Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I thought it was a good idea...

So my brilliant idea to make sandwiches and wrap them up to look like pieces of candy...bellyflopped. Seriously. I look at the picture and wonder what in the world I was thinking. It at least made A-chan laugh which in the early morning hours can be counted as a miracle. Tomorrow morning will be better. Yes, I am filled with hope for tomorrow :)

In the bento: Two circular cheese sandwiches wrapped in cling wrap, raspberries, a small bunch of grapes, some baby carrots, three animal picks with blocks of cheese and slices of Morningstar Farms veggie sausage links, shallow fried potatoes in the shape of Hello Kitty and flowers.

The only thing that saves this bento from being completely cringe-worthy are the potatoes. I love how the potatoes came out!

Don't forget about the Bento4Japan auctions at eBay! I'm at the point where it's scary for me to look - we're having a kitty go in to the vet for surgery tomorrow so bidding on auctions is forbidden. That means I have to live vicariously through all of you! Go, bid, tell me what you win!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pierogies and Sunshine

Here is a quick and easy bento with just a teensy bit of cuteness! The smiling sun baran was a very quick way to add some kawaii. A-chan is a fan of Ni Hao Kai Lan so I added in some quick 'sun fuzzies' to brighten up her day. The thing that took the longest in this bento was cooking the pierogies. They need a double technique - first the boiling and then the shallow frying in butter, yum! I think that I might be getting better at making hot dog flowers, these three don't seem as bad as my usual :)

In the bento: Potato and cheese pierogies, smartdog veggie dog flowers with green pea centers, cara cara orange wedges, strawberries and provolone cheese 'sun fuzzies'. Hidden underneath the fruit are more veggie hot dogs that were sliced to make a nice bottom layer for the bento.

I experimented a little bit and used some purple cabbage as a decorative edging around the pierogies. The color didn't come out as well in the looked much more vibrant and purple in real life.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bunnies for Spring!

These two sweet bunny onigiri are for springtime because wow, it's here with a bang. And a boom and several streaks of lightning! The spring storms have been here for a couple of days now with lots of noise and tons of rain. Looking out the window I can see lots of buds on the blueberry bushes and bees buzzing everywhere around.

In the bento: Two onigiri, some sauteed tofu and green peas on a bed of purple cabbage shreds, baby tomatoes and cara cara orange wedges.

The bunnies have nori mouths and eyes, orange peel for noses and a tiny bit of sriracha for cheeks. Their ears were cut out of Provolone cheese. The girl bunny's flowers were cut from carrots with a pink sugar dot for the center flower.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Heart Pancakes

The crazy busy week is finally winding down. Perhaps I can regain my sanity with a few days of normality next week. In any case, it's been tons of fun dancing every day with some of my favorite people and it all comes down to today's performance. I am so proud of my students! They only had 5 days to learn a choreography and they did it! We're going to have so much fun and tonight we're going out on the town to celebrate, yes indeed :D

Today's bento is pretty simple but I was in need of some simplicity this morning! On the side you can see some of the very lovely seashells that A-chan found at the beach last week.

In the bento: Little heart pancakes on top of larger provolone hearts with more pancakes behind, two Morningstar Farms bacon pieces rolled up into interesting shapes, two heart picks with green peas, one beautiful baby tomato, some nectarine slices and a small handful of grapes on the side.

The little heart pancakes were cut out of miniature pancakes with a heart shaped cookie cutter, alas I do not have the talent to make heart shaped pancakes from scratch :) The muffin cup full of grapes was wrapped up in cling wrap and a heart ribbon was tied around the top to make a cute side-car. Not shown was a small container of strawberry icing for the pancakes, as always!

The Bento4Japan auctions are still going strong! Those incredible ladies are working hard to help Japan, please show your support. Look at all the great items - you know you want some!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Box Appetit Bento Review

A while ago I posted a review of the Box Appetit that I was given during the Holidays. Not long thereafter I was contacted by Black+Blum, the maker of the Box Appetit. There were willing to send me one of their new line of bento boxes to try out and review. To say that I was excited is way too tame! I waited as patiently as I could for it to arrive in the mail. Being patient is not one of my stronger characteristics so this was very difficult for me.

It arrived the day of my daughter's Taekwondo tournament. I couldn't open it right away because I was driving. But I insisted on carrying it into the tournament with me so that I could open and admire it during some of the inevitable downtime between matches. This box is so sleek and elegant and I couldn't wait to give it a whirl. Fast forward to the next day...

The very first thing I tried was testing it out to see which of my bento bags it might fit into easily. This is standard operating procedure for me whenever I get a new bento box. It's much better to try this out before a box is full of food! In this case it was also a necessary step since the size of the original Box Appetit made it impossible to fit into a bento bag and that was my largest reservation about using it as a bento box. Luckily the bento version fit perfectly into my five main carrying bags.

Again I filled the box mostly with spicy hot noodles which are a particular weakness of mine. It is deeper than most other bento boxes and I was surprised by the amount of noodles that I could pack into it. As with the other box, there is a lovely little sauce container and what I'm enjoying calling a 'sauce-well'. (You know - kind of like an inkwell in an old timey desk set?) These two features are extremely happy making and are unique to these boxes. In this trial run I used the sauce-well in the lid for dipping my tofu into sriracha, yum!
Above all, the thing that makes me happiest about this box is the way it fits into my hand. I know that is a strange thing to say about a bento box, but it's true. Seriously. When I make a bento for myself I'm usually eating it in a location like a tournament, convention or on a hike where there is no table and I end up holding the box to eat out of it. It was such a blissful feeling to hold in my hand that I insisted my friend give it a try too. It just feels downright natural to hold in one hand while using a fork (or chopsticks) in the other.

Pros: I keep mentioning the sauce container and sauce-well because I think they are ingenious. I'm very pleased at the size of the box, I was originally worried that it would not fit any bags and be difficult to carry. It's very handy! (Please excuse the bad pun.) Another plus is that it was very easy to clean with no tough-to-scrub corners.

Cons: Again, the fork holder is on the outside of the box. I still have a little bit of an issue with this and prefer to use utensils that travel in a container of some sort. However, the box does fit into bags which protect the fork so it's a lot less of an issue for me than with the larger version.

In the bento: Coconut curry udon noodles with squash, zucchini, onion and tomatoes in half. The other half held a Heaven and Earth Tempura Pancake, Purple potatoes on a bamboo skewer with a sweet soy dressing and sesame seeds, plum slices and lots of tiny tofu circles. The sauce container held sriracha.

The Heaven and Earth Tempura Pancake is a recipe from the Kansha cookbook by Elizabeth Andoh. The recipe for the Potatoes with sweet soy dressing is from the Everyday Harumi cookbook by Harumi Kurihara.

Sweet strawberries

Wow, yesterday was a busy day! It was crazy busy. We have a dance performance this friday so 2-3 hour rehearsals every day this week, plus A-chan went to the dentist. No cavities, yay!
Today will be a little less busy except for trying to catch up on all the things I didn't get done yesterday. This one is a very simple bento, but I love it! I wanted to use up the last of the pink eggsheet that I had made the other day and rattled through my cutter shapes until I found the strawberry cutters that I've been wanting to use forever.

In the bento: The front tier contains plain spaghetti noodles with cute strawberry shapes. The back tier holds one huge piece of steamed cauliflower, an apple bunny, one Morningstar Farms chik nugget, steamed broccoli, two waffle fries and two baby tomatoes on picks. Not shown in the picture were a container of ketchup and a container of grated Parmesan cheese to be sprinkled over the noodles.

The strawberries were a learning process. The eggsheet kept wanting to curl up and not lay flat on the noodles. So I cut out a base for the strawberries out of provolone which helped a lot! The facial details are from nori and there are sesame seeds carefully placed on top of the eggsheet :) I cut the 'leaves' from lettuce with scissors.

The auctions for Bento4Japan are still going strong and new tantalizing items keep popping up daily. There are even some awesome looking bento starter kits! Please go and join in the efforts to send help to Japan.

Monday, March 21, 2011

MomoCon 2011 Bento

Hi there. Yep, I know, haven't posted in a while. I have a good excuse though! I was on vacation. A-chan had Spring Break last week and my mother took us to the beach. It was A-chan's first time on a beach and she loved every second of it. I felt very conflicted and guilty for having fun last week. But while I was gone several brilliant bentoists got together and came up with a way to help make me feel better! It's called Bento4Japan. Wonderful people are selling bento items on ebay and the proceeds are going to help Japan. I'm doing my best to support their efforts and I have to say, if you're considering making bentos you should check out the auctions going on! Go here to find out more. Or you can search on ebay for bento4japan.

Now the bento above was actually A-chan's bento for the Saturday before our beach trip. We did a crazy schedule mix up and went to MomoCon all day on Saturday then left for the beach early Sunday morning. A-chan has recently been reading the Tokyo Mew Mew manga and asked me to make the main character's cute heart 'weapon' for her bento that day. Mine is not nearly as cute as the one in the books, but I had fun making the egg sheets and it even survived all the lines and the jostling crowds! I carried our lunch bag with me all morning and growled at anyone who dared touch it, lol. (A-chan said I was a lot less grumpy after lunch) We sat with our friend L and watched the costumes go by as we ate our bentos.

In the bento: Rice with pink egg sheet, yellow egg sheet and pink sprinkles. Steamed broccoli, nectarine slices, tofu circles, Heaven and Earth pancake, and a 'strawberry' onigiri with cucumber 'leaf'.

I was a little worried that the pink sprinkles in the rice would make a strange flavor, but A-chan said that she couldn't taste them at all. The strawberry onigiri was inspired by one of Akino Ichigo's books. The pink colored egg sheet was the product of a fun afternoon of experimentation as my local expert on food coloring came over with some of her supplies for me to try out. Thanks so much, Jen!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Weird Tomato Bento

The only plan I had in mind for today's bento was using one of the gorgeous vine-ripe tomatoes that were just begging to be eaten. Beyond that was just a vague idea of sticking eyes on it to make it cute. I think A-chan and I are in agreement when describing the final product as 'weird', lol. I asked if she wanted me to remove the face, but she said that she liked it okay even though it looked weird. Making cups out of veggies and fruits is fun and I particularly love to do that with lemons and limes which seem a little easier to work with than tomatoes. I think that this tomato looked even better without the face, though. The picture below was taken before the face was added for comparison.

In the bento: A lovely tomato cup with spaghetti noodles twirled up inside, a pikachu pick with pickle slices, Morningstar Farms chik nuggets, waffle fries, steamed broccoli and cauliflower are in the main tier. The second tier holds more tangelo slices, nectarine slices, a tiny little wrapped cake and some frozen blueberries. Not shown are a container of grated parmesan cheese for the noodles and a container of ketchup.

The tomato face was made with provolone cheese and nori, then 'glued' onto the tomato with a tiny bit of mayo.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ladybug Pancake

It's a good day for breakfast at lunchtime! The ladybug did not come out quite as neatly as I had originally intended, but the soy bacon twirls are cool enough to balance that out. A-chan loves it when I do unconventional things with the soy bacon. We've been branching out into new fruit adventures lately. Today's bento includes nectarines which A-chan tried for the first time yesterday. They are her new favorite fruit and she has requested to have them in her next 1000 bentos.

In the bento: Tangelo wedges, baby corn, soy bacon twirls with snow pea leaves, purple potato flowers with sesame seeds, nectarine slices, miniature pancakes.

The ladybug pancake has pink, strawberry flavored icing all over. I wasn't sure if the icing would melt nori so I layered the nori circles onto cheese circles so that they would stay lifted away from the icing. There are two more pancakes underneath the ladybug and a monkey face container that has a little bit more icing.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Airplane Bento

The airplane bento was actually yesterday's lunch but I am running a little bit behind this week. The main design of the plane came from a Hello Kitty bento book and then I altered it just a little. I chose the wrong material for the propellers - they can just barely be seen, lol. On the side are my new fav food of the year: hoddeok (Korean sweet pancakes).

In the bento: Fried rice with peas, carrots and baby corn underneath a cheese and soy turkey airplane, morningstar farms Chik nuggets, steamed broccoli, a large wedge of tomato, frozen blueberries and provolone cheese clouds.

The main body of the airplane is cheddar cheese while the white parts are provolone cheese and the brown details are soy turkey. I didn't have any cutters that seemed to fit the shapes so I drew it out on paper and cut the cheese with scissors. I love any excuse to use my letter cutters so I stuck in the word 'fly' just because :) The clouds were made with a cloud shaped cutter.

Okay, so hoddeok are these absolutely wonderful, amazingly delish pancakes that are a yeast dough with a brown sugar syrup inside. I had picked up an instant package for making sweet korean pancakes at Super H mart a while back, just on a whim. This past Sunday I finally got a chance to make them and was blown away. These things are fantastic! They are the perfect pancake for me - a person who doesn't like american style pancakes. I can't make flapjacks to save my life, but the hoddeok were easy and I didn't burn a single one :)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tae Kwon Do Tournament Bentos

My 6 year old has been competing in Tae kwon do tournaments for almost a year now. It's been a fascinating learning experience for both of us and I was surprised at how much fun tournaments could be. Some of it hasn't been easy, such as the sparring camp where she was kicked in the eye by a more aggressive opponent. But overall it has been a wonderful, enriching journey and I can't even begin to express how proud I am of her. At the tournament this weekend she was awarded two bronze medals which pleased her immensely! I can't wait to think up a bento for the next tournament!

In A-chan's bento: On the left side were a veggie gyoza, steamed cauliflower and broccoli, simmered kabocha (hiding behind the cauliflower), cucumber slices, baby corn spears and a large strawberry. On the right was a mixture of rice and scrambled tofu with a picture of A-chan in her dobok and blue belt. The dobok was cut from provolone. Her face, hands and feet were from soy turkey while her hair was soy ham. The blue belt and stars were cut from an egg sheet.

My husband's and mine were a lot less cute but still yummy! The only difference in ingredients was the style of rice. I wanted onigiri in my bento :) We had rice with scrambled tofu, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, a soy turkey blossom, cucumber, strawberries and simmered kabocha. This was my husband's first time trying kabocha and apparently he loved it!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Doggie Faces

So sleepy. OMG sleepy! Happy late Hinamatsuri, everyone! Yesterday was my husband's birthday so we took the day off to celebrate. A-chan had originally wanted a Girl's Day bento with a purple kimono with white polkadots on it. She then changed her mind when she didn't go to school. I was all excited about making a Hinamatsuri bento, too, darn it! I might make it next week :)

But today I was so completely sleepy when I got up that I had to scramble to make a bento happen. My brain was mush. It finally came together but I took horrible photos with lots of shadows. Bah. I blame it on the incredibly huge amounts of sugar I consumed yesterday. My husband's experimental birthday cake was fun to make but had loads of calories and sugar, lol.

In the bento: The tier on the left holds two cheese and mayo sammies with cute doggie faces and a lot of raspberries. The tier on the right has a container of couscous with a carrot flower, a spear of baby corn, quick cucumber pickles, chickpeas and black olives.

The doggie faces are made with soy turkey, the ears were cut from soy ham, the faces are provolone and nori with sriracha cheeks. After seeing the picture I think that the sriracha cheeks are a little too strong and that perhaps I should have gone with gari instead?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ice Cream Dreams

As soon as the daffodils start popping up, A-chan begins asking when we can have ice cream. It has become the second sign of spring in our household. I've promised that sometime this week she can have ice cream, but I haven't told her exactly when. (It will be on Sunday, shhhh.) Today's bento is either a teaser or a promise depending on how you view things. In any case, it got rave reviews before breakfast this morning :)

In the bento: Garlic and basil couscous with provolone and soy ham ice cream cones, carrot stars and tiny bits of raspberry in the left tier. The right tier holds soy sauce tofu triangles with a few more carrot and provolone stars, steamed broccoli, a bowl full of sesame carrots and a mix of pear bits and raspberries.

The ice cream cones were very easy to make using cutters from the Ohayo Bento store. The cutters can be used for space themed bentos (the ice cream part is actually a UFO) but there was also an insert showing other ways to use them!

And at long last here is a picture of A-chan with her pink hair, huzzah! The pink is still a little difficult to see in this pic so I think I'll try and put up another one tomorrow :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lazy Noodle Bento

Lazy. Yep, that's me today. It's not that I am uninspired, because I'm incredibly inspired. It's just that I'm unmotivated. So I'm letting my brain take a day off. Tomorrow will be better :) Even though today's bento is extra simple and not a charaben, it still banished the grumpy frown girl and brought back my sweet little girl! Her favorite part was the pickle which is wrapped up like candy. She believes that pickles actually should be eaten like candy and that pickle juice should be an option for drinking with dinner.

In the bento: Plain spaghetti noodles with three cute picks of green peas on top. Three black olives resting lightly upon a spray of curly lettuce, a container of pear pieces, several raspberries and just for the smile value, an ice cream cone baran.

Accompanying the bento today is a medium dill pickle wrapped up in cling wrap with heart ribbons tying each end. Also there is a container of grated parmesan cheese to sprinkle over the spaghetti noodles.