Friday, February 25, 2011

Moving Is Hell Bento

So I am days away from the first official day of my move. Me and Mr. Sonoma Bento are moving to a larger apartment in our complex, so I am really looking forward to more space, but NOT really looking forward to all of the boxes and cleaning that await me in the next week. Yuck. Yesterday I spent two hours scrubbing the oven. :-( So this will be the last bento for a little while, until I get everything unpacked and am not worried about cleaning an appliance again so my landlord can inspect it.

In this bento: Yakionigiri from Trader Joes (love these!), baby carrots, a mandarin orange, a few cherry tomatoes from Trader Joes (not very flavorful this time of year), leftover salmon from Sam's For Play Cafe (dinner last night), and steamed broccoli shoots from Triple T tossed with a mustard and chili flakes vinaigrette.

This is a brand new bento box (well, kind of brand new) that I picked up at Border's bookstore. They carry products from Paperchase, and this is one of a set of four bento boxes. I really love these boxes because they are so cute, and with four different sizes for one low price, they are really versatile. Plus the lids seem to fit really well.

Wish me luck with the move! See you around mid March. :-)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sonoma County Restaurant Week

Maybe it's the tail end of this sickness I am getting over. Maybe it's the bizarre weather (wind storms, sunshine, hail, sideways rain, sunshine). I am just not super inspired for bento right now. I mean, look at this:

This is my bento today. I am so bored by it, I didn't even eat it. I need a bento intervention! I need some spark, something to get me excited about the great food in Sonoma County again!

Cue Sonoma County Restaurant Week! Last year at this time, the lovely people at the Sonoma County Economic Development Board put together the first ever Sonoma County Restaurant Week to celebrate the amazing restaurants, food purveyors, farmers, wine and beer makers, and general awesome eating environment that is Sonoma County. Over 80 restaurants participated with three-course fixed menus at $19, $29, and $39, depending on the venue. It was a HUGE hit! I went to the girl and the fig, Viola Pastry Boutique, Barn Diva, La Vera Pizza, and at least one other place during Restaurant Week. I had a BLAST and ate so much great food.

The pocket book is a bit tighter this time around, and Mr. Sonoma Bento and I are in the middle of a move, but it wouldn't hurt to go to at least two places would it? I mean, my bento inspiration is at stake here. If you are in Sonoma County, the week of February 21st through February 27th is your time to head out and eat at over 100 different restaurants. Check out the menus ahead of time, make your plan of attack now! I can't wait, I can't wait! (So far I am thinking of heading to Jackson's Bar and Oven, SEA Thai Bistro, and going back to Viola's...)

If you aren't in Sonoma County, road trip!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Good Husband Bento

Ok, so all that whining I did about my husband breaking a bento box, I take it back. Oh, he still broke a box, but he just spent an exhausting 4 days dealing with snot-nosed, coughy, achy, whiny, lethargic, sick me. I got WIPED OUT by this latest bug. Seriously, I spent all day on Sunday just sleeping, coughing, and sucking on cough drops. I think I mentholated my brain.

So to make up for it, now that I am finally back to a somewhat-healthy state again, I made a Good Husband Bento. No silly stuff, it's not cute, and I even put it in a plain bento box. But it's filled with yummy stuff and will hopefully be a good lunch for him at work today.

In this no nonsense, Good Husband Bento: baby carrots, frozen edamame, Aidell's Teriyaki Chicken Meatballs, steamed broccoli from Triple T Ranch tossed with a soy sauce vinaigrette, a few walnut halves from the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market, half of a mandarin orange from De'Santis Farms, and a plain salted onigiri rice ball. The poor man even slept on the couch (mostly so he wouldn't get the plague, but also so I wouldn't have to worry about keeping him up all night with my hacking and sniffling)!

My bento is similar, although with better lighting. I have a 'side car' bento filled with the other part of the mandarin orange, a few blackberries, walnuts, and dried apricots. Also broccoli and baby carrots. You may have noticed my BRAND NEW Hello Kitty Thermal Jar. Heh heh! Got it while I was in Seattle at Uwajimaya. Today is her first trial run, and I am pretty impressed. I packed it with pretty hot jook at 8:30am (using a recipe from Sheri at Happy Little Bento), and it's still nicely warm at 1pm. I will try to eat earlier when I pack the thermal jar, just to be on the safe side.

Oh you wanted to see inside the jar? Here you go!

Lots of love to my hubs for being a good guy, who only accidentally ends up in the dog house for breaking something, but mostly deserves yummy bentos. I couldn't wish for a better Valentine.

I shared this on Shannon's What's For Lunch Wednesdays. Check it out to see what other bento buddies are whipping up!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bad Husband Bento

Sigh, I am sure he didn't do it on purpose, but Mr. Sonoma Bento broke one of my favorite bento boxes. I bid you a fond adieu, Ariel Two-Tiered Bento Box. *sobbing

I am kidding, although I did make mean faces at my hubby for about 15 minutes while I was bummed about the loss of this fun bento box. Of course, it cost only about 5 bucks, so it's not a financial blow. But they don't sell them any longer at the Disney Store, and the one I found on eBay is going for 25 dollars. Yeah, I don't think so. (Yes, that's a Tecate beer in his hand. I was determined to get a pic of him shamefully displaying what he did, and he wouldn't put his beer down for the photo.)

The bento I made in this single tier bento box is pretty straight forward. Udon noodles tossed with a homemade shoyu and peanut sauce with sliced carrots and green onions, frozen Aidell's teriyaki meatballs, and frozen edamame. I decided not to heat up the frozen items this time, since I pack my lunches in the morning and they'll thaw by lunch time.

Beverage Pairing Suggestion: The beer my hubby is holding, to drown my sorrows. :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Conversation Hearts Bento

CasaBento is having another contest on their facebook page, and this was my second entry for the contest. Sadly, they had so many great entries that mine didn't make it into the top eight. But it sure is fun to check out the other great bentos. You can vote now for your favorite Valentine's Day themed bento on Casa Bento's facebook page. Good luck to all of the finalists!

This bento was made with some help from my friend CocoCarina who suggested the "Bento Love" verbage for one of the conversation hearts. I thought "Bite Me" would be fun and playful for the second heart, since you do actually eat this and biting is encouraged. :) The "candy hearts" are actually made from egg sheet (I used Lia's great tutorial on Bentolicious to make the egg sheet) and alphabet pasta colored with food coloring pen for the words. Also in this bento: rice, edamame, char sui bbq pork, a blackberry, steamed broccoli from Triple T, french breakfast radishes from Ortiz Farms, and baby carrots. The doily in the photo was actually made by my husband's mom, Phyllis.

Happy Almost Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 4, 2011

A 'Hearty' Bento

Ha ha, puns are the best! This 'hearty' bento is one of my entries for CasaBento's Valentine's Day Bento contest. If I have time this weekend, I will make a second entry. My buddy CocoCarina helped me think up a fun idea for another heart themed bento. Entry deadline is February 6th at midnight (GTM+1).

In this bento: jasmine rice scented with clove and cardamom and topped with a chipotle cheddar heart, steamed broccoli from Triple T with little soy paper hearts, baby carrots, french breakfast radishes from Ortiz Farms, and broiled flank steak that I marinated in lots of yummy stuff (leftover from dinner last night).

The marinade I made is similar to one my mom makes for flank steak. It's so delicious. I used soy sauce, vegetable oil, toasted sesame oil, sliced scallions, powdered ginger, crushed dried rosemary, sriracha, worchestershire sauce, rice vinegar, and mirin. I was in a rush last night, so it only marinated for about an hour before I cooked it, but the marinade works even better if you let it sit for about 8 hours in the fridge.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Simple Bento

Leftover rice and frozen bento staples made this a very easy bento to prepare. Most bento box lunches I make are simple like this one. I didn't even turn the rice into an onigiri rice ball, just wasn't feeling it today.

Of course, simple does not mean that it doesn't taste good. :) In this bento: leftover rice with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds, two teriyaki chicken meatballs from Aidell's, steamed broccoli spears from Triple T in Rincon Valley, french breakfast radishes from Ortiz Farms, baby carrots, and steamed edamame.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Just Bento Bento

I was thrilled that my recent trip to Seattle coincided with Makiko Itoh's appearance and book signing at Uwajimaya there. Maki wrote the wildly popular The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches To Go which is available on Amazon already in its third printing! I got my copy at Uwajimaya and I looked inside the front cover to see which printing I got, and I think it's the first edition! Wow.

It's me and Maki at Uwajimaya! Maki's husband was nice enough to take this picture of us. Uwajimaya was PACKED that day. I've never seen it so busy. I think it was because they were celebrating some kind of anniversary, and had a free sake tasting later that day. I skipped the sake tasting. :)

This is my husband's favorite aisle at Uwajimaya: The Ramen Aisle. I have a pic somewhere of him with his arms spread out in the middle of this aisle. It's less like a kid in a candy store, and more like a devotional pose. Very funny.

The other side of the ramen aisle, aka Mecca.

I've only been able to read a few of the bento chapters in Maki's book so far, but one I wanted to try out right away was the Tamagoyaki bento. I added green onion to my Tamagoyaki omelette, which is one of Maki's suggestions. I have a pan made for tamagoyaki which makes it really easy to cook this omelette, but this time I tried rolling it on a sushi mat after it was cooked. It made a nice round tamagoyaki. I can't wait to try more recipes!

Also in this bento: steamed edamame, roasted red, purple, and yellow baby potatoes with pepper and bacon, apple rabbits made with apples from Lambert's Apples, walnuts from the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market, and slices of blood orange from Twin Peaks.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mother Daughter Bento-ing Part Deux

I have made bento box lunches with my daughter, and she loved it. During my recent trip to Seattle, I decided to try making bentos with my sister and my mom. It's Mother Daughter Bentos!

My sister Sarah and I headed to Southcenter Mall to find a cool bento box for her, and to get ingredients at Seafood City. We tried a place called Tokyo Lifestyle, but their selection of bento boxes was not great. The one she got was at Borders, made by Paperchase. It's four separate boxes for 10 bucks, such a deal, and they are really cute, with images of little smiling fruits, veggies, and other food on them.

My sister works on her two tiered bento here. We had soba noodles tossed with a homemade sauce, ground turkey soboro, hard boiled quail eggs, carrots, sugar snap peas, oranges, scallions, lettuce, and red pepper.

Sarah is choppin red peppers! We also bought some edamame, but used the sugar snap peas instead. They worked really well.

Me and my sister with our bentos! We made enough food for dinner for the three of us, and stowed the filled bento boxes away for lunch the next day.

Me and my mom (who finished her treatment for breast cancer and looks great!) with our completed bentos. I had given mom this bento box a while ago, but this was the first time she used it.

Here's a closer look at mom's bento. Very nice arrangement! We had to smoosh the ingredients down a bit, but she had a bento box strap to hold the tiers together.

My bento box, which is actually just a food storage container I got at Daiso. But it's so easy to use and has a great tight fitting lid, so it doesn't spill. I used this as my in flight bento on my flight back to Sonoma County.

All of our bento box lunches tucked safely away in the fridge. I know it is not 'oishii' to make bentos the day before, but I was leaving too early in the morning for us all to do this together.


Of course, the main reason I was in Seattle was to visit my brand new niece, Molly Ruby. She's the first baby born to any of the siblings in our family, so it's a pretty big deal. Here's a video montage of some pics from my visit with Molly. I can't wait to make her some baby bentos!