vegan pattie bento

30 01 2012

sticking to my plan, i’ve prepared a simple and disposable lunch bento, with no frills or decorative accents. simplifying my take-to-work lunches to fit my work-night routine also means simplifying my bento photography… so i hope you don’t mind this quick, prop-less shot.

tomorrow’s lunch features a delicious, low-calorie recipe i tweaked over the weekend: spicy vegan jamaican patties. for those of you unfamiliar, a pattie is a savory, filled pastry — the jamaican version probably originated from the english/cornish pastie, but similar foods can be found in many other cultures (see, e.g. the latin american empanada). as a light and cooling accompaniment to this spicy treat, i made a fennel and green bean salad. both recipes after the jump…

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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  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


    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.

    squirrel sandwich bento

    25 04 2010

    sunday nights are always lazy, and tonight i’m watching the giants-cardinals game… so, just a quick sandwich bento for tomorrow’s lunch.

    my sandwich is a vegetarian “chick-n” patty (spicy flavor!) on sourdough with mustard, baby spinach leaves, avocado, and cheese.  i wrapped it with brown wax paper and washi tape, and topped it with a squirrel cut from white bread.

    the remaining space in the bento has a paper food cup filled with thai-style soy ginger carrot salad (a tasty frozen item from trader joe’s; it’s great for my bento stash because it adds a pop of bright color and requires zero prep) and a vine-ripe tomato with a squirrel pick from this cute set, plus a few clementine slices.

    hope everyone had a sunny, fun, and restful weekend!

    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:


    kyo bento

    20 04 2010

    tomorrow’s lunch is the first use of the new kyo bento box i purchased with my gift certificate from bento & co.  it’s one of the most beautiful and refined objects i’ve ever possessed.

    i wanted to keep lunch in this box simple and classic, so i hand-molded two onigiri (the rice is mixed with my favorite chunky ume furikake) with shiso leaves, and added some basic garnishes:  two wedges of clementine, two pieces of tamagoyaki cut on an an angle, some pea pods and grape tomatoes, and some pickled cucumber and takuwan in a paper food cup with a carrot flower.  i love how it turned out — i feel like the box would make any food look gorgeous, so i didn’t even have to work at it tonight.

    thanks again to bento & co. for the generous prize i received in the spring bento contest!

    robot love bento

    18 04 2010

    has everyone checked out the new kawaii bento club HQ on squidoo?  it’s chock full of information, tutorials, and links to helpful products and books, and it’s also a great way for bento makers to come together as a community.

    right now KBC is running an “i love robots” bento contest… robots are perfect for bento because they can be made from simple shapes.  if you haven’t submitted an entry yet, why not give it a try?

    this is my entry — a boy and a girl robot in love.  they are made from purple potato, vegetarian ham, carrot, and cheese, and were cut free-hand using just a paring knife and only two actual cutters (the small and large circles i used to cut the robots’ eyes and hands — you could accomplish these same cuts with a regular and a jumbo sized straw).  for the heart on the boy robot’s chest, i used the freehand toothpick method, and i used nori punches for the facial details, and a bow pick for the girl robot’s accessory.  the robots are on top of plain white rice, which is layered over spicy stewed korean tofu.

    the rest of my box, separated by lettuce baran, has some broccoli (topped with a vegetarian ham and cheese flower), some takuwan slices, a strawberry, some clementine wedges, a few peapods, and a trio of grape tomatoes.

    here’s a close up shot of my robots… tee hee, they’re holding hands!

    thanks to KBC for hosting this fun contest — i hope everyone takes the opportunity to let their imaginations and creativity run wild!

    sweethearts bento

    5 04 2010

    tomorrow’s lunch is really quite simple, but still sweet:  two lettuce-wrapped, molded onigiri (using leftover brown-and-white rice, in this mold) with purple hearts on top.  the hearts are made from a small amount of the same rice, mixed with my purple shiso powder.  using this concentration of shiso powder makes the rice very tangy and salty, but i won’t eat the hearts in one bite each — i’ll nibble a little bit with each bite of the plain rice.

    the rest of the box has a piece of kosher hot dog, some purple potato slices, some clementine wedges, a beautifully ripe strawberry, a fancy-cut quail egg, two takuwan slices, a steamed broccoli floret, and a few pea pods to fill in empty spaces.  the other tier to this box (not pictured) has the rest of the hot dog, more takuwan and broccoli, a piece of cheese, and a piece of kiwi to round out the meal.

    this had to be quick and easy, as i’m pretty busy this week looking for a new apartment.  this process, which i always avoid until the last possible second, is extremely stressful but also exciting.  wish me luck!

    shy giraffe bento

    29 03 2010

    my  latest j-list order arrived yesterday, woo hoo!  one of the items i’ve been eagerly awaiting is this cute set of animal picks, and tonight i decided to use the giraffe (which the boyfriend insists looks like a cross between a giraffe and a duck).  i also got one of the slender bento boxes i’ve been wanting to experiment with.  i’m pretty happy with how this turned out!

    i have last night’s leftover dinner rice, layered over a bit of black beans, with a gentle giraffe on top.  a few fish sausage flowers and parsley leaves decorate the giraffe’s “habitat.”  the giraffe was made from a free-hand drawing (referencing some online photos), which i made into a simple template and then cut out of cheese.  his spots are made from the orange sheet of that cool colored soy paper i received from a bento pal — those colored sheets sure do come in handy!

    in the top section, i have a few clementine wedges, some broccoli, a few fried tofu slices, a pea pod, an asparagus tip, and some japanese pickled cucumber (i love the purple color).  my new giraffe pick, spearing a grape tomato, tops this presentation off!  oh, and jello for dessert… yum.

    st. patrick’s day bento

    16 03 2010

    happy st. patrick’s day, bento friends!  like susan, i’m 1/8 irish, so i like to show my (albeit distant) roots with some extra green on this holiday!

    my st. patrick’s day lunch is a light one, consisting of two cylindrical, pale green rice onigiri (made in a mold after mixing my rice with some of the green rice powder i received from a sweet pal last week — i know, i know, i’ve been going crazy with the colored rice!  i’m taking a break after this one, haha) in clover-leaf paper food cups, topped with some pre-cut nori in four-leaf-clover shapes.

    the rest of the box contains a fancy-cut quail egg atop a steamed broccoli floret, some takuwan slices, baby carrots and pea pods, blackberries, and grape tomatoes on an enamel-and-metal four-leaf-clover skewer i found at my local M2M korean mart.

    my grape putifresh box adds to the green theme, and the shamrock hashi (blurry in the backround) are the perfect finishing touch on this holiday meal.

    [as seen on food news journal, stdandme]

    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 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!