Monday, December 20, 2010

Bentos for a busy day

These were bentos from Yesterday. The crazy, wild, incredibly busy day that we had included no time to stop for lunch so I packed us all bentos and away we went! It's been a while since I packed bentos for three and it took me a bit longer than usual so I never got the chance to photograph the one for my husband.

We were crazy enough to try family Christmas shopping which required much messaging back and forth making sure that we didn't cross paths in the mall. And later we made it more challenging by shopping in the smaller space of a bookstore with many more chances to run into each other, lol. Whew!

In the top bento: A tiny layer of rice under a layer of curry rice with potato, onion, carrot and sultanas. A barrier of cucumbers, a couple of veggie gyoza, a baby carrot, steamed broccoli, a container of corn, an apple stocking with mamenori snowflake and provolone top, two tiny snow bunnies with a yummy baby carrot.

The snow bunnies' ears are cucumber peel. The smaller one's face is black sesame seeds and nori. The larger one's face was made by using a nori punch on a baby spinach leaf!!! The carrot's stem is actually stems from baby spinach leaves.

This is my bento, much less cute but still looking tasty! I have the additions of tiny cheese balls rolled in sesame seeds, and some sriracha sauce to decorate the curry.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Catching snowflakes

I'm not sure where she got the idea from exactly, but whenever A-chan hears that it might snow she immediately starts asking if she can catch snowflakes on her tongue. Today's bento was in honor of this annual wintertime quest. After a looooong night last night - we went to my dance class and then picked up my husband from the airport at 11 pm, finally getting home around 1 am - I was completely pooped this morning. I had cooked some corn planning to put it in the bento and then totally forgot about it. It was still sitting on the counter cooling off when we got back from taking A-chan to school. Some mornings require more coffee than others, lol.

In the bento: Two onigiri, two veggie gyoza, steamed broccoli, carrot flowers, apple with heart cut-out and mamenori snowflakes. On the side is a holiday chocolate as a special dessert for the last day of school this year.

The boy onigiri has american cheese for hair, the girl onigiri is sporting the 'odango' hairstyle (I read about that on Wednesday on wikipedia!!) with apple peel bows and nori bangs. They both have nori faces with soy ham tongues all stretched out and ready to catch snowflakes.

The snowflakes were cut using a snowflake punch. I love using mamenori for things like this, the snowflakes look so delicate!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Smiling Candycanes

Let there be cries of joy and resounding rock music throughout the house for A-chan is at school today! Woohooo! It's amazing how quickly we've lost our morning routine. We were so very late today and getting her ready to go was nothing like the mornings from last week. I was really happy to get to make a bento today. It was a little surprising how much I missed it yesterday. Apparently one missed day is okay but two is stretching things, lol.

In the bento: A container of corn, some black olives, two tiny rice squares with carrot ribbons, a clump of grapes, a veggie hot dog, two baby tomatoes and a carrot star. The other tier has three cheese sandwiches with candycanes and provolone letters, separated by rolls of baby spinach. Looking at the picture now I wish that I had used more spinach leaves around the outside edges of the sandwiches too.

The candycanes were cut out of provolone cheese with a Wilton's holiday themed cutter. The red stripes are apple peel. They have black sesame seed eyes and nori mouths, and for the first time ever I'm using sriracha for the cheeks.

The middle sandwich was made from the heel in order to get the different color. Luckily A-chan doesn't mind eating heels and crusts of bread!

For the two rice square gifts, the only way that I could get the carrot ribbons to stay put was to skewer them with picks. It's not quite the way I wanted it but I still like how it looks :)

A-chan loves eating candycanes. Unfortunately she and I are both allergic to mint so we have to be very careful about finding candycanes that aren't flavored with real peppermint. When she accidentally ate a bit of mint last spring she had a pretty bad reaction and I'm kind of torn about letting her eat any candycanes at all this year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Let's talk about Dango.

Since A-chan still cannot go to school today there is no bento :( But I am smothering my frustration with one of my most loved foods, Dango. Super H mart is where I found them to try a couple of years ago and I was ecstatic! I'd been wanting to try them forever. Then last year while I was out in California I had some at the Japanese Garden in Golden Gate Park. They were oh my gosh delicious! When I rhapsodized (is that even a word?) over dango in the bento panel at AWA everyone was aware of how much I love this sweet...

But as I was savoring the yumminess I realized that I knew next to nothing about dango. So I decided to have a bit of a research morning.

These are the things that I knew about dango: They are unfilled dumplings of rice flour that are boiled, skewered and smothered in a yummy sauce. They are a traditional Japanese sweet that are often seen in anime and manga (this is where I first ran across them and wondered what they heck?). They are chewy and yummy and delicious!

I was disappointed when I couldn't find much more than that. Wikipedia has a large article listing the different types of dango, which are extensive! But not much information on where/when/how they originiated.

Just Bento has a great informative article and even a recipe for dango:

But the only link I saw for the history of dango was this:

I would love to know more, but am not even sure how to research any further. Anyone out there who has dango knowledge please share it!!

And the burning question that is left unresolved: Which is the best way to eat Mitarashi dango, straight off the end of the stick or biting on the side? Is one way more traditional than the other?

Dan-go-ah-oh! It's really fun to sing, give it a try!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pancakes again?

Yep, pancakes again. Not that it was said in a complaining tone, quite the contrary it was more of a rejoicing tone :) The heart made from a baby spinach leaf seemed to throw her for a loop, though! She was reassured that it was stuck on with honey which would be tasty.

Somehow I feel like it has already been a full week instead of just two days in, and I'm ready for the week to be over! The pink eye is starting to get better and we're both hoping that she can go to school tomorrow. We spent yesterday baking treats to give to my students and today making origami to give to her classmates. Tomorrow I plan on making holiday chocolates.

In the bento: Mini pancakes, baby spinach, frozen peaches, steamed broccoli, Veggie link sausages, and a baby tomato with a flower pick. In the monkey container was a little bit of strawberry icing for the pancakes.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Abort, abort! Turn the car around!

So today has been a fun day despite the intense chaos that changed our plans for the day. A-chan was supposed to have dental surgery today to remove a stubborn baby tooth that is causing some problems. We've both been dreading it but as it turns out she has pink eye and the dentist office told us to stay away! She woke up with an itchy, red eye with crusties all over it this morning, ewww. Le sigh. So no dentist. But I made her this soft food bento as something easy for her to eat with a hurting mouth.

In the bento: Garlic couscous with xmas tree out of a baby spinach leaf with a pecan for a trunk, a heart container of feta cheese, a skewer of veggie hot dog slices with provolone hearts, several black olives and one baby tomato. The 'star' on the tree is made from corn kernels and the balls are carrot and veggie hot dog.

We spent most of the day making treats to give to away as presents. The blueberry sultana tarts turned out perfect! The divinity, however, did not turn out as divinity. I'm not actually sure what it is. It's kind of like a chewy marshmallow. A really really really sticky chewy marshmallow. Ahh, well. It was my first time trying to make candy and using the candy thermometer. I'll just have to keep practicing!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cheesy snowflakes

This bento is not very cute but the snowflakes were so much fun to make. Unfortunately I am not very good at making snowflakes out of provolone so it took me a loooong time to make some that didn't fall apart :) The whole idea was that the pretty white snowflakes would look really pretty against the tricolor veggies. It does. But....I couldn't take a good picture of it to save my life! So, anyway.

In the bento: The top corner has a layer of orange rice covered with scrambled tofu, green peas, and ohitashi carrots. The bottom corner has veggie hotdogs, mini blueberry muffin, steamed broccoli, baby tomato and a black olive on picks. Baby spinach leaves make a divider.

The snowflakes are made from provolone cheese (my new favorite bento decoration food!) done with various cutters. The large ones were very delicate so I put them onto waxpaper so that A-chan would be able to move them if she wanted. This was an idea that I got from Lia at Bentolicious and I actually remembered it in my time of delicate cheesy crisis!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Warm Pikachu

Pikachu is all bundled up for the frosty days of winter in a nice warm scarf. Thank goodness for my freezer stash! This week has been all about Holiday shopping, not grocery shopping...

In the bento: A pikachu onigiri that was in the freezer, sesame tofu cubes on picks, steamed broccoli and baby tomatoes, carrot stars, 3- cheese ravioli and a small bunch of grapes.

Pikachu's facial details: The cheeks are soy ham, the mouth is nori and soy pepperoni, the eyes are nori and provolone chhese. His scarf is provolone cheese with carrot stars.

I've been enjoying using the provolone instead of the mozzarella lately. It's easier to cut shapes from and doesn't melt as easily - two important things for cute bentos!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ravioli Santa

It's cold! Sooooo cold! I swear that it's not supposed to get this cold here. Am being forced to type in gloves, forgive any typos please :) We had an exciting weekend going to the Tae kwon do sparring camp. There was one heart attack moment when a-chan got kicked in the face. But she was okay, no real injury, whew! The difficult part of the day was finding our way home through all the streets that had been blocked off for a holiday parade.

A-chan has been enjoying ravioli recently. She never pronounces it correctly but I'm not sure if that's on purpose or not....she's also been enjoying trying to trick me a lot these days! When asked what she wanted in her bento she replied, "I want a santa claus!"

In the bento: Several 3-cheese ravioli, including santa's head. Also some steamed broccoli, baby corn, carrot ribbons, baby spinach leaves, and a section of rice with black sesame seeds. On the side is a cling wrap baggie with corn croquettes with a yellow ribbon to tie it closed.

Santa's face is soy ham with provolone mustache, nori eyes and his hat is made from red bell pepper with more provolone cheese. You can't really see the ball on the top of the hat from the angle that I took the photo - but it exists, lol! A-chan seemed to really get a kick out of him. I'm wishing now that I had put some pink cheeks on as well.

I've done what is for me a very daring thing and redesigned my blog, yay! Technology and I are not the best of friends so, yeah, it was hard!! I need some constructive feedback about it, though. Is it okay? Is it horrible? Should I change anything else? What would you like to see on here or is there anything that I could do better at? Please, please, please let me know what you think?!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Polar Bear Santa

This was a huge bento! It was about 3 times too much food for A-chan to have for lunch. I really mean it, it was HUGE. I wanted to do the polar bear a lot, though. So I did even though I knew that she wouldn't eat the whole lunch. I'm not sure, now, what started the desire for making this bento. The last tiny bit of mashed potatoes left over from Thanksgiving were begging to be used for something fluffy! But I think probably it was the pomegranate seeds that needed to become holly berries. You have to understand that I have been trying to get A-chan to eat pomegranates for about a year now. I love them! It's been so hard to understand why she didn't. Pomegranates were part of our Thanksgiving meal and she actually agreed to try them. Ahhh, my dream has become a reality! Now mommy has the last laugh cause she likes them, Yippee! And now I'm having so much fun trying to put them in her bentos, lol.

In the bento: Polar bear face of rice, black olive and nori. Santa hat of red bell pepper, mashed potatoes with black sesame seeds, cucumber holly leaf and pomegranate holly berries.

The upper tier has sesame carrots, Morningstar farms soy sausage links, steamed broccoli, baby corn, a checkerboard apple slice and three homemade gyoza.

On the side is the xmas tree napkin that she colored on Tuesday while I was blogging. I'm not sure what the purple things at the bottom are supposed to be. I think it's very cute though :)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent Calendar

Part B of my day inspired by Karaimame: an advent calendar! For a couple of years now we've had some pretty frustrating mishaps with our paper advent calendars. This is mainly due to the fact that the cats are very curious about these standing papery things which, in their opinions, are perfect things to play with or sleep on. Every day they would be knocked down, dismantled or squished in new and interesting ways. In fact, I was so fed up with it that I wasn't planning to do one this year at all.

Oh, but then I saw Karaimame's post about her advent calendar and my brain yelled, 'Brilliant!' It was way up high where the cats couldn't reach it. It was cute. It could be made to incorporate things both from Christmas and from Pancha Ganapati, which commercially made advent calendars don't do. Perfect! I got so excited! But I wasn't sure what to do, I only had one day! So then I started looking around for really fast ideas and found this calendar at Coffee and Vanilla.
First: There was already a piece of picture wire stretched across part of my living room wall, complete with clothespins. It is A-chan's "art gallery" where we display pieces of art and crafts that she has created recently. Packing away her art took only a few minutes and then I could get down to business. I found a piece of scrapbook paper in my collection with a Christmas theme and cut out bits to tape to the clothespins.

Next: What to wrap? One thing that I have learned is to keep a stock of new things - small toys, crafts and candy - on hand at all times. This is incredibly useful when A-chan has to go to class with me or when we go to a convention, and it proved to be great for advent calendars too! I grabbed some things from 'the stash' and wrapped them up. At the best of times my gift wrapping ability is less than stellar and this time I was in a hurry, so they are wrapped very messily!

Then: I cut 25 lengths of yarn, taped them to the back of the packages and then taped them to the numbered circles. Pancha Ganapati is celebrated by colors and to incorporate that I made all of the colored circles go in order for the holiday. Yellow, blue, red, green and then orange. First I cut out all the circles from craft paper, then arranged them in the color order before writing the numbers. They are hung up randomly on the line, but when A-chan opens them they will follow the color pattern. The randomness makes for a very colorful but somewhat chaotic display!
It's pretty rough - my numbers are handwritten and they don't look very pretty. But overall I am totally delighted with it! And so was A-chan. It was a big surprise and she had huge eyes when she first saw it :) Making the advent calendar was fun and it made me so happy, what a fantastic inspiration!!

p.s. whoa. I meant to just post pictures, lol! But I was so excited that I started writing...and wrote a lot. I'm not sure if I will keep this post here, it seems kind of strange because it's not about bentos or food.

A Totally Karaimame Day

Hello December! Thank you for bringing sunshine back to us, but did you have to bring the cold too? It's only 24 days til Christmas and 20 days until the start of Pancha Ganapati!

The other day A-chan was sitting beside me while I looked at and commented on bento blogs. She saw Karaimame's cute puppy bento and just gushed about it! She requested that I make her a bento like that sometime soon. I was going to put it off a little bit longer, but then Karaimame posted about her advent calendar. Amazing. It's just incredible! Seeing the advent calendar inspired me to try and make one too. And then I thought, why not have a Karaimame inspired day and make the puppy bento :) So today is a totally Karaimame day! (Thank you for so much wonderful inspiration, I love your creativity!)

In the bento: A cheese sandwich covered by soy ham with snow peas and baby corn flowers, and a provolone and nori puppy with a carrot collar. Carrot slices to separate the sides of the box, a container of frozen blueberries mixed with fresh pomegranate seeds, morningstar farms chik nuggets, carrot flower with snow pea leaves, a sprig of baby corn, waffle fries and a pick with black olives. On the side is a doggy face container with ketchup inside.

I didn't think that I could make exactly the same puppy so I made A-chan's a little different. My favorite part is the fluffy tail! Karaimame's puppy has so much more personality and cuteness, though. A-chan seemed to be very happy with it, I hope that it survives her exuberant entry into the schoolroom. My other Karaimame inspired project for the day I'll post in a bit. Not sure whether I should put up pictures of the advent calendar on this blog or somewhere else yet.

For those who are wondering how the glove box is working out, a picture says a thousand words.

Meow. The gloves are being kept nice and warm, lol. (This is Ember. He was in the box when I got home from taking A-chan to school this morning at 10 am. It is now 2 pm and he hasn't left it yet.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Xmas Tree Onigiri

I just got A-chan sat down at the table with a holiday craft to do so that I can have a moment on the computer. Whew :D She is coloring cloth napkins with fabric markers, making more of the napkins like the one above that she takes to school with her bentos everyday. The ones she is working on now are holiday themed napkins. (That should help me figure out what the pictures are, sometimes it's really hard to tell!)

Today's bento was all about the new Wilton's holiday themed cutters that I found at Target yesterday while I was shopping for gloves. (Yes, I know - gloves are not often found in the holiday baking section...but...I had to look!) I picked the easiest one to start with - the xmas tree!

In the bento: Triangle onigiri with sesame seeds around the edges, cucumber xmas tree with apple, cheese and carrot decorations, black beans on star picks, homemade veggie gyoza tucked way in the back, sauteed tofu cubes, carrot star, pear slices, half of a baby tomato and some steamed broccoli.

My little circle cutter didn't work on the apple peel so I ended up cutting the apple circles with scissors. The center of the large star worked perfectly as the star on the xmas tree, yay!

It was a quick and easy bento. The onigiri was frozen and I just had to microwave it for one minute. The gyoza was also frozen. I browned the bottom of the gyoza in sesame oil and then steamed it and the broccoli together. Once they were done I removed them from the pan and sauteed the tofu in it.

This one did have a bento 'oops' - A-chan reported that the xmas tree stuck to the inside of the lid. She didn't seem to mind so I guess it was okay.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The End of Fall

The end of fall is nigh, winter's arrival has been announced. Frigid temperatures have arrived and our driveway is lost beneath a carpet of brown leaves. Today we say goodbye to autumn, to winter we wave hello. When we were leaving for school this morning it was 38 degrees, a huge change from the weekend where we had 70 degree daytimes. I own at least 10 pairs of gloves and couldn't find any of them this morning. We both looked and looked and found none! So as soon as I dropped A-chan off at her class I ran to buy two new pairs. And I also bought a special box to store them in that is right beside the front door. I'm hoping that will make us a lot less late to school in the future!

Today's bento is the last fall bento of the year. It was fraught with indecision! I knew that I was going to put meatballs (well, fake meatballs) in her bento this morning but wasn't sure what I wanted them to be. I turned them into a cute caterpillar at the last minute. A-chan didn't think that the caterpillar looked like a caterpillar, but she did say it was cute. Oh well, I tried :) I had already started cooking the corn on the cob when I remembered that her mouth had gotten injured (a tickling incident turned bad) over the weekend so I decided to cut the corn off the cob instead. The apple bunny originally started out as another maple leaf but I just couldn't get it to fit correctly so I did a presto-chango.

In the bento: Mashed potatoes with carrot maple leaves on top, meatless meatballs (frozen ones from Trader Joe's), steamed broccoli, corn off the cob, a star pick with green peas and one tiny apple bunny.

The caterpillar face was done with two picks for antennae, one green pea cut in half for the eyes, a cheddar cheese smile and sesame seed details for the eyes. The bow is from carrot and apple peel.

The only thing we had leftover from Thanksgiving was the mashed potatoes. Here is a pic of the feast we did. There were still dishes of food that hadn't made it onto the table when I snagged a second to take a picture. A-chan was on guard duty, making sure none of the cats jumped into the food. Poor girl, she had a hard time with that job! She and I made hand turkeys earlier in the day and taped them onto chopsticks which we then stuck into our table bouquet. I loved how they looked!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Rock Lee Bento

A new bento video, yay!! I say new only in the sense that the video was put up on Youtube today, technically the bento itself was from August of last year. I originally made the video in September of last year. However the files got corrupted on my computer and I lost the video. Finally succeeded in recreating the video. Then I was about to post it when my laptop died and I lost it again. So...this is the third time it's been created, lol. Yes, I am a slow worker :)

It's finally done and uploaded successfully! I am so going to celebrate now!'s Rock Lee from Naruto as an onigiri. Even after a year I still think it's really cute.
In the bento: Onigiri with nori and mozzarella detail, veggie burger, steamed squash, steamed broccoli, cherry tomato, baby corn, carrot coin, yakisoba noodles with black sesame seeds and edamame.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Clementine of Cuteness

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!! Are you all ready for the holiday? We're slowly getting there. The house is finally all clean (well, most of it anyway- not the bedroom where I stuffed everything from the rest of the house). I've been to the grocery store 3 times so far this week but I still need to go back for more food! Wild turkeys have been hiding out in our backyard all day. They are very funny to watch, especially when they come across one of our outdoor cats. The cats are scared to death of the huge birds and the turkeys seem to realize this and strut around the yard.

Being vegetarian can bring a lot of difficulty over the Thanksgiving holiday. Most of my family doesn't understand that we don't eat meat and the T-day becomes a confrontational event that I just avoid by staying home. This year my mom is going to come have Thanksgiving with us, though! I'm so excited that I'm cooking enough for an army or two and have been going crazy with the cleaning. I've been asked probably 20 times this week if we're doing a Tofurky. Nope! I did try one a few years ago but didn't find it very satisfying. My menu calls for Soy sausage rolls as the main course. Not only are they yummy by themselves but they are great with gravy on top. And if there are any leftover they can be frozen to use in bentos.

A-chan has been busy all afternoon making decorations and taping them up in various locations around the house.

I don't have another T-day themed bento ready but here is the cutest clementine ever :) A-chan has recently discovered Clementines and the fact that she can peel them herself. We are both delighted by this discovery and enjoying their yummy orange goodness just about every day right now.

In the bento: A container of black beans, clementine with nori, black sesame seeds and mozzarella face details, halved baby tomato, steamed broccoli and baby corn. The other side is full of Japanese curry with a jasmine rice frame on top, baby corn and carrot flowers at the four corners.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Koala Luv and the Kabocha Adventure

A-chan has no school this entire week. So I'm going to be posting older bentos that I have in my backlog, yay!! It was very disappointing not to do a bento this morning, especially since I spent the morning mopping instead. I might have to manufacture an excuse to do a bento later in the week :)

In the bento: Pink rice, soy bologna koala face with mozzarella cheese and black olive details, steamed broccoli, cauliflower and baby corn, some veggie hot dogs cut interestingly, a piece of frozen peach and a strawberry. Not pictured are a piggy soy sauce bottle and a small container of ketchup. (I always forget to leave space for those in the bento!)

The koala face was very simple to make. I drew the outline on a piece of white paper and cut it out, then placed the paper on top of the soy bologna and cut out along the edge. It was kind of slow going because I wanted to get the ears perfect. Once it was all cut out I put it on top of the rice. I used a flower petal cutter to make the mozzarella ear fluff shapes and then cut off the insides with a large circle cutter. An oval shaped cutter was used for the whites of the eyes. Halves of black olives went on for the eyes, another halved olive was cut longwise for the nose. It went together very quickly!

The Kabocha Adventure
This weekend we managed to slide into SuperH just before it closed and score a kabocha for me to try. A-chan also insisted on running all the way to the other end of the store to grab some mochi, but we were there for the kabocha! I'd been wanting to try one for a while after seeing it in so many other people's bentos, but I was intimidated. Sherimiya of Happy Little Bento gave me courage (thankyou, Sheri!!!!) and I was determined to try it sooner rather than later.

Last night was our kabocha adventure night! It was great - a little difficult to cut but easy to cook and it was very yummy. A-chan didn't like it as much as I did. She thinks it requires a lake full of soy sauce to dip in. I enjoyed listening to Kodo while I chopped the kabocha, it had been a long time since I'd heard them. The drum beats helped the chopping - so much more fun to time the cuts to the drum beats!

I didn't think to take any pictures, though. Oh well. I'll get more next week!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gyoza by hand

I know that a lot of people have the gyoza utensil and may not want to make any by hand. I don't have one though I always start wishing for one about halfway through :) Pleating the gyoza by hand is lots of fun and I enjoy it but after 20 or so gyoza it starts to become tedious. If I could do the first half by hand and then use a gyoza utensil for the last half that would be perfect!

Since I don't have anyone else here that can take pictures while I'm actually doing the pleating I've done my best with the instructions but they might still be a bit ambiguous. I will try to get an actual video of the pleating around x-mas. It gets easier with practice!

  • Let cool and prepare a gyoza making station with a 2 plates, 2 bowls and a napkin. 1 plate is for the gyoza wrappers, 1 plate is for the finished gyoza, 1 bowl needs to be half full of cold water and the other bowl is for the veggie mix.
  • I use chopsticks to place a small amount of veggie mix in the center of a gyoza wrapper and spread it out to the sides.
  • Dip a finger in the water and run it along one half of the gyoza circle, then repeat for the other half.
  • Fold the gyoza in half like a taco, allowing the edges of the circle to seal together. Start pleating the gyoza from the left side and continue to the right. I like to make 5 pleats. That makes it easier because I know the middle pleat should be at the center of the taco.
  1. To make my pleats I take the gyoza wrapper that is closest to me (the front) in the forefinger and thumb of my left hand. ( You only pleat the front, the back should remain straightened) The gyoza rests against the fingers of my right hand with the right thumb in front. I place my right thumb on the front of the gyoza wrapper just where I want the pleat to be and then fold a small amount of gyoza wrapper over my thumbnail with the left hand. I then remove the right thumb and press down to make the pleat stick. And then repeat the same process until you have 5 pleats.
I also decided to make a couple of egg rolls while I was working :) The next step is cooking.

To cook my gyoza I like to brown the bottoms in either olive oil or sesame oil and then steam the rest with water or vegetable stock. (I prefer vegetable stock but I don't always have any ready) Place a small amount of oil in a pan, when heated place the gyoza in the oil with the bottom down.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gobble gobble?

This was A-chan's bento for the Thanksgiving feast at school today. When we discussed possible themes for the bento she passed up a tipi and wanted a turkey. I'm not sure that she actually understands the connection between T-day feast and the turkey honestly. In any case this cute guy was a big hit! Since she was supposed to join in the potluck feast with the rest of her class I made a smaller bento than normal. It was nice to be able to use this box since it normally gets deemed as too small for lunches and relegated to a snack container.

In the bento: Onigiri turkey made from fried rice, carrots and snow peas with cheddar and nori eyes. Soy turkey rolled up into a corner, raspberries, carrot flower, black olives, steamed broccoli and a pick with chickpeas and green peas.

The second thing that A-chan said after seeing the turkey this morning: "Uh oh, he's going to get smooshed." And she was right. My artistic fervor went out of bounds with this one and there was no way I was going to be able to put the lid on without squishing Mr. turkey. I rearranged the tail feathers and the beak, moved the head a little lower down and after all those adjustments managed to get the lid closed with no damage, yay!

Here is a picture of her before going off to school this morning. I can't believe I remembered to stop and take a picture of her with a bento for once!
This turkey bento is truly the epitome of why I started making bentos in the first place. The whole idea was to have A-chan be able to take something to an event where either the vegetarianism or her food allergies would prevent her from being able to eat what was being served. But she wouldn't feel depressed or left out because she had some of her own favorite foods in a beautiful presentation. I feel fulfilled :D

Basic Gyoza Recipe

Yay! I finally had time to make the gyoza. This post is for gnoegnoe :D It is my basic gyoza recipe. I love to eat gyoza with sauces and to make sure that the flavors won't conflict I keep the gyoza fairly bland. I make lots of others with different ingredients and spicing. One of my husband's all time fav gyoza recipes is for the Thai potato gyoza that I make. I'll get around to putting up that one someday...

And after I made the gyoza I decided that I had to make a bento to enjoy some of them right away!

In the bento:

Left -3 home made gyoza seperated by orange slices, raspberries, snap peas, a container of blueberry cheese, black olives on a pick.

Back - Thai sweet potato soup with cucumber slices and baby tomato slices.

Right - Basil pearl couscous with carrot and purple potato flowers.

I mistakenly thought that very thin cucumber slices would float on top of the very thick soup. I was wrong! But I was determined, lol, and just kept piling them on until there were enough cucumber slices that the top ones didn't sink. It made for a very yummy cucumber center to the soup.

The purple potato is my newest obsession totally inspired by Hapa Bento who uses them to make the most elegant decorative touches. I've been seeing them in her bentos for a while and being morose because nobody sold them here. But low and behold I found them in the grocery store! A whole bag of them! Woot! Now I get to use my favorite color in my bentos, finally!!! I seriously can't tell you how excited I was when I found them. I am such a bento geek :)

Basic Gyoza Recipe (this is a half recipe and makes about 40 gyoza)

  • 1/3 head Napa cabbage, sliced into thin ribbons
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • ½ onion, minced
  • 2 baby bella mushrooms, minced
  • ¼ pkg extra firm tofu, smooshed by hand
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 TB soy sauce
  • 3 tsp mirin
  • ¼ tsp dried cilantro
  • 1/8 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder
  • ½ tsp ginger powder

  1. Heat 2 TB sesame oil in a sautee pan. When the oil is hot add the minced garlic and fry for 1 minute. Add the ginger and stir for another few seconds.
  2. Put all veggies into pan together.
    Stir well and let sit for a few minutes.
  3. Add the spices, soy sauce and mirin. Stir well and again let sit for a few minutes.
  4. Keep stirring occasionally as you wait for the mixture to reduce. All the moisture needs to cook out of it.

  5. I generally freeze the gyoza right after I make them and then I can pull them straight out of the freezer to cook when I am making a bento. My favorite way of cooking them is to brown the bottoms in a little bit of sesame oil and then pan steam with a little bit of vegetable broth.

    I am planning on putting up more pics and instructions for pleating gyoza by hand tomorrow! (The pics are already taken I just don't have time to go into that today...)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dancing robot

Ack! It's a robot invasion! has no feet. Hard to invade without feet. Oh look, it's dancing. How can it dance without feet? Robot magic.

The only thing A-chan asked for in her bento this morning was couscous so I had freedom to create! I only realized that the robot had no feet when she brought it up. Bah. Originally I was going to have him standing in the lettuce and the lettuce would have hidden the fact that he had no feet. But he wouldn't fit that way and I had to switch him round a bit :) It never occurred to me that he needed feet!

In the bento: Garlic and basil couscous, soy ham robot, raspberries, a container of black beans with carrot stars, cucumber slices, carrot ribbons, sauteed tofu and a lemon wedge.

I cut the robot body out of a slice of soy ham with scissors. The face is made from mozzarella and carrots. The buttons and knobs are mozzarella, cucumber peel, carrot and vegetarian pepperoni. A-chan said that he was too cute and she might not want to eat him.

The most surprising part of the bento to me is the container of black beans. We were in the grocery store and I was just joking when I asked if A-chan wanted me to buy some black beans to put in her bento. She said yes! And she has been eating them, way cool!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rainy Day

It's only Tuesday and already it's been one of those weeks. Other than a tiny peek of the sun this afternoon it's been raining for two and a half days straight now. Ugh. I am really grateful for my A-chan who has been making things so much easier and helping me out while the rain is being a big pain. Today's bento was to try and cheer us both up and make us stop grumbling. Who can be grumpy with cute and happy raindrops?

In the bento: Jasmine rice packed nice and tight, mozzarella and soy turkey cloud and raindrops with nori faces, steamed broccoli, baby tomato umbrella, frozen peaches and blueberries, fried tofu bites and a Hello Kitty filled with Yamasa soy sauce.

I cut the cloud and raindrops out of cheese using shaped cutters and then cut the soy turkey just a little larger around with scissors. A-chan didn't think the tomato looked much like an umbrella, but it was what I had so I used it :)

The cuteness did cheer me up a little - enough to take a picture today. I didn't even take a picture of yesterday's bento. This week is the first time that I've ever been unhappy making bentos. Usually I enjoy every second of it but this weekend a friend of mine said some things about bentos and my blog that have me depressed. His comments really hurt my feelings. If it had been someone that I didn't know I would be less affected. In fact, I would view it like a challenge and go, "Ha! I'll show you how awesome bentos are, bub!" But I guess since it was from someone important to me it's hit me very hard. Even worse - I was asking for help but got ridicule and derision instead. I am not sure how to deal with it and it's put a very large dark cloud over my morning bentoing. Have any of you met with this sort of reaction to your bento making?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Needs Pocky

For some reason this bento really says that it needs Pocky. Not just any pocky, but men's pocky. Maybe it's the stripes. Maybe it's all the black which just shouts manliness? I don't know. But I was actually craving pocky the whole time I made it. Did you know that yesterday was Pocky day? That's according to Glico. At some point this weekend I need to make up for my complete and utter lack of pocky yesterday. Pocky would have been the perfect for the long late night drive from Georgia to Atlanta.

I love the way the stripes are reflected onto the sides of the bento, I just love the way it looks! There was no design in my head when I started making this one so it turned out a lot less cute and a little more adult. A-chan had requested scrambled tofu onigiri and the sweet potato bun. Once I packed those things into the bento there wasn't much room left! You can't see the yellow of the scrambled tofu in the picture, but in real life it's a bright yellow.

I don't usually have anybaby carrots around, they haven't been on my bento pantry list. My family bought them for A-chan's birthday party and gave me the rest of the huge bag and I didn't want them to go to waste! Sherimiya always does neat and really pretty things with baby carrots. Looking at all of her awesome bentos inspired me to try out some new things with baby carrots too!

In the bento: Three scrambled tofu onigiri with nori cats on top, two baby carrots, a heart pick with chickpeas, steamed broccoli, apple bunny, sweet potato bun.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Old school turtle

This bento is a tribute to the very first bento that I made a long, long time ago. It was November of 2006 and A-chan had just turned two. I just felt like going back to that early exploration of bento. It was so much fun and exciting to get my first bento box and decide what to put in it. We were going on a day trip to Atlanta to visit friends of ours and their twin baby girls. I was so worried about imposing on them and I didn't want to make them do a special lunch for the vegetarians, plus it was the perfect excuse to try a bento. Ha, ha. I know now that it wouldn't have been an imposition and I actually have a freezer shelf reserved for vegetarian food in their house these days. So when I go to visit them I already have food stocked up! A-chan and I are going to visit them tonight and stay for several days and this bento made me feel all nostalgic.

When I was pregnant I was panicking because I had no experience with babies whatsoever. I'd never changed a diaper or held a baby or anything! Our friends taught us so much about parenting both before A-chan was born and all through the years. They are wonderful people, fantastic parents and I am so grateful to be their friend. I can't wait to visit them - I don't know who is more excited, me or A-chan :)

In the bento: two black olives, cheese sandwich with cheese and soy turkey turtle, a container of chickpeas, a pickle, a clementine and a cherry tomato halved.

I used three different sizes of round cutters to get the shapes for the turtle but tore the soy turkey with my fingers so that it came out rough and in interesting shapes. For the eyes I used black sesame seeds. The sesame seeds were the only part of the bento that didn't get eaten.

The angular nature of the house container makes it very difficult for me to use in bentos. For some reason I just can't get it to fit in well. This bento is an exception because of the straight line of the sandwich to nestle the container up against. But I find myself never using it because it's just awkward.

Here is the picture of the original bento. I'm not sure which turtle is cuter, but I love them both :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Snails are cute!

Snails are really cute! And I love the way this one turned out :) A-chan liked him too and ate him all up. This is another older bento but I wanted to post it today in honor of my rescue of a snail earlier in the week from where he was lodged in our cats' food bowl. An indoor bowl which resides in my laundry room. I have no clue how a snail got there to begin with. But the poor thing is now outdoors in the jungle of our yard.

This bento includes a lot of items from what I like to call my bento "stockpile". These are items that I almost always have on hand for use in bentos. The items in this bento are: green peas, carrots, baby corn, baby tomatoes, frozen blueberries, miniature frozen pancakes and morningstar farms sausage links. The only item that is not always on hand is the tofu heart. The swirl on the snail shell pancake was done with strawberry frosting and more of the frosting was in the monkey face container to spread on the other three pancakes.

A little bit of the frosting goes a long way. A-chan gets something that she considers a rare treat and I'm happy because she isn't eating a whole lot of sugar. It also keeps forever! And the pancake bentos are so easy and quick to make, I just love keeping the ingredients on hand for whenever I need a no-fail bento. They are especially wonderful for those days when I wake up late or don't have a good plan in mind already!

In the bento: A pick of green peas, a container of frozen blueberries, heart shaped tofu cooked in soy sauce, carrot heart, babycorn spears, a baby tomato, julienned carrots, miniature pancakes, morningstar farms soy sausage link with cute nori face and a carrot antenna.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tiny Face Onigiri

This is the last candy corn onigiri of the season. I love how the face turned out, it's sooo cute! I finally found a teeny tiny hole punch at Hobby Lobby that was just what I wanted. Last year A-chan and I argued vehemently over who got the last one, but this year I magnanimously allowed her to have it. We'll be eating the last of the actual candy corn soon, only half a bag is left. As the last few pieces disappear we will slip into winter mode.

I've realized recently that a lot of my sentiment regarding the change of seasons is marked by food. This applies not only to purchased foods like candy corn but also the recipes that I pull out tend to change with the seasons. I'm sure that most people do the same but it only came to my attention in the last few weeks.

Falls sees the disappearance of sandwiches, except in A-chan's school bentos. Apples and cheeses become prolific in my fall menus. Winter brings casseroles and stews and heavy pastas. I seem to use more wine in my cooking during winter as well, while I use almost none in the summer.

Our bentos don't seem to reflect these tendencies though. Almost as if they are a menu apart and my brain classifies them as something different and in their own category - thus free from the seasons. They have contradicted some of my long held seasonal food rules, actually. Scottish flat pie used to be totally reserved for fall, but now shows up year round because it works so well in bentos. I would like to explore more of the Japanese idea of seasonal foods, particularly as it pertains to bentos. Do their bentos follow the seasonal pattern?

In the bento: Candy corn onigiri with a tiny face of nori, two raspberries, steamed broccoli, baby corn, fried tofu bites, carrot acorns and a wedge of lemon. A soy sauce bottle takes up extra space in the back.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Masked Onigiri

Let's see...this bento was from last week? Or maybe the week before that. I can't remember now. It's never too late for Halloween bento posts, right? I need a button that pauses time for a while so that I can catch up with everything that I need to do! Anyway, a little bit late - two candy corn onigiri dressed up for Trick or Treating. There are also some carrot squiggles, cherry tomato quarters, a festive piece of pear and fried tofu bites.

The cute little pumpkin is made from wool. My husband needle felted a trio of them as Halloween decorations. They are so sweet!

This was also the morning of the Parent's Breakfast at a-chan's school. For our contribution to the pot luck breakfast we brought grapes and a ton of apple bunnies. It took about 30 minutes to cut all the bunnies. A-chan put them in their "bath" of lemon juice and water. We used 10 apples, I think. I lost count about 3/4 of the way through :D

Friday, October 29, 2010

To see a ghost

While I searched through my collection of halloween cookie cutters, choosing just the right ones to use for her birthday party, A-chan sorted through the rest of my huge box of cutters. In the end we selected the Wilton bat and pumpkin cutters for her party. But then she found the foot shaped cutter. First of all, I have to wonder why there is a foot-shaped cookie cutter?! To me the idea of cookies in the shape of feet is really strange and kind of icky. A-chan, however, immediately crowed with delight. To her it looked like a perfect ghost. Yesterday she remembered seeing the ghost shaped cutter and requested that she have a ghost in today's bento. Ta dah!

I think the ghost looks a little strange, but it's exactly as she wanted it with black eyes and a red mouth. She was so happy when she saw it this morning! And I felt like quite the hero since I managed to pull it off on a total of 2 hours sleep. Can you say Yay, coffee!! Luckily my constant coughing didn't wake her at all and the cats only grumbled a little when a coughing fit disturbed their royal rest upon my lap.

With all the caffeine I've consumed in the last few hours I now feel decidedly giddy. That must be the reason why I start giggling every time I look at the school picture proofs that I picked up with morning. It has nothing to do with the fact that my lovely girl looks like a caricature of a troll with a horrible grimace in a pretty pink dress. Le sigh. It's just not possible to get her to smile for a picture without some time and patience and a joke or two. Does anyone else have that problem?

In the bento: Couscous, ghost made of bread with black bean eyes and veggie pepperoni mouth, Morningstar Farms chik nugget 'tombstone', tiny jack'o'lantern onigiri with a broccoli stem, raspberries, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, two pieces of baby corn, one twisty french fry. Not pictured are a soy sauce piggy, container of salt and a container of ketchup.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Mummy

We faced the after birthday doldrums with as much courage as we could muster this morning. Which is to say that A-chan was grumpy and I was exhausted but we pulled together and managed to get to school on time, with a halloween bento and everything! After her excitement yesterday she was understandably feeling that today was a let down, lol. We have been meaning to go buy her a new car seat for two days now (the one she has is only rated up to 6 years so time for a change) but we haven't had the time. So we have a little bit of birthday stuff left to do today.

I decided on a mummy bento for this morning in honor of A-chan's costume for her friends' b-day party a few weeks ago. They had a Scooby Doo themed party for which A-chan decided to dress as a mummy. It was a lot of fun and she looked great!

Top tier: Veggie hot dogs, steamed broccoli, baby corn spears, raspberries, a tiny sliver of lemon and a carrot jack'o'lantern.

Bottom tier: Spaghetti noodle mummy with nori face and mozzarella cheese eyes. On the side is a small container of grated parmesan cheese to sprinkle over the noodles.

It looks like we're going to have to carve new pumpkins by Halloween, the ones we'd already carved are all moldy and caving in. The weather has been conspiring against us this year by being incredibly hot and rainy and muggy and humid and generally icky. Most days this week were 80 degrees or over!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Birthday Bento!

A-chan turns 6 today! She woke up surprised that she still fit into her nightgown. Apparently she was expecting to have grown a whole bunch overnight, lol. Though she is still coughing occasionally I judged her well enough to go to school today which made her sooooo happy. She didn't want to miss the birthday traditions at school.

They have a special ceremony where the birthday child carries the earth around the sun, one time round for each year since they were born. A-chan decided that for her birthday treat to share with friends at school she wanted mochi. So last night we stopped on the way home from taking her daddy to the airport and bought a huge amount of mochi. This morning I piled it all into one of my shokado boxes to take to school. I was surprised how many children already knew what they were and even more surprised how many children ate them. A-chan did not seem to be fazed at all by those who were not willing to eat mochi, luckily. The balloons that I brought were another well-loved tradition :)

I wanted to do a special bento for her birthday. This year is the first one where her birthday lunch is actually at school! But I have to say that I don't think I did a good job on this one. I tried, I really did. My bento imagination just wouldn't fit into the box! It was pretty amazing that all the letters for birthday fit, I was surprised. I hope that A-chan likes it more than I do.

In the box: Yellow rice with a mozzarella cheese hello kitty, mamenori and nori sheets with cheese letters on top, snap peas, fried tofu bite, cherry tomato quarter, carrot heart, cheese sandwich with blue fondant on top and mamenori wrapper, tiny little candy, a heart pick with two large blueberries.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cute Jack

Another bento from last week with a Halloween theme to get ready for A-chan's birthday party which happened to be Halloween themed this year. The Jack'o'lantern matches the cute one that we drew for her party invitations (well, mostly matches... ). It's endlessly fascinating to me how A-chan chooses her party themes. Last year it was a Princess party, the year before that was a Pirate party. This year she decided that she didn't want to make people wear specific costumes, she wanted them to each wear the one they wanted - thus the Halloween theme. Now if only I could apply that to understanding how her mind works all the way from now til she's 18!

In the bento: An orange Jack'o'lantern onigiri made with the burger patty rice mold decorated with nori and a broccoli stem. A container of sesame carrots, pear slices and steamed broccoli, soy sauce tofu and corn on jewel picks, a cherry tomato.

This particular onigiri is huge! Even I have trouble picking it up to eat. I made sure to put a fork into her bento bag so that she could eat it easily as the large ones tend to fall apart for her.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Teddy bear pancakes

My girl is sick again, after a whirlwind weekend of manic activity. She participated in a Tae Kwon Do tournament all day Saturday (she won bronze in forms and gold in sparring, yay!). Then her birthday party was on Sunday with an amazing amount of people swarming the park and some crazy running around and games. There were 22 kids and associated adults, 4 games and 3 crafts, a huge table of snacks and some halloween ghosts. (It really was crazy, hopefully I've learned my lesson and will do a smaller party next year.) We all had a fantastic time but today she is sick and staying home from school which means no bento today - so I am putting up a bento from last week.

From the top and coming down: Frozen peaches, feta blocks and green bean spears, steamed broccoli, a container of corn, grape balloons, soy sausage links, more green bean spears, mini pancakes making a teddy bear with mozzarella for ear detail and chocolate frosting for the face, corn kernels and a tiny apple circle make up the bow.
The second picture includes the henna cone with chocolate frosting instead of henna, which I used to make the face. The cone is actually a triangle of floraphane taped into shape and then filled with the frosting. I roll the open back down and tape it closed, cut off a tiny bit of the point and then it's ready to decorate! It's just like icing holiday cookies, but I learned to do henna before I learned to decorate cookies so to me it's always a henna art :)

I fill up the monkey face container with more frosting for A-chan to take to school. There is a tiny spoon inside to spread the frosting on the pancakes.

Three more pancakes are hidden underneath the lettuce. She absolutely loves it when I do pancake lunches. It's a special treat since I don't like pancakes and we never eat them at home. These miniature ones are frozen and come out of a huge box kept in the freezer just for her bentos.

This teddy bear pancake bento was inspired by LoveBones on flickr, go check out her amazing bentos!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hotel bentos

These three bentos were made for our Saturday lunches at AWA. I had taken some of my bento boxes and accessories with us but not a whole lot. They are kind of simple, but we enjoyed them greatly! It is usually pretty hard to find vegetarian food when we're at conventions and much better to bring our own instead.

The top bento was for A-chan: Two cute rice balls with nori faces and one with a carrot bow, steamed broccoli, soba noodles, a cherry tomato and an orange wedge.

The middle bento was for my husband: Two larger rice balls with nori faces, an orange wedge, dango!, steamed broccoli and a carrot heart. The other tier contained soba noodles with a cherry tomato.
The last is my bento: I was going for more of an elegant adult feel with mine :) Two rice balls, an orange wedge, soba noodles with cherry tomato flower, steamed broccoli and dango!
I don't think I've mentioned my growing love for dango on this blog yet. My entire state probably knows, certainly everyone at AWA knows. I LOVE dango. Finding dango at SuperH was a fantastic treat. And the sauce even tastes yummy on rice balls, broccoli and soba noodles!

Dango are the (usually) 3 little balls on a stick with a brown sauce that are in a lot of anime and manga. They are sometimes colored and each ball will be a different color, they are made from rice flour and are somewhat chewy. The ones that I am in love with are the ones with the sweet soy sauce glaze. Yum! My daughter won't eat them but that just means more for me!