Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Little Kittens

Today's bento is in honor of the three little kittens that are currently running our household.  They will be five weeks old tomorrow and have started learning how to cause mayhem and chaos this week.  Of course, they are the cutest things EVER!  Somehow it has been impossible for me to get a good picture of them, so here they are in inari zushi form.

In the bento: Three inari kittens, baby corn, carrot star, lemon slice, steamed broccoli (hidden behind the carrot star), a cherry, a checkered apple, half of a cherry tomato and a few green beans.

The kitten faces are made with white egg sheet and nori.  The whites of the eyes were 'glued' onto the inari skins with a tiny bit of mayo which was applied with a toothpick.  I squeezed the corners of the rectangular inari skins to make them resemble kitty ears.

Here is a picture of the kittens nursing on a very frazzled mama cat, lol.  A-chan and I have a difference of opinion in names.  She had already given them names five minutes after they were born.  The one on the left is Stripey according to the 7 year old, while I prefer Jewel.  The middle kitten is Cloudy or Quartz.  The black one is either called Brownie by A-chan or Onyx by me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Quick Noodle Bento

This bento represents a victory for edamame consumption!  A-chan will eat edamame as long as I leave them in the pods so that she can pull them out herself.  If I remove them from the pods or, heaven forbid, purchase them already shelled she will turn up her nose in scorn.  I have finally realized this and voila - she's eating them like candy.

Using dividers and containers add cuteness to a bento with lightning fast timing.  This is a wonderful thing on those crazy busy mornings when everything needs to happen at once and kittens are scrambling underfoot to add some adventure.  I love the pig container, it's just so cute!  You can close it for holding things that are a little juicy but I prefer to have it open so it's possible to see what's inside.

In the bento:  Plain macaroni noodles, a parsley leaf, baby carrots, boiled edamame, baby corn in the piggy container, strawberries and a slice of lemon.  On the side is a container of grated parmesan cheese to sprinkle over the noodles.

The container for the parmesan is a re-purposed sugar sprinkle container.  They come in packs of 6 at the grocery store with different colored sugar inside for making cookies and topping cupcakes.  Once they are empty I wash them and fill them with salt or parmesan or furikake for use with bentos.  The parmesan container is topped off regularly and stored in the fridge so that it is ready at a moment's notice.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Froggy Faces

One of my absolute favorite things about bento tools is how a single basic shape can be transformed into so many different things.  Take the frog onigiri above, for example.  They were made with a teddy bear onigiri mold.  I've used the same mold to make bears, pandas, racoons, frogs and a few other things.  The tools certainly aren't necessary for bento making, but they can be so much fun and open up new realms of creative thinking!

In the bento: Two frog onigiri, cherries, fried tofu, carrot flowers, a huge cherry tomato and steamed broccoli.

Green food coloring was added to the water before I cooked the rice which gave a lovely light green hue.  The eyes were cut from white egg sheet and nori.  Their noses were black sesame seeds and the mouths cut from nori with scissors.  The carrot flowers are the best thing about this bento, in my opinion, because I just learned how to do it!  I love them!  Learning how to cut the flowers this way was part of what I did on my birthday.  A-chan gave a gratifying gasp of amazement when she saw them.

Have a Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, August 24, 2012


The Snail of Destiny!  Not really, it just sounded good.  I promised A-chan a snail bento after our last trip to the Botanical Gardens where she picked up a leaf to find two tiny snails attached to the underside.  We were both delighted and fascinated with them and watched them for a long time.

In the bento: A cheese sandwich, baby corn, carrot flowers, a cherry, an apple bunny and steamed broccoli.

The Snail was made from three egg sheets:  one white, one grey and one brown.  The grey color was achieved with the addition of cherry juice to the egg mixture before cooking.  I was trying to get a nice light pink color and was greatly disappointed that it turned grey instead.  The brown egg sheet turned out fabulous with the addition of cocoa powder to the egg mix.  I must admit that I have not actually tasted the chocolate egg sheet yet.  Eventually I will wrap my brain around the concept and try it but for now I'm just using it for decorative purposes.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Birthday Treat and Review

Ahhh, the beauty of lunch is mine!  I bought myself a 'Bento Colors' box from Bento & Co. for my birthday. I might not have needed an excuse to buy a new bento box but a birthday is a good one.  For a long time I have passionately wanted one of these sleek boxes but kept putting it off because I didn't make many bento lunches for myself.  That's changing with my new schedule and going back to school!

At first I wasn't sure what to do with three entire tiers.  Filling three tiers required a new way of planning.  In actuality it wasn't difficult at all and I was amazed at how much food fit into this box even though it is relatively skinny.  The tier on the far right is deeper than the other two.  I was delighted to be able to fit the huge cherry tomato in without having to cut it and it fit absolutely perfectly into the rounded end.  The lids were a bit different from any of my other bento boxes, but I was very happy with the way that they fit and I felt that they made a good, solid seal.

In the bento:  The left tier held Fuji apple slices, steamed broccoli, steamed edamame, two cherry halves, two tiny homemade vegetarian meatballs and a lemon wedge.  The middle tier is stuffed with rice and topped with a sprinkling of homemade furikake.  The right tier had a huge cherry tomato, potato salad with edamame and mustard seeds, steamed squash and two carrot flowers on a bed of purple cabbage.

Purple is my favorite color.  You'd be surprised at how difficult it is to find purple bento boxes!  Now you know why I coveted this one...   The three boxes slide into the outer case very easily with guides on the inside to help.  It also closes completely with little effort and fit into almost all of my bento bags.  (Yes, I had to try it in all of them, just to see.)  Opening it is also pretty easy although I had to use the thumb of my left hand on one side and the right hand on the other.  My hands simply were not large enough to grasp the end and remove it in one fell swoop.

Overall I am just as delighted with the 'Bento Colors' box as I had hoped to be.  While having an extra tier was intimidating at first, I have since fallen head over heels for the extra space.  I loved carrying it and found that I didn't obsess about it falling over like I have done with other boxes.  The elegant case is just perfect and beautifully streamlined.  The only drawback was that my camera didn't want to take a good picture of the case - it was simply too reflective!  I had to put the elephant in front to give the camera something to focus on in order to get a relatively decent picture.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Butterflies and Tulips

Yesterday was my birthday.  It was a wonderful day and I enjoyed every moment!  My birthday present to myself was a new bento box from Bento & Co. which I can't wait to try out.  Expect an excited post with a review tomorrow.  This bento was quick and easy to put together except for the black sesame seeds which were not nearly as simple as I expected.

In the bento:  Rice with egg sheet butterflies and carrot tulips, a container of sauteed tofu, sesame carrots, pomegranates, blueberries, grapes, and plums.

The small flowers were cut from egg sheet and plum peel and the leaves were cut from spinach with scissors.  Since I've also been going to school I have been making bentos for myself.  Here is my first umeboshi bento!

In the bento: Rice, homemade vegetarian meatballs with carrot stars, clementine wedge, steamed green beans, Japanese sweet potato slices, grapes and a container of squash and green peas.  Instead of my usual lettuce baran I used folded over spinach leaves.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Curry with Chickens

Wow, it's already Friday!  I can't believe that the first week of school is over already.  Here are some cute chicks to usher in the weekend with my fav recipe - Curry rice.  It no longer phases A-chan when I add things to the basic curry recipe.  This time I went back to spinach, chopping it very fine in an attempt to get it past the 7 year old radar.  When we ate the first meal of the batch (one batch will usually make 3-4 meals for us) she took a few bites before challenging me on the green stuff.  "It's spinach," I said.  She proceeded to eat the rest with no comments.  Can I consider that a spinach victory?

In the bento: Vegetarian curry with two onigiri on top, egg sheet chicks, grapes, plum, steamed green beans and a carrot butterfly.

The egg sheet ovals for the chicks were cut with scissors and placed onto the onigiri with a little bit of curry gravy to hold them in place.  Their beaks were cut from carrots and the cheeks were sriracha dabbed on with the end of a toothpick.  The little flowers are egg sheet with red sugar dots in the center and they have leaves of fresh parsley.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Boy 'n' Girl Bento

Pierogies are easy to make into fun bento pals.  These are potato and onion pierogies that were first boiled and then pan fried in a little bit of butter, yum!  I'm not very happy with how the clementine turned out.  The idea was to provide a start for A-chan to peel it herself.  My exacto knife met with a horrible rusty end over the summer though, so I had to try and cut the peel design with a regular knife.  Hmm.  Yeah, need a new exacto knife asap!

In the bento:  Two pierogies, green peas on picks, steamed broccoli, tiny clementine, pomegranate seeds and blueberries, veggie hot dogs.

This is definitely The Week of the Egg Sheet!  The boy and girl have hair cut from egg sheets, including the flowers on her ponytails.  Their faces were punched from nori.  I love how the veggie hot dogs look!  After they were cooked, I used a tiny heart shaped cutter for the centers and while it was still in place used a knife to cut around it to create the vertical slices.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lyin' Around

The school year is off to a fantastic start!  A-chan loves her school and teachers.  She came home full of energy and eagerness,  though she was sad about a friend who had moved away.  I can't wait to find out what she learns today.  It is tempting to throw responsibility out the window and enjoy these first carefree days of the house being empty with movie watching, book reading and doughnuts.  I'm resisting it so far...

This cheery lion was from my freezer stash which made the early morning prep very easy!  He was popped into the oven to cook for 15 minutes while I cut out the facial details and arranged the rest of the bento.  Before putting the eyes, etc. on the flatpie I let it cool down because unintentionally melted cheese is just embarrassing.

In the bento: Potato and onion flatpie, strawberries, carrot sticks, blackberries and sauteed zucchini with black sesame seeds.

Provolone cheese was cut out with shape cutters for the white parts of the face and ears.  Cheddar cheese hearts were 'glued' on with a tiny bit of mayo.  My lion face nori punch was perfect for the size of this cute guy and I added a few dots using a tiny dot punch.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Giraffes are Cool

Hi there, world!  It feels like forever since I last had time to post.  Summer was crazy busy and tons of fun with adventures, lots of travel, lots of camps, kittens and my first semester back in school.  For A-chan's first day as a second grader she requested a Giraffe bento.  (One of her favorite summer memories was getting to feed a giraffe at Zoo Atlanta.)  Since I spent part of the summer practicing to perfect egg sheets, I was delighted to be able to use some in the first bento of the new school year!

In the bento: Two onigiri covered with egg sheet, grapes, cheddar cheese blocks, Morningstar Farms soy sausage links, steamed broccoli, pomegranate seeds and clementine wedges.

Mr. Giraffe has soy turkey for his spots, white eggsheet and nori facial details, black sesame seeds for his nose and soba noodles with corn kernals for antennae.  The large egg sheets for Mr. Giraffe were loosely  wrapped over the onigiri and held in place with the food that was packed around him.  The little hearts are cut from white egg sheet with nori hearts on top.

Though bentos were being made during the summer, most of the pictures have been ruminating on my computer without being posted.  I was extremely lax about anything online while I focused on studying for school. While I enjoyed my classes immensely I was unprepared for the wild amount of work necessary
in a summer session.  I can't wait to get back into the routine of bento making and I'm looking forward to catching up on everything and reconnecting with everyone!