Thursday, April 30, 2009

Presto Pasta Bento

Another quick and easy lunch day! Today is another bento made from shaped pasta with tomato and meat sauce. Little bundles of carrots are in the corners for color, and in the center is a heart-shaped dusting of Parmesan cheese.

Mr. Toro reacts about the same as a seven year old child when it comes to vegetables, so I've taken to being sneaky about adding them to my cooking.

While I just used jarred pasta sauce for a quick weeknight meal, I added finely chopped zucchini, onion, bell pepper, cauliflower, and grated carrots to the sauce. I saute the veggies to evaporate some of the moisture, then add to the browned lean ground beef and sauce.

In addition to the health benefits of more veggies, it's also great on the pocket book--you can use less beef and still have a hearty sauce.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Speedy Sandwich Bento

Another quickie Bento--tucked into today's box is a wedge of a turkey and ham sandwich on focaccia bread with lettuce and guacamole. Accompanying the sandwich is a cluster of baby-cut carrots and some baked potato chips.

The chips are a new find--I picked them up at Costco. Unlike other baked potato chips I've tried, these are actual slices of potato rather than some strange Styrofoam-tasting pureed potato extrusion. These are light, crisp, and very potato-y. I would definitely buy them again.

Anyway, back to the books!

Monday, April 27, 2009

My Fellow Bentocrats...

I'm very sorry if my updates are a little farther apart over the next couple of weeks. As I mentioned, I have finals next week and the week after, so I'm hunkered down studying.

After completing my last final, I am moving to Los Angeles for the next several months as I am interning at a law firm there for the summer. I start at my new job a mere 4 days after my last examination, so it will be a hectic weekend after a pair of hectic weeks. There will be bento...but perhaps not every weekday as before.

Please bear with me, and soon we will return to your regularly scheduled bentos, already in progress.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Breakfast Bakery Review

Today I'm celebrating the 3rd anniversary of my 29th birthday...ok, ok, I'm 32 (random trivia--today is also William Shakespeare's 445th birthday). So, as a treat to myself, I stopped by a local bakery on the way to school to pick up breakfast.

Hans & Harry's Bakery is located at 5080 Bonita Road in Bonita, California (which is just outside of San Diego if you're not familiar with the area.)

Their website ( indicates the eponymous Hans and Harry are natives of Holland, and practice the "fine art of European cake design and baking."

Pictured are my selections this morning. Clockwise from the left are a fresh fruit tart, a fresh fruit croissant, and a slice of raspberry coffee cake. No, they're not all for me!

Walking into Hans & Harry's, I was overwhelmed by the aroma of the bakery--it just about short-circuited my ability to think, it was so rich and sweet. Two large cases held a rainbow of treats, and on the opposite wall was a bank of vertical refrigerators with cakes and similar bakery. Around the corner from the retail section was a display of beautiful wedding cakes.

I was a bit overwhelmed trying to make a selection...each pastry looked amazing and they all wanted to come home with me;) I picked up a couple extra for friends because each of the pastries in the photo cost $1.50 or less!

The fruit tart lived up to its looks. Light, flaky layers of buttery dough topped with fruit all hugged by a sweet glaze. Mouthwatering! A really lovely balance between sweet and buttery. By far the best bakery I've eaten since I was last in Switzerland.

So, not an everyday breakfast--I'd balloon up in about a week--but as an occasional indulgence, completely worth it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Soup's on

Last night I made a multi-bean, lentil, veggie, and ham soup; it was a perfect busy-day meal--everything got tossed into the crock pot in the morning, and presto! dinner was waiting when I got home.

I don't have any bento boxes suitable for soup--all of mine are the loose-lidded variety, so today's bento is just packaged in a Ziplock container.

I added some parsley for color--unfortunately, despite the great flavor, this soup leaves a little to be desired, visually speaking. I think, perhaps, some carrots might have lended a bit of pop as well, but too late now:)

Finals are coming up in a week and a half--and I'm definately starting to stress out already. If you're not familiar with law school exams, a person's entire grade for the semester is based solely on the final exam. The test for each class is usually 3 1/2 to 4 hours long, and you usually need every second (and sometimes then some). I find bento-making to be great stress relief--I like to take the 10-30 minutes every evening to arrange them. I think it's a little bit zen, trying to find the ideal relationship between elements, or just plain fun when putting together the charaben-style bentos.

Thanks again to all my new visitors and commentors--I hope you keep visiting and participating!

Happy Bentoing!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Vespa Crazy!

The big news is...I got a Vespa! It's a '07
Gran Turismo 200, in a beautiful silver. 70 miles per gallon...and so stylish;)

So, to celebrate, today's bento is a turkey and cheese Vespa sandwich. I cut the body out of 2 types of cheese and layered it on a turkey 'shadow', then used nori for the accents. If I did it all over again, the one thing I might have done differently is do the lettering out of a different material--the cheese was a bit too fragile for such tiny pieces and the 'V' in particular was having issues.

Note to Miss A.V. (the younger): I'm working on your may take me a couple days, but I'll let you know as soon as it gets posted!

EDIT: Welcome to all the visitors from Adventures in Bentomaking! I hope you continue to stop by--please lend me you opinions and suggestions!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Chicken 'n Fries

Easy-peasy bento day. Sliced breaded chicken is layered over oven-baked potatoes. Some stylized flowers made from cherry tomatoes and edamame add a little color. Dessert is a box of sweet red grapes.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Corn Casserole

No bento to show off today...I didn't take a picture, and since I pretty much threw together Mr. Toro's lunch last night, it wasn't much to look at anyway.

So, instead, the secret recipe for my world-famous corn casserole, which has already made a couple appearances here.

It really couldn't be easier--stir, pour, bake--but Mr. Toro loves it and it pairs up easily with just about anything. I like to use frozen corn because I think it has better flavor and texture--I just fill up the emptied creamed corn can to measure--but you can use canned corn kernels if its more convenient

Corn Casserole
1 Box Jiffy-brand corn bread mix
1 Can cream-style corn
1 Can corn (or equivalent of frozen kernels)
8 oz. / 1 c Sour cream (you can use light)

Mix all ingredients in bowl. Pour into 9x9 baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake until set, approximately 45-75 minutes, depending on temperature.

One of the benefits of this recipe is you can put it into a variety of oven temperatures, depending on what temperature your main dish requires, ~ 325 deg to 425 deg F.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

This Little Piggy...

Easter leftovers and a little (twisted?) whimsy are what's for lunch today.

In the main box, corn casserole (Mr. Toro's favorite) and cheesy potatoes (courtesy of Mr. Toro's sister's boyfriend...say that 3 times fast;) flank some Honeybaked Ham. Piggy is cut ham with a couple dots of nori to make his eyes and mouth. A couple edamame pods make up a little landscaping for color.

Dessert is a tiny sliver of banana-vanilla pudding pie (thank you Auntie Olie!) with some fruit to healthy it up a little.

Easter was great...Mr. Toro's sister, her boyfriend, their friend, and my aunt all came over for a nice relaxing day. There was some Wii involved, lots of food, and a couple glasses of wine.

Now, unfortunately, it's back to the books. I'm trying to learn the Federal Rules of Evidence (impeachment of witnesses at the moment) which is about as exciting as it sounds.

Mr. Toro informed me that, when showing off his bento at lunch today, one of the new people at work had to take a picture of Piggy. That made my day!

Now back to Evidence...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

mmm...Miso, Mushrooms, and Mochi

Today's lunch: leftover miso marinated chicken (which was fabulous for dinner last night, if I do say so myself) with rice and steamed zucchini and a garnish of enoki mushrooms.

For dessert: apples, strawberries, and mandarin segments, along with a lychee mochi. I've never tried mochi before, so we'll see after I eat whether or not they stay on the lunch box list.

I stopped by the giant Asian market near school after class to get the miso paste for the marinade (which also contained fresh ginger, sake, and brown sugar), and couldn't help but stop by the sweets aisle--there are always so many colorful and unusual treats. I saw rows of fruit mochi, and figured, 'why not.'

Mochi is glutinous rice which is pounded into a paste. The paste is often then molded into shapes and filled with something sweet. The store had dozens of varieties; I went with lychee for something a little exotic, but still in my past taste experience. We'll see how I like these treats after lunch.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Today's lunch is a chirashi-sushi box. It's a base of sushi rice with toppings (chirashi means 'scattered'). It's quicker than making nigiri sushi pieces or rolls, so it's definitely more suited to a weekday meal. It also is a little more 'fun' than nigiri, in my opinion, because you can combine tastes of several toppings in one bite, a reason I generally prefer rolls.

On the top, clockwise from the upper left: mushrooms, spicy tuna, avocado, smoked salmon, yellowtail with green onion garnish, masago, tamago-yaki, and ahi tuna with carrot hearts.

Dessert is a mix of apple slices, mandarain orange segments, and strawberries.

I know some people are squeamish about making their own sushi, but as long as you get sashimi grade fish from a good source and keep it cold, I don't see much of a difference from eating it at a restaurant. I don't have the knife skills of a master, but it's not too hard to put out a reasonable product...and DIY sushi is definitely easier on the pocketbook.

Here in San Diego, there's an amazing wholesaler who supplies most of the sushi bars in town, but still sells to the public. Catalina Offshore Products ( is just around the corner from Old Town and has heavenly fish for really great prices. If you're not lucky enough to live within pickup distance, they fed-ex to all of the US...though the shipping may stink worse than old fish. Still, for the quality and the price, it might be worth it.

Monday, April 6, 2009


All kinds of new bento goodies for today's lunch. The box itself is new--a little birthday present for Mr. Toro (though it's entirely possible he won't even notice it).

In the box is another food pick from the set which included last week's tree...the seal gets to balance the olive 'ball' on his nose...too cute.

Last but not least, a new silicone food divider is in the's like the little plastic grass they divide your sushi with, but it's re-usable.

Today's lunch is a bit of an antipasto plate...there's a boiled egg, salame, olives marinaded in garlic, 3 varieties of cheese (cut into animal shapes), and broccoli filler. In the cup is roasted red pepper hummus and sundried tomato-olive tapenade to eat with the bread in the bottom box.

And, because I couldn't resist, the giant strawberry in the bottom box got a goofy face made from dried apples and cherries.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Another Blog's Bento Contest

Contest ends April 5!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Teriyaki and Little Trees

Mr. Toro is having lunch out today for a work function, so today's photo is of my lunch...I tend to make mine less elaborate than I make his, although I like to make them attractively organized. I suppose I am just less motivated to put the work into something for myself.

Teriyaki beef, heart-shaped carrot rice, and some broccoli are what's for lunch, with a dessert of sliced strawberries and mandarin orange segments in the smaller box.

In person, the rice has a much nicer orange color. I'm going to have to consider getting a new camera...the iPhone is handy, but has some obvious limitations.

I got a new treat in the mail yesterday--cute bento accessories. The happy tree trunk is one of the set of food picks I got...more to come, and the penguin sauce bottle tucked behind the broccoli is another.

I'm a big fan of (from whence the bulk of my supplies come)--lots of bento knick-knacks for around $1, and since they ship from San Francisco (instead of Japan, like most other internet bento supply stores) the shipping isn't enough to give you a heart attack.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hurray to be a Civilian Lunch

Turkey octo-dogs and a hard boiled egg chick. A side of egg noodles and peas, and a pair of strawberries for dessert.

Ok, maybe marginal on the healthy-scale, but since today Mr. Toro is officially a civilian again, I was going for (uber cute) style over substance.