Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hearty Spaghetti Sauce

You may have noticed from yesterday's bento that my spaghetti looked more like a Sloppy Joe on noodles. That is the way we like it around here, and in case you're a meat-lover too, I thought I would share how we make our sauce. There is nothing from scratch about it... but it sure is good!

  1. Brown 1 lb lean ground beef in a pot; drain off fat
  2. Add a 16 ounce can of tomato sauce & half a can of water
  3. Stir in a packet of Lawry's original style spaghetti sauce spices and seasonings
  4. Add sliced black olives, if desired, and heat it till it just starts bubbling
  5. Reduce heat to low and let it simmer for a bit
  6. Serve over pasta
Incidentally, these are the types of "recipes" I looked for most when I first started cooking. No one uses a recipe for spaghetti sauce, baked potatoes or boiled eggs. "But how hot is the oven?" or "How long do I boil them?" I wondered. Thank goodness for the internet.

Speedy Bento

Bento #40 is a speed bento using left-overs from last night's dinner. I spent a grand total of 4 minutes this morning on it! (I had portioned off the spaghetti last night after dinner.)

It contains:
  • Spaghetti
  • Sour dough bread (acting as a divider)
  • Honey Crisp apple slices
This bento was packed in a Gladware container so that I can remove the apples and heat up my spaghetti. Should be tasty!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The bento formally known as frozen

Bento #39 was hot! (By which I mean I microwaved it right before eating.) And a good thing, too... because it has been really cold in the cafeteria lately at the middle school I work at.

This bento contains:

  • 5 fresh tomatoes picked from my garden this morning (Can I just say again how astonished I am to be picking tomatoes in the morning, and watching it snow in the evening! What a crazy November this is.)
  • A frozen Boca pattie with carrot peelings on top for decoration
  • frozen corn
  • frozen stir-fry vegetables
  • maple chipotle grille sauce (hidden beneath the Boca burger)
I was thinking to myself as I ate my lunch today, that I had packed a bento even my vegan friends could enjoy. Being something of a carnivore myself, I found this worthy of comment.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bunny Bento

"What is that?" one of the boys from the table next to me in the cafeteria asked, watching, with furrowed brows as I raised the chopsticks to my mouth.

"What?" I glanced up to see a handful of pre-teen boys looking at me.

"That purple stuff... what is it?"

"Garlic mashed potatoes." I answered, as if it was the most normal thing in the world to be eating potatoes the hue of my utensils in the center of a middle school cafeteria.

I'm beginning to think that I may be developing an unhealthy bento obsession. I was almost late today because I felt I should add whiskers to my lunch bunny. I literally looked at the clock and thought, "It would be okay to be a little late... Wait, what am I thinking? I can make another bunny (with whiskers) some other day; I better get going!"

So here is a close-up of my bunny, sans whiskers:

Contents of bento #38:
  • 3 rice onigiri hand formed into head and two ears.
  • Nori eyes and nose
  • "Hot Shot" seasoning mouth
  • Garlic mashed potatoes tinted purple
  • carrot made of, um... carrot
  • carrot stem made of broccoli
  • 3 ham slices, skewered on a toothpick
I have entered this bento in Feisty Bento's contest: Does this make my lunch look phat?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Easy as pie?

My husband loves desserts. Specifically, he really loves chocolate cream pies. This Thanksgiving, he talked me into attempting to make one without milk (since I had never tried one before developing my milk alergy - and he felt I was really missing out).

I wasn't at all sure that it would work, so I made him agree to make the pie with me. He was game. So I first Googled cooking with soy, and found that a certain site suggested that I add 1/4 cup corn starch to my pudding filling so that it would set up. (Those of you cooks reading this, are probably already guessing this didn't work too well... but let me tell the story anyway...)

First we started by making a home-made graham-cracker crust. It was easy and fun. We took a package and a half out of our box of Honey Maid graham crackers and put them in a zip-lock bag for the karate chop. (Then we finished the job with a rolling pin.) I was afraid it might have been crushed too much - it looked like graham dust - but it worked just fine. Then we added the crumbles to about a stick of melted margerine in a bowl. I sprinkled in somewhere between a 1/3 and 1/2 cup of white sugar into the mixture. Then we pressed it with a spatula into the pie pan and put it in the fridge.

The next day, we cooked the pudding with soy milk. But instead of the 3 cups that were called for, we only used about 2 - because the website we'd looked at told us to "reduce the liquid" when using soy. And in went 1/4 cup of corn starch to make sure it would thicken. Boy did it ever! The stuff was like taffy before we could even get it to boil.

We were a bit concerned at the consistency, and added maybe another 1/4 cup of soy. We stirred it in and removed the globby mixture from the heat. We pressed it into the pan on top of the crust, using cling wrap on to so we could knead it into where it was supposed to go. We hoped it would relax, but there were still "peaks" on top when I pulled it out of the fridge the next morning to add the Cool Whip.

The pie looked fine, and we took it anyway. Though there was tremendous laughter from our friends when we explained what had happened, and they saw the chocolate pie standing up on its own and being so firm, everyone agreed it tasted just fine. There was none left when we returned home.

However, for next time, we will know to use the called for amount of (soy) milk and after it has boiled to add a small amount of corn starch. (Like maybe a Tablespoon.)

Monday Bento

Bento #37 lacks color, but was very tasty.

On the left is the insides of my left-over chicken wrap from Red Robin. It has chicken, lettus and tortilla strips in it. On the right I made little finger sandwiches out of tasty sourdough bread and turkey. In the right-hand corner we have dessert: three tiny squares of Rice Krispie treats and a few semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Visiteurs bienvenus ! (Translation Available)

I noticed that French Bento has added me to their blog roll. (Thanks again, by the way.) Since this blog is originally written in French, I decided to add the option for translation to my own blog for any visitors who happen by using her link.

Hopefully this automated translation will suffice, as I speak absolutely no French.

Appréciez !

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Turkey Bento

Ironically, bento #36 does not contain any turkey meat.

On the left I have pot roast forming the turkey's neck and head. Coriander is his eye. Nori is used for his little pilgrim hat and the letters. Tomato for the gobbler, and carrot for the beak. On the right I have pork chop skewers with pineapple and apple.

Happy Thanksgiving! (I'm celebrating a bit early since this will be my last packed lunch before then.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sunny Day Bento

Bento #35 actually got planned out last night in advance. I guess it must be wishful thinking as the dark, wet, cold winter sets in for me to doodle and create a summery bento. Here is the blueprint for today's bento:

And here is the final product:

On the left I have a bed of pearl rice that I cooked up this morning. The grass is made of steamed brocholi (steamed slightly too long, I'm afraid). The sun is made of carrot shavings. The stems are tiny peices of celery. The roses are made of tomatoes that I picked from my garden this morning.

For the record, I don't suggest that you try to craft any shape out of tomato. They are a very difficult and unforgiving medium.

On the right side of the divider are porkchop cubes and pineapple skewered onto toothpicks. Below that are some slices of apple.

Again, if you've never had pineapple pork chops, you should really check out this post which has step-by-step photos to go with the recipe.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Breathtaking Bento

Are you ready to be amazed? Here come some georgeous bentos created by people more talented and experienced than me:

This Octopus bento is posted on Flickr by Los Dragónnes. Click here to see more of his impressive bentos.

These four bentos were created by Sakurako Kitsa. Need to see more? Click here and you can.

These are the images that keep sending me back to the kitchen, dreaming of creating my own food art. Bear with me as my skills improve, k?

(A BIG thank you to Los Dragónnes and Sakurako Kitsa for letting me use their photos!)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

i can haz bento?

Bento #34 needs a little explanation. The ingredients are easy... a left-over porkc hop and some pineapple rice. On top sits my first shape (other than faces) that I have hand cut out of nori. It is supposed to be a cat. A "lolcat" to be precise. What is a lolcat, you ask? Here's an example:

For more silly pictures of kitties speaking really poor (if somewhat cute) English go to

(Please be warned that some of the captions are inappropriate - others are very cute and entertaining.)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Colorful Rice

Bento #33 is my first attempt at tinting my rice a different hue. I used food coloring - the kind that comes in a paste form, and put it in with my Minute rice in the microwave. I was very happy with the way it turned out!

In the center of my rice is a plain heart-shaped onigiri. On top swim some carrot fish in honor of our class going swimming today. In the little container I have banana sushi, ham bundles, and steamed broccholi.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Back in the Box

Hey! Bento #32 even made it into an actual bento box! We may be heading in the right direction here...

On the left is a PB&J cut into the shape of a star surrounded by almonds and wheat thins. On the right are more tomatoes and some slices of ham.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Bento #31 has a little dog onigiri chasing three red tomatoes from my (can you believe this?) garden. We'll see if they taste frostbitten!

The pup is running across a field of Boca & parsley (with nori flowers). On the left is a broccoli tree. Beneath the burger is corn and some BBQ sauce.

Thanks for stopping by to see me playing with my food!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Would you like some rice?

There are many people in this world that are starving, and would love a free bowl of rice. That is what the site Free Rice is all about.

I read about it this morning on another bento blog. She calls it "an amazing initiative to end both world hunger and secondary illiteracy."

I would encourage you to go, play the game and test your vocabulary skills... you will learn new words... and they will donate free rice to those who are hungry.

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Couple of Bentos

The first bento I want to share is one that my husband made for me. (I don't think he was going all out to make it bento-ish, but this was what he made me for dinner while he was away working - and since it was in a container... I'm posting it.) Chicken tenders a la Forman Grill, and Minute Rice. It was simple and tasty!

The next bento it what I took to work yesterday. (Only I cheated and took the banana out so my sandwich wouldn't absorb the taste!) Bento #30 has a bananna, some salted almonds mixed with semi-sweet chocolate chips, and a ham sandwich topped with teddybear nori punch outs.

The teddybears are in honor of my friend Rebecca, who practically crocheted a teddybear before my very eyes when she and her husband were over to play games last week. I thought that was pretty cool!

Anyway, have a good day all. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Bento #29

My lunch today included a stuffed onigiri with a nori face, some steamed broccoli, salted almonds, ham rolls, tortilla chips, and brownies topped with powdered sugar.

Monday, November 5, 2007

I'll call it "bento"

It may look like a salad to you, but for the purpose of easing back into my bento routine, I'm going to call this bento #28:

Filled with dark greens, covered with poppyseed dressing and topped with carrot, pinenuts and sunflower seeds... this salad is sure to be a winner come lunch time. I will supplement it with an apple, a handful of almonds, and for dessert I will have a brownie.

Here's hoping tomorrow's bento is slightly more impressive!

In other food news, Bryan BBQed for us and our guests last night. The weather was so nice we just couldn't resist. Pre-marinated teriaki chicken and pineapple kabobs hit the grill. But we lost our daylight and Bryan finished up with a flashlight checking to see if they were done. They were super tasty, though!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Potato Soup Recipe

Today's lunch is not spectacular in the way of bento (in fact, I'm not even counting it as such) but it is great in that it is a very tasty and easy to make soup. It seems creamy, but has no milk in it. Ah yes, potato soup. You have to understand that while the un-heated leftovers may look a bit like mashed potatoes, the real deal fresh out of the pot is a much soupier consistency.

I got this recipe from my friend Megan, who got if from her mom, who found it in the More-with-Less Cookbook.

Here's the recipe:

Combine in saucepan:
4 medium potaotes, peeled and diced
1 onion, sliced
1 tsp salt
dash of pepper
3 cups of water

Cook until tender. (Note: Smaller potaot pieces cook fore quickly but result in a smoother soup. For chunkier "hearty" soup, use larger potato pieces and just cook longer.)

In second saucepan:
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour

Allow butter & flour to brown, while stirring. Then add it into the potato mixture and broth will thicken.

Remove from heat, remove lid and let it cool for about 10 minutes.
Add sausage or ham if desired. (I use sausage and microwave bite-sized pieces to add to the soup while it is cooling a bit.)
Garnish with parsley before serving.

That's it! If you get around to trying it, comment and let me know what you think, k?

And... I'm back!

Well, I hope I haven't completely lost all of my readers... I realize I haven't posted since Hobson's opened. But now that the show has closed, I will have more time to blog. The picture above is of Bryan and I backstage during the run of the show.

And here are a couple pictures from this Halloween... me as a pixie, and Dioji as a little devil.

Stay tuned - I intend to post a delicious potato soup recipe next!