Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rad Radish Salad

Whoops, where did the time go? I got caught up in a parade and a world class cycling race, and that's my excuse for not posting any new bentos. In fact, I did make a few bento box lunches between last Thursday and this Thursday, but no time to blog about them.

This bento box lunch uses many Sonoma County ingredients. The radish salad has radishes and spring onions from Triple T Ranch and Farms in Rincon Valley, plus Sonoma County walnuts, and even local olive oil from Kendall-Jackson! Also in this bento box: orange cauliflower (raw), a mini chicken pot pie, and carrots. In the lower compartment: cherries (first of the season from the Sebastopol Farmers Market!), a slice of lime, and edamame.

Here I am at the Sebastopol Farmers Market showing off the rad radishes I picked up. I think the lone white radish sealed the deal.

Here is a close up of the simple radish salad I put together for this bento box lunch. The recipe is below. Oh and mom is doing well. Her surgery was successful, nothing in her lymph nodes. She's resting now and will begin some radiation therapy in June. Thanks for your well wishes!

Recipe for Radish Salad
3 radishes, scrubbed and cut into match sticks
1 teaspoon minced green onion
4 walnut halves, crumbled
juice of 1/4 lime
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. Serves one.

Wine Pairing Suggestion: Since I am using Kendall-Jackson olive oil in this recipe, I think a Kendall-Jackson wine would be fun to pair with it. How about their new white blend called Summation? It has so many lovely characteristics, from honey to herbs, cream to citrus, that it will really play well with the slighty spicy salad. Plus it would be great with the mini chicken pot pie.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bentos Gone Wild!

This Boobie Bento Box Lunch is for my mom, who is going in for breast cancer surgery on Monday. She caught it early and that is great news. I have always felt that laughter is good for the body and soul, so here is my medicine for Mom: Jug-a-licious Bento Box! Scroll down for the uncensored version...

In this bodacious boobie bento box are two baloney sandwiches with hot dog nipples (secured with a tiny bit of cream cheese). The baloney boobie sandwiches include cheese, tomatoes, mustard, and sandwich rounds. Also a couple of grapes, baby carrots, and a few slices of radish. For dessert, a couple of tiny mandarin oranges. And a custom made "Save The TaTas" sign! I should have included melons, right?!

This will be a very exciting lunch to eat. (tee hee) Here's to advances in breast cancer treatment and to early detection! I think this is the breast bento box lunch I have ever made... ;-)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hot Chicks

Hot chicks (made of steamed sweet potato slices) about to kiss! Hotsie Totsie! This bento box lunch also sports garam masala spiced sausage slices, grapes, and garlic scapes cut into claw-type shapes. In the lower compartment are portabella mushroom raviolis with nori flowers, baby carrots, steamed broccoli, and a few slices of red bell pepper.

Hapa Bento is using flowers as this month's B.O.M.B., so this bento box lunch qualifies with its cute nori flowers, although I may go for a more obvious flower themed lunch and enter again.

I put this lunch into my favorite Hello Kitty japanese lacquer bento box. It's so elegant! By the way, the garlic scapes are from Middleton Farms in Healdsburg, and the scape season is pretty much over now, although I am seeing green garlic still available at the farmers markets.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Grape Expectations

This is a leftovers bento box lunch with carnitas from last night's take out. I was too tired to do anything really crazy. Leftover carnitas in the silicone cupcake liner, with a radish cut into a flower shape, carrots, steamed orange cauliflower, and slices of green bell pepper.

In the lower compartment: orange slices, grapes (from Whole Paycheck, I mean Whole Foods) on skewers, and walnuts. My freezer is literally packed with bags of local walnuts, which I get at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market. There are a couple of families who grow and sell walnuts there, and I have never tasted a better walnut. Walnuts will keep in the freezer for 6 months, just long enough to last between fresh walnut seasons.

Wine Pairing Suggestion: We had Dos Equis beer with the carnitas, so that would be fine. But if you want something more local, I would try Hanna 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. It's fruitier than their previous Sauvignon Blancs, but that's why I think it goes well with the slightly carmelized meat and the rich walnuts.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mini Chicken Pot Pies

On Mother's Day yesterday I took advantage of the fact that my husband was working, leaving me with a day to do whatever I wanted! Instead of laundry (yuk!), I watched two movies and made these adorable mini chicken pot pies. They almost have a curry flavor, since I used garam masala spice and fresh cilantro in the seasoning.

I made 11 of these mini chicken pot pies, and they will freeze well, so they should last about a month. The filling I made was way too much for the amount of pie dough I had, so me and hubby had larger versions with crescent dough toppers for dinner last night.

I bought Rocky the Range free range chicken from Petaluma Poultry. It has a much better chicken flavor than the grocery store variety of chicken, plus no antibiotics!

In this bento box lunch: mini chicken pot pies, carrots, grapes, a few slices of kumquat, edamame, red bell pepper, and radishes.

Recipe for Mini Chicken Pot Pies

1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 skinless, boneless chicken breast (about 1/3 pound or so), cut into chunks
8 baby carrots
1/2 medium potato, cubed
2 ounces peeled, cubed sweet potato
2 inch piece of celery
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
2 garlic scapes, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1/4 cup red bell pepper, minced
salt and pepper

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup reserved chicken cooking liquid
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon garam masala spice
1 heaping tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced
salt and pepper

1 premade pie crust
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water

In a pan, heat 1/2 tblsp butter and 1/2 tblsp olive oil together over medium heat. Add chicken, carrots, potatoes, celery chunk, and bay leaf. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chicken broth and enough water to cover. Turn heat up to medium high, cover the pot, and cook for 15 minutes.

While chicken and veggies cook, saute onions, garlic scapes, celery and bell pepper in butter and olive oil over medium heat until soft and fragrant. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Drain chicken and veggies, reserving 1/2 cup of chicken cooking liquid. Discard bay leaf and chop carrots. Mince the chicken pieces and return them to the pot with the other veggies, and the onion sauteed mixture. In a new pot, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in chicken broth. Stir until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and add heavy cream, and garam masala. Add chicken mixture to the sauce and stir to combine. Add cilantro and taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper if needed.

Use pie crust dough to line 11 to 12 mini muffin tins. Spoon chicken filling into dough, then cover with another bit of pie crust dough. Use a fork to crimp the top dough and bottom dough together. Add cut out dough shapes if you like, and be sure to cut a small slit in the top of each pie to allow steam to escape. Bake pies in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

About halfway through the baking time, brush the tops of the pies with a mixture of egg white and water.

Makes 11 to 12 mini chicken pot pies, with quite a bit of chicken filling left over. (You can make more pies with this leftover filling, or make a larger dinner for you and your sweetie.) Can freeze for up to 1 month.

Wine Pairing Suggestion: With a spicier, more robust filling, these pot pies would pair well with a fruity, spicy zinfandel. Skrew Kappa Napa made an outstanding version that unfortunately they no longer make. Instead, I recommend Kenwood Vineyards 2007 Sonoma County Zinfandel.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Stuffed Baby Artichokes

Included in this bento box lunch: carrots, radishes, steamed orange cauliflower with black sesame seeds, a little sauce container of avocado cilantro sauce (recipe here), and a stuffed baby artichoke. The stuffing includes panko bread crumbs, garlic scapes, lime juice, cilantro, and toasted sesame oil. It was great! This is the first time I tried out my new bunny bento box. It is pretty tiny, so I may have to save this one for snack bentos. I added an apple and a stick of cheese to the lunch because it wasn't quite enough food.

I got the baby artichokes from Larry at Triple T Ranch and Farm. Larry always has great produce and eggs. He's at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and also at the Sunday Sebastopol Farmers Market, plus other farmers markets. They also help run Bob's Fruit Truck on Highway 12, so you can pretty much always find Triple T.

This is the tiny bunny bento lunch box. I had just taken it out of the fridge, so that's why it's a little cloudy. It has a separator, but does not hold a large amount of food. I got this one at Ichiban Kan in SF Japantown.

Recipe for Stuffed Baby Artichokes
2 baby artichokes
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 garlic scapes (or 1 clove garlic), chopped
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 drops toasted sesame oil
salt and pepper

Cut off the tops of the artichokes and remove the chokes with a spoon. Trim off some of the outer leaves and the bottom of the artichokes so that they will sit upright. Steam the artichokes for 1 minute and 30 seconds in the microwave. Allow to cool a bit while you make the stuffing. Combine the panko breadcrumbs, garlic scapes, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, sesame oil and seasonings in a bowl. Stir so that the breadcrumbs are well combined with the other ingredients. Place the artichokes in a baking dish, and then spoon the stuffing into the empty chokes and also into the openings between the leaves. Pack the stuffing in well. Cover the artichokes with foil, then bake for 20 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven. Serve hot or cold. Makes 2 stuffed baby artichokes.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Making Onigiri

My friend Coco wanted to know how I make the shaped rice balls (called onigiri) that I put in my bento box lunches. This post is for you, Coco! I bought a onigiri maker at Asia Mart on Guerneville Road in Santa Rosa. It has three different shapes you can use. In this bento lunch, I chose the heart shape to match my heart shaped mini quiche. Also in this bento box: baby carrots, a container of soy sauce, watermelon radish, grapes, a small piece of purple broccolini, and white strawberries.

The white strawberries are a variety called Mara des Bois, and they taste more like tutti frutti than strawberries. They do not grow to the size of the strawberries you get at the grocery store, but then again, those strawberries have little flavor. I got these white strawberries at the Sebastopol Farmers Market from Nancy at Middleton Farms. She is an amazing producer, always has quality stuff.

On to the onigiri lesson! You can click on the images for a larger view. (Figure 1) The onigiri mold has removeable bottoms and a lid that comes off. Many people recommend wetting the onigiri mold before filling it. Water, or water with some salt in it will help keep the rice from sticking to your mold. (Figure 2) Fill the mold about 1/3 of the way with cooked rice. I use cold rice, but you can use warm rice too. (Figure 3) If you want to, put a small bit of filling in the center of the rice mold. I used leftover barbequed brisket from BBQ Smokehouse in Sebastopol, hands down the best BBQ in Sonoma County. Do not use really wet fillings as they will leak out of the onigiri. (Figure 4) Fill the mold with more rice until you are a little bit over the top of the mold, but to not pack it in, just lightly fill it. (Figure 5) Place the top of the mold over the rice and press firmly straight down. If you have not added enough rice, carefully remove the lid and add a bit more. Carefully remove the top lid after the shape has been molded.

(Figure 6) Gently push the bottom of the mold up through the opening at the top of the mold. (Figure 7) You'll see that the heart shaped onigiri is carefully making its way out of the top of the mold. (Figure 8) Once the rice ball is free of the mold, carefully remove the bottom piece of the mold from the rice ball. (Figure 9) Place the onigiri in your bento box and embellish it with sesame seeds or a cute soy paper cut out.

I have cutters in different shapes for cutting soy paper or nori (seaweed) in cute shapes. Soy paper and nori can be found in asian markets and also at Sonoma County's G&G Shopping Centers.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Hola! Happy Cinco de Mayo! Today's bento box has a Mexican theme, with the colors of the Mexican flag, and tasty Mexican food. I made steak tacos for me and my hubby last night using steak, cheddar cheese, salsa, a green avocado/cilantro sauce, and super tasty tortillas from La Tortilla Factory. La Tortilla Factory is based in Sonoma County, and 3 generations of the Tamayo family have been making tortillas here since 1977. This is a new product called Hand Made Style Corn Tortilla. They are flexible like flour tortilla, but have that wonderful chewy masa flavor. Also in this bento box: green and red bell peppers, and radishes. I peeled the skin from the radish to make the radish flower, and then placed the white radish flesh between the peppers to echo the Mexican flag. Pairing suggestion: Mexican food and beer really seem to be perfect partners. A frosty glass of Anchor Steam beer would go great with this lunch.

The sauce inside the steak tacos is something I picked up at a broadcast with Chef Mark Stark of Stark's Steakhouse. Mark explained that tacos take so many little ingredients like onions, avocados, cilantro, sour cream, etc. that it takes a while to put them together. But, you can blend the green items together saving time and also keeping the ingredients from falling out of the taco as you eat it! Great idea! So I made this green sauce based on the sauce Mark made during out broadcast.

Recipe for Avocado/Cilantro Sauce
1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup cilantro
green parts of two green onions, roughly chopped
juice of 1/2 lime
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Under The Sea!

This bento box lunch is rather whimsical. I wanted to try my hand at octopus wieners, 1) because they are cool, and 2) because it is fun to say "octopus wieners." Then I had to keep the theme going with underwater creatures like fish and seastars. The wieners are cut about 3/4 of the way up the wiener into eight "legs" and then cooked in a frying pan. Their eyes are soy paper and black sesame seeds. The fish is a sauce container with some sriracha sauce inside (spicy!), and the three stars are made from steamed sweet potato, steamed purple potato, and watermelon radish on a bed of rice (painted blue!). I also used a bit of garlic scapes that I picked up at the Sebastopol Farmers Market. I cut the scape in the same way I cut the wieners, but then I put it in a bowl of ice water so it would curl and fan out.

These are garlic scapes from the Sebastopol Farmers Market. They are the stem of hard necked garlic, and they taste great: garlicky and green at the same time. They are delish in pesto.

My hubby thought I had gone off the deep end when I told him I needed food coloring to finish my bento box lunch. Yes, I "painted" the rice blue with food coloring to make a watery bed for my sea creatures. I wonder what my mouth will look like when I eat this?

It turned out great! Not pictured, but in the lower compartment of this bento box, I had some steamed edamame, a few slices of kumquat, and a mixture of dried cantaloupe and walnuts. The cantaloupe and walnuts are from the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market.

And, my brilliant friend Coco said that because this is Sonoma Bento, I should recommend a wine pairing for my bento! I love it! Not that I am going to break out the booze at work, but I think this whimsical, nautical bento box lunch would go well with some bubbles. The richer flavors of the wieners, and the spicy sriracha will benefit from the lighter pairing. And the walnuts, dried fruit, and bold citrus kumquat flavors will also pair nicely with bubbly. My go to choice for sparkling wine is Korbel Natural, made with Russian River grapes. It cuts heavy foods and works well with citrus.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mother Daughter Bento-ing

I introduced my 9 year old step daughter to Bento Boxes this weekend, and she was a little skeptical at first, until we started talking about different colored foods. Once she saw some of the pictures of the bento box lunches I have made, she was ready to make one herself. My step daughter's bento includes: heart shaped quiche (recipe here), edamame (she loves saying this word!), yellow and orange bell pepper slices, and a heart shaped onigiri rice ball inside of which we hid an edamame bean. We also added a heart cut out of orange soy paper on the top of the onigiri. In the lower compartment, she arranged mandarin oranges, cucumbers, and a steamed purple potato in the shape of a heart.

My bento lunch uses many of the same ingredients: steamed purple potato hearts, red bell pepper slices, cucubmer slices, heart shaped onigiri, and grapes in the upper compartment. In the lower compartment, I have edamame, a heart shaped quiche, steamed broccoli, and carrots. I tried to eat my bento lunch right before our broadcast today, but got totally sidetracked, so I guess it is now a late afternoon snack.

My daughter mapped out what she wanted in her bento box. I helped her respell the words she had trouble with. It's a great plan!