mini french picnic bento

6 05 2012

i know it’s been over a month since i posted… seems like i was just talking about doing a proper spring bento, and now it’s almost summer! between bananas work travel and some family-related travel as well, i think i was away for 13 days of the month of april. needless to say, there’s been a lot of less-than-formal lunch-packing (think pre-portioned veggie sticks in zip-loc bags, ugly tupperwares of batch-made salad, and LOTS of yogurt)! that said, i’ve been doing well with sticking to my caloric and nutritional guidelines, and i’ve kept off the weight by following the guidelines set out by the tone it up nutrition plan.

one thing about dieting, though, is that sometimes you really need to allow yourself the non-diet foods you love. cheese is a total calorie bomb (particularly the creamy kinds i love), and that was a hard lesson for me to learn as a mostly-non-meat-eater who used to consider cheese a main protein source. dairy is also not a TIU-approved meal 3 ingredient…

but sometimes you have to let yourself have what you crave, and a great way to do that is with a portion-controlled version of your food vice. after landing at my home airport after one of my recent business trips, i saw these ile de france “brie bites” in the terminal’s snack shop. i grabbed a bunch before heading to the cab line, because these little gems are perfect for fulfilling my cheese craving in a sensible, binge-proof way.

tomorrow’s lunch has a delicious brie bite along with a mock turkey and ham sandwich. i made this with arnold’s new “pocket thins” flatbread (these are really moist and good!), dijonnaise, and butter lettuce. it’s just three slices of tofurkey smoked turkey and two of yves veggie ham, but i cut each round slice in half (forming a semi-circle that matched the shape of the pocket), and then i cut the filled pocket in half to form two wedges. i added two ripe mini-tomatoes on the vine, a mini-paper cup of blueberries, and five cornichons to complete the country picnic feel for this lunch, which i hope to enjoy outside! nutritional info and more lunch product tips after the jump.

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radish “cherries” bento

19 07 2010

just a quick entry today by way of explanation for my long absences and spotty posting this summer… still figuring out my schedule, and eating lunch at home most days, so no need to pack a box.  today, though, i’m helping out a friend’s art gallery, so i am bringing a little something: brown and white basmati rice layered over matar paneer (indian peas and cheese), with steamed broccoli, carrot leaves, takuwan flowers, CSA blueberries in a paper food cup, two vegetarian chicken strips, and the cutest tiny tomato from my friends’ garden.  two radish “cherries” (cilantro and mint “stem”) top off my rice.

hope you all are having a wonderful summer, full of as many possibilities and projects as mine so far!





polka dot birdies bento

2 07 2010

i’m still catching up on all the bento blog posts i missed during my break, but one of the things i saw recently that inspired me was this adorable polka-dot bird at e-obento.  too cute, right?  i put my own spin on it by cutting a bird template from paper and tracing two birds out of cheese with a toothpick, and then applying polka dots made from orange and green soy paper, along with little cheese-and-soy-paper wings (cut with my smallest teardrop cutter).

i used my birds as toppers for two tea-sized club sandwiches (“club” only in the sense that they are three layers each of bread, and two of filling) — vegetarian ham, cheese, and mustard on dark pumpernickel bread.  the rest of the box has a steamed broccoli floret, the last (phew!) of my okra, a grape tomato, a piece of steamed corn, two pea pods, and some blueberries on a pick.

for more polka-dot inspiration, check out piewacket, food gal, and oh joy!, as well as etsy, where there are tons of great finds (including this bird headband that served as another model for my sandwich toppers).  wishing you all a wonderful weekend!





baseball bears bento

1 07 2010

last week i received an unexpected package from a kind and thoughtful friend — it contained picks galore!  i wanted to use the cute baseball cap and flag picks, and it’s baseball season (almost all-star time, in fact), so i put together a baseball bears bento.

i root for the san francisco giants, whose colors are orange and black… but these adorable caps were blue, so just use your imagination!  certainly the sentiments on the flags (やったね translates to “you did it!” and がんばりましよう translates variously, according to my japanese-speaking twitter pals, as “go get ’em,” “hang in there,” “keep trying,” “work harder” or “give it your best shot!”) apply to my team… it’s been a rocky season so far, with some great moments (posey’s brilliant debut; beating the hyped-up red sox), and some not-so-great moments (getting swept by the dodgers; the shameful and disgusting decision to trade loyal veteran and mentor catcher bengie molina mid-season).  um, keep trying, brian sabean. work a little harder, tim lincecum. sigh.

anyway, sorry for the baseball tangent, and thanks for the picks you-know-who, i love them!

i made these bears from a chicken egg and a quail egg, soaked in hot water with 4 drops of red food coloring.  i cut the eggs in half the long way, and added ears/muzzles made from fish sausage and eyes/noses/mouths made from nori.  my bears sit atop turmeric-dyed rice, which is layered on top of my favorite spicy stewed tofu.  i have a butter lettuce “baran” to separate the rice from one vegetarian chicken tender, a vegetarian-ham-wrapped okra pod, two grape tomatoes, more CSA blueberries (plus two lovely golden raspberries, also from my share), and a few pea pods.

GO GIANTS! (and go bengie, even if you’re on the rangers!)





mushroom ravioli bento

30 06 2010

one thing i love about our new neighborhood is all the old-school italian grocery stores, most of whom sell the freshest mozzarella, and some of whom import delicious fresh pasta.  for today’s lunch, i’m using leftover mushroom ravioli from last night’s dinner party… these were fantastic just boiled, drained, and pan-fried with a little bit of butter, salt, pepper, and thyme.

to decorate my mushroom ravioli, i made mini-mushrooms from vegetarian ham and cheese.  the rest of the box has steamed broccoli, two grape tomatoes, a few pea pods, and a fruit section with clementine wedges, red grapes, and more of my crazy CSA blueberry haul.

the mini mushrooms were super easy to make:  i laid a piece of veggie ham on top of cheese, and used a medium-sized circle cutter to make 5 circles.  then i used the smaller of my two tear-drop-shaped cutters, upside down, to cut away the “negative space” on either side of the mushrooms’ stems.  finally, i took the ham layers off the cheese layers and used a drinking straw to cut the mushrooms’ spots, then carefully replacing the ham on top of the cheese so that the yellow was visible through the holes.

— ♥ —

unrelatedly… remember how i said i was making blueberry crisp last night?  it turned out sooooo yummy that i just had to post my recipe (adapted from 3 or 4 crisp recipes on cooks.com).  this recipe will make five or six little ramekins (which i think are prettier for individual servings at a dinner party), or it will make an 8″x8″ brownie pan (or 9″x9″ with slightly less tall and crispier end results).  and i know thyme is a weird ingredient for a dessert, but i really think it’s a great flavor combo — it’s just herbacious enough to taste unusual, but mild and lemon-y enough to go well with (and not overpower) the fruit.

blueberry-thyme crisp

for the filling/base (the fruit part, whatever you want to call it):

  • 4 cups blueberries
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • zest from half a lemon
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed from the woody stem (discard stems)

for the crispy crumbly top:

  • 1 stick of COLD (i actually used semi-frozen) butter
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup quick-cook oats
  • 1/2 tsp. each cinnamon and ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar

assembly:

    1. preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
    2. in a large mixing bowl, toss the berries with the flour, sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, and thyme.
    3. butter your ramekins (or brownie pan) and gently dump the blueberries in (too many mashed berries before it starts cooking will make it too wet).  if you are using ramekins, leave about a 1/2″ of room at the top — the cooked crisp will sink as the berries wilt down, but you need to have room to add the topping before baking.  if you’re using a brownie pan, don’t worry, 4 cups of blueberries won’t come up anywhere close to the top of the pan, so you’ll have plenty of room for topping.
    4. in a food processor, add all the topping ingredients and pulse until you have a coarse mixture (e.g., until the little lumps of butter are about the size that the oats were before you started pulsing).
    5. with a spoon, carefully add the topping to the filled ramekins or baking pan.  you want to fully cover the blueberries (although one poking out here and there is fine), but you don’t want a particularly thick layer of topping — it won’t crisp up if it’s too thick, so it’s ok to end up with extra topping (throw it in a zip-loc bag, it freezes fine and you can use it to top a single ramekin in the future).
    6. place your ramekins on a foil-lined baking sheet (they may bubble over a bit), or if you are using a brownie pan go ahead and put a piece of aluminum foil on the baking rack underneath the pan, and bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on your altitude and oven) or until the entire crisp has sunken down, the topping is golden, and you can see blueberry goo around the edges of the pan.
    7. cool them down!  really, i swear, they are too hot to eat right now (i learned the hard way).  when the ramekins are still warm to the touch, top with vanilla ice cream and a few sprigs of thyme.





    fruit and onigiri snack bento

    29 06 2010

    just a quick one today, as i’m running around preparing for a dinner party tonight (and will be munching while i cook!)…

    three small onigiri made with my favorite chunky ume/sesame seed furikake, and wrapped with ooba leaves; three vegetarian chicken tenders and a piece of okra wrapped in vegetarian ham (you’ll be seeing a lot of that until i run out of my okra!), a bit of steamed broccoli with a clown pick, red grapes, and some perfectly plump blueberries…

    the blueberries are from a GINORMOUS bucket of blueberries that we got (along with a small carton of precious golden raspberries) as this week’s share of the CSA we joined when we moved to williamsburg.  tonight i’m making blueberry crisp, but i’m in the market for other blueberry recipes (especially bento-friendly ones), so holler if you’ve got ideas!

    [as seen on fada moranga]





    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]