Monday, December 19, 2011

Ornamental Fruit

Wow.  The last few days have been crazy busy!  Here is A-chan's Pizza friday bento.  The bento only has fruit to eat alongside the pizza.  Are you ready for the holidays?  We are having so much fun with parties and decorating and cookies and craziness!

In the bento: A clementine ornament, an apple ornament, some blackberry ornaments, pomegranate seeds, pink egg sheet flower and some steamed zucchini slices.

Notice how I snuck some veggies in there?  Yeah, I'm sneaky like that.  The ornament designs on the clementine were cut with an exacto knife while the apple stripes and zucchini stripes were cut with a paring knife.  I was delighted to find a way to use all of these picks!  For some reason I have a difficult time figuring out uses for them.

I hope that you are all having a wonderful time!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Snowman Sammies

What do you do with leftover Japanese curry when you've run out of rice?  Make curry sammies!  One of the most intriguing food items that I've seen in Anime is 'curry bread' or 'curry pan'.  Now, I have no idea if this is anything like real curry bread, but I decided to make my own version.  I spooned some curry sauce onto a slice of bread,  making sure that at least one piece of each type of veggie was included.  After placing a second slice on top, I used a plastic cup to cut out the sammie and seal the edges at the same time.  All the leftover bread pieces got saved into an airtight container to be used in the fake greek meatballs I'm making for dinner tonight.  I love it when things work out that way!

It was extremely difficult to get the smaller snowman to look jolly instead of sinister.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe because he is peeking over the tomato?  He still has a crazed look about him, but I think the pink cheeks helped.

In the bento: Two curry sammies, a huge cherry tomato, carrot sticks, steamed broccoli, blackberries and pomegranate seeds.

The snowmen faces were made from nori and provolone cheese.   I cut small slits into the bread  to stick in the cute carrot triangles noses.  The psychopath snowman has pink cheeks cut from leftover pink egg sheet. All of the facial features were 'glued' onto the bread by small amounts of mayo.

I love their hats!  They were cut from large pieces of zucchini, with thin slices of zucchini flesh for the dapper bands.  To make them more festive I added tiny pieces of steamed broccoli and a pomegranate seed to each.  I used a dried spaghetti noodle stuck through the bottom to attach them by then sticking the other end of the noodle into the sandwich.

A small confession - I got into trouble with this bento.  The hats were huge!  There was absolutely no way that the lid could fit onto the box.  I had to take the hats off and stick them inside the bento in another location.  A-chan was very understanding and said that she was fine sticking them back onto the snowmen herself at lunchtime.  Whew!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Stamps

Cheese ravioli is one of the most versatile pastas.  It can transform into so many things or look elegant without any interference.  Most people, myself included, prefer to eat them with a sauce.  Luckily my daughter is happy to eat them plain or with a little Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top which makes them perfect for decorating her bentos.  With so many Christmas letters, cards and packages going everywhere, I thought some Christmassy stamps would be fun to make and eat!

In the bento: Cheese ravioli, rice with black sesame seeds, fried tofu, carrot and nori stars, blackberries, and a huge cherry tomato.

The Christmas tree is zucchini with tiny strips of zucchini flesh for the garland.  Pink egg sheet left over from yesterday was used for a couple of ornaments and carrot for the others.  I cut the star from a slice of American cheese.  I used zucchini again for the holly leaves and cut berries out of tomato peel.

In the background is one of the cloth napkins that A-chan takes to school with her bento every day.  This one she decorated for Thanksgiving.  It was an easy and very economical way to get her (and me) excited about the holiday.  Please see my new blog for pretty pictures!

Monday, December 12, 2011


Oh baby it's cold outside! Our glove box is in full working mode with the frigid temperatures that have come to our area.  Since mittens are weighing heavily in A-chan's mind these days I thought I'd include an edible pair in a bento.

  I was feeling a bit better this morning so it seemed like a great time to try to perfect the art of corn cutting.  Perhaps I have been intimidated by my failures in the past, but the thought of trying to cut corn on the cob into smaller sizes to fit in a bento seems an impossible task.  Today there was a revelation.  I forgot to cook the corn the night before and ended up in a tight spot this morning.  Instead of giving up I tried microwaving.  Ta Dah!  It was so easy to cut right through. It didn't squish, deform or break the knife.   Wow, I wish I'd tried that a long time ago!

In the bento: Couscous with mittens, tofu and zucchini stirfry on top of a bread container, microwaved corn on the cob slice (yahoo!), cherry tomato and blackberries.

The mittens were cut from a pink egg sheet and provolone cheese with nori hearts and ties.  I cut them free form with scissors which explains why they are a little bit different from one another.

Here is A-chan working on the batch of snowman cookies that we made last night.  She is getting the hang of the piping bag!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Sick Mama bentos

Sometimes you just slog food in the direction of a bento box and hope that it lands at least 90% inside the box.  Yesterday was one of those days.  Today was a little better.  Since I was feeling bad I needed things to be simple, easy and above all fast.  I have said this a lot, I know...but thank goodness for the freezer stash!  It really helped to not have to think but just take what I had in the freezer and make a bento with it.

In today's bento (top): Couscous with green peas, veggie hot dog flowers with corn centers, carrot hearts, steamed broccoli, a strawberry and a small bunch of grapes.

In yesterday's bento (below): A slice of flatpie, veggie hotdogs, black olives, strawberry halves, steamed broccoli, pomegranate seeds, grape halves.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rudolph's Getting Ready!

Rudolph is primping for his big day, putting on his new collar with the huge bow.  He's counting down the days until Christmas and so are we.  A-chan was so inspired by our Advent Calendar this year that she asked Santa to bring her some mittens.  I managed to talk her out of the automatic snowball throwing machine she also wanted, whew!

In the bento: Cheese sandwich with rudolph on top, steamed broccoli, soy sauce tofu, a huge strawberry, two picks with carrot flowers and black olives, a couple of tiny slivers of mango.

Rudolph was cut from soy turkey with my food scissors.  The soy turkey that I like to use for sandwiches comes in very thin slices so I used three layers to make him more substantial.  His eye and antlers were cut from provolone cheese and his beautiful red nose was the end of a strawberry.  The handsome collar was cut from nori and has a pasta bow with a strawberry slice, provolone circle and a nori heart for festive decoration.

Cooking all took place in one pot - first boiling the pasta.  I cooked three pieces of bowtie pasta just in case something untoward happened and I needed backups.  Once the pasta was done I removed them with chopsticks and then cooked the broccoli with the still hot water.  After the broccoli was ready I poured out the water and replaced it with sesame oil to cook the tofu.  It took about 15 minutes total cooking time, during which I was making the sammie and reindeer.  I could have cut down on the cooking time and used two pots (one for veggies, one for tofu) but I was focusing on tidier cooking this morning.

What do you think of the labels, etc. that I've been putting on some bento pictures?  Other bento makers have caught my eye with labels and decor on their bento pictures, like Lia Chen at Bentolicious whose are always gorgeous.  I wanted to give it a try.  It's fun and I've enjoyed doing it but I'm not sure if I should keep it up. I need opinions from you guys!  Is it okay or ickle?

This post is linked up at Today's Creative Blog.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Snow Lady

Rush here, rush there, rush everywhere!  It seems like there isn't enough time to get everything done today.  We have three sick cats so I'm spending a good bit of today at the Vet's office.  Luckily this bento was really fast and easy to make, not requiring much brain power.  Which was good because I forgot to turn on the coffee maker this morning.  A snowman is always a must for winter bentos.  I realized after I had gotten the body into the box that there wasn't enough room for a hat.  So it became a snowlady instead.

In the bento: Three onigiri for the snowlady, veggie hotdogs, mango chunks, carrot flowers, steamed broccoli and a strawberry.

The Snowlady's buttons are pomegranate seeds.  Her eyes and mouth are nori but her nose is carrot and her cheeks were cut from veggie hotdog.  She has a bit of nori hair and a carrot bow.  The scarf was cut from spring onion which made a wonderfully frayed end when cut lengthwise with kitchen scissors.

A few tiny snowflakes were punched from a mamenori sheet.  I didn't have any natural color mamenori left so I had to use the orange.

Here is A-chan holding her kitten and a sneak peek of the Christmas tree.  The kitten is already getting big. I love this pic with her tongue sticking out!  We're still working on Holiday decorating.  I don't think we'll have any time for it today but hopefully tomorrow will see all the boxes emptied and Christmas cheer spread around the house.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fluffy Pinkness

Today's bento is brought to you by the fluffy goodness of pink.  A Hello Kitty bento most definitely needed a fluffy pink background.  Fortunately one was provided for me in the form of A-chan's new fluffy pink skirt which was left on my kitchen counter for no fathomable reason.  Since it made such a nice backdrop I can't be too upset about it.  I am still left wondering why the kitchen counter?

In the bento:  Morningstar Farms Chik nuggets, carrot flower with a corn center, spring onion, Hello Kitty onigiri, corn filled picks, a piece of apple, steamed broccoli, more carrot flowers and some halved grapes.

Hello Kitty's nose was made from a piece of corn since I happened to have some left over after filling the two toothpicks, but the rest of her face was punched from nori.  Her bow was cut from apple peel.  The small carrot flower got the last leftover corn kernel.  I used a small cutter to make a hole in the center of the flower and gently pushed the end of the kernel into the space.  Now I wish that I'd had enough corn to do the same with the larger flowers!

On the side A-chan had a soy sauce bottle and a small container of ketchup.  These are usually constant companions to her bentos but are never shown because I forget to put them in.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Beary Christmas

This bear is ready for Christmas with his festive hat and bowtie.  We've just begun to get ready.  It's only the first of December but I already feel like we're behind.  I'm not worried, we'll start catching up quickly this weekend.  I had to finish this year's advent calendar on time for today before any other decorating could occur!

In the bento: Vegetarian spaghetti, black olives, steamed broccoli, a miniature corn croquette, carrot and provolone hearts, grapes, apple slices and a cute bear.

The bear was made in two layers: a provolone cheese layer topped by a soy turkey layer.  I used a Hello Kitty bow cutter to make the ear shape in the turkey layer so that the cheese could show from beneath.  His muzzle is provolone cheese, facial features are nori and his bowtie was cut from apple peel.  To make his cheeks I dipped the end of a toothpick into sriracha sauce and dotted it onto the soy turkey.  The festive hat was cut from tomato peel and provolone cheese.  There is a second layer of provolone behind the hat to help it stay in place.

I love this spaghetti recipe!  It's so good that A-chan didn't bat an eye at having it for lunch today even though we'd eaten it for dinner last night.  And I would love to share the recipe with you guys.  But I feel strange posting recipes on a bento blog, even though they can be used in a bento.  I'm a habitual compartmentalizer.  Everything must go in it's own box.  A-chan's toybox with everything all jumbled in drives me nuts.  So...I created another blog where I can do all the posts that I want to do that aren't necessarily bento related.  Recipes can have their own box now!  And I can post them all, mwahahaha!  With maybe some crafts and other miscellaneous stuff as well.  Starting it off with a bang - this year's Advent Calendar.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tofu Aliens!

A-chan requested Tofu Aliens in her bento today.  The Tofu Aliens had originally started as doodles last Christmas during a long drive up to visit family.  They were so fun to draw that I kept doing more and more! We even thought up a few stories to go along with them.  I wish that I had time to share one with you, but today is Advent Calendar day.  That means I need to get to work on wrapping little gifts and hanging them up!

In the bento: The fruit tier holds a container of pomegranate seeds, checkered apple pieces, tangerine slices, a small bunch of grapes and two picks with black olives.  The second tier has three peanut butter and sugar sprinkle sandwiches, carrot flowers, steamed broccoli and two tofu aliens.

The tofu aliens are made from extra firm tofu blocks that were lightly pan seared in sesame oil.  Their eyes are nori and half cooked spaghetti noodles were perfect for the antennae.  The ends of the antennae were cut from apple peel pieces that were removed from the checkerboard apples.  After a failed attempt at making cheeks with pomegranate juice I decided to use soy bologna to hide what turned out looking like bruises as the juice turned purple.

Here is one of my silly but fun Tofu Alien doodles!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Onigiri Kitties

Snow in Georgia.  In November?  Nah!  They forecast snow for our area today but it hasn't materialized.  I think they were joking.  And I'm blaming the fact that I couldn't get a decent picture of this bento on the fact that there was no snow.  If there had been snow I would have gotten a perfectly lit, completely focused picture.  I'm sure of it.

In the bento: Two orange kitty onigiri, steamed broccoli, Morningstar Farms chik nuggests, black olives, a Forelle pear, small provolone and sugar dot flowers and a small clump of grapes.

I put the onigiri in paper cups for prettiness.  That technique shows up myriad times in bento books so I decided to give it a try.  I like the end effect!  The kitty faces are made with provolone cheese and nori, both of which are glued together and to the onigiri by small amounts of mayo.  The ears were cut from a carrot slice - you can see the rounded bottoms from the curve of the carrot.  To hold the ears in place I used small pieces of spaghetti noodles stuck first into the carrot and then poked into the rice.

Luckily this Tare Panda box has an extra bit of vertical space for the pear and grapes!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hide and Seek Panda

Happy Monday!  Did you have a wonderful Thanksgiving?  I hope so!  Ours was peaceful and crafty.  There are wild turkeys strutting through our back yard this morning.  I wonder if they know we're vegetarians?

I'm slightly sad to greet this rainy Monday morning, we were enjoying the no-school laziness of the last week.  Bentoing helps to make up for it, though.  Knowing that I would get to play with food got me awake and through the early shower!

In the bento: Rice, apple bunny, pan-seared tofu, carrot circles, steamed broccoli, lots of tiny black olives on picks and a heart full of pomegranate seeds.

Do you see the panda playing hide and seek in the snow?  His face was punched from nori and put in place on the rice after the rice had been given a chance to cool. If you put the nori on too soon while the rice is still hot there will be nori shrinkage.  His cheeks were cut from pickled ginger (gari).

Goos luck to everyone adjusting back to regular schedules after the holiday!

Friday, November 18, 2011

It's All About the Pear

Sure, there are other fruits in the bento.  But it's all about the pear.  As A-chan got out of bed this morning her first question was, "Is there a tiny pear in my bento?"  Obviously the orange slices, cherries and apple bunny are just there to make the pear look pretty!

Pears aren't as photogenic once they have been cored so I waited to do that until after taking the picture.  Coring ensures that there are no classroom casualties when A-chan runs into a seed and tries to spit it out at the speed of light.

Even though there is no school next week I'm still planning some excuses to make bentos.  I have some wild ideas for a Fernbank Museum visiting bento!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Bento of Blah

During the summer all that I could see out the living room windows was a stretching canopy of green. Today there is blue sky showing through the tree limbs and bright orange leaves.  Autumn is constantly amazing and inspiring.  Today's bento, however, is a bit on the blah side.  It is dreary and dull compared to yesterday's bentos.  Even with a case of blahs it is healthy and tasty though!

In the bento: A layer of rice underneath the scrambled tofu, green peas and sesame carrots.  In the blue container are chunks of feta, an elephant pick crowns a cherry tomato next to apple chunks and an apple star.

Provolone cheese hearts were cut with a heart shaped cutter.  The nori hearts were punched with a scrapbook punch from Hobby Lobby.

The new kitten has been officially named Midnight, though I usually find myself calling her Little Bit.  She is ever so cute and finally getting used to us.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It's a Field Trip!

A-chan's class went on a field trip today and I was so excited that I was able to join them!  We went to an old Gold Mine in Dahlonega.  It was much more fascinating than I was expecting.  At first A-chan was nervous about being underground but then the guide pointed out lots of cute brown bats hanging from the ceiling.  She got so interested in finding more bats that she completely forgot to be scared.

In A-chan's bento: Rice with black sesame seeds, carrot butterflies and flower, baby corn spears, steamed broccoli, a lemon wedge, an apple bunny and Tofu Kaarage.

Earlier this week I attempted making a vegetarian version of a well loved and popular Japanese dish, Chicken Kaarage.  I was inspired by this bento at Soul Soup Soap and I knew just where to go to look for a recipe.  Maki's site Just Hungry had not only a recipe, but tons of other info too!  The finished product was delicious and I think that it will become a regular hit around here.

Almost as exciting as the walk deep down into the dripping rock tunnels was the fact that I got to pack a bento for me!  Again I kept it simple in the need for speed this morning.

In my bento: Rice with black sesame seeds, tofu kaarage, lemon slice, carrot maple leaf and flower, baby corn, two veggie gyoza, steamed broccoli and an apple bunny.

While I would normally have steamed the gyoza, the oil was already hot from cooking the tofu and I gave in to the impulse for easier cooking.  There was one less pan to clean up if I fried them which partially makes up for having two fried foods in one bento, right?  (Okay, maybe not a great argument healthwise, but it sure made lots of sense at seven o'clock this morning!)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Inari and a Pear

Yesterday's lunch had a Pikachu inside it so I decided to turn things around and pack today's lunch inside a Pikachu.  We don't use the Pikachu bento box very often because it is awkward for A-chan to open and close.  There isn't anything very messy in there today so I've got my fingers crossed that it will be okay.

In the bento: A container of sesame carrots and baby corn, steamed broccoli, Rome apple slices, inari zushi with furikake, a tiny pear and a few teeny carrot flowers.

After seeing the tiny pear in a beautiful bento on Ohayo Bento's blog, I had my eye out for some at our local grocery store.  This weekend we managed to nab some and A-chan has been gobbling them up.  Yesterday's pear was forgotten since it wasn't in her bento and she had to eat it for snack at home.  Today's pear had to go inside the box!  One great advantage of the Pikachu bento is that the top tier has a lot of room for vertical food.  Once the pretty picture had been taken I removed the core of the pear so that A-chan wouldn't have to worry about the seeds.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Good Morning Pikachu!

Hello Monday!  As the new kitten scampers across the floor there are five, count them, five adult cats cowering on the couch with me.  You'd think that they would have the decency to look slightly aloof rather than terrified.  I'm not sure whether to laugh or sigh.  

 A-chan claimed that it has been too long since she's had a Pikachu bento so today's was a great hit!  It was great for me too since the onigiri was already made and waiting in the freezer.  The veggie hot dog and the broccoli cooked at the same time while I cut the nori and tomato peel to decorate the onigiri. 

In the bento: Pikachu onigiri, veggie hot dog stars, carrot star and sticks, steamed broccoli, cherry tomato, baby corn on picks and a checkerboard apple.

If you've been following my ramblings for a while, you know that I have a hard time making veggie hot dogs look pretty.  These star hot dogs were inspired by some that I have seen...somewhere.  I have no idea where but they are certainly not my own idea, they got stuck in my head and then I had to try them.  (If you know whose bentos I saw them in, please tell me so that I can attribute properly!)   My attempts are chronicled below.  Thankfully no one was awake to witness my victory dance!

Friday, November 11, 2011

An Autumn Lunch

The sun is shining and brightly colored leaves are floating slowly to the ground.  It is a beautiful day.  Today's bento is in homage to autumn with big slabs of cold-fighting flat pie.  We've been waiting until the last of the plums were finished before cutting open the dragonfruit and today is the day!  I'm not sure who was more excited, myself or A-chan.

In the bento: Dragonfruit, orange slices, cherry tomatoes, a container of green peas and 2 slices of Scottish Flat Pie potato & onion goodness.

There are some radish sprouts sprinkled about in this bento.  I have no hope that she will actually eat them.  My sneaky plan is to have A-chan get used to seeing them before pulling a fast one and mixing them in something.  Yes, I am evil.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Emergency Hello Kitty

Ugh, I'm so sick!  Luckily A-chan is nice and healthy and has not caught this plague from me.  Bento making seemed almost impossible this morning, but Hello Kitty came through for me again!  It is nice to have a fallback for those times when my brain is fogged by nasty germy things.  Oops.  I just now realized that I forgot to put in the soy sauce bottle.  Yikes, I'm going to hear about that later.

In the bento: Peanut butter and sugar sprinkle sandwich, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, provolone cheese flowers, black plum slices, steamed broccoli and a half orange slice.

Hello Kitty was made from provolone cheese, nori and carrot, using an HK onigiri mold to cut the cheese and a special HK nori punch for the face. The HK onigiri decorating set came with a cutter for the bow and the flowers.  I keep it all together in a box for just such emergency occasions so that I don't have to search for any tools.  Her backdrop was cut from a slice of soy bologna with a large cookie cutter.

Here is a link to the deco set that I used :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pirates Say Arrrr!

The new kitten certainly helped A-chan to wake up bright and early this morning!  And because she was up before I started decorating her bento she got to choose the theme.  I was all set to make cute little girls with flowery hats out of these onigiri and inari, but she decided on pirates instead.

In the bento:  Two adventurous pirate onigiri with inari hats, steamed broccoli, a lemon slice, a huge carrot flower, chunks of black plum, tomato slices and simmered orange cauliflower.

A-chan tried the orange cauliflower the other day but wasn't impressed.  Today I simmered some along with the inari in water, soy sauce, mirin and brown sugar.  We will see what she thinks!  Behind the huge carrot are more carrot slices nicely hidden because I didn't have time to make them pretty.

The pirate faces are made with provolone cheese, nori and tomato skin for the mouths.  They bear an X on their hats - I wasn't prepared to make skulls this morning with no warning!  Large golden earrings show off their previous plunder.

Our new kitten is installed in our bathroom for the nonce while we work on getting it acclimated to humans.  It is still a bit feral though we did get to pet it once this morning.  We are still not sure if it is a girl or boy.  Discovering that all important fact is my task for today.  Luckily no one lost any blood during the capture of the little one who at the time was intent on stalking a possum in our front yard.  Yikes!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pancakes, stars and a kitten

You might be wondering why there is a kitten in the title but not in the bento.  That would be because my daughter can do magic.  It's a special kind of magic where she creates kittens out of thin air.  Like the one that she wanted for her birthday.  The one that we didn't get for her but showed up on our front porch the day after her birthday party.  Yep.  The four legged, long haired, black and white prince of cuteness that currently bears the name 'Meow'.  I'm campaigning for Meow Meow McFargus.  Hubs thinks Meow Meowkins McFargus.

In the bento:  Two miniature pancakes with provolone stars, three crinkle cut french fries, soy sausage links, edamame on a pick, korean red grapes, orange wedges and a sweet panda that contains shredded cheese.

This bento took two dishes to cook: Pancakes and fries went in the oven together, edamame and sausage links went in the same pan to simmer.  The longest part of this was waiting for the oven to heat up!  The panda container was filled with shredded cheese last night and put in the fridge to await the morning bento.

On a side note - did you notice the Tare Panda chopsticks?  Kawaii!!  We arrived early for a movie this past Saturday and I found these while we wandered the mall to kill time.  Love them!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fruit in a Bear

Isn't it cute?  The box, I mean.  Pizza day was the best excuse to pop out my new bento box and give it a whirl.  It's the Kuma White Donburi from Bento and Co.  Dude, it's a deep bento box!  Those aren't orange wedges they are half slices.  Half a black plum fit alongside the oranges.  Some might call the lemon wedges citrus overload with all the orange slices, but I wanted something to fit perfectly in that tight curve.  The side container holds a ton of blueberries and pomegranate seeds.

In the bento:  (Hmmm, I think I've already told you everything, but oh well!) Lemon wedges, half orange slices, black plum chunks, blueberries and pomegranate seeds.  There are a few provolone cheese stars and a strawberry divider because it went with the fruit theme and made things cuter.

You may have noticed that the blueberry/pomegranate seeds combination has been going on all week.  That is usually part of how I plan my bentos - A-chan chooses two fruits and then I combine them in different ways all week.  Only...there aren't a lot of ways to combine blueberries and pomegranate seeds.  They do look pretty jumbled together in a container, though!

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Noodles and Some Cauliflower

When I saw orange cauliflower for sale at the grocery store this week I had an irresistible urge to buy some. I didn't spend any time thinking about it, just grabbed a beautiful head of it and ran.  But at home I began to wonder about it.  What makes it orange?  Does it taste any different?  I had no clue.

According to this engaging article by Saveur, the orange cauliflower originated in Canada.  Another article from Cornell University tells us that this type of cauliflower is higher in beta-carotene and therefore more nutritious than its paler version.  The flavor is similar to normal cauliflower with a little extra sweetness but the texture is smoother.  My taste buds said 'woohoo'!  I'm hoping that A-chan will have the same reaction, though she normally does not like cauliflower so I am not expecting too much from it.  The bright color definitely perked up her interest.

In the bento: Spaghetti noodles, a carrot flower and snap pea leaves are in the bottom tier.  The top tier contains steamed broccoli and orange cauliflower, blueberries and pomegranate seeds, and Morningstar Farms chik nuggets with carrot flowers separating each.  A container of ketchup is in the background.  Not shown are a container of grated parmesan cheese for sprinkling on the noodles and a soy sauce piggy.

The spaghetti noodles were cut into shorter pieces to make eating them easier.  The bento doesn't look as pretty when they are cut up, but it's better to be able to eat them without mishap.  The carrot flowers were cut with a flower shaped cutter.  To make the leaves I cooked a snap pea then opened it and removed the insides before cutting it into leaf shapes with scissors.  To contain the fruit I used a miniature muffin cup.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Panda Luv

Whoa.  It was 35 degrees out there when we went to school this morning.  Thirty-five.  Degrees.  35!  Good thing the glove box is installed in the foyer since we certainly needed warm fingers as we ran out the door.

For today's bento I wanted to play around with my letter cutters.  My only complaint about them is that they don't have the centers cut out.  So far I've been unhappy with my efforts to cut them out by hand and wanted to try something different.  I used the inside bow area of the Hello Kitty bow cutter to create the P's space.  The D's space was cut using the teddy bear mouth cutter.  The spaces for the two A's were made with a triangle that I cut down to proper size using scissors.  I'm happy with the results!

In the bento: Grape halves, pomegranate seeds, steamed broccoli, blueberries on panda picks, a miniature corn croquette and two tiny slices of Scottish Flat Pie, provolone cheese and soy bologna letters and hearts.

The Flat Pie is our traditional Halloween meal.  It never fails to provide comfort and stamina for the long stints of candy-hunting.  Potato and onion slices lightly fried with olive oil, butter and garlic, wrapped in a biscuit crust and smothered with cheese.  Yum!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cutie pies?

The day after Halloween dawned bright and way too early for my liking!  And even worse, without any bento ideas in my head.  Things were basically thrown into the bento box at random with some lettuce for padding and crossed fingers for luck.

In the bento: Lemon wedges, pomegranate wedge, blueberries, grapes, carrot flowers, green peas, cheddar cheese cubes, soy sausage links, heart shaped onigiri cutie pies.

I'm calling the onigiri 'cutie pies' because I don't know what else to call them.  They aren't anything in particular - just something cute that I could make out of frozen onigiri.  Their faces were made from nori with pomegranate juice for the cheeks.  The tiny flowers were cut from provolone cheese and I used leftover nori punched pieces for their centers.  There are random pomegranate seeds and carrot flowers all over the place for no good reason, lol.

Did you all have a wonderful Halloween?  I hope that you got tons of candy!  There were a few hiccups to our Halloween evening but overall we had a great time. One of the cats stole my dinner while I wasn't looking.  Snatched it right off my plate and under the couch.   A-chan and I had fun Trick or Treating until the poor girl fell on two different staircases, after which she decided not to continue with a hurt leg.  Luckily it was just bruised and felt much better this morning.  She looked very cute in her Garden Fairy costume.

It was designed by her and sewn together by me.  The wings were purchased at the Ren Faire several years ago and we added some flowers and sparkly beaded strings.  My roman outfit was not quite suitable for the freezing temperatures, but I was crazy enough to wear it anyway - any excuse to dress up in costume!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Little Witch

Happy Halloween!  Are you ready?  There is one last piece of A-chan's costume to be sewn before I can declare it finished and ready for the evening. Her school costume is that of a Medieval child around 800 AD.  It looked extremely cute!  I adore the fact that her school requested that no one wear scary or grotesque costumes to class. One warning for anyone contemplating a medieval costume - the circular cloak is more than a match for a 5 point car seat.  It took 10 minutes to get her buckled in safely this morning.

For the bento today I wanted to make something that was Halloween themed but also cute.  My mind whirled with images until I finally decided upon this one.  I added some of A-chan's most favorite fruits and had to make her promise to wait until lunch to eat the pomegranate seeds!

In the bento:  Rice, blueberries, pomegranate seeds, carrots stars and jackolantern, steamed broccoli, steamed squash, sauteed tofu with black sesame seeds.

The little witch is primarily made from cheese but her cute green hair is zucchini.  The hat, eyes and nose are nori.  The mouth, red star and collar are all tomato peel.  The results of my morning experiment with tomato peel made me very excited!  I peeled a strip from a cut tomato with a paring knife before scraping the flesh away.  It left a very thin but workable piece that cut easily with scissors.

Friday, October 28, 2011


A-chan had a wonderful birthday yesterday!  I was amazed and a tad aghast at the amounts of sugar she managed to consume in one 24 hour period.  And it's not even Halloween yet.  This week has been a candy corn extravaganza and to finish it up we have candycorn onigiri twins!  Luckily these candycorn contain no trace of sugar and have some very healthy stuff to go along with them.

In the bento: Candycorn onigiri, raspberries, steamed broccoli, potato ghosts, apple slices and orange slices.

The potato ghosties were pan fried in a little olive oil.  They have black sesame seeds for eyes.  The onigiri have nori faces.  I'm sure that everyone who has tried using punches with nori occasionally runs into the frustration of getting bits and parts that aren't whole.  I've saved up some of my punch 'rejects' and used them for onigiri hair today.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cupcake Cat

I don't think we've ever been so late to school!  That's okay though, today is A-chan's birthday.  I went a little crazy in saying yes to everything this morning, including blueberry muffins for breakfast and letting her open her present before school.  It is so hard to believe that she is seven years old.  I'll probably be saying that same phrase every year on her birthday, hehe :)

Her bento today is a representation of something that she loves to draw all the time - cupcake cat!  I absolutely adore the things she draws and wanted to do a special birthday bento for her.  My version isn't quite right since I had to miss out on some details due to time constraints.

In the bento:  Confetti rice, cupcake cat, raspberries, carrot heart, edamame on a pick, fried tofu, orange wedges and steamed broccoli.

When we made the candy corn onigiri we had bits of all three colors leftover.  So I combined them all together to make confetti rice!  Cupcake cat is made from provolone cheese, egg sheets, nori and sugar dots with a carrot flower and edamame leaves.

A-chan was very specific regarding cupcakes for her class today.  She wanted orange flavor cupcakes!  I have never before owned a zester and had never used one before last night, but I have quickly fallen in love with my brand new one.  With different colored cake layers and then white icing on top they became candy corn cupcakes!  Each cupcake got a candy corn  with cute faces done with chocolate icing.  Here's hoping that she likes them when I take them to school this afternoon.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chili for all

It's time for a change of menus!  I'm craving things that are hearty and made for the lovely fall weather.  Chilly weather is perfect for chili.  Warm and thick, a bit spicy and very filling.  My recipe for vegetarian chili makes a huge batch, leaving tons for leftovers and bentos.  Today's bento is very simple which left me enough time this morning to get ready to make cupcakes for A-chan's birthday tomorrow.  As soon as I dropped her at school it was time for shopping.  I needed a zester and a way to carry 36 cupcakes all by myself and luckily found both! Now I just have to make them all, plus ice them and oh gosh, the 500 other things that have to be done by tomorrow.  Can you say Eeek!

In the bento:  Vegetarian chili with shredded cheese sprinkled on top, raspberries, sugar snap peas, apple bunny, carrot Jack'o'lantern and sauteed zucchini slices.

Hidden underneath the apple bunny are more apple pieces and another carrot pumpkin.  For just a bit of quick cuteness I added a chocolate sweet divider sheet.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

One Sided Love

Isn't autumn wonderful?  There is a nice chill in the air this morning, just enough to make us shiver at the first step outdoors.  We haven't quite managed the wardrobe change for the new temperatures yet.  A-chan has grown so much that every morning there is a new discovery of cold-weather clothing that no longer fits!

Today's bento was inspired by the beautiful zucchini that I found at the store last night.  They were a perfect green for froggies!

In the bento: Lots of four cheese ravioli, zucchini froggy faces, carrot flowers, steamed broccoli, a lemon wedge, raspberries, tofu hearts.

The strange shapes left over from cutting heart shapes out of tofu were cooked as well and are hidden underneath the hearts.  The froggy faces were cut out of zucchini with facial features made from provolone cheese, carrot and sesame seeds.  A container with grated parmesan is in the background, ready to be sprinkled over the ravioli.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Jack'o'Lantern Pancakes

Coming in on the heels of a fantastic weekend of taekwondo sparring camp and the first of three birthday parties, this week's forecast includes chaos, panic and incredible amounts of sugar.  Amid the scramble of Birthday preparations, bento lunches are turning out to be a haven of calm and relaxation.  Today's bento contained more sugar than I normally like to put in (With abject apologies to A-chan's teachers today) but I needed something that wouldn't take much brain power to put together.

In the bento: Jack'o'lantern pancake sandwiches with yellow tinted icing, soy sausage links, raspberries, tiny carrot flowers, sugar snap peas and two pan fried potato kitties.

Not only was this bento a snap to put together, it only needed one pan for cooking the veg. sausage, snap peas and potatoes.  I boiled the snap peas in the pan for 3 minutes and removed them with chopsticks.  Into the hot water went the sausage links straight from the freezer.  They got cooked for 5 minutes.  When they came out the pan was dried and then used to lightly fry the potatoes with a tiny bit of olive oil.

The Jack'o'Lantern faces were cut with a fillet knife very, very carefully!  I put a generous dollop of the icing in between so that it would squish through the faces a bit.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Sweet Surprise

Today is Pizza Friday at school so A-chan took a fruit bento to have alongside it.  The strawberries are completely luscious.  I had a hard time not snacking on all of them while I was packing her bento this morning.  There isn't much color variation in this one - I hadn't realized all the fruits were red/yellow until I got them all out this morning.  However, there are a ton of differing flavors in this box which makes up for the homogeneity of color!

In the bento: Apple bunnies, a lemon slice, strawberries, black plum slices, nectarine chunks, provolone cheese flowers and a surprise in the chick container.

A-chan didn't get to see what's inside the chick, but I'll go ahead and tell - it's candycorn!  Only a few would fit into this tiny and very cute container.  A few is all that she needs, though.  It's rare that we have sugary things in the house, though October is an exception.  Not only is it the month of candycorn (I've mentioned my candycorn obsession before, right?) but it's also A-chan's birthday month and she is having three different birthday parties.  Oh yeah, there's that little Halloween thing too, lol.  Let the sugar festivities begin!

On a side note today's post is my 375th!  Wow!  Luckily Blogger keeps the count or I'd have no idea.  Surely I need to do something when I hit 400.  What kind of thing should I do to celebrate?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Terror of the Deep

The terror of the deep is ... a cute little yellow octopus.   Doesn't her cuteness terrify you?  The huge eyes and the pink cheeks are horrifying enough but the bow sends shivers down my spine!  This ghastly apparition from the deep is going to tickle you...

It turned cold here all of a sudden!  We're wearing long sleeves for the first time today.  The cats all insist that they need to stay warm too - preferably by sitting in a pile on my lap.

In the bento: Vegetarian pastitsio (greek macaroni and meat casserole), carrot flowers, a checkerboard apple, black plum slices, steamed broccoli and a miniature corn croquette.

Her scary cuteness is made from eggsheet with nori mouth and eyes, gari cheeks and a carrot bow.  The eggsheet was made using the fantastic tutorial on the Bentolicious blog.  I was thrilled with how quickly I made it this morning and with how perfect it turned out!

The vegetarian pastitsio is very yummy and perfect for chilly days.  My recipe for it can be found on the recipe page.  For a change I decided to use aluminum foil as a divider today.  It added a nice bit of metallic sheen.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It was a dark October night

I'm not sure why but bats were requested for today's bento.  Without much thought I readily agreed.  Now I know better.  Cutting bats out of nori is very hard!  Much, much harder than I expected so they came out a little wonky.  Okay, perhaps it would have been better if I'd made larger bats or used better scissors.  I must say that I absolutely love the tree!

In the bento:  Couscous, cheese and nori trees and bats, apple bunny, lemon wedge, pink pig container filled with green peas, steamed sugar snap peas, carrot flowers.  There are more apple pieces hidden underneath the bunny.

I first drew a pattern for the tree and bats on paper then cut them out of nori using the paper as a guide.  With the nori on the cheese, I cut a larger shape from the provolone.  One bat has eyes of sesame seeds and the other has bits of cheese.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Proper Orange

Ha! This batch of orange rice has an intense orange color that is perfect for a Halloween bento.  I am much happier with it than with the one that I used for the candy corn onigiri.  The plain old gel food coloring from the supermarket did the trick much better than the Wilton's colors.  It's possible that the difference is due more to my being nervous about using the Wilton's though :)

A-chan was home sick yesterday but was feeling much better today.  She asked for another onigiri bento for today so I went for the all-time Halloween favorite - Jack'o'lanterns!  I love it when a peek at her bento turns her from a grumpy irritable morning grouch into a smiling happy to go to school girl.

In the bento:  5 spice tofu with edamame, black plum slices, two onigiri, black olives, steamed broccoli, cheese and nori stars and a corn croquette.

The pumpkin stems are broccoli stems and their leaves are split edamame.  The faces were hand cut from nori.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Candy Corn Onigiri

It's much harder to see the different color bands on the onigiri in the picture than in person.  But they are there, I swear!  To make the candycorn onigiri this year I decided to try a different coloring agent for the rice and it came out a lot lighter than I wanted. Next time I will go back to using the gel coloring.   Making the candycorn onigiri has become a fall tradition for us and we had a great time making a huge mess out of the kitchen together.

Today's bento pic also features "Snowflake MacNeil" who came home with us from the Scottish Highland Games this weekend.  When A-chan found a stuffed kitten for sale who also had a dashing scarf which just happened to be of our clan's tartan - how could I say no?  

Our local Highland Games has started instituting a grand Children's program.  We love it.  She got to try a miniature version of the caber toss, sheaf toss and hammer throw which made watching the athletic events much more relevant.  There were crafts and face painting, storytimes and dance lessons.  We had a wonderful time and we did everything.  I mean it - everything!

In the bento: Candycorn onigiri, black olive minions, sauteed tofu cubes, a tomato monster, nectarine slices, steamed broccoli and carrot leaves.

The tomato monster's eyes were made from soy turkey and nori.  The small circles were punched out of the nori and then used for the onigiri's eyes.  His tongue is also cut from soy turkey.