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 Amazon.com. 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.