Friday, October 30, 2009

Curry - It is So Good!

Today my bento had pinto bean and tart apple curry, sticky rice with almonds, and cilantro and Savoy cabbage coleslaw with several fat delectable umeboshi on top.

It was completely yum and so satisfying that even though I ate it at 11:30 a.m., I was still not hungry by 6 when I got home from work.

Curry curry curry; it makes the house smell divine, it satisfies all the senses, it brings me home to my soul. And apparently it is very good for you as well, since curry powder has been shown to be beneficial for the processing of trace minerals and iron in the body. So everybody eat curry like crazy!

Here's my own personally-invented recipe for the bean and apple curry above:

Pinto Bean and Tart Apple Curry

1 cup of dry pinto beans or other beans you like
2 medium tart apples such as Granny Smith or other; chop in 1" pieces and core but do not peel
one small onion
one or two small sweet peppers, sliced into nice bento size chunks
curry powder, fresh as you can get it
3 tablespoons canola oil

Rinse dry beans, checking them carefully for pebbles (I found 4 rocks in one cup from my co-op! I am shocked!!)

Soak them for an hour or a day or overnight, whatever; this step is very forgiving.

Bring beans to boil in 3 cups of water; boil for about 40 minutes or until almost done (not too done or they'll be mushy).

Drain beans and put aside.

In a big saucepan or skillet, heat the canola oil and fry up the onion until it appears pearly (about 2 minutes); add the sweet pepper, apple pieces, curry powder, and as much water as you like for a saucy but not watery consistency. Cook for about 3 minutes over medium heat; don't toast the curry powder too hot or it gets bitter.

Finally mix in the cooked beans and simmer for just awhile; turn off the heat and let the flavors chat for awhile. Eat and enjoy!!! Super cheap supper and boy is it good.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fishy Fishy but Egg Salad!

This little double-decker koi bento is one of my favorites but quite challenging to pack, for some reason.

In this one for Jan, I put egg salad - one of my ultimate comfort foods; when I am on my deathbed, bring me some egg salad with capers and Kewpie mayo and I will die quietly I promise! -- and a few slices of Cure 81 ham, plus sugar snap peas and Persian cucumber pickles I made hastily and they're so good.

Just as some bento boxes seem to take in way more food than you'd expect, some others take in less, and that's my feeling about little koi. It's killer cute, but you need to be strategic. Employ strategery. That kind of thing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Salad Rolls!

I just love Thai salad rolls with lots of yummy cilantro and whatever fresh veggie ingredients are on hand. I am slooooowly getting better at working with the papery wraps they require: not burning my fingers in the water so much, for example and not breaking them in the rolling process.

My goal is to get to the point where I can just whip up 4-5 rolls for a dinner without making a big nervous production of it. The wraps store well in the frig and even come in a container meant to reclose...

So our lunches yesterday were these. Jan's at the top had the rolls, then in the bottom container spicy shrimp and sweet pepper fry-up, with part of my massive tomato harvest on top. The tomatoes are those little spheroid objects in pale red and green. Ha ha Mother Nature, you are a comedian. These tomatoes grew on the back deck to a certain point and then froze in time, neither reddening nor becoming larger. "That's it for us!", they cried in little squeaky tomato voices.

My bento:

has also some of these jokers, all of them green. We both have no-bake oatmeal fudge cookies as our treat, made from my mom's handwritten recipe which I will keep forever.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday!!!! Bento

Sticky rice, sesame tofu with green onion, Persian cucumber and tomato with ume vinegar and a few olives.

And Public Service Announcement: If you have black sesame seeds in your furikake for lunch, check your teeth before going to your next meeting!! Don't ask me why I am thinking about this today.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rain Sleet Snowblobs and Bento

Winter is upon us here in northern Minnesota. Yesterday it snowed large wet blobs of icy stuff that was most unpleasant to feel upon the face and hands. My dogs were horrified to walk out on the deck and feel it slippery with ice.

My bento for today has nice fresh sticky rice and three beautiful umeboshi from my Madison Asian grocery haul; Persian cucumbers from Trader Joe's in Madison also, a rather flat omelet, yogurt, ginger jam and sunflower seeds for topping the yogurt, and a Snickers mini.

Here's the little peanut gallery that watches me prepare bentos every morning; they are hoping I will drop down some rice or crumbs:

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Trip to Madison Wisconsin

With my trusty doggy companions, I visited my second Number 1 Son in Madison this past weekend, and had some fun bento-related times.

First of all, I was able to salvage his damaged rice cooker. This lovely Zojirushi rice cooker with 'smart' brains had been left with some rice inside until it rotted and became too terrifying to deal with. So son and friend moved it from their previous abode, onto the back deck of their present abode, but did not deal with it any further. It was there last June, and there it remained this October.

I got it cleaned up and ran a load of rice through. There were strange pincher-backed bugs inside it who rushed out when it began to heat. But the rice was cooked to perfection. All Hail Zojirushi, who make a rice cooker that can withstand several months in the sun and rain with rotting rice inside and an interior bug colony, and still cook up perfect rice!!!!!

OK, that was gross.

We did have some more positive food-related times. But first here's aphoto of my son the geneticist:

Oh my am I proud of this dude. Yes he trashed his rice cooker, but he is working on a genetic cure for eye diseases which might have a spin-off for Alzheimer's. He manipulates DNA all day long. He is awesome.

So back to our food in Madison: we had great sushi

at a place where the waitress was so cold she was like an angry relative. But the sushi was divine and the green tea was like dynamite to the brain.

And the next night we went to the Flat Top Grill where you select your ingredients and then they are grilled for you on a giant grill surface:

This was most educational because it showed how easy it is to make awesome Asian grilled dinners. We chose rice or noodles, veggie ingredients, sauces, and meat or tofu, then at the end you could put a pick into your bowl to indicate what extras you wanted: egg, flat bread, shrimp skewer, etc.

It was all then thrown into the grill and brought to your table when done. I had noodles and veggies and a coconut curry sauce with hotness; it was divine.

My dogs indicate their support of the Wisconsin Badgers here but alas! the Badgers lost their homecoming game this same weekend -- an event we noted mainly as it caused ghastly traffic problems as we went about our business.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Noodle Mania

I loooove noodles. So imagine my joy when Amazon sent me a message that this book had been published. How nice that has such psychic powers. I try to resist these little ad placements this case it was kismet. I literally could eat noodles every day at least once.

The author, Corinne Trang, has eaten noodles in all parts of the world and has the equivalent of a Ph.D. in Noodleology; she grew up with several different kinds of Asian grannies and aunties making their own noodles and fighting over the best combos of toppings and broths.

Trang sets our minds at ease by saying that any noodle can be used in any dish. There are better and worse choices but no catastrophes with this divine ingredient. The book has great recipes like this one:

Somen noodles with spicy shrimp curry and peas!! I need to make this asap; what a great winter lunch or supper. There are tons more great looking recipes for all the types of noodles, and explanations of the way these types came to be.

It also has great general cooking tips including a section on what you need to have in your kitchen (both foods and tools) in order to make great Asian recipes of all kinds. She is very economical and practical, and I plan to buy a copy of this book for both my sons when they get a bit more settled in their adult lives.

Today's bentos reflected the noodle influence:

Soba with the basic noodle sauce consisting of a splash of mirin, a splash of rice vinegar, a splash of soy sauce, and a few drops of sesame oil to make it all stick. Into the soba went some previously barbecued pork, and some sweet red pepper rings. Shoyu tamago (soy-soaked hard boiled egg) with black sesame and fluffy salt furikake.

There is also another attempt at carrot kinpira, not a rousing success (tasted like salty carrot slaw). Need to look around for a better recipe. And some tomatoes from the frantic harvest prior to frost.

So noodles for everyday and everyone! is my new motto. Noodle up!

Smash that Bento!

1. I'm continually amazed at how much food can fit in a regular-size bento box. After the burrito went into one there was a little empty corner, so I started putting sliced carrots in that spot and the entire good-sized carrot disappeared into that little space!

2. Nevertheless the burrito was a little too fat for the parallel placement you see here and there was no other way so it was Smash Your Food time. This actually worked out OK because it gave the burrito halves a nice solid consistency by lunch.

This is Jan's bento with an egg and cheese burrito, carrots and olives, Fritos chips and a sidecar of yummy salsa he made on Sunday night.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mr. Bento for the Soup Win!!

It was a Christmas gift of Mr. Bento's food tube lunch system that got me into bentos last year, and to Mr. Bento I return when it is a question of a good-sized lunch including something liquidy like soup or chili. This capacious set of containers designed for the hungry salary man is just the best way to bring your soup to work, I think. The one container with the soup in it does not leak, can be easily microwaved, and is cute in a somber sort of way...

Above is Jan's Mr. Bento lunch with vegetarian chili, cheese stars, a carrot-cabbage slaw with mandarin oranges that was so good I could not believe I made it (recipe below), octo-dogs with one leftover take-out dumpling and plum sauce over all, and the cracker and candy container.

My lunch:

...had the dubious last of some leftover chicken wild rice soup, the leftover cheese from Jan's stars, the carrot-cabbage slaw, and a giant fruit salad which made me extremely happy at around 4:00 at work. I love fruit salad!!! And I put some sweet shredded coconut in this one so it was almost a dessert. My Mr.Bento only has 3 inner containers and one is sizeable; I am still working on dividing this container as I have seen in photos: sometimes there is a stew or curry under a sealing layer of rice. Either way, Mr. Bento means a substantial lunch and sometimes that is what you need.

Yesterday I worked out on the elliptical watching (junky TV plus) a light snowfall out the huge plate glass windows, over the football field, where a lone young man in t-shirt and shorts practiced stunts on a short bicycle. Mosshing up several seasons into one is a Minnesota custom.

Carrot-Cabbage Mandarin Slaw

1/4 head of cabbage grated or chopped
2 big sweet carrots grated
15-oz. can of mandarin oranges drained, or one large fresh Mandarin peeled and chopped in chunks

Dressing: 1/8 cup rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon fine sugar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper to taste

Combine the salad ingredients; shake up the dressing ingredients until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over and allow to rest in the fridge for at least one hour.

If you bring this salad to work it will meld all morning and produce the most lovely sunny-tasting flavor by lunch time!!! Low in fat and high in good nutrition including anti-oxidants!! Yum yum...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Zucchini Lasagna Bento for Thursday

Had some big submarine-size zucchini this week and found this recipe. It turned out really well!!

There was a lot of liquid "tomato soup' around the edges of the dish when it was done, and this scared me; but the instructions say to let it set up for 20 minutes after it comes out of the oven. During this time the liquid completely disappeared leaving nummy cake-like lasagna with just the right amounts of ricotta and parmesan and sauce. Definitely a keeper recipe! And: very low in carbs.

Jan also has in this bento a steak and tomato salad, so there's tomato in everything, a bento no-no. But here it is the season of bringing in tomatoes to save them from the frost, so one of Jan's co-workers brought in a huge box of heirloom tomatoes grown by his mom. I want to know where she lives because my own tomato harvest consists of 3 cherry-sized orbs that are jade-green and hard as granite. It's been a cool summer...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bentos a Little Bit Picnic

With fall drawing in and cooler weather, I still have a picnic going inside my head and the bentos of this week are in line with that.

Here is my bento on the left in blue, and Jan's on the right in red rabbit usagi:

Fried rice made with brown basmati, a two-colors-of-tomatoes salad heavy on the cilantro, and Jan has some steak strips on crab picks and a hard boiled egg for manly protein (and to reduce the amount of rice in his lunch, due to its being so carby).

Jan's bento for today has egg salad, coleslaw left over from last night, cheese and salami hearts, cold sesame noodle with cilantro and sweet red pepper rings, and 3 Three Musketeers bars, highly recommended by a friend.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gym Snack Bento

Feta cheese and Ak-Mak whole wheat crackers; roasted zucchini, tomato, olives, and hard-boiled egg with nanami togarashi on top.

This was so welcome after a hard hour on the elliptical watching some bizarre TV show about a Hispanic high school girls' volleyball team. During their games they had a DJ who did the record-scritching thing, and also a team of young male dancers. The show followed their season from:

(a) initial humiliating loss, which caused their coach to force them to sit on the locker room floor and hold hands for team building; through

(b) a subsequent unbroken string of victories set to rousing hip-hop music, to

(c) a fatal night when they drugged each other pre-game in boyfriend jealousy, and staggered around the court like pole-axed cattle; to

(d) an ending that I missed. I am guessing that ending would be

(e) Happy!! They all worked it out, the coach drew a moral, and one or more of them got scholarship offers, while hip-hop music blared over it all and the credits began to roll.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

"Hallelujah I'm a Bum!"

NQBR but it occurred to me this morning that dogs are bums.

I mean bums in the old sense of living on handouts, doing no real work, imposing on people and generally being a drain on society.

I took my dogs with me to the barn this morning and they did their best to shed out their entire summer coats in my car while I rode.

Then I brought them home and Rufus continued his only mode of useful work which consists of staring at me relentlessly the whole time I'm home.

Everywhere I go I turn around and see him sitting and staring at me. I believe he expects me to explode, and wants to be there as an eye-witness.

Bums. Why do we adore them so??!