Yummy Bento!

Yummy Bento!

It’s been a while and I’ve been slacking. But being snowed in has given me time to make more bento!

Karage chicken: I made karage chicken the night before and made sure to add one extra piece to the recipe so there was some for the bento. I use Runnyrunny999’s recipe from his hiyashi chuka video. It’s my favorite way to make any kind of fried chicken.

White rice: My personal brand of choice for rise is Nishiki. Why? Because it was the first one I tried that wasn’t Uncle Ben’s, I really enjoyed it, and it’s available at several local grocery stores. On top of it is umeboshi furikake (plum seasoning). Furikake is seasoning that can go on top of rice and comes in LOADS of different flavors. You can find some at your regular grocery store, but there will most likely be more variety at the Asian market.

Curry broccoli: Not sure why, but I’ve been on a broccoli kick lately. There are always 2 or more bags of the frozen florets in the freezer at all times. If you plan on eating this bento soon enough where you don’t think they will thaw in time, then toss them in the microwave a bit to give it a head start. Otherwise if this is a bento that will sit for a while, you can probably opt to leave them frozen (it will keep the celery cool!). Sprinkle on your favorite curry powder, maybe some sesame seeds, and you’re set!

Celery: Not much to say here. Just celery hearts out of the bag. I personally prefer the more tender celery hearts. Not nearly as stringy (almost none) than the darker green regular celery. Only catch, it’s more expensive.

Seaweed salad: I can eat this stuff all day and all night long. Any bento can benefit from this. it’s healthy, and requires zero effort. Place it in a cupcake wrapper, small container, or a silicone cup (as shown).

Breakfast and Lunch Bento

Breakfast and Lunch Bento

After lots of traveling, new job, training, and eating everything in sight over the holidays, it’s time to get back into the Bento scene.
The trick to keeping up with making Bento is to make it fun and easy. Put items in there you will look forward to eat, make it visually appealing (don’t have to go nuts with a deco bento, but keep it as interesting as you like. For the easy part, buy pre-made items (like already cooked rice), make things ahead of time (make a bit extra when making dinner), or go raw (no cooking involved and super healthy).

Mango, celery, eggs, rice, pickled daikon, seaweed.

Nothing cute or flashy about this Bento box. Just threw it together early morning before work. So anyone can do it!

To start off, this is my new Bentgo box and I really like it. Couldn’t believe how inexpensive it was and it’s the perfect size for me. There is a built in separator, plastic fork, knife, spoon, lids, and an elastic band. I will say it’s not the most leak proof thing on the market (I’d personally stick with a Lock & Lock set for those types of meals), but this is really fantastic for the price.

Rice: rice is pretty much a base in any Bento. It’s filling and you can do so much with it. However, really good rice can take a long time to cook. You have to rinse it, then it can take up to an hour in the rice cooker, then you need to wait for it to cool before placing a lid on the Bento box. Why? The steam creates condensation in the box and can ruin the taste and texture of the other food (since you are essentially steaming whatever’s in there). Say goodbye to anything that’s fried in your Bento if you do not let anything cool. This is extra rice I made for dinner the night before.

Pickled daikon: very refreshing and adds a great crunch to most rice dishes. You can find it at the local Asian market or even online. Since it’s pickled it can be easily shipped to you. Guess I was going for a pseudo panda bear look in this bento. If I had some nori (seaweed sheets) I could have cut out some eyes and a nose.

Eggs: this is quickly becoming my favorite breakfast to bring to work. Place in cold water then bring up to a boil. Total time is between 13-15 minutes. Add soy sauce, salt, pepper, sriracha (shown here), or whatever else you like.

Fresh fruit and veggies: a must have for any healthy bento. Go nuts and add literally any fruits or veggies. Tailor it to your taste so you’ll be more likely to eat and enjoy it. Want to add some fun so you have that cute Bento feel? Add picks! They come in all shapes and sizes. They make your bento cute and keep your fingers clean. Pictured here is celery and mango. Really wish I had some picks for the mango as it was very juicy.

Seaweed salad: I felt this Bento needed more greens so I added this in a silicone cup. No cooking involved!

“Two” Ingredient Cookies

I’ve been looking for a healthy and filling breakfast for a while. Something that’s not loaded with sodium, carbs, and chemicals.

After seeing Bubz’s Instagram photo of her cookie, I headed over to where she got the idea. I was instantly hooked! A great way to use those bananas that are a bit too brown for straight up eating.

1 banana
1 cup oats

Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes
(15 minutes for a softer cookie, 20 minutes for a crispier edge)

That’s it!

This is titled “TWO” ingredient cookies because the base of it is really just two ingredients: banana and oatmeal. But you can twist this up however you like!

Here is some info based on my own trials with this:

~ These are very bland without any salt. Not terrible though. I would recommend either a pinch of salt or at least some kind of sweetener (raw sugar, for example).

~ Add fruit! Either in the mix or on top after they are cooked. The original recipe showed fresh cranberries. There were none available at the store so I used dry ones. They added a nice tarty-sweetness and some chew.

~ Smash the banana first! It’s much less messier this way. I use a potato masher to smoosh up the banana before adding the oats.

~ I personally use a mix of steel cut oats and old fashioned oats for texture. 1/2 a cup of each.

~ The bigger you make the cookies, the easier they will fall apart. Unless you are using a small banana, try to make at least 3 cookies. I’ve found that they hold together nicely.

Zero Cooking Quick Bento

Extremely Lazy Bento

And by quick bento, I mean lazy bento. Because I’m lazy! But here I was seriously in a hurry.

Seaweed salad, marinated beets, cherry tomatoes, deli meats, mini peppers, celery.

Seaweed salad: Purchased from the same area that does sushi at the local grocery store. Very cheap, very yummy. My local Asian market also carries this for about the same price.

Beets: These are Love Beets and are one of my new favorites for bento! WARNING: this stuff will stain anything it touches! Open the package carefully and eat with a utensil! I also recommend putting these in their own cup. Here they are in a cupcake liner that has foil on the outside. They come in different flavors and are healthy and delicious. Just wish they were a bit less expensive. I also love putting these on top of salads.

Cherry tomatoes: Finally found a pack of “heirloom” small tomatoes so you get the different colors. These make excellent natural baran (food dividers) for your bento. Also healthy and delicious.

Deli meats: I know deli meat isn’t the healthiest thing, but I was in a huge rush (thus the poorly angled picture) and just wanted something lunch-worthy. Pictured here is ham and turkey.

Mini peppers: You can get bags of these at the local grocery store (saw some at Trader Joe’s too)! Different colored peppers that are not spicy. Think bell pepper but smaller. Same thing here! Place them in your bento whole or cut them up.

Celery: Celery. Yep. That’s about it. I personally prefer paying a bit extra and getting the organic hearts since they aren’t as stringy. But that’s just me.

Quick Vegetarian Bento

Quick Vegetarian Bento

Make this vegan by avoiding the dairy products (use pimento or garlic stuffed olives and omit the Babybel cheese). This is a pretty boring bento compared to what is out there, but I’m feeling under the weather lately and just don’t feel like doing anything mega fancy or cook anything.

Seaweed salad, feta stuffed olives, celery stuffed peppers, carrots, cheese, cucumber salad, marinated beets.

Seaweed salad: Picked this up from the sushi section at the local grocery store. Starting to see it more and more lately. The Asian market has this as well. It’s a very tasty, healthy, quick, and easy addition to any bento. This is sitting in a cupcake liner that has a foil outer layer.

Feta stuffed olives: You should be familiar with these by now. I am actually starting to get tired of them. Going to try another flavor once this jar is finished.

Celery stuffed peppers: These are mini sweet bell peppers that come in a bag. I was getting a bit bored of eating just the pepper so decided to stuff them. It’s pretty yummy! Normally I would stuff these peppers with cream cheese but wanted to be slightly healthy here.

Carrots: These are organic baby carrots straight from a bag. Quick and easy for any bento.

Babybel cheese: This is the light variety. It comes in many flavors. I wish they weren’t expensive (compared to the rest of this bento). But they are a quick grab and you can even cut the outer wax layer into fun shapes.

Cucumber salad: Sprinkle salt on sliced cucumber (this is a small, pickling cucumber) and let sit for about 10 minutes. I usually do this step first then make the bento. This draws out the moisture from the cucumber giving it a softer texture. Then I rinse them (to remove the saltiness) and drizzle some vinegar. Then it’s stopped with scallions and black sesame seeds. You can use regular sesame seeds, but I like the color contrast.

Marinated beets: These are addicting! Recently found these in the produce section of the grocery store. It’s called Love Beets and comes in a few flavors. I honestly do not remember the price, but it wasn’t awful. Beets are super tasty and healthy but I HATE having to cook and clean them. Very messy. With this, I just open the container, stick a knife in to cut them in half, then use a toothpick to take them out and place into bento box. No touching involved! These WILL stain everything it touches so just use a utensil to eat them. But oh my goodness they are very delicious!

Jazz Up Your Ramen

Jazz Up Your Ramen

Ramen is my personal choice for lunch on the weekends, especially now that the weather is getting cooler.

The base for this is one of my new favorite brands of ramen, Shin Ramyn. I actually found these in the Asian section at the local grocery store. If you can’t find them there, check your local Asian market. If that isn’t an option, Amazon has a large selection. Amazon has probably the best price, at around $1.25 per pack.

Now for the “jazz it up” part. Here are things you can add:

Egg: Probably the most common (and delicious) thing you can add to ramen is an egg. Either stir it up during the last minute and a half of cook time (while noodles are cooking) or boil beforehand. I like the look and texture of the hard boiled better, but that’s just me. It takes a bit longer to do, but you can boil a few ahead of time and even marinate them in soy sauce (and/or sriracha). Just put the egg into a zip top bag with some soy sauce and let it sit. The longer it sits, the better.
WARNING: this makes the egg taste more salty! Ramen is usually pretty salty, so if you don’t want to add more salt, either cut this step or just use sriracha.
The length of time you boil the egg will give you a more runny or hard yolk. RunnyRunny999 made a nice YouTube video about how to make a sexy hard boiled egg with the yolk juuuuust a bit runny.

Seaweed: This ingredient seems to be getting a bit more common. You can find this in the Asian section at the local grocery store and it’s sold in sheets. You can even buy them in snack packs, which are salty and delicious on their own. The sheets meant for sushi are a bit thicker and won’t get soggy as quickly.
Depending on your personal preference, either add these immediately before eating, or let them sit in the broth (crunchy vs soft seaweed).

Ham: There’s something about the sweetness of ham that goes well with ramen. This bowl of ramen is a spicy version so I wanted something to counter that. This is just one piece of pre-packaged deli ham. Get any flavor you want. Probably a good idea to get a low sodium ham since ramen has more than enough.

Veggies: I can go on and on about all the different vegetables you can put in ramen, but it will vary depending on your taste. In the picture above is a sliced mini bell pepper. Here are things I’ve tried and personally enjoy. Feel free to experiment and add whatever you have available:
bamboo shoots
bok choy – add to water while noodles are cooking for softer leaves
cabbage – either raw or boiled with the noodles, depending how crunchy you want them
mushrooms – pan fry with some oil then add before serving
green onion/scallion – add right before serving for more crunch
pepper – sweet or spicy
lettuce – on top right before serving for a refreshing crunch
corn – if frozen, cook beforehand then add on top before serving

Meat: The list for this can be just as long as veggies. Whatever you have on hand and whatever you feel like experimenting with. Remember that this will be going in a salty broth, so whatever seasonings you add may be different than if you were eating the meat on its own. Be wary of the amount of soy sauce you use.The ham mentioned above was just to cover what’s in the photo above, but here are other things to try:
ground pork – pan fry with sesame oil, chili oil, ginger, and garlic
deli meat – ham is my favorite so far. Have not tried others yet.
chicken – sliced chicken breast boiled or pan fried
sliced pork – pan fry with whatever seasoning you prefer

Seasonings: As mentioned above, be wary of the salt content. You are adding this into an already seasoned broth. The seasonings you add will vary depending on the brand of ramen you purchase, your personal taste, and what you have on hand. Here are some suggestions:
soy sauce – SODIUM WARNING!
red bean jam
sesame seeds
sesame oil
hot chili oil
shichimi togarashi
sriracha
ground pepper
basil
cilantro

Snack on the Left, Lunch on the Right

Not The Prettiest

Here’s another snack and lunch bento. I REALLY need to make more bento. It saves money and calories. When I started this new job there was a lot of not packing lunch because of the new time schedule. But now I think I have a groove happening so here we go!

left: steamed broccoli rabe with garlic, feta stuffed olives, loads of grapes, mini bell peppers, celery.
right: cheddar cheese, ham, turkey, tomatoes, avocado.

Broccoli Rabe: or rapini. It’s basically a broccoli and spinach cross that’s slightly bitter. Steam it with garlic, olive oil, and salt and you have something yummy! It shrinks up a LOT in the pot so don’t be afraid of adding a whole bunch of this at once. It stores nicely in the fridge for about 3-4 days. I personally love to eat this on toast with a bit extra olive oil drizzled on top.

Feta stuffed olives: that good ol’ staple for my bento. I love the briney-ness that these give to the meal and are super convenient for a lazy bento maker like myself.

Grapes: just thrown in there. Nothing fancy or pretty. I could have sliced them in half or arranged them in their own silicon cups. But naaahhh…lazy! And tasty 🙂

Sliced mini bell peppers: I’ve seen these at almost every grocery store. There are 2 peppers here sliced in half. They come in a bag of multi-colored peppers (sweet, not hot). Just great to have on hand at all times.

Celery: I personally prefer the celery hearts, as they are a bit softer and sweeter (and less stringy). But they were out of those. 😦

Sharp cheddar cheese slice: doesn’t get much lazier or ugly as this. Just took a single slice of cheese and broke it into 3 pieces so it will fit around the box. Didn’t want the meat sitting directly on top of it or else it may get too soft. It’s a harder cheese or I would have rolled it up.

Deli sliced ham and turkey: what you do not see in this box that I used is Joseph’s flax wrap bread. It’s folded up and placed on top of the box to keep away from the food moisture. I placed the deli meat and avocado in this and made a wrap. It was a really nice and healthy lunch. Yes, I know deli meat isn’t the best thing. I ran out of chicken breasts which is what I was using (and forgot to take a picture).

Tomato: I didn’t use these in the wrap but wanted the pop of color and something to separate the avocado and meat. These made a nice side dish for the wrap.

Avocado: this was smeared on the wrap then put the deli meat on top (I ended up eating the cheese by itself but you could put that on the wrap too). There’s some lime juice on top to keep from turning brown.