Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Picnic Bento

Hapa Bento has a great themed bento challenge each month, and this month the theme is Picnic! I thought a lot about what to make, and I always associate bugs with picnics. Bleh, hate those bugs! But a cute little olive ant is a welcome addition to this Picnic bento.

I made an ant out of olives, nori (toasted seaweed), and a few pieces of dried spaghetti for his antennae. The ant is surveying the picnic spread from his perch on a biscuit filled with ham and spices. The spices are a blend called Duqqah that I picked up from The Handmade Pantry.

In the rest of the bento: blueberries, cherry tomatoes, deviled quail eggs (!), a slice of cucumber, two homemade pickled cornichon, and arugula. I love this arugula from Ridgeview Farms in Healdsburg. It is so spicy and delicious!

I purchased a four pack of small olives at the grocery store the other day, and honestly, I was really sold as soon as I saw them use this scooter image on the packaging. Beep! Beep!

I also included this bento in Shannon's What's For Lunch Wednesdays blog. Check it out to see what other bento bloggers are creating!

Recipe for Deviled Quail Eggs
6 quail eggs
2 or 3 tablespoons vinegar
3 teaspoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon prepared wasabi paste

Rinse quail eggs in warm water to remove any dirt or feathers from the shells. Fill a small pot with water and add vinegar. Add quail eggs and bring water to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then remove pan from heat and take it to the sink. Run cold water into the pan and gradually pour out the hot water. Allow eggs to cool then gently peel. The vinegar should make it easier to remove the shells.

Carefully cut eggs in half and remove yolks. Place yolks in a bowl. Add mayo, wasabi, and salt to taste. Blend well. Transfer yolk mixture to a plastic bag and snip a small piece of the corner of the bag off. Carefully pipe the yolk mixture back into the egg white halves. Top each with a little pinch of paprika. Makes 12 teeeny tiny deviled eggs.

Monday, July 26, 2010

San Francisco Japantown

I had SUCH a good time yesterday in San Francisco's Japantown. The last time I went was in April, when I started out on this bento obsession of mine. I used a wonderful guide prepared by Biggie of the Lunch In A Box blog. If you get a chance to go to SF Japantown, I really recommend taking Biggie's review along with you.

This time I was more prepared and focused. I knew what I was looking for, and I also knew what I didn't need. But I still bought a few things that were ridiculous, just because I could. :-)

Today's bento uses a few of the new things I picked up while in SF Japantown. I have this new blue bento box (magic round bento!) from Ichiban Kan that was on sale for 50 cents! The chopsticks are from Daiso, the tomato pick is from Ichiban Kan, and the cherry stem pick is from Sanko Cooking Supply (Sanko is WILDLY expensive, but it was the only place I found these picks and I was dying to get some after seeing them on Sheri's Happy Little Bento blog). Oh, and the quail egg is from Nijiya Market (my first time trying quail eggs!).

The top of the bento box has three little monkeys on it and it says, "Do you like living here? Yes, it's great!" In this bento lunch: a biscuit filled with ham and spices, caprese salad in a silicone cup, cucumber slices (from Ridgeview Farms), two cherry tomatoes on a cherry stem pick, steamed romano beans from Cresent Moon Farms, a hard boiled quail egg, and a bit of arugula from Ridgeview Farms.

I got the idea for the quail egg little guy from a book that I picked up at Kinokuniya Stationery. A little wedge cut makes his mouth, and his eyes are black sesame seeds. I'll post pictures of the bento book soon. It's all in Japanese, so I can't read it, but the photos and ideas are great!

Here are some of the picks I got at Ichiban Kan. I was so excited to see the tree picks after seeing them used in a bento made by Shannon of What's For Lunch At Our House. I think I will have to borrow that idea because those grapes looked so cute!

I didn't take as many pictures as I should have while in SF Japantown, but here are a few of the places I visited. Above is a selection of the bento supplies available at Daiso.

This is at the Sanrio store where I actually showed some restraint. I know! I was amazed at myself, too. :-)

I did pick up a bento box with Kuromi on the front. The sales clerk at Sanrio said that Kuromi is more popular with U.S. customers than Japanese customers, and that is why their selection is so large in the San Francisco store.

I have so much more to share from my trip to SF Japantown. I am sure you will see lots of new stuff in the weeks to come on Sonoma Bento. And... I got some fun stuff for a giveaway. Stay tuned!

How to Boil Quail Eggs

Rinse quail eggs in warm water to remove any dirt or feathers from the shells. Fill a small pot with water and about 2 or 3 tablespoons of vinegar. Add quail eggs and bring water to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then remove pan from heat and take it to the sink. Run cold water into the pan and gradually pour out the hot water. Allow eggs to cool then gently peel. The vinegar should make it easier to remove the shells.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Workin On a Saturday Bento

Actually, I work on Saturdays pretty often. When I have two days off in a row, it is a really big deal! I put this bento together in 10 minutes with bento stash (the biscuit) and some fresh veggies and fruit. In this bento: a biscuit filled with Fra'mani Rosemary Ham and Duqqah from The Handmade Pantry topped with a piece of provolone cheese cut into a floral shape, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, a hunk of Valley Ford Cheese Co cheese, steamed Romano green beans from Crescent Moon Farms, and some blueberries.

I didn't make it to the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market today, but it is a great resource for bento supplies. If you are trying to eat healthier and include local foods in your diet, head to your local farmers market!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Muffin Man

This mini bento was inspired by some recent bentos created by Susan Yuen of Hawai'i's Bento Box. She uses biscuit dough to create little bento creatures and cute little faces. Inside, she hides bits of yummy filling. I decided it would be a fun and quick way to make a bit of bento stash: ingredients that you can keep in the freezer and just pop into a bento for quick assembly. Plus, I thought it might be a good way to use this new spice blend I got at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market.

In this bento: a "muffin man" biscuit filled with Fra'mani Rosemary ham and Duqqah spice blend from The Handmade Pantry (face details are provolone cheese, nori, and beni shoga pickled red ginger), some arugula and green amaranth leaves, a few slices of cucumber, a baby carrot, blueberries, and some leftover fresh corn salad.

Duqqah (also spelled Dukkah, or Duqqa) is an Egyptian condiment served with bread. You dip a slice of bread in olive oil, then in the Duqqah. Ingredients vary, but the main parts of Duqqah are sesame seeds, coriander, cumin, salt, and pepper. Other nuts are often used, and some versions include hotter spices. Jane from The Handmade Pantry says you can use it with fresh veggies and olive oil, try it as a rub for grilled meats, in soups, and salads. Combined with the buttery biscuit dough and fragrant ham, I think this turned out really good as a bento ingredient! You can find The Handmade Pantry at the Wednesday Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market.

On a side note: using the right tool is essential for quick and safe bento making. I tried to avoid using one of my smaller, sharper paring knives for the detail on the carrot, because I didn't want to get another knife dirty. Well, the bigger, more awkward knife slipped in my hand, and whoops, I got a little boo boo. Luckily it was not a deep cut and I had these devil duckie bandages on hand to make it all better.

I have included this bento in Shannon's What's For Lunch Wednesday Blog, a great way to see what other bento bloggers are up to, and to share ideas.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pooltime Snack Bentos

This past weekend was all about lounging by the pool, well that and a bit of working and some art purchasing, but mostly about lounging by the pool. I made these two snack bentos for my step daughter and myself so we could play in the pool a bit longer without having to head back inside for replenishments. Her bento has a selection of Croque Monsieur sandwiches, a couple of cherry tomatoes, cucumber flowers, a cucumber "baran", a few slices of cheese, and half of a nectarine with a cute little bunny pick.
My snack bento also contains a few Croque Monsieur sandwiches, a cucumber flower, a homemade cornichon pickle, a little hunk of brie cheese, blueberries in a paper cup, a few cherry tomatoes, and two olives.

If you are wondering where to get the cutters to make the cucumber flowers, I suggest getting them from Amazon. I had really quick delivery and they are so useful to add that special touch to your bento boxes. Here are the two sets that I purchased: Stainless Steel Vegetable Cutters #K8444 "100% Made in Japan!!" and Vegetable Cutters, Stainless Steel set of 6 large #450106.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Food Free Bento

Look Ma, No Food! This bento contains red licorice, a slice of fried Spam rolled up with cream cheese, mac 'n cheese, cheese puffs, ho-hos, Slim Jims, and barbeque Corn Nuts. There's also a can of Red Bull (YUCK), a crushed out cigarette, and a flattened PBR beer can.

I have jokingly been referring to this bento as a "Trailer Trash Bento," since it contains "foods" that are commonly found at convenience stores and gas stations. In fact, I bought the Red Vines, Red Bull, Corn Nuts, and Slim Jim at the AM/PM Minimart Gas Station near my home. But as I put this together, the joke seemed a lot less funny. For many people in our country, access to fresh produce and healthy food is limited. These places are known as Food Deserts.

If you live in a Food Desert, your access to food is probably a gas station, convenience store, or mom and pop store with canned goods and shelf stable products, with very little fresh food. And those "foods" probably cost a lot more at the convenience store too. First Lady Michelle Obama has been talking about childhood obesity and promoting her Let's Move! program. She refers to food deserts, and hopes to get rid of them over the next 7 years. Access to grocery stores and farmers markets gives families the option of healthy food choices.

I take for granted the fact that I live next to a grocery store, and within walking distance of a year round farmers market. Sonoma County is so full of healthy, amazing food products, that there really is no excuse not to include fresh produce in our diets.

I did not eat the food in this bento, besides a few bites of mac n' cheese, and unfortunately my husband grabbed the Slim Jims and I couldn't stop him from snarfing them down. Blech! Instead, I headed over to my friend's place for a fun potluck party and I brought some actual food. Here you see fresh corn salad, Fra'mani rosemary ham, Valley Ford Cheese Co. cheese, and blueberries.

Recipe for Fresh Corn Salad
3 ears corn, shucked
1 small tomato, or 5 cherry tomatoes, diced
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
8 fresh basil leaves, minced
1 pinch sugar
salt to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

Stand ears of corn up in a bowl, and slice the kernels off the cob in a downward motion into the bowl with a sharp knife. Discard cobs. Add tomato, garlic, basil, sugar, salt, and olive oil to the corn kernels. Stir to combine. Makes enough for 6 servings as a side dish. And yes, the corn is raw in this salad. Sooooo yummy!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Croque Monsieur Bento

I just couldn't let the Bastille Day holiday pass without one more frenchie bento. Croque Monsieur is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich that is quite popular in France. I made these with slices of baguette, Fra'mani Rosemary ham, and emmentaler cheese. Also in this bento: a selection of multicolored cherry tomatoes, olives, some homemade cornichon pickles, and a hunk of brie cheese.

This bento also works in the Bento Summer School series. This week's lesson is about sandwiches. There are TONS of ways to include small sandwiches in bento boxes. This sandwich is a bit more conventional, but be sure to check out the lesson on sandwiches to get lots of ideas provided by Susan Yuen of Hawaii's Bento Box.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bastille Day Bento

Vive la France! Yesterday was Bastille Day, celebrating the fall of the Bastille prison in 1789 and the beginning of the French Revolution. As the daughter of a French teacher, I feel a patriotic kinship to mes amis francais! Plus they have so much delicious food, so what's not to celebrate?

I made a bento filled with a composed salad called Salad Nicoise, which lends itself easily to a bento presentation. The traditional elements of this salad come into debate, but the main things are anchovies, nicoise olives, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and lettuce. I am not a huge fan of anchovies, so I went for tuna in oil, and added cherry tomatoes, a quarter of a hard boiled egg, blanched green beans, olives, and boiled potatoes. I made a vinaigrette of dijon mustard to go over the salad, and put it in a little plastic container in the bento box. My hubby also ate this, but refuses to eat it out of a bento box, so I had to put it in a bowl. Sigh...

If you get a chance, check out one of my favorite blogs, The Daily Nail. The blogger there makes a new manicure each day, and she took my suggestion for a Bastille Day theme! I love these nails!

I included this bento lunch in the What's For Lunch Wednesday post. Check out all of the creative bento lunches on Shannon's blog!

Wine Pairing Suggestion: I had a sparkling wine from the Alsace region of France, and it went really well with this salad. You could also opt for the very French aperitif called Pernod, which takes some getting used to. I enjoy it with a bit of water poured over ice. The strong anise flavor is very refreshing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sunny Side Up Bento

We have been having cooler weather here in Wine Country the last few days, and it was even a little misty on my way to work. Bleh. So I thought some sunny positive bento affirmations might coax the sun to come back out. Plus I was inspired to make these pancakes and do a breakfast bento after I saw this cute bento on the Happy Little Bento blog!

In this bento: heart shaped pancakes (I made a bunch and put them in the freezer), cherries from Hamlow Ranch, a few slices of maple sausages, cucumber from Crescent Moon Farms, cherry tomatoes, and half of a Petaluma hard boiled egg. I made the sunny face with nori and the rays of sunshine with black sesame seeds. Come back out Sun! We miss you!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hotsy Totsy Bento

This bento is not especially hot or spicy, per se, but I thought it had enough oomph to call for devils and this fiery fabric as a background. I think I got the devil cocktail charms at Archie McPhee in Seattle. I love that store so much, I lurve it! I don't see them on Archie's site right now, but Amazon may have them: Cocktail Demons

In this hotsy totsy bento: a half hard boiled egg, blueberries, raspberries, and slices of deep red plum from Neufeld Farms. In the lower compartment: slices of lemon cucumber from Crescent Moon Farms, a flower shaped open face sandwich with ham, provolone, and smoked paprika (I broiled it to melt the cheese a bit), cherry tomatoes, and pan fried padron peppers from Crescent Moon Farms. I picked up the cool star shaped silicone muffin liner from Cost Plus this weekend, along with the jar of pimenton (smoked paprika).

If you have never tried padron peppers, I highly recommend them! I get mine from Crescent Moon Farms each year. These were the first of the season. Preparation is so easy, you really don't even need a recipe. Heat some olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the peppers whole, and fry them until they are softened and brown on the outside. Toss with sea salt and serve. Once in a while you will get a hotter pepper, but they are generally mild, and so flavorful. You can also use this method with shishito peppers, a japanese cousin of padrons.

These lemon cucumbers from Crescent Moon Farms were really delicious. Look for smaller lemon cucumbers, otherwise you will get nothing but seeds inside.


My sweetie pie had a four day weekend this past weekend, and it made me bento lazy. But yesterday we did manage to head dowtown for a little World Cup Fever. I wanted Holland to win, but alas, they didn't. It was a pretty good game, though, chest kick and all!

After the game, I headed to the pool for some chillaxin time. I made this little snack bento to enjoy while I got some rays. In the magic round bento: slices of Valley Ford Cheese Co. Estero Gold cheese, pan fried padron peppers from Crescent Moon Farms, slices of lemon cucumbers from Crescent Moon Farms, cherry tomatoes, raspberries, a few blueberries, and half of a plum from Neufeld Farms.

I made the little Spanish flag from a set I got at Cost Plus Market. For some reason, it didn't have the coat of arms on it. And I had to make nails to match! I only show the Spanish set, not the other hand with the Dutch flag on it.

Pretty hard to make soccer balls, they look a bit more like cows, huh? Moooooo-oooaaaaallll!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Oceanic Bento

On a recent trip to the supermarket, I found these crazy cool dolphin and whale shaped chicken nuggets! They are called Banquet Ocean Adventures and each is 50 calories, so they are a tasty and not too high-calorie addition to a healthy bento lunch, although not low fat. There were also dinosaur shaped nuggets made by Tyson, too cute! I packed them into my favorite Hello Kitty lacquered bento box.

In this bento: Banquet Ocean Adventures Dolphin and Whale shaped chicken nuggets, provolone cheese stars, a cherry tomato, and blue tinted udon noodles (I got the idea for tinting the noodles from Shannon at What's For Lunch At Our House!) tossed with Stonehouse Lime Infused Olive Oil.

In the lower compartment: blanched green beans from Crescent Moon Farms, cherry tomatoes and blueberries from the Sebastopol Farmers Market, cherries from Hamlow Ranch, a few raspberries and a cute little flag pick I got in Seattle.

This lunch has been added to What's For Lunch Wednesdays. It's fun to check out the creative lunches posted there. :-)

I saw today on Just Bento that blog author Maki had emergency surgery yesterday. I know that all of us in the bento community are wishing her a quick recovery, and are sending supportive thoughts to her family.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Gender Bento

I am finally using up the last of the bread, bologna, and cheese from our camping trip last weekend. These two happy sandwiches are hanging out with red pepper slices, cherry tomatoes from the Sebastopol Farmers Market, steamed romano beans from The Patch in Sonoma, two cherries, and a few blueberries, also from the Sebastopol Farmers Market.
I had a great Fourth of July celebration with friends, complete with BBQ and pool time. I brought along these steamed green beans topped with a lime infused olive oil and basil dressing. They turned out great!

Recipe for Green Beans with Basil-Lime Olive Oil Dressing

3 pounds of green beans, rinsed and trimmed
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
2 garlic cloves, grated
1/3 cup lime infused olive oil (I used Stonehouse Olive Oil, based in Berkeley)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Steam green beans for 7 to 10 minutes. Run beans under cold water to stop them from over cooking. In a food processor, combine basil, grated garlic cloves, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Blend dressing. Spoon dressing over beans. Serves 10 as a side dish. *If you don't have lime infused olive oil, use regular oil and add a bit of grated lime zest and a tablespoon of lime juice.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Patriotic Bento

Today I worked on a live broadcast from a demo kitchen and they made yummy burgers to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday. It certainly does not suck to work with professional chefs! But because I was working, I didn't have time to do a really elaborate bento for the holiday. I made half of a bento box lunch for my step daughter, but I did manage to put some patriotic touches on it.

In this lunch: vanilla yogurt with blueberries and a raspberry, red pepper "fireworks," carrot "flames," mini star bologna sandwiches, a bit of broccoli, and some enoki mushrooms for "sparkle." I didn't have time to fill a second compartment for her. But I did stay up late last night to do these patriotic fingernails:

Have a Safe and Happy Fourth of July weekend!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Hello Kitty Onigiri

I am sooooo excited about today's bento. When I was in Seattle, I had a chance to shop at Uwajimaya. It's like the mecca of Asian grocery stores. I bought a Hello Kitty popsicle mold there, thinking that it would work great as an onigiri mold. Tada!

The onigiri (rice ball) is decorated with nori (toasted seaweed) and takuan (pickled daikon radish). This is my first time using takuan, and I tasted a bit of it while I was assembling this bento. It's kind of stong, but not bad. Perhaps it will grow on me. :-) Also in the bento box: carrots, a salad of quick pickled cucumbers topped with a few pieces of red pickled ginger, and enoki mushrooms. In the lower compartment: cherries from Hamlow Ranch, chicken nuggets, and a few cheese flowers. I love my new food cutters from Amazon! Here's the set I used for this bento: Stainless Steel Vegetable Cutters #K8444 "100% Made in Japan!!"

This is another one of the new bento boxes I got while on my trip to Seattle. This one is from the Japanese dollar store called Daiso. Everything in the store is generally $1.50. Including this bento box! It's got a few dragonflies on it, and that crazy brand name: Lube Sheep. Huh...?

The lettuce that I use to line my bento boxes and use as "baran" (decorative partitions), is from a great farmer at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market. Reenie and her daughter Sarah sell wonderful quality produce from Ridgeview Farms based in Healdsburg. Look at this gorgeous lettuce!

They have lots of varieties as well. I love their french radishes, and when the season is here, their pears. They also sell very tasty arugula.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

And It Stoned Me

Weird title for the post, I know. I am referring to the Van Morrison song, not because there are any psychotropic drugs in this bento, but rather because it has stone fruit in it, some of the best stone fruit I have ever had! There is a great fruit vendor at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market called Hamlow Ranch. They are out of Stanislaus County and have the best stone fruit (cherries, nectarines, peaches) right now. I picked up two varieties of nectarines, and a few of the last cherries of the season.

Packed into this bento: a simple tomato-mozzarella salad, roasted green beans wrapped in prosciutto, cucumber slices, and a few kalamata olives. In the lower compartment: cherries and nectarine slices.

If you get close to your computer screen, I think you can actually smell the ripeness of these nectarines. (I'm kidding, don't do that. You'll look silly.)

Wine Pairing Suggestion: Seghesio Family Vineyards in Healdsburg, CA is one of the oldest Sonoma County wine families. Their 2008 Home Ranch Zinfandel is jammy and rich, and would go well with the prosciutto, tomato-mozzarella salad, kalamata olives, and cherries in this bento box lunch.