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!

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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!

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.

Ground Pork and Quinoa Bento

Ground Pork and Quinoa Bento

left: multi colored quinoa, fried pork with ginger, garlic, and scallions.
right: salad, cream cheese and scallion stuffed mini bell pepper, rainer cherry, celery, avocado.

Diet time. Since I transferred to a new position at work, my schedule has been way different from what I am used to and haven’t been making many bento. Here’s to many more! This bento box is one of my newer ones and I love it for a nice portion control bento. It’s not too tiny, yet not massive like my other one.

Multi-colored quinoa: straight from Trader Joe’s, I’m getting more and more hooked on this grain. Really enjoying the texture and potential to flavor it however you want, similar to white rice. Going to try to use this or brown rice instead of white as much as possible.

Pan fried ground pork: remember this bowl of deliciousness? The pork was so good and I had some left over that I decided to have it on its own. You can find the recipe for that dish (or just the pork, if you choose) here on Cooking With Dog’s channel. The only difference between this and the original recipe is I added some of hot chili oil. The colors between the quinoa and pork were too monotone for my liking so I added some chopped scallions and a sprinkle of shichimi togarashi.

Salad: romaine lettuce, cucumber, and carrots. My lazy butt buys the pre-shredded carrots. Any way I can save time I go for it. Plus when kept in an air tight container they seem to last longer than a whole carrot (which tends to get bendy after a while. To get the flower shape on the cucumbers, I used something similar to a julienne peeler but with a wave pattern. Picked it up at the local Asian grocery store for about $5 or $6. Just peel the cucumber with the fancy peeler then slice like you normally would. I have a small bottle of peanut dressing that will be going with this.

Stuffed bell pepper: this is a small bell pepper stuffed with about 1/2 a teaspoon of low fat cream cheese (it’s not completely full). It looked like it could use some more color so I added chopped scallions on top. Going to make a blog post about how I always have scallions on hand. Stay tuned!

Rainer cherry: I’m all out of cherry tomatoes! NOOOOO!!! This little thing will be a sweet treat though. Love when these are in season and wish I could fit a ton more into this bento.

Celery: nothing fancy. Just one stick of celery for health, fill up space, and to act as a baran to keep the avocado in place.

Avocado: thinly sliced avocado with a bit of lime juice to keep it from turning brown.

New Ingredients Bento: Part 2

New Ingredients Bento: Part 2

left: avocado, cherry tomatoes, beets, cucumber, bell pepper, swiss chard with sesame oil and seeds.
right: rice, pan seared tofu with soy sauce and sriracha, panko shrimp, kabocha (buttercup squash) simmered in dashi stock

After receiving the Just Bento cookbook as a gift, I went through the pages for inspiration then set out food shopping. The first bento that was a result of this new discovery was delicious and satisfying. I happened to have some leftovers from that bento so this one didn’t take long at all.

As with most of my bento meals, I do not eat this entire thing in one sitting. Throughout the long work day there is a snack/lunch side and a dinner side. In this case the left container in this picture was a few snacks and the right was dinner. I did not finish everything on the right. The rice was very filling along with the squash. Will be packing this in a smaller box from now on.

Fresh, raw veggies: Cherry tomatoes (a huge staple for all my bentos), small cucumber (these are Persian cucumbers from Trader Joe’s), red bell pepper, sliced avocado (with salt and pepper). Ok, so avocado is a fruit. I personally love these cucumbers because they are small, mostly seedless, and you can eat the skin.

Marinated beets: These came pre-packaged like this in the produce section of the regular grocery store. They are tangy and if you like a strong vinegar taste, you will like these. This one is the balsamic flavor, but there were other flavors available.

Swiss chard: This one is a recipe from Just Bento and is a healthy addition to your bento. You can use MANY different kinds of greens for this recipe. Just pick what you like: spinach, swiss chard, arugula (which has a nice peppery flavor), bok choy, dandelion greens, pea shoots, and more! This counted as my salad for this bento (I try to have one in every meal).

Rice with umeboshi furikake: Furikake (seasoning) comes in many many different flavors. I just happened to have this one on hand because I used up the rest of my absolutely favorite, which has small rice crackers, seaweed, and salt. This one is still delicious and has a sour plum taste. I can’t eat plain rice anymore. Still trying to find more uses for furikake. It comes in either individual packets or glass jars and have seen some flavors at the regular grocery store. For more of a selection you should definitely check out your local asian market or order it online. Combining flavors can be fun too!

Pan fried tofu: I just threw some slices into a pan with sesame oil and chopped scallions, sprinkled on some shichimi togarashi (spicy powder mix), then topped with sriracha (spicy sauce). It’s healthy, flavorful, and a nice filler for bento. I personally love tofu in bento because you can do so much with it and slice to fit any empty space.

Kabocha: Recently introduced to this Japanese pumpkin, or buttercup squash and was surprised to find it in the local grocery store. You can slice it up and freeze it, according to Just Bento’s site. I used her recipe too. Cooking With Dog used this in her recipe as well. Would like to try it sometime (this recipe uses honey instead of dashi).

Panko shrimp: Saw this recipe in Just Bento’s cookbook (could not find it on the site). Bought a bag of large frozen shrimp, thawed them out, peeled, salt and pepper, coated in corn starch, then egg, then panko bread crumbs and fried in a pan with vegetable oil. Crispy and somewhat healthy. Wish I could make these in advance without the coating becoming soggy.

Playing With New Bento Accessories

Playing With New Bento Accessories

left: fish/miso cakes, wasabi shumai, fish of soy sauce, feta stuffed olives
middle: cabbage/radish/cucumber/black sesame salad, bear with ginger dressing. rice dipped in furikake and rolled in nori.
right: grapes and frozen strawberries.

Tuna tofu miso mini burgers: From this recipe, you can make these in advance and freeze them. Love keeping these and these meat and tofu burgers on hand in the freezer. Makes bento making super convenient (I tend to be very lazy).

Wasabi pork shumai: from the local Asian grocery store’s freezer section, these have a fantastic (not too spicy) wasabi flavor. I like dipping them in soy sauce, which is provided in the fish sauce container.

Feta stuffed olives: here they are again! Presented in a mini silicone baking cup. Cupcake wrappers make baran. If you haven’t heard of baran before, you may have seen the plastic green grass that keeps food separated. They come in array of styles and colors. But to keep things easy to clean, cheap, and environmentally friendly, I prefer the reusable and dishwasher safe silicone cupcake cups. They come in many sizes and colors.

Salad: cabbage, cucumber, radish, carrot, and black sesame seeds (for color contrast). As I’ve stated before, I like to use cabbage over lettuce for salad most of the time because it stays crunchier during the day. I even sometimes put the dressing on top in the morning. In the lower left corner of the salad is some ginger dressing in a bear container.

Rice rolls: I honestly don’t know what to call these, except DELICIOUS! I picked up these rice molds to make bento size rice balls and onigiri. These rice rolls are wrapped in nori (seaweed) and the ends dipped in umeboshi (sour plum) furikake. They take a bit more time than just throwing rice into the container and dumping seasoning on top, but it’s a lot more fun to eat.

Frozen strawberries and sliced grapes: since I was using this smaller bento container, I missed out on dessert. True, I could have used less tuna patties (I actually didn’t eat them all), but my eyes are always bigger than my stomach. Decided to toss this treat in its own container and throw it in my purse. I ate it as a snack during the day at work. I don’t eat these bento in one sitting.