speedy bunny bento

20 04 2011

this speed-packed bento is my nod to easter… the “speedy” in the title refers both to the bunny and to the bento-making time!

it’s a simple meal in my trusty tiffin:  some bulldog-glazed veggie meatballs, japanese pickles, rice with scallions and peas, a few carrot flowers, and a sweet potato bunny.

no bento for me on friday, so this is my last reminder that the highly-sought-after bento play food set auction ends in just over a day… and then we’ll be in easter weekend.  wishing all my bento pals a wonderful holiday weekend with their families!





flying rilakkuma bento

18 04 2011

tomorrow’s bread-free lunch is my take on soboro, mexican-style: a layer of spanish rice (cooked in my rice cooker with peas and corn), a layer of monterey jack cheese, and a layer of vegetarian ground beef sauteed with cumin.  plus a bunch of fresh fruits and veggies — cuke, yellow and red vine tomatoes, steamed broccoli, pea pods, a big fat strawberry, and a few tangerine sections.

the star of this lunch is rilakkuma, cut with an exacto knife from two colors of egg sheet.  i recently bought a package of onigiri cases with rilakkuma on them, and the package had two funny/cute rilakkuma designs:  in one he is flying with cooking utensils in his hands (this is what i reproduced for my bento, without the utensils), and in another he is totally relaxing (per his name!), with one arm leisurely propping up his head.

just a reminder: the fabulous play bento set — consisting of adorable, hand-crafted fabric food items traditionally found in a bento box — is still up for grabs on ebay.  the bento4japan charity auctions are winding down, but this item is like a grand finale!





flowered meatballs bento

12 04 2011

for dinner tonight, we had a HUGE salad, and i’m bringing leftovers from that to work tomorrow.  because of that, i knew i only needed to pack something small for my actual bento.

the salad didn’t have much in the way of protein, so to compensate,  i took 3 frozen vegetarian “meatballs” (from trader joe’s), popped them in the microwave for 45 seconds until they were mostly defrosted, glazed them with a bit of bulldog sauce, and then topped them with cheese flowers.  i nuked them with the cheese for another 13 seconds so that the flowers melted slightly, and then stuck some peas on.  not a kyaraben, but quick and easy.

the back of this skinny tier has some steamed broccoli and brussels sprout halves, and two fresh mini vine tomatoes.  i guess it’s salad day, because i also packed myself a cute fruit salad cup (grapes and strawberries).  what are you having for lunch this wednesday?





cucumber maki bento

29 03 2011

tomorrow’s lunch was simple and easy to speed pack — which was perfect, since i went to happy hour with a friend and came home ready for bed!

i have one fairly thick cucumber maki here, rolled with rice that i mixed with shiso powder. in the bamboo box i also have two fat slices of a tamagoyaki that i pre-made the other night. a few citrus segments in the side box and i’m all set for a light and refreshing mid-week lunch. they can’t all be kyaraben!

i may steal mils’ idea for miso-soup-on-the-go to add to this, too… wouldn’t a nice mug of hot miso be great with these chilled maki pieces?





japchae frogs bento

17 11 2010

sorry for the sporradic posting, there have been a lot of random salad-in-tupperware, sandwich-in-ziploc-bag, and overpriced-to-go-from-the-concourse lunches lately.  nothing wrong with the first two though they’re not particularly photogenic; the latter is one of the main reasons i started making bento in the first place ($12 for a vegetarian sandwich and soup is just outrageous!).  so i’m really trying to get back into the swing of things, and tomorrow’s lunch is a start.

i had leftover japchae from sunday dinner that needs to be used up before it turns, so i decided to use that as a bed for two kiwi “lily pads” and quail egg frogs, inspired by these cute guys i saw a while back on luckysundae’s blog.  i used peas and sesame seeds for eyes, whereas hers appear to be cheese, but i hope they’re similarly cute.

in the back section, i have some lovely winter plum slices, a vine-ripe mini-tomato, one takuwan gingko leaf, a steamed broccoli floret, some pumpkin sections (i had roasted a whole bunch and then threw some in the freezer, so i all i needed to do with these was defrost), and a frozen product from the korean grocer that i’m trying for the first time — it’s called 김 마리, and it’s some sort of glass noodles mixed with veggies, wrapped with nori, and then deep fried (i am a strong subscriber to the philosophy that a little deep fried once in a while is good for the soul!).

this will probably be one of the last times i get to use this nifty metal box — i’ve used it so much that it’s been banged against hard things in my bag, and the lid has become a bit dented, meaning that it doesn’t seal as tightly anymore.  that makes me nervous when it comes to saucy (or in this case, sesame oil-y) foods, and so with my next paycheck i’m hoping to spring for one of the beautifully-made aizawa stainless boxes at bento & co., like this zen 01.





faux strawberries bento

28 06 2010

hey!  i know, it’s been forever since i posted!  quick life update:  left my law firm job and am thinking of transitioning back into museum work; have been to las vegas, new orleans, and philadelphia (twice) in the last three weeks visiting friends, seeing art, eating tons of food, and celebrating a birthday girl and a bride; and am still exploring the new food and craft spots in my new neighborhood and fine-tuning the decor details in the new[-ish] apartment.  lots going on, but i hope to get back on a regular bento schedule soon… starting today, in fact!

this bento has two “strawberries” cut from red pepper with mint leaves and white cheese “seeds” (cut from a straw section with one end pinched to make it pointier for a tear-drop shape).  my strawberries are resting on savory quinoa salad (recipe below) topped with the thinnest possible layer of plain quinoa (for better color contrast against the red pepper flesh).  the rest of the box has steamed broccoli with two carrot butterflies, sliced radish, takuwan flowers, vegetarian ham-wrapped okra, a grape tomato cut in half, and a few blueberries.

hope you have all been enjoying your summer travels, projects, and whatever else you’re up to!

savory quinoa salad with goat cheese, thyme and mint

  • 1 cup of quinoa, 2 cups water (you can halve or double the recipe if you want, but keep the 1 quinoa:2 water ratio the same!)
  • 2 springs fresh thyme (pull the tiny leaves off and discard the woody stem)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped (i used the leftovers from cutting out the “strawberries”)
  • 1/4 small red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. minced garlic (can be omitted for a lighter, more subtly flavored salad)
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms (i actually used some leftover stems from mushroom caps that the boyfriend stuffed for sunday brunch)
  • 2-3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. goat cheese per serving (this recipe makes 2 servings so i used about half of the pre-packaged cheese “log”, but you may want to add more or less)
  • mint for garnish
  1. add your quinoa and water to a saucepan, and bring the mixture up to a boil.  as soon as it’s boiling, reduce it to the lowest simmer possible, and stir every 2-3 minutes until the water is absorbed.  the total cooking time should be 10-15 minutes counting the time to boil.  (another method is to bring the quinoa to a boil, make sure it’s tightly covered, and turn the flame completely off, letting it steam for about 15 minutes until cooked.)  when the quinoa is cooked, fluff with a fork.
  2. add most of your olive oil to a small pan, and cook all your veggies until the peppers are tender and the onions translucent.  turn the flame off and incorporate the fresh thyme.
  3. in a bowl, fold the sautéed vegetables into the cooked quinoa, and drizzle the rest of the olive oil over top.  crumble some goat cheese on top (it melts into a deliciously gooey texture over the warm salad), and garnish with a mint sprig or some julienned mint.

so fast and easy… a perfect summer salad!

[as seen on more design please]





“picnic for one” bento

11 06 2010

today, if the weather holds out, i’m planning on taking the dog to the park for lunch.  i’m still exploring my new neighborhood, and the dog is a chubster who needs to walk more, so this is killing two birds with one stone.

i wanted to bring a simple and easy (and mostly recyclable) lunch with me — i’ll still need to worry about bringing the actual box and the little dip container home, but both of those have lids, so any food residue stays pretty self-contained.  the food cup, wax paper “baran” and recycled wood silverware will all go in the appropriate bins.  and the food itself is mostly finger-friendly: summer veggies i can dip and munch with one hand, and tea-sized sammies that are really only two bites each.

the sandwiches are vegetarian ham, cheese, and butter lettuce on sourdough with mustard; i topped them with two flowers stamped into potato bread (actually, leftover potato burger buns from a BBQ last weekend — these work well for impressions because potato bread is sooooooo soft).  the vegetables are ripe grape tomatoes, quick-steamed corn and brussels sprouts, and raw asparagus (there’s ranch dip in the container).  a paper-lined foil cup with grapes, strawberry quarters and a mint garnish, and i’m all set.

wishing all my bento pals a tasty weekend!  i’m in new orleans tomorrow through tuesday, so no bentos from me for a bit, but maybe some beignet pictures on twitter?

[as seen on more design pleaseapartment therapy, and re-nest]





ume ladybug bento

4 03 2010

a pretty quick and simple one tonight, since dinner was leftover bibimbap and for tomorrow’s lunch i had to make do with the extra rice and some stuff from my freezer bento stash.

my ladybug is an ume pressed into the rice and decorated with nori.  the ladybug is headed for a big carrot blossom, and the non-rice section of the box has a tamagoyaki slice, an edamame shumai, some sliced vegetarian chicken nugget, a tiny orange pepper, pea pods, kiwi slices and  half a strawberry.  i had some ladybug paper, so i used that as a background to compliment my ume ladybug.

i used a sesame leaf as a natural baran, laying it in the box, pressing my rice in, and then folding the edge of the leaf back over the rice.  don’t forget to enter your natural baran ideas into hapa bento’s BOMB (best of the month bento) comment thread!

[as seen on MSN japan]





bunny bahn mi bento

11 01 2010

most of you probably know how tasty bahn mi sandwiches are, and for those of you who are lucky enough to have a vietnamese sandwich shop in your neighborhood, they are usually pretty cheap and easy to pick up.  because of the convenience factor, i fall back on a bahn mi bento every couple of weeks — it’s a great “fill in” on nights when i don’t cook dinner or don’t make enough to produce bento-able leftovers for the next day.

today, in an effort to showcase the versatility of this lunchbox item, some of my favorite bentoists and i have put together a variety of bahn mi bentos!

my bahn mi bento is geared towards my relatively physically inactive lifestyle (i pretty much sit at a computer all day!).  in order to tailor the lunch to my nutritional requirements, i simply added a lot of fresh fruits and veggies.  the bahn mi already has fresh carrots, cilantro, and cucumber in it, as well as tofu for my protein element.  but because the yummy baguette is a processed carb (it’s plain white, not whole wheat or anything), i do need to be careful not to add other carb elements to the meal. the fruit is even pushing it, because it has so many natural sugars. to keep my body working to process those sugars, i will pace myself over the course of the day, eating part of the fruit section as a mid-morning snack.

the bunny decoration is made from mozzarella and american cheeses, with vegetarian ham and nori accents.  in the bahn mi tier i also have a steamed sweet potato flower, three takuwan-and-beet flowers, some enoki mushrooms, pea pods, and grape tomatoes.  once i eat the sandwich i will probably rip up the lettuce leaves and eat the rest of the veggies mixed with the lettuce as a small salad.

my fruit tier has nashi and plum fans, with a baby orange in a food cup, some strawberries in a food cup, blueberries in another food cup, and grapes and raspberries to fill the gaps.  both sections of this 2-tier ccomotti box are pretty deep, so the food cups are propped up on additional slices of nashi and plum.

for other ideas on how bahn mi sandwiches fit into various lifestyles (with various nutritional needs), please take a look at these other gorgeous bentos:

  • sheri over at happy little bento, who makes lunch for her son and his big appetite, made a bahn mi bento focusing on balanced nutrition for a full and active school day.
  • debra of hapa bento is a vegetarian, and her post discusses enjoying a bahn mi in nutritional moderation.
  • finally, susan over at hawai`i’s bento box cookbook makes lunch for her cutie-pie daughter paige, so she made a bahn mi bento focusing on incorporating veggies into a kid’s diet.

in the comments, i’d love to hear about your favorite bahn mi sandwich shop, or your favorite accompaniments for a bahn mi bento!

and many thanks to debra for coordinating this fun exposé on bahn mi bentos!





chili corndog bento

5 01 2010

i made yummy vegetarian chili for dinner tonight, so tomorrow’s lunch bento has the chili with some cheese music notes in a food cup (it’s actually an onigiri mold, but it was the right size, so whatever), some asparagus wrapped in cheese and veggie ham, grape tomatoes, snow peas, a little baby orange (or maybe it’s a clementine?), starfruit slices and a trader joe’s vegetarian “corn-doggie.”

the corn-doggie is hard to see from this angle, so here’s another shot:

a corndog doesn’t have exactly the right shape for a dog’s snout, but oh well, i thought it would be cute to make a dog out of a “dog”!  in case you want to try this, here’s how i did it:

  • microwave trader joe’s vegetarian corndog for 1 minute.  let it cool while you do other stuff.
  • once it’s cool to the touch, work the stick out of the dog.  this will leave a hollow tube running through the dog.
  • insert the non-sharp end of a toothpick into the hollow tube on an angle, so that it eventually sticks into one side of the dog.  keep pushing it in until only the sharp point is sticking out (about 1/16 of an inch) of the hole at the end of the dog.
  • skewer one edamame bean to the sharp end of the toothpick, being careful not to poke the end of the pick all the way through (you don’t want to see the point on the outside of the nose!).
  • using a nori punch, cut eyes and mouth of your liking and affix with mayonnaise.
  • using a cutter of your desired shape and size, cut floppy ears and affix with mayonnaise.
  • you could probably be more creative and find something good to use as a tail (or even add legs), but my doggie is a yorkie with a short stubby tail, so i thought the heart pick was a cute thing to stick in this doggie’s butt.

and in case you want to whip up a tasty batch of vegetarian chili, great on these cold winter nights, here is my family recipe:

YUMMY VEGGIE CHILI

- 3 cans of beans (i like to use kidney, pinto, and black, but my mom uses like two dark kidney and one light – whatevs)
- 1 huge can of diced or chopped tomatoes (i like the kind that already has herbs in it)
- 1 tiny can tomato paste
- 1 huge or 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic minced (yeah, it’s a lot)
- 1 bell pepper, chopped (i hate green but yellow, orange or red is ok), chopped
- 1 package fake meat (yves ground round or any other brand of soy crumbles will work; tvp would also work)
- spices to taste:  chili powder, cumin (this is THE KEY), garlic powder, oregano (sounds weird but used a lot in mexico), salt and pepper of course
- random liquids of your choosing:  balasamic, white vinegar, hot sauce (make it up as you go along)
- canola oil (you can use olive instead if you want)

  • sautee your onions and peppers in the oil until the onions are translucent.  add the garlic and sautee until it’s cooked-ish but not darkening too much in color.  add your fake meat and sautee that in there too until everything is pretty well mixed and the meat has absorbed the oil and the liquid from the veggies.  dump your cans of beans in there WITH THE LIQUID (which is super starchy and helps hold the chili together).
  • mix that all together, and then dump your ginormo can of tomatoes in too.  mix that up and then add your spices (this is when i also add a little bit of vinegar and hot sauce. you could add balsamic if you want the chili to be slightly sweeter).
  • bam, it’s pretty much done already!  you should let it simmer for a while (anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes) though, so that the beans start to break down (adding further starch which further thickens everything) and so that the flavors of the spices penetrate everything and meld together.
  • for a “quick” batch of chili you can use a potato masher to break up some of the beans, and the tomato paste to thicken.  you will want to readjust the spices after you add the tomato paste, though, because it adds sugar.
  • i love this topped with chopped raw onions, grated cheese and sour cream, and TONS of frank’s red hot.
  • the bonus factor with this recipe is that it’s ALWAYS better the next day, either cold or reheated.  it also freezes well, so go ahead and make a huge batch (the above recipe is already pretty huge because of the volume of the canned goods, but sometimes i even double that).

ENJOY!








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