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.