Friday, May 29, 2009

Gyoza Bento (#12)

Another vegetarian bento. (Finally! I've used up all the tofu in the fridge!) I felt a tad bit creative today, so today's bento features something totally new: Gyoza. After poking around the internet a bit, I used store bought dough, and filled it with a mix of tofu, celery, carrot, soy sauce, parsley, and salt/pepper. I sauted them for a few min, then added some water and let them steam for several more minutes.

The rest of the bento features a romaine/spinach salad with avocado, cauliflower, and olives; a carrot "divider"; and two homemade oatmeal cookies with three cherries. I tried to take the picture before the avocado started to turn colors, but it was rather ripe and had other plans!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bento with a Bumblebee! (#11)

I am still using up leftovers from the first vegetarian themed bento of this week. Thus another mini-potpie is featured in today's bento, nestled in a bed of romaine and spinach with fresh veggies and a few three-cheese tortellini tossed in. A little bumblebee seems to be enjoying my lunch too! (I made it out of an olive and carrot triangles. I was pleased with the result!).

Here is an aerial view:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another Vegetarian Contest Bento (#10)

Being that I still have tofu sitting in the fridge, I figured I might as well create another bento for Maki's May contest at Today I've having an improvised vegetable and noodle stir fry!

I picked up an interesting package of noodles from a oriental store a few weeks ago. About all I can tell you is that they are rather white and salty. Here is a picture of the package:

While I boiled and drained the noodles, I lightly stir fried the tofu in a little bit of olive oil and pressed garlic. Then I added carrots, broccoli, shiitake, and celery and stir fried it till the broccoli started turning a shade of bright green. Next I added a 1/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tsp rice vinegar, 2 tsp brown sugar, dash of Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. I let the veggies simmer till the liquid was almost gone, tossed in the noodles, and lastly added a garnish.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Vegetarian Contest Bento (#9)

Haven't been in the bento/cooking mood much this week. However, Maki at is hosting a contest, and the theme for May is Vegetarian. Thus my inspiration for today's lunch: Homemade mini-potpies, carrot/cucumber/avocado maki, rice pudding, romaine lettuce, cherries, and carrot/cucumber flowers. For more information on the contest, click here:

The potpies were my kitchen project yesterday afternoon. I made a crescent roll dough in the bread machine, divided the dough into pieces, rolled out the dough, and lined muffin pans with it. My improvised filling included peas, carrots, celery, shiitake mushrooms, tofu, and a creamy mushroom soup base. Spoon the filling into the muffin cups, top will some more rolled dough, pinch the edges, and bake at 350 degress for 15 min. I'll probably tweak the recipe in the future, but overall I was happy with the results.

My camera is still very flash happy. The first picture I took turned out like this:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bento #8

Today's bento looks a little anorexic due to the lack of filler material. And yes, there are only two spears of asparagus. I'm not so keen on eating it. I enjoyed picking the vegetable when it grew along the irrigation canals of my parents farmland. I like the way it looks. I enjoy cooking it. Just don't make me eat it! However since it is in my fridge and I have vowed to not let food go to waste, I figured a little bit couldn't hurt me.

The wedges that sorta look like colored onigiri are actually a sort of potato pancake or omelet. I learned that this is what people in Spain call a tortilla. A Spanish tortilla isn't like Mexican tortilla, which is made of flour or corn. Rather, its more like an Italian frittata, but with more emphasis on the potato than the egg. Cookie cutters would be perfect for shaping this treat!

Lastly, this bento features a Copper Penny Salad. It's a refreshing way to serve sliced carrots, and I hear celery, bell pepper, or cucumber could go well in it too. There really isn't "one" way to make this side dish, so feel free t adapt it to your tastes! (I've tried to put some measurement values for reference.)

3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
~ 2 cups of water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar (I used rice vinegar because its what I have on hand.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon of an herb of your choice (I prefer dill or parsley)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt & Black Pepper to taste

1. Add a dash of salt to the water and bring it to a boil. Add the sliced carrots, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until they are just tender.

2. Strain the carrots and let them drain. (If you are into making your own broth stocks, you can strain the cooking water into a bowl to save it.)

3. Mix the vinegar, oil, herbs, sugar, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add the carrots and toss with a spoon until the carrots are well coated.

4. Refrigerate until ready to eat!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Um...Lunchbox? I think we have a Problem! (#7)

No bento yesterday. I did make some pizza though, which turned out remarkably well. I make my pizza dough in a bread machine, and here is the recipe for those interested:

2/3 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon Italian seasonings
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast

This morning, Murphy's Law struck. Art Guy had seasoned some beef, but it was a bit too salty. He though that it would go well in rice balls though. I don't know what possessed me to try to make my rice on the stovetop instead of in the cooker, but the results weren't pretty. Most of it stuck to the pan, or didn't cook evenly, and it didn't stick together well. By the time it was done and out of the pan, the rice was in pretty poor shape and there wasn't enough for my original idea. Meanwhile, I had tempura'd some greenbeans, which didn't turn out like I had wanted either. (Frying oil and Lyn don't get along very well...) I had to put something in this box though. So when in doubt, roll it all up in nori and call it good! Throw in some pizza, a couple of asparagus spears, and we have ourselves a bento lunch.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bento #6

Well today's bento makes me nervous. It has an awesome cheese calzone in it...but its sort of cold. Its been in the refrigerator, and Art Guy requested that I packed one in the box today. My protest is that I didn't know how well it would taste since he won't really have a way to heat it up. But he insisted it would be ok, so here it is! I was trying to mimic the ones my mum made at home, and of course started remembering the little twists she gave to the recipe halfway into it. I made little notes to self for next time, and will give it another try in the near future.

I salvaged the remaining cucumber & avocado in the kitchen and made a california roll. I packed the extras into another container again because that seemed to be a popular idea from the last time I did it. They say practice makes perfect...but today's batch didn't want to roll well at all. No matter what I did, the sheet wouldn't roll straight. Hopefully the taste will outweigh its looks.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Time-Crunch Bento (#5)

Three-cheese tortellini, plain onigiri, chicken sandwich, string cheese.
Not Pictured: Container of pasta sauce, banana

Today's bento was purely functional. I was called into work early, so I just pulled it together with stuff I had in the fridge and boiled some pasta while preping the box. Today was one of those days I wished I had a box with dividers. Pasta doesn't want to stay put very well!

My favorite pizza cookbook arrived in the mail yesterday...That means more fun in my kitchen this weekend!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sandwich Bento (#4)

Leftovers and sandwiches adorn today's bento. I hung out with my best friend yesterday: cleaned house, got pedicures, went grocery shopping, and showed her the latest nonsense I've been into (sushi making of course :P).
We found some crabsticks while running around town, which prompted a session of "roll-play" in my kitchen that evening (ahahaha). I discovered that it was much easier to roll the sheet when there was a firm ingredient in it. We also gave hand building of sushi a try, but didn't have much success. Too much rice was made, resulting in the leftovers in the bento today. Not sure how well the refrigerated sushi will hold up, but here's to experimentation!

I made buns for sandwiches as well yesterday. We have a bread machine and I'd like to try to use it more often. The problem is that we don't have a good way to slice the bread. So I figured I could make dough in it and make rolls and buns for sandwiches and such for now. I used a recipe with wheat flour, so I can't quite tell if I over browned them in the oven or not. Nevertheless, they made a yummy looking chicken sandwich!

In my attempt to be creative, I ended up arranging some carrot curls, cheese, and smoked sausage on toothpick "skewers." Here is a close up:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bento with Grapes (#3)

It was another somewhat early morning for bento making. This one is for Art Guy again, who has been without lunch at work.

This bento features a couple Buffalo Chicken lettuce wraps, avocado & carrot hosomaki (with some orange bell pepper and romaine rolled in a few), apple cartwheels, and... Grapes! I'm trying to incorporate different things into my lunches, and the grapes turned out to be a wonderful thing. The filled up space nicely, added some color, and are really tasty. The other workers were apparently somewhat impressed with Art Guy's last bento, so I made a smaller box with some hosomaki to share. The chicken didn't want to stay wrapped up in the lettuce, and the toothpicks didn't seem to help much. I figured it wouldn't take much to re-wrap and eat the chicken in the event that it unwraps itself.

I am getting better at rolling my sushi. It is often a bit loose and by no means perfect, but the improvement is rather apparent to me. Interesting tidbit: I read in my sushi book that avocado is popular because its oil content and smooth texture mimics that of maguro. The avocado today threatened to brown even though I used lemon juice as preventative measure. It still tasted okay though. One of these days I'll have some wasabi and ginger to go with the sushi, I might find some better nori, I'll try rolling it inside-out, or use fillings other than veggies...I'll get there eventually!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Rainy Day Bake-Off

Didn't have a need to make a bento yesterday (Mother's Day) or today. Art Guy did make a Mexican Dinner for me last night though. It was fajitas, frijoles y arroz, and horcata.

A thunderstorm rolled in unexpectedly last night, and today has been mostly overcast with some drizzling rain here and there. I don't work till this evening so I decided to make something that incorporated the bushel of apples I acquired last week. The result: Little Apple Pizza's or Pies (or whatever you wish to call them!) I designed them to be bento-sized, so you could make them bigger if you want. It's a cute, sweet little something that could fit in your lunch box, so enjoy!

Little Apple Somethings (Adapted from My First Cookbook by Rena Coyle)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
10 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold water

2 apples
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar
dash or two of lemon juice

1. Place flour and butter in a mixing bowl. Blend the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter, fork & knife, your fingers, or any method that seems to work for you.

2. Add the sugar and salt to the flour mixture and mix well. Slowly at the cold water and mix till the dough starts to hold together. Transfer the dough to a clean, floured surface.

3. Knead the dough for 5 minutes by pressing the dough away from you, fold the top of it back towards you, turn the dough a quarter turn to your right or left, and repeat. If the dough starts to stick, sprinkle some more flour on the surface and on your hands.

4. Divide the dough in half and roll it out till the dough is about a 1/4 inch thick. Cut out circles with a cookie cutter or a cup (mine are 3 inches in diameter), and transfer to a cookie sheet.

5. Using an apple corer, remove the core and slice the apples. Keep the slices about 1/4 inch thick. Divide the individual slices into thirds, cutting at an angle. Place the apples, sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice in a bowl and stir till the apples are evenly coated.

6. Arrange the apple pieces on the dough circles (about 4 pieces per circle), and place the cookie sheets in a 375 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. When the bottoms turn golden brown, they are done.

7. Remove from pan, cool, and eat!

Note: I rarely every follow a recipe exactly...I usually use it as a guide and go from there. So if you don't like alot of cinnamon or prefer more sugar on the apples, feel free to change the amounts. I usually just sprinkle it till I like how it looks. I also do most of my baking on stoneware because its less likely to overbrown and it cooks more evenly. Feel free to experiment and be creative!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Salad Bento (#2)

So I sorta cheated today. I slept through my alarm, got up in time to get dressed and dash to work, and the thought of making food for myself didn't even occur to me. In short, I decided to put dinner in my box and have it count for today.

Art Guy did the arranging of the box for me...he insisted that he help with dinner prep. I found six immaculate heads of Romaine lettuce at Sam's the other day for ~$5.00. My eyes nearly popped out when I discovered it. Art Guy found frozen heat-and-eat buffalo-style chicken strips at wally-world that he insisted we try. They were a bit too spicy for my tastes, but he like them okay. Broccoli, cucumber triangles (another of his ideas), cheese, peas and a little leftover onigiri completes the box.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bento #1

I finally did it. I created a blog about food (aka succumbed to the trend of creating a bento blog). I hope to make this a place to compile and share my creations and cool ideas that I find along the way. I'm terrible with cameras, but I have vowed to make an attempt at including pictures with my posts (however awful they may be), and do what I can to become a better photographer. (LOL...I can dream, can't I?)

So today we have bento #1, the first official bento for this blog. I will admit that the creation of this bento was a bit of an ordeal, being that it was going to be photographed and displayed to the entire online community.In all seriousness, I did lose a bit of sleep trying to plan it out in my head. (I'll get over it eventually >.>) Today's creation is a "Sushi Bento." It consists of veggie sushi, chicken stuffed bun, and a onigiri with carrot & sesame furikake. I had been wanting to make sushi for about a year or so, but was unable to track down the necessary ingredients until recently. We need more culture in the Pandhandle of Texas! I will probally be sticking to vegetables in the sushi for now until a.) I get better at making it, or b.) I move somewhere that has better access to fresh fish. Putting sushi in a bento probably won't be a norm unless due to the prep time required for it. I got up extra early today though so Art Guy would have special bento for lunch. I made the chicken buns the day before completely from scratch, dough and all. I'm gonna look into adapting the recipe for bread machine use, cause I can't see myself having enough time to babysit bread dough all day long on regular basis. I wanted to decorate it a bit, and being the girl that I am, I want to make everything cute and pretty. But this is Art Guy's bento, and not mine. So I thought I could still make veggie flowers as long as they weren't too girly. Here's my attempt at more "manly" flowers:

Not to bad, eh?

Sadly, I don't own a "real" bento box yet. I use a Lock&Lock plastic box, which is nice because it seals well and the lid easily clips on and off. Apparently there is a Lock&Lock box with removable dividers, but our wal-mart doesn't seem to carry those. More info on Lock&Lock here: