Friday, January 13, 2012

Bento Blitz

With the return to school and work, I returned to bento making.  I enjoyed my holiday respite from the early morning cooking but the truth is, I love to make lunch for the family.

I have been focusing on getting more color into the boxes, so you may see some unusual things in the next few weeks.  (Are you admiring my fine mesh strainer/steam basket at left?  Got it for Christmas!)

Here are a few bentos I made recently, with a little info about each.

 Pepper has been asking for a simple brown rice and veggie bento from time to time;  she has a very demanding athletic class 30 minutes after she eats, so we collaborate on what is going to sit well while she runs three miles or does 100 crunches. 

I sliced a sweet potato into 1/4" slices, simmered them in a bit of water for about 10 minutes and then used these adorable cutters to make cute designs (thanks Mom and Dad). The scraps at the top were cut small and hidden under the rice.
 Here is Pepper's bento box: broccoli, boiled egg, brown rice, sweet potato, grape tomatoes, and a little piggy of soy sauce.

This is one of my favorite containers for Pepper because it holds her chopsticks and silverware close at hand.(There's a little lid that goes over the flatware compartment.)  I thought dear hubby would not like this meal since he is a meat lover but he offered no complaint!

The next bento was a huge hit.  The spinach knobs with sesame sauce are always popular with the whole family.  In the past I have short-cut the sauce with tahini and it was wonderful, but this time I used the crushed sesame seeds and it was dynamite!  Oh my goodness, oh my goodness! Maki's recipe calls for mixing the sauce with the spinach but it's messy so if I'm in a hurry, I put it on the knobs instead.

There are a few sauteed bell peppers and carrots in between the spinach and the white rice.
Ginger Chicken  (serves 5)

2 Tbsp. crushed ginger
2 Tbsp. Mirin
2 Tbsp. Sake (you can use regular wine)
1 Tbsp. Soy Sauce (I use Low Sodium)

Dice up 4 chicken breasts and put them in the marinade a few minutes.  Heat a frying pan over medium high heat with 1/2 tsp. sesame oil and 1 tsp. canola oil.  When the oil shimmers add half the chicken.   Set a timer for 3 minutes and then flip it all.  Cook 2 more minutes but make sure you don't overcook them.  Repeat with new oil and the rest of the chicken, reserving marinade.

There are no sauce bottles in the picture because I forgot to put them in the bentos and had to call Dear Hubby to come back to get them!  The sauce is simple:

Deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup sake (or white wine) and add 1/4 cup water.  Add any remaining marinade.  Cook it a few minutes until it is nice and thick, then add 2 Tbsp. soy sauce.  Strain and bottle. 

Finally, today's bento.  Since only the Mr. had to take lunch today, I made a simple meal, partially leftover.  I do not cook a whole meal every day; I do use leftovers when I have them.  That said, 7 people eat a lot of food and we do not have a lot of leftovers.  The only thing I "cooked" for today was cabbage and crab slaw; this is a wonderful recipe from the Just Bento Cookbook that Dear Hubby really enjoys.  

It is actually quite simple, mostly instant cabbage pickles with the yummy crab and a super simple vinaigrette.  There is nothing to it, really, and all the calories are in the crab, of which there is only 1/4 cup per serving. 

I dressed it up a bit with these pretty grape tomatoes.

It looks better if you don't chop all the curls out of the cabbage so don't use a food processor.  The picture below shows the cabbage cut thinly by hand, before pickling.

I knew hubby would be fine with yesterday's fried rice as the main dish.  I make fried rice most weeks on Thursday to use up the excess rice accumulated through the week.  I just use whatever I have on hand; in this case it is brown and white rice, scrambled egg, cabbage, mushrooms and a tiny, tiny bit of bacon.

Here is the whole meal together.  I added some fresh blueberries to round it out.  It's all assembled in the neat-o tiffin I bought Dear Hubby last fall.  He loves this holds a lot of food but also looks really cool.
That's the bento round up.  This week was super simple, although I have been behind on dishes all week.  After a conversation with my buddy Colleen, I realized -- duh -- I need some dishwasher safe boxes!  So I shopped them on J-List and found a couple for under $5 each.  They are on the way to me as we speak!

1 comment:

Knights' Mama said...

Thanks for the great info! I'm inspired but intimidated to attempt. The sweet potatoes are adorable.

For future reference, I saw some top rack dishwasher safe bento lunchboxes at Wheatsville on Saturday. Online is probably more convenient for you, but if you ever need a local source, they have them.