Friday, June 12, 2009

Two Weeks of Post Vacation Bentos

I am back from vacation!  Well, I've been back for two weeks, at least physically.  I'm still trying to get back into a routine and mindset to make my bentos daily and then blog about them.  I have taken pictures, though!


Pita chips and roasted red pepper hummus in the back bento.  Bell pepper slices, cucumber sticks and an apricot and strawberries in the front.  Sitting on my new picnic-style furoshiki!  (I did not make this one, just bought it at the craft store in the bandana section for $1.)


Furoshiki all tied up and ready to go to work with me.  I love this because once I opened it at work, I just used the furoshiki as a napkin instead of wasting a paper towel or something else and threw it in the wash when I got home!


This was my dinner bento.  Pita chips and roasted red pepper hummus on the left.  Kalamata olives, mozzarella cubes, cucumber slices, strawberries, bell pepper slices and an apricot in the stainless steel container. Pocky in front, and Dry Valencia Orange Grown Up Soda.


Lunch bento.  Spinach salad with cucumber slices, bell pepper chunks and mozzarella cubes.  Side container of strawberries and an apricot.  Pocky and more Grown Up Soda!

Joe Cocker Concert

On Tuesday, my boyfriend and two friends of ours went to the Joe Cocker concert at the Denver Botanic Gardens.  It was pretty fun.  We took a picnic lunch which was sandwiches, some macaroni salad and fruits and veggies (above).  I think it's funny now how I scoff at the idea of just taking a store made veggie tray - even though that's what I bought, I still had to arrange the veggies bento-style in their own container.  I loved that I was able to make a rainbow of fruit, without even intentionally trying to get all the right colors!

Hopefully next week will be lots better with the bentos. =)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Quickie Post

Just a quick post before I have to get back to packing!

My bentos for the past week were even worse than last week - I made two, but that includes a snack type bento I had for myself on Saturday.  I was trying to use up all the food I had in the fridge without buying anymore, so it was a little difficult.  Also, it was easier most of this week to just get lunch - and I had two planned lunch dates so that really kills bento overall.

On to the pictures!

05/16/09 Bento
Saturday snack bento. There's a hole where a carrot should be because I started eating it before I took the picture. The blue cup was also filled with a lot more olives to begin with. hehe.

05/20/09 Bento
I originally had the carrots all on the bottom of the bento and covered by the grapes, strawberries and egg. But that provided no color contrasts whatsoever, so I rearranged everything and was pleased enough with this even though the addition of some greens somewhere would have been really nice.

Next week I'll be in London on vacation so no bentos until June 1st! But after that I should be able to get back on track and hopefully start getting into kyaraben and themed bentos.

Friday, May 15, 2009

05/11/09 Bento through 05/15/09 Bento

This week's bentos felt pretty sparse, in and of themselves and also because it feels like I didn't make that many (though two is okay, it's below what I would prefer, especially considering my dinners were crap).

On Monday, I tried out an egg cutter I bought a bit ago. I had been wondering how people halved their eggs with the great edges, but didn't realize there was a tool for it until I saw it at the store. Of course I had to have it. It was a lot of fun and a lot easier to use than I expected. I wonder if making deviled eggs like this would work out? I'll have to try it sometime.

05/11/09 Bento

On the very bottom are carrots, which you can't see in the picture because the box is so deep. Then a ring of grape tomatoes, green grapes, red grapes and green again. I edged it with clementine slices, to try to fill up more of the empty space on the sides. I really like the stainless steel bento box. I feel like I can fill it full with veggies and fruits and even without rice or noodles, it'll be a satisfying lunch. (Or dinner, even.)

05/15/09 Bento

Today, I'm using my new containers that I picked up at Borders in their Paperchase section. The set of four was just $10 so I had to have it. The large container has rice, with some sakura nori punches sprinkled on top with seasoning packet for ochazuke. Counterclockwise from there is a container of carrots on the bottom, an egg and a cheddar Babybel. I didn't have time today to cut out something cute from the wax on the cheese, but would like to at some point. I put more of the sakura nori punches on the egg for decoration. Then there are strawberries on top of green grapes, which you can't see. In hindsight, I should have had at least some of the green grapes on top for better color variation, especially considering my containers are red, too. The littlest container has the last of this batch of grape tomatoes and half an egg. I didn't know what else to put in it, because I need to go to the store, so this was my mid-morning snack (and the other half of the egg was part of breakfast) which was tasty.

I really like these containers and I'm thinking of packing them with delicious snacks for the plane and my layovers next week so I don't have to spend ridiculous amounts of money for relatively unhealthy airport food.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

05/08/09 Bento and 05/09/09 Snack Bento

This week has been crazy and then just as I feel like I can get back into a routine again something else crops up and I don't. One of these days!

Last Friday, I made myself a very light bento because I had eaten quite a bit at dinner the night before (and had a lot of soda, too, since we had gone to the movies to see Star Trek, which was beyond fantastic - we've seen it again since then and will probably see it at least one more time in the theater).

05/08/09 Bento

You can't see them, but I lined the box with long slices of cucumber, just to cover up any bright pink that might want to show through.  Clockwise from top left is a boiled egg, clementine slices, blackberries, bell pepper slices, and grape tomatoes all ringed with cucumber.  This Hello Kitty box is a little hard to get used to because there is a place for silverware at the top which dips into the box itself, squishing things sometimes.  I'm not used to that quite yet.

Over the weekend I made a snack bento for Kyle to take to work on Saturday.  He said it was delicious and definitely helped him get through his very long and tiresome day.  (He took a Rumbi Rice Bowl to work for lunch, so that didn't need a bento.  Though I was tempted to try to make it one he left too early in the morning for me to function efficiently enough to do so.)

05/09/09 Snack Bento

It's fun making bentos for him because he'll eat some things that I won't, like cauliflower.  And it's nice to be able to use that from time to time.

I brought in a bento on Monday which I will post later tonight or tomorrow but failed to bring one in yesterday or today.  I'll try to get back on track soon!  My routine is not helped by the fact that I'll be going on vacation next Friday, so I'll probably flounder a little the rest of this week and next, but once I come back (on the 1st of June), I should be able to settle back into things pretty easily.  That's my hope at least.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

05/07/09 Bento

I didn't have the time to make a bento on Wednesday morning, which is good because I probably would have gone out to eat anyway since I was kind of stressed with work and my car having run out of gas as soon as I pulled into the far end of the parking lot at work.  That was tons of fun!  (I've got a good friend that I work with so I was able to get to a gas station later and get enough gas in a can to make sure my car could get to a gas station on its own after I got off work.)

When I finally did get off work last night it was an hour later than usual and I was still feeling stressed.  I wanted junk food, but nothing sounded good.  So I stopped by my local natural/organic grocery store because they have a good deli section and good bulk candy section.

I bought a sushi party tray with a mind to use it for my bento lunch today.  I also picked up some flavored honey sticks (wild watermelon and sour cherry) and Australian green apple licorice, which will make an appearance in tomorrow's bento.  I picked up a 4-pack of oogave cola, too, since I'm a sucker for cola and local products.  They are quite tasty!  Unfortunately I forgot to grab one to have with my lunch today.  

(For the time being, this is just a cell phone picture.  I can't upload pictures from my digital camera at work and won't get to my computer again until tomorrow morning sometime so instead of waiting a day to post, I figured I'd put up a cell phone picture instead.  I was going to replace it, but I started eating the bento before I took a picture with my camera. Oops!)

05/07/09 Bento

Most importantly, I have a new bento box!  It's just a stainless steel lunch container and I'm pretty sure the manufacturers did not have bentos in mind when they made it, but I love it.  I like the kawaii boxes I have, but they're all plastic which makes me nervous sometimes, even though I don't use them in the microwave and very rarely run them through the dishwasher.  I got it at the grocery store and might pick up another one for whenever I make Kyle more bentos since it's very cool without being too cutesy for him.  It's also a good size.  Almost too big for me since there's a lot of empty space, but I bet it'd be a perfect size for him.

There's the leftover sushi, skewered edamame (which was also included in the sushi party tray), cheddar cheese, grape tomatoes, yellow and orange bell peppers and blackberries.  The flavored honey sticks are sitting on top at the back.  I also had a clementine on the side.

This was delicious!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

05/05/09 Bento

I barely had time to put together a bento today, but I managed and squeaked into work just before I would have been considered tardy.  I'm obviously still working on my time management skills, but I've always had a problem with them so I'm not expecting them to get better overnight.  

Putting together an ochazuke bento was the easiest thing for me to do this morning in my limited time.  

05/05/09 Bento

Bottom bowl has leftover rice and chopped bell peppers.  I topped this with the ochazuke seasoning and added hot water when I was ready to eat.

The middle container has a bear-shaped egg, green grape halves, baby carrots, blackberries and cheddar cheese cubes.  I also brought two clementines with me for a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack.

Monday, May 04, 2009

05/03/09 Bento for Kyle and 05/04/09 Bento

On Sunday, I went to my mom's house for an early Mother's Day celebration surprise.  Originally Kyle was going to come over after he got off work, but he had to switch things around so he had to work later in the day and wasn't going to be able to come have dinner with us.  But!  With the leftover food I had from Saturday, I made him his very own bento.  He said it was delicious and he ate it as soon as he got to work.  I was more nervous than I expected making a bento for someone else, but it was a lot of fun, too.

05/03/09 Bento for Kyle

On the right is the main dish stuff; fried rice with stir fried bell peppers and onions on top; cream cheese wontons and a lion filled with soy sauce to go with them; broccoli, celery and cauliflower sprinkled throughout to munch on.

In the bottom of the nikyoro bowl is a bunch of fruit: grapes, pineapple, clementine slices, and watermelon shapes.  The middle portion of the nikyoro bowl has some ranch dressing (for the broccoli, celery, and cauliflower) in a silicone cup (covered with plastic wrap to prevent any spillage), grape tomatoes, cheddar cheese shapes and two chocolate caramel nut treats.  

He said it was perfect, which makes me feel pretty good about my bentomaking.

Today, though, it's back to work!  I ate so much over the weekend (mostly just at the BBQ we had for my mom yesterday) that I wanted to have more fruits and veggies than anything else today.  

05/04/09 Bento

(I apologize for how sucky this photo is. I must not have been paying attention to the settings on my camera. Oops!)

The bottom tier has strips of raw bell peppers (red, orange, yellow and green), two wontons and grape tomatoes for filler.  The top tier has cucumbers, baby carrots, fish-shaped egg and grape tomatoes.  I think I probably should have used a different bento box or lined it with lettuce because the red from the tomatoes and bell peppers kind of washes into the red from this particular box.  Good to know for next time.

The side box has blackberries, green grapes, red grapes and cubes of cheddar cheese.

The fish-shaped egg came out right this time, which was nice.  I tried to make shaped eggs when I originally got my egg molds but for some reason I couldn't get them to boil right at all.  Once they did finally firm up enough to be considered hard-boiled, I popped them in the molds, but they were too big so lots of cooked egg whites squeezed out.  I put them in the fridge overnight (which might have been my mistake) and the next morning when I tried to get them out of the mold, they were stuck in there pretty good.  I hadn't used any oil or baking spray to grease the mold first off which was also probably a mistake.  I ended up using them to make egg salad which was also delicious, just not very cute.

This time, I boiled the eggs perfectly (using my brand new egg timer, which I love), sprayed the molds with some cooking oil, popped in the eggs and let them sit in a cold water bath for 20 minutes or so (as I was doing other things in the kitchen).  The eggs weren't quite big enough, but they worked.  

I generally like to make whatever I can ahead of time to make things easier for me in the morning.  The shaped eggs, though, will probably have to be done the morning of so that the shapes are visible and good.  Storing them in a little container smoothed out the shape a little bit so it doesn't look as cute.  Still, I'm glad to know that next time I'll have very cute shaped eggs.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

05/02/09 Bento for Two

My boyfriend, Kyle, has to work late tonight so I decided to bring him dinner.  Usually in this situation, I would have picked up fast food on the way to his work and called it good.  This time, though, I decided to make a bento for two.  He and I have different tastes and opinions on a wide variety of foods, but I managed to pick out things that we both should enjoy, for the most part.  (This involved several text messages beginning with, "So do you like..." at the grocery store.  He was a good sport.)

05/02/09 Bento for Two

I made cream cheese wontons filled with cream cheese, green onions, onions, red cabbage, red and yellow bell peppers, and celery. They are quite tasty. Those are under the grape tomatoes (which were added mostly for color). I bought a package of swedish meatballs which are mostly for him. I don't eat meat with every meal and I almost never buy meat at the grocery store because I don't like cooking it. But these were frozen and easy enough to put on a plate and pop in the microwave for a few minutes. We'll probably reheat them just before eating them, too. The meatballs are sitting on top of some fried rice. I've got an extra little container of fried rice and one of regular sticky rice to bring as well. On the right is a pile of stir fried bell peppers and onions.

05/02/09 Bento for Two

For dessert, I went a little crazy with the fruit. Cantaloupe and watermelon shapes, pineapple and green grapes, clementine slices, red grapes, pineapple and watermelon slices, blackberries. I'll also bring two chocolate-covered caramel and nut clusters for each of us.

I bought the two Pyrex dishes each "tier" is packed in at the store today too because they were too perfect to pass up. I can use them for my own bentos during the week as well as storage and other things.

This is the first time I've made a bento style meal for anyone besides myself (even though I'll be enjoying this too). I had fun with it and can't wait to do it again!

Friday, May 01, 2009

04/30/09 Bento

I really ought to come up with better titles for my posts.  Since I haven't made any themed bentos yet, it seems harder.  How do you come up with the titles for your bento posts if you blog about them?  If you don't blog about them, do you title them anyway, like the works of art they are? =D

Wednesday night after work I went to the mall to pick up the purse I had pined for and finally ordered from The Container Store. I know it sounds kind of weird to be so excited about a purse from The Container Store, but it has a pocket, pouch and place for everything.  As I packed all my purse junk into it Wednesday night it sort of felt like I was making a bento - ensuring that everything fit snugly and well together and keeping it all in order and in such a fashion that it was pleasing to the eye.  Seriously, I love this purse.

Since I was already at the mall, I went to the sushi bar at Sarku for dinner.  I bought a BBQ unagi roll and a cucumber and avocado roll.  I only planned on eating half of them for dinner so I'd have the other half for Thursday's bento.  As I was waiting for my rolls to be made, I noticed one of the workers was taking her break and eating dinner - from a bento box!  She seemed really self-conscious about it so I tried not to stare in awe and fascination.  I'm shy myself so I didn't strike up a conversation with her, though I wanted to.  (Which is an improvement as far as my shyness is concerned because a few years ago I would not have even contemplated talking to her about it.)

I actually only ate 1/3 of the rolls and brought in another third for Thursday's bento.  I hadn't had unagi before.  It didn't have a strong taste or texture, which I had expected.  

On to the bento!

04/30/09 Bento

There's a tofu miso soup packet and below that is shredded carrots, celery, green onions and quail eggs to go in the soup.  The sushi is accompanied by soy sauce in a cute little elephant bottle.  The soup spoon I plan to use is something I picked up at my local Asian grocery for a dollar or two.  When I have my own kitchen again, I plan on buying lots of different Asian dishes.  I love the idea of having an eclectic mix instead of just one set of dinner dishes.

The snack bento has celery and hummus sprinkled with shredded carrots and sliced strawberries and kumquats.  Even though I won't snack on a handful of them in the future, I really do like the citrusy smell the kumquats have.  And I'll probably use Toro's suggestion from my last post and make kumquat marmalade at some point because that sounds very tasty and perfect for a breakfast bento!

Kyle and I went out last night to catch the midnight showing of X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  As a very slight nod to that, I made a little "X" out of shredded carrots in the hummus.  It's not a Lost-themed or Homer Simpson bento, but it's a start!

As a result of staying out so late last night, I didn't make a bento for today's lunch, but I'm quite pleased that I made one each day the rest of the week. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

04/29/09 Bento

I was able to stick to my morning routine for the most part today which even allowed me to whip up a very quick and dirty tamagoyaki for my bento.  Usually I avoid cooking in the mornings and prefer to just piece a bento together with what is already made.

04/29/09 Bento

The top container has an onigiri filled with seasoned seaweed paste (I believe this is called nori tsukudani) with perilla.  This is the first time I've wrapped an onigiri completely with nori instead of doing just a strip or two.  It felt difficult to get it completely wrapped in a presentable fashion, but it was quite tasty this way.  Next to the onigiri is my quick and dirty tamagoyaki, with lots of soy sauce.  I need to get some dashi to make proper tamagoyaki at some point, but for a quick five minutes this morning this worked out well and was very tasty at lunch.  Beside that are slices of a "tofu pup" which is a vegetarian (it might be vegan?) hot dog alternative and some diced celery.  Chick sauce bottle has soy sauce for the onigiri and the rabbit has bull dog sauce for the tofu pup.  

The bottom container has three strawberries (sliced, though you can't really tell from this picture), some apple slices and an apple flower and then two kumquat slices.  I've decided that I don't care for the kumquats.  I may juice them and use the juice as an apple coating.  I cut the apple on the same plate I used for the kumquat today and the citrusy taste on the apple was kind of good.

On the side is my last mini chocolate bar.  I may or may not get more of these in the future - they are quite tasty, but not cheap and higher in calories than I thought.

The produce for my bento stock is dwindling so I will have to go grocery shopping tonight or tomorrow night.  I try to buy a little bit of a lot of different types of produce each time I go to the store which usually lasts me for a week or more.  I think I might adjust my buying though, so that I go to the store more often to theoretically get fresher produce into each bento.  The strawberries in today's bento had definitely seen better days so I was hesitant to use them, but didn't want them to go to waste either.

I would also really like to try umeboshi, but have only been able to find them at the Asian grocery store in a bigger jar.  Since I don't know if I'd like them or not, I'd rather not buy the bigger jar and see most of it go to waste if I find out my palate doesn't appreciate it.  I think the solution to this would be to try to order something with an umeboshi from a Japanese restaurant.  Of course, I'd have to find and go to a Japanese restaurant in the area first!  

(There are plenty to try, it's just that I'm kind of a weenie when it comes to trying new things by myself and haven't found anyone else to go with me yet.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

04/28/09 Bento

For the past few weeks I've been trying to get myself into a good, easy-to-maintain morning routine.  Ideally, my morning would look like this:

4:45am - Wake up, stumble to the bathroom still half-asleep, briefly wash face and put on workout clothes. Grab water bottle, keys, ID and head out the door to the gym.

5:00am - Get to gym, work out for 45 minutes.

6:00am - Get home, shower.

6:15am - While letting hair dry and comfortably lounging in my robe, catch up on blogs, and other social networking sites like twitter and flickr.

6:45am - Get dressed, fix up hair somehow.

7:15am - While preparing the day's bento, eat bowl of cereal.  Take pictures.  With any extra time, read or play DS.

Between 8:00 and 8:15am - Leave for work.

This is how I want it to go, but that doesn't always happen.

Last night I was trying to do too many things at once and didn't get to sleep until 11:30am or so.  A few months ago, this would have been early, but it is decidedly late when I'm trying to wake up before five in the morning.  When my alarm went off, I made the decision to stay in bed, sleeping instead of going to the gym.  I finally got out of bed at 7:30am which didn't leave me much time to do anything.  I got up to the kitchen at 8:00am and put together a bento after chiding myself for considering fast food or other such options for lunch instead when I have plenty of healthy, tasty food at my disposal already.

04/28/09 Bento

(I should make myself a light box, but I don't really have anywhere to store one and can't leave it out in the kitchen all the time. Maybe I'll start taking my stuff outside in the morning to take the pictures?)

On the left is a breakfast bento with pita chips, hummus, strawberries and kumquats since I didn't have the time to eat breakfast this morning.  I'm still not sure how I feel about kumquats.  I may have gotten a bad batch, but they seem overly tart to me, even with eating the rind too.  I like them better as small slices than halves, though, that's for sure.

The main bento is two onigiri filled with seasoned seaweed paste with perilla, grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, a quail egg and celery for filling gaps.  One of the fish has soy sauce and the other has oyster sauce.  There's an apple for a late afternoon snack.  I bought this apple for its color so I could make checkerboard apples or apple bunnies, but didn't have the time.

The bento took me half an hour, so I was running a little late for work (I start at 9:00am and my office is about 35-40 minutes away).

Unfortunately, even after making the bento, I caved and had Wendy's for lunch. Just a small fry and some nuggets with a Coke, because anything more than that and I would have felt really stuffed and disgusting.  So, the above bento was actually for dinner instead.  I ate it before I left work so I wouldn't have to bother with dinner when I got home.  But I did have fun with the apple!

Checkered Apple

This took a lot longer than expected, but was pretty simple aside from the big chunk I accidentally scooped out toward the bottom. I don't see myself making these in the morning for weekday lunches, but maybe for special treats on the weekend or in the evenings.

Sanrio Trip and 04/27/09 Bento

Over the weekend, my boyfriend, Kyle, and I went with a friend of ours to the Sanrio store at one of the big malls south of Denver.  It's the only official Sanrio store in the area, and it's not too far away so it made for a nice Sunday afternoon excursion.  I had been there in February, but didn't buy anything.  This time, though I found three bento boxes and a slew of stationery items to use for swaps and pen pal correspondence. 

Sanrio Bento Boxes

I was excited to use the new boxes for my bento on Monday.  We went out for dinner at Noodles & Co. Sunday night and I tried their potstickers for the first time.  They were fairly tasty, so I saved two to have with lunch.  I also saved most of the tofu and vegetables in my Med Salad to have as well.

04/27/09 Bento

The side box has celery with hummus in a sakura-shaped silicone cup and sliced kumquats on top of quartered strawberries.  On the far left is a mini bar of chocolate with almonds and cranberries.

Top container (which is actually the bottom tier of the Sakura box) has the leftover Med Salad ingredients with extra diced celery and a quail egg.

Bottom container (which is the top tier) has the two potstickers, grape tomatoes and a little panda full of the sauce that came with the potstickers (it was sweet and spicy, but not salty enough for my tastes).  

Everything is on a bed of green leaf lettuce, mostly for decoration because I discovered that I don't particularly care for the taste of it.  It's possible that I didn't get a good head of green leaf lettuce, but I also don't know much about leafy veggies since I grew up in an iceberg-lettuce-in-chef's-salads house.  Does anyone have any other recommendations for tasty leafy greens?

I was worried when I bought the bento boxes that they wouldn't be big enough for my lunches.  The bento box I've been using is a little bigger than the Sakura Hello Kitty box, but using the Mashumaromitaina Fuwafuwanyanko box as a snack/fruit box is perfect.

Kyle is understanding and encouraging when it comes to my bentoing and even my budding kawaii obsession, but I realized as we were headed toward the overwhelmingly pink Sanrio store that not everyone understands why people like bento or kawaii.  Our friend was a little wary of all the pink, and I gave both of the men leave to go to a more manly store if they wanted.  They did, of course.  I understand that kawaii isn't everyone's cup of tea, but since it overlaps with bento so often, it has definitely grown on me.

Sakura Helly Kitty Bento

"Falling cherry blossoms

settle on Kitty's ear,

and put a dance in her heart."

How could you not love that?  I think more people need dances in their hearts!

Afterwards, on the drive back home, I was trying to explain bento and aside from "cute, healthy lunches" couldn't come up with anything that would do it justice.  How do you explain bento to your friends, family or coworkers?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Introductory Post!

I'm going to make this post a short one so I can get something written here so I can stop fretting over my first post and how to make it perfect! Next week I hope to start posting daily with my bento from that day during the week and other little things on the weekends. We'll see how it goes!

I love everything about bento - the time it takes, the finished product, the community surrounding it on the internet. I dabbled in it a little bit last Spring when I first discovered it. I had been browsing the internet for healthy lunch ideas and was immediately obsessed. My very first bento was made on May 1, 2008:

Bottom Bento


Since then I've amassed a sizeable amount of bento related products, gadgets and doodads. (The onigiri above was made using a square cookie cutter and plastic wrap - it came out well, in any case.)  My collection isn't quite as big as I'd like it to be yet, but it will get there eventually. Most of the items I have, I've bought through The Asian grocery stores I've been to in my area do not have a lot in the way of bento items. But supposedly there is an area in downtown Denver, Sakura Square, that has a lot of different Japanese stores and restaurants. I hope to go there someday soon so I can browse their selection - and not have to wait for a package from Japan!