Today because I happened to have potatoes, I decided to make salmon hash instead of the usual broiled teriyaki or furikake method. I made a kind of pistou with parsley and broccoli, with garlic and olive oil, to go with it. I also added some yuzu too. It was pretty good. A hash is nice because you cook it all in one pan, and you can add whatever extra veggies you have. I had some kuri squash so I diced it along with broccoli stalks and onions. It would have been good with sweet peppers too. This ECOlunchbox Oval comes with a separate container for the nectarine and grapes, so they stay out of the salmon. So handy and practical!
I don't know why, but Planetbox Rover seems to scream sandwich bento! to me. Today, at least. It has a nice big compartment for it, and even though it's a square, I'm putting a baguette in there, because that's how I do it. It's a sardine sandwich, and before you judge, listen: it's packed in harissa, covered in melted cheese, and laying on a whole wheat sweet French roll. The lettuce underneath he'll pack between the bread right before eating, so it doesn't get all soggy. It's good! Besides that, he gets super ripe strawberries, cara cara orange, homegrown kadota fig, tomatoes, carrots, cinnamon yogurt, and tiny bear cookies (because they fit in that little space perfectly!). Yum!
Tacorice! It's like taco, but over rice. So good. I used ground turkey flavored with taco spices served over rice with grated cheddar, shredded romaine lettuce, and chopped grape tomatoes. You can also add chopped or sliced avocado, and salsa. I put hot sauce on mine. I packed TinySprite's lunch in the bottom of this cute two tier pink polka-dotted bento, with peaches and strawberries (and carrot) in the top tier. The set even comes with a teeny tiny fork. How cute is that?
Uh huh, yup yup, it's shoyu chicken again. With all the standard sides again (I made Moroccan chickpeas but I forgot to put it in! Oh well. It didn't really go with the Japanese theme anyway. Next time!) like broccoli and tomatoes. Instead of a lettuce leaf, you can pack yours over rice, which is how I like to eat it. The smaller LunchBots Clicks holds strawberries, watermelon chunks, and carrots. These two boxes are very cool! I love them because they are completely leakproof, with tight-sealing snap lock lids. They are a nice options to plastic containers and one of the few stainless steel box sets I have that are leakproof. Plus, the two together hold just the right amount for my third-grader. Perfect!
I made a steak today. I know, weird! I never cook steak. I don't know why; they (the fam) all love meat. I actually really just wanted to make chimichurri. I put parsley, cilantro, garlic, red onions, olive oil and white vinegar in mine: it's so good and you can put it on anything. I gave my kids a few pieces of strip steak over a kale and romaine salad tossed with cherry tomatoes and fresh grated black pepper. At dinner we also had a yogurt dill dressing that I could have packed alongside as well, come to think of it. The dressing also is good with the pan-fried potatoes. You can mix the chimichurri into the salad too, and it's very good that way! This all fit nicely in the ECOlunchboxes Solo Cube. I packed along the EcoDipper on the side with a few strawberries and chopped peaches. That should keep her filled this afternoon, I hope!
With the weather cooling down a bit, I'm thinking more about thermal bento these days. And when I saw the cutest kuri squash at the market, I had to make curry. I wish I took a picture of the squash before I cut it. If you haven't seen one, it's a small roundish squash with a tough outer skin in a brilliant red color. The flesh is orange like pumpkin and it's great in curry because of the autumny color! My curry is packed with all kinds of veggies (and ground turkey) like broccoli, celery, onion, carrots, and sometimes mushrooms and potatoes. You can pack it over rice or just straight, like I did here, in the LunchBots Thermal Food Container. I packed a side box with beautiful cara cara oranges (also called red navel in my market) and watermelon balls. I also packed this cute Light My Fire combo spoon fork because it's MisterMan's favorite. It even has a serrated edge for cutting. How cute! Happy Start of Fall!
For this simple lunch I made pan-fried Vietnamese style thin pork chops, which I sliced into strips for the kids' bento. I marinated the meat in a mixture of fish sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, shallots, and cracked black pepper before cooking them in a cast iron pan. Added the sliced peppers too, and reduced the sauce. You can serve them in a lettuce wrap with pickled veggies, or over shredded lettuce, or with baby sweet peppers like I did here. A half peach and some chopped Asian pear round out the bento for MisterMan. They both love this meat, and it's a great way to get them to eat lettuce too :)
Looks like we're on a cold noodle salad roll over here. I really don't know why it didn't occur to me to make pasta salads ALL SUMMER long, but the idea is now in my head. This one doesn't have a sauce, but gets all its flavor from the diced garlicky chicken sausage, roasted red peppers, and pickled onions. I parboiled broccoli that I had chopped finely and tossed that in too, because you know me, I gotta have some green in there. I loosely used a Serious Eats recipe for Spanish Pasta Salad but adapted some ingredients because it was more convenient. It still tastes good!
Spanish Pasta Salad With Chorizo, Piquillo Peppers, and Pickled Onion
1/3 cup chopped parsley leaves and tender stems (about 1/2 bunch)
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
2 to 3 teaspoons zest from 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
In a small mixing bowl, cover onion with sherry vinegar and let stand until lightly pickled, at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.
In a pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until very tender throughout, 2 to 3 minutes longer than al dente stage according to package. Drain in a colander, then chill under cold running water. Let drain well, then drizzle lightly with olive oil and toss to coat. Set aside.
In a small skillet, cook chorizo over medium-high heat until fat has rendered and chorizo is crisp, about 8 minutes; during last 1 minute of cooking, stir in garlic.
In a large serving bowl, toss pasta with chorizo, garlic, and its rendered fat, along with olive oil, piquillo peppers, parsley, scallions, and lemon zest. Drain onions and toss into salad. Season with salt and pepper. Serve right away at room temperature or make up to 1 day in advance, refrigerate, and return to room temperature before serving.
The rest of the bento contains sliced plums and white nectarines, as well as a grape tomato. I hope TinySprite enjoys her Paperchase lunch box bento!
Cold soba salad is typically a warm weather food, and I know it's late September - the first day of Fall, in fact - but it still feels like summer around here. And I just realized I forgot to make soba salad at all this past summer -- so here it is! I used cha soba (it looks pale green and has a faint tea flavor), and topped with chopped romaine (my favorite salad green these days), julienned carrots and cucumbers, sliced grape tomatoes, and char siu. Sprinkled with sesame seeds and packed with a little soy-ginger dressing in the little yellow container this bento is ready to eat. I actually put the dressing container in the main part on top of the soba -- the top tier presses down on it just enough to keep it from moving around and spilled open. And if it does spill, it will spill on the salad. Top tier holds sliced plum and a few strawberries. All very refreshing on a warm summery day.
Sometimes you need a no-cook bento idea because you didn't cook anything for dinner and there weren't any leftovers anyway. That's when I make sandwiches. If you've looked at my blog for awhile you'll know I don't make sandwiches often. Unless I have unusual or fun bread, I think they're a tad boring. But it's easy to make them fun by rolling pinwheels! I flattened the bread with a rolling pin, cut off the crusts and tossed them to the dog (but you can also save them for other purposes like in soup or for croutons!), then layered cheddar, spinach, and nitrite-free ham. Roll up and secure with long picks. Done! The other half of the split Sistema container holds pairs of plums, grapes, tomatoes, and carrots. Aww, I hope TinySprite will love it!
I made salted salmon (shiozake) to serve over baby lettuce greens in a simple salad for my kids' bento today. Since we still have fresh corn, I added fresh cooked corn off the cob as well. The salmon has flavor enough to make this small portion quite tasty. And since she loves them, I also pan fried some potato wedges and sprinkled with furikake in the next section. In the last section of our well-used LunchBots Trio I placed sliced elephant heart pluots (I think this may be our last batch of the season. So sad! I love these sweet dark red fruit very much) and carrots to round out the bento. The lid stays on well enough to keep everything separate for them come lunchtime. Perfect!
It is starting to cool down over here in Northern California just a little, which means it's time to start packing thermal bento again. I have several types of thermal containers and this one is still just right for TinySprite. It holds 10 ounces and has a cute Hello Kitty decoration on it. I have a bigger one that I use for MisterMan, and you'll see that one in an upcoming post I'm sure. I made turkey bean chili with various vegetables (this time tomatoes, corn, celery, onion, and broccoli) added. To accompany it, I packed a small round tight-sealing container with sliced plums, carrots, and grapes.
When afterschool activities run from 4:00 until 5:30 or 6:00, I'm thinking of dinner making itself. Sticky rice is a great self-cooking meal. Just toss everything into the rice cooker, press the button and go! If you have a fancy Zojirushi, you can even set the timer. Today I made a half brown half white batch with shiitake, lup cheong, baby bok choy, and char siu. In the past I've also added chopped kabocha and roast duck. You can use whatever you like, and pack it into the lower part of the cutest Kotobuki Froggy Two-Tier Bento ever. In the top tier, toss in some elephant heart pluots, grapes, and carrots. So easy; my favorite kind of dinner-to-bento meal. Done!
One of the standards that makes a frequent appearance on this blog: shoyu chicken with broccoli and potatoes. I used the very sturdy and substantial ECOlunchboxes Three-in-One set, which gives me two tiers to pack a lot of food for my 7th grader. Besides the lower tier that I just mentioned, he gets a container of yogurt with wheat germ and blueberries, plus some plum, donut peach, and grapes. This whole set latches together on two sides very securely and has never come apart in our experience. Hope your week is getting off to a great start!
I think I've been using this box for at least 5 years now; it used to be MisterMan's box, and now TinySprite's appetite is big enough to pass it on to her on occasion. A couple things make it a standout box for me: it's round, which is a pleasing shape. It's divided into three wedge-shaped sections, and these sections are removable so we can use any or all as we choose. The box is pretty deep, so the amount of food I can pack is substantial. And it comes with a snap-locking clear plastic lid, so we can see the beautiful lunch waiting for us! Finally, it somehow seems that everything looks good in this kind of round box, naturally. It's, well, magic. Hence the Magic Round Bento (MRB) nomenclature. Try it yourself and see!
Today I sent TinySprite to school with buttery shrimp and pasta and one of our current summer favorite salads: chopped romaine with halved cherry tomatoes and cracked pepper. This time I tossed with fresh corn off the cob. I'll sprinkle with whatever cheese I have on hand: feta, parmesan, even grated cheddar or jack. And since we're still in the stone fruit portion of summer, we're getting our fill of plums while we can. There are a couple berries in there to fill space as well. We're well into our 3rd week of school but it still feels like summer out here in California. How's your school year going so far?
Working the PlanetBox Rover again, we played out one of our favorite themes: breakfast for lunch. Today's included pan-fried sausage and hard-boiled eggs. I guess the plain tart yogurt with fresh fruit topping (and pumpkin seeds) falls into the same category too. A side salad of chopped romaine, cherry tomatoes, parmesan and fresh ground pepper pulls the whole thing into a more lunch-y type mode. I'd say. The yogurt is completely sealed inside the big dipper once the box is latched, so there'll be no leakage. I omitted dressing on the salad, because that won't stay in the section. If you so desire, you could send dressing along in the little dipper, which would sit in the section where the egg is (and there is definitely enough room to double up the eggs and squeeze it in. Quick and easy! I'm really liking this box already.
Like I mentioned in the last post, we've started the new school year with a brand new bento box system: The PlanetBox Rover. I was very excited to test it out! So far we've used it only a couple times, but I can't wait to show and tell you about it already. Our first packed PlanetBox is shown here:
We packed homemade pepperoni/spinach/onion/red pepper pizza in the largest, square section. I separated the two pieces with wax paper. Since the lid is convex, you can pack more than you think, a feature I love! In another section I packed a cabbage/carrot/daikon slaw and grape tomatoes, a selection of strawberries and super-red elephant heart plums (my current season favorite), cinnamon cottage cheese in the little dipper, corn sheets, and some sunflower seeds in the tiniest center compartment. That little space is supposed to be reserved for a small indulgent treat, like maybe a piece of candy or something.
I'm not sure how much each section holds, but the website says this entire box has a capacity of 4.5 cups -- I'm assuming that means packed to the gills up to the top of the recessed lids. The box itself is not leakproof, so they don't recommend liquids like gravies or sauces, but the lidded containers (I've only shown the small one) are reported to be leakproof.
The little round dipper was indeed leakproof, and my son said everything stayed inside its separate section without problem. He had no problem opening and closing the box, and he ate everything we packed. As a bonus, his fork fit into the long section after he was finished, so as to keep the inside of the carrying case clean. I did see some liquid spilled into the case, however, but I think it was the pickling liquid from the slaw. If I were to pack slaw again, I would make sure to drain it first, or else pack it in one of the dippers. Otherwise, it is a great option for bento packing, and I recommend it. Cleanup is easy; I washed everything in soapy water (they are also dishwasher safe) and towel-dried. The only reservation I have is the somewhat higher than average retail price of $49.95 for this box set; there is a smaller one that sells for less (Shuttle, $34.95) and a larger one that sells for more (Launch, $55.95), but I expect this box to last for many uses, making it a quality long-term (hopefully lifetime) investment. We're looking forward to using this box much more throughout the school year!
If you've been following along with our bento adventures for any amount of time, you know that we have a lot of bento boxes. I mean almost 4 cabinet shelves' worth. That means we've developed an idea for what kind of boxes work best for which foods and which kids. Recently, I've been asked to test and review the PlanetBox Rover. This box is made of high quality stainless steel, with 5 separate compartments and a hinged lid that locks closed with a simple latch. The Rover comes with two round containers that fit inside the box, both with silicone gaskets that seal closed when the box is locked. The insulated carrying case has an inner pocket to add an ice pack to keep everything cool. The bag is not included. The Rover + two dipping containers retails for $49.95, and it looks beautiful, as you can see.
The attached lid complements the box compartments, with convex sections to allow for the packing of extra food. The website claims the box holds 4.5 cups of food, which I assume takes into account the extra lid space. They offer a smaller (3 cups) as well as a larger (6.5 cups) box.
I like that the lid will never be lost, since it doesn't come apart. All the inner corners are rounded and smooth.
The smaller little dipper has a lid with an integrated silicone inner seal.
The larger big dipper has a removable silicone ring. Be careful not to let the ring fall out while you're putting the lid on.
The two round containers are designed to fit inside two of the compartments; there are 4 dimples to hold each in place, but you can easily choose not to use them and there's no loss of space.
When the system is latched, everything is sealed tightly.
I like the way it looks, and everything feels sturdy and strong. Stay tuned while we put the whole system to the test and send it to school with my little monkeys!
If your kids haven't gone back to school yet, they probably will in the next couple weeks. Like me, you might be starting to think about packing lunches again. I didn't pack lunches all summer because MisterMan was taking over the lunchpacking duties when they were required, and other times their camp activity center provided meals. So I am wayyyy out of practice!
I decided to start easy by packing a kid favorite. This one is for TinySprite, who is now starting 3rd grade. I made her tiny tuna melts using Mini Sandwich Thins. I love these (smaller than the regular size Sandwich Thins) because you have the option of packing more, with different fillings if you like. Plus they fit in the bento box much more easily. And they're so cute! In this standard size bento box, I filled the rest of the space in with silicone cups of fresh organic plum, strawberries, grapes, blackberries and blueberries, and fancy cut carrot sticks. I totally forgot about any kawaii details, but the Chococat box should make up for it this time.
Hope you are all gearing up to get excited for a new school year!
This is the second cookbook I'm choosing to review at the request of Tuttle Publishing: A Cook's Journey to Japan - 100 Homestyle Recipes from Japanese Kitchens, by Sarah Marx Feldner. It's a large paperback volume filled with clearly written recipes and prose accompanied by vibrant full-color photos on every high-quality glossy page.
The author is an American woman who wanted to develop a cookbook based upon recipes which she obtained by traveling on her own through small towns and talking with the people she met along the way.
I found this to be a good reference for people wanting to learn the basics of Japanese cooking along with a selection of specific dishes which she introduces with short anecdotes.
I made two recipes from this cookbook. The first was Hiyashi Chuka, or Cold Sesame Noodle Salad. I found the instructions to be straightforward and easy to follow. I substituted cherry tomatoes (since that's what I had), and used furikake (because we like it). The salad was delicious, and perfect on this hot summer day. The two photos below are mine, which I point out because I neglected to watermark them with my blog url and name.
It was a hit with the family too. I also made Soy-Glazed Chicken Wings. This was very good as well, and I should have made much more. The skin browned nicely, and the flavor was excellent.
Beautiful, aren't they? There are a number of other recipes I am definitely going to try from this book, and I recommend it even as an interesting read with interesting tidbits about Japanese culture and cuisine. Enjoy!
Hello! It's been awhile since I've posted, since we've been on summer break from school since beginning of June. The kids have been busy with the usual summer schedule: various sports, arts, and craft camps, travel with us, and general hanging out. Remember how nice that summer agenda was when we were kids?
I'm posting again because I was asked by someone at a publishing company to review a few cookbooks that they thought would be of interest to me. I read through them and this one caught my attention first. It's called My Japanese Table, by Debra Samuels. The author is an American woman who found herself living in Japan for several years throughout her adult life, and became enamored of Japanese cooking while there. This book contains general staples as well as a selection of various types of dishes suitable for home cooking and bento. I made a few recipes from her book.
The first one I tried was her recipe for sweet and spicy celery salad. It is a simple recipe, with only a few ingredients for making the sauce. It came out a little darker than her picture in the book, but it was tasty and the kids liked it.
The next one I tried was crabmeat and seaweed salad. I've eaten this before and it's utterly simple as well: just shaved Japanese cucumbers, reconstituted wakame, topped with crabmeat. The dressing is a light vinegar and I had all the ingredients in my pantry for this. It was refreshing and delicious.
Next I made simple mixed pickles, also known as tsukemono. I love tsukemono, and it brings back memories of dinners with my dad, who always had tsukemono alongside. I never realized how easy it is to make! It's a quick "pickle" procedure, and you can use all kinds of vegetables besides cabbage, including cucumbers, carrots, and even radish. This had a subtle flavor, the vegetables were slightly softened, and everyone loved it. I made what I thought would be a huge batch, but the family ended up eating the whole thing.
Finally, I made this main dish, named Shoko's Summer Sesame Chicken Salad. It was perfect on this warm summery day. I changed the recipe a little by adding chopped romaine lettuce underneath the poached chicken. The added vegetables and tangy dressing made this a nice and substantial supper. It was a hit with everyone.
This is an overhead shot of the dinner I made my family using recipes from My Japanese Table. First thing I appreciated was how beautiful it all looks! And then I realized that I need to buy more varyingly sized Japanese dishes. I was very pleased with how everything tasted and looked, and my family agreed. I am looking forward to trying more of the recipes in this book in the future. The writing is clear and concise, there is a large color picture to accompany each recipe, and the ingredients are easy to come by. There is even a bento section, which I thought was a nice addition to the whole idea of a Japanese Table. I recommend this book without hesitation; if you get a chance to check it out, please do. Enjoy!
Remember that bento contest I wrote about last month? It was a Cute Character Bento making contest organized by the Japan General Consulate in Los Angeles along with BentoUSA to celebrate the traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese. Of the 400 entries, 10 were chosen to be exhibited at the Japan Foundation. I was honored and excited to have my photographed entry chosen for display in the gallery. I was able to make a trip to L.A. to check it out in person, and it was pretty cool!
The other 9 entries were very impressive. I didn't realize they would be enlarged to such a degree, and it really felt like walking through an art gallery. I asked whether we might take our prints home, thinking they would otherwise be disposed of, but was told they planned to donate them to schools and hospitals. Wow, that's even better!
I was awarded second place, and received this beautiful gold embossed certificate, signed by the Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles. It's pretty big (I placed the food picks there for scale). The sponsoring companies were very generous in their prizes; I was surprised to learn. I can't wait to cook from this gorgeous hardcover cookbook from Kinokuniya:
A box of snacks and treats from Nijiya Market:
More treats and super cute bento tools from BentoUSA and CuteZCute:
And an induction rice cooker:
I am so blown away by the generosity of the sponsors; and the organizers were very helpful and encouraging. The Japan Foundation is a wonderful resource for Japanese culture and books, and if you get a chance to visit, I highly recommend it. I think they also host demonstrations and classes as well.
I've been on something of a bento hiatus, since all this occurred right before our Spring Break, when we were off school for a week, and then while I took some extra time to get back into bentomaking, my 11-year-old MisterMan has taken up the responsibility of preparing the bento for himself and TinySprite. Who am I to intercede? I will try to return here soon, though. We have one more quarter (7 weeks) left of this school year to go. Hope you are enjoying the arrival of Spring! Happy Bentomaking!
Aw, it's Totoro! You may have to use your imagination, though. I made pizzas for dinner, and always try to make some kind of cute calzone at the same time. You can see my past attempts if you do a search in the blog search bar. I know, I made his chevrons wrong. Shoots! He has a spinach leaf umbrella, and a tomato balloon. I hope he's happy! And I hope you are too ^__^
Second time using the big-size Lunchbots Cinco, and like the first time, I packed chicken once again! This time it's shoyu chicken, with broccoli and potatoes on top of a few lettuce leaves. Pasta goes in the side (again!) with mushrooms and parmesan. Are you sensing a theme here? On top: chopped sweet red pepper, mandarin, and carrots. I like using this box, but for some reason I get nervous that I won't have enough to fill it. Maybe the third time we'll see something really exciting! Let's hope! ^__^
Hi! This one is a "just for fun" snack bento that I made for a contest. I wanted to try making a mermaid using pasta for hair and quinoa for sand. I know now why I don't regularly make decorative charaben -- it is very time-consuming! At least for me. I knew I was going to use a quail egg for her face, and cheese for her body, and Okinawan sweet potato for her colorful tail and bikini, but the execution and cutting and placement took a lot longer than I envisioned. Luckily my miniature garden kale came in handy as seaweed stand-ins, and carrots and strawberries added color as other sea creatures. It was fun though, and the littles got a kick out of it. ^__^
Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone! In honor of this holiday, I've made a "green" Lunchbots Quad bento for TinySprite: okay, maybe half green. The right half. The green part: kiwi, pasta with pesto, and green pepper "shamrock." I also nearly every green pick I own, which turns out to be quite a few. Yay! The other half: tomato, mandarin, and sausage/mushroom. Fork/spoon/knife combo utensil by Light My Fire.
Since using these tiny miniature pita breads (in this previous bento), I wanted to see how they would fare with peanut butter filling. Since TinySprite loves bananas, and I never use them in bento, I sliced some up and put them in too. They begged for faces, so that's what they got! This was an at-home snack bento, but if I were to send it to school I might replace the nut butter with sunflower seed butter, and maybe flatten the banana slice to make a kind of "seal" for the pita pocket. I added blood oranges, watermelon balls, blueberries and edamame in tiny silicone cups, and filled in the rest of the spaces with carrots. She thought it was pretty fun to eat!
In other news, I wanted to let you know that last week, my Kitty Has A Fish bento (that I posted here) won second prize in a contest sponsored by the Japan General Consulate in Los Angeles. There was a reception and presentation of certificates, and the 10 winning entries will be displayed in an exhibition at the Japan Foundation until March 28th, 2015. It is an honor to have been selected in the top 10 from among so many cute entries! If you would like to see the list of all ten winners, it is shown here:
I am a former research scientist turned stay-at-home-mom of 2 who got started with bento in an effort to help my kids learn that eating healthy and nutritious foods can be fun and cute. I make a bento lunch for my 13yo (8th grader) son & my 10yo (4th grader) daughter every school day, and post the pictures on my sherimiya ♥ flickr photostream. Here in this blog is where I describe each bento, and you'll also get a peek inside our family adventures. Thanks for taking a look, and please let me know what you think ^-^!