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.





monkey soboro bento

1 04 2010

i received an unusual request via flickr-mail yesterday: a friendly user (and apparent fan of my photostream) asked if i might be willing to make a monkey bento, in honor of her favorite animal.

well, i have a couple of monkey sauce cases that have been lying around since my west coast bento shopping spree back in november, and i’m always up for a challenge, so i decided to use the monkey on the sauce case as my inspiration, and figured i could achieve the brown with a soboro bento.

my soboro is made of vegetarian faux ground beef. first i made an onigiri in approximately the same shape as the monkey’s inner face, molding pink rice free-form with saran wrap. then i layered some sliced orange bell pepper and scallions in the box, added the onigiri, and spooned in my “ground beef” (which i had sauteed with some cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper). i added radish eyes, nori eyelashes, a red pepper mouth, and a dyed-pasta bow, and voila! i had my monkey (no banana, though). this was my first time trying soboro for a bento, and i wish it had come out a teensy bit neater, but it was fun and i’ll definitely keep trying to perfect this technique!

even though the monkey looks like she’s made of just two ingredients, don’t forget about the veggies layered under there — once i mix it all up (with the hot sauce i stored in the actual monkey sauce case), it will be a tasty and healthy entree. i figured i would want something sweet too, though, so i made a quick side car of kiwi slices, pear flowers, and kumquats.

here’s a close up of the sauce case (available from napa japan):

see the resemblance? ok, i used artistic license to omit the ears and add the eyelashes. i hope my new flickr pal enjoys this one, and i hope you all have a great friday and weekend!





flower piggy bento

28 03 2010

so nice to be back home with the boyfriend and doggy, catching up on my DVR, and back to bento, too!  miami was great (the conference was academically stimulating and i networked up the wazoo!), but like they say, there’s no place like home.

tomorrow’s lunch is a tofu piggy, dyed in 2 drops of red food coloring and water, and then pan fried with salt, pepper, sesame oil and garlic powder.   i fried up all the scraps from cutting the piggy, too, and those are buried underneath the rice.  this piggy is sniffing a takuwan and red pepper flower with parsley leaves.

my fruit and veggie section, separated by lettuce baran, has takuwan, asparagus, broccoli (with a cheese butterfly), grape tomatoes, pea pods, flower-cut carrots, and two blackberry-and-kumquat skewers.

looking forward to catching up on all the bento blog and flickr entries i missed last week!





spring bunny bento

22 03 2010

has everyone seen hapa bento’s announcement about this month’s BOMB (“best of the month bento”) theme?  what a fun one!

here’s my contribution… he’s not an easter bunny, just a goofy spring bunny with his own carrot.  he’s made of cheese, cut with a toothpick using a stencil i found online.  i applied some orange soy paper for the patches on his belly and ears.

he’s plopped down on some pesto primavera pasta (also springlike with its fresh and light veggies — recipe below), and will make his way past the carrot baran to the garden patch of sweet mini yellow pepper, grape tomato, strawberry, pea pods, blackberries, and mini plum.  there’s a halved portobello soy burger in there that i’m hoping to beat him to!

here’s a close up of my bunny, and then the recipe…

pesto primavera pasta

  • 1/4 box tricolore fiore pasta
  • 1/4 box tricolore bowtie pasta
  • 2/3 bunch asparagus
  • 1 small zucchini
  • about 20 grape tomatoes
  • 4 tbsp. pesto (i used pre-made from a jar, but here’s a great simple recipe i use when basil is in season and bunches are cheap)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chopped parsley and grated parmesan for garnish
  1. put a big pot of water on to boil.
  2. while the water is boiling, halve your grape tomatoes and set them aside.  bend a “test stalk” of asparagus to test where it’s pliable and where it’s woody; cut the entire bunch on the line where that stalk breaks.  discard the woody ends, and then cut the remaining stalks on the bias into approximately 2″-long segments.  slice your zucchini into rounds or mezzalunes.
  3. when your water has reached a rolling boil, salt it (about 2 tbsp. kosher salt).  add your bowties first — these are bigger and will take slightly longer to cook than the fiore shape.  after about 2 minutes, add your fiores.  when the pasta is just slightly too all dente, throw your chopped asparagus and zucchini into the pot.   when the pasta is done, turn off the flame and drain the whole pot with a colander.
  4. add the pasta, asparagus and zucchini back into the cooking pot, but keep the flame off.  add your halved tomatoes and your pesto, and mix thoroughly.  season with salt and pepper as desired.
  5. top with a bit of chopped parsley and parmesan cheese.

that’s it!  super, super simple, but also super fresh and springy tasting.  you can substitute other veggies to turn this recipe into a fridge-cleaner-outer, too.

i’m in miami for a business conference tomorrow evening through friday evening, so no bentos for me until next monday.  see you on flickr and twitter, though!





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!





pink piggies bento

11 03 2010

soooo exciting… i got to work this morning and a totally unexpected package was waiting there for me! a super-sweet bento friend sent me some of the colored rice powders i have been lusting after! the one i used in this bento is mizkan brand, and is made of delicious distilled vinegar and dried plum. omg soooooooo good! after mixing with some rice, i half-filled my onigiri mold and popped a plump ume into each onigiri, and then i filled the rest of the mold. so these onigiri are DOUBLE plum, or should i say double yum!

my pink piggies have fish sausage ears and noses, with sesame seed nostrils, and nori eyes. they’re surrounded by some steamed and salted broccoli florets, carrot flowers with edamame centers, strawberry halves, pea pods, quail eggs, clementine slices, and a mini yellow pepper.

for accessories i’m using one of my cool felt doilies, an home-made eiffel tower flag pick, and a cute strawberry fork i grabbed on my trip to flushing’s H-mart. isn’t this a happy bento to start the weekend? hope you all have a great one, and don’t forget to keep entering your creative GRE vocabulary sentences in the contest — entries can be submitted through sunday night.

[as seen on books and shoes, stdandme]





ume ladybug bento

4 03 2010

a pretty quick and simple one tonight, since dinner was leftover bibimbap and for tomorrow’s lunch i had to make do with the extra rice and some stuff from my freezer bento stash.

my ladybug is an ume pressed into the rice and decorated with nori.  the ladybug is headed for a big carrot blossom, and the non-rice section of the box has a tamagoyaki slice, an edamame shumai, some sliced vegetarian chicken nugget, a tiny orange pepper, pea pods, kiwi slices and  half a strawberry.  i had some ladybug paper, so i used that as a background to compliment my ume ladybug.

i used a sesame leaf as a natural baran, laying it in the box, pressing my rice in, and then folding the edge of the leaf back over the rice.  don’t forget to enter your natural baran ideas into hapa bento’s BOMB (best of the month bento) comment thread!

[as seen on MSN japan]