Monday, February 28, 2011

Cute Little Chick

We just got back from a fantastic weekend of awesome dancing, music and friends. I am completely exhausted and sore, desperate for more sleep but extremely happy. The thing that really made my morning was A-chan recognizing the chick in her bento! The last time I'd tried to make little chick onigiris, she didn't recognize them at all and refused to believe me when I told her what they were, lol. Ah, the lovely progression of artistry through tons of practice - whether with dance, music or bentos, practice makes us better at anything! A-chan did not want to go to school this morning so I'm hoping that the happy bright-eyed chick will help her be happy.

In the bento: Morningstar Farms chik nuggets, carrot butterfly, chick onigiri, steamed broccoli, black olives and strawberries.

The chick onirigi has nori feet and eyes, a carrot beak and provolone wings. In the background is a container of ketchup for the chik nuggets.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Daffodil Pancakes

The daffodils are blooming, the daffodils are blooming!! Spring has unofficially arrived and I love it. The splashes of bright yellow brighten up even the most dreary day. A-chan and I are doing our bi-annual flower impersonations too. She has two inches of bright pink hair and I have 6 inches of dark purple. (There will be pictures later in the week, I promise) Everyone loves A-chan with her bit of pink, they gush over it all the time :D

In the bento: Miniature pancakes sporting leafy picks with provolone petals and a candy center, vegetarian bacon hearts, lots of strawberries, some Clementine wedges and a fried potato in the shape of a Hello Kitty face.

The candy centers for the flowers are 'Make 'n Mold candy wafers' that I found at Hobby Lobby. They come in all kinds of colors and can be melted down to make candy, or used plain to make beautiful flowers :-)

The HK face was made using a special cutter on a slice of potato, then I shallow fried it in olive oil on both sides for a few minutes.

In the background is the little monkey face container that holds strawberry icing for A-chan to spread onto her pancakes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Inarizushi Bears

I am feeling so much better today! So much better that I decided to give myself a little challenge and try to make some cute inarizushi :) A-chan really liked them in our picnic bento last week and I still had enough left over to play around with them some. The bears came out pretty cute, I think. They are both a little different from one another and they are definitely not perfect but I had a lot of fun making them.

In the bento: The bottom tier holds a lot of rice with furikake and a huge carrot star. The top tier has two inarizushi bears, lots of frozen blueberries, a carrot star, a baby tomato and some simmered kabocha.

Once again I simmered the kabocha and the inari in the same mixture: water, soy sauce, mirin and brown sugar. It's only been about two months since I first tried kabocha and I'm really enjoying experimenting with it! I am planning to put some into our Japanese curry for dinner this evening, too :)

The bears' faces are made from provolone and nori with ketchup cheeks. (I would have used sriracha, but the ketchup was already sitting on the counter so I decided to give it a try) Their ears were the hard part. They were cut from other pieces of inari with a circular cutter. But they didn't want to stand up! After the circles were cut out I had a lot of pieces of inari that couldn't be stuffed with rice and were all kinds of weird shapes. So I shredded them and mixed them with sushi rice and sriracha for my bento.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hurt ankle bento

Today's bento relies entirely upon accessories for cuteness. My bento making skills were defeated by the ankle that I twisted at Pump It Up over the weekend. I took one trip to the fridge and grabbed as much food as I could and used only those things to create the bento without having to walk anymore. The bento making station is the kitchen counter right beside where I have all my accessories stored. Again I just grabbed those few accessories that were quickest and used them before hobbling to sit down. I kind of like how it ended up, though. It's a little bit different from my normal type of bento and I used three accessories, like the ring pick, that I don't normally use.

In the bento: Two onigiri with scrambled tofu, several carrot flowers, a baby tomato, a container of chickpeas, some purple grapes and steamed broccoli.

A-chan said that she didn't think it was too boring and that using the ring pick for the grapes would be a lot of fun. She did a lot of things to help me out this morning so that I didn't have to walk much. I'm chagrined that I thought my ankle was all better yesterday but by the time I drove home from Alabama and started to walk in the house it was all achy and making an ominous clicking noise. It has to get better fast, though - I have a dance convention this weekend and I'm performing!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Road Trip

We embarked on an adventure today. A trip that would normally take us 4 hours took 6 today. It was an interesting day of leisurely stop and go traffic. I had planned to have a picnic bento at a park about halfway through the trip but because of the incredibly horrific traffic we never got to do that. We ended up eating the bento in the car instead. It really, really was not designed for eating without a table. We made it work though - finger food for the win! And I only spilled a little bit of soy sauce :)

In the bento: 6 inari zushi with homemade furikake mixed in with the rice, and two apple bunnies in the first compartment. The second compartment has grapes, 3 scrambled tofu onigiri, and an ice mochi. Another one held 5 veggie gyoza, carrot hearts, veggie meatballs, two wedges of dragonfruit and the last compartment is totally full of kabocha with a couple of baby tomatoes.

It's been a long time since we've had Inari zushi, and I'm not sure that A-chan has ever had any before today. I am pleased to say that she loved them. And they will soon be included in her lunch bentos!! When simmering the kabocha I added brown sugar which made it very sweet and yum :)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fruit Full Bento

A bento full of fruit. Fruitful! A-chan was entranced with the idea of food that isn't fruit...looking like fruit. It was a fun morning :) Of course, there is a lot of real fruit in there too. I put some huge slices of dragonfruit in today. I am delighted that I seem to not be allergic to it! This bento would have been a great for an adult bento without the cute faces. I wish that I'd taken a picture before the faces went on so that I could show it both ways, but I thought of it too late.

In the bento: One small onigiri 'orange', a large bunch of purple grapes, two slices of dragonfruit, some chickpeas on picks with a wedge of lemon between, steamed broccoli that can barely be seen, a 'peachy' sweet potato bun. Hidden underneath the grapes and onigiri are lots of carrot hearts for a nice surprise.

The face of the peach is nori, glued on with strawberry jam. There are sesame seeds on the eyes and more jam for the cheeks. The stem and leaf are cut out of a snow pea. The orange's eyes are the inside peas from the snow pea with sesame seeds on top. His mouth is made from nori.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bunny Faces

Yesterday was an incredibly beautiful spring day. It was so warm and lovely that I took A-chan to the Botanical Gardens after school. We had a great time walking around and seeing all the potential that was waiting patiently for spring to get going. There was actually one flowering bush already - a chinese camellia. While we were walking A-chan casually said, "I wonder what will be in my bento tomorrow. Maybe a rabbit?" So of course I had to do a rabbit. But I wanted to use my tiny little bunny face cutter which was really small - two seemed to fill the space much better :) The bunny faces actually look more like bear faces to me, oh well.

This was also our first time trying dragonfruit! I wasn't sure how to cut it or prepare it so I had to spend some time googling it this morning, lol. It's yummy! I love it. Here's hoping A-chan will too.

In the bento: The left side has garlic couscous with bunny faces, carrot and apple peel flowers which had snow pea leaves. On the other side has morrocan style tofu and chickpeas, a baby tomato, carrot, some steamed broccoli and a container filled with dragonfruit and blueberries.

The bunny faces were cut out of provolone and soy ham. They have nori eyes, black sesame seed noses and sriracha cheeks.

I love the dark green of the kale leaf in the back! It makes a nice contrasting green with the broccoli. It would be wonderful to plant some but I'm not sure if the deer would eat it or not. They have come up on our front porch to eat our flowers before so that makes me wary.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sleepy Pikachu

I decided that Pikachu needed to be as yawning and sleepy as I was this morning. Again it's another morning to be thankful for freezer stash! There was no particular rush today, but I was so sleepy that I probably would have hurt myself if I had tried to cook much :)

In the bento: Pikachu onigiri, two vegetarian meatballs from Trader Joe's, black olives, carrot stars, a Huge piece of steamed broccoli, and a slice each of apple and plum.

The Pikachu onigiri was frozen and I just decorated the face with nori and soy ham after thawing it in the microwave. Unfortunately my preferred "glue", mayo, was unavailable this morning since I was in too much of a rush yesterday and left it out on the counter when I made dinner. Soooo, I used strawberry jam instead and I have my fingers crossed that A-chan won't notice!

The veggie meatballs were also frozen and just shallow fried in butter before being plopped into the bento. The apple technically has a heart cut into it, but you can't really see half of it so it doesn't look like anything at all, lol. On the side are two more of the Valentine's chocolates.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day is here! Sure, it's supposed to be all about the people that you love and stuff. But in this house it's all about the chocolate. I normally do not like chocolate. In fact I tend to avoid it with fervor which causes A-chan no end of grief since she can't understand why I don't like it the way she does. Homemade chocolates made to my specific secret recipe, however, are totally irresistible to me.

We ended our preparations for today's chocolate fest yesterday evening after a full day of playing with chocolate. A-chan made chocolate butterflies in 3 different colors for all her friends using a nifty silicone mold. We also have chocolates with coconut white chocolate filling, chocolates with almonds inside, plain chocolates and for the first time I tried doing some chocolate painting! See the two hearts in the little blue container to the left of the bento? The best of my chocolate painting efforts :) It was a lot like henna and very much fun to do! A-chan consented to eat some of the coconut filled chocolates that I made. And she *gasp* even liked them!

In the bento: Three heart shaped sandwiches with peanut butter and sugar sprinkles (one is red and one is pink, I don't know if it's possible to tell the difference in the picture), three pieces of fried tofu with a lemon wedge, steamed broccoli, carrot flowers, plum slices and a blackberry. In the far right corner is another of the candies we made yesterday, white chocolate and coconut underneath with a coating of pink chocolate on top and colorful sprinkles.

The chocolate painting was once again inspired by Lia Chen. She gave a wonderful tutorial on her blog,!! I had no idea that such an artform existed until she started showing us her wonderful paintings. This year I stayed with very simple heart designs but I would like to try something more challenging next year.

Behind the chocolate hearts is one of A-chan's handmade valentine's for her schoolmates. I tied the bows for her but otherwise she did it all by herself and made 40 of them! The heart on top she cut out of fabric, the light green sheet has a decorative border that she cut with my special scissors and on the dark green paper is written her message and a drawing. She also made the chocolate butterflies, put them in bags, put stickers on the bags and tied them closed!! I am sooooo proud of her for doing all that work!

I've typed the word chocolate so many times now that it's starting to look weird to me, lol. I should stop now.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Tofu cutlet bento

I decided that I wanted to share my bento from today as well as A-chan's :) Mine had pretty much the same contents without all the cuteness. The main differences are the fried tofu cutlets which are large rounds instead of small nuggets, and the addition of some gari and snow peas. I also had a small wedge of grapefruit.

To make the tofu cutlets was very simple! I cut slabs of tofu off the main block and pressed them on papertowels to get the extra moisture out. Next I took my medium sized biscuit cutter and cut the rounds out of the slabs. The strange shapes that were left over were then reserved for use in other recipes. The rounds were then slathered in batter, rolled in panko and shallow fried.

There are thin strips of egg sheet in the back behind the tofu cutlets. Yay, egg sheets! The divider between the rice and the rest of the bento is an uncooked eggroll wrapper that I cut to the right size. Then I used decorative edging scissors to make the top edge all fancy.

Valentine's Card

Yesterday was another sick day for A-chan. Whew. I keep thinking her asthma is all better and sending her to school and then the next day she's coughing like crazy again. She didn't cough at all last night so here's hoping her day goes well at school! On the bright side, I did a lot of food experiments yesterday with A-chan and we found several new things that she likes!

In the bento: 3 pieces of fried tofu, Valentine's card of provolone, egg sheets and nori, halved baby tomatoes, 2 onigiri with homemade furikake and nori hearts, 3 slices of plum, 2 blackberries, a carrot heart and a pink egg sheet heart. There are more pieces of carrot hidden underneath the card :)

In the background is a little bowl with my new homemade furikake experiment from yesterday. I've tried some different types of store bought furikake and not been happy with them, so I thought I would try making my own. I am starting out very simply with toasted sesame seeds, dried and crushed tarragon and a little bit of sea salt. I loved it! Plus, A-chan loved it too. She insisted that I put some in her bento today. Who knew?

My first try at making egg sheets was a resounding success. (Where resounding success = not burning anything, lol) I followed the tutorial here at Bentolicious. It was a surprise to me that they weren't as intimidating to make as I'd always thought! I made yellow, orange and pink! It's hard to tell that it's pink in the picture, though. I learned that gel food coloring doesn't mix well with the egg, but I really was pleased with how they turned out.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Diamond Pattern of Love

I am so horribly bad at making up titles for my bento posts. Le sigh. Today's bento once again saved me from having a cranky child, once she saw the bento she was all smiles. I love that! And it was surprising too, because this bento isn't very cute. I wasn't expecting much out of her reaction this morning. This design has been in my head since the end of last week. The only thing is that in the picture in my head the hearts were much smaller, lol. But this was the smallest heart cutter that I have! Does anybody have recommendations for a tiny heart cutter?

In the bento: Jasmine rice with nori diamond pattern, green peas and carrot hearts on one side. The other side holds 3 humongous blackberries, steamed broccoli, golden tofu, lemon wedges, a baby tomato with a purple jewel pick and a couple of snow peas.

Golden tofu is just tofu pieces that have been cooked with a little bit of sesame oil. That's it. And that makes them all nice and golden and just a tiny bit crisp, perfect for any kind of sauce!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pink Flower Onigiri

Another rush bento this morning! A-chan was sick yesterday and didn't go to school. I wasn't sure that she would be going today until she got up this morning and then it was rush, rush, rush. So here is a ten minute, freezer stash stuffed bento. I'm almost out of freezer stash, it's worrying me. I'd planned on doing some cooking this past weekend to fill it out, but I spent the entire weekend sewing instead. The sewing was good and it had to be done this weekend, but still - I need time to cook!!! And looking at my calendar this morning I am not filled with hope, for I have no free weekends until April. Gah, how do I do this to myself?

In the bento: Pink rice flower onigiri with sesame seed decoration, a bowl of leftover mac'n'cheese, frozen blueberries, two veggie hot dog flowers with green peas, steamed broccoli and half of a cherry tomato.

The onigiri is colored with red food coloring gel that was added to the water in the rice cooker before I turned it on. The onigiri was frozen, I just sprinkled a little water on it, nuked it for a minute this morning and it was ready to go!

There are more veggie hot dog pieces hidden beside the blue bowl and underneath the cherry tomato - the rabbit pick is the only part you can see. On the side was a container of ketchup and a soy sauce piggie. A-chan asked for a red piggie this morning.

I absolutely love the blue bowl! It's part of a set that I found at Hobby Lobby last week. There were 6 bowls in all different colors and I'm just tickled pink that they fit in the bentos :)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Elephant pancake

It's the last day of the zoo themed week of bentos. I had no idea how much I was going to enjoy having a theme to work with. It felt like my creativity skyrocketed! Not only was it fun, but it provided a great chance for A-chan and I to talk more about the animals in each of her lunches.

I wanted to do an elephant for today's bento. Since elephants are often portrayed in henna designs, it seemed like a fine idea to do one on a pancake with icing. For some reason elephants and mice are incredibly difficult to get proportionally correct in henna! I had intended to do more detail but got nervous and decided that I would mess it up if I kept going :) Elephants have a nostalgic feeling to me. My mother collects elephants and has them in every room of her house. I have lovely memories of elephants from our trips to Thailand and India. A-chan was too young during those trips to truly remember any details, but I'm hoping that they will have ingrained a deep love and respect for elephants somewhere inside her.

In the bento: Main tier: Miniature pancakes, Morningstar Farms bacon, carrot and raspberry flowers with cucumber leaves and a solitary elephant shaped rice pasta. Second tier: Lots of raspberries, black olives on elephant picks, carrot slices and heart shaped pan-fried potatoes.

The elephant design was done with vanilla icing. I drew the design out by hand the night before so that I could practice. I like it so much that I probably will keep it and use it as a henna design!

To get the veggie bacon into twists I cut the strips in half lengthwise as soon as they were out of the oven. Then I immediately wrapped them around chopsticks and let them cool. In a few minutes they were cool enough to slide the chopsticks out and voila!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Panda Baby!

This is the first full-body onigiri that I have done. I was so excited - I've been waiting for this all week!! It's definitely not perfect, but I'm very happy with it. Plus it was fun! I've been drooling over bentos with onigiri sculptures for a long time, thinking that one day I would have a reason to try it. The zoo doesn't have any rabbits so...I thought a panda would be perfect for a Chinese New Year bento.

The Atlanta Zoo has a new baby panda. It's teeny tiny and not ready for a public debut yet, but when it is we'll go see it. This will be the second baby panda that we've gotten to see which makes me so happy :D The pandas are just so cute, I can't help it!

In the bento: Rice ball panda with lots of nori, cucumber bamboo, carrot and provolone 'ball', steamed broccoli, two picks of corn kernels, raspberries, hot dog flowers (you can't see them because they are behind the panda's head), shredded carrots, tiny carrot and provolone flowers.

The second tier holds: More rice with black sesame seed garnish, a bit of cucumber, some frozen peaches, frozen blueberries, more raspberries and more tiny provolone flowers.

The panda's facial features were punched from nori. The eye detail is provolone and the cute cheeks are gari (pickled ginger). He's resting on a huge bed of red leaf lettuce and there is a large piece of veggie hotdog underneath the head, holding it up at the proper angle.

Normally I wouldn't have packed the second tier for A-chan, it's just way too much food for her. However, I'm not actually sure that she will eat onigiri with so much nori on them. I don't usually put that much nori, so I packed some extra plain rice and fruit as insurance.

I'm already planning for next year's CNY bento - A chinese sleeve dance! I've got a whole year to practice and plan so I might just be able to pull it off, lol. I had so much fun mixing in some Chinese dance with my dance class last night, it made for great inspiration.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lion-ish bento

Don't you hate the times when your lovingly crafted bento just doesn't quite hit the mark? This morning A-chan took one look and asked, "What is it?" With a second look I got a, "Is it a seal?" My response, naming the animal in question as a lion, was met with one of those looks that should be reserved for sixteen year olds. It clearly said, "Oh sure, mom. Whatever you say." Sigh. She did think it was cute and said that she would enjoy eating it, but I still feel somehow unfulfilled. I really did think it looked like a cute lion and was perfect for the zoo theme, lol.

This past Saturday was the very first time we'd ever gotten to see the lioness at the zoo. We'd seen the lion several times but she was always hiding. But it's easier to make a lion than a lioness!

In the bento: Lion-ish shaped cheese sandwich, veggie hot dogs with corn, steamed broccoli, a huge wedge of blood orange, a heart shaped container of black eyed peas, a lion shaped rice pasta, some black olives. On the side is a muffin cup of raspberries which eventually got wrapped up in cling wrap to make the journey to school.

The lion's mane was cut out of bread using a cutter and the center circle for the face was cut with an upside down flower cutter. The facial details are nori. The center part of the bread was then cut in half and stuffed at the bottom of the muffin cup to make paws. A long thin cut of bread made a tail with a 'fluff' of cheddar cheese at the end.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2 Giraffes

Today's zoo animal: Giraffes! Only day 2 of the zoo theme and A-chan's already twigged onto it :D I love giraffes! They seem very graceful to me. Isn't it amazing how versatile provolone and soy turkey can be? A monkey, giraffes...who knows what it will make tomorrow?

In the bento: The two giraffes are on top of a layer of jasmine rice. At the top of the right side is a bunch of soy sauce sauteed tofu and carrots, a couple of rice pasta giraffes, a heart shaped container with raspberries and quick cucumber pickles are squished in beside the berries.

The giraffes are made from provolone and soy turkey, cut out with scissors. The bottom part of their faces is cut out of cheddar. The eyes and nose are nori. The antennae are green peas with dry somen noodles. At the bottom are bits of red leaf lettuce that I cut into grass with scissors. I really like the way the lettuce kind of curled up and gave a good 3D look to the grass!

I'm so glad that I finally got a chance to use the rice pasta giraffes!! I've had the bag of pasta for a while but haven't had a good excuse to use any. When I saw it in the grocery store I convinced myself I bought it for our friends who are gluten intolerant, but I have to be honest - it was for bentos!