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!

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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:

Ingredients
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

Directions
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! 🙂

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!

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