Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bento #53... yet another geocaching post

Last night I decided to go geocaching with a couple of friends after work. It was meant to be a diversion for only an hour or so. But you know how it goes... We started at an easy-to-get cache in town. And moved up to a more difficult cache under an apartment complex. Where we almost got caught. And had to hide in the thorn bushes for a bit or risk getting caught by some angry intoxicated tenants. (The cache wasn't on private property, for the record. Just really close to it.) And then we moved up the mountain because it wasn't THAT far. And then a little bit farther up the mountain, because we had already hiked that far up, so what's a little bit more? That seemed like rational reasoning at midnight. Why? I dunno.


Dinner. Tasty, tasty BBQ leftovers.

I have a Hawaiian BBQ sausage from the place down the street with boiled yellow potatoes tossed in Mrs. Dash. And broccoli anywhere there was a place to put it.

The other layer has carrots and hummus, grapes, and a baby cutie orange. The lumpish pastry on the side is cinnamon apples wrapped in phyllo dough.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bentos #51 and #52...

Every so often I end up having to work a Sunday. This time it was because a client didn't plan ahead when they were scheduling. They didn't put in time to load in or to strike their things. So I had to be at work at 8:00 am yesterday. This doesn't make me happy, since Sunday is usually the only day of the week that I am able to sleep in. However. They also brought in their own crew. So I spent the day catching up on paperwork and watching things on hulu. ...It could have been worse.

I still have leftovers from that little barbecue place. This bit is a spicy italian sausage covered with the awesome bbq sauce. Also black rice and asparagus. It's got a few carrot flowers and a sprig of inoki mushrooms for cuteness' sake.

The bottom has a mandarin orange and a bunch of red grapes. There's a silicone cup full of hummus (with a couple more carrot flowers) and a whole bunch of baby lettuce leaves to eat it with.


I went to my parents' house after work last night to help my mom with an audio project. I ended up hanging around for a while more than I wanted to. So I made my mom and I dinner, and I helped my little brother make yummy apple... thingies... using apples and phyllo dough. They were really good. I still have a bunch in my fridge. I might put one in my lunch for tomorrow. I mean... they are really not healthy... but they are also full of fruit. That makes up for it, right?

I decided to pack my lunch there so I didn't have to come home and do it. And since I still had my box from lunch with me, it worked out.

I've got more steamed asparagus (my mom gets baskets now as well), a couple of baby yellow potatoes, and a dollar store steak I found in the freezer. I think I'm the one who bought it a few months ago to give to a brother. Who thought I was bringing him dinner from KFC. And I'm a little turd, so I gave him that first. It was actually a half decent cut of meat. Not amazing by any means. But not bad.

I found a bag of cheese curds in the fridge, so filled the silicone cup with those, and then filled in with blackberries, a mandarin, and apples with cinnamon. And then I thieved a mini hershey's bar from a brother. It fit perfectly.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bento #50...

For a milestone bento, it's not all that fancy. But it was good. And I was in a hurry.

There's a glorious little BBQ place just by my work. It's run by a guy who trained in Italy and other places. So it's mostly BBQ, but sometimes he gets on a wild hair and makes... well... whatever he feels like. Last week he felt like making meatballs. And they were great meatballs. Each was about the size of my fist. And they were drowned in homemade marinara.

So... leftovers. In my cute donburi style bento. Can you see the cracks in the lid? It fell off the cupboard one day, and I couldn't bring myself to get rid of it. So it's been superglued. The lid never actually comes in contact with the food, so I don't think it's an issue.

I put the meatballs and marinara in with some 5 cheese tortellini. I didn't have time to pack a sidecar, so I tossed a couple of cutie oranges and an apple in the bag.


I actually took a picture of my Bountiful Basket haul before sorting it into the fridge.

Not bad for $15, right?

As I'm writing, I've got a sorbet in the icecream maker. It's got pineapple, mango, tangelo, and grapefruit juice. It was really good before it was frozen. I think that's a good sign.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bento #49... An experiment in face food...

So... I don't claim to be any great bento artist. The great focus of my bentos is healthy, balanced, filling food, with cuteness as an afterthought. It's just not high on my priorities list. That doesn't mean I don't want to play with my food though.

A couple of weeks ago I took one of my 'I'm bored' trips over to Amazon. I searched 'bento' and happened upon Face Food Recipes by Christopher D Salyers. It was in the used books for 32 cents or something like that. I also picked up Cute Yummy Time... but that's another story.

So I splurged 32 cents plus four dollars for shipping. And a couple of days ago, it came in the mail. The first thing i did was thumb through and look at all the pictures. The photos are gorgeous. And clear. That's something I appreciate. Just because all the pictures on my blog are fuzzy doesn't mean that's what I'm satisfied with.

I could have stopped there. I mostly bought it to look at the pictures. But... I figured that since I owned it, I should actually read it. Let's be honest. I have no intention to start putting anime characters in my lunches. It's just not my thing. But I was still interested in how the construction of each character worked. I want to know how the layers work. And I want to know what materials were used. Because I find myself picturing bentos that are a bit more than just food, and I need an idea of where to begin. This book provided that for me.

Beside each of the gorgeous photos, there is a sketch of the same bento. Each of the elements of the charaben is numbered, and below the sketch there is a list of ingredients with corresponding numbers. For the most part, only the ingredients of the characters are present, but I find that's really all I need to know. If it's not specifically part of the character, there's no reason I can't put whatever I want in there.

I guess some people may find the title to be a little bit misleading. There are very few recipes in the book. They live in the back with the glossary and the how-to. I bought the book figuring that 'recipe' would refer to items used to build the characters, so I wasn't disappointed.

I am quite happy with the book. I think I would be happy with it even if I had paid more than 32 cents for it. It is my first bento book and won't be my last, but I can see myself coming back to it for inspiration over and over again.

Will you see the results right away? Not likely. It still takes me forever to make my simple lunches. But I did experiment a little bit, pulling from the book...

I made a caterpillar! He's made out of fresh green beans. His head is made of fish cake. His face is nori, and his antennae are inoki mushrooms.

This is my first time using fish cake. And my first taste of it. My mom found it the last time we went to the Oriental Market. She went all nostalgic on me. My mom grew up in Hawaii and so she grew up eating fish cake. Based on that and the fact that a lot of the cute bentos around seem to use fish cake, I had to buy some. ...I'm still undecided as to whether or not I like it. The taste is fine. The texture is taking some getting used to.

The face was cut using the only face punch I own. It isn't my favorite. I don't thing it's very kawaii. But I don't have little kitchen scissors yet. Next shopping trip maybe.

My caterpillar is sitting on a bed of black ham fried rice. I love black rice. It's pretty and it tastes good. I mixed in more fresh green beens, diced ham, and more inoki mushrooms.

The fruit layer looks more of a mess than usual, I think. But... I'll deal. It's got pineapple, strawberries, a cutie orange, mango, and grapes.


No one paid me to review the book. I bought it myself. Because I wanted it.

There. Disclaimed.

... I may need to actually research the rules...

Bentos #47 and #48...

No stories for you today... But two smallish bentos just right for a horridly long day working on a kiddie dance show.

This bento went along quite nicely with the lunchables and cookie that the client brought us.

Snack bento containing carrot sticks with red pepper hummus (my favorite kind so far), strawberries, orange slices, and a key lime truffle from See's Candies. I love their key lime truffles. If anyone wants to know what to get me for my birthday, Christmas, Halloween, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, or just because you care, a box of those would suffice nicely. They didn't pay me to say that or nothin'. I just like them that much.

Dinner was more chicken salad with lettuce leaves to eat it in and strawberries, blackberries and oranges.


I picked up my basket Saturday, as always. This one I had to pick up a few cities away because I forgot to order right at noon on Monday. Worth it though... It had: apples, bananas, the smallest cutie oranges I've ever seen, cantaloupe, 3 mangoes, tomatoes, cilantro, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, chard, and asparagus.

The tomatoes were in the fruit basket today. I realize that they technically are a fruit, but it amuses me how they move them around depending where they need the extra item of produce.

I was much faster ordering my basket on Monday. I get to pick up at my regular site.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bento #46 ... just a small snack...

I'm pretty sure I've discussed it before, but I'm the Resident Stage Manager at a local theatre. It's great fun. I work with different people every week. We run upwards of 3000 people through the building each week. I get to do awesome things like be the Master Electrician for S.T.O.M.P. and Crew Manager for Kenny Loggins. I get to design lights, and climb ladders, and all sorts of things like that. And I get to use my theatre occasionally to do something most people will never get to do.

I get to watch a movie on my cyc. (The big white thing at the back of the stage.)

You are all wondering why this is any different than going to a movie theatre... Well. We thieve all the couches out of the lobbies, so we are incredibly comfortable. We all bring snacks and goodies, such as you will never get to enjoy in a movie theatre. We tune the sound system, surround ourselves with speakers, and boost the subs. We get all of this without 100 people around us, whispering, throwing popcorn, kicking our seats, and generally making nuisances of themselves. It sounds a lot more appealing now, yeah?

We watched 'Inception', which is a good movie to watch in your living room, but is an amazing movie to watch on a huge screen surrounded by giant subs. I hadn't seen it before, but had heard that you couldn't blink, or you'd be totally lost for the rest of the show. I didn't find that to be the case, although I didn't blink. I didn't find the levels thing confusing. I thought the concept behind the movie was great. And, like everybody, ... something something spoiler.


Anywho. My movie snack.

I made a small chicken salad using chicken (of course), carrots, and apple bits. I tossed it with some yummy poppyseed dressing. My original goal with the mix (sans dressing) was to make spring rolls, but I found the texture of the wraps... unpleasing. Maybe I did something wrong... I then filled the rest of the box with the usual assortment of bountiful baskets fruit: pineapple, strawberries, and blackberries. And a couple of strawberry hichews.


I nearly forgot to order my basket this Monday. By the time I remembered and logged on, the only sites left in my county were each about a half hour away. I ordered anyway. The gas money may cancel out the produce savings, but... I'd really miss my basket.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bentos #44 and #45... Also... An awesome geocaching picture

So. The other day I shimmied 20 feet into a hole in the side of a mountain to find a geocache. It was pretty much awesome.

What happened was this. After work one day, a friend and I, being completely bored and not wanting to go home, decided to randomly drive places. We started out grabbing a hot dog at the Maverick, and then we drove up to a make-out point. But not to make out. We're not like that.

We finished our dinner and decided to geocache, but there were no caches at this particular point. So we drove to another one. Where we had the brilliant idea to open up the sunroof and all the windows and blast oldies love songs. That was fun. But there were also no caches there. We ended up just driving along the highest residential road we could find. And... there was a cache up behind one of those big huge houses you just find on the side of a mountain.

So... we found a little trail and went on an after midnight hike. The cache was called 'tunnel'. And we quickly found it. Well... the tunnel. Not the cache. It was a 3 foot wide cement pipe with the opening just off the side of the trail over a small rise. So we looked. And looked. And looked some more. We finally decided it had to be in the pipe just past some rocks. So I crawled in. And it wasn't there. Really? It wasn't supposed to be that difficult to find.

And then I looked up. And there it was. More than 20 feet down the pipe. Really really? So I went in feet first. Through leaves. And bugs. And spiders. Ew. But one cannot leave a geocache log unsigned. That's just how it is. You want proof?

Like I said. Awesome.

Also it was a large cache (an ammo box), so we swapped a plastic frog and some dreamcatchers for a pair of cool sunglasses. These are the kind of caches I really like. Sure, the teeny tiny ones are a challenge to look for, and you feel all sorts of accomplished when you finally figure out what little hidey-hole they've been hidden in, but the big caches are just fun.


And now. The food. This was all actually from Monday, but I didn't have time to post. Now I do. So I am.

I packed a snack for staff meeting. Because they just go on. And at some point in the middle, we break and everyone goes searching the cupboards in the boardroom for snacks. Way ahead of them.

Garlic artichoke hummus and garlic parmesan pretzel crisps (obviously I'm not worried about kissing anyone...), carrot sticks, and blackberries. I discovered some extra room when I was flattening a bit so I could put the lid on, so I tossed in three cadbury mini eggs.

Dinner consisted of black rice with leftover crock pot chicken on a bed of sauteed cabbage, pineapple, blackberries, strawberries and (thanks to TJ for this one) two sliced turkey rosettes. I rolled the turkey up in the lettuce. It was pretty good. Between that and the balsamic vinaigrette, I might actually start eating all of my lettuce. Or most of it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bentos #42 and #43... and Freezer Stash!

I've been bentoing for a while now. It usually ends up being a leftover main dish with fresh fruits and veggies to fill it out. But. This week I got an acorn squash in my basket. I have never liked sweet squash. Vegetables, to me, are supposed to be savory. Which is why there is still a butternut squash on the shelf from a month ago. It's a good thing they keep a while.

My goal is to eat everything that I get in my baskets. Even the yams. And I still haven't figured out how to make those perfectly edible. I decided on acorn squash gyoza. They weren't all that difficult. I started out with five of them, just to see if they were good and I'd actually eat them. And... I will! So good! They are just a touch sweet, which I can handle. And maybe even enjoy. So I made lots more.

I started out using a gyoza press I had picked up from ichiban kan when they still had an online store. It was easy enough to use. Plop some filling into a wrapper and fold. Except if the wrapper properly positioned, the filling oozed out. I worked with it anyway until I decided I wanted to see if I was even capable of folding a gyoza the traditional way. Turns out, doing it by hand was easier than using the press. And that is why there are two different shapes. These ought to make a great freezer item...

I also made turkey meatballs for the freezer. All I had was breakfast sausage, so I went with it. I added a couple of eggs and some toasted multigrain bread crumbs. They're not half bad, especially when eaten with strawberry jam.


Yesterday's lunch: Turkey meatballs, some funny looking acorn squash gyoza because I hadn't yet figured out the proper way to cook them, carrot flowers, apple and orange slices, and some balsamic vinagrette and strawberry jam to dress things up a bit.

Dinner: Leftover sauerkraut pork that my mom made on Sunday with summer squash, mango, apple slices, carrot flowers and grapes. There was a chocolate frog and some mini cadbury eggs in the lid. For the record, I had no intention of eating the lettuce in this bento. And I didn't.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bentos #40 and #41... My incoherent Monday...

I believe I mentioned in the last entry that I've been a bit sick. And by a bit sick I mean I've been still able to go to work and go geocaching in the middle of the night and do other dumb things you shouldn't actually do when you are sick. Except for Monday.

I don't remember most of Monday. This is what I've pieced together from my phone history and talking with my boss...

He stopped by at 8:30a to pick up my keys because another employee had borrowed his and not returned them yet. He asked if I wanted to go to staff meeting. Apparently I said yes.

He called at around 10:00 to tell me not to come to staff meeting. He could tell I wasn't feeling well. And we usually don't accomplish much at staff meeting anyway.

I called him about 20 minutes later to ask if he had just called and told me not to go to staff meeting.

I became coherent-ish at 12:30 or so, realized I was an hour late for staff meeting, and sent him off a text that said the following: 'Crap! I'm late for staff meeting! Am I in trouble? Nobody called me. Crap.' And then I went digging through my dresser for something to wear to work.

He called to see if I was dead. And then told me to go back to bed. I did.

I'm not usually like that, even when I'm sick. It rattled him and he spent the next three days calling to make sure I hadn't forgotten how to function.


I packed both of these meals on Friday. But when you work in the industry I work in, mealtimes don't always happen when you want them to, so I only ended up eating this one.

It has the last of the Bamboo Hut bbq chicken leftovers, asparagus, and yams. The bottom has a bit of a banana, mango, orange slices, and a little cup of those minty chocolate chip things. And two chocolate frogs. I don't know what I'm going to do when I run out of those... They are SO GOOD!

Please. Somebody. Give me some new ways to cook yams! This one (baked and sprinkled with mrs dash) was not good. They were all dry and almost... chewy. That's not right.


My other bento...

I was a bit worried about how this would keep overnight. I haven't had the best of luck with pasta salads and taste after they've been around too long... as in... more than a few hours. I went in prepared Saturday with a microwave fried rice thing. But. I didn't have to eat it. The pasta salad kept great. Probably because I made my own dressing, which was surprisingly good for just dumping things in a bowl...

I used tri-color pasta that supposedly has a whole serving of veggies mixed in and topped it with tomato, diced ham, and parmesan cheese. I made the dressing with garlic red wine vinegar, a few shakes of garlic and herb seasoning, and some olive oil. It didn't smell all that appetizing when I made it, but I was in a hurry so I dumped it in anyway. I'm glad I did. It was tasty, and it didn't leave a funny aftertaste like the dressings I usually use.

The bottom layer has mango, orange slices, and carrots with hummus in the little cup. I put in a little bottle of balsamic dressing after I snapped the picture. I've decided it's kind of like a punishment to have to eat the lettuce last... I'd much rather end on the fruit, since it's kinda desserty, but since the lettuce is on the bottom... I'm still eating it, but I feel the need to whine about it just a little.


My bountiful basket update:

Yesterday I picked up pineapple, apples, bananas, champagne mangoes, grapefruit, spinach, baby gold potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, yellow squash, an acorn squash, and turnips.

Confession... I didn't know they were turnips. I've never had one before. I went to work and somebody asked me if I had anything cool in my basket. Since I had no idea what they were called, I said, "Remember the vegetable they use to demonstrate the catapult in Chicken Run? I got four of those..." Yeah...

Here's what my fridge looks like right now...

Aside from the nearly empty box of fresca, that's all produce.

It makes me happy. Now I just have to eat it all.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bentos #38 and #39... also geocaching...

Did you miss me? I've been sick the past few days and luckily haven't had to work. So, of course, no bentos. However. I have noticed that in the past four days I've eaten out more than I did the entire month of February. How is that? I should have been home! In bed! ... But I wasn't. I may or may not have dragged myself out of bed for soup from Zupas with friends... and maybe ordered in pizzas when a couple of us were watching movies... maybe a couple of other times, too... Make it stop!

My bank account is getting smaller and my waist is going the other way. It doesn't help that I can't go jogging. I went jogging once when I had a cold. It turned into bronchitis. I learned my lesson. I'm hoping to be over this by next week. I'm figuring I'm going to have to do the second week of C25K over again because of the sick time. And I have to finish the program by May if I'm going to run my 5K.


Look! Five stars. That now means 'change of subject'. Because I'm not talented enough to write transitions...


Since I started geochaching, I've been waiting for one thing. The cop who notices a couple of people poking around in weird places and asks what the hell is going on.

Geocaching is pretty much a treasure hunt using your GPS. Once upon a time, a bit more then ten years ago, some dork thought it would be awesome to hide something and give his friends the GPS coordinates to see if they could find it. And here I am today, sneaking around with a flashlight and my smartphone, looking for film canisters and ammo boxes. It's fun.

It's a pretty widespread hobby. Not in that everybody and their dog knows what it is, but in that there are now geocaches EVERYWHERE. There are 14 in my little neighborhood. Six along the back road to Walmart. Five in the area around my work. Three in the little podunk town on the other side of the lake where I get my nieces every few Sundays and about 30 on the road back to civilization from there.

Late the other night. Like 3:00 in the morning, a friend and I had just finished a long long wander around Walmart. We were there for almost two hours. He bought tweezers. I popped on my GPS just to see if there were any close caches. There was one about 20 feet from our car. We found that and then had to find the one across the parking lot. And then the one next to the Del Taco. And then we had to go to Del Taco.

We headed up the backroad and pulled over where my GPS said there was something to find. And then we reversed because we had passed it. We were reversing just as a highway patrol truck was passing us on the other side. He didn't seem to like that, since he flipped around and turned on his lights. We just sat there. Wondering if he knew what geocaching was. If he did, he'd understand what we were doing in the wee hours of the morning, poking around an electrical box on a backroad. He walked up the window with his big Mag light and shined it around in the car before he asked what we were doing. And we told him. There's a geocache over there. We're going to go find it. "Oh," he said, "Don't get electrocuted." And he walked away. That was it. I have to assume that they get calls from people all the time about odd behavior that turns out to be geocaching.

...That story was a lot more thrilling as it was happening...


I'm designing a concert for "Vocalpoint" tomorrow. I'm in for a 14 hour day. Those are not unusual for me. So I'm taking lunch and dinner.

And here they are.

Lunch consists of leftover barbecue chicken, courtesy of Bamboo Hut, baked yellow potatoes, and broccoli. The other layer has strawberries, orange slices, mango, carrot flowers, lots of lettuce, and a container of sour cream for the potatoes. I added a small bottle of raspberry vinaigrette after I took the picture. I've discovered that with the proper dressing, lettuce is actually edible. Who knew?

Steamed summer squash, pulled pork and rice from Bamboo Hut, furikake to make it all interesting, strawberries, orange slices, carrot sticks with hummus, and more lettuce. There's a bottle of balsamic vinaigrette in the lid of the box. Along with a couple of chocolate frogs.