Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pasta Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing

Here's a lunch that I made with various things that were in my nearly-empty refrigerator.
Starting from the left, this bento contains leftover egg noodles, cucumber slices, herbed goat cheese, apple chunks, grapes, onions, and homemade honey mustard dressing. When I ate this bento, I mixed everything together and squirted honey mustard dressing on everything. My honey mustard dressing is a little darker than the average honey mustard dressing because I used local organic wildflower honey in my dressing.

Honey Mustard Dressing
1 part mayonnaise
1 part mustard
1 part honey
Mix well. Adjust to taste.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Salad and Mac & Cheese

School has just started now where I live, and I've been pretty busy. Here's a bento that I put together last week.
On the left, we have four homemade meatballs, a cup of homemade mac & cheese, leftover sauteed zucchini, and a small piggy-shaped sauce bottle with Italian dressing. On the right, we have a simple salad, with romaine hearts and home-grown bell peppers.

Believe it or not, all the bell pepper - red and green- is from the same pepper. Our bell pepper plant tends to produce peppers that don't completely turn red. In this case, most of the pepper was green, with just a tiny bit of red.

The mac & cheese was something that I threw together just for this bento. I whisked together one creamy cheese wedge with about a tablespoon of milk until it was no longer clumpy. I also added a pinch of spicy Hungarian paprika to liven this mac & cheese up. I combined the cheese sauce and some leftover noodles in a silicone cup, sprinkled some shredded cheese on top, and then baked it in my toaster oven for a few minutes.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Biscuits and Meatballs Bento

Here's a bento that I made a while ago.
On the left, we have some sliced up leftover biscuits. On the right, separated by several pieces of reusable silicone baran, we have some meatballs, bell pepper slices, and cucumber slices. Almonds also appear in this simple bento, filling the gaps between meatballs.

If you take a closer look at the cucumbers, you'll notice that they are sliced in an odd way. I used this crinkle-cutting tool to achieve that effect. The crinkle-cutting tool is very easy to use, and feels very sturdy.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Teriyaki Meatballs with Pineapple Chunks Bento

Here's a bento that I made a while ago from dinner leftovers.
The meal that this was based off was Teriyaki Pineapple kabobs, so here we have some teriyaki pineapple meatballs, grilled onions, grilled bell peppers, and grilled pineapple chunks. I added some rice with a pineapple-shaped cheese cutout.
The Teriyaki & Pineapple Meatballs are from Aidells. They are very juicy and flavorful!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

San Francisco Japantown- Bento Shopping

Earlier this week I visited San Francisco's Japantown for the second time. I'm lucky enough to live just a short train ride away. There are quite a few stores there, so I decided to share some of my favorites with you. Most of the blog posts that I found on bento shopping in Japantown are quite old, and no longer as relevant.

The Miyako Mall building contains two stores that carry lots of bento boxes and accessories for inexpensive prices: Daiso and Ichiban Kan. If you are planning on going to Japantown, these two stores should be the first places you go.

Daiso is located on the first floor of the Miyako Mall building. Just about everything in Daiso is $1.50, and generally is cheaper than Ichiban Kan. I've been to several Daiso locations, and this one has the biggest bento selection. Their selection is a little bit different from Ichiban Kan's selection.

Ichiban Kan is on the second floor of the Miyako Mall building. Go up the stairs that look like a little Japanese bridge, and turn around to see it. Ichiban Kan is a little bit different than Daiso because they aren't a $1.50 store like Daiso. Some of the items that I bought at Ichiban Kan were as high as $4.50. That's why I usually hit Daiso first, pick up anything that looks good, and then go to Ichiban Kan for anything that Daiso didn't have. Here's my breakdown for what to get where:

Cheap bento boxes. Daiso has a much better selection of bento boxes than Ichiban Kan. Daiso was the place that I got my first set of bento supplies, almost one year ago. (I didn't start blogging for a while after that) You can check out their bento selection online to get a feel for what kinds of boxes they carry. Ichiban Kan carries boxes from the Glit & Brillia line.

Bento dividers and cups. Daiso has a large variety of disposable foil cups (like this), and several silicone cups(including this). Daiso also had more baran, including several types of silicone baran, which is far more durable and reusable. Ichiban Kan also had some baran (slightly smaller selection, and probably more expensive) but also had more decorative cups, like the little buckets.

Egg Molds. Because I wasn't looking for egg molds, I'm not sure which store had a slightly better selection. Daiso would probably be the best place to pick these up because it is cheaper.

Insulated lunch bags, or lunch bags in general. I don't think I saw many insulated lunch bags at Ichiban Kan.

Sauce bottles. This is a bit of a tough one. Daiso has lots of big packs with varied-size generic little sauce bottles. Both stores have the little bottles shaped like fish for soy sauce or other similar, thin sauces. Ichiban Kan has more "cute" sauce bottles with animals on the caps and the tomato/egg topped large bottles for mayo and ketchup (like here). I also got my flying pig bottles at Ichiban Kan.

Sauce cups (i.e. for mayo, thick sauces, etc.) Daiso has some disposable-type cups with lids. (Almost like recyclable salsa containers, but a lot smaller) Ichiban Kan has more of the reusable mayo cups like this.

Picks. Ichiban Kan is the winner for this one. They have a better variety of picks (like these) for $1.50.

Furikake containers. I only saw one furikake container at Ichiban Kan (this one), but none at Daiso. I picked it up for $3.75.

Little containers to fit inside your bento box. I didn't really see any at Daiso. At Ichiban Kan, I found more. I bought these little boxes for $4.50, these little animal food cups for $3.75, and some tiny onigiri boxes for $2.

Bento belts. Daiso has some silicone-type bento belts and some elastic type belts. Ichiban Kan has two-packs of Glit & Brillia basic bento belts in several colors. They cost $1.50.

Japanese Candy. Ok so this one isn't necessary for bento. I like to pick up a pack of Hi-Chew when I go shopping for bentos. Never tried Hi-chew? It's almost like a Japanese Starburst, but with better flavors and a more natural taste. Buy it at Ichiban Kan for 79 cents (Daiso also sells it, but for a dollar). You can also get assortment packs of Hi-Chew at both stores, although I suspect that Ichiban Kan's prices would be cheaper. Also look for Chocorooms, little chocolate and biscuit cookies that look like little mushrooms. Daiso sells the English version of Chocorooms for $1.50. Ichiban Kan also sells them, although I think they may sell the Japanese version.

The next store you should go to is Soko Hardware. It is located at the intersection of Post Street and Buchanan Street. On the ground floor, go past the stairs that lead to the basement into the back of the store. They sell various Hakoya bento boxes and more. They have traditional styles and also some more modern boxes (such as this line of cute boxes) for reasonable prices. Downstairs, in the basement, they have lots of kitchen gadgets. They also have a huge variety of chopsticks and beautiful Japanese tea sets. Be sure to check out the clearance table near the stairs; sometimes they have Hakoya boxes on sale!

After shopping at Soko Hardware, walk up Buchanan Street away from Post Street until you almost get to Sutter Street. On the right will be Sanko. Sanko has higher prices than most of the other bento stores. However, you can sometimes find fabulous deals at Sanko. Be sure to check out the clearance bins outside. They often have great Hakoka bento boxes on sale. I picked up the Hakoya Don Don donburi bento box (Japanese site) at Sanko for $12.50! I'll feature this box some more in an upcoming post, but for now, I recommend that you read this post if you are curious about the box. Everything inside Sanko is expensive. They try to sell bento picks for $6, far more expensive than Ichiban Kan or Daiso! If you have time to browse, take a look at the "back" room, on the left. They have a lot of Japanese fake food that is very interesting to look at. Note: You can look inside Sanko using Google Maps Streetview! Their bento gear inside is on the back left wall of the main room. The Japantown website has a coupon for a free gift with $30 purchase.

The last store that I recommend that you visit is not really a bento store. Paper Tree is an origami store. Even if you don't know how to fold origami, it's still worth a look. They have a big variety of origami paper and kits. They have information for beginners. I picked up an origami set that makes a paper bento box! Be sure to check out the exhibit at the front of the store for some breathtaking origami pieces, each made from one sheet of paper with no cuts. Also look at their variety of cute decorative erasers. The store also carries some Japanese art supplies. I highly recommend the Sakura Gelly-Roll gel pens. Great quality, and they seem to last for a very long time. Paper Tree sells them in sets, or by the pen. The Japantown website has a coupon for a free sushi eraser with a $10 purchase! I picked out a cute little noodle bowl eraser.

There is also a Sanrio store in the Kintetsu Mall building. I can't vouch for their bento selection, as I  haven't personally visited it, but if you are in to that kind of thing, I would stop by and visit it.

If you have some more time to spend in Japantown, enjoy lunch in one of the many restaurants in Japantown. Restaurants in the Kintetsu building or on the bridge seem busier than those in the Miyako Mall building.

How to get there: I recommend taking public transit. If you take Caltrain, get off at the very last stop. It will be a more than 2 mile walk to get to Japantown. If you take BART, get off at the Civic Center stop. The walk is a bit over 1 mile. I suggest that you use Google Maps to plan your walks, especially if you are going somewhere besides Japantown.

Please let me know if there is any bento supply you are wondering about that I haven't addressed. I hope that I've covered everything for your trip to San Francisco's Japantown!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Crepes and Smoked Ham Bento

Here's a bento from a while back, using up some leftovers.
On the left side of the bento are two crepes and a few hidden slices of smoked ham, cut to fit the divider box. The scraps are on top of the crepes as a decoration.
On the right side are some baby carrots, trail mix, and cheesy corn.

This was a very easy lunch to make. Pretty much everything came from leftovers. I only had to assemble and cook the cheesy corn. The crepes were leftovers from breakfast. The recipe is from the big Betty Crocker cookbook.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Middle Eastern Inspired Bento with Lamb Meatballs

Long time no blog! I'm back with a great bento from the archives.

The main piece of this bento contains several (3, if I remember correctly) chopped up lamb meatballs, recipe courtesy of Sunset magazine. They made a great dinner, and an equally great lunch. I had to chop them up so they would fit in the box.

The rest of the box contains a checkered apple slice, green bell pepper, some sort of mixed whole grain rice blend, random basil leaves as a space filler, and homemade hummus.

Never heard of hummus? It's a Middle Eastern dip of sorts made from chickpeas/garbanzo beans and olive oil. My version of hummus is very easy, and can be made in your food processor.

Quick and Easy Hummus
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
Extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (fresh is preferred, but I've used garlic salt or garlic powder in a pinch)
1 tsp or so lemon juice
Sumac (Bitter dark red spice. It may be found in the ethnic isle of some larger supermarkets. I buy mine from the local Persian market.)
Cumin (Another spice. This one is a lot easier to find. Trader Joe's has this for a decent price)
Salt, to taste

This is very much a recipe that needs to be tasted quite a lot.
Put drained garbanzo beans in food processor with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Combine, adding olive oil and tasting every so often until you get a consistency that is relatively smooth, no chunks of garbanzo beans. You can add more olive oil as you wish, but I usually make my hummus pretty thick, so it can hold up well in the bento.
Add the garlic, lemon juice, sumac, and cumin, and combine them. You could leave out any of these, the most important ingredients are the garbanzo beans and olive oil. Taste, and add more of these as needed.
Add a sprinkle of salt or two as needed.
To serve the hummus (not in a bento), scoop out some hummus and place in the desired container. Use a spoon to make a small well in the hummus. Drizzle olive oil on top. Add a pinch or two of the sumac, cumin, or salt if desired.

To pack the hummus in a bento, I use some of that Press N Seal stuff to cover the top, or at the very least, some wax paper on top. If you have any of that clear plastic baran, that would work just as well as the wax paper.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Carnitas Taco Bento

This bento is a deconstructed taco bento.
 In the upper left of the bento box is some homemade carnitas, or Mexican pulled pork. We made the carnitas in the slow cooker. There's two different colors of bell peppers, some avocado, some onions, and some Monterey jalapeño jack cheese. The avocado doesn't look the best (it really needed to be used up) but still tasted fine.
I also packed three little tortillas for my tacos. They're a corn-wheat blend, which has a nice texture.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bento with Chard

It's getting about to the time when my family rips out our winter garden and starts planting the summer garden. We planted lots of Swiss chard last fall, so it is in no short supply now.
This bento has white rice with furikake, the infamous chard, thinly sliced salted cucumbers, and some homemade meatballs.
Furikake is a sort of topping that you put on your rice. This furikake contains seaweed, sesame seeds, sugar, and salt. I picked this up from the local Asian grocery store.
The chard is sauteed in olive oil with some garlic.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tulip Bento

This is a little bento that I made the other day. I'd started experimenting with making little pictures in Jello.
The top tier of my bento box has a checkered apple slice, green bell pepper, roasted cauliflower, dried cranberries, some random mixed nuts, and a little container of Jello with a tulip decoration made out of apple and cucumber skin.
The bottom tier of my bento box isn't quite as cute, but it still tasted amazing. I have some homemade meatloaf. Underneath the meatloaf, there is some pasta. I put one of the noodles on top for the picture so you could see what I used.

Another view of my cute bento.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Horse Bento

This is a simple bento with a special cheese cutout!
Starting from the top, this bento has green bell peppers, leftover chicken strips, leftover carrots and onions Lyonnaise, leftover pasta, and a cheddar cheese cutout in the shape of a horse.
This little cutout was one of the more challenging cutouts I've made. Because I draw the templates for most of my cheese cutouts, this drawing took a bit longer. Even though this cutout didn't require lots and lots of tiny little detail work, there's a lot of little areas that need extra attention. This cutout also has an inside cut near the horse's neck. which isn't something I've ever done before.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Easter Bento with Pho Salad

This cute bento has Vietnamese pho noodles!
Under the giant cheese (cheddar and swiss) Easter egg, there are pho noodles. I also have jalapeño pepper slices to the right of the pho. In the little pink cup is chicken and peas. I have some herb salad mix, balsamic salad dressing in the little piggy, and a lime.
Not familiar with pho? Pho is a Vietnamese soup, with thick, flat rice noodles. Most of my bento is leftovers from a "make your own pho soup" dinner. Soup doesn't pack well in this bento box, so I made the pho into a salad.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Reptile Bento with Pasta

This is a simple reptile-themed bento that I made to practice my cheese figures.
This Bento has a cheese turtle and a cheese snake on a bed of penne pasta. Also in this bento are leftover carnitas (Mexican pulled pork) and cucumbers. In the cute little tomato bottle is salsa dressing.
I've tried to practice as much as I can with the little cheese figures. I've gotten better at carving the figures. I actually use a double-ended grapefruit knife to cut them. It has really small blades that help with detail.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring-themed Bento

Spring is finally here, and we've actually had some rain! The first big storms of the year, or of the colder half of the year, really, are here! To celebrate the end of the dryness, I made a cutesy little Spring-themed bento.
This bento has a cheddar cheese bunny and a cheddar cheese flower (both hand-cut, no cookie cutter used) on a bed of chopped up naan bread. I also have two meatballs, crinkle cut cucumber slices, a mini orange, carrots and onions Lyonnaise, and some leftover cauliflower (it has a bit of cheese on it).
The naan bread is the same as the naan used as the crust in my pizza a few posts back.
I think I've gotten a bit better at cutting shapes out of cheese. No limbs have fallen off while making this bento! Practice has certainly helped me.

Pasta bento with Meatballs and a New Bento Box

This bento features a new bento box!
 In the top tier: bell pepper, cucumber, cheese, almonds, and some jalapeño chutney.
In the bottom tier: meatballs, homegrown organic snow peas, meatballs, and some pasta (hidden underneath it all).
This new bento box has two tiers: the top tier is 200 ml and the bottom tier is 300 ml.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bird themed bento with cheese cutouts

I've been dabbling a little bit in making my bentos cuter. I wanted to make a bird themed bento, so I cut my own shapes out of sliced cheddar cheese.
This bento has the cheese birds on a bed of leftover noodles. Also in this bento are leftover carrots and onions Lyonnaise, leftover homemade meatballs, crinkle cut cucumber slices, two Medjool dates (stuffed with slivered almonds), and two spicy chili peppers
I cut the birds by hand. They were really annoying! This would have been so much easier if I had a cookie cutter to use. Instead, I drew out a template for the birds on scratch paper, cut it out, and used it as a guide for these cheese birds. The bird at the bottom was not cooperating at all; His legs fell off!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lentil Bento with Sausage

This is a simple bento that I made the other day using only leftovers. I didn't have to cook anything new for this bento :)
From left to right: Crinkle-cut cucumber slices, leftover kielbasa slices, leftover carrots with marmalade, and leftover lentils (there's a little bit of cheese in there somewhere)
I have a special knife that makes crinkle cuts very easy :)
This was one of my fastest bentos ever. No cooking, no reheating, no cuteness, just a little bit of slicing and arranging.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pretty spaghetti and meatballs

Most of the time, I don't add very much decoration to my bentos. Sure, they're organized in a way that makes them pleasing to look at, but I don't put cute faces on every rice ball or make cartoon characters out of seaweed. The simple approach also is a lot faster. But sometimes I want a little bit more decoration in my bento.
This bento has leftover spaghetti and meatballs for the main dish. I also included some jalapeño monterey jack cheese, a checkered apple slice, some cucumber slices, some baby carrots, some basil-infused olive oil for the spaghetti, and a little container of peach jello.
The jello is decorated with a grape flower with cucumber-peel decorations.
I felt like making jello for my bento, so I made up a quick batch, pouring it into various tiny containers. I used the regular directions, which worked OK, but I would recommend using the "jigglers" recipe. Not only would it be more sturdy and hold up better in transit (although this batch was sturdy enough most of the time), but the jiggler recipe makes less jello! For several weeks I've had jello, jello, and more jello! Because I'm the only one eating the jello, I wish I had made less!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cornbread bento with sausage

This bento was basically all leftovers. I liked that I didn't have to make anything from scratch for this bento.
In this bento, clockwise from upper right: green bell pepper strips, leftover kielbasa sausage, leftover cornbread (freshly made from a boxed mix), Medjool dates, peanut butter granola bar, and spreadable cheese triangle.
The dates are one of my favorite parts of this bento. You can't see it in the picture, because I did a sneaky cutting job, but I removed the pit of the dates (there's two in there, stacked on top of each other) and stuffed the dates with slivered almonds. A bit of a surprise, biting into a date expecting a pit and finding almonds! Also, that is an easy way to get some more food in the bento without taking up much space.
The granola bar is cut into triangles because I needed something to fit that space so the contents of the bento wouldn't slide around. I ate the scraps of the granola bar as I was making my lunch :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pasta bento with random meatballs

I always have lots of homemade meatballs in my freezer, so I can pull out however many meatballs I need for my bento. No meat in the fridge? No problem! Meatballs to the rescue :)
 This bento has, clockwise from left, leftover pasta swirls (Maybe some kind of Fusilli?), homemade meatballs from the freezer, leftover veggie mix (peas, carrots, broccoli, and water chestnuts), and two chocolate coins.
This bento was very easy to make, with only four things. The little inner dividers that the box came with really helped make packing easy. While the meatballs were defrosting, I packed the rest of the box. The divider for the meatballs was a nice placeholder, so the meatballs didn't have to be ready to pack the rest of the bento snugly.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Pizza bento with a side salad

One night, I found myself looking at a nearly-empty fridge. There wasn't any leftovers besides some whole-wheat naan bread. I usually try to avoid making things from scratch for my bento, but this time I had to improvise if I wanted a nice lunch.

I made a little "pizza" with some naan bread as the crust. Naan is a type of Indian flatbread. I spread some tomato sauce on the naan, and added various shredded cheeses, pepperoni, and onions. I baked my "pizza" in the toaster oven until the cheese looked melted. I sprinkled some Parmesan cheese on top. The picture doesn't show that there are actually two layers of pizza in the bento box.
I also made a little side salad to eat alongside my little pizza. The salad is just some bagged lettuce, topped with cucumber slices and some feta cheese. The little container has some balsamic dressing for the salad.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pancake bento with Sausage

I had some leftover blueberry pancakes in the fridge that needed to be used up. So I put them in a bento, sort of a "breakfast for lunch" type bento.

Contents of the bento:
  • Homemade blueberry pancakes. The recipe is from the Bisquick box.
  • Creamy cheese triangle
  • Basil-garlic sausage
  • Bell pepper strips
  • A tiny bottle of maple syrup
  • Baby carrots
  • A checkered apple slice
This was my first time making the checkered apple. I'd seen it on other bento blogs before, but never attempted it. Making the checkered apple was the hardest part of the bento, and took up most of my time. I'm pleased with how it turned out, though. 

The box is a new bento box I got from a local Japanese supermarket. It came with three dividers: two 1/4 dividers and one 1/2 divider. It's a lot sturdier than my old orange box featured in other posts.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bento "Rollups" with Garbanzo Bean Salad

 These rollups were pretty quick and easy to make. The secret is the Lavash bread/ flatbread. It comes in a big sheet that makes rollups a snap to make. Inside each rollup:
  • Leftover breaded chicken strips
  • Bell pepper strips
  • Salami
  • Small amount of mayonnaise
This garbanzo bean salad was also quick and easy to make. I tossed a can of garbanzo beans with some Kalamata olives, diced red onions, and some halved cherry tomatoes. The salad has a simple olive oil-lemon dressing.