Tuesday, September 30, 2008

tues 9/30

So these are the last bentos of the month. Thank you all for sticking with me this first month! I am, sadly, in a rut. Tomorrow I will be attempting to add a little more "cute" into my lunches.

Today's lunches were tuna salad, crackers, cucumber butterflies and grapes.
Snack bentos had grapes, flower shaped sausage and cucumbers, and some jalapeno cheese slices.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday 9/29

The pink two-tiered cat bento was actually purchased from the Japanese History Museum.
Today's lunches were spam musubi, tomatoes, and edamame in the first tier. Sliced plums, brie cheese and a couple of edamame pods for color. Devin's also had some crackers.
Snack bentos were shaped and colored eggs, beef summer sausage, edamame and a piece of birthday cake from the weekend.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Wednesday 9/24, Thursday 9/25 & Fri 9/26

Bentos for wednesday, thursday and friday.

Here are those cute new boxes from Sugarcharms

Wednesdays lunches were turkey and cheese sandwiches in the top tier with pickles on the side. Bottom tier had tamagoyaki, surimi, Lil Smokies flowers and cherry tomatoes.
Snack was turkey and cheese rolls and cherry tomato skewers, crackers, laughing cow cheese wedge and sliced apples, blueberries for Bryce.

Thursdays lunches were grilled salmon, brown rice, green beans, cherry tomatoes, and fried mandoo.

Snacks were sausage and pepper cheese skewers and fruit salad.

Fridays lunch was pigs in a blanket, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, carrots with ranch dressing in the cup, and edamame.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Visions of grandeur and tues 9/23

When I first got interested in bento, it was because of images of amazing Charaben bentos like this one. I had visions of waking up early and creating masterpieces like this cat for the kids to take to school. As soon as school started, reality set in. I've tried some character bentos and they've taken me nearly 3 hours to make and weren't even in the same league as this crazy one.

These are the best that I can muster up at 6am

Today's lunches: Steak fingers (these are a favorite of mine to pack and I make them at least once a week. They are done the night before, so I don't have to cook them in the morning), cherry tomatoes, rice with soy sauce and furikake. Second tier is more edamame and jalapeno cheese bread.

Snacks: A slice of brie, rice crackers, and grapes.


Excerpt from Washington Post article http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/05/AR2007060500414.html

Based on traditional Japanese cuisine, the concept of goshiki (five colors) calls for the cook to include at least one dish from each color group, thereby creating a meal that meets various nutritional needs and is pleasing to behold.

Red or orange Carrots, kabocha squash, red bell peppers, umeboshi (pickled apricots), kidney beans, dried cranberries, akajiso (also known as red shiso), kidney beans, adzuki beans, tomatoes, salmon, pork, beef, oranges, tangerines, watermelon, strawberries, raspberries, apples, salsa

White Rice, enoki mushrooms, daikon, tofu and soy products, caulifl ower, feta cheese, white beans, potatoes, bamboo shoots, turnips, renkon lotus root, white fish, chicken, onions, white sesame seeds, bean sprouts, pears, leeks, garbanzo beans, hummus, jicama

Black (also purple or brown) Black olives, mushrooms (shiitake, maitake, portabello), sea vegetables of kombu, hijiki, wakame or nori, black sesame seeds, eggplant, gobo (burdock root), red cabbage, grapes, prunes, raisins, black cherries, grape leaves, figs, plums, blackberries, blueberries, purple cabbage, tapenade

Yellow Pineapple, yellow beans, eggs, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, grapefruit, nectarines, peaches, lemons, yuba, squash, plantains, banana

Green Broccoli, spinach, green beans, green bell pepper, cucumbers, asparagus, aojiso (also known as green shiso), fava beans, cabbage, sprouts, broccoli rabe, edamame, scallions, nira (chives), kiwi, celery, kale, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, pesto

The Second Rule Try to employ goho, or five cooking methods. Choose from grilling, frying, simmering, steaming, pickling and boiling.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday 9/22

Here are todays bento boxes. I tried to dress up Bryce's plain blue with some cute penguin belts.
Lunches were pork cutlets, cherry tomato skewers, polenta heart with cheese. Second tier had half of a mini meat pie that I made yesterday, sliced strawberry, and more tomatoes for a filler. There was also some roasted asparagus spears tucked in the side.
Snack bentos had sliced white peaches and cantaloupe.

how long does it take?

One of the questions I get asked most is, "How long does it take to cook for and prepare your bento?"

My typical answer is not that long. The actual packing of it takes less than 5 minutes.

The cooking takes longer, but I hardly ever cook things just for bento, except maybe for tamagoyaki. I cook 90% of the food that I eat and am used to cooking for myself so I don't find it to be too much of a hardship. But for those who don't cook regularly, I can definitely see why bento would be intimidating.

There's ways to make simple things just one and re-use them in different reincarnations, though. It really saves on the cooking time.

For example, the broccoli rabe I've been eating since last week. I sauteed it in olive oil and garlic and ate it on its own for a couple of days. It took maybe 15 minutes to make from start to finish.

bento 9.16.08

bento 9.18.08

After a few days, I added it to some leftover pasta I already had.

bento 9.19.08

Other re-use ideas:
-include it in tamagoyaki (or quiche or frittata)
-make fried rice with it
-include it in pasta salad
-put it in a sandwich wrap
-throw it in pasta sauce
-throw it in some soup

That way, even with the same ingredient, you get different flavors and tastes out of it, ultimately leading to less time in the kitchen.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ichiban Kan update

Ichiban Kan just got in a spam musubi mold. It is selling for $4.50. I just ordered the exact same one through Amazon for almost $7.00.

Also, they still have tamagoyaki pans (small rectangular egg pan) in stock for $7.50
I have tried to make tamagoyaki in a regular frying pan, and it wasnt pretty...trust me the specially shaped pans are key!

Useful how-to link for us noobs:)

Here are step by step instructions on how to craft a bento.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Bento Bargain Hunt

I went to Target today to peruse the dollar bins. Didn't find much there, but I found some great furoshiki in the kitchen department!

Dollar bins weren't completely fruitless. I found this silverware that would be perfect for a Halloween themed bento.

But my real find were these dinner napkins that were on clearance. $1.48 each and beautiful! Most square-ish cloth dinner napkins are the perfect size and shape to wrap up your bento boxes.

Here is what it looks like wrapped up. Pretty, right?

Side note: You can use a regular bandana. (Target and Michaels have a good selection of them in their dollar bins all the time.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Recipe- Tarako Spaghetti

If you are not fond of caviar or fish roe, this may not be the recipe for you. However, if you do like those things, this is a great dish. My kids are exhorbitantly picky eaters who don't really like pasta. But they LOVE this pasta!! It is supposed to pack well for bento, but again, my picky children will only eat certain foods at certain temperatures and pasta, they like warm. I may try packing it for them as a side dish next week just to try it out.


2 sections of Japanese salted cod roe(tarako or spicy, karashi mentaiko)
spaghetti (between 6 to 8 oz)
2 tablespoons of butter
about 1/4 cup of heavy cream

This is a really quick dish, so start cooking your pasta first.

Here is what the box looks like for this brand of cod roe. I found this in the freezer section at my local Asian market

Scrape the roe out of the two casings.
Melt the butter in your pan and add the roe.

When you see a color change (light orange) stir in your cream.

Toss in your cooked spaghetti. It should look creamy. If not, add a tiny bit of pasta water.

Cut some nori into small slivers on top of spaghetti and enjoy.

NOTE: even if you dont normally like roe, you may want to give this a try. it really isnt any fishier than canned tuna:)

Friday, 9/19

Today we tried lettuce wraps. I used pre-made chicken filling from Trader Joe's. The chicken is in the silicone cups sitting on some lettuce leaves. Rice noodles are in the top left. A small star shaped onigiri in the bottom left. Furkake in the small container. The kids did not love this lunch. I should know better than to pack pre-made food for them. They're picky about things like that. They both ate most of it (begrudgingly).

They preferred their snack over their lunch today. Bite size turkey and cheese sandwiches, pickles and grapes.


Sugarcharms has gotten in a lot of new bento boxes. Here is a style that I have never seen before!

Look at my blog archives under online bento stores for the link.:)

9/17 AND 9/18

Here are both wednesday and thursdays bentos.

I packed Devins lunch in her Laptop Lunch System. I got one for both of the kids, but it is too large for Bryces small appetite.
Pan seared salmon, brown sprouted rice, edamame and furikake sprinkles in the small container. Grape and swiss cheese skewers on the food picks. Yellow cherry tomatoes.

Mine had the same. One of my favorite Hello Kitty boxes:)
Their afternoon snack bentos had tuna salad with crackers and a mini cinnamon roll.

Here are thursdays lunches and snacks.
Spam musubi, edamame and half of a boiled egg in bottom. Apples, and melon jello in the top.

Their snack bentos were crackers with cheese flowers, grapes, and a lunchmeat flower.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

bento tools + tips

A run-down of some of my favorite bento tools and their corresponding tips.

Also, with my posts, you can click the photo if you want to see a larger size -- it'll just take you to my flickr page.

1. sauce containers

My mom found this super fun sauce container in Tokyo. I love it! I use it for sauces, dressing, and ketchup.

IMG_1624.JPGsauce containersauce container

I also have ones with animal shaped caps, like this bear and panda.

bento 7.3 detail bento 8.8

The set also came with an elephant and what I think is a cat.


2. toothpicks

I also use the plain wooden ones, but the plastic ones are just so cute!


Toothpick use ideas:
Keep wrap sandwiches from unraveling
Spear mini pickles
Spear a row of de-shelled edamame to make a caterpillar shape
Alternate cherry tomatoes with little balls of mozzarella and some basil for a Caprese salad on a stick
With the animal-shaped ones, spear rice so it looks like the animals are walking around on top

3. furikake holder

Not just for furikake! You could use them for sugar, sprinkles, mini chocolate chips, salt, pepper, sesame seeds... anything dry and small. Then you can add the perfect amount of salt/furikake/whatever each time.

furikake holderfurikake holderfurikake holder

4. furikake stencils

Again, not just for furikake! It would be cute to use it with confectioner's sugar to add a design to the top of a cake. Or add some artful sprinkles to a container of pudding.

Place the stencil on the rice.


Then sprinkle the furikake on top and around the stencil. Gently lift the stencil and you're left with a shape!

bento 7.20

bento 8.29

Furikake stencil tips (for using on top of rice):
It works best on warm or hot rice
Flatten the rice so you have an even surface
Lift the stencil gently

5. small containers

Let me clarify: small containers to put inside of bento boxes. It's especially useful when you don't want flavors to mix together. I have small plastic containers in a pie-quarter shape, rounds, and squares. I use them ALL THE TIME.

Keeping the pesto separate from fried chicken.

bento 2.11

Or keeping kimchi from spreading its flavors onto everything else.

bento 4.10.08

Additionally, I own two fun shapes; a flower and a bunny.

rice cups from Mama

Here they are in action!

bento 7.31.08

So, what are your favorite bento tools?