Back to bento

The first few weeks of school have been crazy busy.  Many days I haven’t taken the time to put together a lunch in the morning, and have just bought something at the library deli.  It’s kind of silly; I like my food with so few ingredients that the sandwich artist gets confused, “Really? No cheese? No sauce?”  Yeah, I have to admit, it makes a lot more sense for me to just make my lunch at home than to stand in line for that.  Even their salads tend to have a gallon of dressing and something gross that I forget to tell them I don’t want.

So, back to bento!  I stopped for groceries on the way home from work and bought ingredients for dinner that would make good bento leftovers, and a salad that I would actually like.

Top tier: cheddar pasta with peas and sausage (ground pork spiced with sage and thyme from the garden)

Bottom tier: salad made with romaine lettuce, kiwi, starfruit, carrots, cucumber, pink lady apple, raspberries and grape tomatoes.

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September 8, 2012

Tonight’s game night had a new guest — a kitten!

This little one was found in a loading dock at Lexmark.  She (or he?) is around 3 weeks old and needs to be fed every few hours.  After wobbling around on the carpet for a while, she fell asleep next to Jack, and spent the rest of the evening snoozing by a heating pad.  Adorable.  (Look at that paw!)

Bonus kitten picture:

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Pretty bento!

Happy Sunday!  No real plans for the day, so I did some food shopping and cooking.  For dinner, I made cottage pie (like shepherd’s pie, but with beef instead of lamb) because mashed potatoes sounded awesome:

I also worked on my presentation a bit, chopping up and layering some fruit.  I’m calling this construction “fruit-a-touille” because it’s very similar to a layered ratatouille I make (similar to the one in the film).  This one has strawberries and bananas; I wanted to layer some kiwi slices in there too, but the kiwis I got aren’t ripe yet.

I got fresh bananas today with the hope that they’d last through the day in the bento, so made banana bread out of the softer ones I already had.  Also, I’m having bad luck keeping strawberries around (they seem to mold pretty instantly) so after chopping up a few, I cooked down the rest into a compote, which seems to last much longer.  Also, it’s delicious on banana bread.

Top tier: cottage pie

Bottom tier: strawberry and banana fruit-a-touille, carrots, mixed nuts, banana bread with strawberry compote

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Cooking for bento

My lunch planning is now starting much earlier in the day, sometimes early enough that I plan dinner with its bento leftovers in mind.  One evening last week I even did this when we ate at a restaurant — I underestimated the portion sizes and ordered far too much food, so prioritized what to eat and what to take home based on what would fit well into the next day’s bento.

Last night I cooked dinner, though.  Crazy pepper!

I also experimented a bit with chopping up the fruits to see how they’d last through the day.  Both bananas and apples seemed to do fine, so maybe next time I’ll try something prettier with them.

Top tier: turkey pasta sauce and shells

Bottom tier: sliced apples and bananas, carrots and mixed nuts


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August 17, 2012

Wir machen Hydrokultur. Wasser ist wichtig. Und feucht.

Our package arrived from Germany today.  It’s actually a board game (one of this year’s Spiel des Jahres nominees!) but it was packed in a most excellent box.

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Bento accessories

When I was shopping for bento boxes, I also ordered a few accessories for making food cute: vegetable cutters and shaped rice ball molds.  (No nori punch yet, but I thought about it.)  As soon as they arrived, I was anxious to try both.

I pulled a crookneck squash from the garden for the soup, and it was so bumpy that the slices already looked like little flowers.  No more cuteness needed.

Riceballs it is then!  That upper right one is a teddy bear face.  Might need the nori punch after all.

Because my rice cooker doesn’t do as well making a smaller amount of rice, the next day we had three cups of day-old rice left over.  Fried rice time!

Plenty there for dinner, and the next day’s bentos.  Before serving dinner, I packed part of what I’d cooked into the bentos, which left less to prepare the next morning.

Top tier: raspberry pork chops with fried rice

Bottom tier: mixed fruit, carrots and nuts

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Beginning Bento

Recently I have been intrigued by the idea of making my own bento lunches. I have a bento cookbook, and I’ve been perusing bento blogs and web sites. I am so charmed by people’s healthy and adorable lunches — I bet I could make them too!  I probably won’t be able to make anything like these adorable bunnies just yet, but I’m giving it a go.

So I bought my first bento box, complete with adorable owls:

I also got one with playful bunnies on it to pack Jack’s lunch in.  It came with an elastic band to hold the lid on, and it did that quite well while it was over the very center of the oval.  Sliding it off to the side made it FLY across the room and we haven’t found it yet.  I expect it’s behind a bookshelf.  I sense some scrunchie-like crafts in my near future.

One of the most striking things about the box is that it’s pretty small!  Probably around 5 x 4 x 3 inches, and it has two tiers inside.  The reviews claim that with some clever packing, you can fit a regular-sized American lunch in there, so I pressed on.  I also got some little silicone muffin cups as dividers. I filled them with the sorts of snacks I usually put in my lunch, though fewer of them fit than I usually pack:

Maybe the secret is to fill all of the space, without all that air between pieces of food? I chopped the carrots into pennies to try to condense them:

Nope, same number of carrots fit.  Actually slightly fewer, as one of the carrots pieces rolled away while I was chopping.  Onward!  Will a sandwich fit in here?

Doesn’t look like it.  Maybe if I cut it up?

Well, it does fit in there, and there is still some extra space! Maybe I could
move the grapes down from the top tier.

OMG. Fish head. At this point, I started crying I was laughing so hard. It just kept staring at me.  Maybe not the grapes just there. I also like pickles with my sandwich so I thought maybe they’d work better on that tier.  I tried very hard to arrange them randomly where there was space and make no recognizable design. Jack can still detect some hint of zombie/lizard man:

Too bad.  That’s what I’m bringing for my lunch tomorrow.  I’ll see what I can come up with for his in the morning.


The morning made me revisit the problem of the missing elastic band.  The lids don’t really snap on in any way; they are held in place by gravity.  Not ideal for traveling in a backpack!  I grabbed some fat quarters from my sewing stuff and made little furoshikis:

I wrapped everything up before remembering to check if my sandwich got soaked with pickle juice overnight in the fridge, but that will be a discovery for lunchtime.

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February 28, 2012

We often read books together before bed, and until now we’ve mostly read fiction (we’ve probably done some math too at some point).  Today we started on some non-fiction too, so we can have a better idea of what’s going on in the garden.

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February 27, 2012

Kara and Shaggy have a nice parsley snack in their new digs.

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February 26, 2012

Today we walked in a field near the house.  These bushes gave me a very real idea of what an entangling roots spell must be like.  A thorn snagged my coat, so I turned around to see what got me, and got even further entangled.  After repeating that a few times, I had to take the coat off before I could even see where to start untangling.

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