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!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Four Friends

Another older school bento. I'm getting closer to being caught up though!

Top tier: Four fried tofu bites, black olives, carrot flowers, frozen peaches, red soy sauce piggie.

Bottom tier: Container of mac'n'cheese spirals with a black olive on top, four dice shaped onigiri with funny nori faces and frozen grapes in between.

This is one of the very few bentos where the soy sauce bottle is actually inside the bento. And it makes me realize that the two bento accessories that I use the most are usually never photographed with the bentos. Of all the cute and pretty accessories, which I love dearly, the ones that I find most useful are the ever-practical soy sauce bottle and ketchup container. They accompany almost every bento that I make, but they are always an afterthought and never part of the bento designing.

After the bento is made I look at it and decide what kind of sauce needs to go with it. Then I fill up the container (or grab an already full one out of the fridge), seal it in a ziploc bag and put it in the bento bag along with the napkin. The ziploc bag is usually the same one for a loooong time since it never gets any food on it. I'm just paranoid that one day the ketchup container will open up by itself and smear ketchup on everything. So far it's never happened, but I still put it in the bag.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bellydance Show lag

I am seriously lagging behind as I arrived home after midnight last night, infused with inspiration but desperately needing sleep. My friend and I had driven to the big city to see the Bellydance Superstars show which was amazing and so much fun to watch! (A-chan spent the night with her grandmother which means no bento today.) But since I didn't get home til very late I haven't had time to get the picture of A-chan's bento from yesterday off my camera. So instead I am putting up more of the bentos from the early part of school!

Above is a Scottish flat pie with cucumber smile and eyes with a carrot star nose. Next to it are some tater tots, a pick of black olives, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, a baby tomato, frozen blueberries and a few scattered carrot stars.

Below is a bento with couscous on the left that has green peas and carrot heart on top. On the right is a babybel cheese round, veggie hot dog, frozen grapes on a pick, a gherkin pickle, and a tin of Chocolate bunnies with a couple of carrot hearts to liven things up.
These were both very simple bentos that were quick to make, but not very decorative.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Picture day

Yesterday was picture day at a-chan's school. So to help lessen the stress of the day on both of us and try to make it more fun I made a picture day bento. The cute little girl in her best dress on one side with the flash from the camera on the other.

I don't like school picture day. No, that's too tame. I loathe school picture day. It's so stressful for both me and A-chan. Getting her dressed perfectly (which didn't happen because there was black ink mysteriously on her pink tights so we had a last minute frantic search for tights that matched her dress but ended up having to go with purple ones), fixing her hair perfectly (which takes way too much time on my part and patience on hers), remembering to fill out the form and make sure that she takes it with her (filled out at the last minute in the school parking lot and I still don't know if she gave it to the right person or not), and all the other finicky details just get us into an old fashioned tizzy!

A-chan got all worried because she was supposed to have playtime in the playground before the pictures were to be taken and what if she forgot and played in the sandbox with her pretty dress on? We ended up with a solution of just say no to sand for that day. It seemed to work, she wasn't smeared with sand of red clay dirt when I picked her up in the afternoon. I wish that the parents were allowed to be with the kids while the pictures are taken. Then we could keep them calm, clean and collected. And afterward we could change them into good old play clothes and take the fancy stuff back with us. I can probably think of twenty reasons why that wouldn't really work, but it's a nice thought to end my tirade :)

In the bento:

Left side: 2 Morningstar farms chik nuggets, black olives, 1 spear of baby corn, fresh parsley and Apollo choco candies. The girl has a dress out of veggie pepperoni with a belt of cucumber peel, an arm and face from soy bologna, hair of white cheddar. The dress matches what A-chan wore and she had one ponytail on the side.

Right side: Couscous with soy bologna, white cheddar and veggie pepperoni stars, plus carrot letters.

We got a kick out of saying that she had eaten 'cheese' for lunch because she ate all the carrot letters but refused to eat the cheese star!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's the season for Candycorn!

It is candycorn season once again, hurrah! This past Sunday A-chan and I made candycorn onigiri again. Shaping the brightly colored rice into the shape of my most beloved fall candy is becoming one of my favorite fall rituals. We made 3 cups of white rice, 3 cups of yellow rice and 2 cups of orange rice using gel food coloring. It was a LOT of rice!! It took us about an hour to make all of it into onigiri. A-chan even did some of the candycorn onigiri all on her own. She was so cute!

The rice ball candycorns are so much healthier than gorging on my fav candy of the season!!! Until last year my autumnal season was incomplete because all the candycorn I could find had gelatin in it and I could not eat it. I really missed having it. Candycorn was my childhood memory of Halloween and crunchy leaves underfoot. I had almost given up being able to share it with my girl. But last year I found that the Kroger brand candycorn was vegetarian, haha! I eagerly anticipated it this year and when that lovely day arrived I bought 2 bags. That was a pretty modest amount, I felt. Then we ate it all within a three day period. And then I bought more. I have one bag in the car for emergencies, one open bag in the house and three unopened bags.
In the bento: One large fuji apple bunny, veggie hot dogs, one floret each of cauliflower and broccoli, 2 large carrot maple leaves, 1 miniature blueberry muffin, 1 pick of corn, 1 large candycorn onigiri.

A-chan got the first of the onigiri, one of the ones that she made all by herself. Normally I don't do the ice-water treatment on the bunny ears to get them to stand up, but this was a special occasion so I went ahead.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


This bento is all about pink. And that's quite an abnormality for me as the color pink and I normally do not get along. In fact, I try to avoid pink as much as is possible for someone with a 5 year old daughter. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice enough color. But when I was younger pink was perhaps a good bit overdone. In our old house my husband and I lived for many years with an office that was pepto bismol pink. I think I'd just had enough. When my girl was born I declared that I wanted no pink baby clothes, no pink baby toys and absolutely no pink room. That worked about as well as one might think. Just try shopping for girls' baby clothes that don't have pink on them. It's not easy. The older that my daughter gets the more I'm finding pink creeping back into my life.

Today's bento, however, is different. It's about Breast Cancer awareness. It's about being a responsible woman, mother, wife. I actually had no idea that October was associated with this cause. Usually October for me is all about my daughter's birthday, halloween and adjusting to the new cold weather that seems to get worse every year (or just me getting older). So I haven't paid much attention to anything else. But yesterday I came across this post at Bento Blog. It made me start to think. Not only about how to make a bento to participate, which of course happened immediately, but also about the issue.

I have friends who talk about these types of campaigns and wonder if they actually do any good in the long run. Well, I think that the Pink Ribbon Bento Panorama has made a difference. At least it has caught my attention and made me start thinking about something that I normally put in a box labeled 'Don't open, not ready to think about'. And it has made me realize that it's time for me to start paying attention.

About the bento: The pink ribbon (which is really more of a red than pink, but it's tough to find pink things when you're vegetarian!) is cut out from a fuji apple. Next to it is a pink mochi, corn croquette, block of feta, soy turkey rolls with green beans and carrots, vegetarian Japanese glazed meatballs on a bamboo pick, a small bit of gari (more pink, yay!). The pink icing was done using a henna technique and a traditional-style henna design on top of a white cheddar sheet. Underneath the cheese is vegetable fried rice. There are a few tiny carrot flowers scattered around.

My camera is just not good enough to catch both the color of the icing and the details of the darker ingredients so I apologize for the darkness of the photo! I really wanted to do something with the henna technique. I couldn't get it out of my head as being perfect for this message.

Monday, October 11, 2010

An Octopus with eyebrows?!

Even more bentos from about 6 weeks ago. A-chan is home sick from school today. She has a little bit of asthma and anytime she has a cold it turns into Bronchitis, bam! This morning she was coughing so much that it caused her to throw up - the second time in her whole life that she's vomited. Doctor visit time! We now have cough syrup, an antibiotic and saltines. A-chan will be just fine he says :) I love our Pediatrician, he's the best!

So after a night filled with coughing and no sleep for any of us, it's time for a restful relaxing day of bento posts. And some book reading and some Little Big Planet for the sick one. I hope to catch up on some of my older bentos so that I can start posting current ones!

The bento above has a layer of jasmine rice covered with sesame carrots, scrambled tofu and green peas. A container of frozen blueberries, two soy hotdog octopi, a flower pick with tiny black olives, cucumber slices and a babybel cheese round.

I'm still not getting anywhere with the soy hotdog octopus thing...and at this point I'm not sure if it's the veggie hot dog or if it's me! These little guys have mozzarella and nori features, the best part of course being the eyebrows. A-chan loves to draw eyebrows on things so I added some just for her :)
I just love the little mouse in this bento! He was made from two nuggets of fried tofu, veggie hot dog slices and nori with just a little mozzarella for the tail. My second favorite thing is the purple mashed potatoes. Hapa bento always has these amazingly delightful and colorful bentos and I'd seen purple potatoes in them lots of times. I always wondered where one could find purple potatoes because I'd never seen any except in her bentos - I'd certainly never expected to find any in my little town. But then I went to the store and there they were, a small bag of maybe 8 of them. I swear a light from above shown down and made them sparkle!!

Unfortunately A-chan views them with a deep and abiding suspicion and refuses to eat them. Now, keep in mind that she will eat regular mashed potatoes made funky colors with food coloring. But naturally strange colored foods are apparently evil. I will endeavor to change her mind gradually because I think they are awesome. She did have some trouble with the huge flower onigiri in this bento as it is really really big. She would have like to have a fork to eat it with, she said.

On the left: Huge flower onigiri with veggie hot dog center, frozen grapes on a pick, a small tin of feta.

On the right: Fried tofu mouse, purple mashed potatoes, lemon slice.

Pasta Salad Bento

Another bento from the beginning of school...

This one was a bust. A-chan ate everything in the lower tier but only picked at the items in the upper tier. One of the interesting things that I am learning with the whole school bento thing is what she won't eat when I'm not there. Some of the things that I have put in bentos for her for years now she suddenly won't eat in school bentos. It's a great learning process and it's funny to me how much of a sense of achievement I get when she comes home with a totally empty bento!

Top tier: Bowtie pasta with halved baby tomatoes, black olives and feta, heart container full of peas. (She picked out all the feta and black olives and didn't touch the rest.)

Bottom tier: 2 miniature bridies - one with a smiley face and one with hearts, tater tots - one with a seal pick, container with frozen peaches.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fastest bento ever!

Yes, I was amazed to find that after making this bento I had free time that morning. Naturally I used my unexpected free time to do nothing useful, but I enjoyed reading "Mistress of the Art of Death" for a while. Most everything in this bento was already prepared and frozen. I just had to microwave it a bit or as in the case of the grapes, plop them in straight from the freezer.

The hello kitty onigiri (freezer item) has nori and carrot details. The marinated tofu needed just a few minutes to sautee. The broccoli (freezer item) needed a moment's worth of steaming. Had to fry the corn croquette (frozen item) but the grapes could go in still frozen. Last came the baby tomato which needed no preparation, yay!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Simple Sammie Bento

Another school bento, six weeks ago...

This was one of those mornings that needed a simple bento. Mainly because we were coming up on my crunch time - 2 conventions, 3 festivals, a farmer's market and my dance students' recital in a period of 6 weeks. I was panicking so much about everything else that I absolutely had no time to be very creative.

I enjoy it immensely when circumstances force me to come up with new solutions and offer challenges. In this case A-chan attends a Montessori school and they request that very little sweet or sugary items be included in lunches. Most of the time I absolutely agree, she usually only get sugar of any type on holidays...but I wanted to do quick and easy PBJ sammies! Cause they are quick. And easy, see? Ahh, so what to do?

Taking some empty cones that I would normally fill with henna paste, instead I filled one with strawberry jam and the other with blue sugar sprinkles. I assembled the sandwiches with only PB on the inside and the hearts already cut out. Then using the cones applied jam or sprinkles inside the heart shapes. Much less sugar than if I had spread it on the whole sandwich, yay!

There were also 2 Morningstar Farms Chik nuggets, 2 picks full of green peas, 1 carrot butterfly, a baby tomato, 2 pieces of frozen mango.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Seven weeks ago

It was exactly seven weeks ago today that A-chan started back to school. August and September are my busiest months of the year and thus I am incredibly late putting up school bento pics. But before I talk about the bentos, let me discuss the week before school started. The planning week.

Thinking about making a bento every day was a bit daunting. Sure, every day here at home was no problem...but this new schedule was going to be like camping in the mountains or deep sea diving. I was going to have to make sure that she had absolutely everything she could possibly need with her in an easily portable form. Napkins, utensils, soy sauce, salt, etc!! If I forgot something it would not only be a failure on my part, it could possibly be a disaster of epic 5 year old proportions!

The only way to conquer it all was to become ultra organized. I spent the week before school started making lists and reorganizing my kitchen for ultimate efficiency. I made a shopping run for all the bento essentials to make sure that I had them on hand. Then I spent the weekend cooking bento-friendly foods and freezing them. A-chan helped me cook and together we made miniature Forfar Bridies, Fried Tofu, Corn Croquettes and Bento-sized Scottish Flatpies. I am just now running out of these frozen staples after seven weeks and they were incredibly helpful, especially on mornings after staying up way too late to rehearse!

These photos are a sampling from that first week. The top bento was for the very first day of school. It contained pink rice and two soy-bologna bunnies with carrot letters and an apple heart. The other side had fried tofu bites, baby tomatoes, frozen grapes on a pick, steamed broccoli, carrot flowers, steamed cauliflower and a heart full of feta crumbles.

The bento below has smiling miniature bridies, tater tots, a Babybel cheese round, steamed broccoli, frozen mango cubes and frozen blueberries. (Forfar Bridies are a type of Scottish meat pie made with ground beef, mushroom broth, onion, parlsey and ground mustard wrapped in pastry. To make mine vegetarian I replaced the beef with Morningstar Farms crumbles.)
The next bento was also from my freezer of frozen goodness. The main part was a Scottish flatpie (potato and onion filling on a biscuit crust with cheese melted over). I baked it straight out of the freezer, let it cool off a little and plopped it in the box. There are more frozen blueberries and grapes, some morningstar farms chik nuggets, an apple flower, cucumber palm fronds and carrot stars. The lion's ears were soy bologna, the face was made with mozzarella cheese and nori.
Unfortunately while I thought he looked like a lion - A-chan thought he was a bunny!