Archive for June, 2008
We often eat food that’s too spicy for our three-year-old, but find ways to salvage it for his developing palate that don’t require me to be a short-order cook, making a whole separate meal for him (see my mommy’s lunch manifesto). Some things are more easily tamed with a quick rinse, like mild kimchi. I used to think that dishes like Thai curry just needed the addition of yogurt to tame them, but even this usually doesn’t do the trick fully. So instead I started plucking the meat, seafood and veggies out of the curry, rinsing them off in a little sieve under water, and re-saucing them in milder sauces like vinaigrette, sanbaizu sweet vinegar sauce (see my sanbaizu recipe), barbecue sauce (Western or Korean), teriyaki sauce, or even just salad dressing. Use your creativity with whatever you have on hand! How do you make spicy leftovers palatable for sensitive mouths? Let us know in comments!
Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Homemade kalbi (or galbi, Korean grilled marinated beef short ribs), an onigiri rice ball filled with chopped kalbi, chopped kimchi, red lettuce, blueberries and a strawberry.
Morning prep time: 12 minutes, using leftover kalbi from dinner, rinsed kimchi and frozen rice. In the morning I microwaved the frozen rice, chopped the kalbi and kimchi, and quickly made the onigiri rice ball with my wet, salted hands.
Packing: Regular kimchi is too spicy for my preschooler as is, so I generally rinse it off before giving it to Bug (his favorite is the sour ggakdugi daikon kimchi cubes). I chopped up the kimchi because I had originally intended to stuff the onigiri with it, but Bug saw what I was doing and said he didn’t want the kimchi inside of the rice. So I made a mid-course correction and substituted chopped kalbi beef for the onigiri filling. (Read on for full details and an additional spicy-turned-mild bento lunch.)
Published by Biggie on June 30th, 2008 tagged bento, for kids, meat, onigiri or sushi, rice, tips | 31 Comments »
I’ve written previously about freezing chopped green onions in plastic water bottles to reduce spoilage and speed up prep time, but this technique isn’t limited to green onions alone. Clean, dry water bottles are also handy for storing small frozen vegetables like corn or green peas — a technique I’ve run across before in my Japanese-language freezing books (also in the full list of food books in my kitchen). (Read on for full freezer storage details.)
Published by Biggie on June 26th, 2008 tagged freezing, organize, tips | 43 Comments »
A couple of highlights today. Inarizushi is basically sushi rice stuffed into seasoned abura-age fried tofu wrappers. If you have a Japanese or Korean market nearby, you can often find preseasoned wrappers in the refrigerated section (shaped like rectangles or triangles). Just gently open them up and fill with seasoned sushi rice (cooking tips below). A fun variation on normal inarizushi is to fold down the top edge, stuff with seasoned rice, and top with anything you like. Toppings can be really creative: I’ve seen shrimp, cucumber, ornate food art that makes little characters sitting in the inari “boats”, soboro (fried and seasoned ground meat — think dry Sloppy Joe filling), etc. Think outside the box with this kid favorite!
You can speed up morning sushi or rice ball prep by freezing cooked rice; below I review a couple of Japanese food containers specially designed for freezing and reheating rice in the microwave oven.
Contents of preschooler lunch: Inarizushi stuffed sushi topped with pink sakura denbu and sauteed ground pork and barbecue sauce. Steamed broccoli with vinaigrette, plum tomatoes and grapes round out the meal. Sakura denbu is a sweet powder of ground codfish that’s often used in chirashizushi and children’s bento lunches. Adds a nice shot of pink when you’re packing by color.
Morning prep time: 13 minutes, using frozen rice, pre-packaged abura-age seasoned tofu wrappers, an individual-sized portion of frozen ground pork, and premade barbecue sauce. In the morning I microwaved a small portion of frozen rice, flavored it with seasoned rice vinegar, and made a couple of inarizushi with the lip turned down to leave the rice exposed at the top. (Read on for packing details, cooking tips, a review of rice containers for freezing, and an additional pizza bento lunch.)
Published by Biggie on June 20th, 2008 tagged bento, equipment, for kids, freezing, lactose free, meat, onigiri or sushi, review | 23 Comments »
If you’ve forgotten to take something out of the freezer and want to get cooking in a hurry, there are a few methods of thawing food that are faster than putting it in the refrigerator. Of course there’s the microwave oven (Defrost setting), but this can create hot spots that start cooking the food unevenly. Another way is to put the food in a freezer bag, squeeze out excess air, and immerse in a bowl of cool water under a tiny trickle of water to create convection currents that speed up defrosting (discussed in my popular tip for freezing ground food in usable quantities). I found a third technique in my Japanese freezing books, though. (Read on for details of the frying pan defrosting trick.)
Published by Biggie on June 16th, 2008 tagged freezing, tips | 39 Comments »
I’m definitely not above using convenience products for speedy lunches. Convenience foods come in many different forms: frozen foods (homemade or store-bought, like appetizers, potstickers, rice, rice balls, waffles), canned foods (baked beans, regular beans, dolmas), store-bought deli foods, etc. Today’s lunches use different kinds of convenience food. First off is frozen ravioli, a fast-cooking pasta option. The second is pancakes made with terrifying but surprisingly acceptable batter from a spray can. Read on for a full product review of Batter Blaster spray pancake and waffle batter.
One danger of packing pasta with tomato sauce is that the pasta tends to soak up moisture in the sauce while sitting in the container, making the pasta mushy and the sauce dry. You can work around this a few different ways. Sticking with oil-based pasta sauces gets around the problem, but is limiting. Another way is to use a donburi bento box or equivalent (i.e. a small thermal food jar or watertight container for the sauce and a larger bento box or food container big enough to hold both pasta and sauce when combined), toss the al dente pasta with olive oil or butter to keep it from sticking together, and pack the sauce totally separate from the pasta. Combine the two just before eating, and warm in the microwave if available.
Today I used a different packing method to minimize texture damage: toss the cooked pasta with a little olive oil or butter to create a moisture barrier between the sauce and the pasta, lightly sauce the pasta and pack in the lunch container, and pack extra sauce (just spooned in gaps around the edges, but you can also pack it in lidded condiment cups).
Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Spinach and mozzarella raviolis with roasted garlic tomato sauce, blueberries, strawberry, and broccoli with Thai oyster sauce. (Read on for lunch packing details, and an additional preschooler lunch with review of Batter Blaster spray pancake batter.)