Sunday, September 23, 2012

BBQ Chicken Bento

Have I mentioned how I love this time of year?  Fresh veggies from my friend's and family member's gardens are pouring in to my kitchen.  The little tomatoes below are compliments of my sister-in-law.  Thanks!

This bento contains:
  • white steamed rice
  • grilled chicken
  • mini cookie cup
  • BBQ dipping sauce
  • black & white sesame seeds (garnish) 

The little "cookie cup" was made while I was playing around with my friend Ann's Demarle at Home muffin tray.  It is unlike anything I have ever baked with.  I'm in love with it.  So I had to throw some cookie dough in there to see what happened.  These cute little cookie cups happened.  And they didn't stick!  Yay!  If you want to order something out of the catalog, let me know.  I'm having a party soon.  ;)

Happy bento! 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Waffle Bento

You ever have those mornings where nothing sounds good?  Yeah.  Thursday was one of those mornings.

I told myself, "You don't have to pack a bento.  Just grab whatever sounds appetizing."  The only thing I could come up with was waffles.  So I stuck two in a plastic bag.  But then, how was I going to bring my toppings?

This is the resulting mini bento:

It contains:
  • peanut butter
  • maple syrup
  • red grapes
  • dried blueberries (space filler)
  • sesame seeds (garnish)

I was feeling a little sheepish about waffles for lunch, until I found out that my mom and aunt went to a place called Waffle Window for lunch this weekend.  

I put a knife (to spread the peanut butter) and a fork, along with a napkin, in the pocket of my bright pink thermal tote, and off I go!

Happy bento!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Look, Ma: No Rice!

If you haven't jumped on the bento bandwagon yet, I am guessing you don't want to eat rice everyday. Or, you run through fast food for dinner on a regular basis, and don't have any extra McNuggets to make into a cute bento.  Fear not!  There are other options.

I present for your consideration, today's bento:

No leftovers, no rice.  A ham sandwich, some veggies and a little bit of hummus.  What could be simpler?

And who could say "no" to this face?

Add a couple of extras if you have a long day ahead of you.  I chose an apple and some ZFruit.

I put it into my new pink URU thermal tote:

 And it is all ready to go!

Happy bento!

Baked Tacos

So, last week I went to a Damarle at Home party at my friend Triann's house.  We ate the most delicious tacos, and saw how easy the product is to use, and how there is virtually no clean up.  I took the catalog home, and kept seeing this picture.

I am at a very impressionable age.  So this is what we had for dinner.  I even borrowed a Damarle cupcake tray from my friend Ann to give it a try in my own kitchen.  Verdict - it is fantastic.  I will be having a party and buying as much of it as I can afford.  After I get some Christmas money or something - lol.

I made some with cheese for Bryan.  Some without for me.  The chicken that is in there has been marinated and grilled.  The corn tortillas were softened in the microwave.  Then I put a little olive oil on them, and put them into the little cups.

Next I took photos.  The dog waited patiently.  Nothing fell to the floor.  Poor Dioji.  

There is water in the extra cups because you aren't supposed to bake them empty.  But I thought I was only feeding two of us (more on that later) so I didn't make a full tray.

I love this time of year.  It is the time of year when my family and friends realize that they cannot eat all of the delicious tomatoes coming off the plants in their gardens.  And I help.  Because that is what friends (and daughter-in-laws) are for.

Just look at this beauty:

But we were doing something.  Ah, yes.  Baking tacos.

I put the tacos in the oven for 15 minutes at 375 degrees.  Or, I would have left them in the oven for 15 minutes.  More on that later.

Meanwhile, I assembled some toppings:

Lettuce shreds, the previously photographed tomato, fresh cilantro, olives, and lime wedges.

Before the oven had beeped, friends started showing up.  Bryan was on his way to Geek Trivia and fellow geeks had decided to carpool.  So I decided that our dinner would feed four.  Here is what those lucky geeks got to eat: 

I loved the taste of the lime juice and cilantro.  It reminded me of the more authentic mexican restaurants around here.

Oh yes.  We will be having these again.  And next time, I will bake up a whole tray.  Because you never know when the geeks will descend.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bento Simplified

Now that you know how to pack a bento lunch, I'd like to convince you how simple it really is.  

Repeat after me:  Bento is easy!

It really is.  If you are a person who 
  1. eats dinner    -and-
  2. owns a container to store leftovers in
You can make a bento lunch!

First step, eat dinner.  I went with Pineapple Pork Chops and rice:

Second, pack your left-overs in a container.  To show how easy this is, I am using a Pyrex dish I picked up at Winco:

Embellish or garnish as you feel moved.  (This is optional!  You will still get the portion control, budget saving benefits without making faces on your food.  But it is kinda fun.)  Today I was feeling sesame seeds, cilantro, and a quick nori face.

Third, put the lid on and throw it in a paper sack.  Or use a reusable container like this thermal tote from Thirty-One Gifts:

Done!  You are ready to take your bento lunch to work or send it to school with your little one.  Now, wasn't that easy?

If you are inspired to try this yourself, please leave me a comment below.  I would love to hear about your first bento experience!

Happy bento!

Monday, September 17, 2012

How To Pack a Bento Lunch

After a number of my Facebook friends teasing me that I should come over and pack lunches for their children, and one indicating she was interested in starting to do this herself, I figured I would put together a simple "how to."

Now, please know that you can use whatever foods appeal to you and your children.  For this little demo, I will try to stick pretty closely to the 1/3 carbs, 1/3 protein, 1/3 veggie & fruit that I have read about in Kawaii Bento Boxes and seen around the web.

First, we start with carbs.  I am using steamed white pearl rice.  Pack it in.

Next add the protein.  For me today this is an egg and sausage bake.  It is shaped like a cupcake because I used my friend's Damarle at Home muffin tray to make it.  One of the reasons we are putting it in next is because it isn't going to fit easily into whatever room is left over.  If you were using lunch meat, you might wait till a later step.

Next we want to fill in the gaps.  Grape tomatoes are just one of the great gap-fillers out there.  Use something that you like.  These work great because they don't mix with anything nearby, but if you want to use a little bit of some sort of side salad (potato salad, for instance) you could put it in a mini cupcake paper and fit it in there.

I still see little spaces though, so let's keep filling them up.  Broccoli is pretty to look at and can be cut into any gap-filling shape you need.  Now nothing is going to jiggle around during transport.  Mission accomplished!

Next, add a little something "just for pretties."  I chose black sesame seeds and some dried savory.  I just sprinkled it on the rice.  If you want to go further, this is where you could make little faces and such.

But doesn't that little bit sprinkled on top just make it look so much more appealing?

Now, if you only have one tier, you are done.  Congrats!  If you have two... carry on.  I like to use dark lettuce leaves to fill the gaps in my upper tier.  So I just fill it with that to start.

Next you will want to put some fruit or veggies in there.  I skewered my grapes today on little party toothpicks and plopped them in there.

I still had plenty of room, so I added a couple slices of banana, with the peel still on.

I got carried away and added blueberry embellishments, before I remembered I was showing how to fill the box up before you decorate.  Oops!

To fill the last bit of space, I cut a couple pieces of carrot into some flower shapes and wedged them in there.  Then I finished of the banana with a couple sesame seeds, just for fun.

And that's it!  Now you have a tasty, healthful lunch to take to work or send with your little ones.

Need a second opinion?  Check out what Biggie has to say on the subject over at Lunch in a Box.  Or take a quick peak at how it's done at Just Bento.  And/or Not Exactly Bento.  Think a slide show might be more your speed?  Hapa Bento has one for you.

Happy bento!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Easiest Meatballs - Step by Step

If you have been around my blog for a while, you may remember the post I did about Porcupine Balls.  These are a quick meatball you can whip up on a school night, and they are sure to be a crowd pleaser. Serve them with your favorite dipping sauce (BBQ or ketchup, perhaps) or just eat them plain.

I love to cook with a blog right in front of me showing step by step, so here are a few photos for you.

Pour beef rice-a-roni into a bowl.  Add an egg.

Add 1 lb of lean ground beef (very lean - you don't drain the fat on this recipe!) and mush it together with your fingers.

Wash off your hands and grab a cookie scoop like this.  Proceed to scoop little balls of the meat mixture into a skillet.

When you run out of meat, it is time to put the skillet on the stove top and brown the meatballs on all sides.

Like this.

Don't let Dioji's bored expression fool you.  He loves food blogging.  It often means the food gets carried to and from the sunroom for photos.

After this, add a cup and a half of hot water and the package of seasoning from the rice-a-roni.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low.  Let it simmer for about 40 minutes.  Check on it once to make sure that you don't need to add any water.  I haven't had to lately, but sometimes I do.  You want to make sure the meatballs are moist.

Then you are done.  Sit down and eat those porcupine balls with a smile.   Best of all, if you want to pack them the next day as a lunch, they are a great size for that!

Hungry for more?  Take a look at my Meatloaf Balls:

Or, if you want to try another porcupine ball variation, take a look at this recipe over at Food Network.  They are using ramen noodles:



Friday, September 14, 2012

Ho-hum Bento

Not sure what it was about my lunch this morning, but I really just wasn't liking the way it turned out.  But I am trying to post consistently, so I will show it to you anyway:

This is one of those things where I have to wonder what made this lunch different than the past few.  I am using pretty much the same colors/ingredients - so why am I not thrilled?

Looking at the pictures, I think maybe it has something to do with balance.  The bottom tier (with the meatballs) just feels off kilter some how.  And when I couldn't get that to look the way I wanted, I hurriedly threw my top tier together.

This bento contains:
  • porcupine meat balls
  • red & yellow pepper
  • tater tots
  • broccoli
  • grape tomatoes
  • dark greens
  • carrots
  • a strawberry
The good news is, it was tasty and filling.  There are the left over bits of carrot and pepper (after I cut out the shapes) hidden underneath the spinach in the top tier.  Anyway, that was today's lunch.

Happy bento and enjoy your weekend! 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Colorful Leftovers Bento

Today's bento looks like this:

A little less childish, but still kinda whimsical.

This bento contains:

  • brown rice
  • porcupine meat balls
  • roast chicken
  • lettuce
  • red pepper
  • black pepper sprinkles
  • grape tomatoes
  • carrots

Here it is all packed up and ready to go.

Happy bento!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fish Bento

This morning, my lunch looked like this:

This bento contains:
  • roast chicken
  • fresh rosemary
  • brown rice onigiri
  • cajun spices & nori accents
  • carrots
  • grape tomatoes
  • broccoli
  • a plum
  • red grapes
  • a strawberry

I felt that yesterday's strawberry was a missed opportunity for a big grin, so I made that happen today.  Oh, and that plum is out of my co-worker Janelle's garden.  Thanks, Janelle!

I liked how the rosemary sort of looked like seaweed.

That is all.  Thanks for looking.

Happy bento!