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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Onigiri

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

Leftover

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

Takoyaki

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

Tofulicious

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.