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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

First Day of School Bento

I had a plan for this bento, but this is what Pippy wanted, so I went with it since it is her first day of school. She is in 8th grade now, I can't believe it. Originally I was going to go with tea party fare, a cucumber sandwich (her fave), a mini quiche, some scones and other things like that. She on the other hand had a different idea.
My photos of it aren't that great. I am still practicing with light and backgrounds. At the suggestion of another blogger, I may try to create a light box. The only problem with that is that gives me one more thing to store, and my house is pretty filled up. I still can't seem to get the flash to turn off. It is also an old camera, gosh, I think that we have had it for almost a decade now. The images are sharp, which is good, but the options are a little hard to figure out.

This may look familiar. She not only loves rice for lunch, but ate some this morning with bulldog sauce. This has BBQ sauces over the top. On the other tier I made some strawberry fans, snow peas and pickled mango (mostly for color, I somehow doubt she will eat it). On the right are my mini hamburgers that were heated in BBQ sauce. Anything to get her to add some protein to her diet. She is very fussy about her protein.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ground Beef Teriyaki

This isn't a bento recipe yet, but given the praise for this dish that I made up because we have very little to work with in the house means that it will be making an appearance in bentos at one point. I have no pictures because the entire thing was eaten up pretty fast. As far as I know, there isn't another recipe for this, so here is what I did.

Teriyaki sauce:
1/2 cup of soy
1/2 cup of white sugar (yep, it is a lot, this is sweet and salty)
2 tablespoons mirin
2 teaspoons grated ginger (fresh or frozen, it keeps in the freezer a long time)
1 good sized clove of garlic
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

Mix together well and set aside

The "stir fry":
1 pound ground beef or pork or turkey, whatever you like
4 carrots (mine were medium sized)
Handful of edamame beans (they are a pain to shell btw so use frozen if you have them)

Cut the carrots into sticks. Mine were a couple inches long and fairly narrow.
Shell edamame beans if you are using fresh.
Cook ground beef in pan chopping it up until in small pieces
Drain in colander and set aside
Put carrots and edamame into the pan and add about 1/2 cup of water. Cover and let steam about 5 minutes until you can just pierce the carrots with a fork, time will depend on how small you cut the carrots. I suggest trying to have the carrot and edamame finish at the same time.
Take off cover and allow last of liquid to dry up and stir fry briefly. Get the carrots as brown as you like them.
Add ground meat back into the pan and stir together.
Stir the teriyaki again until well incorporated and add to pan.  Reduce heat and allow to simmer a few minutes.
Serve on top of rice.

Not only did my eldest and husband like it, but even more amazingly my youngest loved it too and was even asking for it this afternoon, but there was none left. Carrots and all! This will definitely make it into a bento in the near future. It is perfect to make the night before because letting it soak in the sauce will only make it better.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I made some mini hamburgers and froze those, but I figure that everyone knows what they look like, no real chore there. Today though was a job of love. For the first time in my life I made quiches (or as my daughter likes to say kweeshes). I used a frozen puff dough and rolled it out thin. Then I made rectangles and layered them in muffin tins. To prebake I used some aluminum foil (which is not very thrifty or eco friendly, but they are getting recycled at least) balled up and put inside the cups. They baked for about 5 minutes, then I filled them with the egg mixture and topped with some cheese, and back into the oven for another 25 minutes total. They are not the prettiest things, but they should go nicely in a bento box. Next time I will do better.

I will top them with some chopped chives, green onions or herbs for presentation to break of the pale colors. I am not sure whether I will simply thaw them or bake them the morning of, so that will be an experiment either way. In this picture they are on a tray destined for the freezer so they will freeze individually for packaging.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mini Blueberry Muffins

As I have mentioned before, it is good to have some food for bento stashed in single use packages. In this case I had some blueberries that were headed to la la land, so I cleaned them up and put them to use in this bento fare.  I adjusted a recipe I found on because the recipe didn't have any acid to make the baking powder work and no baking soda. It also had them cooking five minutes longer than necessary. They came out quite yummy.

I am so sorry that I can't seem to get decent pictures in my kitchen. Blame the people who put in the recessed lighting! Sure, that is the reason.

Okay, this isn't such a suck shot. I wish I knew what I did to the camera to get that shot. Anyway, I will be placing most of these on a baking sheet and freezing them individually then popping them into a freezer bag.

Here is the recipe:

Yield: Makes 36 mini muffins

Prep Time: 08 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 28 minutes

•2 cups sifted, all-purpose flour

•4 tsp baking powder

•1/2 tsp salt

•1/2 cup sugar

2 Tbsp powdered buttermilk

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

•1/4 cup soft butter or margarine

•1 medium egg, lightly beaten

•1 cup milk

•1 cup fresh blueberries


1.Grease 24 cup mini muffin tin. Preheat oven 400 degrees F. In medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, powdered buttermilk, baking soda and sugar. Mix in soft butter (mixing with clean hands works well). In separate, smaller bowl, lightly beat egg. Pour milk into egg bowl and stir. Stir wet mix into dry mix until flour mixture is just wet. Fold in blueberries.

2.Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling each cup 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes or until muffins are golden brown and feel spongy. Remove muffins from tin with spoon and let cool. Serve warm or cold with butter.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Almost Time for School!!

I have some new bento equipment and have my list of things to stock up on for easy to put together bentos for school. On Monday and Wednesday I will be making at least two, maybe three because I will be at school from late morning to early evening and will need to have something to eat. I say three because I will also make my eldest daughter some if I can do it. She doesn't start school until early afternoon, so technically she would be fine without one.

Starting out fresh is very exciting. I am a little worried that I have only potstickers and pancakes in the freezer, but I hope to be adding mini quiches, meatballs and hamburgers, fried tofu and other fun foods that can be frozen. I am also going to make a carrot furikake with a recipe from Just Bento since Paige doesn't like any with the bonito flakes on her rice. She doesn't even like the nori, but will let me decorate with it when the soy paper is just not dark enough.

Paige has opened up her mind to many new ideas and is willing to try new things, she even said that she would try fish, and she loved the squid in my last post. Soon I may have to change the name of this Blog! Of course I am getting ahead of myself. Still, she has promised to be more adventurous since I will also be making one for myself and maybe Catherine. She doesn't want us stuck in a rut with the same old lunches all the time. Have I mentioned that she is a great kid?

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Today was the summer festival at my favorite Japanese shop Ebisuya in Medford. They really did a lot with the store and have apparently become a Sanrio distributor. They also had some bento things, which is nice. I won't have to order soy sauce bottles online anymore. We had cotton candy and some traditional takoyaki which my eldest was kind enough to buy for us. The octopus wasn't what I expected. It was chewy, but it didn't make an unpleasant crunch as I thought it would. Still, a little fishy for me, which must have been the bonito flakes. It gave me inspiration to try it at home. I got the pan, and some sushi grade squid which was very cheap and gave it a go. First I had to learn how to prepare the squid. I came out of it with all my fingers and the ink sac intact. What I wasn't sure of what whether to cook it first. With the traditional octopus you boil it first, but the squid was much thinner and smaller. Still, I gave it a bit of a fry before adding it to the batter. I think that we could skip that step next time though. I also used chicken stock rather than dashi for the batter. Oddly, it came out tasting just like the stuff they were selling.  I also made some with just some green onions and no pickled ginger or squid. I am envisioning making them like little desserts also, with some sugar in the batter and maybe a berry in the middle. We will see. They are also very filling.

They almost came out perfectly round, not bad for a first attempt if I must say so myself. I think that I had the pan a little too hot, but my friend "Cooking with Dog" on You Tube said that the pan needed to be very hot. Next time I will turn it down a bit.

Paige also had her 14th birthday on the 30th, so I made her a cake.

The cake itself was just a boxed chocolate cake, but I made my own seven minute frosting with strawberry flavoring. Just what she wanted.