Monday, April 30, 2012

Lazy Monday

After an incredibly athletic weekend of Tae Kwon Do tests Saturday and jungle taming yard work all day Sunday this morning was a good morning to be lazy.  I went for freezer stash food and fruit for a quick and easy bento that was still pretty.  Since I was being lazy I didn't want to mess with decoration and let the bunny pick and sunshine divider perk up the bento for me. 

In the bento: Rice with black sesame seeds, raspberries, cara cara orange slices, purple grapes, steamed broccoli and fried tofu.

The freezer stash was frozen in an individual serving container.  It was sprinkled with water and microwaved for 1 minute before getting put into the bento.  The tofu had already been fried before being frozen.  To reheat the two pieces were cooked in a 350 degree oven for 7 minutes.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Butterfly Day

Happy Friday! There are butterflies on my brain today.  The weather is so beautiful and there are tons of butterflies around the yard.  And I needed another excuse to use this fabulous butterfly cutter.  I am right now thinking of other reasons to get myself to Michael's so that I can drool over other cutters.  It's possible that I might have an obsession.  Yep.

In the bento: Pasta, eggsheet, frozen strawberries, cucumber slices, orange wedges, plum, and veggie hotdogs.  Not shown: a container of grated parmesan cheese for the pasta and a container of ketchup for the hotdog.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Puppy Love

Ahhh, Thursday.  What a perfect day for puppies.  These little guys were so quick and easy to put together.  They also made a morning sensation that created a beautific smile and cheerful squeal!  Cooking the chik nuggets took longer than packing the bento, but it worked out since I was able to sneak in some morning yoga as they cooked.

In the bento: Morningstar Farms chik nuggets, carrot sticks, plum slices, steamed broccoli, a potato and onion pierogie and chunks of mango.

The puppies' ears were cut from another chik nugget and attached with bits of soba noodle.  Their faces are provolone cheese and nori.  The carrot stick flowers were shaped with the use of a handy dandy flower cutter.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Time to Plant Yet?

Spring is being confusing this year.  The weather won't make up it's mind.  It is way too cold to be almost May!  Georgia is supposed to be warm and comfy this time of year and instead I'm freezing.  I want to start planting.  When do I get to play with flowers?

In the bento: Two onigiri with scrambled tofu, purple potato flowers, cherry tomato, pistachios, carrot flower, steamed broccoli and chunks of mango.

The potato flowers are decorated with sesame seeds and have cucumber peel leaves.  I used a knife to slice the cucumber peel from the cucumber and then used scissors to cut the leaves.  The letters were cut from egg sheet leftover after making the Cupcake Kitty.  Have I mentioned lately that I adore my letter cutters?  The thought of trying to cut them out by hand sends shivers down my spine.

Making scrambled tofu onigiri is very easy, however since the tofu is colored using tumeric the yellow gets all over the rice when mixing them together.  The end result is not as striking compared to using scrambled egg.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cupcake Kitty

Remember the Cupcake kitten bento that I did a while back?  It was based on art that A-chan created, but I'm pretty sure her art was inspired by Samantha Whitten's incredibly cute art.  Her booth at Anime Weekend Atlanta is hands down A-chan's fav booth and it's one of mine, too.  We purchase things of cuteness there every year, but we love the Cupcake Kitties the most.   Not long ago A-chan asked me to make one of the Cupcake Kitty stickers for her bento.   The artist was very sweet and gave me permission (Thank you, Samantha!).

In the bento:  Cheese sandwich, purple mashed potatoes, steamed green beans, fried tofu and mango.

The kitty was created with egg sheets, nori, sugar sprinkles and somen noodles for whiskers.  I think that I still need more practice with the egg sheets!  The brown sheets were colored with soy sauce but for the tan and orange sheets I used food coloring. The purple mashed potatoes are from purple potatoes, no food coloring added.  They were a little sweeter than normal potatoes and A-chan has decided that she likes them just fine.

 This kitty was a fun challenge and you should go see the original art at the Sugar Bunny shop.  I can't wait to see what A-chan requests next!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Lions and Mango and Berries, oh my!

Another Friday, another pizza day.  A-chan and I have a bargain.  She gets pizza on pizza Friday twice a month.  Originally I wanted to not let her have any at all.  The idea of the school giving pizza for lunches made me wince.  But I'm glad that we compromised.  She enjoys the 1 slice of pizza twice a month and since we never have pizza at home, it remains a special treat.  It's not that I have anything against pizza, exactly, although I don't consider it a healthy lunch (unless it's home made and has veggies on it).  I just really, really, really do not like pizza.  The only time that I've had pizza as an adult and actually liked it was at a Pizza Hut in India.  Capsicum as a pizza topping?  Oh yeah, gimme more!

In the bento:  Lots of yummy strawberries, mango, and mulberries with two apple hearts.

I still get coupons for Pizza Hut India by email.  It's like a joyful torture.  Surely they can deliver to Georgia, right?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Earth Day

Over the years the idea of Earth Day has gotten slightly muddled in my head.  Recycling and being environmentally conscious are things that are completely ingrained in daily life.  And of course, one of the best ways (in my opinion, lol) of being Green is to pack waste-free bento lunches! So what does Earth Day mean to me now?  Hmm.  My wish for Earth Day is peace.  War harms the planet and all the creatures that live on it, big and small.  I will honor everything that lives on Earth this Sunday: plant, animal and human.  I will think about peace and wonder what it would be like if the nations of the world concentrated on preserving life on Earth.

In the bento: Scrambled tofu, green peas and sesame carrots on top of a bed of rice, a black olive on a bamboo pick, strawberry halves, mango chunks, mulberries and a peaceful Babybel cheese.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Happy Spring Flower

Once again I'm mixing it up for healthier lunches.  You might think that the little green specks you see in the couscous are basil.  In fact, that's what A-chan thought because that's what I normally put in couscous.  This time it is half basil and half baby spinach, dun, dun, dun!  There wasn't a cry of surprise of a whimper as we ate it last night so I am happy to pack it again for lunch.

In the bento:  Extra special healthy couscous with garlic, basil and spinach is on one side.  The other side has chickpeas, steamed broccoli, mulberries, a strawberry, carrot flowers and soy sauce tofu.

The flower is made from purple potato, carrot and cucumber peel.  The cute little face was punched from nori, of course :) I doubt that A-chan will eat the purple potato - she looked at it very suspiciously this morning.  But that's okay because there's spinach in the couscous!  You can't tell that I'm lovin' the sneaky spinach, can you?  The chickpeas are plain and straight from the fridge.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Fancy Penguins

Are you ready for the ball?  I haven't received my invitation yet, but these guys are all dressed and ready to dance.   This morning I was feeling lucky that I had some leftovers in the fridge to give me a jump start with today's bento.  A small Chinese restaurant nearby has some very tasty vegetarian options, including my favorite Mongolian Suegai.  A-chan doesn't like the green onions as much as I, but I've left a few in her lunch just in case she decides to try one.  It's a long shot, though.

In the bento:  Rice, steamed broccoli, strawberries, black olives, cheese flowers, carrot sticks and a container of Mongolian suegai.

The cute penguin faces were cut from provolone cheese using a circular cutter.  The nori for their foreheads was cut with scissors.  Their beaks are tiny carrot ovals and their cheeks are sugar dots.  I cut their handsome bowties from black olive halves.  For some reason my camera just wouldn't focus on their shiny heads.  It was very frustrating, but you can still see their innate cuteness.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fruit Friday

Ahhh, pizza Friday.  An excuse to make a fruit only bento Friday.  I may have been a bit ambitious with this one - A-chan probably won't be able to eat all the fruit and her pizza.  I love making fruit bentos so much!  They are like the royalty of fruit salads.  It's fun to put together all the different textures and flavors.

In the bento: Mulberries in a container, strawberries, apple bunnies, cheese flowers and mango chunks.

There are tiny bits of carrot decorating the cheese flowers for a change from sesame seeds.  I have to say that the sesame seeds are a lot easier than cutting teeny bits of carrot!

I hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Cheer for A-chan

A-chan was feeling a tad nervous about her school play today.  She confessed this to me yesterday as we picked mulberries from the tree in the backyard.  Her bento this morning was an attempt to encourage her and help her get rid of the butterflies in her tummy.  She did a great job, all of them did.  And the play was fun to watch with lots of singing and even some dancing!

In the bento: Garlic and basil couscous, green peas, carrot heart and carrot sticks, a strawberry, mulberries and a tofu heart.  Hidden underneath the tofu heart are the awkward pieces from the heart cut out.

The girl is made from provolone cheese (I'm sure that comes as no surprise, lol) as well as the letters.  The sign was cut from a baby spinach leaf.  Her hair is inari, her face is nori and the little beret is part of a black olive with a soba noodle pinning it into place.  The tofu heart was sauteed in sesame oil to give it a bit of a crunchy coating.

If you aren't familiar with mulberries, they are very similar to blackberries but grow on trees instead of bushes.  They can be a little more tart than blackberries.  We love to eat them straight off the tree, but we gathered a lot yesterday so that she can have them in her bentos.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Just a Little Mouse

This little mouse is full of curry.  Even healthier than normal vegetarian Japanese curry to be precise.  I'm very proud of this particular curry because I managed to sneak baby spinach into it by cutting the spinach into fine strips.  I don't think A-chan noticed.  She certainly ate every bite last night so I'm considering this another triumph for nutritious eating!  So far I've managed to sneak kabocha, cauliflower, zucchini and spinach into our curry.  Only one at a time, though.  The next challenge is to add two or more and see if she balks, hehe.  I have been enjoying these small changes to our regular recipes.  Even though they are not large portions of extra vegetables, my philosophy is better some than none.  We are eating a little healthier every day!

In the bento:  Bread and curry rolls, carrot flowers, black olives, corn on the cob, a huge strawberry and steamed broccoli.

My favorite parts of the mouse are the corn kernel earrings.  Her face was made with provolone cheese, nori, ketchup cheeks and a pick for the nose.  The large carrot flowers were decorated with black sesame seeds, the small flowers have either a sugar dot or a tiny provolone cheese circle.

The filled bread rolls are inspired by Bentolicious.  Lia has a fantastic tutorial on these cute bento sandwiches!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Black and White

This bento unintentionally became a study in black and white.  After I finished packing it and stood back to take the picture I had to laugh.  Although I often think of pasta as being 'white', in reality it is more of a yellow color.  I am always surprised by this when I try to make pasta from scratch and make it different colors! Again it is a very simple bento instead of a charaben, but it contains some of A-chan's favorite foods which makes both of us happy.

In the bento: Penne pasta with black live slices and a carrot flower in one tier.  The other tier holds matzo crackers and butter cheese, a container of quick cucumber slice pickles, carrot slices, strawberries and mango chunks.  Not shown is a container of freshly grated parmesan cheese for her to sprinkle over the pasta.

The quick pickles are extremely simple to make and are a great way to introduce pickles to kids who aren't fans yet.  (Though mine is a huge fan of pickles and would eat the whole jar and then drink the juice if I would let her!)  You can use any veggie, but some like carrots or cauliflower are better if blanched and dried first.  With only a few ingredients you can make them while you're getting the rest of the bento packed.

Quick pickles: This makes just enough for one bento.

3 slices of cucumber, cut into strips
Salt to sprinkle
2-3 TB Rice Vinegar
Black sesame seeds

Optional ingredients:
Sugar to sprinkle (for sweeter pickles, either regular sugar or brown sugar)
Cayenne powder or flakes (for hot pickles)

1. Spread the veggie slices out in a single layer on a plate or in a bowl.
2. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
3. Pour the Rice Vinegar on top and let soak for 5-20 minutes. The longer they soak the stronger the pickle.
4. If you want to add any sugar or cayenne, mix it into the rice vinegar before pouring onto the veggies.
5. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds.

Note:  You can dry them before packing.  Or you can leave some of the vinegar as long as you pack them in a container such as the panda above.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Beyond the Stars

Getting back into the groove of things after spending the end of last week with A-chan's class at camp.  With my infinite bento wisdom I deduced that a simple bento might be best to start out the week.  Space themed bentos are always fun because they give me excuses to make up little alien creatures.  I love the little pea alien dude today!

In the bento: Rice with a tofu soboro asteroid belt, carrot rocket and planets, green pea rocket trail, a huge strawberry, steamed broccoli, apple with star cut outs, carrot sticks and an alien pea dude.

Black sesame seeds provide details for the rocket ship and the alien's eyes.  Alien pea dude's mouth was cut from carrot.  Instead of my regular background of curly leaf lettuce, I used baby spinach leaves to cushion the fruit.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Nice and Simple

One of my bentos, woohoo!  It's not nearly as cute as the ones that I make for A-chan, but it's still delicious.  I love that I look forward to eating lunch.  This one is very simple with only 5 ingredients and took about 7 minutes to make.

In the bento: Rice with pickled ginger shreds and radish sprouts on top, a huge cherry tomato, sugar snap peas, orange slices and Morningstar Farms Chik'n Strips.

The rice was already cooked and in the fridge, it just needed a minute in the microwave to warm it up.  The Chik'n strips were lightly sauteed in a little olive oil and garlic.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Butterfly Fans

Ahhh, the glories of Spring!  Everywhere we look there are butterflies and flowers.  And the fruit, don't forget all the delicious incredible spring fruit.  There is a farm nearby that allows people to come and pick huge buckets of strawberries.  Soon, very soon, we will be in strawberry ecstasy.  But until then I decided to stick with butterflies, flowers and an apple bunny.

In the bento: Two peanut butter and sugar sprinkle sandwiches with fan decorations, sesame carrots, corn on the cob, steamed broccoli, carrot flower petals, steamed sugar snap peas, an apple bunny and mango chunks that are hiding behind the apple.  (You can see a hint of the hiding mango because it has the circular pick stuck into it.)

The fan shapes were cut from provolone cheese, the butterflies were cut from nori, the tiny flowers are carrots with snap pea leaves and sugar dots to add some color.  I would love to be able to say that I had cut the butterflies by hand, but alas I cannot make that claim.  The source of their magnificence is a scrapbook cutter that I purchased at Michael's the other day.  Though I attempted to refrain from the purchase, my bento greed won out!

A-chan never gets peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for school.  Not only is there too much sugar in jelly but it has a potential for incredible messes.  Instead I use sugar sprinkles (normally used on cookies, cupcakes, etc.) because they give the hint of sweetness that she loves without the mess or the sugar crash.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Pancake Flower

Breakfast for lunch was a grand idea.  I heartily applaud whoever first thought it up.  American breakfasts don't usually contain vegetables, but I added just a few in my ever increasing wish for healthier meals.  Of course it's pretty much the same as all of the pancake bentos I've made over the years which always included the odd vegetable or two - the difference is only in my perception.  I used to think of it in terms of the Five color rule of bentos, making sure that I was adding broccoli for green and carrots for orange.  Now it's half and half decisions made by health conscious thinking as well as by color.

In the bento: Three miniature pancakes with a cheese flower on top, blackberries, roasted baby potatoes, soy bacon, broccoli and a carrot flower with sugar snap pea leaves.  More pieces of bacon are hidden underneath the rolled piece and the carrot.  A container of strawberry icing is on the side to help sweeten the pancakes.

The cheese flower consists of provolone and cheddar cheese petals, a center cut from a sugar snap pea and a sugar dot on top.

Happy Monday, everyone!