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.)