Monday, January 31, 2011

Sushi Bunnies Bento

Sushi Bunnies Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Who can resist hot dog sushi? Especially when they're hot dog bunnies? For these little guys I simmered turkey dogs in a shoyu-sugar sauce, the way my dad used to do with Vienna sausages when I was a kid. They're really good to eat over rice just plain, or with a fried egg on the side for breakfast. Here I just rolled them up in regular white / brown rice and sliced. I added nori facial details and edamame ears. This is the bottom layer for my 7 year old; I added more on top after I took the picture. There's also a couple of grape tomatoes, carved carrots, steamed broccoli and chopped cara cara oranges. All packed in my LunchBots Uno. Nice and fresh :)
These hot dog sushi were also my contribution to our monthly Twitter Food Party. This month's theme was Hot Dogs. There were lots of fun and interesting takes on the basic dog in a bun; you can take a look at the other entries, as well as examples from previous parties at the flickr group here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kung Fu Panda vs. Ninja Panda Bento

Since my last panda bento on Monday, I got to wondering: who would win the ultimate panda martial arts showdown between Kung Fu Panda and Ninja Panda? Hmmm. Food for thought. We all know how sneaky and protective ninja can be, but don't underestimate the power of kung fu. Didn't you see the movie? There was only one way to test the theory. I'd have to make both, side by side, and let TinySprite determine their fate. I put two nori-decorated quail egg pandas -- the ninja wearing stealth wear and the kung fu panda wearing loose pants to better unleash the power of his fists -- in their own edamame-lined cups. To keep it fair I excluded weaponry. The rest of the bento includes buttery kabocha slices, steamed yellow cauliflower, chopped blood oranges, blueberries and a cherry.
I tried to get a shot of her decision, but it was instantaneous. She selected the ninja for first demise, quick and painless. She spent way more time playing with the Kung Fu panda's arms before demolishing him, and then demonstrated his moves in person. You may recall she's a white belt Kung Fu practitioner herself, so maybe this has something to do with her choice. This may not be the final word though. Next time: weapons!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Butteryaki Salmon Bento

Butteryaki Salmon Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
I'm pretty happy with this omega-3-packed bento for MisterMan: it includes butteryaki salmon, mini red kabocha and little Okinawan purple potatoes lightly steamed and then fried in the same pan.

To make my butteryaki salmon:

Heat oiled pan, sear salmon on both sides. 
Add a T butter and melt, turn off heat, drizzle shoyu over salmon and into hot pan briefly. 
Remove salmon and serve. 

Yummy! There's also mixed rice (black, white, black quinoa, cracked wheat and bulgur) onigiri with cherry tomato, steamed broccoli, romanesco and yellow cauliflower, and tiny purple carrot flower shapes. Fruit section has alternating blood and cara cara orange wedges, along with two cherries in the last corner. I'm so happy to have more colors and fresh produce for bento now that spring is coming / here. Do you feel the same way?
In case you were wondering what my mini red kabocha squashes look like, here's a photo. There's a Cutie next to it for scale. Isn't it cute? ^_^

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chicken Adobo and Simmered Kabocha Bento

Chicken adobo (recipe here), simmered until the meat falls tenderly apart, is packed in a lettuce cup in one section of my favorite MRB. I also simmered some kabocha wedges in the sauce for added flavor and textural interest, and placed them in the next section alongside steamed broccoli and a purple carrot skewer. Some cara cara orange slices and scattered blueberries finish out this bento for my second-grader. Has it seemed like there's been a lot of chicken and kabocha going around? Well, I guess because it's a fantastic combo. Have you tried it yet? Next up are red kabochas at our house. I just picked up some mini ones last weekend. Pretty and yummy!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Panda Blueberry Egg Bento and Thai Chicken Bento

Panda Blueberry Egg Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
TinySprite has a finger foods bento again today. She still has that long-lingering cough, which I am hoping will clear up in a few days. Her appetite has been unpredictable lately. Some days she'll eat everything and ask for seconds, and other days it'll take her forever to finish. This afternoon she had eaten her entire lunch and even came home and scarfed up the leftover veggies from my lunch. Today I gave her a bento she can eat with her fingers (her preferred method): hard-boiled egg decorated as a panda with blueberries and nori, sauteed asparagus and kabocha, turkey skewer, steamed romanesco and yellow cauliflower, carrot sticks and blood oranges.
MisterMan has a more standard bento, including many of the same items, along with Thai chicken (not homemade), cherry tomatoes and a cup of yogurt with fresh blueberries and chopped blood oranges, dusted with toasted wheat germ. The cup (included with the EcoLunchBox) comes with a leakproof lid, making it perfect for sauces, gravies and.. yogurt.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pork Edamame Rice and Bunnywich Bento

Pork and Edamame Rice Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Did only limited cooking for this MisterMan bento. I used the last of the shoyu mirin pork frozen from last time, tossed hot mixed grain rice with edamame, and wrapped those in lettuce leaves. I fried some kabocha slices in the leftover shoyu mirin sauce in the pan after heating up the pork and placed two carved carrot flowers in the last remaining space in the lower tier of this super cute panda box. In the upper tier I put sliced blood oranges and some cherries. This tier comes with a tight-fitting lid that goes on before you put the panda face lid on, but I left it off so that I'd have a bit of extra room on top. So happy I got a pretty good variety of colors in this one. This week's bento have all been healthy and balanced, but without any cute details. The whole bentomaking process goes faster for me if I don't have to think about a cute element! But if you make sure you've got a mix of different food groups, I find that the food often can't help but look beautiful and appetizing. It must be nature's way of helping us to eat well.
For TinySprite's bento I used a Hello Kitty cutter set that I got from my cousin for Christmas. She's so sweet. Thank you Darlene! I used the two cutters to make two mini sandwiches (kitty and bunny). They are cut from sweet potato bread, which doesn't taste like sweet potato at all; more like sweet buttery butter bread [read: delicious!]. I smeared the bread with cream cheese and added a few slices of nitrite-free turkey meat. I decorated the bunny face with nori eyes and a carrot nose (stuck on with cream cheese), and some pretty picks. I didn't bother to decorate the kitty since it is in back anyway, heh. The raised cover allowed me to leave the sandwiches like this, with just a little smushing down. On the side she gets some tangerines, a cup of edamame, some cherries and some chunks of kabocha. Last two bento of the week. Woohoo!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Whole Wheat Spaghetti Bento

Whole Wheat Spaghetti Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Hello bento friends! Another day in the week of bento. But we're half way done already, yay! Before I forget to mention it, CSN Stores has contacted me about doing a review of one of their products. Never heard of them? Me either, but it turns out they have over 200 online stores where you can find a huge variety of stuff: anything from swingsets to cookware to yes, even bento supplies. I'll be checking to see what kind of products they offer that we might be interested in using for bento or cooking purposes. Stay tuned for that in the next few weeks.
MisterMan's bento is a quick spaghetti tossed with bacon, mushrooms and chard, and topped with fresh grated parmesan. Other side of the LunchBot holds sweet orange slices, carved carrots, watermelon radish "flowers" and a couple of grapes. Super fast and easy, so I can go on to other things. Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Potsticker Bento

Potsticker Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
TinySprite and I stayed home again. She got over the last cold, but now she has a lingering cough. Plus she was so tired she actually took two naps today. I'm guessing the busy weekend left her worn out and her body needs to make up some sleep recovery time. So this bento is small but full of substantial, filling foods. She got a (store-bought, leftover from the weekend's festivities) potsticker, some fresh roasted sweet potatoes, edamame, carrots sticks, and chopped "green oranges", cherry and blueberries. Not really sure what a green orange is, but that's how it was labeled at my Asian grocery. It was indeed green-skinned, but it was very sweet and ripe. We had the day off yesterday, so this weekend is stretching out a little bit longer for us. Wednesday tomorrow already. Yay!
Added to What's For Lunch. Take a look!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Takoyaki Bento

Takoyaki Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Today TinySprite and I stayed home. She had a low-grade fever and no appetite last night, so I wanted to make sure she stayed warm and dry on this cold, wet day. She loved having the whole morning together, and we did exercises, singing, reading and cooking. I had picked up a stovetop takoyaki pan at Marukai long ago, and decided today was as good a time as any to try it out. I didn't have octopus but I did have shrimp, so I made a substitution. Also, I used a package okonomi batter, since it was handy. You can see tutorials at Just Hungry and Lunch In A Box, but basically what I did was: mix up batter using the prepackaged mix, water, and an egg; heat the pan on the stove; pour batter into the pan just below the rim; add a cube of cooked shrimp and some shredded cabbage (you can also add beni shoga but I omitted it for kids' tastes); let cook until bottom is set, then flip using two wooden skewers.
There's no way to easily describe how to do it without pictures, and there was no way I could take pictures while I did it. It's kind of tricky to figure out the timing and the technique to flip without spilling batter all over the pan, but you'll learn quickly. Mine didn't turn out beautifully spherical, but they were pretty good for us! The spilled batter can be scraped back into the cup with the wooden skewers. I know purists will say you have to use octopus, but these tasted great with shrimp, and the kids loved it. She asked for some in her bento, and although it won't be fresh and crispy, I hope she'll still enjoy it. I was able to squeeze 5 in her bento box, with Cara Cara oranges, cherries, broccoli and carrot in the other side. I won't add the sauce, kewpie, and aonori until the morning so hopefully it won't get too soggy by lunchtime. If she were older I might send the sauce in a separate container for her to squirt on by herself. Here's a montage of her eating her first one. She loved 'em. ^_^

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bento Side With Black Rice Jook

Bento Side To Go With Jook, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
I'm only showing part of MisterMan's bento today. It includes pomelo (or jabong), cherries and carrots. The rest of it will be packed in the thermal jar you see in the background, right before he gets in the car to go to school. It's not the greatest container for keeping food warm, but I tested it with boiling water and it stayed pretty hot after 3 hours. Today I made jook, but this time I used black (Forbidden) rice to see if it was possible, and if so, how it would turn out. Perhaps you've read recently about the health benefits being attributed to black rice (high in iron and fiber, rich in antioxidants, cancer-fighting, improves memory, etc). Well, I've seen people make black rice pudding, and I thought it would be cool to make black rice jook. I actually made two different batches; one with black and white mixed in a 3:1 ratio, and one with black rice alone. I discovered that the white rice is necessary to provide the glutinous thickness we love about congee. The batch with black rice only kind of turned out like thin rice gruel, as you can see from the picture.
I wish I had taken a picture of the other batch to compare, but that got eaten up quick. I even cooked it longer than usual (about 2 hours), to see if it would eventually become thick and creamy. Nope. Anyway, it's still good -- I added roast duck, baby bok choy and green onions to give it flavor. It's cool how it came out very black. Even after rinsing the rice thoroughly, the black color is released when the rice breaks apart, and you can see it's a regular white color inside the grain. If you try it, don't forget to add some white rice. The resulting jook looks more purplish too; very cool-looking! In case you are interested, my basic jook recipe is here.

Basic Jook Recipe
1C rice
6C water (or more -- up to 8C, depending on how thin you like it)
2C broth (chicken or vegetable -- you can also increase the broth instead if you like)
Diced kabocha (as much as you like)

Bring rice and liquids to a bubbling simmer, and maintain, stirring occasionally, until soup is of desired consistency. About an hour. Add the diced kabocha near the end of cooking, to soften in the soup about 20 minutes or so (or less, if you like it firmer). Add salt to taste. Other things to add: chicken / turkey / duck bones with meat (remove bones after cooking), shiitake mushrooms, salted pork, salted salmon, green onions.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chicken Wings Bento and Recipe

 Chicken Wings Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Today both kids get Tebasaki (grilled chicken wings with sea salt), which I made using a recipe adapted from my twitter friend LovelyLanvin. When she told me there were only three ingredients and a single pan, well -- how could I resist? You know how much I love quick and easy cooking! I made these wings for dinner, and they were crispy salty fresh & hot out-of-the-oven just as advertised, but the kids didn't mind packing them for lunch to eat later at room temp. Although the recipe calls for shichimi togarashi (seven pepper mix) I omitted that for the kids' portions. It's still very tasty without it. I made a few changes, maybe because my broiler isn't as hot:

Tebasaki (Grilled Chicken Wings with Sea Salt)      [adapted from LovelyLanvin]
2 pounds chicken wings
Sea salt
Shichimi togarashi

Rinse the chicken wings, drain, and pat dry. Place them in a tray and put into refrigerator uncovered to dry out further.
Preheat broiler, remove wings from refrigerator and salt them generously on both sides.
When the broiler is hot, place tray on broiler rack about 6 inches from heat.
Watch to make sure they don't burn, and when nice and brown (recipe says 5-7 minutes) turn to crisp other side. Note: My broiler took longer; I let them cook about 15 minutes each side. Also, my wings dripped grease into the pan so I actually drained the pan a couple times during cooking. I wonder whether I could use a rack inside the tray next time?
Remove from broiler, sprinkle with shichimi togarashi, and serve hot!
Anyway, they were delicious! So thanks a lot for sharing the method Shirley!
The rest of MisterMan's bento contains roasted kabocha, carved carrots, steamed broccoli and fresh cherry tomatoes. The stunning citrus is blood orange, which we discovered at the farmers markets this past weekend. Yay for new produce! There are also some grapes and blueberries.
TinySprite has a grouchy steamed char siu bao, steamed broccoli, carrot and a chicken drummette. Her fruits include some Cara Cara oranges (another farmers market find!) and grapes. Thanks Susan for the supercute picks!
Linked at What's For Lunch. Take a look to see what everyone else is having!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Marmalade Pork Bento

Marmalade Pork Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
For today's bento I had made pork spareribs using a recipe I saw on the Japanese Time-Saving Show. It's a funny show that features hilarious tips for saving time in all kinds of areas. There is usually a cooking segment with chefs who sometimes try to copy the recipes from celebrity chefs while using strange substitutes. Sometimes there are regular housewives and husbands who want to share a quick tip for getting the kids ready for school in 5 minutes, or even bento ideas. Once in awhile there is an idea that I might be willing to try, like the Marmalade Pork Ribs here. Unfortunately, I didn't catch the exact ingredient measurements, but it was so straightforward I thought I could wing it. Basically all you do is put the ribs (I used country style pork ribs) in the pot with yakiniku sauce (but I used a shoyu/mirin/white wine sauce [2:1:1], splash of lemon, sesame oil, ginger and garlic) and a "big scoop" of marmalade. The idea is that the pectin will tenderize the meat quickly and you can have your meat ready in 18 minutes on the stove. First I poked the meat all over with a fork, then browned them in the pan. Then I added the yakiniku sauce and approximately equal volume of marmalade, lowered heat to simmer, covered and let cook until done, turning a couple times. Well, it didn't come out SUPER tender, but it was pretty tasty! I sliced it into smaller pieces and lay them in a lettuce leaf in one section of the bento. I also included pickled cucumber, steamed kabocha (which I added to the rice cooker about 10 minutes before it was finished), peapods and a carved carrot. Last section has cherries and a mini mandarin. I think I may be getting back into the bento swing, slowly. ^_^

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bacon Rollups Bento

Bacon Rollups Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
TinySprite's bento is a bit smaller than usual. Since school has restarted after the holiday break, she's been very excited to chat and play with her friends. Unfortunately this leaves little time to actually eat her lunch. Yesterday she had to bring almost the entire thing home to finish. Sigh. Normally this would not be a problem, but she has only a limited time to nap before we have to get her up in time to pick up her brother after school. When I woke her up she complained groggily "I want to sleep some MORE!" So today I've packed a smaller bento in hopes she finishes the whole thing, and then we can have a quick snack at home if she's still hungry. She gets bacon, mozzarella and peapods rolled up in corn tortillas. After frying the bacon, I tossed in some kabocha wedges to fry up in the drippings. Smelled good! In the remainder of the spaces I added a half clementine, carved carrot sticks and a bunch of cherries. Fingers crossed it goes down quick!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pizza n' Stuff Bento

Pizza n' Stuff Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
It's a pizza bento, one of the kids' favorites. They love to go out for pizza, but when I make it at home it's better.. and healthier! This one is a whole wheat honey crust, spread with mascarpone cheese, layered with thinly sliced sweet potato, arugula, caramelized onions, mozzarella, and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I put a few pieces in the top tier to keep them separate from the rest of the bento. The lower tier contains clementines, grapes, pickled cucumber, cherry tomatoes and kabocha wedges that were pan-fried in the drippings from the caramelized onions. Nothing kawaii, but all yummy stuff nonetheless! MisterMan loves this tiffin, I think because it's so heavy. He always says, "I can tell there's a BIG bento in here!" ^_^

I'm adding the crust recipe for those who are interested. I used the Allrecipes Whole Wheat Honey pizza crust. It's super easy:

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2.In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

3.In a large bowl combine flour, wheat germ and salt. Make a well in the middle and add honey and yeast mixture. Stir well to combine. Cover and set in a warm place to rise for a few minutes. (I left it for an hour.)

4.Roll dough on a floured pizza pan and poke a few holes in it with a fork. (Thinner will be crispier.)

5.Bake in preheated oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until desired crispiness is achieved.

Then, add your toppings and bake at 425F for an additional 18 minutes or so. Instead of one big pizza we made several smaller ones. Besides this one, we also made traditional tomato sauce based pizzas with pepperoni, sauteed mushrooms, minced green pepper and spinach. You might keep an eye on your pie to make sure it doesn't burn. Kids can help by making their own pizza: put out bowls of toppings and they can sprinkle them on as they like. Lots of fun!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bunny Bao Bento

Bunny Bao Bento, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
TinySprite requested a char siu bao. Have I made a bunny yet? I think not. And how fitting for this new year, right? It's a bunny bao, with nori facial details, some red grapes, steamed broccoli, carved carrots and a bright red cherry. Yay, done already!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Back to Bento!

Back to Bento!, originally uploaded by sherimiya ♥.
Welcome to 2011! Are you ready for a new year? We had a nice long break of two weeks during which time I easily forgot about making bento, meals and cooking, and worrying about school and scheduling in general. It was nice, but now it's time to get back to business. Although I went grocery shopping today, I of course forgot to pick up various bento essentials, so my bento may be lacking in areas for awhile. Today I decided to use my LunchBots Trio, a stainless steel rectangular bento box with rounded corners and two permanent dividers. It may not look like it, but the three sections are equal in volume. I know because I tested it with water. The dividers do not keep the sections completely leakproof, but unless you're packing something very soupy or runny it works fine. I made pan-fried balsamic vinegar chicken and put the pieces in one section along with a tiny brown rice / barley / lentil furikake musubi. Another section has pan-fried garlic purple potatoes, pickled cucumber and carved carrots. Last section has a honey tangerine and peapods. There are also two bunny picks to celebrate the new year. Happy New Year friends!