ZICO & perfect fit “coco-butter monkey cups”

31 08 2012

this week i’m participating in tone it up’s “beach week” — a week of scheduled workouts and slim-down meals designed to make the most of the last few days of summer.  karena and katrina have teamed up with ZICO to host an exciting contest; the best recipe incorporating chocolate ZICO and perfect fit protein powder wins a 3-month supply of both of those products!

i legitemately use perfect fit almost every day, and ZICO is one of my favorite special treats… so, needless to say, i got really excited about this contest.  the result of my frantic brainstorming was these “coco-butter monkey cups” — they are dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan.  recipe and details below!

Read the rest of this entry »





shikai maki bento

23 05 2010

thank you all for sharing so many wonderful links in your contest entries!  i had a wonderful time this weekend browsing through them — some took me to blogs i already know and love, and some took me to totally new sites i had never even heard of.

tomorrow’s bento has a few sources of inspiration:  one is the luxirare shikai maki bento that brenda posted in the comments, and another is the beautiful work of my good bento pal jenn (bentobird).  i tried to echo the natural elegance that her boxes epitomize, and it seemed fitting to incorporate her style into this meal, since her boxes often include sushi.  for the sushi component, i tried my hand at this interesting square-format sushi (using a handy how-to video on youtube!).  my roll contains shiso rice, kiwi strips, cucumber, and fried tofu… i need some more practice (the kiwi layer, in particular, didn’t hold its structure because the kiwi was so slippery), but i have the general idea and am sure i can improve!

another source of inspiration this week was a long-postponed first trip to minamoto kitchoan, the fine purveyor of gorgeous wagashi (japanese sweets) located on manhattan’s chi-chi 5th avenue.  here is a photo from their display case (these are plastic, but do look just like some of the items they are selling):

alongside tomorrow’s box i have a shobumochi packaged to look like a beautiful iris.  this will cap off my dessert fruit section (kiwi slices, pomegranate seeds, two juicy blackberries and one ripe cherry), which will in turn balance my veggie section (peppery arugula, a tiny sweet red pepper, two asparagus tips, two carved takuwan flowers, and a quail egg). to fill up the empty space in the box, i placed a bottle of soy dressing and a pair of disposable chopsticks (both decorated with washi tape in complementary colors).  the box is packed in a pretty red-patterned furoshiki that i received from another sweet bento friend.

— ♥ —

getting back to the contest… i edited the entry comments in order to number them, and then used the random.org website to generate a random integer from 1 to 95:

the winning entry, number 79, is abby of totoro bento!  congratulations!  please get in touch with your mailing information and i’ll mail your prize package right away.





sleepy/grumpy teddy bento and new apartment giveaway!

18 05 2010

well, just as i suspected, catching up on my bento blog reading gave me some new ideas to try… one of the cutest things i saw over the last week was shoppingmum’s “blur teddy” sandwiches.  i decided to give this a try with onigiri.  i used two different sized round cutters instead of a small teddy cutter, and i used vegetarian ham instead of smoked cheese for the snout, but i think i achieved a similarly cute face — thanks for the tips, shoppingmum!

rounding out this box are some fried tofu slices, asparagus spears wrapped in cheese and vegetarian ham, blackberries on a flower pick, steamed broccoli, carrot flowers, tomatoes, jersey-fresh arugula, and a flower-shaped bottle filled with soy-vinegar sauce for the tofu.  do these flower accessories qualify me for this month’s BOMB theme?

— ♥ —

to celebrate having completed the hellish process of moving into my new, more bento-friendly apartment, i’m doing a giveaway!

to enter, just post a link in the comments to your favorite bento post (from your or someone else’s blog, or from bento central or just bento) that you’ve read over the past few weeks (it doesn’t have to be a new post, just something that inspired you or you revisited lately)… i need more ideas to help me get back in my bento groove!

1 entry per person per day, contest ends saturday at midnight EST, winner to be posted sunday.

what’s in the prize package?  i thought you’d never ask!  here’s a picture:

  • 1 two tier blue sheep box with french writing and aqua band, 670ml total
  • 1 v-color white two-tier box
  • 1 clickety click giant onigiri box, 780ml total
  • 1 480ml putifresh “muscat” box with matching fork (this is one of my favorite sizes and shapes, i have the muscat and the banana!)
  • 24 oval-shaped waxed paper okazu cups, sea life themed (tako, turtle, penguin, fish), plus 36 small round paper cups with fruit designs
  • 4 metal flower-shaped cutters (the same kind i used in my carrot flower tutorial)
  • egg and tomato-shaped mayo and ketchup bottles
  • clover and sakura baran
  • large round citrus fruits baran
  • 1 package of assorted bow, crown and top hat picks
  • 1 package of flower and leaf picks
  • 1 package of cute animal onigiri wrappers
  • 1 octo-dog cutter
  • 1 package each ume and shiso furikake
  • 1 purple wrapping cloth (furoshiki)
  • 1 package colored soy paper (not pictured above)

good luck… can’t wait to see what’s been inspiring you all!





flowered omurice bento and contest winner!

15 03 2010

a simple one tonight, since last night’s was so involved.  i find that omurice is a great way to use up scraps from bento projects, like the leftovers from cutting flowers.  the filling of this omurice has, well, rice (duh), fried up with some leftover sweet potato scraps, a chopped vegetarian hot dog, some chopped leftover steamed broccoli, one of my last baby sweet peppers, some scallion and gochujang.  i decorated with some simple cheese, sweet potato and purple carrot flowers, with pea pod “leaves.”

the fruit and veggie section is also simple — a few grape tomatoes, a piece of broccoli and some more pea pods, some clementine slices and blackberries with a food pick.  easy, breezy lunch in less than 20 minutes (compared to last night’s 3 hours!).

[as seen on iyoupapa]

— ♥ —

i so enjoyed reading all the contest participants’ GRE vocabulary sentences — you guys came up with really smart and creative uses for those tough words!  i wish i could award extra prizes based on my favorite sentences, but it’s a recession y’all!  so for the winner, i turned to the random.org site, which generated a number between 1 and 67 (there were 67 entries):

the winner is… tami!  some of you may know her as ABQ bento mama on flickr — she does really fun work.  tami, holler at me with your address so i can get this prize package out to you!





post-GRE giveaway!

8 03 2010

i meant to post this a few days ago, but i think i’ve been so caught up in my own social life (after a 2-week period of having NO life) that i completely forgot about it.  anyway, WOO HOO again for me being done with this evil test!  in celebration, i wanted to do a quick giveaway.

there were four words that stumped me on my GRE: lugubrious, toothsome, disembarrass, and desultory.  i don’t want to ever forget the meanings of those words again!  the rules for this contest are simple:  in the comments, make up a sentence (or two) using those words in relation to bento.  be creative — there are no right or wrong sentences, as long as the actual meaning of the word is being used correctly.  only one entry per day, you can’t repeat your previous entries, and i’ll take entries through this sunday night, march 14, at 11:59PM EST.

now onto the prizes!  here’s what the prize package contains:

  • a highly-coveted MS4B!!  i know that hapa bento’s contests are always eagerly-anticipated, not only because they are fun and creative (and because her site is consistently fantastic), but because this box is so great and somewhat hard to find.  well, i finally found one, and i grabbed an extra so that debra wouldn’t have to bear the sole responsibility of distributing these amongst our bento community!  (by the way, yours will come in the packaging; i photographed mine to reduce the glare from the plastic wrapping.)
  • another highly-coveted item, one of the hand-crafted double cutters!  this one is in the shape of a pretty flower with a stem.
  • a package of cute animal mayo cups (the faces and arms fold over the top so the mayo stays put).
  • a package of cute animal soy sauce bottles.
  • a package of cute animal baran.
  • a box of regular green “grass” baran.
  • one of the “paper shapers” punches, in a pretty flower shape.
  • a package of yummy strawberry-flavored panda biscuits!  i used the chocolate variety in a recent panda bento and can attest to their deliciousness.
  • the always-useful and fun multi-pick package, containing rings, bones, umbrella handles, flower stems, and balloon strings.  i received my own set of these from a bento pal once and often daydream about neat ways of using them — they can be anything from christmas ornament “hooks,” to reindeer antlers, to cute tiger cub tails!  so now i’m giving away another set; they really are very handy and versatile.
  • ten colorful “veggie” fork-style food picks, and four colorful “clown” picks (i can’t find the exact same clowns online, but the ones i’m giving away look a lot like these).  these are not in the packaging because they are from my personal stash, but they have never been used, are from a clean and smoke-free home, and will be tucked safely in a fresh zip-loc bag.  if you aren’t comfortable receiving something that’s not professionally packaged, just let me know and i won’t include these — i just thought they were fun.

that’s it — this should be a nice assortment for a beginner bento-er, or it might include some of the things a veteran bento-maker has been searching out for her collection.  good luck to everyone, and i can’t wait to read your GRE vocabulary sentences!

oh, and if you like what you see here but don’t want to enter the contest, check out napa japan — i have really been enjoying their extensive japanese candy selection (as well as their currently-expanding bento accessories selection), and a lot of the items i’m giving away are from my last box from that site.





love bears bento and contest winner

8 02 2010

tomorrow’s bento features kong bap (frozen several weeks ago for my bento stash and then thawed tonight), sesame tofu, cheese-and-vegetarian-ham bears, cheese-and-nori hearts, a tamagoyaki heart, broccoli, carrot sticks, tomatoes, pea pods, and a strawberry mochi with a strawberry heart (in a valentine’s food cup you can’t really see from this angle).  the background paper is from a sweet bento pal, and the cool see-through fork is from a recyclable kids’ set!

[as seen on carnet diaphane: the japanese tradition of bento]

— ♥ —

since the sesame tofu — leftover from dinner — is buried under the kong bap, i thought i’d include a picture of that as well…

here’s my quick and easy recipe:

super simple, not-too-sweet sesame tofu

  • 1 package extra firm tofu, cubed (i like 1/2″ cubes)
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • canola oil to coat a frying pan
  • 4 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. gochu garu (korean red pepper flakes)
  • 2 scallion stems, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. sesame seeds
  1. in a seal-able container, mix the cornstarch, garlic powder, ginger and cayenne.  once those ingredients are evenly combined, add the tofu and press the lid onto the container to seal it tightly.  shake the container vigorously until the cubes are evenly coated with the spice-and-cornstarch mixture.
  2. add the canola oil to your frying pan and heat it up.  you don’t need to deep fry this tofu, but once the oil is hot add the coated cubes in one even layer.  (if your frying pan is too small to fit all the tofu, fry in batches.)  when the bottom side of the cube layer has browned, use a spatula to turn multiple cubes at a time.  fry for about 1 minute on each side until the cubes are crispy and evenly browned.  move the cubes onto paper towels so that some of the surface oil can be absorbed.
  3. in the frying pan you used for the tofu cubes (no need to clean), add the soy sauce, honey, fresh garlic, sesame oil and pepper flakes.  once the honey warms up it will thin out, and then you will be able to stir these ingredients together.  once they’re mixed, add the tofu cubes back in and jiggle them around to coat with the glaze.
  4. once the cubes are glazed, add the sesame seeds (the cubes will now be sticky enough to hold them).  the sesame tofu is now ready to serve — garnish with chopped scallions, and serve with rice and veggies of your choosing!

— ♥ —

thanks to everyone who participated in the vacation contest!  you all shared such beautiful bentos and wonderful recipes and bento ideas in the comments, i have really enjoyed reading them (and will definitely be referring back to this list when i need inspiration)!  we had 74 entries (not counting incorrect destination guesses), and the winner proved that playing the odds can really pay off.  she had the most correct entries of all the participants, and so i wasn’t that surprised when the random integer generator picked one of her numbers!  (i had already used the list randomizer to assign numbers to all the correct entries; a portion of the list is visible below.)

congratulations to angelene t.!!  please get in touch with your address information so that i can ship out your prize package.  and to all the other participants, sorry you didn’t win this time, but i hope you enjoyed the links everyone shared… and stay tuned, there will be more bento zen contests in the future!





bento zen vacation contest!

1 02 2010

a few months back, debra over at hapa bento ran a great contest, where participants had to guess where she was going on vacation… it was very cool and very “where in the world is carmen sandiego” (uh oh, i’m dating myself). since i’m leaving for a short getaway this thursday night, i thought it would be fun to do the same thing (thanks for letting me use the idea, debra!)…

so, here are the rules:

  1. the contest starts as of this post, and it ends sunday, february 7th, at 11:59pm EST. since it’s such a short one, you are allowed to enter twice a day.
  2. i’ll be posting clues about where i’m headed on this page and on my twitter account (@bentozen), so keep your eye out for them!
  3. when you think you know my vacation destination, email your guess to bentozen@gmail.com, and then leave a comment on this post linking to your latest bento (or in the case of your second daily entry, to a past favorite bento you made, or to a recipe you’d like to share or try for bento)!
  4. when i get back from vacation, i’ll take all the correct guesses and enter them into a random drawing for the prize package. i will announce the winner here on the morning of monday, february 8th.

and here are the prize details i know you’ve been eagerly awaiting! the prize package includes:

  • one square 870ml lock-n-lock bento box with 2 removable 2-compartment inserts (for a total of 4 compartments when both inserts are inside the box). this box seals very tightly, making it great for wetter foods, and even though it’s not particularly kawaii, it’s a sturdy and practical box that will beautifully show off your food!
  • one rectangular, striped blue, 430ml sopra bento box. this one is cute and fairly small, excellent for kids’ meals. (it’s this exact box; sorry for the glare in the photo!)
  • one box of the often-coveted chocolate biscuit mushrooms by meiji!
  • one box of the oh-so-cute kabaya petit pastels i recently discussed!
  • one package of 5 sets of colorful flowered chopsticks — great as a prop for your bento photos.
  • one hello kitty “pill case” — it has 4 little lidded compartments that separate from each other so that you can include just one in a bento. these would make great mayo or mustard cases.
  • one set of small paper food cups, assorted designs — this set includes an all-green design (st. patrick’s day is coming up!), an all-red design (little tomatoes?), and an all-yellow design.
  • one yellow banana putifresh bento tote — it’s a versatile size that will accommodate most bento boxes.
  • assorted packages of jillibean felt shapes — i use these as props too; they add a pop of contrasting color against background paper, and look cute as a faux chopstick rest. (the ones in the photo are my own; yours will still be in the original packaging.)
  • and speaking of background paper, i’m also including more than 50 sheets of colorful background paper, hand-picked by me from the kaleidoscope and citronella sets. many of these are reversible, so you’re getting far more than 50 patterns. i removed these sheets from the larger packs they came in, but they are completely unused, and will come to you protected inside a plastic bag.

good luck everyone… i can’t wait to see your bentos and recipes, and of course your clever guesses!

oh, and i almost forgot — your first hint! since yesterday was a quiet sunday, i took the time to do some of my packing in advance… i’m taking plenty of sweaters, as it’s very cold where i’m going!