Thursday, September 30, 2010

Shoyu Chicken and Jack Bento

Shoyu chicken bento today, with sliced lotus root (renkon) simmered in the same sauce. Also, roasted baby Brussels sprouts and purple potato slices. I filled in with an orange and a yellow pear tomato for color. Other section has a purple carrot skewer, white nectarine, strawberry, black grapes (underneath) and a carved jack o'lantangerine. Today's the first day I've thought about roasting stuff in a long time -- guess that means fall is just about here. I hope we cool off gradually though; today was a perfectly comfortable 76F. ^_^

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ume Somen Salad Bento

Ume Somen Salad Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
It's still mighty hot here, but gradually getting cooler. Today's high was only 87F, so pretty nice actually. I had boiled some ume somen yesterday so it was nice and cold today for lunch. It's a pretty pink color and I've never had it before so I was interested to see how it tastes. Straight out of the package it smells sweet to me, kind of like strawberry. Maybe that's just psychological due to the color; I don't know. After cooking, it still had a sweet taste to me -- not salty or sour at all. Anyone else have this experience? Anyway, it does retain its nice pink color after cooking, so that's cool! I lay some inside a lettuce leaf, then added shiitake, julienned cucumbers and carrots, green onions, and sesame seeds. I added some ocean salad in the corner, and in the other corner I slipped in a strawberry bottle filled with somen tsuyu. I finished with a maple cut radish for red color. The top tier contains the rest of the bright color: dapple dandy pluot, red grapes, purple cauliflower and yellow carrot stars. I think I got all the rainbow colors in this one! I hope it serves its purpose and cools down my boy at school tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

California Roll Bento

California Roll Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Today's temperature exceeded 90F again, and I think MisterMan might welcome a cooling bento. I made that kids' favorite: California roll. Instead of crab salad I used krab stick so I wouldn't need mayonnaise. I also used cucumber, avocado, and green onion. I made a reverse roll and sprinkled sesame seeds on the outside before flipping and rolling in cling wrap. It's easier to cut if you leave the roll wrapped in plastic and cut through the plastic wrap before unwrapping. I packed the sushi in plastic wrap to prevent drying out and also to prevent the rice from sticking to the container. I topped with pink and purple carrot skewer, as well as yellow carrot flowers. Other section has steamed broccoli, a jack o'lantern carved tangerine, some mango plum slices and some red jelly bellies. Just kidding! They're tiny grape tomatoes. Aren't they cute? We're supposed to get a bit of cooling tomorrow, so that'll be a nice relief. Our late heatwave is making up for the "summer that never was" here in the Bay Area! ^_^

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Breakfast Taco Bento

Breakfast Taco Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Today's bento arose from an idea amongst some twitter pals to have a virtual taco party; a #TwitterTacoParty. The idea was for everyone to come up with a taco meal with their own unique twist, then post and share it. Fun, right? There were lots of interesting and tasty-looking tacos floating around the twitterverse tonight, let me tell ya! I chose to make a breakfast taco, since who doesn't like breakfast for lunch? I used a whole wheat tortilla and stuffed with shredded cabbage, crispy soyrizo, fried egg, grated sharp cheddar, diced onion and tomato, sliced avocado and cilantro. I folded the large size round into a pocket and then folded down the top so that hopefully my boy can hold and eat with minimal spillage. I filled in the rest of the space with a rainbow of late summer tomatoes, and decorated the tortilla with some gingko leaves to add a touch of Fall. He also gets steamed broccoli and purple cauliflower, a star-cut radish, some watermelon wedges, a strawberry and red grapes.
Thanks to my twitter pals for giving me a bento idea along with a fun dinner "party"! If you want to follow along, come and join us. The more the merrier. Party on!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Five Spice Chicken Bento

Five Spice Chicken Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Chicken and rice -- that old standard that never fails -- makes an appearance in this bento once again. This time with some Chinese five spice in the mix. Super flavorful and goes really well with plain rice. Here's what I do:

For 3 chicken thighs:
Mix 3T shoyu, 1T olive oil, 2tsp five spice, 1tsp fresh grated ginger, and 1tsp fresh minced garlic. Marinate chicken a few hours or however long you have (doesn't really matter too much). Roast for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally. Reduce heat to 350F and bake additional 15 minutes. If you cut the thighs into smaller pieces for cooking like I did, they will cook faster and you can skip the baking step. Check to see when your pieces are cooked through, and remove from heat.

I put the chicken pieces and a furikake-sprinkled rice ball in a moon-shaped silicone cup along with a few colorful cherry tomatoes and a bunny cut from radish. This box is pretty deep so I was able to squeeze in a corncob, Okinawan purple potato, broccoli, yellow carrot flower shapes, peapods and some white nectarine slices into the rest of the space. I made a big batch of chicken so you'll see it again in near future bento as well. I just realized I should have cut a moon shape instead of flowers, for Mid-Autumn Moon! Next time.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rocket Chili Bento

Rocket Chili Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Chili and rice always makes me think of Zippy's, where as a kid I always ordered it until someone pointed out that if you order the chili cracker instead, you get more chili. So true. So I did change my order after that, but always regretted missing out on the perfect chili and rice combo. I added turkey frank to this one for fun. The rice batch is a mix of brown, pearl barley, cracked wheat, quinoa, lentils and oats. it's a nice, chewy and substantial mix that the kids seemed to like pretty well. The other side of my LunchBots contains sliced white nectarine (underneath), mango plums, strawberry, grapes, steamed broccoli and pink carrot stars. Did you notice the space theme? I made a little rocketship from a slice of cheddar with orange and purple carrot detail, and the pick on the other side is an alien boy. You may recall that my boy doesn't do "raw" cheese, as he calls it -- he prefers it melted, and won't eat cheese sticks either. Well, I didn't mention it, and he ate it. Woo!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Butterfly Fried Rice Bento

Butterfly Fried Rice Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Fried rice gets a fried quail egg topping in the shape of a butterfly: these are actually mini peppers so I split up a single quail egg into the three pepper rings, and pan-fried both sides. I decorated with nori and picks to suggest a butterfly. Do you see it? The fried rice is standard fare, using onions, carrots and other leftover veggies; plus this time I used chopped swiss chard. Healthy and tasty. Other section contains cottage cheese with blueberries and wheat germ, as well as sliced peaches and strawberries. Don't fly away so quick, summer -- stay for awhile...
I added this one to What's for Lunch Wednesdays. Take a look for more cool ideas!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tiger Asparagus Bento

Tiger Asparagus Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
This bento isn't made from leftovers, for once. I found baby asparagus in the grocery so I decided to make turkey asparagus rolls for my boy. He really loves to eat these, and my girl is the same. If you want to see your kids gobble down asparagus, you might think of offering it this way. I blanched the asparagus first, then wrapped and pan-fried. That's it. The salty flavoring from the bacon or other cured meat is enough to make the veggies nice and tasty. I've also wrapped spinach logs this way, and you'd be surprised how many vegetables kids can eat like this. Hapa Bento made a similar bento filler recently too, here, using ham. The next section has steamed broccoli and yellow corn, along with a few cute grape and pear tomatoes. For fruit he has mango plum and red grapes. I added a sweet potato tiger face, since it's such an easy way to add a cute detail (see previous bento, heh). Voila! A healthy, yummy bento in mere minutes. Just the way I like it :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fishy Bento

Fishy Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
I haven't used this box in a very long time; not since last school year, I think. It seems a tad big, but you don't have to fill up the sections completely to the top. The lid on this box is not tight sealing anyway, so it must remain upright (or use a belt). I decided to use it because I wanted to give him some snapper we made for fish tacos along with some cabbage cilantro slaw in the next section. The slaw is good with citrus, so I put his mini mandarin in that section alongside. I was also able to fit in a partial corncob, some grape tomatoes and a pink carrot - Japanese sweet potato skewer in another section, and a fruit selection in the last: green plum, peach and grapes. To finish out the fish theme, I cut a fish shape from sweet potato and decorated it with nori detail. It sits on top of the inner boxes just under the convex part of the lid. Done!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Froggie Sandwich Bento

Froggie Sandwich Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
No-cook sandwich bento: salami and aged white cheddar with spring greens and pickles on crusty multigrain bread. Too bad the bread I chose didn't fit the box I chose! I had to slice off a tad bit; oops. I decorated the bread top with cucumber, salami and a halved quail egg to make a happy frog face. Two carrots filled in the gaps, and the rest of the box is stuffed with summery fruit: delicious ripe peach, strawberry, rasp- and blueberries, and grapes. Yes, it's a standard sandwich lunch, but it's still got some fun with it ^_^

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Taco Mac Bento

Taco Mac Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Today's bento is taco mac, which is just like mac & cheese but with taco-seasoned ground turkey and halved cherry tomatoes layered on top before sprinkling with grated cheddar and broiling. Also, instead of breadcrumbs I tossed crumbled shredded wheat on top for crunch. The kids had theirs like that, but the adults added hot sauce for some kick. It's yummy, and easier to eat than actual tacos. I put some in a green lettuce leaf on one side of my LunchBots, and filled in the other side with sliced peaches, a half plum, Okinawan purple potato, and some strawberries. I cut a few carrot flowers and filled in gaps with yellow cherry tomatoes for color. A few extra pasta and some picks made a face. Easy!
Linked this bento at What's For Lunch. You can too; go ahead!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Hello Kitty Quail Egg Bento

I haven't posted a TinySprite bento for awhile so here's one from last week. It's a post-nap snack bento, with various fruit: pluot, kiwi and superripe saturn peach; a cup of edamame, carrot sticks and a little furikake mahimahi. I boiled a quail egg and tried to use a metal star cutter to form a star, but you can see it didn't really work. So instead I stuck some radish ears, rice stick whiskers, nori eyes and a yellow carrot nose (and the very useful red bow pick) and turned it into baby Hello Kitty. She was so excited about this bento; I was glad I had the presence of mind to take some pics of her eating it. The last time I did was almost 6 months ago. She looks so much older now, doesn't she? But still sitting in the baby booster seat, haha! She still prefers to eat with her hands, even though I always provide a utensil. So, things usually end up getting kind of.. messy. Ah, well. ^_^

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Tree Grows In Jook Bento

A Tree Grows In Jook Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Super duper easy bento again; woo! Today I made brown rice jook, which entails all of cooking some rice in a bunch of water for a really long time. I actually tried using the "porridge" setting on my Zojirushi, but it wasn't nearly long enough. Maybe because I used brown rice instead of white. I was afraid the brown rice just wouldn't get mushy at all, but after transferring the half-cooked jook to the stovetop and cooking for another hour or so, it really did get nice and creamy. I added Chinese sausage (lup cheong) and shiitake to mine, which added lots of flavor. You can also add fish, chicken, turkey, duck, or pretty much whatever you desire; and instead of water you could also use chicken or other stock. After ladling it into the green thermal container which I am really liking a lot these days, it looked pretty blah. So I added some shiitake mushrooms and chopped green onions in a tree design. The top tier bowl contains the fruits and veggies: grapes, strawberry, raspberries, tomatoes, broccoli and pink carrot flower. The bowl sits just under the lid, which screws on to secure both sections tightly. You don't even need a lunch tote since the lid has a built-in handle. How great is that?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mouse Wraps Tiffin Bento

Mouse Wraps Tiffin Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
This bento is another example of no-cook bento. I just realized that I have posted several no-cook bento lunches in the past few weeks, possibly due to the hectic nature of back-to-school and the feeling of having no time as we transition back into the school routine. Sound familiar? It's a good idea to have a series of no-cook bento ideas to fall back on in times like this, just in case you find yourself too busy or tired or maybe you just forgot to go grocery shopping in time. Oh, that's just me? Oops. Anyway, we'd just got back from a Labor Day weekend out of town, and I wasn't in the mood to cook anything after unpacking and all in the 80F heat. So my boy got turkey dog rollups with cheddar, spinach, roasted red peppers, and baby dills in a whole wheat tortilla. I cut it into three pieces and held the wraps together with leaf picks. Then, as I was looking at the three cross-sections, I noticed they looked like little faces with pickle ears, so I decided to add some nori faces. I put the fruit assortment into a stainless steel cup (strawberries, grapes, rasp- and blueberries), then filled in the gaps with steamed broccoli and little baby tomatoes. I also stuck in two tri-color (pink, purple and orange) carrot skewers; I think they look so pretty just aligned together like that. No need to even cut shapes with them. I put everything in my round stainless steel tiffin, which always seems so cool during the hot days. This one comes with a top, shallow tier but I left it out and the lid fastens on perfectly well without it. Score! Totally love this box a lot!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Garlic Shrimp Bento and EasyLunchBoxes Review

Garlic Shrimp Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Today's bento is packed in a box you haven't seen me use before: it's part of the Easy Lunch Box System, which includes four BPA-free plastic boxes like this one, four different color lids, and a zippered cooler bag. When Kelly Lester contacted me to test and review these portable, reusable (bento-type) boxes, I was happy to do so. So here goes:

For the inaugural bento I packed garlic shrimp (pan-fried in olive oil and garlic, then sprinkled with parsley) in a green lettuce leaf. I like using lettuce as a natural divider (baran) because it's edible and healthy, and it looks so fresh and pretty. In this bento, it keeps the shrimp separate from the cherry tomatoes and the three colors of sweet potato (regular orange, Japanese white [satsumaimo], and Okinawan purple). I also added a spinach log wrapped in turkey, and finished the decoration with pink carrot and purple carrot flowers. All this food fit nicely in the main compartment of the box; in fact, if I had a complaint it would be that the box is a bit on the large side. I think the main section may be sized to accomodate a sandwich. Since I have been used to packing my kids' lunches in a typical bento box, I wasn't sure how the loose packing would work. I tried to fill in the gaps as best I could to minimize movement (and possible spillage). The other two sections were easy to fill, and in fact they may have fit less of the fruit than I usually pack, somehow. Grapes in the smallest section and yogurt plus fresh berries and sliced almonds filled out the box. After everything was packed, I put the lid on, and discovered that the lid had a concave quality that served to pack down the food a bit. The hard plastic is quite sturdy and seems like it will hold up well to washing and reusing without cracking or breaking. The lid is easy to remove, and doesn't have the suction quality that flexible (Tupperware-style) plastic lids have. I was afraid it might come off during transport, but actually it stayed on quite well. Be aware that they are not leakproof, so it's best to avoid liquids and foods with sauces and gravies. The set comes with 4 separate boxes and lids, so that you could conceivably pack lunches for several family members at a time. They stack on top of each other nicely. I packed this one in the included bag, and placed his stainless steel thermos on top. They both fit perfectly.
All in all, I would say that the Easy Lunch Box System is a very convenient and versatile lunchpacking system, and handy for parents needing to pack more than one lunch a day. It's also a great system for picnics and field trips. The divided sections are my favorite feature: they act as timesavers (no need to figure out dividers), and help with portion control. It's easy for kids to open and close, and the cooler bag makes a perfect carrier. It's appropriate for boys, girls, or adults -- the whole family! And as an alternative to a wasteful brown bag / ziploc bag lunch, it's ideal!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Two Lions Ravioli Bento

Two Lions Ravioli Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
This bento is basically no-cook. The red pepper-cheese whole wheat ravioli just got boiled along with the corn, and the broccoli and peapods got steamed with the same pot. Woo! Big lion has a nori face, and little lion has a sweet potato face on a corncob with nori details. I cut some pink flowers with a metal cutter and poked holes with a coffee straw. Fruit section has sliced plum, grapes (on bottom) and sweet strawberries. Three purple carrot discs round out the color scheme.

I'll admit I made this bento with recent bento articles in mind. Perhaps you've seen them: Here, here and here. Basically they all address the back-to-school task of preparing lunches for kids, and show pictures of cute bento examples. The responses to these articles have been mixed, with several commenters suggesting that making such a bento takes way too long for a typical busy parent to manage, and that cute lunches "cater" to spoiled kids. Well! I'm not going to argue the bento point here but I want to emphasize that what constitutes a cute detail is up to you. I can tell you that I did not take more than 15 minutes (not counting cooking time) to put this bento together. The only skill I used was the ability to punch out vegetables with a cutter and nori with a craft punch. And if I didn't have a craft punch, I would have used pieces of carrots or peas to suggest eyes and a smile (I have certainly done that before). As for spoiling kids, on the contrary: You don't spoil kids by lovingly preparing them a nutritious, fun lunch. I'd rather have them at least try the food before outright refusing it, which is what you're allowing them to do if you don't even try. I think they learn to appreciate food more when they see the care their parents put into it for them, and they'll learn to love food because it's delicious and full of positive memories. Parents can encourage this process by offering their kids' meal in an appealing way they can appreciate. I really believe this. How about you?
This bento was added at What's For Lunch. Feel free to add yours too!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ninja Musubi Bento

Ninja Musubi Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
I haven't used this bento box in a long time, but it's a good one. It's deep and just right to fit these silicone cups to keep the foods separated in a pleasing, symmetrical manner. I made turkey-broccoli-oat burgerettes that I slathered with homemade sauce (ketchup, Worcestershire, garlic) in one cup, then added steamed broccoli in the next. The center spot contains a mixed rice ball covered in nori to suggest a ninja; and yes, I know it would have been more stunning to have used white rice but hey! He's an ethnic ninja. I added some pink carrot throwing stars and a pick for a dagger. He also got sliced Okinawan sweet (purple) potato, more carrots, peapods and yellow cherry tomatoes to fill in gaps. The fruit cup has grapes and strawberries. The lid is transparent and slightly raised so the food is snugly packed into place. It was really cute with the lid on, but I forgot to take a picture.  My boy said he knew right away it was a ninja by his eyes. Or maybe he remembered the other ninja I made for his sister. Success!