Tag Archives: Organic

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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Ramping and porgy-ing into spring

28 May

My company moved recently, and although I groaned and complained about the perceived increase in commuting time, I soon realized, I was now in the midst of prime food foraging – both for lunch options, as well as for shopping!!

Where else could one ask to be relocated to an office where one can find a Fairway in close proximity to a Trader Joe’s, and option upon option of dining choices?

Nonetheless, on one food foraging lunch expedition, I was besides myself at the beautiful box of organic ramps beckoning from the produce section.

I grabbed those by the fistful, curbing my frenzy only by the fact it was two days until payday, and my household CFO’s voice of reason echoed in the back of my mind.

These ramps were cleaned, grilled, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, and served with grilled whole porgy – aka “fish sleeping” per the girls.

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Alas – the skin stuck to the grill, but the fish was incredibly moist, and delicate, complimenting the fragrant, tender, sweet ramps.

We ate the grilled porgy with a light ponzu dipping sauce. A bowl of steamed multigrain rice completed our meal.

The girls and baba enjoyed every bit of dinner – and I can’t wait for another lunch foray for interesting eats.

Let there be noodles!

17 Jan

The girls’ school offers a hot lunch sponsored by a student’s family, once a week. The little one joined her sister this fall at the school, and I realized there was a hot lunch slot available around the time of their birthdays.

I mulled and pondered… What did I need to do? What am I expected to do?

One day, my older daughter turned to me and said, “Mama, it’s not fair. You NEVER come read a book on my birthday at school, and you NEVER do hot lunch.”

That statement sealed the deal for me.
I signed up on the hot lunch volunteer list, and started brainstorming.

“What do you want for lunch?” I asked her.

Men men! (noodles)!” They both piped up.

I asked the school what I needed to do to prepare the lunch. They gave me ideas… “We usually cook 12 pounds of pasta… Probably about 100 students will participate…”

I started panicking. What could I possibly make for a hundred kids?!

Udon or soba noodles in soup would be a challenge, since the noodles are not tasty if over cooked, and the soup may be the X-factor. I could almost see myself doling out a tub of soup, while trying to catch slippery noodles out of a pot to try to portion out… A hundred times.

I then thought about rice bowls… I could steam a hundred servings of rice. I then make various toppings that each student could customize their rice bowl with… Seasoned turkey soboro, egg, peas, vegetables… I then realized I only can possibly make eleven servings of rice in the rice cooker(s) I would have access to. I even asked the local Japanese restaurant to provide me a quote for the steamed rice… But the thought of making all the toppings was dizzying.

I then realized, yakisoba would probably be the best option. I could make it with ground turkey, vegetables, and make my own yakisoba sauce to ensure I kept control over the ingredients.

I went on a shopping binge at the local Japanese food stores, snapping up bags of the fresh yakisoba noodle packs – each one containing three servings. Thirty three packages of noodles later, (some were on sale too!) I purchased seven pounds of cabbage, ten pounds of carrots, six pounds of onions, eight pounds of ground turkey, a bottle of ketchup, two bottles of Bulldog brand Worcestshire sauce and a pilfered bottle of my husband’s HP sauce, we were ready.

The night before the lunch, I peeled the carrots, and hand-sliced them into 1/4 inch matchsticks (yes, each and every one…) until 3 am. The onions and cabbage were also sliced, thinly, about 1/4 inch thick.

The next day, my car perfumed with the strong smell of onions, I took my goodies to the school. A concerned friend, worried for my sanity!, helped me for an hour, and produced a food processor to cut up four pounds or celery.

Once set up in the school’s commercial kitchen, I started browning the turkey, seasoning with salt, white pepper and soy sauce. In a separate pan, I sautéed the onions slices, and added the carrots, the cabbage, and then the celery, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Once the turkey was done, I set it aside, and continued cooking the vegetables. When the onions were softened, and the cabbage edges were starting to become translucent, I set them aside.

A added ketchup, HP sauce and Worcestshire sauce in a 2:2:1 ratio, mixing everything together with a whisk. Some soy sauce, mirin and sesame oil were also added, just to add depth. These were about 1/2 cup each, but again this was for 100 kids!!

Into another pan, I lightly oiled, and added the noodles. The pan was large enough to fit three squares of the fresh noodles, so I started cooking them, following the instruction on the packets. I added a bit of water to soften.

Midway, the school staff reassured me, due to some student absences, we could probably make less than the original hundred count so we ended up cooking only twenty packets, or sixty servings.

I somehow managed to get most of the lunch ready, and squeezed into the classroom (for both!) to read “Guess How Much I love You” to each respective class.

Lunch was successful. I received many kind compliments, and the best part was that every bite was either eaten, or taken home!

Here are some pictures of that day.

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Comfort is a bowl away

16 Oct

After watching a mouth-watering episode of their favorite cartoon, Anpanman featuring a character flying in a ramen-bowl, the girls asked in unison, “We want men-men!”

Didn’t have ramen, but a bowl of udon in soup, topped with turkey soboro, blanched hakusai or Napa cabbage, sugar snap peas, blanched carrots, narutomaki and cooked egg will just have to do!!

A weekend classic for the girls of the household…

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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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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!