31 August 2008

Island Salad

Too much graduate school = no time for real baking.

But--I did decide to take a little bit of time today to make a truly tasty dinner because I had a mango at the absolute perfect ripeness. (Honestly--best mango I've ever had.)I'm calling it an Island Salad because it's tropical and summery and is helping me to forget that September happens tomorrow. The meat is a pork chop marinated very unscientifically in a mix of pineapple juice, lime juice, crushed mango, teriyaki sauce, olive oil, a smidge of black pepper, and garlic, then grilled. It's all topped with toasted almonds, cherry tomatoes, grilled mango and pineapple slices, and green onions, and I dressed it very sparingly with another unscientific mix of peanut oil, sesame seed oil, teriyaki sauce, and mirin (which makes a lovely dip/dressing for other raw veg in the bento).

It was, I think, a rousing success.

29 August 2008

A few bentos

But first: Go Vote! (And, of course, American readers, please register to vote in the upcoming national election!)

And also second: I actually worked on my Vigdis sweater last night. Be still, my beating heart. You see, it's been in hibernation since sometime in very early 2007, and I've missed several falls and springs during which its knee-length cabled goodness would have been quite cozy and good, and I'd rather not let another fall pass that way. Especially since it's only August, and I'm already wearing two layers and my Knucks and snuggling with my polar fleece when I hole up in the library. (Apparently, "room temperature" at the university means roughly "blast chiller," despite there being no meteorological reason whatsoever to be using air conditioning anymore. It's only been in the seventies for two weeks straight.)

And now, bentos!

Wednesday: Maki day! Grilled sirloin, carrot, and black sesame seed maki. Carrot and broccoli accents, with some blueberries in the corner. Top tier holds more berries and broccoli, yellow watermelon, and the sunsugar tomatoes (with nori decorations) are built up on a bed of carrot rounds.



Thursday's bento features the same fruits/veg, except my carrots are in the form of JustBento's carrot kinpira! It was my first time making it, and it really was delicious. Very exciting, and very, very rare to have a cooked vegetable in my bento. (Yes, I am still eight and tend to dislike my veggies after the application of heat, though balsamic vinegar can make anything more appealing.) The last of my sirloin bits and some little onigiri round out the bottom tier.

And today's bento also has the usual suspects in the top tier, with the addition of three dried plums wedged between the carrots and watermelon cup. Bottom tier has two star-shaped mini-onigiri with nori furikake, two mixed-rice (bonito flakes and black sesame seed) onigiri balls, and one inarizushi on a bed of edamame and carrot bits.

I've also had breakfast sidecars made of cut-up peaches and blueberries, but they're not really exciting enough to show.

Off to the library!

26 August 2008

Intrepid, tasty little things.

Two bentos, one post! First up, Monday's bento: my usual vegetation of carrots, sugar snaps, and broccoli, as well as two sunsugar tomatoes hiding beneath those mozzarella flowers. They're accompanied by blueberries and some tinned lychees. They're okay, though I don't think that lychees are necessarily on my top ten favorite fruits list. They are, however, pretty delicious (and cute!) when you fill the seed cavity with blueberries or strawberry bits. Tucked in with all of that is my dessert: one of those Bailey's cupcakes, mini-sized.

For "main course," some garlic-beef bits (I bought a completely cheater-tastic bottle of stir-fry sauce at Wegman's, and it's amazing) with an assortment of mini-onigiri. Two are wrapped in nori (I think that works better with larger onigiri), and three are decorated with nori squares and furikake. Bits of carrot for color.

Tuesday's holds blueberries, carrot dividers, broccoli, cheese cubes atop sunsugar tomatoes, and a silicone cup of yellow watermelon.

The yellow watermelon is rather tasty, but not as...watermelon-y as the pink-red variety. However, the yellow came in a manageable size for two people, and cost far less than the larger, which might have gone to waste.

...though in retrospect, I should have gotten the larger red variety and made agua fresca. That's on the list for the end of summer.

In the bottom tier, my first incarnation of mixed-rice onigiri (bonito flakes and black sesame seeds), wrapped in nori strips. This onigiri combo is a winner for me! Accompanying are three of my homemade chicken gyoza, and I am sad to say I'm almost out of them--only one pouch of four left.

And, in case anyone has been wondering about these "sunsugar" tomatoes I keep packing in my lunch, here's a photo:
The pencil's for scale, and they're not a red tomato. They're a rather brilliant orange, and they are, as the name suggests, quite sweet and perfect for eating out of hand. The plants are also ridiculously prolific (even for poor gardeners such as ourselves, who rarely remember to water or tend), and should you choose to plant some, be aware that they sprawl. Our sunsugar is actually growing through both of our other tomato plants. Intrepid, tasty little things.

...not the smartest weekend I've had.

To kick it off, I turned my right ankle stepping off the curb to get the mail, and my plans to try Just Hungry's Yatsuhashi recipe were sidelined by my inability to stand on two feet. That meant we spent Friday night at the walk-in, where I was gifted with crutches and an ankle brace.

Saturday, I learned why one ought never grocery shop on crutches. I think my arms hurt more than my ankle.

Sunday, I did in fact give the mochi recipe a try... When Maki suggests you have a kitchen scale, it's sage advice. Because when mochi fails, it fails completely. I used three separate conversion widgets to try to get the proportions right, and that obviously didn't work. I also used a pot (I was smart enough to use non-stick!) on the stovetop to do the cooking phase, and I almost broke two spoons and my wrists trying to stir it. ...even though it never really did get to that clean-the-sides-ball stage. As a result, the kneading section...we never really got past that, because the dough was too loose to knead properly. I also think that I turned it out too hot, too, because was definitely sticking like mad to the plastic wrap.

So far, it's been Mochi 2, Holly 0 around here. I think I'll wait until I get a kitchen scale to brave that one again.

I did make some white chocolate & Bailey's cupcakes on Sunday (to soothe my pride), and they're pretty delish, but I need to find a better way to add the Bailey's to the icing--a mere two tablespoons still makes the icing taste kind of boozy, rather than just imparting the flavor of the Irish cream. Perhaps some sort of cooked icing next time for that one.

I used Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder in the icing, too, and it's a very gray-toned brown, because the cocoa is so dark, so it didn't photograph well. (Don't judge me--I'm a Pennsylvania girl, and I hold a very special place in my heart and my cupboard for Hershey's chocolate.)

So, alas, this is a pictureless post, but fear not--I've two bentos waiting for debut (or Godot--can one truly know?) from Monday and Tuesday morning.

But for discussion's sake--what was your most epic culinary fail? You're with friends here. It's okay. Share.

22 August 2008

Not Exactly Bento: Bento Photo Contest Entry

Hurrah, a shiny thing!


Not Exactly Bento is running a brilliant contest (I'm a little late to the party--today is the last day to enter), and this is my entry post (so please forgive me for doubling up on recent bento photos).

First entry:
Top tier: carrots, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, kiwi, plum slices, manchego cheese, dried fig slices, tiny piece of cake

Bottom: noriben, stir-fried garlic chicken, broccoli

And the second entry:
Top tier: cappocollo slices, cherry tomatoes, strawberry chardonnay cheese, sugar snaps, carrots, and some frozen mango & strawberries.

Bottom tier holds three mini onigiri (two brown rice, one white), broccoli, carrots, cashews (under the carrots), sugar snaps, and homemade beef negimaki

21 August 2008

Two Bentos and a Tip!

It's been a rough week--school starts on Monday and I'd be lying if I said I was anywhere near ready. That's why I'm doubling up on the bento--just no time to post yesterday, which was this one:
Customary cinnamon brown sugar bagel with PB and honey, broccoli, sugar snaps, carrots, sunsugar tomato, cheese, and, because of said gross week, a Lindt creme brulee chocolate square and a maple sugar candy. Oh, how I love me the maple sugar candy.

Then today, I used up some leftovers--Italian chicken and balsamic-roasted squash and cherry tomatoes, with carrots, cashews, and dried plums in the bottom tier. Bruschetta topping, carrots (hiding some cheese bites), and strawberries and lychees in the top. Not shown are two pieces of white toast I carried separately for the bruschetta topping.

By now, I'm sure you've noticed how much carrots feature in my bento. Not only is that because they're my favorite vegetable, but also because I have a nifty trick (that's probably not all that new to some of you) I got from my mom to avoid having to peel carrots every morning. Once or twice a week, I'll peel most of a bag of carrots and cut them into my favorite bento shapes--some into sticks, some into penny-rounds, some into planks like you see in the bottom tier here, and a few into the decorative stars and flowers that occasionally make it into my lunches. I put them into a handy Tupperware container, fill with cold, fresh water, and stash in the refrigerator. The water keeps the carrots' turgor pressure as it ought be, keeps the carrots from drying out (as peeled and cut carrots are wont to do), and then they only need a quick blot on a clean, dry kitchen towel before they're ready to pack up. Sometimes the carrots will curl a little bit, but that's kind of helpful if you want to make an edible barrier that isn't a straight line. If you cut the carrots very thin, you can even make circular (or ovoid, really) carrot "corrals," like you see here or here.

Another teensy tip, I guess: I keep a separate kitchen towel for bento prep in the morning, so that I can pat dry any of my freshly-washed vegetables without using disposable items, like paper towels. The salad spinner is also helpful for this sort of thing, but I seldom feel like going to those lengths in the morning.

19 August 2008

August 19th Bento

What a very rainy morning. I suppose I ought not complain, as we've had very few of those this summer (which is entirely peculiar for here). This morning, the bento is rocking the leftovers:

We have, in the top tier: cappocollo slices, cherry tomatoes, strawberry chardonnay cheese, sugar snaps, carrots, and some frozen mango & strawberries. Hopefully they'll thaw enough to smoosh down before I leave for school.

Bottom tier holds three mini onigiri (two brown rice, one white), broccoli, carrots, cashews (under the carrots), sugar snaps, and homemade beef negimaki, which was supper last night. ...I love that stuff. I do wish I could make it all pretty like my local Japanese restaurant does, but this still tastes good. Some day, too, I will actually have sake on hand to make it properly.

Not shown is a nectarine and two Milano cookies.

18 August 2008

August 18th Bento

Bit of a hodge-podge this morning, as I'm sort of in-between things. I need to restock my rice stash, but I still have tiny bits of this and that left, and so I'm trying to use that up (without leaving me completely without options in the morning). We also didn't make it to the World's Best Farmer's Market (I know that's a bit of a stretch compared to you cats in Seattle and Portland and whatnot, but it's quite fine for BFE Upstate NY!) this weekend, so my fruit selection is a little sad after having three delectable kinds of berries last week. (And after the farmer's market prices, I just really can't bring myself to pay grocery store prices...)

Anyway. Enough jibba-jabba.
Today is going to be a long one--we start the You Have No Excuses, Dashitall regimen now. So, extra fruit (a nectarine) and two cookies. And in the top tier: broccoli, carrots (as divider and decoration), kiwi, sugar snap peas, sunsugar and cherry tomatoes, a few cashews, and ridiculously delicious strawberry chardonnay cheese that Wegman's was pimping. With great difficulty, I found a small enough chunk of it to try (I will try something for $2, but not for $5).

Bottom tier holds two inarizushi, a soyfish, a tiny tortilla wraplet filled with turkey, lettuce, bacon, and a wee smidge of spicy honey mustard, and some more sugar snaps.

While I was in Wegman's this weekend, I did some price-checking, too--I'm very nearly at the end of my bag of rice, and I want to try some forbidden rice & black sticky rice (though I didn't find the latter at Wegman's), and I'm trying to discover where these things are cheapest. I thought certainly that the Asian food store would have cheaper rice, but it does not (probably because they don't sell as much as the large chain), though the price is not vastly different (maybe $.60 or a dollar), and that's a low enough differential for me to buy it at the small store because it's a small store. When I really need to pick up some more things--like sushi nori and dried mango, I'll check out the other Asian grocery, too (I think they had lotus root there, and I want to try making it, because it looks so pretty all golden brown and crisped), but I'm currently trying to cut back my random spending. And, frankly, every time I go to an Asian grocery store, I buy lots of random stuff. I can't help it--it's all so interesting-looking!

I'm also trying to find some nori-paste. I think I would like it (because I do so like nori, generally speaking). Also, lotus-seed paste, because I see so many people giving it the thumbs up for onigiri filling. I'll probably actually ask about that one--I'm not sure what it would look like on the shelf (and I can't really recognize anything in the Eastern languages except the Kanji for dog).

16 August 2008

Dutch kids do it in the morning

Baking, that is. You see, my in-laws are coming to visit today, and, given my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, it is anathema to consider having guests without having some kind of baked good to offer. (Despite the fact that we've already got a brunch at IHOP and dinner at the Joey's Pizzeria--best pizza in the Southern Tier--planned out. There's definitely a mid-afternoon snack gap in there!) However, last night, I was completely knackered. The zoo took the opportunity to wring the absolute last bit of "gainful employment" from me this week--emptying an exhibit of its dirt and refilling it with sand--so I had many meaningful hours with a shovel and wheelbarrow in the past three days. My elbows feel like jell-o. So, last night, because it was also, "OMG, CLEAN YOUR HOUSE" flight-of-the-bumblebee-style, there was no baking. So what could I make this morning (before 10 a.m.) with what I had on hand?

Turnovers. Oh, puff pastry, how I love thee.

I had the most gorgeous peaches from the Frog Pond (last week's trip) on hand, and a few black raspberries in the freezer, as well as a package of frozen puff pastry. So:

Makes 9 small turnovers

1/2 peach, peeled and cut into small chunks
1/2 cup raspberries
2 Tbsp. flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 sheet thawed puff pastry
1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp. water, for brushing the tops
2 Tbsp. sugar for dusting

Heat your oven to 375F. Mix the first four ingredients in a bowl and set to the side. Roll your thawed puff pastry out a bit, so that you can cut (roughly) 9 3-inch squares from it (this may require a little dusting of flour to keep things from sticking). Put about 1 Tbsp. of the fruit filling in the center of each square, and brush two of the edges with a bit of egg wash. Fold the opposite edges over and seal with a fork. Repeat with all of your squares, and then brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle generously with sugar. If you have demerara sugar, this would be an excellent place for it, or coarse decorating sugar. (Which I have, and completely forgot to use. Alas.)

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until puffed up and golden brown and delicious. (Who watches a lot of Alton Brown? Oh, me.) Eat these on the same day as they were made, as puff pastry is a bit delicate and soaks up humidity like mad.

I had some leftover filling, and tried to make some custard cups, but that was a teensy disaster that doesn't merit a photo or post just yet.

And to follow up from yesterday: noriben = my new favorite bento food. I think next time I will have to use smaller bits of nori, though, as separating bite-size bits from the whole was a bit of a challenge, because I didn't shred my seaweed small enough.

15 August 2008

Noriben!

Trying out something different in today's bento: Noriben. Well, I'm not sure it's exactly new, since the combo of rice, soy, bonito flakes, and nori is kind of my favorite onigiri, just rearranged a bit, but I think the eating experience is different.

So, in the top tier, there are kiwi and plum wedges, blackberries, carrots, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, manchego cheese, dried fig slices, and another tiny piece of Yip-Yip cake. Bottom tier houses the noriben (with sesame seeds on top), some stir-fried chicken with garlic sauce, and some broccoli bits.

It's really rather motivating to have a new bento thing to try. I woke up without a fight at 6:30 this morning for the first time in a while, despite going to bed around 1:00 a.m. (because I'm an Olympics junkie), all so I could layer the same foods in a new way.

Noriben is also a great way to use up the nori scraps that accumulate from making nori decorations for your bento. Some of those sheets are full of cut-out palm trees and sunbursts and music notes and such, and lots of awkward little sizes that don't much fit anywhere else, but for noriben, it doesn't matter. Excellent.

14 August 2008

Snack Bento!

Today, apparently, we'll be getting lunch at work (one of my coworkers' birthday is today, and her mum is ordering pizza for everyone, so that's spiffy). That said, not to look gift horses in their minty-fresh mouths, I'm not a huge fan of the place that's delivering the pizza (now that I live somewhere where you can get really good pizza, I'm not sure why the mediocre pizza still thrives...but, even when pizza's not that great, it's still pretty good), and my body's kind of gotten used to having fruits and veg. I can tell when the weekend hits and I have no bento--I get all sluggish and a little grumpus (but usually don't do anything about it because, well, it's just not the same when they're not all lunch-prettied). So, I made a wee snack bento.

I used the 320 mL Happy Balloon box (lots of people have this one--it's a great size!), and crammed it full of cucumber rounds (with carrot accents), carrots (more hiding under the cucumber, broccoli, kiwi, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and half a plum.

In the mornings, I also make a "you have no food in your food" box for my husband (whose idea of lunch = ham sandwich and chips), and I use a 400 mL Lock & Lock box for that. It generally has the same produce in it as mine, just arranged with less...purposeful cute. I try to make it pleasant looking, but I really do struggle with filling a deeper box. Even this little box has me scrambling a little to think of ways to use the depth. If I were going to do a savory dish in this kind of box, it would be great for chirashizushi or something like that--where one tops rice with something--but I've not yet done that.

Side notes: the lid of this box says "The life which bounced," and I love that. I'm not sure what it means, but I'm pretty sure it's a good thing to have

Sock news: started the heel flap last night. Yay!

13 August 2008

Two Bentos

Today's is much more exciting than yesterday's which definitely didn't merit its own post. I'm tacking it on here only so it doesn't feel left out.

Today's bento features inarizushi with a lot more edamame than I meant to make. (Do you ever do that? Adding the pretty pods to the boiling water, and that doesn't look like enough, and that doesn't look like enough, and then the bag tips a little too far, and suddenly you've got a wicked lot of soybeans to contend with... I think this is a direct result of trying to cook before seven a.m.) Top tier has broccoli, a teensy radish slice, cherry & sunsugar tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, manchego and dried fig slices, carrot dividers, and the world's tiniest piece of cake. The cake, actually, is the same batter/filling/icing as my Appa Cupcakes, but I had a little bit more batter at the end of baking than would fill a whole cupcake paper, so I decided to play with my miniature cake tin instead. Oh, tiny cakes, how I would love to have an excuse to make and decorate one every day. But, of course, it's really hard to make cake batter that only fills one four-inch pan, ne?

Yesterday's bento was a brown sugar & cinnamon miniature bagel, spread with peanut butter and waiting for the honey in the Stitch container, accompanied by a riot of the usual fruits & veg: strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, carrots, broccoli, cherry tomatoes. Not exciting, but definitely solidly tasty.

In knitting news, I'm almost done with the leg pattern repeats on my first Monkey sock (and they really have nothing to do with monkeys, which is a little baffling, but the pattern is so good I won't fault it for that). So close to done, I think I'll print out the heel/foot/toe directions, because hopefully I'll hit that stuff during lunch break.

I should definitely read for my last comprehensive exam on lunch break, but that's just really not as much fun as I think it should be. Also, it's hard to concentrate in the staff building. Yes. I'll knit instead.

(You see how hard I had to twist my own arm there?)

11 August 2008

Rainbow Bento!

Finally managed to get the full rainbow!

Top: strawberries, carrots, mango, broccoli, blueberries, blackberries

Bottom: avocado and chili-garlic chicken maki, carrots

I feel a little bit one-trick pony with the bentos lately, but the produce is too good right now to want to not cram at least one tier full of berries and things. My freezer stash of rice is also quite depleted, and I'm having a hard time wanting to devote an evening to making onigiri. Also, I have avocado. And I loves me some avocado maki. (Also, I don't know what else to do with avocado that will keep until lunchtime without turning brown. It stays nice and bright in the sushi rolls.)

10 August 2008

What kind of cupcakes does a giant flying bison eat?

Any cupcakes he wants to!

These were inspired by my watching of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Aang's flying bison Appa.

To get your bison airborne (or yourself, really, because these are sweet), you will need:

1 can dulce de leche
1 batch vanilla cupcakes (see below)
1 batch Magic Bison Buttercream (see below)

Vanilla Cupcakes (adapted from these)
20 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

3/4 cup (1-1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1-2/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2-2/3 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined.
3. Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
4. Measure out the milk and vanilla and stir to combine.
5. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar and beat to combine. Add about a half of the milk/vanilla and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry.
6. Scoop batter into cupcake cups about 2/3’s full. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake cupcakes for about 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

When they have cooled, cut cone-shapes into the tops, fill with dulce de leche, and replace cupcake plugs. The filling is camoflaged as a giant flying bison is not. Then, top with:

Magic Bison Buttercream
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, room temperature
Powdered sugar (maybe 3-4 cups?)
1/3 cup (or whatever is leftover from the filling stage) of the dulce de leche.
8 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
a few splashes of milk

Beat butter until smooth and fluffy. Carefully (to avoid clouds of powdered sugar everywhere) mix in 3 cups sifted powdered sugar. Stir in dulce de leche. Stir in chocolate. When everything is smooth and a pleasant spreadable (or pipeable) consistency (you may have to add powdered sugar to stiffen it or a bit of milk to smooth things out--it'll still taste great!), whip the frosting until it's as fluffy as you can get it. Apply to cupcakes in your method of choice.

Keep them under lock and key to avoid accidental overdose in the case of lemurs or boomerang-wielding idiots.

...with actual knitting content! (and best breakfast ever)

After starting the same sock (without a proper pattern) a dozen times and frogging it because I lost my place or forgot how many increases I did at the toe, I scrapped the whole project and started a new set of socks for my mom. (This was because I was ambushed by some beautiful yarn at my LYS--Jojoland Melody--100% superwash merino--when I was not supposed to be buying yarn for myself...but this isn't for myself, it's for my mom, so it's okay, right?)

I'm using Cookie A.'s Monkey pattern, and I love it. The lace pattern is easy enough to work on in the car, the knitting is both interesting and fast (after two repeats of the lace motif, anyway), and the yarn is lovely--not splitty, plenty soft, a ridiculously pleasing shade of subtly shifting blue and green...it's really enjoyable.

Also, this morning I decided to try making crepes for the first time, kind of as a belated breakfast-in-bed for the anniversary and to show off some of the most ridiculously pretty blackberries ever. I used Kevin's crepe recipe because it's a very good breakfast-for-two size (makes four 7-inch crepes), and was so very, very happy with the results. In truth, I expected a bit of disaster, because, as they say, the first crepe is for the dog. However. I have no dog (alas!), and the first crepe came out just fine!

I do have to work on cooking each side of the crepe to the same shade--they all had one golden side, one pale, but were still very tasty. They're filled with a mix of blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries sitting on a thin layer of dulce de leche, and that's what you see drizzled over the top, too.

I make my dulce de leche by boiling cans of sweetened condensed milk (keeping the can well-covered with boiling water) for a very long time. For this consistency (it would make a good filling for a tart or cupcake, but is not stiff enough to pipe), I think the can was boiling around 4 hours. So it's an undertaking, but so, so worth it. And also very cheap, if you've ever looked at purchasing dulce de leche in the store. I'll be making some cupcakes later to use more of it.

08 August 2008

August 8th Bento

I don't know about you, but putting sushi in my lunches always seems to improve the day, and this week, as I'm sort of clawing for the weekend, I needed some. (Work's been really busy, very physically demanding, and I've got forearms that look like they've been attacked by wood rasps--at least, they would, except for the poison ivy that's being all plaguey-looking on top of the scratches.) So. This morning, I used up the last of my super-delicious steak with some avocado to make maki. There are some carrot accents between each piece because there were teeeeensy gaps and I filled two of them with carrot bits, and then I had to do all the spaces for symmetry's sake.

Top tier (because I was feeling very cool colors today) has kiwi, blueberries, cucumber, and plum. There are more carrots underneath the cucumber, but they didn't fit the color scheme, so I hid them. Lid has soy fish and requisite cookie.

...the only problem with bento boxes is that there's no really convenient way to put pie in them, unless you want to sacrifice a whole tier. (I made a peach pie last night, and I will miss it at lunch.) I suppose the only reasonable thing to do is to eat it for breakfast!

07 August 2008

August 7th Bento

Mmm, tasty leftovers. You see, last night we went out for an extremely extravagant (for us) dinner at Moxie's Woodfire Grill, and that meant coming home with some excellent things for lunch today.

Top tier: (almost)Rainbow! Carrots, sunsugar tomatoes, mango, edamame, blueberries, plum wedges

Bottom: Bonito-flake-filled onigiri shaped like a bone (using JustBento's cookie-cutter onigiri method), leftover Delmonico steak slices, leftover grilled zucchini

Lid: Milano cookie, nori for onigiri

Also, I am pleased to report that the kare pan in yesterday's lunch was super tasty. The exterior was not exactly crisp after sitting in the refrigerator at work, but nor was it soggy, so I consider that success! I will try that again when I'm having a day at school where my lunch can be at (frigid) room temperature.

06 August 2008

Three Years!

No, not three years knitting or three years bentoing (which are more like 20 years--dear Lord, that's the first time I put that in print and it looks vast and terrifying--and four months, respectively), but three years married. Heavens. (But it's going really well! ♥!) ...all of this makes me sound, I think, much older than I am. Let me disclaim: I'm only 26. But still.

I wish I'd done a little more with the day's bento, since it is a special occasion, but the freezer stash is a little bare in the rice department, actually. Hopefully this weekend will give me a chance to restock, because last night, I made a new bento staple! I made a (bastardized, cheating) version of Closet Cooking's Kare Pan, and wow. I'm totally sold. I made his kare recipe (linked at the bottom of the Kare Pan page) on Saturday--pretty much so I could make the curry bread, actually. I did cheat, though, because I didn't have another day to sacrifice to the kitchen--I used a package of Pillsbury Dinner Rolls dough for my bread dough, and fried as directed. Delicious. I will say, though, that when I do it again, I will (ideally) make the dough from scratch or at least use prepackaged dough in loaf form, because the rolls leave you with long strips of dough that were a bit of a pain to work with (so many extra edges to seal, and that was the hardest part).

I froze the leftovers (and it was very hard to have leftovers, but I prevailed) wrapped in foil and bagged in a freezer bag, then reheated/recrisped two for my bento in the toaster oven this morning. Thawing them in the box would likely leave one with a soggy, gross mess.

They're in the sidecar box with broccoli florets and blueberries. In the green box, I have carrots & edamame, 3 mini onigiri (brown rice and regular) with nori hearts, strawberries, blueberries, a sectioned plum, and a single sunsugar tomato from the garden.

While I like that I could separate the crispy kare pan from the more moist rice (so it has a better chance of staying crisp), I admit to having a hard time packing these deeper, single-layer boxes. You can see the gap between food and lid--filling these boxes takes a little more planning in terms of what I'm actually bringing (which might mean deciding that before half of the food is in the box). I might also start making rice shapes that are just for these boxes--ones that are thicker, or completely rounded, etc.

05 August 2008

August 5th Bento: A Bit Continental, Really

No rice today. *gasp!*

Top tier: semi-bruschetta topping (red tomato, sunsugar tomato, mozzarella cubes, fresh basil & oregano, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, smidge of garlic); manchego cheese cubes, dried figs, two capocollo rosettes, kiwi.

Bottom tier: Carrots, cucumber slices, broccoli, blueberries, strawberries.

Lid: two Milano cookies

Not pictured: two slices of toast for the bruschetta, cut into wee triangles. That is my one sadness regarding the bento: as a Pennsylvania child, bread is the stuff of life, and it is very hard to actually put in the bento, because it is not very dense. A third of a sandwich takes up almost a whole tier, and that's a bit problematic if you need a heavy-duty lunch.

I feel a little bit like I'm cheating when I skip the rice. I don't know why. Probably because a bento like this doesn't really expand my culinary palate at all, because it's really all old favorites (well, the figs are a new thing, and the manchego, and the capocollo, but I like all other dried fruit, cheese is always good, and it's a salty cured pork, so those three things are all like all the other stuff I enjoy). The contents, though, are still mildly exciting to me because the tomatoes and the herbs in the bruschetta mix are homegrown! Our tomato plants have finally begun to give fruit, and when the sunsugar plant really gets going, we'll be up to our ears in quarter-sized sun-colored tomatoes. I can't wait!

04 August 2008

August 4th Bento


Despite disliking a largeish font, I think my blog's a bit of an eyestrain, so I'll give it a go in this size.

Today's bento features my favorite summertime dessert (and yes, I know I've put it all out of proportion by making my lunch about 1/4 pudding, but sssh): blueberry pudding. There's also strawberries, blueberries, cucumber slices, and broccoli in the top tier. Then carrots, leftover margarita chicken thigh, and onigiri with nori furikake on the bottom.

If you have any desire (and trust me, you should) to make the blueberry pudding, proceed thusly:

Mix 1 large (6 oz.) box of instant vanilla pudding mix with two cups of milk (not three, as the box will instruct). Add in one standard-sized container of Cool Whip (the only reason I can think of to purchase Cool Whip), and mix well. Then gently stir in a good whack of blueberries (I leave the ratio up to you--at least a pint, though).

Try not to eat it all at one sitting.

01 August 2008

Wow!

Through some delightful twist of fate, my July 4th bento has been shortlisted in Bento Pet's Bento Competition! That's super-exciting, because there are so many gorgeous entries. Check out the poll (on Bento Pet's sidebar) and vote for your favorite!

But, long time, no see around here! I was on vacation for ten days at the end of the month, so there were no bentos then (alas!), but I am home now and my work schedule has re
stabilized, so I will hopefully be back in action, bento-wise soon.

In the meantime, have one I made right before vacation!
In the lid, we have honey/sesame granola bar, soy fish, nori strip for onigiri, and candies. In the top tier, we have edamame and carrots, grapes, broccoli, and blueberries. In the bottom tier, bonito flake onigiri with nori decorations, more carrots, and teriyaki chicken.