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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

Sushi

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.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Having a Hard Time Getting Going

I was so exhausted that I slept through my alarm not once, but twice. My husband had to come in to wake me up. That meant a speedy bento for Pippy. I used my mini hamburger stash and snow peas for the main course and grated some carrots to make her rice pretty. Hopefully there is enough sauce in the meat for her rice, because I forgot the soy sauce. I also used strawberries as a filler with the checkerboard apple on top. I had originally tried for a bunny, but that ended horribly with people in tears.

So, her lunch isn't terribly original, but that is usually the case.  When I get some money I plan on trying out some new ingredients on her like shrimp and such.

The cloth behind the bento is the bag she takes it to school in. I also added a couple of mini blueberry muffins on the side, so we did use a sandwich bag today. The is really a bad bento because it isn't filled up all the way. I should have built up some fillers on both sides, but again, not really with it this morning.