Monday, October 26, 2020

Healthy Mac and Cheese

I've made a lot of mac and cheese throughout my bentomaking years (I just went back and did a search through the website via the search box on the top right -->). But today I had to find a way to make it without milk. As usual, I also added veggies. This time I used minced broccoli, chopped zucchini, and chopped kuri squash.

You're probably saying, but you need milk! It has to be creamy! Well, I happened to not have milk in the house so I had to find a way to make do. I previously always made a roux with milk and flour but this time I just added shredded cheddar and parmesan to the cooked pasta and sauteed veggies. Guess what? It's still good! You can keep it vegetarian, or add protein if you like; I used soyrizo (so still vegetarian). Use your favorite spices; I used paprika, chili powder, cayenne, cumin, and pepper. Toss together and it's done. So good!

Mac and Cheese No Milk Method

1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked al dente
1 cup broccoli, chopped small
1 cup zucchini, chopped small
1 cup kuri (or other squash), chopped small
1 cup onion, chopped small
3 cloves garlic, minced
soyrizo (or sausage or other protein), to taste
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (or other cheese of choice)

Saute the veggies in olive oil until soft. Add your favorite spices (I used paprika, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper). Add soyrizo. Add pasta, toss together. Add the cheese, mix together. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Morning Meal

This morning I felt like making a comfort meal: 
pan-fried teriyaki wild Coho salmon onigiri with furikake, tamagoyaki, fresh tomatoes from the garden, and green tea with goji berries. The only thing missing was miso soup. And maybe something pickled. I'll work on that for next time.

Hope you are holding up during the new school year, which for us means Zoom and Google Meet classes at home. The kids have been preparing their own snacks and lunches themselves, according to how their screen breaks work out. I'm thinking about sharing some of their creations here. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Toast Of The Day: Colorful Tomatoes!

Nice to be able to look at my colorful toast and feel cheerful!
These are some of my favorite flavors, tossed together like a salad on a piece of crispy bread. Can you get rainbow-hued tomatoes where you are? It may be nearly fall, but just looking at this pretty snack makes me think of summer.

Happy toasting, friends! ๐Ÿ˜Š❤๐Ÿฑ๐Ÿž

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Baking Adventures: Sourdough Purple Sweet Potato Yogurt Beet Juice Bread

Okinawan sweet potato sourdough bread.

This is my 3rd sourdough loaf using my own homegrown starter (which is 2 weeks old). I'm hoping to strengthen the sourness over time, but so far I'm quite happy with the results.

 Here is the method I used for this loaf:

360g all purpose flour
40g whole wheat flour
300g spring water
8g sea salt
130g (~½ cup) mashed steamed Okinawan sweet potatoes
130g (~½ cup) Greek yogurt
2T beet juice, stirred into the yogurt
⅓ cup walnuts
80g sourdough starter, at peak, 100% hydration
79% hydration
Autolyse 1 hour
6 hours bulk fermentation at room temp
Stretch and fold at 30 minute intervals for 1st 2 hours
Preshape, bench rest 30 minutes
Envelope fold, shape, place seam side up in linen-lined, floured bowl
Rest at room temp 1.5 hours
Proof in refrigerator 16 hours
Bake 400°F 40 minutes
Lid off, 20 more minutes

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Baking Adventures: Ube Country Loaf

Here we all are in the midst of a Coronavirus pandemic, under lockdown and staying home, and it turns out to be a perfect time to hunker down and go back to the basic life skills we always wanted to hone. Like baking bread.

I started a couple weeks ago with Jim Lahey's famous No-Knead Bread recipe. So simple and so good. I tried adding a sour component with buttermilk, Greek yogurt, or apple cider vinegar. They turned out okay, but then I saw this recipe for Ube Country Loaf.

And I had just steamed some Okinawan sweet potatoes yesterday. It was fate. I started at 6pm, which meant I had to stay up til midnight to get this baby in the fridge for a 12 hour cold proof. I popped it into the oven today and got this big beautiful purple loaf. I mean, it's gorgeous!

I show you the process photos because I love looking at them to measure my own progress and compare. 
1: Flour and water autolyse
2: Dump steamed mashed ube, salt, and yeast
3: Mix in using pinch and fold method
4: Repeat every 15 minutes for an hour

5: Let rise for 4 hours at 72 °F
6: Shape into ball and proof in fridge 12 hours
7: Ball has expanded, ready to bake
8: Finished loaf!

If you want to try this loaf, I recommend you check out this blog: Lady and Pups. She explains the whole process pretty well, so that even a newbie like me could follow along. I would make this again, using more sweet potato for more vibrant color and more moistness. I don't really get how the addition of the mash doesn't affect the recipe so that you don't have to change anything whether or not you add any mash. Maybe it's magic. I'm a believer๐Ÿ˜Š❤๐Ÿž๐Ÿฅ–

Here's the method straight from Lady and Pups:

The overnight bread recipe/techniques are based on the book: Flour, water, Salt Yeast. This bread can be made with exactly the same instructions and ingredients, minus the purple yam, if you want to make a white country loaf.
  • 400 grams (3 cups) bread flour, or all-purpose flour
  • 312 grams (78% hydration)(312 ml) water, at 86F ~ 95F/30C~ 35C
  • 150 grams (37%)(roughly 3/4 cup packed) baked and peeled purple yam
  • 9 grams (2.2%)(1 1/2 tsp) fine sea salt
  • 1 gram (0.3%)(1/4 tsp) instant dry yeast

  • Instructions
  1. This bread will need about 1 hour for mixing/folding, 4~5 hour to ferment at room-temperature, then 12 hours/overnight in the fridge to slow-proof, and another 2 hours to bake and cool down. So please start 19 ~ 20 hours before the time you want to serve the bread.
  2. According to the book, the optimal temperature for any bread dough - after it is folded/kneaded, and just before it's left to ferment - should be at 78F/26C. So if your indoor temperature is quite cool, around 68F/20C, you should warm the water to about 95F/35C to achieve that. If your indoor temperature is warm, like mine, around 79F/26C, then the water should be about 86F/30C to achieve that. I have an instant thermometer and therefore, I can measure these things accurately. But if you don't, IT IS OK, just start with water that feels like your body temperature, meaning that when you insert you finger into the water, you can't quite make out whether it's on the "cool side" or "warm side". I like to prepare a large bottle of water at the right temperature (more than the recipe calls for), then pour the amount I need as I measure on a scale.
  3. TO START: In a large bowl, mix flour and water (already warmed up to the optimal temperature) with a fork until just even. Cover with plastic-wrap and let rest for 20~30 min. (This process is called "autolyse", which allows the flour to hydrate, releases enzymes and increases its flexibility... blah blah. Wanna know more, you can Google it). After rested, add the baked and peeled purple yam, and sprinkle the fine sea salt and instant dry yeast evenly across the surface.
  4. TO KNEAD WITH MACHINE: If you're using a stand-mixer or handheld-mixer with dough-hooks (like I did because we're lazy) knead the dough on medium-low speed for 20 min. The dough should still be very wet and sticky, but quite smooth and very elastic. It should be able to hold its shape for a short period of time, and appears to be stringy when it pulls away from the bowl. If you have an instant thermometer, the dough should be at 78F/26C now. Cover with plastic-wrap, and let ferment for 4~5 hour until almost TRIPLED (not doubled).
  5. TO FOLD WITH HAND: If you were mixing with hands, finely mash the purple yam before adding to the bowl. Using the pincer method to evenly distribute the ingredients (this blog gives a good step by step photos on pincer method and folding). Then pull the dough up from one side until just before it tears, then fold it over itself towards the opposite side. Turn the bowl around by 45 degrees, and fold again. Do this for about 5 min until the dough starts to develop some elasticity. Let the dough rest for 10 min, then fold again for 30 seconds. If you have an instant thermometer, the dough should be at 78F/26C now. Cover with plastic-wrap and let ferment. In the first 1 hour, every 15 min, come back and fold the dough like you did for 30 seconds. Then leave it for about 3~ 4 hours until almost TRIPLED (not doubled).
  6. TO SHAPE THE BREAD: Dusting with just enough flours onto the dough/ the counter/ and your hands to prevent sticking as you go, now gently ease the dough out of the bowl, onto the working surface, without flattening or tearing it. The dough should look kind of like a blob on the counter. Again, gently, pull 1 corner of the dough up and fold it over itself. Repeat for 3~4 times around the dough until it comes into a ball. Now flip the dough over so the "seam-side" now faces down, onto a less floured surface. Using the friction between the counter and the dough, cup your hands around the dough and pull it gently towards you. You should feel the dough tightening as you do this. Repeat for 3~4 times from all directions until the dough comes into a good, round shape.
  7. TO PROOF THE DOUGH: If you have a proofing-basket, dust it with flour and gently transfer the dough, seam-side down, into the basket. If not, using the original bowl that the dough fermented in, and line it with 1 sheet of parchment paper. Press the parchment so it conforms to the shape of the bowl, then dust the dough all around with a little flour, and transfer into the bowl, seam-side down. Cover with plastic-wrap, then proof in the fridge for 12 hours/overnight.
  8. TO BAKE THE BREAD: 45 min before baking, preheat the oven on 475F/245C, with a lidded Dutch oven on the rack. Once the oven's preheated, take the dough out of the fridge (no need for it to warm back to room-temperature). Lift the dough out of the bowl by lifting the parchment paper, then gently place on the counter. Put another piece of parchment paper on the side, then gently flip the dough onto the seconds parchment. Without flattening or tearing it, dust the edges with a little flour to gently release the dough from the first parchment. Now the seam-side should be facing up.
  9. (NOTE: Why not just use the first parchment to transfer the dough, from the bowl, directly into the Dutch oven? I've done it both ways, and noticed that the dough which was inverted after proofing, had a much better rise in the oven. During proofing, most large air bubbles gathered at the upper-half of the dough, leaving the lower-half slightly denser. If not inverted, the baked dough inherently came out with a denser lower-half, and less tall. But by inverting, the low-half was now at the top, which allowed it to expand more during baking, and the larger air bubbles at the bottom, helped push the dough upward as well. And the seam-side also creates a beautiful cracking on the surface.)
  10. Take the preheated Dutch oven out and remove the lid. Lift the parchment to transfer the dough into the Dutch oven (leave the parchment with it as well)(flatten the parchment's folds so it doesn't distort the shape of the bread). Close the lid and bake for 25 min. Then remove the lid and bake for another 13~15 min, until the surface is deeply browned. Remove the parchment and let the bread cool on a cooling-rack for 1 hour.
To cook the purple yam, bake in a preheated 400F/200C oven for 45 min ~1 hour until a knife can be easily inserted into the flesh. Cool completely before using.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Toast Of The Day: Avocado Egg Salad Edamame

Super sunny day here in self quarantine, so a made a sunny toast to reflect my mood: avocado, egg salad, edamame, radish sprouts, cracked black pepper on whole wheat bread. It was good but I will need to make more pickled slaw for next time. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

Toast Of The Day: Omega-3 Sardines!

I gotta say this is my favorite toast thus far. But then I'm a fan of sardines! Are you? And because I piled so many other ingredients on my english muffin, it's not overwhelmingly sardiney, either.

I especially love that I was able to use so many healthy add-ons. I made them all; nothing is pre-processed. The tangy flavors come from the pickles, sprouts, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. 

I can't wait to make (a variation on) this one again!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Corned Beef Reuben Bento

Sure we're hunkering down but that doesn't mean we can't still enjoy our Lunchbots Duo bento. And when there are leftovers in the fridge that just call out for a sandwich, how can we say no? So happy I was able to stock up on one last bag of blood oranges too. These are so pretty in bento!

Hope you are all weathering the isolation as best you can. If you're like me you get some happiness surfing the beautiful images on the web. Have a great Thursday friends!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Polenta Bento

This one is a mishmash of stuff we had at dinner, including the polenta that made an appearance on my toast in the previous post. I think TinySprite would prefer a box filled completely with sausage; she's a definite meat lover๐Ÿ–๐Ÿฎ


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Toast Of The Day: Another Breakfast One!

By now I've settled on a kind of formula for an ideal toast. It starts (usually but not imperatively) with a spread, in this case creamy polenta. I thought about firming it up and pan frying it, but decided to use it in its softer form for contrast here. I also like to have some greens and a protein, then some textural contrast like something crunchy, and finally some interesting tangy or spicy top note.

This one was overwhelmed by the sausage flavor, which was tasty enough, but not as exciting or original as it could have been. I'd mix it up a bit next time.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Mini Sandwich Bento

The schools in our area have all closed for the next 2 weeks at least, so we will be at home isolating and socially distancing ourselves. I might therefore be experimenting with snacks and lunches; brace yourselves.

I always wanted to try making mini sandwiches. It would take a ton of these to satisfy my kids though๐Ÿ˜†

On the upside, look at these super kawaii sushi and green tea picks from! I love these!

They are exquisitely detailed with cheerful cute faces, and sized perfectly for bento or tiny sandwiches. Can't wait to try it with sushi!


Thursday, March 12, 2020

Domo Meatloaf Bento

I forgot where I found this meatloaf recipe but it calls for a whole container of silken tofu to be mixed with 1 pound of ground turkey and 1 pound of ground beef (or pork). You wouldn't notice the tofu except that this meatloaf comes out very moist and with a lighter texture; not as dense as a regular meatloaf. It's pretty good, and I'm thinking healthier too! 

And of course, rectangular brown food must be transformed into Domokun. I think it's a bento rule.


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Toast Of The Day: Tofu and Broccoli!

I've never pan fried a slab of tofu before but I figured I'd try since I've seen this broccoli-tofu combo before.

And then I figured, might as well put an egg in it too, right?
I fried the broccoli bits til they got nice and crispy, and with chili oil drizzled over the whole deal, it was really good!

I'd definitely make this again.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Toast Of The Day: Avocado, Cheesy Eggs, Hummus & Tomato!

Why did it take me so long to discover cheesy eggs? My feelings toward scrambled eggs have changed forever. 

You guys might already know this, but the key to fluffy eggs is to cook low and slow. That is, low heat with constant stirring until you feel the liquidy cheesy egg start to develop form. I mixed my egg with a big spoonful of cottage cheese; you could use ricotta or whatever cheese your little heart so chooses. At that point, turn off the heat and let finish to your desired fluffiness. If you want to pile sky high on avocado toast, who's stopping you? 

And then just because I happened to have a pretty gradient of grape tomatoes, I made another toast on hummus. Come to think of it, I could have combined everything into one deliciously massive towering architectural wonder.
Architoastual wonder.
Next time!

Monday, March 9, 2020

Mac and Cheese Bento

I put roasted grape tomatoes on top of today's (whole wheat) mac and cheese to add a little color and also to check out these super cute new leaf picks from Modes4u. I think they are meant to be radish, tomato, and some kind of sprout leaf tops. So creative and fun!

Also in our Lunchbots Trio: little pita triangles topped with protein-rich nutrition, kiwi and the ever-present (as long as they're in season which I hope is at least another month) blood oranges.

Happy Bento-ing! ๐Ÿ˜Š❤๐Ÿฑ

Friday, March 6, 2020

Toast Of The Day: Mushroom Swiss!

Okay, okay, it's not really toast. But it's an open faced bagelwich so that's what counts here. 
I absolutely loved the confluence of flavors here.

First I melted the swiss onto the bagel half, then lay some dandelion greens atop. After frying the mushrooms on the stovetop until crispy-ish, I piled them on, followed by pickled cabbage and radish sprouts, two ingredients which added tang.

The only issue I had was the toppings falling off such that maybe next time I might consider putting the swiss on top to act as a glue of sorts. But if I did that I would sacrifice the pleasing aesthetics of the overall structure, which really comprises a large part of the appeal of this toast series for me. Also, it might have benefited from something lightly sweet. Maybe.

Besides that, this was a definite winner of a "toast."


Thursday, March 5, 2020

Baked Spaghetti Bento

Quick and simple one using leftovers from last night's dinner of baked spaghetti and steamed broccoli, including cheese blossoms, strawberries, cottage cheese topped with sunflower seeds and more blossoms cut from Okinawan sweet potato. Have a great Thursday friends!


Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Toast Of The Day: Artichoke Hearts!

Today's Artichoke Heart, Arugula & Purple Cream Cheese Toast idea came about after I read a recipe for marinating plain quartered artichoke hearts instead of buying the kind in those tiny jars. I used white wine vinegar and olive oil, as well as shallots, lemon slices and oregano. It came out tasting nothing like the jarred stuff, but still delicious!

Sure, you could eat it just as is, but why not make a fun toast with it? I used whole wheat pita again, schmeared cream cheese (into which I mashed a piece of steamed Okinawan purple sweet potato because, look how pretty!), scattered some arugula and piled on the home-marinated artichoke hearts.

Um, SO good!


Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Happy Girls' Day Bento!

Happy Girls' Day and wishing all our little girls the happiness, strength, and good health to achieve their goals and make all their dreams come true!

We love you! ๐Ÿฅฐ


Monday, March 2, 2020

Toast Of The Day: Beets!

I know it's not a bento but my toast was just so good today I had to share it. I got the idea for this one from the cookbook Umami Bomb by Raquel Pelzel. The bomb is provided by the caramelized onions. I think I'll be adding it to all my meals from now on.

On this whole wheat pita: no salt cottage cheese, caramelized onions with thyme, pea sprouts, chopped beets, cracked black pepper.

Perfect. You should try this combo! ๐Ÿ˜Š❤๐Ÿฑ