jalapeno-fried chicken bento

21 04 2010

a while back i placed a fresh direct order, and the amount of jalapenos that was delivered was waaaay more than what i thought i was ordering!  what’s a girl to do with extra jalapenos that have been lingering in the fridge for almost too long?  how about jalapeno-fried chicken fingers, and a hearty salad topped with jalapeno-citrus dressing!  that’s what i made for dinner (recipes below), and tomorrow’s lunch includes two good-sized chicken pieces.

the rest of the bento has brown rice topped with peas and two cute bears made from two hard boiled egg slices (nori and sesame seed facial details), a beautiful vine-ripe tomato, some steamed broccoli, three butterflies cut from fish sausage, some pea pods and clementine wedges, and some cucumber and takuwan slices.

— ♥ —

jalapeno-fried chicken fingers

  • 1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 package panko (japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika to taste
  • 1 medium-to-large sized jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  1. get yourself a nice, big, and clean workstation, where you can set up three bowls.  put the flour in the first bowl, and mix in your salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika (if you haven’t made spiced dredging flour before, start with about 1/8 teaspoon of each and add more as you like).
  2. in the second bowl, crack and beat the two eggs.  add a few teaspoons of milk or water if needed to thin the egg mixture down.
  3. in the third bowl, toss your diced jalapeno with your panko.  now you have your breading station, and you should line up the three bowls so that the panko/jalapeno mixture is closest to your frying pan.
  4. cut your chicken into approximately uniformly-sized pieces — i like mine longer and thinner (like “fingers”), but you could easily do squatter “nugget” style pieces.
  5. in a large frying pan, heat the oil until you can drop a piece of diced jalapeno in and it bubbles and sizzles.
  6. once the oil has come up to temp, bread the chicken, one piece at a time, by first dredging through the spiced flour, then dipping in the beaten egg, and then rolling through the panko/jalapeno mixture.  i find it works best to use just one hand as your breading hand (just hold the chicken piece in that hand and work it through all three bowls).  that way you have a clean hand left to turn on the faucet when it’s time to wash the messy hand!
  7. once you have about 5 or 6 pieces breaded, gently place them in the oil (if you drop them with too much force, the hot oil will splatter and burn you), and fry until both sides are golden brown (about 2 minutes on the first side and 90 seconds on the second).  i like to blot the fried pieces with a paper towel and then pop them into a 375-degree oven for a few extra minutes, just to make absolutely sure they are cooked through.
  8. you will want to fry the chicken in batches (that’s why i said 5 or 6 pieces for the first go), being careful not to crowd the pan. crowding the pan will result in stuck-together pieces and non-uniform browning.

jalapeno-citrus salad dressing

  • light syrup from a can of mandarin orange slices (if you don’t have a can handy, you can make a simple syrup by combining equal parts water and sugar in a pan and stirring over a low flame until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is slightly thickened — the mandarin flavor is lovely here though, and worth the price of the can)
  • juice from 1.5 limes
  • 3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar (plain white vinegar is fine too)
  • 1 small to medium sized jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed
  • 1 kiwi, skin removed, cut into chunks
  • 4 mint leaves
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. in a food processor, blend about 1/2 cup mandarin (or simple) syrup with the lime juice, vinegar and jalapeno, until the jalapeno is finely ground and gives the syrup a green-speckled, slightly opaque appearance
  2. add the chunked kiwi and mint, and continue blending until thoroughly ground
  3. through the pouring hole on the food processor container, pour a thin stream of olive oil, allowing the food processor blade to emulsify the dressing
  4. season the dressing to your liking

the dressing is super simple, right?  it’s deliciously tangy, and removing the seeds and ribs from the jalapeno makes it just spicy enough to give the dressing a real kick (a bit of an after-burn, actually), but without setting your entire mouth on fire.  i like this dressing over a salad of spinach leaves, chunked avocado, kernels of sweet corn, thinly-sliced red onion, chunked (or grape) tomatoes, and some sliced jalapeno-fried chicken fingers!

speaking of those, here is a picture of the finished product:

enjoy!





red bahn mi bento

2 02 2010

i know, the bahn mi itself is not red, but this is my contribution to hapa bento’s BOMB (“best of the month bento”) challenge.  february’s theme is heart-healthy, holiday-friendly RED!

a quick and easy bento tonight with no frills — i had a bad day at work and didn’t feel too inspired.  but look, i have a red flower prop, a red box, some red tomatoes with a red flowered skewer, and even a red bento belt!  that counts, right?  and the cute mushroom paper did cheer me up a bit.

this bahn mi is from a new place that the boyfriend discovered in our neighborhood, bahn mi zon.  i like their sandwiches better than the place i had been going to previously — they are bigger, and the baguette is more tender.  this one’s filled with marinated mushrooms, tofu, and your standard cucumber-cilantro-daikon-carrot combination.

rounding out the box are a pear fan (the pear is also kinda reddish!) and two takuwan fans, some blueberries, and the tomatoes.  underneath that stuff i buried a babybel cheese and some cucumber slices.  this box is pretty deep, which is why it works for the sandwich halves, but which also means that some food items won’t be visible.

want a contest hint?   i thought so!  ok — in the country i’ll be visiting, putrified shark meat is a traditional food.  i’m pretty brave when it comes to trying new things (i ate some pretty unimaginable animal parts in shanghai), and i’ll go with an open mind, but the word “putrified” is inherently unappetizing, no?  i bet it wouldn’t look great in bento, either!





red riding hood bento

21 01 2010

tonight’s bento features a few new goodies i got in the mail today from a bento friend — aren’t those packages the best?!

the entire theme was inspired by the cute red riding hood baran.  love it!!!  to go with her, i made a wolf onigiri (the wolf’s face is ham, with kamaboko ears and nori eyes, eyebrows, nose and whiskers).  the second onigiri has an awesome pre-cut nori shape from a packaged set that i have coveted FOREVER!  my bento pal was kind enough to send it over, yay, thanks again you-know-who!

in the “red riding hood” tier of the box, i have carrot sticks, crinkle-cut cucumber slices, a little bit of pickled carrot, daikon and lotus root salad garnished with cilantro (in a yellow food cup), a few takuwan flowers, half of a vietnamese spring roll, and some cherries.  rounding out the “wolf” tier of the box is some cabbage, and the onigiri are stuffed with tofu and peanut sauce.  before i closed up the box and stuck it in the fridge, i wrapped the onigiri in saran wrap, which will help keep them from drying out, and help keep the wolf’s face stuck on there!

here is a close up of the predator and his prey:

in the next few days i may be implementing some changes to the layout of this blog, to better accommodate the new ad banners.  please be patient if things look a little funky!





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!





spring roll bento

15 10 2009

bento 20main compartment:  leftovers from last night’s dinner of homemade vietnamese spring rolls (mine are vegetarian — bean sprouts, cilantro, basil, tofu, carrot, and glass noodles dressed with soy sauce, sesame oil and chili flakes), with yellow beet stars added for garnish, lined with a cabbage leaf and buttressed by pickled radishes, yellow and red tomatoes.  right compartment:  leftover fried rice with a yellow beet and purple potato flower garnish.  bottom compartment:  edamame in a silicone food cup, with yellow wax beans and red carrot sticks.  not pictured: homemade peanut butter/soy/sriracha dipping sauce for the spring rolls.