Tag Archives: Gomashio

A very un-wintery break from all things routine

27 Feb

The nudges were subtle, but definitely, there.

“R- chan, you’ve been very busy?”

“The last time I saw something was … February 2nd?  I do read your blog without being prompted, you know…”

My father, ever the supporter, was dropping hints.

Then, a dear friend of mine who sends me cyber-encouragement through her site visits (the counts keep me going) noted the last entry… and I finally gathered my wits together to try to play catch up.

Work was indeed, hectic for the past few weeks.  Several business meetings in various local areas sapped my energy, as well as my creativity, and I found my bentos were starting to fall into a routine.  I realized I started depending on my husband, mother-in-law, and daycare provider – but truly, there were certain limitations such as meeting times, train schedules and closing hours to be carefully planned around.

Of course, the girls didn’t go hungry.

I was pleasantly to discover, my daughters loved the zucchini slices that were sautéed in canola or olive oil until the edges were barely translucent, and then tossed with soy sauce and lemon juice.  Chicken wings, drumsticks and turkey meatballs were staples – but the occasional mini-hot dog was also a big hit.  Sugar snap peas were available again – and these made great additions to the bentos when quickly blanched after being rinsed and de-stringed.  Broccoli, grape tomatoes, cucumber slices, carrot and celery sticks were staples – as they were quick, healthy, and added crunchy texture to lunch.  The rice cooker was my best friend – and between onigiri, and steamed multi-grain rice topped with either sesame seeds or gomashio, I had the carbohydrates covered.

Blackberries and blueberries were also available, as well as the smaller sized Fuji apples I was able to buy in bags at Trader Joe’s. 

I then realized, I was so busy, I hadn’t stopped at the Japanese store in weeks… and realized I NEEDED to stop by when I had run out of soy sauce.  I cannot function without soy sauce!

I made a quick stop at the store, and picked up quail eggs, ginger, daikon, and frozen udon noodles.  I realized afterward, it is amaebi, or sweet shrimp season, and had neglected to pick up a pack of these delicious seasonal treasures of the ocean.  They are a bit of an acquired taste – both in texture, as well as in preparation.  The shrimp are eaten raw, and similar to eating crawfish, you twist the heads off, peel the delicate shells off, which easily peel off, and pop the tails into your mouth.  They are creamy and delicious – similar to the texture of scallop sashimi.

I can attest – you either love them or hate them – I fall into the “love” team, while my husband definitely falls into the latter due to the texture.

I’ll have to go back this week and hope the season isn’t over…

Needless to say.  Back to trying to step back into the bento blogging routine!

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A beet-type of bento

6 Apr

The past two days were soup lunches for my daughter.   Yesterday, she gave me a serious look, and said, “Mama.  I want beets and gohan (rice).”  I replied, with an equally serious look, “OK.  We’ll be back to beets and gohan then.”

Today’s lunch included:

Steamed multi-grain rice (brown rice, barley, quinoa, millet, wheat berries) with kuro-gomashio or black sesame seed and’ salt

Roasted beets in heart shapes

Baked chicken drumsticks, seasoned with salt, pepper and a little squeeze of lemon

Blanched broccoli with katsuobushi and a drop of soy sauce

In a separate tupperware container, some blackberries were included to finish off the meal.  Hopefully she enjoys her routine bento again!

Last week of February – hello March!

4 Mar

I was excited to find fresh quail eggs at the Japanese store.  They were tucked away, between the organic chicken eggs and the tofu, little ten-packs of speckled eggs, each egg about 3/4 inches long.  In the past, I would purchase the pre-boiled, canned ones, but something exciting about boiling and peeling these mini-eggs.  I also love that there are ten – two each bento-packing day, and two left over to survive my younger one’s pilfering. 

Over the weekend, I made another batch of turkey meatballs.  The ingredients were the usual mixture (minced onion, garlic, ginger, carrots, celery, flax seeds and steel-cut oatmeal), except this time, I added a little scallion and a drop of sesame oil as I mixed the meat together.  The meatballs were extremely fragrant as they baked in the oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, covered.

Monday’s lunch was:

Sliced red bell pepper pieces.  My older one grabbed this pepper at Makinajian’s and insisted we NEEDED to have it – so I agreed and sliced it up for her lunch.  She loved them.

Turkey meatballs

Sliced roasted beets

Steamed multi-grain rice with black gomashio.  My goal for the coming week is to think of a different seasoning for the rice. 

Boiled quail eggs  

This was the star lunch that was completely finished off.  After dinner, both girls enjoyed some frozen vanilla yogurt while they skyped with their grandparents.

Tuesday’s lunch was:

Grilled salmon fillet, de-boned

Blanched broccoli, drop of soy sauce for seasoning

Quartered beets

Steamed multi-grain rice, black gomashio

Boiled quail eggs

Wednesday’s lunch – to try to mix it up a bit… but the same basics

Turkey meatballs

Boiled edamame

Steamed multi-grain rice with white and black sesame seeds

Quartered beets

Boiled quail eggs

Blackberries

This was also a hit lunch – with the exception of a spoonful of rice, my daughter cleaned out her bento box, and greeted me at her daycare door with a huge grin telling me she finished ALL her BEN-TO!

Thursday, homestretch – the last pair of boiled quail eggs. 

Grilled salmon fillet

Potatoes that were first boiled until fork-tender, then cooked on a cast-iron skillet over medium heat until the surfaces were browned.  Finished off with a sprinkle of sea salt.

Beets, quartered

I asked my daughter what else she wanted for lunch – and she insisted, the little eggies, beets, go-han (rice), edamame, ballies and fish.

It might be time for me to start reinventing her lunches! 

TGIF.  Woo Hoo!

One side note.  March 3rd, Thursday, was Hinamatsuri, or  Girl’s Day in Japan.  My parents sent both grandchildren, each, a set of their own beautiful, handcrafted dolls.  Some girls are fortunate to have several platforms for various other dolls (e.g. court ladies, musicians) according to their social hierarchy in the ancient Imperial court during the Heian era, but at our house, we have the first platform with the Empress (ohinasama) and Emperor (odairi sama).

As a child, I looked forward to eating the sweetened puffed rice, bits of pink and green puffed rice mixed with white ones – my mother reminding me not to gobble everything down at once.  A package from Japan arrived this past Monday from Jiji and Baba containing savory arare (small, dime sized rice crackers) and pink and white puffs with a little chocolate.  The girls have been enjoying a little bit each day, after dinner.

I had been so distracted with every other aspect in my life, I realized I had not set the dolls out to display.  I knew my parents would be disappointed, and I put them out after both kids and my husband went to bed last night.  They now adorn our dining room table – a little bit of Japanese culture to celebrate the girls.

P.S.  The key is to now put them away, very SOON!

Younger one's doll set

Older one's doll set

The long week – third week of February

3 Mar

Rewinding a few blog entries, this was the week of the lost Spencer.  Between the emotional rollercoaster of lost cat, husband away on business, dog recovering from surgery with the cone of shame, it was a very long week.

Valentine’s Day always has bittersweet memories for me.  During my awkward gosling (not cygnet :)) stage of adolescence, I felt the coke-bottle glasses and metallic braces helped very little with my looks or self-esteem.  A memorable Valentine’s day was one where a dear friend of mine and I posted anonymous declarations of love in the high school newspaper – my crush, the high school jock, and her crush, a funky skater-boy.  The buzz in the lunchroom was evident during lunch on that Valentine’s Day – and we still chuckle remembering that day, twenty years later.  (I ended up ‘fessing up when I moved from NY to Atlanta mid-year)

This year, I was called by my receptionist to the front for a box delivery of flowers.  “Who is R__ D__?  Is this you?” she asked.  I chuckled.  It was my married name, which only close friends and family know about.  “It’s me,” I replied, and picked up the boxful of gorgeous roses from my husband across the country.  It was a welcome packet of love during a very very dark, and exhausting week of searching for Spencer.  Thanks Papa!

Monday’s lunch was:

Roasted chicken wings, baked in the oven at 325 degrees for 30 minutes, seasoned with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice

Blanched broccoli

Steamed beets cut into hearts

Steamed multi-grain rice with black and white sesame seeds

My daughter always loves the roasted chicken wings.  I usually disjoint them at the wing and the drumette and pack them for her lunches.  On these days, when I open up her bento box to wash it out for the next day, I find the bones with every bit of chicken nibbled off. 

Tuesday was:

Roasted chicken wings

Steamed beets cut into stars

Steamed multi-grain rice with black sesame seeds

Grape tomatoes

Today’s lunch carcass were the carefully picked pods of the edamame and of course, the bones of the chicken.  A hit lunch again!

Today, I made a savory omelette filled with sautéed minced onion, scallions and zucchini mixed with browned ground turkey.  I cooked this over medium heat in my favorite Lodge mini skillet.  I cooled the finished omelette, and cut on an angle.

Grape tomatoes

Steamed broccoli

Blueberries

Steamed multi-grain rice with white sesame seeds

Steamed beets cut into half-moons

There were two pieces of omelette left over, as well as some rice.  I set the bento box aside on the counter and turned around to start preparing for dinner, and within five seconds, I found a little hand reaching over the counter, over the edge of the bento box, and very quickly – it grabbed  and disappeared with an omelette piece.  My older one, seeing this, started crying, and said “MY eggie….”

Ah.  The chaotic sounds of the evening dinner rush at our house…

Thursday’s lunch, couldn’t think of an appropriate protein.  It was day 6 of fitful sleeping, and I had fallen asleep, sitting upright, as I was trying to tackle the mountain of laundry in my bedroom.  I want to know where all my girls’ right socks disappear to, and I grumbled to myself how I should have gotten into the habit of putting their socks into a laundry net prior to washing… Just another chore for another day…

Thursday lunch:

Steamed beets, quarters

Blanched broccoli

Grape tomatoes

Steamed edamame

Steamed multi-grain rice (again, this is brown rice, quinoa, millet, wheat berries and pearl barley) with black sesame seeds

Friday was pizza day, so I could concentrate on tapping on a cat food can again, on Thursday night.

Second week of February – we had a winner bento!

3 Mar

We were gearing up for a busy week this second week of February.  Besides the tight-rope balancing act of time and patience between motherhood, housekeeping and career, my dog was going in for knee surgery.  (Yes – my blog is a bit out of order, since according to my blog, Spencer has returned already… )

I watched her stiffly limp onto her dog bed, and scratched her stomach.  She reclined, and she closed her eyes.  I told her, “We’ll get you up and running again, soon,” and she was in dog heaven.

I then wracked my brain to think of a healthy, colorful lunch my daughter would be more inclined to finish.  It was hit-or-miss these days, with some days better than others.  I couldn’t figure out whether the lunches were too filling, too boring, or too time consuming.  I admit – her lunches aren’t masterpieces of bento art, nor did they include cookies, candies and chocolate – but I had to somehow figure out what she liked.

I asked her what she wanted for lunch on the ride back home.  Based on our conversations, I started packing accordingly.

We had a miracle on Tuesday!

Monday’s lunch was:

Boiled Quail Eggs –  these are most likely conventional

Steamed broccoli

Blanched spinach with ponzu dressing

Steamed carrot slices

Steamed multi-grain rice with black gomashio

Tuesday, I packed:

Turkey meatballs with flax seeds, oatmeal, minced: carrots, ginger, onion, celery, garlic and ginger

Sliced conventional Persian cucumbers

Steamed beets in heart shapes

Boiled quail eggs

Steamed multi-grain rice with furikake, with dried nori, sesame seeds, katsuobushi 

I pulled into my daycare parking spot, walked into the facility, and was greeted with a beaming smile of “Mama!  I finished ALL my o-bento!!”

She and her sister enjoyed a scoop, each, of vanilla frozen yogurt– each last bit of the sweet treat was spooned away, slowly, after dinner.

Wednesday, we had a continuation of the meatball lunch:

Turkey meatballs and blanched broccoli

Steamed edamame

Grape tomatoes

Steamed beets cut into stars

Steamed multi-grain rice with black sesame seeds and white sesame seeds

 

This bento was almost a success – with the exception of a small portion of the rice and a rogue tomato.

Thursday – we’re in the homestretch towards the weekend.  I allow one school lunch of a slice of pizza on Fridays – after one incident where she looked at her bento, and at her peers eating pizza, she turned to her teacher and said, I don’t want my lunch today.  It’s not my first choice in food, but hey – one slice of pizza is OK in my book, if it keeps the peace.

Steamed beets cut into hearts

Turkey mabo-tofu with scallions, zucchini, ginger and garlic, seasoned with a little miso, a little white pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil.  I then thickened with a katakuriko slurry.  This was the topping of multi-grain rice.

Steamed broccoli

Boiled quail eggs

A humorous tale of the quail egg.  My younger daughter, who is two, learned the convenience of the step-stool.  I find various things misplaced, transplanted and reorganized throughout the house.  I find her grinning on the living room couch as she has an inch of my favorite lip balm jutting out of the tube, as she carefully outlined her mouth in a shiny, greasy line – as though preparing for the next Joker role….

Needless to say.  As I was preparing the older one’s lunch, I found her stool against the kitchen counter, while she faced the wall.  I asked her “What are you doing…?” and turned to see my daughter guiltily covering her mouth, while her left cheek bulged.  She then sat on the floor, and she popped out of her cheek pouch, a boiled quail egg pilfered from her sister’s bento box. 

“Mama, ‘mago*!” she cheerfully said.  She then popped it back into her mouth, and chewed her prize.  (*Tamago is the Japanese word for egg)

I laughed when I realized she must have stood on her little stool, and blindly reached over the edge of the counter and grabbed whatever goodie she could touch.  I realized she must watch me show my older daughter her bento every morning before putting it into her lunch box, and she also wanted a taste of whatever I packed for the day.

Catching up – Hello week two of January!

11 Jan

Between a snowstorm that really wasn’t much of a storm, and a two hour session of seeing Disney princesses skating about, the past few days have been a bit exhausting.  I wonder where those precious weekends slip off to?

In the storm-that-wasn’t, I snowily slid into Makinajian’s Poultry Farm late Friday, and managed to pick up some eggs and chicken prior to the weekend chaos.  Specifically, I picked up chicken wings, drumsticks and ground turkey – and the usual produce – swiss chard, kale, beets, scallions, zucchini, cabbage… The roads were quite slick, and my car barely handled the hill in front of the farm.  Earlier, a small truck slammed into the front fence of Makinajian’s property after losing control in the weather and took down their sign.  Ducks huddled together in the snow, and the normally visible rooster and his flock of hens were nowhere to be found.

Monday’s lunch was:

Baked Chicken wings, seasoned with Trader Joe’s 21 Spice Seasoning

Grape Tomatoes

Quinoa, simmered in low-sodium Tomato and Roasted Red pepper soup, mixed with sautéed julienned onions. 

Zucchini thinly sliced and sautéed in a little olive oil, a drop of soy sauce for taste

Roasted beets cut into stars

Today’s lunch is:

Steamed multi-grain rice (quinoa, millet, brown rice, pearled barley, wheat berries) seasoned with a little kuro-gomashio (black sesame seeds and salt seasoning)

Steamed spinach with katsuobushi with a drop of soy sauce

Sliced cucumbers

Left over “Chicken Christina” Papa’s version – pan sautéed chicken breast, topped with a white wine sauce of black olives (conventional), capers (conventional), artichoke hearts (conventional), fresh shiitake mushrooms, grape tomatoes, thinly sliced onion.  Papa’s version of a lovely dish from The Crossroads Cafe where he was a food runner/waiter many many moons ago. 

Hopefully she likes her lunch.

Hopefully we get a TON of snow tonight…

Favorite things for Monday

20 Dec

If the holiday season was a race, let’s say, a 400 metre race, I feel I’ve sprinted past the first 100 metres, and now I’m keeping pace through the next 100.  Back in my high school days, I wasn’t exactly long distance or marathon material.  I found 200 metres to be the perfect distance where I could run as fast as I could – but I didn’t have to be a lightning fast gazelle, sprinting through 1o0 metres, nor did I have to last 400 metres, a full lap around the track.  For me, the last 100 metres were challenging, since most smart runners would save enough energy through the first 300 metres and sprint the last quarter of the track.  At that 300 metre mark, my thoughts would be “Why didn’t I pace myself the first 100?  Why do my legs hurt?  Will I get to that finish line?  Crap – they’re PASSING me….!”

Fortunately, this year, the holiday blitz has not burned me out completely.  I’ve gotten through some events successfully, and I’m heading towards that last 200 metre stretch… without being out of breath. 

Who knew my short stint on the track team would be useful in surviving the holiday race?
In the spirit of “My Favorite Things,” I packed my daughter’s favorite things.

Steamed beets (hearts and kitty)

Cellophane noodles with minced turkey, simmered in dashi stock, mushroom essence, soy sauce and ginger

Blanched spinach with black sesame seeds

Grilled chicken drumette braised in a sweet (Coca-cola) sauce.  Yes.  I decided to treat my daughter to a surprise… and yes.  Coca-cola makes a lovely sauce with chicken!