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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pasta and Sauce

Pasta and Sauce, Macaroni with gravy, whatever you call it the dish amounts too pasta with tomato sauce. We had it last night since I had one of my long days at school and it was something my eldest can fix. When it came time to clean up, my youngest asked if we should save it. Now, despite being pretty frugal, my first reaction is no, because no one ever eats it and then I have more to clean out in the refrigerator. My youngest child surprised me when I asked if she would eat it though, she said yes. Yay! There was still a lot thrown out, but she got her pasta in her lunch box today.

I am also trying out boiled edamame for the first time. I tried it and she will either love it or hate it. It has a nutty flavor, but is unmistakably a bean. I hope that she likes them because they are a good source of protein.

Along with the pasta I cut some English cucumber into sticks and some carrots into flowers. The edamame is on the side in the pods. I was barely able to make the carrot flowers because the diameter for the carrot was just wide enough and they aren't perfect. I hope that it made the meal a little better than just leftovers.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Simply Delicious

Today was super easy. We had some yummy chicken last night simmered in an excellent homemade teriyaki sauce with rice and broccoli. Lunch is pretty much the same thing, but although I used some broccoli florets for decoration, her main vegetable are the pea pods.  I also added some strawberries for something sweet. This wasn't what I had planned, but how could I resist? I also cut the chicken smaller for easy eating with chopstick.s

Poor kid has some serious allergies going on, or it is a cold. She has no fever, so I couldn't justify her staying home, but I did dose her with some Claritin and Tylenol. It is going to suck for her walking home, but adversity makes us stronger, right?

As usual, the rice is washed out because I can't make my camera not use the flash. You can also see the dark circle from something being set there. It is clean though! Unfinished wood can be a pain. As you can see, there are the left overs on the right, separated and the pea pods and strawberries on the left. Not my best work, but a good lunch, especially compared to the school lunch, nonetheless. Oh, and the bottle has more of that yummy teriyaki sauce. It really is good, I should post the recipe sometime.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lotus Root

Today we are trying a little something different with the same old stuff. I have this bag of frozen lotus root in the freezer because I wanted to try it, but haven't gotten around to it. I thawed them in the microwave then dyed them green. I need better food coloring because it turned about to be the shade of the bento box I was serving it in. On the top of the onigiri is a picture of a dog that I got in the cake decorating aisle at Micheal's. I get a lot of my cutters there. They are fondant cutters that are really sharp, I had one pierce my skin once, so I know.

Besides the rice I have three broccoli cheese bits, a bunch of carrot medallions, snow peas, grape tomatoes, the lotus root and a strawberry. I could barely get the covers on! I also packed a bottle of soy for the rice. Maybe Pippy can give me some ideas for a dipping sauce for the nuggets.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Falafel

As I mentioned on Facebook yesterday, I made some falafel. It is so easy, though I think that if I made bigger burgers they may have fell apart more easily than they did. It was just chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, cumin, salt and some pepper flakes all whirred to a paste in the food processor. Then I added a couple tablespoons of flour, pulsed and ta da! Falafel! The trick to keeping the patties together is to make sure one side is really dark brown before flipping over. I didn't do that with the first batch and a couple disintegrated in the oil.

I also threw together a taziki sauce with a small container of Greek yogurt, some shredded cucumber (squeezed well), garlic powder, dill and some lemon. The hummus was from the store. I have made it myself before, all the way to roasting my own sesame seeds, but I didn't have the time for that, so I bought some.

This one is Paiges. I didn't fill out the bread tier as much as I had hoped, but I didn't want the pita to get soggy.  The taziki is in the green container, hummus in the green muffin thing with tomatoes and a slice of lemon on top. The falafel is nestled in some red leaf lettuce.


This one is mine. Basically the same thing, but I am hoping that it will withstand a bit more knocking around in my book bag.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Stash Bento

For the life of me I couldn't get myself out of bed before 6:30, which means that I made a stash bento today rather than the falafel (homemade) that I planned to make. I will probably make some for the stash another time, like over the weekend.  What I did have were the mini hamburgers, pickled daikon, hoisin sauce and some broccoli.

My husband is so sweet that when he wakes up in the morning (earlier than me) he puts the rice on to cook in the rice cooker. It is usually all done when I am up and that saves valuable time getting things ready. I almost sprinkled some red sprinkles on the rice today, but fortunately I smelled it first and it smelled like fish. That is not something that Paige would appreciate, so I used some plum sesame seeds for some color on the rice.


On the top are daikon pickles cut into heart shapes, a half a plum which should be pretty sweet, blanched broccoli (that is how they stay so green) and the hamburgers cooked in a hoisin sauce. There is also a small bottle of soy shaped like a fish. Below is the rice sprinkled with the sesame seeds as previously mentioned. I also add a brownie to go with her lunch. I don't like making waste generally, but since I was so quick with the bento I thought that a treat was in order.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Onigiri

This is the first time I have used the bento made for onigiri, which are basically rice balls, in this case shaped into triangle. I seasoned it with some sushi vinegar to give it some flavor that isn't soy. We will see how this goes. The bottom tray doesn't hold a lot, but I got some protein and vegetables in there anyway.

Yesterdays boxes went over well. While my in my box the quiche got a bit soggy (but still edible), Paige and her friend did not have the same complaint. Everything was eaten, and that is good, though I do think that she skipped the tomatoes though I have no proof.

On top there is a cute little apple that I cut a checkerboard out of. Also, there is the onigiri with the sushi vinegar and sprinkled with two kinds of sesame seeds. On the bottom are raw green beans, more grape tomatoes which were incredibly sweet and the Japanese rolled omelet that I have made before. She really loves those and with the rice would gladly eat it much more often than I make it.


Since I have never used this one before, here is a picture of it all packed up. The box itself is an artificial lacquer that I got off of Jbox which runs out of Japan. I love their stuff.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Qweesh

Quiche, or as my daughter calls them "Qweeshes" are part of my bento stash right now. I made them a month ago with some puff pastry and an egg mixture inside regular muffin tins. I am not yet good at judging the size, so there was considerable overages on the puff pastry, but that was cured with a little snipping.

Paige has started to get to know a new (to her) child at school. She complained that her friend had to eat the lunches school provides. Apparently she is pretty much on her own most of the time as her father has to work three jobs to survive. It is pretty sad. Today I made her a bento too. I won't be able to do that a lot of course, but this bento was easy to make into three except for me trying to find filler for the spaces.

I also fried up all of the potatoes from our pot roast (I made stuffed peppers with most of the meat for last nights dinner). I just mashed them, added salt, pepper (they weren't well seasoned) and some garlic powder. I mixed that up and put it in some oil heated in my cast iron pan. There are some nice crispy bits, but there wasn't enough for three. Heck, there was barely enough for one, so I am just having more watermelon instead.


On the left is my daughters (I couldn't fit in a picture of her friend's). She has quiche, a sausage patty, tomatoes and watermelon. On the bottom she has a blueberry muffin from my stash, dried cranberries and the fried potatoes with some parsley on top. Yes, I cheated, but I didn't have any other green that would go (spinach would have been great for this). Mine is about the same but with no potatoes. I don't need the carbs anyway.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

BBQ Pulled Beef

Today's bento is using some of the mass quantities of pot roast that we had left from last night. Yesterday was a long school day for me. I woke up at 5:30 to prepare bento and the crock-pot for dinner and didn't return home until six. I won't get into how exhausted one of my professors makes me feel whenever I am in class. All that aside, the pot roast we got was five pounds!! It was on sale, but wholey moley! Now I have plenty, so I will be using that instead of ground beef in some stuffed peppers for tonight, and this morning I added some prepared BBQ sauce and let it simmer a bit and cool before putting it into her lunch box. The rest is pretty standard. Did I mention that I am tired?

Besides the beef, she also has a mini blueberry muffin from my stash, some raw green beans cut up and half a plum, without the pit.  It is too bad you can't see the blueberries in the muffin though, it would have been a nice color to see in this.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pork and Shrimp Dumplings

Yes, you read correctly. My daughter is eating something with shrimp in it. This is not a new thing, but I never blogged about which is silly because I also like to share the good with the not so good as far as her eating habits go. She hasn't risen to the level of actually eating shrimp in general, and she still doesn't want nori to touch her food, but this is a start! I am starting to see some progress with her. She eats more of her chili with less tortilla chips and she actually ate half of a half breast of chicken at one point. I really think that she would like being a vegetarian (I don't see her as vegan), if she will just give different beans a chance. One battle at a time though.

I didn't make one form myself today. I know that come 1:00 I am going to regret that decision, but I just can't bring myself to want to eat right now. Maybe I will nom on a "energy bar" at school. The quotes are there because they are really roughage bar with sugar, LOL. Sugar does nothing for me. Now my kids? They get a sugar rush according to them and also according to them, that makes me weird.

There is also a rice level, but it only has a bottle of dipping sauce with it, nothing interesting. I don't know if you can see, but the carrots have hearts cut out of them and both pieces are used to decorate. Some day I will work on making one of those really cute bento that are out there, but I have neither the creativity, nor the energy to do so in the morning. The dumplings are sitting on a bed of red leaf lettuce. The carrots and lettuce are the only organic things in the box. My shipment hasn't included cucumbers and it never includes melon, at least not yet.

Friday, September 17, 2010

It is time for it to go

The camera I have is well over 10 years old. I haven't purchased a new one because I am big on keeping things until they are worn out beyond repair. Now I have to make a decision (if I ever have any money). One of the batteries doesn't work at all, which does not bode well for the other battery of approximately the same age, and we are down to one card that holds only a handful of pictures. Add to that options that don't make a whole lot of sense (the manual didn't make it any easier) and I think that it is time for a new one. Of course, the pictures I take aren't wholly the fault of the camera, I kinda suck at it too, LOL.

The bento today was only for Paige as I am not going to be at school until late today. Fridays I have it pretty easy school wise, though I am going to have to get to my Spanish homework before I leave. Her box is filled with rice, potstickers, cantaloupe (the last of it) and some cucumbers shaped like flowers. I tried to make a cheese teapot to cover the rice, but I was impatient and put it on while it still had a little warmth in it. Paige appreciated the effort though and lesson learned. I will make her a cute bento at some point, I am determined!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Basic Lunch Today

You won't see chips with this sandwich, though if I had the energy I would have fried up some carrot chips or something. Between school and the weather I just want to stay in bed and sleep. I love the cold, but it isn't cold enough to turn on the heat which makes it difficult to crawl out of my nice warm bed.

The sandwich is a cucumber sandwich. I used an English cucumber because it has less water and I made a spread with mayonnaise, paprika and oregano to coat both sides of the bread. This should also help keep the bread from getting soggy.

Besides the sandwich which is a nice hefty whole wheat with the crusts trimmed, there are also carrot sticks, grape tomatoes and sliced apple which was dipped in some salted water to keep them from browning. This is a very simple meal, but she will like it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Two Little Maids at School

Paige and I both needed lunch today.  I packed us both the same foods, but each are packed a little differently. Paige had the two tier box which holds more food and I have a single tier box. I have to be honest though, I am finding that it doesn't completely fill me up. Maybe once I get used to it, after all in the past I never ate lunch at all. The contents are listed below the pictures.





















First off is the fried rice. This was done at Paige's request a couple of days ago, but yesterday was no school and the rice has to sit in the refrigerator at least over night to dry a bit. This one has carrots, snow peas and baby corn with egg scrambled in. It is seasoned with soy and mirin. I use far less soy than most Chinese restaurants, so it is quite a bit healthier. On the other side is half a plum, carrot sticks, 1/2 a fig (the green kind, I am not sure how it will taste), and some more pickled daikon. I really love that stuff and it is fabulous with the salty rice.  I just wish that I had something red to go in there, but I woke up very late, so I didn't have time for a full refrigerator search.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Noodle Rama

Instead of rice I am trying some udon noodles. My only fear is that even with the vigorous rinsing they will still be sticky. I stir fried them in some sauce, so hopefully that will help. We are also trying a new Japanese pickle. This one is a bright yellow daikon radish pickle which Catherine likes a lot. The rest are some old standbys. I fried the tofu before realizing that I have other left overs in the refrigerator to use up, so that will be tomorrow. I have a heavy school day, so I will have to do this before I go to bed.



While the top picture isn't bad, I was in a rush to take a picture of Paige's bento. There are the noodles and the yellow stars are the daikon radish. There is a bunch of cantaloupe balls because we have some left from last week and need to use it up. With the melon there are a few cherry tomatoes and an apple bunny. To the right there is some plain fried tofu.

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.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It is a Family Affair

Today I made three bentos. Well, actually two and one bowl for my eldest who will be home for lunch. All three had a beef stir fry with rice for the main course. It took me about 20 minutes to make them all as my husband starts the rice when he wakes up so it is ready for me to cool and put into the bentos. When I got home from dropping off Paige it took me about 15 minutes to clean up. That is quite a bit of morning time being sucked up, but I get up early to counter balance it. The fact that I had cooked the green beans last night for dinner helped to speed up the assembly process.

This is the bowl I prepared for my eldest. I scattered some red bell peppers on the top for additional color since the green beans were a little pale.










This one is mine. It is in a small box because I want to keep my portion size down. While I am not actively dieting, I am looking more closely at serving sizes. This one also has some cantaloupe and English cucumber for filler with a bottle of soy.










This one is Paige's. It isn't the prettiest one I have ever done, but I know that she will like it.  The beef stir fry was done in a marinade of soy and mirin and then I stirred in some green beans from last night. Because she gets a bigger box I was able to fit in more melon and cucumbers.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Potato Salad

Okay, potato salad isn't the main player here, but I had to cook it this morning and I am pretty happy that it really took very little time to make. Rice is an important part, as usual (but look out, I am branching out to Udon noodles soon) and it was fun giving it a little decoration. The picture isn't great as usual. I am thinking of getting a new camera at one point. Looking for great quality for cheap. Aren't we all?

The bottom tier has rice decorated with raw carrots cut into hearts. Plain rice just gets so bland after a while. She does put soy on it when she eats, but it needs a little pizzazz after I set it up.
On the top there is fried tofu that was drained and blotted and then reheated in a pan with some hoisin sauce. Over on the right I have a cup of potato salad that I made this morning. It was really easy. Slice the potatoes thin and it is done in a flash. Also in it are some salted English cucumbers that were squeezed out. I learned that from Cooking With Dog, let's see how she likes it. I skewered a few cherry tomatoes with green jewel picks and cut some snow peas in half after stringing them, and finally some raspberries for a fruit. I think I got the major colors in there. The raspberries weren't very good. I bought them yesterday and some had fuzz on them. I picked around that and washed them well and smelled them. No mildew or anything so they are fine. As my Gramma would say "that is how they make penicillin, it can't be all bad!" She was a product of the depression, so she threw very little out.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Rice and Eggs

Paige wanted me to make a Japanese rolled omelette (tamagoyaki) for lunch today, so I did. It is very easy to do. Just beat an egg (or 2 if you want a lot like I did) and pour in a light layer in a hot pan (a rectangle or square pan is easiest, but not necessary). Allow it to cook and then roll it towards one end while it is still wet. I used cooking chop sticks which made it pretty easy. Then, pour another layer, lifting the rolled egg a little so that some of the new layer gets under there. Roll it in the opposite direction and do it again or until all the egg is gone. Sometimes I put a little mirin in there for flavor, but I forgot to do it this morning. If you want to be completely traditional, you will want to flatten it a bit while it cools down. Then cut into sizes that will fit your bento box. Also, you can layer some baby spinach or other delicate cooking green on top of each layer and then roll. I love doing that because it is so pretty.
As per usual, there is rice in the box with a container of soy. I am probably going to use noodles next week sometime and am still ironing out the wrinkles in my tea time bento idea. I also made an apple bunny and a checkerboard apple for decoration. She will actually eat snow peas, so I rinsed and strung them for her lunch.

Along with the peas I peeled strips of carrot to mix up the color a bit and added a couple grape tomatoes. On top of the egg is a bear cut out of red pepper. It didn't come out as clear as I would like it, but the thought was there.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Potstickers it is!

As usual I asked Pippy what she would like in her bento today and she immediately said "Pot stickers", so I had to use them. The ones we have are more like dumplings and pretty big so I took a bit of doing to get the three in there. I am either getting better and packing bento, or this new box is perfect for me. I will take pictures of the whole box that was got at Ebisuya this summer. Right now, I will just post pictures of lunch.

The browned dumplings are on the left with a few cuts of uncooked green beans to fill it in and give the dish some green. On the right of the divider are two mini blueberry muffins that I made a few weeks ago with cherry tomatoes to fill in the spaces. On the top of that mountain is a little monster head, I LOVE it. So cute. She is also packing a container of soy for her white rice which is in the other container (not shown).