A couple more days of school, and a couple more bentos to make. Here's one from last week, which I forgot to post in the craziness. It contains shoyu chicken and furikake rice, which used to be my ultimate favorite meal when I was a kid. I always requested it if my mom asked what I wanted, and I always chose the drumsticks. I don't usually pack rice for my boy since it's not his favorite, but it would be nice to start adding it. He didn't object to it here, and of course it was completely consumed, so maybe he'll come around to loving it as much as I do. Rice in bento also provides a nice backdrop for decorative details.
In this one I dyed two quail eggs in golden beet juice before adding strips of nori and cute tiny faces. The heart picks make perfect little wings. The other section contains regular and Okinawan sweet potatoes, a cup of edamame, some sliced (super sweet) white peaches and a strawberry. I personally love this bento. Gonna make one just like it for myself one of these days ^_^
Posted at What's For Lunch!
MisterMan and TinySprite get matching Studio Ghibli bentos today; and they're both almost totally non-cook. I initially wanted to do these for a roadtrip, because wouldn't it be fun for them to eat together and chat about the movie (My Neighbor Totoro)? But I couldn't wait. I really wanted to make another Totoro, and after bento numbers one and two, I think this one looks pretty neat and sharp (if I may say so myself).
It helps to have a very smooth bun to work with. I used my small paring knife to slice off just the top brown layer for his belly, and after pre-scoring his chevron stripes I actually cut around them. They are still connected to the bun, and that way I didn't have to worry about sticking them back on. His eyes are cheese and nori, and his nori nose is stuck on with a bit of honey. I cut his ears from part of the belly and stuck them into slits I cut at the top of the bun. The eyes are secured with rice sticks to the bun.
Okinawan purple potato, when steamed and refrigerated overnight, turn a very dark shade of purple the next day, which makes them quite suitable for soot sprites. Their eyes are also cheese and nori. The rest of his bento contains the usual: broccoli, carrots, strawberry, cherries, grape tomatoes and orange slices.
TinySprite's Catbus is made from a hot dog-in-a-blanket with a potato bread face. All the facial features (Okinawan purple potato, regular sweet potato, cheese and radish) were secured with rice sticks. I hand-cut thin strips of nori for the teeth and eyes, and used bits of spaghetti for whiskers. She got a piece of corn, steamed broccoli, carrots, strawberry, cherries, and rasp-, black- and blueberries. This turned out to be too much for her and she brought the corn home to finish. They loved them!
Here are two of the bentos I made for the shoot on Sunday. There was another one but that was the one TinySprite grabbed and scarfed up in addition to the heaping one she made herself. Each kid made their own bento and then ate it. There wasn't any way I could take a picture of theirs. I should have taken a photo of these bentos before all the activity, but I didn't think of it, which is why these had to be shot in bad (artificial) light. Both feature Korean chicken in a lettuce leaf along with steamed broccoli, carrots and carved cucumbers; and varied berries for dessert. I added steamed corn and a shoyu bear egg to one, and a rice section (which I rarely do but which provides a very nice backdrop for a charaben design) with a matryoshka made of Okinawan purple potatoes, cheese, sweet potato and nori to the other. Some cute picks add color and whimsy.
I was surprised to find that making three bento at once wasn't much more work than one (or two, which is the most I ever make at a time for my two kids). And even though the third bento contained totally different ingredients (rollups), it still was pretty manageable. The key is to be prepared and have everything you need at hand, which saves time. MisterMan and TinySprite took these to school the next day, with furikake sprinkled on the rice. I'm thinking in addition to making their own bento, they can soon begin to cook the food for me too... ^_^
Yesterday we had a bit of excitement over here: The Cooking Channel sent over a crew to film an interview and bento-making session with me and the kids. They're interested in using it for a promotional spot to be aired sometime in the summer (I think). About 15 people came to the house and set up a bunch of lights and cameras both inside and out in the backyard. They spent 3 hours filming us making bentos and then interviewing us about our passion for bento. It was quite an experience! Everyone was very friendly and warm, and made us feel as comfortable as we could under the blazing lights. After our photo shoot experience for the New York Times article a year and a half ago, I was a bit nervous about how the kids would react to all the attention. Can you guess how they did? MisterMan was the essence of chill: laid-back and reserved. He thought the best part was all the gear they brought in their giant trucks double-parked in front of our house, and the fact they coned off the street.
TinySprite was the exact opposite: so excited she could barely contain herself. Added to her usual -er- "enthusiastic" self, and the fact that it was nearing her bedtime, you can imagine the antics. She named some members of the group (Beautiful Lady, Makeup Lady, Brown Lady, Big Hair Man) and referred to them by those names DURING the filming; she tried grabbing the mike hanging over us several times, and she insisted upon running to the kitchen, fetching another bento and eating (again) while we were conducting the interview. Sigh. Well, I guess you can't say it was a dull shoot for them! It certainly was a fun learning experience. Stay tuned for updates! ^_^
The last bento of the week is a fun one for my second-grader: deconstructed tacos -- which means he can put them together as he chooses at lunchtime. Since he's usually a classic deconstructive eater (pulling toppings off pizza, opening sandwiches to eat layers separately, etc.), I have a gut feeling he'll eat each ingredient individually. Sigh. Whatever! I guess that's his prerogative. Along with wrapped tortillas (with a dinosaur cheese design), he can choose from: turkey taco meat, lettuce, and pico de gallo. There's also a cup of yogurt with wheat germ (this condiment cup comes with a sealing lid), a strawberry, some blackberries, cherries and chopped oranges. This large two-tier stainless steel tiffin-style bento container comes in handy for meals like this one. The layers and lid close tightly with a double latch. It's sturdy and tough. Just like my boy ^_^
It's another field trip bento for tomorrow: I packed MisterMan a char siu bao decorated as Shifu from Kung Fu Panda. To remove the brown top layer of the bao, I slipped my small paring knife underneath and it came apart easily. His eyes are made from cheese stick and nori. Did you notice his goatee? I also added an egg panda decorated with blueberry ears and nori facial features. On the side: corn on the cob, broccoli, peapods, oranges blackberries and strawberry. Everything is wrapped in wax paper and packed in a recycled self-sealing strawberry box for disposal after use. All finger foods make it an extra bonus; no utensils needed. Have fun!
Today I made a batch of scallion pancakes for TinySprite, and decided to make more to pack for her bento. It's perfect for her light appetite, and will satisfy her carb cravings. I adapted the recipe here (from use real butter) but used half whole wheat flour for fun. It comes out a little chewier this way, but the kids don't mind. All you do is make a flour and water dough, roll it out, add chopped scallions, roll it up and roll it out flat again. Do you notice that I used the word "roll" three times in the last sentence? Yeah, it's a LOT of rolling, and it's best to roll it very thin. Now I know why I am not a baker. My arms are aching. But don't let that stop you. It's very tasty and fun to eat! Into this bento I also fit a piece of steamed corn on the cob, broccoli, a grape tomato, and a golden beet-dyed quail egg decorated with nori and a bit of carrot to look like a baby chick. The other section contains a juicy strawberry, supersweet blackberries (love these with Greek yogurt and walnuts!), carrots and grapes. All fun finger foods for my preschooler. ^_^
Now that it's cold and rainy again, it feels like time for thermal bento. What happened to pre-summer? Today I dusted off the thermal Stanley food jar and packed it with rice and chicken masala with onions and almonds. I forgot about the school's no-nuts policy (oops) -- if your school has a similar restriction, remember to leave them out. This flavorful chicken isn't too spicy for kids, since it doesn't call for any cayenne pepper, and it's plenty tasty for adults too. I made mine in the slow cooker with chicken broth and garam masala powder, and a yogurt thickened sauce. It only took a few hours, but it meant that I could leave the house for school pickup and not have to worry about it. I also packed a little separate bowl with oranges, the first cherries of the season, purple carrots, grape tomato and broccoli. Come on Spring! ^_^
I found a recipe for slow-cooked black beans and pork loin that uses chili powder and coriander; it sounded so good I had to try it. I crossed my fingers that it wouldn't be too spicy for the kids. Success! I also added chopped onion, tomatoes and zucchini to round it out nutritionally. It came out sort of like a chili / stew; very tasty and hearty. Every time I use my crockpot I vow to do it more often. Is there anything better than walking in the door and realizing dinner is cooking itself? I scooped some over rice in the bottom bowl of this round stainless steel bento box I found in San Francisco a few weeks ago. I put some strawberries, grapes, carrots, peapods and cara cara oranges in the top tier.
The handled lid screws on top, securing both containers. This box resembles a tiffin, except that the screw top replaces the latches. I had my second-grader practice opening and closing it before I packed it to make sure he wouldn't have any problems. This set holds 800ml; there's also a 600ml and a 1000ml version that I saw. The round apple shape is a fun one, isn't it? Another MRB. Yay!
It's field trip time! I just realized today that there are only 3 weeks left of school. Where did the time go? And there are 2 field trips scheduled in the next 2 weeks as well. Seems the teachers want to take a break too, I think. For this bento I decided to pack potstickers (gyoza), which are a great finger food and easy to pack in a disposable container. I used a recycled strawberry basket lined with wax paper, and piled a bunch of gyoza on one side. I've made gyoza before (see this post), and I've used whole wheat wrappers before (see this post), but this is the first time I tried NOT-PLEATING them. It sure goes a lot faster this way, but for some reason they look skinnier this way. Maybe I subconsciously underfilled them. When you pleat them, you can put a bigger ball of filling inside, I think. I'll definitely go back to pleating next time. Anyway, the kids still loved them.
This time I used a mixture of chicken and pork filling, with chopped green onion, spinach, and a bit of shoyu/salt/pepper/oil/cornstarch. Pan fry to get the golden bottom, then add water to the pan and steam. My kids pick these up and eat them as is, but if you like you can pack along a dipping sauce. I found a little fruit sauce container (with lid) that was perfect for yogurt topped with blackberries, sunflower seeds and wheat germ so I put that next to the gyoza. After that I wrapped the wax paper around to keep things sealed, and I put the rest of the food (corn, broccoli, strawberry and cara cara oranges) on top.
I was just able to close the container, as you can see. I put a rubber band around it to keep it from popping open, and slipped a fork and spoon underneath. This bento and a water bottle went into a plastic bag and he was good to go. Yes, it's a lot of plastic, but at least they're all repurposed containers that got another use before disposal. Interestingly, he's going to visit a local grocery store for a behind-the-scenes tour of what it takes to get the food on the shelves and most importantly, how to pick healthy fresh foods. Is that awesome or what? ^_^
I sometimes hear from parents who tell me they don't know how to cook, or they don't have time to cook, so there's no way they could make such an elaborate lunch for their kids. Guess what? I'm not a professional chef either. I have two kids at home and I don't have time to spend a lot of time cooking or preparing bento either. If you take a look at my bento posts, you'll see that many of them involve leftovers, or foods that can be prepared and assembled quickly (usually under 30 minutes). You don't have to spend a lot of time to give your kids a healthy homemade lunch; all you need is a little pre-planning. Most kids won't eat an adult-size meal, so a few vegetables, some fruit, a little protein and maybe some rice (or bread or pasta) is all you need to consider.
Take this bento, for example. I made this for my 4 year old to take to preschool. She's had a slightly smaller appetite lately than usual, so this one is a bit smaller than what she typically eats for lunch. The main compartment contains two skewers of pan-fried chicken and sundried tomato sausage rounds alternating with sliced zucchini. She'll love those because they're finger foods, and it's fun to eat off a stick. I always add at least two colors of vegetables -- in this case, steamed broccoli and peapods, as well as raw carrots I've carved into flowers with my paring knife. To finish off, she'll have a sweet ripe strawberry and some blackberries. If she had more time at school (or if she were at home) I might add a half corn on the cob and a musubi (riceball), or she might ask for string cheese or a hard-boiled egg, which are foods that are easily prepared ahead of time. Once you start packing bento, it'll become easier until it's just a part of the usual school routine. You'll feel better knowing your kid is eating a healthy meal, and she'll learn to look forward to lunch. Now that's a worthwhile effort! ^_^
Back to the Monday grind! And since we just got back from out of town (again), there isn't anything in the fridge. What to do? Quick cook some rice, look around in the freezer, and here's what I came up with. Today's bento is brown rice sushi with (freezer stash) artificial crab stick, spinach tamagoyaki, some (freezer stash) edamame, a couple of carrots and a lone sliced strawberry. A few nori faces to smile back at my preschooler, and we're done here. Hope you all had a wonderful Mother's Day!
It's Star Wars Day: May the 4th Be With You! In celebration, I had to make a Star Wars bento for my youngling. I made some fried rice with black rice / black quinoa, ham and spinach, scooped it into a lettuce leaf, and halved 2 quail eggs to decorate with nori. I hand cut most of the details except for the circles, for which I used my hole punch. It was tedious, but actually kind of fun. It helps that the quail eggs are so tiny that it doesn't take much to finish them. I did want to make Princess Leia with her side buns, and it would have been cool to make a Yoda, but I'll have to save those for next time. Can you identify the characters I chose? (I hope so!) Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Storm Trooper and R2D2. I asked MisterMan, and he named them all immediately. Yay, success! The rest of the bento contains the first steamed white corn of the season, broccoli, cara cara oranges, strawberry and grapes. Happy Star Wars Day! ^_^
Today's bento contains broiled teriyaki salmon and asparagus, along with carrots, tomatoes and steamed broccoli. I used some broccoli to make a Kerori (San-x frog character) onigiri. I guess you could say he's partly white and partly green. I kept the grapes and strawberries separate, which is why I love this LunchBots Trio. It's perfect for just that reason. Today's post is short; TinySprite and MisterMan both had activities after school today, and my little ballerina had official group and individual photos taken as well. So much excitement and fun ~ ^_^
MisterMan gets chicken sausage and baby potatoes, steamed broccoli, peapods and purple carrots, grape tomatoes, strawberry, grapes and cara cara oranges. Cute detail provided by radish slice and nori. Woof! The background I used is the poster I got from The Fillmore after the Paul Simon concert last week. It was a 2 hour show and he (and his band) sounded great. The highlight for me was the title track from Hearts and Bones, my fave album. He also rocked That Was Your Mother, with the zydeco vibe, and got the whole place dancing to that one. And lest you wonder whether his 69-year-old voice might be failing, he pulled off a haunting Sound of Silence, alone with his guitar, in the semi-darkness without a hitch. The Fillmore theatre hands out free apples and specially designed posters for sold-out shows; a nice bonus. I love this one with the art deco-esque feel!
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 ^-^!