Thursday, November 29, 2007

March comes early

Yeah, I could have saved this bento for March and St. Paddies day, but corned beef is good any day of the year. I've been on a kick to try to make it easier in the kitchen to churn out 10 meals in a night. Whereas preparation is definitely key and important, I'll say that the crockpot is the hardware lynch pin in making that happen. Anyhow, It's getting cold and I needed some hearty food to warm up my eaters. I'll confess the menu this time was a bit difficult to come up with. Irish food tends to be on the starchy side so trying to stay with the low glycemic was difficult, but I think I found some good alternatives to being somewhat low carb and glycemic index friendly.

First up, we have the corned beef, this is one of those no brainer dishes. I love cooking up a corned beef brisket in the cooker it gives me something to munch on through the week so it was an easy choice to deliver as bento. I usually punch it up a bit by stewing it beer, but I didn't know how that would go with the sauerkraut being cooked with it, so I settled with beef broth.


To give me the nice 2 for 1 cooking I put in some sauerkraut with the corned beef. I was a bit hesitant but to my surprise, by cooking the sauerkraut with the corned beef, it cut the sourness of the kraut and infused the beef with a bit of tang I don't normally get.


This is where it got hard, I had to find something to pair with the corned beef. Quick searches for irish / corned beef menus turned up a lot of roasted veggies, really hearty potato stews or other potato sides. I branched out a bit and did a search for stews that I could use. I ended up with this great red bean and barley stew. It was a nice blend of texture and taste that was reminiscent of a typical red beans and rice. You got that heartiness without the fat and wasted carbs you normally would get.

I get a lot of inspiration from the web. One of the food blogs I frequent had a feature on Cauliflower Cream. Yes, I know it looks like mashed potatoes, and it can fool lots of people. This particular side turned out to be the big hit of the box. I ended up taking this to a family potluck with the wife, it was initially met with some skepticism but ended up being cleaned out after folks tasted it. It's a perfect alternative to the starch laden mashed potato and visually looked the part to fit in my Corned beef bento.

Anyhow, great easy to make bento this time, I need to repeat this if I'm to continue in the new year. I know many bento blogs are about how to quickly manufacture lunch that's tasty and good looking. I guess my own adventures have branched out more towards food experiments and testing my photography skills, I need to take more notes from my fellow bloggers to make my life more sane. Ok that's it for now, thanks for tuning in.

Box Contents
  • Corned Beef brisket
  • Red Bean and barley stew
  • Sauerkraut
  • Cauliflower Cream

Monday, November 26, 2007

Brunch anyone?

Sorry for the sparce post folks, the holiday season's been hard on me, and I'm trying to space myself out for the holiday as I already committed to take it easy and resume bentos after the new year. Fear not this doesn't mean I'm not posting! Without further delay here we have the Fritta Bento! The idea of cooking up a brunch had been nagging at me some time. It wasn't until I found a blog entry somewhere on pumpkin blintzes that I had to jump on it.

We start with a simple frittata. Unfortunately it deflated on me as I packed it. Some things are just meant to be served fresh I suppose. Or the great chefs just have better technique. Very simple dish, I just put in some left over veggies that I had from another dish to whip this together.



I made a gazpacho for a side "soup" , I think I made it a bit too strong on the onion side. I meant for it to be more light and refreshing since I have been sending out some heavy bentos lately. Anyhow, definite graded a B on this one. I need to work on some taste technique and some better judgment when I read a recipe.


Again sticking with the them of light, I put together some sauteed green beans, a easy and healthy side dish that brought some nice color to my bento "composition" if you will. I'm finding it more and more important to be "concise" with my bentos meaning the easier I can make a dish the better on me as it saves me time. This fit the mold perfectly, a quick blanch, and a quick saute and we have a dish.


Last but not least the inspiration for the bento. Honestly I'm not a desert fiend, but I find myself composing menus based off desert. Although, a bit labor intensive, I think in the end worth it. Crepes I've done, but putting together a blintz especially as a side desert turns out to be pretty labor intensive. Reports from the field say it was very yummy. I think the "slight" sweetness of pumpkin really dropped the sugar and fat content of a normal blintz and was a wonderful change for a seasonal dish. I think in the great arsenal of bentos recipes this has to be a special occasion recipe. I can't pre-prep, I can't freeze it for re-use and it's labor intensive.

Anyhow, I hope anyone that is actually watching enjoys the post. I promise more posts later.

Box contents:
  • Garden Fritatta
  • Gazpacho
  • Green bean sauted with lemon butter
  • Pumpkin Blintz

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy T-Day!

Happy Thanksgiving! It's turkey day I hope all of you are having as great a dinner as I am having. I diverted my bentoing into working on a family thanksgiving potluck. I re-used some bento recipes actually, I served the quinoa and the cauliflower cream. Big hits both, the surprise hit was the cauliflower I expected a flat result, but everyone loved it. I'm glad to help expand some culinary horizons. Anyhow, promise I will post a bento here in the next two days, I've held out on your guys so it's time to put up some goodies.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tools of the Trade pt 2: The "Box" in eatinginabox

As promised, I'm doing an entry on the hardware that goes into the bento production. When we first began, I decided I wanted folks to be on a standard box that I could punch out bentos factory style. I stumbled upon this wonderful company that produced the perfect solution. You can find them here (no I don't work for them but they do deserve a plug). They have various color schemes (you're looking at primary color scheme above).

It all starts with the outer box. Simple but effective, the lid snaps into a slot at the front. The only complaint I have is that over time the lid warps a little and that is likely from the dishwasher (too many boxes to try to do them by hand). It's a real smart design, pre-grooved sections inside allow for the inner boxes to be nestled securely, and there's even a place for the fork and spoon.


Here we have the innards of the box (there's more than this) they have various sized boxes some with lids that you can apply towards various food items, soups, sauces, entrees, sides. It's perfect in that it allows you to put together lots of different foods without them "polluting" one another by having sauces mix. They're nice and sturdy and microwaveable, a big plus. This feature allows you to have a lunch that has both hot and cold items since components can be reheated without reheating the whole lunch box.

So the cool thing about boxes that are removable is when you make use of space *because* you don't have a box. You'll see lots of my blog entries where I've left out boxes in order to make room for larger items. You can get creative on how to separate things, like using japanese fake grass or the silicone muffin tin (shown in the picture). Once, I left out the utensils and put some asparagus in the utensil slot.

Last but not least we have the utensils, pretty basic stuff fork and spoon. On my trip to Taiwan, I bought my bento eaters a set of collapsible chopsticks as a souvenir, so on the days they feel like being in the Asian theme they can bust out the chopsticks.

Anyhow, hope you enjoyed this entry on the hardware side of things. I'll be spacing out the last of my bento entries for the year so there will be more of those. Just not quite as frequent.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

artistic renderings of lunch

I'm trying to do more posts on the background on all the things that have to happen in order for me to plan and push out a final bento box. Besides, I'm hitting the holiday season and the bentos will be going into sabbatical until the new year. (only two more left to make) So expect more yammering posts and more tools posts.

For each bento I carefully try to think about the composition of color, shape and size so I can get it to look good for their photo debut and be appetizing to my eaters. I'm not a fancy artist so it looks like a 4 year old drew it but it's useful to draw a rough sketch on how I'll plate the bentos and see which can be done early, which need to be wrapped. I usually label colors on each food so I can re-compose the dishes if I have too many similar colors together. Call it a bit OCD, but I'm a planner I can't help it. :)

The above are the frittata bento, and the irish bento that I have yet to post. Come back and see how sketch gets translated into real life.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Welcome Obentec folks

The folks over at laptoplunches are the fine sellers of the "lunch boxes" that I've been using. They've had a call for photos and I sent them a link to the blog, hopefully they'll use one of my bentos. Welcome to the folks that visit from there, we love your product! I'm actually going to post a detail "tools of the trade" entry specifically on the box sometime soon.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Quinoa what? New food experiment!

Sorry a dull looking lunch, I promise it was remarked as tasty. I was going for a higher healthy factor this time. My friend explaining the health benefits of Quinoa, I of course had to go and do some research on this grain and promptly incorporate it into a bento. I ran out of room on this box I took over the utensils slot and put in the asparagus. Now that I'm looking at it composition wise I think There's a little too much brown and orange.

Tried to save some time and effort with this box. I bought a pre-roasted chicken from the store and defrosted some pesto from a previous box and put together some fresh mozzarella and tomato into a sandwich, the bread is a low cal low carb bread. Note to self to make 5 sandwiches you don't need a whole chicken. Half a chicken would do fine.



Next came the Quinoa, I pulled a recipe for a shitake quinoa pilaf. I had some fears on using such an unknown ingredient but the recipe turned out quite nicely, I had to increase the liquid it called for by quite a bit, and I used Chicken stock that I had sitting in the freezer to amp up the flavors. This turned out to be a big hit with the crowd. I decided I need to start using my bento tools, so I cut some of the carrots for garnish.

Had to have some green in the box so I pulled in some Proscuitto and wrapped up some Asparagus dusted it off with some lemon zest and lemon juice. Finishing the sides I put in some crackers just as a space filler since the asparagus wouldn't fit in the space.




For desert I wanted something sweet but healthy. Fruit of course is a good filler for such things I decided to add a kick to make it less plain and topped it with a ginger honey sauce with orange and lemon zest.





box contents
  • Roasted Chicken Mozzarella sandwich with pesto
  • Shitake Quinoa pilaf
  • Proscuitto wrapped asparagus
  • Crackers
  • Cantaloupe with ginger honey sauce

Monday, November 5, 2007

Omega3 goodness

Some of the more recent bento savings have allowed me to splurge a bit and go for a menu that's a little nicer. So today I present a Miso Glazed Salmon Bento, I also splashed in some sides and dessert that are on the lighter healthier side of things.
We start with the Miso Glazed Salmon a yummy, a healthy 6 oz portion. It's actually quite an easy dish to produce, it took longer to put the glaze together than to actually broil the fish. I decided to garnish with the hearts of the Baby bok choi I used for the sides.

For the "main" side, I put together a nice soba noodle salad. It's chock full of fresh veggies (carrots, bell pepper and broccoli). The flavor should have developed quite nicely over night as the vegetables pickup the flavor of the dressing.


I put together some extra shitakes from one of the dishes tomorrow and sauteed up some baby bok choi. I had intended to top it with a touch of soy paste for some sweetness but had just plain forgotten because of the hustle bustle of putting lunches together. I just quickly improvised this side so I had nothing written to remind me.


As usual I cheated a bit on desert. I bought some prepackaged japanese cakes stuffed with red bean paste. I like these options for dessert as they tend to save me some time, one of my chief obstacles in creating these bentos is that I'm pretty wiped out by the end of the evening.


Box contents:
  • Miso Glazed Salmon
  • Cold Soba salad
  • Sauteed Baby Bok Choi with Shitake mushrooms
  • Japanese cakes stuffed with red bean paste

Friday, November 2, 2007

DIY falafel kit

Went with another create your own sandwich box. I got the idea from another blog in my many research travels for this one way long ago when I first kicked the idea of building bentos for folks (Sorry, whoever it was I'd love to give you credit.) Very basic box where all of the compoents could really be used in the two pita shells I provided.

Start with the Pita shells and toss in a bit of the hummus maybe even a few carrot sticks. Use the Tzaziki later to drizzel on top.







Then put in the lettuce and falafel paddies. I used the Rice molds from my japanese box to mold the paddies (hard to see in the picture) I had stars, hearts and a teddy bear face. It came out ok, I think the star was most recognizable the paddies tended to lose their shape in the frying process.



Lastly we have a buttery herb couscous, I suppose the adventurous could even add that.


Box Contents
  • Falafel with lettuce
  • Buttery Herb Couscous
  • Tzaziki
  • Hummus with carrot sticks