Thursday, December 30, 2010

Last Bento of the Year

It feels like ages since I made a bento! I had to make one this morning, even though it cut into some of my prep time for the two hour talk show I've been doing this week. I was having bento withdrawal, hee hee.

I actually woke up dreaming about bento ingredients, so I knew I had to take the time to make one today. Magic Round Bentos are always good to help boost your bento assembling confidence. Everything just fits better in a round bento.

In this bento: steamed edamame, tamagoyaki with chopped wild arugula from Triple T Ranch, two pork and veggie gyoza (I think they are Annie Chun's brand), a hand formed onigiri rice ball, and two rabbit apples carved from Walker's Apples Arkansas Black apples.

I bought these apples from Lee Walker himself, the patriarch of the Walker family, who have been apple growers in Sonoma County for many generations. Lee is awesome and loves all kinds of apples, but he will tell you straight out which varieties he can do without. Pretty awesome. The Walkers are often at the Saturday Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market.

Have a safe and happy new year! See you in 2011!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sonoma Bento 100th Bento Winner!

Sorry I did not post this yesterday! Work has suddenly become very busy with a transition that will take much of my time between now and the new year. Most of my bentos between now and then will look like this:

Certainly not yucky, but not too fancy either. Leftovers bento with sauteed zucchini in the purple cup, slices of persimmon from Redwood Empire Farms, slices of cucumber, leftover pieces of ham, baby carrots, and a slice of watermelon radish from Wild Rose Ranch. I love this set of bento boxes from Paperchase! If you have a Borders Books near by, be sure to see if they have snack boxes and bento boxes from Paperchase.

And now the big announcement! I had to put together a spreadsheet of all the entries, since some people did not separate their entries into different posts. Wanted to make sure everyone got the right amount of chances to win! The winner of my 100th Bento contest is: ALICE WANG! Congrats! I hope you enjoy all of the bento goodies and I can't wait to see what fun stuff you come up with!

To everyone who entered: THANK YOU for following this blog and for being so excited about seasonal eating and nutritious lunches. Bento boxes are great for so many reasons, including this added benefit of meeting new people. :) Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pearls Before Swine Bento

There are lots of fun guests who come through the studios at the radio station where I work. And yesterday, one of my favorite artists stopped by to spread some holiday cheer. Stephan Pastis is the creator of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine. He is just as funny in person as his characters are in the strip. I had him sign a few things for Christmas presents (thanks Stephan!) and I also made this bento box with my favorite character from Pearls: Pig!

In this bento: pink rice in the shape of Pig with nori eyes and nostrils. Also radishes from Crescent Moon Farms, baby carrots, steamed broccoli, and pork patties. In the upper compartment: a mandarin orange from Twin Peaks, walnuts from the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market, and toffee made by my friends Kerry and Danielle.

Here's me and Stephan with the Pig bento. I think I like Pig the best because he is so gullible and innocent. I am pretty gullible, but not so innocent. Also, Pig tends to see the silver lining and I try to do that too.

Mmmmm, tastes like Pig ear. :)

Thanks to everyone for entering my 100th Bento contest! You still have a day to enter, and I love reading all of your suggestions for winter bentos. Now I have lots of ideas for when I get stuck. :)

Also, if you are on Facebook, CasaBento is hosting a best holiday bento contest. A few of us are finalists and would love your vote. Sheri of Happy Little Bento, Crystal of Adventures In Bentomaking, and me, Michelle of Sonoma Bento. Head to CasaBento's Facebook page to vote for your favorites.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Big Ol 100th Bento Blog Post

Cue the marching band! Bring out the dancing girls! Today marks my 100th Bento Blog Post! I am so happy to share this milestone with you. I started on this fun bento journey in April this year after spying some amazing bentos created by Sheri of Happy Little Bento online. I wanted to try bento lunches for myself, and incorporate the wonderful produce and artisan foods of Sonoma County. So far, I have made some great friends, learned new recipes, found a great outlet for my creative nature, and donated to the Redwood Empire Food Bank to help the hungry in my community. For every bento blog post on Sonoma Bento, I donate $1 to my local food bank. I was inspired by Susan Yuen of Hawai'i's Bento Box after I saw how she donates to her local food bank. We are so lucky to be able to create nutritious and cute lunches with a variety of delicious and seasonal foods. It is important to me to remember that not everyone has this same luxury. I encourage you to find a way to give back as well. You can donate to Redwood Empire Food Bank online, or choose to help the hungry and less fortunate in your own community.

Woohoo! In this bento: purple rice (naturally colored-it's a mix of Purple Forbidden Rice blend and white sushi rice cooked together) with a provolone and cheddar cheese 'cake' and nori and cheese candle, plus cheese 'confetti'. In the upper compartment: steamed broccoli, a radish, glazed mochiko chicken pieces, and roasted acorn squash from Ma and Pa's Garden.

To celebrate my 100th bento blog post (and coincidentally I also made it to 20,000 hits on my blog today!) I am giving away some cool stuff. You can win this cutie bento box plus the Angry Onigiri Bento Box Strap (made by me)! (The box in this photo is my bento box, but you will win an identical, brand new one.) See more cute bento box straps in my online etsy shop here.

One of my favorite bento making tools is my microwave steamer. I use it all the time for broccoli, edamame, dim sum, and other items that need to be steamed quickly. You will win this brand new one!

You will also win this craft punch to make cute faces from nori, and a set of three veggie cutters.

Here are some darling animal shaped picks that you will win, to make your bento box lunch very kawaii!

And last but not least, your very own copy of my Sonoma Bento 2011 Calendar! It's filled with adorable bento box photos along with monthly tips for making cute and nutritious bento lunches. You can order your own copy at to send to friends!

So how do you win this amazing pile of goodies?!? Glad you asked. There are a few ways to enter, so please read the directions carefully. This contest is open to EVERYONE. Please leave a separate comment for each entry. GOOD LUCK and thanks so much for following my bento adventures.

1. This part is Mandatory. You MUST be a follower of my blog. To follow my blog, simply click the Follow with Google Friend Connect button on the right side of this page, or click the Follow link located at the upper left corner of the blog. Leave a comment telling me that you follow the blog and what your Google ID or Blogger ID is.

2. Mention this giveaway on your own blog or twitter account for a second chance to win. Just post a comment here with a link to where you mentioned my contest.

3. Follow Sonoma Bento on twitter. Leave a comment to let me know that you follow me on twitter.

4. Follow Sonoma Bento on facebook. Leave a comment to let me know that you follow me on facebook.

5. For a final chance to win, leave a comment here telling what winter foods you like to pack into your lunches.

Please leave separate comments for each of your entries. Entry deadline is Sunday, December 19th, 2010 at 11:59pm PST. Winner will be selected randomly from entries. Good luck!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Polar Bear Bento

This is my 99th bento blog post. Who knew I would make it this far after only finding out about bento box lunches this year?! I am so excited to hit the big #100 (for many reasons) and so here is a fun polar bear bento as number 99.

The polar bear is a little onigiri rice ball with nori face details, and a cucumber skin and radish skin holly detail on her ear. Also in this bento box: steamed broccoli, apple 'rabbits' made from Lambert's Apples, half of a radish, baby carrots, and a homemade pork patty.

I also did some festive nail art last night. This is a plum colored polish for the base, then an awesome holiday sparkle polish from OPI on top. On my thumb I drew a holly leaf with a few little berries (you can barely see them). I did it while watching the movie Inception, which I am still trying to puzzle out. What a trippy movie!

And finally, I made this little video of the first ever Bento Christmas Carol! Special thanks to dragonmamma for her edamame lyric suggestion. I hope this gives you a little chuckle. I am sure it will be the big hit of the holiday season. :)

Stay tuned for my 100th bento post! There will be a big celebration and a fun giveaway. Maybe even cake! :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Meat and Potatoes Bento

My hubby is a meat and potatoes kind of guy. He still refuses to eat any bentos, except for the Non Food Bento I made a while back, which featured Slim Jims and Ho-Hos. Sigh. But I think he might go for this bento, which includes potatoes and his favorite: meatloaf.

In this bento: a slice of meatloaf (I use a recipe from the America's Test Kitchen cookbook), baby carrots, boiled potatoes, raw broccoli, slices of watermelon radish from Wild Rose Ranch, walnuts from the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market, and a mandarin orange.

This was a leftovers bento, and it came together really quickly. I didn't do any cute elements, but I think that the colors look good together and the balance of nutrients is quite good. And my husband might even eat this one... that is, if I made one like it for him. This one was all mine! :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Edamame Xmas Tree

O Edamame Tree, O Edamame Tree, How Lovely Are Thy... Beans? Hmm, gotta work on that one. This is a quick snack sized bento I made this morning with edamame beans.

In this bento: snowy white rice, edamame beans in the shape of a Christmas Tree with a bit of apple for a star (apple is from Lambert's Apples), a pork patty, cucumber slices, and radish "ornaments". I packed another patty and the rest of the apple to go with this bento, since it is pretty tiny.

I made the pork patties with leftover meat from the meatloaf I made this weekend. I don't have an exact recipe, but I used ground pork, two saltine crackers, an egg, soy sauce, pepper, toasted sesame oil, grated garlic and grated ginger, chopped parsley, and Sweet Lemongrass Curry spice mix from The Savory Spice Shop. Meat patties make great bento stash, just freeze them and then pop them into bentos for an easy protein source.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ham Hock n' Beans Bento

Note to self: if coworker ever offers some of her pig products again, be sure to take her up on the offer! I am a lucky duck! One of my coworkers has chickens, pigs, and lamb on her property, and she had some left over cuts of meat that she was trying to get rid of. She asked if I would like to take some smoked ham hocks off her hands. Hello?! Um, YES!

I used the ham hocks together with some heirloom dried beans from Crescent Moon Farms to make amazing ham and beans. I am not sure if I have ever made anything tastier! My hubby and I ate this for dinner, and there was enough to have some for left overs for a few days. And bonus, I still have two pieces of ham hock in the freezer, so I can make this again!

In this bento: ham and cheese sandwiches on baguette slices, a mandarin orange, watermelon radish 'flowers' from Wild Rose Ranch, boiled new potatoes, carrots, and steamed green beans. In the background is the small container with the ham hocks n' beans.

Closeup of the delicious ham hocks n' beans. The beans kept their beautiful speckled markings.

Happy me with my frozen smoked ham hocks!

If you see jars of these beans (or other dried varieties) at Crescent Moon Farms at the Santa Rosa Farmers Market, be SURE to snap some up!

Recipe for Ham Hocks and Beans

1 cup dried beans (best to use this year's batch!)
1 smoked ham hock
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped carrots
2 minced cloves garlic
2 bay leaves

Pick over beans to make sure there are no pebbles or other debris in them. Place beans in a pot and cover with cold water by 2 inches. Put pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Boil beans for two minutes, then cover pot and remove from heat. Allow beans to soak for 1 hour. Pour off soaking liquid. Add thawed ham hock, onion, carrots, garlic, and bay leaves. Add water to pan to nearly cover ham hock. Bring water to a boil, then reduce to low heat and simmer for 1 hour. Check beans to see if they are done. Carefully pick meat from ham hock and add to beans, discard leftover ham hock bone and grisle. Serves 4 to 6.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Salad Nicoise Bento

I just received my prize from the Food Ninja contest ("It's a Major Award!") and I am thrilled with it. It's a ManPans frying pan with a lid. This puppy is really well made and heats up super fast. I decided to break it in with a Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe and it came out really well. I made steaks with baslamic dijon sauce, boiled new potatoes with herbs, and steamed green beans with lemon and butter. Today's bento uses leftovers from that meal (not the steaks, we scarfed those down).

In the large container: a hard boiled egg, tuna in oil, boiled new potatoes with herbs, and steamed green beans. In the smaller container: a mandarin orange, walnuts from the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market, and a Ghirardelli chocolate. The bento boxes are from a set of four that I picked up at Border's Books.

Here's the ManPans frying pan in action. It heated up really fast and kept the heat well. Normally my burners have cool spots in the middle, but this pan heated up evenly across the surface. And the sauce came together in a flash.

Here's our dinner. This sauce was really tasty and super easy. I recommend checking out Martha's Everyday Food section for easy dinner ideas. And big thanks to La Fuji Mama, Bella Limento, and Salty Seattle for hosting the Food Ninja contest.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Itty Bitty Taters Bento

Today's bento features cute little potatoes I got from Armstrong Valley Farm. Tom grows really great tubers and other veggies. I love his beets, garlic, and greens. These little taters are super tiny and were fun to prepare.

This bento contains: steamed edamame, tamagoyaki omelette, steamed broccoli, apple pieces and an apple "rabbit" made with apple from Lambert's Apples, and boiled potatoes tossed in a taragon vinaigrette topped with sauteed orange pepper from Quivira Winery and Farms.

My buddy and I have reviewed another Santa Rosa restaurant on our blog: Two Girls, One Restaurant. This time we went to a sushi restaurant in Railroad Square. Be sure to check it out and follow us, especially if you are in the Bay Area or plan a visit to Sonoma County.

I added this bento to Shannon's What's for Lunch Wednesdays Blog. Check it out for great bento ideas.