Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bento Meals: 9/21/10

Last night, I made a lot of bento lunches! One for my son, my husband and myself. A bit of a strain on the back, but it made me feel good to do this for them. I also packed myself a nice breakfast this morning too, though I didn't finish it all. That just means I'll have some extra for tomorrow! :-)

Also, if you didn't know, chili is one of those foods that taste better after it rests. Last night it was okay, but today it was absolutely delicious! Good job, Honey!

Breakfast Bento

Harvest Grits
(grits made with diced apple, minced dried cranberries, a mix of brown sugar and white sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, butter, and a dash of salt.)

Lunch Bento

Top Tier (Snack)
GF cornbread (made with yogurt instead of milk)
Miniature apple

Bottom Tier (Lunch)
Cheddar frico (cheese cooked into a crispy chip)
Chili over white rice
American cheese harvest cut-outs
Sweet green peas
3 Hershey's Candy Corn Kisses (I gave one of them to my co-worker)

My son's and husband's lunch bentos were similar to mine, except without the mini apple.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Thoughts on bentoing in my family

The Sunday before last, my younger brother gave his fiance a nice Zojirushi Mr. Bento Lunch Jar and Bento Boxes: Japanese Meals On The Go (a cookbook for practical foods that are easy to pack into bentos, with little-to-no emphasis on the cute stuff). The package actually arrived on Thursday, when my husband, son, and I routinely visit my mother.

I thought it somewhat neat. I've been working with bentos for over 6 years and got my older sister and mother packing bento lunches as well. My mother even started buying a number of the cute bento box recipe books (having several in her collection and possibly her first repeat purchase of the same title). It's not uncommon for my husband or me to pack a family bento to take over to my mother's house or on trips. We have several different types of containers, ranging from the small cute children's bento boxes (snack and meal) to large picnic tiffin sets. I actually bought a Zojirushi Classic Mr. Bento Stainless Steel Lunch Jar (before it was called "Classic") and a cheaper version from another company (which I forget the name of) for when my husband was working as an auditor, which kept him on the road and in remote locations with little chance of stopping for food or heating up what was packed.

I'm left feeling curious why my younger brother suddenly found this an interesting idea. Surely, he's seen my husband and I pack them, but he's expressed no interest. Surely, he's heard my husband, sister, or I talk about them, but again, he's expressed no interest. I asked him if his fiance is into making bento lunches (because she too has not shown anything that would say so, but there's admittedly there's only so much people get to talk about when time is so limited and she doesn't really post much on Facebook). My brother responded that he likes to buy her a new cookbook each year and that she likes asian cuisine. Ah... that explains it. He saw the book, thought it an interesting idea, and bought her a container to go with her. She seemed to think it nifty (my mother also got her compact chopsticks, with a container, that unscrew into four pieces for ease of travel... something I've been wanting for a while because they are pretty cool). Her response to him was, "So, you are going to pack my lunches for me?"

My older brothers were confused by it all, but that's okay. Everyone acted like this was a cool new concept... and I thought, "Wait a second... I've been doing this for years, guys!" But that's okay. Admittedly, even though my family (siblings, parents, etc) are not what you would call "normal", we all have our oddities in different directions. Mine is things like artistic endeavors, bento packing, cooking Asian dishes (mainly Korean), going to steampunk events (and helping create a steampunk larp), and so on. I would say that I don't really fit, because it's true. My brothers have their little grouping of oddities. My oldest sister is the most normal, which actually makes her a bit more odd in our family. My older sister is very heavily into middle eastern and belly dance things. I don't even really know what is considered "normal". The other things is that I tend to be more laid back about the things I'm into... I don't discuss them much because in my mind, they just "are". There's no reason to point out the bento meals or go into details about a particular design of steampunk attire I'm figuring out. I don't bring these things into the limelight. Perhaps it's because I'm somewhat humble, or perhaps I don't see them as all that special because they are normal to me. I don't know. I just know that the reaction to the bento gift to my youngest brother's fiance caught me off-guard.

Bentos are definitely spreading, and it's nice to see it catch the attention of yet another member (and soon-to-be member) of my family.
Last Wednesday, I went on a Korean food cooking frenzy. My back felt it the next day... very much so. But the food was healthy and delicious. I made:
Mak Kimchee (easy nappa cabbage kimchee)
Galbi ( marinated beef short ribs)
Uhmook Bokkeum (spicy stir-fried fish cakes)
Sigeumchi Namul (seasoned spinach)
Kinpira (japandese sweet seasoned carrots and potatoes)

The bento I ate on Friday (though it was actually intended for Thursday) was made up of a number of the items made.

Top tier
Mak Kimchee
Sigeumchi Namul

Bottom Tier
White Rice with Furikake
Uhmook Bokkeum

I was planning on making some Oi Kimchee (stuffed cucumber kimchee) and Ggakdugi Kimchee (daikon radish kimchee), but was too tired and was still debating some of the recipes I wanted to use.

My husband actually helped with the Mak Kimchee. It didn't turn out quite right, but I was using a new recipe and we used fine ground red pepper powder instead of course ground... which means more pepper powder ended up being used for the same measurement. (Course ground lays in the measuring cup different, allowing more space between the pieces compaired to the fine ground.) I ran into this problem before, but forgot to mention it to dear hubby. I also didn't tell him to add extra ginger root, which is what we like. Oh well. Still is decent kimchee and we got to try new veggies we don't normally use for it.

Also, the Galbi recipe I used definitely needs some tinkering. A korean pear apple or kiwi or some other acidic fruit would have helped tenderize the meat better, but since I was using a new recipe, I figured it would be best to follow it properly.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bento Meal: 9/9/10

Yet again, it's been a while since I packed a bento. The week before last, I was in too much pain to be bothered (standing long enough to pack a decent bento would have been too much on my back). Then last week, I had the pains again, but also in the abdomen. Not round ligaments, but from an "Irritablility", as my doctor put it, from not drinking enough fluids. Great. So, I was a bit more focused on other things rather than packing food.

Earlier this week was as follows: Monday was Labor Day, so no need to pack for work. Tuesday, I had a frozen personal size pizza. Wednesday, I had leftovers from taking my hubby out to dinner for his birthday.

But today, I was determined to pack my lunch. Also helped that I don't really have much in the way of "grab and go" food ready at this time and I definitely didn't want to go out to buy food or order in, so a packed lunch was a must.

Today's Bento...

Fried rice (beef, onions, tater tots, and white rice, seasoned with salt and sesame oil)
Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves)
Cucumber slices

Gluten-free chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filler and chocolate icing

Limeade (to be watered down further)

Pretty much everything was leftovers. The beef and tater tots in the fried rice was leftovers from my son. The beef was from Monday dinner and the tater tots from yesterday's lunch. I figured he'd not be interested in either today, especially with leftover homemade spaghetti available. The cake was also from Monday, which my mother made my husband for his birthday. The dolmas were leftover from my small dinner yesterday. I wasn't very hungry, so I had a few with some buttered rice on the side... 1/3 of which my son ended up eating, even though he had dinner and a small dessert prior. I'm not complaining though. He's at that stage where he's not really eating much (quantity-wise), so I didn't mind sharing. Besides, as I said, I wasn't that hungry.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bentos from Parenting Magazine

I always find it super spiffy when I see neat lunch ideas or containers that are obviously inspired by or at least similar to bentos. Usually, it's the containers that are seen more than actual examples of what to pack.

Lately, I've been going through my old magazines. When I get a new one, I go through it immediately. I save the pages I want to keep and recycle the rest, because they just take up too much space (and xeroxing the pages I want before donating the magazines just never seemed to actually happen).

A week or so ago, I saw in my newest copy of Parenting Magazine a mention of packing bentos. They actually used the term (which sometimes happens, but not often), and had a very cute example of a bunny. They gave a quick description and said that you can go to their website for more information. Of course, I had to do it and I'm glad they did. There are such cute ideas on there that I haven't seen before or for a while. They also give a "how to" in making the key elements. Here's some of the photos and ideas I liked the best. (Click here to go to the website.)

Jelly sandwiches... I would not have thought to make them like this! Thought I don't know how well gluten free breads will work for these.
A pizza sandwich and "cake" sandwiches. Now this is something I can make with the gluten free breads and I'm sure my son would love them. I also really like the mash potatoes in the secont bento's top tier.
I'm actually more impressed by the green peas "roll" and the cheese mouse, but the cat is very cute too.
Not too fond of the bear, though I'm sure kids would love it. I do like the use of the grapes. I tend to pack halved grapes often enough, so seeing them used like this, in so easy and yet pretty a manner really caught my attention. Only one draw back... less packed grapes! And note the cute cherry tomato with cheese slices in the center. How cute and interesting is that?
Obviously, I think the hedge hogs are adorable and a great idea. I also like the deli meat and egg ribbons gathered together like that. For the cute tiger... I've seen this done before, but still love the idea. The main thing I like in this second bento, though, is the idea of cutting a meatball in half and placing sliced cheese between the halves. Very similar to the cherry tomato idea above.
Onigiri cows... I mean, really! That's adorable!!! (And oddly, it reminds me of my husband.)
The main thing I like in the following bentos are the chicken nuggets. No need to pack dips if you cut the nuggets in half and put a dab of dip between them. That is an excellent idea! Of course, the spaghetti nest with mozzarella ball birds is very cute too.
And lastly, mini "hamburgers". Meatballs, halved like before, with lettuce, cherry tomato slices, and whatever else you wish on a nice pick... to make bento perfect mini hamburgers. :-)
Hope you all enjoyed. Definitely check out the website and the "how to" guides. I definitely plan to implement some of these ideas in future bentos (and maybe as nice touches to regular meals).