Yakisobaaaaa!

I came home from work today and my husband and I were both hungry. well, last night we made enough yakisoba and gyoza (our FAVORITE Japanese treats!) to feed a small army, so I decided to dress up the leftovers by packing them into bento for lunch.

His has yakisoba, gyoza, colby cheese wrapped in pepperjack, hard-boiled egg with hot sauce, mandarins, and pickles:

Mine has yakisoba, gyoza, molded egg (a rabbit, of course!) cheese cubes, a mochi dumpling, agar-agar jelly and instant miso soup:

And every lunch needs a refreshing drink to go with it! Another goody that I picked up at the asian food store? Ramune! It’s a fizzy Japanese soda with a marble in the neck of the bottle. I’m not sure what purpose the marble really serves (I think it stimulates the bubbles), but it’s delicious! And fun to drink! This one is peach flavor.

Oh, you can get my yakisoba recipe here. It’s almost as good as from a restaurant! https://katycrayon.wordpress.com/2010/04/10/chinese-lemon-chicken-bento-and-yakisoba/

Do you have any favorite unique treats from a different country?

Year of the Rabbit Bento

2011 is the Year of the Rabbit!

Ok, so it’s not technically the year of the rabbit yet. The Chinese New Year starts on February 3rd. However, it’s never too early to celebrate! I myself am a rabbit. By western standards, I am a Dragon (1988 is considered the Year of the Dragon) but I was born before the Chinese New Year that year, making me a cute lil bunny. 🙂

Today’s bento features goodies bought at the local Asian market! Store-bought California roll, mochi dumplings filled with sweet bean jelly, and agar-agar jellies were some of the items we bought.

 

Asia food stores are definitely interesting places to visit, not to mention the prices on every day Asian grocery items like soy sauce, mirin, rice, and noodles are very reasonable.

Anyway, I used my new treats to make a year-of-the-rabbit bento in my bunny box! Besides the above items, it features pickles, cheese, scrambled egg, clementine, and a Lindt truffle for dessert. 🙂

Happy New Year!

His & Hers bentos plus new supplies!

I have a feeling that Christmas is going to get me out of my bento rut. Yesterday, my husband surprised me with an early Christmas gift: a new bento box and supplies!! The box is as an adorable maiko kokeshi doll from Bento&Co. (And they have an uber-cute selection of kokeshi doll bento boxes: http://en.bentoandco.com/products/kokeshi-bento) I also received two egg molds, silicone food ups, and onigiri case, a kimono patterned lunch bag, and chopsticks that look like Pocky!

The box is two tiers and the top doubles as a soup bowl.

New supplies!! Everything is from Bento&Co.

My husband ALSO surprised me when I went to make myself a bento to take for my looong shift at work today. He asked me to make one for him as well. so I whipped out my kabuki box (the most masculine of my boxes) and together we whipped up soy-glazed meatballs, rice, cucumber and carrot sesame slaw, molded eggs, and clementine wedges.

His:

(Lots of meatballs for him!)

And hers:

Under the lid of each box, I included a special Japanese cookie. I got a big box of them for Christmas. They’re called Yoku Moku and they are delish!!

Merry Christmas! May your Christmas be merry, bright, and full of yummy food!

Ham Salad Bento

Finally…a bento! It’s simple, using things I already had around the house, but it was a tasty light lunch. It has a ham salad that I made using diced ham, dill pickle relish, shredded cheddar, and a touch of mayo, bread cutouts (for the ham salad), clementine wedges (my favorite fruit!), cool seedless cucumber, and rice. And all in my awesome kabuki bento box, of course!

Another bento coming tomorrow!! And hopefully many more coming after the New Year when the craziness of the holidays has worn off.

Merry Christmas!

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!

Simple Sausage Bento + New Box!

If you are in the States, you know that Sweetest Day is a made up holiday for couples. My husband and I have never celebrated it, but this year, he surprised me and presented me with this awesome new kabuki themed bento box!

I had been eyeballing this box months ago, wanting something a little more traditional and unique to balance out my more feminine bento accessories. This box is HUGE. It’s obviously for a man. It’s two tiered but I have a feeling I will only need one for future bento. Anyway, I couldn’t wait to try it out so I made a simple bento today with star shaped onigiri, smoked sausage (which I quickly crisped up in a hot frying pan), celery with sesame dressing, a hard boiled egg, and apple leaves.

You can see how much I fit into it.!

My other Sweetest Day gift was a lovely black kimono (tomesode) featuring an embroidered peacock. (More on that later!) Which leads me to the idea that I might be turning this into my all-around hobby blog, featuring not only bento, but my kimono and art work as well. Would any of you readers be interested?

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.

Hiyashi Chuka Bento

Tomorrow I’m working at an event called “Dog Days of September”. It’s a doggy festival that takes place at the local fairgrounds. I work at a petlodge and I will be helping to operate a booth/prizewheel for the business. Well it’s going to be a long day, so why not pack a bento?

I decided to try out something new. Hiyashi chuka! It’s a Japanese noodle dish with customizable toppings. Perfect for bento! I got the idea and recipe from one of my favorite bento blogs, hapa bento! You can see her entry about hiyashi chuka here: http://www.hapabento.com/2010/08/30/back-to-school-bento-8/#more-4073

And here is my version, with chopped hard boiled egg, ham, green onion, seedless cucumber, and beansprouts. I have also packed a few leftover crab rangoons and some lovely strawberries:

Should be a nice lunch for a fun event on a warm early autumn day!

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