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Friday, September 10, 2010

Broccoli Bites

Today I tried a new product to this family. They are called Broccoli Cheddar bites and are vegetarian plus a protein source. Hopefully Paige will like them. They are a little pricey, but if I am just using them for bento I can make a number of meals out of them. I wouldn't use them for a family meal though, they are just too expensive. The directions called for baking them, but I didn't get up until 6:30 so I pan fried them. I think the trick to any vegetarian protein is to create a crispy crust, so that worked out well.

The reason I have to get up so early for making bentos is that anything that is cooked in the morning needs time to cool down. Somethings cool down faster than others, like rice. You just spread the rice out on a plate and it is cooled very quickly. Things like stir fries cool fast too, but fried tofu can take a while. It is very important that everything is cool before you put the covers on the boxes. The most major reason is that if you close up everything while the food is hot or warm you run the risk of condensation. That will make everything taste the same and make things soggy. Also, dampness encourages growth of mold and bacteria. This can be a big problem. Also, I cook everything that is supposed to be served hot, like meats or in this case broccoli bites before setting up the bento. That will help to discourage bacterial growth too. One of the reasons that umiboshi (pickled plums)is very popular is because it has a natural antibacterial property that keeps the rice in good shape. The same goes for other Japanese pickled products. These items are very salty rather than vinegary, which is a foil to the plain rice that I serve so often.

Today I mixed the rice with some shredded carrot. I waited until the rice was just warm because Paige doesn't like cooked carrots. I thought that this makes the rice appetizing and adds a little vegetable to the box.
On the other tier I made melon balls with cantaloupe with a cute little girl pick (you can barely see it in this photo), cherry tomatoes and the broccoli cheddar bites that are laying on a lettuce leaf to help absorb any oil left on the bites from my pan frying them. There is ketchup in the green container and soy in the small one.

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