Happy St. Paddy's Day!
Today TinySprite gets a rainbow's end pot o' gold made from a piece of green pepper filled with egg salad and cheddar cheese coins. There are stars cut from steamed Okinawan sweet potato, red grapes, tomatoes, and mandarin cuties. Hope it's a lucky day for you!
Hello! I know it's the middle of March, but it has been feeling like summer these past few days in the Bay Area. It was too hot in the kitchen to cook, believe it or not, so I decided to make a fresh cool salad for dinner. And tomorrow's lunch as well! Soba salad is convenient because everyone can use whatever toppings they choose: this one has snap peas, tomatoes, ham, egg, shiitake mushrooms, sesame seeds and green onion. The tsuyu goes into a separate small container on the side, but if you have a leakproof lunchbox you can drizzle it right on top ahead of time (or just omit it if desired). You can also sprinkle furikake as well. I hope this weather means the worst of the rainy winter season is over!
Another bowl type bento today; this time in an actual round bowl. I really like this apple-shaped two tier metal container. It's cute and handy and just right for meals like this. I lay some soba noodles on the bottom, added shredded romaine lettuce, cilantro and green onions, then topped with as many won tons as would fit. You can drizzle a little shoyu, chili oil, and black vinegar, or use a separate condiment bottle for that. I have a current obsession with scallion ginger sauce so I ate mine with that - SO good. One day I'll share that with you but that's for another day. Since there aren't too many fruit in season right now, I cut some red grapefruit. You might think it sounds tart and sour but they are actually quite sweet! I know some folks sprinkle sugar on top but trust me, you don't need to. If it's not sweet enough for you, maybe toss in some oranges (or squeeze some juice over). I hope you try it!
Won Ton Filling
1 lb ground meat (I used turkey but pork is traditional)
1 scallion, chopped
1 t grated ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T shoyu
1/2 T cornstarch
Mix all together and fill dumpling skins. You can change the amounts of the ingredients to suit your taste. Drop in boiling water and when they float to the surface, wait 30 more seconds and lift out gently. Serve with soup, noodles, or just as is.
Welcome to my current favorite kind of lunch: the protein bowl! I like it because it's very simple to make and the only rules are that you should use as many different varieties and colors of fresh and minimally processed foods as you can. I like to use a whole grain carb base like rice or pasta, salad greens, cruciferous vegetables, fruit, and protein.
There are tons of cookbooks offering great ideas for protein bowls, and I got the idea for this bento from Bowls of Plentyby Carolynn Carreno.
Vietnamese Bowl with Sweet and Tangy Vinaigrette Marinade:
1/4 C rice vinegar
1/4 C sesame oil
2 T soy sauce
2 T honey
1 lb. skinless chicken breasts, thin
Marinate chicken for 2 hours, then cook chicken until caramelized, 3 minutes, then turn and cook 5 minutes more or until juices run clear. Rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Lay over rice, add shredded cabbage, carrots, and other vegetables of choice (I used brussels sprouts and grapefruit segments). Serve with vinaigrette.
Sweet and Tangy Vinaigrette:
1/2 C canola oil (or other neutral flavored oil)
1/2 C rice vinegar (I also added ume vinegar)
3 inch fresh ginger, grated
3 T lime juice
1 T honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
For this Ecolunchbox Solo Cube I used chicken marinated in this vinegar shoyu sauce and then pan fried in a skillet. You can use other kinds of protein too, such as shrimp, beef, or even tofu. I made a mixed rice composed of brown rice, red rice, barley, black rice, and quinoa. I also added a tossed salad of shredded cabbage, grated carrot, and grapefruit segments. You can pack along this fresh citrusy gingery vinaigrette in a separate container to drizzle at lunchtime. Pan roasted brussels sprouts and halved grape tomatoes round out this square bento. So good, and good for you too!
In Japan, Girls' Day (Hinamatsuri, 雛祭り) is celebrated on March 3. On this day we wish for the health, success, and happiness of girls. My TinySprite is 10 years old, but not too old to enjoy a sweet token of my love for her. I hope she likes her Hello Kitty bento treat. Happy Girls' Day!
In this bento: hard boiled egg, radish, carrot, blood orange, snap peas, wild blueberries, mandarin orange.
Today we're using the SaladBook by Smart Planet that I used once previously to pack the Totoro Soba Bento last month. Remember that one? Today I've packed a Salad Bowl containing curried chickpeas, cottage cheese with sunflower seeds, cinnamon apples, pickled carrots and daikon, fresh steamed corn, pickled cucumbers and wakame, pickled red onions, and blackberries - atop tossed romaine lettuce. I am really into the bowl-type bento these days, and this kind of container is ideal because no divided sections are necessary. And there are so many possibilities!
This box is unique in that it is "ultrathin," meaning that the roundish single section container is only about one inch in height yet manages to provide 20 fl oz (591 ml) of volume.
You can see that this container is quite wide and shallow.
The box has a leakproof gasketed lid which is held in place by four tight clips which are an integral part of the lid itself, and seal by latching to the underside of the box. While this mechanism seems to work very well at keeping the box watertight, I found that the latches are so tight they can be challenging for small hands to pull open.
Here you can see the latching mechanism of the clips. There are 4 clips and they snap closed on the bottom of the container. If your (or your child's) hands aren't strong enough to push off the clip, I've found that pressing the lid and container together will release pressure on the clip and it will be easier to push up.
The box comes with an insulated zipper tote with a handy mesh pocket and a spork in a color that matches the box lid. This is a somewhat minor point, but I found it curious as to why the pocket opens downward so that when you open the lid, the spork falls out. I solved this problem by attaching an adhesive velcro closure, which works very well.
The spork now stays in place in the pocket until you choose to remove it. Yay!
The profile of the entire SaladBook after it's packed and ready to go. I found it to live up to its "ultrathin" billing quite well. I mentioned the box itself being about one inch high; when zipped up the whole bag will only take up about 2 inches of depth in your backpack (or briefcase or similar).
Alternately, you can carry it separately by the short handle strap located at the pointed end of the tote. So convenient!
The last item included in the SaladBook set is a little dressing container. It consists of a collapsible soft silicone pouch with a hard snap-close lid which also screws off for easy filling and washing. It's a great idea, but in my experience the cap opens very easily because of the soft nature of the container. I wouldn't pack it next to the box inside the tote because it might pop open and leak. But I don't think this matters too much because since the box itself is completely watertight, you can simply drizzle the dressing atop the salad before packing. That's what we did in the Totoro soba salad bento and it worked just fine.
The salad we packed today didn't require a separate dressing, so we didn't worry about it.
Overall, I think the Smart Planet Ultrathin Saladbook is a good buy; it retails for $14.99 and comes with a spork, dressing container, and insulated zipper tote. It is practical, sturdy, dishwasherable, and lightweight. Its storage profile is slim and convenient; it is leakproof and spacious. I recommend this container for kids and adults alike.
What's Halloween without a werewolf bento? A piece of jagged cheese on a mini whole wheat bagel, and a few nori cutouts make this one not-too-scary. Also in our LunchBots Clicks: edamame skewer, carrots, radish, and grapes. I wish I had a wild animal type of fork to use for this lunch; that would have been cool. Good thing we have the upcoming weekend to get ready for the trick-or-treaters; if this year is anything like previous years, we're going to have to majorly stock up. Like bulk candy Costco run!
Still going with the Halloween bento... here is Frankenstein for TinySprite! She gets a bagel with cream cheese and cucumber, plus extra ham to make her own little DIY sandwich. I also gave her a mandarin jack-o-lantern and a hard-boiled egg (not shown). Couple more days to go! Are you folks going trick-or-treating? I don't know if my kids have outgrown it yet... I guess we'll find out this weekend! Happy Halloweek!
Two halves of a single hard-boiled egg become a pair of ghost buddies in TinySprite's Halloween bento today. She also gets furikake shoyu chicken (surprise!) and furikake rice. Broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, steamed Okinawan sweet potatoes, and a miniature mandarin round out the rest of the square Ecolunchbox Solo Cube.
Hello from Totoro! Yup, it's another Totoro bento. It may be true that we are in the midst of Fall, but we are still digging the cold noodle bento these days. This one is a soba salad, with chopped romaine, shredded carrot, fishcake (kamaboko), nori, grape tomatoes, and steamed Okinawan sweet potato soot sprites. I poured tsuyu directly on the noodles because the lid is gasketed and advertised to be leakproof. Spoiler: it didn't leak! This is a new lunchbox called SaladBook by Smart Planet. It's only the first time we've used it so we'll reserve judgement until we use it again. Stay tuned!
Today I made another recipe from the Lucky Rice Cookbook that I received earlier this past summer. Last time I made garlic smashed cucumbers and it was a perfect side addition to our bento repertoire. I was intrigued by the Pastrami Egg Rolls because I am a huge fan of pastrami and this seemed like a fun way to use it in bento. There wasn't a picture of these in the cookbook so I'm not sure exactly how the author meant for them to look, but I laid the pastrami strips inside the wrapper neatly in a couple different ways.
I also made a vegetarian filling since I was going to be deep-frying anyway, and it seems more balanced to add at least some vegetables. I preferred the vegetarian rolls, maybe because I ended up packing way more filling in those. But not surprisingly the kids really liked the salty cured pastrami and sauerkraut ones; I also added strips of swiss cheese in the pastrami ones (although this wasn't asked for in the original recipe).
There are two issues with egg rolls in bento: 1) egg rolls are best eaten freshly made, when they are maximally crispy and 2) now I remember why I don't like deep frying. The second reason isn't really a bento problem, it's mostly a personal dislike of spattering hot oil (and then cleaning up the mess after). The recipe, however, is a good one if you happen to like pastrami and sauerkraut. It might be even better with thinner sliced meat packed more fully, but ours was very delicious as well. Hope you can try it and see for yourself soon!
I am a former research scientist turned stay-at-home-mom of 2 who got started with bento in an effort to help my kids learn that eating healthy and nutritious foods can be fun and cute. I make a bento lunch for my 13yo (8th grader) son & my 9yo (4th grader) daughter every school day, and post the pictures on my sherimiya ♥ flickr photostream. Here in this blog is where I describe each bento, and you'll also get a peek inside our family adventures. Thanks for taking a look, and please let me know what you think ^-^!