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!

twin mice bento

7 01 2010

my bento for tomorrow’s lunch actually came together pretty quickly and easily… the stars of this round box are obviously the twin mice, made from vegetarian hot dogs (hot dog slices for ears, cheese and toothpick nose, sesame seed eyes), peeking out from behind two takuwan-and-edamame flowers.  one-and-a-half veggie croquettes are sliced and placed to the left, with some edamame skewers and some (non-roasted, tonight) grape tomatoes.  the mice are sitting on a bed of sprouts and lettuce.

in the fruit section of the box we have slices of cucumber (not really a fruit, but so mild in flavor that i think it goes well enough), segments of one of those itty bitty (satsuma?) oranges, some blueberries, and a nice strawberry.

i should note that, other than the fruit and veg i already had in my fridge, everything in this bento (croquette, soy dogs, and edamame) came from my freezer “stash” — that’s why it came together with so much less effort.  with stash items, you likely have techniques or characters you’ve been meaning to use, and you aren’t constrained by the food’s original purpose (which i often find to be the case with leftovers from dinner, for example, tonight i had fish tacos and i ate them all because i’m a piggy, but if i had one left, it would have taken up half the box and determined everything else that could go in).

another note — while putting the bento itself together took me only 20min or so, i’ve been having serious flickr/picnik problems lately… it’s taking FOREVER for pictures to load up to the editing platform, or for the “save” to process once i’ve made my edits.  so frustrating!  anyone else having problems?

in happier news, has everyone checked out pikko’s new site bento central?  i think this will prove an excellent resource for sharing tips and ideas… many thanks to pikko for generously hosting!

chili corndog bento

5 01 2010

i made yummy vegetarian chili for dinner tonight, so tomorrow’s lunch bento has the chili with some cheese music notes in a food cup (it’s actually an onigiri mold, but it was the right size, so whatever), some asparagus wrapped in cheese and veggie ham, grape tomatoes, snow peas, a little baby orange (or maybe it’s a clementine?), starfruit slices and a trader joe’s vegetarian “corn-doggie.”

the corn-doggie is hard to see from this angle, so here’s another shot:

a corndog doesn’t have exactly the right shape for a dog’s snout, but oh well, i thought it would be cute to make a dog out of a “dog”!  in case you want to try this, here’s how i did it:

  • microwave trader joe’s vegetarian corndog for 1 minute.  let it cool while you do other stuff.
  • once it’s cool to the touch, work the stick out of the dog.  this will leave a hollow tube running through the dog.
  • insert the non-sharp end of a toothpick into the hollow tube on an angle, so that it eventually sticks into one side of the dog.  keep pushing it in until only the sharp point is sticking out (about 1/16 of an inch) of the hole at the end of the dog.
  • skewer one edamame bean to the sharp end of the toothpick, being careful not to poke the end of the pick all the way through (you don’t want to see the point on the outside of the nose!).
  • using a nori punch, cut eyes and mouth of your liking and affix with mayonnaise.
  • using a cutter of your desired shape and size, cut floppy ears and affix with mayonnaise.
  • you could probably be more creative and find something good to use as a tail (or even add legs), but my doggie is a yorkie with a short stubby tail, so i thought the heart pick was a cute thing to stick in this doggie’s butt.

and in case you want to whip up a tasty batch of vegetarian chili, great on these cold winter nights, here is my family recipe:


– 3 cans of beans (i like to use kidney, pinto, and black, but my mom uses like two dark kidney and one light – whatevs)
– 1 huge can of diced or chopped tomatoes (i like the kind that already has herbs in it)
– 1 tiny can tomato paste
– 1 huge or 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
– 5 cloves garlic minced (yeah, it’s a lot)
– 1 bell pepper, chopped (i hate green but yellow, orange or red is ok), chopped
– 1 package fake meat (yves ground round or any other brand of soy crumbles will work; tvp would also work)
– spices to taste:  chili powder, cumin (this is THE KEY), garlic powder, oregano (sounds weird but used a lot in mexico), salt and pepper of course
– random liquids of your choosing:  balasamic, white vinegar, hot sauce (make it up as you go along)
– canola oil (you can use olive instead if you want)

  • sautee your onions and peppers in the oil until the onions are translucent.  add the garlic and sautee until it’s cooked-ish but not darkening too much in color.  add your fake meat and sautee that in there too until everything is pretty well mixed and the meat has absorbed the oil and the liquid from the veggies.  dump your cans of beans in there WITH THE LIQUID (which is super starchy and helps hold the chili together).
  • mix that all together, and then dump your ginormo can of tomatoes in too.  mix that up and then add your spices (this is when i also add a little bit of vinegar and hot sauce. you could add balsamic if you want the chili to be slightly sweeter).
  • bam, it’s pretty much done already!  you should let it simmer for a while (anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes) though, so that the beans start to break down (adding further starch which further thickens everything) and so that the flavors of the spices penetrate everything and meld together.
  • for a “quick” batch of chili you can use a potato masher to break up some of the beans, and the tomato paste to thicken.  you will want to readjust the spices after you add the tomato paste, though, because it adds sugar.
  • i love this topped with chopped raw onions, grated cheese and sour cream, and TONS of frank’s red hot.
  • the bonus factor with this recipe is that it’s ALWAYS better the next day, either cold or reheated.  it also freezes well, so go ahead and make a huge batch (the above recipe is already pretty huge because of the volume of the canned goods, but sometimes i even double that).