Saturday, October 31, 2009

In Spring it is the Dawn: Introducing Hello Japan! - a mini-challenge about Japan

In Spring it is the Dawn: Introducing Hello Japan! - a mini-challenge about Japan

Check this out! Seriously. If you want to have a fun way to learn more about Japan and Japanese culture, this is awesome!

Happy Halloween!

My 'Halloween' bento is to honor the "Hello Japan" challenge that I found earlier in the month. It's a fantastic site that has a different challenge each month to celebrate Japanese culture and encourage people to learn more and maybe try some things that they wouldn't otherwise. That was definately the case for me with this month's challenge: Read spooky Japanese horror stories. Horror stories are something I don't often read, but I took the plunge and went to some of the links provided. I learned a lot about japanese ghosts and 'monsters', including things about Tanuki.

I learned two surprising things about Tanuki. First that they are a real animal. I saw pictures and they are so cute! But I had always thought they were mythological. Second was about their um...robe/weaponry which is not at all what it seems and is a bit surprising.

Also I truly enjoyed reading the stories by Lafcadio Hearn who compiled Japanese ghost stories in the late 1800s. One of the most fascinating things for me was the similarities to the Celtic fairy tales that were compiled in Scotland and Ireland by Joseph Jacobs during the same period. It was mainly the narrative style that reminded me of the Celtic stories, however it struck me that the stories in both areas had similar aspects. The fact that they were trying to have some understanding and control over scary situations by explaining them in terms of 'otherworldy' phenomena was clear. And it brought to mind the fact that no matter what culture you grow up in, all humans basically fear the same things and our imaginations run in the same direction when given the opportunity by the things around us.

Now back to the bento! On the left there were one large pumpkin onigiri and one small, both with broccoli stems. Some Morningstar Farms chik nuggets, carrot maple leaves, a cherry tomato, and some baby corn spears. On the right was a large amount of udon noodles in peanut sauce with broccoli and a tanuki on top. Mr. Tanuki was made of bread, fruit roll-up and white cheese with a huge carrot hat behind him and an udon noodle hat-tie. He looks kind of silly instead of scary, but I'm not good at the scary stuff! I did want him to have that hat straight behind which is a traditional depiction.

Thank you, Hello Japan! I enjoyed this challenge so much and I can't wait for the next one!

The rice colors aren't showing up very well in the photo, but the Jack o lantern is orange rice and the robot head was yellow rice. Nori was used for the faces, a broccoli stem for the jack'o'lantern's stem and whole cloves for the robot's antennae. Carrot ribbons were a great addition to the bento for fun! A-chan loves to eat carrot ribbons. There were also some garbanzo beans in a half moon shaped tin with a feta ghost on top. The feta had a hole in it just where the ghosts's mouth needed to be!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bunny Sandwich Bento

Can you guess that this was for my daughter? The featured ingredient: the pink mashed potatoes. She had started refusing to eat mashed potatoes though she's eaten them for years! I made an off-hand comment about "would you eat them if they were pink?" and she said yes. are pink mashed potatoes. And she really did. And she has continued to eat them if they are pink, go figure! The pink color was acheived by means of food color gel.

Also included were a peanut butter and honey bunny-shaped sandwich, apple, peas and feta on skewers, baby tomatoes, chickpeas and a flower of soy turkey painted with blue food color as an experiment. While she loves the pink potatoes, the blue soy turkey was apparently very suspicious and didn't get touched. She did say that it was very pretty though.

I've seen a lot of people on Flickr using the black sesame seeds as eyelashes and I thought it was a fantastic idea! It's so cute :)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Candy Corn Picnic

On our way to Alabama my daughter and I had a picnic at a park. We shared this huge bento and had a good lunch despite the rain! This bento is all about fall. There are corn cob haybales and 'apple' trees made from broccoli and soy hot dogs. Cheese maple leaves and candy corn onigiri. The candy corn onigiri make me very very happy!

Candy corn has always been one of my favorite Halloween treats, but I hadn't been able to find vegetarian candy corn in years. I finally found some this year and bought four whole bags of it! My little girl is definately enjoying it just as much as I. In my turn, I was thrilled to finally be able to share this holiday treat with her! She loved the idea of candy corn onigiri. This is one of the things that I did with the fall colored rices from a few weekends back :)

The remainder of the ingredients are veggie gyoza, fried tofu sticks, blackberries, an apple picnic blanket, sesame carrots, some baby tomatoes, a babybel cheese round, hello kitty soy sauce bottle and one bottle of sriracha sauce.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Early Snow Bunny Bento

A-chan has been asking when it's going to snow. Apparently a few chilly days equates with winter and snow in her mind. So here is a snowbunny bento! Vegetarian japanese curry on one side and on the other a small onigiri with cucumber ears and nori face, pretzel sticks, baby tomato halves and corn in a cup.
We've been resisting the urge to pull out the electric blanket and turn on the heat. It's only been in the 50s but for us that's cold! Plus it's been raining like crazy. Yesterday we had 75% indoor humidity - we haven't been in that much humidity since we were in Bangkok. We're soldiering through it but I have to say I can't wait for some sunshine.
I'm also gearing up to do henna at a Bellydance convention tomorrow which means I have a batch of henna paste curing on my kitchen counter. The entire house had the scent of lavender from the essential oils this morning which was lovely! But it seems to make my nose go haywire when I'm cooking. I realized today that the curry I made last night was extra spicy maybe because I was counteracting the lavender? Little girl didn't seem to mind at all so I'm hoping that she will start getting her spice tolerance back soon!!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Huge Carrot Flowers

This bento was all about drama! Dramatic pink rice, dramatic japanese curry featuring edamame, dramatic enormous flowers cut from huge asian carrots. I lined the bowl of the bento with the pink rice, filled up the center with curry (carrots, potato, onion, edamame, green peas and tofu in the Vermont Curry sauce). Cut out the flowers, placed them dramatically on top, topped them off with circles of nori, sesame seeds and shiso furikake. Then shoved in a few spikes of spring onion for extra drama!
Since I haven't been able to get online for a few days I'm working on a backlog of bentos. This one was for me to have as a dinner bento when I returned from teaching a dance class that occurs during my normal dinnertime schedule. It was so nice to have this waiting for me!!

Monday, October 5, 2009

First School Bento!

Yay! I did it!! The first school bento was a success. A-chan requested the rolled sandwich and character face for this bento. The saran wrap on the sandwich made it hard to photograph (at least for me). I was very nervous making this bento which is very silly. It's so nice to know that she liked it and I can't wait to do another one next week!
Top partition: 2 huge blackberries, steamed broccoli, baby tomatoes, one carrot heart, one fried tofu ball, one tiny veggie dog octopus.
Bottom partition: rolled peanut butter and honey sandwich wrapped in saran wrap and tied with embroidery thread on the ends, pokemon face of cheese, nori and pickled ginger. Steamed broccoli, mozzarella cheese, carrot heart and another blackberry. Hidden underneath the sandwich were a hello kitty soy sauce bottle and a hello kitty candy.

Problem area - Veggie hot dog: I can't do anything pretty with veggie hot dogs. They just don't want to cooperate :( I tried to make a pretty flower with this one and worked on it for about 10 minutes before giving it up as hopeless. Then I inverted it and put on the face to make a little octopus instead. It turned out well, I think it's cute - but it's not what I had intended to do.

Bonus - The sandwich wrapping: It kept the character design perfectly in place while I positioned and repositioned it to make it fit AND have the face visible :) It was also great because I didn't have to worry about the broccoli and blackberry making the sandwich soggy!
She ate most of it at school, though apparently she found the piece of candy and didn't want to eat anything else after that. The only things left were the tomatoes, one piece of broccoli and the little octopus. As soon as we got home she wanted to eat the rest and I soon had a very empty bento box to wash :)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Weekend Bentos

We had to be out for lunch while I was doing henna all morning and afternoon, so it was a perfect excuse to make bentos! The doggy above has a missing tooth because my little girl lost her first one on Friday. There was almost a disaster with the tooth which came out while eating corn on the cob: it was almost lost when I was over-efficient in the plate washing. Luckily we found it and put it in the tooth pillow for the tooth fairy. In relief and in homage I decided to do a cute doggy who had lost a tooth. A-chan definately seemed to like it!

The doggy is a Boca chik patty sandwich and hamburger bun, part of the patty was cut off to make the ears and paws. The bows were cut out of carrot. Mozzarella cheese and nori for the face. A tulip cup full of chick peas, baby tomato halves and tiny cubes of feta took up most of the bottom portion of the box, with just enough room left over for two miniature potato pierogies and a HUGE blackberry.
All of the same stuff was in my bento as well, with a few differences. My sandwich had habenero BBQ sauce on it. I got a pick with three carrot circles. More blackberries could fit into mine so I put in a few extra to give A-chan. Also there were two babybel cheese rounds hidden beside the sandwich underneath the extra blackberries.
I had a wonderful time with the henna designs and met some very nice people. A-chan also had a great time and her bento did a fab time of picking up her spirits just when she was starting to get bored.

Rice Cooking Day

Today was rice cooking day! I think I wore out my poor rice cooker. Three batches of rice to put in the freezer: one white, one yellow and one orange. Fall colors were definately going through my head :) My little girl and I made rice balls out of some, and put some in storage containers and then froze all of it for easy bento (and dinner) making later in the week and probably next week too.

I'd almost forgotten what it was like to have a Sunday at home. We've been so busy lately - this is literally our first weekend at home in about 2 months. And the next three weeks we'll be away again. But for now I'm just glorying in the ability to be at home and prepare for the week ahead without feeling rushed!

Along with the rice cookery, I'm making fried tofu to freeze as well. I'm sure that there is more that I could be doing, but the rice and tofu will have to do because we're going to see Ponyo this afternoon! Yay!!!

A-chan's interest in bentos has really taken off - she's been making pretend rice balls for a while (including some out of playdoh) but today she wanted to make real ones all by herself. She made a rice ball by hand and then several using moulds - her favorite was the hello kitty one. It was such a wonderful time to spend together. Even easier than making cookies together!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Funky Birdies

I had absolutely no plan in mind when I made this bento. My only goal was to use up the leftovers from ChooChoos the night before.

Teriyaki tofu, mozzarella cheese clouds, korean veggies, rice with teriyaki sauce, baby tomato birdies with spring onion tails, house full of cheese cubes, nori kitties watching the huge birds.

I'm not very happy with how it looks, though I think the birds are cute. The artistic part of my brain was on vacation!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Day in Africa Bento

I suddenly realized for no reason at all that I hadn't made any Greek food in a long, long time. Then I couldn't get it out of my head! So I had to make a Greek food filled bento. I love how the lion turned out, I just think he's way cute :)

Top tier: Vegetable pie with cheese & soy turkey giraffe, tomato flower with cucumber leaf, greek baked potato and blueberries.

Bottom tier: Lion body is of couscous, mane of soy turkey and face of cheese with nori and carrot detail, carrot ears and paws. Hiding behind the lion's head are some garlic bagel chips. Steamed broccoli, greek meatballs (in this case the recipe is altered to be vegetarian) and a blueberry with an elephant pick.

School Bentos in 4 days...

My daughter is going to Pre-K this year. It's her first year of school ever and it's only a half day, I pick her up at noon. So I've never actually had a chance to send a bento to school with her. But on Monday that is changing! She will start going to Lunch Bunch at School on Mondays while I teach my dance class and that means I get to do school bento!!!

I'm really excited about it. In fact, I dreamt about bentos last night! My girl has a list of kyaraben that she wants me to make her for school. She and I looked at yesterday to see if they had "special school bento stuff" that I could get for her to make it a little more well, special for her since she's already used to having bentos. This is the first time she has actually shopped for bento stuff and picked out things for herself, it's soooo cool! (The items that were necessities: the soy sauce bottles shaped like pigs and a pikachu bento box)

To be absolutely sure that everything is perfect for the first school bento, I'm planning ahead. I already know exactly what I'm going to make and have pre-thought all the ingredients and steps. We'll see how it goes. So excited!!!