Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hello Kitty and Octodogs Bento

I haven't shown a TinySprite bento in while -- they're usually a smaller version of her big brother's, so I only snap a photo of his bento. Lately, however, her appetite has been uneven, and there've been a few times that she's only eaten the fruit and left the main part of her meal uneaten. I find that when she eats lunch at home with me she has a much bigger appetite. Her favorite things to ask for are: a hot dog wrap (with melted cheddar and lettuce), egg-in-the-hole (basically buttered toast with an egg pan-fried right into a hole cut out of the center), string cheese, "whatever meat we might have leftover in the fridge", berries and yogurt. Yes, ALL of that. So I'm thinking that it may be she's eating less at school because she talks too much with her bff Ava R. Her teacher says they do everything together: ride bikes, hold hands on walks, even paint on the same paper. Okay, fine. So I've made a little cute bento in hopes that she'll gobble this one all up. I used a whole turkey dog to make two octopi and one crab (hidden under the broccoli tree), some peapods, and a quail egg Hello Kitty with radish ears, nori eyes and a yellow carrot nose. I poked the ears into slits I made with my knife, and I also pushed the nose into a slit as well, to keep it in place. At first I pushed it too far in, so I reached in with my plastic tweezers and pulled it back out. No problem! It just occurred to me that you might even cut a hole and let the yellow yolk show through for the nose. I also added a tiny strawberry and some chopped cara cara oranges, all in the cute My Melody aluminum box I found at Marukai on sale. Yay! How can she resist this one? ^_^

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Garlic Shrimp and Farro Bento

Today's bento contains farro topped with pan-fried garlic shrimp and spinach. This grain is pretty hearty and substantial, and I cooked it so that it had just a little chewiness to it. Seems like it would be good as a breakfast meal (like oatmeal, with cinnamon and brown sugar) to me. Or does that sound strange? Anyway, you can use this grain as rice, pasta, and tossed with just about whatever vegetables or meat you like. It's very versatile. I roasted some asparagus and added a steamed sweet potato bear face. Fruit section contains the usual strawberry and grapes. Pretty quick one, but healthy and satisfying for my growing boy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Singapore Rice Stick Ladybug Bento

We just got back from a long weekend in L.A. visiting the in-laws, so there was no cooking done today >.< Still have yet to hit the grocery; maybe tomorrow. We had a lot of fun, but were all so exhausted. TinySprite had the longest nap in recent history this afternoon -- 3 hours. She had kung fu class this afternoon so she still was tired enough to go to bed at a decent hour. Yay! Luckily we have store-bought Singapore rice sticks, which is a semi-spicy curry type of noodle dish, mixed with egg, meat, bean sprouts and mushrooms. It used to be too spicy for MisterMan, but lately he's been getting a bit more adventurous and we're trying to "break in" his tastebuds so we can all eat more spicy foods as a family. I put a couple of grape tomato ladybugs atop the noodles, with nori decorations. I made a similar ladybug bento (here) not too long ago. Well, they are a sign of spring, aren't they? And so cute! I layered some cara cara oranges and kiwi on the other side, with grapes underneath. Hope you all had a great holiday weekend too. Welcome back to the routine ^_^

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Meowth Pokemon Bento

Meowth Pokemon Bento by sherimiya ♥
Meowth Pokemon Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
Okay, not an Easter bento but MisterMan requested a Pokemon bento so here it is. I had to scan the Pokemon directory (yes, such a book exists, luckily in his library) to find one with "a round face with bumpy edges" to match the ravioli I had. Have you heard of Meowth? Well, I hadn't -- but apparently he is a talking Scratch Cat Pokemon member of Team Rocket, who does much of the brain work behind their criminal schemes. I decorated the spinach and three cheese ravioli with carrot, radish and nori details for his face, and used somen for his whiskers. He is accompanied by peapods, tomatoes, grapes, and a strawberry. Hurry and eat this one before the Pokemon get it... they look hungry...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Meatballs and Bunnies Bento

Chicken meatballs today, in tomato-cider vinegar sauce. This batch is made with ground chicken, oats, shredded zucchini, wheat germ, onion and my experiment: quinoa! I cooked the quinoa separately and added it into the meat mixture before simmering in the tomato sauce. Very tasty! There's also curried lentils with spinach and grape tomatoes in another section, black rice topped with two tofu bunnies and a radish "Easter egg", and the usual fruit portion with strawberry, grapes and kiwi. This 4- sectioned bento box comes in handy for meals like this one, with different flavors I'd like to keep separate. Festive, isn't it?

Bento4Japan is still going strong. Remember, 100% of your donation goes to Japan Disaster Relief. There've been some bids on the origami crane earrings I made (yay!) -- these are lightweight, delicate and feminine. Would you like a chance to win them? A lovely gift for your favorite girl, perhaps? Or yourself ^_^

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mabo Tofu Chicks Bento

Mabo Tofu Chicks Bento by sherimiya ♥
Mabo Tofu Chicks Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
Today's bento has mabo tofu, one of my favorite meals which I hadn't made in a long time. When I make the kids' version I don't use any chili sauce at all, sadly, since they have no tolerance for it. This is why theirs looks so brown. After they get their serving, the adult version gets a few tablespoons of chili paste added in, which adds the nice red color that I love. For this batch I used ground chicken, and I also stirred in an egg, which is why there are yellow bits visible in the closeup. I scooped the mabo tofu over some lettuce in this bento, and I left out most of the sauce to keep it on the less drippy, bento-friendly, side. For dinner they had it served over rice, which is my favorite way to eat it. I added a red leaf and dandelion green salad with sliced grape tomatoes and feta cheese, carrots, strawberries and grapes to round out the bento. And for a final Easter touch, I put two baby chicks sitting on a leaf together. They are made of yellow carrot, with orange carrot and nori details. Cheep cheep!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ladybug Fried Rice Bento

Ladybug Fried Rice Bento by sherimiya ♥
Ladybug Fried Rice Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
Today's bento has fried brown rice and quinoa with spinach, red onion, mushrooms, egg and Chinese sausage. I added a beet-dyed quail egg on top decorated with nori to look like a spring ladybug. Other side has chopped cara cara oranges, strawberries and grapes. It's a quick bento today.

If you're so inclined, please take a look at the newest Bento4Japan listings. We have added handcrafted items to the usual bento books and accessories. My contribution is a pair of origami crane earrings. There are lots of books, starter kits, and a very cute knitted and felt toy bento set - so please stop by and place a bid. All proceeds go to benefit Japan charities!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Easter Egg and Jook Bento

Got the inspiration for today's bento from my very own scratchy throat and cough. The cough is especially annoying, and has been lingering for a few days now. I can tell it's getting better when I can get through a whole sentence without suddenly hacking off to the side for a couple minutes. I made jook for myself, really, but the kids love it too so I packed some for them (my basic jook recipe is here). For this batch I used white and brown rice, a mixture of organic chicken broth and water, and added baby spinach, green onion and steamed wild cod fillet into the bubbling soup. I also drizzled hot chili oil on top of mine but omitted for the kids. I packed it in our trusty Stanley thermal food jar so it'll be nice and toasty come lunchtime. He also gets a side box filled with a half mandarin, strawberry, grapes, blackberry, steamed broccoli and a cute little quail egg chick. I'd attempted to make the zig-zag egg cut before without success, so I boiled a few eggs in case I encountered trouble. This time it worked beautifully the first try. I used a sharp razor blade to make each tiny individual cut, and then pulled the two halves apart gently. If you have a thin blade paring knife, you could use that as well. Make sure your egg is boiled completely hard, to make it easier. I added nori eyes and a carrot beak, and now the little chickie is ready to pop out and be eaten!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chicken Wings Bento

Chicken Wings Bento by sherimiya ♥
Chicken Wings Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
Wings! And drumettes! Yay! All is right in the world. Have you made these for your kids (or yourself) yet? If not, you really should. It's quick, easy and very tasty, especially when sprinkled with togarashi, which is how I eat them (recipe here). The kids get them plain, but they could gnaw on these little guys all day. Make sure you make a big batch because you'll be surprised how addicting they are. Luckily I was able to snag a few for MisterMan's bento, along with some roasted asparagus and satsumaimo, and a side of juicy fruits (strawberries, grapes, kiwi and well, carrots). Done! Who says it takes too long to make home (bento) lunch? ^_^

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Kalua Pork Carnitas Taco Bento

We're on day two of the kalua pork now (here's day one plus the recipe/method for making slow-cooker kalua pork), so I thought I would change it up and make carnitas tacos for the kids. Actually, they're deconstructed, so he'll make them himself (if he so chooses). For carnitas, I just pan-fried the pork so it gets nice and crispy. You could add garlic and lime juice if you like. I tucked some into one of the compartments of the Lunchbot Trio, along with a cup of pico de gallo (just chopped tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic powder and lime). If you like it spicy you can add chili peppers but I omitted them for the kids. There are a few pieces of lettuce he can use in his tortillas, which just happen to fit perfectly in the long section. I was so happy to see that! Finally, he gets the usual strawberry, blackberries and chopped cara cara oranges for a sweet snack afterwards. A few purple carrot flower shapes brighten it all up. No fuss bento idea number two from the same meal. Gotta love that :o)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Kalua Pork and Cabbage Bento

Kalua pork and cabbage makes up this bento. So glad I made this for the beginning of the week so that it takes care of a few meals during that slow Monday period. I also grabbed the trusty round bento to make sure everything looks good automatically. Besides the kalua pork and cabbage in one section, he gets steamed broccoli, peapods, and carrots, and an assortment of fruit (mini mandarin, giant strawberry and a few blackberries. I also added a sakura-shaped satsumaimo for the middle. That's it. You're interested in the kalua pork?

Here's how to make it: Get a piece of pork shoulder, around 3-4 pounds, poke it with the tip of a sharp knife all over, rub with 1 teaspoon of Hawaiian salt and 1.5 teaspoon of liquid smoke. Place in slow cooker, cover, and cook on low for 16 hours. You might turn it at some point during cooking if you get a chance. Towards the end of cooking it'll be very tender and start to fall apart. And it'll smell realllly realllly good. Steam some cabbage and quick fry it up with some pork and drippings, and you have a delicious meal!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Salmon and Lion Egg Bento

Today I'm finally using the slender two tier stainless steel bento box set I got from Bento & Co during their sale. I didn't have one of this size and shape yet, so I was pleased to see it works beautifully for my 7 year old. I'm using only one tier for him, and I was able to fit a good amount of brown rice mixed with furikake, tricolor carrots, steamed broccoli and peapods, butter-fried salmon in lettuce leaves, and a strawberry plus grapes to round it out. You can't see it, but the box comes with a removable stainless steel divider to keep the fruit separate from the rest of the food. To decorate the rice I fried a quail egg in a flower shaped cutter, and applied nori facial details and picks for ears. Isn't it cute? It's not my idea; I saw it here at Asami's site yesterday and wanted to try it for myself. Her ideas are oh-so-cute! I also tried to vary the picture angle for a change, since I *always* seem to take a straight-down shot. I've seen megan over at bento zen take these long views (she does them so well). I still stubbornly stuck with my depth of focus though. But I do love this box a lot, so maybe I'll experiment with the angles more in the future.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Four-Part Bento

Four-Part Bento by sherimiya ♥
Four-Part Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
Today's bento has rotini pasta with sauteed baby portobellas, chicken sausage and wilted spinach, roasted asparagus, steamed broccoli, carrots, grapes, a mini mandarin, more (yellow and purple) carrots and a strawberry. We got a ton of these mini mandarins from the in-laws' yard, and the kids love them because they're so cute. I don't really like them much because the have seeds and they're kind of hard to peel. I much prefer satsumas, but we have to go through two huge bagsful still. Sigh. Unless I can get them to eat a bunch at breakfast and dinner, you'll be seeing them here a lot. These purple carrots are from L.A. as well, and you can see that the purple color goes almost all the way through the whole carrot, with just a small yellow core. The ones I usually get have just a thin purple skin. These looked nearly black on the outside. Very cool!

Did you notice my cool divided bento box? I found it at Ichiban Kan (I think Daiso carries it too); the brand name is Assist. It's made of hard plastic with two moveable dividers that you can intersect in three different ways -- to create 4 equal sections, 2 big + 2 smaller (which I've done here) or 2 big + 2 tiny. There are raised tracks molded into the box to keep the dividers from moving around too much. The top of this one is light blue, and it has a rubberized gasket seal as well as a rubber vent hole that you have to pull open before you can remove the lid. It seems to be pretty watertight. The one thing I don't like about this box right away is that there aren't any fingergrips to grab onto for opening the box. The lid and box are flush all the way around. I let MisterMan practice opening it before I let him take it to school, to make sure he could handle it. The nice thing about this box, though, is that it comes with an elastic band and a zippered fabric tote to carry it in. There are a few different varieties made by this company. If you live near an Ichiban Kan you might want to check them out. It also feels pretty solid, which is good for a lunchbag-swinging kid!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Shoyu Chicken Round Bento

Okay, time to start cooking again. Today I packed MisterMan some shoyu chicken, along with roasted halved Brussels sprouts and kabocha pieces (I tossed those veggies in the shoyu sauce too). I'm pretty pleased with how I managed to get all the cut segments of exactly one half of a cara cara orange to fit perfectly into one section, and topped them with halved grapes to echo the spots on the radish "shroom" in the center. There was also just enough room to squeeze in a luscious red strawberry to round out this bento. This round box makes bento-packing almost effortless, which is why I love it so much. Everything is so ordinary and quick to prepare, but it still manages to look bright and appealing with minimal arrangement. I think my boy will like this one!
Added to What's For Lunch!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bear Friends Bento and Apple Bunnies

Bear Friends Bento by sherimiya ♥
Bear Friends Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
We're back to school again after a week off for Spring Break. Did you miss us? I admit it's a bit slow getting back into the routine; I have to stock up the refrigerator and start menu planning again. So today's bento is a no-cook one consisting of ready-bought mini char siu baos. I cut the ears using a round cutter for a guide and scoring with a paring knife, then propped them up with a bit of rice stick. The facial details are cut from nori and I also used an oval piece of mozzarella cheese stick. The cheese is stuck on with rice stick too. The nori sticks well to cheese, but the eyes I glued on with honey. There's also steamed broccoli, orange and purple carrots, a half mandarin, black grapes and a strawberry. Here are some closeups of the bear friends:

Today was our monthly Twitterfoodparty, and this month's theme was apples. There were lots of delicious and creative recipes using this year-round fruit! I knew I wouldn't have time to cook anything in time, so I resorted to that bento staple, the apple bunny. Here I've carved a family of three, happily munching a broccoli-topped carrot together. Aren't they sweet? You can get the ears to curl if you let them sit in ice lemon water for awhile. The lemon will keep the apples from browning. Just a few cuts (and maybe a bit of practice to avoid shortened ears) and you've got a quick cute addition to your ordinary bento. Yay!