have an option to do so. Today I made chili. It's layered over rice and it's pretty thick, so there's not much chance of leakage. In the little upper container I've put roasted kabocha and cauliflower, a piece of steamed broccoli and a cherry tomato. I packed the fruit separately since obviously I don't want them to be warm. I packed a very similar bento for my second-grader, using the Stanley jar I mentioned earlier. I'll post an update when it comes back home. Chili and rice! A definite wintery crowd-pleaser.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sticky Rice Bento

Sticky Rice Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
I made sticky rice today and it just begged to be used for bento. It's a nice way to put together a one-dish meal. I make mine in my trusty rice cooker, which happens to have a "sweet rice" setting; but you could probably use any old rice cooker. This batch contains Chinese sausage (lup cheong), shiitake mushrooms, and shredded baby bok choy. You could also add char siu or other vegetables if you like; I don't think it's necessary to stick to traditional ingredients. The rice itself is a mixture of one part regular Japanese white rice to two parts sweet (glutinous) rice. I found brown glutinous rice in my market and used some of it to replace the regular glutinous rice, but I think the brown takes longer to cook. Or I could have possibly soaked it longer. Anyway, I ran through another cycle and it was okay. I also replaced the water with chicken broth, which imparts a nice aromatic flavor. I put the sticky rice in a thermal frog bento, and sent along another box with steamed broccoli, romanesco and yellow cauliflower, plus carrots and blood oranges. And a frog fork to complete the set. I have two new thermal food sets to test and review, so stay tuned for that. Hope you all enjoyed your Chinese New Year!
Sticky Rice Method
2 cups glutinous (sweet) rice
1 cup medium grain (Japanese) white rice
3 cups chicken broth
Start rice cooker. About halfway through the cooking cycle, add ingredients of your choice, such as sliced lup cheong, shiitake, char siu. I used baby bok choy, which I added even later, to avoid too much wilting. You can also use green onion. Stir and serve! Delish!

*Note added 4/2/11: If you're in the market for a thermal bento jar like this one, there's a blue version up for auction right now on Bento4Japan! Just click here to see it!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year Bento!

Tomorrow is the Lunar New Year, when we celebrate the Year of the Rabbit. And since the dragon is a part of the celebration, I've included a dragon cut from dragonfruit in TinySprite's snack bento today. It's playing with a blackberry ball atop a bed of sweet and juicy Cara cara oranges. We didn't have a lunch bento today since we went out for lunch and a window-shopping stroll on this beautiful sunny day. It was a wonderful way to send out the last day of the year. Along with the red and gold decorations I added some garden roses. Four of my roses bushes happened to have a perfectly fragrant bloom open today, so I cut them for display in the picture, and now they are in a glass vase on our table. Strangely enough, even my (normally Fall-blooming) dahlia also had a blossom on it. I think this unseasonably warm stretch of weather we've been having is confusing the plants. I hope Spring weather and temperatures will arrive in the rest of the snow-bound country very soon. In the meantime, Happy Chinese New Year!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chicken Wings Bento

Chicken Wings Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Today's bento contains a bunch of chicken wings we grilled the night before. I asked my 7-year-old if he could eat 6 of them and he said "yup!" I also pan-fried some lightly steamed red kabocha in butter and garlic, and snugged some steamed colorful veggies in the spaces (yellow cauliflower, broccoli and romanesco) There's also a purple carrot skewer, a grape tomato, some chopped blood oranges and a blackberry. All packed up in our LunchBots Duo. Bento: accomplished!