On May 1st we celebrate May Day in Hawaii. And May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii! So for TinySprite, I served her fried rice with a hard-boiled egg girl decorated with nori. She's wearing a lei of carrot, radish and cucumbers, and some fresh nasturtiums in her hair. The top tier contains strawberries, broccoli and cara cara oranges. Can you believe it's May already? I'm ready for the warm weather and brand new garden blooms!
"...May Day is Lei Day in Hawai`i Garlands of flowers ev'rywhere, All of the colors in the rainbow Maidens with blossoms in their hair Flowers that mean we should be happy, Throwing aside a load of care, Oh, May Day is Lei Day in Hawai`i Lei Day is happy day out there." ~ Red Hawke, 1928 Added to What's For Lunch.
Guess what? I didn't feel like cooking for the bento today! So lucky TinySprite gets her favorite egg salad pita pocket sandwich. I tucked some shredded spinach into the whole wheat pocket before spooning in the egg salad mixture (this batch contains celery, onion, yogurt, curry powder and turmeric, salt and pepper). Then I decorated a radish slice with a nori kitty face. Ears and paws are also radish pieces. I snuggled some silicone cups of cantaloupe chunks, the absolute last strawberry, carrots and sesame slaw in this Chococat box as well. Happy weekend everyone!
I made a giant truckload of gyoza (see my method and recipe here) tonight; enough for 20 per person... or so... but of course, some of them were destined for bento so we didn't actually eat that many. I could have, though! These were made with ground pork and turkey, green onions and chopped swiss chard. Because I'm just that untraditional. I packed as many as I could fit in the EcoLunchBox Solo Cube, which is perfect for this kind of "dry" meal, alongside the last few remaining baby strawberries, pickled onions, carrots and daikon, and a small Okinawan sweet potato. My kindergartner can handle this easy-open box, secured with a felt band, and it's just the right size for her appetite as well. Enjoy, TinySprite!
Our heatwave is cooling off, but I decided to pack the kids a refreshing soba salad for their bento in the EcoLunchBox two-tier set. Toppings include shredded lettuce, ham, carrots and surimi. He'll pour the tsuyu and sprinkle furikake right before he eats. Sides include: carrot-beet salad (tossed with cider vinegar, ground ginger, and pomegranate juice), pickled cucumbers with bittermelon and kumquats, and sesame-marinated baby sweet peppers. Plus the favored farmers market strawberries. Seems like a summer lunch, and I personally can't wait!
So today we are starting a week of unseasonally warm temperatures over here in the Bay Area; today was predicted to be the warmest, and it reached the upper 70s in my 'hood. It was a fantastic harbinger of summer! I decided I wanted to not-cook tonight, and just have salads, in honor of the heat and also the fact that it's Earth Day. I almost did no cooking, but I did griddle up some veggies to go with the chickpea salad. It didn't take long, though. I sliced some eggplant, zucchini, shallots, tomatoes and garlic, and fried in olive oil until tender. I drizzled honey and sprinkled oregano to taste -- very simple. The chickpea salad is simply fork-mashed chickpeas tossed with sliced onion, cilantro, cumin, lemon, salt and pepper. The next section has grated carrot and beet salad (tossed with cider vinegar, pomegranate juice, a sprinkling of ground ginger, salt and pepper), beside the pickled cucumbers, daikon, baby turnips and kumquats. I also added pickled red onion since she likes that. Some fresh farmers market strawberries and a little sprig of broccoli for color round out this fresh vegetarian bento for TinySprite. Happy Earth Day!
MisterMan's ma po tofu gets an accent of three beet-dyed sakura cut tofu "blossoms" floating atop his meal. Did you enjoy the cherry blossoms in your neighborhood? Seems this year I noticed quite a few specimen trees that I never noticed in years past. There's one fabulous double-blossomed tree that I pass every single day, and somehow I never realized its striking beauty until the past couple weeks. I can't take a picture because there's no parking, but I've been slowing down to appreciate it each day. So here's my homage to that lovely spring display. His upper tier has a couple of the last market strawberries, and some cups of: marinated baby bell peppers and pickled red onions; pickled turnips with sliced kumquats, pickled carrots and daikon, and pickled bittermelon. The baby turnips recipe called for lemon, but I substituted kumquats -- it's delicious this way! I think the kumquats would be nice by themselves as well. They are an unusual fruit in that the flesh and juice are tart but the skin is sweet. Have you had them? And this batch of bittermelon was marinated in equal parts vinegar and pineapple juice. It's a lot more palatable this way. I think this method is a winner! I may put together a post of all my pickling experiments, in case you have a hankering to try any of these, and so that I can remember what I've tried so far. What do you think?
I never buy skin-on chicken these days, but I wanted to try cooking it in a hot pan to make crispy skin. It was tasty, but not really worth the splattering oil factor. I'd rather have oven-broiled tebasaki, which also gets nice and crispy, but behind the oven safety glass! Still, my little girl liked it, of course. Chicken is her favorite food, I think, after bread. And cheese, and ice cream. Also in the LunchBot Trio: steamed broccoli sprig, fried lotus root (renkon), pickled cucumber / onion / carrot / daikon, sweet baby organic strawberries, blackberries, and blood oranges.
Added to What's For Lunch.
It's not Monday, but it still feels like Monday to me... so that's why I'm packing a super easy and quick bento favorite of mine. It usually involves some kind of good (organic, no nitrites) sausage, sauteed mushrooms and quick pan-fried rainbow chard tossed with garlic powder. I finished out this box with steamed broccoli, a little cup of pickled onions, cucumbers and carrot/daikon, and a scattering of farmers market strawberries and blackberries. Are you excited to see colorful fruit and vegetables at the market lately? I definitely am! I've also been pickling more stuff lately, and I'll try to remember to stick some more adventurous combos in here in the next few days. Happy Tuesday!
I got this chicken soup recipe from Bon Appetit magazine and it went over pretty well. I substituted chicken breast meat since that was what I had, and the meat was tender. It made a pretty big pot of soup, and the family completely slurped it all up. Good thing I reserved some for the Hello Kitty thermal. The little side box holds: blackberries, strawberries, Okinawan sweet potatoes, and the usual pickled stuff. This time I added sliced kiwi in with the bittermelon, and the sweet fruit actually helps cut the intense bite of the bittermelon, if you eat both together. Unfortunately, the kiwi gets soft and falls apart in the solution, so you have to add it upon serving. I think it looks pretty. If you don't think you'd like bittermelon, I suggest you try it this way. It's not bad! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Lemony Chicken and Orzo Soup (from Bon Appetit)
1 T olive oil 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise 1/2" thick 1 celery stalk, sliced crosswise 1/2" thick 12oz. skinless, boneless chicken thighs 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper 1/2 cup orzo (I used whole wheat orzo) 1/4 cup chopped dill (I omitted) Lemon halves (for serving)
Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add leek and celery and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, 5-8 minutes. Add chicken and broth; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until chicken is cooked through, 15-20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let cool, then shred chicken into bite-size pieces. Meanwhile, return broth to a boil. Add orzo and cook until al dente, 8-10 minutes. Remove pot from heat. Stir in chicken and dill. Serve with lemon halves for squeezing over.
Today the kids got vegetarian chili in their bento; chock full of whatever I could find in the fridge and pantry. The top tier has the usual colorful fruits and such, along with what's currently pickling in my fridge: carrots + daikon, red onions, and bittermelon + cauliflower. That last one is kind of a tough sell. I think I'm going to try adding something else to counter the bitterness; I have some ideas. And since I was in a creative mood, I decided to freehand a little cheddar Pikachu. I used my tiny paring knife and carved out his face and body, but don't look too close at his back leg. A little nori and carrot detail and voila! Hey, it wasn't that hard after all. ^_^
This is a bento of firsts: my first time packing tonkatsu, and my first time making pickled okra. As for the tonkatsu, there's not really a reason not to pack it for bento. I mean, it's true that it's crispier when eaten immediately, but it's still tasty the next day, and when you let the kids dip their own tonkatsu sauce, you'll find that they eat the cabbage too. Besides the mess and hassle of deep-frying, it's not hard to make tonkatsu. I use thin cut pork and dip in flour, egg and panko, and fry until golden brown. And of course, kids LOVE it. About the pickles; I've actually been on a kind of pickle kick. I am obsessed with pickling. My favorite is red onions. It's super easy, and amazingly enough you don't need to add anything at all except rice vinegar -- the onions just magically become sweet and delicious after a day or so. And look at the color! I mean, how can you resist? I also shredded some carrot and daikon and pickled those together with a little sugar, and then I saw a recipe for okra pickles. I think they are meant to be eaten relatively soon after preparing, due to the slime factor, but the flavor was really good! It called for shoyu, which made a big difference. I thought the kids might be grossed out but they actually finished this batch first. Kids eating raw okra? Score! The other box shows off all the spring color: pineapple chunks, carrots, blackberries, and supersweet baby farmers strawberries.
Added to What's For Lunch.
It's Monday and MisterMan is back from his camping trip to Gold Country! He had a fantastic time, as I expected, and he learned a lot. The kids panned for gold, baked their own cornbread in the coals, and negotiated their own solo hike (part of a 3 mile, 800 ft elevation gain trek!). I was surprised that 4th-graders were able to handle themselves responsibly and effectively (within small parentally chaperoned groups), with limited to no adult help. So proud of my young man. We spent the weekend together enjoying our reunited family, and that means the Monday bento is a quickie sandwich one. This one is a salmon burger with lettuce on a whole wheat sandwich thin, with strategically positioned steamed Okinawan sweet potatoes to depict a bear face. That's all I could manage today, along with tomatoes, blackberries and house-pickled cucumbers and carrot-daikon sticks. Hope you all had a great weekend and are ready to tackle a new week ahead!
For TinySprite's last bento of the week, I used the LunchBots Trio and packed some makizushi (with brown rice, barley and ham), tamagoyaki with spinach and broccoli stems, carrot, broccoli, steamed Moloka'i Okinawan sweet potato, pickled cucumbers and wakame, and baby sweet strawberries. Simple, fresh and tasty for my girl. Her brother MisterMan comes home tomorrow, and we can't wait!
Today I made mini chicken burgers for TinySprite. MisterMan is in the mountains somewhere, eating cowboy stew and soudough bread or something like that. With only one bento to make, I decided to take some extra time and make a cute one. I fashioned a bear face with ears, and added nori details to a piece of mushroom to make Rilakkuma; his sidekick Kiiroitori is cut from a yellow sweet pepper. There's also a panda egg on a bed of furikake rice, some Japanese slaw (shredded napa cabbage tossed with rice vinegar, sugar, shoyu and sesame seeds) -- the kids both LOVE this salad! -- and more supersweet organic strawberries and carrots. All packed in the sky blue LunchBots Quad. Happy Wednesday!
I made a special field trip bento today, because MisterMan is going on a retreat to Gold Rush Country! It's probably cold, rainy and there may even be snow on the ground, but he is super excited to try his hand at panning for gold and all that old forty-niner lore. He LOVES history, and he'll be getting first-hand experience of California's heritage. I packed some appropriate food for him to eat on the way up there: shovel-, pick- and gold nugget-shaped pizza rolls (or calzones) to aid in his gold-mining efforts. There's also: grape tomatoes, steamed Moloka'i Okinawan sweet potatoes, a hard-boiled egg, carrots, strawberries, a cup of his favorite pickled cucumbers and onions, and some dried apricots. I also gave him a bag of kettle corn to munch on. The boy's going to need all the nourishment he can get! Go west, young man -- there's gold in them thar hills!
As for TinySprite, she'll be taking a cute doggie calzone to school with her...
Happy April! I can hardly believe it's the 1st of April already. Next month we'll be done with school. Summer is almost here!! Okay, let's calm ourselves down a bit. There are still quite a few more bento to go before we get to take a summer break, and let's start with this one for TinySprite in our Sistema Bakery Box. It's a good Monday bento which required very little prep since the day before was spent running around, searching for eggs, and enjoying the springy Easter weather without a thought for the next day. I had some wild salmon in the freezer, which took only a few minutes to cook in butter and shoyu, to be packed with a cute floral cup of red rice and furikake, another cup of edamame, a fresh stash of pickled veggies, more Moloka'i Okinawan sweet potatoes, and the sweetest EVER organic farmers market strawberries. They are smallish in size and oddly shaped, but the flavor burst when you bite into them will bring tears to your eyes. The vendor actually guarantees you'll be back for his berries because they're the best. He's quite the salesman, but he's right. I'm definitely going back next week. Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!
I am a former research scientist turned stay-at-home-mom of 2 who got started with bento in an effort to help my kids learn that eating healthy and nutritious foods can be fun and cute. I make a bento lunch for my 13yo (8th grader) son & my 10yo (4th grader) daughter every school day, and post the pictures on my sherimiya ♥ flickr photostream. Here in this blog is where I describe each bento, and you'll also get a peek inside our family adventures. Thanks for taking a look, and please let me know what you think ^-^!