Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pandas in Hoodies

Brrrrr!  It was 27 degrees last night.  That's cold, y'all!  A-chan was desperately hoping for snow but the powdery white stuff did not make an appearance in our area.  Still - really cold.  And I thought these cute pandas could use some snuggly hoodies to keep warm in.

In the bento:  Panda inari zushi, an apple bunny, steamed broccoli, a carrot musical note, tofurky slices and cream cheese rolls,  and lovely chunks of plum.

The panda's faces were punched from nori and provolone cheese.  I used a tiny bit of ketchup for their cheeks, but not enough to affect the flavor.  The plum bits were arranged in a silicon container so that the juice didn't mix with everything else.  One of A-chan's new fav snacks is soy-turkey and cream cheese rolls.  They look so pretty in a bento!

I can't believe it's so cold already.  Stay warm out there!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Lovely Little Mushrooms

We all get stuck in a rut sometimes and feel like we don't have any creativity to pull out of our hats, right?  When that happens I ask A-chan what she would like in her bento for the next day.  Rarely has this backfired but in this case...yeah.  She asked for mushrooms, one boy and one girl.  What the heck?!  That was really no help, but thanks.  So now I needed to come up with an idea for 'shrooms and I had nothing.  Really.  Zip.  Ah, but I have books.   Inspiration found, I thought, and pulled out all of my charaben books.  They are all in Japanese which I can't read to save my life but hey, I can still look at the pictures and get ideas! mushrooms.  Gah.  In desperation I turned to Pinterest.  And there a beam of light came down from on high to illuminate one of AkinoIchigo's bentos with some cute mushrooms.  I loved it and had a great time coming up with this bento which is totally inspired by hers. Crisis averted.

In the bento:  Rice with homemade furikake, blackberries, carrot leaves, tofu and broccoli stirfry, feta chunks and an apple bunny.

The mushrooms were made from provolone cheese and a pink egg sheet that I distressed a bit with a toothpick to look more 'shroomish.  They have nori faces, more pink egg sheet for cheeks and the girly mushroom has a bow cut from carrot.  I think they came out really well.  More importantly A-chan loved them!

We are having a blast at the NanoWriMo challenge.  A-chan has around 450 words out of the 900 word goal that she set for herself.  I can't believe she's already half way there!  My word count is around 17,000 out of a total 50,000 to meet the challenge.  The biggest surprise so far has been the fact that my grammar and punctuation skills are not as good as I'd thought they were!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tofu Totoro Musubi

A few weeks ago I ran across this fabulous YouTube video on how to make Spam Musubi Totoros.  It inspired me to try making them with slabs of extra firm tofu instead and this was the result!  Except...I didn't have enough nori left to make the bands of the musubi.  But I loved how the Totoros turned out.  I made four of them and since only two would fit into A-chan's bento I got to eat the leftovers for lunch.  Yummy!

In the bento:  Tofu totoros, rectangular onigiri (hidden under the totoros completely), raspberries, steamed broccoli, pineapple, carrot acorns and some frozen blueberries.

To make the totoro shapes I traced the bento box on a piece of paper, then divided it into two rectangles.  I drew a rough totoro shape in each rectangle.  With a piece of saran wrap between the drained slices of tofu and the paper template I used my handy dandy exacto knife to cut out the totoros. They were then cooked in a skillet with a mixture of sesame oil, soy sauce and mirin as I tried to get a spam-ish color from them.  The white parts were all white egg sheet, the black details were nori (of course) and the whiskers were uncooked soba noodles.  Getting the soba noodles to stick up at the correct angles was actually the most difficult part.  Tiny egg sheet flowers were stuck to the steamed broccoli with more uncooked soba.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fall is here!

Apparently Halloween ushered in the proper fall weather and now it's time for us to pull out all our sweaters and gloves.  There are at least seven different colors of leaves in the trees around our house.  It's the perfect weather to sip coffee and ruminate.  I decided to post a bento of mine today, clearing the bento palate from the glut of Halloween cuteness.  My absolute favorite part of this bento was the tiny purple flowers!

In the bento:  Rice (haha, like you didn't already know that), tonkatsu-ish tofu slices, broccoli sprouts, tiny purple potato flowers, apple, potato salad, checkered cucumber slices, snap peas, a veggie gyoza and carrot leaves.

In other news, A-chan and I have joined the ranks of crazy people participating in NaNoWriMo!  If you haven't been clued in to what that is:  National Novel Writing Month.  Yes, that's right.  We're attempting to write a novel in a month.  Two of my very best friends have been participating for years and this November I decided to throw myself into the frenzy.  A-chan got all excited about it and wanted to sign up too.  It's been three days and so far we're both keeping up our daily word goal.  For me it's just a fun challenge.  I'm hoping that for A-chan it will be a great time-management learning experience as well as fun.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!  Samhain Sona!  Today started out with a beautiful sunrise and warm temperatures. I've got my fingers crossed that it will be a temperate night for Trick or Treating.  This is my first time trying to make a witch onigiri.  I think she is cute.  The hat was more difficult than expected and I ended up rushing through bits so that we could leave early for school.  Part of the difficulty was the bandaged finger that I was using very gingerly this morning.  As we started carving Jack'o'lanterns last night I made a long speech about knife safety to A-chan and then immediately stabbed myself in the finger while cutting my pumpkin.  After my impromptu demonstration of what not to do A-chan was very careful indeed!

In the bento: Onigiri witch and hat, grapes, a few blueberries, carrot stars and turnip stars, steamed broccoli, fried tofu, a checkered apple, sauteed squash and a carrot jack'o'lantern.

The Witch has a very thick egg sheet for hair.  It is pinned in place around the backside of the onigiri with uncooked soba noodles.  The main part of the hat was an onigiri wrapped in nori.  The hat brim was a large sheet of provolone cheese that was covered in nori and pinned in place with more soba noodles.  I used blue egg sheet for the hat's decoration along with some little stars.

I can't wait to steal some of A-chan's candy tonight once she's asleep.  I wish everyone a safe and fun Halloween night!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mummies and Spiders

Oh my goodness, tomorrow is Halloween!  What is your favorite candy?  Skittles are my guilty pleasure.  A-chan is totally ready to go trick or treating.  She wants me to join her in the candy gathering extravaganza and so far doesn't believe that I'm too old to trick or treat.  Since I haven't had a chance to post a lot of Halloween bentos, I'm putting up two at once today.

In the Mummy bento: Rice, a cherry tomato, grapes, sauteed squash, checkered apple, carrot hearts, teriyaki tofu and vegetables.

The Mummies were so much fun to make.  Wrapping and layering the provolone cheese over the nori was pretty cool.  The hearts were cut from apple peel and the line of black sesame seeds were placed meticulously with out kitty cat thief looking on in fascination.  Luckily I have learned some tricks to keep Stripey the kitty thief from stealing broccoli out of the bentos in the morning!

One of the challenges of the new school year is that one of A-chan's schoolmates has a very bad peanut allergy and no peanuts are allowed in their lunches.  Being a mom whose child has food allergies, I am happy to see the school enforcing this.  It does make for some changes in my routine.  I had gotten used to having a peanut butter and jelly sammie as a backup for busy days or morning when I wasn't feeling good.   Different sandwich choices are fun and strange all at once.  Inside these spider sammies is a lovely chopped cheese and mayo mixture.  Unfortunately A-chan doesn't appreciate pimento cheese sandwiches yet, to my chagrin.

In the Spider bento:  Two cheese and mayo sandwich balls, cucumber spider webs, orange slices, strawberries and steamed broccoli.

A-chan's favorite thing about this bento were the spider's huge eyes.  They were cut from provolone cheese and nori.  The spiders' legs were fried spaghetti noodles.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Monster High Bento

A-chan's 9th birthday was this past weekend.  I can't believe she's 9!  How did she suddenly become so grown up?  Her birthday party theme was Monster High which she loves.  She's also dressing up as a Monster High character for Halloween.  So we went all out with Monster High everything, including a bento.  My girl even made her own birthday cake this year (with a little help from a great friend) which was, of course, a Monster High cake.  I am so proud of her.

In the bento: Rice, veggie hotdogs, steamed broccoli, baby corn, grapes and a strawberry.

The Skullette was cut from nori, provolone cheese and pink egg sheet.  The letters were cut from American cheese.  I wanted to do a more complicated birthday bento, but kept it simple so that I could also work on making her school birthday treat.

For her school party this year she decided on a healthier approach to treats instead of cupcakes.  I absolutely loved doing the rainbow fruit skewers!  Not only was it fun but man was it easier than making 32 cupcakes.

She did a great job with her cake!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Kitty and Jack'o'lantern

A-chan loves cute kitties in her lunches.  And I love making them!  It's a perfect combination.   I tried to do something new with the Jack'o'lantern in this bento.  I have now learned to try new things at times that are not busy mornings!  Ahem.

In the bento: Rice underlaying the Jack'o'lantern and kitty, green onions, apple star, carrot star, miso crusted tofu, steamed broccoli, pineapple chunks and a cheese ghost.

The Jack'o'lantern was cut from three layers of orange eggsheet.  The new thing is that they were cut all at the same time in an attempt to make the 3d layering a little easier.  I'm sure it will get easier with practice.  The kitty has two layers - one of cheese and one of nori.  The kitty is sandwiched between the lowest pumpkin layer and the top two pumpkin layers.  My favorite parts of the Jack'o'lantern are the teeth (they are so adorable) and the kitty's hat.  I used a leftover piece of broccoli stem for the pumpkin stem.  The apple star was an ambitious project as well and though it looks great - it didn't fit once I put on the lid.  Not so much a big surprise, lol.  I ended up rearranging a few things to get the star laying down, whew!

In other news, we had a fabulous time at the Stone Mountain Highland Games this past weekend!  Doesn't A-chan look cute in her Highland dance outfit?  At 8 am it was pretty darn cold out there so she didn't want to take off her gloves for the picture and who can blame her.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Highland Dance

This weekend is A-chan's first Scottish Highland Dance competition.  She's both excited and nervous.  I'm totally exuberant!  The Highland Games are always fun.  I mean what's not fun about bagpipes, kilts and lovely, yummy scones?  Plus it's an excuse to make Scottish Forfar Bridies for our bento lunches during the weekend.  Ghillies (Highland dance shoes) are one of the main icons of the Scottish dancer so I decided to make this bento to cheer A-chan on.  I wish that I'd made them a wee bit smaller, but otherwise I love how they turned out!  You can see bits of our clan tartan and badge in the background.  And of course I had to include a couple of plaid picks for the occasion.

In the bento:  Veggie fried rice, raspberries, blueberries, pineapple, steamed broccoli and carrot flowers.

The ghillies were cut from white egg sheets.  Nori designs were cut out with scissors and then were applied directly to the egg sheet.  See all those strangely cut pieces of carrot in the fried rice?  That's what I do with the bits of veggies left over from cutting out flowers, etc.  They get frozen and then used in fried rice and soups.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dango? Why yes, thanks!

Do you have a favorite food that  you don't get to eat often?  Mine is dango!  It is definitely a special treat and only happens about twice a year.  Whenever I'm in San Francisco I stop by the Japanese Tea Gardens and grab some tea and dango.  I suppose that I could learn to make it at home, but I love having dango as a rare thing.  That way it's something to look forward to for a month or so before a trip.

This dango bento just tickles me.  One of my favorites paired with one of A-chan's.  She adores soba.  I like soba noodles, too.  Just not as much as she does.  Anyway, it was a lot of fun to make and a lot of fun for her to eat!

In the bento:  Rice ball dango, soba noodles, carrot stars, steamed broccoli, crisp fried tofu and plum slices.

The dango rice balls were made by cooking three pots of rice - one plain, one with red food coloring and another with green.  You might think making three colored batches of rice is crazy, but it actually is a greatly efficient way of filling up my freezer.  It usually happens over a weekend and when each batch is done they are immediately made into onigiri and frozen to make morning bentos so much easier.  But back to the bento deets...the faces were made from nori using two different punches, with sesame seeds added to the eyes and sriracha sauce for the cheeks.  A piece of fried soba noodle makes the stick of the dango.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cheerful Jack o'Lanterns

Thank goodness fall is here!  Cooler weather, falling leaves, acorns and pumpkins are some of my favorite things.  We were a bit late with the Halloween decorating this year, finally getting it done this past weekend.  And I've been behind in making Halloween themed bentos too.  I spent the last two weeks without my computer again (can you say 'torture'?) and so I've missed two whole weeks putting up photos of my favorite holiday lunches.   To make up for that, I'm posting this horrible Jack'o'lantern pancake bento even though the edges of the face cut-outs are so awful and ragged looking.

When you are using exacto knives to cut food it's necessary to replace the blades every so often as they tend to go dull very quickly, not being made for slicing through things like pancakes and egg sheet every day.  Mine obviously needed replacing but I keep forgetting to go and buy a new set of replacement blades.  Today's bento is a very strong reminder for me to go shopping!

In the bento:  Miniature pancakes with cake icing, cucumber slices, carrots, cheese slices, french fries, dragonfruit, raspberries and blueberries.

The pancakes were frozen and took only 5 minutes to cook.  I cut out the facial features with my way too dull exacto knife.  The strawberry flavored cake icing was spread in a thin layer between the pancakes to make them sweet and make the faces pop at the same time.  Some thin slices of green onion helped them look like proper Jack'o'lanterns with stems and a couple of candy-themed picks finished it off.  The raspberries were fresh but the blueberries were frozen and popped into the bento just a moment before I snapped the picture.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Weekend Fun Bentos

This past weekend was amazing.  We had an incredible time at Anime Weekend Atlanta.  Then we went on to participate in the Color Run 5k with A-chan's godparents.  And there was a Fall Festival after lunch at The Flying Biscuit.  Eating lunch while covered in colors was just a bit strange but also kind of fun.

These bentos were for our lunch at AWA on Friday.  Inari zushi are easy to make and quick to pop into bentos when I'm in a hurry.  I wanted A-chan's to be cute.   I wanted mine to be more elegant.  There were plenty of egg sheets left over from making Vash the Stampede the day before so I used them for fans and flowers.  Everything in this bento was about being quick to make and easy to assemble.

In the bento:  Inari zushi, corn on the cob, grapes, black plum slices, carrot flowers, baby tomatoes and cream cheese soy turkey rolls.

The bunny faces were cut from provolone.  The butterflies were punched from nori with one of my fav nori punches.  It was bought at Michael's and I love it!  I use it all the time on bentos for myself.

After the Color Run

A-chan at the finish line

A-chan's Lion Cake

I love this!  A-chan's newest obsession is Cake Boss which we found on Netflix this past Sunday.  Wow.  She is now all about creating cakes.  There was the pillow cake on her bed that was topped with a fake pearl necklace and stuffed kittens.  And she made a picnic themed cake from her play food.  All of this got me inspired to make a last minute cake so that she could truly enjoy making one.

We had friends over for the evening.  They are so awesome and totally joined into the craziness of last minute cake making, including picking up the grocery items that were needed!  The four of us jumped in and worked together to make the cake as a team effort.  Keep in mind that I've made maybe two cakes in my life.  It was wild.  And a ton of fun!  A-chan learned how to seperate egg yolks out.

A-chan did most of the icing and she did all the decorating by herself.  It was so much fun to watch her with the piping bag.  She obviously had a clear idea of what she wanted.  I am super proud of her!  We finally got it finished much later than I would normally allow cake to be eaten.  We ate it anyway.  And it was delicious!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Vash the Stampede

I am a huge fan of anime.  It's never been a secret, though I haven't made much mention of it lately.  Here it is, then.  One of my absolute favorite anime is Trigun.  I have loved it for years and still do.  A-chan is a fan of Vash as well, though she hasn't seen all of Trigun - only the first part which is lighter and silly.  It was so exciting to immortalize one of my fav characters in eggsheet, nori and cheese.  I feel as though this bento took much more prep work than other kyaraben.  Five egg sheets were cooked the night before and stored in the fridge.  And you should have seen the mess I made of my kitchen over this one!  

In the bento:  Jasmine rice as a background, carrot and nori stars, fried tofu, checkered apple, grapes, steamed broccoli and black olives.  

Vash was made on a platform of provolone cheese.  His hair, face and donut were cut from egg sheet while his distinctive red coat was cut from a red pepper.  All the black details were cut from nori.  The letters on the sign for his name were cut from cucumber peel.  Kuroneko-sama is provolone and nori with cucumber eyes.  He's slightly a crazy kitty in the anime so I'm not over worried about how crazy he looks in the bento.

Tomorrow we head up to Anime Weekend Atlanta for a day's immersion in anime, manga and cosplay!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Froggies and Fireflies

JapanFest was the best thing since onigiri molds!  We had a blast watching the sumo wrestling, taiko drumming and Bunraku puppetry, not to mention seeing all the smiling faces throughout the weekend.  Thanks so much to all the people who came to the lectures and stopped by the booth.  It's always a difficult transition back to normality after an exciting event, but we're trying our best.  Silly frog onigiri were a great way to usher in the week.

In the bento:  Frog onigiri, potato salad in a container, strawberries, lemon slices, steamed broccoli, a vegetarian tsukune patty, carrot and turnip flowers and a couple of nori dragonflies on cheese circles.

To get green rice I added a couple drops of food coloring to the water before cooking the rice.  The onigiri shapes were made with an onigiri mold.  Provolone cheese and nori were used for the facial detail.  The frog's tongue was sweet potato peel.  It was pretty simple to cut the dragonflies out of nori using a stencil punch from a local craft store.

I love using black sesame seeds for detail on flowers and things like the dragonflies' flight paths.  Sesame seeds are extremely versatile, not to mention yummy!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Kitty for Me

Are there too many cats in my bentos?  I think not.  There's no such thing as too many cats.  I make plenty of kitty bentos for A-chan and love doing so, but this one was for myself.  It was yummy!

We're getting ready for JapanFest this weekend.  I can't wait.  I'm not sure what I'm most excited about, the sumo wrestling or the archery.  A-chan is looking forward to the games and sweets most, though she is also happy for the excuse to put on her yukata.  

In the bento:  Jasmine rice, purple potato hearts, half of a huge cherry tomato, orange slices, black olives, steamed broccoli,  and fried tofu.

The kitty was cut from egg sheet and provolone cheese, with facial details punched from nori and uncooked somen noodles for whiskers.  His ball of yarn was made from a few spaghetti noodles that were dyed green.  I was attempting to dye them blue, alas.  

Friday, September 13, 2013

Easy Peasy Lion

Whew!  Back from vacation and almost ready to jump back into reality.  We had a stressfree and relaxed time.  All of the things on our have-to-experience-that list actually got done.  I have to mention it because I think it's the first time that has ever happened.  Ah, but jumping from Princesses, safaris and and roller coasters back to early school mornings and homework is an adjustment.  I'm taking it slow.

In the bento: Spaghetti noodles fill up the big tier while kiwi slices, an apple bunny, edamame, carrot ribbons, grapes and turnip flowers are nestled in the smaller.

The cute lion is made with soy turkey slices, turnip, nori and uncooked somen noodles for whiskers.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Princess Merida

For the last bento before our trip A-chan requested Merida.  Though she loves all the Disney Princesses, Merida is currently her favorite.  She has been learning Scottish Highland Dance since January and mentioned yesterday that she wanted to do some dancing for Merida at Disney!  There is a new fruit in this bento - dinosaur egg pluot.  I couldn't pass up the chance to eat a fruit with a name like that.  And I love it!  It's a very nice pluot with a mostly sweet taste and luckily A-chan loves it.

With complicated character bentos I sketch out the designs the night before and often do most of the prep work then as well.  In this case, the sketches, multiple egg sheets and the little bear onigiri were made the night before.  I neglected to check the sizing of the bears, leaving them much too big to fit into the actual bento.  A-chan claimed that she didn't mind if one got squished a little.

In the bento: Merida figure on top of a lovely block of rice, checkered apple, three bear onigiri, steamed broccoli, a cherry tomato (completely hidden under/behind the bears), garlic and basil encrusted tofu, baby corn spears and slices of dinosaur egg pluot.

Merida was made from (can you guess?) many layer of egg sheet and provolone.  I'm sure that no one is surprised by that since those are my standard ingredients for charaben.  I was excited about making the arrow and bow string, though.  The arrow is an uncooked udon noodle and the bow string is the edging cut from a slice of soy turkey.

The three bears are onigiri made from fried rice with lots of extra soy sauce to get them a deep brown color.  Soy turkey and nori were used for their faces.  I should have made their faces a little differently, but I was too concerned with trying to make them all fit into the box!

The target that proclaims our count down to vacation was cut from provolone cheese, cucumber peel and carrot.
Sketch of the Merida bento.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Doo Bee Doo Bee Doo Bah

As Agent P's shield says, it's only two days til vacation!  One of the things A-chan is very excited about it the Agent P adventure at Epcot.  That will probably be the very first thing we do.  When I'd planned out this bento in my head a whole lot more letters fit on the banner,  but reality left me with only a small part of the theme song.  A-chan started singing it as soon as she saw her bento and we both sang Perry's theme song in the car on the way to school this morning.

In the bento: Rice, baby corn, frozen blueberries, a cherry tomato, steamed broccoli and Japanese curry.
Agent P was constructed from blue, white and orange egg sheets with some soy turkey for his hat and eyes.  His shield and theme song banner were cut from provolone cheese and carrots.

To make the character I first traced the outside of the bento box, then traced the size of the inside container.  Then I drew Agent P on the inside of the box.  Next I cut him out as one large shape, traced him on another piece in order to have two copies to work with.  The first Agent P was then cut into his various parts: Hat, eyes, bill, shield.  One large Agent P was cut out of egg sheet and then all the other bits were cut and assembled with some mayo on the backs to help keep the pieces glued in place.

Agent P is copyrighted to the Disney co.  (Is copyrighted a word?  It doesn't sound right...)

Friday, August 23, 2013

5 Days til Disney

The official countdown to our Disney world vacation starts with this bento lunch!  My character building skills are a little rusty, particularly in the facial detail areas and I could probably critique this bento for ages.  But honestly it's only 5 days til Disney so who cares?!  I knew that A-chan would be excited.  However, my current level of excitement was unanticipated.  I could have done a Micky Mouse bento which might have been simpler, but I wanted a challenge.  I wanted a princess.  So here is the favorite princess of my 16 year old self: Jasmine.

In the bento: Cheese sandwich hiding under Jasmine, strawberry slices, lemon slices, checkered cucumber slices and veggie hotdogs with carrot heart centers and a provolone cheese star with a carrot #5.

Jasmine was created with a background of provolone cheese, soy turkey for skin, cheddar cheese for jewelry and several colors of egg sheets for everything else.  Her little bird was made from white egg sheet, soy turkey and carrot.  I used nori for her eyelashes, nose and lips to give some definition.

I drew the character out on a piece of paper then cut each piece out around the edges of the paper with either my food scissors or an exacto knife blade.  Several different layers give a partial 3D illusion, especially with the hair.  A-chan loved it and gave me huge smiles, oohs and aahs this morning.  This might be the best loved lunch of the school year so far.

Disney owns the copyright to Princess Jasmine.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Birthday Bento!

Yesterday was my birthday.  I am old.  So old.  Don't get me wrong, though.  I am happy to be the age that I am and enjoying every minute!  A-chan used my new age to help her choose things all day long.  Can't decide which kind of candy to buy?  Just count them until you get to Mommy's age.  This was a great reminder of how much energy I don't have now that I'm so old.  Grocery shopping took way longer using this method, lol.

Even though I didn't have to go anywhere I decided to make myself a bento anyway, just to enjoy it.   I used one of my favorite boxes that I haven't gotten to use much recently.

In the bento: Tier 1 held carrot ribbons, quick cucumber pickles, potato salad, a lemon wedge and strawberries.  Tier 2 had green rice with black sesame seeds.  The largest tier contained strawberries, lemon wedges, soy turkey and cream cheese rolls, more carrot ribbons and three veggie gyoza.

It was a lovely day and I wish that it had lasted a lot longer than 24 hours.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Two Apples

This was a fun bento!  I loved making the tiny pink onigiri.  These cuties still don't look like apple halves to me, but A-chan thought they did so it's all okay.  My brilliant brainy thought of the morning was using parchment paper bits as the bento divider.  The pieces were left over from our cookie baking over the weekend.  Recycling is awesome.

In the bento:  Two pink onigiri, checkered cucumber slices, cherry tomato halves, carrot flowers, blackberries and a broccoli, carrot heart and tofu teriyaki stirfry.

Cheese would have worked better for the white apple bits, I think.  We didn't have any cheese though, so I quickly made a white egg sheet.  You can see where it curled at the top instead of laying flat.  I used black sesame seeds, nori, ketchup, steamed edamame and fried spaghetti noodles for the rest of the apple decorations.  The stirfry was also fun with the carrots cut into little heart shapes.  I was running out of time and cut the carrot flowers without boiling them first so they ended up all messy looking instead of clean cut.  Oh well.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Edamame and Soba

There are some days when I'm extremely grateful for cute food picks.  Without the little blue monkey this bento would not have passed the 'cute' test.  Luckily A-chan was okay with it, though she considered the onigiri strawberry to be a bit strange.  It looks pretty strange in the picture, I'll grant.  It looked much nicer in person, I swear!

In the bento:  Zaru soba noodles with steamed edamame, strawberry shaped onigiri with cucumber peel leaf, blackberries, apples, kiwi slices and a carrot flower with pea center.

Even if the bento wasn't the cutest ever, we both agreed that the boxes were adorable.  I loved the fact that the container/cup that came in the snack box can be used with the larger box.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

First Day Back to School

Summer is over too quickly.  I can't believe that school is already starting!  Where did summer go?  In our house bento supplies are required back-to-school shopping.  A-chan was excited to get two new bento boxes and matching snack boxes and I was thrilled to get a few small decorating items.  It has been our tradition in the past for A-chan to request a special bento theme for the first day of school.  This year she couldn't decide on anything and left it up to me.  A mermaid seemed perfect since one of the most loved and most time-consuming activities of the summer was swim lessons.

In the bento: Pink rice mermaid onigiri, checkered cucumber, a huge cherry tomato, grape halves, sea themed biscuits, fried tofu, peach slices (hidden under the hair) and blackberries.

The mermaid's tail was cut from soy turkey slices and her hair was cut from an egg sheet.  Tiny carrot flowers decorate her hair and bra.  Sugar dots made a great pearl necklace.  I used a nori punch for her eyes and mouth and then dabbed on a bit of ketchup for cheeks.

Now let me show you our new bento loot!  A-chan loves taiyaki so getting the matching taiyaki set was a definite must.  That set was a surprise.  The skull boxes, however, she chose herself.  They are not my taste, lol.  She adores them - in part because they remind her of Monster High, I think.

Her old much-beloved bento bags were falling apart after being used continuously for two years and being washed a ton.  So she begged me for the orange piggy bag.

And here is the thing I got just for me.  Well, technically I will use it with her bentos.  But it's really for me.  Japanese letter cutouts!  Sweet!  I can't wait to start using these beautiful things.  Of course, first I will have to learn a little more Japanese than I currently know.  Can you see the carrot dangling in front of my face?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tsukune Dinner Bentos

This blog was originally named because we are a vegetarian family.  Despite the belief here in the west that Japanese food is synonymous with vegetarianism, that is so far from the reality of daily cuisine in Japan.  (More on this subject below...)  I am an anarchist for combining my love of Japanese food and bento making with my life of vegetarianism!  Many times I take traditional Japanese recipes and 'fake them up' into vegetarian versions that I can make quickly and easily at home.

Tsukune patties are one of our favorite of these anarchized recipes.  And yes, I realize that 'anarchized' isn't actually a word but I like it so I'm going to use it anyway.  Tsukune in Japan are made from ground chicken, usually served on a skewer.  Mine are made from firm tofu, fried onion paste, flour, panko and water.  Totally not traditional Japanese cuisine but oh so yummy!  A-chan prefers hers with ketchup while I eat mine drenched in mayo and sriracha.  I will post the recipe soon.

In the bento: Rice with black sesame seeds, carrot flowers, steamed broccoli, corn on the cob, vegetarian tsukune patties, an apple bunny for A-chan and a checkered apple for me.  My bento had some broccoli sprouts scattered around while A-chan refused to have any in hers.

While I want to make dinner bentos as lovely as these every time, I admit that they aren't always so picture worthy.  Somehow I'm only organized enough to make pretty food in the mornings and by afternoon I'm throwing food into bento boxes and hoping I'll get us to dance class on time.

(Vegetarianism in Japan continued...) Like my grandparents who used to think that life will end if one doesn't flavor food with meat, most Japanese consider a meal to be incomplete without some form of meat.  There is more in common between the South and Japan than most people think!   The idea of vegetarianism is not well understood in either place, though that is slowly changing.  I've been told that it is as difficult to find vegetarian food in Japan as it is to get a veggie meal at a BBQ joint - almost impossible unless you want to eat plain bread.  A meal without meat seems to equate to hardship and unhappiness in Japan, which leads to a very different view of food.  Below are some links about this that are fun to read and occasionally eye-opening.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Ladybug Bento

Gah, where did the summer go?  It went by in a blur of travel, classes and craziness.  Neither of us are ready for summer to be over and I'm enjoying looking through the summer camp bentos to help hold onto summer as long as possible.

This ladybug bento was another of those summer camp lunches.  I don't use the bright yellow Pikachu box much these days since A-chan is not as interested in Pokemon, but I do love how it makes the red of the food pop out.

In the bento: Chilled zaru soba noodles, cherry tomato ladybug, carrot flowers with pear peel leaves in the large tier.  The smaller tier holds pear slices, a strawberry, blueberries, half an apricot, steamed broccoli and Shoyu tofu on picks.  Not shown: a container of sauce for the noodles.

The ladybug has a blueberry head which is attached to the cherry tomato half with a fried spaghetti noodle.  Her eyes are cut from pear with nori details and her antennae are uncooked soba noodles.  I adore how the center of the blueberry looked like a nose!  Nori was applied to the tomato with a bit of water to help the pieces stick.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sweet Lamb

It's been a while since I've done any blogging and I was a little worried that I wouldn't remember how!  I'm  grateful to have a new computer so that the internet and I can be playmates again.  It is doubtful that I can catch up on all the bentos that I've missed seeing during the last few months, but I'm going to try, darn it.

This lamb bento was made for one of A-chan's summer camp days.  As always, summer camp lunches need to be simple because they get tossed into a huge plastic container and carried around the camp.  Anything with complex characters tends to be a huge mess by lunchtime.

In the bento:  Rice lamb with egg sheet face, ears and feet.  His eyes and mouth are nori and his cheeks are tiny buds from a raspberry.  He has carrot letters, a side of soy sauce tofu hearts with nori centers, steamed edamame, raspberries and blueberries.

The strange tofu shapes that were left over from cutting out the hearts were also cooked and are hidden underneath the hearts.