Archive for April, 2008
Today’s lunch illustrates an easy way to dress up an onigiri rice ball using ordinary plastic wrap and a little box. This is the first time I used this new little 350ml two-tier bento box that I found at Sanko in San Francisco’s Japantown for $8 (see my full store review or a brief writeup in the San Francisco Bay Area shopping guide for bento gear). 350ml is small, so it might seem unnecessary to split it into two tiers (especially ones that don’t nest inside each other when empty). But there is a reason behind it: the small shallow upper tier is the right size and shape for making decorative onigiri rice balls with the help of a little plastic wrap.
Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Onigiri rice ball with edamame and pre-cut nori seaweed shaped like Shinkansen, a little sauce container with Gohan Desu Yo! jarred seaweed paste for the rice, kiwi, broccoli, roasted eel (unagi kabayaki), and red/yellow bell pepper strips with Annie’s Green Goddess salad dressing (surprisingly good). Not pictured is a side dish container with snack strips of seasoned Korean seaweed shown in this bibimbap lunch, which is my three-year-old’s favorite way to eat rice: making little packets of rice with seaweed paste on Korean seaweed.
Morning prep time: 13 minutes, using frozen rice and leftover unagi eel. In the morning I microwaved some frozen rice, slapped together the rice ball (instructions below), and multi-cooked the vegetables in my microwave mini steamer, and filled the little sauce container. I could have taken a lot more time to really fancy up the rice ball, but that’s not my style and Bug was pleased enough with minimal decoration. (Read on for full cooking details, a review of the little bento box, and an additional lunch with pasta frittata.)
Published by Biggie on April 18th, 2008 tagged bento, eggs, fish or seafood, for kids, lactose free, leftover remake, meat, onigiri or sushi | 168 Comments »
In my e-mail yesterday I found a note from reader Bear Naff, with a link to a hilarious Lunch in a Box song parody that one of his readers wrote in response to his challenge. This reminded me of an earlier song parody about Lunch in a Box by the The Original What’s For Lunch blog.
My confession is that I did have the Saturday Night Live spoof song “D**k in a Box” in mind when deciding what to name this speed bento blog. My friends and I were brainstorming names, and once we started singing and riffing on “Lunch in a Box” I knew that was it. If you’re not familiar with the song, go to Hulu.com for the Justin Timberlake/Andy Samberg music video spoof, which actually won a Grammy Award last year.
My husband surprised me with a Lunch in a Box shirt for Valentine’s Day, so after reading cassandrasimplx’s song parody below I changed shirts, went downstairs and took some photos in response. If you have a warped sense of humor and feel like slapping together a Lunch in a Box song parody of your own, leave it in comments or e-mail it to me at lunchinabox (AT) gmail (DOT) com by Wednesday, April 30th. I’ll send the author of my favorite song parody a shirt, mug or bag of their choosing from the Lunch in a Box store on CafePress, where my husband got the shirt. (Click on any photo for a larger view.)
Published by Biggie on April 16th, 2008 tagged admin, shopping | 482 Comments »
Welcome to those of you who found your way here from recent write-ups in Boing Boing, Neatorama, Slashfood and Serious Eats! Please feel free to ask questions or comment even on old entries, and accept my apologies for some lingering issues from the site’s being hacked last week (some character encoding is wonky, and Google-powered internal search is down until the site is reindexed by Google).
Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Teriyaki pineapple chicken meatballs, broccoli with vinaigrette, steamed red bell pepper with Korean barbecue sauce, blueberries, and onigiri rice balls filled with Gohan Desu Yo! seaweed paste and wrapped in packaged, pre-cut seasoned nori seaweed snack strips.
To give the rice the red and green color, I mixed the rice with red and green hana-ebi powdered dried shrimp. A variation on sakura denbu (a sweet powder of ground codfish that’s often used in chirashizushi), hana ebi is a savory shrimp powder from Hawaii. You can see the results of all three types in an early snack bento for my son. (see my page on Decorative Food for other ideas)
Morning prep time: 12 minutes, using frozen rice and pre-made meatballs from Costco (Aidells brand, my favorite). In the morning I warmed the frozen rice in the microwave, and started working on the rice balls while the broccoli, bell pepper and meatballs multi-cooked in my microwave mini steamer at the same time. (Read on for details and an additional preschooler lunch.)
Published by Biggie on April 15th, 2008 tagged bento, for kids, lactose free, meat, onigiri or sushi | 413 Comments »
Although it might be nice if I were organized enough to plan out all of our dinners and my son’s bento lunches in advance, that’s never going to happen — not my style. I operate from more of the spur-of-the-moment approach to cooking, so it’s essential to have a well stocked freezer and pantry. One drawback, though, is that if I’ve frozen food in big blocks, I can’t use just a bit quickly without defrosting the whole thing.
Enter my Japanese-language freezing books. A standard tip for freezing ground foods or thick sauces in small portions is to first put the food into a large freezer bag and press it out as flat as possible, eliminating air pockets. (Making it thin speeds up defrost time due to the increased surface area, and pressing out excess air guards against freezer burn.) Use a long chopstick or ruler to create divisions within the food, forming individual portions. This way when you freeze the entire bag, you’ll be able to quickly break off just as much as you want to use, no more.
Because you’re touching the freezer bag and not the meat directly when flattening it out, your hands don’t get messy, and the food and work surface stay clean. You also reduce the waste that would be generated by individually wrapping each little serving in plastic wrap. This freezing technique isn’t limited to ground meat, though. Think thick pasta sauces, mashed or pureed fruit or vegetables, cooked meat soboro, rice, fried rice, cookie dough, etc.
Published by Biggie on April 11th, 2008 tagged freezing, glutenfree, lactose free, meat, organize, parenthacks, tips | 1,393 Comments »
There are so many different ways to make grilled cheese. Grilled panini, quesadillas, pupusas, croque monsieur, Welsh rarebit, cheese on toast — you name it. My three-year-old’s current favorite is a grilled cheese sandwich made in a waffle iron, an idea we found in Toddler Café: Fast, Healthy, and Fun Ways to Feed Even the Pickiest Eater (one of the cookbooks in my growing collection). Today’s lunches took us south of the border, with cheese and bean-stuffed pupusas made with corn masa, and cheese quesadillas on a flour tortilla. These are fun in a bento lunch if you’re okay with room-temperature grilled cheese, as they hold together as easy finger food for the younger set.
Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Mini crab cakes (Handy brand from Costco, reviewed earlier), grilled asparagus with a sesame-soy glaze (recipe from Steven Raichlen’s How to Grill), raspberries, and pupusa wedges filled with bean and cheese. These were smaller slices of full-sized pupusas from a restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission district, but I’ve made mini pupusas for lunch before with assorted leftovers like pulled pork and cheese. I would have liked to include a non-spicy dipping sauce like crema sour cream, but the school lunchroom restrictions at his preschool rule out liquid dairy due to a food allergy.
Morning prep time: 8 minutes, using frozen crab cakes, leftover asparagus and pupusas. In the morning I heated the crab cakes in the microwave, the pupusa in my convection toaster oven, and cut the pupusa and asparagus into bite-sized pieces for little hands. (Read on for details and an additional quesadilla lunch.)