Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Feisty Bento #65: In Memoriam

It's fitting that on this day, All Hallow's Eve, the day that the spirit world moves closest to the living world... I would choose to honor my father, who firmly resides in the spirt world.  It's been seven years to the day today, and it never hurts less.  I am sorry to be the one to tell people that, but it's true: I may be able to live each day without constantly thinking about him, but it still hurts. 

My father helped shape who I am today, and instilled in me a love of food that I didn't start exploring until later years.  Initially I was content to love sandwiches, simple and homemade, and eventually I became the food-obsessed-nerd I am today.  He taught me how to cook, and without him in my life, I would not be here, blogging about food.  For that, Daddy, I thank you.

In honor of his memory, and the memory I mentioned here of his bento'ing for me, I made a jazzed up version of the bento he made for me, once upon a time.  I was going to put it in the same glass Pyrex dish, but I didn't want to risk breaking it on my commute or quite honestly, carrying it (with food in it, it's probably easily 5 - 6 lbs.). 

Top tier: the last of the BBQ ribs, cut up and mixed with sauce; more potato salad
Bottom tier: deviled eggs, a la Daddy; salad- panzanella salad, recipe to be posted on Feisty Foodie

As always, happy bento'ing and happy Halloween to everyone!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Feisty Bento #64: Smelly Lunch

Top tier: those are not olives, they are black grapes; two dumplings or something; more BBQ rib meat cut up (expect at least one more day of that).
Bottom tier: green veggies, and more potato salad.

I think my brother played a trick on me.  He told me there were dumplings or something in the fridge that I could have.  I opened up the fridge and found two fried woh-tiep, so I popped them in the toaster oven blahblah and you see them here.  Well, when I got on the bus, I smelled something funky.  Then I realized... the funky thing?  ...was me!  There's leeks or something smelly in those things, and now I smell horrendous... like farts.  Blegh :P

And the potato salad sucks ass.  My mom used truffle mustard and I don't like truffles 90% of the time (it has to be in the right application for me to enjoy).  Boo.  And I guess she was tired or mad at me or I don't know what, but no big box of cooked veggies, so I'm struggling for veggies this week.  I stole those greens out of a wonton mien I found in the fridge.  Boo. 

Ah well, no complaints, at least I have food to eat!  Happy Bento'ing!!!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Feisty Bento #63: Extra Carbs

Top tier: leftover spareribs, cut off the bone for easier packing and eating, sauced a bit; green beans with bacon Bottom tier: more pasta salad; black grapes; Mom's potato salad (with Fuji apples!!!)

Both pasta salad and potato salad today! Whoa! Well, I've been good, and I'm still feeling woozy. I didn't eat much dinner last night (hence the leftover ribs- but then, I have a ton of leftover ribs, so expect to see more!), but tonight is extra-special-dinner my bf is taking me out for my birthday, so I have to try to be hungry by then.... :)

Happy Bento'ing!!!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Does this make my lunch look phat?

Announcing "Does this make my lunch look phat?", my first ever contest! Sort of in celebration of Feisty Foodie's first birthday and sort of as a launch thing for Feisty Bento... well, either way, it's a contest! With prizes! (Ok, fine, also as a celebration of my birthday, October 27.)

Enter for your chance to win one of the following:

comes with a Chinese-style-soup-spoon inside

two removable food cups inside

**Yes, these are items I was previously trying to sell on eBay. I don't know why no one wanted them, but whatever, their loss, your benefit!

The rules are simple:

If you have a blog (doesn't have to be a bento blog or even a food blog!), you can enter by: 1. Complete a post on your blog by Midnight EST, November 27, 2007 that includes picture of your "phat" lunch (hopefully bento-style!) and a description of what it is, what's in it, the recipe for at least one component, and a link back to this blogpost. Recipes can be original or otherwise- s'long as that's how you made something in the lunch! 2. Email me (feistyfoodie[at]gmail[dot]com) by the same deadline and provide your name, blog’s name, title of your "phat" lunch, link to the post with your dish, which bento above you'd most like to receive if you win, and a low-res (320ish x 240ish) image of the dish.

If you don't have a blog, just email me with all of the above information!

I'll try to post a round up shortly after November 27th... The winner will be decided by whose lunch looks the "phattest" - though my opinion will be the final say in this case, I can be swayed by comments on the round-up post defending, encouraging, explaining why one is better than the other! Soon after the winners are announced (probably around 5 winners, I guess, seeing how many extra boxes I've got), the winners will need to contact me with their info so I can mail their prize out via priority mail.

As always, happy bento'ing!!! and GOOD LUCK!!!

(cross posted to The Feisty Foodie!)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Feisty Bento #62: A Good Cause

Top tier: sauteed bean sprouts; shepherd's scramble with shredded monterey jack & cheddar cheese mixed in
Bottom tier: sauteed veggies; "instant" pasta salad (from a Betty Crocker box- boil the pasta and mix with the seasoning packet and some mayo; verdict: meh, probably really unhealthy, I'll stick to making my own yummy version from now on)

Boring lunch.  But the flier underneath!  I'm supporting/promoting a cause that makes a lot of sense to me - hungry people.  In a city - nay, in a friggin' country with so much food that goes to waste, so many people go hungry, and that doesn't make sense to me.  Donate to NYC Food Bank.  If you can't get to Grand Central Terminal to pick up one of the great orange shopping bags I talked about in great detail at the end of this post, I can send one to you, just make a donation to the NYC Food Bank (I guess where it says "In Honor of" you could put "The Feisty Foodie" so I'd know you made the donation???).  I haven't decided yet if you have to cover shipping or if I will... I'm still working out details.

As always, HAPPY BENTO'ING!!!


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Feisty Bento #61: Finally, Some Fruit

Top tier: grapes! I keep forgetting fruit and putting in only savory items. Some veggies next to it. Bottom tier: rice!!! I didn't realize I seem to be avoiding carbs. Rice mixed with dried scallops, veggies in some sauce (my mom brought home some leftovers from dinner at a Chinese restaurant; I don't ask questions, if it tastes good, I eat it), and next to that, shepherd's pie innards (I made .81 lbs. of meat and it lasts forever apparently when you don't eat dinner sized portions!)

Happy Bento!!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Feisty Bento #60: Yummy & Free Bread

Bottom tier: more "oyako" Top tier: hummus and ciabatta sliced up- ciabatta courtesy of Zaro and it's YUMMY. The hummus container has a lid - though I've packed hummus before without a lid, this container fit well, so I thought I'd just add it - no spilling possible.

(Details of how I got the bread on Feisty Foodie!)

Can't wait for lunch today. I'm eating with one of my favorite girls, and it is so yummy looking!!!

Happy Bento!!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Feisty Bento #59: Oyako, my style

Top tier: primitive "oyako" without the "don" - terrible joke, oyako don is "mother/child over rice", I usually get "sake oyako don" which is salmon sashimi and salmon roe over sushi rice (Japanese short grain rice that has vinegar, sugar, mirin added).  But this is just BBQ chicken - spicy style.    Shepherd's scramble with a twist next to the "oyako"- because someone commented that my lunches look too small, I decided to fill out my scramble with an extra ingredient: shelled edamame (soy beans out of the pod).  I didn't like it- the beans were too hard and kind of just ruined the whole overall texture of my scramble.
Bottom tier: soy beansprouts, grape tomatoes, and the rest of the shepherd's scramble.

For the BBQ chicken, well, I just went to the store to pick up milk, but chicken quarters (legs, thighs and part of the back) were 99c a lb., so I picked up a pack of two quarters.  Rinsed these off, salt & pepper and tossed them into the toaster oven set to 350 degrees.  After they were nice and crispy skinned, I slathered them in a mixture of BBQ sauce (KC Masterpiece) and crushed red pepper flakes, which gives it a nice kick that isn't unbearable for someone like me, who can't take extreme heat.  I flipped twice, then removed from the oven, let it cool a bit and then shredded the meat.  YUMMY.

Happy Bento'ing!!!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Feisty Bento #58: Small bento + where to buy Lock & Lock!

Top tier: crabcake leftover from Friday's dinner; another Shepherd's Scramble
Bottom tier: veggie hearts, stir/steam fried by mom with a dash of ho-yau

Yummy!  But even better, I have exciting news!  Everyone has been asking me where to get bento-supplies/items and I am definitely going to do a post SOON about this topic, here is something very cool.

First, thanks to a tip I read on My Daily Bento, I wandered on over to Target and picked up a really useful square Lock & Lock box with 4 removable cups inside.  It comes out to about 870 ml, way too much for me for lunch (the above is only 580 ml, I believe), but it will be really great for days when I want to put some green salads or anything bulkier than normal but lower calorie as well.  Or even when my boyfriend might be around and I pack a lunch for him.  Lock & Lock, as noted on many many bento sites, is a great brand because of the super tight seal- I haven't tested it but supposedly it's completely leak proof!  That's awesome for those of us who are a bit rougher on their containers than say, someone as anal retentive as I.  In any case, the container was only- check this out- $3.49.  Dude!  That's awesome! 

Box pictured here (not my photo; courtesy of MDB, I hope that's okay!) 

I also was flipping through some channels the other night and my eye caught "Lock & Lock" in the title of something.  I was pretty confused for a second there until I noted it was on QVC.  Yes, QVC now sells Lock & Lock!  I took a look and basically checked out every "set" they offer, and though there are a lot of large portions and a lot of awkward sizes (deeper than you'd want for a bento), there are definitely a couple worth looking into, if you really want to go the Lock & Lock route and don't have anywhere near you that you can purchase them.  (At Target, that was really the only size I noted that was doable for me.  They did, however, have the Fit & Fresh line- specifically, I noticed the Breakfast Chiller (which I bought immediately for $8, and am not sure I want to keep) and the 4 cup salad box.)  Happy hunting for that!

I promise my "Where to Buy Bento Stuff" post is coming, I just want to take a few more pictures of my collection.  I will tell you this now, though, fellow NYers- it's not going to be pleasant...

Anyway, happy bento!!!  Have a great Monday!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Feisty Bento #57: More New Ideas

Today's lunch excites me for a few reasons, not least of all that this is the end of the egg salad.  (It's delicious, but you get a bit bored of it after a while, no?)  (And I could re-make it, I'm sure, but I concentrated on re-making my shepherd's pie leftovers instead, haha...)

Top tier: crab cake from Trader Joe's cut into quarters; egg scramble using shepherd's pie base
Bottom tier: edamame (soy beans), deshelled; egg salad; sauteed Napa cabbage with garlic

It's the first time I'm trying Trader Joe's crab cakes, after a friend suggested them.  $3 for two decently sized patties (I used one here), and these could be fried or put in the oven.  I stuck one in the toaster oven to free up my time, and promptly used my time making the egg scramble, a new idea.  The crab cake came out super crispy, I cut it into quarters so it'd fit better and to speed up cooling time. 

The egg scramble- I took three spoonfuls of the meat mixture for shepherd's pie and heated a small skillet over low heat.  Once the meat mixture started to sizzle a bit, I pushed it to one side and poured a beaten egg (no seasonings) into the pan, stirred it around, and then stirred it all together, breaking it down and cooking it a little bit more "well done" than I like my scrambled eggs, for food safety purposes.  Put it on a plate, spread out and let it cool down.  It's kind of a take off idea from my comfort food dish blended with Avenue Food's "Joe's Special" dish.  Yummy... I can't wait.  High protein and I have some veggies in there, too! 

Super excited.  As always, happy bento'ing and have a great weekend!!!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Another semi-tutorial: Molded Eggs

No bento today, I'm heading to an orientation lunch for "Everybody Wins," a program my company sponsors where you read to kids once a week to encourage them academically.  So, time for another not-really-tutorial!

**I don't really do tutorials because, well, I don't consider myself an expert or even particularly good at the things I do.  So I turn you over to those who are!

A few weeks ago, when I unveiled a molded egg for the first time, everyone wanted to know how I did it.  Well, it's really simple.

I used a mold.

Haha... well, really, that's all I did.  When I was in San Francisco, I picked up some egg molds.  The concept is really intriguing; you hard boil some eggs, peel them while hot, pop them into these plastic molds, click them shut and drop them in cold water.  After 10 minutes or so, they should be set, so you can take them out and there they are, in the shape of the mold! 

But of course... they aren't that easy to come by outside of Japan & San Francisco (unless there are some hidden stores somewhere in NYC I'm just not looking, or something?)... or the dreaded eBay, with its 300% markups on all things bento. 

So what do you do?  You improvise!

From Lunch in a Box: 

From Cooking Cute: Her egg molds are way cuter than mine!  I've got to hunt some down with faces and stuff, heh. 

Anyway, happy bento'ing!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Feisty Bento #56: I love me!

Someone loves me, and it's... me!!! After that wonderful bento with the heart-shaped meatloaf, I hunted down more of the heart shaped tins and finally got to use one today. I whipped up a quick shepherd's pie (I had the mashed potatoes and ground beef mixtures already cooked, in separate containers in the fridge) using the toaster oven to brown the top of it in the tin. Yummy!

Top tier: mini shepherd's pie; more egg salad surrounding (I cooled the shepherd's pie completely, so it shouldn't affect the egg salad) Bottom tier: stir fried Romaine lettuce; sort of a caprese salad - mozzarella cubed, grape tomatoes halved, strips of basil, Parmagiano-Reggiano grated over the top, and all tossed with rosemary oil- the basil turned dark green because I made this a few days ago, oops; edamame (soy beans), shelled

As always, happy happy bento!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Feisty Bento #55: ...vegetarian, kind of?

I think I shall start using this as my primary bento - because it's "only" smaller by 60 ml, it still fills me up, and it will help me lose weight more quickly.  Ostensibly, anyway...

Top tier: edamame/soy beans out of their shells; egg salad; stir fried Romaine lettuce
Bottom tier: the last of the penne alla vodka, the remaining sauce spooned over the top (which is why it looks so gloppy)

I actually made a bunch of hard boiled eggs using my molds last week, but as the eggs were too big for the mold, the eggs came out misshapen or smashed or split open while they were cooling.  Ah well.  So last night, I decided to chop them up, add a tiny spoonful of mayo, a squirt or two of mustard, diced red bell pepper, chopped scallion, and a lot of pickle relish.  (This isn't my "normal" egg salad recipe, but what the heck, it's what I had on hand and it tastes pretty good.)  The pickle relish has a dual purpose; aside from my loving the tangy sweetness of pickle relish, it encourages food safety in the traditional style of bento.  So no one needs to worry about my egg salad sitting at room temperature in my bag until lunchtime!  (It's really cold in NYC right now anyway so it should be fine...)

As always, happy bento'ing!!! 

Monday, October 15, 2007

Feisty Bento #54: New Bento Set!!!

I had a GREAT weekend, and to cap it all off, I've got a new bento set!  (Actually I bought the bento, fork, chopsticks (not shown) all in San Francisco over a month ago, for $1.50 a piece, and the belt was a gift a month or two ago from Lilly, I've used it for other non-matching bento things, and I've just been waiting for the bag/kinchaku to arrive so I can use the whole set as one... haha, I'm a HUGE DORK.) 

The bag, filled in all its glory.  (Urara Rabbit, by Lube Sheep)

WHAT COULD BE INSIDE?  Is it my lunch or is it the dog's biscuits?!  (Just kidding.  I'm just trying to make the suspense more exciting!)

I know it looks like an alien tilting its head, or if you're not looking carefully it does, but it's actually an eagle's eye view of a really fat bunny.  With a slightly smaller one next to it.  Which is what makes me think it's so gosh darn cute!

There's even a space on top to fit a pair of chopsticks and/or a fork!  They sell matching chopsticks/forks.  The fork fits neatly, but, despite having bought the chopsticks from the same place as the box, my chopsticks don't fit.  They're too long.  Even though the stupid label said 15 cm or whatever and I bought that size, but thankfully, I also bought a matching chopsticks case, so I'll be using that when I need the chopsticks for lunch.  How cute?!  I wish I had bought the chopsticks that fit though, this is a bit annoying in that the chopsticks case is a big long so when I put it in the bag, it kind of bulges in the bag. 

And what you really all want to see: the food.

Would you believe this box is actually smaller than the black one I normally use?  Good, smaller portions for me equals faster weight loss...

I'm a bit silly this way, but I couldn't help but pack the penne in all lined up... so it'd fit better!  Hahaha... and another cute/different thing about this box from my other one is that the smaller tier in this one goes on the bottom!

Top tier: "Vitello Martini", essentially veal francaise from a restaurant I went to on Saturday; penne alla vodka from a neighborhood Italian joint with excellent food; steamed broccoli spears
Bottom tier: Napa cabbage sauteed with garlic chips; the last of the seaweed salad

Happy Bento~!!!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Tutorial... of a sort

People have been asking me how to make onigiri, or how to make the hard boiled eggs in fun shapes, or... I don't mind answering any and all questions, but I am by far NOT the expert on any of this!  I actually only started this blog to showcase my lunches, but not really talk about how to make them cuz, well, I don't thnk they're that great.  My favorite ever site for Bento Tips is Lunch in a Box, which I've mentioned countless times on here.  Invaluable information on how to speed up the packing and all sorts of great tips and ideas and EVERYTHING.  You'd think she was a paid advertiser on here, but seriously, her site was the last push for me to get into bento.  I haven't looked back. 

Anyway, as promised, how to make onigiri: as taught by others.  I use molds, and I tend to overstuff them, but when you pack too much rice in them, really, it's gross.  So here we go:

from Cooking Cute:

from Lunch in a Box:

also from Lunch in a Box, possibly my most often used tip:  - you can freeze onigiri to reheat in the mornings!

I should add here that I kind of mis-remembered a mishmash of these tips and began lining my onigiri molds with plastic wrap whenever I'd make them, and it helps with removing the onigiri from my deep triangular shaped mold (which, you'll notice, I use quite often if only because it's the biggest one I have and therefore contains the most food with the least work... haha).  I remove them from the mold with the plastic wrap, and then wrap using the same plastic wrap right away and pop it in the freezer, so I definitely feel it saves me a lot of time. 

And, last but not least, a link to "Top Speed Tips" by Biggie of ... you guessed it, Lunch in a Box!  Go poke around, you're sure to find something useful!

Hope that helped... I am by no means an expert. 

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Feisty Bento #53: Thank you

I made these two - that's right, two! - bento today.  And neither of them are for me! 

My darling friends & coworkers, Orzo and Debbie Downer, both are an invaluable help to me personally.  In my personal life, not with work or anything (because we all know they're both kind of useless with work problems- just kidding, haha), and to show my gratitude, I whipped up these two bento for them. 

(As for me, because we wound up going out for pizza yesterday, I just stuck mine in the fridge and am going to eat it today.)

Left bento, blue for Orzo's supposed status as a boy: garlic pesto tortilla wrapped around ham, cheese, a bit of mayo, green onion and tomato; mock shepherd's pie; 5 mini Milano cookies.
Right bento, neutral color for Debbie Downer- the cover says "Happy Everyday!", a reference to a private joke: 5 mini Milano cookies; mock shepherd's pie; sun dried tomato tortilla wrapped around hummus, broiled asparagus and red bell pepper. 

Did you notice, I'm getting better at this rolling thing?  I figured out that you have to pull back a bit to tighten the insides before rolling it.  Hah... um, yeah.  So maybe that would have been obvious but like I said, I don't roll sushi, though I've seen people do it before, so I was just like, OHHH.... and I'm picking up a few tricks here and there.  Maybe I will be able to roll sushi one day! 

Oh, and the mock-shepherd's pie didn't get cheese this time around because I didn't like how the cheese was after sitting at room temp until lunch time.  It had cooled, of course, but the texture and taste didn't do it for me.  Ah well.  The one I froze had cheese on top of it, so we'll see how that fares in a week or so...

Happy Bento!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Feisty Bento #52: Seeing [a] Star

Left tier, from top: sundried tomato wrap with hummus, broiled asparagus, and (raw) red bell pepper strips; green grapes; hard boiled egg in the shape of a star
Right tier, from top: cooked Napa cabbage; seaweed salad; smoked mozzarella cubes with salami; mini Milano cookies

Happy Bento!!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Feisty Bento #51: New ideas

Top tier: Romaine lettuce for the "wrap sushi" - whole wheat tortilla spread with pesto mayo, turkey slices, thinly sliced tomato.  This proves conclusively that I cannot, for the life of me, roll sushi- I don't understand!  It was so hard to roll this up, when logically, it should have just been, well, roll up tightly, no?  Ah well.  It still tastes good (I ate the ends when it was clear it wasn't going to fit in the box).

Bottom tier: new ideas, new ideas!  Normal cooked Napa cabbage on the left, and on the right... mini-shepherd's pie (I've got to fix that recipe; it is NOT one cup of soy sauce, more like a few tablespoons, my bad, I wrote that way back before I knew what a cup was)!  Well, not real shepherd's pie, I don't think, but my version, with a few tweaks this time around- I used individual aluminum muffin liners that claim "no muffin pan needed, these will stand up on their own!" and... added cheese on top, which I do not normally do, but sounded like it might be a yummy addition.  Here's hoping!

The color scheme is way off this morning, but probably because I was rushing around trying to do a million other things before I left, and it was really grossly humid and hot, which makes me move slower.  Ah well. 

I prepared a couple of these mini-shepherd's pies last night and popped them in the fridge, so this morning all I had to do was plunk them into the toaster oven and turn it to 350.  When the cheese had melted and I thought the whole thing was probably heated through, I turned the broiler on and browned the tops of the cheese really quickly (well, I was pressed for time, so I just crisped it without any browning).  Voila!  I am going to try to freeze a few as well and see how that turns out for re-heating down the line. 

As always, happy bento!!!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Feisty Bento #50: More yumminess

Left, from top: edamame (soy beans in pod), mini Milano cookies, mini grapes, and tongue onigiri
Right, from top: pork, leek and mushroom dumplings, seaweed salad, monterey jack + smoked mozzarella with salami slices, and cooked cabbage

Can't wait for lunch!!!

Happy bento!!!

Friday, October 5, 2007

But where do I GET bento?

The next question, after I've answered why and intrigued a person into wanting to bento for themselves, is always, "Okay, now what? Where can I get the supplies I need to bento?" Though I haven't the time today/right now to answer this in depth as I'd like to (with links and pictures to all of my own personal gear- I guess a bragging post of all my stuff, if you will!), I have to emphasize that you needn't any special gear to start bento'ing. You can use a regular plastic container leftover from takeout or whatever, it's just about maximizing the use of what space you have, making sure that the food doesn't shift in transit, and have fun with it! You don't need any cutters or molds or anything, just really, you can pack a sandwich, cut it in half and stack it in a slightly deeper box, then fill the side next to it with salad and a small container of dressing. It needn't be fancy, it's all about having fun and making your food interesting for *you*. Next time I have a chance, I will definitely post in-depth about all of the gear I have, what it's for and where to get it. Happy Bento!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Why do I bento?

Everyone has their own reasons to bento.  A lot of these reasons will be the same ones over and over, which is great, and some will be unique to the person.  Well, a number of people have asked me about my own personal reasons, so here they are:

I first got into bento after I saw Cooking Cute.  Well, I was into the idea, but I wasn't that into the work, and I lived so close to work at the time, I normally just went home for lunch, no packing necessary.  Separately, I'd found Mr. Bento by Zojirushi on Amazon, and desperately wanted one, despite thinking the whole thing was too big.  I didn't make the mental connection that Mr. Bento lunch jar was actually, well, bento'ing, either, since though it's in the name, I thought more along the lines of "boxes" as bento. 

Months passed, with me occasionally browsing Cooking Cute and drooling over her gorgeous creations.  Then Danielle of Habeas Brulee sealed the last nail in my coffin with this post, sending me over to Lunch in a Box, which showed me that bento can be aesthetically pleasing, delicious, fast, simple without being necessarily cutesy and time consuming.  (Looking at Danielle's post, I realized I never thanked her.  And actually, looking at the date, I ran out as soon as possible (I begged my brother to take me, ASAP, to a Korean supermarket so I could scour the place for bento, the night after I'd read that post, I believe), bought my first bento set, and the rest, as they say is history...  So, a big hearty thank you to Danielle for alerting me to this subculture of bento: not just pretty, but time-efficient

That's just how I got into it though.  Not why.

  1. My wallet is very happy that I don't spend ridiculous amounts on lunch.  Even with our subsidized cafeteria, lunch at $5 a day comes out to be pretty expensive after a while, not to mention how many calories I'd be consuming.
  2. I've lost [happily] about 10 lbs. since I started bento'ing about 3 months ago.  Portion control is so easy when you pack your own lunch into small compartments.
  3. You know, I look forward to lunch every day now, it's much better than bringing a boring turkey sandwich every day because no matter how you spice it up, it's still a turkey sandwich.  With bento, it'd be that turkey sandwich, but with some edamame on the side, and over here some veggies and hummus, and over there a bit of fruit...
  4. It really, truly makes me happy.  I mean, I cook for other people all the time, but usually when it comes to cooking for me, I laze up and just throw together some random stuff.  This is me taking the time to prepare stuff just for my own personal enjoyment.

Of course, there are some side benefits that came with these very selfish reasons.  For one, bento'ing is all about reducing waste, which is good for the environment.  I'm lowering my personal impact and footprint on the environtment, and though I admit I'm not the most environmentally-conscientious person (though in my high school days, I did a good bit of volunteer work including picking up trash, and I detest litterbugs), it's nice to know that I'm doing right by Mother Nature with my bento'ing. 

This ties in with reason #2, but knowing exactly what goes into my bento- even if it is pre-made gyoza or dumplings- is really just flat out good for me.  I can really be careful with what I'm eating- if I know something is a bit extra heavy or fatty, I can always bring less of it or reduce the amount of other foods I eat that day. 

So this is basically why I bento: to make me happy, to help reduce waste, and because I save a ton of money!

Other bloggers' reasons why:
Lunch in a Box
Freakin' Tasty Bento

***Personal anecdote here- yes, I'm going to mention a bit about myself!: Looking at the link for Lunch in a Box's reasons, I am reminded of my time in high school and how I grew to love Lunchables, purchased with my own money, for lunch, but they were quite expensive on my fairly standard allowance, especially bought at bodegas or convenience stores near school.  One day, I brought in a plastic container with crackers, cheese, sandwich meats (none of the gourmet stuff, I just ransacked my mother's fridge) and someone asked me what I was eating/why I'd brought it in.  I felt embarrassed to admit I hadn't the money to always buy Lunchables and kind of just mumbled and shrugged it off.  Hell, I'd thought it was a great idea on my part to try to recreate what they did, for cheaper! 
My father had noticed what I'd done but didn't know about the little run-in my ego had had, and the next morning, when I was leaving for school, handed me a rectangular Pyrex container he'd bought for me.  I peeked inside and he'd made me a wonderful lunch!  Looking back, it was definitely bento-style, though at the time, "bento" to me meant what you buy in Japanese restaurants that gets you the most food possible all in one order.  There was a deviled egg, salad, mini sandwich, all beautifully arranged.  I don't recall how I reacted- it wasn't negatively but it may have been neutral, I WAS a surly teenager- but when I got to school, it'd all shifted in transport and lost the beauty.  But I held my head high while I ate lunch that day.  Someone loved me and had spent all that time and effort into making my lunch.  (Occasionally, he would make me another lunch along the same lines, but the Pyrex container being glass was just too darn heavy and inefficient for me to always take.)
Along those same lines, a month or so ago, my mother sat at the dining table, watching me make my lunch and carefully arranging bits and pieces of food to fit the space I had.  She looked a bit pensive, so I said, "What are you thinking about?"
"Oh... just how if your Dad were here, what he'd say about this crazy thing you're doing..."
I hesitated before taking the leap, and asked, "Well, what would he say?"
"Well, he'd tell you to put this there, and that here, and he'd move and start doing it and eventually he'd just do it all himself and make your lunch for you." 
My initial reaction was, "Oh hell yea then I don't have to wake up early anymore to do it!!!" 
Of course, right after that thought, I just responded, "Yeah..."
At the end of this month, he'll have passed away 7 years now. 
So, I guess since my mother reminded me that once upon a time, someone else bento'd for me, it helps me feel closer to his memory.

As always, HAPPY BENTO!!!  Why do you bento?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Feisty Bento #49: New Bento Set, Hot Curry for Me

This is one of my new bento sets, making its debut!  Expect to see more of it in the coming winter months- love the insulated aspect.

A few months ago, I saw this set I really wanted from Lunch in a Box.  I didn't see it at Ichiban Kan in San Francisco when I went unfortunately, but I found this one - in this year's style, the smaller bag - on eBay and purchased it.  Look how cute!  It's completely insulated and

comea with a fork in a case which slips easily into the mesh pocket up top (where one could ostensibly also store napkins or other utensils), and on the right, two "side dish containers".  The left is a thermal jar with a top you pull off as opposed to unscrew- something that Biggie of Lunch in a Box says is a useful feature if you're packing food for a young child who may have trouble unscrewing a lunch jar. 

Hehe, oops, I overpacked the jar with too much rice.  It's not all rice; hiding underneath is Japanese curry, using a "rice lid" method I learned from Lunch in a Box

In the side dish on the left, pork & leek dumplings and gyoza sauce in case I find them dry, and in the right side cup, edamame and bean sprouts.  Yum.

The jar of curry, pre-adding the rice.  Supposedly using the "rice lid technique" in this jar will keep the curry hot along with the rice until lunchtime- you fill the jar with boiling hot water and let it sit for a little bit before emptying it, then adding your goodies. 

Having eaten lunch a while ago now (and waiting to post this), I can say that because I overfilled the jar, it didn't seal completely so my rice/curry wasn't piping hot.  HOWEVER, I firmly believe that's my fault and not the container's fault, so next time, I know better than to pack it so full.  Even still, the rice/curry was warm and tasty, soft and delicious.  YUMMY!

As always, HAPPY BENTO!!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Feisty Bento #48: Sushi/Sashimi Bento?!

The Rambler!

Last night, it was soooo chilly/nippy/cold when I was walking home, I was like, you know what's great in cold weather?  No, after ramen/pho/Asian noodle soups... that's right baby!  Japanese curry!!!  I whipped up a decent sized batch, medium hot, which actually was just the right amount of spicy for me (I can't eat very spicy things).  Super thick, filled with carrots, onions, celery (the veggies I found in my house), and oh-so-good.  I also made plenty to bring to work today in my brand new thermal lunch jar bento set... but... but... my exceedingly thoughtful and lovely brother (encouragedforced by the lovely Elaine of heart-shaped meatloaf fame!) brought me home some sushi, and weighing which to bring to work today... umm... duh, the sushi wins out.  I was surprised though; look at what he handed me:

(Look at the colors!)  Two pieces each salmon and hamachi/yellow tail sushi; three pieces of tuna sashimi, two pieces of white tail sashimi, and four pieces of spicy tuna on top of yellowtail maki/roll.  It's so pretty!

Of course, any normal person would think, "How do I bring this to work?"  (Well, I would have eaten it right then except it was like 10 pm.)  Putting sushi in the fridge, in my experience, makes the rice go hard and kind of icky, but I am not one to be deterred.  I popped it in the fridge and decided it was time to debut one of the containers I bought in San Francisco... it has a freezy pack in the top of the container!  So cool! 

The Lock & Lock container on the left has canteloupe and in the middle, wasabi, in a separate small container I picked up in Ichiban Kan in San Francisco - it's originally for makeup, actually, and has a pink lid.  Three pack for $1 or 1.50 - it's perfect for containing the wasabi, but it was a bit narrow to dip the rolls in.
On the right, in the freezy pack container, I had to stack the sushi/sashimi two deep, but the container was deep enough for it.  I wound up eating the lone piece of tuna this morning that didn't fit and it was oh sooo good!  I also, in the interest of food safety, slipped pieces of ginger in any empty gaps as ginger has anti-bacterial properties to discourage bacteria growth.  I was worried about the texture of the rice later, but honestly, when I was packing it this morning, the rice was actually moist and still soft.  Weird, right?  But I'm not going to question my good fortune.  (Edit: Having now eaten lunch, I can say that the rice was actually surprisingly still soft and even fell apart a bit when I tried to pick up the rolls.)

I forgot to stick my chopsticks in the picture; these cute blue ones with their own case!

Of course due to the temperature sensitive nature of my lunch, I had to whip out one of my insulated lunch bags... the Rambler by Built NY/BYO!  (Seriously peoples I'm not sure why you haven't run out and bought some of this stuff yet.  It's AWESOME.  They even sell it at Whole Foods, or at least definitely the one on Bowery - which is huge and awesome and amazing actually - upstairs in the holistics department across that little bridge.  GO GO GO!)  Check it out!

As always, happy bento!!!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Feisty Bento #47: So many choices...

Today's bento: surprisingly, I am actually overflowing with food.  Well, not really, just not sure what I want to eat from all the stuff I have!  Oh crap, I just realized I forgot sauce for the "meatballs"...

Canteloupe snack/dessert on the left. 
Top tier: beef balls, blandly boiled, over shiitake mushrooms (I wanted to bring tonkatsu sauce to brighten these up...); edamame (soy beans in pods); bean sprouts (my mom has realized I will eat these in great quantity in my bento, so she keeps making them for me!  Thanks Mom!!!)
Bottom tier: roast pork + scallion onigiri; kyoto style pork chop, cut into bite size pieces; monterey jack cheese with salami; baby bok choi that I roasted quickly in the toaster oven with some soy sauce, sesame oil and freshly ground black pepper.

Happy Bento!!!