Saturday, August 30, 2008

Creamsicle Cupcakes

I decided to make some simple creamsicle cupcakes this weekend. There lots of ways you can make these (last time I made homemade marshmallow topping using this recipe), but I was feeling kind of lazy this time. And to be honest, my main motivation was to work on getting one step closer to finding the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe (If I ever find it, I'll be sure to post it!). I'm definitely getting closer.

These cupcakes turned out really delicious. For me, a good cupcake should have three qualities: Fluffy cake, Frosting that is either light and fluffy or deep and rich, and amazing flavor. I managed to pull off all three with this one.

For these cupcakes, I used the recipe for golden cupcakes from the book Crazy About Cupcakes and added 2 Tbsp orange extract and about 1/2 tsp orange rind to get a light creamsicle flavour. It's definitely one of the best cake recipes I've used yet. It manages to make a dense, cakey cupcake that is still light and fluffy.

The frosting is a vanilla buttercream, also with orange extract added (I think about 2 Tbsp, I just went by taste).
I split the frosting into two parts and coloured half orange using Wilton icing colour. To get the swirl effect, you add the frosting to the icing bag one spoonful at a time, alternating between colours and pressing the spoon to opposite sides of the bag as you go, so that you have an icing bag that is full of orange frosting on one side and white on the other. You get the best results by adding small spoonfuls, especially at the narrow end of the bag. As usual, I just used a Wilton 1M tip to make big swirls.

Luckily the recipe made three dozen because they've been disappearing fast!!

Friday, August 29, 2008

August 29th Bento Lunch

I felt like making sushi this morning so making bento took quite a bit longer than usual. I was about halfway done when I realized that everything was green and yellow! Oh well, I'm sure it will still get eaten.

I made a sweet, fruit sushi today. For sweet sushi, I use 3 Tbsp of lime juice heated with 1 Tbsp sugar (to make it dissolve) instead of sushi vinegar. I also use mamenori soy wrappers instead of nori. I have to say though, it's much tougher to get this sushi to stick together than regular sushi. It's so pretty and yummy though, that I don't mind making it once in a while.

This time I used mango and avocado as fillings. I know that seems like a bit of a strange combination, but trust me, it's delicious and the texture is amazingly smooth.

First I removed the rind from the mango and the avocado, and cut very thin, flexible slices from the top of the fruit. I cut the remain fruit into strips. I rolled the fruit strips into a regular inside out maki roll and then placed the slices over the seam and rolled it again to make everything stay together. I'm really happy with how these turned out, there is so much fruit in them! I mixed up the pieces and turned them on their sides because it looks more fun than when they're all orderly.

For protein today, I made teriyaki chicken. This is really simple to do from scratch. I used two chicken thighs for BF's bento (I would only use one for mine). Here's what you do:

The night before

  • Slice chicken thighs in half
  • Place in a small ziplock bag with 1 Tbsp each of mirin, soy sauce and sugar
  • Refrigerate overnight

In the morning

  • Remove chicken from the bag and fry in a bit of oil on medium heat until browned
  • Mix 3Tbsp water with the remaining marinade and pour it into the frying pan with the chicken.
  • Cover until the chicken is cooked
  • Cook uncovered until the liquid has evaporated and the chicken has a nice glazed finish

The morning part takes less than ten minutes which is a pretty short time to cook meat in my opinion. I put the chicken in a foil tart container that I flipped up the rim on.

For veggies there is some sesame fried bok choy all around the foil cup and some asparagus that I parboiled for 90 seconds and then added to the pan with teriyaki chicken while it was cooking for another 90 seconds (teriyaki asparagus I guess?). There are also steamed green and yellow zucchini, sugar snaps and broccoli.

There was already all kinds of mango in the sushi, so for fruit I just included a few blueberries and three thin watermelon wedges.

On Fridays I try to use up all my leftover produce before the weekend, can you tell?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

August 27th Bento Lunch

I know that the majority of my readers are not Canadian, so I'll start with a bit of background. One of our largest suppliers of luncheon meat, called Maple Leaf, had a recent contamination in their products causing an outbreak of listeria. I don't really know anything about listeria other than the facts that this recent outbreak has killed six Canadians, and that it can take up to 70 days for the symptoms of the illness to show itself.

So I know people who have eaten these products within the past two months and they don't know yet whether they're going to get sick, so I guess there's some phone number they're supposed to call and then I don't know what happens after that. So there's an acute feeling of 'awareness' around here. I wouldn't call it worry, we just have it on our minds and see it in the news all the time.

When we heard about it, BF and I sat down and tried to remember any times in the last 70 days that we had eaten processed meat, and to my surprise we couldn't think of a single one. So as you can imagine, it's reaffirmed our decision to eat natural foods whenever we can (of course, had it been a contamination of say, broccoli, we'd be in trouble).

So why am I bringing this up in a blog about bento? As a result of this incident, there was an article in the newspaper that made me pause. It was entitled Panic in the Lunchbox and it talks about the fact that school starts next week and all kinds of parents across the country have no idea what to pack for lunch since sandwiches are out for the next little while. So, I guess I just wanted to say that it makes me sad that a lack of luncheon meat can inspire the use of the word 'panic' in this country. And that I'm tempted to make a list of 100 delicious lunch foods that don't involve sandwiches and anonymously mail it to everyone in the country who packs lunches.

Thanks for listening to (reading?) my rant. Okay, here was today's bento.

The center piece of today's bento lunch was the zucchini dumpling I made (the tutorial is below). I think it's so pretty! On either side there are triangle onigiri, stuffed with the same bison soboro that is in the zucchini.

For meat there are bites of marinated lamb steak that I pan fried. The veggies include steamed asparagus, broccoli and sugar snaps, and julienned carrot fried in sesame oil. For fruit there are some really juicy raspberries, blueberries, something called a damson plum, mango pieces and apple tulips.

BF sent me a message from work that said "This is an amazing tasting and looking bento!" so I think that means it was a success!

Tutorial - Zucchini Dumpling

I got the inspiration for this dumpling from the Iron Chef 2000th dish special. The amazing Hiroyuki Sakai made adorable zucchini dumplings as a part of a larger dish, and ever since I saw them I've been wanting to give my own version it a try.

It turned out pretty and yummy (which is always my goal!) so I wanted to share how I made it.

A friendly warning though: This is pretty time consuming and detailed. I definitely don't recommend trying to put one of these together in the morning before work. I suggest making it the night before and doing the final steaming in the morning.

You will need

- 1 Green zucchini
- 2 Tbsp filling (I used a mixture of rice and bison soboro. The recipe for the soboro is below)
- A big, sharp knife
- Plastic wrap
- A 6" piece of string/twine
- A vegetable steamer

First, cut a slice of zucchini about 3" long and 3/8" thick.
Slice the zucchini in strips as thin as you can. They should be opaque, but flexible. You will need 14 strips.

Cover your workspace with a piece of plastic wrap about 1 foot square. You will be cooking the zucchini in this plastic, so make sure you use a high end brand that won't leach toxins into food (I use Glad).

Select the 7 thinnest zucchini strips and place them horizontally to form a square as shown in the picture. By keeping the peel on the same side of each strip, the end result will have a subtle zigzag pattern.

The next step is to weave in the remaining 7 strips.

First slide in the first vertical strip from the left, alternating between putting it over and under the horizontal strips.

To place the next vertical strip, gently fold back every other horizontal strip and place the vertical strip on top of the remaining strips as shown. Fold the horizontal strips back to their original position and gently push the second vertical strip so that it is flush with the first.

Repeat with the remaining vertical strips until you have a woven square. The last vertical strip might look a bit messy because of differences in the lengths of the horizontal strips, but don't worry, it will look fine in the end.

Roll filling into a ball and place in the middle of the square.

Gently wrap the sides of the square around the filling. Start by picking up opposite corners of the plastic wrap and pulling them together, then do the same with the remaining two corners. The four corners of the zucchini should just barely touch at the top of the filling. If they don't quite touch, try removing some filling. If they overlap, add a little more filling.

Once all four corners are touching, gently press in the sides, trying to flatten as much possible.

Tightly twist the plastic wrap to seal the package and secure with string as shown.

Place in steamer for 7 minutes.

Remove from steamer and allow to cool enough so that you can remove the plastic wrap without burning yourself. To remove the wrap, cut off the knot and gently pull back the plastic wrap. If you pull too hard, it may displace parts of the zucchini.

Here's a picture of the underside of the dumpling after it's been cooked.

Flip it over and here is the top of this gorgeous dumpling!

The bento lunch that I used this in can be seen here.

Here is the recipe for the bison that I mixed with rice for the filling.

Recipe: Bison Soboro


  • 1/2 lb ground bison (May substitute beef or pork)
  • 2 Tbsp sake
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp mirin
  • 1/2 tsp grated ginger

Place ground bison in a frying pan on medium heat and separate into small pieces. When pan is hot, add remaining ingredients. Cook until the bison is fully browned and most of the liquid has evaporated. Drain off any remaining liquid.

Can be used as a filling for dumplings or onigiri, or as a topping for a donburi.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

August 26th Bento & Rice Cooker Chicken Curry Rice Recipe

My computer caught a trojan virus last week. The trojan was then kind enough to download a bunch of other viruses to the point that my computer was unusable for about a week. But, now here we are about twenty virus scans and two hard drive reformats later and I am back up and running! So all's well that ends well. Mostly anyway. I lost all of my iTunes purchased songs, so I emailed Apple to see if they can let me download them again. *crosses fingers*

In other news, I am in love. Now I know that's a pretty strong word to use in reference to a rice cooker, but I mean it for realsies, no exaggeration. I picked up this rice cooker from The Shopping Channel (since won't ship appliances to Canada), and it finally arrived on Sunday. I used it for the first time last night and it's amazingly better than my four year old $30 Wal-Mart rice cooker I had been using up to this point.

To break it in, I made chicken curry rice (recipe below) for last night's supper (and there was enough left over for today's bento lunch). I used the keep warm function for three hours last night and put the rice back in the cooker to reheat this morning and even after all that, it didn't burn a single grain of rice. My old rice cooker always had a layer of burnt rice at the bottom, and I always felt wasteful throwing it out. Problem solved!

It has all kinds of features, like different settings for all different kinds of rice (brown rice, sweet rice, sushi rice, etc.) and delayed start so that you can set it the night before and have fresh rice in the morning when you get up to make bento. I shopped around a lot before picking this one up, and it seems to me that this particular model (Sanyo ECJ-D55S) is the best value out there if you don't want to fork out the price of a Zojirushi.

Also, just to explain something I found confusing. It's advertised as a 5.5 cup rice cooker. I thought that meant it had a 5.5 cup capacity, but its actually much larger. The 5.5 cup measurement is how much uncooked rice you can put in it, not how much cooked rice it can hold.

I definitely recommend this rice cooker to anyone in the market for a higher end computerized rice cooker. It's fabulous! (I'm not affiliated, by the way)

Ok! On to today's bento! It was slim pickin's in the fridge today because I was away all weekend and didn't get a chance to get groceries (I played outside a ton this weekend. If you ever have a chance to do Tree-Go, do it!!!).
On the left is chicken curry rice with onions, dates and tomato and an apple heart on top (I love apple with curry). On the right there are four pork shumai that have been steamed and then pan fried, pressing down with a spatula after every flip. There's a little cup of Asian cucumber pickles (flavoured with shiso and sesame rather than dill) on the bottom, and a boiled quail egg at the top. For veggies there is some steamed cauliflower sitting on top of carrot slices, broccoli, sugar snaps and green zucchini. For fruit there are tomato wedges, blueberries and watermelon slices. I prefer personal sized watermelons for bento because the rind is much thinner.

Here is the recipe for the curry rice. Note that this recipe makes a lot (around 4 to 5 cups), so you may want to scale it back if you're just making it for bento.

Recipe: Chicken Curry Rice made in a rice cooker


2 cups short grain white rice
2.5 cups water
1 large chicken breast or two small chicken breasts, cut into very small pieces (uncooked)
2 cloves garlic
1/4 inch section of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
Red chili flakes to taste (two pinches is medium spicy)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
1 white onion, sliced
1 tomato, cut into wedges
1/4 cup dates, chopped
1 small can coconut milk (5.6oz/165ml)
2 Tbsp honey

Combine yogurt, honey, curry powder, shallot, garlic, ginger, chili flakes and salt in a blender and blend until smooth.

Place curry mixture along with all of the other ingredients into the rice cooker and stir well. Let the rice cooker do its thing (Use 'mixed rice' setting if available on your rice cooker). Stir before serving.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

August 20th Bento Lunch

Ugh. My computer has been on the fritz for the last two days. I didn't think I'd get this entry posted today. I gave up on my computer for now and am using BF's instead.

A couple of critters made it into today's bento...

The onigiris are filled with sweet red bean paste. The fish has a nori face and the other two have sesame seed eyes. The chick's nose is made from carrot and his wing is a small spinach stem.

For protein I made ground chicken dumplings wrapped in nori this morning. BF told me when he got home tonight that he would have liked more meat, so next time I will make a couple more.

Lots of veggies today. I made some sesame and miso steamed spinach as well as steamed broccoli, asparagus, sugar snaps and yellow zucchini with a bit of pepper. I julienned some raw carrot as well to make a little nest for the chick.

For fruit there are a couple of orange wedges, blueberries and strawberry slices.

There were some leftover fruit and veggies that didn't fit in the bento box so I made myself a little snack. I thought the colours were really pretty so I took a picture.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

Would you believe I don't actually post all the cupcakes I make on my blog? I made some peaches and cream ones on the weekend, and they only lasted for a couple of hours, so I made a new batch last night. I decided on a classic theme of cookies and cream.

The cupcakes are a plain vanila cake with about ten crushed oreos mixed into the batter at the end, just before putting it into the muffin cups. The frosting is a plain vanilla buttercream (since oreo cookie filling is vanilla) and there is half an oreo cookie tucked into the frosting on each one.

Chopping the cookies in half was a bit tricky. The best way I found was to use a sharp, heavy knife, lay it across the cookie and cut it very swiftly. I found that using a diagonal cut made the cookie break into three or four pieces, but holding the knife horizontally only broke a couple out of the dozen that I cut. And cutting too slowly flattens the cookie and makes the filling come out the sides.

I wanted to top them with big dollops of frosting, but I didn't have an icing tip large enough, so I just cut the end off of an icing bag and didn't use a tip at all. I like the way the shape came out, but it left little tiny stripes on the frosting where the seam in the bag was. Looks like I'll have to try and find some seamless bags for next time.

Simple! Delicious!

Monday, August 18, 2008

August 18th Bento Lunch

BF was on vacation for most of last week which is why I haven't posted much. Everything is back to normal today though, so I got up bright and early this morning and decided to make a donburi bento. I think this is the first time I've actually made rice in the morning. Usually I make it the night before and refrigerate or freeze it. It didn't actually take too much extra time though because by the time I had the donburi topping finished, the rice was ready.
Here's a picture of what is in the donburi. The recipe is a variation on one that appears in the book 'Bento Boxes - Japanese Meals on the Go'. There is a sliced inari pouch that I boiled for a few minutes in a mixture of 1/3 cup chicken broth, 1 Tbsp each of mirin, soy sauce and sake and 1 tsp sugar. Next I added some canned mushrooms I had leftover from the weekend (mushrooms are the one vegetable that I don't eat fresh. I've never liked fresh mushrooms but I love the canned ones), and let it boil about two more minutes before adding the parsley. Once the parsley had wilted, I added a beaten egg and stirred the mixture until the egg had set. The last step was to transfer it onto the rice in the bento box. I used the bento box divider in order to be able to compact as much rice into that area of the bento as possible.

It looked a little plain so I put a couple of red pepper butterflies on top. On the right hand side of the bottom tier are slices of steak left over from last night's barbecue. Between the steak, the egg and the inari, this bento is pretty heavy on the protein, which is fine for BF. If it was for me, I would have left out the steak altogether.

The veggies are simple. Just asparagus, broccoli and sugar snaps. My grocery store has been out of asparagus for the past week so we were happy to be able to get some yesterday.

For fruit there are orange slices, half of a plum, strawberry slices, blueberries and two cherries. I learned a neat trick for orange slices, to make them easier to eat. You just slice the orange away from the rind for about two thirds of the way across the wedge. Then when you go to eat it, you can just hold it by the peel and tear the orange off the rest of the way. For dessert there is a chocolate mint square from my freezer stash.

Sadly, I think summer is nearing it's end. I saw the first sign of it this weekend: strawberries were $4.99 a box. Well, at least it's still hot out!

As an aside, this weekend I started reading "Japanese Cooking, A Simple Art" (previously I was just using it as a reference whenever I needed a recipe or ran into an ingredient I didn't know how to cook). Ordinarily I wouldn't read a cookbook cover to cover but this book is really exceptional in how much there is to learn from it. There are full chapters on knives, sashimi, sushi, soups, pickles, sweets and tea, as well as chapters on each of the fundamental cooking methods (grilling, pan frying, teaming, simmering, deep frying, etc), each with a discussion of the subject and accompanying recipes. I'm discovering all kinds of new cooking techniques and philosophies on food, it's really exciting. I made some awesome chicken udon soup this weekend, and I've been working on perfecting my own version of eggs and rice as a light breakfast. Next I think I'm going to tackle light appetizer-style soups. I definitely recommend this book, it's completely changed the way I approach cooking.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Okay, I swear this isn't going to turn into a baking blog. I wasn't planning to post anything today but these turned out so gorgeous that I wanted to share them to hopefully inspire someone else to make delicious muffins.

At this time of year, berries are in season so they come in huge containers. It's wonderful of course, but I can't fit anymore into the bento lunches than I already do, so I ended up with some leftover berries that weren't fresh enough to eat straight, but perfect for baking. I decided on muffins.
I used this recipe from and I can't rave about it enough! I'm actually not exaggerating when I say that I have never had a better muffin. And this is coming from someone who has eaten many, many muffins in my time.

I think the trick to this recipe is to whip the butter a whole lot. It makes them melt-in-your-mouth fluffy. I whipped the butter with an electric mixer for a solid minute before adding anything to it and then for a solid minute after every addition (i.e, after the sugar, after each egg and after the vanilla). Then I put the mixer away and gently folded everything else in very slowly.

I used a mixture of blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. I used jumbo sized muffin cups (finally a use for these! They're way too big for cupcakes) filled almost to the top and they raised up to a great height. The recipe made 15.

The only change I made to the recipe was to substitute brown sugar for white in the streusal topping. I had never heard of a white sugar streusal before and it made me a bit nervous so I decided to stick with what I know.

It's a great weekend to make muffins. If you've got any fruit in your fridge that needs to be used up, this is a yummy way to do it!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

August 12th Bento Lunches

This was one of those mornings where you lie in bed for ten minutes trying to decide whether or not to bother getting up to make bento, choosing between luxurious sleep or a delicious lunch.

Lunch won out today. I put together a couple of bentos for BF and his dive instructor for their dive this morning. All that swimming works up an appetite! I used a nice, big (1320ml) two tier bento box for this (you can see a picture of it here) that BF can just throw in his bag. As an aside, when I've been out shopping this summer and see the big picnic kits that carry all of your plates and cutlery and stuff, I think of this bento box and how little space it actually takes me to pack a portable lunch and I just want to stand in those stores all day and explain to people that they don't need all that. I mean figuratively of course, I would never actually do that. But they do seem excessive to me. Simplify!

Anyway, back to bento. I didn't do anything complex this morning because I was pretty rushed. Usually BF is sleeping when I make bento, but this morning he was up getting ready for his dive. I think it scared him a bit to see me reaching for the biggest knife we own while my eyes were still half shut, and then start hacking away at whatever I could find.

I figured that since both bentos were for grown men, I would load them up with meat. I had a huge piece of pork schnitzel in the freezer. These are great because they are so thin and fast to cook. I just defrost it in the microwave, throw it in a pan with some canola oil for a minute or two, add a little water and cover to steam for a minute or two more (so that I can be sure it's cooked through) and then fry uncovered for a few more minutes until crispy on the outside. I sliced it up after it was cooked. There are a couple of pork dumplings and a small bottle of sauce in there as well.

I used up the rest of the batch of forbidden (black) rice onigiri that I made last week. The heart shaped ones are stuffed with bonito flakes and soy sauce and the star shaped ones have a red bean (adzuki) filling.

For veggies, I steamed up some yellow swiss chard. I had never seen this before, but it's pretty cool. The stems are bright yellow (they didn't show up well in this picture, they look kind of greenish here) and they taste like regular swiss chard, but maybe a little more bitter. There are also some carrot rounds, broccoli, sugar snaps and cauliflower. I haven't been able to find thick carrots for a few weeks, so sadly the carrot I used today wasn't big enough to punch out shapes.

For fruit there are strawberries and blueberries. That's all there was room for. I also packed up half a dozen cupcakes for BF to take with him to share with the dive shop people, so I decided a dessert was unnecessary for the bentos.

There actually was a theme to these bento lunches, although I'm not sure it's obvious. I decided I wanted to use every colour of the rainbow and I actually managed to do it. To recap:

  • red strawberries
  • orange carrot
  • yellow swiss chard
  • green broccoli
  • blueberries
  • purple onigiri

I love when things work out the way I want them to!

Monday, August 11, 2008

August 11th Cupcakes

I never get tired of making cupcakes! Today the theme was pina colada.

For the cupcakes, I used this recipe for pineapple cake, filling the cups about halfway and baking for 22 minutes instead of the longer time listed for a sheet cake. I also omitted the sauce that the recipe recommends because I prefer frosting and I thought having both would be overkill.

The cakes turned out wonderfully. My only wish is that the pineapple flavour was a bit stronger. I'm not sure how I could adapt the recipe to do that though since the pineapple is the only liquid in the recipe and I'm not aware of the existance of pineapple extract. I would love any suggestions.

The frosting is a coconut buttercream. I'm really pleased with how it turned out. Here is the recipe:

1/2 cup butter (salted, room temperature)
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 large bag of icing sugar (500g)
1 1/2 tsp coconut extract
3 Tbsp milk
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Beat butter and shortening on low until light and fluffy (about a minute). Add coconut extract and beat until combined. Add icing sugar about 3/4 cup at a time, beating until combined after each addition. Add milk, 1 Tbsp at a time, mixing until combined after each addition. You may need more or less milk to get a nice consistency. Add coconut and mix until combined.

I also toasted some more shredded coconut which I sprinkled on top of the frosted cupcakes. I did this by placing it in a frying pan and sauteeing over medium heat for a few minutes.

Both the cupcakes and the frosting turned out light and fluffy. The cupcakes are moist and the flavor of the frosting is amazing. They just keep getting better and better!

August 11th Bento Lunch

I've been watching a lot of Iron Chef on YouTube. Omg what a fun show! It's kind of renewed my zest for trying new Japanese recipes and cooking techniques so I've been incorporating a lot more Japanese food in my non-bento meals. I'm discovering all kinds of wonderful food combinations. Loving it! Since I'm not working at the moment, it's a lot more important to me to make sure that I'm preparing lots of healthy, well balanced meals so that BF and I are well fed. I figured it's the least I can do.

I took today's picture in natural light instead of with flash in the kitchen and I think it washed out the colours a bit. Everything didn't look so white in real life! Well at least I know for next time.
BF had some disappointing seafood udon at a restaurant yesterday, so I had planned to make some delicious yakiudon (fried noodles) for bento today to make up for it. To my dismay however, I realized this morning that I'm completely out of udon noodles. So I used somen noodles instead (yakisomen?). They're a smaller, flat noodle, so I fried them for a much shorter time and it still turned out pretty yummy.

To make them, I fried up some chunks of chicken breast in a little canola with salt and pepper while boiling the noodles for three minutes. Then I added another tablespoon or so of canola oil to the chicken (to keep the noodles from sticking together) and threw in chives, red pepper pieces and the somen noodles. Once it had fried for about a minute I added about 1 Tbsp each of sake and soy sauce (my favorite seasonings for fried noodles) and fried for about a minute more.

At the very top of the bento is some sauteed gobo (burdock root) and carrot julienne. For gobo, you want to first peel it and soak it in cold water for a bit, and then drain before you use it. I sauteed the gobo and carrot in a bit of sesame oil and then added some mirin and soy sauce. It turned out a bit too salty for my taste (the gobo really sucks up the flavor!) so next time I will use less soy sauce.

Keeping with the soy theme, I also made some soy quail eggs. To make them, I first hard boiled the eggs (three and a half minutes) and then put them in a ziplock bag along with a mixture of two parts soy sauce, one part rice vinegar and one part sugar for about an hour (BF is working the night shift this week so I don't have to have the bentos ready until late in the morning). I made four eggs, but I only used one in this bento lunch, sliced in half with a small dot of cream cheese on the yolk. They are sharp and salty and really yummy!

There are three home made gyoza as well from a batch I made last week.

I balanced all of these sharp flavours with lots of fresh fruit and lightly steamed veggies. The vegetables are broccoli, cauliflower and sugar snaps. The fruit are strawberries, blueberries, honey tangerine segments and yellow kiwi flowers. There is a chocolate seashell for dessert.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

August 6th Bento Lunch

I decided to keep it simple today.

Sometimes when I get up in the morning I can't figure out what to put in the bento (like when you feel like you have nothing to wear. It's the same feeling). Other times I'll think I have it all planned out only to realize I've still got space left in the bento box after I'm done. Today, I had all kinds of great foods for the bentos, I probably could have filled another tier. It's nice when that happens.
In the left tier is coconut mango rice. The recipe is from Cooking Cute. I made the rice last night and then this morning I cut up the mango and mixed it in. I cut the recipe in half and omitted the sauce topping because I felt like it was sweet enough as is. This is yummy stuff!!

There are also some slices of chorizo sausage (BF's favorite. Too spicy for me) and some sesame fried bok choy with beet flowers on top. This was the last of the pretty beets and they don't have them at the store anymore *sigh*

On the right there is the standard broccoli, asparagus and snow peas along with raspberries and blueberries (broccoli and berries are two of the top ten healthiest foods, so it's good that we eat them every day!). I also made poached quince yesterday by following these instructions. Lastly, there is a small container of pomegranate seeds. I never got around to removing the seeds from the pomegranate last night and did I ever regret it this morning. Getting the pomgranate ready this morning actually took longer than preparing the entire rest of the bento!

I decided that between the sweet rice and the quince, this bento had enough sweet foods so I didn't include a dessert.

I think that if it weren't for my bento habit, I would never have found out so much about my tastes. For example, that I love quince and bison and that I don't like longans. Because I'm on this constant quest to make exciting lunches every day, I find I'm a lot more open to trying new foods. I'm more alert when I'm grocery shopping, rather than just picking up the same old stuff. This is a good thing!

Monday, August 04, 2008

August 4th Bento Lunch

Messy bento!
I tried a couple of new things today. The first was an attempt to duplicate the gorgeous onigiri that Lyvvie from Obento Baby made back in May. To make the onigiri I first soaked 2 Tbsp of forbidden rice (black rice) for about an hour in order to pull out some of the colour so that it didn't completely overpower the white rice. I put it in the rice cooker with enough white rice to make 1 cup and then formed the onigiri as usual, using bonito flakes and soy sauce as a filling and sprinkling with white sesame seeds. I do like the way they turned out, but the colours didn't turn out as bright as Lyvvies!

The second new thing I tried was the rolled omelette in the top left corner. Instead of doing a rolled omelette in layers, this time I made one thick layer and then laid a sheet of nori on top (I need to get a tamagoyaki pan!!!). I then rolled the omelette using a sushi mat and sliced it to get the spiral pieces in the bento. I'm really pleased with how this turned out. Next time I might try using a larger pan and a thinner omelette to see how that looks. For some reason I absolutely love rolled foods in bento lunches. I always get really excited when I find or think of a new roll I can make.

For protein there are some leftover pork bites from last night's supper, covered with a few parsley leaves. For veggies there are asparagus, broccoli, sugar snaps, zuchinni slices and raw red pepper strips.

For fruit there are a couple of slices of yellow tomato, a few chunks of a fruit called a cactus pear (it actually comes from a cactus! The peel is spiny and can irritate your skin), a lychee and some berries. I included the last of the chocolate banana cupcakes for dessert.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Chocolate & Banana Cream Cupcakes

I made cupcakes last night. I listed off some choices for BF "Okay, so choice number one is matcha cupcakes with pomegranate frosting. Choice number 2 is vanilla cupcakes with banana cream filling and chocolate frosting,.."

He interrupted me "I don't need to hear anymore."

"But there are more choices"

"Nothing could be better than chocolate and banana."

Here they are:

I used the recipe for white cupcakes from Crazy About Cupcakes. This is the third time I've used it. I love the recipe, but these came out a little dry. I think I baked them about four minutes too long.

For the banana cream I used the recipe from this site, but I cut it in half (I still used two bananas though, effectively doubling the amount of banana in the recipe) and mashed the banana instead of cutting it so that it could be piped into the cupcakes (I use a Wilton's bismark tip #230 to do this). This is an excellent recipe, I highly recommend it.

The frosting is my regular buttercream with some cocoa and an additional tablespoon of milk added.

I decided to use yellow cupcake cups in keeping with the banana theme, and put slices of fresh banana on top (Do this immediately before serving because they turn brown and get soggy if you let them sit for more than a couple of hours).

These are some of the best cupcakes I've made yet!