Archive for the 'vegetarian' Category
One thing I’m starting to adjust to is my four-year-old’s growing appetite. It’s easy to look at the bento box size guidelines and figure out what size is right for your child, but they don’t stay that age (and appetite) forever! When he was three, a 350ml box was just perfect. Now that Bug is four, though, I’m finding he needs more of a 400ml lunch. This doesn’t mean I need to throw away the smaller boxes, though! Supplement them with a small side dish container that holds a small portion of fresh fruit, for example.
Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Pepperoni and mushroom pizza, roasted asparagus, blueberries and crispy Asian pear slices.
Morning prep time: 7 minutes, using leftover pizza and asparagus. In the morning I cut up the pizza, asparagus and pear. (Read on for full packing details and an additional pasta lunch with a raw heirloom tomato sauce.) Read the rest of this entry »
Published by Biggie on December 9th, 2008 tagged bento, for kids, meat, pasta or noodles, vegetarian | 15 Comments »
An allergy to seafood can be a bit of a hindrance to an Asian food enthusiast. I’m lucky enough to be allergic to both fish and shellfish, with effectively rules out almost all restaurant sushi (even the vegetarian types are often made with the same tools and can be tainted with juices), not to mention those adorable kamaboko (sliceable fishcake logs, often featuring patterns of flowers or anime characters). This can really cramp a person’s bento style, so I’ve had to find ways to work around it.
This “mock lobster” is a Roma tomato salad served on a bed of jasmine rice. Unless it’s tomato you’re allergic to, this guy can’t give you hives. :-) The eyestalks are removable cloves dabbed with a bit of black decorating gel, the ornamental rose is some carefully-cut yellow cherry tomato, and the “butter” off to one side is a dressing I made of hard-boiled egg yolk, mayonnaise, and mustard. He’s not the only shellfish I’ve faked; I’ve also conserved a couple of shreds of canned chicken breast, tinting them red before adding them to my chicken salad. The result looks very much like crab salad. Kamaboko can be faked with a shaped chunk of lemon-brushed apple, dipped in red juice or food coloring, rinsed, and sliced. All you have to do is figure out to manipulate what you can eat to resemble what you can’t, so you don’t feel so deprived.
I’ve always been in awe of the beauty of sushi. Maybe it’s the allure of something unattainable, I don’t know. I’ve hovered around the sushi section of Jungle Jim’s, gaping at the glistening roe and trying to imagine what it might taste like. There are some chefs who have pioneered artificial caviar by using squid ink (which doesn’t really help those of us with allergies) and juice-based roe that gloms together with the use of calcium chloride. None of these methods seem particularly cheap or easy. It took some experimenting, but I’ve found that there is a way to incorporate the beauty of roe sushi into a bento without the actual fishiness, using about $5(US) worth of common grocery-store ingredients.
Published by Amorette on September 4th, 2008 tagged Amorette, bento, decorative, onigiri or sushi, tips, tutorial or how to, vegetarian | 29 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 »
A little food presentation game that I play sometimes is to buy a fruit or vegetable in an unusual color, and pack it next to a contrasting item in a bento lunch. I’ve done this with orange cauliflower and broccoli, gold kiwi and blueberries, purple potatoes and peas, and today with golden and red raspberries. My three-year-old son and I spotted the golden raspberries in the market the other week, and couldn’t resist picking some up to taste side-by-side with regular red raspberries. Bug and I tried out both kinds together, and found the golden raspberries to be slightly more tart than the red, but not unpleasantly so. It was a nice, subtle flavor contrast with the same texture as the red version. Explore your markets with an eye open for unusual colors; they can add natural fun to a lunch!
I find that Bug enjoys these little food experiments that we do together — it’s okay if he doesn’t like something, but I want him to think about why he doesn’t like it and try to explain it to me. He’s now able to explain if it’s the taste, texture or smell of something that bothers him, which in turn helps me formulate new approaches to incorporating a variety of foods into his diet. He’s not a picky eater, though, so the battle is half won already. (Knock on wood!)
Contents of preschooler bento lunch: Steamed broccoli with Goddess dressing, spinach and cheese spanakopita triangles (frozen from Costco, reviewed earlier), dried apricots, red and golden raspberries (Driscoll’s brand, but the exact variety wasn’t indicated), cheese triangle, dried blueberries and Rainier cherries.
Morning prep time: 17 minutes, mostly inactive prep time waiting for the frozen spanakopita to cook in the convection toaster oven and cool down on a little cooling rack afterwards so it didn’t turn soggy in the box. I turned on the toaster oven’s convection function to further speed up the bake time as convection is more even and slightly faster than conventional baking, and the toaster oven is more energy-efficient than our wall ovens. (Read on for packing details and an elephant rice ball lunch.)
Published by Biggie on August 11th, 2008 tagged bento, dumplings or buns, for kids, onigiri or sushi, phyllo or pancake or other, rice, vegetarian | 22 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.)