I'm posting this Anpanman sandwich I made earlier this summer but forgot to post, in keeping with the theme from today's snack. I was chatting with my pals on twitter last night about Anpanman and his delicious foodie friends, which include Currypanman, Melonpannachan, Shokupanman (which I ate this afternoon), and others with equally intriguing names and heads shaped to resemble their names. I wish we could watch the Japanese series, just so we can see what kinds of characters show up on each episode. This turkey and cheese sandwich is made with bagel thins, decorated with cherry tomatoes, strawberry, blueberries and nori to create Anpanman's face. On the side I packed some more berries, Okinawan sweet potato hearts, broccoli and carrots. I rarely use this box, but it does seem to fit this bread perfectly well, doesn't it?
Shokupanman is a slice of sweet potato bread, smeared with cream cheese, and decorated with blackberries, strawberries, grapes and jam. He was delicious~!
Today I packed another guaranteed kid favorite: tebasaki chicken wings. I won't tell you how many we make, but I always make more than I think we'll eat so that there will be enough to pack for bento. Today I cleaned out the wings at the butcher. If you haven't yet tried this recipe (see the method and recipe here), you really should. It's easy, and it's deliciously addicting. You won't be able to stop after 5, or 10, or ... well, now you see why I have to make so many. I skip the shichimi togarashi for the kids, but you can sprinkle furikake instead if you like. They are already salted, so my kids love them just as is, straight out of the oven. They are also good cold or at room temp, making them perfect for bento. I used a deep bento box to pack a bunch of wings, plus the usual sides: corn, broccoli, carrots, pluots, strawberry, blackberries, Okinawan sweet potato car, and my Jack-of-the-day, carved from a roasted kabocha slice. So it's really a Japanese pumpkin jack-o-lantern. How about that? ^_^
MisterMan has a field trip to the wildlife museum, so I thought it would be appropriate to make a werewolf calzone for him to take for lunch. I think my last werewolf bento may have been cuter. Anyway, in addition, it fits in with the Halloween theme too. On the upside, my calzones are really starting to look calzone-shaped. On the downside, I guess it doesn't look all that werewolf-shaped, does it? I tried to make furry edges and pointy ears, but I didn't have enough extra dough for that. I hope the radish and yellow and purple carrot eyes, mouth, and fangs help. This one is stuffed with pepperoni, salami and ham, plus spinach, thin sliced zucchini, baby portobellas and cheese. I think it would be fun to form a plain roll (and easier too). Maybe I'll try that sometime. The rest of this disposable container holds corn, broccoli, carrots, Okinawan sweet potato, peapods, peaches, grapes and strawberries. I kept the calzone separate with the wax paper between. When I closed the box, he fit perfectly, peering out the window. RAWR!
Yes, I know we just had flatbread pizza like, 2 weeks ago, because I see it in my flickr photostream there. Actually, we've had it even more recently than that for dinner. Okay, we probably have pizza and calzones every week. The kids clamor for it, and they love it, and it's so easy. I'm thinking we should have been doing this all summer, in fact. Today's version is meatless. We used zucchini, baby portobella mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. I added steamed corn and broccoli, a bat-shaped Okinawan sweet potato, pluots, strawberry, and carved orange cherry tomatoes. I carved these tomatoes into jack-o-lanterns for our twitter tomato party, and decided to use them in the bento here for festive fun. Is it too early for jack-o-lanterns and Halloween decorations? Last year I was on a mission to carve as many jack-o-lanterns as I could, from as many orange foods that I could find. You can see the collection in my set here. (I also did it in 2009, here.) I discovered there are quite a few orange colored foods that can be carved. Should I continue the tradition? ^_^
I made wontons today! (See my method and recipe here). I was craving wontons drowning in chili oil, shoyu and vinegar, topped with green onions and peanuts. So good. But of course for the kids it gets served PLAIN (that's how kids like it; go figure). They're not pretty but they taste delicious. I squeezed a bunch into the bottom panda bento tier along with a few peapods, then filled the top with corn, carrots, broccoli, bear-shaped Okinawan sweet potato, pluot and grapes. Did you notice the clever way I tied the picks into the theme? It's "Panda"monium! A bit obvious? Nah.
I made oven-roasted mochiko chicken today (see recipe and method here) and tossed some sliced kabocha wedges in there as well. There's also something in this bento that I don't usually pack. Do you see it? That's right: rice! I got the idea for satsumaimo rice from Hapa bento's Okinawan sweet potato gohan post. I cooked a mix of black and brown rice, then tossed with diced satsumaimo (Japanese sweet potato) which I had tossed in the rice cooker whole midway through the cycle. I cut the imo after cooking, then gently folded into the rice. After packing the peapods, red plum, corn on the cob and Okinawan sweet potato stars, I had a little spot for a tiny hard-boiled quail egg chick. I cut the "eggshell" white with my small paring knife tip, and added nori eyes and carrot beak to the yolk "chick". I have a container of precut nori eyes and such, so that I can just use what I need right away. Too late, I just noticed that the two dots are different sizes. Oops. Still cute though, right?
The kids get butterfish misoyaki, one of my favorites (recipe here), pan-fried kabocha, and oven-roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts. It was so hot today, and yet here I was roasting a bunch of stuff. What? This is the kind of bento I like to pack in the Fall; it's full of comfort food and warm flavors. There's also some carrots, juicy pluots (this one had dark red flesh and was pretty sweet, actually), and grapes. And a couple of Okinawan sweet potato fish shapes to round out the color spectrum. This is one bento that I might really love for myself. ^_^
It looks like we are finally getting our summer weather this week. Today was a hot 80F and more of the same is forecast in the near future. So I took advantage of the summery vibe and made an orzo salad. When MisterMan was a toddler, he had a friend whose mom always made spinach and orzo. It seemed so curiously healthy; I'd never heard of it before. So finally, numerous years later, I'm making it. Whole wheat orzo tossed with spinach-y pesto and topped with feta and more fresh shredded spinach. You could add olives too, if you like. I supplemented this meatless Monday bento with corn on the cob, peapods, carrots, grape tomatoes, a smiling apple-shaped Okinawan sweet potato, strawberry, and a pluot! I couldn't believe I found more pluots at my farmer's market this past weekend. One vendor still had them and when I saw that I scooped them up. Well, now I know why they're hard to find. They are no longer in season. Juicy, yes, but not sweet. Aww. The memory of the ultra sweet deliciousness from earlier this summer will have to suffice. Until next summer.
Today the kids get calzones again! I used roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, lots of cheese, and baby arugula in the meatless ones, and salami and pepperoni in the meatlover ones. Love them. MisterMan got Totoro, with radish and nori eyes and nose, and soba whiskers, and TinySprite got a brown bear.
The rest of the bentos contain broccoli, peapods, carrots, corn, plum, strawberries, blackberries and grapes. Love this pizza and calzone week. Super fun and easy, and everyone's happy! P.S. I think I'm getting the hang of shaping them now. No puffy pig snouts!
What's that? Didn't we just have rollups? Um, yes. I wish I had taken a cross-section photo of this one to show you the goodies inside. I smeared a whole wheat tortilla with homemade hummus (I made mine pretty thick so it would act as a sticky spread rather than a runny dip), added shredded baby spinach, caramelized onions, roasted red pepper strips and rolled the baby up. I stuck a few cute picks to hold it in place, but as it turns out, this sushi box accomodates the rollup perfectly. How's that for multipurposing? I tucked a few steamed peapods on the sides and topped with Okinawan sweet potato heart shapes. There's a strawberry, blackberries, carrots, broccoli, and sliced plum. These plums are nowhere near as sweet as the pluots of last month, but they'll have to do. And if you have been looking at my bentos for the past few years you'll know I never put these in: chocolate covered raisins! I couldn't resist. They fit so perfectly in the chopstick slot. What do you think?
TinySprite's two-tiered bento holds smoked salmon and cream cheese bread rollups on sweet potato bread. To make bread rollups, it's best to use soft bread. I remove the crusts, which I don't usually do, but it looks much neater this way. You can save the crusts for another use (like mac and cheese). Flatten the bread with a rolling pin, then spread the cream cheese, layer the salmon, and simply roll up tightly. Cut into bento-size pieces, and pack snugly so they don't unroll. I added a piece of steamed broccoli and a hard-boiled beet-dyed bunny-molded egg. The upper tier contains strawberry, carrots, cucumbers, nectarines and Okinawan sweet potatoes. Easy!
Has it really been over a year since I made quinoa salad? Oops. Can't imagine why I hadn't made it this summer. It's a great way to use summer squash, along with colorful bell peppers and crunchy celery, for a protein-rich meatless lunch option. Quinoa is an ancient grain that comes in a variety of colors (see my picture here). I used a tricolor mix today for this salad. The non-recipe is an easy one: simply saute the peppers and minced garlic in olive oil until crisp-tender, then add 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water (or broth of your choice). Bring to boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Add sliced zucchini about halfway through cooking. Season with salt to taste, and I also added cumin. It's done when the quinoa is tender but not mushy. Turn off the heat and add celery and nuts for crunch. This recipe is very adaptable - you can add any vegetable you like. Try tomatoes or kabocha, or top with chopped apples; it's refreshing and nutritious. I tucked a piece of corn on the cob, an Okinawan sweet potato "spaceship", some carrots, and a cup of Greek yogurt with berries and sunflower seeds into this EcoLunch Box to round out a fresh meal. Happy little bento!
Look at those luscious lips! Okay, you might need a bit of imagination to see it, but there are supposed to be tomato eyes and red pepper lips on this cheesy, salami, arugula flatbread pizza. I used Mediterranean whole grain flat bread, which is thick enough to stand up to toppings, but which bakes crispy for a cool mini pizza. The other sections of this Sistema double-sided box contain Okinawan sweet potato, corn on the cob, pluots, nectarines, strawberries and blackberries. Smooch!
Look, it's a thermal bento. In summer. Is it wrong? I was just in the mood for mac and cheese, so decided to pack a couple in my kids' thermal food jars. It's not essential to pack mac and cheese hot, and in fact I bet my kids would be happy to eat it at room temp, but there's something about ooey gooey cheesy mac that sounds so good to me. Last time I used The Pioneer Woman's recipe (for this bento here), and that was really good, but this time I used a bacon mac recipe. It could have used more cheese, I think, but it was still pretty good. I know the side box looks absurdly huge in the photo, but trust me; it's an illusion (it's actually propped up on the thermal jar lid). There's a lot of broccoli in the mac and cheese, so all I gave him on the side is: corn, carrots, strawberry, cherries and pluot.
8 ounces macaroni
2 1/2 cups milk
4 ounces each grated provolone and Asiago cheeses
2 scallions, chopped
3 slices sandwich bread, torn into small pieces
3 strips bacon
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 T flour
Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter a 2-quart shallow casserole dish. Cook the macaroni until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain, transfer the pasta to the casserole dish along with 1/4 cup milk.
Meanwhile, mix the cheeses together. Beat the eggs with 1/4 cup milk in another bowl, add scallions, bread and half the cheese, set aside.
Cook the bacon, remove from pan. Cook the onion and garlic in the same pan, about 4 minutes, then add flour, cook another 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1 3/4 cup milk to the skillet, boil, and whisk until thick.
Remove the sauce from heat and whisk in the remaining cheese, add the sauce to the macaroni and stir to combine. [Here I added steamed broccoli, chopped fine]
Add crumbled bacon to the egg/bread mixture, spread over the top of the pasta.
Bake about 40 minutes.
I made sticky rice (see my basic method here) using shiitake mushroom, baby bok choy, Chinese sausage and kabocha (as I did in this bento here). Actually, today's bento looks quite like that last one from 6 months ago, doesn't it? Well, if it works... I like to add in colorful vegetables to increase the nutritional value and make it look appetizing. Since the rice is cooked in chicken broth and the sausage is tossed in during cooking, the rice is infused with lots of flavor. I topped with star-shaped Okinawan sweet potatoes. In this LunchBot, there's also steamed broccoli, peapods, carrots, pluots, strawberry, and cherries.
I was so happy with the way my pizzas turned out, I decided to make calzones. I rolled the dough (use any pizza dough for this) out into circles, then placed chopped ham, pepperoni, grated cheese and baby arugula on half, and folded the circle in half, pinching to seal the edges together. For fun, I added two balls for ears (which I rolled in flaxmeal), and a little circle for a snout. I intended for it to result in a cute bear face, but the snout rose during baking and I think it looks more like a pig snout now. So a piggy it is. The calzone fits perfectly in one side of the Sistema box, while the other sectioned side contains: corn, broccoli, carrots, pluots, nectarines, grapes, strawberry and lychee. Oink!
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 10yo (5th grader) son & my 6yo (1st 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 ^-^!