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?

Advertisements

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. 🙂
http://kyotoredbird.wordpress.com/

Chicken Fried Rice recipe

Oh, bento blog, I have neglected you. I am sad to say that I have been too busy being sad about winter and worrying about the holidays. Lunch has been either grilled cheese or quick leftovers reheated in the microwave. Being up at 5 am is rough on a gal, and so she may not feel like putting energy into a pretty lunch when she gets home in the afternoon!

And cooking. Don’t get me started! Busy, overlapping schedules have reduced dinner to the simplest of simple. (Even tuna helper on some nights. Yikes!) But tonight I whipped together a meal that may finally be bento worthy:

Chicken fried rice.

If you’re like me, chicken fried rice is a Chinese takeout staple. Yet I have never been able to make a homemade fried rice that even begins to compare to restaurant quality. Until today. Ad so, dear readers, I give you my own chicken fried rice recipe!

Ingredients:
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon each soy sauce, sherry (or sake), and cornstarch
1 small onion, julienned
1 pouch cole-slaw mix (cabbage and carrots)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 cups cooked rice (I used short grain, but you can use whatever you have on hand.)
5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons butter, cubed
Cooking oil

Directions:
Marinate the chicken pieces in the 1 tablespoon soy sauce, sherry, and cornstarch for at least 10 minutes. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of a heavy skillet or wok. When oil is hot, add the chicken and its marinade and cook until chicken is cooked through and golden. Remove from pan and set aside. Add more oil to the pan if needed and add the onions and garlic. When onions start to turn soft, pour in the cole slaw mix. Once the cabbage starts to soften and wilt, push it to the sides of the pan in order to create a “nest” around the center. Pour in the eggs and scramble. When the egg is set, return the chicken along with the rice, butter, and soy sauce. Heat through and serve.

Enjoy!

Kimono, my other love!

Bento isn’t my only Japanese-related hobby. Besides reading up on geisha whenever I get the chance, I am also very interested in Japanese kimono! There is a wonderful kimono vendor in my area who I have become very good friends with; Kerry of Ohio Kimono! You can see her website here:

http://www.ohiokimono.com/

I have become something of an “unoffical” model for Kerry’s kimono business and I love having the opportunity to wear gorgeous pieces! Here are some promotion shots that I have taken with her:

Haori (kimono jackets)

This red haori I actually own:

Here are some full kimono shots. The only set that I own is the black, gray and pink yukata set.

I wish to own this AMAZING red and green set:

And a lovely pink and gold set that is drool-worthy!

I really wish it was practical for me to wear kimono more often, because I certainly would. I find the artistry and overall quality of the Japanese kimono to be much more interesting than western style clothing. In addition, the kimono is very flattering for me because I am a petite flower!

What are your hobbies beside bento? Are you interested in kimono?

Salmon Pocket Pie Bento

What better way to spend a rainy fall day than with some delicious homemade fall food? Being from Michigan, I am well aware that the pasty, or pocket pie, is a statewide staple. While normal pasties are filled with beef, potato, and onion, I opted for one filled with salmon, rice, parsley, and green onion. (Idea courtesy of Alton Brown, Food Network Guru and my nerd hero.) They are light, flaky, and flavorful. I had made them for dinner last night and I used a leftover for today’s bento.

Since it’s cold and rainy out today and I wanted a comforting meal after a long morning at work, (this is a stay-at-home bento)I didn’t want to eat it cold. But i knew that microwaving it would cause the puff pastry to lose some of its flakiness. So I preheated the oven to 235 and baked it for about 12 minutes. Worked like a charm! The pastry stayed flaky but the inside got nice and warm.

Als o in this bento: some pretty plum slices, sesame dressed spinach, provolone and mortadella (Italian bologna) flowers for decoration, and some crunchy oat clusters for a sweet little dessert. A nice variety or flavors and textures here, I think!

What’s one of your favorite fall comfort foods?

Product Review: Annie Chun’s Miso Udon Bowl

Lunch for me usually means leftovers from last night’s dinner or a bento. But I have another lunch-time weakness (besides McDonalds, lol): store-bought Asian noodle bowls.

While I’ve never cared for Italian-style pasta dishes, I have always loved Asian noodles.  When I was in high school, going out to lunch with friends meant chicken lo-mein at the local on-the-cheap Chinese restaurant. And while I often cook Asian noodle dishes at home, I work morning shifts so when I come home hungry, there’s no time or desire to cook! Store-bought Asian noodle bowls make for a quick and convenient lunch. I decided it would be good to review the ones I try!

Today’s bowl is a Miso Udon noodle bowl by Annie Chun brand.

Basic description:
Includes noodles, miso soup base, and vegetable packet. Takes about two minutes to make in the microwave. Price: About $3.50 USD

GOOD STUFF:
The noodles are pretty much perfect as far as udon goes. White, thick, and slightly chewy, these noodles taste very fresh and authentic. The miso soup base is also tasty. It’s a combination of white and red miso pastes and is pleasantly salty and savory. Don’t use as much water as the package directs because it waters it down too much. It’s surprisingly low in sodium and fat. It is also a very quick and convenient meal, plus the bowl is biodegradable!

BAD STUFF:
I don’t like the vegetables that come with this soup. When you pull them out of the package, they look like a questionable light green brick. It dissolves into the real vegetables that you see in the picture. (reminds me a bit of the dino-egg oatmeal from my childhood where the sugar eggs would dissolve into candy dinosaurs.) The vegetables, which in this include scallions and spinach, taste almost like plastic. They look good once cooked, but the taste falls flat. I will use fresh veggies next time.

The other bad thing is the price. $3.50 is a lot for a little soup bowl, and for that price, you could easily go to McDonald’s and buy a double cheeseburger, a small fry, and a medium drink. (I would dare say that the soup bowl is the healthier alternative!) Annie Chun’s brand has other products that are a bit cheaper; their miso-udon bowl is one of their more expensive. But I guess you get what you pay for. The soup is healthier than other ready-made-lunch options and tastes a lot better.

I give it four out of five stars.

Greek Eats Bento

I follow the blogs and flickr feeds of several bento enthusiasts. All of them have their own style: vegan, Japanese, American-style, children’s bentos, etc. Yet one thing I don’t see too much of is “international bento” (Though fellow bento enthusiast BentoBird has made some tasty looking Indian bentos!) This is something I’d think I’d like to explore more of: fitting international flavors into the Japanese tradition of bento.

I love ethnic cooking. Rarely do I make all-American fare (that’s my husband’s job! LOL.) I like American food, but it’s somewhat boring to make. I happen to prefer the challenge and fun of making ethnic foods, so we end up eating a lot of Asian, Mexican, and Italian style foods. Another favorite of mine is Greek food. However, I don’t make it often because it’s almost always time consuming and I usually end up dirtying every appliance in my kitchen! However, the craving surfaces often enough, and since the best Greek restaurants are found over an hour away in Detroit (and you have to suffer through Detroit traffic to get to them), I have no choice but to prepare Greek eats at home.

A favorite? Dolmathes, a traditional meal of grape leaves stuffed with ground lamb, rice, onion, and fresh herbs. You have to be committed to make these things! I invest quite a bit of time into them. Why? Because grape leaves come pickled and packed tightly into rolls. They are very fragile so unrolling them, stuffing them, and rolling them back up requires a patient and delicate hand. Then they take at least an hour to cook. So they are not necessarily a go-to bento item! But it’s time I found my own unique bento style, and I thought a Greek bento would be the perfect way to stand out.

This bento featured Dolmathes with lemon-egg sauce, rice (seasoned with parsley,mint, lemon zest, salt and pepper), plum slices, and humus with carrot sticks and pita chips for dipping.

Previous Older Entries