Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mini Sushi Bento II

Mini Sushi Bento II, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
I've been hearing about the Japan Society Virtual Bento Box Battle for awhile now, and last weekend tried to think of what kind of bento to make. Reading over the qualifications, one of the statements stuck out to me: Representations of iconic Japanese foods, landmarks, customs, or public figures.

Well, I love iconic foods of Japan, especially sushi! Then I realized that I hadn't made a mini bento in awhile; why not make a mini sushi bento? Some of you who know me from flickr remember my mini bento set, which sprang from my joint love of miniatures and bento. In fact, I had made a mini sushi bento before, and it was a lot of fun! I figured, why not make another one to symbolize and honor this iconic food of Japan? So here is my mini faux sushi bento (part II), submitted to Japan Society.

From left: maguro (actually a piece of roasted red pepper), yellowtail (steamed satsumaimo), unagi (teriyaki chicken), salmon (raw carrot with mozzarella), and ikura (red quinoa). The rice for the nigiri is actually cut from mozzarella cheese stick. The wasabi is green-dyed cream cheese and the pickled ginger is shredded carrot. All nori details are real nori. The platter is a sheet of nori as well, and it rests upon a pb&j sandwich. I added maroon carrot/cilantro flower details, and in the other section I put clementines and a cherry tomato to show scale.

Have you entered the contest? I believe the deadline has been extended to Monday, April 5th, so you still have time to create something to submit! Have fun!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pita Pizza and Fruits Bento

Pita Pizza and Fruits Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Hello bento friends! I have been absent from the blog while we spent time visiting the in-laws in L.A. this past weekend. This week is our spring break, so there are no new bento to be made (probably). Here, however, is one I made for my boy last week.

Homemade pizza on pocketless whole wheat pita bread rounds: pepperoni, mozzarella and spinach. Wrapped in brown paper. With a side of black grapes, carrots, strawberry, and blood orange mixed with cottage cheese. I realized too late that blood orange works very well at coloring cottage cheese (and probably yogurt as well); I could have had pink cottage cheese all week! Oh well. I also tossed some walnuts on top for crunch. A quick and simple bento to round out the week.

Anybody else taking a break this week? Happy Spring, bento friends!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Triple Chickie Meatballs

Triple Chickie Meatballs, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
I made meatballs for this bento, using a mix of ground turkey, oats, onion, and yes -- kale! You're not really surprised, are you? If you keep the container of lightly steamed, chopped kale in the fridge, you yourself might also find lots of fantastically healthy uses for it too. And after bathing the meatballs in homemade barbeque sauce, they tasted yummilicious -- just ask the kiddos :)

Since everyone's putting Easter-y type creatures in their bento, I thought I would make some chicks. Okay, they're brown, but can you use your imagination? I gave them carrot beaks and sweet pea eyes, and used the barbeque sauce to "glue" them on. Also tossed in some roasted baby potatoes -- two kinds: new potatoes and rose fingerlings. I really like these little taters. They crisp up quickly and taste great with just olive oil and garlic powder. Nothing could be easier. A fancy cut carrot, some cherry tomatoes and some steamed broccoli fill in the gaps. In the cup (included with this EcoLunch stainless steel bento) is cottage cheese, triangles of sweet Cara Cara oranges, slivered almonds and wheat germ. This is my last Cara Cara, because even though I bought a whole bag's worth last weekend, the fam has been sucking them down like mad! Should have bought more.

I'm pretty happy with the look of this bento. Even if there's only one flower today!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bunny Kimchi Fried Rice Bento

I made kimchi fried rice (Kimchi bokkeumbap), inspired by a twitter friend whose dinners often inspire mine! As an aside, I've found that twitter has given me cooking/food ideas/recipes on several occasions. Of course, I follow quite a large number of "foodie" types, so that explains it. Invariably the folks I've met and chatted with are always generous and helpful. It's been a great resource for me.

Anyway, back to the bento:
My kimchi rice is vegetarian; it's also mild, since my kids are heat-intolerant! But, not totally mild, since kimchi is in there! Also, being the healthy mom that I am, I added some nontraditional ingredients. I understand that the recipe can be fairly flexible and may include "leftover" kimchi and assorted vegetables. I began by sauteeing minced garlic, then adding carrot, onion and shredded baby bok choy. I also used minced kale! I've already mentioned how I add this ingredient to rice occasionally for added vitamin enhancement. This dish is so highly flavored, I doubt the kale is even noticable. I forgot the mushrooms, but this would have added a nice rich flavor. Then I put the cold rice in the pan and let it get crispy on one side before I began tossing it. This is because I love crispy rice. Then I added the chopped kimchi (napa cabbage type). You should add in the liquid from the kimchi as well, but as I mentioned I was wary of doing that. However, I could not avoid the liquid which was retained in the kimchi itself after I cut it. Okay, I could have, but I didn't. I really wanted the orange rice color. I also drizzled some shoyu and sesame oil for taste. If this were for me, I would have added a lot of gojuchang, but as it was, it was still pretty tasty. Top with chopped green onions and a fried egg, and it's a very satisfying meal!

I fried a quail egg in a metal bunny mold, and the yolk managed to stay in the exact center of the face. Now that I look at it, I wish I had used the yellow yolk as the nose. Wouldn't that have been cute? I almost forgot, the bunny makes this bento eligible for Hapa Bento's B.O.M.B. Yay! I added a nori face, some maroon carrot and peapod flowers, and I was done. The extras include cut carrots, a bit of broccoli, strawberries and black grapes.

Verdict? It was a hit :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Red Spring Bento

Red Spring Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
This bento ended up with lots of red in it, which wasn't planned, but which nicely represents the feeling of spring awakening with lots of color!

Along with more chicken and furikake rice, I added a piece of steamed broccoli and a giant cherry tomato. The salad is composed of watercress tossed with diced Cara Cara oranges (with their nice dark orangey-red hue) and crushed walnuts. The third section has cottage cheese studded with ripe strawberry slices and sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and wheat germ.

And because I am currently obsessed with beet-painting satsumaimo sakura blossoms, there are a bunch of those too! Instead of fingerpainting them, you can also simply steam a slice of satsumaimo with a slice of beet on top (you can layer them alternately too) and the beet color will stain the imo it's touching. The color comes out uneven, lending a kind of "tie-dye" effect which is really cool! It might have been prettier to make a lighter pink color, but I guess I got kinda carried away. Well, plenty of chances to try again! ^_^

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Blossoms Bento

Spring Blossoms Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Okay, ready for more spring blossoms?
Pink sakura (beet-dyed satsumaimo), white plum (plain satsumaimo), and um, carrot flowers. I made chicken "medallions" using an egg/flour mix and pan-frying. The kids love chicken like this, and I don't know why! It's really easy and they don't even ask for any sauce although I like sriracha. I tried making him a smallish musubi, hoping he'll start to like eating more rice. Plus it made a nice background for the pink flowers. Steamed broccoli and enoki mushrooms complete this bowl. Other bowl contains three super juicy strawberries and a little clementine.
Am I overdoing the flowers theme bento? Can't help it. Got flowers on the brain -- everything blooming over here right now!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring Momiji Bento

Spring Momiji Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Spring is here!
I can tell because the Japanese maples in my garden are unfurling their delicate leaves. Each morning I check to see if they have opened yet. My green one is completely open, but my red one will take a day or two more, I think. So for this bento I celebrate the anticipation I feel each spring while I wait for my tree to awaken from its wintry slumber.

Along with Korean Chicken, I made a lettuce-wrapped onigiri of kale/jade rice adorned with pink maple leaves. They are made of satsumaimo, Japanese sweet potato, which have been "finger-painted" with beet juice from fresh steamed beet. I decided to dye them this way because then I could get varying degrees of red color for each leaf. Plus, I didn't want to overcook by boiling in the beet juice after it was already cooked. Simply steam a small piece of beet for a few minutes, and it will begin to emit beet juice immediately. I placed the satsumaimo (naturally white in color) on the beet and lightly rubbed the color on. The leaf shapes are cut with a cutter. I like how they came out. To balance out the section, I added flower-cut baby carrots, steamed broccoli and peapods. In the fruit section I slipped in blood orange slices, a halved clementine and a strawberry fan.

It was also a positively spring-like day today, which means I had nice sunlight streaming in through my "picture" window by which to take the shot. Yay! I added a sprig of my fragrant jasmine, which is currently in peak bloom right now. Every afternoon while TinySprite naps, I relax by the jasmine vine in the warm sun. It has become the time I look forward to every day. Tomorrow I think I'll bring a cup of ice tea out there with me :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Green Bento

Green Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Here's my Green Bento for St. Patty's day!

I made furikake cod, which I wrote about here. I added steamed broccoli and a cup of fruits: strawberry, clementine and cherry tomato.

I also made jade (bamboo) rice, which in the past has always come out very light in hue. This time I steamed some kale and used the steam water for cooking the rice, hoping to improve the color. I think it may have helped a little, but what helped a lot was adding in the minced (in processor) kale after cooking! Before you say "yuck", I have to say that the kale didn't add all that much taste to the rice, and it's such a vitamin-rich vegetable I had to try it. You can just pretend it's furikake! That's what I told the fam, and like magic, they chowed it down! It goes really well with the furikake cod (you can also use salmon). I put the rice in the cup, and decorated with an edamame clover and maroon carrot flowers.
Here's the jade rice before cooking:
Happy St. Patricks Day, bento friends. I'll be drinking green tea to celebrate! *clink* ^_^

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Honey Shiso Pork Bento

Honey Shiso Pork Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
MisterMan gets honey shiso pork in this bento. The meat was marinated in cider vinegar, honey and julienned shiso, then grilled. The recipe actually calls for pork chops, but I used pork strips for ease of eating. You could also simply cut the meat off the bone after cooking as well. Next to the pork I packed roasted brussels sprouts and diced purple potatoes. The sprouts and potatoes were roasted side by side, tossed in olive oil and garlic powder, as per my usual custom.

The other sections contain juicy ripe strawberries, blueberries, and a little cuplet of cottage cheese scattered with chopped raspberry jewel plum and wheat germ. On top, I placed a clover of pumpkin seeds -- after all, it's nearly St. Patrick's Day. Happy St. Patty's Day, bento friends!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Portabella Bento

Portobella Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
For this bento, I sliced and grilled portabella mushroom caps with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled with chopped scallion. Asparagus and baby round potatoes were tossed with olive oil and garlic, and roasted together. I added a perfectly round cherry tomato in the corner for a splash of red, and some baked sweet potatoes cut into flower shapes. In the fruit section he has sliced plum, blueberries, and a cup of cottage cheese topped with chopped strawberries and wheat germ.

Upon looking at this bento now, it seems like a wintry one, with lots of earth tones and warming foods. Hopefully my bento will start to look brighter and more colorful with the coming of spring! I am definitely liking the longer evenings these days. The kids stayed outside until 8pm last night, riding bikes down the bay trail just down the street from our house. And today was positively warm, which got me thinking about refreshing foods like somen salad and sushi. Yay!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gyoza Bento

Gyoza Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
After the wonton project, I decided to make gyoza. I used Maki's recipe on Just Hungry, and they came out pretty good. The kids liked these too, but I guess they might prefer the wontons a bit more since they are huge soup fans. Anyway, I tucked a few gyoza into a stainless steel box along with a little container of shoyu/rice vinegar sauce. He also has a cup of pickled veggies (carrots, cucumbers and daikon) and a cherry tomato for color. I used a piece of lettuce to keep the gyoza separate from the other stuff; I think this qualifies as "edible baran" for entry in hapabento's B.O.M.B. contest!

I put the fruit in a separate box: black plum, Cara Cara oranges, raspberries and blueberries in this section. Have you tried Cara Cara oranges yet? There is some controversy over whether they are in fact actual grapefruit hybrids, or just look like grapefruits with their pink flesh. Anyway, supposedly they are less acidic and more sweet than regular oranges. We tried them at the Ferry Terminal farmer's market in San Francisco last weekend and were hooked! They really do taste sweet and berrylike, and their pink flesh is rather cool.

This has turned out to be Dumpling Week over here at the Happy Little Bento house. I find that dumplings really make people happy... even the word dumpling makes me smile. You too? :)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wontons and Watercress Salad Bento

For dinner this day (yesterday) I made wontons for wonton mein; noodle soup with baby bok choy. See the way I made them here. The kids invariably like to eat the wontons like finger food though, so I put some in my boy's bento just like this. His teacher mentioned how good they looked at lunchtime, which I think means I should make a bunch more for him to share next time :)

I added a watercress salad tossed with fresh chopped strawberries and mandarins, sprinkled with chopped walnuts. I would have added goat or feta cheese too, but I didn't have any. I squeezed some juice into the salad too... and guess what? He said he liked it! Yay! I wasn't sure how the watercress would go over. When I was a kid it took awhile for me to get used to the taste. It's also good in soup. Some baby star-cut carrots got placed in the corner, and I managed to slip some plum slices in as well. These are raspberry jewel plums, which are teardrop shaped and supersweet and juicy. They are a lovely rosy magenta color, so pretty. I was excited to see them in my local grocery this week, for a nice addition to the fruit section. Just wait till the full summer crop!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Garlic Shrimp Bento

Garlic Shrimp Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
For this bento I sauteed some shrimp in garlic, butter and lemon juice; then packed them into the box with some cilantro rice, steamed broccoli and carrot flowers. I usually use bigger shrimp ('cause I like the big ones), but the smaller ones came out pretty well too. And they cook super fast, which is a plus for me. The kids ate the shrimp for dinner with whole wheat bowtie pasta, which I cooked together with the broccoli in a single timesaving step.

I was able to find a bunch of summery fruits so I had to stick them in: along with the winter standard mandarin segments -- sliced strawberry, raspberries and blueberries.

I wanted to try making lemon risotto to go with the shrimp, since someone gifted us with a bunch of their backyard Meyer lemons, but ran out of time. Maybe I should use them for something sweet anyway, like lemon bars or some other dessert. I saw a recipe on twitter for limoncello bread pudding! Hmmm...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lion Ravioli Bento

Lion Ravioli Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
For this bento I used my new two tier panda bento box that I got at Marukai in Little Tokyo, L.A. It's so cute! I used spinach ravioli. These Costco brand ravioli have a curvy edge that always make me think of lions, so of course I had to cut out a nori face to decorate. In addition, I added a piece of steamed broccoli, some roasted asparagus and roasted grape tomatoes. Interestingly, these tomatoes were getting wrinkled in the fridge, which is why I decided to toss them in the pan with the asparagus. When I took them out, they had magically plumped back up. Now they look beautiful! What a trick, eh?

In the other tier I put some carrot flowers, a baby mandarin, some strawberries and blueberries. Doesn't it look nice? I didn't show the lid, but I did put the matching ice pack in the picture to show you. It fits under the lid and on top of the top tier, which comes with a tight-fitting plastic lid. The whole thing stacks together and fastens with a white belt. My boy loved this one, and it got lots of appreciative comments from his lunchtime pals too ^_^

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sakura Branch Bento

Sakura Branch Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
This bento includes some roasted chicken with Korean sauce (premade and stored in fridge), lotus root (renkon) in shoyu mirin sauce, steamed broccoli, a grape tomato and some raw star-cut baby carrots. The sakura blossoms are cut from steamed purple potato with sesame seed detail. For fruits he gets a giant strawberry, past-their-prime red grapes, and slices of blood orange.

So simple, right? But in the magic round bento box, it all looks like a bright spring day. More and more life is emerging in my humble backyard garden, and each new sprout and leaf bud makes me feel more excited each day. I have Blenheim apricot and nectarine trees in my yard, and I'm crossing fingers for buckets and buckets of fruit this year! I remember one year we couldn't give them away fast enough; we had so many.

I haven't started any seeds yet, but I have big plans for this growing season. Heirloom tomatoes! Basil! Cilantro and green onion! Mizuna! Shiso! Edamame? How about you?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sausage & Polenta Bento

Sausage & Polenta Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
This bento arose from some random food tweets I was reading in the morning. Someone mentioned they had sausage and homefries for breakfast and I thought that sounded good for dinner, but then I realized I only had purple potatoes. Not sure how appetizing that would look. Then someone else mentioned polenta croutons and I thought: hmm, polenta - perfect! So that's what I made. It really helps that I follow lots of "foodie" types on twitter :)

I gave MisterMan some Trader Joe's chicken / jalapeno (!) sausage alongside some sauteed mini sweet peppers and onions. I actually didn't mean to use the spicy sausages, but I forgot to check, and didn't notice until after I already started frying them up. Oh well. I decided to just give it to them without mentioning my mistake. If you mention "spicy", my girl will shriek "No! Too spicy!" without even trying it. So what do you think? They gobbled it up for dinner. Woohoo!

For some reason kids just love polenta, and I made this one without any butter at all; just cornmeal and cheese. I was going to save some for frying into croutons, but they ate it all up too fast. I decorated with maroon carrot flowers and a little broccoli. For fruits I added a sliced plum and a mini mandarin. Two little chickie pals will accompany him for lunch :)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Girls' Day Bento

Girls' Day Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Here's my Girls' Day little snack bento for TinySprite. It's a shy, demure girl in her purple carrot kimono with green onion obi. Okay, you'll have to use your imagination. I like the irony of making a shy girl for TinySprite; it really makes me laugh. TinySprite is NOT demure. If there is one very apt word I can use to describe her, it is LOUD. She talks loud, she laughs loud, she's very outspoken and not afraid to talk to anyone. She remembers everyone's name and always addresses their parent and siblings, if present, as well. She knows everyone, everywhere we go: post office, grocery, library, school, etc., and she gets more greetings than I do. You know those kids that always ask embarrassing questions at very awkward moments? I am just waiting for those. She already "reminds" people not to smoke, litter, or run too fast. Yikes. So I should have made this girl with an "O" mouth, wide open, to truly represent my girl :)

Anyway, to make this girl, I just wrapped a carrot peel round and round a quail egg for her body. As an aside, purple carrots appear to stain quail eggs pretty well. As soon as the peel touched the egg, it left a purple mark. By the time I'd wrapped the egg, everything was streaked dark purple, including my fingers. So if you need a dark purple egg, you might consider purple carrots next time.

Her head is a second quail egg placed on its end. I cut her hair and eyes from nori, and she wears a cilantro and maroon carrot flower in her hair. Also in this little snack box are two strawberries, a grape tomato and a peapod. Yellow sweet mini pepper flowers too.

I should have taken video of her eating this one, but I forgot. She ate everything, even the green onion, which surprised me. First thing she did was totally unwrap the carrot kimono and eat that by itself, and then all the flowers, and I was a little nervous about her just popping the eggs in her mouth so I made her take a bite from each one first. She had a lot of fun with this one, I think :)
Here's a closeup of the girl:

Happy Girls' Day, bento friends!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Chow Mein Bento

Chow Mein Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Slow Monday means another quick and easy bento. Spinach chow mein noodles get stirfried with a variety of whatever vegetables are on hand; in this case: bean sprouts, shiitake, garlic, carrots, and baby spinach. I added oyster sauce and shoyu for taste, and a little sesame oil. I also added sliced Chinese sausage as well.

We are getting so low on fruits these days -- he gets grapes, blood oranges and kiwi flowers. 2 grape tomatoes. Several maroon carrot tiny flowers scattered around to suggest spring. Is it working? It was such a dreary day too... so I couldn't get much light in the photo.

Happy March!