Thursday, June 30, 2011

Smoked Salmon Rollups Bento

Today I'm posting TinySprite's bento for her last day at her current preschool. In July she'll switch to another school for the summer program and continue into the fall for the pre-K program there. She requested rollups, so that's what I made. There is smoked salmon, cream cheese and arugula wrapped in corn tortillas. Alongside there's a tiny cup of edamame, some carrots and broccoli, and a few slices of Okinawan sweet potato. In the top tier she has some fruit arranged into a bear's face: oranges, cherries, blackberries, grapes and strawberries. When I picked her up, she had barely touched her bento. It turns out she had been busy passing out almond cookies to her classmates and hugging them, and reporting to everyone that she'll be going to "Garrett's School" (her buddy that lives down the street) now. It was sweet. Everyone yelled "Bye!!" as we walked out. She's a very sociable girl, and while she had made several close friendships at this school, she wasn't worried about losing them or missing them too much. She is very excited about the new school though. When we got home, she made sure to sit down and finish her bento, which she really loved. She only had me to chat with, so she was able to chow down her meal pretty quickly ^_^
I am submitting this bento to the twitter group #bentocuteness, with a roundup being posted by Yuri (@chefpandita) at her site. As soon as the site goes live, I'll link to it here so you can see all the other participants. Since I was invited based on a panda bento, I thought I would enter a panda bento box -- one of my favorites. Thanks for inviting me Yuri, and I'm looking forward to seeing all the other bentos from around the world ^_^
*ETA: The BentoCuteness Roundup has gone live! Here is Chef Pandita's post of all the cute bentos. Take a look and enjoy :D

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Sushi Bento

Summer Sushi Bento by sherimiya ♥
Summer Sushi Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
Our summer sunshine came back today, which put us in the mood for some cool food. I hadn't made sushi for awhile, and I have the perfect bento box for it, so I decided to make a roll for MisterMan. His has krab, cucumber and omelet, plus furikake, inside. One roll fits just about exactly on each side of this cute 2-roll box, but I elected to pack the other side with broccoli, Rainier cherries, blackberries, a little strawberry, carrots, and the delicious Flavor Rosa pluots. This variety is my favorite pluot this season. The flesh (like the skin) is dark red - almost black - and it's extremely juicy and sweet. I've seen my favorite variety from last year (Dapple Dandy) but the batch I got wasn't quite sweet enough. Maybe they'll come through later in the season. I added some edamame in the little side section that's meant to contain either wasabi or ginger, and I packed it all up with a pair of chopsticks in the center slot. Cute, right? The lid (which I forgot to show) is even domed to accomodate the cylindrical sushi. I also have one half this size, which holds one roll and one pair of chopsticks. So handy ^_^

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Three Bears Chili Bento

Three Bears Chili Bento by sherimiya ♥
Three Bears Chili Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
Today was the wintery-est summer day I've ever experienced. It was cold, gray and stormy all day long. I was very tempted to put the heat back on but I couldn't bring myself to do it. It's practically July! Weird. Anyway, it seemed a fitting day to bring chili to lunch, tucked into a lettuce leaf and topped with shredded cheddar and three mozzarella cheese bear faces. As you may recall, I was informed by MisterMan that he does in fact like "raw" (unmelted) cheese, despite what I've reported here, and that it's only STRING cheese in particular which remains undesirable. But it's the SAME cheese, you say. Whatever. I think I got the whole rainbow in here with the sides: strawberry, carrots, oranges, broccoli and blackberries. Woo! He went on a bowling field trip today and said he bowled a 110, including 5 strikes. Um, what? Turns out the kids have their own alley (probably with wider lanes and no gutters!). He had a blast, saying it was "just a hair better than the tech museum."  ^_^
Added to What's For Lunch!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Quesadilla Corn Salsa Bento

This was MisterMan's bento from last week. I didn't get a chance to post it then, but it turns out to be relevant for today's twittercornparty. How nice! I made some rolled corn tortilla "quesadillas" which I love to use this LunchBot for (since they fit so perfectly), and made some black bean, tomato, corn and cilantro salsa on the side. I tucked a couple of carrots in the lettuce cup as well. The delicious fruit section contains ultra-juicy cantaloupe, super-juicy pluots and fresh local cherries. Okinawan sweet potato "fish" add colorful decor to the bland tortillas. I attached the little fish to the tortilla with rice sticks through their eyes.
For our twittercornparty I made a variation on Fu Fu balls, which are a traditional West African (and Caribbean) staple made usually from steamed plantains or yams. I made mine using Japanese sweet potato (satsumaimo), cornmeal and fresh corn kernels off the cob. After steaming and mashing the imo, I added cornmeal mush until I got the consistency I liked. I stirred in the corn kernels, and added butter, salt, and parmesan to taste. I shaved some parmesan on top too. Voila!

Hey, I just realized this is a Meatless Monday bento. Maybe I'll try to make a habit of it? Happy Monday ^_^

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Salmon Teriyaki Bento

Salmon Teriyaki Bento by sherimiya ♥
Salmon Teriyaki Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
The kids got to pack Copper River Salmon in their bento today; I made a teriyaki glaze for them. I also roasted some quartered baby new potatoes in olive oil and a little black pepper. They really love those. There's more of the beautiful Okinawan sweet potato (which I love), steamed broccoli, and bicolor corn on the cob with the various fruit of summer: cantaloupe, strawberries, cherries, grapes. Oop, forgot the pluots. They'll definitely make it into the next set of bentos. Until next time!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Double Bears Bento

Char Siu Bear Bento by sherimiya ♥
Char Siu Bear Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
Yesterday in the Chinese deli both kids requested buns for their bentos. MisterMan asked for char siu bao and TinySprite wanted a hot dog bun. They both become bears with a little effort and some imagination. All I did for the bao bear is cut an oval for his muzzle and then cut that piece of brown bread (skin) in half for the two ears. The eyes and mouth are cut from nori and stuck on with honey. There's also some provolone cheese for the eyes.
The hot dog bear is made the same way, except he's snuggled up in a sleeping bag. Okay? My 4 year old seemed to buy it, but of course my 7 year old frowned, "It doesn't really look like a sleeping bag because there's no line to separate it." All right. I should have cut a sleeping bag slit. I'll try to remember that for next time. At least, he's got some butterflies that he's watching while asleep under the stars.
They have the usual sides: broccoli, carrot, tomato, corn on the cob, various berries, pluot and peach, and beautiful Okinawan purple sweet potato. This is the first kawaii bento I've made all month, since school let out. Oops! I thought I would have more time to make charaben in the summer but since the kids have been on break I've been preoccupied with other funstuffs :D Now that they're both back in organized summer programs I might start experimenting again. Or maybe I'll make a bento or two for myself for a change? ^_^

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Triple Mochiko Chicken Pool Bento

Guess what? If you guessed another shared pool bento, you're right! Yes, I'm really getting hooked on these stacked stainless steel tiffins. I have this round tiffin in one-, two- and three- tier sets. What, overkill, you say? Pshaw! Actually, each has come in handy several times within the past year. There's also a four-tier version which I am wondering whether I should pick up too. After all, we are a four-person family!

Anyway, getting back to this three-tier one: the three bowls stack upon one another, with the bottom one slightly larger (mine!). They latch together tightly so that only the top tier needs a true lid, and it's a cinch to carry. Really thinking about using these tiffins throughout the entire summer so you may be seeing them quite a bit. Today I've given each of us some oven-baked mochiko chicken. The sides vary but include: steamed bi-color corn (surprisingly sweet!), steamed broccoli, crunchy carrot, Okinawan sweet potato, and summer fruit! White peach, nectarine, cherries, pluot, black velvet apricot, strawberry, cantaloupe and lychee!!
The best of the summer fruit, as far as I'm concerned, is lychee. This year's batch is sweet, juicy, and surprisingly small-seeded. Don't be put off by the greenish hue of the skin. I too was surprised by what I've always expected to be bright red, but the fruit inside is indeed ripe and tender. The skin is tougher and thicker (and harder to peel) than I'm used to, but nothing that my adept fingernails can't handle. So far I'm very pleased. I'll leave you with a couple pics of the bento eaters in action at the pool. We had a fantastic time hanging out together, swimming in the big pool, learning to sit-dive, and chowing down our grinds. MisterMan's summer program starts tomorrow so we won't be swimming together for awhile. Gonna miss him.. but he's looking forward to playing with his buddies!
 "Do you like my purple mouth?"
"Take a picture of me Mom, take a picture of me!"

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Bunch o' Pizza Bento

Pizza Bento by sherimiya ♥
Pizza Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
Today's bento is homemade pizza and summer-fresh fruit; a delightful combo that everyone loves. Three of us got a bento! TinySprite took her bento to preschool with her while MisterMan and I shared the two-tiered tiffin (again) after we spent the morning swimming and playing at the pool. Yes, I'm loving this summer routine so far :D The whole wheat pizza crust is topped with mushroom, onion, fresh tomato and chopped broccoli stalk (heh) with melted cheese on top. I've packed a variety of sides including: Okinawan sweet potato, broccoli, carrot, cherries, peaches, nectarines and my favorite dark red pluots. I have so many fresh fruit in the house it's ridiculously hard to choose how to pack each day's treats.
Oh, and it was Father's Day yesterday! Did you celebrate? The things that I treasure most about mine: the beachcombing walks together, the salt water aquarium he helped me set up to watch the creatures we collected, watching him catch, gut and clean fish, the trips to Tamashiro Market... but what I hold dearest is the sweet, tangible love he had for me, for my kids, and for my mom. I love you Dad!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sushi Bento and P-Patch Flowers

Sushi Bento by sherimiya ♥
Sushi Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
Got home late from a family field trip to San Francisco, and forgot that TinySprite has school tomorrow, so I'm giving her two (store-bought) sushi pieces. Along with those are the usual rainbow of sides: steamed broccoli, sweet potato, Okinawan sweet potato, strawberry, and chopped cara cara oranges. I think I'll pack some tofu bread in her tote too, since she's so curious about tasting it. I'll leave you with a few photos of the pea-patch we visited today. It's right on the bay and it has loads of paths and lovely blossoms. We always have lots of fun seeing what's in bloom. Short post today; have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Double Pool Bento

Double Pool Bento by sherimiya ♥
Double Pool Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
We're baaaack! We spent some time in Hawaii with family, vacationing and unwinding, and getting our fill of much-needed sunshine and heat. We left the bay area in a thunderstorm, and returned to fantastic 77 degree summery weather. Such a nice transition, I must say. We've spent every single day of our summer break so far at the pool, and tomorrow will be no exception. I've been packing light, cool bento for the kids and me, and finally got around to taking a photo of one. I've used my two-tier stainless steel tiffin, which I seem to do every year around this time: see the previous Pool Bento here. I've also used this bento for road trips (see Harajuku Bento). This time I packed leftover meatloaf which I chopped into small pieces and tucked into a silicon cup with a smaller cup of homemade barbeque sauce (tomato sauce, molasses, apple cider vinegar). This meatloaf is packed full of good stuff: shredded carrot and spinach, quick oats and wheat germ -- all mixed together with egg, milk, Worcestershire sauce, spicy mustard and even stuffed with cheddar. The kids loved it. I was able to squeeze a half orange, donut peach, strawberries, carrot and steamed Okinawan sweet potato into each tier as well. I'm really happy with this twin bento set! If I were more ambitious I would have packed a layer for me (yes, I do have a three-tier version), but ah well. I'll bring my musubi and fruit in another bento.
See you later; we're going for a swim... ^_^

Friday, June 3, 2011

School's Out!

No bento today; just a quick post to let you know about a fun interview I did with Stuart Donald on his Wannabe TV Chef website. You can take a look at it here: 7 Questions with Sheri Chen. To see some other places Happy Little Bento has been featured, you can scan the list over there in the right margin, just below our "Hello" picture (Find Me on the Web and In the News!).

Thanks to all of you for following along on our bentomaking journey this past school year. I had a lot of fun and enjoyed "meeting" some of you for the first time. We had many exciting and interesting experiences this year, and look forward to more challenges coming up in the next year. There's always something new to learn, whether you're still in school or not. ^_^ Today was the last day of school for MisterMan. He's a 3rd-grader now! After a short break, we'll be back to making bento again since he'll be enrolled in summer programs. Also, TinySprite will be attending preschool year-round, as usual. But for now, school's out for summer! Woohoo!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Wonton Tulips Panda Bento

Another TinySprite bento today: homemade pork scallion wontons (see my method here) scattered with Okinawan purple sweet potato tulips and peapod leaves on the bottom tier, with the most delicious summer hybrid fruit ever in the top: dark red pluots and deep orange apriums. They're both apricot-plum variants, but very different in appearance and flavor. I'm not a huge apricot fan, but these are fantastic. I'm looking forward to more as the summer goes on! Yippee! Happy panda bento! ^_^

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Taro Bread Rollups Bento

Taro Bread Rollups Bento by sherimiya ♥
Taro Bread Rollups Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
Here's a bento I make quite often for TinySprite, in several variations. She likes finger foods, and rollups are a favorite of hers. Sometimes I use tortillas, sometimes sushi, and sometimes -- as here -- I use flattened bread. I've posted a tutorial of how I make the bread rollups here. The purple color of this taro bread is so pretty that I decided to use it today. It's also a nice bread to use because it's soft and fluffy. Whole grain breads are often on the dry side (it can still be used though, like I did here). After rolling the bread flat with a rolling pin, I smeared cream cheese and lay some smoked salmon on top before rolling and pressing to seal. If I had arugula I would have rolled some in there as well. I also added a golden beet-dyed hen egg decorated with a face made of carrot and nori. (Been on a kind of yellow egg roll these days. Of sorts.) There's some satsumaimo (underneath) and regular sweet potato flowers as well as steamed broccoli tucked in there. Finally, I gave her some sliced yellow peaches as a sweet treat. Cheep cheep! ^_^