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.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Ghost Army Wants You

The ghost army wants you!  The ghost army says Boo!  The ghost army knows Kung Fu!  The ghost army will tickle you :)

A-chan has no school today so we have the whole day together!  We are going to make candy corn onigiri, halloween cookies and maybe even do some chocolate painting.

In the bento:  Four cheese sandwich ghosts, black olives and carrot stars in the blue tier.  The yellow tier holds black plums, steamed broccoli, veggie hot dogs and nectarine chunks.

The faces on the sammies are made from nori and 'glued' onto the bread with mayo.  The Boo! was cut from carrots with my handy dandy letter cutters.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tiny Bunny Faces

Taking a short vacation from Halloween, today we have tiny bitty bunnies!  There are two things wrong with this picture - any guesses?  Yep, that's right.  No fruit.  Ack, how did that happen?  Well, it is all because of the trip we took this past weekend where I thought it would be easy to stop for some groceries on the way home from Alabama.  Raise your hand if you know what didn't happen : D   So we totally ran out of fruit.  It's a horrible tragedy that I have cleverly hidden by my use of the red plaid food pick.  Stare at the red plaid circle.  It will fool your brain into believing that there is fruit in this bento.  Stare, I say!

In the bento: Rice with vegetarian Japanese curry on top, a container of corn kernals, tater tots, steamed broccoli and invisible grapes on the red plaid food pick.

The cute bunny faces were made from provolone cheese with nori, soy turkey and sriracha details.  The little flowers are provolone cheese with sugar dot centers and tiny bits of broccoli for leaves.  In the side container was ketchup for the tater tots.

I do really try to keep fresh fruit on hand at all times.  We may not eat it for every meal, but we sure try!  The ability to easily pack all kinds of fruit and not have it get all squished is one my favorite reasons for using bento boxes!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Halloween Kitten Luvs You!

Halloween kitten luvs you!  Yes she does.  She just wants to sit on your lap and get petted.  Maybe bite you but only a little.  And because she loves you she is going to destroy things that she thinks are a danger to you and maybe things that just look like they need to be torn to shreds just because, yes she is! It's all okay, right?  Cause Halloween kitten is so cute!

So yesterday I said you'd all have to wait for a Halloween bento...but I lied.  I was going to wait a few more days.  And then I caved - I just couldn't stand to wait any longer.  So here it is, yay!

In the bento: Rice with homemade furikake, huge Halloween kitten with a carrot Jack o lantern collar, a cherry tomato wedge, nectarine slices, black plum pieces, carrot flowers and tofu/veg stirfry.

I used a piece of bread with the edges cut off to make a nice absorbent container for the tofu stirfry.  Halloween kitten was cut from provolone cheese and nori.  Her collar was cut from tomato peel and the jack o lantern was cut from a carrot slice.  Her ears and cheeks were cut from gari (pickled ginger).

The stirfry was very simple: I cooked the tofu cubes in sesame oil first then added small pieces of frozen broccoli and cooked them together for about 2-3 mins.  Next I added a small handful of frozen corn kernals, soy sauce, a smidge of garlic powder and a bit of dried basil.  Then I continued to cook it all together for about 2 more mins.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Onigiri Friends

It's raining, it's raining!  Our area desperately needed the rain so we're rejoicing.   It's been raining for two straight days now.  The bleary foggy day outside makes me want to sit with a huge mug of coffee and read books all day.  Poor A-chan had her school fieldtrip cancelled because of the rain though.  She was so disappointed and freaked out when she thought I had forgotten to leave her car seat - totally not getting the connection that no fieldtrip meant no need for the car seat to stay at school.

Today's bento has just a tiny hint of fall.  I'm gearing up towards making Halloween bentos but you're just going to have to wait, nya!

In the bento: Raspberries, steamed broccoli, two large onigiri, carrot maple leaves, a corn croquette and some flash fried korean purple potato sticks.

The onigiri faces were punched out of nori as usual.  But I decided to do something different for the cheeks and put raspberry pips instead of my normal sriracha/ketchup cheeks.  It gives kind of a neat 3d effect :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Hetalia Bento

Hetalia.  Weird, wacky and totally wonderful.  An anime series with pizzazz and currently one of our favorites.  Italy is A-chan's favorite character so it's no wonder that he's shown up in her bento, waving his customary white flag.   There is no pasta for Italy however, I had some leftover fried rice that I needed to use up before we left on more travels.  In the background is the Hetalia movie poster that we picked up at AWA.  We didn't get to see all of the movie and I was so bummed :(  My favorite character is Japan but I admit to feeling a lot of sympathy for Germany in terms of cat-herding.  Who's your favorite?

In the bento: Veggie fried rice with peas, carrots and scrambled tofu, steamed broccoli, veggie hot dog flowers, corn kernals on picks, a container of feta, raspberries, provolone flowers and Italy!

Italy's body was cut from provolone cheese.  His hair was cut from soy turkey.  The mouth was cut from veggie hot dog and his other facial features were nori.  I tried a lot of different things to get the right look for his cheeks but nothing would cooperate with me.  The last thing I did was a bit of Korean BBQ sauce.  It still didn't look right but I ran out of time.  Oh well, I'll just have to try again!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fall is here!

  The leaves on the Japanese maple tree outside A-chan's window started to turn colors this week so it is officially fall! I love fall.  It is absolutely my favorite time of year. Yesterday I got to wear my candycorn earrings and bought my first bag of candycorn for the fall season.  That made me so happy!  It's really hard to find vegetarian candycorn around here so when I do find it I buy lots!  Soon it will be time for pumpkins and costumes and sweaters.  Here are two fall inspired bentos.  The top one is from last week and the bottom is from this week.

In the top bento: A small bowl of chickpeas, baby tomatoes and feta, steamed broccoli, grapes on heart picks, apple slices, two carrot maple leaves and two potato and onion pierogies.  In the background is a candle that A-chan made at school.  I just love her school - they do such neat creative projects!  I want to join in :)

In the bento: Two inari zushi with homemade furikake sprinkled on top, steamed broccoli, baby tomatoes, tiny clementine slices and a momiji cake with sweet red bean paste inside.  Two pokemon picks help to liven it up a little.

The momiji cake was left over from our trip to AWA and it looked so pretty that I just had to use it in her bento!  The furikake is a mixture of dried and crushed tarragon leaves, toasted sesame seeds and sea salt.

Happy Fall Everyone!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sleepy Girl

Once again I got caught up in crazy scheduling and have neglected to post for a while.  That's because this past weekend was the magnificent Anime Weekend Atlanta Convention that we go to every year.  The week before it is always about getting the costumes and artwork ready.  It only takes me a couple of days to recover afterward and set to rights all the damage the cats inflict on the house in our absence.  (And wow were they unhappy this time)  This year was A-chan's 7th AWA!

Thank you so much to everyone who came to the Bento and cooking panels.  I had a great time and I hope that you did too! It was a pleasure to meet so many wonderful people and great gobs of kudos to everyone who came to the 10 am panel.  Those of you who are waiting for emails from me, I will be getting right to them today and tomorrow :)

The above bento was actually from last week but I liked it so much that I am letting it supersede today's bento.

In the bento: A sleepy girl in an Inari zushi bed with nori designs on her blanket, apple stars, a star onigiri with apple peel decoration, baby tomatoes, sesame carrots and steamed broccoli.

The little girl's face was cut from provolone cheese with nori details and sriracha cheeks.  Her hair was cut from carrot slices using different parts of my UFO shaped cutter.