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).

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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.

Filling Bento

Filling Bento

left: kiwi, avocado, cherry tomatoes, beets, cucumber, bell pepper, swiss chard with sesame oil and seeds.
right: pork patties with katsu sauce, kabocha (buttercup squash) simmered in dashi stock, rice with scallions.

I know I know, another HUGE bento. This is my lunch, dinner and snack. Fresh from grocery shopping. I was inspired to try things I have never tried before. Thanks to the hubby for this awesome bento book. The new items for me are kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) and collard greens.

Kiwi slices: just as you see.

Avocado: topped with salt, pepper, and shichimi (somewhat spicy pepper found at the Asian grocer).

Cherry tomatoes: once again, have these on hand if you are making bento on a regular basis. They are fantastic, pretty, and healthy space fillers. Also they go great with the avocado (think guacamole).

Red bell pepper slice: just filling some space here with tasty stuff. I  made stir fry the night before and didn’t use all the peppers. Bento bonus!

Whole mini cucumber: my newest addiction. I keep these in the fridge and snack on them all the time!

Beets: pre-packaged marinated in balsamic vinegar. These are very tangy, almost sour. Great texture and delicious.

Collard greens: recipe from Just Bento. Something I’ve never had before and it’s pretty tasty! Very healthy and I like being able to make it as spicy as I want.

Chicken tofu patties: my personal favorite, as you can make these in advance and freeze them. Recipe is from Just Bento. Sitting on top of a piece of romaine lettuce. I personally recommend putting anything oily or coated with sauce on either a piece of lettuce or cabbage leaf. Not only to keep things from dripping and sliding around onto your other food, but i honestly like eating it. Make a little pseudo lettuce wrap by putting a few leaves underneath. They are fantastic on their own, or you can pack a little sauce of soy, katsu, or sriracha.

Kabocha: I was really surprised to find this at my regular grocery store. It’s a winter squash, so you might see it pop up as fall arrives. It has a sweet flavor and a very nice texture. Not fibery or too squishy. I used the recipe from Just Bento.

White rice: Nishiki brand white rice with scallions and black sesame on top.

Lunch, Dinner, and Snacks Bento

Lunch, Dinner, and Snacks Bento

Left: rice with plum furikake (seasoning), karaage chicken, cabbage and tofu salad with dressing bottles and sweet red peppers.
Right: cheese, ham and cheese rolls, kiwi, nectarine, Hello Kitty gummies, Triscuit crackers, carrot, bean salad.

Ok, so this may not be the “all healthy bento” that you often see, but I had a long day ahead and wanted variety. This was NOT consumed in one sitting. Cheese and crackers were a snack, kiwi and nectarine were another. Carrots, bean salad, and ham/cheese roll ups were lunch. The rest was dinner with the gummy candy being dessert.

White rice with furikake: My staple, Nishiki brand rice with umeboshi flavored furikake on top.

Karaage chicken: This is Cooking With Dog’s recipe. I’m honestly not sure how well this freezes, but I usually make a decent size batch using chicken breast (instead of thigh) and use it the next 3 days. No sauce needed for this stuff. It’s delicious all on its own.

Salad: with tofu, black sesame seeds, and beni shoga. Beni shoga is pickled ginger, not to be confused with sushi ginger (which you commonly see in grocery stores). On either side of the salad are two mini red peppers (not spicy). I love these for bento. No prepping needed, just throw them in and they look nice. Also two cute bottles of ginger dressing.

Cheese: I know it seems redundant with having the ham and cheese rolls as well, but this was the last of the man and wanted to fill some space. Happened to have some cheddar cheese, so I sliced some up. Like the random piece of cheese below the kiwi? 😛

Ham and cheese rolls: these are pretty popular in bento boxes. They are cheap, easy, and look nice (not here, but usually they look nice). I used this provolone cheese which didn’t roll up very nicely without breaking. Oh well. It was tasty!

Fruit: kiwi and nectarine.

Hello Kitty gummy candy: placed into a silicon cup. This was my unhealthy sugary guilty pleasure.

Triscuit crackers: put these in to have with the cheese as a snack. They ended up loosing some of their crunch from being locked up in the fridge in a container full of moisture (the fruit and bean salad). Oh well.

Carrots: a nice, colorful, healthy, and crunchy space filler.

Bean salad: I love love love the pre-made items from the grocery’s deli. They are usually cheap, and always delicious. It’s a huge time saver and there are usually many healthy choices.

Trying New Ingredients Bento

Trying New Ingredients Bento

I really wish I had taken this picture with a better camera.  😦

Left: ground turkey soboro with rice and flower cut pickled daikon.
Top: fruit salad of grapes and strawberries.
Right: stir fry green pepper, scallion, and crab pieces with sweet and sour sauce in fishy. Feta stuffed olives, cabbage, cucumber, carrot, salad with dressing in little elephant.

Nishiki brand white rice with pickled daikon radish cut into flower shape using these stainless steel veggie cutters.

Turkey soboro – Probably my new favorite thing to add to bento is soboro. Make a bunch and freeze it in portions and you’re ready to go. I love this recipe from Just Bento. Put it on rice or all by itself. You’ve probably seen it in one of these types of bento. YUM!

Green bean stir fry with sliced imitation crab meat. Was trying various ingredients after browsing bento Flikr photos for hours and noticing crab meat used in a few of them. I just threw cut up fresh green beans into a skillet with olive oil, green onion, salt, pepper. Also some soy sauce in a fishy container. Some garlic would have been nice here now that I think about it.

Feta cheese stuffed olives. Yea, you’re going to be seeing these a lot. I love them 🙂

Salad time! Cabbage, cucumber, radish, and carrots with some ginger dressing in an elephant container. I personally like cabbage better than most types of lettuce because it stays crunchy.  The inner leaves of romaine lettuce is also nice. Other soft types of lettuce tend to get a bit mushy, especially if you leave the dressing on top throughout the day. I’ve honestly skipped the dressing container and put it right on top in the morning before leaving for work and it is still nice and crunchy hours later.

My First “Real” Bento

Left: grapes, fried tofu wedge, cream cheese stuffed pepper, carrot sticks, little bear filled with ginger dressing, cabbage/cucumber/radish/black sesame salad.
Right: chicken and tofu cakes, whole grain rice with pickled daikon cut outs.

After much researching and throwing leftovers into ugly plastic containers, I buckled down and bought a shiny new Lock n Lock bento box. This was taken a while ago, which is why it may seem out of order with the other posts.

Recipe:

Sliced grapes. They are sliced to fit better into the silicon container.

Fried tofu wedge – unlike previous posts where I sliced and fried my own tofu, this one came pre-packaged and pre-sliced at the Asian grocer. It’s slightly more oily, but has a firmer texture on the outside.

Cream cheese stuffed mini pepper – At the regular grocery store you can buy a small bag of mini peppers. These are sweet (not spicy) peppers. Stuff them with tuna salad, chicken salad, feta cheese, etc. I happened to have some cream cheese. Some green onion mixed in with that would have been tasty.

Carrots to fill in space. Normally I would go with cherry tomatoes, but there was not enough space to fit more than one.

Cabbage, radish, cucumber salad – topped with black sesame seeds for color contrast. I personally like at least one type of salad to be included in each bento. It just helps make it feel more complete and healthy. No dressing this time.

Chicken and tofu patties. I made a bunch of these the night before and keep them in the freezer for a quick bento grab. Taken from Just Bento’s recipe, these are delicious (especially when dipped in soy, teriyaki, katsu, or Sriracha sauce. There’s a little plastic fishy container wedged in there filled with soy sauce.

Multi grain rice with pickled daikon on top. This rice was purchased in the freezer section at Trader Joe’s. I honestly cannot remember the exact name of it. It comes with individual portioned bags of the rice inside the big bag. Super healthy and super convenient! I used my newly purchased metal flower cutters to stamp out this pickled daikon, which came from the refrigerated section at the Asian grocer.