Friday, January 30, 2015

Hello Kitty Bento (just for fun)! =^.^=

Hello! The kids have no need for a bento today, but I thought I would make a bento in imitation of the most kawaii charm I have ever seen. It is of course a Hello Kitty bento charm. Have you seen it? I got mine at the gift shop at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles during the Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty exhibit. It just so happens I own the same bento box in real life, so I tried to recreate all the foods I can see in the charm. I took some artistic and culinary liberties, though. I also used TinySprite's toys for my props today...
Happy Friday, friends! Have a great weekend! ^__^

Added to What's For Lunch.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Double Slider Field Trip Bento

It's field trip time! And you know what that means: the bento will be eaten off campus so it must be completely disposable. I asked TinySprite what she wanted to take and she said "Chili!"Well, that would be a little difficult to pack disposably. And it wouldn't be warm. "Burgers?" Burgers it is! I made her two tiny sliders inside mulitgrain mini-sandwich thins. There are romaine lettuce leaves, thin sliced red onion, and thin sliced cucumber in there too. I packed a mozzarella cheese stick as well, since it's probably her favorite snack food ever. Filling out the recycled strawberry basket container: carrots, satsuma mandarin, grape tomato, and a little cup holding a dried prune, dried Bing cherry, and dried Mission fig. Man, I can't wait until we can have these fruits in fresh form!

Have fun at the museum, TinySprite!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Miso-Glazed Salmon LunchBots Trio Bento

Today I packed TinySprite a colorful meal in our LunchBots Trio: miso-glazed salmon on a few kale leaves, pepperonata (a mixture of red and yellow peppers pan-fried in olive oil with anchovy paste and garlic, then sprinkled with basil), roasted broccoli, and assorted blueberries, tomato, carrots and Asian pear.

I've made misoyaki butterfish before many times, as it is maybe my all-time favorite fish meal, but this is the first time I made miso-glazed salmon. I used a variation on a Simply Recipes recipe:

Miso-Glazed Salmon Recipe

1/4 cup white miso
3T sake
1T sugar
1T shoyu

Heat mixture in double-boiler until smooth, and sugar is dissolved. Let cool, and marinate salmon for 3 hours up to overnight. Bake at 425F for 10 minutes.

It's pretty good, and a nice change from the regular way I usually prepare salmon (shoyu butteryaki or furikake style). I saw Sam Choy has a recipe that includes ginger and rice vinegar along with the miso that sounds interesting too. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Tuscan Kale Vegetable Bean Soup Bento

Hi! How was your weekend? Here in the bay area we experienced an unseasonably warm and sunny weekend. We (along with lots of other people) decided to spend it at the beach in Monterey Bay, where we were treated to a lot of gray whale activity. We saw them spouting, diving, and even breaching from right on shore. It was very exciting! Back home today, it feels like a complete 180 degree turnaround in weather: cloudy and cold once again. A cold day like today calls for a warm soup bento! I made big pot of vegetable soup with beans and sausage to fortify us through the frigid weather. All right, it's only in the mid-50s but still.

MisterMan will bring this LunchBots Thermal Food Jar to school with him, with this very cool spoon/fork combo utensil, along with a side container of ombre blood oranges, pickled cucumbers and grape tomatoes. I love the way the blood orange segments look. Have you tried this variety before? They taste a little more tart than cara cara oranges (my favorite) at first, but they finish nice and sweet. If you see them in the market, you might want to give them a try. They are easy to peel and you can pack these pretties in segments, as I've done here, or cut them into wheels, as I've done in the past. They look like this on the outside; kind of like blushing oranges. ^__^

Tuscan Ribollita Soup Recipe
(adapted from Eating Well)

  • 1 14-ounce can whole peeled plum tomatoes
  • 2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed, divided
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium leek, halved lengthwise and sliced, white and light green parts only (I omitted; used round onion instead)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 2 whole diced carrots
  • 2 stalks diced celery
  • 1 cup diced zucchini 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 bunch kale or Swiss chard, trimmed and cut into 2-inch-wide slices (I used various baby kale varieties)
  • 1/4 head Savoy or green cabbage, cut into 1-inch cubes (I omitted)
  • 2 cups diced russet potatoes (I omitted)
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery seed
  • Crushed red pepper to taste


  1. Drain canned tomatoes, reserving the liquid. Dice the tomatoes. Using a potato masher, mash half the beans into a paste (add a bit of broth, if desired, to make mashing the beans easier). Set the tomatoes and beans aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leek and garlic; cook, stirring, until translucent and tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Do not brown. Season with 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Stir in carrots, celery and zucchini and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil; cook, stirring, until nearly tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
  3. When the carrots and celery are nearly tender, stir in kale (or chard) and cabbage. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, 4 to 6 minutes. Add potatoes, broth, water, the diced tomatoes and juice, the bean puree and whole beans, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Season with celery seed, crushed red pepper and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally and reducing the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer, until all the vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tebasaki Chicken Wings Bento

Today's bento features that all-time kid (and adult) favorite: tebasaki (crispy salted chicken wings)! Have you had these before? I've made them for my kids' bento many times. Even though by lunchtime they are cold, the kids devour them. I have to make tons because they are small and addictive. I use LovelyLanvin's recipe and method (you can find it here), which I adapted for mini wings and drummettes, which fit better in the bento box.

Speaking of bento boxes, the long stainless steel box is from Bento and Co, and it comes in a set of two. It is of excellent quality and I love it. I often use one of the boxes (as shown here) along with a smaller side box -- in this case the ECOLunchBox Eco Dipper.

I placed the chicken in a romaine lettuce leaf (for nutrition, looks, and grease absorbancy), and six happen to fit perfectly for MisterMan. The little Dipper holds pickled cucumber, carrot and daikon in mini silicone cups, a half satsuma mandarin, and some grape tomatoes. If he wants to, he may sprinkle shichimi togarashi (7 pepper spice) from the penguin (you can find a similar one here) at lunchtime.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sardine Melt Mini-Sandwich Bento

Yes, it really is a sardine sandwich, and will my kids really like it? I learned how to make a sardine sandwich from my childhood friend who lived down the street. She made it for me and showed me exactly how she did it. She was a year older and I did whatever she said; if she liked it then I liked it too. And I still do! I use canned sardines packed in spring water with no added salt, and add pickle relish and cracked pepper. If it were for me, I would also add sriracha (or tapatio or tabasco) for extra zing. Melt some cheddar and toast the bread, and it's so good. I also added some romaine lettuce leaves. Not to mention all the healthy omega-3s you'll be getting. You should try it!
I used my Sistema Bakery Split Container to pack the sandwiches (two mini sandwich thins) with the carrots on one side and the fruit (blood orange, half a satsuma mandarin, and a grape tomato) on the other. The partition keeps the two sides separate. Anpanman character picks ensure the sandwich stays intact - aren't they cute? Happy Wednesday!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Curry with Rice Puppy Bento

It's been cool here in the Bay Area, and it's time for some warm thermal bento. I made curry loaded with vegetables, which will be ideal to nourish the kiddos midway through their hectic day. TinySprite still uses this Hello Kitty Thermal Food Jar, and if I add a side box with a selection of fruit - here, grape tomatoes, kiwi, and a tiny satsuma mandarin - it's just the right amount of food for her.

I would put the rice puppy inside the thermos, but I'm sure he would fall apart and disappear before lunchtime, so I packed him separately for her to add at her discretion. I hope she likes this one. Woof! 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fried Rice Froggie Bento

Hello leftover rice! This batch was part white rice, part brown rice, and part pearl barley. I cooked the mixed batch rice on the "semi-brown" setting on my Zojirushi Rice Cooker and it came out very well. To make the fried rice, I simply tossed the cold rice into a pan and fried it up with chopped greens (I used baby kale), meat of some kind (ham), and an egg. Drizzle with shoyu and top with green onions. I also decorated with the tiniest red chard leaves ever. I'm thinking they would look cute in a mini bento in the future, since many of my garden greens seem to be of the very small variety, for some reason.

The top tier of this super cute frog bento holds chopped apple pieces sprinkled with cinnamon. Winter fruit is pretty limited, even here in California, but this should make my little girl very happy!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Salmon Lettuce Wrap Bento

Today's bento is another quick and easy one: pan-fried butter shoyu salmon in a romaine lettuce leaf. I added some roasted baby potatoes, fresh baby carrots, broccoli, and pickled daikon. I've recently started using lettuce wraps for meals, as you can see below in a dinner I made (in an ECOlunchtray) last week. I put Korean chicken, rice, cucumbers and green onions inside the lettuce and the kids loved it. I'm going to try lettuce-wrapping other foods too: I'm thinking hot dogs and hamburgers...

I added a side box (ECOlunchboxes Dipper) containing satsuma mandarins and string cheese. I sent along furikake in the monkey shaker, to add to the salmon at lunchtime.

Added to What's For Lunch.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Skewers of Sausage, Mushrooms and Peppers Bento

My first bento of the year, and it's a quick and easy one. I pan-fried an all-natural preservative- and nitrite-free chicken sausage alongside some halved mushrooms and chopped red capsicum. Little skewers make it fun to eat with little fingers. I added greenery with a few green lettuce and pickled cucumbers. Everything fits perfectly in my LunchBots Clicks. This box is stainless steel with a translucent plastic airtight locking lid; I love that it's easy for kids to open and close, and adds security for those lunchbag-swingers. I also put some sliced cara cara oranges in a round EcoDippers side box along with a cup of pepitas and chocolate raisins. This bento will go to school with TinySprite. Let's see if it comes home empty^__^

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Happy New Year 2015 from me at Happy Little Bento!

Hi everyone! It has been about a year since I've posted my most recent bento, and I can hardly believe it's been that long. During the year, my son MisterMan (now 11 years old and in 6th grade)  has been preparing and arranging his own bento. He also arranges the one for his little sister, TinySprite (now 7 years old and in 2nd grade). So I guess I've passed on the bentomaking torch successfully to the next generation. That's something to be proud of, MisterMan!

I haven't been completely away from bentomaking, though. Last June, the Japanese TV station NHK World contacted me about participating in a new program they wanted to begin, and the pilot show was to introduce bentomaking throughout the world. I, along with many other people, submitted video for possible inclusion in the first show. You can click on the picture above to see the abbreviated version of my homemade video.

The show aired later in the fall, and the producer contacted me recently to let me know that the show had been voted 4th in NHK World's "Viewer's Choice Awards 2014" in the Food & Pop Culture category. As a result the show re-aired a few weeks ago. You can see it here in the YouTube clip: 

Bento : The Global Lunchbox Project 弁当

My quick short entry can be seen at 41.55. It was a fun experience and served to remind me how much fun and how rewarding it is to create and express myself with bento! I'm resolving to go back to bento this year in part because of this experience, but also because I've noticed a lot of friends asking when I'll be posting again, and there is so much interest in the bento culture these days! 

How have you been doing with your bento progress? Have you noticed your methods changing at all? My priorities are the same: healthy, beautiful, nutritious meals to satisfy and fuel my kids for their challenging days, which also provide them with the memory of their loving mom standing right here behind them all the way. ^__^