Friday, October 02, 2009

Book Review + Free Give Away! Book Title: Cute Yummy Time

La Carmina, author of the new book Cute Yummy Time, offered to send me a copy of her book to review. I love any opportunity to check out some new, cute foods so I was happy to oblige, but I couldn't forget about you guys! So I asked if she would send a copy to one of you as well and she said sure!

Here is my review, and at the bottom of this post are the instructions for what you need to do to enter the very first giveaway contest here at Jacki's Bento Blog.

I love that the art of the bento lunch is becoming more and more popular here in North America because as anything grows in popularity, more information becomes available on the subject. When I started making bento lunches about two years ago, it felt like although there were great English books available about Japanese cooking, and even specifically with bento recipes, all of the kawaii bento books were in Japanese. To find the really cute stuff, I resorted to attempting to mimic things I saw on Japanese language blogs.

But it seems that over the past few years, more and more books have been entering the North American market that specifically focus on the cute, artistic elements of bento lunches. While this is a good thing, most of the ones I have read have had lots of great artwork, but not the clear instruction I was looking for, this is the niche that Cute Yummy Time attempts to fill.

The book contains 70 recipes for cute foods. Each has its own two page spread that contains an ingredient list, detailed instructions and coloured photographs. Although the pictures only show the end result (there are no step by step pictures), after reading through this book I feel confident that I can recreate any of the recipes and designs. They all seem really straight forward and use ingredients that I can pick up at my regular chain grocery store, no trip to the Asian grocery store is necessary.

I believe the author is a very creative person as there are ideas in here that I've never seen before, and I spend a lot of time looking at people's pictures of bento lunches! There are little things I never thought of, like using my nori punches to make shapes out of spinach, and there are lots of foods I've never thought of trying to make cute before (I can't wait to try her recipe for piggy bread!). Some of the recipes are very clever, like her Puffin Sushi, a maki sushi roll where the slices look like puffin heads.

The healthiness of all of the recipes really impressed me. She uses whole grains, high antioxidant foods, low fat dairy products, natural sweeteners and lots of fresh produce in her recipes. The recipes are all from scratch, right down to things like doughs and soups. The meals are smartly balanced, for example her recipe for Panda Tofu Soba. It has lots of lean protein in the tofu, soba noodles for carbs and lots of brightly coloured, fresh vegetables. It's perfectly healthy and balanced meal, and it's just adorable.

That said, half of the book, called the "To Go" section, contains recipes that are not portable and therefore not suitable for bento lunches, although you will find lots of great ways to make a cute breakfast. Many of them also require special bento equipment such as animal shaped cutters, and ice cream sandwich molds. A lot of people have these already, but I know there are also those who have a hard time getting ahold of these things.

My only criticism of the book is that for a few of the recipes, it's difficult to identify exactly what animal I'm looking at. I was excited to see a recipe for Hedge Pork Loin because I adore hedgehogs. When I saw the picture, however, it didn't really look like a hedgehog to me, so I won't be making it. But some of them, like the Polar Bear meringues, are spot on.

All in all, I like the book and will definitely be trying some recipes from it. It's well put together, easy to understand and none of the recipes appear to be overly complicated or time consuming. Everything looks yummy and they will definitely add some cuteness to our meals.


Book Giveaway Contest Rules: To enter, leave a comment on this post that tells me your favorite cute food to pack in your lunch. Mine? Checkerboard cut apple slices.

The cutoff is Midnight (Eastern Time) on Thursday, October 8th. On Friday, I will select a winner using a random number generator. So if the random number generator picks 6 and your comment is the sixth one, you win! I suggest that you include a way for me to contact you in your comment (for example, through your blogger account if you have one or by posting your email address). Otherwise, I will post the name of the winner on my blog next Friday and they can contact me through my email address which I will post at that time as well.

Limit of one entry per person.

24 comments:

j said...

My favorite cute thing to pack? any sort of food on plastic sword toothpicks because I can play with them after I eat. I try not to pack them in kiddie bento though, don't want to lose any eyes.

Jennifer said...

Wee little bananas! I know I don't have to prepare them or anything but I only buy them because of the cuteness factor.

Oh yeah, and glad to see you're updating your site again!

How's living in the big city? How's John?

Kristen said...

Welcome back!

My favorite cuted up item is babybel cheese rounds. Kidlet won't eat nori or anything it touches, but I can make yellow ones like bees or red ones like ladybugs, and since he can peel the nori away with the wax, he is fine with it. I also like to carve or cookie cutter out shapes from them.

Angel said...

i love apple bunnies, they are sooo cute!!! i make them for my sister and myself and mix in some shaped eggs,

pfefi said...

My favorite cute thing is little hot dog octopuses! You can see my first bento I ever made on my blog, and I want to buy more cute bento tools. Your blog is really inspiring and I read it every day! <3

-pfefi

BentoBeginner said...

My favorite cuteness item would have to be shaped onigiri! It offers the most versatility and the decorating is endless. You can color the rice sprinkle it, stuff it you name it!

Bento Pet said...

Shape cut carrots and cucumbers make great fillers adds color too!

Kate said...

My favourite cute thing at the moment is shaped sandwiches. I am absolutely addicted!

I have a dinosaur cutter and will be buying hearts and dolphins too.

Sandy said...

Fruit or veggies cut with flower shaped cutters and put on food picks that look like flower stems.

Lyvvie said...

I love onigiri - just love them! We can stuff them full of something healthy and then turn them into anything. They can be wee or the main. I adore them. I've also fallen in love with the Italian version called arancini which I'm very keen to put into bento in the future.

So nice to see you back, Jacki!

Allison said...

My favorite cute thing would be cutting words out of cheese and spelling things on my husband's lunches. He loves them too.

Ren said...

I get a kick out of packing my bento when it's time to put in the flower-shaped fruit 'n' veg... I get a bit obsessive about placing the cutter right over the centre of kiwifruit so that the natural "pattern" comes out all even. ;o)

BTW, been reading your blog since late last year and wondered why updates were so few and far between. Glad to see you back! :o)

Jessica said...

That book looks so cute! My favorite cute thing to pack is shaped eggs. I don't do them often because of how long they take, but I just love the idea of shaping an egg in a mold. It seems crazy, who came up with that!?!

Amy said...

I don't have one favorite cute food, but anything in miniature makes the whole lunchbox cute!

Flying Lily said...

Carrot stars. For some reason they just make me happy. Then I use the leftover edge as a "band' to put around a cheese stick, or a rolled-up piece of salami, or celery.

jomamma said...

I don't have a favorite cute food, but I do get the comment "that's your lunch? It's so cute!" So I guess I have to say my bento boxes add the cuteness factor, especially my pink sandwich box with it's matching bag, it makes all my food look cute.

PuggleTrouble said...

I haven't made any cute bentos yet (just discovering them now!) But the shaped boiled eggs are too cute! Also nori faces on rice balls!!

Alie said...

I like to put faces on sandwiches for cuteness. You can see them on my blog.

Karen said...

My little one isn't even 2 yet, but she goes ape when I cut anything into a star shape. Stars, Mama, STARS!!!

Dominique said...

I love cut-out shapes in my bentos. I don't have the time to do them everyday or even recently, but back in the day I'd make heart- and star-shaped plantains, carrots, cucumbers, anything that could be sliced and cut with a cutter.

I also like those hot dog octopuses too but the amount of sodium nitrate in them has me running (it causes me to get migraines).

I'm happy to see another new post. Hopefully there are more in the near future!

new2bento said...

My favorite cute thing to pack are whole wheat wraps filled with peanut butter and a banana slice.

Jacki said...

Thanks for all of the wonderful ideas! The contest is now closed and I will announce a winner later today.

All Bento said...

Please continue to update on Bento!

TypeWink said...

I love packing Apple Smiles... apple slices, with peanut butter "gums" and marshmallow teeth"