Sunday, August 28, 2011

Clean the Fridge Salad

Thursdays were, until this week, a little challenging. I worked from 11am to 3 pm. Now 10:30 is too early for lunch, and by 3 I'm ravenous!

This week my schedule changes and I get out by 1:30 so it's not an issue anymore, but all summer I had to make it work. This last week, I decided to just make a "clean the fridge" salad and to put it in one of my stainless steel boxes.

I do that often, but generally it doesn't look as good as it tastes, so I don't bother posting about it. This time I thought the colors were pretty. :o)

Here's my box Thursday August 25th:

Salad: Baby spinach, a chopped carrot, 1/2 cucumber peeled and chopped, mini bell peppers thinly sliced, a little minced red onion, 1/2 cup precooked lentils (from Trader Joes), salt pepper and a little cumin.

In my little heart shaped container I have eggplant hummus (Trader Joes) which I used instead of dressing.

The lunch was very satisfying I must say, and it felt good to be back into my routine of bringing lunch. It was my first real packed lunch since being back from vacation.

So there, sometimes the simplest are the best!!

Happy Bento everybody!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Looks aren't everything, but it sure helps!

Yesterday, I had great leftovers to work with, so I knew my bento was going to be tasty. I didn't have a lot of time to put it together, but I decided to put some effort into making my box look good. Tasty isn't enough!

My dining area has the morning sun coming straight through the windows, ideal light for pictures! Here's the look of it when I first opened it:

Isn't it just inviting? On there you see only the top tier, at the bottom I have the other half of the meal. Here's both tiers together:

Bottom tier:
Grain: It's just a plain bulgur with cumin, salt and pepper.

Curry: This is a curry I made with left over masala sauce (from indian take out, shamefully) that I mixed with a little broth. I chopped carrots, cook them up with shallot, and kale, added a can of lentils, and dumped the curry sauce in. I had it as is for dinner. Before putting it in the bento, I added some of that onion chutney they send along with samosas, it's red and super spicy. It gave it a whole new delicious taste.

Top tier:

Side: I have roasted vegetables (salt, pepper, paprika, coriander, a little cumin) left overs from Monday night. After putting them in, I added minced orange zest for the look of it, but it also did wonder for the taste. Delicious!

Dessert: I have pieces of navel oranges. They are in season and I'm absolutely obsessed! I eat 10 lbs/week. Help! So delicious!

The box I'm using is a "donburi" box, made to have the "yummies" up top and the grains in the bottom tier. that way you can carry the two separately, and mix them up just when it's time to eat. I'm using it differently because I tend to eat less grains, and have several dishes in each bento.

It is a plastic box, but a better quality one, I believe it's microwave safe (though I don't microwave my lunches ever) and would go in the top rack of the dishwasher (I wouldn't for ANY of my bentos, but it would survive). I took a picture of the box in my hand to give you an idea of the size of the thing:

I'm in a phase where I want to have less boxes, but better quality ones. I'm tired of cheap plastic and little monkeys, I want my box to be a little less "cutsy" and more elegant if that make sense. I'm not saying there won't be colored shaped eggs anymore, or flower-shaped carrots, the cutsy curse will never really die ;o) Just not the mood I am in these days.

With that in mind, I have started looking at lacquered wooden boxes. They are very pricey, but so beautiful and durable. Of course the one I'm totally drooling over is way out of my price range, but it's absolutely gorgeous. I keep looking at it and telling myself over and over "you can't pay that much for a lunch box, it's ridiculous!" I might convince myself, riiiiiight!

Here's the box:

It's actually a 2 tiers box, the tiers stack up and there's a lid to top it all. Each part is made of a solid piece of wood, no seams at all.

Beautiful right? I love everything, the craftsmanship, the colors, it's perfect! It's being sold here: Bento & Co

If you find it cheaper anywhere else let me know. I'm in LOVE snif...

So that's it for me today, I don't know if I'll make other bentos this week, but the sun is out, and the camera is ready, who knows? ;o)

Happy Bento everybody!!!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's been over a year!

Knock, knock! Anybody still looking in here?

I have been so busy during the last year that not only bento-making, but even cooking took the back seat.

Since January, I've slowly started getting back into my good old habits of actually cooking food, preparing ahead, and making a bento every once in a while. Most of them were very rudimentary, certainly not worth a picture or a blog post.

A few weeks ago, I had an activity with my members at work about packed lunches (I work for Weight Watchers) and I asked them to bring in lunch to show off. That week I decided to bring in bento boxes to show them how neat it can be. I caught the bug all over again.

How could I have forgotten how fun this is??

I don't prepare a bento every day because I don't always eat lunch at work. Very often I come back home to eat. Most of the time when I do eat lunch out I bring my bentos now though!

Here's a few examples of what I've been putting together since February:

OK, lets start simple.
I put down a bed of lettuce and spinach, in the yellow silicone container, I have some leftover roasted chicken (from Safeway!). In the stainless container, I have bulgur with cumin and raisins.

It was very filling and actually pretty darned good!

In this bento, I have a mix of bulgur, pinto beans and chopped carrots and onions in the insulated tier (top center). I also have chopped celery and red onion topped with chopped cherry tomatoes (left front) and plain chopped carrots (right front).

It was all bright and colorful, as well as filling and tasty! I know it's weird to have plain raw carrots in a bento, but I like the crunchiness. If I have nothing to crunch into, it's not a real lunch!

This is leftovers galore!

On the right, I have spaghetti squash leftover with Spicy Barley Pilaf leftover!

On the left I have roasted chicken leftover... and strawberries!

I was wondering how to two sides would go together since they were leftovers from different meals, but it was just delicious!

This is from the following day, leftovers again! Here I have Peppercorn pork tenderloin with Spicy Barley Pilaf and a spinach - carrots salad.

I'm not yet up to the cutsy curse attack, but I think this bento is esthetically pleasing. I love the contrast between the orange of the carrots and the bright green baby spinach. It ties in well with the little bits of carrots in the barley pilaf.

The peppercorn tenderloin was pre-marinated. It's the easiest thing to put together and the taste is very strong. It could be over-powering, but for a bento it's perfect since a little bit goes a long way.

Ok, this is what you call a desperation bento!

I had about 1/4 cup of cooked red quinoa in the fridge, and a few veggies. I chopped carrots, cucumber and red onion very finely, 1/2 apple chopped even more finely, 1 slice of black forest ham, and mixed it all up with the quinoa. I added salt, pepper and a little bit of lemon juice.

Et voila! It turned out to look very pretty and you know what's even better? It was delicious!

Finally, another fairly simple (and sorta lame if you ask me) bento.

Roasted chicken (I know, again, but it's easy for bentos...) with cup up apple and cucumber (lower tier) and simple bulgur with chopped apple (top tier).

I don't even remember eating this bento. It was rather boring, both in looks and in composition. I shall do better from now on!

So there you have it, the boxes that I bothered take pictures of recently. I am hoping to have more time for pictures from now on since my schedule is slowly getting a little more sane.

Check back with me for more bento adventures!!!!!

Happy Bento everybody!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Slowly getting into the grove.

Hi there,

Following a expansion of my schedule (oh my... understatement!) lunch has become a challenge. My work has me working at lunchtime which means that I have the choice between lunch at 11, which is too early, or at 3, which is too late!

To fix this, and keep me from eating junk on my way home, I've started packing my lunch again. Slowly but surely my trusty bentos are coming out more and more often.

Here's 2 different days of bento packing:

This is last week sometime. I didn't have much leftovers to work with so I just made it up on the spot.

This is my box, I had chicken breast, which I baked for Thanksgiving, sliced packed and froze in 1 serving package to use in lunches. I wasn't sure if sliced chicken would freeze well. It was fine! I wouldn't leave it forever in there, but it tasted just fine!

Which that I have steamed carrots and peas, rather plain couscous, and steamed lentils (TJ!). A simple but very filling lunch!

My husband's lunch was a little different:

He has the same veggies, but less couscous and chicken, so I added 4 felafel's. I bought those at Costco a while ago and froze them. They keep forever.

Honestly I don't like them much, but my husband seems to love them.

Today was a little more leftovers happy! My husband bought precooked chicken yesterday and we sauteed that with carrots and zucchini sticks. With that I steamed vegetables and made couscous with carrots and onions.

That's what I have in my box here:

On the left there is the chicken with the carrot/zucchini sticks. On the right is the couscous. I covered both tiers with the steamed zucchini rounds and the carrots slices that I cut into flower shapes. Purty ain't it?

The cutsy-curse strikes again! I actually felt pretty good sitting around in Oakland eating my little lunch. It also filled me up so I wasn't tempted by the delicious goodies from the bakery at the Montgomery Bart Station. Hmmmmm

So there, I am still bento-ing. It's not always this pretty, but being so busy does that it's advantages, I HAVE TO organize myself!


Happy Bento everybody!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fall Leftovers

I’m still around making bentos, though not as often as I would like to. I am also doing simpler lunches mostly made with leftovers rather than taking the time to cook for bento-making. For that reason I rarely bother taking pictures of my lunches, as I don’t think they are “picture worthy”. That goes along with my new phase of “KISS” (keep it simple stupid).

Still the whole goal behind having a lunch blog was to share ideas and encourage people to just make the little extra effort to pack their lunch. It’s not complicated, and it doesn’t take long. Even Leftovers can look pretty!

Yesterday I had good leftovers to work with, and the box ended up looking rather cute, so I decided to share it with you. I used my 3 tier bento. That’s a good one when you have dishes that stand on their own.

In the top tier I have diced pork tenderloin. I bought it at Trader Joes, it came pre-marinated (cracked pepper and garlic) and all you have to do is brown it, and then put it in the over for a bit. Nothing easier and so good!

The yellow container has hummus (also from Trader Joes).

Going clockwise, the tier on the right has cut cucumber and carrots, that simple! I cut them to eat with the hummus the previous night and had leftovers.

Pre-cut veggies can have a little bit of a texture issue, so I rinsed them in cold water and patted them dry before packing them. They were just fine when I ate them!

On the lower left tier I had my new favorite grain: Quinoa! I can't believe it took me so long to try it, I love that stuff! It's good hot, cold, with veggies, spiced up, bland with a sauce. Awesome!

This time around I sautéed diced vegetables, added chicken broth, quinoa, salt pepper, cumin, cinnamon and oregano (I think) and cooked it until the broth was gone. That easy!

It was a very satisfying lunch, and kept me going for the rest of the day!

Happy Bento everybody!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Didn't go fast did I?

Ok, ok, I'm back to blogging. It's been a long time, and I blame it on not being able to figure out "Gimp" my picture fudging software.

Truth be told, I was a little burned out on talking about food. I work for Weight Watchers, I cook for a hobby, I do bentos for the fun of it... food food food! So I got lazy, and a little heavy, and here I am! Back to my bentos. I missed them!

This doesn't mean I didn't do ANY bentos. I did, but generally they weren't very good looking, or I didn't have the camera around, or it was in the living room and I didn't want to walk that far (AH!) you know...

Here's the bento from April 24th. They were my last "custy" bentos made with the leftovers from the Chicken Wrap with Mango, Basil, and Mint that I had made the previous night.

So I had the chicken/mango mixture, with I think brown rice, steamed peas, cut pepper and raisins. Simple, and I remember it being very good as a cold leftover. :o)

My husband had the same thing exactly.

The rest of April and all of May were very sad "bento-wise" so I won't bore you with any of it. Fast forward to this week:

Monday June 8th:

I have discovered that our favorite Indian place, Great India on Geary st at 25th Avenue, not only makes great food and delivers for free, but they also will sell you a full Tandoori chicken for less than 15$! The half is 10$, so for 5 more you get double! AH!

Tandoori chicken is perfect bento fare, so that's what I did. Tandoori chicken with cucumber and tomato salad (also leftovers from Great India). I cut some extra cucumber because I didn't have enough food.

The little bottle has extra dressing from the salad which I didn't need.

I would have done better with some grains to be honest, but there wasn't enough rice left, and I didn't really have time to make anything. I was working in Santa Rosa that day. At 7:45am!

In case you didn't notice, my box is brand new! From Daiso, it's the same as my "basic boxes" but square! I can't wait to play with foods in there. Monday's lunch was more about throwing the food in there, than about making it cute.

Since I was out all day, I also made a snack box:

Blueberries on the left, cantaloupe on the right, and the two little containers have honey. I ended up using only one. It was plenty!

I don't use my snack box very often, but I love it. Isn't it cute? It's very small so it fits pretty much anywhere.

Dan had more to lunch with than I did, and it gave me the occasion to use my other new box. I've been drooling over that set since I first looked at the Lunch In a Box Blog. I couldn't find it anywhere. This weekend we went to Ichiban Kan and there it was! But it was 22$.

I promised myself a while ago that I would not put more than 10$ on a box, and even that would have to be a really special one. I was totally torn, but my enabler husband told me to get it since he could see that I really liked it. So I did!

Here's his Indian Bento:

In the insulated container (middle) he has Chicken Makhni with a "rice lid". I've seen other Bento-makers do that and wanted to give it a try. As you can see, seepage occurred, but I think it still kept the curry from drying up.

In the little containers there is the rest of the Jasmin rice (left) and tandoori chicken (right).

See how it all packs up perfectly? It ends up packing quite a bit of food, but it looks tiny. I love it!

And all closed up and everything, it's very cute, but not "girly" so my husband can use it. Not that it bothers him, happy to say that he's confident enough in his "manhood" to take my custy attack with patience if not enthusiasm.

Today's boxes:

We didn't have any leftovers, though I did soak some bulgur last night to use today.

Left: I have bulgur (simple with salt and pepper) with tomato-cucumber-lettuce salad, and clover sprouts.

If you made a face reading sprouts here's something to think about: Alfalfa sprouts taste like you're chewing on the lawn. That's the one that turns off most people to sprouts. Clover sprouts are a lot tastier and sweeter. Taste different kind before you write them off!

Right: Steamed lentils (TJ), a boiled egg (showing only the good side of it, I can't cook eggs... how lame) and a mix of strawberries and blueberries.

My husband has the same foods, just a little more of it:

He has bulgur and salad (minus the lettuce and the sprouts, he's not crazy about either) on the left side. On the right he has lentils, an egg, strawberries and blueberries. I added a Mini Babybel cheese as always.

So that's that. I'm excited to be bento-ing again. It doesn't take much really, it's to get started that is the hardest.

Happy Bento Everybody!!!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

All organized and ready to go!

So, after making bentos yesterday, I decided it was time to organize my gear once and for all. Yesterday we stopped at Target and bought baskets to go in my unit I had bought when we first moved a month ago.

I took out all of my boxes and washed every single one of the 15 sets that I use for food. I have a few decorative ones that I don't put food in, those are another story.

After that I had to fit all of it on my little unit. Here's what it looks like:

The unit itself was super cheap at Kmart. The baskets are from Target, about 13 dollars each, which is more than I wanted to pay, but I like them so... there.

I still have my spice boxes for the little stuff. I managed to empty one by reorganizing everything. I'm pretty happy about that because one of the box was bent and difficult to open. Not cool early in the morning.

The purple box is from a pair of flats I bought a few weeks ago. I thought the box was pretty, and it's the perfect size, so there.

I used that box to put the "over flow" of stuff. Extra things that don't fit anywhere else. I overbought a little last year because I didn't have easy access to Ichiban Kan and Daiso. Of course, now it's not a problem anymore! So happy!

The top drawer has the spice boxes with the stuff I use less, my bento cloths, bags and insulated bags.

The middle drawer has the boxes I use the most. Most of them are microwave safe and leak proof (well mostly).

Finally the last drawer has my fuffier, less user-friendly boxes and those I just use less.

Notice that there is space for more in there, not that I WOULD buy more, of course I wouldn't, just that if I came across a very interesting box, I COULD fit it in there if needed. ;op

I'm pretty happy with my storage solution for my bentos. It's a lot of little things, and in a small place, I needed a compact, easy to work with solution. I think I got it.

Now I feel like I'm home... ;o)

Happy Bento Everybody!!