Friday, February 27, 2009

Wootiwoot woot New Bentos!!

The killer-cute Koi bento and its little friend the Black Sheep Shinzi Kato arrived yesterday from the EBay seller TokyoSamurai, located in Fujisawa, Kanagawa, Japan. I highly recommend this seller because after I ordered these items TokyoSamurai refunded a chunk of my shipping because the online shipping calculator had overcharged me. It was a small amount and I would never have noticed, but I admired their attention to detail.

The Black Sheep fascinates me. A group of white sheep are near the top of the design, and one black sheep right and lower down. A caption reads,

It's a nice day!
Where are you going
Such Beautiful day?

Is this the black sheep talking to the group or vice versa? All around the edge of the top a line of text runs: "How about we go shopping today? We'll buy delicious fruits. How about you? Do you want to come? Sounds good! I will go to shopping!"

I love the endlessly looping shopping plans, and I love worrying about the black sheep: if she is making a friendly overture, will the white sheep really go shopping with her or will they ditch her in a cruel manner? Like, lose her in the mall?

In all it is an open ended story, my favorite kind. Anything could happen!

Today's bentos:

Jan has sushi I made last night (you have to imagine the cursing and swearing as I acquire this skill through painful epic failures one after another) with quail eggs jammed in there too, a ribbon of ginger and a froggy soy bottle; gyoza (frozen from the Asian market); salad, and a brownie.

I have an onigiri (plain, with an umeboshi on top), some sushi, gyoza, cucumber wedges, soy quail eggs, and red pepper strips. Me and the black sheep have a date later, maybe go shopping; it's a beautiful day.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obento or Bento?

Which is it? Somewhere in my internet wanderings I read that 'obento' is more respectful. Well far be it from me to disrespect Mr. Bento or his little (rapidly growing!) family of bento-babe boxes...

Here's Jan's Mr. Bento of the day:

Chicken salad with red grapes next to baby greens; polenta wedges fried in a little hot chili oil and sprinkled with nanami togarashi; tomato slices with skewers of dill pickle and sweet pickled peppers; and sweet potato bread with a chocolate coin.

My bento is similar:

but with Mr. Honey Tangerine added, for the monkey in me!

It will be a long day beginning with Nietzsche and ending with a budget meeting. Give me strength, bento!!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bigger Better Bento

Three things I love about this bento box:

1. It's so pretty! Inlay butterflies on the lid!

2. It has 3 fixed or molded compartments in the lower tier so having yogurt, or anything else saucy or runny, will be easy to do and not need extra paper cups.

3. It's BIG. For those days when I don't get to eat breakfast before running off to work, this one is going to be my buddy.

I had: sesame noodles with chicken slices, raw beets with ume vinegar (yum), sugar snap peas; then baby greens salad, a Babybel cheese, cashews, strawberries, grapes, and 2 lovely pink mochi of unknown but delicious ingredients. Woot. I needed a nap after this lunch. It was a party on my desk.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

TGI Leftovers Again!

The Chinese take-out is truly the gift that keeps on giving. Today Jan gets the rest of my sesame chicken, the 'mystery-meat' dumplings which we both love and worry about, some fresh veggies, a fortune cookie and some fried won-tons, and a mango pudding.

This is not exactly great nutrition but I woke up yesterday sick as a dog. Now why do we say that?! Dogs are normally the picture of health and so resilient - I need a better metaphor. Anyway I could not talk at all and so of course, not only did several people from work email for a meeting that very day but also it was the vet visit for horsey inoculations and spring wellness check - which usually requires at least some conversation even if it is somewhat cranky.

So I struggled through the early part of the day and then sat on the couch and watched 2 back-to-back episodes of "Wife Swap". !!! What a bizarre show. In my fevered state I could hardly bear the suspense, when a pampered and spoiled rich wife was sent to a dairy farm/penal colony to live for awhile, as her counterpart the worked-to-death farm woman assumed the position of sleeping until 3 p.m. and being brought breakfast in bed with flowers, but at the cost of dealing with incredibly spoiled daughters who regarded riding the school bus as a fate worse than death. Wow; TV has gotten really good while I wasn't watching! Or maybe it was the cold meds.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Leftover Take-Out Bento

There's a great Chinese take-out down by the lake, and we have to ration our visits there because this food is not exactly the most wholesome. But one neat thing is the leftovers; you get an extra dinner or two lunches out of each entree and the cost is so low I wonder how they make a profit? Except for the fact that they are always busy - it must be the sheer volume of platters of sesame chicken that the students consume down there.

Jan's bento has his leftover Hunan shrimp and scallops with the small amount of rice he's allowed with counting carb units. He also got sesame seaweed salad from the Asian grocery we visited in Madison this weekend - golly that is good! - with daikon radish butterflies on top; yogurt with blueberries and agave nectar; and a fortune cookie with a couple chunks of sweet potato date bread.

My bento has leftover sesame chicken and rice, sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes with a daikon butterfly, sweet potato bread, yogurt and blueberries, and a chocolate from my Valentine stash.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

When Life Sends You Lemons...

I had a feeling that shaping a hard boiled egg was not going to be easy for me. So when Mr. Egg cracked under interrogation, I had to turn him into a demonic dragon/PacMan with a pea for an eye. This should excite merriment among Jan's lunch bunch. Also a few quietly raised eyebrows as in "What is the matter with her really?"

He is resting on sesame noodles. Jan also has tuna-tofu miso burgers with key lime for squeezing over; salad leftover from last night; and sweet potato date bread with cream cheese hearts on top, and orange sections, for dessert.

This sweet potato bread is super. I've never made it before and got the recipe from Taste of Home, my all-time favorite home cooking type recipe magazine. If you end up with extra sweet potatoes I can wholeheartedly recommend turning them into a quick bread - this recipe is fast and they bring a ton of moisture (just like carrots in carrot cake). I had a slice with a glass of cold milk for dessert last night and it was perfect.

My bento has an umeboshi onigiri surrounded with carrot slices and a soy bunny; hard boiled egg with cheese hearts and a cherry tomato; sweet potato bread with orange sections and almonds. Not enough vegetables really but the bread takes up a lot of real estate. Maybe I'll pack some more carrots on the side.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday Bento: Arrgh Maties!

Jan has tuna-tofu-miso burgers from JustBento's recipe page. In the same container, wasabi mayonnaise and a key lime half. Then: mixed seaweed salad from the Asian store in Madison (yummm!), an umeboshi onigiri from Sunday evening's batch, along with a little soy bottle; carrots and snow peas with a baby cheese; and little chocolate 'mushroom' cookies with M&M's.

My bento has most of the same stuff but arranged differently:

I wish I'd bought a case of the little mushroom-shaped cookies! They are not only cute, but they have the right proportion of chocolate to cookie: about 2:1.:)

These onigiri are the best batch I've made so far. The salty plums give them a snap and the rice was just right for molding together. I had meant for this batch to last all week but some pirate is raiding the supply. Nervously looking sideways for someone to blame.

And yesterday I found a new place to burn excess money: Great history of the furoshiki (cloth wrap for bento, a gift, or anything else you want to wrap nicely in a pretty cloth) and of course a wide range of gorgeous furoshiki for sale. Care and tying methods also explained on the 'about' page. I ordered one called 'Rabbit Moon'. The image of a rabbit staring at the moon must have some significance because it turns up on so many Japanese things. To me it just stirs vaguely sad and lonely feelings but also makes me want to buy it...strange.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Return from Oz Bento

Ham and egg "McMuffin"; coleslaw with pickled pepper and green onion flowers; veggies and cottage cheese; "Oh Yes!" cake and random wasabi peas from Asian grocery in Madison (score! great place and we spent a happy half hour there).

Jan's bento this morning was a hurry-up job. We are still recovering from our trip and my son's band performance, which was awesome and loud. Our snack bentos were fantastic and muchas gracias to Avie who created the snack bento concept and who should write a best-selling book about it - what a terrific idea. We felt great passing by McDonalds's and convenience stores, munching on our good munchies from home.

Here's a glimpse of 1:46 seconds from the band gig: my son is the guitar player in white toga with long hair (his band persona is Socrates of Shred). You will see their smoke machine suddenly kick into action and practically choke the audience, and if you listen carefully you can hear the smoke alarms go off:

It was truly amazing.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Road Food Bento!

Road Trip Today! So no lunch bento but instead: snack bento filled with delights designed to make the distance between home and Madison one long munch.

When I hit the highway I revert to age 4: Are we there yet? I have to go to the bathroom! What is there to eat?

At least the last one is now taken care of. Jan and I each have a snacky bento to take on the road to Second Son's CD launch concert. His band is called Lords of the Trident and they've been working for 3 1/2 years on the songs that make up this CD. So Jan and I have to try to stay awake & functional in a Madison bar until 1 a.m. Red Bull you are my sweetheart tonite.

We have two identical bentos with:

Top tier: Peanut butter crackers (may we not die), home-made chocolate-dippped chocolate grahams, sugar snap peas, caramel apple pop, chocolate gold coin.

Bottom bunk: carrots, cherry tomatos and Babybel cheese, M&M's and a Jolly jelly.

I'm hungry! He's looking at me!! Quit it! MOM!! (getting into the mood here)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Red-Egg Bento: Fun with Food Colors

Coloring eggs is so much fun it should not be confined to Easter and the outsides of eggs. I am just beginning to have these weird bento color desires. The (peeled, hard-boiled) egg floated all night in a sinister red solution of (true confession) food coloring. Real bento people use all-natural dye like water that beets have been boiled in. I will get there.

This bento above was one of my favorites ever. It had a little mini-bagel burger, sesame red chard, the great Red Egg (half), yams with sesame seeds on top, cucumber slices, and a little bunny of ume plum vinegar for the yam. I looooove plum vinegar!

Jan's bento was related:

Mini-burger with chips and a little container of ketchup; coleslaw with green onions and Red Egg (half); yam slices, veggies and soybean green olive hummus; an yogurt with blackberries and agave nectar.

My struggle with Jan's meals is always that he wants low carbs but I believe almost religiously in the importance of yellow vegetables such as yams, energy carbs such as rice, and of course DESSERT the most civilizing food category of the planet. He has ordered a low-carb cookbook so maybe we'll get some more ideas there.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Kikko-Man! Weird Commercial!

Check this out if you haven't already seen it: old Japanese commercial for Kikkoman soy sauce, or just for soy sauce generally versus ketchup and olive oil. See if you can figure out why the cat must hang himself, who is in bed with Kikko-Man, and just generally what the heck?! (This video was embedded on a J-List page and that's how I found it - shopping for onigiri molds.) Enjoy!

Mexican Bento

A little bit Mexican anyway...whole wheat burritos made with soy filling and cheese. Jan has cottage cheese and salsa with avocado, carrots and sugar snap peas, and dessert of wasabi peas with M&M's and two wafer Bahlsen cookies.

I have burrito, sour cream and salsa; carrots & almonds, tangerine and a strawberry crammed in the side with Pocky on top.

Very faint little "ole!" for an icy Tuesday!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Monday Bento: Fire up the Week!

I'm getting better at cramming food into every square centimeter of these bento boxes. As this little sakura bento shows! Today I have: kamut tabouli salad ringed with strawberry slices, pickled winter squash, green olive soybean hummus (yum); upper tier: baby carrots, almonds, celery heart, sugar snap peas, apple slices. Mango pudding for elevenses. I think I'll make it through Monday.

Jan has:

Red cabbage and pickled winter squash; rice and fiery hot Thai curry to which I added a few too many red peppers, making it great for him and inedible for me; green olive soybean hummus with cherry tomato border and brussels sprouts, coconut tapioca pudding with pepper-lime mango topping - yum.

This was the first time in my life I've made tapioca pudding. Jan adores it; it's in his family of "little things to smash inside your mouth" comfort foods. It was fun to make, stirring in the dark hours of a Sunday morning and watching the little tapiocas grow transparent and shimmery as they cooked. I'm not completely happy with the texture - it got a little too stiff and plasticky, perhaps need more liquid or cream next time - but it tastes heavenly. I used this recipe from Epicurious. I can wholeheartedly, 100% without reservation, recommend the mango lime topping. This would be great just on yogurt.

Have a great start to the week of bento fun!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

TGIF Bento

This was a nummy bento lunch. On top: tabouli salad made with kamut, a whole grain I adore; sugar snap peas and carrot stars; lower level, 'crab' leg surimi with key limes to squeeze over and horseradish sauce for dipping, plus (in wrap) the last of the rhubarb crisp.

Kamut has a nutty flavor and a great snap. And it is very satisfying; you just don't get hungry again for quite awhile.

Usually I eat lunch at my desk with the door open and just let students/colleagues wander in if they want to chat; but while eating this bento I said "Can you come back later??! I'm just eating my lunch."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bentos make you pay attention

Jan's bento for today has dill pickle potato salad and lettuce-cucumber on the side; a little 'amusement' of chicken andouille sausage, celery, and cottage cheese cup; carrots, snow peas, and babybel cheddar cheese; crackers, M&M's, and a Jolly Jelly.

I found these cheddar babybels in a Wisconsin supermarket after racquetball last night as we limped around famished. The checker was a lovely young woman who asked me what I planned to do with my tofu. She had just 'gone vegan', she said, 2 weeks ago and for example had a tofurkey and veganaise sandwich for lunch. We had a stimulating exchange about the limitless possibilities of tofu.

Then she said, 'I like how it makes me pay attention'. Yes, I like that too and the whole bento fascination is about that, isn't it? Paying attention. This morning making the potato salad I noticed the size of the potato cubes, the onion shreds left in the bowl, the swirl of the spoon through the mixture. My dogs interrupted me dragging my underwear through the kitchen and I was a bit cross with them for interrupting my moment of zen.

Here's my bento for Thursday:

Dill pickle potato salad rolled up in romaine leaves; andouille sausage, hardboiled egg, and cucumber; cheddar babybel cheese and 2 cherry tomatoes; strawberries from last night's supermarket foray into Wisconsin - these strawberries are as sweet as heaven. Where did they come from at this time of year?? I suppose I could look on the carton: the Lovely Land of Florida.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hasty Bentos for Those who Sleep Too Long

I had a business dinner last night and since I lack social skills, these tire me out. So I slept way too long this morning and these bentos were thrown together at warp speed.

Jan's Mr. Bento above has baby carrots and little pickled sweet peppers stuffed with cream cheese, black bean jambalaya leftover from dinner 2 nights ago and brown rice on the side; Ak-Mak crackers and BabyBel cheese;, rhubarb crisp.

My (ta-daaa!) new bento called "Healing of Nature" has onigiri with soybeans in a radicchio cup, sugar snap peas, and a hard-boiled egg that was so hard to peel it's lucky I didn't shoot its brains out in the process. You always get That Egg when you're trying to hurry.

Anyway, Healing of nature, commence! I am more than ready.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mr. Bento is Half Greek!

Jan is having (from left): keftedes or Greek meatballs with mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and a green onion 'lily'; tzatziki (yogurt with cucumber and garlic), bread and butter with a root beer candy hiding, and mandarin oranges with blackberries. OPA!

I am having:

Lower: brown rice with keftede meatball, snow peas, soy bunny; upper: vanilla yogurt and rhubarb crisp. I'll bring some baby carrots to round this out in the vegetable department. The rhubarb is the last of the frozen from my garden last summer, a weird season where it kept on sprouting sweet young rhubarb all summer long. Usually it's shot by July but this was picked in September!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Super-Bowl Bento

Jan's Monday Mr. Bento has a little bit of sports-food theme. Salsa with cheese stars and extra jalapenos, tortilla chips, seafood salad, and carrots & sugar snap peas with a mini-Snickers.

Did you watch the big game?! I saw most of it. I always cheer for the losing team so that guarantees all sports events are tragic experiences for me. "Oh no! How awful!! They have come so far!" Yesterday's Super Bowl involved several shocking reversals so my emotional agility was tested to the max as the underdog role shifted in an instant.

And how about that Bruce Springsteen half-time show? I hope I can jump up on a grand piano at his age. Come to think of it, I already can't jump onto pianos. I must need......more bento!!!