Today's lunch is a Pikachu bento. I don't know a lot about Pokemon, but since I have the food picks, and the characters are cute, I like to make Pokemon themed bento boxes. Pikachu is made from yellow soy cheese. The black accents are Nori, the white accents are white soy cheese, and his rosy cheeks are tomato. He is perched on an egg salad sandwich. Brussels sprouts, cucumber, and tomatoes on the side. This bento is a bit too green, but I didn't have any more colorful veggies to go with my sandwich.
Since I went Gluten Free, I have found many awesome alternatives for desserts and snacks, but I really missed sandwiches. Every brand of Gluten-free bread I tried was terrible. But I'm happy to say that I found a great brand. Udi's Gluten free products are great. So far I like their whole grain bread and their plain bagels, although the bagels taste more like bread rolls than actual bagels. My big complaint with other brands is the thick gooey-ness of the bread. It doesn't toast because it doesn't dry out. So weird. I love the bread mixes that I make in my bread machine, but they are difficult to slice thin enough for sandwiches. Udi's isn't gooey and it toasts up nicely. It tastes great too. Udi's is a bit expensive at about $6 a loaf, but so are every other gluten-free brand, so I can't complain about that.
Since I have been horribly lackadaisical about my bento making/blogging lately, I thought I would highlight some of the awesomely creative and inspiring bento lunches our friends have been posting over at the Kyaraben Flickr Photo Group.
Are these amazing or what?!?! This is just a random sampling from the group. You can click on any photo to visit the original Flickr page. Many of these Bento artists have blogs so make sure you check them out.
I'm regretting the fact that I didn't make a Halloween Bento. It is a really fun and creative holiday and I wish I had taken advantage of the excuse to make a creepy or scary bento. Maybe I will just make one now and call it a "gothic" bento!
Well, once again my bento posts have become infrequent. It's just what happens when fall rolls around and I find myself back in school. I have been eating a lot of soup, which isn't very bento-pretty, or just being lazy about my lunches because I'm busy. I promise I am still making bentos, just a little less often than in the summer.
Today's lunch is salad, an egg salad sandwich on gluten free bread, a gluten free piece of cake, and some tortilla chips. This gluten free bread is yucky (I can't remember the brand right now). I have yet to find one I really like. Pooh is made from rice cheese and nori. Pooh is an easy face for cute bento making. It is all packed in my laptop lunchbox, which is an excellent bento system, but it is always too much food for me. I have to learn to pack less.
In honor of the release of the third and final book in the Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins, I decided to take a break from reading to make a Hunger Games Bento. The bento is a tomato, yellow pepper, and tofu salad. The mockingjay pin logo, and flame details are made from Nori. I thought this bento would be easy to make. Just cut some veggies and nori into the shape of flames right? Well, it was much more difficult than I had anticipated, and I'm not satisfied with the results. But, I haven't posted a bento in a while, so here it is. On the side is some delish gluten free pizza with vegan cheese. Ever since I went gluten free I have been craving pizza. I'm so happy I found a local pizzeria that has gluten free and vegan pizza.
If you aren't familiar with the Hunger Games, it is a hugely popular middle reader/young adult dystopian series. If you are looking for a good read, definitely check it out.
Today's bento full of fresh veggies (corn on the cob, tomatoes, and cucumber), grapes, and two store bought falafels. In the front is some hummus to eat with the falafels, and the two happy stars are vegan cheese and nori.
I promised myself I wouldn't buy any more bento boxes, but when I saw Laptop Lunches at a local natural food store, I couldn't resist. So, here is my first ever lunch packed in my Laptop Lunches lunchbox. It is pretty ordinary. I included a salad, some cottage cheese, some vegetarian chik'n salad on gluten free bread, some rosemary garlic potatoes and green beans, some cashews, and two gluten free cookies. I love this cute lunch box but it was way too much food for me.
And just because I haven't posted in a while, here is a bento I made on July 5th including some picnic leftovers
A vegetarian BLT, potato salad, corn on the cob, fresh pickled cucumber, and apple pie.
Laptop Lunches are described as "American-style bento boxes" and are free of phthalates, BPA and Lead. The makers of Laptop Lunches are proponents of healthy and waste-free lunches.
So, here is Max from Where the Wild Things Are. This was a frustrating bento to make. First of all, it has been oppressively hot in my neck of the woods, and my AC couldn't keep up. My veggies wilted before I could snap the picture. Second, I made Max too small, so his face was really hard to cut out, especially considering the way the heat and humidity effected the nori. In the book, Max is a line drawing with heavy outline and shadow. To try to mimic this, I created a nori sheet shaped like him (but a bit bigger, and with a tail) to act as a background.
Max's costume is cheese and nori, while his face is tofurkey lunch meat and nori. He is resting on half a sandwich, surrounded by veggies. In the side dish area, I put some potato salad which was totally delish, but looks nasty in this picture.
A while back I made a Twilight Bella Swan bento. Bella came out o.k., but I didn't put much effort into the rest of the bento, and I was much less experienced in creating charaben bento lunches. Despite this, it is still my most popular blog post, probably because Twilight is so popular. Anyway, I decided to do a new Twilight bento to make up for it. This time I chose Edward.
Like last time, I used the illustrations from the Japanese translation of Twilight for inspiration. These three books comprise the first Twilight book. I used the picture of Edward on the cover of the second book (part 2 of Twilight) for this bento.
Edward is made of white and yellow cheese, vegetarian turkey, and nori. The rest of the lunch is a PB and J sandwich and some fresh veggies. You can check out my Bella blog post for detailed instructions on how I made these Twilight characters. This time, I like the bento overall, but Edward didn't come out as well as I had hoped. Oh well.
I'm pretty excited. A while ago I was looking at sushi and bento box photos on flickr and found one with a tamago that had an image burned into it. Naturally, I have been wanting to do this myself ever since. I looked into mini stainless steel steak branding irons but they are expensive and I'm not a fan of the designs. I looked into making one, but I certainly don't have the equipment or knowledge to do so. I found an interesting version made from a wire hanger on the blog "A Radiused Corner." This site links to a great YouTube video showing tamago being made and branded (skip to 1:20). Great idea, I just don't trust a wire hanger to be food safe.
So, last night, after I made my bento lunch for today, I had a brainstorm. I have a ton of stainless steel cookie cutters in cute shapes! So, I cooked up a tamago and gave it a try.
I used pliers to hold the cookie cutter (the dull end) near the flame of my gas burner. I didn't get it hot enough on my first attempt, then I got it too hot on my second, causing it to stick to the egg. Finally I found a happy medium.
Here is a close-up of the final product. Isn't it cute? I'm not recommending that you try this at home. Unless you have extra long handled pliers, you have to get pretty close to the flame. If you don't mind spending some money, you can have a branding iron made, or purchase one for about $20. Just make sure you choose a small one.
So, I threw together a small bear bento to put my branded tamago in, but like I said before, I had already made my lunch.
This is a pretty simple lunch. Two PB&J pocket sandwiches, some veggies and dressing for dipping. I wrapped the bottom half of the sandwiches in decorative foil for something to hold on to, and packed them all in a sanwich bento box. I lined the box with a paper napkin to prevent crumbs from falling out all over my lunch bag. The pocket sandwich maker I use is from Pampered Chef. It works o.k. if you have really soft bread, but I'm not entirely happy with it.
So hopefully I will be hungry enough to eat two lunches today.
Today's lunch is Oscar the Grouch surrounded by fresh veggies and two Morningstar Farms "Buffalo Wings." You may have noticed that I rarely use rice in my bentos. I'm not a big fan of rice, and when I do make it, I end up throwing half away because I can't make a small enough portion in my rice cooker. Today is an exception because I was making sushi for dinner.
Oscar is made of sushi rice dyed with green food coloring. His mouth is nori and tomato, his eyes are nori and cheese, and his eyebrows are baked potato skin.
Oscar didn't really come out as well as I had hoped and planned. I don't have a lot of practice molding rice.
This is my entry for the "Rock My Bento" contest over at the Kawaii Bento club on Squidoo. I decided to do a Grateful Dead themed bento because they have such great images associated with the band. I had lofty ambitions, and am a bit disappointed with the final product. Not that I don't like my cute little dancing bear, or the mix of multi-colored tomatoes (because I think of bright colors and tie-dye when I think of the Grateful Dead), it's just that I cut out an intricate "Steal Your Face" skull that I didn't end up using because it was just way too big.
Steal Your Face
I imagined tie-dye and roses and skulls and bears all rolled into one fantastic bento lunch. Oh well, I guess next time I should think before I start cutting out my nori.
Last week I wanted to make a Doctor Who bento. I immediately thought of either the TARDIS or a Dalek. Since I figured the Dalek would be seriously detailed, I went with the TARDIS (see my Doctor Who TARDIS Bento). Today I was feeling more ambitious.
First, I chose an image online and printed it. I then manually reduced it to black and white with a pen (this can be done with photo-editing programs, or simply by choosing a black and white image to start with). Luckily I was able to find a mostly monochrome Dalek image. I then traced it onto tracing paper (wax paper can be used as well).
My tools are an X-Acto knife, a pair of tweezers, and a pair of small scissors, all dedicated to food. Remember, clean and thoroughly dry these tools after using them to prevent rusting.
Next, I put the image over a sheet of nori and used the knife to cut out all the internal white areas. Remember to save the internal black areas that you remove during this part.
This may take some practice. Nori rips easily and can be brittle. I suggest starting with less detailed images. Next, I cut along the outside and immediately place the image on my food surface (in this case, a piece of rice-cheese).
You will notice that there are some areas where the nori ripped during the cutting. I also don't like how the bottom right came out. So, using small pieces which I cut out with scissors, I use the tweezers to fill in the mistakes. It is much easier than redoing the whole thing.
So, here is the final product again. After cutting out the rest of those tiny dots (so hard!) I cut the excess cheese from around the outside and placed the whole thing on top of a vegetarian BLT sandwich. The lunch also includes a small salad with half a hard-boiled egg, some vegetarian "beef tips," asparagus, and broccoli sauteed in a garlic sauce, and two cherries for dessert. The cat pick is a nod to the New Earth cat-people, since I didn't really have any Doctor Who related food picks.
So, this was definitely challenging to cut out, and I'm reasonably satisfied with the result.
I love Doctor Who. I only started watching it a few months ago and managed to plow through four seasons and several specials. I am only three episodes/specials away from the new season which is currently airing (on BBC America for me). I can't wait for my next Netflix delivery.
Since Doctor Who is a BBC show, I decided to do a British themed bento to go with my TARDIS.
A lot of my entertainment comes from England. I love Monty Python, Harry Potter, Ricky Gervais, Neil Gaiman... the list goes on and on. I don't know a lot about British food. "The Kipper and the Corpse" episode of Fawlty Towers comes to mind, and I wonder why that guy wanted to eat fish for breakfast. The one thing that is mentioned in nearly every British show/book I like is curry. Since I am assuming that they mean Indian curry, I decided to do a vegetarian curry and rice for my Doctor Who bento lunch.
I used a leak-resistant container for this lunch, because the curry is a bit gooey, and a microwave safe container, because I plan to heat this one up at work. Also, I chose a blue container because I couldn't easily make the TARDIS blue, as it should be.
The TARDIS is made from nori on rice-cheese. To top it all off, for dessert a Mars Bar! Get it? Because he travels through space... and Mars Bars are from England. I would have loved to include a Cadbury Flake, the best candy bar ever, but they are hard to find around here. Plus that wouldn't have fit the theme.
So, I'm off to watch Torchwood while I wait for my next episodes of Doctor Who to arrive.
Phew! It has certainly been a while since I blogged. I have been busy with school and other creative projects (have you ever made handmade journals? I'm obsessed).
Today's lunch is a simple half BLT sandwich (with vegetarian bacon), some red potato salad, and some fresh veggies. The chick is yellow American Cheese (I totally hate yellow cheese, but I bought it by accident) with carrot accents and a nori eye.
I can't resist making Valentine's Day bento. I have so many heart cookie cutters, heart egg molds, heart rice molds, etcetera etcetera...
First is my lunch. I am, once again, trying to eat healthier. It contains two brown rice hearts seasoned with Beefsteak plant Furikake. It also contains two Morningstar Farms chik'n nuggets and a small container of Trader Joe's Tuscan Italian dressing. A pretty simple bento but it was low in calories and filled me up.
Next is a bento for my Valentine. It has three heart-shaped mini pizzas. Lots of heart shaped veggies (carrots and tomatoes) two brown rice hearts (under two of the tomatoes) and two chik'n nuggets. The divider has an elephant giving a flower to a pig on it and it says "my best friend." Awww cute! So I kept the elephant theme and put some dressing in the yellow elephant container and some soy sauce in the elephant-headed sauce bottle.
As cute as they are, I hate those sauce bottles. They are hard to fill, impossible to clean, and if you aren't careful, you end up ripping the top part of the bottle off when you try to unscrew it. I only have a few bottles left, and a pile of sad bodiless animal heads.
The heart shaped mini pizzas were pretty easy to make. I defrosted a Trader Joe's Garlic Naan bread and cut out the hearts using a cookie cutter. Slap a little sauce and cheese on them, and stick them in the toaster oven. Done and done.
In the background of those photos you may have noticed my Valentine's cookies. I made a batch of sugar cookies decorated with cream cheese icing. Here is a picture of the big Mickey and Minnie cookies. Yum, but not so good for my whole "eating healthy" thing.
I guess that's the point, but it always bothered me. I think I could deal with the other kids teasing him, but I don't think Snoopy was a very loyal dog, always off having his own adventures while poor Charlie got pooped on...
Despite this, I still like Peanuts and decided to make a Charlie Brown lunch. The lunch contains a Tofurkey and Cheese wrap surrounded by lots of fresh yummy veggies including two Tomato Balloons. Under the balloons are some pickled carrots and cucumbers thanks to the fabulous (and fabulously simple) recipe on Hawai'i's Bento Box Cookbook. After tasting yummy pickled veggies at a local sushi restaurant, I was dying to find a recipe. This one is exactly what I was looking for.
Speaking of sushi, a few days ago I made some:
This lunch is almost half fruit, but that is o.k. because fruit is good for you!
So, bentos done, now on to some non-bento shout outs...
This weekend I made two incredible recipes. First is Celery Root Soup (by Tal Ronnen) which I saw on Oprah last week. I skipped the apples because I am allergic, and substituted soy creamer for the cashew cream because (again) I'm allergic. Even with my changes, it is so yummy! healthy, and easy to make. I think I may have to get his book:
Second was home made Pita Bread. I discovered this recipe when the lovely @mrsalbrecht tweeted about it. It doesn't exactly taste like pita, more like a white bread, but it has the same shape and texture, perfect for sandwiches or dipping in hummus. Again, this was an easy recipe.
Now that the shout outs are done, time for some rambling Andy Roony style commentary. Is it just me, or is it easier to pack a square box than one with rounded edges? All my expensive Japanese boxes have rounded edges and I find myself favoring the Target sandwich containers with the square edges. Maybe it is just the scientist in me. Also, am I the only one who has no bento motiviation without hunger? If I'm not hungry, I have no interest in making bentos! The worst is when I start a lunch the night before, and while things are cooking or whatever, I eat dinner. I usually abandon the project after I eat.
Goya brand Discos are little (10 inch) round frozen dough. They are designed for making empanadas, which are like turnovers full of all sorts of yummy fillings. Discos are fantasticly easy and yummy. You simply defrost, fill, and cook.
This first picture is a veggie turnover. I made a mixture of potato, broccoli, and cauliflower for a veggie pie and used some leftovers to fill my little turnovers. I cut little shapes out of one disco with mini cookie cutters (link to similar ones on Amazon) and stuck them on top by simply wetting the back and placing them where I wished. The vegetable garnishes are somewhat random. I was practicing my garnishing techniques with the book pictured, Japanese Garnishes by Yukiko and Bob Haydock. This book is cute and has some really interesting garnish ideas. I think it is out of print, but you can get used copies on Amazon.
Next, I have a Taco Salad bento. I pressed a disco into a standard sized cupcake pan and baked until crispy brown. Once cooled I filled it with some leftover vegetarian ground beef (from taco night), scallions, cilantro, and a pinch of shredded cheddar cheese.The rest of the bento is filled with salad vegetables and two small containers of soy sour cream and taco sauce (I got the containers from some takeout and they were the perfect size for bentos, so I had to keep them). I made this at night, and by lunch the next day the disco shell was still crunchy and delicious.
Here is a shot of two turnovers straight out of the oven so you can see some detail.
This last lunch doesn't feature Discos at all... It is a pasta salad with a few vegetarian meatballs and a kiwi for dessert. The kiwi is cut zig zag using Biggie's technique. I included a small spoon for eating the Kiwi. Have you ever had one of those mini ice cream sundaes from the grocery store? They cost about $1, are barely a mouthful, and come with a small plastic spoon in the lid. Since I eat them at home with real spoons, I keep the plastic ones for bento purposes such as this.
Goya Discos may not be available everywhere. In my grocery store there is a goya section in the frozen food aisle. Another great place to find Goya products are small specialty grocery stores because they usually have a greater selection. Goya sodas are also especially good, so you may want to grab one of those while you are at it.