Archive for February, 2008
Anyone who’s accumulated more than one or two bento accessories or lunch containers has probably faced the challenge of organizing their growing collection to keep things accessible without taking over the kitchen. I’ve written previously about my efforts to bring my accessories under control using Ikea organizers, but there are many truly creative ways to organize gear using craft boxes, wall shelves, tool boxes, etc. Will you share your clever ideas? The author of the most ingenious solution will receive my review copy of the upcoming bento book Face Food: The Visual Creativity of Japanese Bento Boxes (to be released March 15, 2008). (EDIT: The event has concluded; read the full round-up with the contest winner and all entries here.)
This is my first blog event to gather lunch gear organization tips and methods. I’ve browsed around some of your packed lunch blogs and seen some great ideas; let’s gather them together in one place! Here’s how to enter:
- Post an organization entry on your own blog by Friday, March 14, 2008 including a link back to this post: http://lunchinabox.net/2008/02/28/blog-event-organizing-your-lunch-gear/
- Either leave a comment here with a link to your submission, or e-mail me at lunchinabox (AT) gmail (DOT) com. If you don’t have your own blog, e-mail me a summary of your organization method with one or two small photos so that I can include it in a round-up post on Monday, March 17th announcing the winner of the contest.
- Get accessories under control with Ikea organizers
- Make magnets to track freezer inventory
- How to choose the right size bento box
- How to care for your bento gear
- Biggie’s list of top speed tips, tutorials and equipment reviews
Published by Biggie on February 28th, 2008 tagged admin, equipment, organize, tips | 48 Comments »
Rice cookers can make more than just rice. In college, my Chinese roommates and I used to get around dorm rules against burner cooking in our rooms by making things like ramen and fish ball soup in our rice cookers. And when I lived in Japan in the 90’s, I worked in Japanese consumer electronics companies whose higher-end rice cookers had settings for Chinese rice porridge (congee or jook). But my coworkers didn’t seem to use their rice cookers for anything other than rice, reminding me of Betty Crocker & Morinaga’s failed push to sell cake mix for rice cookers in Japan.
So I was intrigued to come across this tip from a Japanese-language book on how to save energy by steaming slow-cooking vegetables on top of rice in your rice cooker. This is convenient if you already use a rice cooker to prepare rice — you can steam some vegetables for meals at the same time. Along the same lines as multi-boiling, multi-broiling, multi-frying or multi-grilling, this is a handy way to kill two birds with one stone. (Click to read cooking directions…)
Published by Biggie on February 27th, 2008 tagged rice, tips | 87 Comments »
I’ve used thermal food jars before to pack curries, stew, oden, chili, hotpot, and even rice — keeping everything warm and soft until lunchtime. Given how stiff macaroni and cheese can get once it cools, I wondered if it would benefit from being packed in a food jar. My three-year-old doesn’t complain about cold pasta (yet), but I tried some of Bug’s leftover pasta after picking him up from school, and it was still soft and warm in the jar. Success! Think outside of the box if you’ve got a thermal food jar and no access to a microwave at lunchtime; what else would be good warm?
Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Organic shells & cheese with sauteed zucchini, onions and diced bulgogi (Korean marinated, grilled beef) with a little leftover Japanese curry stirred in at the end. Steamed broccoli with Korean barbecue sauce, carnitas braised pork, cherry tomatoes, blueberries and homemade apple crisp (recipe is from Cooks’ Illustrated’s The New Best Recipe, but online subscribers can find it on their website).
Morning prep time: 10 minutes, using leftover mac & cheese, apple crisp, and Del Real carnitas from Costco. In the morning I pre-warmed the food jar with hot tap water while I microwaved the mac & cheese with a splash of water to restore the texture. I also nuked the carnitas to take the chill off, and cooked the broccoli in my microwave mini steamer.
Cooking: As an aside, I recently saw Alton Brown’s new Good Eats show on broccoli, which mentioned that “a study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that microwaving broccoli reduced its antioxidant compounds by 74-97%.” Ack! I’m having double thoughts about microwaving broccoli now; it looks like steaming or pan-frying are much better. I’m going to all this effort to make sure Bug gets his vegetables, I don’t want them to be nutritionally crippled… (Click for packing info and an additional preschooler lunch with panda bento band.)
Published by Biggie on February 26th, 2008 tagged bento, equipment, food jar, for kids, leftover remake, meat, pasta or noodles, poultry, sandwich or wrap | 17 Comments »
Some Japanese readers commented on my article on how to make an octodog (octopus-shaped hot dog) that deep frying actually gives the most attractive results. I’d passed over oil-based cooking methods in an effort to produce a healthier octodog, so I decided to give them a go here for the sake of completeness. Japanese arabiki sausages with natural casings (in the foreground) showed the most pronounced difference over boiling — the deep-fried version has fantastically curled legs that really do evoke an octopus. (Click for the full review.)
Published by Biggie on February 23rd, 2008 tagged for kids, meat, tips, tutorial or how to | 39 Comments »
Japanese-style bento lunches for kids often feature the infamous “octodog”, a mini-sausage shaped like an octopus. I used to split hot dogs out of necessity when my son was just starting to eat solid foods to minimize the choking risk. Now, I’m more into quick and easy lunches than food art, but octodogs still thrill my three-year-old like nobody’s business and add some fun to a lunch.
I’ve seen a lot of different-looking octodogs in bentos, so I set out to compare how different sausages behave with different cooking techniques. The hot dogs to the left and right of the chopstick in the photo above were cooked with two different methods: one set was boiled, the other was fried in a pan with about a half-cup of water. Can you tell which is which? (Click to read the full how-to.)