Tag Archives: watercress

Saturday bento for two (three and four)

19 May



Saturday bento!

Roasted beets in shapes – kitty for the older one, heart for the younger one

Watercress ohitashi – blanched watercress, water well drained, cut into bite sized pieces. Seasoned with katsuobushi flakes (dry, cured, shaved bonito) with a drop of soy sauce

Pickled cauliflower with lemon juice, rice vinegar, mirin soy sauce and grated ginger

Hard boiled eggs – various shapes – heart, star (and not shown) and bear

Multi-grain onigiri with turkey soboro center filling, wrapped in nori. Baba’s onigiri had an umeboshi center.

Grilled chicken from earlier this week, de-boned

We stopped by the Japanese store after class – Baba picked up my daughter’s favorite, daifuku, or ankoh, or sweetened red bean paste, wrapped in mochi, or rice cake. What a treat!


Post spring break 2012

30 Apr

My daughter’s spring break zipped past, and unfortunately, my work schedule did not allow me the luxury to take the much-needed and desired time to slow down and to catch up with her.

I managed to take a very quick day off on Friday, and we (the girls and I) enjoyed a day without rushing about. We also had a “special lunch” at Takumi restaurant, where the daily specials included Ten-don (Steamed rice topped with tempura, battered and deep-fried vegetables, seafood and meat) with a side of hot soba in soup, as well as a ramen special.

Saturday’s bento included:

Baked turkey hambagu, a.k.a. small, individual portioned meat loaf topped with a sweet savory sauce of ketchup + Bulldog sauce + HP sauce (2 tbs each, mixed well).  I include vegetables, such as onion, carrots, celery, mushrooms and garlic, which are minced in a food processor, and mixed well (by hand) into a pound of ground turkey.  I take palmfuls of this meat mixture, and mold them into small meat “loaf” rolls, and bake in a 350 degrees oven for 30 minutes, covered for 20 minutes and uncovered for the last 10.  I baste them with the aforementioned sauce, reserving a tiny bit to add a fresh coat at the very end.  If the meat mixture is too runny from the vegetables, I will sometimes adjust with a handful of steel-cut oatmeal, cooked multi-grain rice, or whole wheat bread crumbs.

Sliced red peppers

Carrot sticks

Onigiri with okaka center

The rest of the week steamed ahead.

Monday included:

Broccoli tempura

Boiled Trader Joe’s cocktail pups, scored

Carrot sticks

Sliced red pepper


Tuesday was a similar lunch day with:

Trader Joe’s cocktail pups

Red pepper slices and carrots

Blanched watercress, liquid squeezed out well, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, tossed and flavored well with soy sauce, rice vinegar and katsuobushi  or shaved bonito flakes

Multi-grain onigiri with okaka center, with a nori belt

Wednesday morning, I realized I had forgotten my daughter’s lunchbox at daycare – hence the random tupperware made do.

Whole wheat ziti with marinara sauce and sautéed onions

Celery and carrot sticks

Blanched watercress and shirasu omelette

1/2 of a honey tangerine which my daughters have both fallen in love with.  I found them in a bin at Makinajian Farm, where the label listed it as “Mic’s favorite!”  If the co-owner loves them, they must be good.

Thursday lunch included:

Blanched watercress, liquid well squeezed out, seasoned with okaka.  I try to make sure to drain any extra liquid to try to minimize the potential for messes.

Carrot sticks


Multi-grain onigiri with okaka center, nori wrap.

Friday was pizza lunch!!

Spring’s here! Spring’s here!

20 Mar

It’s a glorious day on the east coast…

Today’s lunch included:

Chicken patty, sautéed, and cut into a star-shape.  It’s ground chicken, seasoned with garlic, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper – and I confess, was bought on impulse for convenience.  Wild by Nature, a natural foods store in our area that I haunt on occasion does a pretty good job with their products.  A bit pricier than Trader Joe’s though.

Blanched and well “wrung” watercress ohitashi seasoned with katsuobushi and a drop of soy sauce.  The key is to blanch the watercress in boiling water QUICKLY, then squeeze all the water out, well.

Blanched broccoli

Grape tomatoes

Multi-grain onigiri with okaka filling, wrapped in nori


Welcome spring!


Salvaging-my-onigiri bento

17 Jan

I try to incorporate as many grains as possible into our steamed rice – which is wonderful from a dietary standpoint, but for aesthetics and for ease of onigiri formation, I usually have to make small sacrifices.

Usually, onirigi are made with snowy white rice, wrapped with a tuxedo cummerbund of nori, a black belt smartly wrapped around the rice belly.  My onigiri are often a slight beige color, and often, a bit crumbly since the various grains aren’t as cohesive as white rice.

For Saturday school, I was going through my onigiri formation with my daughter’s favorite center of grilled salmon when the multi-grain rice decided to take matters into their own hand(s).  Despite my wet hands, the grains crumbled, crumbled, and crumbled across the kitchen counter.  It felt like making a sand-ball out of damp beach sand – the bits scattering across the counter, on to the floor, my greedy cat rushing to see if anything worth snatching had fallen to ground level.

I decided today’s rice was going to have a different arrangement – and I decided to put the rice into the rice “compartment,” and I flaked the salmon across the top. 

The cat was devastated, not a piece of delicious salmon fell to her level – and she wove, disappointed, around my legs, her tail wrapping around my knee.

Baked chicken drumette and wingette with carrot sticks

Blanched watercress with katsuobushi or shaved bonito flakes, soy sauce and a drop of lemon juice

Roasted beets in star shapes

The strip of nori was happily consumed by my daughter as a post-breakfast snack.

This Monday – an altered pizza day due to the shortened week – so no bento to pack!


Thursday lunch with a bento debate

13 Jan

Thursday’s lunch included:

Carrot sticks

Baked chicken wingette and drummette

Watercress goma-ae, or blanched and well-drained (wrung) watercress cut into 1/4 inch pieces (easier for my daughter to manage), and tossed with a soy sauce, rice vinegar, mirin and ground sesame seed (goma) dressing.  The ratio was 1 tsp each ingredient except for the mirin – I added 1/4 tsp.

Multi-grain onigiri with turkey soboro filling

Sautéed mushrooms

During our car ride home yesterday, my daughter spoke softly as we slowed down at a stop sign.

“Mama, P__ and L__ said ‘Your lunch is IWWW’,” her eyes filling with tears.  I pulled my car over to the side of the road, and turned to look at her.

“Do you love sushi and noodles?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

“Do you know, when Mama was  a little girl, a lot of people in my school told me that sushi  and noodles in soup were yucky?”

My daughter’s eyes opened wide.

“Do you like eating sushi and noodles?” I asked her.

“Yes!” she replied, nodding her head.

“Don’t you think it’s silly that people would say ‘Iw” to something that’s so yummy and that you love?”

She nodded, slowly.  Both girls adore their ikura (salmon roe) sushi, as well as various other items.

“Well, it’s like that with your bento.  Your friends might not have tried any of your yummy bento, so instead of saying ‘Hey, what’s that?’ they are being silly and saying ‘Iw.'”

“If you want, I can pack you a sandwich every day,” I added.

“Nooooo I like my bento,” she replied, and brightened up.

She later explained to Jiji and Baba over skype, as well as to Papa when he came home from work. 

I added, “Don’t you think it’s a shame that those kids that said ‘Iw’ about ikura never tried it before they said it?  That’s why Mama and Papa always tell you to try something before saying you like it or you don’t like it.”

“I want a bento every day,” she replied, and nodded, firmly.

I hugged her tightly. 




Soboro onigiri, cresson goma ae and wings

20 Sep

This past Sunday night’s crazed cooking left me with a comfortable amount of bento ingredients and ideas for the next week.

Today’s bento includes:

Blanched watercress (cresson) “goma ae” or sesame dressing.  Into a pot of boiling water (pinch of salt) I added a bunch of cleaned and washed watercress.  Once the colors perked up (really, a quick blanch so it should only be 1-2 minutes to retain the crunch) I quickly removed the watercress from the pot and shocked them in an ice bath.  After they cooled, I carefully squeezed all the water out (otherwise you might tear the greens) and cut them into 1/2 inch pieces.

The goma ae or sesame dressing was made by combining the following:

2 tbs whole sesame seeds

1 tbs mirin

1 tbs soy sauce

1 tsp miso paste

I have a suribachi (mortar) that my mother had given to me, with a little wooden pestle (surikogi).  I ground up the sesame seeds, and then I gradually added the other ingredients, mixing everything well with the surikogi.  I then added the watercress into the actual suribachi, and carefully mixed them together with chopsticks.  You may want to adjust the seasoning – this happens to be the ratio I am comfortable with.  If you don’t have a suribachi, a food processor may serve well to grind up the sesame seeds, but there’s something soothing about grinding the sesame seeds down with the pestle, the fragrant seeds + wooden pestle + ceramic ridges of the suribachi creating a quiet and rhythmic gori gori sound in the quiet kitchen… Of course, you can always purchase pre-ground sesame seeds, but then you miss out on the fragrant grinding process of the seeds…

Also included today were:

Roasted beet stars

Baked Chicken wings and drumettes, seasoned with salt, pepper, a little organic poultry seasoning mix (courtesy of Makinajian Farm) and soy sauce, baked in the oven at 325 degrees for 30 minutes, covered, and then another 15 minutes uncovered.  A quick squeeze of lemon juice while hot usually rounds up the flavor very well, and keeps the chicken interesting even at room temperature

Multigrain (white, brown, pearled barley, quinoa, millet) Onigiri with turkey soboro filling

For the soboro, I sauteed 1/2 pound of ground turkey in a cast-iron pan, and then added the following ingredients, allowing them to slowly cook down over low heat – the flavors blending and concentrating in intensity as the liquid cooks down.

1 tbs mirin

2 tbs soy sauce

1 tsp freshly ground ginger

1 tbs miso paste (I use 1/2 red and 1/2 white)  – I dissolve this into the liquid ingredients

1 tbs sake or Japanese rice wine

1 tsp shiitake powder

Once the turkey cooked down, and there was no liquid remaining, I removed from the heat and allowed it to cool, and then put it in the refrigerator.

Similar to the other fillings, I took freshly steamed rice in slightly wet hands, and cupped my fingers to create a round onigiri With my other hand, I create a “finger” indent, and fill it with the daily onigiri center filling (soboro today) and form the rest of the onigiriNori strip to wrap up, and we are set.

Cherry tomatoes from the garden, picked by my oldest daughter

Hopefully she likes the slight change in filling and pace of her bento!

Manic Monday in June

7 Jun

The first complete week of June was supposed to start off with a bang.  I gathered the girls up in the morning, had them dressed, fed, and ready to go to school.  Both girls ran into the bedroom to say goodbye to their Papa, and then they raced to the mud-room stairs to get their shoes on. 

The little one stopped in her tracks and wailed, “Mama TENTOUMUSHI (Ladybug)…!”

I raced back to the kitchen to get her ladybug lunchbag  off of the counter, which she likes to tote on her arm like a pocketbook.

I had originally used a University of Michigan lunch-bag which we had purchased on one of our forays to Ann Arbor, MI during football season, but this mysteriously disappeared last year.  I teased my daycare provider (she is a Northwestern alumnus) that she must have disposed of it, but she swore she had nothing to do with its disappearance.

Needless to say, I decided to splurge on a cute lunch-bag for the little one when I saw her enviously eyeing her older sister’s bright red LL Bean backpack

A most worthwhile purchase!

Monday’s lunch included:

Grilled chicken drumstick with a soy sauce, grated ginger, sesame oil, salt and pepper seasoning

Blanched asparagus

Blanched watercress, well-drained (water squeezed out), and cut into 1/2 inch pieces, seasoned with black sesame seeds and a drop of soy sauce

Roasted beets  – too small this week to cut into shapes

Onigiri with a filling of thinly julienned kohlrabi leaves that were first blanched, and then dry-sauteed (no oil) in a hot pan with a three tablespoons of katsuobushi, sesame seeds, and seasoned with a little bit of soy sauce and mirin.  I discovered kohlrabi over the weekend, and fell in love with its sweet, mild taste with the most delicious crunch.  I was inspired to make this dish based on one my mother used to make with daikon radish leaves during my childhood.  We would eat this over steamed rice…

Early in the afternoon, I received a call from my daughter’s preschool, telling me she was extremely uncomfortable due to her eczema.  I was unable to drop everything and leave to pick her up at that time, but fortunately, my daycare provider – our invaluable support – was able to pick her up.

I stopped at a local health food/vitamin on the way home, and grilled the store employee about non-steroid creams.  Fortunately, I found a non-steroid alternative, as well as a holistic anti-histamine chewable supplement made with chamomile and nettle. 

I had taken my older daughter to the pediatrician last week, and was prescribed a steroid topical – and was told to give her Benadryl if she was uncomfortable – but I just couldn’t wrap my head around this.  I’m hoping the alternative treatments work.

I picked both girls up from daycare, and gave them both big hugs.