Spring Flower Onigiri Bento

FINALLY! Spring-like weather! It’s been in the high 50’s to low 60’s so the flower and trees are FINALLY starting to bloom! The daffodils usually show their faces at the end of March, but we had some hard frosts and cool weather lasting into mid April, so everything is late. (What global warming? LOL.) Today I got off work a little early and I have these cute new rice molds, so I knew that a bento was in order!

My new rice molds, featuring traditional Japanese themes (pine bough, fan, and sakura):

So for today’s bento, I have an onigiri flower growing in a garden of salad. (Onigiri is stuffed with tuna mixed with soy sauce and sesame oil). I also have yummy blueberries, cheese stars, an egg bunny, and a few Japanese sweets. A perfect light lunch for a spring day!

What’s your favorite onigiri filling?


Restaurant Review: Spicy Tuna

With the help of a friend, I have recently started a kimono club in my area. And it has really blossomed! Within a week of starting, we have thirty members, including geisha and samurai enthusiasts, a kanzashi maker, and cosplayers. All are interested in kimono! I think this is really awesome. For awhile I felt pretty alone in the area; sure, I knew one or two other people that might have shared my interests, but I thought we were just weirdos in a cultural dead zone.  Not so! Now we have the Northwest Ohio Kimono Club, and last night was our first meeting at a swinging little sushi bar called Spicy Tuna. If you are looking for good eats in the Northwest Ohio/Southeast Michigan area, definitely check this place out. Half of sushi and sake on Wednesdays!

Here’s  review and some pictures!

STYLE: Japanese
HOURS: Monday-Thursday: 11:30 am-10:00 pm, Friday-Saturday: 11:30 am-2:00 am, Sunday 11:30-9:00 pm
PRICE RANGE: Moderate. Lunch $7-$15, dinner $9-$20 for entrees. Sushi prices vary. Wednesdays are haf off specific rolls.
WEBSITE: http://www.spicytunasushi.com/
KATY CRAYON”S RATING: **** out of 5.

REVIEW: Great atmosphere and great fun. It’s not your typical sushi joint. Traditional Japanese decor is replaced with more modern Asian-esque art and anime-style murals. Chinese dishes are served as well as Japanese, and there are vegetarian options, so there’s a little something for everyone. The food was really good (as was the sake!), but there was a slight problem: we had a party of 15 (we had made reservations for 10!), almost all of us ordered sushi, and there was one sushi chef. I had finished my appetizer, dinner, and dessert before some of out party had gotten their entrees. I doubt that’s typical…the poor sushi chef looked like he was ready to curl up into a ball. The staff more than made up for the waits with some complementary items. My $7 dessert was on the house, some people got free sake or martinis.

Spicy Tuna also offers a pool room, though they do leagues on Wednesday night so if you go on Wednesday for the half-off sushi and sake, don’t expect to play pool. I do recommend checking the place out, though, especially if you are looking for good Asian food with a good experience along with it!


The sushi that my hubby and I split: philly roll, tuna and crab, eel and avocado, spicy california:

Dessert? Mochi ice cream! I had plum, mango, and vanilla. I loved the presentation!

The kimono wearers of the group:

The tenticle monster in the pool room:

Too see more pictures, check out my flickr page!

Greek Eats bento Take 2!

The craving for greek food had welled up again, and luckily I had just gotten a new issue of Bon Apétit magazine featuring a whole section of Greek party food. One delicious recipe I had to try? Zucchini keftedes, a type of croquette. They were absolutely delicious with feta, dill, mint, and lemon and the leftovers fit perfectly into a bento, which I took to work.

Besides the croquettes, I put in some minty orzo pasta, cheese hearts, grapes, and a Japanese peach gummy. I usually don’t make anything out of Bon Apétit magazine because the food is usually too snobby and calls for impossible-to-find ingredients (Capered lamb loin with coriander orange creme and lavender sugars! avocado asparagus with rose water and sautéed halibut! Not really but close, lol.) However, I’ve scored two home-runs out of this issue. Along with the zucchini keftedes, I made a really good bacon and leek risotto with over-easy eggs. Very delish!

Here’s the recipe for Zucchini Keftedes! It’s a perfect meal if you’re into Meatless Mondays!

4 zucchini; make sure they are firm and free of blemishes
Coarse salt
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions or finely chopped leeks (I used leeks since I had them on hand for another recipe.)
3 tablespoons fresh dill or 1 tablespoon dried dill
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (use the fresh stuff only!)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Grated zest from one small lemon
1 cup panko
1 egg, beaten
1 cup coarsely crumbled feta cheese
Canola or pure olive oil for frying

Grate zucchini on the large holes of a box grater. Lay out on a clean kitchen towel or some thick paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Wrap the zucchini in the towel and squeeze over the sink, getting as much moisture out as possible. Place the zucchini in a mixing bowl and add onions, lemon zest, garlic, mint and dill, and some black pepper. Gently stir in the panko and the egg, then fold in the feta cheese. Gently shape the mixture into 10-12 patties, placing them on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Let chill in the refrigerator for an hour.

Pour enough oil in a skillet to coat the bottom. Working in batches of three or four, fry the patties until golden brown, flipping once. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Garnish with greek yogurt or more feta and dill if desired! They taste fine warm or at room temperature!

Have you tried any new knock-out bento recipes lately?

Ginger Soba Soup

Spring is coming at last to the northern midwest, and spring means rain. Lots of it. Yesterday was a cool, damp, rainy day and was perfect for soup. I’m proud to say that I made up this Japanese-inspired soup entirely on the fly, using ingredients that I keep on hand. It was delicious! It earned a thumbs-up from my husband and it will be a recipe that I keep handy. Here is the recipe, in case you’d like to try!

Ginger Soba Soup with Chicken and Egg

For the chicken:
Cut a chicken breast into bite-size pieces. Marinate in 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon mirin or sherry, 2 teaspoons finely minced ginger, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 15 minutes up to overnight.

For the Soup:
5 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup soy sauce (diluted with 1/2 cup water)
3 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 package soba (buckwheat) noodles; package should contain three noodle bundles
2 eggs, lighlty beaten
A slash of mirin or sherry, to taste

Heat a tablespoon of cooking oil in the bottom of a soup pot or dutch oven. Add the chicken, stirring occassionally (the cornstarch marinade will form a nice golden crust, so don’t stir too much). Once the chicken mostly cooked, add the green onions (save some of the green tops for garnish!), ginger, and garlic and stir fry until fragrant. Add the chicken broth and soy sauce; bring to a boil. Add the mirin/sherry and soba noodles and boil for 4-5 minutes or until noodles are tender. Pour the beaten eggs into the soup and let them cook (do not stir) for 1 minute. Once the eggs are set, break them up with a spoon or chopstick. Ladel into bowls and garnish with green onions, carrots, shredded nori, bonito, or anything else that sounds good to you!

I am sure all of you have heard about the earthquake and tsunamis that devestated Japan. In the days that have followed, Japan has experienced nuclear emergency, food and water shortages, and a catastrophic death toll. I urge you all to keep Japan in your thoughts and prayers. You may donate to the relief by visiting the Red Cross online or by texting REDCROSS to 90999 (this will donate $10.) You can also check this out. Naomi of ImmortalGeisha (www.immortalgeisha.com) is auctioning off kimono ensembles from her personal collection, with 100% of the proceeds going to the relief effort in Japan. Follow the auctions here:


In the meantime, love and prayers to Japan.

Orangey Beef Stir Fry Bento + New Blog!

Hello all! Long time no bento! I’ve been off the scene for a bit…an ever changing work schedule + winter blahs are not so great for creativity. Luckily, winter is receding. As one of my favorite bands, The Weakerthans, says in their song Elegy for Elsabet, “Winter dies the same way every spring.” And it’s true. The birds are singing, the trees are budding, and it’s raining cats and dogs right now. :p (BTW you should totally check out The Weakerthans if you are into indie rock at all. “Left and Leaving” is a terrific album.)

Anyway, I did manage to pull a bento together today. An orangy beef stir fry brimming with red peppers, broccoli, and onions is the star. I’ve also included teddy bear onigiri, shrimp gyoza, strawberries, baby carrots, a babybel cheese, and a Japanese milk sweet. The strawberries were really tart; they aren’t in season right now. (NOTHING is in season in my area right now!) The gyoza I bought from the sushi counter at my local grocery store. They are very good!

I also have new chopsticks! Bright green with maiko. I’ll have to get a better picture. They’re a gift from a friend. 🙂

Anyway, I have started a new blog, Kyoto Redbird. This blog focuses on culture, beauty, art, kimono, and how they all manage to tie together. I’m using it as a place to explore my own body likes and dislikes, my adventures in dressing an atypical body type, and how the Japanese aesthetic (less is more) makes me feel better about myself. Please check it out and feel free to comment! I’m hoping to get a lot of dialogue on this blog. 🙂

Fritatta Snack bento

Sorry about the little hiatus! I took a bento break but I am back on the scene now. Usually I work mornings, but when I work the afternoon shift, I like to take a bento with me, either a full meal or a snack one. Here we have a snack bento with chicken and orzo fritatta, veggies and humus, pineapple chunks, and an agar-agar jelly.

It’s nothing fancy, and it ended up not being a enough. I have problems with low blood sugar, and by 4 PM, my blood sugar floored. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a drop in blood sugar, but it feels a lot like coming down with the flu, at least for me. I get really weak and shaky, I get hot flashes, my head starts hurting, and I get nauseous. Not fun! Usually when it gets that bad, my sugar stays “off” for a few days and I can get pretty sick. Unfortunately, I had to be at work for another two and a half hours, so I definitely wasn’t feeling well by time I got home. But my husband wasn’t feeling good, either, so i ended up taking care of him! LOL; it’s ok, we’re both better now.

I have not forgotten about my bento blog shoutout! I’m still hoping for a few more hopefuls. Let me know if you have a blog and you’re interested!

Also, today is my 23rd birthday! Happy birthday to me! 🙂

Teriyaki Veggie Bento

So today we have something of a hodge-podge bento featuring a lot of clearing-out-the-fridge items. I had this package of fresh stir-fry veggies that was on its last legs and needed to be used. But how to prepare them? I took it into my head to make a homemade teriyaki sauce. Usually, mirin is an important component of teriyaki sauce; however, I was out because I used the last of it when I made katsudon the other night. So I used a semi-dry white wine instead, along with soy sauce, a dash of chicken stock, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and a little sriracha. The result?

Extremely salty. Not so salty that it’s inedible, but very, very salty. However, after throwing it on the veggies (which I sautéed in a little olive oil), it was fine.

Also in this bento is molded onigiri, leftover chicken fingers (from last night’s dinner at Red Robin), tonkatsu sauce for the chicken, colby jack cheese, pineapple chunks, a green apple agar-agar jelly, and some Life cereal for a little crunch. I told you: a hodge podge!

Do you have a bento blog and want to be featured? Time permitting, the Bento Blog shout-out will be up tomorrow! It’s not too late to be featured!

Winter Blahs Pick-Me-Up Bento

I have the winter blahs. This form of the cold-weather blues usually sets in at the end of January. between the freezing temps, the lack of sunlight, and the sometimes frightening driving conditions, winter eventually takes a toll on everyone, except the most thick-blooded of snow beasts.

I was born in Florida, and even though I was raised in Michigan and I now reside in northern Ohio, it’s safe to say that I am NOT a thick-blooded snow beast.

Of course, the days are getting longer, and each day brings us closer to the much-awaited arrival of spring. I’m holding out hope for an early thaw this year, since winter hasn’t been as rough as it usually is.

To perk myself up and to get my mind off of the winter blahs, I prepared this colorful bento. It features tuna cakes with cocktail sauce, provolone butterflies, Italian bologna hearts, more cabbage stir fry, an agar-agar jelly, and coconut curry rice with lime peel packed into my onigiri case.

Are you a warm-weather or cold-weather person?

Bento Enthusiasts: I am still offering spots for blog features for Next week’s Bento Blog Shoutout. Let me know if you are interested!

Coconut Shrimp Bento + Bento Timewarp

So I realized today that 1-1-11 was my one year anniversary of bento-making! In honor of my 1 year bentoversary (two weeks late) another bento!

Last night my hubby and I made this ridiculously delicious coconut shrimp. Into today’s bento it went, along with homemade peanut-lime dipping sauce, sesame seasoned rice noodles (store-bought product; not homemade). In the second tier, I have a cabbage-carrot saute, hard boiled egg, cooked apples with cinnamon, and the obligatory bento items of cheese cubes and an agar-agar jelly.

By request, here is the recipe for my peanut-lime sauce:

1 cup all-natural peanut butter
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
the zest and juice from 1 lime
2 teaspoons sriracha hot sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar (omit if your peanut butter is sweetened)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons ground ginger

Whisk the peanut butter, chicken broth, soy sauce, and coconut milk until smooth. Fold in the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth and thick.

Since it is my one-year bentoversary, I thought I’d share a photo of my first ever bento:

Here it is, in all its bento amateur glory! I think we can say my bento have much improved, though I know I still have a lot to learn. 😉

How long have you done bento? What did your first one look like?

SHOUT OUT TO FELLOW BENTO ENTHUSIASTS: Do you have a blog? Want to be featured? I want to do a “bento blog shout out” this week to promote my bento friends and my favorite blogs. Let me know if you have a blog and want a mention!

Tonkatsu Bento Take 2

I am not ashamed to admit that I like fried food. I don’t overindulge in it, of course. But there’s just something sinfully comforting about things that are coated in batter or breadcrumbs and fried. Tonkatsu, or a thin pork cutlet fried in a panko coating and served over rice and cabbage, is no exception. I was first introduced to tonkatsu in a little noodle shop in Shinjuku, Tokyo. It was our first full day in Japan, and we were famished. Tokyo is a very overwhelming city, and the choices of restaurants were endless. Our first restaurant experience ended us up in a little dive where no one spoke English. We decided that for our second try, we would stick close to our hotel. The front window of the restaurant had a very vivid display of the menu choices (I found it was common in Japan for restaurants to display plastic mock-ups of the menu in their front window). A good sign. When we walked in, we saw a group of Americans; another good sign!

This little noodle shop was fabulous. The service was quick and friendly, and the food was superb. I loved my tonkatsu so much, we went back there for dinner again the next night and i got their yakiudon, which was also very good. My husband and I like to reminisce about that little noodle joint! 

So this is my second tonkatsu bento! I prefer this one over the first. Since it is the year of the rabbit, I am using that excuse to indulge my love of the cute and cuddly. So bunnies make an appearance in this bento in the form of cheddar cheese cut outs and apple rabbits. I also included glazed carrots, an agar-agar jelly, and a little wedge of chocolate marble cheesecake. I didn’t make my own tonkatsu sauce this time; I bought it bottled. The brand is Bulldog and it’s very good.

Do you have a funny or interesting restaurant experience? Please share! 🙂

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