Archive for April, 2008
A few updates today on online bento shopping, bento gear in Europe, conferences I’ll be attending, and something that annoyed me this week.
* Ichiban Kan: Online poll and delay in restocking bento gear
The Ichiban Kan blog is running an online poll to help them decide whether to stock thermal bento sets like this one that I use regularly. The poll closes at 3:00 pm Pacific Time today (Wednesday, April 30, 2008), so click over there if you’d like to weigh in, or leave a comment at their blog post about the thermal bento sets if you’re too late for the poll. (Sorry about the late notice!) Ichiban Kan is a Japanese-style discount store with branches in the SF Bay Area and a new online store with cheap bento gear. See my full review of their online store, or get info on their local stores in my San Francisco Bay Area shopping guide for bento gear.
Speaking of Ichiban Kan, they’re evidently experiencing a delay in restocking their bento inventory as their big shipping container from Japan has been delayed by U.S. Customs. The delay may last for another three weeks or so; stay up to date via their blog or online store. Their blog now offers the ability to receive e-mail updates via Feedburner; fill out the info in the upper right corner of their blog to get their latest in your e-mail box. (You can do the same here, by the way — click to get Feedburner e-mails with the latest Lunch in a Box posts.) (Read on for European bento shopping update, conferences I’ll be attending at, and something that irritated me.)
Published by Biggie on April 30th, 2008 tagged admin, shopping | 31 Comments »
One drawback to packing pasta that’s already coated with a liquidy sauce is that the noodles absorb the sauce over time and the texture can suffer. Take advantage of the tendency of unsauced noodles to clump together, and make little bite-sized “nests” out of cold zarusoba noodles. This allows you to easily grab a bite-sized portion and dunk it in a separate container of dipping sauce, reviving each bunch of noodles just before you eat them. The important thing is to use a truly watertight container for the dipping sauce; these earlier zarusoba lunches for adults show how thermal lunch jar innards or even GladWare can be used for the dipping sauce.
Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Green tea & spinach zarusoba noodle “nests” (Korean nockcha gooksoo noodles, similar to green tea soba noodles on Amazon), kizami nori julienned seaweed and chopped green onions for the noodle dipping sauce (soba tsuyu). The smaller containers have strawberries, sweet pickles, and a garlic & herb cheese triangle.
Morning prep time: 15 minutes, mostly spent boiling water for the noodles and making the little noodle nests (and my three-year-old “helped” me curl the nests, adding a few minutes). To save time, I used bottled dipping sauce instead of making my own out of dashi bonito broth, soy sauce and mirin sweetened cooking sake. Once the noodles were cooked, rinsed in cold water and drained, I curled them into bite-sized nests on chopsticks for easy eating. This also works well with somen and any other cold noodles for dipping. To make looser nests, twirl the noodles around your fingers or a fork instead of chopsticks. This whole lunch could be made ahead of time and refrigerated overnight. The noodles perk right up when swirled around in the dipping sauce. (Read on for packing details and an additional preschooler lunch.)
Published by Biggie on April 29th, 2008 tagged bento, fish or seafood, for kids, pasta or noodles | 31 Comments »
Because I don’t sit down and plan the week’s bento lunches in advance, every morning involves some poking around inside of the refrigerator and freezer to see what looks good to pack for lunch that day. I realize that my life would be easier if I kept a written inventory other than just my freezer magnets, but it’s just not going to happen as I don’t have the staying power to keep things updated.
One thing that Japanese bento cookbooks recommend if you pack lunch in the morning is to think of one dish the night before that you’d like to pack the next day, and just start visualizing the lunch. This takes some of the pressure off when you step into the kitchen as you’ve already got a starting point.
One problem with my approach is that I tend to stand in front of the refrigerator or freezer with the door wide open while I look around for something that inspires me. Unlike looking in the pantry, though, this actually wastes energy and I often overlook buried food that would be perfect for bento lunches. Enter plastic organizer baskets and trays. (Read on for details and variations.)
Published by Biggie on April 25th, 2008 tagged equipment, freezing, organize, shopping, tips | 59 Comments »
It’s been a really topsy turvy month around here! First the website was hacked (boo), then my bulk freezing tip went viral with write-ups all over (yay!). In the latest of the ups and downs, on Tuesday my computer bag was stolen from behind a store counter where I had checked it as per store policy. Mercifully, my computer wasn’t inside, but my checkbook and digital camera were (along with photos of lunches from the past few days). Filing police reports and doing paperwork is a pain, but upon reflection it could have been so much worse — I had my wallet, phone and car keys on me so Bug and I were able to drive home afterwards with minimal inconvenience. We dodged a bullet! I picked up a replacement camera on Wednesday, so the blog will go on.
Today I’m going back to some small bento dinners that I made for my husband and I to take to our running club last month, to supplement the snacks served after our run. According to the bento box size guidelines, they’re both too small for adults on their own. They’re filled with things that my three-year-old had previously rejected at dinner, so I packed a plain sandwich bento for him (not shown).
Contents of my bento dinner: “Confetti spaghetti” (roasted spaghetti squash with sauteed red bell pepper and zucchini, recipe from Kitchen Playdates), Moroccan-spiced grilled lamb (recipe from Steve Raichlen’s The Barbecue! Bible, my husband also made the same dish last year for this lamb lunch). Roasted asparagus, Moro blood orange and a banana segment round out the meal. Because the banana was just for myself, I didn’t bother cutting it into decorative banana wedges.
Afternoon prep time: 5 minutes, using all dinner leftovers. In the afternoon I cut the fruit, and microwaved the meat and squash to take the chill off. (Read on for an additional lunch, details, and a cookbook review.)
Read the rest of this entry »
Published by Biggie on April 24th, 2008 tagged bento, glutenfree, lactose free, meat | 32 Comments »
No, I haven’t lost my mind! That’s not poop in my son’s lunch! It’s little bits of whole tamarind fruit, which our friend from the French-African island of Reunion showed us how to eat. I’ve previously used blocks of tamarind pulp or paste as a souring agent when cooking Indian or Thai food, but had always shied away from the big packages of whole tamarind pods as I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. So when our friend Vincent brought out whole sweet tamarind pods at a dinner party last month, my three-year-old son and I were both fascinated. Bug inhaled them then, and laughingly asked that I pack the “unchi fruit” (poop fruit) in his bento lunch the next day. Here’s what I packed for my warped child, as well as a guide to eating whole tamarind.
Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Waffle and maple syrup, sauteed yellow bell pepper in vinaigrette, wrapped cheese, grapes, and tamarind fruit.
Morning prep time: 7 minutes, using frozen waffles and leftover bell pepper. In the morning I toasted a frozen homemade waffle, cut up the waffles and peeled the tamarind pod. (Read on for the illustrated how-to and more lunch details.)