Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer Rolls Bento, part 2.

My TinySprite is so predictable; of course she asked for summer rolls again. Now I keep a stash of cooked shrimp in the freezer ready to roll anytime I need a quick no-cook bento. I'm getting better at rolling these now, too. I was able to fill the rice wrappers with lettuce, cilantro, pickled carrots and cucumbers, deli ham and a few shrimp. I made two rolls of about the same size and shape, without tearing either, and they both happened to fit exactly right in this cool new stainless steel lined double bento box set! I like the idea of the stainless interior, which is great for food which might stain, and it also seems cooler to me, like the food will stay fresher. The exteriors are plastic, and the lids are the locking gasketed type with 4 latches. They are completely watertight, which I take to mean the moisture stays in too -- thus I can pack the summer rolls without worrying that they'll dry out. One of the boxes has a removable divider, and the stainless liners of both boxes come out for easy cleaning. Look how cute the lids are, too! I love them. Along with the rolls, she gets a bunch of fruit (peach, strawberries, blackberries, champagne grapes, regular grapes, corn and a little Okinawan sweet potato bunny shape). Everything packed perfectly snugly and visibly through the translucent covers. They stack atop one another and even come with their own matching bag. Wow! Super super love them. So did she. ^_^

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Finger Food Skewers Bento

Didn't feel like cooking anything, and didn't feel like making a bento. Hmmm. Good thing TinySprite is satisfied with finger foods on skewers, like most kindergartners. I've stabbed all kinds of stuff, but chicken spinach sausages are ideal. These are nitrite/nitrate-free, and not spicy, so they're perfect for her. I alternated with mozzarella cubes, sweet red pepper chunks, and homegrown yellow pear tomatoes. Toss an assortment of berries into another section, and an assortment of colorful odds and ends of veggies into another, and I am done. Have I mentioned how much I appreciate these divided boxes? Besides the Lunchbot Quad, I also have this tight-sealing one that I got from Ichiban Kan ages and ages ago (when MisterMan was an infant!), and I still use it to this day. The foods in the separate portions stay separate no matter how you throw it around, and the lid will not come off until you take it off. It has a low profile and will slide into any lunchbag you've got, and I just love it. It's not cute, but it does the job. ^_^

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lamburger Froggie Bento

Lamburger Froggie Bento by sherimiya ♥
Lamburger Froggie Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
While MisterMan had his burger in the traditional way on a bun (or a whole wheat sandwich thin, anyway) my TinySprite had hers on a fluffy bed of hapa rice. Fluffy rice reminded me of a sheep, so I added some broccoli, steamed Okinawan sweet potato (for ears), and baby brown sweet peppers (for horns). I cut some red bell peppers for its nose and champagne grapes for eyes. The upper tier of the cute froggie bento contains sliced peaches, blueberries, strawberry, more champagne grapes, corn, carrots and a teeny little gala apple. I hope she didn't miss the bun and instead enjoyed her gluten-free version of lamburger/ramburger/hamburgerrrrr! ^_^

Monday, August 27, 2012

Anpanman Burger Bento

Anpanman Burger Bento by sherimiya ♥
Anpanman Burger Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
Today's bento features meeeeeeat! I made beef/turkey burgers for the kiddos. This one is MisterMan's, since it's packed between two whole grain sandwich thins. He can put the frisee inside the burger along with a squirt of ketchup inside the pig bottle. Every time I see a round bun I see Anpanman now. If you go back in the archives you'll see it's true. I made one ages ago here, and a more recent one (that I think looks much better) here, and then a naked burger here. The tomatoes are from my home garden, and the orange sunsugars and yellow pear varieties are doing really well right now. I had to barricade them to keep the dog away, since he loves fruit. I used red pepper for the mouth, and blueberries for eyes. I know, I forgot the eyebrows. Darn! He fit perfectly inside the EcoLunchBox, with the upper tier holding a selection of: carrots, pluots, strawberry, golden raspberries, lychee, purple cauliflower, and corn. I had to slice the tomatoes in half to fit, but the nice thing is that the top pushed everything down so it didn't move around too much, but not so much that it smushed. That's what I call a perfectly packed bento.

And by the way, it was our end-of-summer twitter food party today, and the star item was ... yogurt! I made cannoli ice cream. It was really an excuse to put pistachios and dark chocolate together in a creamy, divine way. And also to eat ice cream. ^_^

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Carnitas Bowl Bento

Carnitas Bowl Bento by sherimiya ♥
Carnitas Bowl Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
Hello! Today's bento is for MisterMan and it's a rice bowl. I made a carnitas bowl: hapa rice (half white half brown plus quinoa) topped with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, carnitas (slow-cooked pork fried crispy), and cheese. You could also add chopped onion and cilantro, or salsa and avocado as well. Like tacorice, it's perfect for a donburi-type bento box, and so much easier to eat than trying to hold the ingredients inside a tortilla. The kids love eating rice bowl bento. And luckily, I have this stainless steel apple bowl for him and a panda bowl for her. I love the simplicity of packing these; you can just toss everything together and you're done. The upper tier contains blueberries, lychee, carrots and strawberries, and an Okinawan sweet potato crown. They conquered their first week of school and were victorious! I only hope the rest of the school year goes as smoothly. Super glad it's Friday tomorrow though -- happy weekend friends!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Salmon and Chick Bento

Salmon and Chick Bento by sherimiya ♥
Salmon and Chick Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
You've seen this one before, like my kids too. So now when I make a salmon bento I feel like I have to put something extra special in here so it's not quite so ordinary. I try to feed my family salmon (or other fish) at least once a week. Luckily everyone loves fish so it's not a problem. There are lots of sauces you can make to prepare salmon, but I like the simple preparation best. I used to like misoyaki, but we're cutting out soy. Butteryaki, lemon dill and pesto are other good choices, and you can also slather the fish with kewpie mayo, sprinkle some furikake and pan-fry. I've been trying to add rice to TinySprite's bento since she's wheat-free these days, and she's not a big fan, but the furikake helps. I use an MSG-free variety. I added corn off the cob, and made her a hard-boiled beet-dyed egg decorated as a chick with nori and cute picks. She's a HUGE egg fan, by the way. The other side of this Daytrippers box contains pluots, strawberry, raspberries and blackberries. I hope she finds it delightful!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Panda Egg Salmon Patty Bear Onigiri Lunchbots Bento

Today I packed a couple of salmon patties for TinySprite in the Lunchbots Trio box. Like with the bean burgers, I bulked them up with extras; this time I used brown/white rice and quinoa. I also added shredded carrot, and minced onion and celery. It's good with Dijon mustard and a little yogurt or sour cream, and a squirt of lemon juice. Just mix until the consistency holds together, then flatten some balls and pan-fry. You can serve with mustard Old Bay aioli on a bun, but I've just placed her patties in some lettuce leaves. There's a little bear onigiri, some carrots sticks, corn off the cob, a panda egg (I cut the ears, eyes and mouth from grapes by hand), and assorted fruit (strawberry, pluot and blueberries. The kids are really digging the burger variations. What else can I make a burger out of? Hmmm.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Chicken Rice Wraps Monbento

Today's bento is packed in the gorgeous Monbento Original bento box. This company has only a few products in its line, but this particular box comes in a rainbow of colors, with a multitude of colorful accessories to go with it. It's a beautiful, substantial piece of lunchware. I never would have considered getting one of these fancy bento boxes for my kids, but the generous folks at Monbento offered to send me one to try out. How nice! The first thing I realized is that this two-tiered box is BIG. The company says it holds 4 cups, which is nearly twice what you might need for a school age kid. It'd be nice for an adult, though. I decided to try it out with TinySprite first.
I made two "summer rolls" for her, which are basically a rice paper wrap containing shredded chicken, lettuce, and pickled carrots and cucumbers. She LOVES these, and always begs for them at Vietnamese restaurants, where she promptly eats the entire plateful. I'm not that skilled at packing and rolling them tightly, but I did manage to seal the deal without any rips or holes. I wrapped the wraps in plastic, which I don't usually like to use, because otherwise they are prone to dry out if not eaten right away. As you can see, they take up quite a bit of room, so it was nice to have some extra space to snug two of them together in one tier along with a hard-boiled egg buddy and a couple of Okinawan sweet potato slices. The bottom tier has its own black lid to help keep things contained (and probably would keep things from drying out as well). I filled the top tier, which comes with a removable separator, with assorted fruit: peach wedges, strawberry, grapes, lychee, homegrown cherry/pear tomatoes, and broccoli. I didn't have to squeeze the fruit in, and an appropriate amount fit very nicely. I was very pleased with the space I had to use in this bento. It was a bit heavy, but I coached her on how to open it safely (without dropping the whole thing), and she reported that everything went well. And she did end up eating the whole thing! MisterMan was a bit put out that he didn't get to use it. I said "But it's fuschia. You don't mind using a fuschia box?" To which he replied, "It's kind of purplish. And boys can use purple you know." OH. Well, now I know! I'm glad, too! Okay, next one is for my purple-friendly boy. ^_^

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Twin Bunnies Bean Burger Bento

Today's bento is one for my wheat-free daughter. I made black bean burgers using the basic recipe I used here, but substituting garbanzo beans with black beans. I also used black rice to keep the color scheme. She's used to eating burgers "protein-style" (wrapped in lettuce leaves instead of on a bun), so I could've served it that way in her bento with no problem. You could layer a slice of homegrown tomato and grilled onions on top as well, but I chose to pack a double patty in here instead, in lettuce, alongside a silicone cup of homemade peach salsa. Peach salsa: have you had this? I've never tried making a salsa with peach and was dubious, but it is delicious. I diced some ripe peaches, tomatoes, sweet peppers and tossed with sweet corn. Refreshing, and it just screams "Summer!" I topped the burgers with cheese bunnies with nori faces, and the other side of the LunchBot Duo contains grapes, pluots and baby sweet strawberries. ^_^

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Dreamy Bento

My Dreamy Bento by sherimiya ♥
My Dreamy Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
We're Baaa-aaack (to-school)! Almost. It's been quite awhile since I've posted here. The truth is, we are finished with summer vacation. As of yesterday. So over the last week we were determined to milk every last drop of freedom with carefree youthful abandon. Remember doing that when you were a kid? Summers seemed to last for ever and ever back then! I still love summers; in fact, I just might love them even more than my kids. MisterMan is still at the age when he looks forward to going back to school and seeing his friends; and TinySprite is starting kindergarten this year (brand-new school and brand-new friends). They both couldn't be more excited about all this. As for me, I need a little transition time to get back into the bentomaking groove, and the homework, and tests, and all that stuff. SIGH.
Here's a beautiful bento I made for myself to pick up my mood. I used my gorgeous and insanely cute Oyako Kuro goldfish box to pack one of my favorite comfort foods. If I were going back to school, this is what I'd want to eat on the first day (omega-3s to kickstart brain function and all): butteryaki salmon, little wedges of kabocha steamed and then pan-fried in the same sauce, alongside garlic spinach hapa rice. A little star radish (pickled would be even better). And an adorable sweets box of cottage cheese, sunflower seeds and sweet ripe strawberries. Yeah. A bento like this would almost get me looking forward to school! Almost. ^_^

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Deconstructed Fish Tacos LunchBots Quad Bento

Me, I love fish tacos. I like to grill the fish (I used cod here) in salt and pepper, then pile it into a tortilla along with onions and cilantro and a heaping dollop of salsa. Good right? But with kids, it never works out. Don't tell me your kids haven't at some point held the taco sideways so everything fell out, or took a bite and tore the whole thing in half, or dropped all the contents onto the floor and commenced screaming. Come on! After about age 8 (in our house), they finally seem to get it. But until then, I have discovered that it's easier to just forget about filling the taco and just let them eat the thing piecemeal. I've packed deconstructed (DIY) tacos before, where I roll up the tortillas and let them do what they will. Usually they eat them separately, plain. So I saved myself some trouble and used the Lunchbot Quad to pack a few pieces of cod in lettuce, and a cup of salsa (onion, tomato, cilantro, corn, cumin, pepper). She loved it. She especially liked the fish spear. I also squeezed in some white peach, blueberries, grapes and lychee, and some decorative carrots. What could be easier?
Added to What's for Lunch.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Portobello Pizza Bento

Portobello Pizza Bento by sherimiya ♥
Portobello Pizza Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
I saw this portobello pizza idea somewhere...maybe on Pinterest or something? Anyway, it was described as a low-carb way to enjoy pizza. Gluten-free too; so I gave it a try.

Here's the method I used:
1. Dust/clean portobello mushroom cap, and remove gills with a spoon to create a little mushroom "cup."
2. Cut off stem.
3. Fill with your choice of toppings (I used shredded zucchini, bell pepper strips, spinach, pepperoni, cheese)
4. Top with cheese if you like, and bake at 350F until mushroom and toppings are softened, and cheese is melted.
5. Alternatively: put cheese in first, and layer toppings on top.
6. Bake at 350F until everything is softened and bottom cheese is melty.

Well, the first thing I noticed is that since the mushroom cap doesn't absorb any moisture, it can fill up with moisture from the veggies. It might be better to saute the veggies before putting them on, maybe. Also, I prefer the cheese on the bottom version, because I like the fresh vegetables looking nice on top. In fact, you can reduce the cooking time as much as you like, and keep the veggies on the crunchier side, too. Still good that way. Anyway, my boy wanted to take one to summer adventures program, so I packed one in this Sistema-look-alike box. The only thing different about this box is that there are 3 divided sections on the fruit side instead of 2. I took the picture with the pizza inside the big section, but actually what I did was close the fruit section and place the pizza on top of the lid in its wax paper before closing the domed lid on top of it. Worked great! He liked all the attention his weird pizza got. In the fruit section: corn on the cob, carrots, broccoli, peaches, lychee, and cherries.
This is a fun meal that the kids can help with, and you can pile a lot of stuff in those portobellos :)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Gluten-Free Adventures: Brown Rice Sandwich Loaf

This sandwich bread loaf is from a recipe I got out of The Wheat-Free Cook by Jacqueline Mallorca. I wanted to try it because well, it's yeast-free and doesn't need a rise. It's basically a quick bread. It's worth a shot, right? The first time I tried it, I also tried omitting the xanthan gum. If you follow the gluten-free baking school, there are some that swear by xantham gum, some that use it just because it's what everyone does, and some that insist it's not necessary. So I've taken to trying to omit it, then adding substitutes back to try to improve it. The first few photos show my xanthan-free version.

It looked great at first. Right out of the oven, it smelled delicious, looked airy and light, and seemed to hold together well. I was able to slice it for TinySprite's breakfast toast a few days before I realized it was starting to get a bit crumbly. Towards the end of the week, it just didn't hold together at all. If you can manage to eat the whole loaf in a few days, then I think the xanthan-free version should suffice. However, I need something more substantial. After all, I'm smearing peanut butter and jam on it. So for the most recent loaf (which I made two days ago), I added some ripe bananas which I thought might bind it together better (see my banana bread experience).
It seemed to work! This loaf is much moister and malleable. Less crumbly. At least 2 days in, so far. And since the banana smell was calling out for it, I sprinkled some cinnamon too. So it ended up being kind of a sweet bread. But that's not so bad for breakfast toast after all, is it? ^_^

Gluten-Free Brown Rice Flour Bread (from The Wheat-Free Cook, by Jacqueline Mallorca)

1 and 1/4 cup brown rice flour (can mix with white rice flour, some almond flour, etc.)
3/4 cup tapioca starch
2T flax meal
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup yogurt
1T canola oil
1 egg
1/2 cup water
*1 tsp xanthan gum (the recipe calls for this, but I've tried omitting it and replacing with a mashed ripe banana)

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix wet ingredients in a medium bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry. Mix well until fluffy. Pour into well-greased loaf pan. Bake for 25 minutes at 400F.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Hello Kitty Gluten-Free Calzone Bento

I tried another gluten-free pizza dough this time; using Nicole Hunn's recipe at Gluten Free on a Shoestring. If you haven't worked with gluten-free dough before, you'd be surprised at the texture, but she explains what to expect, and my dough looked just like the picture she posted. You have to pat the dough out, since it doesn't stretch like regular pizza dough. It works well for calzones too, which is what I made for TinySprite's bento here. Since this dough doesn't stretch and just kind of sits there, it's actually just right for making cute calzones like this Hello Kitty. I just patted out a circle, put in my fillings (spinach, zucchini, pepperoni and cheese), folded in half to close, and added extra dough pieces for the ears and bow. After baking, it came out just the way it looked when it went in. I added nori eyes, but I should have made whiskers and a nose so she's recognizable. Can you see her? The rest of the bento contains carrots, peapods, a couple of beet-dyed cherry-shaped quail eggs, blackberries, blueberries and cherries. Do you think TinySprite liked this one? (Yep, she did) ^_^

Oh, and by the way, The Huffington Post Kitchen Daily ran a bento article today, with a mention and a shot of my Hello Kitty Pizzawich Bento in there. Happy Little Bento represent!

Gluten-Free Pizza Dough (from Gluten Free on a Shoestring)

2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup warm water (about 100 degrees F)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (plus an extra tablespoon or two for drizzling)

1. In a medium-size bowl or the bowl of your food processor, place the flour, xanthan gum, yeast, sugar, and salt and stir to combine.

2. To the flour mixture, add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the water in a steady stream, either pulsing in a food processor or mixing with a spoon or fork to combine. If you are using a food processor, pulse while streaming in the water, until a ball begins to form. Otherwise, stir constantly while streaming in the water and continue stirring until the mixture begins to come together. If the dough seems super sticky, add some more flour a tablespoon at a time, and stir or pulse to combine. Press the dough into a disk.

3. Place the dough in another medium-size bowl and drizzle it with olive oil. Turn the dough to coat it with oil. This will prevent a crust from forming on the dough while it is rising. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm, draft-free area to rise until doubled in volume (about 1 hour).

4. After the dough has risen, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour before rolling it out.

5. To make pizza, roll between two pieces of plastic wrap. Create a crust by rolling in the edges, brush the dough with olive oil, and blind bake it at about 400 degrees F (that is, bake it plain, before topping it) for 5 to 7 minutes, sot he crust begins to crisp. Then, top it with sauce, cheese, and whatever else you have in the fridge, and return it to the hot oven until the cheese is melted, another 5 to 7 minutes.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Salmon and Lil' Mouse Bento

Salmon and Mouse Bento by sherimiya ♥
Salmon and Mouse Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
This week's salmon and rice format is packed in a newish two-tier strawberry shapes bento set from Daiso; so cute right? And only $1.50; you can't beat that. The only problem is that it's just a tad bit big, so I think the salmon layer probably moved around a bit by lunchtime. TinySprite gets red rice and salmon with furikake kabocha, a little cup of steamed corn off the cob, and a cute radish mouse. The lower tier contains white peach slices, cherries, blueberries and homegrown sunsugar and yellow pear tomatoes. Simple but satisfying.