Archive for August, 2008
“Amorette Dye”, also known as Sakurako Kitsa on Flickr, is a stunningly talented bento food artist whose work has appeared in bento book Face Food, the upcoming book 500 Bento Lunches: 500 Unique Recipes for Brilliant Bento, and media such as the Greek Marie Claire and Hong Kong’s Weekend Weekly. She’s an acclaimed American master of oekakiben, original food art compositions related to kyaraben (”character bentos” that look like cartoon characters). Have a look at her Flickr photostream for a glimpse of her artistic masterworks.
My own focus is more on making simple, speedy bento lunches, but I’m delighted to tell you that Amorette will be guest authoring a series on decorative food art bentos here on Lunch in a Box while I’m traveling over the next week. Amorette will be sharing with us some original techniques that she’s been developing, as well as tips for more complicated and artistic special-occasion lunches. I hope you’ll enjoy the change of pace. Please join me in welcoming Amorette to Lunch in a Box! ~Biggie
- All posts by Amorette on Lunch in a Box
- Decorative Food recipes
- Bento FAQ or Biggie’s Top Speed Tips
Published by Biggie on August 31st, 2008 tagged Amorette, admin | 18 Comments »
First off, welcome to new readers finding their way here from yesterday’s article in The Washington Post on packed lunches and bentos (free registration required to view the article). The article calls me “the Rachael Ray of bentos” because of my focus on speedy lunches, which I found to be pretty amusing. So does this mean I need to come up with a catchphrase like Yum-O now?
If you’re new to bento-style lunches, be sure to read the Bento FAQ for an introduction. I’m on the road at the moment posting only sporadically, so please accept my apologies for not being as responsive to comments as usual.
My husband likes to barbecue on the weekends when we have people over, so earlier this summer he smoked some pork butts on the DIY flowerpot smoker for about 15 hours. We generally have people over when we do this, and it yields so many leftovers that I divide some into smaller portions, double-wrap, and freeze it for later when we’ll really appreciate it. It makes great fodder for Leftover Remakes, where I use leftovers to make a new dish. In the past I’ve used leftover pulled pork in dishes such as pork sopes, a straight sandwich packed in a Mr. Bento-type thermal lunch jar, as a pizza topping, or even plain.
In a play on a pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw, one evening I sautéed some chopped-up cabbage, added a portion of the leftover pulled pork, seasoned it with a little jarred tomato-based pasta sauce, and added the mixture to some Annie’s boxed shells & cheese pasta. To maximize payoff for the times when you take time to cook, make more than usual and freeze the excess planned leftovers to use in other dishes. A list of freezing tips is on the Top Tips page.
Contents of preschooler dinner: Roasted salmon and broccoli, cherry tomato, and shells and cheese pasta doctored with sautéed cabbage and North Carolina-style pulled pork. (Click on any photo for a larger view.)
Morning prep time: 10 minutes, using all leftovers. In the morning I revived the texture of the leftover pasta by microwaving it in a microwave-safe dish with a little splash of water, and tossed the broccoli with some vinaigrette so that it would have some flavor when eaten at room temperature. (Read on for packing details and an additional preschooler bento lunch.)
Published by Biggie on August 29th, 2008 tagged bento, eggs, pasta or noodles, vegetarian | 24 Comments »
I’ve got some coupons for discounts at Michael’s and Reusable Bags, just in time for the back-to-school season. Do you know of any other good, relevant coupons for bento and lunch-packing gear? Let us know in comments.
1. 20% off at Reusable Bags (also sells Laptop Lunchboxes)
Use coupon code f70838 (case sensitive) for 20% off all purchases from Reusable Bags until April 2009, or code FREEACME (case sensitive) for a free Acme reusable bag on purchases over US$50. They ship internationally, so if you can’t get this sort of thing locally, check out their lead-free lunch gear, lunch kits, lunchboxes, reusable bottles, lunch bags (for kids and insulated), and the lead-free Laptop Lunchbox. I found their FAQ on health and safety issues to be helpful in learning about lead and plastic concerns. (Check the Reusable Bags listing on coupon website Retail Me Not for updated coupon codes.)
The name of the store reminds me of an area where I’ve made some changes to my habits recently: reusable bags. Because I’m absent-minded, even though I have all kinds of large reusable bags stashed in the trunk of our car, I often forget to bring them into the store with me when I’m shopping. To solve that problem, I recently bought a couple of ultra-compact reusable bags: one for US$1 from Ichiban Kan, and a $5 ChicoBag from Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco. They fold compactly into themselves, and I stash in the mesh side pocket of my messenger bag so that they’re always on me when I’m out. This has made a huge difference in reducing my use of store bags. It reminds me of when I was a kid and my mom threaded my mittens onto a string and put them through the arms of my winter jacket so I didn’t lose them — very convenient! (Click for the Michael’s 40%-off coupon, and info on Bug’s new pimped-out Sigg metal water bottle.)
Published by Biggie on August 25th, 2008 tagged equipment, for kids, review, shopping | 34 Comments »
I’m always on the lookout for ways to save time cooking for packed lunches, but never gave much thought to a real basic: boiling water. Whether I’m boiling frozen dumplings, fast-cook pasta, or multi-cooking several different things together to save time, the slowest part of the equation seems to be bringing the water to a boil in the first place. Was there a way to speed this up?
I’d heard that electric kettles were a good way to boil water faster, but I was a little dubious as to exactly how much time they’d save. Was it a marginal amount of time, or substantial enough to justify buying something that would take up more counter space in the kitchen? I bit the bullet and bought a Hamilton Beach 1.7-liter cordless model at Costco, and pitted it in a head-to-head race against a regular kettle on our gas stove. I think I’ve been watching too much of the Olympics lately! (Click for the test results.)
Published by Biggie on August 22nd, 2008 tagged equipment, review, tips | 105 Comments »
No, no — don’t go away! I know Spam sushi sounds awful, but hear me out. I first heard of the Hawaiian classic Spam musubi when I was in college a long time ago, and I have to admit I was pretty skeptical. Come on, Spam spiced ham loaf? In sushi? You’ve got to be kidding me.
About eight years ago, some of my Hawaiian friends decided to hold a luau here in California, complete with a whole pig cooked in an underground pit dug in their back yard. So as a novelty, I volunteered to make a party-sized batch of Spam musubi (shown at right). Funny thing, though. Once I started cooking (frying the Spam, flavoring it with homemade teriyaki sauce, putting wasabi furikake on the rice for a little kick), it started to smell really appetizing and I tried some. Wow! I’ve been a convert ever since and try all the different variations I run across, although I only make it a couple of times a year as it can be labor-intensive.
There are a number of variations on Spam musubi, including Spam makizushi (rolled in a long, skinny sushi roll), sandwich-style Spam musubi (shown above), traditional-style Spam musubi with a narrow strip of nori (shown below), Spam musubi with a layer of egg inside, etc. I’ve even had tasty versions that replace the Spam with teriyaki chicken, barbecued chicken, chicken katsu, or Portuguese sausage. As with rice balls, feel free to experiment with alternate fillings, especially those that are strongly flavored. I suspect that Korean barbecue like bulgogi or kalbi would also be tasty prepared this way, especially when fully wrapped in rice and seaweed as shown above. What variations have you seen? (Click for the full recipe and step-by-step tutorial.)