Monday, October 6, 2008

Feisty Bento #232: Something old looks like something new

Top tier: mixed veggies, miso mushrooms, mango pudding, caramelized onions
Bottom tier: spicy chicken & bean stew; pesto pasta salad

Aren't those mixed veggies so pretty?  I don't remember the brand, but I bought this 16 oz. bag of mixed veggies because they have lima beans in it, too, and I like lima beans (there used to be a snack, I have no idea where I got them, but it was dried lima beans with a bit of salt, and they were delicious, wish I could find them again now!).  Anyway, I just popped them in a bit of boiling water with salt for about 2 minutes, then drained it and tossed it with butter.  I am so happy they put corn in there, since (aside from my love affair with corn recently, see all the corn in this box?) the colors just pop with that bit of yellow.

The caramelized onions are leftover from the steak dinner I made on Friday night.  That's the last of the chicken stew, but not the last of the pasta salad, so it may make one more appearance here...

By the way, I have one tip/suggestion for everyone, bento-maker or not.  If you're making a big pot of anything - stews, chilis, soups - to be eaten as bento or to be reheated throughout a week for easy dinners, the first night when you make it, cook it to the bare minimum of done-ness to your tastes.  As you reheat it, the veggies and most meats, starches will continue to cook, and that just leads to a disgusting mess at the end.  Well, some people like the texture at the end, but it really depends on you.  I'm just saying that this is a good rule of thumb because at one point, it'll be the perfect done-ness for you, but the other times will have to be palatable to you, and you shorten that time if you cook it to the right done-ness the first night (unless you're like me and like your veggies, meats and starches all just this side of al dente). 

This can also apply to making mini-meatloaves, meatballs, hamburgers, etc. or even steak, chicken, pork for bento.  I mentioned this practice here - I made pork chops and purposely undercooked all but one (the one I ate that night), so that when I microwaved them in the mornings before packing, they would finish cooking and not dry out.  I detest overcooked, dried out meats although I'm sure that is what some people's palates prefer.  This works for me; food safety note: every meat has a temperature it must reach internally to be considered "safe" - even pork has this, you can reach that temperature without cooking it totally white in the center.  As a somewhat confident/experienced cook in that arena, I am fine with taking pork, steak, even burgers off the fire before they are no longer pink in the center, and setting them aside to be stored in the fridge.  If you are not that comfortable, please Google the temperatures each meat must reach within and use a trusty meat thermometer to check when you've reached it.  Or please don't use this tip about purposely undercooking your meat; I'd rather eat dry meat (add some gravy or sauce in a cute little bottle! perfect excuse to buy more accessories) than get sick from improperly cooked/stored meat.

Anyway, that's my two cents today.  HAPPY BENTO!!!


  1. ohh I am sooooooooo happy - I found those little mango jelly/pudding thingys in Westchester Co.!!!

    LOL -- and found bigger ones too -

    Going to bring a few of the smaller ones for some folks to try at my son's school --

    Who brought SALAD for lunch at school (7th grader) in his bento-esque set up!!

    Thanks for the info and examples!!!!