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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Running Behind Again

I had a rough plan for this bento, but didn't work it out until I woke up half and hour late at 5:30. Suffice it to say, there is only one cooked from scratch dish. I also reheated some meatballs from a bag we got at Costco a while back, sliced up some apple (I love pink ladies as they don't brown very fast) and some frozen vegetables. I must apologize in advance for the crappy picture quality, I only took one picture because of time constraints.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sweet and Sour Tofu

Well, yesterday's bento was a bust. She didn't touch the crab salad or the edamame and only ate half her noodles, though she did eat a couple shrimp. So, no more crab-stick for her, but I may add edamame off and on to see if she ends up liking it.
Today's bento is pretty straight forward. I tossed some cubed and drained tofu with some sweet and sour (bottled) sauce after sauteing to get them nice and brown. I also shredded some purple cabbage and carrots and doused it with some sushi vinegar. She also has cucumbers and grapes. On the very top I added some Flipsides (TM) for something crunchy.
I tried to make a blue egg sheet but it was too thin and flimsy to use. Maybe next time!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Best Laid Plans

Last night I had this plan for bento this morning that didn't come out the way I had hoped. Today is a seafood day, but I didn't plan on enough food to fill up the rest of the boxes. I also made one for Catherine, so there wasn't a lot of noodles either. Today we have shrimp sauteed in a little garlic and lemon, crab-stick salad, mangoes and edamame. The udon noodles are tossed with a little ponzu and mirin. One of these were going to be mine, but I decided instead to leave it for the eldest so she will have something to eat in school.
If you are thinking about doing bento, or have already started you may want to look at this auction: Bento4Japan. 100% of the proceeds (everything but shipping) goes to a charity in Japan to help them through this terrible time. I just got the auctions I won and couldn't be happier.

Also, take a look at one of the others I got:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Friday and Monday Bentos

I forgot to post Friday's bento, so here it is today. I thawed out the ground beef soboro and laid that on top of the rice. On the side is some uncooked baby spinach (which she likes), grape tomatoes (that she doesn't like) and broccoli and grapes which she likes well enough. It was very simple and took me about 10 minutes or less to put it together minus the cooling time.

Darned blogger wanted to make this text centered. Well I showed them with my HTML Fu. This next one is today's lunch. Again, this is pretty speedy. She has rice which is separated by green leaf lettuce, a tamagoyaki made with soy and mirin, snow peas and grapes. I expect an empty box if she is given enough time to actually eat.

A little rant about her cafeteria. She has eaten lunch there exactly twice all year. I paid for one meal and Pippy said that she put one on credit during my break because she didn't want to be bothered to make a lunch. Now they are saying that I owe them 6 dollars. This has been happening for the last three years and I can't seem to get them to believe that they are making a mistake. I am having the same problem with the library. She owes money on a book she never took out. They say she took it out when she was five, but I would have known and she refused to take out a book at that age. I love computers and all, but I have issue with the folks who like to mess them up.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

One of Pippy's Favorites

I have learned that the Korean barbecue was not her favorite. She ate some and said she liked it, but there was a lot left behind and she doesn't like to hurt my feelings. Yesterday's meal was gobbled up, and the curry with rice balls that I didn't post also was eaten completely. So, that is the progress report on what I can get Pippy to eat.
Today is very simple. I took out Just Bento's "hamburgers" that I made a while ago from the cookbook and doused them in some barbecue sauce. I think put a line of the sauce on the rice because she loves that combo. I also stirfried some beansprouts with snow peas and stuffed some tomatoes, which will not get eaten, in between along with a "baby" cucumber cut in a rolling bias.
Everyone who doesn't know yet, the bento community has an auction going on at ebay called Bento4Japan.
I also won some bento from Bento Fabulous which is a fun site to get ideas from, plus- I got a purple panda box!! The other two are also very nice, but...purple...panda... the cute!

I also made the background cloth. Because I couldn't find double sided cloth, I put two sections together and sewed them together. It is a little bulky, but it does the job when I don't have a bento bag to go with the box.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Fried Rice and Fruit

Yesterday we had curry leftovers which Pippy loved so much she wanted to take it to school in a thermos. So, the curry, which had mini rice balls in it rather than meat, went into a heated thermos for her. While nutritious, it was not very photogenic.
The same could be argued about today's bento. On the top there is a simple fried rice (egg, carrots and peas) and on the bottom there is kiwi, oranges segmented and halved grapes. A little more vegetable would have been good, but I was feeling a little lazy and wasn't sure how to fit it in the shallower tier.
Don't forget! Many bento artists from Twitter are holding an auction for Japan relief efforts. It is at ebay under bento4japan.

And don't forget "What's For Lunch Wednesday"!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

Spring break is over, and so begins the morning ritual of bento making again. Today's bento was relatively simple, but I did add a couple of decorative touches to it. The rice is self explanatory, and I put a pitted pickled plum on it for color if not taste. Maybe she will give it a try again since it is an acquired taste. In the big section of our bunny bento, there is a checkerboard apple slice, carrot flowers decorated with cut outs of a white carrot. Steamed broccoli in my newish microwave steamer, which I am loving so far, and some Korean barbecue pork. I had more to add, but there wasn't enough room.
Happy Spring everybody, and if you get a chance try this auction that directly benefits charity for Japan: Bento4Japan which is through ebay. Things are getting added all the time, so you can just keep checking.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day Dinner

The reason I haven't been posting bentos this week is because I am on Spring Break. In the past I still had to get up early and make Pippy's bento and get her to school, but this year she volunteered to do it all herself so that I could get some much needed sleep. As a result or as Pippy said "because I am lazy" she has in fact not made bento, but usually a sandwich and a couple of times money for a school lunch which she said that besides the fact that she can't tell what it is, it was pretty good. 

Instead of bento, today I am posting my "boiled" dinner. The reason it is special is because I tried a different cooking method this year. Boiling meat has never been my favorite smell and all that water leaves the corned beef very tender, but tasteless and impossible to slice into neat slices. The cabbage always comes out waterlogged. The potatoes and carrots are usually okay, but because most recipes call for up to 3 quarts of water, they don't gain any real flavor from the bath. My Gramma would do a smoked pork shoulder which could take the boiling, but the corned beef just does not seem to like it as much.
For the corned beef, I pricked the meat on the fat side and stuck in some cloves. Then I rubbed the top with honey mustard and sprinkle brown sugar on top. This goes into foil, and wrapped so that the foil doesn't rest on the fat. Pop it into a 350 degree oven for a couple hours and it is done. I may try to cook it lower and slower, or maybe in a crock-pot to make it more fork tender, but the family absolutely loved it. As you will see in the picture, I need to trim off the fat too. What you get is a lot of liquor from the cooking which you can use to flavor the meat more (but it really didn't need it at all) or the potatoes, which, having only been boiled and tossed with butter might like the seasoning and make it feel like a boiled dinner.
The cabbage got special treatment too. I sliced a small head of cabbage a little thin, then sauteed minced garlic in olive oil. Once I could smell the garlic I threw in the cabbage (I have a huge skillet, for those who don't you may have to put it in in batches as it wilts) and tossed to make sure all the bits have the flavored oil on it. Then I pressed it down in the pan and let the cabbage get a little brown, tossed again and repeated.  My entire family, two of whom used to hate cabbage in boiled dinners, absolutely loved it. It has been asked for a repeat performance.
Sadly, I totally forgot the carrots. I also forgot Cat's Irish Soda Bread, but we were very full and unable to move, so everyone ate well.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bento Salad

I am using the top half of my new tiffin for this one. I got a 2 tier, but it is really big. Thank goodness I didn't get the 3 tier as I was contemplating! This one just came in yesterday, but without the side kick. Amazon was pretty good about since they were just the shipper and the actual seller was someone else. Because of stocking issues my choices were: send it back at their expense and try to re-buy it, with the hope that there would be one in stock, or get 15% off my order. I went with the 15% because this box looks like it could be fun.
Pippy woke me up this morning complaining of being sick to her stomach and vomiting, so she didn't go to school today. She told me that she could eat this tomorrow though, so that is that.
The salad was made for dinner last night with the last of the lettuce, grape tomatoes, shaved carrots and celery. The tamagoyaki is self explanatory, and then there are some rolls that have been buttered. In the sauce bottle is her favorite, raspberry dressing from Trader Joe's, which I think they discontinued.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Nothing Will Be The Same

First I want to tell my friends and anyone else who is suffering because of the tragedy in Japan to know that you are all in my thoughts. I am watching with horror as things unfold and I feel deeply for everyone there. It is difficult to not feel useful in a situation like this, but I would like to recommend to my blog readers that you can donate to the Red Cross specifically for Japan relief. I am not always happy with the Red Cross, but they beat just about any other private relief effort out there.

This is the first bento I have posted in a while. My last one had a horrible picture, so I didn't post it, and on Friday I overslept. Pippy got herself off to school, but didn't make a lunch.

This bento is a new recipe. I purchased Golden Sesame Tofu in the refrigerator section at Whole Foods the other day, and Pippy loved it. A search online found a recipe that was similar, though the ingredients were slightly different than what was on the label. Undaunted, I gave it a try and Pippy gave it the good ole thumbs up. Have I mentioned how much I love the pre cubed tofu? I really do. It makes life so much easier for these types of recipes. With that is simply some baby spinach, raw and undressed as requested, two grape tomatoes and some mango which I also got yesterday at Whole Foods and had to use because it already had a soft spot. I have to check my produce a little better next time. I get lazy.

Below is the recipe for the tofu:

Ingredients 14 ounces extra-firm tofu
1/3 cup honey
3 tablespoons tamari
3 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
2 tablespoons sesame oil (not toasted)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1/4 cup cornstarch or flour for dusting
1 tablespoon Canola oil
1/4 cup sesame seeds, lightly toasted
6 green onions


1.Wrap tofu with paper towels and place on a cutting board. Put another cutting board or heavy plate on top to press out liquid. Set aside for 20 minutes.

2.Meanwhile, put honey, tamari, ginger, sesame oil, vinegar, garlic and chili flakes into a small saucepan and bring just to a simmer. Keep warm.

3.Dry drained tofu with paper towels and cut into cubes. Dust very lightly all over with cornstarch or flour. Heat 1 inch of oil in a deep skillet over medium high heat until it reaches 350�F on a deep-fry thermometer. Fry tofu until golden brown, then transfer to a large bowl and toss with 2/3 cup of the warm sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions and toss gently. Serve with remaining sauce for dipping, or drizzle over vegetables on the side

Read more:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Just Bento Cookbook

It is finally time that I write a review for the Just Bento Cookbook which came out around Christmas in 2010 in America. I wanted to try some of the recipes and use it for ideas for display before writing anything about it.
So far I have made the "hamburgers", which are actually flattened meatballs, chicken kara age, cucumber and cabbage pickles, different soboros, tofu nuggets and broccoli (I used broclaflower) with grainy mustard. All of these my picky child liked. With the hamburgers I actually glaze them in a fry pan with the sauce first thing in the morning straight from the freezer. The soboro is lovely if you cook it leaving some of the liquid in the pan because it mixes so nicely with the rice.  I still have so many things to try in this cookbook! This is perfect for someone who simply doesn't have the inclination, talent or time to make all those super cute bentos that are out there.
Personally, I sometimes wonder about the taste of some of the cute bentos I have seen. Does American cheese really taste good on rice? I have the additional issue with the fact that my daughter does not like nori, which really limits the decorative things I can do with the bento, since that is a staple of cute faces and onigiri. Whether you like the cute bentos or prefer a more sedate lunch, this cookbook has excellent recipes for everyone. If my daughter will eat it, there is a good chance that others will like it too.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Two Days

Because of an early class I didn't get a chance to upload pictures of Pippy's lunch yesterday, so today we have two pictures. The first one is a raisin bread sandwich of peanut butter and orange marmalade with the crusts cut off, some sun chips and her favorite fruit lately, kiwi and a couple of sandwich cookies. Not the most colorful lunch, but I was tired.
The second lunch is today's. For the first time ever, I tried to shape onigiri by hand and failed miserably. I wanted triangles but could only manage slightly wonky balls. One has black sesame seeds on it while the other is plain. Then I cut some apples, one with a checkerboard and the other as a baby bunny. In the side dish compartment there is some cut up roast beef from the other day in bulldog sauce, leftover broccoli, grape tomatoes and more kiwi.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday Morning

Last week I hardly made any bentos at all as I was pretty sick. I was mostly really, incredibly tired. Pippy, rather than taking the money for lunch at school decided to bring nothing. She ended up using her money for lunch.
Today, I tried to make it a little decorative, but also tasty. I made a little salad with watermelon radish, daikon and carrot with a simple rice wine and sugar dressing. I also used some of the frozen crab sticks with chopped celery for a crab salad. She claims to hate celery, but I have never seen her try it, so we will see how that goes over. I made a ham "flower" but it didn't come out as nice as I wanted. Maybe I used too big of a slice. Also, are some pretty looking strawberries. Pippy loves strawberries no matter what the season, but I am more picky than that.  She also had rice, but said she was getting a little tired of rice with soy sauce and asked for dumpling sauce instead, and more of it.  At least it is colorful!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pantry Clean Out # 2

This week I have decided to clean out the freezer and refrigerator of all the bits and pieces we have that are perfect for bentos. I may dig into a box of pork curry buns, but other than that, everything will be made from things that are already open.
Todays bento contains the last three meatballs from the freezer stash tossed with the last of the bottled teriyaki sauce and sitting on lettuce from the other week's produce box. I also used produce from that box for the watermelon radish and carrot salad that is spiked with a little rice vinegar and mirin. We have really been bad about our produce, so on the side is brocoflower tossed with a little curry powder and butter.