Friday, April 29, 2011

Sonoma Bento One Year Anniversary!

Today marks one year since I started this blog. I am so thankful for all of the support and interest from my bento friends. Some of you make bento, some of you do not, but all of you have been so kind and encouraged me to keep learning and keep improving my bento skills. This has been a great year, and I can't wait to see how my bento lunches will evolve in the next year. So, I thought I would do a before and after kind of a post today. Here is the very first bento I made, back on April 21st, 2010.

The upper tier has a heart shaped onigiri rice ball, steamed broccoli, slices of baked sweet potato, grapes, and a sliced strawberry.

The lower tier is filled with salad greens from Offerings of the Land, carrots, mushrooms, watermelon radish, and half of a hard boiled egg. And now, for my remake of my first ever bento, drumroll please......

The first bento I made was in a GINORMOUS bento box. The only thing you really can fit into that box and not have way too much food, would be a salad. Instead, I used this new black bento box (it's still kind of big at 600ml) and packed everything much tighter. Packing your bento box tightly will not only make sure that things don't roll around and shift, but it will also put enough food into your bento box to fill your tummy at lunch time. In this bento box: I have an onigiri wrapped with a strip of nori that I punched with a flower shaped craft punch. There are a few green grapes, a strawberry from Williamson Farms, a flower shaped slice of purple sweet potato, steamed broccoli rapini from Triple T, a mix of wild arugula from Triple T along with torn romaine lettuce, slices of carrot, a french breakfast radish from Ortiz Farms, a small container of salad dressing, and a tamagoyaki omelette made with slivers of green garlic from Middleton Farms. The only thing I forgot was mushrooms, and I actually did have enoki mushrooms from Bohemian Mushroom Farm, but I spaced and forgot to put them in. You can also see that the lighting is MUCH better in the remake than in the original bento. I take pictures of my bento next to a bright window. I also use scrapbook paper or fabric for a background. The original bento was shot in my office kitchen. Not really conducive to glamorous photo shoots. :)

This is the first bento I posted on Sonoma Bento on April 29th, 2010. As you can see, I was already making some big steps and improvements from my first bento attempt. I actually really like this bento, and I was wondering how I would remake it. In this bento: a pita sandwich with wasabi tunafish salad, baby carrots, radish slices, broccoli, two onigiri with slices of cucumber in them, and half of a boiled egg with black sesame seed details.

In my re-do: a magic round bento to the rescue! I have basically the same wasabi tunafish sandwich in a pita, but I put black sesame seeds on the outsides. Also in this bento: steamed broccoli rapini from Triple T, green grapes, a bear onigiri with nori eyes and a pickled ginger red mouth, radishes from Bernier Farms, cucumber slices, baby carrots, and a little hard boiled quail egg from Triple T with nori eyes and a carrot beak. The original bento was pretty cute as it was, so this is just a different spin on the ingredients in a different shaped bento box. I was a little puzzled about why I put both bread and rice in the same bento, which I don't do now. Ah well, this did come out pretty tasty.

Beverage Pairing Suggestion: J Vineyards & Winery Cuvee 20 Brut. A great and affordable sparkling wine to toast one year as a bento blogger! YAY!

Something you may have noticed in my newer bento photos: a watermark. As my photos have improved, I decided I should brand them so that they are credited to me. I place the words "Sonoma Bento" in my photos, using background or foreground colors and placing them in fun spots. Many bento bloggers do this, and it is probably a good practice to use if you are uploading your own bento photos. Credit should always be given where it is due, and you don't want someone to steal your photos and claim it as his/her own.

A few words about how my style and approach to bento has changed: I used to think that I needed tons of picks and cupcake liners to make my bento kawaii (or cute). I find that I rarely use food picks. A sharp knife is the tool I use the most in making my bento. I do like to use small food cutters for a quick cute element. Tweezers are important for placing details. Probably the most important part of my bento making style, however, is the farmers market! Seasonal, fresh food is what I like to build my bento around. Not everything comes from the farmers market, but I try to feature at least one local item in every lunch.

Now for the celebration! In honor of my one year blogiversary, I am giving away a fun set of bento items. It's a starter kit of sorts! Here's what I am giving away:

A set of colorful chopsticks.

An onigiri mold, so you can make hearts, stars, and bears.

A nori punch shaped like an apple.

A set of 12 food picks.

And finally, this cute three tiered pink bento box, and my handmade onigiri bento box strap. The band is pink felt with an elastic section, and a felt onigiri face on top. The bento box itself is brand new, and has a shallow upper tier to hold chopsticks or utensils (maybe a slim sauce pack), and then two tiers for food.

There are 4 ways you can win this awesome bento prize pack. Please leave each entry as a separate comment:

1. MANDATORY: You must be a follower of this blog, Sonoma Bento.
2. Tweet about the contest. Please let me know if you tweeted about the contest, and if possible include the link to your tweet.
3. Mention this contest on your blog. Please let me know about your blog post and include the link to your blog post.
4. Tell me what your favorite bento tool is and why, or if you don't make bento box lunches yet, which bento tool you would really like to have.

I will randomly select one entry as the winner on lucky Friday the 13th of May. :-)

GOOD LUCK! And thank you, thank you, thank you for being a part of my bento adventures. :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cauliflower Hugs a Bao Bento

Tee hee!! After I made this bento it totally looked like the cauliflower was giving a hug to the bao in the bento. I should have put eyes on the tangerine. :) Oh well.

In this bento: leftover marinated flank steak, a few kalamata olives, a tangerine from Schletewitz Family, steamed orange cauliflower, and a char sui bao from Trader Joe's.

I also finally did a new nail polish design. This was suggested by a friend of mine a while ago. I love to paint my nails with fun designs, and I love bento, so he thought I should combine the two. Here's what I painted on each nail: thumb: an edamame pod on a blue background; index: a tamagoyaki omelette; middle: a smiling onigiri rice ball; ring: a strawberry; and pinkie: an apple rabbit. Nom, nom, nom! :)

My one year blog-iversary is coming up this Friday! Check in to see a re-do bento, tips on what I consider my bento essentials after one year of bentoing, and a fun prize package. I'm so excited!!!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter Egg Bento

Hello Bento Peeps! (Ha ha, I said peeps!) I thought I would sneak in one last Easter themed bento. I tried my hand at dying these quail eggs, and the ratio of food color was a bit strong, so the egg turned out more mauve than the pinkish purple I was going for. Oops!

In this bento: udon noodles tossed with a soy vinaigrette, two little quail eggs from Triple T, orange cauliflower, slices of cucumber, baby carrots, two teriyaki chicken meatballs from Aidell's, snow peas from Triple T, two french radishes from Ortiz Farms, and a few green grapes.

I don't normally use picks, but these little chick picks were perfect for an Easter themed bento. They are soooo cute! The soy vinaigrette has: soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, freshly grated ginger, lime juice, toasted sesame oil, sugar, pepper, and Persian Lime Olive Oil from Stonehouse Olive Oil. Really yummy! 

Happy Easter weekend, friends!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Quesadilla Bento

Leftover pulled pork made its way into this bento (I made it last week, but am just now posting it), full of fun colors and flavors.

In this bento: a pulled pork quesadilla made with pepper jack cheese, pulled pork, and a handmade style tortilla from Sonoma County's La Tortilla Factory, a purple sweet potato flower, a few black grapes, half of a radish, a clementine from Schletewitz Family Fruit Stand, cilantro, sour cream, and salsa.

I am coming up on my 1 year blog anniversary (blogiversary?) and I am really excited. I will be recreating one of my first bentos, and I will also have a fun prize for you to win. Keep an eye out towards the end of the month. Have a great day, bento pals!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pulled Pork Bear Bento

My hubby made some really delicious pulled pork yesterday. He made it in the crock pot, so our whole place smelled divine all day long. Really gets your mouth watering! Today I am having leftover pulled pork sandwiches (designed as a little bear) with some of the leftover coleslaw I made.

I designed this little sandwich bear using a trick I have seen Sheri of Happy Little Bento use often. With a paring knife, I cut two little half circles from the bun, and then pushed them up to make his ears. The face details are cut freehand out of nori. Also in this lunch: a clementine from Schletewitz Family Fruit Stand, broccoli, a few black grapes, and two baby carrots.

Coleslaw Recipe

1/2 head of cabbage, sliced thinly
1 carrot, shredded
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tblsp sour cream
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp mustard
1 tblsp sugar
1 tsp dried dill weed
salt and pepper to taste

Combine cabbage and carrot in a bowl. Combine the rest of the ingredients in another bowl, then toss this dressing with the cabbage and carrot mixture. Makes enough for about 8 to 10 bento servings. Goes great with pulled pork!

Monday, April 4, 2011

German Bento

Heute habe ich ein Deutsches Bento gemacht. Es ist voller Deutsche Sachen, z.B. Sauerkraut, Weisswurst, Kartoffeln, und Curry-Ketchup. Ich habe es in meinem "Tiffin-Stil" bento eingepackt. Auch in diesem Bento: ein stueck Brokkoli, eine Tangerine, und ein Rettich. Die Tangerine kommt aus Schletewitz Family Fruit Stand. Die Serviette ist mit den Bayerische Farben bemalt -so toll! Ich habe diese Servietten in Deutschland in 1998 gekauft! Ach du meine... ist das schon so lange her??!

Und fuer meine Bento Freunde die nicht Deutsch lesen koennen: The rest of my bento posts will be in German. APRIL FOOLS! ;-)