Thursday, November 29, 2012

Warm Winter Curry Bento

Warm Winter Curry Bento by sherimiya ♥
Warm Winter Curry Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
After chili night comes... curry night! For some reason, these two seem to go together for me. I love this delicious curry; I used Just One Cookbook's recipe and method here, but added a lot more vegetables to mine, as you can see. For this batch, after browning the ground beef, I added celery, carrots, red capsicum, onion, garlic, and broccoli stalks. In the past I've used potatoes and even kabocha. You can make it as spicy as you like; the ketchup and tonkatsu sauce cuts the heat and keeps it kid-friendly. I packed the curry over rice in thermal food jars, alongside a separate container of satsuma mandarin (I LOVE these babies, have I mentioned?), tomatoes, broccoli, Okinawan sweet potato and sauerkraut. My 9-year-old gobbled up everything you see here. We've got rainstorms forecast for the next 4 days so I am starting to get more into the hearty kinds of meals these days. It's definitely fall around here now!
Added to What's For Lunch.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tasty Chili Bento

Tasty Chili Bento by sherimiya ♥
Tasty Chili Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
So the weather turns a little cool and what do I immediately think of? Chili! I winged it with this batch, not really measuring any spices but just adding and mixing until everything tasted just about right. Do you ever do that? I may have gone overboard with the chili powder and cumin, but I didn't hear any complaints. Just in case, I also sprinkled a little Maui brown sugar to tone down any excess heat. I had just enough left to pack for two bento the next day, served over white-brown-barley-quinoa rice. That was a close one. For my girl I used the Hello Kitty thermal jar. I decided to use the enameled stainless steel box I got at Daiso for the refreshing extras: delightful satsuma mandarin, cubed watermelon, carrot, pickled cucumbers, home-fermented sauerkraut, and a grape tomato. I hope this will keep the TinySprite going all day.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sticky Rice Lup Cheong Bento

Too spent from the activities of the weekend to think about cooking? Sticky rice is one of those one-pot meals that can be thrown together without much planning, which is why I like it so much. See my method and recipe here. I make mine in my rice cooker, tossing the chopped lup cheong, char siu, bok choy, shiitake (and sometimes even kabocha) at the last 15 minutes or so of cooking. I leave the heat on past cook time, just to get the rice on the bottom to burn just a little bit, getting a little crunchy. So good like that. This meal is perfect for bento because it's just as delicious at room temp as it is fresh out of the rice cooker. Sometimes I pack it in a thermal jar, but it's tasty in a regular bento box, like here, too. I topped it with a heart-shaped Okinawan sweet potato, and added plum wedges, a sprig of broccoli, a sun sugar tomato (from the backyard vine -- still growing!), and a grape-grapefruit salad which I hoped would go over well. It didn't. She brought all the grapefruit home. Ah well. Can't win 'em all. ^_^

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Salmon Burger Pita EcoLunchbox Bento

Here's another wheat-filled bento; it's almost as though we're celebrating the consumption of wheat after going wheatless for many months. Actually, I prefer burgers protein-style myself, but the kids especially like burger buns. I compromised by sending bugers in a pocket pita, which has the advantage of keeping the burger and associated fixings neatly in hand. For these burgers I used wild pink Alaskan canned salmon mixed with barley, onions, celery, some Old Bay, garlic, and pepper. I mixed until I got a consistency which would sustain a patty shape and could be flipped in the pan. I tucked a couple patties into the pita with some lettuce leaves, and sent along a container of yogurt mixed with sweet relish to go with it. The half pita fit inside my new favorite EcoLunchbox Solo Cube, and I also packed a couple of grape tomatoes and a mozzarella cheese star. The EcoDipper held a delicious satsuma mandarin (partially peeled), blackberries, and plum slices. Doesn't it look oh-so-delightful? I love this set so much! And let's hear it for satsuma season!! I think this will be the final bento for the week, since the kids have Thursday and Friday off. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Gyoza EcoLunchBox Bento

Gyoza EcoLunchBox Bento by sherimiya ♥
Gyoza EcoLunchBox Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
Is it just me or are these holidays coming up way too fast? I don't know where the time is going, but I can't believe it's been almost a week again between posts. I have been making bento for both kids, and I do snap a pic when I remember, but I haven't logged into the blog for a long time to post or respond to comments. Sorry! Knowing that we don't have any dietary restrictions to consider really takes a lot of pressure off, and I am very grateful for our food allergy reprieve. Since learning we don't have to keep wheat- or soy-free, I've make ma po tofu and now gyoza -- with standard wheat skins! I made a double batch as usual, so that I can snack along the way and to ensure that there will be enough for bento lunches. I used thick (medium) skins, and folded some with single pleats and some with no pleats. When I ran out of skins, I went out and bought a package of thinner skins to finish off the filling, and they worked just as well. I used the method here and packed some in my EcoLunchbox Solo Cube for TinySprite. MisterMan got a similar (heftier) bento. I added a cup of quick-pan-fried bok choy with oyster sauce and a few raw carrots. The little Dipper holds a sampling of berries as well as a couple of way-out-of-season homegrown sunsugar orange cherry tomatoes. My plants are still growing and there are still some fruit stubbornly hanging on and ripening in the cold fall weather out there. It almost tricks me into believing summer is still alive...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ma Po Tofu Panda Bento Bowl (and why we're eating wheat and soy again!)

And it's yet another donburi-type bento in the ever-favorite panda bowl; this time ma po tofu (adapted from Lovelylanvin's fantastic recipe here). This batch contains chopped pickled mustard greens (because I love 'em), along with scallions and even some choy sum. As usual, there is no hint of chili sauce at all in the kid version, which is why it looks so drab and dull (sigh). You may (or may not) have noticed that ma po tofu had been absent from our menu of late. This is due to the fact that TinySprite had tested positive for both wheat and soy in a blood IgE test. We assumed she was allergic to these foods and I had therefore been diligently trying to remove and replace them in our family diet. Well, recently she was retested via the more accurate skin prick test and we discovered that she is not allergic to wheat or soy at all. In fact, she was negative for all the common food allergens. So here we are eating wheat and soy again! I learned a lot about soy- and gluten-free cooking and eating during those months, and when I shared what I learned on this blog [you can search "gluten free" in the search bar up top and see how much I did!], I discovered that a whole lot of you are allergy-conscious as well. I have a new respect for folks who must live with food allergies; it can be tough and frustrating. I'm not abandoning soy- and gluten-free eating -- I actually like the taste of non-wheat flours, and I still have a lot of soy-free soy sauce (yes, it does exist!). The upper tier doesn't add much in the way of color, with blackberries, black grapes, and orange-fleshed plums, but I hope the sakura-shaped carrots brightened up this ho-hum bento for my girl. ^_^

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bratwurst with Apples 'n Peppers LunchBots Bento

This one is another selection of little bites for TinySprite, this time in the super cool LunchBots Clicks series. This is the small set, which includes one stainless steel rectangular container with a 320ml capacity, and another one with a 480ml capacity. As you know, I am a huge fan of the other LunchBots, and I use the Uno, Duo, Trio and Quad regularly. I was very excited to see the company come out with a set like this: the same high quality sturdy stainless steel body but with a tight-sealing, gasketed lid. The lids click closed on all four sides similar to the way the Lock & Lock boxes work. The lids are made of translucent blue plastic and are completely leakproof! That's right -- your food stays in contact with stainless steel but is safely protected from spillage through tossing, dropping and inversion! I don't know about you, but this is just about as close to perfect as I can imagine. Besides this small set, there's also a medium size for adults or bigger appetites, and even a large set that would be great for picnics or roadtrips. How versatile is that? I'm very impressed.
For this meal I quickly grilled some brats alongside some sweet peppers/chopped apples/celery for the bigger box and layered some sliced stone fruit, berries and edamame for the smaller box. I think the amount of food here is perfect for my kindergartner's lunch and snack, plus she can manage the click-locking lids easily by herself. Total win!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

So Cute TinySprite EcoLunchbox Cube Bento

Wow, I just realized that I've taken a week-long hiatus from bento-posting. I kind of missed you all! After Halloween last Wednesday, we had the following two days off (for parent-teacher conferences), so we spent the long 4-day weekend at the coast. We stayed in Aptos, a town on Monterey Bay, and explored Pacific Grove, Santa Cruz, and most of the rest of the quaint towns in between. The kids had fun at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and we built sand sculptures on the beach and visited a real lighthouse. After we got back, what with the time change and all the election excitement, blogging fell to the wayside. But now I'm back! Today's bento is another cute one using the EcoLunchbox Solo Cube that is my current favorite box. I decided to squeeze in four silicone cups to fill with a variety of goodies. From upper left: two hard-boiled quail eggs and skewered nitrite-free salami, pickled cabbage and cucumbers, steamed corn and broccoli, and a fruit mix of cantaloupe, blackberries and raspberry. It turned out to be just enough for my kindergartner's highly unpredictable appetite.

Speaking of the awesome Ecolunchbox, I picked a winner from among the 50+ of you who commented on my giveaway post (fantastic, clever, ingenious ideas for going green, by the way~! I loved reading each and every one of them!) -- it was Michelle, who uses flannel baby wipes and cotton diapers. Wow! She has four kids so I hope her new EcoLunchbox helps make her lunchpacking easier and more fun. Let us know how it goes, Michelle! Thanks to all of you for entering and sharing your eco-ideas with the rest of us. Happy bento-making!