05 November 2009

More Backlogged Bento Action







Simple and tasty bento: carrots, dried plums, 3/4 of an orange, a nori-wrapped onigiri, and four turkey & scallion potstickers. (My potstickers are shaped oddly--like very tiny, lumpy eggrolls--because I used square wonton wrappers, not round potsticker wrappers.)

01 November 2009

A Tale of Two Bentos






Well, there's really no tale, so to speak, about these bentos, but it makes for a good post title. These are from my first 2 weeks in Casper (thus from mid-August), and as such, they are rather basic in nature.



The first contains a bottom tier of sushi rice decorated with strips of nori. Middle tier holds almonds, blueberries, carrots, and cherry tomatoes. Top tier holds M&Ms and soy sauce fish.








Another fairly basic but incredibly tasty bento: bottom tier holds salami, cherry tomatoes, an herbed cheese Laughing Cow wedge, and a clementine. Middle tier holds rye toasts and a trail mix of cashews, dried pineapple, and dried mango.  Top tier holds one of my chief weaknesses: Good-N-Plenty candies.

Many of the things in this second bento are courtesy of my good friend Virginia, who was an absolute goddess of kindness and packed a wonderful tote of snacks for the trip. The tote came with me to the farmers' markets in town, too, and carried home the blueberries and carrots. I carry with me the thoughtfulness of my friends, too.

31 October 2009

Why, hello.

 Rumors of my death, etc.

I have been doing a delightful lot of knitting, really, and this is Adamas, by Miriam Felton. It was knit for a most delightful friend, and I love this pattern. I had been attempting a different pattern for a long time, and wow, it was a wretched process. I think I spent 5 months and only got about a foot of the pattern done. I declared it a loss, and then knit the whole Adamas in a few short months, so I think it was a good choice.

I forgot the yarn name.  Alas.

I've also been bento-ing.  I'll try to spread these out over a few days.


This is one of my lunches from August, actually.  Sushi rice with nori checkerboard squares, almonds, dried mango pieces, blueberries, carrots, and furikake in the little container. The top tier holds M&Ms and some coffee candies.

04 June 2009

Oh, knitting, you fickle mistress...

I think the universe mocks me for neglecting my blog. I knit a Nutkin that I can't put on my foot, and today, I cast off on the Adamas shawl, only to find it is woefully small, even blocked. So I've frogged the cast off, the 12-row edging, and rehung the umpteen million stitches back on the needles and replaced all the markers.

Let's just say that that was not a satisfactory experience.

On one hand, I need to do this. The shawl is a gift, and it would be both lame and useless as small as it turned out to be. And I do enjoy the knitting--I like this pattern a lot. On the other--ooooooh, I dislike frogging.

Maybe someday I'll have a FO to post.

I did score major yarn goodness on vacation, though. Pictures to come when there's natural light.

22 May 2009

This is not helping.

I've been hideously remiss in taking care of this blog.

I have some backlogged bentos from April or so that I'd like to get up here soon, and I'm starting my summer work schedule, so I might actually have bentos to show sometime in the future. I was supposed to have one today, but...then I fainted and knocked my rice off the stove.

I'm fine, but it'll be peanut butter & jelly for lunch now. *sigh*

Next week will find me in Portland, Oregon, so hopefully I can find something awesome and bento-blog-worthy out there.

08 March 2009

These were from Thursday and Friday.

Top tier contains jicama, snow peas, carrots, strawberries, almonds, gjetost, miniature gummi bears. Bottom: Rice with black sesame seed & shiso furikake decorations, broccoli, leftover steak pieces.

And then Friday's bento holds:
In the top tier, roasted yam bits, snow peas, jicama, strawberries, & blackberries. Bottom tier holds onigiri with nori decorations, oven-roasted broccoli, and chicken with Thai chili sauce.

Yam oven-fries are my new favorite thing, food-wise. These took about 20 minutes in my toaster oven (just a couple of French-fry-sized pieces of yam cut into 3/4 inch chunks, tossed in olive oil, and roasted at 425 degrees).

07 March 2009

Two bentos!

Two bentos from last week. First one is just a bit of a snack bento: strawberries, blackberries, almond pieces, and honey-wheat bread with honey butter in the container.
And then a full lunch featuring more of the same: berries, carrots, bread, homemade gyoza rolls (I'm not sure what to call them, but they're just chicken gyoza in larger egg roll wrappers).

Nothing terribly exciting, but it's hard to be terribly exciting early in the week. I'll have more interesting lunches when I post up the end of the week.

25 February 2009

Otro Bento

From Tuesday:I do so love my bone cookie cutter. Today it has cut out some wheat and sunflower seed bread to be accompanied by a little container of butter and honey. There are some dried cranberries tucked around it, and there are (as always) carrots on the side. Both sides, actually, top and bottom. The bottom tier also holds edamame and some sweet-chili-glazed chicken. (I'm out of broccoli...and everything vegetable-like except carrots.)

Nothing exciting, but the bread is really tasty and is emblematic of my intention to start eating more whole grains/less super-refined flours. ...except for baking. Sometimes, good ol' AP Flour is what is necessary.

22 February 2009

Three Bentos

Wee skotch of a backlog from this past week, so I've got three bentos to share today.Wednesday's was onigiri with nori stripes, carrots & sugar snap peas, and the silicon cup is filled with a mix of almonds, pistachio kernels, gjetost cubes, and two delicious little gingerbread bits that were baked by my friend Virginia.


Thursday's bento was especially delicious because I had homemade gyoza/"egg rolls" to dip in Thai chili sauce (which are both in the bottom/right side tier). What happened is that I was making gyoza and ran out of gyoza wrappers, so I put more filling into eggroll skins to make longer versions. I'll have to do that more often, as they are ideally shaped for bento, and two of them would be perfecto for lunch. They're accompanied by my (toaster)oven-roasted broccoli, and I'll give the recipe for that at the end of this post. Top (left side tier) holds sugar snap peas, carrots, a moro/blood orange, and a homemade "trail mix"--bits of dried apricot, dried fig, dried mango, and almonds.

And Friday's lunch was more broccoli, carrots, sugar snaps, moro orange, gjetost squares, and two panda cookies. Bottom holds avocado maki (oh, how I love you, avocado maki), carrot accents, and three dried figs.

(Toaster)Oven-Roasted Broccoli

Preheat toaster oven or regular oven to 425F.

Drizzle your preferred amount of broccoli spears (two ounces makes a good portion for a single bento lunch) with a little splash of olive oil (about a teaspoon or so). Season with a pinch of salt, garlic powder, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Squish it around with your hands so the oil coats the broccoli fairly well and the spices stick. (I find that the more willing you are to get your hands messy the less oil you actually need, in this case.) Put it on a baking sheet (if you're using the oven) or a bit of foil (toaster oven) and roast until the cut stems start to brown and the edges of the florets are getting a bit toasty-looking. This, inexplicably, takes about 12 minutes in my oven or 5 in my toaster oven. I don't understand it, but it's a convenient difference. Cool before packing in bento.

And for someone who dislikes pretty much all other forms of cooked broccoli, I love this stuff. I actively look forward to it, and I find myself cramming extra into whatever spaces I can find in my lunch.

17 February 2009

February 17 Bento

Pretty happy with the way this one turned out! Carrots, sugar snap peas, cranberries, a blood orange, gjetost triangles, and almonds under the cheese bits in the top tier, and onigiri, roasted broccoli, and mini-chicken burgers in the bottom. And, also, it was pretty darn tasty. Blood oranges are amazing.

15 February 2009

Miniature eclairs

Everything is better with tiny eclairs.

Homemade chocolate pastry cream from Dorie. Choux recipe also from Dorie. Honestly. Just go grab a copy of Baking: From My Home to Yours. Delicious stuff.

(this post brought to you by my stunning lack of academic motivation)

14 February 2009

Knitting Content! (and the usual bento stuff)

FINALLY. A finished object with a photo! Well, rather, a pair of objects, as one mitten (regretfully) does little for many of us. Unless you happen to be a pirate with a proper hook, in which case one mitten is likely all you need. I am not married to a pirate (avec hook or otherwise), and so I made him two mittens for Valentine's Day!I started with Laura Kasian's Basic Cabled Mittens pattern and turned left at Albuquerque and kept going. I owe a great debt to the pattern for shaping and proportions, and I switched out the three 4-stitch short cables for one larger six-stitch.They're knit in Berrocco Cuzco, which is fantabulous, held double, so that they will be the warmest mittens ever, because we are having the coldest winter ever here in the land of the lost. I got it at the always-a-pleasure Spin A Yarn on Mitchell Ave. (I think it is Very Important that the yarn store is so close to the hospital. ...if I had been thinking clearly, when I was having my overnight stay last February, I would have sent my husband there, first, instead of home to get me some nice pyjama pants.)

Ravel Them.


And then there are two days of bento action, both featuring that short-grain sweet brown rice I found, which is definitely a success. It takes about an hour to use it for bento (50 minutes of cooking, 10 minutes of resting, plus however long it takes you to fuss it into the shape you like, which could be twenty minutes for me), but if speed is not your intent (and it never is with me), you can do all the other assembly work while it's cooking. ...and also shower, do some dishes, pack up your belongings and necessities for the day... Hence, I didn't find the long cooking time to really be a problem. And, of course, if it is a little problematical for you, just make a bunch at once and freeze (which is what I did with half of the rice, and used it in Friday's lunch).

Onigiri wrapped in nori, carrots, dried apricots, dried figs, almonds, and panda cookies with a bit of soy sauce in le fish. The sweet brown rice was super-tasty--just a wee hint of nuttiness that still played well with the seasoned vinegar (because I make all of my onigiri with sushi rice).

Friday's bento contained brown rice onigiri with nori and shiso furikake. The shiso furikake bleeds a very pretty shade of intense fuschia, and someday I will actually do something with that interesting property, but I only use it in small amounts because it contains MSG and that can sometimes play merry hell with my stomach. It's tasty, though. It's accompanied by more (toaster)oven-roasted broccoli (this time with olive oil, chili flakes, dried orange peel, and garlic--delicious) and sweet chili-sauce glazed chicken.
Bottom tier contains pez de soy sauce, carrots, cheese spears, dried apricots, dried cranberries, and grapefruit sections. I tried to brulee my grapefruit (sprinkle it with a bit of sugar and zap under the broiler), but my toaster oven's broiler isn't beefy enough to do it, and my gas oven's broiler would probably destroy the silicone cup (a chance I don't really want to take). Grapefruit still tasty, though.

10 February 2009

Bento and Macarons!

First: today's bento.

Kiwi, carrots, broccoli, cheese & almonds, and a container of hoisin/chili sauce for chicken karaage. Bottom tier holds said chicken and a brie/honey/dried fig "sandwich." I didn't feel like making rice this morning, and I still have some bread to use up. It's not the most balanced meal I've ever put in my bento, but I figured having raw broccoli gets me some points. (Having the dipping sauce helped!)

And now on to the exciting part: macarons.

After seeing how beautiful they look all over the internet, I decided I had to try making them myself. And I admit to a bit of fear, since I do have difficulty dealing with kitchen failures, and I have seen many tales, far and wide, of the potential pitfalls of macaron-making (fiddly egg whites, humidity, etc.). But. A friend of mine could use some sweetness this week, so today was the day.

I used a recipe from Tartelette, whose method and recipes I've seen hailed far and wide, and I tweaked it for flavorings. Rather than recopy all of her hard work here, I'll send you to the recipe: Gingerbread Macarons. Mine omitted the nutmeg and cloves and added about a tablespoon and a half of sifted cocoa powder, because chocolate and cinnamon together are so lovely.

I used Bob's Red Mill almond flour, and I also blitzed it with the powdered sugar (in my blender) until it was, indeed, far finer than it was in the package. I aged my egg whites over night, and I did let my piped macarons rest on the counter for 30 and 50 minutes.

My oven is a touch hot, so next time, I will check on them at about 18 minutes, because at 20 minutes, they were a bit crunchy when completely cool. But the inside texture is delightful. Look!


For the filling, I used dulce de leche, made in the David Lebovitz fashion. Next time, I think I will put a dish cloth beneath the caramel-holding baking dish, because the center of mine got a bit overdone. It was delicious, but the texture was not smooth--the center got a bit over-caramelized. The little chewy bits were delicious, but not as polished-looking as I would like. But the final product?


Delicious. And they have feet! Proper macaron feet! (You have no idea how excited that makes me.)

Now I just have to not go into a sugar coma.

09 February 2009

A Proper Bento

Finally, I got it together enough to make a real bento for the day! I think it was fueled by my vast new love for Thai sweet chili sauce. The bottom tier holds mini chicken burgers, glazed with Thai sweet chili sauce, sitting on sushi rice rounds. That's accompanied by (toaster)oven-roasted broccoli. In the top tier, there is kiwi, carrot rounds, a little red silicon cup of cheese bits, and the green cup holds a mix of pistachios, almonds, dried cranberries, and dried figs.

On the way home today, I also stopped at the new health-food store (...which may have been the first time I'd ever been in such a thing), and I scored some sweet brown rice, which claims to behave in the same way that sushi rice does, but with more Nutritional Value. It does take 50 minutes to cook, but I'm really not a speed-bento person, so that's not so bad. I snagged some dried apricots, and some almond flour. I have a yen to try my hand at macarons, because they are all over the blogosphere, and they look beautiful and also delicious.

04 February 2009

Quick Bentos

Just two bentos that are mostly snack-based, since I have different on-campus hours this semester. I'm attempting a bit of an experiment for the next few days--seeing if I can keep from the crazy blood-sugar fluctuations that cause nap attacks and general bleeergh.


So, today saw: grapes, carrots, snow peas, a dried fig, almonds, and assorted cheese bits. Well. The golden brown ones are bits of gjetost, but I cannot for the life of me remember the paler cheese's name, and I threw away the wrapper. It came from Wegman's, had a green wax rind, and I swear it was a buttery Norwegian cheese that was not Jarlsberg. So. If anyone can shed some light on my idiocy, that would be grand.

Then there is the pedestrian peanut butter and jelly, made a bit more exciting with almonds and dried cranberries. There's carrots, snow peas, and two homemade chocolate caramels.

27 January 2009

Get in the car. It's a BENTO.

I finally have a packed lunch, one that includes actual food, somewhat "arranged" in a bento box. It's nothing to write home about (...but apparently it's enough to blog about?): an end from a white roll with brie and almonds (in the pink silicone heart) and honey (packet there with the bluish spreader), accompanied by snow peas, carrots, dried plums, and panda cookies.This was enough for lunch, but a meeting I was having ran long (...by about 2 hours), so I did cheat and get a Snickers bar to avoid having to murder anyone on the drive home. Here's hoping I can get back on the bento bus, now that school's started and I might have a stable schedule again.

26 January 2009

Mm, foods.

But first, knitting content! (I KNOW, RIGHT?)
After a great deal of fighting with camera and the photo itself, I have this picture that almost captures the gorgeous saturation of the yarn, Claudia's Hand-Painted merino sock yarn, in Ocean Depths, which is amazing. These socks are all for me. The pattern is Nutkin, and as the inimitable YarnHarlot has said, it really is a fast pattern. It's taking me forever and a day because I'm knitting a shawl, a pair of gloves, and trying to resist casting on for a tote bag project all at the same time.

I've also done a wee bit of cooking:

Delmonico steaks (new cast-iron grill pan proves its worth--and fills my house with smoke, but that's okay because these were damn tasty) with Boursin and feta twice-baked potato and roasted broccoli, which is my new "this is real food" food love.

The broccoli (when I get more broccoli) may appear in bentos, as it tastes quite nice at room temperature and cooks in the same amount of time that rice does.

12 January 2009

Cause for Celebration

UPS smiled upon me today. So there's a camera again! And also a delightful wealth of baking books that are just making me to squee a bit.

My wonderful brother-in-law and his wife gifted me with Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking and I am wicked thrilled. Domestic goddessness isn't exactly tres moi, but I adore Nigella Lawson and everything in this book looks amazing. But you'll hear me say that a lot, I'm thinking.

Then, using the gift card gifted me by my husband's delightful (and perceptive) co-workers who occasionally enjoy the fruits of my culinary labor (bribes will, in fact, get you everywhere), I purchased Dorrie Greenspan's Baking: From my home to yours and Debby Maugans Nakos's Small-Batch Baking.

To celebrate the whole camera thing, I'm also trying out two new recipes tonight--one new to me because someone else created it, one new to me because I made it up.

First was Use Real Butter's Boursin Chicken, made the way the recipe instructed (egad!) with the exception of halving it, as I only wanted to make two chicken breasts. You can see it below paired with tonight's experiment: Oven-Roasted Butternut Squash with Bacon.


The recipe (modestly portioned side dish for two).

1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed (inch-ish)
2 slices bacon, cut into one-inch bits
1/3 sweet onion (Spanish or Vidalia) cut into 1/2 inch pieces
one clove of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary
generous grind of black pepper
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 375F. Put olive oil in an 8x8 baking dish and toss squash, onion, garlic, and seasonings together. Tuck the bacon pieces between the squash cubes at roughly even intervals. Roast for about an hour, stirring gently at the halfway point. Enjoy with anything.

Really, I might make this tomorrow just for lunch for myself (as an experiment, I didn't do the whole squash at once, and so there were no leftovers). I adored this--the sweetness of the squash, prepared this way, astounded me, and the edges of the squash caramelized a bit, giving almost a hint of crispness over the soft interior, and the smoky flavor of the bacon was amazing.

It's not a pretty dish, but it's delicious.

Where was butternut squash when I was ten and refusing to eat my vegetables?

*nota bene: When taking pictures of food, do not do it while ravenous. You just end up stealing bites of the subject and mucking up the plate.

09 January 2009

Rice and other disasters

I am apparently personally incapable of cooking more than 1/2 cup of rice at a time. Frequently, it's not a problem, as most of the time, I am making rice for the current day's bento and that's it. However, that is largely due to the fact that on the occasion that I might like to make more rice (to create bento freezer stash or with dinner), my rice goes utterly wonky. Usually to the tune of hard in the center and mushy/chalky on the outside. I'm not sure how. I follow the same procedure of rinsing, I add the appropriate amount of water as instructed, and, on the advice of a friend after several failures just letting it cook, fluff the larger quantities of rice (like, a cup or two--not trying to make five cups of rice on the stovetop or anything crazy) to prevent the water from being trapped on the bottom. I have tried different sizes of pots (in case depth is an issue)--all to very little avail.

Can you help me, internets? (My favorite solution involves a sweet fuzzy-logic cooker, but that's a wee bit pricetastic right now.)

...camera is in Ohio. *impatient!*

08 January 2009

Still camera-less

Apparently, just because you check the UPS tracking information for your package every eleven seconds doesn't mean it changes. But come on! Camera, according to data, has been sitting on its duff in Nevada since the fifth! And I actually made a passably cute lunch today, but couldn't play the photog for it.

Because I'm a little desperate to have something useful to say, let me tell you about it, and you can visualize something far prettier than what I actually ended up with. Well. Have the highlights, anyway, one of which was the fact that I had a jicama giraffe. With carrot spots. My mother-in-law got me a boatload of adorable wee cookie/aspic cutters for Christmas, and so I had to try them out. I also had some gjetost triangles. This stuff is like heaven to me, and I would dearly love to try making it some day.

As a by-product of making gyoza for New Year's Eve (because I always have more filling than wrappers), I also had some wee chicken mini-burgers (a la Just Bento) to make, so they got sauced with some teriyaki and plunked in beside my rice, too.

But the thing that makes me super-excited, and the thing that will probably lead to my financial downfall, are Meiji Panda Cookies. My mother-in-law got me a box (before I had been blissfully ignorant of them) while she was visiting with her other son in Portland, and they're delicious. Small and crispy and full of rich chocolate creme that is so simply good it's probably made of pandas and bits of rainforest and unicorn horn (even though the ingredients list isn't too traumatizing, actually). I ate one this morning to make sure I wanted to put it in my lunch as my "dessert," and then I packed two, and then I shoved the box in the cupboard while threatening my hands with the rolling pin if they touched the cupboard again today.

...it's not really that I have any real problems with eating a whole (admittedly very small) box of cookies. It's more the fact that they are kind of a precious commodity--in the grocery stores around here (the Asian specialty stores and Wegmania), they clock in at about $4-5 a package. That's a wee bit too bloody much, really. ...however, a quick Googling just found me AsianFoodGrocer.com which promises them at slightly less than a dollar. I might be doomed.

Right, then. None of this is very much fun without anything to look at, is it? That will change soon, I hope. Unless someone eats my camera en route. I would be terribly cross. (Especially since it's bringing me a Dorrie Greenspan cookbook, too!)

03 January 2009

Where'd it go, the time that I had?

School, that's where.

Also, blogging isn't much fun without a functioning camera, and that's also where I've been. The old Canon A80 gave up the ghost (or displayed the ghost, depending--there were a lot of mysterious lines and blurs and inexplicable Dark Spots on all pictures for the last few months), so I'm waiting for a Canon Powershot A590IS to arrive from the good folks at Amazon.

The holidays brought with them a great deal of cooking and knitting, of which there are no photos. Thrilling, no?

But the short list of important milestones, blogwise-speaking:

Knitting:
Finished Cookie A.'s Monkey Socks for my mother and knit Easy Drop-Stitch Scarf for my sister-in-law from the most delicious yarn I've ever worked with, a 50/50 merino/silk from Steam Valley Fibers (purchased at Rhinebeck). It was a variegated red and black (which I'd never really seen in a yarn), and so soft and silky...well. Let's just say I liked it a lot. And would sell my firstborn for a chance to work with it again.

Also, as y'do when you get a little bit of leisure, I started the Pacific Waves shawl that I am knitting for a friend, and the Nutkin socks, because I finally got my paws on some Claudia's handpainted sock yarn, and it is glorious.

Cooking:
Made a vast array of things. Did a whole turkey for Thanksgiving, as I had my parents to feed that day, and I made my butternut squash soup (which I love to bits and pieces) for them. I also made Cranberry Dinner Rolls from Baking Bites (one of my absolute favorites, food-blogwise-speaking), and a molassess and ginger pumpkin tart from Epicurious.

For Christmas gifting, I made chocolate truffles and the best fleur-de-sel caramels I've ever had. There were also three batches of marshmallows (two vanilla, one mint), four kinds of spiced nuts, cookies, and a tiramisu-inspired birthday cake for a friend.

And if only there were photos of any of it. Alas.

I shouldn't be anywhere near food right now, either, as I rather have the plague at the moment. But I do so want to make some ice cream in my new ice cream maker attachment for ye olde Kitchenaid mixer. I'm working on deciding what kind. ...and if I eat it all myself, I won't get anyone else sick, right?