Saturday, May 30, 2009

"Bento for My Horses!"

This is not as crazy as it sounds. Today I packed a bento box lunch for my horse. Well I guess that is actually pretty crazy. But:

On a longer trail ride I like to bring a few treats for my horse. His faves are: granola bars, grapes, and carrots. So the usual thing is: stuff the snacks in the saddle bag, drag them out all crushed and broken hours later, feed him mushed grapes and broken up granola bar, etc. End up with wadded plastic bag that might or might not get taken out of the saddle bag at trail's end and if not, end up with moldy mush a few weeks later.

Today I was going out for a 2 hour ride so I packed him a bento snack box.

Here it is:

I also packed myself a bento so that I could skip breakfast and have a bento brunch out on the trail:

Yummy organic pink grapefruit, fried basmati rice, and peanut butter pretzels.

As always with horses, the question, "What could go wrong?" is not rhetorical. I had no sooner stopped for lunch and placed the bentos on a log:

...than my horse John decided that red thing was interesting.

He was merely following the #1 Commandment of The Horse:

If It Looketh Interesting, Thou Shalt Try to Eat It.

Faster than I could say NO, JOHN!, he had the bento belt off, the compartments separated, the contents available and half of them eaten.

By this time I was thinking bento box rescue, so I dived in and did an intervention between his moochy lips and the container. He was unable to open the granola bar HA HA NO OPPOSABLE THUMBS!! and so I was able to defer this much of his gratification at least.

It then devolved upon me to help him get the carrot bits out of the brushy ground cover and offer them up to His Highness;

That took care of his snack, with a bit more drama than I'd expected. Now it was time for me to eat my own bento brunch.

This was tricky as I had brought one tiny slippery pair of chopsticks, and I had to hold his lead rope while eating. Plus, John decided that fried rice was something he had not yet enjoyed in life and that was a crime against equinedom.

Why did I not tie him to a tree, you may well ask?

Well that was because I had put his cute bear bells on his neck today, and I knew that if he had a tree to rub on he would follow Equine Commandment #2:

If Possible, Thou Shalt Break It.

So I juggled horse, chopsticks, and bento container as he alternately munched grass and loomed his big face into my space to beg for fried rice.

I gave up on the grapefruit sections and they are sitting in the fridge even as I write, a snack for a later more peaceful time. The peanut butter pretzels melted in the saddle bag:

..although you can see I ate one of them anyway, big mistake as the scent of peanut butter makes John revert to Hungry-Hungry-Caterpillar mode.

I think that horse bentos are a thing that needs some work. I believe I am a person who can take on that work. The ideal sequence of events may be: tie horse, eat one's own bento while horse noshes on grass, then feed horse his bento.

"What Could Go Wrong?"

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Shop Till You Drop (some cash) in Madison Asian Groceries!!!!

Well heavens be praised: my second #1 son graduated from college this past Saturday. This being a general occasion for happiness and celebrating and getting choked up with tears frequently, it also provided me with the chance to revisit Asian groceries in Madison Wisconsin, the scene of much past hilarity and overspending on way-too-good Asian grocery items I cannot find at home.

Here are some of my favorite finds:

Clockwise from left: Dried shiitake at a bargain price, nori, curries green and red, and coconut milk & cream, Mama and Mami noodle soup mixes, and panko bread crumbs - I've never found these before and can't wait to cook some really kick-a$$ fried shrimp with the famous delicate crumb coating that everyone dies for...

And then...

Alluhz my sauzes: Again clockwise from back, Thai hot chili sauce, smoky dark soy sauce, mushroom flavored soy sauce, wasabi mayonnaise in a Kewpie mayo squeeze bottle!!; in the blue bottle, black sesame salt (like furikake?), nanami togarashi (my favorite delicate Japanese red chili peppers ground), prepared plum sauce - bet it will be better than my prune stuff!, and black pepper corns.

And then:

My sweet tooth indulgences:

Sweet layer cakes in pandan flavor??, black coffee candies?, almond Pocky!, crazy good chocolate mushroom cookies, chocolate filled Hello Panda! cookies, and coconut rolled cookies you can just barely see - like Pirouline cookies made in England if you know these. Most of these came from a Vietnamese dominated store that had a verrry dark seafood freezer cabinet, kind of scary.

And last but actually first:

Because one of Avie's video blogs stressed the importance of having a little travel Bento spoon-fork-chopsticks combo, I had to buy this Cinnomoroll one in pink. If Avie told me to jump off a bridge I probably would, assuming there would be some cool reward.

Anyway a wonderful coffee atmosphere exists in Madison so here's two last photos of a terrific coffee and cookie experience from a very emotional weekend:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

More Happy Salad Rolls!!

I love Thai Salad Rolls so much that I wake up thinking about them: all those fresh veggies, the spicy peanut sauce, the cool nomminess of them.

I got up at 5 a.m. the other morning and remembered I had half a pack of salad roll wraps in the fridge, so I got to work. I used this recipe but changed up the filling ingredients. I used red cabbage and lots more carrots than called for, and reduced the rice noodle content by about half, added a huge handful of cilantro, and omitted the peanuts.

This makes them even more nutritious and quite a bit lower in carbs.

I have to say though: my salad rolls are too floppy and loosely packed. I struggle with getting them firmer like the nice ones in Thai restaurants; if there's a trick, I don't know it. I suspect it takes practice. So I'll keep at it. This is a perfect summer bento item...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

NQBR: Cool Hearse I Saw!

Coming home yesterday I was passed by this huge old Detroit boat of a hearse, painted a lovely shade of purple and with this vanity plate on the back:

1ONICE Ha! When I'm dead I would like to be driven around in a purple hearse with a funny license plate. I wonder who owns this gas-guzzling monster and what possessed them to make it such a show-stopper. Don't you just love how crazy people can be??!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

'But the instructions made it sound so easy!'

Things we won't be trying again soon: making egg flowers for bento.

This sorry mess, the massacre of an innocent egg, was the result. Beneath the shards of my dignity there are nice cold sesame noodles, and the other half of Mr. Koi has raw carrots splashed with plum vinegar and couple of nice crisp olives. The vinegar will caress these carrots all morning and by noon they will be fragrant and salty and tangy...yum.

Jan is getting the koi bento today; mine has the same contents minus the axe-murdered egg, but plus Hello Kitty cookies in the lid:

And speaking of koi: the new place where I am boarding my horse John has a pond with actual koi in it!! They are orange, white, and orange-and-white, very pretty and mystical. Somehow fish create an alternate reality of quiet under the surface of the everyday. I love watching them!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"Hello Kitty" has a whole family??

Who knew?? These characters are on the side of a pack of Kitty crackers Avie sent me in my box-o-treats. Who are they all? Does each one have bento boxes and must I own them all??

Today Jan and I have almost identical lunches which include a strange mango that never would ripen properly: it sat and sat, then finally I gave up and cut it this morning. Tastes fine but not quite the right texture, too crunchy.

Fried rice with spinach, chicken andouille sausage chunks on skewers, raw carrots, and mango with a fruit pick; then Jan also has Kitty crackers and a few jelly beans for cheerfulness. And I get mango nectar in my Scribble-Pig thermos. Not shown: my O-YES! choco-cake, the last one from our Madison shopping extravaganza awhile back.

Mango memory: When I was a little girl my dad rode the mail trains all the length of the eastern seaboard of Florida. They handed out mailbags at each little town and sometimes got handed back in a present. A typical present was an entire grocery bag filled with ripe mangoes. He would bring home dozens of them and we would feast like kings, the juice dripping down our skinny arms, oh it was heavenly.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hello Grilling!!

Jan got a new grill and ladies, you know what that means. He is particularly excited that it has a smokestack. This is a functional item that allows the griller to....ermmm...adjust the smoke? I don't know.

But we will definitely have more grilled things now since our old one was a freebie Weber kettle from my friend Laura and was missing some venting parts.

Today's bento is a Hello Kitty salad with leftover grilled shrimp and steak strips:

I've been pretty busy with horse transactions (sold Montana, equine dentist visit, etc.) so the bento aspect of life has been on hiatus. Horses can take up as much time (and money!) as you have to offer, I have discovered. But the feeling of freedom is quite well worth it:

This summer I am looking forward to testing my bento-packing skills with the ultimate horseback bento lunch. Anything that can stand up to that much jiggling will be a sturdy lunch indeed.