Mushroom bento

I don't know who stole the weekend, but I would really want to have it back. I have the feeling that I blinked on Friday night and all of a sudden it's almost Monday again. :o(

I didn't post Friday's bentos, so I'm doing it quickly before Monday blues gets to me.

My black sakura bento had carrot wrapped enoki, shitake, the last of the zucchini cakes, rice, cheese and carrot cut outs, some olives and cherry tomatoes and clementine for dessert.

Sweetie's bento had (1) in the bottom tier : leftover potatoes and sausage from Thursday night and (2) in the top tier : shitake and enoki, carrot/cheese cutouts, olives and cherry tomatoes.

Nothing special nor recipe worthy, so that's all I have to comment on these.

Tomorrow another week starts : yay :o)

Kreativ blogger award


Gamene from Bentozen, an inspiring bentoist who "decorates her soy chicken nuggets with little bear faces" (sic) kindly nominated me for a KREATIV BLOGGER award!  My first award ever,OMG .. the pressure   ^_^

But being nominated is only part of the game.  Apparently I should post seven interesting facts about myself, and then nominate seven other bloggers. Finding seven things to enumerate shouldn't be too hard, finding interesting ones might proof a challenge though.  Better trow myself into the deep end and get started with this ^_^

(1) Living in a country with three official languages (two of which I spoke at home), I was spoonfed linguistic love and unsurprisingly, when the time came to go to university, I decided I needed to learn some more.  I got my interpreter's degree back in 1996 and nowadays speak 6 languages (Dutch, French, English, Spanish, Italian & German).  And because I'm nerd/geek/loony* (* pick one - or all ^_^), I  am currently trying to learn Japanese.  Trying being the key word , because mastering kanji is HARD (and even that is an understatement).  It's also through my interest for Japan and all related things, that I ended up making bentos.

(2) I used to play the piano but haven't touched it in years. I should pick it up again (after tuning it because at the moment it sounds horrible) but always find some excuse not to : too much work, need to go shopping, would rather be crafting, ... On the other hand, I'd love to learn how to play saxophone.  Another entry on my bucket list.

(3) I love animals and have always had pets in my life. Currently I am being bossed around by two British shorthairs Lancelot & Lisa Lynn, Lotje and Lily for short.

(4) I passed my practical driving exam 7 years after taking the theoretical exam. As I didn't own a car, I found it useless to take the pratical exam. So I only got my driver's licence in 1999 at age 25.  I haven't had any accident since 2004 (while still driving 30.000 km/18.650 miles a year), and I'd love to keep it that way (knock on wood)

(5) I love travelling and am always busy planning our next trip (we try to travel abroad at least twice a year, as much as our 20 days off will allow).  There are so many cities and countries out there to be disovered, that we hardly ever go back to a place we already visited.  Asia remains a blank spot on our travel map for the moment, but visiting Hong Kong and Japan are other bucket list entries. My favourite destination so far was Brasil. I cannot wait to get back to South America, if you can imagine falling in love with a continent, I think I did.

(6) Two years ago I discovered the wonderful world of swapping and it led me into a world of crafts I never even knew existed.  I always loved drawing (did art school) and already worked on cross-stitching projects, but I have since then started making jewelry, mixed media projects (bookmarks, matchboxes), ATCs, and a whole lot more.  I haven't updated the crafty section of my blog for more than 6 months (as blogging was put on the backburner for a while), but I will probably start updating it again this weekend, as I have some ATCs to upload.
(7) For almost two years now I am an active lender on Kiva,  the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals like you and me to lend to entrepreneurs around the globe. Over the last 23 months I have contributed by loaning 25 USD at a time to 19 low income entrepreneurs or group of entrepreneurs.  Fighting poverty has never been so easy : by using Kiva I know exactly who my money is loaned to and what they're using it for. And most of all, I know that I'm helping them build a sustainable business that will provide income to feed, clothe, house and educate their family long after my loan is paid back.  I encourage everybody to participate in this project, changing the world, one step at a time.

Now for the nominations, most (if not all) bento blogs I am following, have already been nominated, so I'm not sure which one to nominate.  I'll think this over this weekend and edit this post afterwards.


Eclectic bento box

My bento box of the day is a bit of a mix of all things I had in the fridge, which makes it a bit eclectic flavourwise. Luckily this bento has different compartments which keep the different items well separated.

Clockwise my box has :

* inari sushi with salmon eggs and a bit of gari (I love the sweet and savoury combo of these, but finding aburaage isn't always easy)
* a mix of raw veggies (cucumber/carrot swirl, tomatoes, radish, olives, cuke filled carrot)
* zucchini cake, with takuan/daikon triangles
* clementine and melon balls
* more melon balls and a cupcake of sweet potato/cocosmilk/coriander mash.

The second bento has a tortilla wrap covered with seasoned sour cream, smoked salmon, spring onions and iceberg salad; a baked sweet potato and and the same mix of veggies as in the top one.

As you can tell, nothing special today, so the only thing I have left to say, is to wish all my American friends and readers a

Myspace Graphics

See ya tomorrow :o)

Zucchini cake bento


After spending the whole evening on the phone with the helpdesk (with constantly the same Santana music as long as I was on hold) because the newly installed wifi still doesn't work, I didn't have the courage to start making a bento on Monday night. So yesterday, I just ate a ready-made pasta meal I put in the microwave.

I missed my ordinary nice lunch though, so even if I was tired last night, I decided to go and make myself something nice. So here I am, back with a new bento.

Sweetie's bento has meatballs (leftover from dinner), more carrot kinpira (I'm really hooked on those) and rice with a cheese star. The rice is from the one I froze on Monday and I really like how even after heating it up, it kept that round form from how I wrapped it up in foil. The cheese star is a cutout from a babybel cheese that I dabbed with pimenton dulce for a colour accent.

The bottom tier has half of a zucchini cake with the second half of the cheese star, daikon/carrot swirl, yellow and red cherry tomatoes, radish and mozzarella balls. I am really starting to get a hang of my vegetable cutters. Only problem I still have is liberating the swirl from the remainder of the vegetable. Practise makes perfect they say, so I guess I just have to practise more :o)

How-to zucchini cake:

For 6 minicakes, I used :

- 120 g self-rising flour (or you can use all purpose flour with yeast, which you add at the very end, just before putting it in the oven)
- 70 g grated gruyere cheese
- 70 g grated parmesan cheese
- a medium-sized zucchini
- 7 cl milk (I used semi-skimmed)
- 7 cl olive oil
- 2 eggs
- salt & pepper

Preheat the oven at 180°C.

Shred the zucchini. I kept a 5 cm long end unshredded for decorating purposes but that's not really necessary.

Mix the eggs with the milk and oil.

Add the flour and cheese to the egg batter. Before adding the zucchini to the batter, you have to remove excess liquid. This can be done either by squeezing the shreds with your hand or by pressing them in a sieve like I did.

Add the zucchini to the batter and mix all the ingredients together.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
(If you used all purpose flour, this is the moment when you should add your leavening agent. )

At this stage I decorated the cakes with half slices of zucchini, but this is optional.

Spoon the batter into the individual mini cake forms and put them in the oven at 180°C for 30 minutes.

As with ordinary cakes, check if they're done by sticking a knife or pin into the cake. If it comes out clean, it's done :o)

And my owan tsukimi accompanied me to the office today with in the bottom bowl a linguini salad with zucchini, asperagus, tomato, bell pepper and tomato, mixed with legumaise and with a few large shrimps.

In the top tier I added the second zucchini cake half, carrot kinpira, a takuan star (first time I taste takuan and I quite like it), zebra tomato (nice to look at but the taste isn't great unfortunately :o( ), the last of the edamame salad and another carrot/daikon swirl.

Bon appetit !

Ika sashimi bento


As this post titles already indicates, today's bento has a Japanese feel to it. Shopping in Asian supermarkets over the weekend clearly left its marks.

For the toptier (left), I used storebought edamame salad (I haven"t found the beans yet to make it myself), rice onigiri with red shiso furikake and salmon eggs, ika sashimi on top of iceberg salad (the reason why this bento is staying in the fridge until lunchtime) and carrot kinpira.

When making rice for today's bentos I made enough to fill 7 bentos so I froze 5 portions of it. I am still looking at ways to speed up the bento making and if this works, it will save me not only time but also some dishes. I'll keep you posted on the results of my freezing experiment.

In the other tier I added simmered kabocha and some fruity vitamins for dessert : blackberries, clementine and plum slices.

The plum is rather a surprise and is part of my renewed attempt of widening my fruit likings. For years I didn't want anything to do with plums, but this weekend I decided I should try one again. After all I didn't like fennel for years and now it's one of my favourite veggies. As they say Only fools don't change their minds. and being no fool, I gladly admit I was wrong. Plums are yummy :o)

The simmered kabocha is again a (slightly adapted) JustBento recipe, but it ended up being a tad too sweet for my liking. I guess I'll cut back on the sugar next time round.

How-to simmered kabocha (Kabocha no nitsuke):

- 1/4 of a whole fresh squash (found at Tagawa superstore this weekend)
- 310 ml or 1 cup water with 1/2 tsp. of dashi powder
- 2 Tbs. mirin
- 2 Tbs. sugar (will try 1 Tbs next time)
- 1 Tbs. soy sauce
- Pinch of salt

Put all the ingredients into a pan and bring up to a boil.

Lower the heat and simmer, turning the kabocha pieces from time to time, until the liquid has reduced to half - about 20 minutes. Leave to cool in the liquid - the kabocha will absorb flavor from it as it cools. Drain off lightly to pack into a bento box.

Sweetie has a day off today, so didn't really need a bento but for convenience sake, I made one anyway. No need to loose good habits :o)

Bottom tier has simmered kabocha, zebra tomatoes (first time I encountered these, I hope they taste as good as they look), leek sprouts and beemster cheese.

Top tier has white rice with a black sesame heart, carrot kinpira, iceberg salad on the mozzarella balls and ham rolls.


Sesame flavoured beef bento


An overdue update of the blog but like most Fridays and subsequent weekends, this one has passed in the blink of an eye. Before posting Monday's bentos, I still have to show you those from last Friday.

I have been browsing the JustBento website quite a lot lately and I came across so many recipes that I'd like to try, I hardly know where to start.  These bentos are a step towards my "try them all" goal, because I already tried 3 (three!) of them on one night :o)

The pictured bento holds gomashio rice with sesame flavored beef in the top tier and in the bottom tier, I put ham negimayaki, carrot kinpira, cucumber dividers and yellow bell pepper sticks, cherry tomatoes, olives and beemster cheese.

All the recipes can be found on the  JustBento website but for convenience sake I'm putting these on here as well.

How-to sesame flavoured beef :

For 2 portions

- 200g / about 7-8 oz. thinly cut beef
- 2 tsp. soy sauce
- 2 tsp. mirin
- 1 tsp. brown sugar
- 2 tsp. + 1 tsp. sesame oil
Slice the beef across the grain into thin strips. Put into a bowl, and add all the other ingredients except for the 1 tsp. of sesame oil. Massage the meat with your hands to rub in the marinade.

You can cook this right away, or leave it for a little while or even overnight.  I didn't have time to leave it a whole night to marinate so I left it for half an hour and the meat had already absorbed the flavour.

Heat up a frying pan and add the remaining 1 tsp. of sesame oil. Add the beef to the hot pan and stir-fry for a couple of minutes until done. It should be just a bit syrupy, and an appetizing dark brown.

How-to carrot kinpira :

- 2 medium carrots
- 1 Tbs. dark sesame oil
- a pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 Tbs. soy sauce
- 1 tsp. sesame seeds

Cut the carrots into matchstick size.

Heat up a frying pan or wok with the sesame oil. Add the carrots and toss around until crisp-tender, about 4 to 5 minutes depending on how skinny the matchsticks are. Add the cayenne pepper (the recipe calleed for red pepper flakes, but I'm not a fan of them) and toss some more. Add soy sauce, toss toss. Add the sesame seeds near the end.

How-to Ham Negimayaki :

- Spring onions
- Thinly sliced ham or cured meat of your choice. (I used a cooked honey sweetened ham.)

Cut the green parts of scallions or spring onions into pieces about 5cm / 2 inches long. Put on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on HIGH for about 2 minutes. (I was sceptical about this, but it worked)

Cut the ham into pieces that are just a bit narrower than the length of the green onion pieces. Take small bundles of the onion and wrap the ham tightly around them.

Heat up a non-stick frying pan and add a tiny bit of oil. Put the ham-and-onion rolls with the roll ends down in the hot pan. Leave until the bottom is a golden brown (this also seals the ends). Turn over 2-3 times more to brown the ham all over.

You shouldn’t need any more salt, but if you like you can sprinkle on some allspice, or Chinese 5 spice powder, or chili powder, for a little extra oomph. I didn't add anything at all and they were just fine.

My bento contained the same items so I can be short on that one : brown rice with ham negimayaki, sesame flavored beef, carrot kinpira, cucumber dividers and bell pepper flowers.

Balsamic sesame chicken bento


Today, I decided I should give the second sakura bento a try. Like the owan tsukumi one I have, the glossy black exterior is in stark contrast with the red on the inside, but I quite like it.

This bento is rather straightforward in presentation : protein, starch, veggies and fruits and it has five different colours as well which, I have been told, should be present in any bento. I'm not sure about this prerequisite, but either way I love to have colour variety in my lunch.

Today's bento has balsamic sesame chicken, rice with gomashio mixed into it, a selection of green veggies and some forest fruits and clementine for the fruity vitamine part.

I had been looking for fresh romanesco in the supermarket, but the only cabbage types readily available are cauliflower and broccoli. So I had to resort to using frozen ones. I wish I had a famer's market nearby where I would be able to find this kind of special fruits and veggies, because the "mainstream" range ends up being a bit boring after a while. I think I will have to try and visit the vroegmarkt (i.e. early/night market catering for the professionals of the food industry) in Brussels, one of these days. Maybe I'll be able to find coloured cauliflowers and purple carrots over there. These look all so good in other people's bentos :o)

How to balsamic sesame chicken:

I found the recipe for the balsamic sesame chicken on the Justbento blog and it really is delicious. For the sake of clarity I'm copying maki's recipe below

My ingredients (for 2 bentos):

- 300 g of skinless chicken breasts cut into small pieces (because the boneless thighs the recipe called for, aren't sold as such over here)
- 1 TBS of balsamic vinegar
- 1 TBS of soy sauce
- lots of sesame seeds (I started with 4 TBS but gradually added more when I ran out of them)
- olive oil

Combine the chicken pieces, vinegar and soy sauce, and stir around to help the flavors permeate the meat. Leave to marinate for at least 10 minutes.

Heat up a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat, and add just a litte oil (or use a cooking spray) to coat the bottom.

Drain off the chicken, and coat with the sesame seeds. Press with your fingers so that the sesame seeds stick as much as possible. Arrange the pieces as flat as possible in the frying pan. Pan-fry for about 4-5 minutes on medium-high heat, then turn over and cook for another 4-5 minutes or so. The chicken should be cooked through, and the sesame seeds should be crispy rather than soggy.

This is a quick and easy recipe but definetely something that I will make again.

And sweetie's bento has the same ingredients : balsamic sesame chicken, gomashio rice & green veggies mix to which I added carrots, hummus, olives and a cherry tomato. I packed the sesame grissini for eating with the hummus separately today because they ended up a bit "soggy" in yesterday's bento. I hope they'll stay crisp this time ...

Sakura bento


A rather large picture of my bento today, because I am particularly pleased by the way it turned out. And it didn't only look good, but tasted delicious as well. What more can one ask of a lunchbox.

Like yesterday's bento, this one has its fair share of fruity vitamins, because part of those fruits are my breakfast. And the fact that this bento has little removeable trays makes it extra handy for this purpose :o)

Clockwise starting from the top there are : (1) strawberries, blackberries & redcurrant (2) kiwi gold and clementine (3) leeksprouts, cucumber, olives, radish and babybell cheese (4) green salad, left over slices of Orloff roast we had for dinner (5) farfalle salad with parmesan, basil and sundried tomatoes.

P. has been asking for a bread based bento for a few days and now that my pan-da sandwich maker arrived wit the bento order, it seemed like the right opportunity to put it to use. As indicated in the instructions, I toasted the bread lightly before putting the filling in and cut/seal the borders. The first one loosened up almost immediately but the second sadnwich seemed to hold even though the bread cracked. I guess I'll just have to practise a bit more.

The yellow veggie tier has salad, leek sprouts, tomatoes, olives, bell pepper and carrot flowers, beemster cheese, radish, hummus with zathar (storebought although I have seen easy looking recipes on the net) and sesame grissini.

Two toasted sandwiches with smoked duck (smoked meats and fish are a recurrent ingredient for sweetie's bentos). And red fruits for dessert : raspberries, strawberries, redcurrant and blackberries.

Bento & Co order


My new order from Bento & Co arrived yesterday and I think I should consider myself lucky for receiving it as quickly. It all started when I placed the order: I mistakenly indicated France as the shipping address instead of Belgium O_o. Luckily Thomas from Bento&Co noticed my mistake and corrected it himself, sending it to the right chocolate country **sigh of relief**

Then I kept checking the tracking site to see where the box was (because once ordered, it can never arrive too soon) and on Monday morning I saw it had arrived and had been cleared by customs. Yes ! Monday goes by, no parcel. Tuesday at noon, still no parcel. Eventually, I had to phone Fedex to get it, because they messed something up in their system and didn't want to deliver it before Friday (something about this being sent economy). Apparently they didn't see the urgency of me getting my "plastic kitchen ware" O_o

And to complete the saga, once I got the parcel I had the unpleasant surprise to find it had been opened. Everything is OK on the inside (luckily), but even if it's for "customs purposes", I don't like it when someone goes through my things. But then again, maybe I made the customs officer curious about bentos and that might be a good thing for him/her. :o)

So here are the two large size picknick bentos that arrived.

Normally the complete bento is designed for 2 persons, but I will use only one of the tiers, which is the perfect size to fit my breakfast fruits as well as lunch. I couldn't find any single tier bento of the right size, so I opted for this solution. Only down point compared to the others I have, is that these aren't dishwasher/microwave safe, but given how pretty they are that's only a minor inconvenience :o)

I already used one of them for today's bento (see next post).

Tandoori and pasta bentos


When I made my bento last night, I knew I wouldn't have time for breakfast, so I thought I'd make it a brunch box, containing both breakfast and lunch. This explains the XXL fruit section of today :o)

In the savoury tier, there is saffron rice with bell peper and green beans on top, tandoori chicken, pineapple, mixed salad with radish cucumber and carrot.

And the fruit tier : canned peach (because fresh ones are out of season :o( ), strawberries, clementine and redcurrants. I normally don't like any red/blue/black fruits except for strawberries, but I am trying to make mysef eat other fruits. It will be a looong way before I will ever be eating cherries (yuck!) but I bought some raspberries, redcurrant and blackberries an should be giving them a try this week.

As sweetie isn't a fan of indian food and tandoori in particular, I had to come up with something different to fill the owan bento. Although I have to admit that I didn't strain myself on this one :o)

Bottom : farfalle salad with chicken strips
Top : carrot flowers, bell pepper sticks, cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, olives and radish all on a bed a salad.

And a mini bag of M&Ms for dessert :o)

Peach tuna bento


Why do weekends always seem so short. I have the feeling that I just blinked and it is Monday again. Now, I am usually grumpy on Mondays, but when it is grey and rainy like today, the Monday blues strikes hard.

And as I can't find any colour in the drab outside world, I tried to bring the sun a bit in our first bentos of the week.

Today sweetie's bento has a homemade tuna salad with peach slices. I don't know about other parts of the world but the peach/tuna combo is rather popular around here. They sell sandwiches with this on and also ready made salad bowls containing this yummy ingredients. Nothing beats the homemade version though, especially since the tuna isn't drowned in mayo when you make it yourself.
The second tier of the bento has tomato/boursin/olive/bell flower skewers, carrot balls (found these in the healthy snack section at the gas station (!) yesterday evening), a piece of beemster and a heart shaped egg. I think I am starting to master the egg molding art, because they come out better every time :o)

I also discovered a new way of peeling hard boiled eggs. While I was looking at videos on youtube on how to fold t-shirts the japanese way (fabulous technique by the way), I came across this quick egg peeling technique and it works! Usually I always rip of some of the egg white whith the shell, but this time the egg was spotless. A nice disovery (even if it apparently is an advertisement for a mobile network provider) !

How to tuna salad :

- 1 can of tuna (I used natural but I guess you can use the oil version as well)
- 1/2 of a red onion
- mayonnaise
- parsley
- seasoning

It's not really a recipe because you just mix all the ingredients together. Drain the tuna, and loosen it up with a fork, add the diced onion, chopped parsley and a tablespoon of mayonnaise (for binding it all). Mix everything together with a fork (adding a bit of mayo if it is too dry) and season to taste (salt, pepper, nutmeg, ...)

My bento on the other hand is mainly what's left over from Sunday's dinner : a pork/veggie/rice noodle stirfry (soy sprouts, brocoli, onion, carrots with a Santa Maria lime/coconut seasoning mix).

And in the bottom tier : diced red bell pepper, beemster cheese, tomato, more carrots ball, olives, star shaped egg and cucumber.

Buen provecho !

Breaded chicken and potatoes bentos


Making my bentos last night, proved quite a challenge : my fridge is desperately empty and I had to use all my imagination to be able to fill them up. I really should do some grocery shopping today, and maybe I should even buy a lottery ticket. Shouldn't a girl born on a Friday 13 have tremendous luck on another Friday 13? I'll only know if I play of course. And if I do win, I'm sure an empty fridge won't be a challenge anymore :o)

But I should quit the daydreaming and tell you more about these little bentos. For me, it's again a single tier bento today lined with green salad bowl and filled with roasted mini potatoes (krielaardappelen in Dutch) and breaded chicken, cucumber slices, kumato wedges, a carrot flower with a quail egg, mushrooms and a tomato/olive/boursin cheese/carrot skewer.

By the way, I just received a shipping confirmation of my new Bento&Co order, so by the end of next week, I should be able to have a cuter looking single tier bento to take to the office (even my colleague made a remark on my ordinary tupper yesterday "Tupperware? No pretty box today?", ah, the pressure of high expectations :o) ) I'll post pics of the boxes when they arrive.

As for the second bento, except for a different presentation the ingredients remain the same. The right tier seems a bit empty, but in order to close the box I had to move things around a bit so it ended up more filled than on this picture.

On the left : roasted potatoes, breaded chicken, carrot flower with quail egg, cucumber lotus flower with carrot heart, mini tomato/olive/boursin cheese skewers.

On the right : kumato and cucumber slices, clementine, grape, mini banana and some daim chocolates.

And that was the last bento of the week, because it is Friday at last. And to end this post on a witty remark :

Saturdays and Sundays are the strongest days of the week
because all the other days are week days XD

Have a great weekend, everybody !

A long overdue update

Everything seems to prevent me from updating this blog this last week and yesterday being a day off, I thought I'd do it then ... but I just hung around the house all day doing ... nothing. In Dutch we have a saying that "Idleness is the devil's pillow" (Ledigheid is des duivels oorkussen), but I find that being lazy every once in a while is perfect for recharging one's batteries.  So after almost a complete week of absence, I should now be able to hang in there for a good while, or at least until Christmas :o)

An overview of the bentos of the last few days :

Nov. 12, 2009 : Quinoa pancakes & sweet potatoes bentos

Reading other bento blogs is always an inspiring process a browsing through HapaBento's blog is no exception to the rule.  This week she posted bentos with quinoa as well as sweet potatoes, and her recipes seemed so easy and yummy that I decided to give them a try.

So, this is how my sweet potato mash / quinoa pancake bento ended up like.  For this first time, I tried lining the box with green salad bowl, a technique gamene uses in almost all her bentos and which makes them look extra appetezing.
Then I added the quinoa/red lentils pancakes, the sweet potato mash in a silicone muffin cup, the regular carved cucumber and radish, three little rolls of cooked ham topped with cheesy stars and carrot triangles, a quail egg, the last of the snowpeas, alternating carrot and parsnip slices and a parsnip/carrot flower with a tomato heart.

For the recipes for the sweet potato mash and the quinoa pancakes, I refer you to the postings on hapabento's blog I linked to above.  I didn't use mirin (because my other half isn't a big fan of the taste) for the pancakes but added nutmeg (a spice I add in every dish, I have to admit) and my sweet potato mash is chili-free.

My other half also had a bento of course, containing roughly the same ingredients : Quinoa/red lentil pancakes and sliced sweet potato in the bottom tier; ham roll skewer,brocoli, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, radish, snowpeas and carrot/parsnip slices and flower (with a quail egg heart).

Nov. 11, 2009 : Armistice Day -> holiday -> no work -> no bento :o)

Nov. 10, 2009 : Butternut pumpkin bento

As the main part of my bento was going to be a mixed salad, I took my little round bento again to work, filled with lots of beggies.

For the bottom tier, I made a salad of mini witloof (a typical Belgian vegetable, although I'm not sure what it's called in English. Chicory? Endives?) with cucumber, kumato and some leftover turkey from dinner, which I diced. All seasoned up with the usual parsley, salt and pepper.

For the vegetables in the top tier I tried out some of my new carving equipement, with varied success : a cucumber garland, a carrot twist and flower, cherry tomato, babybel cheese, radish, leek sprouts and half a kumato filled with the potato/butternut pumpkin puree leftover from last night's dinner.

The same ingredients also went in the other bento :

In the pink tier : another carrot swirl, a radish which was supposed to be Crysanthemum Flower but ended up strangely spiky, a bit of the witloof salad from the other bento and an ovenbaked sweet potato. It was the first time that I tried making a sweet potato and apparently P. found it so yummy that half of what I baked, never even made it into the bento.  :o)

In the black tier : butternut pumpkin/potato puree rolled in ham, yellow zucchini, olives, carrot flower with a cherry tomato heart.

How to butternut pumpkin/potato puree :

It wan't really my intention to turn this into a puree, but running back and forth between the study (facebook addict), the TV (trying to catch some of the news) and the kitchen, I overcooked the potatoes, leaving me with no other aesthetic possibility than mash them up.

What I used :
1 butternut pumpkin
1 onion
4 potatoes 

Dice the onion and flash fry it in a bit of olive oil.  Peel the butternut pumpkin, remove the seeds and other mush interior, keeping only the firm flesh and dice it. Add the pumpkin to the onions, add a bit of water to cover the bottom of the panand let it simmer until the pieces are tender. Keep an eye on your pan and make sure your pan always has a bit of water in the bottom to prevent scorching your veggies. I let it simmer for half an hour, but everything depends on your cooker of course.  As for the seasoning, I always cook my vegetables using a bouillon cube (a half one or a complete one according to the amount of water I am using), making it unnecessary to add salt or a lot of spices (especially since I cook with very little salt, much to my dinner's partner dismay). The only thing I always add is freshly ground nutmeg, but then again, I'm a nutmeg addict :o)
Meanwhile, boil your potatoes in salt water as usual.  When cooked, drain them and put them back on the heat for a few seconds, to evaporate the remaining water.  Take off the heat, add the pumpkin to the potatoes and mash everything into a even puree.  I added freshly chopped parsley, but you could also add coriander leaves.    And that's it, can it be easier?

Nov. 9, 2009 : Apple/fennel bento

In case you're wondering about the different colours of top and bottom tier : I only realised after I filled them up, that I inverted the bentos, so P. and I both got bentos in Swedish colours today. If I had known beforehand, I might have made köttbullar to stick with the theme :o)  Maybe I should hold on to that thought, it might come in handy ...

My blue top tier had a organic rice mix I found in the supermarket consisting of red, black and white longgrain rice as well as wheat; and a leftover of the fennel with apple I made for Sunday night's dinner (made this with a yummy salmon/scallop "roast" ~ I'm not sure if the word is also used for fish in English, but you catch my drift).

The yellow bottom tier had surimi, green asparagus, yellow beans with spring onion, daikon flowers/carrot slices and yellow turnip flowers on green salad bowl.

Again, rougly the same things in the second bento :  

Top tier : same rice mix as in mine with smoked trout on some salad leaves.

Bottom tier : apple/fennel, yellow zucchini, yellow beans, carrot skewers and daikon/turnip flower skewers.

Nov. 6, 2009 : Symphony of green & orange

Last Friday, the neko bento had the privilege to accompany me to the office, filled with a orange & green colour scheme.

In the top tier : radish, olives, leek sprouts, cherry tomatoes, carrot stars and carrot/orange bell peper bundle, green veggies stirfry (brocoli/asparagus/snowpea) and a strangly cut cucumber (which should have been star shaped but ended up alien-like :o))

In the bottom tier : crayfish with spring onions and spirulina tagliatelle with cheese flowers.

 And P. needed lunch as well, so the second bento I made had :

On the left : two kumato halfs filled with surimi salad, spirulina pasta (Again I wisely omitted to inform the other half that spirulina are algae :o) ; orange bell pepper flowers, another attempt at creating a lotus cucumber flower (I hope I'll get better results with the carving tools I ordered today), cherry tomatoes and olives.

On the right : green veggies stirfry, yellow kiwi, clementine, the last two pineapple chocolates and to end the week on a positive note, a green tea fortune cookie.

That's it, an extra loooong post to make up for my absence last week. See ya tomorrow :o)

First single tier bento


One single bento tonight, because P. is having a business lunch tomorrow and has no need for a homemade lunch. All the more time I can use for making my own bento :o)

Inspired by sherimiya's awesome single tier bentos, I decided to leave my tow-tier bentos in the cabinet tonight, which means that I will be taking a plain tupper to the office. The contents will have to make up for it. :o)

My single tier bento has (from L to R) : quinoa with red lentils and carrots, teriyaki salmon, a carrot/daikon skewer, snow peas, green asparagus with sesame, brocoli, radish, cherry tomatoes, cucumber flowers with a carrot heart and a little jar of carrot/ginger légumaise (everything on a bed of leek sprouts).

How to : cucumber flowers with carrot hearts

Ever since I saw this amazing Thai woman carving vegetables and fruits at the kokerello fair, back in 2007, I have been fascinated by the beauty of these carved veggies. Given the additional space I had in this box, I decided to give it a try. Googling carving let to a wide array of websites, but I found this site, with what seemed to be a rather straightforward cucumber flower. "Seemed" because when you don't really have the proper knifes for carving, it can be a bit messy. But still, I'm quite pleased with the final result :o)
The radish was carved following the tutorial from FrenchBento.

How to : teriyaki

I usually always have a store-bought mix of teriyaki marinade in my cabinets, but I emptied my bottle last time and didn't come round to buy a new one yet. However, I found a simple recipe to make the marinade in one of my books and as it is so simple, I thought I'd share it with you.

Put 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of mirin and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a pan and heat the mixture up until it thickens. Take off the heat and marinate your fish/meat in this liquid for a least half an hour, and that's it.


Mid-week bentos


Yesterday evening was a bit hectic and I didn't have a lot of time to spend on my bentos. So these ones ended up in the quick and easy range :o) But that doesn't mean they aren't tasteful of course!

A little round bento for me today, perfect for leftovers from last night's cappellini alla bolognese.

In the top tier : yellow turnip slices, brocoli, babybel cheese, half of a kumato filled with homemade surimi "salad", cucumber stars and red bell pepper flowers on leek sprouts and 2 green olives to fill in the remaining space.

For those who wonder about the kumato, you should check out this website. It's a sweet, dark tomato, that not only taste devine but looks fabulous in any dish (although granted, you can't see too much of it in the top picture).

The surimi salad is very easy to make and can be used as spread or as a filler for tomatoes or other veggies.

How to :

Take two surimi sticks and roll them open in order to have two small "sheets". Slice them up (horizontally and vertically) until you have small pieces. Mixed these pieces with freshly chopped parsley and chives and add a teaspoon of mayo or sour cream. And that's it :o)

The second bento I made, seemed Ok last night, but looking at the picture now, it seems a bit empty ... :o(

Bento 2 - 04.11.2009

Top tier : smoked salmon/salad/zucchini wraps, olives and a red bell pepper filled with the surimi salad.

Bottom tier : kumato and yellow turnip slices, brocoli, radish and my first attempt at "merging" vegetables. Not the crisp look I was going for but I guess it takes some practicing. Better next time :o)

Bon appetit.