Friday, July 23, 2010

Bento Meals: 7/23/10

I haven't been making bento lunches the last few days. I had 2 packages of different types of bau (stuffed buns) and leftover bulgogi dolseot bibimbap (a korean dish of rice topped with vegetables, marinated/grilled beef, and an egg). As you can see, I was pretty much covered with food. Then yesterday, we also had a free lunch from Costco, though I enjoyed the last of my bibimbap over the items they brought in, of which I am glad I only took a small sampling.

Today's lunch bento, which I hope to start devouring soon, has a main dish of ojinga bokkeum (spicy stir-fried squid). Anyone who followed this blog for a while (or looks into older entries) will see that I am obviously a big fan of this dish. This time, my husband made it. We use Maanchi's recipe as a base (click here for her recipe) and it is always a win! That doesn't mean we don't plan to try other people's versions too, just to see what suits us best.

This time, we used squid slices that were already scored. My husband found we were low on green onions, but this wasn't a huge concern given all the other veggies I was going to have him add. We were also out of white sugar, so my husband added brown sugar. We added carrot and zucchini matchsticks; the zucchini pieces were salted and squeezed to remove excess moisture. The sauce turned out a bit thin, which we've never had happen before (but wasn't surprising), so my hubby added some tapioca starch. This concoction turned out very well, though I prefer our usual ojinja bokkeum.

Our son ate more of this new version than I remember him ever eating our regular version. A nice way to get him to eat more veggies given that he's still in that stage of veggie-pickiness. The squid was a lot easier to eat because of the scoring and the veggies toned down the spiciness. Still, the flavor was missing something, but I'm just happy my son ate the entire amount we served him within a short period of time (rather than his long period of pick-while-play method).

On to the bentos:
Lunch Bento
ojinga bokkeum (spicy squid stir-fry w/ extra veggies) topped with furikake
white rice
broccoli, lightly cooked
quicky dipping sauce (gochujang, soy sauce, sugar, salted green onion and garlic, and sesame oil)

Snack Bento
cantaloupe (musk melon)
natural peanut butter w/ brown sugar

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thoughts inspired by processed foods in bentos...

First, I wanted to mention that we found out the gender of our little Pinto. It's a girl. The running joke with everyone we've told thus far is that we now have "A Perfect Match". One of each and the oldest being a boy... not what we expected when we talked about having kids (before we had our son), but nice nonetheless.

Now on to the main point of this post.

I've been looking at a number of really nifty bento blogs. One of my favorites is E-Obento, which is run by a woman in Japan who is apparently very well known over there for her creative meals. The webpage is written completely in Japanese, but I've learned a lot from her blog by simply looking at the photos she posts (both of completed meals and of the prepping pictures). Heck, the broccoli "flower" I made recently was inspired by her carnations. Granted, mine was a "quickie" flower, but I still like how it turned out and owe the credit for the idea to her.


After a while, a few things have become more and more clear, the more I look at most bentos...
1. There is a disturbing amount of highly processed foods used, especially processed meats.
2. A goodly number are unbalanced in their food choices (like providing mostly proteins, bread and cheese in a given meal, especially noticable on E-Obento).

For many parents, the processed foods aren't that big a concern, but unfortunately for my family it is. We seriously monitor how much processed foods we buy/eat and are slowly cutting out more and more, the main ones we avoid being most junk foods and processed meats. This isn't hard to do since we have to avoid so many foods due to my husband's issues with gluten. Sandwiches and wraps are nice treat for us, which means the need for sandwich/wrap fillers are far less. Add to that my limitted intake of red meats and poutry, and you cut out many deli meats. Bacon, sausage, and hotdogs are rare for us as well. (And I do see the irony that my banner here features octi-dogs.) Even before I started cutting back on meats, we were careful with these items when we purchased them, buying ones that didn't contain sulfites, nitrates, and other particular chemicals.

I'm not saying we don't eat any processed foods. We definitely do! We just try to limit them and we definitely read the labels to try to make informed decisions. We rarely eat ketchup or salad dressings, but I use a decent amount of soy sauce and red pepper paste. We avoid buying potato chips, but do buy tortilla chips (which I love to melt cheddar cheese on them with salsa... delish but I rarely do this now). We don't have a lot of condiments compared to most people I know, but I do try to always have one (and usually only one) container of icecream in the freezer and have been buying cereals more often rather than making oatmeal (cold breakfast is nice in warm weather). Donuts, cakes, breads, pastas, and the like are also considered treats (either being very time consuming to make from scratch, semi-expensive as a pre-made mix, or darned expensive as ready-made).

There have been many times that my typical diet (ie. the foods I eat regularly, not "diet" to lose weight) has been described to me as very healthy. I tend to agree. At the same time, I'm not sure how one doesn't eat healthy because I'm not sure what people usually eat. My family doesn't eat out often, and when we do eat out, we typically choose healthier places or make more balanced choices (substituting fries for a side of veggies and so on). It's just second nature to us because of years of avoiding gluten. Currently, I've been eating gluten because of this pregnancy, but still try to limit it and will continue decreasing the amounts more and more.

I'm not passing judgement on people who choose to each the items my family doesn't. It's not my place to... though I will if the parents are only offering their children junk food. We all have our pet-peeves. I really do feel that each family's dynamic is different and accept that mind is different. After all, how many middle-class caucasian families serve their children a diverse menu of foods, which regularly include Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Tex-Mex, Italian, French, and more? How many kids in a standard American family rarely has burgers, meatloaf, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, potato salad, macaroni and cheese and so forth, and never even had fish sticks? We also tend to allow our son sips of our coffee (which is normally decaf but sometimes "caffeine-lite") rather than allow him to have sodas. Like I said, I know my family is not the typical when it comes to food. I also understand that you really can't get a real idea of the family's diet by just looking at one meal or one meal per day. How many people eat cereal, yogurt, a bagel, or oatmeal for breakfast without anything else but then eats full meals the rest of the day?

So back to bentos... I've just been noticing that so many people seem design their bentos with processed meats and the like and it's been making me think...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bento Meals: 7/19/10

I decided to start trying to incorporate red meats and poultry to my meals again. The reason I gave them up was mostly because they were making me sick, but that very likely could have been due to the pregnancy. The other reason was for the treatment of the animals and the right to live vs. die, but that reason is harder for me to justify... since fish and shellfish have as much right to live and the same applies to plants. I don't plan on becoming a fruitarian though! (Fruitarians are a group of people that eat only vegetation that doesn't kill the plants; their diet mostly consisting of raw fruit, nuts, and seeds.)

Today's lunch looks so lovely and yummy. Sadly, my belly isn't really cooperating today, so I'm not sure how much I'll actually eat.

On to the details!

Lunch Bento:
Thai coconut meat patties
dolmas (cut bite-sized)
potato-broccoli gratin (with Guyere, Parmesan, and Romano cheeses)
flower made of broccoli and green pepper

Snack Thermos:
Korean cold cucumber soup (Oi Naengguk)

Another close up of the Lunch Bento. I love how it looks. :-)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Savory Spinach Ricotta Crepes

The crepes that are seen in my bento today was made by my husband. He wanted to make crepes for a dinner, to test out a recipe in one of our gluten free cookbooks, and I wanted something that would be fast for him to make and which our son might actually eat. My poor boy is teething again, so something soft would be great, but preferably not too mushy or hot. (He's also been steering away from cold things, so obviously we needed something just warm enough.)

So I figured, why not make some spinach-ricotta crepes. While figuring out our grocery list the other day, I did some research on different savory crepes. I didn't want nutmeg in it and wanted a decent amount of spinach AND ricotta.

There's a few factors to keep in mind:
1. My son has entered that stage of not wanting to eat most green veggies.
2. My husband and I aren't into the idea of "Sneaky Chef" type recipes. We want our son to be aware that he's eating veggies and fruits and get accustomed to their look, texture, and flavor in different dishes.
3. I wanted it to be quick and easy, regardless of whether my husband made the filling or I did.

All in all, the crepes were a success. My son devoured his, as long as they looked like they were coming off of my plate. After all, the food on Mommy's plate must be better. We were relieve and excited that he not only ate a decent amount, but he knowingly ate green!

This is definitely a family favorite now. The recipe below was written up by my husband.

Savory Spinach-Ricotta Crepes
1/2 pound frozen spinach, thawed, and finely chopped
1 cup ricotta
3 tbs grated parmesan
3 tbs grated romano
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tbs olive oil
Crepes made from recipe in "Gluten Free Baking Classics" by Annalise Roberts

Cook onions in olive oil until translucent, add garlic, add spinach and cook out majority of water. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix ricotta, romano, and parmesan together then add spinach. Mix thoroughly and spoon about 3 tbs into crepes, roll, place in microwave safe dish and heat until crepes are warm.

Bento Meals: 7/15/10

Today's bento is much more interesting, though quite a lot of food! The only real problem I have with the Laptop Lunchbox is that it tends to hold so much... at least when one is packing it like a bento box (while using denser foods) and not like a typical American meal. These boxes are supposed to be used for a kid's lunch with maybe a snack, but it's at least two meals for me! My food weighed quite a bit, but given how my appetite seems to have returned, this might be a good thing... I already ate the green peppers and am trying to hold off on eating other sections. That's not to say I don't like using these boxes; I really do! I like how they have such easy compartments; I'm just not sure how I feel about these originally being marketted for kids. Then again, my son's not a teen yet, so my tune may easily change later on. (Side Note: I couldn't wait. Halfway through writing this, I grabbed the dolmas and yogurt.)

The typical meal I imagine would have a sandwich, a fruit, some cut up veggies with dip (or a salad with a little dressing), and maybe a 'treat' (like chips, cracker, pudding, or so on). I'm probably not far off, since that's what I mostly see on the website's customer gallery. Click on the following link to see:

Anyways, on to my lunch.

(Clockwise from the top-left)
Section 1: Savory crepes with ricotta-spinach filling
Section 2: Green pepper slices
Section 3: Nectarine pieces
Section 4: Dolmas and vanilla yogurt with ground cinnamon

Bento Meal: 7/14/10

I think my little Pinto had a growth spurt and my body couldn't adjust fast enough. I had to cancel my plans on Sunday to rest, let work early on Monday, and then took Tuesday off because of how sick and out-of-it I felt. I did work a few hours from home on Tuesday though, and then stayed a half hour late yesterday. I really hate taking sick days, especially right now.

So yesterday, since I was still feeling off, I packed a light lunch. I had some snack in my desk in case I got hungry before or after I ate my bento, which worked out well. My boss saw my little bento lunch and even asked, "What's in your bento?" He then went on to say that if it came from home, it's bound to be interesting. I was actually surprised he remembered the word "bento." Unfortunately, this was one of my less interesting lunches, but it was still suited to my day and my appetite.

sliced green peppers
pasta salad (homemade gluten free pasta, shrimp, celery, green pepper, and sauted onions)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bento Meals and Etc.: 7/3/10 - 7/7/10

I've been meaning to post for a few days now, but I've wasn't able for one reason or another. So here we go! :-)

Picnic Sushi Bentos: 7/3/10
These were made for a Fourth of July Firework event my family goes to every year with my mom, her boyfriend, and my oldest sister's family. Too bad the "red" rice looked more pink, but it was was very cute. I also didn't get a picture of the vanilla soy pudding, fruit, or other treats we took, but I think the pictures below make up for it. My nieces and mother thought they were neat and my nieces said the pieces we gave them were delicious. ;-)

The sushi rolls contain a mix of the following:
tamago (sweet omlette)
marinated shiitake
carrot strips
cucumber strips
nori stars
colored rice (red, blue, or white)

Bento Lunch: 7/6/10
My bento meal for 7/6/10 was rather simple and didn't warrant a picture. Half of it I didn't eat and repacked into my lunch for 7/7/10. What I did eat was my blueberries, grapes, and vanilla flavored soy pudding.

Bento Lunch: 7/7/10
This lunch was made of leftover items from my fridge or my previous day's bento.

Top Tier:
grilled seafood kabobs (shrimp and salmon with onions, different peppers, cherry tomatoes, and mushrooms)
leftover grilled lobster tail cutlets (lobster tails curled around huge scallops)

Bottom Tier:
leftover dolmas

And Lastly...
And below is a sampling of the pancakes my husband made for my family for our Fourth of July breakfast. Nothing commemorates the rebellious actions of our fore fathers than Star Wars pancakes, right???

Friday, July 2, 2010

Bento Meals: 7/2/10

No bento yesterday, but did pack a nice little set today!
The red-white-blue theme of the snack tier was a happy coincidence that I notice after having finished making it. Perfect for my last work bento before the Fourth of July. How funny!!!

Top Tier: (Snack)
vanilla yogurt
red seedless grapes, halved

Bottom Tier: (Lunch)
dolmas (domades; stuffed grape leaves)
red romaine salad
sliced mushrooms
sliced radishes
dolma oil as a dressing

This was an incredibly satisfying bento. The dolmas and salad were perfect for lunch and the snack tier was very crisp and refreshing. I can see myself making something like this again, especially since it was so fast to put together! :-)