hi bento pals! it feels like years since i’ve had time to do a bento post… lots of changes in my life, but the one that’s most relevant to this blog is my diet… in the 1+ year since i got married, i somehow put on more than 15 pounds, and after my last doctor’s visit (during which the weight the scale showed literally alarmed me), it’s time to focus on healthy and balanced eating again.
while my work environment is still not conducive to bento-making or eating (lots of travel or erratic 5-minute lunches squeezed at odd times of day between meetings), i have really been making an effort to cook healthy dinners and to pre-portion healthy snacks and lunch options in advance (sundays are my plan-food-for-the-week day). so, i hope to be able to get back to posting with some low-calorie bentos like this one. after all, it was pikko’s WW points bentos that got me started in the first place! some other new requirements for myself for making realistic work-night bentos:
- as much as i love the collection of kawaii bento accessories (picks, baran, boxes, etc.) that i’ve assembled over the past few years, bringing too many non-throw-away elements to work will make me less likely to bring the bento at all — it’s just too time-consuming to wash these out in the cafeteria sink and pack them back up to bring home with me, and i’m not always headed straight home (how many of you have experienced the slight embarrassment of having a colleague at after-work drinks ask you why you have a bag of tupperware with you?). so, i’m going to aim to use no more than one accessory, and to focus on recyclable (preferable from an environmental standpoint to disposable, though some things — like wax paper — really are disposable).
- similarly, while i love elaborate nori and cheese cut-outs and intricate layered character designs, my new bentos need to be simply-composed — ideally from “normal” food (e.g. food i actually made for dinner or in advance for lunch portions, not bite-sized pieces especially crafted for the bento), ideally arranged in less than 15 minutes. for anyone just starting bento, these new posts should be a good review of the basics for decorative elements, such as simple cut-outs.
- taking into consideration my current 1200-calorie-per day diet, my new bentos should be less than 400 calories each, with balanced nutrition.
that’s a tall order, no? well, we’ll see how this goes… i’ve purchased some take-out style rectangular and round containers like these (that i can dump in the recycling bin, or wash in the work sink and leave there to bring home at the end of the week, instead of every day; these are not special or unique in any way, so if someone at work takes them or throws them out, i won’t be heartbroken the way i would with my special boxes), and put together my first attempt.
tomorrow’s lunch features a savory winter quiche. i’ve adapted it from the vegetarian times recipe for “mushroom pie in a whole-wheat flax crust,” and can imagine infinite variations on the vegetables you could substitute in for mushrooms, or the cheese you could sub in. not to mention crust switch-ups — you could use a couple of sheets of fillo dough, or regular pastry flour, or omit the flax. i happen to like these earthy mushrooms with the gruyere-swiss blend i purchased from trader joe’s, as well as the nutritional boost provided by the flax seeds — but tweak to your heart’s content!
savory winter quiche (makes two five-inch pies, or four servings)
- 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1/2 pound of mixed mushrooms (baby bella and white button work well together)
- 1/2 cup chopped white or yellow onion
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- chopped fresh thyme; salt and pepper to taste
- 1 large egg
- 3 tablespoons liquid egg whites (or one real egg white)
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce (i like frank’s red hot)
- 1/2 cup skim milk
- 1/2 cup grated cheese of your choice
- preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease your pie pans or spray them lightly with cooking spray.
- whisk together the dry ingredients (both flours, the flaxseeds, and salt) in a mixing bowl.
- in a small sautee pan over a low-medium heat, melt the butter and swirl it until it browns evenly. once it’s browned, cut the heat and add the canola oil to the skillet.
- in the mixing bowl, make a well in the dry ingredients, and carefully pour the hot butter/oil mixture from the sautee pan into the well. using a fork, mix the butter/oil mixture into the dry ingredients until you have an even, crumb-like consistency.
- put several ice cubes in a drinking glass, and add water to just cover the ice cubes. using a tablespoon measure, add one tablespoon of ice water into the mixing bowl at a time, mixing afterwards. when the dough is moist enough to stick to itself (and be mushed together into a ball by your hands), stop adding water.
- dump the contents of the bowl onto a clean work surface and mold it into a ball. cut the ball in half and roll each half into its own ball. roll each ball into a disc. use the discs to line your two pie pans, and crimp the edges however you would like.
- put your pie crusts in the oven and bake for 10 minutes; take out to cool.
- heat the olive oil in a medium-sized sautee pan, and begin to brown the mushrooms. when your mushrooms are about halfway browned, add the onion and continue cooking until the mushrooms have given up their moisture and reduced in size (by about 1/3 to 1/2). add your thyme, salt and pepper.
- in a small mixing bowl, whisk your egg and white together, and then whisk in the milk and the hot sauce. you may season this mixture with salt and pepper, as well, if you like.
- using half of the cheese, sprinkle a layer of cheese into the bottom of the cooled crusts. divide your mushroom mixture between the two crusts, and then top with the rest of the cheese. pour the egg/milk mixture on last, dividing evenly between the two pies.
- bake the pies for 30-40 minutes, until the top is domed and slightly puffy, and the cheese slightly browned.
sounds like a lot of steps, but actually quite easy, and would become quite routine if you make these regularly with different vegetable and cheese options. you can also make a big batch of the crust dough in advance and freeze it (or even freeze it in the pie tins). and they just look so picture-perfect when they’ve just come out of the oven, before they deflate slightly!
this bento contains half of a pie, with an arugula-and-cucumber salad topped with two hanpen snowflakes (simply cut out with a metal veggie cutter). i’ve also got a skewer of grape tomatoes on a snowflake pick. the snow theme is because we had our first snow of the winter this past weekend in brooklyn… it was so lovely at first, but it’s amazing how quickly new yorkers turn their pristine white environment into ugly brown slush!
for those of you who are curious or who would like to start bento-making in an effort to control calories, here is the nutritional information for this lunch (assuming a 1200-calorie-per-day diet):
- 1/2 winter quiche, 225 calories (14.1 g. fat [4.8 g. saturated], 14.9 g. carbs, 11.9 g. protein, 10.9% daily value of calcium, 5.2% daily value of iron)
- 1 cup baby arugula, 10 calories (0 g. fat, 1.5 g. carbs, 1 g. protein, 20% daily value of vitamin A, 10% daily value of vitamin C, 7.5% daily value of calcium, 3% daily value of iron)
- 10 g. hanpen, 10 calories (0 g. fat, 1.2 mg. cholesterol, 91 mg. sodium, 1.8 g. carbs, 0.7 g. protein)
- 5 grape tomatoes — 3 hidden under surface of salad, 10 calories (0 g. fat, 202 mg. potassium)
- 1/4 cup raw cucumber with peel, 2 calories (19 g. potassium)
- 1 tbsp. ken’s steakhouse lite italian dressing, 23 calories (2.2 g. fat [0.2 g. saturated], 220 mg. sodium)
- 1 cup tazo “green ginger” tea, 0 calories
TOTAL CALORIES: 280
this leaves room for both a before-lunch snack (cut up veggies with greek yogurt dip = 75 calories) and even of a piece of fruit for dessert (a mandarin cutie = 40 calories; a granny smith apple = 80 calories). i’ve limited the processed foods containing cholesterol and sodium (take it easy on the hanpen, it’s FULL of salt!), and boosted the vegetable ratio. i can drink tea to my heart’s content; very few teas, aside from the fruit-containing blends, are caloric. and so far, so good on my new bento objectives: i will throw out the wax paper and pick, and leave the washed-out container in the cafeteria — no muss, no fuss.
sorry for the long post, but hope this catches you up on the new ideas i’ve been mulling over… wishing a happy and healthy 2012 to all my bento friends and readers!