Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April 30th Snack Bento

BF took me for lunch today, so I just made snack bentos.

Sorry about the picture quality today, I think this one would have looked better with a more front on angle so you could see the chick's face and the hearts better.
The sushi is leftover from dinner last night. Two pieces of avocado maki and one with yam tempura. There are a couple of pork gyoza with dipping sauce, an egg chick (the asian grocery was sold out of quail eggs this weekend, so it's back to normal eggs for a bit), some broccoli and asparagus, checkerboard apple hearts, orange wedges, strawberries and blueberries.

For the diet that I'm on, I usually have two small lunches, one noonish and one mid afternoon. This was a perfect mid afternoon snack! I've lost five pounds since I started, and I have five more to go to reach my goal. Hooray for progress! I'm off to hit the elliptical now.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

April 29th Bento

My goals for today's bento were:

  1. Make fancy sushi
  2. Find natural ways to colour the rice

I think it turned out pretty well!

I made some swirly sushi (Another one from the book, Sushi for Parties). I coloured the yellow rice with tumeric and the purple rice with some beefsteak plant furikake. The other section was a light green, but you can't really tell from the photo. It was done by boiling and mashing edamame and mixing that with the rice.

I decided to do a diagonal theme, so starting in the bottom left corner and working up we have a salad made by mixing avocado, honey, edamame and small strips of lettuce (this is my favorite, I had been craving avocado all week!), a couple of home made pork gyoza with rice vinegar/soy sauce dipping sauce and a couple of snow peas. Then there is some broccoli and the sushi, strips of lamb steak that BF was kind enough to barbecue for me last night (so delcious!), asparagus tips and a mini BabyBel (it was supposed to be a heart shaped egg, but it turned out wonky, so BF had the egg for breakfast and I threw in the Babybel because it was about the same size). There are a couple of carrot and nori flowers.

For fruit, we have kiwi hearts, half of a fig (today I learned that I like figs!), strawberries, blueberries and gooseberries. Lastly, there's a truffle for dessert.

Monday, April 28, 2008

April 28th Bento

On Sunday, I was feeling like I spent the whole day in the kitchen cooking, so when it came time to think about bentos, I was pretty lazy. Here's what I put together:

The main dish is miso chicken and asparagus. I poached the chicken for three minutes and steamed the asparagus for three minutes, and then pan fried them with a little canola oil and a mixture of miso, sake and soy sauce. It was really salty, but yummy!

On the left of the bottom tier there are six little capsule shaped onigiris with some new fillings. I found lotus seed paste and sweetened green bean paste at the asian grocery this weekend, so that's what I used. I love these pastes! They're so cheap (about $2) and they last forever (they're sort of like a jam) and you only use a small amount. Like I'm sure I could make a hundred onigiris with one packet of bean paste. The sweetness of the paste combined with the salty onigiri is delicious.

There are a couple cheddar and nori flowers on top of the rice and some lotus root and red pepper on the bottom. I worked on my lettuce wall building skills (still needs some work!), and on the right there are green and yellow zucchini and a pink coconut onigiri.

On the top there are a couple gyoza with dipping sauce, broccolli, snow peas, a mysterious fruit called loquat (it was pretty yummy, although BF wasn't a big fan), pineapple, strawberries, blueberries and a heart shaped truffle.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Gyoza Recipe

I made some gyoza tonight, so I thought I'd post the recipe. They're a little labour intensive, but it's a lazy sort of work. BF was settling in to watch some TV, so I whipped up the filling in a couple of minutes and sat with him on the couch assembling the dumplings. It's kind of relaxing actually and then you don't have to feel so lazy because you've been sitting around :P

These are my absolute favorite bento filler. It's not unusual for me to put them in a bento for lunch and then go to dinner at a Japanese restaurant and order them there as well. I could probably live off of them if I had to.

No pictures this time because the method is the same as my recipe for leek dumplings, it's just a different filling.

One quick note about the recipe: Most recipes for gyoza are made with raw ground pork which cooks during the final steaming/frying. I prefer to cook mine first because when I see all the fat that drains out of it while cooking, I definitely am glad that wasn't inside the gyoza. It does give a different texture to the gyoza though, but I think it tastes equally delicious both ways. If you prefer using the pork raw, just add the mirin and soy sauce to the dumpling filling directly.

Recipe: Gyoza


1/2 lb ground pork
2 1/2 cups chopped chinese or napa cabbage
3 Tbsp chopped green onion
1 inch chunk of ginger, grated
1 clove of garlic
1 egg white
1 1/2 Tbsp mirin
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
Package of 50 round dumpling wrappers

For the dipping sauce, mix rice vinegar and soy sauce half and half. Serve about 1 Tbsp of sauce for 6 dumplings.

Heat frying pan to medium heat with mirin and soy sauce. Fry and separate the ground pork into small pieces. Remove from heat and drain well /pat with paper towel.

Combine pork with all of the other ingredients (except wrappers of course) and mix well.

The filling will be a little moist from the liquid that leaves the cabbage, so use a fork instead of a spoon to scoop out the filling to reduce the amount of liquid in the gyoza.

Scoop 1 Tbsp of filling onto each wrapper. Wet the edge of the wrapper and fold in the same way as for leek dumplings. Place on wax paper so that they are not touching, and freeze. If you don't use wax paper, they'll be tough to remove from the plate or tray that you freeze them on. Once frozen you can put them in a plastic bag or tupperware to save space.

When you are ready to eat them, steam until cooked or fry in a bit of canola oil until brown (even yummier is to steam them and then fry them on one side). You don't have to thaw them first.


Friday, April 25, 2008

April 25th Bento

The theme of today's bento was 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears".

Note to self: never use chicken as a backdrop for ham and expect it to show up in pictures.

The only new thing I tried for today's bento was to make onigiri out of brown rice (trying to make them a little more healthy since I'm still on this diet....4.5lbs down, 5.5lbs to go!!). It didn't work out so well, they wouldn't stick together. I made four bears for this bento, and only two of them stuck together well enough for the bento. Luckily I had another bear in the freezer! So we have two brown rice onigiri stuffed with anchovies and one white rice stuffed with red bean paste.

Goldilocks is made from sliced ham with omelette hair, a nori face, a carrot bow, and a red pepper shirt with an omelette star. It was all done with punches, the only thing I cut by hand was the shirt. She is sitting on some slices of chicken cordon bleu. She's pretty happy because she hasn't noticed yet that there are three ferocious bears behind her, and the bears are happy because they've found a snack.

For veggies there are asparagus, sugar snaps, broccoli, spinach in a rolled omelette and a few cooked carrot flowers.

Fruits are three gooseberries in the corner, some pineapple chunks, strawberries and blueberries. Lastly, there is a cinnamon truffle and some omelette stars scattered around.

To make things go smoother in the morning, I cut out all the ham, omelette and veggie shapes the evening before, as well as cooking the meat and steaming/shaping the spinach for the tamagoyaki. The morning was basically just arranging everything.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

April 23rd Bento

Today was very much a throw-in-whatever's-in-the-freezer bento.

The only thing I actually made for the bento was a rice vermicelli noodle dish. I fried up some ground chicken with ponzu sauce and lime juice. Then when it was cool, I added some fresh mint, chives and basil, and mixed in some cooked rice vermicelli. I cut a sheet of sesame mamenori into four strips and folded it into little pockets with the vermicelli inside and held together with an animal skewer.

In the rest of the bottom tier we have two of the coconut onigiris from the weekend, two of the pork shumai from last week's batch, fried and pressed flat, asparagus, snow peas, broccoli and a quail egg.

In the top, there's some tangerine, a cherry tomato, kiwi hearts, fresh pineapple, strawberries and blueberries (I put cheese and chocolate in BF's bento too since it's bigger and he's not the one trying to lose ten lbs). It was pretty good for just being thrown together.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

April 22nd Bento

Today's bento was probably my prettiest one yet, but for some reason, my pictures haven't been turning out this week, so I apologize that it doesn't look as good in the photo. I dropped my camera on the weekend, I'm wondering if that has something to do with it.

The bentos today were losely based on the theme "squares"

The sushi is called a "Four Seas Roll" and it's another one from the Sushi for Parties book that I got last weekend (Did I mention I love this book?). Usually it has nori curves all through it, but I used mamenori instead (mostly because I don't like the taste of nori much, but partly because it's prettier), which is shaped like nori, but its actually a soy paper and it comes in all different colours. I used a green sheet for one roll and an orange sheet for the other. Each roll makes four pieces of sushi, so that was exactly enough for two bentos. The center of the sushi is just plain old sweetened rolled omelette (tamagoyaki), and the outside is wrapped with nori. I think these turned out really nice for my first try.

For meat, there's a bacon wrapped chicken "tournado" premade from the butcher. I baked it the night before as usual. There are two leek dumplings, some sugar snaps, a container of boiled edamame and sweet potato flowers, sesame fried bok choy, green and yellow zucchini slices, a stack of watermelon slices, strawberries, blueberries and a french mint chocolat from Laura Secord.

In other news, I am super excited because I just ordered an AeroGarden with the Japanese herb kit. Apparently it will take a few weeks to get here because I'm in Canada, but soon I will be growing my very own shiso leaves and mitsuba! I haven't been able to find Japanese herbs anywhere locally so I'm crossing my fingers that this will work.

Monday, April 21, 2008

April 21st Bento

I found a cute little heart shaped pan over the weekend, so I used it in today's bento. I guess the edges weren't high enough though, BF said the noodles spilled out of it.

Today's lunch was some somen noodles stir fried with garlic sesame sauce, green onions and small strips of beef, turkey rolls from yesterday, a coconut rice star, carrot, daikon and plantain flowers on asparagus stems, broccoli, a cherry tomato, snow peas, blood orange wedges, cucumber, strawberries, blueberries and a truffle. There's a little bit of lettuce for garnish.

This was a pretty yummy bento!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Coconut Sticky Rice Onigiri Recipe

Here's another recipe from this afternoon.

Recipe: Coconut Sticky Rice Onigiri


  • 1 1/2 cups rice (I used short grain)
  • 1 can of coconut milk (398ml)
  • Food colouring (optional)
Reserve 1/4 cup of coconut milk. Cook rice with remaining coconut milk (I used a rice cooker, but you could do it on the stove if you like).

If you would like to colour the rice, add food colouring to the reserved coconut milk. I split the milk in two and coloured one pink and one yellow using 6 drops of food colouring in each (I forgot to take a picture after the milk was coloured, so here's one before they were coloured. Sorry about the white on white!)

When the rice is finished cooking, add reserved coconut milk and mix in. Let it sit covered for a few minutes until the rice has absorbed the additional coconut milk.

Shape however you like! I decided that rather than do filled onigiris, I would leave them plain to just enjoy the coconut taste, so I made them half of the height of a normal onigiri. To do this fill the onigiri mold about 3/4 of the way up. Then cover with saran wrap and flip over. Push the bottom of the mold until the rice is packed and remove the mold.

I made pink hearts and yellow stars: Individually wrap the onigiri and place in the freezer while still warm. When ready to serve, microwave them first to thaw/warm them and to restore the texture of the rice.

Here is the finished batch. It made two dozen of the half size onigiri, ready to be thrown in a bento!

Rice Paper Turkey Rolls Recipe

They had these big smoked turkey drumsticks at the grocery store today, so I made turkey rolls. Here's the recipe!

Recipe: Rice Paper Turkey Rolls


  • 6oz smoked turkey, cut into strips
  • a handful of snow peas (8 or 9) cut into strips
  • 2 inch section of carrot, julienned
  • 6 sheets of rice paper
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp ponzu sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sake
  • Hoisin Sauce
Lightly steam the snow peas. Fry the turkey with ponzu sauce and sake until it starts to brown. Add in parsley and fry for another minute or two.

Here's a picture of the ingredients after they're cooked:

Fill a 9 inch square pan with hot water. For each roll, completely immerse the rice paper in the water and let it soak for ten seconds.

Remove the rice paper and spread out so there are no wrinkles in it. Place 1/6 of each of the fillings in a little pile in the middle of the rice paper, and roll it up as shown in the picture below (click on the picture for a closer view).

That's it! If they're for tomorrow's bento, keep them refrigerated wrapped in plastic wrap or in tupperware and separated by wax paper (otherwise they'll stick together).

Fry them lightly in a bit of canola oil before serving. Serve with hoisin sauce (optional: mix in a little bit of chili sauce with the hoisin to give it some kick).

Thursday, April 17, 2008

April 17th Bento

I got a new book "Sushi for Parties" (there's a link in the book carousel on my sidebar), and it has all these amazing sushi designs in it, so I decided to test one out on today's bento.

I made sushi flowers (one is pink and one is orange but it's hard to tell from the photo) with carrot centers. Basically, you just make a tear shaped roll and then arrange the slices as a flower. To colour the rice I added food colouring to the sushi vinegar.

Last night I made some homemade pork shumai, so I steamed a few of those. I added a thin slice of beef braised with teriyaki sauce as well. Veggies are asparagus, broccoli and snowpeas. The stars are made from plantain fried with a little sugar (yup, shamelessly copying BF's great ideas!).

For fruit there are papaya chunks, fresh pineapple, strawberries and blueberries, and dessert is a truffle (I forget what flavour).

I think this one turned out really pretty!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

BF's First Bento!!

Today is my birthday, so BF made me a birthday bento! This is his first attempt at a bento and I think it is fantastic. He got up at 6:00am and was just about finished at 8:00am. I think it is the sweetest thing ever.

On the bottom we have a lion (the onigiri is sitting on a zucchini mane) and tiger onigiri with daikon tails entwined as they snack on some pork schnitzel (premade from the butcher) with steamed asparagus and broccoli, and fried plantain stars (I had never tried plantain before).

On the top are green and yellow zucchini slices that have been steamed with balsamic vinegar, some stuffed grape leaves (premade from the deli), more broccoli, eggplant steamed and then braised with miso sauce (miso, mirin, soy sauce and brown sugar) resting on an endive leaf, slices of watermelon and pineapple and blueberries.

I was impressed by all of the different foods he used compared to what I put in bentos, and I loved the fact that I got to sleep in. BF can make the bentos any time he wants!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

April 15th Bento

I finally found a place that will make sukiyaki beef for me!! I was trying to find it for over a month. So today was beef maki of course!!

The beef maki was made by marinating the beef in a mixture of 1 Tbsp sake, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, a little ginger, a clove of garlic, an egg white and a couple pinches of corn starch for about 20 minutes. Then I rolled it with two pieces of steamed asparagus, four chives and a strip of red pepper and attached with a toothpick. Then, just fry over medium heat for a couple minutes until browned on all sides. Add a mixture of dashi and teriyaki sauce (try to coat the rolls) and leave it to cook covered for 5 - 7 minutes. A little more involved than my typical bentos, but it was so delicious!!!

Then there are three star shaped onigiris (I'm afraid you can't see the shapes that well), broccoli and snow peas, sesame fried carrots, zucchini and a daikon flower for veggies. There are a couple of leek dumplings as well.

The salad at the top was made by dicing avocado, parsley, basil, red and green peppers and mixing with some chick peas and olive oil. It was really yummy, but it was a bit liquidy by lunch so next time I would put it in a plastic cup rather than a paper one.

For fruit there are plum chunks, strawberries and blueberries. Dessert is some Jelly Belly beans (my favorite!).

Monday, April 14, 2008

April 14th Bento

I wasn't going to make bentos at all today, but I was awake early this morning, so I figured I might as well get up and make lunch. So this is what an unplanned bento, made by rummaging around the fridge looking for anything edible looks like:

On the bottom we have inari sushi from yesterday's batch, sesame fried bok choy, steamed broccoli and snow peas, and lotus root and red peppers (cooking method was in a previous entry).

The top is a little cake, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, honey tangerine (these are so amazing!!), kiwi flowers (it's faster to punch out flowers than to peel them), more snow peas, cucumber, gyoza and more broccoli.

I decided that rather than do a main carb and a main protein, I'd just include two foods with both (the sushi and the gyoza).

BF said he thought the bentos were really yummy, and they didn't take much time, so I guess that's all I can ask for!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Inari Sushi Recipe

I didn't have a chance to get groceries this weekend, so I ended up making inari sushi, because it uses ingredients I usually have on hand.

Recipe: Inari Sushi


-2 cups sushi rice (check out my chicken teriyaki recipe for how to make sushi rice)
-4 Inari sushi pouches (or Aburage)
-Your favorite add-ins. I used:

  • 1/2 lb ground beef fried with 1Tbsp soy sauce and 1 Tbsp sake
  • 2 eggs scrambled with 1 tsp of sugar added while beating
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot

-Black sesame seeds

The tofu pouches I purchased were already prepared, so no prep work was required, but if you have plain aburage, first cut the pouches in half. Then place them in a colander and pour boiling water over them to rinse off the oil. Simmer the aburage in a frying pan with 1 1/4 cups dashi, 3 Tbsp sugar, 4 Tbsp soy sauce and 3 Tbsp mirin for about 15 minutes.

Mix everything except the tofu pouches together in a bowl

Carefully open each tofu pouch. Spoon in rice mixture (make sure you get it into the corners!). Sprinkle black sesame seeds on top of rice for decoration. Recipe makes eight (BF was snacking on them before I could take a picture, that's why there are only six)

Wow! Easiest recipe ever!

You can freeze these. Wrap them individually in plastic wrap, and freeze. Heat them in the microwave when you remove them to restore the texture, and allow to return to room temperature before serving.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

April 12th Bento

I don't generally make bentos on Saturdays, but today BF has his first scuba dive and it's going to take most of the day, so I got up really early this morning (he had to leave by seven!) and packed him a bento.

I didn't try anything new as far as what types of foods I included. There are eight little onigiris filled with red bean paste and nori letters, slices from a baked stuffed chicken breast we picked up at the butcher last night, an omelette and spinach heart, a couple gyoza, sweet potato flowers with butter and brown sugar, salted edamame, an apple checkerboard, the standard asparagus, broccoli and snow peas for gap fillers, strawberries, blackberries and grapes. On the side I packed a bag with some green tea Pocky, dumpling dipping sauce, and napkins.

I made the nori letters last night. I took my letter shaped cookie cutters and traced them on a sheet of paper. Then I stapled the paper to a sheet of nori and cut out as much of the letters as I could with scissors and used a exacto type knife (one that's only used for food) to do any small details.

I was crazy multitasking this morning. Most of the time I had two frying pans and a pot on the stove while microwaving something else and chopping or arranging the fruits and veggies. I made breakfast at the same time, whole grain oatmeal and scrambled eggs. I wanted to make something really filling for breakfast because the Atlantic ocean is really cold this time of year (obviously), so BF's going to be burning up calories in a hurry.

It might seem like a lot of work for a Saturday morning to get all this together, but when it's all done, it's such a good feeling to know that my loved one is taken care of, and doesn't have to stop for an egg mcmuffin or some other fast food, that I really love to do it!

Friday, April 11, 2008

April 11th, Snack Bento

Today is BF's birthday!! We decided to go out for lunch as part of the celebration (mmm....sushi), so I just made snack bentos.

We have a pork onigiri bear, a quail egg chick and a couple of gyoza for the main items. For fruit, there are some apple checkerboards, tangerine slices, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries. Veggies are asparagus, brocolli and snow peas. It was the perfect snack! (not to mention really low cal!)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sorry, no bentos today!

I made bentos today, but I've decided they were too ugly to post.

Last night I had these sort of half ideas in my head about what I would put in them, and it never really came together. I made quail eggs florentine, this black bean side dish and lamb sausage rolls. lol, what was I thinking?

Better luck next time, I'm hoping!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

April 9th

The theme of today's bento is 'turkey dinner'. I picked up this wonderful turkey roll at the butcher and decided to challenge myself to include all of the components of a turkey dinner in today's bento. I think it turned out pretty well (and it was delicious!)

The main component is the turkey roll. It's a turkey breast rolled with ham, mozzarella and spinach. Next we have some mashed sweet potatos with a tulip for spring. I added applesauce and maple syrup to the potatos once they were cooked and mashed, and it turned out awesome. The tulip is made of havarti and chives.

Instead of cranberry sauce, we have stir fried cabbage with dried cranberries, garlic and balsamic vinegar (the recipe is here). Veggies are green and yellow zucchini, broccoli, snow peas and cucumber. There's a gouda babybel hiding under the cabbage and cucumber, an onigiri (I know, not in keeping with the theme but the bento needed more carbs!), strawberries, blueberries, and for a home baked dessert, a date square.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

April 8th Bento

I was at work super late last night, so this is the ultimate in lazy bentos. No prep work the night before and really quick stuff in the morning.

We have some anchovy onigiris (I don't like fish, but BF loves it) with carrot and nori hearts. The deli nearby had these little marinated anchovies so I thought I would try them as an onigiri filler. BF said they reminded him of mackerel sashimi.

There are two gyoza and two leek dumplings (from the batch on the weekend!) at the bottom, sitting on top of some asparagus. For meat there's some fast fry pork loin with snowpeas. I used snow peas and broccoli for gap fillers as usual, a cherry tomato, fresh pineapple, strawberries, blue berries, a gooseberry, a french mint chocolate, and a couple slices from a crepe that I spread with cream cheese and jam and rolled up (we made crepes for breakfast on Sunday, and we had a couple left over).

My version was the same but smaller quantities, and no chocolate. I also tried frying the dumplings in the pan without any oil, and they turned out perfect. I ate half of my bento at lunch and half in the middle of the afternoon. I wasn't hungry all day, the food was yummy, and I stayed pretty low cal, so I'm happy with that!

Monday, April 07, 2008

April 7th Bento

Today was my first attempt at making donburi, and it was a success! The pics of my bento didn't turn out, so here is BF's:

On the bottom we have miso chicken donburi with carrot, green pepper and onion. The recipe is from the book "Bento Boxes: Japanese Meals on the Go" The shooting star is cheddar cheese. Then we have some steamed spinach and a piece of omelette. Everything is over a very large layer of rice. I was actually quite surprised at how much rice fit in there. I was also pleasantly surprised at how quickly you can put together a donburi bento, both in the prep work the night before and assembly in the morning. It took no time at all!

I figured the bottom tier had carbs, protein and veggies covered, so I did the top with all fruit! There's melon, blueberries, cucumber, a cherry tomato, kiwi flowers, a gooseberry, strawberries, and a truffle.

This morning I decided that I'm going to lose ten pounds by May 19 (six weeks). So that means no more truffles or pocky in my bento :P Plus thirty minute workouts, six days a week. I'll keep you posted on my progress! Wish me luck!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Leek Dumplings Recipe

A lot of times, I want to put a kind of snack food like dumplings or shumai in the bentos, but the bento already has enough meat and eggs for protein, and then I get a little stuck. I thought some vegetarian dumplings would fill that niche for me, so I made some leek dumplings this afternoon.

I couldn't find a recipe anywhere, so I made it up for the most part. It turned out really yummy though. Here it is!

Note: All measurements are approximate so you have a guideline. I didn't actually measure anything.

Recipe: Leek Dumplings

2 1/2 cups chopped leeks (I just used 1 bunch)
3 or 4 water chestnuts, chopped
1 Tbsp grated ginger
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 leaves of chinese or napa cabbage, chopped
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sake
Approximately 30 dumpling wrappers

Fry leeks, water chestnuts, ginger and garlic in a little canola oil over medium until soft and a little brown. This takes some of the bite off the leeks so the dumplings aren't too onion-y tasting, and it helps get some of the water out of the veggies.

Throw everything in a bowl, and add the cabbage, rice vinegar, soy sauce and sake and mix well. Let it sit for about an hour to let all the flavours combine and to let all the liquid drain to the bottom (you don't want the dumpling filling to be too wet).

Drain the liquid off the filling, and form into dumplings. I do two at a time.

Take the dumpling wrappers, and drop about a Tbsp of filling on each one. Dip your finger in a bowl of water and run it around the outside of the dumpling (that's what keeps it sticking together).

Bring the bottom edge of the wrapper up to the top to fold it in half, and pleat the sides (I do three pleats on each side). It takes a bit of practice, so don't worry if your first five look a little messy.

Voila! You have a finished dumpling!

Place the dumplings side by side on wax paper. They get a little damp on the back, so the wax paper keeps them from sticking.

If you're planning to freeze them, freeze them side by side on the wax paper, and then put them in a ziplock bag after they're frozen. This keeps them from sticking together.

When you're ready to eat them, heat up some canola oil at about medium heat. Fry on each side until the wrapper starts to turn brown.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

April 3rd Bento

Today, rather than do a meat dish and a carb, I did two foods with both meat and carbs, plus some carb-y veggies, so I think it balanced out well.

Today we had the chicken teriyaki sushi I made last night, some home made pork and cabbage gyoza, a boiled quail egg, lotus root with red pepper, asparagus, a little broccoli, snow peas, blood orange, grapes, half a Babybel, strawberries, blueberries and a little cake. There's a blue flower bottle of rice vinegar/soy sauce mix and a monkey filled with wasabi.

To cook the lotus root, first I peeled it and sliced into half moons, and diced a strip of red pepper. in a small frying pan, I boiled 4 Tbsp of water and 2 tsp of white vinegar, and then added the veggies. Cover and let it boil for three minutes, drain the liquid. It turned out crunchy and yummy, not starchy at all.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Chicken Teriyaki Sushi Recipe

Wednesday nights, BF has scuba lessons, so it's my favorite night to putter around in the kitchen, dance to some girly music and make bento foods. I find it really relaxing and because Japanese cooking is so visual and pretty, it never gets boring for me. I thought I would share some photos and a recipe for the chicken teriyaki sushi I made tonight

Recipe: Teriyaki Chicken Sushi


2 Tbsp Sake
4 Tbsp Soy sauce
4 Tbsp Mirin
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp grated ginger
1 chicken breast cut in half so that you have two large thin slices (I think that's width-wise?)
2 Tbsp of flour
1.5 cups rice
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 sheets of nori
1 Tbsp black sesame seeds
A few thin strips of your favorite veggies (I used green pepper and chives)

First, put rice and 1.75 cups of water in the rice cooker and press "On". :)

Mix the sake, soy sauce, mirin, first amount of sugar and ginger together. Punch some holes in the chicken with a fork, and place in a shallow dish. Pour sake mixture over the chicken and leave in the fridge for a bit.

Make some sushi vinegar by stirring 1/3 cup rice vinegar, 3 Tbsp of sugar and 1tsp of salt in a pot on the stove until the salt and sugar dissolve (don't let it boil, it just has to heat up a bit).

When the rice is done, place it in a wide, deep bowl (or spread it on a plate if that's what you have), and pour about half of the sushi vinegar over it, a little at a time, folding in the sides of the rice with a spatula (the same way you fold in egg whites in baking) to mix it all together. Be careful not to flatten the rice, it should be light and fluffy. Ideally you should continue to mix the rice until it cools (about ten minutes), but you can also just cover the rice and let it cool. Put the rest of the vinegar in some tupperware and save it for sushi next time.

At this point I generally take a 20 minute break to shop online for bento accessories to make sure the rice is nice and cool and the marinade has had a chance to really soak into the chicken.

Remove chicken from the marinade and sprinkle a little flour on both sides of each piece. Fry in a smidge of canola oil for about three minutes on each side. Pour marinade in the pan and cover, cooking until the chicken is done (about five minutes). Remove lid, and continue to simmer until the marinade is nice and thick. Remove chicken from heat and slice into thin strips.

Cover your sushi mat with saran wrap (we're going to make inside out rolls so the saran wrap keeps the rice from sticking to the mat). Take a sheet of nori. I generally cut about 1.5" of one side to make the size of rolls I like.

Keeping a bowl of water and rice vinegar handy to dip your fingers in so the rice doesn't stick, press a thin layer of rice onto the rough side of the nori, making sure you get all the way to each edge. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on the rice.

Flip over the nori and rice, and position your chicken and veggies about an inch from the edge. I like to make the ends stick out a little so that the finished end pieces of sushi look cute :)

Wet your finger and use it to moisten the far edge of the nori (so that it seals when you finish rolling).

Roll it up!!

And you should have a gorgeous finished roll! This recipe should make two rolls.

I make them the night before, so at this point I wrap up the rolls in the saran wrap, and slice them up in the morning.

So far I've made veggie rolls and this was my first attempt at chicken rolls. The idea of fish sitting in a lunch box all morning makes me nervous, so I think I'm going to have to find other creative sushi ideas instead.

While I was cooking earlier, I was thinking that when I started bentoing, I was worried I would lose interest after a week, or that I wouldn't want to get up early or something. Or that I wouldn't be able to figure out how to cook (I didn't know how to cook at all when I started this a month ago!).

I find it really rewarding though, to know that I'm doing something positive for BF's and my health, and to do something creative. Anyone who knows me well knows that creativity is something I've always had trouble with, I'm generally really logical and analytical.

So I guess my point is, making bentos has been a really fun and positive thing for me, so if you're toying with the idea, you should definitely do it up. I'm very much a life-is-in-the-details sort of person and bento is a fabulous detail to add to any day!

April 2nd Bento

There's a bit of a silly story to go with today's bento. I mentioned to BF last night that I was going to put something cute in his bento. He wanted to know what it was so I gave him a clue that it was two words that rhyme, one is an insect and one is a food. He guessed for about twenty minutes, and the best he could come up with was fly pie (the right answer was cheese bees!).

I decided to let him be right this time. So today's bento was fly pie!

On the bottom we have chicken cordon bleu (premade from the butcher) with havarti/cheddar/nori bees. You can't see it, but underneath the bees, the chicken has all kinds of ham and cheese stuffing, it was so good. Then there is asparagus, broccoli, snow peas, a little quail egg hiding, and a red bean onigiri.

On the top is a mini savory sweet potato pie (made a batch and froze it on the weekend), with a nori/havarti fly. The recipe for the pie is here. I divided the recipe in 4, and put the filling in tiny tart shells (Tenderflake makes them, they're in the freezer section) and baked for about 20 minutes. It made 6 tarts.

The fly is kind of an acheivement for me (is it ridiculous to call it that?) because it's my first semi-original creation (meaning I've never seen something similar in a bento). I just google image-searched "cartoon fly" and did my best to translate that into food!

For the rest of the bento, we have a wall of cucumber and another wall made of melon and fresh pineapple bricks. Strawberries, blueberries, a couple of carrot flowers and a daifuku for dessert (I found these tiny ones on the weekend at a new asian grocer that opened up a few minutes from where I live).

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April 1st Bentos

I was a bit rushed with the bentos this morning. BF had to leave for work really early for a course, so I wanted to make sure they were ready in time.

On the bottom we have stir fried somen noodles with lamb, asparagus, red pepper, carrots and water chestnuts. This was made the night before and is super easy. Boil noodles for about three minutes. Fry lamb with a few mint leaves in a little canola oil until browned and then drain most of the liquid. Add veggies (I julienned the carrot and red pepper, cut the water chestnuts into slivers, asparagus into bite size chunks), and saute for a few minutes until crispy. Then add in noodles, a splash of sake, about 2 tsp of soy sauce and a splash of teryaki marinade. Saute for a few more minutes until everything is nice and hot.

To store over night, I seal it in tupperware and refridgerate while still warm. That keeps it from drying out. Then in the morning, just microwave covered for a few minutes, stirring every 45 seconds. Fast!!

On the top we have a stack of apple slices (BF had the other half of the apple for breakfast), some happy cheese flowers, blueberries, strawberries, sesame-miso spinach, half a mini Babybel, some boiled and salted edamame, a gooseberry for BF, and a little Japanese cake.

To make the spinach (any dark leafy greens will do), last night I made a mixture of 1 tsp white miso paste, 1Tbsp ground black sesame seeds, 1Tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp of mirin and sake (note that this made about 5 times as much paste as I needed for these bentos so feel free to cut down the quantities). It tasted wicked strong and bitter. In the morning I blanched two cups of spinach (I'm always amazed at how much you can compress spinach!), rinsed in cold water, squeezed out all the water and chopped into tiny chunks. With trepidation, I mixed in about 1/2 tsp of the miso mixture. It turned out delicious, the blandness of the spinach just sucked up all the bitter out of the paste, so it was more salty than anything. I think next time I would use more paste in fact.

Everything was still tasty by lunch!