Archive for September, 2008
Terror is an excellent motivator. For Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn blog’s photo tour of my bento kitchen, I panicked and did a sweeping overhaul of my cabinets, refrigerator and pantry before they came. In part one of my Kitchen Reorganization Series, I showed how I reorganized my scary spice pantry; part two examined the makeover of my messy pantry. Here’s part three: my terrible refrigerator and freezer. (UPDATE: The series concludes with the reorganization of the remaining cabinets and garbage containers for the prep area.)
I don’t have “Before” photos this time around because the refrigerator was the absolute worst, messiest place in the whole kitchen and I couldn’t bear taking even one photo of the inside before cleaning for the cameras. Sorry! Just imagine stuff crammed in everywhere willy nilly, overpacked and unorganized to the naked eye. I’ve got pretty good recall so I mostly knew where everything was, but somehow my poor husband wasn’t able to read my mind to find things… The photo shoot was a good opportunity to get things in order using ideas from my Japanese-language kitchen organization books. Do you have any great tips for organizing your refrigerator or freezer? Let us know in comments! (Read on for details of the refrigerator and freezer reorganization, with feedback on what’s been working for me over the last few months and what hasn’t.) Read the rest of this entry »
Published by Biggie on September 29th, 2008 tagged organize, tips | 40 Comments »
I regularly use bento boxes and as well as collapsible sandwich cases, both of which have their own pros and cons. A while ago, though, I stumbled across an ingenious box that combined both types in two tiers. This allows me to pack a bulky sandwich or rolls in the top, and moist food in food cups in the bottom. When lunch is over, just collapse the sandwich case portion and set it on top of the bento box — this saves room in the bag while still allowing me to use hard reusable food cups and picks. A full review follows; click on any photo for a larger view.
Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Dinosaur-shaped sandwich of cream cheese and sugar-free strawberry jam on wheat bread, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, kiwifruit, Concord grapes, orange slices, and a raspberry. No peanut butter and jelly sandwich lunches for Bug because of the peanut ban at his school.
Morning prep time: 10 minutes. In the morning I made the simple sandwich and cut it into two dinosaur shapes with the DynoBytes sandwich cutter I described earlier. Slice the fruit, and we’re done. (Read on for full box and lunch details, plus two additional sandwich lunches.) Read the rest of this entry »
Published by Biggie on September 25th, 2008 tagged bento, equipment, for kids, sandwich case, sandwich or wrap | 58 Comments »
If you’d like to have warm food at lunch but don’t have access to a microwave oven where you eat, odds are good that you’ve looked into different thermal food jars and thermal lunch jars. Whereas a thermal food jar is typically a small widemouth thermos that you put food directly into, a thermal lunch jar is a vacuum insulated jar that holds a number of smaller microwaveable bowls stacked neatly inside. Preheat (or prechill) by filling the outer jar with hot or cold water for 1-2 minutes, empty and dry the outer jar, pack up your lidded bowls inside, and you’ve got a portable meal that’s not just room temperature food.
Two good-quality large lunch jars are the US$50 Zojirushi Mr. Bento (above left) and the US$38 Thermos Nissan Stainless Steel Lunch Tote (JLN1400P and JLN1200X, above right). There are a number of other thermal lunch jars on the market, including Tiger thermal lunch jars, Sabor Latino thermal food carriers for about $10, cheap Trekker Food on the Go thermal lunch jar, and smaller Zojirushi Ms. Bento thermal lunch jars. Another workaround is provided by thermal bento sets or a thermal food jar with a separate side dish container. I’ll be reviewing these at a later date.
When I was first in the market for a thermal lunch jar a couple of years ago, I went to a store with a variety that I could take out of the box and compare in person. I thought the cheaper Lunch Tote from Thermos Nissan was on par in quality to the more popular Mr. Bento, but was always curious about how the two would fare in a side-by-side comparison against a cheap no-name knockoff I found locally (at left). Zojirushi sent me a Mr. Bento for testing so that I could satisfy my curiosity; I’ll be giving this to a lucky reader in a giveaway now that I’m done (enter by October 5, 2008, see the separate post for details). (NOTE: Comments on this post are not eligible, only comments on the separate giveaway post are eligible to win.)
The Mr. Bento and Thermos Nissan were extremely close in performance and weight, with the Thermos Nissan having better overall heat/cold retention and the Mr. Bento having better separation between the upper and lower sections. The Mr. Bento’s separate bag is convenient for tucking in lunch extras like condiments and utensils, though. The cheap Chinese knockoff jar performed significantly worse in tests, but at US$10 the price was right for a small jar. The Thermos Nissan is usually priced at least US$10 cheaper than the US$50 Mr. Bento, so decide if the bag is worth a little extra money to you. (Read on for the full review and test results…)
Published by Biggie on September 22nd, 2008 tagged equipment, review, thermal lunch jar | 75 Comments »
A lucky reader will win the Zojirushi Mr. Bento thermal lunch jar that I reviewed today; leave a comment below with your favorite dish that can be packed in a thermal lunch jar and I’ll choose one at random on Monday, October 6, 2008 using the random.org random number generator. The Mr. Bento lunch jar (SL-JAE14) will be the same one that I tested by filling it with water (no food has been packed in it). Zojirushi send me one to test out, but my Product Reviews policy prohibits me from keeping anything valued over US$40 so it’s time to pass it on. One comment per person on this post, please. Entries close at midnight Pacific time on Sunday, October 5, 2008. (I reviewed it in depth alongside the Nissan Thermos JLN1200X and a no-name Chinese knockoff; click to read the full lunch jar review…)
UPDATE: Becca, commenter #454, was the winner of the giveaway. Congratulations!
Published by Biggie on September 22nd, 2008 tagged admin, equipment, giveaway, thermal lunch jar | 933 Comments »
Last Friday I drove to Sacramento to do a TV segment about American-style bento on the local Fox40 morning news. I brought two big bags full of bento boxes, three packed bento lunches, thermal lunch jars, bags, and accessories, with an electric kettle to make molded eggs and an apple to make some quick apple rabbits on air.
I came prepared to cook and assemble an actual bento lunch live, but breaking news about Hurricane Ike shortened the time available and killed some other segments. Hey, at least I survived and got on the air! The original live spot was a little longer, but was edited down to 3.5 minutes for the website. In other news, there’s a lengthy interview with me up at the Food Interviews blog; have a look if you’re curious and check out some of the other interesting food interviews.
My three-year-old was a little puzzled as to why I was making four bentos the night before the TV shoot, and kept asking me which one was his lunch. He was just fine with his normal speed bento until he saw the super-cute Japanese food art lunch that I made to illustrate the other end of the bento spectrum, and made me promise to save that one for him to eat after preschool. I kept it on ice in an insulated lunch bag to make sure it survived the day, only taking it out briefly for the actual filming. Here it is, setting the bar too high for normal rushed parents (sorry!). I showed it live on-air, but it was edited out of the online segment.
* * * * *
Contents of preschooler bento lunch for TV: Rice balls shaped like an elephant, fish, and bird (flavored with green hana-ebi fish powder, pink sakura denbu sweet fish powder, and salmon furikake rice sprinkles, decorated with cheese and nori seaweed). Mini cocktail sausages, a hard-boiled quail egg molded to look like a bird, edamame skewers, cherry tomatoes, blueberries, edamame shumai dumpling and dipping sauce. (Click on any photo for a larger view.)
Prep time: 45 minutes, WAY too long for a speed bento (contrast this with Bug’s actual lunch, below). I used frozen rice and shumai to speed up the process, but this was still too time-consuming for a regular weekday lunch. Honestly, it was a little irritating to make as I don’t usually spend this much time on a single lunch. (Read on for three more Western lunches and more about the TV shoot.)