mini-key sandwiches

17 04 2011

tomorrow at sundown marks the start of the jewish holiday passover.  for the eight days during which the holiday is observed, one refrains from eating leavened bread, as well as a variety of other foods that are seen as “rising” like leavened bread (depending on the regional tradition, this group of forbidden foods may include rice, beans, and other ingredients which expand when cooked).

although i won’t be strictly observing the restrictions this year, i will be saying goodbye to bread for the next week or so, which alas, includes sandwich bentos.  so as a fond (and temporary!) farewell, i made two egg salad sammies for tomorrow’s lunch.  super simple, with the cute addition of a cut-outs in the shape of keys.  the two breads i used, rye and pumpernickel, were nicely contrasting, and so i switched the keys (then both loaves went in the freezer to wait for the end of the holiday!).

this isn’t quite a bento, but i hope you don’t mind me posting.

speaking of “not quite a bento,” have you checked out the amazing wool/viscose play bento set that was recently posted as a bento4japan auction?  although you can’t eat this one, it would be the perfect gift for a cute child in your life… or for your own enjoyment.  bidding will definitely get heated on this one, so don’t miss it!

[as seen on epicute]





flowered meatballs bento

12 04 2011

for dinner tonight, we had a HUGE salad, and i’m bringing leftovers from that to work tomorrow.  because of that, i knew i only needed to pack something small for my actual bento.

the salad didn’t have much in the way of protein, so to compensate,  i took 3 frozen vegetarian “meatballs” (from trader joe’s), popped them in the microwave for 45 seconds until they were mostly defrosted, glazed them with a bit of bulldog sauce, and then topped them with cheese flowers.  i nuked them with the cheese for another 13 seconds so that the flowers melted slightly, and then stuck some peas on.  not a kyaraben, but quick and easy.

the back of this skinny tier has some steamed broccoli and brussels sprout halves, and two fresh mini vine tomatoes.  i guess it’s salad day, because i also packed myself a cute fruit salad cup (grapes and strawberries).  what are you having for lunch this wednesday?





april showers bento

6 04 2011

the  past couple weeks have NOT been spring-like here in NYC, with the exception of this past weekend.  today it rained again, and honestly, i’m getting pretty tired of it — i want to break out cute spring skirts and shoes!

tomorrow’s lunch has umbrellas and rain drops as an homage to the current weather system.  my umbrellas are made from carrot (cut with a tiny fondant cutter), and are affixed with somen to two mixed-rice-and-ume onigiri.  the box also contains steamed broccoli, fish sausage “rain drops,” purple potato, cute strawberries, pea pods, and a silicon cup with a kabocha gratin.  i have a sesame-flavored soy milk drink for a sweet accompaniment.

hope you all had a nice wednesday, and are furiously bidding away on the bento4japan auctions, including the adorable shinzi katoh box which i relisted today!





spring sailboat bento

3 04 2011

i hope everybody had a nice weekend! we finally got some nice, spring-like weather, with temperatures in the mid-50s and two days of fairly consistent sunshine.

tomorrow’s bento has a nautical theme, with a sailboat (nori and colored soy paper on cheese) and an anchor (cut from steamed carrot). i have a small piece of broiled salmon, with more flaked underneath the rice (which is mixed with seaweed and sesame seed furikake). a few steamed broccoli florets, a mini yellow pepper, and the cutest mini-strawberries round out this meal.

happy start of the week!





cafe sandwich bento

6 04 2010

another quick and easy lunch for tomorrow, since i have more apartment appointments scheduled tonight.

this sandwich has vegetarian ham and cheese with mustard on sourdough bread. (if you’re wondering why the cheese doesn’t look neat and even in the sliced sandwich, it’s because i’m being economical and using up scraps from cut-outs, and so i had to layer the oddly-shaped pieces over each other in hodge-podge fashion!)

the slices of bread from this loaf are very large, so this is just one sandwich (two slices of bread), which i trimmed into a long rectangle, and then cut again into three tea-sized sandwiches. this sourdough is more porous and less dense than white bread, and so it makes less delicate-looking and precise sandwiches (you can see how the mustard soaked itself into the spongy bread by the time i took the picture!), but i like the flavor sooooo much better. when i am in the mood for white bread, i do have access to some wonderful loaves from a local bakery, panya (review by just bento’s maki here).

the trio is banded together with a folded piece of heart-patterned wax paper, and to top this pretty cafe-style package off, i hand-cut a decorative bread heart from the “butt” slice (always too small and crusty for sandwich use).

the rest of the box has steamed broccoli and purple potato, two strawberries with washi tape food picks, some pea pods and flower-cut carrot sticks. this box has a nicely domed lid, so nothing got smushed when i closed it! i’m throwing a nice firm pear in my lunch bag to round out the meal.





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]





snail roll-ups bento

26 01 2010

i normally stick to a pretty vegetable-based diet with a smattering of fish, but tonight i wanted to cook something special for the boyfriend (no reason, just cause i love him!).  he LOVES meat, so i made a fancy chicken roulade stuffed with spinach and smoked brie, served over mushroom-infused brown rice (recipes below).  and the thought of making two separate dinners, and then bentoing after that, was… less than appealing — so you bet your sweet bippy i’m making an exception to my usual no-meat rule and chowing down on the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

i thought the roulade slices kinda looked like snail shells, so i cut snail heads/necks and antennae out of provolone cheese and added nori mouths, sesame seed eyes, and ketchup cheeks.  in the fruit and veggie side of the box i added some bias-cut baby carrot sticks, pea pods, grape tomatoes, blueberries in a heart-shaped silicone cup (a similar set is available for purchase on j-list), one nice strawberry, few cucumber slices and the cutest tiny clementine, plus a few slices of fish sausage hand cut to look like flower-stars (i know these aren’t fruit or veg, but i thought it needed more color, so just work with me).

the box is accessorized by another of my new laser-cut felt doilies, plus a “light my fire” spork.  here’s a close-up of the snail friends, and then after that the recipes!

chicken roulades

  • 1 bag pre-washed spinach
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 4 tablespoons minced garlic
  • a nice-sized wedge of brie (you won’t use the whole thing, but you’ll get to snack on the leftovers!)
  • salt, pepper, and olive oil
  • plain wooden toothpicks (do not eat!)
  1. chop up the bag of spinach.  in a large sautee pan, heat up about a tablespoon of olive oil.  add about 1/3 of the chopped spinach, sprinkling a little bit of water on top to help it steam.  when it’s wilted, add another 1/3 of the bag.  when that’s wilted, add the final 1/3.  salt and pepper to taste.
  2. while the spinach is cooking, place one of the breasts between two sheets of wax paper on top of a cutting board. pound the crap out of it!  you can use a meat mallet or the flat of your hand, but either way you want to do a downward-and-outward motion, basically displacing the thickest (center) part of the breast outwards to the edge so as to create a cutlet with consistent thickness throughout.  it will NOT be regularly shaped around the outside, but if you have approximately consistent thickness, that’s fine.  repeat this process on the second breast.
  3. spread 1/2 of the minced garlic over each pounded-out breast, and apply salt and pepper fairly liberally.  when the spinach is cooled distribute an even layer over each breast.
  4. look at the breasts:  there should be a wider, rounded-ish end, and a narrower, pointed-ish end.  slice some slices off of your wedge of brie, and line them up starting at the narrower end, leaving at least 1 1/2 to 2″ of the wider end cheese-less.  (you need this margin of cheese-less-ness for the chicken to roll up properly.)  once all your cheese is in, carefully roll up the chicken (starting with the narrower, pointy end), securing the roll with toothpicks once it’s rolled up all the way.
  5. brush a thin coat of olive oil on the outside of the breast, and apply salt and pepper to the outside as well.  bake in a pre-heated 375-degree oven (or toaster) for about 20 minutes (your oven may run differently than mine, so make sure that the juice runs clear when you take out one of the toothpicks and press firmly down on the roll), then re-baste with olive oil and stick the rolls under the broiler so that they brown up a bit.
  6. let them cool for at least 5 minutes, and then slice away for cute spirals!

mushroom-infused rice

  • 1.75 cups of brown rice
  • about 2 cups of sliced mushrooms, any kind you like (i used half baby bella and half white button)
  • a generous pinch of kosher salt, plus cracked pepper to taste
  • 1 “pat” (about 3/4 of a tablespoon) of butter
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 cups of water

this isn’t really a “recipe” per se, as my cuckoo does all the work for me.  i just dump all the ingredients into the rice cooker’s bowl, lock it, and set it on the pressure setting for about 35 minutes.  it came out a little al dente, so i might let it cook 5 minutes longer next time.  you’ll need to experiment with your own rice cooker, but cooking the ingredients under pressure together (no matter how much time your cooker requires) really gets the mushroom flavor into every grain.  yum!





sunshine tofu bento

25 01 2010

i was so inspired by sherimiya‘s and hapa bento‘s recent sunshine bentos that i decided to make my own contribution to the theme!

my sunshine is a fried quail egg (plus about a tablespoon of extra egg white); i trimmed the “rays” with an x-acto knife and added the face details with punched nori.

this happy sun sits atop some korean stewed spicy tofu, and the rest of the box contains leftover spring rolls (from last night’s spice thai delivery), pea pods, baby carrot sticks, yellow pepper sticks, and grape tomatoes.  my sidecar has strawberry halves, some blackberries, takuwan flowers, and pomegranate seeds in a blossom-shaped food cup.

here’s a close-up of the sun:

this egg detail is actually pretty easy to accomplish, provided you don’t screw up cracking the egg and break the yolk before it hits the pan (which has happened to me on multiple occasions, since the membrane of a quail egg is so thick)!  fried egg details are super yummy, and can take many forms — i really liked susan‘s shaped egg today as well!  just make sure you cook the yolk thoroughly so that nothing scary (bacteria-wise) happens to your bento between the time you pack it and the time you eat it.

– ♥ –

my friend irina recently went to japan, and she brought me back the cutest candy bento!  it has 6 individually-wrapped candies (for use in 6 future individual bentos, mwa ha ha), including a sakura, a bunny, and a tiger.

i’ve never seen anything like it and i almost crapped myself when she gave it to me.  thanks irina!!





anpanman bento

18 01 2010

tomorrow’s lunch features anpanman, the beloved japanese cartoon character.  i made my anpanman out of a vegetarian “chik’n” patty (i like boca brand’s spicy flavor), with a cherry nose, strawberry slices for cheeks, and nori for the eyes, eyebrows and mouth.

the patty is on top of some rice that i sprinkled with shiso furikake, and filling up the rest of the box is some roasted baby bok choi (made in the toaster again, with just salt, pepper, olive oil, minced garlic and gochu garu), enoki mushrooms, sweet potato hearts (made from two teardrop shapes each), cherries and pea pods.

— ♥ —

i know i usually stick to bento on this blog, but i wanted to do a quick restaurant review since i had the day off from work today (for MLK day) and took the opportunity to eat some dim sum in chinatown with friends.   this time we tried jing fong, which gets mixed reviews food-wise but has the classic ambiance we were looking for:  a huge, bustling banquet hall with tons of carts (as well as a hot buffet).

here are some shots of the hot buffet line:

xxxxx

and here are a few of the goodies we ordered from carts:

from the top:  various dumplings, other savories (stewed tofu, fried tofu with shrimp, and eggplant with pork) and sweet sesame pastries.

overall, the consensus of internet reviewers was pretty spot-on, in that the experience was lively and fun, and the food was ok.

as you can see from the menu card at the left, we stuffed ourselves (with no less than 21 dishes), until we felt like we needed to be rolled away in wheelbarrows!!! it was a fairly good bargain, at only about $16 per person, tax and tip included.  that said, i preferred the food at ping’s (where the eggplant is so divine i featured it in a previous bento). if choosing based on food alone, i wouldn’t necessarily go back to jing fong (after all, there are still many more dim sum places for me to try!).

— ♥ —

finally, i wanted to pass along an award i received from two lovely ladies, lia of my bentolicious, and tata of bonito’s cooking wonderland.  thank you so much lia and tata, i’m honored!

there are no rules to this award, so if i’ve passed it along, please don’t feel obligated to keep passing or to post on it or anything — but i thought it would be a nice chance to give a shout-out to my favorite blogging bentoists.  so, debra (hapa bento), sheri (happy little bento), pikko (adventures in bento making), and susan (hawai`i’s bento box cookbook), plus lia and tata, here’s to you!  i ♥ all of your blogs!





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!