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!