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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree!

The tree idea is one from a Twitter friend who goes by HapaBento. If you tweet, you may want to look her up, her bentos always look great. The tree is made with sliced snowpeas with an omelette star and present and red pickled ginger for decorations and the ribbon. I hope that it makes it to school intact. All of her friends loved the snowman I made and told her she was evil for eating the head first! So funny.  The rest are all the usual suspects except that they are a different breed of sorts. The carrot sticks which may look burned on camera are actually a deep purple on the outside and orange on the inside. The Christmas tree balls are cut from a watermelon radish which is this lovely bright pink inside (and are huge). The meatballs were simmered in some teriyaki sauce. The only thing I forgot was a bottle of soy.

HapaBento's came out much nicer! Mine is sort of abstract, ya, that is it, abstract. I almost didn't mention that we also got this humongous head of cabbage in our produce box. The family has had issues with cabbage ever since my cabbage soup diet fiasco, so I am not sure what to do with it all. Some made it to the bento as coleslaw. There is some sesame seeds in there too, but the picture sucks, as per usual. Maybe I will do a nice sweet and sour cabbage or something. Oh, and this is the last one I will be making until January 2nd when Pippy's school comes back into session. I sort of welcome the break to regroup and maybe think of something new and interesting for her lunches.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dazed and Confused

I totally forgot to post Pippy's bento today! I did take pictures, but with all the stress over exams (or rather one particular exam) I didn't post it. I made a little potato salad with some sliced mini zucchini in there and some spinach soaked in a little soy and mirin. I can get her to eat almost anything with soy and mirin, let us hope that it holds true today!

I tried to take a picture that would show off the pickled daikon candy-canes, but they are hard to see. There is the potato salad, which is really easy to make first thing in the morning, the spinach and some cut up chicken cutlet. The container on the side is filled with fruit and vegetable sauce. I love the container. I got a bunch for a dollar at the Family Dollar down the street. I am not terribly confident that they seal well though, so I wrapped elastic around it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Well, it isn't the most decorative snowman in the world, and they aren't onigiri since I was using leftover rice. The only nori on it are the eyes because Pippy doesn't like nori. The nose is a carrot though! I also made this crab stick salad, but I am a little worried that the sesame oil may be a little strong for her tastes.

The buttons are made with some bacon sprinkles. After declaring last week that she had enough eggs, she requested them again for today. So, there is the crab salad, a two egg rolled omelet with baby spinach and at the top are some leftover roast potatoes and yellow bell pepper which were seasoned with a balsamic glaze. She love roasted potatoes. I even snuck a red and white beet in there, let us see if she eats it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Crab Sticks

 Today I used crabsticks for the first time. I figure that she should try them plain before I use them as a salad or anything. I got these at Ebisuya in Medford. Imagine my surprise when I found that they were individually wrapped! Now I have to use it all up quickly because I didn't realize that I could have separated them while they were frozen. Live and learn.

I have to do a holiday themed bento soon though. I meant to make the crabstick candy canes like one of my twitter friends did (I am sorry, I forgot who) because despite her not thinking they came out good, I thought they looked awesome. Sadly, but crab sticks were too small. Maybe I will sneak out after finals and pick up some provolone cheese to cut out a snow man or something.

This lunch box works well for layering because it is deep. Under all this is a good layer of rice. On top there are snowpeas, crabsticks, a mini blueberry muffin, frozen mango, nicely browned potstickers and a bottle of soy.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Spamity Spam

Yesterday my husband didn't have to be at work until later in the morning so he let me sleep and made Paige her lunch. She had some of a bologna and cheese sub sandwich and some fruit to round it out a bit. Needless to say, there are not pictures.

Today I decided to try some pan fried teriyaki Spam. The Spam got nice and golden and then sticky in the sauce. I am not a Spam type of person, but Pippy has liked it in the past. I also deep fried some acorn squash. I have seen people do it and I thought that I would give it a try since my oil from earlier in the week was filtered and good to go.

The Spam is the glistening stuff on the lower left. I threw a little pick in there for interest and in case she has trouble with the chopsticks, though I doubt she will, she is very dexterous with those things. I put them on a bed of mixed greens so that the bottom of the box wouldn't show through, maybe she will eat it? On the lower right I cut some baby zucchini in halves, added the fried squash and stuck some carrot in there. The tool I use for the carrots to make them a little thinner than a julienne is terrific. Very easy slicing. On top of that is a pickled daikon gingerbread boy. There are more on top of the rice along with some pickled ginger for interest.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Surprisingly Simple

First, Paige did not like the rice yesterday. Funny, the kid will eat ketchup on anything but rice. So, that is one recipe off the list. She has a surprising small list if you take into account all the variations on similar ingredients.

Today I planned to get up early and make tempura for her bento. I figured that it would take a while fixing the vegetables and heating up the oil. Well, I didn't get up until 6:15 so I thought my plans were shattered. Then I thought that I may as well give it a go and I did. It worked out nicely. The baby zucchinis were sliced thin, some julienne red bell peppers and shaved carrots went into the fryer. The carrots were shaved using a vegetable peeler and after tasting them I have to say they came out the yummiest. I love cooked zucchini, but a few of them got a bit soggy while cooling, so I had to cherry pick the ones that were crispy, though I am a bit worried that the moisture content may cause some problems.

The curry sesame seeds on the rice were supposed to be in the shape of a mitten, but that didn't work out as well as I hoped. I think that the next time I pack something round I will put it on a bed of lettuce or spinach. I don't like the look of the bottom of the box showing. Those are freezer meatballs simmered in BBQ sauce. On the other side is the tempura vegetables, a container for more BBQ sauce and some dried cranberries.
Tempura batter is easy. 1 cup of ice water, 1 cup of flour and an egg. Mix well and dip whatever you want into it and deep fry it. You can also use the bits of tempura batter in octopus balls at a later time.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Deep Fried Love

The star of the show are the shiu mai which I deep fried instead of steam, though that will give a nice flavor and texture. It is just that I have never deep fried in the morning before. Tomorrow I may try tempura since I have the oil out of the bottle already, might as well use it up.

What should be front and center ended up a little messy. I got the recipe and display idea from Kawaii Bento (For the record, that link is from my Amazon Associate account). Either my pan was just a bit too small or there was too much rice to put in it, so it tore a bit. I still like the bright red rice poking out from under the omelet though, very nice.

Looks a little washed out, behold my crappy photography lack of skill. Trust me though, there is red under that omelet and in real life it shows. Along with that and the dumplings I put some raw snowpeas and some wedges of a clementine there. Around the dumplings to fill in a bit is frozen corn. I probably should have used something more colorful though, like red bell pepper. Ah well, live and learn.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Clementines Are Here!

I finally purchased my first box of clementines. My kids adore them because they are sweet and so easy to peel. I go through them like crazy this time of year. Pippy wanted me to do something decorative with a clementine, like a flower, so I gave it my best. I also turned a hot dog into a couple of tulips. Because the clementine is too big for her two tier boxes, I used the eco lunch box that is stainless steel.

Hmm, the picture came out pretty nice today. The hot dog tulips ended up with pickled ginger in the center rather than the sesame seeds  you see here. They just didn't show up as well as I would have liked. I cooked some sweet potato and added raisins and a sprinkle of sugar while they were hot. Squished in there is also a small cup of edamame beans. She usually doesn't go for them, but I stirred a little soy and mirin in which seems to help her like vegetable.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lots of Cookin'

Yesterdays bento was a big hit with Pippy. She told me that it was a perfect bento and that I packed it just right. No shifting, no mixing of flavors. Needless to say, it is encouraging. While I covet the Charaben and other cute bentos, I am more than happy to have a less cute bento that she wants to eat.

As the title suggests, it does require some morning cooking. This morning I cooked another rolled omelet at Pippy's request, some winter squash and apples. Nothing green today, but in the winter greens aren't really in season anyhow. Maybe we will get something in our next produce box, but I am not holding my breath. I get produce from a business called Boston Organics. I had to cut back on our deliveries due to low funds, but I get organic produce, much of it sources fairly locally, delivered to my door. I used to have it every week, but I cut back to every other week until we can afford more. I haven't had a delivery in about a month due to the holiday (I suspended delivery for Thanksgiving), so I am working with very little. Also, she is pretty picky about what she eats, hence the title of this blog.

I put some red pepper on the rice to add color. She prefers just plain white rice or fried rice. She doesn't like any of the rice sprinkles that are out there because they are too fishy. On the right I made a batch of apples with a touch of sugar and the barest sprinkle of salt because salt does lovely things to apples, and then cooked it in the microwave for about 2 1/2 minutes. There are also some cooked acorn squash that was tossed with a bit of soy. We had chicken cutlets last night, so I sliced one up for her bento and then there is the rolled omelet with some cheese in it. That was difficult to make as the cheese is heavy and that made the egg very fragile. It isn't a perfect shape, but I did manage to contain the cheese. Can I just say that I love cooking for bento with my cooking chopsticks?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Well Packed Bento

Given my penchant for sleeping past my alarm and not planning ahead, my bentos are generally a little sparse or have too much of one thing in there taking up space. This is my attempt at making my bento a little more, well, bentoey. I tried to stuff as much as I could in there using some tips from my Kawaii book. There are no characters of designs in this one, but I am hoping that it is good looking enough for my child to want to eat it.

I cooked the fried rice the way it was suggested on a few sites, by cooking the egg first. One thing that I noticed by doing this is that there wasn't such a crust on the pan when I was finished. This fried rice is chock full of vegetables, including: red and yellow bell peppers, corn (which isn't really a vegetable, don't get me started) and peas (also not a vegetable technically). In the larger container is a cup of potato salad that I made this morning. It has potatoes, mayonnaise and some of the bell pepper. I needed a little more height for the apples, but I couldn't find anything that would fit right. Squished in there is a cup with corn and peas from the freezer and then a rolled omelet for which I only used one egg because I used another in the friend rice. In the rolled omelet the peas and corn are also there. It is a sweet omelet using mirin in the mix.

There isn't a lot of variety, but I did use the same ingredients differently through out. I am finally getting a produce box in on Friday, so maybe there will be something green in there for us. I was going to use sweet potato, but sadly it had gone bad.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

More Leftovers

We had teriyaki meatballs with rice last night, so today Pippy had more of the same in her lunch. I just can't see allowing food to languish in the refrigerator before being thrown out. Wasting food is not my thing. I also made her a vegetable medley of cauliflower and red and orange bell pepper which were doused with soy and mirin at the end. 

The only thing about round food items is that it is difficult to pack everything tightly. In addition to the foods I mentioned, I stuffed some dried fruit in there to help it not shift. I also packed a large sized bottle of fruit and vegetable sauce.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Finger Foods

Last night we had an appetizer night. Oddly, we also had leftovers so that is what is in the bento today. Not my best work but far better then the killer Teddy Ruskin that I did on Friday.

Underneath there are a couple of mozzarella sticks and on top of that are mini chicken tacos. I simply sliced up some yellow bell pepper and cucumbers and stuck a few pieces of dried fruit in the corner.  She also had some rice with soy sauce on the side.

I wasn't sure if I was going to post this next one. It is pretty awful. What I was trying to do was mix the food color pens together to make brown. This did not work out well at all.

The sliced fish fillet (which she actually ate) was a leftover and underneath there is a stir fried mix of green beans, cut up heirloom tiny tomatoes with soy sauce. She ate that too! Of course she ate the apple. This was my first try on this particular cut, which turned out rather well. Over on the side is my Frankenstein bear egg. She didn't eat that. First, eggs smell bad to her (she gets embarrassed) and second, well, could you eat that face?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


It is very hard to be inspired when your gut is in a knot over an oral presentation in Spanish and you really suck at Spanish. Still, the child needed to eat, so I asked her opinion last night and she said that she wanted a rolled omelette. With that as a starting point there of course is rice and I made little tomato containers filled with shredded mozzarella cheese which I gleaned from Kawaii Bento Boxes (which is terribly handy to get the creativity flowing).

I tried to make the heart-shapes for the omelette as is shown in the book, but the roll wasn't round enough to make it work right. Still, a nice excuse for using the jewel picks. There is also some cucumbers cut on the bias and turned to make an interesting shape, some "baby" carrots sliced in half, a red tomato and two yellow tomatoes with the cheese stuffing. On the lid there is a strawberry filled marshmallow that we got at Ebisuya.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I guess technically these are not onigiri as they have no filling. I searched high and low for my sweet bean paste but couldn't find it and my girl is not fond of turkey which is the only meat in this house right now.

About the macaroni and cheese balls; they were a flop. She didn't like them at all. I asked her if she tried them with ketchup and she said "Oh, is that was that was for?". I love that kid.

On the top are two onigiri with a soy paper "handle" and filled out with those pretty heirloom tomatoes. In the bottom tray is a tofu and green bean stir fry in a soy and mirin glaze. On top are pretty leaves cut out of pickled daikon radish to give it a little bit of a Fall theme.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Macaroni and Cheese Balls

As I have mentioned before, food shopping can be a family event around here. This weekend we hit Trader Joe's. There are a couple of days in the week that I do not get home until around 6:30, so the family needs something simple to make. Trader Joe's makes that pretty easy with all their pre made and fairly healthy selections. While we were there on Saturday, Pippy picked up these macaroni and cheese balls to try out. They are baked, so I had to get up early, but they cooled down fairly quickly. I hope that she likes them because I still have half a package to use up.

There is a lot of empty space which bothers me, but I didn't have a whole lot in the house small enough for those little spaces. We have the macaroni and cheese balls, some leftover turkey with hoisin sauce, a carrot and cucumber salad dressed with a little sushi vinegar and a scattering of mini heirloom tomatoes. I love their colors! I packed it all in her stainless steel bento because I thought that with the main attraction it might be too much food. Of course she probably isn't going to eat the turkey or tomatoes and the salad is a toss up.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

200 Bentos!!

I just realized that if you count the bentos that I posted on my facebook today marked my 200th bento!! There were a few repeats, but I tried to make them all unique in some way. Anyway, just wanted to mark the occasion.

A Little Decorative

I have made a little challenge for myself and that is to make a bento that is not only nutritious, but is also decorative once a week. Usually I do try to make it visually appealing, but I don't always cut out cute shapes or anything. Notice I didn't say "Charaben" (those are the cute character bentos). The reason for this is two fold. One is that I am not that talented. The other is that I have found most of them seem to be made with white American cheese and colored somehow. They are cute, but American cheese rarely tastes good with what I usually put in her bento box. Since today is her last school lunch for the week, I tried to make this one decorative. It isn't much, but still pretty.

The cucumbers have been cut into "flowers" with a dab of chopped pickled red ginger. The little tomato also has petals, but it is hard to see in the photo. In addition, there are BBQ meatballs, carrots and teeny bits of fried tofu. The bottle contains BBQ sauce for her rice and tofu and I sprinkled plum sesame seeds on top for some contrast. I am sure that with practice I will be making much prettier ones, but this is a start.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Simple meal

Today's bento is pretty simple. We have green beans for Thanksgiving and there were plenty to share, so I blanched and then stir fried them with some red onions, soy and mirin. I doubt that she will eat them, but one can try. I also mixed some finely chopped carrot in with the rice after it was done cooking (she doesn't like cooked carrots) to add some color. We have these little open faced dumplings that we get from Ebisuya that are made with pork and shrimp. Oddly enough, she likes them. I also put some Japanese soda hard candies for a treat.

This one took very little time this morning which is good because I have to get ready for a long school day today. The cooling of everything took the most time to be truthful. I haven't been buying things specifically for bento because our grocery budget was shot with the Thanksgiving meal. At least we will have plenty of leftovers after. Mmmmm, turkey soup!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cucumber Sandwiches

Pippy loves cucumber sandwiches with a mix of mayonnaise, oregano and paprika. Today I made her two shaped like tea pots. I also made an easy potato salad and cut up some carrots, green pepper and apples. Oddly, this didn't take me as long as it usually does, I had everything done an the potatoes cooled in about 20 minutes.

We don't do white bread normally, but it got packed in our bag by accident. Even though it is supposedly "high fiber" bread, we still normally go for whole grain. It turned out to be lucky though because I could draw on it with food markers. On top of what I already said was in here, there is a cut up chicken/apple sausage and some cherry tomatoes. I am not particularly happy with all the bare spots, but hopefully it won't move too much in her bag.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pot Sticker Surprise

The surprise was that there was no rice in this bento. Usually the pot stickers and rice go hand in hand, but I wanted to at least try to make it a bit more colorful. The tomato and cucumber skewers are from Kawaii Bento, thought I don't have any decorative skewers so I just snipped the end with the pointy bit off. I also sauteed some julienned carrots and pea shoots with a touch of soy and sugar. From the stash is a mini blueberry muffin. To fill in the empty spaces I put some dried mango and baby English cucumber slices. I could have stuffed it more, but as I have said before, I am working with what we have in the house in an effort to clean out the refrigerator before I go shopping for Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Full of Protein

As the title suggests, this is a protein packed lunch. Pippy doesn't usually eat meat unless it is in her bento and even then she doesn't tell me what she doesn't eat unless it was really bad. Last night we had steak and I didn't even bother putting any on her plate because I knew that she wouldn't eat it. There are vegetables hiding in there and some fruit, but mostly it is fried rice (with egg) stuffed in bean curd skins and fried tofu. Again, not a lot of variety, but hopefully enough to keep her eating.

The top tier looks messy, but that is the bean curd skins (we call the tofu skins) stuffed with a yummy stir fry that has carrots, bell pepper, corn and peas in it. I stuffed a couple of grape tomatoes in there too, but I doubt that she will eat them. On the bottom there is simply fried tofu and frozen mango. It isn't packed as tightly as I like, but I couldn't find anything in the house to fill in the space and still be yummy. Fortunately she keeps it upright when carrying and storing it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I just got the books Kawaii Bento and Easy Japanese Cooking this weekend. The bento are so cute! Pippy liked them, but the problem is that she doesn't like nori, which plays a pretty pivotal roll in most cute bentos. The soy wrappers are great for sushi, but they are too light colored to contrast well with rice or most any other food. I might try easing her into it by just making some faces and see where it goes from there, but I won't be able to until my Winter Break kicks in.

Speaking of cute, I don't normally do cute bento. Usually I get up very early to make her lunch, but I still take 20 minutes or so putting together a bento. Part of this is that I usually don't plan ahead like I should. I always mean to, but then stuff gets in the way.

Today's bento is not cute, but is pretty healthy. Ideally, she would be having more than three "sides" to the rice. I love the idea of making many dishes and cramming them all in the box, but again, time is a factor. I am hoping that the Japanese cookbook will give me some ideas, as well as the Kawaii one. It is hard having a child who wants Japanese food, but dislikes "fishy" flavors. 

I didn't bother getting the rice in the shot. We all know what it looks like and it just makes for glare when I try to photograph it. On the left is a quick carrot salad made with carrots, raisins and some cucumber with mayonnaise. The center is the leftover chicken cutlet from last night dressed with ketchup. I don't understand the attraction, but that is the way she likes her breaded chicken. On the right I tried to get a little fancy by doing bias cut cucumbers. You get them by slicing on the bias, then turning it 45 degrees and doing it again. It makes an interesting shape, and with winter you have to do something fun to make the food interesting since the local produce is pretty scarce here in the north east.

Monday, November 15, 2010


When we went to Ebisuya I picked up a nice piece of octopus for takoyaki, so I made it this morning since the weekend was sort of a blur. My first batch stuck to the pan, but that may have been because I was impatient. I really need a takoyaki pick because using toothpicks was not fun. The rest of the bento is incredibly simple. Pippy actually didn't want anything with her takoyaki, but I insist on some greenery.

I am trying to figure out how I did this with chopsticks the last time. They aren't as brown all over as I would have liked, but hey, I am still a novice. I put some sauce in her bear bottle and some Kewpie mayonnaise in the monkey container.

Here is my incredibly simple takoyaki recipe

2 2/3 c. flour
2 1/2 c. dashi stock
2 eggs
cooked octopus I have used squid before, but you may want to cut that small and put it in raw as precooking made it rubbery.
chopped green onions

Mix the flour, stock and eggs. Pour into preheated and greased takoyaki pan. Place some chopped cooked octopus into each hole and sprinkle some green onion in. Cook until browned on the bottom side and spin it 45 degrees so it is on its side. Scrape any bits of batter that fell between the holes into the takoyaki. Let cook until browned and spin them another 45 degrees, allowing the bottom to brown. I had to use toothpicks for turning them, but you can use a special pick for it, which is probably easier.

Additions to the batter could be some tempura scraps and bonito flakes. You could also add those teeny dried shrimp to it while it is cooking. Pippy and I don't like things to taste too fishy, so I make it pretty plain. This is a blog for a picky child after all.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Today's bento features a dish that Pippy loves. Okay, she may not love the broccoli, but she does love her fried tofu. I found a package of tofu at Ebisuya that is actually four blocks, which makes the cutting much easier. It also helps because I don't have to waste so much, the rest of the tofu goes back in the refrigerator for another time. This bento only has three items: Fried tofu with broccoli and "fruit and vegetable sauce" and orange segments.

As you can see, I didn't bother taking a picture of the rice, it just causes glare anyway. The lunch definitely needs some red, but I couldn't fit any in. On the side is a little bear bottle that I am using for extra sauce.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Running Low

We are running really low on basics in this house, which makes the bento a bit challenging. This getting paid every other week thing is going to be tougher to deal with than I thought. Add to my already hectic schedule and we have an empty pantry. I am also running low on creative ideas. There are a few things I could do, but I am thrilled that Just Bento will be coming out in America soon to get some new recipes.

I made a fried rice with the leftover rice from yesterday (which was a frozen leftover from another day) and fried in some red bell pepper and carrots, eggs and a sprinkle of green onion. The divider is made from long strips of carrot that I made using the vegetable peeler. There are also some "baby" carrots, a rabbit apple and some cookies. 

I can't go shopping today because I will be in school the whole day, so I hope that I can come up with something else for tomorrow. It may end up being a sandwich day, we will see.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Full of Ick

Yesterday my sweet daughter made her own bento because I was sick. When I got up to take her to school in the pouring, driving, cold rain, she said that she would walk and I was to go back to bed. That's my girl! Needless to say, I don't have a picture of that bento. She made herself two onigiri and some chopped apple. At least there was a fruit in there!

Now she is sick. I almost sent her to school because they get all kinds of upset when kids don't come in, but then I remembered how bad it was for me and that she could be infecting a bunch of other kids and she is staying home. I did make her a bento though.

Today's is made out of things I had in the freezer, including the rice. I did add some blanched broccoli and grape tomatoes to round things out though.

I would also have a picture of my birthday cake but my eldest wasn't as happy with it as I was, so I figured she didn't want me posting it. It was cute though. I like crime stuff, so she drew caution tape on it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Giving Red Bell Peppers a Shot

Today's omelette has strips of red bell pepper in it. She likes raw bell pepper most of the time, so I thought I could make the egg colorful. Warning to those who want to try it, be careful of how much you lay in there. I put too many sticks in and it oozed out the sides. Thankfully it remained mostly whole.

I was also admonished about the heavy handed use of bottle teriyaki sauce yesterday. Apparently this one is too spicy for her. Usually I make my own, which is sweet, but I found this bottle at Trader Joe's and thought I would give it a try. We will use up the bottle, but it looks like I will be making the sauce after that. 

What is noticeably missing is some fruit this time around. I didn't realize it until I had stuffed everything in there. There is a technique that some who make cute bento use which is to outline the box on a piece of paper and draw things out. I may give that a try. Also, planning ahead is much better than winging it everyday. Even when I try to think about it the day before I often have trouble coming up with something. Next week there will be a plan, even if it is just a loose one.

She hasn't complained about the cheese yet, so I put in the last of the cheese in her box today with a couple of grape tomatoes to fill it in. I discovered a terrific natural "baran" to use to separate things in the box. Thinly sliced carrots. You just use the peeler and make strips of thin carrot. You can use this method on many things, but I think the carrot is probably best for use as a divider. As you can see, the omelette is a little wonky, but I love the way the red pokes through. At the end are some English cucumbers sliced up.  The only thing that I purchased special for this bento are the grape tomatoes so I guess this qualifies as a pantry meal.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Teriyaki Kind of Day

Today I went for quick and easy. Well, in part that is due to me trying to use up what we have in the refrigerator before it goes bad. We wasted too much food this week by not cooking up stuff. The trouble with this is that not a lot of it is good for bento. I made do though, and it was put together in about 15 minutes total, including cooking the meatballs from frozen.

In the deep tier I have some meatballs that simmered in teriyaki sauce, carrot sticks and some corn and peas from the freezer. On top of the rice is the teriyaki sauce left over from the meatballs and some black seseme seeds.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Stash Fixin's

Today I used Pippy's onigiri box for some muffin tin quiches. I don't know why I hadn't thought of it before. They are kept away from any foods that might make the puff pastry damp this way. It also cuts back on the portions in the lower part because it is smaller than a regular box. This is good because the quiches are high in calories, and while she isn't on a diet, I like to keep her portions under control.

I also made some hash browns for them, making this a breakfast theme, complete with sausages. The sausages are the little summer sausages that my husband got as samples. There is also a little salad of baby spinach, dried cranberries and a bottle of raspberry dressing.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Poor Pippy

By now she is probably so sick of Korean BBQ that she would never want to see it again, and I don't blame her. It is delicious no doubt, but I don't want it going bad so she has had it in all of her bentos for the last week. Next time I will freeze a portion of it for later rather than keeping it fresh in the refrigerator.

This bento is nothing spectacular, and I am only posting it out of habit more than anything else. It was "clean out the fridge day", which may overlap into the next couple of days.

On the top are shaped onigiri. They look better in person, but I think if I were to use these molds again I would use salted water to dip them in rather than using spray oil and color the rice different colors to make them look like more than some clumps of rice. On the bottom I layered a bunch of baby spinach on the bottom of the tier, then put in three quail eggs, BBQ and a quick potato salad. I forgot to send her with some soy. I was very late this morning, and cooking everything really made me even more behind my regular bento schedule.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Two for the Price of One

Today is one of Pippy's friend's birthday and she asked me to make a bento for her. The inspiration for the jack o lantern eggs came from a friend on Twitter, notabrownbag. She made me feel a little more confident about my knife skills. We are still using up that BBQ. Good thing that it is so delicious! There is also a pear in there because her friend is allergic to apples.

On the top is the BBQ, some sliced pear, a cheese round and some grape tomatoes and an egg Jack o lantern. On the bottom is buckwheat noodles seasoned with sesame oil, rice vinegar and soy and with purple sweet potato leaves and carrot half moons. The carrots weren't big enough to make leaves. I swear those Japanese made cutters assume some gigantic carrots are available.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Bento Box!

My ecolunchbox finally came in. I have been so excited for this. Pippy went for the oval one, which comes with a seal able container for the inside which I didn't use today. The bag that is comes in is so cute and there are napkins and a bamboo combo fork and spoon (not a spork though). The insides are nothing special today. I have to clean out my refrigerator because I know that there are some good things in there to be had.

Pretty normal lunch for today. Rice with a dollop of pickled ginger and some pickled daikon radishes cut like deformed hearts (the radish wasn't completely round), more of the Korean BBQ because I can't let it go bad and for some reason H-Mart doesn't sell them in small containers. I also cut up some carrot sticks and nestled grape tomatoes in there to keep things steady.

This is the box all packed up. I will have to take some pictures of the bag and napkins at one point too. Really great quality product.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Snuck Some Spinach In

Today's bento is a variation on ones I have done in the past. The Japanese omelet is always a hit, but I did add two "new" things to it. One is spinach that is cooked with a little soy and the other is a Babybel Cheese round. I am hoping that she at least tries them. She said that it looked pretty, so there is a chance of it.

I am not making one for myself today. I just don't want to carry in another bag, partially out of laziness and partly because it is a rainy day and my other bag is cloth. Of course that means all I get for lunch is one of those candy bars masquerading as a health bar. Still, loads of fiber and protein, so it isn't all that bad.

Today's bento features a plain Japanese omelet, cooked spinach in soy sauce, grape tomatoes, English cucumbers which I use because they have less water content and the cheese round. The rice has a pale umeboshi (I am not sure what the difference is, I was hoping they were less salty, but that wasn't true) and is sprinkled with plum sesame seeds. I will admit, I was very sleepy this morning, which didn't help with the food preparation.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Bolstered by yesterdays rousing success, I decided to try something a little new this time. Sushi. No, not the kind with fish, though if she likes it I may use crab sticks next time. Pippy does not like nori one bit, so I thought sushi was out of the question. The soy wrappers are pretty narrow, so I wasn't sure it would work. Lo and behold I did get some semblance of sushi out of it using the leftover sushi rice from yesterday. This is my first go at making sushi rolls ever, so be kind.

For some reason the sushi came out blurred on both photos, but here it is. Inside the sushi is some cooked purple sweet potato and carrot. They are wrapped in yellow and green soy wrappers which showed up nicer than I thought they would since they are so pale. In the other tier is the Korean BBQ pork again, we can't let that go bad, some grape tomatoes and a blueberry muffin from the stash. There is also a very simple potato salad that I made this morning since the water was already boiling. Under is all is a nice thick bed of baby spinach. Believe it or not, this took me about 1/2 an hour to make, of course the rice was ready to go, which helped. Now there is the clean up!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bean Curd Skins

I got the idea for the bean curd skins from another blog, but I can't remember which one. These form pockets in which you can stuff rice or whatever else you want. Between that, the Korean BBQ pork and the quail eggs, this is a protein packed lunch, which is actually good for Pippy. She generally won't eat proteins at regular meal times but is more inclined to do so at lunch.

I made one for myself also, but I have a feeling it isn't packed tightly enough. I got some fun things while at H-Mart and Ebisuya, but I didn't pick up that much in terms of fillers. I found the purple "yams", but they aren't as bright as the usual. I tried steaming some slices, but they came out hard and unappetizing. I will try again another time.

It isn't easy to see the pockets on this picture, but that is what the rice is packed in with some chives on top for visual interest. On the other side are the quail eggs on top of broccoli. I didn't do anything fun with the eggs because I am not sure of my decorative knife skills and because dear hubby forgot to start the rice before I got up (a great time saver). On the other tier is Korean BBQ pork with some sliced English cucumber and grape tomatoes.

You can see the skins in this picture. I should probably mention that I made the rice sushi flavored for interest against the bland skins. I have basically the same thing except for the broccoli because there wasn't much room for it. Still, I need to pack this box better because unlike Pippy's, mine gets tossed around a lot.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Summer Sausage

Summer sausage is not the main ingredient, but it is the title because we have never had it before. Let me back track a little. My husband has recently started applying for all kinds of samples. The one we got in yesterday were teeny packages of bite sized summer sausage. They were so cute I just had to add it to the bento.

I am running out of different things to put in her bento lately. Mostly I am having issues with proteins as she is picky about that. I could serve her BBQ meatballs everyday and she wouldn't complain. Also, the vegetables are getting a little old. She doesn't really like the winter vegetables available here, and finding red things that aren't those awful winter tomato? So hard.

Today we went with a fried rice, the summer sausages on a bed of baby spinach and a couple of decorated apples. Maybe tomorrow we will go with a sandwich, but of course no peanut butter due to an allergic table mate.

The fried rice has carrots, onions, green bell pepper, peas, rice and egg. I also seasoned it with just a little soy sauce and mirin. On the right are the sausages, a checkerboard apple and a rabbit apple. I will eventually make a good rabbit apple, but I need more practice, and maybe a sharper paring knife. In the back are some pita chips that I added to fill in the space so it wouldn't shift too much. You can barely see it, but there is a bed of baby spinach under the sausages.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jack O' Lantern

I found a pumpkin cutter in my bento supplies and it fit the carrots perfectly, so I went with it. Pippy desired a sauce of some kind, so we went with hoisin sauce.

Her friends at school don't believe that I get up and cook in the morning, but that I just heat things in the microwave. That isn't entirely untrue, sometimes I do use leftovers or a frozen convenience food that is heated in the microwave. More often though I actually do the cooking first thing in the morning, as I did today. What makes it easier is that she likes most of her vegetables raw, so I don't always have to cook those.

She ate yesterday's bento right up. I didn't ask her about the broccoli that I had tossed with some mirin and a touch of salt, but judging from the empty box, my guess is that she liked it. Her only complaint was that there wasn't enough dumpling sauce. Apparently it has a much lighter flavor than soy. I don't see it, but I don't have to eat it.

On the bottom is Pippy's favorite thing, rice, covered with hoisin because the little bottles don't have enough for her, plus it is thick and I don't have an appropriate bottle. On the top I cut out some pumpkin shapes with carrots and daikon pickles. The front one has a little face that I punched out of nori with a nori punch. Next to that is some chicken thigh strips that were sauteed and then simmered in some hoisin. I found some snow peas that were in excellent condition, so I put those in there too. What you don't see is the figs I placed under the carrots for height.

While I am by no means adept at making bentos, I am getting better with the packing of them as I go along.  It helps that I now have boxes with bands, whereas last year her box didn't have one. Towards the end I started using a thick rubber band though.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sometimes You Just Have to Wing It

Okay, I didn't completely wing it. I had some idea before I went to bed that I had frozen rice and potstickers, but how to add color? I wasn't clear on that part. Fortunately, I had a pomegranate, baby spinach and carrots to help me out. I miss all the produce of the Spring and Summer, though I am okay without the hot days.

The little lump in the middle of the rice is umeboshi. I know that it isn't the bright red that they usually are, but that is the way they came. I was hoping that they would be a little less tart then its brightly colored sisters. The pomegranates are in the little blue silicon cut and nestled over bean sprouts are some cooked broccoli that I mixed with a little mirin and a touch of salt for some added flavor. No soy, because I didn't want to discolor them. The potstickers are self explanatory, but underneath them are sticks of carrots and baby spinach. On the topmost tier, where the chopsticks live, I spelled out Pippy's name with cinnamon alphabet cookies from Trader Joe's. The P is actually a backwards nine and it took me forever to find and A, but I did it, LOL.

I really have to start planning bentos again. They come out so much nicer if I at least have a bit of a plan ahead of time to work with. Just Bento has a print out sheet for planning the weeks bento. I have used it once and it is helpful for organizing what you have and some tentative meals (there are always last minute changes in my experience).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Yaki Onigiri

I think that I got this right. It is an onigiri that is baked or fried with some soy on it. I didn't not make them this time, but found them at Trader Joe's, so I thought that I would give them a try. They are in both of our lunches. Pippy's lunch has some bare spots, but I had nothing really to fill it in with other than baby spinach and that didn't look right. Mine seems to be packed tighter, but I had room for some zucchini, something Pippy does not like.

Pippy told me that her friend thinks that everything I make for her is done the night before and that I don't make anything from scratch for her, either at night or in the morning. Today I only did the one thing in the morning besides heating up the onigiri, but normally I do make everything first thing. I tend to cook just enough for the family the night before, so it is rare to have leftovers to use. I think that it is cute that her friends think about her lunches at all. I mean, how often does your child come home and say "Martha had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and I think her mother made it the night before"?

This is Pippy's. The yaki onigiri is on the top with some cut up sugar snap peas. I would have used the onigiri box, but these were smaller than I normally make and the onigiri box doesn't have a lot of room for extra things. I also made the traditional Japanese omelette but with baby spinach leaves on the inside. I just realized that I forgot to pack ketchup for that. There are also figs, because I still have quite a few and don't want them to go bad, and in the cup there is frozen mango. I love this because even if it doesn't thaw by lunch time it is still yummy.

This one is mine. I have basically the same thing except I only had one onigiri and I have some cut zucchini and a cookie. I tried to fit a cookie in Paige's, but it wouldn't fit, so I told her she could have some when she gets home.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Make it Pink!

The reference to the title of this post is from Sleeping Beauty. The fairy godmother's were arguing over whether her gown should be blue or pink. When Pippy was little she dressed as a fairy for Halloween and would touch everything with her wand and yell "Make it pink!!".  Okay, it was cute at the time.

Everyone has been making pink bentos for Breast Cancer Awareness month, so I thought that I would try my hand at it. I failed pretty miserably though. I didn't have any red food coloring for the eggs, so I tried to make a dye with old beets I found in the produce drawer. It wasn't as intense as I hoped that it would be. Maybe I should have shredded the beets and used less water for extraction.

That being the case, the egg shaped "heart" (large eggs don't seem to take to my egg molds very well) is a very, very light pink and I hope that the pickled ginger and the shirt I used for the backdrop will suffice. I have no idea where they are being entered as I think that there is a place to do so.

For the beef teriyaki I had a large top sirloin (London broil) that I cut into small pieces and froze so that making a small beef dish would be easier in the morning. I find that if you cut them into strips first you get frost bite faster and the meat loses more juices in the cooking. The sauce was the first time I used a bottled type, so I hope that she likes it.

Awe, the heart is barely even visible in this picture. On the top, from left to right is a blueberry mini muffin, the "pink" heart shaped egg and some teriyaki steak. Under the muffin and egg are sugar snap peas cut on the bias. There is a little monkey container that has mayonnaise in it for the egg should she choose to give that a try. Below is a bed of white rice with four heart shaped cut outs of pickled daikon and it is surrounded with the dark pink pickled ginger. On the top is a fish shaped container with soy in it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuna, She Will Have to Deal.

As the title of this blog expresses, my daughter is a picky eater. Now, since I have introduced bento to her, her tastes are expanding. Despite that, there are some things that she doesn't want in her bento. Kim chi was a very bad experience for her as it stunk up the whole cafeteria (and I dare say her locker), lesson learned. Hard boiled eggs are on the list for two reasons. One, I can't get her to try them (not even those cute quail eggs) and two, she is afraid of the smell. The other item, which this bento is about is tuna. I don't know for sure if she would be okay with cooked tuna, but she doesn't like the canned in her bento, though she does like it normally.
Well, today I said tough cookies about the tuna. I found these adorable pocket breads that were the perfect size of a bento. She isn't keen on peanut butter and jelly, and bananas (her topping of choice) tend to go pretty brown no matter what you do to them. Egg salad is out because even though she loves my potato salad which has a fair quantity of boiled eggs in it, she doesn't want to try it. So, I went with the tuna. I get it packed in oil and find that it doesn't smell that fishy in that form. I can only have tuna occasionally now because of this, but it is so much better than the water packed variety.
Since I will be in school all day and into the evening, I also have a bento for today. Same basic ingredients, but in a one tier box instead of a two tier one.

Here are both of them. Mine is on the left and Pippy's is on the right. Both have those sweet little pocket breads (we used to call it Syrian bread when I was a kid) and a lettuce cup with the tuna. I did this to avoid SBS (soggy bread syndrome). We also both have carrot medallions. I was going to cut them into these sweet fall leaf motifs, but the carrots I have aren't wide enough. Under the carrots and the figs in Pippy's are sugar snap peas. I have never enjoyed them, as peas aren't my favorite. I will eat them when served and am not disgusted by them, but I am not big on them either. They are all nicely stringed. This is probably why I don't like them much, my mother wouldn't string them so I would end up with a mouth full of non chewable fiber. Expect more figs as I have a passel of them to use up.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

That Girl and Her BBQ Sauce

I usually ask Pippy what she wants for her bento the day before if I didn't have plans already. This week I didn't make plans because of the holiday and because I have been studying the Spanish really hard which takes up a great deal of time. Today she wanted BBQ meatballs and rice. I know, not terribly original. I did try to shake things up a bit with some black mission figs though. I see all these beautiful vegetables that others are using in their bento and honestly the only unusual think I have ever found was the purple sweet potato at H-mart. Problem is, the girl doesn't like sweet potato, and honestly, it isn't all that great cold, it seems to get a little dried out.

I did splurge and order from ecolunchboxes because all the cool kids were doing it. A little expensive if you ask me, but I am going to be using it as soon as it comes in. I am pretty excited because it is an oval with a small nesting container with a resealable top. I am trying to come up with something cool for it. I don't have a lot of bento boxes, but I am gathering a bit of a collection. The first ones I bought are kind of out of commission. They were cute and came in a bag with two short handles, but no band to hold the boxes together. The bag on one is so faded from many uses and Pippy's got moldy because she didn't wash it out in time and the plastic wouldn't let go of the moldy flavor.

Wow, that looks so much better on the scarf! There is the prerequisite rice covered in BBQ sauce, and on the top there are carrot sticks underneath, a poorly done apple bunny and some black mission figs cut in half to show off the pretty insides. On the other side of the divider are BBQ meatballs and barely cooked broccoli. I generally under cook the broccoli until it just turns bright green then stop the cooking in cold water. Pippy prefers most of her vegetables uncooked, so this is a compromise. Shockingly, she did eat some roasted carrots last night without me having to prompt her. This is probably due to her not eating any chicken and being quite hungry. Still, she mostly ate the potato and I don't think that she even tried the roasted red onions which were fantastic. I may or may not do a pink box this month, I haven't decided yet.

Friday, October 8, 2010

End of the Week

Wow, I am tired. I can't wait to sleep in tomorrow and catch up on some sleep. I slept past my alarm again. It seems to get worse as the week wears on. I doubt that the stress of school is helping much.

Fortunately, we had some chicken nuggets leftover from dinner the other nights, (last night was corn chowder and there wasn't any left, LOL). This was hastily put together. A friend of mine gave me her old phone but I have to sit down and figure out the settings and how it works. I did try to get a few pictures, but they were either washed out or ended up being video and not pictures.

Yep, I tried to spell the word "Love" on the rice with pickled ginger. At least it can be read, I really am tired this morning. The bottom is washed out, but there are all white meat chicken nuggets, sugar snap peas, a couple of bitty grape tomatoes and a half a plum. In front of the plum is a cut green container holding ketchup and the other bottle holding soy.

Hopefully Tuesday's lunch will be better. Happy Long Weekend to those of you who get one, and have a great weekend to those who don't get Monday off.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Not a Bento Bento

I am getting too old for this. I could barely get out of bed this morning, and when I did there was not enough time to make her a hot lunch for school. Still, I did do it bento style with this cute sandwich box with Hello Kitty on it and a plastic container for some munchies. There is even a vegetable! Paige seemed a little disappointed, but that could be that she was also exhausted. I am thinking of implementing an afternoon nap for when I am home *laugh*.

You can't see the entire sandwich because I wanted to show off the cover. The sandwich is just turkey, ham, provolone (which she ended up liking yesterday) with mustard and the crusts cut off. If you look close you will see that there are carrot sticks in the space at the top. In the other container there are baked pita chips and some apple crisps. The crisps are the things that look like cheesy poofs without the cheesy.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Deli Skewers

Pippy is staying home today. She has been showing signs of pretty bad allergies, but now has a sore throat and I don't want to have her walking home in the cold rain if she doesn't need to. Also, it is only a half day, so she won't be missing much.

Nonetheless, I did make up a bento before making this decision. We don't get deli often for two reasons. The biggest is expense, that stuff is expensive! The second reason is because it has a lot of salt and nitrates in it, and even though you will see what seems to be a lot of soy sauce in her lunches, that is at least controlled. You never know how much is in the deli meats. Also, it is a treat.

In the top section is some naan leftover from our dinner of chicken apple sausage the other day. I sprinkled some grape tomatoes to give it some color. On the bottom are a bunch of star shaped carrot slices and some rolled ham, turkey and provolone cheese that has been sliced and put on a skewer that fits the box perfectly. The brown things on the bottom are dried figs. She likes dried fruits normally, so I thought I would give these a try. Don't forget that they have a pit. I sliced and took them out to avoid choking or dental disaster.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Shooting Star

Okay, it isn't the best shooting star every, but you work with what you have. We had some rice in the refrigerator which makes perfect fried rice to which I added cut up snowpeas and some carrot along with the mandatory egg. The only protein in the dish is the egg, the rest is vegetable and fruit.

As you can see, the fried rice at the top is quite colorful. You don't need a lot of soy for flavor like you get at Chinese restaurants, just a bit will do. I also add mirin for some depth of flavor. On the bottom are some apples and broccoli. One apple slice is cut like a star and there are streamers of sliced snow peas and apple to make is a "shooting" star. One thing that I didn't notice was the bare spots under the apple. This is usually a bento no no, so I should be more careful. Paige thought that it was pretty though, so I guess that is all that really matters since she is the one eating it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Flower Bento

I was looking at my old bentos on Facebook and realized that I haven't made anything cute in a while. I am not someone who can do the characters or intricate work usually, but I can make some flowers.

Yesterday I made a batch of plain meatballs that were only flavored with some garlic powder. That way I can use any sauce (or none) without the flavors clashing. There are enough for quite a few bento in there, but Pippy likes them so they won't go to waste.

On the left there are meatballs underneath as well as stringed snowpeas. Don't ever let them tell you they are string-less, it is usually not true and it is gross to eat them with the tough string still on them. On top of that I have some daikon pickle flowers and a bunch of grape tomatoes. I have no idea if she has been eating the tomatoes or not, but this batch were sweet like a fruit (which they are, I know). On the right is a bed of sticky rice with two flowers made of one strawberry, halved and fanned and I used the snow peas to fashion stems and leaves. I know I can do this everyday, but I need to make the lunches more fun sometimes.