Thursday, August 27, 2009

Treasure Bag Bento

For today's lunch, I scrambled an egg, then fried it into a thin sheet in a circular pan. I then filled it with some fried rice, then tied the entire package with a long chive. A bit more rice is on the side of the 'beggar's purse,' and some ripe tomato wedges and basil leaves from my patio garden garnish the side.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pinwheels, Peaches, and Pachyderms

Today's lunch is peanut butter and apricot jelly pinwheels made on flatout flatbread. I still have leftover chili, but I just couldn't handle having it for a fourth meal, to the standard backup of PB&J.

The rolls are accompanied by a mini-heart cut out of a rice crispy treat with an elephant pick for decoration.

The bottom box is fresh peach wedges accompanied by carrot hearts.

Chili is back on the menu for dinner...I think I'm going to make an omelet.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Chili and Artichokes

Tomorrow's lunch is a bento of four-bean chicken chili with a dessert of heart-shaped Rice Krispy Treats and fresh peach slices.

West Los Angeles hosts a Farmers' Market every Sunday; Mr. Toro and I walked over yesterday, and I picked up lots of luscious produce. So, in addition to the onions, bell peppers, jalapeno, squash, and carrot that went into the chili pot, I also bought some giant fresh artichokes.

The artichokes got cleaned and steamed, then marinated in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and parsley. After marinating, the quartered artichokes went onto the grill.

Artichokes are so much work for just a tiny amount of eatable vegetable, but they are just so delicious! The smoky, grilled flavor added by grilling really matched up well with the natural flavor of the artichokes. I really enjoy this preparation.

The three large 'chokes were entirely too much for Mr. Toro and me to finish, so I plan on pulling the hearts from some and making a pasta.

As for the chili, I soaked dried Black, Great Northern, Pinto, and Kidney beans overnight, then cooked them today.

I sauteed a mess of chopped veggies from the farmers' market, then added 12 ounces of diced chicken breast to brown. Finally, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, and chili power went into the pot. This mix simmered for 40 minutes, then the beans went in. Another 30 minutes of simmering and dinner was done.

Garnishes included raw onions, reduced fat Monterrey Jack cheese, and fresh avocado.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Farm-Fresh Tomato Salad

Every Tuesday, the local outdoor mall closes its center street to traffic and hosts a farmer's market. The market itself is okay--not enough fruit and vegetable vendors, and too many people selling assorted wares in my opinion--but it is walking distance from my house, so I look forward to walking through the market every week.

As Mr. Toro and I were walking through yesterday evening, I spotted a table with mounds of absolutely beautiful heirloom tomatoes. I love tomatoes, so I could not resist, and bought several varieties.

For dinner, these beauties were simply cut into wedges, then tossed with olives and thin rings of red onion, then garnished with ripe avocado, fresh mozzarella, and shaved Parmesan cheese, and finally dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.

It was a great way to let the fresh sweetness of the tomatoes stand out with some accent.

We ate dinner on the patio with a glass of white wine as the sun was setting--it was a great summer evening.

Tomorrow's Bento is the same salad as dinner, tucked into a box with just a little more structure than the dinner plate. Originally, I planned to make some sort of cute design using the fresh mozzarella balls, but I liked the way it looked too much to fuss with it. Perhaps next time....

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pasta with White Beans in Balsamic Brown Butter

Today's bento: multigrain pasta tossed with white beans and parsley in browned butter with balsamic vinegar with a dusting of Romano cheese on top.

This was a nice 'n easy dinner, with leftovers in the bento for lunch. I was planning on making something else, but ended up getting busy with something and did not get around to heading to the market for fresh veggies, so I came up with this from the pantry. It's based off of this recipe, but I did not feel like taking the time to make homemade ravioli, so I made an easier weeknight version.

Pasta with White Beans in Balsamic Brown Butter

Serves 4

1/2 lb. pasta, cooked
1 T butter
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1 can (~15 oz) great northern beans
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley
1 c. grated Romano cheese

Add the butter to a medium pan; cook on medium low heat until lightly browned, only a couple minutes. Turn off the heat and add the balsamic--be careful as it is likely to spatter. Add the beans and parsley, then toss.

Add the bean mixture to the hot, drained pasta and toss. Top each serving with cheese.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sushi Madness

This weekend, Mr. Toro and I had several friends over to our Los Angeles apartment for "Sushi Madness," a get-together featuring lots and lots of homemade sushi.

Rolls pictured include:
Tuna with avocado
Yellowtail with green onions
Salmon, tuna, and yellowtail
Spicy tuna
Spicy tuna & cilantro with salmon & jalapeno
Spicy salmon & cilantro with tuna & jalapeno
Shrimp and tamago-yaki

There is also an assortment of Nigiri, including tuna, yellowtail, salmon, tamago-yaki, squid, chutoro tuna, and snapper.

I made a double batch of homemade miso soup (with tofu and seaweed), and I also served some seaweed salad, which I purchased pre-made.

The party was something of a double celebration. First off, I got the job offer I was waiting on, so hurray! I still have a year of school left, but after I graduate, I will be working at the firm at which I had my internship this summer. Second, it was a friend's birthday last week, which I missed as I was taking an exam.

I follow Maki's recipe from Just Bento / Just Hungry to make my miso soup--it's the perfect recipe in my opinion.

My sushi rice is a simplified version of a simplified version I found in a cookbook; I'll post it next weekend, as I left my annotated book in Los Angeles and don't want to post it incorrectly from memory. Despite the fact that it's a few steps removed from 'authentic' sushi rice, the result is very serviceable in my opinion.

I purchased sashimi grade fish from a local Japanese market in West Los Angeles. I frequently get fish from Catalina Offshore Products, but did not have the time to stop by their location in San Diego on my way to Los Angeles. The seaweed salad and masago did, however come from Catalina from a previous large purchase (I had stored unused portions in the freezer).

As a point of trivia, my favorite sushi is Yellowtail (Hamachi).

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Kissing Dino French Toast

So, another non-bento post, today's breakfast is french toast made with wheat toast, egg beaters, soy milk, and cinnamon. I was just going to make french toast, then my new dino sandwich cutter caught my eye, so I couldn't help myself;)

The sake cup behind the dinosaurs is filled with maple syrup.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

PB&J Porpoises

Easy bento for tomorrow. Mr. Toro took me out to dinner tonight (said he needed a date out with his wife:) so I just made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for him for tomorrow since he did not bring home any leftovers.

I bought a new bento toy today--the sandwich cutter which cut the dolphins. It also makes a little heart in the center, but that got tucked in the bottom box with the crusts (yes, he has to eat his crusts). The sandwich dolphins are leaping together over waves of blueberries. Their eyes are little chips of dried cherries.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Little Boy Blue(berry)

I wasn't intending to make an elaborate bento tonight, but somehow I just got on a roll.

The main dish is beef and shiitake mushroom stew, stir fried rice noodles, and pureed cauliflower.

The stew is based on this recipe. As usual, I added a few tweaks. I used flank steak instead of hanger or skirt as called for in the recipe because the market did not have the called-for cuts, and flank also comes from the diaphragm so it is similarly textured. Once again sherry was my alcohol of choice; it cooks up well in savory dishes and I usually have a bottle in the cupboard on-call. Finally, I didn't have fermented black beans, so I just omitted them. So, once again, not quite the taste of the original recipe, but a tasty dinner and leftover lunch nonetheless. It is garnished with a few tiny Thai basil leaves.

The original recipe also called for fat-heavy mashed potatoes, so instead I steamed some cauliflower in fat free chicken broth. Once cooked, the whole potful went into the blender. The result was slightly sweet and matched well with the salty stew. The decoration is a few sections of diced tomato and a cilantro stem for a kind-of flower.

Finally, there are some extra leftover rice noodles for a little starch.

Dessert is where I went a little crazy. The little man is sculpted out of Rice Crispy Treats. His pants are white molding chips. His feet and eyes are dried cherries, and his mouth is a section of dried cranberry. His tie is cut out of a dried apricot, and his hair is a cut-up Swedish Fish candy. To finish up, he's surrounded by a bed of fresh blueberries.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Stir Fried Noodles

We had a nice, quick dinner tonight since we had guys come to steam clean our carpets today. They did an amazing job--my carpet looks new again and it was awful after three years of dirty shoes and occassional puppy 'accidents.' I'm so excited to have my house looking beautiful again!

Tomorrow's bento is dinner leftovers: a dish of thick rice noodles stir fried in garlic, ginger and soy sauce with cabbage and Quorn "chick'n" and egg beaters. Included in the box are a couple garnishes to 'tweak' the flavor--Thai basil, a wedge of lime, and a couple Thai chiles. I like putting some cilantro into mine as well, but Mr. Toro isn't terribly fond of cilantro even though I've been heaping it into meals lately, so I left it out of his lunch this time.

Dessert is fruit again--oranges and blueberries this time. Also in the box are some gummy penguins that I found at Trader Joe's (which is a chain of markets for any non-US readers who might not know). Mr. Toro and I saw "The March of the Penguins" on our first movie date together, so I love finding penguin treats.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Fish Taco Frenzy

Back in San Diego from another weekend in Los Angeles. Of course, I accomplished much less than I had intended, but isn't that at least part of the joy of vacation?

Today's Bento is a trio of mini mahi-mahi tacos, made with whole wheat tortillas. I coated the fish with some dry seasoning, then gave it a quick sear in a non-stick fry pan with no fat. Each has a bed of pinto beans and is topped with shredded cabbage and homemade pico de gaio made with roma tomatoes, onions, and jalapeno pepper. On the side is a handful of fresh cilantro and some lime wedges to dress the tacos.

Dessert is in the second box. Today it is some super-sweet fresh fruit--blueberries, red grapes, and a couple orange segments.