Today I made bento for both kids, but I'm only showing one (hers looked basically the same minus the painstaking lettering). They got cool striped ravioli filled with mushroom, spinach and ricotta; mandarin, strawberry, yogurt with black- and raspberries, and some broccoli. At first I was going to decorate the ravioli like a shipping box, since I took my two #Bento4Japan auction items in to the post office today to be shipped to my generous buyers/donors. I even went so far as to cut a stamp and address label out of cheese (and even wrote some words on them) -- but then I remembered my tiny pasta letters and thought that would be cuter. When I opened the bag I saw there were numbers in there too, so that's when I decided to make a tribute to the grass-roots fundraising effort that began as an idea between a few bentomaking buddies about a week ago and has since expanded to include participants all over the world. It took me a lot longer to find all the letters I needed than I thought it would, and I never found a "J" at all so I used a "U" and altered it. It also took me forever to find a "4" because I didn't even realize that was a "4" until I had passed it over about 20 times! Sheesh. Since the ravioli is green I didn't dye the letters. I also added twin watermelon radish hearts for contrast.
We're really pleased with the success of #Bento4Japan, which has so far raised $2000 in the 9 days it's been operating. I attribute its effectiveness to the power of social media, driving people to learn about the situation in Japan and realize the dire nature of the living conditions in the hardest hit areas. It can be hard to separate the facts from the hype, and much of the information I've been getting has been from Maki of JustBento, who has dedicated the past week and a half to culling the news from Japan and numerous other sources via her twitter account @makiwi. Along the way she's encountered a great deal of hysteria and misinformation, so she's posted a message on her site detailing what she feels is important for caring members of the world community right now: in short, to interpret the news thoughtfully and respond rationally. Yep, always a good idea.
Anyway, #Bento4Japan is still going strong. These auctions are all by donation, and 100% of sales goes to disaster relief. We've had several corporate donors join us, which makes for exciting new merchandise. For example, this LunchBots Uno I used today. You may have noticed I use it quite frequently; at least once a week. There's a reason for that-- it's a fantastic box! All stainless steel, sturdy and practical. And, it's up for auction right now. Want to skip over there and take a look? Go ahead. I don't mind. ^_^
Sliced rotisserie chicken, the usual veggies and the usual fruits. How's that for a quick description? All these fruit are super sweet; you can tell by the intense colors -- dark red strawberries, black grapes and dark orange mandarins. Really happy with this bunch of fruit I picked up this week. Along with steamed broccoli, kabocha and asparagus, I added a yellow and purple carrot skewer, and tossed a couple watermelon radish flower cutouts in there as well. The LunchBot Trio keeps all the parts separate, which I love.
If you'd like a chance to score one of these stainless steel boxes for yourself and donate to a good cause at the same time, do check out the Bento4Japan eBay auctions going on here. Along with several LunchBots, there are all kinds of brand-new bento boxes and accessories up for bid, and more are coming soon!
Twin bento lunches today, using spinach yakisoba: I tossed the noodles along with chopped baby bok choy, sliced hot dogs and onions. Both kids love this meal so I've piled it in here. MisterMan gets a half mandarin (with blueberry and radish face), luscious strawberry and black grapes alongside while TinySprite gets nearly exactly the same stuff. Love these double bento deals!
In other exciting news, #Bento4Japan has exceeded $1500 in funds raised for Japan Disaster Relief -- and it's still going strong. I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the bento shopping community; you all have the biggest hearts!
Simple pan-fried butteryaki salmon and black/white rice onigiri make up this bento for my second-grader. He also gets a few steamed satsumaimo in the lettuce cup. On the side I've added kabocha, broccoli and asparagus, and in the fruit section he's got grapes and a beautiful strawberry. A really quick one today, which is usually how Mondays go around here.
Last weekend we got wild weather: thunder and lightning storms, and even a freak hailstorm that scared TinySprite at first. Excuse the lousy pictures, but we were caught totally unprepared, and since we never see hail like this (and it was almost snow-like) we got all excited and stuff. Hehe. Too bad we totally missed the supermoon, but it was clearly visible the days before and after. Looked just about how it always looks. Happy Monday!
Oh, and Bento4Japan is getting updated with fresh new auction items every single day; so if you haven't checked it out recently, you may want to take a look. Remember, all proceeds go to Japan Disaster Relief. Thanks ^_^
Both kids get leftover corned beef and cabbage in their bento today. Great; no need to think too much! I also added potatoes, onion and carrots into the pot toward the end of cooking, so there's lots of goodies in the mix. MisterMan gets a section of grapes, steamed Okinawan sweet purple potato, broccoli and a carrot (because I always have to put a flower carrot in there. Don't know why). The last section has yogurt topped with raspberries, blueberries and wheat germ. If you put enough berries on top, they'll actually serve to keep the yogurt in place. It's a practical trick.
TinySprite gets the same corned beef and cabbage in the bottom tier of her cute pink panda box, and in the top she has a carrot and cara cara orange bear face, with blueberries raspberry face. Aw! Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!
The Bento4Japan auctions are still going on -- check them out if you get a chance!
I used a nice butterfish filet for the kids' lunches today. Misoyaki is my favorite preparation of this fish (recipe here). I like it with a bowl of hot rice, but my boy will prefer it as is in his bento. I've packed it in lettuce leaf, and it almost looks like a misobutterfish salad here, topped with steamed satsumaimo flower cutouts. It looks like a small piece of fish but don't worry; there's more underneath. After the fish was done I pan-roasted some sliced kabocha and halved brussels sprouts and tossed those in here too. The fruit section contains cara cara oranges, grapes, raspberries and blueberries.
If you've had a chance to check out our Bento4Japan charity auction going on right now on eBay, thanks a lot! If you haven't, there's still time. There are currently 15 items up for grabs, and remember - 100% of sales goes to disaster relief in Japan. So you can shop in good conscience, knowing your money is going to a good cause. The worldwide bento community has banded together in this endeavor, and you'll see branches of this fundraising drive in the UK as well. If you'd like to join us, you can read about the mission here at the Bento4Japan HQ blog. You may not think you can do much as an individual, but our collective efforts can make a difference. In the first day of auction, $345.12 has been committed already. Thank you to everyone who has contributed! Let's hope recovery comes quickly for Japan.
Today's bento is one of my (and my kids') favorites. Sticky rice is fun to make because you don't have to stick to traditional ingredients -- well anyway, I don't. Here is my basic recipe. Today I mixed brown and white glutinous rice along with brown and white regular rice. I cooked it in pure chicken broth, and towards the end of the cooking cycle I tossed in sliced lup cheong (Chinese sausage), sliced shiitake mushrooms, chopped squash and baby bok choy. All the flavors meshed together very well in this batch. I presoaked the rice for a few hours, which is essential if you are using brown glutinous rice. Super tasty, and nice colors too. The other side turned out to be an all-red fruit section, with strawberry, grapes, blood oranges and radish. Oh, and there's a yellow carrot in there for contrast.
My fellow bento enthusiasts have come together to establish a Bento4Japan eBay auction theme. There are books, bento boxes, goodie packages and more listed there, and all the proceeds will go towards the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund. So you can satisfy your bento shopping while helping a good cause at the same time. Please take a look: simply use the search term "Bento4Japan" here!
Double bento today for my son and daughter are nearly identical. They both get true comfort food: black/white rice jook with turkey and ginger, green onion scattered on top. I packed them in thermal food jars: the Stanley jar which you've seen me use beforemanytimes (and which I recommend highly) and the Thermos brand Hello Kitty jar which I hadn't used before. First thing I noticed is that the Thermos is much lighter. Of course, it is smaller (I have the 10 oz version), but also the lid is plastic and there seems to be quite a bit of heat loss through the lid. Immediately after filling the jar and closing the lid, I could feel it getting warm right away. The Stanley has a double lid: an inner plastic screw lid which is set inside the jar, and an outer plastic-lined metal cap which can be used as a bowl. If there is heat loss through the inner lid, it's not detectable through the outer lid, as fas as I could tell. I tested the Hello Kitty jar with boiling water, and found that the temperature of the water began dropping within an hour after sealing. That was pretty disappointing to me. We'll see what my preschooler says. Both kids toted along a side bento filled with strawberry, grapes, cara cara wedges, broccoli and carrots.
Many of you may be following the terrible events unfolding in Japan following Friday's 9.0 magnitude earthquake; the resulting tsunami devastated towns and destroyed thousands of lives. The people of Japan face a long journey towards healing and rebuilding, even while aftershocks still rock the country and rescuers continue to search for survivors. I and many fellow bento-bloggers have been keeping up with real-time developments via @makiwi on twitter, who has embarked on a labor of love to translate and update the rest of us on the news from Japan, seemingly without sleep. If you are looking for a way to help, please consider making donations to The Red Cross at IFRC.org or Doctors Without Borders at doctorswithoutborders.org.
This is my next installment of the mini bento series. Yes, it's another breakfast mini. I've already done a mini pancake stack, which I think was close to my first one. I've also made a mini sandwich, mini sushi, mini pizza, mini market haul, and mini snowman, among others. I got the idea for this one while I was making these whole wheat english muffins a few days ago. I decided to make a couple of mini ones so I could make a mini egg mcmuffin.
So here it is! On the flower shaped cream cheese sandwich I've plated: ham and "egg" (mozzarella cheese topped with real egg yolk dotted with fresh ground pepper) on english muffin, real bacon strips, a cup of "orange juice" (carrot with spaghetti straw), cup of "coffee" (brownie), and my cute little nori utensils. I would have liked the muffin to be even smaller. Next time! I've squeezed in some steamed broccoli and peapods, a sliced strawberry and some grapes for scale. Still have lots more mini ideas to go...
MisterMan gets to take his red Stanley thermal food jar, packed with steaming hot macaroni and cheese. This batch is very delicious. I basically used The Pioneer Woman's recipe here, and the cheesy sauce was super super tasty. But you know me; I'm always adding extra "goodies" into meals like this. I wanted to keep the deep orange color of the extra sharp cheddar cheese I used, so I threw in steamed chopped Indian squash and steamed shredded yellow carrots and yellow cauliflower. I was going to add some broccoli (and I did add a little before I changed my mind) but I think it looks more stunning all in orange. You could certainly add broccoli into the mac if you chose. But this mac & cheese is so good that you could even add the broccoli separately, like I did for their dinner, and they'll eat it totally undisguised. I also added Soyrizo, which I like to do in mac and cheese because I think it adds a little kick. The first time I did this I was afraid the kids would balk, but the trick is to not mention it and they'll never notice. I added a whole "link" this time and they loved it.
I also packed a side bento box with broccoli, grapes, strawberry, mini Fuji apple and chopped blood oranges. Oh, and two carrot lovebirds sitting in the tree ^_^
More and more chicken tebasaki (recipe here) using wings and drumettes. If you make these, be sure to make a ton, since everyone will want a plateful and the kids will ask for them in their bento. Yes, it'll be cold but they won't care. Believe me. The two kids get almost identical bento; one side of each box filled with chicken and the other with an assortment of fruits and veggies. The purple cutouts are made from Okinawan sweet potato which I steamed. I also included some squash in my boy's bento, since there was a bit of extra room. Besides the usual grapes, strawberry, broccoli and carrot, I added seedless mandarin. I'm always afraid these will be dry and tasteless, but luckily this batch is sweet and juicy! I think I got all the colors in there. ^_^
Today the kids get summer rolls; these rice wrappers are filled with lettuce and lemongrass chicken. You could also use shrimp, pork, or veggies alone. Since the wrappers tend to dry out, it's best to seal them in plastic wrap to keep them fresh and soft. The two-tier bento boxes are ideal for this purpose, since I can put the wrapped rolls together in one section and keep the fruit and veggies separate. MisterMan gets blood orange slices, carrots, a strawberry, grapes and a cup of cottage cheese with blueberries on top. Here's a closer look at the top tier.
TinySprite gets 3 mini-rolls in her bottom tier, and in the top tier: grapes, edamame, carrots and a strawberry. I totally forgot about this bento box since it had been shoved all the way in the back of the cabinet behind the stainless steel section. I really like it a lot, and I'm so happy I (re)found it!
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons minced fresh jalapeno chile (I omitted)
1/2 cup peeled and thinly-julienned seedless cucumber
1/4 cup minced fresh Thai basil leaves
1/4 cup minced fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 1/2 tablespoons minced lemon grass
1/2 cup ground peanuts
1/4 cup fish sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon peanut oil
Rice paper wrappers
Boil the chicken until no longer pink in the center (about 10 minutes depending on your pieces).
Remove, allow to cool, and shred into small pieces.
Toss together the chicken with the vegetables. Mix the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, sesame and peanut oils, then add to chicken mixture and stir.
Dip one rice wrapper in a shallow pan of warm water to soften. Remove after a few seconds, drain a bit, and lay on flat surface. Place lettuce leaf on top, then some chicken (I drained the chicken a bit so that there wouldn't be so much sauce dripping out), then roll semi-tightly but be careful not to tear the wrapper. Set aside and repeat for the rest of the ingredients. Eat immediately, or wrap in plastic to seal in moisture and prevent drying out.
I asked TinySprite what she wanted for dinner yesterday and right away she shouted "Meatballs!" Really? Okay. So I found this recipe for meatballs in a sweet tomato sauce that I thought the kids would like. They were meant to be served as sliders on cute little buns, but I was pretty sure that wasn't gonna happen without meatballs falling out, bread falling apart and general ensuing unhappiness (whining). So we skipped that part. They loved them over rice, though, with the thick sauce gooping all over everything. They both must have eaten 4 or 5 biggish meatballs! I didn't think of it, but next time I'll add shredded zucchini or spinach. Luckily I had a few leftover for bento. I also made cheesy polenta because I think it goes really well with the flavorful tomato sauce, so after placing 3 big meatballs in a lettuce leaf, I freehand cut a Pikachu face from the polenta. I added nori, watermelon radish and carrot details to his face. I snugged him in with some steamed broccoli and raw carrots. Fruit include strawberry, grapes and blood orange.
TinySprite's meatballs are cut in half for ease of eating, and I used a yellow carrot and nori to make a face. There's also a little block of polenta, broccoli and watermelon radish flowers. Her fruit include: cara cara oranges, grapes and strawberry. That's it! If you're interested in the sweet tomato sauce, here's how you make it:
Sweet Tomato Sauce for Meatballs
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 medium onion, sliced
garlic powder to taste
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C cider vinegar
Heat 1T olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 7 minutes, stirring. Add remaining ingredients, and MEATBALLS (use your favorite recipe), and cover. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer 18 minutes or until cooked through, turning halfway. Serve meatballs with onion sauce spooned over. Yummy!
I made spanakopita (Greek spinach pie) for dinner for the first time, and was happy to note that it was well-received. It seemed my daughter most enjoyed playing with the papery topping, though she did eat everything and asked for seconds afterwards. I wondered aloud whether it might be appropriate for bento, since the flaky crust wouldn't seem to keep well, and my 7-year old piped up "I don't mind if it gets soft! I like the spinach part best anyway." Well, okay then! I cut a few pieces to fit snugly on one side of the LunchBot Duo, and brightened up the drab color scheme with some watermelon radish and yellow carrot flowers. On the other side I packed some steamed broccoli, shoyu kabocha, kiwi, strawberry, grapes and blueberries. Another super quick one. Here's the recipe I used, adapted from Mollie Katzen:
Spanakopita (Greek Spinach and Cheese Pie)
2T olive oil
1C chopped green onions
1lb. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
1/2C chopped flat-leaf parsley
6oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 1/2C whole-milk, small-curd cottage cheese
1/2C finely grated Romano cheese
8 sheets fillo dough
Preheat oven to 400F. Heat olive oil in saucepan, saute onions until tender, then add spinach and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon, parsley and feta into spinach mixture. In a separate bowl, combine cottage cheese, Romano cheese and egg. Stir until blended, then add to spinach mixture. Add salt and pepper if desired. Scrape mixture into 9-inch pie plate and bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Brush fillo sheets with butter, crumple, and place on top of pie. Bake another 10 minutes or so, until fillo topping is browned.
We were gifted with handmade empanadas today, so the kids get a treat for their bento. There are a variety of flavors, and they are a hit. As an enclosed baked pocket of goodies, an empanada (and other similar types of foods) makes an ideal candidate for bento. They are easy to eat, neat to pack, and require no utensils. Perfect for kids! I decorated MisterMan's as Totoro, with yellow carrot and watermelon radish details, and on the side I packed some strawberries, carrots, grapes, lightly steamed broccoli and yellow cauliflower.
TinySprite's empanada is decorated as a girl in honor of Girls' Day, which is celebrated on March 3rd. Her head is a quail egg with nori detail and a flower pick, and her kimono has yellow carrot and watermelon radish detail. I was able to squeeze in some strawberries, a carrot and some peapods as well. This bento is an enameled metal bowl (from Daiso) with a plastic sealing lid. It's lightweight and a perfect size for my 4 year old. Added this one to What's For Lunch!
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 12yo (7th grader) son & my 9yo (3rd 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 ^-^!