Monday, December 22, 2008


Oi! Oi! Oi!

I'm sorry I haven't updated here for a while. With the holiday season in full swing, my husband starting a new job (working evenings), and the baby, I just haven't had the time to post new bentos, let alone make ones that were all that pretty or interesting. I guess I could still put up pictures of them, but I feel like they have to pass at least one criteria (not just be rice with a topping or fried rice).

Hopefully, I'll be posting more soon, at least something more meaningful than this. Thank you all for reading!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Halloween foods and bentos!

First the bento boxed lunches!

Single Tier: Sticky rice, steamed purple cauliflower "trees", snow pea "grass", nori bats, and American cheese moon. Packet of instant miso soup on the side.
Snack: Apple, two candy corn Hershey's kisses, and snack sized Snickers.
Single Tier: Four homemade smoked salmon and cream cheese "sushi" rolls (more like kimbap since there's no seasoning in the rice) with nori bats and pumpkins and cut up snow peas.
Snack: Black and white halloween dango with savory sweet sauce ("Troll oysters and Goblin blood"), blueberry daifuku, Hershey's dark chocolate snack bar.

Now for the "normal" foods!

Close ups of the Halloween Dango.
("Troll oysters with Goblin blood.")
Another close-up.
Spicy Shrimp Bokkeum over glutinous rice
("Witch Finders with Enchanted Giant Carrots")
Sauted Fennel with Lotus Seeds
Baked Fresh Beets
Seedless Watermelon carved into a brain.
(First time I ever did that... I think it turned out well.)
Close up of the Halloween sushi. :-)

Rice Buns a plenty

I've heard of rice buns for a while now, well over a year. Not buns made with rice flour, but buns made with glutinous (sticky japanese) rice. Glutinous rice does not contain gluten. It's called glutinous due to it's sticky nature. I wanted to make some, but I never got around to it for whatever reason.

Well... I finally made some.

If you ever made onigiri, the concept is very similar. The steps are as well.

To make Rice Buns: Cook glutinous rice as usual. (Methods are slightly different depending on whether you are using a rice cooker or not. There are many websites that explain how to cook rice in each instance.) Let rice cool enough that you can handle it without burning yourself. Fill a bowl halfway with water and add some salt. Stir until the salt is mostly dissolved. Take a handful of rice and press into a bun shape, making sure to apply an even, firm pressure. Basically, the same thing you would do with onigiri, except you are making a bun shape. Keep rewetting your hands with the salty water as you work or the rice will stick to your hands and become hard to manage. Heat some oil in a pan, just enough to lightly coat the pan. Add the rice buns. Gently turn the buns over after a minute or so. There should be a light crispy coating forming. **If you want to add some flavoring and color, you can brush the cooked side with some soy sauce while the other side is cooking, turn the buns over and brush the freshly cooked side with more soy sauce and finish by toasting that side again as well.

Do NOT broil the buns or try toasting them in the oven. This draws too much moisture out and makes the texture unpleasant. I have yet to try toasting them on my kitchen grill.

Rice buns are so easy and inexpensive to make. We have had them with hamburgers, egg sandwiches, tuna fish salad, peanut butter and jelly, and even cream cheese and jelly. I actually prefer these over baking or buying gluten free bread, if for no other reason than the low cost, neutral flavor, pleasant texture, and how easily I can throw them together. I plan to try flavoring them in other ways, by adding other sauces as glazing or by adding herbs. Maybe add a little food coloring to make them look more like bread buns.

They don't store incredibly well, but I've used older, cooked, unformed glutinous rice with great results. Some people freeze them until ready for use, but I have yet to do that. I usually eat them fast enough that there's no concern. ;-)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bentos for 10.20.08 - 10.24.08

I didn't have a chance to post these last week. I was fighting a cold or something and my husband was preparing for his new job. So... Monday there was no bento, and I had instant miso soup for lunch on Wednesday.

Here's the Bentos for last week:
Tuesday Bento
Top Tier: Homemade kimchi, sugar snap peas, halved red grapes
Bottom Tier: "Go Bulgogi" kimbap with kimchi flavored furikake
Dessert (not shown): 1 dark chocolate and 1 milk chocolate with almonds snack sized Hershey bars.
Thursday Bento
Top Tier: Whole seedless red grapes, halved sugar snap peas, chocolate graveyard (chocolate pudding with chocolate "headstones")
Bottom Tier: White rice, smoked salmon, nori tree, furikake seasoning
Dessert: Dark chocolate Hershey bar, 2 candy corn Hershey kisses
Friday Bento
Top Tier: Two large and one small onigiri with minced carrot, nori faces, smoked salmon (on the small onigiri), halved snow peas
Bottom Tier: Sliced apples tossed in lemon juice, tapioca pudding
Dessert (not shown): 2 snack sized Snickers bars
Husband's "first day of work" snack bento (Friday)
Single Tier: Six small onigiri with minced carrot and kimchi
furikake, carrot slices with flowers cut out, sugar snap peas

Friday, October 24, 2008

Eye See You!

I'm going to make some fake eye balls for my mother's Halloween dinner this Sunday, for a bentos this week, and for our smaller, but scarier dinner on Halloween night.

One idea I had was using Daifuku or sweet red bean filled mochi. The red filling with the mushy sweet outside would be a wonderful treat, and I could try using food coloring to paint on details (if it works). Dango (boiled mochi balls without fillings) was another option.

The other idea I had was for a more savory treat. My husband and I made some "Go Bulgogi", as he likes to call it. Basically, you make bulgogi (korean grilled marinated beef) using ground beef instead of strips. This made it easy to stuff into Onigiri and was darned tasty. So, for the savory Zombie Eyes, we were thinking about making the "Go Bulgogi" into meat balls before cooking. Then we would wrap the cooked meatballs in the mochi dough much like the red bean paste is wrapped in the mochi dough, though I'm not sure if I would use a plain flavor or a sweet. (I think the sweet mochi casing would be a nice compliment to the savory sweet meat filling!)

Here's one sweet recipe my mother sent me. It looks good and was very different than what I was originally going to do. Enjoy!


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chocolate Rib Cage

I found this last night, during my search. A chocolate rib cage! Couldn't you just die?!? The original project on the website was to fill the ribcage with organs made of cake with a filling that oozed out when the organs were cut. Pretty nasty looking, but a great idea! Click on the link at the bottom of this entry to see the full cake. Definitely worth looking at! (And then check out the zombie head cake!!!)

I fell in love with the rib cage part more so than the rest and it looks easy enough. I'm thinking about making this for my mother's Halloween Dinner this Sunday, though I might make it smaller. It's tempting to try to make it large so it can hold the Bone cookies, but we'll see. A smaller one might be cool and easier. We'll see if I have the time!

Hm... I wonder how chocolate bones would work in bento... Or if I can make one to work in it... hm...

Anyways, here's the link for the cake. The ribcage instructions are on page two:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Halloween searches and Bone Cookie Recipe Link

I'm working on finding Halloween recipes to make for my family. Of course, any that would work for bentos are doubly nice. So many cute ideas, and so many that can be altered to work for lunches. Ooh... the possibilities.

I'll definitely post the websites as I find them with my top pick from their selection (even though there might be a few from the site). Hopefully, I'll be able to make a few and post pictures too, along with a review. If I can't, at least some of you might be able to enjoy the spoils of my research. So, to start you off...

Bone Cookies from "How Stuff Works":

Friday, October 17, 2008

Blueberry Daifuku

Tonight was my first attempt at making Daifuku.

Daifuku is basically a mochi dumpling that is stuffed with a sweet filling. Usually the filling is an anko paste (a sweet red bean paste), but they aren't limited to that. Daifuku is a popular treat in Japan.

My husband and I aren't used to mochi or its consistancy though we've tried it in a few forms. I know this might be an acquired taste, so we are going to give it more time. These were pretty good, given that we are still adjusting to the texture and that it was my first attempt. I didn't really bother with a recipe. I simply did a bit of research to get an idea of how they are made and then gave it a try. The consistancy felt right (from what I know about mochi) and the base ratios were correct. My husband liked that tang from the blueberries. This recipe is easy enough, I can see using it as a base for more different types of Daifuku.

So... I'm going to post the recipe with a few notes of changes I might try next time.

Blueberry Daifuku
1 cup glutinous rice flour (like Mochiko sweet rice flour)
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar, plus extra for covering
1/8 tps vanilla extract
1 drop food coloring (we used green)
Frozen blueberries
Potato starch, for dusting

In a sauce pan, heat the water on medium-high heat. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Add the vanilla extract and the food coloring. When water is at a boil, turn down the heat to medium and add the rice flour. Stir to blend until smooth. If it gets too thick to stir, add a couple tablespoons of water.

When the rice flour in fully incorporated, transfer it to a cutting board or other flat work surface with a spatula. Don't use your hands as the mixture will be very hot. You may dust the surface with potato starch before putting the rice flour mixture on it, which may help with sticking. A thin layer of the mixture will stick to the pot. Don't worry about scraping it all off. Spread the rice mixture evenly on the flat surface to promote even cooling.

Dust your hands with potato starch and start pulling pieces off of the dough. Roll them into balls (about as big as a quarter all around), then flatten into disks. Take a blueberry and put one on each of the mochi disks. Pinch the edges of the disks together and seal shut. Gently roll the dumpling in the sugar and set aside to eat. When finished, serve immediately or freeze.

*Notes: Next time, I want to used a fresh fruit or harder filling. Defrosted frozen blueberries were a bit soft and runny. Thickened blueberry pie filling might work well, but it would need to be a paste-like consistancy and would need to be set in the freezer to harden. I would also use some of the final sugar more in the process. I would like to see how these would turn out if they were lightly baked or cooked further in some other method. I do have to say that it was pretty good for first try and for something we just aren't quite used to.

Lunch 10.16.08 - Flowers and Stars bento

Another attempt at cuteness. Fairly simple fare, but tasty, nonetheless.

Top Tier: Flowers made of carrots and snow peas, red pepper bits, sesame seed ground, white american cheese background, and white rice.
Bottom Tier: Carrot slices, cheese hot dog slices, nori star cut-outs.
Snack: Homemade Kimchi.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Family Fun: Strawberry Ladybugs and other ideas

A friend of mine on one of my other blogs gave me a link to Family Fun when she was telling me about some adorable strawberry lady bugs that she makes her girls.

She uses a number of the website's tips and ideas to make her daughters' lunches and noticed that her children are much more likely to eat these cute food items. Seems to be the case, as many parents who bento have come to learn.

I took a quick look at the different sections and found them pretty nifty!!! Even the normal looking "kids foods" looked very tasty and bento friendly. (Like the Pickles in a Blanket.)

Anyways, here's a link to the basic Family Fun: Cooking With Kids section.

All images in this particular post are copyrighted and belong to Family Fun. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Lunch 10.15.08 - Seascape Bento

My first attempt at a bento featuring scene. :-)

Top tier: Octidogs (a cheese hotdog) with sesame seed eyes, nori fish with sesame seed bubbles, nori and snow pea seaplants, American cheese (white and yellow) ocean, white rice
Bottom tier: sliced Roma tomato and red pepper, homemade baechu kimchi
Snack Side: halved red grapes over vanilla yogurt

Next time, I would mix salt and pepper to the white rice to add a bit more kick. Otherwise, it was very enjoyable.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lunch 10.08.08 - Sesame Teddy Bear Bento

This bento was extremely tasty and the dinner these foods were left over from was a "scrounge and cook" meal. Turned out better than I expected, and filled my bento wonderfully. :-)

Top tier: Homemade kimchi, sesame crusted chicken bites
Bottom tier: Carrot and turnip kinpira with a toasted sesame seed bear face.

I'll try to post the recipes, even though I need to work on them a bit. :-)

Monday, October 13, 2008

What is bento?

What is bento?

Bento is a boxed meal. If you want to get technical, it's any boxed meal, including takeout from a fast food restaurant or a frozen TV dinner.

Bento, however, is also an 'art'. I'm not only talking about the uber cute bentos with cartoon characters or landscapes. To me, a well balanced meal, both in taste, texture, and nutrition, is a work of art. *Though I do have to admit that I love looking at the cute creations people put together!*

There are a couple ratio rules I've seen, but my thought is that if you have a little of everything, then you are doing well. I usually pack a starch, a protein, a vegetable or two, and some fruit. I'm not as worried about what ratio I am packing, though usually the items are about equal to eachother (though I sometimes forego the fruit).

And don't worry about whether your food is Japanese, Asian, or just plain old everyday food. Fact is, if you are going to bento and stick to it, you should enjoy the stuff that you pack and it should be stuff you actually *will* pack!

Why do I bento?

The answer to that is very simple... I love food. More so, I love well made, home cooked food. I like the fact that when I make bentos, I can use up leftovers easily. Even if I only have a few tablespoons of something left, those few tablespoons can be a wonderful addition to my meal. I love the versatility in textures, flavors, and colors. A well packed bento can be very filling and hold as much food as a normal meal (if not more).

I have made bento lunches, bento breakfasts, and bento dinners. It all depends on what's going on in my life. My husband loves to make and eat bento meals too, and we plan to make bento meals for our child when he's old enough to eat something other than breastmilk.

What do I usually pack?

Here's a list of what I normally have or prefer for each category:

Protein - Ojinga bokkeum (korean spicy squid stirfry), Bulgogi (korean marinated, grilled meat), garbanzo beans, and eggs. Sometimes I'll get some hotdogs and have octidogs. Yum! I do pack other meats (like chicken, pork, seafood, etc), but mainly, I love to eat the stuff I just listed.

Starch - Normally white rice. I know brown is better, but I have to watch my money and white rice is easier and cheaper to get (especially from the asian markets). Whether the rice is plain, has a little soy sauce, is in the shape of onigiri, or is fried doesn't matter. I like them all. Sometimes I have potatoes, usually made in a korean style. See a trend?

Vegetables - Frozen sugar snap peas, kimchi (spicy pickled korean vegetables... usually I go for the nappa cabbage or baechu kimchi), refridgerator pickles (just pickles in a vinegar-sugar mixture I make), sliced carrots, or whatever veggies are mixed into my fried rice. I've also been getting into vegetable curries.

Fruit - Usually oranges, apples, or grapes. I do add other fruit, but these are usually a staple in my kitchen and are my 'fall backs'.

Treat - Sometimes the fruit is the treat, but sometimes not. So, when it's not fruit, I will sometimes pack little licorce scotties, homemade desserts, small candies, etc. These are rare though.

Extra - A prenatal multivitamin pill is a semi-staple, due to the fact that I'm breastfeeding, though I would use a normal one in my bentos anyways. Also soy sauce, sesame seeds, and nori are not uncommon in my bentos.

Below are a few more examples of my past (and early) bentos: