Saturday, October 31, 2009

How to Carve a Pumpkin Simply

I love holiday crafts. Especially ones that have anything to do with food. One of my favorites is pumpkin carving. Ever since I was a small child, pumpkin carving has been a big deal. This year, I carved a BIG pumpkin. Here are a few tips on carving a simple jack-o-lantern.

Cut the top of your pumpkin off, angling your knife like mine is above so that when you put your top on again it won't fall all the way through. I am using a big knife because the walls of this pumpkin were thick, however, usually a safety knife from a pumpkin carving kit (like the one below) is what I use.

These are perfect, especially if you are carving with your children.

Next scrape down the insides with a plastic ice cream scoop (like the orange one on the table in the picture above) and then reach in and remove all the pumpkin goop. At this point, you can separate out the seeds to bake if you want.

Don't forget to take a second and sketch an idea of what you want your pumpkin to look like. (Or, if you don't draw, find a picture of one you want to copy.)

This year we added a new tool to our pumpkin carving kit. The wet erase pen:

Draw your face on your pumpkin. If you make a mistake, wipe it off and start again. You may want to shade the area you are removing (especially for more delicate designs).

Use your safety knife to cut into the pumpkin in the middle of one of the shaded areas. You can use this knife for your whole pumpkin, but I find it really only works best on strait edges like those I've cut below.

If you want to do curvy lines easily and quickly, you will want to buy one of these little gems:

Battery powered pumpkin saw. Gotta love power tools! :)

You see I am using it on the edges where I have a wavy line. Take it slow, and do not push or bend your saw blade. Always make a hole to stick the blade in. Do not attempt to make the initial cut with that delicate blade.

And that is it. Remove the pieces as you cut them out, and clean up the inside edges of the cut by running your blade over that section again.

Soon you will be taking pictures with your own jack-o-lantern. Here my Dad and I are posing with ours:

Me on the porch with them lit:
Spooky, eh?
Happy Halloween!!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Test Cupcake

Here is my first try at a Jack Skellington face on a cupcake:

What do you think? Worth making up a batch for tomorrow's Halloween party??

Or should I just do orange frosting and leave it at that?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Comfort Carb Bento

This bento is full of comfort carbs:
Can you say:

  • PB&J
  • Tortilla chips
and a
  • Cupcake?

Doesn't look much better from an angle, either. But boy did I enjoy those comfort foods after a rough day at work.

Normally I wouldn't blog such a blah bento... but I am still doing NaBloPoMo, and so far I've posted every day. Yay me!

Happy Bento!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Happy Cupcake Bento

Told you those mini-cupcakes were the perfect size for bento:

My bento lunch contains:

  • PB&J Sandwich
  • Mixed nuts
  • Tomatoes
  • Cupcake

Happy Bento!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

White Frosting

So, after I blogged about my cupcakes last night (and they had had some time to cool) I made up some white frosting

To keep it completely white, I did not use any margarine or soy milk.

Instead (don't tell my husband) I used Crisco and water. (With lots of powdered sugar, of course!)

I wanted them this white because of my plans for how I'm going to decorate them.

Stay tuned for decorated cupcakes...

I'm glad I made some of them little:

They are the perfect size for bento!


Related posts:
Homemade Frosting Recipe

Monday, October 26, 2009


This evening, I made cupcakes for the first time of my adult life.

Here are the little ones before they went in the oven:

Here are the little ones after I let them get a little toasty:
I'm guessing the larger ones are more the color yellow cake mix should end up?

And how much cake on top of the cup is ideal for decorating?

I've been looking at all sorts of fancy cupcakes on Flickr, and it had me all inspired to make some of my own. But I'm starting to have second thoughts. Mine do not look nearly as uniform as the lovely pics.

Any cupcaking tips (baking or decorating) would be welcome at this point.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Bento Secret

Here is the biggest secret to having time to pack yourself (or your spouse/kids) bentos.

Shhh... not everyone knows this, but you should...


This is how many of my bentos get their start:

When you cook dinner, make extra, and before you even put it into other containers to keep - pack some of it into your bento container. Set it on a cooling rack for a few minutes (to keep if from steaming in the fridge and creating a lot of condensation). Then keep it covered in your fridge, and you will be ready to bento in minutes!

Happy bento!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Jack-O-Sandwich Bento

This silly jack-o-lantern face turned out looking more like a bunny than I had originally intended, but that is okay:


  • Ham sandwich
  • Nori accents
  • Candy corn
  • Mixed nuts
My sandwich was so stuffed full (mostly of lettuce) I could barely get the lid on my bento. But what a satisfying *crunch* my sandwich made come lunch time!

Happy bento!

Friday, October 23, 2009

More Veggies, Please!

I've always had a hard time getting the recommended daily amount of vegetables in my diet. According to, a woman of my age and weight should be eating two and a half cups of veggies every day. (Click here to see what they recommend for you.)

And so I submit to you, two cups worth for today:

I also ate some hummus (which I'm counting as a veggie cause it is made of mashed up beans), some chunky salsa (stretching it, maybe?) and some lettuce on my sandwich. So I figure I'm going to be pretty close on this one. :)

Do you have trouble eating enough vegetables? What strategies do you use to fit them in?

Happy vegging!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Harvest Bento

This bento is being displayed by two of my favorite little fall decorations:


  • White steamed rice (made white for my hubby this time)
  • Teriyaki chicken sprinkled with sesame seeds
  • Candy corn
  • Salted peanuts
I just can't resist a little candy corn this time of year, can you?

Happy Bento!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Last of the Pot Roast

Here is my simple (speedy) bento for today:
Hot tier:

  • Mashed potatoes
  • Roast beef
  • Broccoli
Cold tier:
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Cucumber
  • Tomato
Bentos are so easy to create in the morning when your foods are prepared! You just pack the food in there, and you are done!

Happy bento!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Party Time!

The house smells delightful, due to apple cider that has been simmering away in my slow cooker all day. I just finished putting together this relish tray:

Next stop? Chewy chocolate chip oatmeal cookies! Yum.

Gotta get baking so they are ready when the ladies arrive for our little Candle Party.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Nacho Bento

Today's bento was actually assembled last night while I was putting away our left-overs. This morning I merely attached nori faces, photographed it, and packed some tortilla chips to scoop up all this good stuff come lunch time:

My refried bean scoops have a slightly jack-o-lantern feel, don't you think?

Veggies rode up top.
The whole enchilada.

To keep hunger at bay until lunch time, I packed a second hummus & veggies bento, as well.

Happy bento!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

How to Cook Rice in a Steamer

There are lots of ways to make rice. Here is a look at how I steam brown rice for use in bentos and dinners.

On the inside of the steamer, I pour in water until it is at the "HI" marker. This is very important. If I forget to refill the water high enough, by the end of the long cook time it will be depleted and the rice will be crunchy. Not pleasant.

Next, you put the top back on the steamer. For rice, you will be using the container that does not have any holes in it. Add a cup or two of your favorite rice.

Pour two cups of water in for every cup of rice.

Some sea salt goes in there too, to bring out the flavor.

This is what your rice will look like at this point. It will just be in a bunch of standing water. No worries, it will absorb.

Set the timer for 75 minutes.

Edited to add: For white rice, set the timer for 35 minutes.

Make sure it is plugged in and the light is on. You should start to see steam filling the inside.

Pretty simple, huh? I serve it right to the table in the container it steams in and people can dish out how much they want.