Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

Christmas Bento 2
Originally uploaded by ♥JB♥

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween Sandwich Bento Lunch

Halloween Bento
Originally uploaded by JB Doodles

I love Halloween. I love costumes and pumpkins and scary movies, but most of all I love candy!

This lunch has been packed in a collapsible sandwich bento box. I lined it with a cute spider napkin and wrapped my sandwich (tofurkey and provolone) in plastic to keep it fresh. It is adorned with some fresh veggies, olives, and a little bag of candy corn (yum...). The little pumpkin is an orange pepper decorated with nori.

I would love to do an involved Halloween charaben this week, but I'm not sure if I will have the time. Speaking of charaben, our Flickr group Kyaraben (Charaben) has been slowly growing. I absolutely adore the amazingly cute lunches that contributors have made. So be sure to visit and check them out.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Boba Fett Bento Lunch

Boba Fett Bento Lunch
Originally uploaded by JB Doodles

Well, there isn't much to say about this bento. I need to break out of my comfort zone when it comes to charaben. I always just cut out tofurkey lunch meat into shapes. I experimented a little by painting food coloring on the tofurkey to make Boba Fett's green and red armor. I didn't really want to eat it though, because I was afraid of a green mouth.

The rest of the bento contains Quorn Chik'n nuggets and fresh veggies from my garden (tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, and basil). There is a little piece of fresh mozzarella in the front too.

If you like decorative cakes, check out my flickr photo of the Harley Davidson birthday cake I made for my dad. I think it came out pretty good, except I wasn't happy with the piping on the logo.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Wallace and Gromit Bento

It has been a while since I made a charaben or character bento. So, in honor of the new Flickr group Kyaraben (Charaben) I made this Wallace and Gromit Bento lunch.

This bento contains a cucumber sandwich, a veggie buffalo wing, some veggies, and of course *Cheese!!* If you haven't seen Wallace and Gromit, Wallace really likes cheese. W&G looked a bit washed out brown on white sandwich bread, so I put some sushi grass and some veggie bacon behind them.

If you would like details on how I created the characters, see my post for my Twilight Bella bento which details the process. I did essentially the same thing here. And although I mention it in that post, I want to point out a really handy trick I came across. I first create the characters, then I assemble them on wax paper and stick them in the freezer while I put together the rest of the lunch. This makes it so much easier to put the characters in the actual lunch without messing up the little details. As long as you don't leave them in the freezer too long, they still taste fine.

This was my original drawing on an index card. I knew W&G would be good characters because they are mostly tan and black, which suits cheese and lunchmeat (or in my case, veggie lunchmeat) well. An important thing to remember is that you can't make it perfect. Wallace's shirt is green, not black. His face is more pink than Gromit's, but you have to work with your ingredients, and a little artistic license doesn't detract from the final product (in my opinion).

So, in case you have never seen Wallace and Gromit, here are a few links:

Wallace and Gromit official site

Aardman's YouTube

Wallace and Gromit DVDs on

My favorite episode is The Wrong Trousers, mostly because I love this character Feather's McGraw. He is a fugitive penguin:


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fancy Napkins, Bento Shopping, and a Charaben Photo Pool

These lunches aren't very interesting because they are just salads. The reason I'm posting them is because of the super cute napkins in the background. I got them at Pier 1. I love browsing through their cloth napkins and picking up a random selection. Of course, besides being 'super cute,' using cloth napkins reduces waste, and can be used as a Furoshiki.

I have been doing a bit of traveling this summer (if you can call day trips and visiting my grandma 'traveling') and I came across a few stores on the East Coast that sell bento boxes.

First, I found this selection of Shinzi Katoh boxes at Yo Mamma's Home in Belfast Maine:

Next, I found these two snack-sized boxes randomly mixed in with novelty items at the Grasshopper Shop in Searsport Maine:

And lastly, I found this GIANT selection at Kinokuniya Bookstore in NYC (across from Bryant Park):
I couldn't resist at Kinokuniya. I ended up getting the three-pack froggy boxes in the lower right corner. All of these stores charge around $16 per box, which is pretty pricey, but Kinokuniya had some upwards of $40! It was really fun to find bento boxes in stores, since I usually have to order them online. It was especially exciting to see them in Maine, which I would have never expected.

For all you Flickr users out there, I started a Flickr Charaben/Kyaraben group photo pool. I thought that it would be nice to have a place to look at and discuss everything charaben. So, even if you don't make charaben, come check out the group! (I only just started the group, so there isn't much on it yet, but keep checking back).

I hope to see you all there!


Friday, May 8, 2009

Bob the Builder Charaben Bento

It has been a while since I made a Charaben (or Kyaraben) style bento. Charaben is a type of food art in which a bento lunch is designed to look like a character (character + bento = Charaben). The reason I started making bento lunches was because I loved charabens and I figured I would give it a try. Unfortunately, since my lunches are always vegetarian, I have a more limited ingredient selection which makes designing charaben difficult. I have imposed an even greater restriction on myself by not using rice (a staple in bento making, especially character sculpting) in my lunches because it isn't a food that I am particularly fond of. I do occassionally use rice in my lunches, but it certainly isn't often. So, lately I have had charaben writer's block.

Recently I purchased the "Chuck Charles" dress from ModCloth for an upcoming event, and while browsing through the clearance section for some deals, I came across some adorable nail-shaped party picks. I couldn't resist. Of course, my first thought was "Bob the Builder!"

I have never actually seen the Bob the Builder show, but I know it is popular, and he is a pretty cute character. In fact, last summer I made a Bob the Builder birthday cake. I think this bento came out much better. Look at the detail on the nail-shaped picks below, aren't they adorable?!? (note: if you are thinking of ordering these, you should know that the ends are very sharp, and may not be appropriate for kids lunches).

For Bob's face I used Lightlife imitation turkey lunchmeat. As you can see in the picture below (top left corner) I drew a sketch of Bob to work off of in the kitchen. Using a dedicated-to-food xacto blade, I cut the shape of Bob's head freehand (hence the odd looking ears). I then cut his hard hat from a yellow American cheese slice. Lucky for me, Bob's smile is exactly the same as the smile on my Nori-punch, which saved me a lot of trouble. I gobbled up the scraps as I was preparing the rest of the lunch, although I could have included them in the sandwhich he rested on.
The final lunch contained an imitation turkey and swiss sandwich on rye flatbread. Tomato and Peppers on the side, and some grapes for dessert.

Personally, I think this is my best Charaben yet, which is amazing considering the fact that it took me less than 10 minutes to prepare, which is highly unusual. Some charaben take hours. I guess keeping things simple is sometimes best.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Month of Bento

I haven't posted in a while. It isn't that I wasn't making bentos, I just was so busy that I have only just gotten around to posting them. So this is a quick overview of the past month, showcasing the highlights.
First, we have the lunch I made for tomorrow. It is packed in a sandwich bento box and includes a tomato and basil salad with balsamic dressing (in the piggy), two mini egg salad sandwiches, some fresh veggies and broiled potatoes (cookie cutter shapes). The bumble bee is a little chocolate.

These pictures are from the Nightmare Before Christmas Party I helped throw for my friend's birthday. I made the cake and decorated it using Fondant which was a first for me. The cookies are plain sugar cookies decorated to look like Jack Skellington in black icing. Fondant is much easier than I had anticipated and I am looking forward to making more cakes in the future.

Bento style picnic lunch for two: Fresh veggies, grapes, hummus, and pita, all packed up in a large Barbie lunchbox.

We ate this bento at Kent Falls State Park in Kent Connecticut. We have had some freaky weather lately and it was nearly 90 degrees that day despite it being April.

And finally I have a bento which is very similar to the Kent Falls Picnic lunch. It has all the same basic ingredients, however I also included some Quorn fake chicken to make the lunch a bit more filling.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I Can't Wait for Summer Bento

I can't wait for Summer Bento
Originally uploaded by JB Doodles

It is only just spring, yet I am anxious for the summer to come. Especially considering the frigid weather we have been having in Connecticut. Today's bento features some fresh veggies, vegetarian chik'n nuggets, tamagoyaki, and hummus & whole wheat pita triangles.

Using some extra egg, I made a small egg sheet and cut out a little bird (which resembles a seagull to me) using a mini cookie cutter. I also added a starfish pick to round out the summer (beach) theme.

Not pictured is a small container of salad dressing for dipping. If my small nalgene bottles weren't currently being used, they would have fit nicely under the pita triangles, making it a one-box meal.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Review: Proctor-Silex 10-Cup Rice Cooker

I have a confession to make... I don't like rice. At least, I thought that I didn't like rice. I know, I know, a bento sin right? When I was growing up Rice Pilaf and other Near East brand rices were a staple at my house. I'm probably not the only person who hates one of Mom's favorite foods. The food that I do love is sushi. I also found that I enjoy small portions of white rice with my take-out Chinese food. I have been contemplating the purchase of a rice cooker for the past year or so (since I started making bentos), but couldn't justify buying an appliance thats sole purpose is to cook a food that I am not fond of. The only reason I really wanted to get one is because my home-made sushi tastes terrible! Finally, on a bit of a whim, I purchased the Proctor Silex 37533 10-Cup Rice Cooker, White

It wasn't the biggest impulse buy I have ever made, I did do a bit of research. My criteria was this: Under $30, cooks sushi rice. There were only a few to choose from, and based on online reviews I chose this cooker (Proctor Silex 37533 10-Cup Rice Cooker, White). The link I have posted here is an affiliate link to I actually purchased the rice cooker at Bed Bath and Beyond with a 20% off coupon, which brought the price to about $16.

Pros: Price and availability were great, since it was an impulse buy availability was really important. It cooks sushi rice excellently, and so far I have had good luck with Jasmine rice also. It is non-stick, so really easy to clean, plus dishwasher safe.

Cons: It is a 10-cup cooker. That may be a Pro for some people, but there are only two of us in the house, and I always have leftovers. I hate to waste food, and I'm not a fan of leftovers. I like to cook just enough for two dinners and two lunches the next day. If you attempt to cook less than the directions call for (1/2 a serving for example), you will burn your rice. If you click on the link, you will notice that there are several bad reviews. To address them: yes I burned rice when I made less than the cooker's directions recommend. Also, if you leave it on "warm" for too long, you will get some singed rice on the bottom. and No, I have never had it boil over, I'm not sure why this is a problem for some people, but I noticed that every rice cooker I researched had someone complaining that it boiled over. Maybe it is an altitude thing, I don't know.

My cons look longer than my pros, but my verdict is Thumbs Up. For the price, it serves its purpose. My sushi tastes better, and I am eating more rice than I ever did before. I have another confession to make. Maybe it is because I have never owned a rice cooker before, but I didn't understand how it worked when I first read the instructions. It simply lists the type of rice, amount of water, and cook time. The cooker itself has an on/off switch. So being the Rice-Cooker Newbie that I am, I set my kitchen timer. I think the directions should be more clear in stating that it switches off (warm actually) when the rice is done. So, just so you know, it switches to warm when the rice is done. The kitchen timer isn't a bad idea though, because (as I said above) if you leave it on warm too long, the bottom gets a little over cooked.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Back to Basics Bento

Basic Bento
Originally uploaded by JB Doodles

Today's lunch in basic in a few senses of the word. Firstly, it contains foods which are whole and simple. As you can see, Fresh veggies dominate this lunch. Also included is a hard boiled egg which has been shaped into a pig. Molded eggs are a popular bento staple, and plastic molds can be ordered online. This egg, however, has been shaped using an Ice Cream Sandwich Mold that I purchased at Walmart. Check out this blog post from Lunch In A Box for more details. I actually prefer using the Sandwich molds because you have more control, and they look much more striking when finished. The cute blue penguin pick is accenting three vegetarian buffalo wings, and behind them is home-made dijon dressing in a mini-nalgene bottle.

The second reason I am calling this lunch basic is because it almost fulfills the general bento packing guidelines (link to Lunch in a Box). Basically, a guideline for lunch packing is 1 part protein (the egg), two parts fruits and vegetables (the veggies), and one part carbohydrate plus a treat if desired. Well, my lunch is a little heavy on the veggies and seems to be wholly missing a carbohydrate. The confusing part about vegetarian lunches is the imitation meat products. True they have protein and fat, but they also have carbs (about 4g per wingette). So, maybe I should have thrown in an onigiri, but I would have had to sacrifice some veggies or the egg to make them all fit.

I just want to point out the super cute owl paper in the background. It is wrapping paper from Borders. Isn't it so cute!! I want to make an owl bento to match now.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine Bento

Today is Valentine's Day. Usually not a holiday I make a big deal out of, but I couldn't resist a Valentine themed bento. The reason being that it is just too easy! I have heart shaped cookie cutters, egg molds, onigiri molds... the list goes on and on! Actually, that is the list.

So, for snack I sliced up some heart shaped strawberries and included a chocolate covered strawberry per the tradition, although my Valentine doesn't really like chocolate. I packed them in a Clickety Click snack box with a home-made flag pick.

The bottom (larger) tier of my 2-tier "men's" bento box includes a heart shaped tofurkey and cheese sandwich, some Trader Joe's Peanut Butter filled pretzels, some lettuce and grape tomatoes, and a Valentine themed chocolate from Hallmark.

The top (smaller) tier contains some leftover pasta with Trader Joe's Meatless Meatballs and stuffed mushrooms. The stuffed mushrooms are actually what makes this lunch particularly special because we don't often eat them due to the fact that I hate mushrooms (I know, a vegetarian sin right?). Somehow I managed to secretly prepare them in the next room. I quickly hid the ingredients every time he came into the room. I never thought I would pull it off, but I managed!

I felt a little guilty putting so much pink in his lunch. I liked the divider because it says "my best friend" at the bottom (under the food), and I needed to make the sauce bottle (full of salt) match.

Here is the assembled lunch. I know what you are thinking, "where are the heart shaped eggs? Where are the heart shaped onigiri?" Well, I decided to focus on the food rather than the theme, making things that my Valentine will really like to eat, so no eggs or onigiri.

I haven't posted much lately mostly due to my lack of bento inspiration. If you check out my flickr page, there are several lunches that I photographed, but didn't really deserve a blog post due to their lack of interestingness. I would also like to credit Adventures in Bentomaking for her great idea of using scrap booking paper as backgrounds. Despite my abysmal lighting, the paper certainly helped the photos.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bento Shopping Tips

When I first discovered the art of bento packing, I wanted to give it a try but I didn't have any real bento boxes or accessories. So, I made my lunches in tupperware or the Fit and Fresh boxes that I already had. I used disposable cupcake cups (which I still use in almost every lunch) and regular toothpicks. Soon, I discovered that a lot of regular stores have items that are perfect for bento packing.

First, Michael's Crafts, or any craft store that has a baking section. The Michael's near me has an aisle of Wilton cake products which includes mini fondant cookie cutters and decorative picks.

Next is the party store. I have several different party stores near me and they are great for disposable items like wet naps, takeout containers (for days when you want something disposable), silicon baking cups, paper baking cups, and character napkins. I have amassed a silly collection of Harry Potter, Hello Kitty, Happy Bunny... etc. napkins. Plus, they are usually very inexpensive.

But my absolute favorite find is from the outdoors store EMS. I pack a lot of salads for my lunches, even on my non-bento days, and had a hell of a time finding a good salad dressing container. The small tupperwares were too big, the bento sauce bottles too small. Plus, a lot of containers I tried leaked, or I spilled them while popping the top off (I'm really clumsy). When I discovered these mini Nalgene bottles in the camp kitchen section of EMS I nearly cried:
I believe I got the 1/2 oz and 1 oz containers. The 1/2 oz is great for vinegarettes on a bento-sized salad (about one full 500 ml box). The 1 oz container is good for creamy dressings because it has a larger mouth, or other condiments like ketchup, but doesn't fit easily into shallow bento boxes. They cost between $0.75 - $1.50 depending on what size you get.

The other fantastic item I found at EMS are these neat sporks:
Now, these are a little big for small lunches, but I usually pack a pretty large bag with my breakfast, lunch, and snacks for a full day at work. I tuck one of these sporks in, and no matter what I am eating, I know I have the right silverware. It is hard to tell in this photo, but one side of the fork side is a serrated knife. Of course, if I am packing something like sushi, I have to remember to pack the chopsticks, so I keep an extra set at my desk in case I forget. These are just a few examples. EMS, and I am sure your local camping store, have a lot of products designed to make cooking at a campsite, or eating on a hike, easier. This means that they are compact and durable.

I'm not affilated with EMS or Michael's Crafts. I linked the Fit and Fresh boxes to to which I am an "associate." FYI

So I am wondering what other bento gems are hidden away at our regular shopping spots. Any suggestions?