Thursday, December 16, 2010

Brownie-Dipped Oreo Reindeer Treats

I got the idea for this from Picky Palate, who posted a method for making these cool brownie-coated oreos. I'm not a big oreo fan, but when you bake them in brownies, they become cakey and soft. So good! And with the holiday fillings, they look oh-so-festive too. I basically used her method, which is adapted here.

Mix up your brownie batter. One batch will make a whole package of oreos. Dip in your oreo.

Make sure it's coated all over.

I used chopsticks to do this. Take it out of the batter and place in cupcake liner in muffin tin.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. Take out of oven and immediately press in cinnamon candy for red nose, mini chocolate chips for eyes, and poke appropriately broken pretzel pieces at the top for antlers.

Make enough for the whole class! Fun, and yummy too!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mini Snowman Bento

Mini Snowman Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
I wanted to make a mini bento for Christmas since I haven't made one in such a long time. I initally wanted to do a miniature Christmas tree, but then I thought a tiny snowman would be so cute! I planned to make little snowballs to go with him and everything, but after working with the snowman himself I think the microsnowballs would be too much trouble. As it was the "snow" stuck to the plastic wrap and thus doesn't look quite smooth. I made three balls out of cream cheese for the snowman, and decorated his face with nori, a carrot nose and a yellow carrot corncob pipe. He also has purple carrot buttons and a carrot top hat. His arms are dry somen. As you can see, just as real snowmen do he started to melt after awhile, and began to lean to the side. I propped him up for the picture but lay him down after I was done. He is on a tofu platform and there's a bare tree next to him as well as his watermelon radish mittens. I wanted to poke the mittens on his arms but then his arms would have fallen off for sure! The rest of the bento contains a satsuma mandarin, grapes, peapods and carrots. Merrry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Santa Egg Snack Bento

Santa Egg Snack Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Another snack bento for TinySprite; this time a beet-dyed hard-boiled egg decorated with nori, radish and carrot to look like Santa Claus. Or Humpty Dumpty with a Santa hat and beard on. There's also bowtie pasta, steamed broccoli, grapes and satsuma mandarin. We're almost halfway through the last week of school for 2010, people! Woo!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hello Kitty On Ice Bento

Hello Kitty On Ice Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
This is a little snack bento I made for TinySprite. It's a sandwich on potato bread, topped with a quail egg Hello Kitty who is ice-skating on the bread lake. Her dress is made of turkey dog and pepperoni, and her skates are purple carrot. Her facial features are nori, cheddar cheese, and pink ume somen whiskers. There are peapods, a broccoli tree, carved carrots and grapes. This is the last week of school before Christmas break, and there are all kinds of parties and luncheons planned. I love this winding down of the school quarter. Christmas is coming! Is it cold enough to ice-skate where you live?
Posted at What's For Lunch!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gyoza and Wreath Bento

Gyoza and Wreath Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
I made gyoza today with whole wheat wrappers, which I'd never used before. I also picked up spinach wrappers too, but haven't used them yet. These wrappers are kind of chewy compared to the regular ones, but the kids didn't seem to mind. I used a ground pork filling with chopped scallions and shredded spinach, and seasoned with salt, sugar and shoyu which tasted pretty good. I pan-fried then pan-steamed, so they got nice and crispy on the bottom and stayed soft on top. After they were done I pan-fried some lightly steamed kabocha in the same pan, then drizzled with sesame oil and shoyu at the end of cooking. Sound familiar? I have been eating tons of kabocha this way lately. It's SO good, I'll eat it right out of the pan. To fill in the gaps I added steamed peapods. Other side has kiwi, grapes and my nod to the season: a satsuma mandarin wreath decorated with purple carrot "berries" and festive bow & leaf picks.

In other news, tomorrow is MisterMan's Christmas concert, where he'll be performing on the violin. He has been playing for only three months, but when I attended the rehearsal last night I was surprised to find that they all sound pretty good (no cat screeching). Whew! I never would have believed the director could get a bunch of first and second grader first-time players to sound decent, but I guess their method works. We'll see how the actual performance goes!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rudolph and Misobutterfish Bento

My favorite fish, butterfish misoyaki. So easy and so yummy! I added some red rice mini-musubi with cherry picks, carved carrots, steamed shoyu Brussels sprouts and a shoyu quail egg decorated as Rudolph with nori eyes, radish nose and ears, and the very versatile and useful bone picks for antlers. There's also a plum. I have no idea where it came from, but it's really not sweet at all. Luckily there are black grapes and satsuma mandarin to make up for it. Here's a closeup of Rudolph. Aww...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mac, Cheese and Christmas Tree Bento

I love mac and cheese. I love making it, I love eating it, and I love the way it's always an instant hit with everyone in the family. It's also a one-dish meal, which is my specialty (quick, easy, minimal thinking involved)! The great thing about mac and cheese is that it's a forgiving dish. You can make it pretty much any way you want, and it still turns out okay, to me anyway. I don't even really measure the cheese and milk and flour. Just put in what you have and keep adding until it looks good to you. Then, bake until everything meshes together and finish under the broiler for a crunchy top. Today I used mini penne pasta, two kinds of cheese, plus I chopped and added ham, spinach, some whole wheat bread slices and even... my favorite squash du jour: kabocha! I steamed it lightly, then grated it coarsely right into the mix. You could also puree it, but I like to see the little bits of kabocha. I don't remember if I even told the kids everything I put in it. It wouldn't matter anyway. They could eat the whole casserole quite happily. Good thing I reserved some for their bento. I don't show TinySprite's bento, but I made one for her too. Along with the mac and cheese, I squeezed in some carrots and peapods, a bunch of grapes, a satsuma mandarin, and a steamed broccoli Christmas tree with radish ornaments. I have a feeling I made this exact same tree last year, which I didn't realize until after I took the picture. Well, except for the star skewer, which completes the effect nicely, right?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Snowman Bao Bento

Snowman Bao Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
No-cook Christmas bento for MisterMan today. We got home late after TinySprite's debut Nutcracker ballet performance so there was no cooking to be done. They were so excited and wound up by the whole affair that they could barely get to sleep. Today started very grumpily, as a result. Let's hope the snowman lifts some spirits! It's a steamed char siu bao, which I thought was appropriate for a snowman, and all I had to do was add nori facial details, radish cheeks, a carrot nose (yes, I did cut a slot for it and stuck it in his face), and a crusty bread pipe. He's got a cucumber hat and even some broccoli earmuffs. Hello Frosty! There's also pork chow mein, some grapes and a satsuma mandarin. Whew! I'll have to get back into the routine again. Tomorrow. ^_^

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hello Kitty Ninja Bento

Hello Kitty Ninja Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
This Sunday, December 5, 2010, is Day of the Ninja, and Hello Kitty is celebrating in her ninja costume. Since she's a peaceful warrior, she doesn't have any weapons except a flower-adorned dagger and floral "throwing star". I used two hard-boiled quail eggs wrapped in nori to make her. She's surrounded by grapes, steamed broccoli and carved carrots. How will you celebrate? Happy Day of the Ninja!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Reindeer Pizza Bento

Reindeer Pizza Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
This bento almost did not get posted but I figured why not? Lots of my bentos look like this, especially on Mondays. Hastily thrown together and not very CUTE. Plus it was late and there was basically no light on this dark rainy day. Ugh. The upside is that it only took approximately 2 minutes to make it, most of it trying to get the sesame seeds to stay on. Briefly, this is TinySprite's bento and MisterMan's looks similar. I cut some leftover tomato - pepperoni - greens - mozzarella "pizza" to fit the box, and added a tiny piece with skewered pepperoni to look like a reindeer. You don't see it, you say? Well you wouldn't be the first. Neither kid saw it, and MisterMan actually asked if I'd made the Millenium Falcon. This shows you how desperate he was to give it a shot, any shot. I think he may even have been looking at it upside down at the time. WHATEVER. Other side has pomelo (or jabong, or giant Chinese green orange) and grapes. We were out much of this evening so there wasn't much time for bento. MisterMan received his next level belt at his class tonight, and we went out to celebrate ^_^

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Snowman Fried Rice Bento

Snowman Fried Rice Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
I made a quick fried rice with the last bits of frozen shredded turkey stash and various veggies I had in the fridge, plus an egg. For my second Christmas bento I made a mozzarella cheese snowman with carrot and nori detail, and utilized versatile pick placement. Easy! Fruit side includes fall plum and satsuma mandarin. That's it for today!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Tree Jook and Rudolph Bento

Christmas Tree Jook Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Since tomorrow is December first, I decided to make a first Christmas-themed bento set. I made two, in fact! MisterMan gets turkey jook, made using the Thanksgiving turkey carcass to make turkey stock. I tossed the thigh bones in as well, and at the end of the hour of simmering, the meat had all fallen off the bones and the broth was nice and flavorful. I used only half the carcass, so there's one more batch to go. I have to admit I love turkey jook -- much more so than the actual turkey it began with. Personally I like to throw in ginger, scallion and garlic chili paste to give it a tasty kick. For the kids I keep it more mild. I did sprinkle on some chopped green onion before I realized it landed in kind of a tree formation. Okay, I rearranged a little, and added a kabocha star, but I'm calling it a Christmas tree bento.
The fruit and veggie side dish is the top tier of this thermal bento. I gave him a satsuma mandarin, some pan-fried kabocha, broccoli and a grape. It's kind of a small box.

For TinySprite, I turned a char siu bao into Rudolph with carved carrot antler, grape eyes and a radish nose. She also got some pan-fried kabocha, steamed broccoli and sliced kiwi. Happy December, and welcome to the Christmas season!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Chicken and Red Rice Musubi Bento

Quick standard chicken and rice bento. I made a rice mix that included red rice, brown rice and pearl barley. I formed two mini musubi and added a cherry pick for fun. There's also steamed broccoli, cucumbers, a tiny yellow pear tomato from my slowly withering tomato bush (which still has 3 more tomatoes ripening), a radish heart, purple carrot skewer, grapes and a satsuma mandarin.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Okinawan Sweet Potato Haupia Pie

We had the usual Thanksgiving fixin's this year but the one dish that excited me the most was my Okinawan Sweet Potato Haupia pie. It was the first time I'd made it, although I've eaten it before and knew I loved it. For some reason I thought it would be labor-intensive and difficult to get right. I used this recipe by Jo Anne Sugimoto and it came out just right.

For the CRUST:
3/4 c cold, unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 3/4 c flour
1 c macadamia nuts, well chopped
Mix the dry ingredients together, then add nuts and butter, cutting with a pastry cutter until crumbly, then press into pie pan. Or you can use a premade crust, which is what I did.

1/2 c butter, softened
1 c sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 c okinawan sweet potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed (about 1 big potato)
1/2 c evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
Cream butter and sugar until smooth in medium bowl. Add eggs, then mashed potato, then the remaining ingredients. Spread into the crust but leave a half inch for the haupia on top. Bake the pie at 350F for 30 minutes (mine took 40 minutes) until the crust is golden and the potato filling is lightly browning. Let cool.

For the HAUPIA LAYER: (do not start until the potato filling is cool)
1 can coconut milk (13.5 oz.)
1/2 c water
1/3 c sugar
1/3 c cornstarch
Put the milk and water into pan. Mix sugar and cornstarch together, then add to the liquids. Turn on medium heat and stir constantly until dissoved and thickened, several minutes. Quickly pour haupia over pie evenly and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Cut and serve when cooled.

I know, it seems like a lot of work. But trust me, it's TOTALLY worth it. The light sweet potato flavor combines extremely well with the sweet coconut topping. Plus, it's so pretty!
Maybe my crust was on the small side, but I had extra leftover sweet potato filling that didn't fit in the pie shell. If you have extra crust, you could make tarts. Or you could probably bake it without crust and it would still be good. I decided to add some mochiko flour and bake a few mini cupcakes; these came out pretty good, but I didn't have the patience to bake the rest as it had become quite late. So I poured the rest into a square dish and microwaved a few minutes to make "mochi". I was happy to see that the purple color held up though all the cooking! My mochi isn't smooth because the potato I used was mashed to a sort of chunky consistency. Whipping the potatoes into a more liquid puree would probably result in smoother pie and mochi. As it was, I added more evaporated milk and mochiko until the consistency looked right (pourable), then zapped until it was done. If you make microwave mochi, you'll have to watch it carefully because it will cook rather quickly. If you have a high-wattage oven it will cook faster than a lower-wattage oven, so my cooking time will differ from yours. I will definitely make this again soon. Like -- at Christmas. How about you?
Edited to include a pic of this pie which I made for 10-31-11. These potatoes were perfectly ripe and fresh, and when I steamed them they turned a beautiful vibrant dark purple. I had to make a pie.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Turkey Bento

Turkey Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Well, Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, and I just realized I never made a single Thanksgiving bento. Hmm. I'll bet there'll be lots of turkey bentos AFTER Thanksgiving, though! So here's a "turkey" bento to celebrate the upcoming holiday and get us in the mood. Spinach ricotta ravioli decorated as turkeys with purple, yellow, pink and orange carrots. There are grapes, mandarins and watermelon radish shapes as well. The tiny yellow pear tomatoes are stragglers from my home garden. Can't believe they're still producing fruit, but I actually even have flowers still blooming on my slowly withering bush. Gobble gobble, and Happy Thanksgiving bento friends!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Octodog and Salted Salmon Onigiri Bento

I made salted salmon last weekend, and have been enjoying it in all kinds of ways. Today I made a salted salmon onigiri for my second-grader, who will like the flavor the fish imparts to the plain mixed rice. I added a couple of octodogs with sesame seed and nori facial details, and a quail egg with a molded bear face. I dipped the egg in shoyu for flavor and to add contrast. I filled in the gaps with steamed broccoli, and I also fried some partially steamed kabocha in the same octodog pan. I drizzled shoyu on the wedges at the end to give a bit of salty flavor. The plum slices are accented with watermelon radish and pink carrot flower.
I used Maki's Just Bento recipe for salted salmon. Briefly, all you do is coat a fresh piece of salmon with sea salt, wrap in paper towels and refrigerate for 24 hours to draw the liquid out. After the salting period, you can slice the filet and cook in a few different ways. I chose to pan-fry; a few minutes on each side until cooked through. It is quick and easy to do, and so versatile. I've eaten it in jook, ochazuke, onigiri, and just as is with plain hot rice. It's simply delicious. And since Maki says you can freeze the salted pieces, that's just what I've done. It'll only take a few minutes to fry some up whenever the mood strikes me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Salmon Bento and LunchBots Trio Review

Salmon Trio Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Since we have been on a kabocha kick, as well as a cooking-everything-in-the-same-manner kick, why stop now? Today I decided to grill! I had some nice pieces of fresh salmon so I used half to make shiozake (salted salmon -- more on that next time) and the other half to grill with just a bit of salt and pepper.
Today I'm introducing my new LunchBots Trio stainless steel box. It's a slightly different shape than the Uno and Duo, but like the Duo it has permanently mounted dividers attached to the box interior. [I've already reviewed the LunchBots Uno and Duo here, and if you missed it, well -- I love 'em.] This one, the Trio, is billed as a snack container, but as you can see from the photo, it seems actually bigger than the Uno and the sides are taller. You can fit quite a bit of food in here. I'm a fan of the divided box, so I knew I was going to like this one. It's not divided in half and fourths, like many other boxes. I think they are actually equal thirds. The lid fits snugly (though not leakproof), just as with the other LunchBots. For its inaugural use I lay some salmon pieces and a tiny mixed rice onigiri on a lettuce leaf in one section, and added a half radish carved into a mushroom shape. The next section had kabocha, which I briefly steamed and grilled along with the cherry tomatoes right next to the salmon. I also added a few cucumbers to fill in the gap. The last section holds sliced plum, grapes and raspberries. It's a nice arrangement style, and I give it two thumbs up!
My preschooler gets basically the same stuff. Last time I picked her up from school she hadn't finished, and the teacher said all the kids seemed distracted that day. Well, I was disappointed but we packed up her bento and when we got home she surprised me by asking to finish it before her nap. She devoured every piece of garnish and decorative lettuce as well. So when you see me line her box with lettuce, it's not just for effect! I really think she is more willing to eat (vegetables) when it's presented in her bento box. She also got a new cutlery set which helps too. Interestingly, when we go out to restaurants or eat at home on an ordinary plate, this leafy greens rule doesn't apply. Too bad!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kabocha Bento

Kabocha Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Today MisterMan has a kind of traditional Japanese food bento today. I found asparagus in the market today so I wrapped in turkey and roasted. At the same time I also roasted kabocha, Okinawan purple potato, and satsumaimo (Japanese sweet potato). I bought a regular (green skin) kabocha and cut into wedges before roasting with sea salt. It's delicious just like that. I also made a quick tamagoyaki with shredded spinach to fill in the gap. I cut the satsumaimo into sticks so they kind of look like french fries, and somehow that makes them even more desirable. I topped with some carved carrots and added Fall plum chunks in the final section for dessert. That's it! Even with cooking, this bento probably took less than 30 minutes, and most of that was waiting for the roasting to be done.
Look -- it's Kabochan! Isn't he cute? This little character reminds us not to fear the tough exterior of the sweet kabocha, since it protects the delicious sunset-hued squash within. He is the mascot of the Kabocha Lovers Club, and was illustrated by the talented Alissa Staples. I myself was hesitant to cut into my first kabocha, and asked the vendor to make the initial cut for me. Since then, I've cut numerous wedges with my sharp chef's knife with relative ease. Try the kabocha; join our club! Don't be afraid, indeed -- and you will be rewarded with the delicate flavor of Autumn!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tomato-chan Bento

Tomato-chan Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Went out for dinner today, since it was my *birthday* -- so I made a quick batch of balsamic vinegar chicken to pack into the double bentos today. They're both pretty much the same. And are you surprised to see kabocha in another form as well? Since the pan was already coated with balsamic sauce, I decided to quick steam a few Brussels sprouts and kabocha, then fry them all up in the same pan. Super easy, right? And if you have kids that might balk at plain steamed veggies or you can't spare the time to whip up a special veggie side, it's the perfect way to add flavor with minimal labor. If you look at my bento style, you'll see that I often re-use sauces for the protein as well as the veggie. In this case, the sweet balsamic gives a touch of bite to the mild kabocha and my girl almost gobbled them all up before I could save some to pack up. I quartered the Brussels sprouts to speed up the cooking. Some decorative cucumber slices serve as baran, and I included colorful carrot skewers to add focal interest. They both got cinnamon-sprinkled apple slices, and MisterMan had extra room so I added cottage cheese with raspberries, sunflower seeds and wheat germ. The cute touch in both is a tomato character, which was inspired by Tomato-chan, from a clip a twitterpal Alissa passed along. Warning: if you link, you might find the song stuck in your head awhile. It's very cute! Ton-ton-tomato chan!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mochiko Chicken and Kabocha Bento

Today's bento for MisterMan contains pseudo-mochiko chicken (oven-roasted instead of deep-fried), roasted cherry tomatoes, and broccoli and kabocha which I steamed in the rice cooker. That's right, it's kabocha yet another way. I've had my Zojirushi Induction Heating rice cooker for years now, and I never realized you could open the lid during cooking to add other food to be steamed toward the end of cooking. In fact even though someone told me it was okay, I was still afraid the thing would blow up, shut down and catch fire. I tested it a few times, opening and closing the lid, before adding the steaming rack with my broccoli, satsumaimo and kabocha. I added them the last 12 minutes of cooking and it came out pretty good. The kabocha was just perfect. My kids don't like it too mushy so I left it with a little crunch and it's so sweet you don't even need to add anything else. Look how the beautiful golden hue of this squash adds to the appeal of the bento! If you haven't tried kabocha yet, I hope you can find some to try. There are nearly countless ways to enjoy this healthy and nutritious squash. I ate some, fresh steamed, atop a bowl of the fresh-cooked rice it steamed along with; and it was a simple and delicious snack. Also in this bento: fall plum, raspberry, kiwi and carrot flowers. Everything packed up nice and snug in my LunchBots Duo, which happens to be exactly the right size for my second-grader. I love it ^_^

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Harajuku Lovers Bento

Harajuku Lovers Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
No school tomorrow, but the kids will have a snack for a roadtrip. I have a tiered tiffin that happens to be the perfect size for our favorite char siu bao, and each kid gets one tier. I made two Harajuku Girls: Music and Love. I chose those mainly because I happened to have the picks for their hair, and too bad for MisterMan but he'll be having his in the car so no one will see him. And you won't tell anyone he had to eat a girly bao, right? Haha! I cut their faces with a sharp paring knife and used the extra for their hair, then added grape eyes and pink carrot mouths. I have another tiffin that will have the fruit for them to share. I love these short weeks, don't you? If you have a day off, enjoy! If not, well -- Happy Veteran's Day anyway! ^_^