faux strawberries bento

28 06 2010

hey!  i know, it’s been forever since i posted!  quick life update:  left my law firm job and am thinking of transitioning back into museum work; have been to las vegas, new orleans, and philadelphia (twice) in the last three weeks visiting friends, seeing art, eating tons of food, and celebrating a birthday girl and a bride; and am still exploring the new food and craft spots in my new neighborhood and fine-tuning the decor details in the new[-ish] apartment.  lots going on, but i hope to get back on a regular bento schedule soon… starting today, in fact!

this bento has two “strawberries” cut from red pepper with mint leaves and white cheese “seeds” (cut from a straw section with one end pinched to make it pointier for a tear-drop shape).  my strawberries are resting on savory quinoa salad (recipe below) topped with the thinnest possible layer of plain quinoa (for better color contrast against the red pepper flesh).  the rest of the box has steamed broccoli with two carrot butterflies, sliced radish, takuwan flowers, vegetarian ham-wrapped okra, a grape tomato cut in half, and a few blueberries.

hope you have all been enjoying your summer travels, projects, and whatever else you’re up to!

savory quinoa salad with goat cheese, thyme and mint

  • 1 cup of quinoa, 2 cups water (you can halve or double the recipe if you want, but keep the 1 quinoa:2 water ratio the same!)
  • 2 springs fresh thyme (pull the tiny leaves off and discard the woody stem)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped (i used the leftovers from cutting out the “strawberries”)
  • 1/4 small red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. minced garlic (can be omitted for a lighter, more subtly flavored salad)
  • 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms (i actually used some leftover stems from mushroom caps that the boyfriend stuffed for sunday brunch)
  • 2-3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. goat cheese per serving (this recipe makes 2 servings so i used about half of the pre-packaged cheese “log”, but you may want to add more or less)
  • mint for garnish
  1. add your quinoa and water to a saucepan, and bring the mixture up to a boil.  as soon as it’s boiling, reduce it to the lowest simmer possible, and stir every 2-3 minutes until the water is absorbed.  the total cooking time should be 10-15 minutes counting the time to boil.  (another method is to bring the quinoa to a boil, make sure it’s tightly covered, and turn the flame completely off, letting it steam for about 15 minutes until cooked.)  when the quinoa is cooked, fluff with a fork.
  2. add most of your olive oil to a small pan, and cook all your veggies until the peppers are tender and the onions translucent.  turn the flame off and incorporate the fresh thyme.
  3. in a bowl, fold the sautéed vegetables into the cooked quinoa, and drizzle the rest of the olive oil over top.  crumble some goat cheese on top (it melts into a deliciously gooey texture over the warm salad), and garnish with a mint sprig or some julienned mint.

so fast and easy… a perfect summer salad!

[as seen on more design please]





“picnic for one” bento

11 06 2010

today, if the weather holds out, i’m planning on taking the dog to the park for lunch.  i’m still exploring my new neighborhood, and the dog is a chubster who needs to walk more, so this is killing two birds with one stone.

i wanted to bring a simple and easy (and mostly recyclable) lunch with me — i’ll still need to worry about bringing the actual box and the little dip container home, but both of those have lids, so any food residue stays pretty self-contained.  the food cup, wax paper “baran” and recycled wood silverware will all go in the appropriate bins.  and the food itself is mostly finger-friendly: summer veggies i can dip and munch with one hand, and tea-sized sammies that are really only two bites each.

the sandwiches are vegetarian ham, cheese, and butter lettuce on sourdough with mustard; i topped them with two flowers stamped into potato bread (actually, leftover potato burger buns from a BBQ last weekend — these work well for impressions because potato bread is sooooooo soft).  the vegetables are ripe grape tomatoes, quick-steamed corn and brussels sprouts, and raw asparagus (there’s ranch dip in the container).  a paper-lined foil cup with grapes, strawberry quarters and a mint garnish, and i’m all set.

wishing all my bento pals a tasty weekend!  i’m in new orleans tomorrow through tuesday, so no bentos from me for a bit, but maybe some beignet pictures on twitter?

[as seen on more design pleaseapartment therapy, and re-nest]





mini apples bento

25 05 2010

HUGE props to sheri of happy little bento for her chili bento yesterday, which featured an adorable two-tone carrot apple in the center of her magic round box.  as i threatened to do in the comments on that post, i absolutely had to replicate that apple design, it was just love at first sight!!  i tried to make my apples just like sheri’s, except that i replaced the orange carrot with veggie ham and the yellow carrot with white cheese.  thanks for the awesome idea sheri, you rule!

the apples are the star of my lunch for tomorrow, and i added leaf picks to make them a bit more three-dimensional.  they’re sitting on top of a thin layer of plain steamed rice, which is smoothed over some pan-fried tofu cutlets (sprinkled with garlic powder for flavor).

the rest of this slender box has blackberries in a paper food cup, two beautiful cherries, a steamed broccoli floret with a few pea pods, and two flower-cut carrots.





sleepy/grumpy teddy bento and new apartment giveaway!

18 05 2010

well, just as i suspected, catching up on my bento blog reading gave me some new ideas to try… one of the cutest things i saw over the last week was shoppingmum’s “blur teddy” sandwiches.  i decided to give this a try with onigiri.  i used two different sized round cutters instead of a small teddy cutter, and i used vegetarian ham instead of smoked cheese for the snout, but i think i achieved a similarly cute face — thanks for the tips, shoppingmum!

rounding out this box are some fried tofu slices, asparagus spears wrapped in cheese and vegetarian ham, blackberries on a flower pick, steamed broccoli, carrot flowers, tomatoes, jersey-fresh arugula, and a flower-shaped bottle filled with soy-vinegar sauce for the tofu.  do these flower accessories qualify me for this month’s BOMB theme?

— ♥ —

to celebrate having completed the hellish process of moving into my new, more bento-friendly apartment, i’m doing a giveaway!

to enter, just post a link in the comments to your favorite bento post (from your or someone else’s blog, or from bento central or just bento) that you’ve read over the past few weeks (it doesn’t have to be a new post, just something that inspired you or you revisited lately)… i need more ideas to help me get back in my bento groove!

1 entry per person per day, contest ends saturday at midnight EST, winner to be posted sunday.

what’s in the prize package?  i thought you’d never ask!  here’s a picture:

  • 1 two tier blue sheep box with french writing and aqua band, 670ml total
  • 1 v-color white two-tier box
  • 1 clickety click giant onigiri box, 780ml total
  • 1 480ml putifresh “muscat” box with matching fork (this is one of my favorite sizes and shapes, i have the muscat and the banana!)
  • 24 oval-shaped waxed paper okazu cups, sea life themed (tako, turtle, penguin, fish), plus 36 small round paper cups with fruit designs
  • 4 metal flower-shaped cutters (the same kind i used in my carrot flower tutorial)
  • egg and tomato-shaped mayo and ketchup bottles
  • clover and sakura baran
  • large round citrus fruits baran
  • 1 package of assorted bow, crown and top hat picks
  • 1 package of flower and leaf picks
  • 1 package of cute animal onigiri wrappers
  • 1 octo-dog cutter
  • 1 package each ume and shiso furikake
  • 1 purple wrapping cloth (furoshiki)
  • 1 package colored soy paper (not pictured above)

good luck… can’t wait to see what’s been inspiring you all!





froggie garden snack bento

19 04 2010

tomorrow i have a lunch meeting at work, so i only need a little snack bento.  this box combines two objectives:  a garden theme for hapa bento’s contest with japanistic, and a froggie theme to inaugurate the kawaii new box i received from a dear bento friend (thank you so much, you-know-who!).  plus, a lush and damp garden always has froggies hiding in it, so i think the frogs really are perfectly appropriate for the garden contest.

my frogs are made of cucumber (cut with a small veggie cutter shaped like a teddy bear head — just use the ears for eyes!), with cheese-and-sesame-seed eyes and vegetarian ham mouths.  the middle froggie is looking surprised, tee hee!

the rest of the box has my usual rice layered over tofu, then a layer of sliced takuwan, and then some double-cut carrot and purple potato flowers topped with white soy paper punched flowers.  to accent this garden, i added two grape tomatoes, and a bunch of pea pods to simulate the leafy area in which the flowers and tomatoes are growing.





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!





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.





more monkeys bento

4 04 2010

friday’s soboro-based bento was a little bit out of my comfort zone as far as bento crafting goes, so i wanted to give it another shot with something more my style.

these monkeys are based on a monkey face i found on google images, and are made from vegetarian ham and cheese (with nori and sesame seed for facial details, as usual).  they’re layered over mixed brown-and-white rice (trying to be healthier!) with peas (i really liked the color and flavor they added to last week’s bunny-eggs bento).

another bento trend i’ve seen a lot of lately is the use of printed wax paper.  akinoichigo-san and shoppingmum use some very stylish newsprint and strawberry papers in their lovely bento boxes, but all i could find at my local japanese market was a plain butcher’s brown and a subtle heart print.  tomorrow’s lunch features the brown, which i think goes nicely with my bamboo spork.

the rest of the bento has purple potato stars, portobello veggie burgers, a fried quail egg, steamed broccoli, a few cherry tomatoes, some flower-cut carrots and a few pea pods.

hope all my bento pals had a wonderful holiday weekend!





“woman in a hilltop teahouse” bento

21 03 2010

tomorrow’s lunch is my entry for the japan society’s virtual bento box battle.  i chose to imitate “woman in a hilltop teahouse,” a beautiful woodcut by japanese artist utagawa kuniyoshi.  click here to see the woodcut (image 10 of 26), part of the japan society gallery’s display entitled “graphic heroes, magic monsters:  japanese prints by utagawa kuniyoshi from the arthur r. miller collection.”

i chose this image because the lovely woman is dining… although it’s not a bento box on the bench with her, it could be, and she’s very much enjoying her peaceful and relaxing meal, as i hope to enjoy this lunch!  her bench is made of vegetarian ham, and she is made out of cheese and nori, with food coloring mixed with a few drops of water for a watercolor painting effect.

in the background i have broccoli, flower-cut carrots and a few pea pods, asparagus tips, a purple carrot skewer, takuwan slices with sesame seeds, a few grape tomatoes, a perfect little mini-plum (labeled “prune plum” in my market), and some blackberries, almost hidden behind the sesame leaf baran.  the teatime lady and her bench are layered over white rice, which is itself layered over stewed tofu for the protein component to this meal.

entries for the bento box battle are being accepted through wednesday, march 31, so there’s still time for you to make one if you haven’t already!

UPDATE:  the judging is over, and this box was selected for first prize!  take a look at the other winners over at the japan society’s website, and my congratulations to all who participated, especially lia, lucky sundae, pikko, and laura bento, all of whose entries were gorgeous and proved very stiff competition!





spring butterfly bento

14 03 2010

tonight’s bento features a handmade cheese, soy paper, and nori butterfly.  the unexpected package i received on thursday also contained a package of these cool colorful soy papers, and over the weekend i had the brainstorm to apply cut-out pieces to white cheese to resemble the colored markings on a butterfly’s wings.  you like?  the white cheese was cut with a toothpick from a template i cut out of paper, and then layered on top of vegetarian ham that i cut with an x-acto knife.

i also used the yummy red shiso meshi i received in the same package to make some lovely purple rice for the butterfly to alight on.  the purple rice is layered over stewed tofu for some extra protein.

the “garden patch” in this box is separated from the rice by two sesame leaves (natural baran for hapa bento’s BOMB theme).  the butterfly is headed for those sweet potato flowers, which are growing out of the broccoli; there are also grape tomatoes, pea pods, blackberries on one of the “hairpin” skewers maki posted on flickr recently, a star-cut radish, and some takuwan strips in a paper food cup, sprinkled with sesame seeds.

did everyone remember to move their clocks forward an hour?  what a bummer to lose an hour of sleep, but at least it’s an official sign that spring is here!

here’s a close-up of my butterfly:

[as seen on craft gossip, stdandme, all about the cute, and thebaffled]

UPDATE:  this bento won the spring bento contest hosted by bento & co. / just bento / french bento!  congratulations to the other members of the top 15 and to all who participated, and many thanks to everyone who voted for me — i truly appreciate your support!  the best prize, though, was the opportunity to see the inspirational ideas in all the other contestants’ fabulous entries, and making some new international bento pals whose work i didn’t know about before.  what a great experience!