Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Tuesday Bento

By the way - I'm sure I'll get over my obsession eventually.  Even if I keep taking photos, I'll likely end up with a weekly bento post instead of daily, and maybe only those that look particularly interesting.  So if you're getting bored, just hold up for a week or so more and then I'll stop bombarding you the way I am at the moment.

A bit of a change!  Here's Tuesday's bento box:-

(From the top: Cottage cheese with spring onions, raw snow peas, steamed brocolli, pepper confit, marinated cauliflower (a Moosewood recipe).  Hidden beneath the cauliflower is a brocolli and cauliflower stem kinpira.)
 No carbs at all - I kind of forgot to plan any.  Also no fruit, and I did miss my daily grapes!  Other notes from today - the kinpira is delicious, but got hidden under the cauliflower and thus a lot of it is still uneaten because I'd filled up on the rest of it.  And I have to say that I thought more about individual recipes than about flavours that go well together.  Think I need to spend more time on my planning!

New week - new bento box

I mentioned last week that my purple box, much as I loved the colour and shape, was too big.  If I filled it properly I had more food than I could eat, and if I didn't fill it up the food moved around annoyingly.  Especially the grapes.

So I got a new, smaller box.  It's 500ml, and it also fits far better in my lunch sack than the previous one did.  So there's two points of yayness.

What I put in it was a little less original - the last of the quinoa/ham/peas from last week, plus some Moroccan quinoa salad that was made for Sunday dinner.  (Quinoa is both carbohydrate and protein, or I wouldn't have put so much in.)  Fresh raw snowpeas (they make great walls!), chargrilled zuchinni (not a success - it was mushy and rather awful), two cherry tomatoes, and then a mix of grapes, raspberries and blueberries.

For the record: the zuchinni and cherry tomatoes were from our own garden, while the snow peas, raspberries and blueberries were from the Farmers' Market.  We also got grapes from the market this week, but the ones I had for lunch were last week's, which were from the supermarket.

Monday, 18 February 2013

End of the first week of Bento

A confession:
My Friday Bento didn't look exactly like this. 
But mostly like this.
This is not (quite) my bento from Friday.

It almost was, but the cheese (the diamond shapes, cut from a Milawa red cheddar) smelled a bit squiffy, so I decided not to risk it, and replaced the cheese with red onion instead.  It's still a very green bento, mostly because I ran out of carrot kinpira on Thursday and the pepper and onion confit on Wednesday.

Again, no cooking in the morning, just assembling.

I have plans for next week's boxes.  Nothing set in stone, yet (other than marinated cauliflower - definitely doing that), plus trying to get the amounts a little better and to definitely cut the celery shorter if I do another celery kinpira.

Bento #3

I hope I'm not boring you with the endless bento posts.  It's just that I'm all enthused right now and the pictures look pretty - right?

Anyway, third day of bento.  The night before's dinner included mini Angus patties, so I got M to cook two extra for me to take to work the next day.  Everything else had been pre-prepared, and there was no cooking to do in the morning.  Other than that, pretty much the same as previous days:

Bento day 3: Mini Angus patties, quinoa with peas and ham, carrot kinpira, celery kinpira,
sesame beans for decoration, plus grapes.
Didn't fill the container (because that would have been too much food) so there was a lot of shifting in transit etc, and it didn't look nearly as pretty by the time I went to eat it.  But it still tasted good.  Although I could have used a sauce of some kind for the patties.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Bento #2 - lunch for two

Tuesday evening and it was time to get thinking bento again.  M was scheduled to work the next day so I knew I was going to be doing lunch for her as well as for me.  My plan (based on what was in the fridge and needed to be used up) was for a mixture of tuna and feta for the protein portion of the meal.  Thankfully I ran this past M, who pointed out that tuna in a staffroom of people she didn't know was probably a bad idea.

So, I hit the JustBento.com website and searched for something I could cook with what we had in the house, that would be a sufficient source of protein.  And what I found was quinoa with green peas and dried sausage.  I subsituted frozen peas for fresh (because that's what we had) and ham for the dried sausage (ditto).  And I note that the recipe made far too much and I'll be eating it for a week.)

I cooked the quinoa up on Tuesday night, so Wednesday morning all I had to do was assemble the two boxes.

An odd-looking photo of day two's two bento boxes.
I have a smaller appetite than M.
The menu was the quinoa (decorated with snow peas), sweet pepper and onion confit, sesame green beans, raw snow peas as the divider, and grapes.  (We have some really, really good grapes at the moment!)  Putting together both boxes, including washing up afterwards, took no more than fifteen minutes, and was probably closer to ten.  (Cooking the quinoa the night before was 40 minutes at most, start to finish, mise en place to all dishes washed.)

Neither box is full to the brim, which does mean there's room for shifting in transit (which is not optimal).  M's box is 900ml, but I probably only filled about 700ml.  My box is 650ml (filled to 450/500), and I probably really could do with a smaller one.  I will probably look around for a smaller one with a decent seal in the future.

M's verdict was "awesome!" and apparently some of her friends who saw her photo on Facebook were similarly impressed.  I'll certainly keep going with this bento plan for the rest of the week and into next...

Bento #1 - the verdict

Tuesday I got to eat my first Bento lunch (having forgotten to bring it Monday -  see my previous posts for why *that* was ironic.)  My conclusions:

* Yum!
* My box is actually a little big.  I was on desk shift until 1.30, so I didn't get to eat lunch until lateish.  So I was reasonably hungry.  Even so, I couldn't finish all the rice. I thought about changing to a smaller box for the future (I think this one is 650ml).  However, it is also the box I own with the best seal on it.  So for the moment I'm thinking about not packing my box to the top. 

* The celery kinpira could use being chopped a little finer and shorter.
* Grapes.  Yum!

And once more: the photo -
Bento box #1: brown rice, sesame/soy green beans on top of celery kinpira, salmon cubes, carrot kinpira, sweet pepper and onion confit, and fresh grapes
Bento box #1: brown rice, sesame/soy green beans on top of celery kinpira,
salmon cubes, carrot kinpira, sweet pepper and onion confit, and fresh grapes

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Adventures in bento - the first morning

Previously on Adventures in Bento - I discovered a website and cooked lots of vegetables.

Sunday night after cleaning up from my pre-cooking, I set out what I would need in order to prepare my first bento box on Monday morning.  This being the internet age (or is that the Instagram age?  Not that I actually use that app,) I took a photo for this 'ere blog.
Ah, tupperware rice cooker, I hardly knew you.
Brown rice, the rice cooker and my new box-for-bento with a lovely seal.
So, Monday morning, I got home after a morning walk (M and I are both trying to be healthier, exercise more and eat better, which is part of the impetus towards bento lunches, by the way).  I made my morning coffee and I put the brown rice into the tupperware microwave rice cooker to cook. 

At this point I need to make something clear: I know how to cook rice!  I have been cooking rice since I was... eight years old, I think.  I know brown rice is more complicated to cook than white rice, but see above re being healthier.  And it's not like this was my first time cooking brown rice, either.  Nor was it my first time using the tupperware microwave rice cooker.  We've had that gadget for a good two and a half years and used it countless times.  And tupperware is supposed to have a lifetime guarantee.

I clearly got the proportions wrong somehow.  Because as the clock counted down the minutes, the smell of the rice in the microwave began to seem - rather more than just cooked.  And when I checked it... well, disaster.  The rice was burned black.  The tupperware had melted and was sticking to the microwave plate.  The smell in the room was absolutely dreadful.

Handy hint: if you ever accidentally melt tupperware in the microwave, it comes off surprisingly quickly if you get it into a sinkful of hot water fairly soon after it's cooled down enough to get it out of there.

After that I cooked a second lot of brown rice, on the stove, while I scrubbed out the microwave.

And then I put together my very first bento.

So: brown rice, green beans in sesame layered on top of celery kinpara, sweet pepper and onion confit and carrot kinpara in the bottom right hand corner.  Maple baked salmon (put aside from dinner), and grapes.  (Photo could be lit better.)

I had it packed and ready to go.

And then, after two lots of rice, a ruined rice-cooker, singed fingers, and a newly clean microwave... I forgot my lunch at home.  Argh!!!

(Thankfully, M was home and could put it in the fridge to save it for Tuesday.  But really, world?)

Coming soon: Bento - the verdict.

Adventures in bento lunches

(Likely to be a new series/type of posts.  By H.)

On Friday I discovered JustBento.com and Maki's Bento 101 course, which was fortunately just starting.  I also read through a substantial portion of Maki's site and absolutely loved what I found there.

By Sunday evening I was thoroughly inspired, and I cooked up four lots of vegetables to use in my bento boxes for the week.  I made:
sweet pepper and onion confit
- carrot kinpira
- celery kinpira (scroll down to the third of the three recipes), and
- green beans in soy and sesame, a combination of a recipe my mother used to make and the carrot kinpira.

From left: carrot kinpira; pepper and onion confit; green beans; celery kinpira.
Note for those who know me well: those oranges are M's.  Not mine.  Ever.

From the way M was squeeing at the scents coming from the kitchen (and the way the carrot kinpira was disappearing) I think I'll be making bentos for M, soon, too.

Further adventures in bento...

An update

Yes, I know - there have been no posts since New Year's Day.

One definite element of that is the current state of the garden.  Which is not great.  And since we had such fun posting photos of our lush, green garden for you to see, I feel bad now that the garden is no longer lush or green.

We've been having some very hot weather - starting back in December, right around the time of M's graduation and a visit from her parents.  A time when we were very busy, and watering the garden wasn't exactly at the top of our to-do list.  Oops.

Minty and Coloniser (with random flower
in foreground) in happier (and younger) days.
While that one is our fault, the state of the garden since is mostly not.  The weather has been unpredictable, and far hotter than recent years.  Plants that have sailed through previous summers are visibly burned this year, just from the sun and the heat.  Remus Lupin may not have made it through (although Teddy is still struggling along, surrounded by the Coloniser.  For all that we laugh about the Coloniser, it seems to have provided Teddy with sufficient cover from the heat that he will survive where the far stronger Remus is struggling.)

Our zuchinni plants are producing at a great rate - possibly too great a rate - and there are lots of cherry tomatoes around the place.  Other than that, though, it's a very non-productive garden right now.

My plan is to wait until mid-late March (either Labour Day or Easter weekends, depending on the weather) to cover pretty much the whole garden with compost from our bin, then newspaper and zuchinni leaves (a hint from the One Magic Square book), water it well for three weeks, and then start on the winter planting, hopefully with some vaugely recovered and partly healthy soil involved.  I think it's going to be a complete restart on everything from Minty and Coloniser onwards - if Minty makes it through summer.