Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bentos #91, #92, #93, and #94... Quick Catch-up

I have a thoroughly uninteresting life.  This week I had rehearsals.  Our real swords came in, so my actors are no longer using sticks to practice with.  I managed to get the rehearsal schedule put together and functional up until the run (no small feat).  I went jogging more than once.  I cooked one interesting thing that will eventually end up in a bento, at which point I'll tell you about it.  I went to lunch with my mom.  And my birthday was Saturday.  I did absolutely nothing fun.  Although I may have overcompensated today when I bought a butt-load of camping gear.

Speaking of which.  I'm going camping.  I was going to go tonight, but really didn't get started prepping early enough.  So I'm going early tomorrow.  I will fish.  Although I'm not sure what I'll do if I actually catch one.  I've not ever cleaned a fish before.  And only kind of know where to start, thanks to youtube.  I will cook things on my new little camp stove in my new little camp cook set.  I will sleep in my teeny-tiny tent.  Unless it's raining.  In which case I will sleep in my truck. (The tent hasn't been waterproofed yet...).  I will read one of my many new books (Big-Lots was clearing out all theirs for 50 cents each.  I may have bought about 30 of them...)  I will jog somewhere by the lake.  I roast caramel-vanilla marshmallows.  And it shall hopefully make this week more interesting than the last.


On to the bentos...

Teeny-tiny potatoes on skewers with kale and smoked turkey sausage bits.  There's j-dawg sauce in the container... Other layer has carrots and hummus, melon, pineapple, and a little strawberry from my garden, plum and nectarine slices.

This is a bento in which I attempted to make tofu edible.  I think tofu could be a cost-effective meat replacement substance... If it could be make edible.  This was only barely.  I didn't finish it.  Something about soy sauce, garlic, and sugar.  I am rather happy with the green beans.  They also had something to do with soy sauce, garlic, and sugar.  But in a much better way.  The zucchini was just pan-fried with salt and pepper.

Other layer has nectarine and strawberry slices, and cucumber with mini heirloom snacking tomatoes.  Which I love.  They're the size of marbles.

Orzo pasta salad with kale and feta, carrots, cucumber, black-pepper beef, plum slices and hummus

First, we focus on the two veggies in the top corner.  The yellow tomato is from my garden, as-is the black pepper.  The tomatoes ar funny.  I planted yellow pear tomatoes, but these are not those.  When actually ripe, these puppies turn orange.  And there is no pear shape to them.  As for the black peppers, they are not supposed to be mini'.

This bento has carrot slices over brown rice with leftover rosemary pork tenderloin, broccoli, cucumber, carrot, melon, nectarine, and the veggies from my garden.


I can't keep my eyes open and keep telling myself that I'm going to leave really early.  That might not happen...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bento #90... Oven-Fried Anything...

You may have noticed the recently added 'Recipes' tab at the top of the page.  I wanted to make all the lovely things I cook easy for you to find.  And then I went back through my posts and realized that I usually don't tell you exactly how I make things.  I throw things in a pan, add dashes of this or that... and that's it.  So I'm making an effort to actually put recipes in my posts.

This one might be a bit of over-compensation...


I'm generally not allowed to fry things at home.  I nearly bought a countertop deep-fryer once.  And then realized that I would fry EVERYTHING.  Did you ever watch the 'King of the Hill' episode where Bill and Dale start playing with their fryer?  That would be me.  Because fried things are delicious.

So.  I decided I could oven-fry things.  And I had a package of mushrooms in my fridge that I really needed to do something with.

They're not exactly pretty, but they'd been in the fridge for a week.

I decided to do a zucchini as well.  In protest to Red Robin changing their fried zucchini recipe.

I put all my veggies in a ziploc bag with *1/2 cup of flour, *1/2 tsp paprika, *1/2 tsp pepper and *1 tsp salt.  Since these are not being fried, you have to add salt now... you can't do it later.  It won't stick.

Shake until the veggies are coated.

In a bowl, whisk an *egg with *1/3 cup milk.  Dunk your flour coated veggies in the mix and then...

Put them directly into a mixture of *1 cup panko bread crumbs and *1/3 cup Parmesan cheese.  Press the crumbs into the veggies.

Put your veggies onto a greased cookie sheet.  (I line everything with foil.  I don't really like washing dishes.)  And bake in a 350 degree oven until the outsides are crispy!  Mine were in for about 15 minutes.

I ate these with ranch dressing.  And I didn't feel bad about eating a lot of them.  They're oven-fried, after all.

Yeah... I totally did a turkey sausage.  I had leftover panko...  See?  You can oven fry anything!


This is a little snack bento I did using some oven-fried goodness...  The zucchini and mushrooms are packed in a baking cup to keep them separate from the moist things.  Carrots, black pepper beef, and a tin of sliced plums make this a perfect snack.  It's got all the food groups in it!  I'm so amazing!

Eat bento and be happy!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bento #89... Rosemary Pepper Pork Loin

I bought a new toaster oven.  I decided I had to.  And I know better than to argue with myself.

I live in an apartment in an old house with only one accessible, open-able window.  And the poor little AC unit I've got in it has been having a difficult time keeping the apartment cool during the recent spate of uber hot summer days.  And I like to cook.  And using the oven (which is far, far away from the AC unit) just doesn't help anything.  So I bought a toaster oven.  And I'm in love.

Not only does the toaster oven keep my apartment cooler, it means I don't feel like I have to cook big batches of things to justify the use.  The first thing I made was two cookies.  I never bake more than that, because I will eat them.  I usually just eat the raw cookie dough.  I know.  You aren't supposed to do that.  There's a warning on the package and everything.  Bite me.

The second thing I made was the Rosemary Pepper Pork Loin.  This is actually a VERY simplified recipe of my pulled pork.  Which is a recipe I will probably never share.  Everybody has that thing they make incredibly well that everybody else wants to eat/make/hoard.  The pulled pork is mine.  All mine.

*****Rosemary Pepper Pork Loin
You need:
1 lb Pork Loin, cut into 4 oz pieces
A bottle of honey
Dried Rosemary

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line a pan with foil (unless you want to clean caramelized honey off it later) and then spray with canola oil.

This is the part where your hands get sticky...  Drizzle honey over the pork loin and smear it around until the entire thing is coated.  Sprinkle with rosemary (I like a ton, you might not), pepper, and salt.  Place on pan.  Bake for 7 minutes, turn pork pieces over, bake for another 5.  I like my pork a little teeny bit pink in the middle, or you could cook it through.


This bento consists of zucchini, the most adorable baby potatoes I've ever seen, and a piece of pork sliced over more potatoes.  I drizzled the veggies in this layer with a garlic flavored oil. It may be slightly odd, but I had to convince myself that drizzling oil was no different than buttering...

The other layer has carrots and english cucumbers with hummus (in the container), pineapple, plum slices, canary melon balls, and a strawberry from my garden!  This is not the first, but it is the first one that actually lasted long enough to get into a lunch.  I usually eat them right off the plant.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Bento #88... A Dinner Plate Comparison

One of the new-to-me things I found at the market the other day is a bag of Vegetable Pancake mix.  Basically, you wisk it with water and then add veggies and seafood.  If you feel like it.  I decided to try the stuff out with cauliflower.  The measurements on the bag were all in ML.  I don't have any measuring cups that cool.  I guessed.

Once I felt I had the ratio right, and the batter looked like I thought it should (although I was likely wrong), I dumped in some finely diced cauliflower and some green onions.  So far, so good.

I also decided this would be a good time to try out the truffle oil I found at Ross a couple of months ago.  So I heated some in my small, sad frying pan.  I say it's sad because the bottom is warped.  It doesn't sit flat anymore.  I'm sure it's my fault, and it involved cold water after a bout of cooking.

My first attempts at the cakes came out thin, flat, and uber crispy.  They were delicious.  As things that are fried generally are.  But they looked nothing like the picture on the bag.  I turned down the heat in the pan.  And tried again.  The second batch came out slightly thicker.  Chewy in the center but still crispy on the edges.  And equally delicious.

It was about that point that I realized how horrible these things are for me.  Especially considering my slowly shrinking waistline.   I would like it to continue in that vein.  So I decided to try baking a few cakes.  I dropped some batter into six silicone muffin cups and tossed them in the oven.  And then I finished frying the batter I had.  Because even if it was bad for me, I didn't want it to go to waste.  I'll make that sacrifice.

The baked cakes turned out chewy all the way around and through.  And then I had a brilliant idea to crisp them up.  I drizzled them with the tiniest bit of oil and then put them under the broiler.  And I had success!  They still looked nothing like the picture on the package.  But they were cooked through, crispy, and not too greasy.  And yummy.  Did I mention yummy?


The big thing I hear when I take my lunches to work is, "That's not very much food.  Does it really fill you up?"

Especially when I started packing bentos, my focus was more about substance than cute.  Because I was also concerned about whether it would fill me up.  It always does.  I'm trying to make that transition to cute now.  I mean... substance is still important.  But a little bit of adorable goes a long way.  To the point where I have to unpack my dinners before my rehearsals or meetings start.  So everyone can gather around and make impressed noises.

I actually packed this bento to eat during staff meeting today.  But then we moved staff meeting up two hours, so I just ate the banana I took for breakfast.  And I got sent home because I'm up to 92 comp hours.  And they don't like that.  So I ate it at home.  And I thought it would be fun to put it on a plate and take a picture.

Here it is IN the box...

Leftover steak from Applebee's, sauteed mushrooms, steamed kale, and cauliflower cakes.

Half a plum, pineapple, canary melon, English cucumber, and carrots.

And here it is on a plate.

That's more food than I got at Applebee's last night!  I've never actually done this comparison before.  I knew I was eating plenty.  But.  I didn't know I was eating that much.  I never fill these plates this full when I'm eating at home.  Although, when I am home I grab random fruit out of the fridge and snack on it.  I guess it evens out.

So there you go!  Next time someone asks why you're starving yourself, dump out your pretty little lunch and show them how big it really is!

Eat bento and be happy!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bento #87...

So.  The first and most important thing.  Lock&Lock has re-released their 45% off discount code.  So.  Type in QLTY4LESS at checkout.  And bask in the good deal.  The code works on already discounted prices, which means the bentos that are 30% off right now get way more cheap.  I might have to buy one in every color.


I found another Ethnic market today.  I've been driving past this place since I was a kid.  When my mom was driving.  Today I really felt the need to find some panko so I can oven-fry some mushrooms.  The place I usually hit is closer to my parents' house.  This place... kinda looks like a dive.  It's almost impossible to park anything bigger than a sedan in the parking lot.  And there's no sign with hours and such, so I wasn't even sure they were open.

But I'm glad I went.

Mostly because they carry haw flakes.

Kinda sounds like fish food, yeah?

Haw flakes are a kind of Chinese candy made out of dried haw (which I think is some sort of stone fruit) and sugar.  The little round bundles look like fireworks.  I loved taking them to school when I was a kid.  Because fielding the "why are you opening a firework?' questions was fun.  But this is the first time I've seen them in nearly ten years!  They taste just like I remember...


I haven't shown off my Bountiful Basket in a while.  I think I should do that now.  Because I was really pleased with the pile of produce today...

 - 1 head cauliflower
 - 1 bunch broccoli
 - 1 head salad savoy (YUM!)
 - 1 head romaine
 - 1 English cucumber
 - 2 organic beefsteak tomatoes
 - 1 gigantic Canary melon
 - 1 pint blackberries
 - 7 bananas
 - 3 red pears
 - Many plums
 - Many nectarines

I know, right!

I roasted about a head and a half of cauliflower (I had some left over from last week.) and I promptly ate all of it.  Every time I roast the stuff, I mean to save some for my lunch.  I think I've managed to do it once.  At least it's good for me.



I packed this in another of my new Lock&Lock boxes.  Which I will review at some point in the future.  When I can clearly see my computer screen.

I've got brown rice hidden under meatballs, peas, and corn.  The other layer has saurkraut (under the sauce container), J-Dawgs sauce (in the container), and tomatoes with sweet pickled mini peppers, figs, plum, and pineapple.  I usually get my J-Dawgs with saurkraut and pickles.  So I was hoping that the combo would work with the meatballs.  It wasn't bad.  But it wasn't as good as it is with a giant Polish dog.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bento #86... and a Lock&Lock review!

All the Lock & Lock boxes I ordered arrived.  And I love them all.  My first order contained a Slim Lunch Box and a Mini Lunch Box.  Along with a vacuum bottle that will just have to wait in a sad, lonely corner until it gets cold out to be reviewed.

Anywho.  Lunch boxes.  I took pictures of only the Slim because the Mini is in the sink, waiting to be washed.  It's ok though... they are basically the same lunchbox, just a slightly different shape and size.  The Slim compartments are 250ml and 340ml, while the Mini's are 270ml and 330ml.

The set came with the box itself, a set of collapsible chopsticks (cool!), a lunch bag, and I opted for the optional beverage bottle.  

 Here are all the pieces of the lunch box, including the chopsticks.  The compartments are deeper than I'm used to packing, which is not necessarily a bad thing... just something to note.  I just had to figure out how to prop up some foods, and all was well.

I love that the chopsticks have their own little compartment.  I'm pretty sure I could fit some m&ms in with them as well if I need a reward for eating all my veggies.  The chopsticks go together easily, and they are secure enough that you don't need to worry about them falling apart while you are using them.  It took me a couple of tries to get them apart when I was done with them, so they might not work so well for a small child. Maybe practice with the kid before you send the box off with them to make sure they can do it.

I figured this out while I was playing with it for the photos... the layers stack into each other!  A nice space saving design for those with limited cupboard space.

A nice feature these boxes have it that the lids are microwavable.  You'll want to crack them open a little bit, but they can be left on!  I don't think I have a single other box like that.  And I have a lot of boxes.

The bottle has a top that pulls off, and then a cap that screws off.  I think it's perfect for freezing water in for those who don't have access to a refrigerator.  It holds 300ml.  I'm hesitant to put anything other than water in it.  The screw cap has a foam insert that I think would stain or hold flavors.

The bag is made out of canvas.  It feels pretty heavy duty for a lunch bag.  Which I like.  It's an insulated bag, although the insulation big only goes up as high as the top of the box, which makes me wonder how well it works.  I have a fridge at work, so haven't had a need to try it out.

The bag has a strap sewn in.  It wraps around the bag and then velcros on the bottom.  It was designed to fit perfectly around the bag with the box and the waterbottle inside.  I wish there were more velcro strip on the strap though... I don't see myself always wanting to use the water bottle, which means that the strap will be loose on those days.  ...On the other hand, with the strap loose, the bag kind of has a handle.  That's my silver lining.

The box itself fits rather snugly in the bag.  Not a problem for a person with such fine motor skills as mine, but possibly an issue for a child.  Just another thing to practice with this set before you send them off with it.

This is what the set looks like all bundled up.  It's very compact.  Stylish even.  Not likely to get confused with a coworker's sandwich.

Long story short.  I'm glad I bought this box.  And the other one.

I paid around $9 a piece with a coupon code.  Which is expired now.  But Lock&Lock always has some awesome sale going on.  This week the boxes are 30% off, which puts them around $12.


This is the lunch in the other one:

Shrimp alfredo with broccoli.  I sprinkled it with diced squash blossoms.  My squash plant has been blossoming like crazy, but only male flowers.  So I'm eating them.  The other is cabbage tossed with salt, rice vinegar, and a little bit of sugar with a cup of sweet pickled mini peppers nestled on top.  I told you you'd see those eventually.  The other half has plum slices, apricot slices and two roasted figs.

I got the figs in my basket last week.  They didn't have much flavor just eaten fresh, so I googled a bunch or recipes and then put my own together.


Roasted Figs.

*De-stem and slice figs in half.
*Drizzle with honey.
*Sprinkle with rosemary and fresh cracked black pepper to taste.  I use a lot of pepper.
*Sprinkle with a little bit of salt.
*Stick into a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or so.
*Eat them up!


This is Poe.  She's helping.  The teeth marks by the sticker are hers...


*This is NOT a compensated post.  I like Lock&Lock all by myself.  I don't even have an affiliate link... maybe I should work on that...*

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bentos #83, #84, #85...

I had a nice weekend.  It didn't start until Sunday morning.  But it was nice.

I spend Sunday morning at a friend's house working on my poor little motorcycle.  It's an '82 Honda Magna v45 that I paid $50 for about three years ago.  Last summer I got a bad tank of gas.  A horrid tank of gas.  It coated the inside of the tank, all the fuel lines, the carbs, and the intakes of the engine with an awful caramel colored goo.  I'm finally getting it cleaned out.  And I should have it running next weekend.  I hope.  It's to the point where my throttle hand twitches whenever I see a motorcycle...

At some point mid-afternoon, my friend had to go do family things, as one does on Sundays.  I decided to go running.  And it was a glorious overcast afternoon.  I moved up to week 7 of the C25K, which is a 20 minute run.  I thought I was going to die going into it, but I could have gone longer!  I didn't.  Because building up to longer runs is part of the program.  And I didn't want to screw up, hurt myself, and have to start over.


I packed this one in a hurry.  Which is the reason that the fruit is not cut up into cute, easy to eat bits.  I made fried rice with corn, peas, and canadian bacon.  I was going to put in an egg until I realized what time it was... I cut the flowers out of the bacon first and then diced up the other bits.  I didn't even take a picture of this one before I lidded it up.  That's my desk at work in the background of the picture...

This one was my breakfast this morning.  I went running.  Like I do.  But before I left the house I realized that I had no water.  I decided to take something to eat after my run in order to give the crews out in the street extra time to fix my water before I came home and wanted to take a shower.  I've got string cheese, black pepper beef, grapes, half an apricot, half a plum, and a baggie of roasted green peas.

They got the water working before I came home.  Thank goodness.

This one was another meal from Saturday.  And also a meal on Monday.  I packed two identical lunches.  The top has pasta with red chard, tomatoes, and mozzarella artichoke chicken sausage tossed with Philly savory garlic cooking creme.  The bottom has my last nectarine, strawberries, and some cabbage.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bento #83... Rehearsals!

So... Rehearsals!

I'm sitting here in my theatre watching the first stage combat rehearsal for Alexander Dumas' "The Three Musketeers" (adapted by Ken Ludwig).  It's rather amusing.  Bunch of actors slowly swinging at each other with wooden dowels because we don't trust them with swords yet...

I'm actually really excited for this production.  The script is a little bit... cheesy (sorry, Ken).  But we have a great director, an amazing cast, and... you know... me.  I'm stage managing.  And I'm feeling rather accomplished right now because I just finished a very detailed schedule for the first month of rehearsals.  Which was a complicated task for this show.  I promise... I'm amazing.

We're having a Stage Combat Boot Camp for the first week.  Which is great for me because all I have to do is show up to let the cast and the fight choreographer in.  I'll probably start using the time for paperwork and other boring things starting tomorrow... but for now?  I want to see them beat each other.


I brought this for my dinner today... And I intended to eat it before rehearsal started, but who has time for that?  With cutting dowels to the appropriate length and discussing schedules with people... I ate it during rehearsal...

Look!  I kind of made it cute!  Two days in a row!

I like brown rice.  I like the taste.  I like the texture.  The color leaves a little bit to be desired in a bento box... but there it is.  The flowers are made out of canadian bacon and slices of kidney bean.  The grass is little shreds of summer snap peas.  I've got a cup of spiced kidney beans (recipe below), surrounded by broccoli.  And there are ham scraps underneath that.

My excuse for a butterfly is made of nectarine slices and strawberry bits.  There are more strawberries beside that.  Then there are snap peas and tomatoes.  With a little ladybug tomato slice.  Which I'm probably a little bit too proud of.  Because I thought of that all by myself.  If I had more time and a decent pair of kitchen scissors, I would have done the spots from nori.  But I ended using Wilton food markers.  I imagine they work better on ... not tomatoes.


Edit... because I forgot the recipe... *sheepish*

Spiced Kidney Beans

1 can kidney beans
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 tsp spicy mustard
2 Tbs sugar or honey
1/4 tsp powdered garlic
1/4 tsp powdered ginger
Black pepper to taste (I add a lot...)

Rinse the kidney beans.  In a small frying pan, mix all the other ingredients.  Add beans.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly.  They are done when the sauce is thickened and sticky.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bento #80... and jogging

Wait... Bento #80?  Didn't we just to #82? ... Yeah... I may have skipped a number...


I've been really good with my jogging for the past couple of months.  I've worked up to the Couch to 5k week 6.  Which I've realized varies between a couple of programs.  My current run is a 5 minute walk, 8 minute run, 5 minute walk, 8 minute run, 5 minute walk.  I've been doing some weeks over, or for an extra day or two, which is why I'm only at 6.

It doesn't sound like much.  8 minutes at a time.  But.  Taking into account that the last time I ran for more than about 30 seconds was when I was in junior high (more than 10 years ago), and when I did it, I ended up in the hospital for a week with asthma and bronchitis... this is a major thing for me!  I think the coolest thing for me is also one of the dumbest...  I had a redbox movie and about two minutes to return it.  The 7-11 is just around the  block, so I just took off running.  And I made it!  And I wasn't winded at all!  Little victories people.  Little victories.

I do intend to run a 5k at some point.  This fall most likely.  I'm actually looking forward to it.



Everything except the salmon came from a Bountiful Basket...

I've got pan-fried salmon with broccoli and miso-roasted butternut squash.  The other layer has grape tomatoes, salted cabbage, strawberries, and nectarine slices.

I actually made two of these... but this was the cuter of the two.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Giveaway winner announced!

Why hello!

First off, I'm a slacker.  May was crazy.  That was my excuse for not making healthy lunches for myself.  This week?  I didn't make time and I ate out EVERY SINGLE DAY.  I haven't done that in a long time.  And I'm feeling unhealthy and strapped for cash.  That'll show me.

And then.  Because self control, motivation, and other things have been lacking for the past week... and because Lock'n'Lock has a discount code out for 45% off your entire purchase... I may have bought five new boxes.  Yeah.  I'll tell you about them when they come in...

So.  Expect more lunches. Healthy, colorful, guilt-ridden lunches.

And now, the winner of the giveaway!  I put all the entries on little slips of paper and handed the pile over to my four year old nephew.  He picked...


She said,

Just started following after finding you on WFLW. 

Why I bento? 

It's a little something I do for me! 37 years old and I bento for myself! I just started in January and really enjoy it! I blogged about it and my friends at work even come by and see what's in my lunch each day! I love it! I am also trying to lose weight and I find that bento-ing helps with portion control. Works out well for me! I just need to work on my creativity side for design food. That's my favorite part about other peoples blogs. LOVE to see all the creativity...and new recipes!!

Congrats!  Please email me at scrumptiousbento @ gmail . com (without spaces....) with your address!