Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Shoyu Vinegar Chicken LunchBot Trio Bento

The shoyu chicken I grew up with includes just shoyu, sugar, ginger, and garlic. I recently added a new twist to the sauce when I found a recipe that used honey instead of sugar. That turned out to be a big hit. This time I decided to try the version I saw on David Lebovitz' site, which uses vinegar and shoyu together. Hmm. The caramelized shallots are supposed to add some sweetness to the mix. I thought it was nice, but I think the flavor is probably not as appealing to kids. Mine seemed to like it enough, but I think they prefer the other versions. Along with some chicken pieces in this LunchBot Trio: steamed Okinawan sweet potato flower shapes, red rice with furikake, carrots and pickles, melons and cara cara orange chunks.
Roast Chicken with Caramelized Shallots (from David Lebovitz)

Adapted from French Farmhouse Cookbook (Workman) by Susan Herrmann Loomis

I use a whole chicken cut into eight pieces; two legs, two thighs, and I cut each breast piece in half, crosswise, keeping the wings attached. You could also just use eight of your favorite chicken pieces.

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 large shallots, peeled and minced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
One whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
one generous handful of coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC).

2. In a large baking dish, one which will hold all the chicken pieces in a single layer, mix the olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce, shallots, and some salt and pepper.

3. Toss the chicken in the mixture, so they’re completely coated with the shallots. Turn the chicken pieces so they are all skin side up.

4. Roast the chicken for about twenty minutes, until it starts to brown on top. Turn the pieces of chicken over. Scrape any juices and shallots over the chicken that may be clinging to the pan, and bake for another twenty minutes, or until the pieces of chicken are cooked through and the shallots are well-caramelized.

5. Remove from oven and toss in the chopped parsley, then serve.

Added to What's For Lunch.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Kamut Chili Bento

Kamut Chili Bento by sherimiya ♥
Kamut Chili Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
Ka-what? Kamut? Yeah, that's what I thought too. Turns out this grain is some kind of really big wheat. Its origins are somewhat fuzzy, but it seems to be agreed that it's a kind of ancient grain that is high in protein and minerals such as selenium, zinc and magnesium. It has a nutty flavor and chewy texture, sort of like farro, or barley, or brown rice (to me). I found this recipe which incorporates Kamut, but which is basically just a chili recipe into which you add the grain. I decided to cook the Kamut with brown rice in my Zojirushi on the brown rice setting. I soaked overnight and it turned out fine. I thought it had a substantial quality to it, and made the chili quite hearty and filling. You could just as easily substitute farro or barley, though, in my opinion. I packed this batch for MisterMan over rice, and I should have used a leakproof container, obviously, but luckily there wasn't enough lunchbag-swinging to cause any spillage. The top tier holds: watermelon (!), satsuma, tomatoes and blueberries.

Kamut® Chili (from this recipe; it's very basic so I'm not sure why I used it)

1cup Kamut grain, soaked overnight, drained
2cups cooked pinto beans
1large onion, chopped
1green bell pepper, chopped
3cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, chopped
1carrot, diced
3teaspoons chili powder
2cups tomato sauce
1cup water
15ounce stewed tomatoes
1/4tsp Tabasco sauce (I omitted)

Cook soaked Kamut in rice cooker on brown rice setting.
Add remaining ingredients in with Kamut. Simmer for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Keema Curry Thermal Bento

Keema Curry Bento by sherimiya ♥
Keema Curry Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
Are you tired of the thermal bento yet? More one-pot meals on the way, I'm afraid. Muahaha! I think this one is my favorite. I adapted Just One Cookbook's Keema Curry recipe, but not by much. I made this batch with more "sauce" so it can get the rice all nice and yummy. Even though I used the medium-hot curry roux block, the kids can handle it just fine. So happy about that! It means that the adults and kids can enjoy the same spicy meal without addition of anything extra to the adult version. Also packed along with this thermal jar: plum, strawberry and carrot.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ribollita Bento

Ribollita Bento by sherimiya ♥
Ribollita Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
Here we go with more thermal bento! This one is called Ribollita, or Tuscan Bean Soup. It's cool because you toss in cubed bread at the end, which soaks up the soup and gets all soft. I think it's supposed to kind of dissolve into the soup and make it thick, too. I'm on a roll with these thermal jars, and it's a good thing I have at least 4 because on winter days like this it seems to be all I want to pack for their lunches. If you haven't noticed, I'm big on one-pot soups and stews, in which I tend to throw vegetables and beans of all kinds and colors. Sometimes my dish is less than traditional because of this. I mean, look at this one. It's got beans, veggies, bread -- it's practically a complete balanced meal in itself. If you do this too often it can be risky unless you're sure to change up the spices and flavors so they don't catch on that you're pushing the same kinds of ingredients on them every day. But come on; who doesn't love Tuscan bean soup?! I will never forget the bowl I had in Florence at that restaurant with the long rustic communal wooden tables, where we strangely happened to be sitting next to another couple from the US (in fact they were from El Cerrito, just about a half hour north of us), where I was so smitten that I slurped that bowl completely dry. I tried to replicate that bowl using Ina Garten's recipe. You can too, if you like:
Ribollita (Ina Garten's recipe)


  • 1/2 pound dried white beans, such as Great Northern or cannellini
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 1/4 pound large diced pancetta or smoked bacon
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots (3 carrots)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (3 stalks)
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped or shredded savoy cabbage, optional
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped kale
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 4 cups sourdough bread cubes, crusts removed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, for serving


In a large bowl, cover the beans with cold water by 1-inch and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to soak overnight in the refrigerator.
Drain the beans and place them in a large pot with 8 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, until the beans are tender. Set the beans aside to cool in their liquid.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large stockpot. Add the pancetta and onions and cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, 1 tablespoon of salt, the pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the tomatoes with their puree, the cabbage, if using, the kale, and basil and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for another 7 to 10 minutes.
Drain the beans, reserving their cooking liquid. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree half of the beans with a little of their liquid. Add to the stockpot, along with the remaining whole beans. Pour the bean cooking liquid into a large measuring cup and add enough chicken stock to make 8 cups. Add to the soup and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.
Add the bread to the soup and simmer for 10 more minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve hot in large bowls sprinkled with Parmesan and drizzled with olive oil.
In the side bento box: blood oranges, some chunks of a kind of sweet melon resembling honeydew, strawberry and blackberries.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Chicken Enchilada Soup Bento

I made use of the crockpot to make this one; it's great to toss everything in in the morning, and then I'm free to run in and out of the house the rest of the afternoon. The kids have the usual assortment of afterschool activities this quarter, and there's always that one day (or two) that you can barely get everyone dropped off/picked up in time. Remember when we were kids and if we wanted to join an afterschool activity we had to ride our bikes there and just make sure to get home in time for dinner? Times have sure changed!
Anyway, this one is a shortcut enchilada soup. I LOVE Mexican soups (especially posole) and this one is actually kind of healthy since it uses chicken breast meat. I found the quickie recipe at Tastingspoons. I packed this hearty serving for MisterMan (TinySprite got similar -- she loved it too!), topped with cheddar stars in his LunchBot thermal jar. I sent along an Eco Dipper holding some cara cara orange chunks, blueberries, blackberries and a grape tomato. Delish!
Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup (from Tastingspoons)

3T butter
3T flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups lowfat milk
10 oz. enchilada sauce
15 oz. black beans
14 oz. Rotel diced tomatoes and jalapenos
10 oz. corn
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped (my addition)
2 whole boneless chicken breast halves
1 cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in flour, continuously until smooth. Remove from heat and add broth and 1/2 cup milk, stirring to keep smooth. Return to heat. Bring sauce to a gentle boil, cook until thickened. In a large bowl, mix together with enchilada sauce. Gradually whisk in remaining milk until smooth. Set aside.
In a crockpot, combine beans, tomatoes, corn, onion, and bell pepper. Place the chicken breasts on top of the mixture. Pour sauce mixture over ingredients in cooker. Cover, cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.
When you are ready to serve, remove chicken and cut or shred into bite-sized pieces. Add chicken back into the soup and mix together. Top with cheese, avocado, chopped green onions, sour cream, cilantro, or crushed tortilla chips, as you desire.

Added to What's For Lunch.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Salmon, Kabocha and Potatoes LunchBots Bento

It's still pretty cold (around freezing temps at night), but we're taking a break from the thermal soups and stews to get in some omega-3s. I made salmon butteryaki, which is my favorite way to make this fish. I first slice it into portions, then pan-fry in olive oil on all sides, a few minutes, until crispy. At the end, drop a pat of butter down the side of the pan, swirl all around the fish until sizzling. Turn off heat and drizzle with shoyu. Yum! I also cubed some kabocha and fried them in the same pan, then sprinkled them with garlic powder and parmesan. There's also a sprig of steamed broccoli tucked in next to the fish. I oven-baked some potato wedges to go with the fish, tossing in olive oil, garlic powder and dried parsley (p.s. potatoes are delicious with cracked black pepper too!). There are a few house-pickled cucumbers in there as well. Finally, a little fruit section: strawberries, blackberries and blueberries -- finish out this colorful LunchBot Trio for TinySprite.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Black Bean and Sausage Stew Bento

When the weather turns frigid our thoughts turn to... warming soups and stews. How about you? This time it's a black bean and chicken sausage stew packed in TinySprite's Hello Kitty thermal food jar. The cute stainless-lined snack pack box contains (on one side) Greek yogurt topped with pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, and the usual assortment of berries and nominal veggies. If the main dish is already packed with vegetation, then I can go easy on the side box. Plus, both my kids are drinking homemade green drinks daily, which ensures another big serving of both fruit and vegetables. Win!
Added to What's For Lunch.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mabo Tofu Balloon Bears LunchBots Bento

Today the kids get ma bo tofu (see the basic recipe and method I use here), but I added in chopped baby bok choy just because I'm green like that. I sometimes add in pickled mustard greens too, just because I like the sour taste! But I omitted that this time. This batch includes scallions but excludes the spicy bean paste (TS won't abide it) and is layered over white/brown rice in my LunchBots Duo. The built-in divider keeps the mabo sauce separate from the rest of the goodies: black- and blueberries, a very-not-sweet plum, some carrots and a little Okinawan sweet potato star. I reserved some tofu to cut out little bear shapes with nori faces, and gave them a grape tomato balloon to play with. Aww so cute!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Curried Lentil Farro Soup Bento

This winter has been extremely cold around these parts -- 30s at night and only 40s-50s during the day! It definitely calls for warming foods at lunch time, such as those that can be packed in a thermal food jar. Today I made curried lentil barley soup for protein-packed nutrition. For TinySprite I left it a little "dry" to make it easier to eat without spillage. She toted along a little side container containing: a mini cup of blueberries, steamed broccoli and Okinawan sweet potato, a satsuma mandarin and a dried pluot. My favorite local stone fruit farm sells the dried version of my favorite summer fruits so we can pretend it's peak summer. They don't add sugar but the pluots, nectarines and peaches are unbelievably sweet. Just one will overwhelm your tastebuds with a sublime explosion of sweetness. Can you tell I like them a lot?

Curried Lentil Farro Soup
(from "Super Natural Every Day" by Heidi Swanson)

2T olive oil
Large onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1T curry powder
1/2 cup farro
1 cup lentils
6 cups vegetable broth (or water)

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat, and saute onions, celery and carrots until softened, a few minutes. Add the curry powder; stir until fragrant. Add farro, lentils and broth. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer covered for 30 minutes or so. Taste; add salt or more seasoning as desired. You can also add other vegetables too, like squash or potatoes, or add more of the ones in the recipe as you like. It's quick and easy. I added extra cumin (because I like it). You can also top with yogurt mixed with lemon juice.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ham 'n Cheese Rollup Bento

Thanks for all the bento enthusiasm (benthusiasm)! Let's try to get the bento excitement going now that the new year has started. And with that, let me share with you a bento that requires even less cooking than yesterday's... All right, I'm a little slow in getting up to bento par. But still the kiddies have to eat, so luckily there's always a rollup option! Today's rollups are wrapped in multigrain tortillas smeared with cream cheese and layered with nitrite-free ham and organic baby spinach. Sliced in half to fit into this cute Sistema duo box, and stuck with girlie bow picks, it's a winner for TinySprite. The built-in divider keeps the other stuff separate: carrots, broccoli, tomato, blue- and blackberries, and a satsuma. Do you see the smiley face? I hope it brings a matching smile to my lil girl's face too. ^__^

Monday, January 7, 2013

Pesto Pasta Panda Bento - the first bento of 2013!

Pesto Pasta Panda Bento by sherimiya ♥
Pesto Pasta Panda Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
Well, it's been quite a long time (about 3 weeks) since I've made a bento, taken a photo and posted to the blog. But I'm baaaa-aack! School started last week, actually, and that's when I made this one for TinySprite. It's simply some whole wheat rotini pasta tossed with pesto and sprinkled with parmesan. Easy! And it's usually the first kind of bento I make when we get back home and face an empty refrigerator. The top tier of the beloved panda bowl bento holds some satsuma mandarin segments, a tiny cup of blueberries, a couple grape tomatoes, steamed broccoli and Okinawan sweet potato, carrot, and a piece of homemade granola bar. So glad we had enough odds and ends around the house to fill up a decent bento lunch. Welcome to the new year, friends!