Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cookie Cutter Charaben

I've been thinking about the incredibly cute little egg molds that turn boiled eggs into Hello Kitty or a volkswagen. I don't really need to have cute eggs in my bento boxes, but I'd sort of like to anyway.   Some of these cute decorations are in the form of well known cartoon characters, so they're called Chara(cter)ben(to), or charaben, and that's become a general name for cute bento.  I decided to experiment with cookie cutters and boiled eggs, since lots of cookie cutters have interior design lines that will make an impression on eggs, which are pretty malleable.  This is a teddy bear egg, made with a cookie cutter pressed onto the egg for a minute or two..

The pink arc is apple jelly made from empire apples, which have a really red skin.  Apple jelly is incredibly easy to make and doesn't require any specialized equipment.  Directions on my other blog, here.  Also have a few pomegranate seeds. Both give a little sweetness to the fried rice, instead of using duck sauce.  There's also cottage cheese to go with the grapefruit.

This bento:  rice with vegetable broth, 1/2 boiled egg, apple jelly, pomegranate seeds, onions, mushrooms, red bell pepper, grapefruit, cottage cheese.  soy sauce.

Local foods:  Apple jelly from local apples, cottage cheese.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Brand New Bento Box

Christmas present!  I love my new bento box.  Just the right size, about 2 1/2 cups.  There's a tray for stuff like rice (or crackers, or couscous, etc), which holds a cup, and that tray sits on the bottom container which holds fruit, veggies, anything else to go with the rice.  A cover and an elastic strap hold it all together.

I was also given a beautiful set of chopsticks to go with my bento box, and that's certainly going to help me eat more slowly for the time being.  Not one of my notable manual skills. 

Of course I needed to make rice for my first bento in a "real" bento box.  I cooked veggies (mushrooms, onions, broccoli) and love this combination with curry and sour cream, so I added some curry powder to some sour cream and put it in a silicone mini-muffin cup.  Added beet petals. I also like cashews with my curry so they're in the box too.  A clementine adds a nice sweet and acid contrast.

This bento:  rice in vegetable broth, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, cashews, clementine, grapes, beet, curried sour cream.

Local foods:  Sour cream (that's pretty lame)

Monday, December 21, 2009


I often make pizza from a flour tortilla.  A great vehicle for toppings without a lot of crust, and the crust gets nice and crisp.  For my pizza bento I cut circles from a tortilla with a 2 inch biscuit cutter - practically no waste.  It's really important not to put too much sauce on them.   Topped with Newman's marinara, green pepper, onion, pepperoni and bacon from Dakin Farms, Cabot monterey jack and sharp cheddar cheeses.  Baked at 405 for 10 minutes, so it's also a very fast pizza, great for preparing a bento box in the morning.

I made popcorn and gave it a pizza flavor with butter, black pepper, Cabot dry cheese powder, oregano, and a little bit of garlic powder.  Black pepper and the cheese powder are my standard popcorn topping, so this was just a little punched up.  The pea salad is thawed petite peas with the leftover onion and green pepper from the pizzas, a little red bell pepper and celery, and a garlic dill herb mix.  Ranch dressing would have been good too, but not necessary.  The grapefruit should be a nice foil to the cheese.

This bento:  Tortilla pizza with Newman's marinara, onion, green pepper, pepperoni, bacon, monterey jack and cheddar; flavored popcorn, pea salad, grapefruit sections.

Local foods: pepperoni and bacon from Dakin Farms, Cabot monterey jack, cheddar, and dry cheddar cheeses, Haliday's garlic dill herb mix, onion from my garden.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Yes, the turkey is a Thanksgiving leftover.  The dressing is newly made- Pepperidge Farm blue bag, celery, onion and fresh sage from the garden, a little Bell's seasoning, chicken stock, black pepper.  Butter dotted on top.  The slice has been sauted in butter.  But the turkey was frozen in turkey broth, which has now made the most wonderful gravy.  The turkey white meat was somewhat stringy after thawing, but not dry because it was submerged in broth.

The whole cranberry sauce was made this morning, and this little dish of it is topped with the pink foam skimmings.  I like the skimmings best from any jam or jelly.  Whole cranberry sauce could not be easier - just the bag of cranberries picked over so the really mushy ones and the stems are removed - add a cup of water and a cup of sugar (like it tells you to on the bag), let it boil for a few minutes until the cranberries pop, and you're done.  How hard is that?    I love the sweet and tart with meat of any kind.

This bento:  Dressing,turkey and gravy, whole cranberry sauce, applesauce, red bell pepper, broccoli, lindt Christmas truffle

Local foods: Applesauce,butter, onion, sage

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Oh dear.  Two months since my last bento. No excuses.  I'm back in the saddle and ready to step up to the plate (how would you do that).  Growing up we often had breakfast food for supper, especially Sunday night.  Cold cereal, occasionally raised (yeast) waffles which sometimes had cooked strips of bacon laid on the waffle iron before the batter was poured.  I really like breakfast food but don't like to eat much of a breakfast, so a brunch bento is just the ticket.

My new bento box is hard plastic from Good Grips, 900ml (3plus cups) so I don't want to fill it full.  It's a number five and marked no BPA, but I'll still avoid heating anything in it beyond warm.  This article from the NY Times talks about which plastics are currently regarded as safe (1,2,4,5) but that's just for now.  It seems prudent to avoid plastic as much as possible.

The small white container has half peanut butter (Hannaford's natural creamy) and half maple cream (the front shiny half the flash caught), which is just maple heated and then cooled and beaten like fudge -  from my friend Deb Davis in Underhill.  Peanut butter and maple have a great affinity for each other, and peanut butter spread on french toast and then drizzled with maple syrup has always been a favorite.

The bread is raisin bread with a hint of cinnamon, from La Panciata in Northfield, available at most local groceries - Hannaford, Price Chopper, and Mac's.  (I discovered this bread makes incredible toasted cheese sandwiches, too).  The bacon is Dakin Farms ends and pieces. I rubbed the cut banana with one of the open sides of a grapefruit section.  Recognize the little green spoon?  It used to come with French's mustard. antique!

What makes a product local?  I don't know where the pigs came from, and the wheat from the bread almost certainly wasn't grown in Vermont, although there are now about 15 Vermont wheat growers, and you can get local organic ale made from local wheat - Wolaver's

This bento:   scrambled eggs with bacon, cinnamon raisin toast with peanut butter and maple syrup, grapefruit sections, banana and grapes.

Local foods:  bacon, bread, maple syrup