Tag Archives: Bento

New beginnings, a new day, it’s Groundhog Day?

3 Feb

It’s been quite a while, dear reader, and my life was quickly overrun with various changes. Our beloved dog passed away, and I started a new job involving a longer commute, and different hours.

Of course, my blog suffered dearly, as I was unable to juggle everything as gracefully as I hoped.

Needless to say… A small triumph, despite the blizzard that whipped past the region last week, dumping 2 feet of snow, or the snow-sleet-freezing rain-snow fiesta that blanketed the area again…. I managed to pack my own bento today, inspired by a mouthwatering piece from Serious Eats I’ve salivated over the past few month.

I followed the basic steps – layering cooked udon noodles (I started with kanmen or dried noodles) and added blanched snow peas, carrots, scallions, a generous bit of roast chicken from Makinajian Poultry Farm – their herb roasted chicken has the most deliciously aromatic skin and juicy meat – and a teaspoon of Better than Bouillon, mushroom into my trusty Nissan Thermos.

Lunchtime came, and I filled the thermos with hot water, resealed the goodness for four (long) minutes, and voila!!

The photos truly are snapshots of the moment – however, they don’t capture my anxious moments before opening up the container revealing my long, anticipated udon lunch!!

I’ve had a few unsuccessful batches, where I sadly ate my mistakes – underseasoned soup, poorly drained noodles resulting in a gelatinous mess at the bottom, raw vegetables that didn’t seem to warm up despite the amount of time I kept the lid on…..

However this time, dear reader, it was a success!!

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Burdock what?

28 May

I often lamented I was unable to find organic burdock… Until I discovered them in a box at, yes dear reader, Fairway during a lunch forage.

I leapt for joy. My heart beating quickly, I picked out six pieces – each about six inches long, and about an inch in diameter.

The woman who checked out my groceries inspected the burdock, and asked what it was, and how was I going to prepare it.

Kinpira Gobo came to mind.

I rinsed the burdock root well, and trimmed the ends. I then took the back of my knife, and scraped the thin skin off of the root. The dusty, brown, skin peels off easily, exposing a delicate, fragrant, white flesh. I had a bowlful of cold water handy, and plunged the peeled root into the water to prevent them from browning (due to oxidation, similar to peeled apples turning brown).

Once peeled, I cut them into 1 1/2 inch long slabs – which I then, julienned into thin matchsticks. Again, I put the cut pieces into cold water.

I also peeled four medium sized carrots, and cut them into similar sized matchsticks.

I heated up my trusty cast iron pan over medium high heat, added a tablespoon of sesame oil and a teaspoon of canola oil – and as they heated up, the most delicious, rich, warm aroma rose from the pan. I quickly drained the burdock pieces, shook the extra water off, and added them to the pan. The carrots followed as well.

A noisy chorus of sizzling vegetables, mixing with the intoxicating scent of sesame oil, woody-herbal burdock, and caramelizing carrots quickly filled my kitchen.

The girls looked up from their homework – their noses wiggling like bunnies.

I tossed the burdock and carrot mixture with tongs, and added 1 tablespoon each of soy sauce and mirin continuing to mix everything together, well.

After the burdock pieces start to wilt, and the carrots soften, I added a generous handful of ground white sesame seeds, and continued to toss well.

Once all was blended well, I removed the pan from the heat, stepped back, and inhaled the delicious fragrance.

It brought me back to my childhood, and mom’s homecoming.

The girls looked up, and each had a taste test. They chewed thoughtfully, nodded, and said, “Yum!”

One of the best things about kinpira gobo is that it tastes delicious warmed up, as well as at room temperature – perfect for a bento item!

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Fall bentos, school year 2013!

16 Oct

I do not know where the last few months have gone. Between the dizzying daily routine of work, followed by the relentless wheel of routines, I found myself shocked to be mired in the middle of October.

I have been packing bentos for both girls these days – with little time for decompressing or downtime. A few evening were spent on the laptop at the kitchen table, battling the desperate attempts of my cat Spencer, to settle down in my lap as I feverishly tapped away at keyboards and calculators.

This year, both girls are at the same school, and often have an opportunity to eat together.

The little one loves onigiri, while the older one prefers raw vegetable slices and sticks.

Edamame is a definite hit with the older one – the empty pods in a neat pile, while the little one sends her beans intact.

Quinoa has joined the repertoire – I gently wash, and simmer the grains in a stock – vegetable, chicken, dashi, or in some cases, roasted red pepper and tomato soup!

Raw cauliflower and turnip slices, pickled in soy sauce, rice vinegar and ginger are often requested.

A dear friend’s husband caught porgy – and I found creative ways to cook the delicious fish – grilled, baked, porgy fish cakes, porgy omelette, porgy chowder… The porgy fish cakes do make appearances in the girls’ bento.

Grilled chicken wingettes and drumettes are always a hit, as well as turkey meatballies – the poultry always sourced from our beloved Makinajian Farms. I have packed them simply seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon juice, while other times, with a sweet-savory ketchup/HP sauce/Worcestershire sauce glaze with the meatballs, or a teriyaki glaze for the wingettes.

Below are just a few samplings of recent bentos… And more to come!

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(porgy fish cakes!) … and I technical glitch where I can’t seem to figure out how to rotate this photo!!

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A new week starts!

21 Sep

The little one started school on Monday, and happily marched into her classroom with her blue backpack. A side note for the backpack – it hung on the back of her door this last year as inspiration for her to potty train… And it worked!

The new preschoolers were given a modified school period from 9:00 – 11:00 the first week – so unfortunately for her, there was no bento box to be unpacked at school. When A found out about this, she was disappointed, but I made sure to have a smaller bento for her to eat in my car en route to daycare in the afternoon – I had modified my work hours for this first week.

This week’s bento pictures are those of H’s – next week, the little one will also have a bento as well!

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Monday included:
Boiled egg in heart shape
Bunashimeji, Edamame, carrots and kohlrabi simmered in dashi
Roasted beet hearts
Onigiri with okaka filling
Grape (more of a space saver)

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Tuesday included:
Grilled chicken drumette and wingette
Agekama cut into a cat shape
Onigiri with grilled, flaked, salmon
Edamame in the pods – I don’t know if you are aware of the difficulty of finding domestically grown, organic edamame? Fortunately, Makinajian Farm has been selling baskets of these healthy treats, and I’ve been buying them by the pound, blanching and squirreling them away in the freezer, as well as serving them as a healthy snack for the family. Must try to capture a bit of this goodness to enjoy as long as possible!

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Wednesday included:
Boiled egg in star shape – I included a small packet of kosher salt, folded in an aluminum foil envelope for H to sprinkle over her egg.
Celery sticks
Rice noodles, tossed with a ground turkey soboro sauce. The turkey soboro was made by sauteeing a pound of turkey with a little canola oil until crumbly, and then I add a cup of dashi stock, soy sauce, mirin, a clove of minced garlic, and grated ginger – a peeled, fresh, ginger piece about the size of a dime. I cook this mixture over low heat, and after the liquid boils away, I remove from heat. I reconstitute Thai rice noodles (a half package of noodles from the Thai Kitchen packet – about 4 ozs, dry) in hot water until tender. In a separate pot, I heat a teaspoon of sesame oil, add two heaping tablespoons of the ground turkey mixture, and toss the noodles with the mixture until the noodles are well coated. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a tablespoon of soy sauce, and toss well with the noodles.
Grilled salmon fillet

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Grilled turkey drumette and wingette – soy sauce, pepper and rice vinegar seasoning

Whole wheat pasta, tossed with left over olive tapenade, marinara sauce with a dash of cracked fresh black pepper

Sliced green pepper slices from the garden – they somehow survived my negligence this summer…

Black seedless grapes

Bunch of Matt’s wild cherry tomatoes that regenerated on their own in the garden…

Next week will be the little one’s debut for bentos!

Back into the swing of things!

8 Sep

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Second day of school rolled around, and H provided me with a wish list of bento items.

By request, Thursday’s lunch included:

Roasted beets in star shapes

Soba salad, tossed with a sesame/soy sauce/rice vinegar dressing, topped with blanched and shelled edamame

Marinated cauliflower – I cut up a raw cauliflower into manageable florettes, and tossed with a soy sauce/lemon juice and minced ginger marinade. The raw cauliflower retains its crunch, while absorbing the marinade – a hit at our house

Grilled chicken wingette and drumette – of course from our favorite poultry farm

A side of black seedless grapes

The soba salad was a hit, and I got a thumbs-up.

Pizza lunch on Friday!

First Day, back to school!

5 Sep

The summer came, and left. Fortunate or unfortunate… Work kept me incredibly busy, not a moment to relax and to enjoy the warm sun…

Today was H’s first day of Kindergarten. I included her favorites for her back to school lunch:

Sautéed, scored, mini dogs
Edamame, blanched
Roasted beets in heart shapes
Savory tamagoyaki with shirasu center
Whole wheat spirals with a turkey-tomato-olive tapenade sauce
Black seedless grapes

H enjoyed this summer, attending summer camp – her school rents the campus during the non- summer months. She slipped right onto the bus, and came home, excitedly telling me about her new pencil case.

Can’t believe how quickly time flies….!

The little one starts pre-K at the same campus next Monday. It will be double time for mama, come the 10th!

I hope to gradually catch up with my summer entries… Although one look at my wild, weedful vegetable garden makes me think otherwise…

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Last Japanese bento for May

5 Jun

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Today’s lunch for Japanese school included my daughter’s favorites.

Grilled chicken wing and drumette
Carrot sticks and red pepper slices
Blueberries
Whole wheat pasta spirals tossed in marinara sauce with sliced grilled sausage and sautéed onion slices.

I broke away from my usual onigiri routine – I confess – I was exhausted, and hadn’t gotten my wits together to make rice after our strawberry picking trip.