Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hola Monday

Yesterday Monstro had Spanish class after school.  It's so cute to have him come home and speak his little kid Spanish :D  I wanted to subtly remind him to stay after school so his katsu is waving an "Hola" banner at him.

He was originally supposed to have "katsushi" but then decided that morning that he didn't want it.  That was a good thing because we are totally out of nori (well, not totally, we have scraps with little faces cut out!) AND out of katsu sauce.  I used an ice cream cone shaped cutter/stamp for the rice.  I just sat the ring in the box and packed the rice in.  Then used the stamp like a plunger to push the rice through.  The cherry is homemade BBQ sauce (that's more there in the little squirrel cup) and I added little strips of carrot for the waffle cone effect.  He's got baby cucumber rings a carrot flowers as usual.

I actually used a method I saw on Facebook for the carrot flowers.  You cut strips from the whole carrot then slice off little flower slices.  Genius!

What kind of cool tricks do you use?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Head Spinning....

For some reason I always wait until I haven't blogged in forever and am completely overwhelmed by the prospect before I decided to post.

I intended to do a round-up of lunches from the past few weeks.  But, blogger has decided to turn nearly all of my pictures sideways and I just can't see putting them up like that!  So, instead, we have 2 lunches here from after our little trip to my Mom's.  The Adventure Time charaben was on Facebook right after making it but I'm so proud of it that I'm posting it again! ;-)

The first lunch has wavy cut carrots and kiwi.  I don't know if you know this, but everything tastes better cut with a wavy cutter!  It's fact.  I scientifically tested it on Monstro's preschool class a few years ago!   Anyway, I tried to keep with the orange and green theme so there are also pistachios, hunks of sharp cheddar cheese and flax seeds hidden inside the little green box.  He loves flax seeds.  Plain.  I dunno about that kid some times.  I also gave him a nice dessert-y vegetable in the left frog cup- roasted acorn squash with butter, brown sugar and cranberries (YUM!).

The charaben was explained on Facebook but, again, super proud!  Monstro dug through the supplies and gave me the different baran to act as extra characters.  There's Tree Trunks with her apple, the Party Bears down covering up some cucumbers and pink grass to look like LSP is floating in Lumpy Space.  Finn is made from a slice of Provolone cheese, bologna face and nori eyes/mouth all propped up on pieces of an everything bagel.  I just free-handed the cheese and bologna but used a nori punch for the rest and trimmed the mouth into a little smirky smile.  LSP is made from a micro-baked purple potato.  I just sliced it until I got an appropriately outlined shape then used a round cutter to make some lumps to layer on top.  Her arms were cut free-hand, the star was a cutter and the face was a nori punch then I trimmed pieces.  Peppermint Butler is a BabyBel but he didn't turn out as well as my first one.  I cut it by hand and used a nori punch for the face.  The carrots were sliced then cut with tiny cookie cutters. 

I'd like to do another Adventure Time charaben with Jake, Lemongrab, Hot Dog Princess and Gunter.  I really want to do Princess Bubblegum but I'm not sure how I'd do that without food dyes.  If you've got ideas let me know!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mom lunch - best leftovers lunch ever!

I have been reading so many rave blog reviews about smelt that I decided to grab some at the store.  They were about $5/lb which I paid happily before realizing that I would NEVER pay that much for ANYTHING.  It turned out to be a pretty good deal though because we all got stuffed at dinner and I had these guys left over for lunch the next day!  Plus, they are really, really pretty!  I ended up staring at them in the colander for the longest time, just tipping it from side to side to make them shimmer. 

I used a combination of Steamy Kitchen and Alton Brown recipes (with a few adjustments, of course) for the smelt and they were so good!  To get them ready for this lunch I just tossed theleftovers straight on the rack of the toaster oven for a "light toast" cycle then let them cool.  They stayed nice and crunchy in the muffin papers even with the moist rice next to them. 

The fried rice is just left over rice from the night before stir fried with onions, carrots, yellow squash and a spicy sauce made from sambal, soy sauce, braggs, fish sauce and sriracha.  Once it cooled down I sprinkled it with chopped spicy nori snacks.

Some days I'm so excited to eat what I've packed that I end up taking my lunch break way too early and I'm starving by the end of my shift.  This was one of those days!  I don't think I even made it 2 hours into my shift before I couldn't stand the wait any more!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Back To School g2.0

Well "summer" is over and school time has begun.  I'm sure all parents have the same mixed feelings at this time of year- glad for the peace but sad to see them growing so fast!  I, personally, was so very ready for school to start about a month ago!  But, then, Monstro started being the sweetest little thing the 2 or so weeks leading up to school starting and I felt bad for wishing school time on him.

We didn't do much bento over the summer so I'm feeling a little rusty.  All in all I'm pretty happy with our first 2 days of 2nd grade lunches!

For the first day we have "Power Pasta" - Power Rangers branded pasta.  For sides there's a sweet red pepper in a party hat, carrots, apple bunnies and GIANT cucumber slices from my Mom's garden.  The green star in the center was propped up with carrot pieces and dyed with natural green dye we bought for a birthday cake a few years ago.  I have to say that the natural dyes I've used have been mondo disappointing.  Hopefully, India Tree dyes will show up in my Christmas stocking this year!  Monstro wanted a special note for the first day so I used an assortment of glitter glues to make a little card.

Second day lunch was pretty funny to make.  I asked Monstro on Sunday to write a menu for the week.  I let him know that it needed to be foods we already have on hand and that each day needed 1 protein/1 fruit/1grain/2veggies.  His menu for today was:  "Peper Jack Cheese, Radish Mice, Banana, Long Horn Colby Cheese."  Hmmm... we seem to be missing a few things here!  So, we worked together to adapt the menu to include all the categories and to drop the items we don't have.  We've got cucumber stars (the left over centers from yesterday), wavy cut carrots, zucchini-pineapple bread (from Gramma's house), peaches with apple stars and wavy cut pepperjack and colby cheeses.  I made sure to include the foot as a little surprise.  I also put in a little note with a silly joke on it and wishing him a good 2nd day.

Both lunches were packed in our new LunchBots Trio.  We bought it at the grand opening of The Green Nursery's new location to support a great local business and to give us something to look forward to at the start of the new school year.  I am LOVING this box!  I've been using a LunchBots Eco for a while and love it for myself.  It's way too big for Monstro unless he's having something like a sandwich but I can fit my lunch plus a mid-shift snack in there for me!  It fits perfectly snug into the bottom compartment of his new lunch bag too.  We also found a great drink bottle at Old Navy that fits perfectly in his lunch box, doesn't have tiny parts to wash and (so far) doesn't leak!

I've been looking back through past lunches to get inspiration.  Where have you been finding great lunch ideas?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Outside the (bento) box

We've been having quite a few "odd" lunches in our house lately.  It's kind of refreshing really.  Monstro and I were getting pretty settled into a standard sandwich meal - cute sandwiches garnished with cute veggies - but sandwiches nonetheless.

Here are a few of our "break out" lunches!

First we have the Creepy Bunny of Doom lunch... it's a wrap so I get it if you're thinking "Really?  THAT'S your idea of a sandwich break?"  But trust me this was a huge win for me!  Monstro NEVER eats wraps.  He hates cream cheese and they just don't hold together well without it.  With this one I was able to camouflage it with a little smear of ranch dressing!  It's got Chicken Parmasean lunch meat with spinach and cucumber.  And look at those ADORABLE mini-Triscuits!  I've been waiting and waiting for him to agree to the Triscuits so I could show how freakin cute they are!  I added some extra cucumbers, carrots, purple cauliflower and pepperjack cheese.  Then the ultimate creepy lunch accessory...that hideous bunny face!!!  Big thanks to Marsh Supermarket for selling the heebiest Easter cakes ever!

Next we have quesadillas.   We were on quite the quesadilla kick for a few days and he had them for multiple meals.  We like to add all sorts of veggies to ours.  These are spicy grilled chicken and cheese with a little olive oil to help crisp them up- no veg to prevent soggy-sad-panda-lunch.  There's brown rice under that enormous pile of corn planks (yay for first corn of the season!) plus swords of tomato and a giant strawberry.  That cow has some Florida's Naturals Fruit Nuggets inside.  I got the both on super clearance at Target after Easter.  We love the Fruit Nuggets.  They're more expensive than your typical fruit snack but they have no artificial colors in them and they've actually got juice in them!  Monstro has been BEGGING me for desserts in his lunches.  He's the only poor, deprived child who doesn't get cookies or candy bars!  Usually fruit is dessert but I've told him he can earn desserts by showing that he'll eat the healthy stuff each day.

My husband made some fantastic meat sauce for pasta one night.  I left out a couple tablespoons of it to use for Monstro the next morning.  He had star pasta with the meat sauce, garlic cheese bread, ridge-y cut carrots, purple cauliflower and a little heart of Short Stop peanut butter fudge.  I used some alphabet pasta that I found for $0.33/bag to remind him of a few spelling words.  Unfortunately, after I arranged them, it seemed like I was giving him some sort of creepy religious message.  As soon as I started to place the "M" in promise I realized it but it was too late to go back!

We used to eat more traditional bento like this one pretty often.  It's certainly not standard Japanese by any stretch but it's closer and the flavors in the chicken are Asian.  He wanted "Mommy's Spicy Marinated Chicken" and rice.  My marinade is pretty simple and it somewhat mimics my beloved Sati Babi.  Oh how I miss jamming wooden sticks into my gums and tongue as we attempted to snarf down our meaty, juicy treat while walking around the uneven ground of the Banks Of The Wabash Festival at night.  So, he has the chicken and rice as well as the usual veggie assortment - cucumber, carrot and purple cauliflower.

I think I've saved the best for last.  Today's lunch is an unconventional lunch masterpiece!  He's got the typical veggies... I won't let him have a lunch without them!  But, his "entree" is a "bowl" of cereal!  We keep finding Mom's Best Naturals on sale and it's so rare that Monstro gets to enjoy a marshmallow cereal.  The Mallow Oats have no artificial dyes so he gets to feel like he's being a little "bad" but it's better for him than most of the other cereals he chooses (Coco Roos anyone?!).  I gave him a little bottle of almond milk to pour over the cereal so he could have the whole shebang.  He was especially jazzed about that mutant marshmallow fusion there towards the bottom!

Those are our "off the wagon" lunches for the last week or so.  It's been much more fun packing things other than sandwiches!  Part of my love for bento is being creative and we were just in a rut.  He was sick, then dad was sick and now I'm sick.  But it can be so easy to make it fun, sometimes I forget how much so!  What are some of your favorite "extra-ordinary" lunches?

Monday, April 16, 2012

"Gear?! Like I ever drove before!"

I love checking unexpected places for bento gear.  Now that I have easier access to all of those quick-snap pictures on my phone, here's some gear I scouted at Target.

The first is an actual lunch box and it's pretty darn cheap!  Only $6.99 in the baby feeding section.

It's hard to tell from this picture but it has 2 sections with a large lid and a secondary lid over one compartment.  It has dividers and a spot on top for a note or photo.  This thing is pretty big.  I didn't bust out my laser-line but it's about 10 inches by 12 inches I'd say.  Larger than a standard sheet of paper for sure.  You can see in the picture that the outer packaging shows a banana in one side!  I wanted to try this out but Monstro doesn't have a lunch bag this beast of a lunch would fit in!  It might work for "lazy day" lunches when there are no "attachments" to get jumbled around though.

The next one is a baby feeding set with individual containers that snap together.  It's in with the diaper bags and travel items.

The containers snap side-to-side and then fit into that handy black insulated carrying case.  One very cool thing that you (again) can't see in the picture is that the top of the carry case has a spot to secure a water bottle (or a baby bottle).  Each container is roughly 3 inches by 3 inches and has a tight fitting lid.  I seriously considered this one also because we have a hard time getting a drink bottle in Monstro's usual lunch bag.  It's a touch on the expensive side, especially when you consider that for $16 you could get an airtight bento set with bag and chopsticks.  I think the real advantage here would be for kids (or grown ups!) who don't like foods to mingle.

The last little treasure I found is supposed to be a stacking snack bin.  It's made to carry formula powder, dry cereal, teething biscuits and things of that nature.  I think it would make a FANTASTIC bento because it's totally clear, you can choose how many boxes to attach and each compartment keeps foods separate from the rest.

Cute right?  Each little box is about 2 inches by 3 inches and clicks to the box above it with a little snap lock.  It does have a little blurb on it saying it's not for use with food.  Isn't that food in the picture?!  If you don't carry food in it, what else would you use it for??  This one is $9.99 and will probably come home with me in the very near future!

I've also seen some great containers at Target over in the "Tupperware" section.  There's a new divided cube with an ice-pack top that looks like it'd be good for an adult lunch.

What sorts of "re-purposed" items do you use for lunches?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Contest on a "sister blog"

MeetTheDubiens has paired with AllThingsForSale for one heck of a bento giveaway!

 She's offering this box in a choice of colors, a bento belt, the silicone food cup set, a food pick set and the cutters to make those adorable animal wraps!  This would be a fantastic starter kit for someone just getting in to bento or for a seasoned vet who wants some extra gear.

Jill has one of the best casual bento blogs I've seen in a long time.  I really like her site and hope you will too!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sushi Popcorn

My husband wanted to go see Kyle Kinane doing stand-up at a local venue last week so Monstro and I had a date day.  Turns out he was more interested in playing Lego than hanging out with me but we did manage to make some really fun snacks and watched Puss In Boots (my favorite part of the movie was the trailer for Madagascar 3 at the beginning!).  You have to have popcorn when you watch a movie and Monstro is hardcore about this "rule."  As I was shaking-shaking-shaking the popcorn I asked what he wanted on the popcorn and he ran through the house screaming "SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUSHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII."  

Ummm, how do I put sushi on popcorn?!  Well, my answer was to toss the popcorn in wasabi powder that my brother sent me and crunch up some spicy nori strips over top.  I have to say it was pretty good!  Monstro loved it and made me promise that I would 1.  make Daddy try it when he came home and 2. save some for his lunch.

I packed some sushi popcorn in a little treat bag with some extra nori strips tucked in around it.  For the "meal" (I use the term loosely because I'm sure that to Monstro the popcorn was lunch and all the rest were "sides") he has a "triple decker" sandwich (a Hawaiian sweet roll cut in thirds with cajun turkey, spicy mustard, and romaine), kamaboko twists, orange peppers, purple cauliflower and some kiwi slices.  Even though I popped the popcorn in part butter I think the addition of nori makes it a little healthier so I was pretty pleased with the nutrition level of the lunch.  I was definitely worried when he asked for popcorn for lunch!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Goodies again...

Here are two more lunches that test out my new supplies.  I'm so excited about all of the things I got and I'm having a hard time restraining myself so that Monstro doesn't end up with just ludicrous lunches (stamped hotdogs AND bunny ham rolls??!?)!

The first of this set is the soy wrap.  They come in natural colors and I've seen them in colors besides the ones that come in this particular set.  I posted Monstro's Leap Day lunch over on the PepperMilk FB but I think it deserves a nod here as well.  I was beyond happy with how the little frog turned out.  The soy paper was a little hard to wrestle with to be honest.  I cut it in 1/2 because I didn't want a big wad of it bunched up on the back side of the onigiri.  I had to keep making my rice ball smaller and smaller and I never really got the back to stick to itself.  It looks cute though!  The rest of the lunch is meatballs, enoki, carrots, kamaboko twists and a little cup of Indian Rice Pudding.  The adorable cherry stem pick also came out of my bento spree!

The next little gadget was the set of sausage stamps.  Of course, here hot dogs are much easier to find and use than the little sausages I see in Asian bento so that's what I used them for.  I cut a hot dog into thirds and made one into a cat face and the other 2 bits I randomly stamped with hearts, music notes and spirals.  Unfortunately, the spirals and music notes ended up being too close to nicks in the hotdog and they just exploded into nothingness when I cooked them!  So all you get to see is kittyface and hearts.  The instructions are not in English but I gleaned that you should pan fry the hot dogs.  I tried boiling them like a critter and it worked a little bit but once I tossed them into a skillet with a smidge of oil the stamps really started to show up.  You just have to keep turning and moving them so they get evenly browned around the stamped images.

I also added in a little Octo-dog pick that was part of my birthday gift too.  There are orange peppers, avocado, a Hawaiian sweet roll and purple cauliflower in the bottom tier of the box.  On the top tier Monstro has Indian Rice Pudding, orange segments and some Black Pepper Cherry trail mix.

I still have more goodies to get to!  YAY!

Mr. Oinkers and his buddy Drain

I had so much fun making today's lunches!  We just bought a Ninja Pulse so while the boys were drinking up green smoothies I was able to have some fun.  The idea for Mr. Oinkers actually came pretty much by surprise.  I was cutting eyes from kamaboko and the resulting "tree" looked like a pig nose!  Score!

Monstro has a pita sandwich filled with spicy mustard, a slice of cajun turkey and colby-jack cheese.  Mr. Oinkers' nose, eyes and ears are all made from kamaboko with nori punches for the pupils and small bits of spaghetti to hold on the ears.  I giggled when I uploaded the pictures because I hadn't noticed that Mr. Oinkers has a little beauty mark!  I tucked in some sliced cucumber and sugar snap peas but Monstro said it wouldn't be enough so I gave him a "sidecar" filled with bits of other veggies - purple cauliflower, orange pepper, plus more cucumber and snap peas.

Here's Mr. Oinkers in all his glory ;-)

And here's the full lunch:

For myself, I ran with the kamaboko eyes on a pita sandwich idea and Drain was born.  He's a vampire.... see his tiny little cheese fangs hanging out?

I used nori punches on top of whole slices of kamaboko then turned the nori mouth upside down for a nose.  My sandwich is spicy mustard, cajun turkey, colby-jack and pepperoni.  I've also got snap peas, orange peppers and cucumbers in my lunch.  My husband said that he looks very sad... I kind of agree... a mopey little vampire dude. (for the record, I tried to find an "Edward Cullen" photo to link there)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Testing gear

Two recent lunches have been testing out new (or new-ish) gear that I've gotten.  Of course the Leap Day lunch used the new soy wraps but that doesn't really seem like gear to me so much.

The first cutter was one I've actually used a few times before.  This time I used it on deli meats too and it cut better than I thought it would.  I used the bear to cut out all of the bread and meats then stamped 1/2 the bears with faces and layered it all together with some mustard and lettuce.  They formed a Ninja army... with their "katanas" they're ready to protect Monstro's lunch from marauding school children.  He's also got oranges, carrots and Funky Monkey Applemon.  (I have to say that I was NOT impressed by this flavor!)

The next one I was super excited to try.  These were part of the birthday package I blogged about earlier this week.

I used the rice spoon to form some leftover warm rice into barrels.  Then I cut down a sheet of nori into smaller strips and wrapped up my barrels.  I had a bit of a hard time with the animal cutters because I was using salami and it really wasn't smooth enough to make clean cuts.  I also tore the little cheese chicken's head a smidge trying to get it out of the cutter.  Once I had the animals cut, I just wrapped them around the nori and put them in Monstro's lunch.  It was the easiest way to make an adorable meal I think I've ever tried!  I added in some wavy cut carrots, purple cauliflower and a few slices of pear left from break fast.  For "dessert" I added in a tiny cup of Funky Monkey Pink Pineapple which is freeze dried pineapple coated in freeze dried guava dust.  It's really cool and so delicious!

I had so much fun trying out the new cutters.  I think next will be the sausage stamps and the seal from this set on something white.  So much fun! :D

Monday, February 27, 2012

Happy Birthday to ME!

My birthday was this month and my birthday gift was a bento gear shopping spree!  My goodies arrived today and I am so excited to start using them!  I've got so much fun new stuff to use I'm having brain-melt.  Of course I want to use all of them in Monstro's lunch tomorrow but I think that'd be a bit on the overkill side.

I bought everything from All Things For Sale and it arrived pretty quickly.  Here's my haul (it's dark so the pictures aren't the bestest):

Everything is so awesome, I don't even know which I'm most excited for!  I'm hoping the soy wraps go over well with Monstro.  Since he can't have artificial colors it can be hard to make a REALLY fun lunch and I think the colors in these wraps will be a great "pick me up" in his bento.  Oh, I also have to add that the sausage stamp set comes in a little acrylic box with a lid to keep them all together.  I'm really glad that All Things For Sale is stocking more kits like these.  They just posted the most amazing panda onigiri kit so that's at the top of my list for my next order.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Adorable GiveAWay

Over at Meet The Dubiens Jill is giving away an amazing bento starter kit!  And, she also leads off with an amazingly cute and HEALTHY lunch!

Go check it out, enter and then come back here to check out last weeks lunches (they should go up tonight!)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sushi extravaganza

This week was held a ton of sushi in our lunches!  I'm not sure why it happened but Monstro and I both LOVE sushi so it works for us! 

We'll start with Friday's lunch because it was special.  Friday was "100th Day" at Monstro's school.  This is something that was entirely new to me when he started preschool.  We didn't do that in school and I don't remember my younger brothers having these celebrations either.  In my mind though, anything (well, almost anything) that keeps the kids excited about being there is A-OK!  These lunches are also special because they use a product I didn't even know existed!  My brother sent me a fantastic package of spices and other cooking goodies for a belated Christmas gift.  One of the things he went was "Bamboo Rice" and I was just super excited to try it out.  It is, as advertised, AMAZING for sushi.  The grains stuck together but didn't have any traces of slimy-ness.  One draw back is that as soon as I added water the color started to leach out and looked very swampy.  I expected it to stay that very verdant, springy color but it did fade and yellow in the cooking process.  It also has a very light scent and flavor but once you season it for sushi it was barely noticeable.  

 So, for Monstro's 100 Day lunch he has bamboo rice maki, broccoli, 100 corn kernels and 100 baby lima beans.  Yes, I actually stood and counted 100 of each!  I'm crazy that way.  The sushi has wasabi with k-rab stacked together and folded more than rolled to keep the 1 shape.  The 0's are rolled with wasabi and cream cheese stuffed chikuwa.  I sliced the rolls thinner than normal and stacked them to give plenty to eat.  After I packed everything up I snagged a grape from the colander and found they had seeds.  Blech!  I unpacked, cut open the grapes, scraped out the seeds and then put it all back together.  I guess if crazy GMO foods are the only way to keep those bitter seeds outta my grapes then I may have to reverse my position!

 I used the left over bamboo rice to make a thin maki of wasabi and fried chicken.  I put those in my lunch with the extra pieces of Monstro's rolls.  I also added broccoli, soy sauce in the little container and a top tier of grapes.  I didn't seed them before I packed them and I really should have.  I spent a large part of my lunch break trying to nibble around the seeds.

 For a non-sushi bento I wanted to use a new cutter that I got for Christmas.  Santa brought me a vehicle sandwich cutter that I hadn't tried out yet so we made a sandwich and promptly got confused about what some of the shapes were supposed to be!  The sandwich is turkey and jalapeno colby-jack with spicy mustard on whole grain white bread.  There's a side of mashed butternut squash, blackberry skewers and some carrot "fingernails."

 I'm pretty happy about the cute factor on this lunch.  Monstro wanted stelline but we didn't have our usual peas to go in it.  So for protein he has a turkey dog cut into a crab and an octopus on top of lemon-butter stelline.  The top tier has thai cole slaw (with coconut and sesame seeds!) topped with little carrot flowers and a radish mouse.  This is the first time the radish mouse has come home!  I was devastated.  I think I jinxed it when I said it's the only way Monstro eats radishes.

 This sandwich bento was a Monstro-made sandwich.  I'm still always makes me so happy when he wants to make his own food!   I did go back after he made it and pressed a little heart in the top with a cookie cutter - just a little special touch from his mama.  The sandwich has turkey and cheese on Italian bread with a side of blanched green beans, cucumber spears and a "golden egg" (his obsession with Angry Birds is waning but it's still got a few claws in) boiled tiny potato.  There's also the usual butternut squash and a couple of blackberry skewers.

 More sushi!  This was Monday's lunch for Chinese New Year and I posted it on Facebook already because I couldn't wait.  He chose from a list of "lucky" foods and told me he wanted a "salmon feast" and a "sushi feast."  We modified a few of them to work within our time and budget constraints!  I always find cheap and delicious smoked salmon trimmings at our local co-op so I used those inside a sushi roll to combine both of his feasts.  It wasn't quite a whole fish but it's still fish!  We also picked out the absolute longest collards we could find and I left them in long strips to braise them so we could get the "long life" and the "prosperity" all in one dish.  There's also 1/2 a tangerine for "gold" and I tucked a little cookie shaped pick in his squash for a sweet life.  My lunch (on the right) has the greens and maki but I also have a black sesame onigiri, some thai cole slaw, soy sauce and what I feel is the most adorable BabyBel ever!  I carved the shape of the hair I wanted then peeled the extra wax off.  I used a combo of 2 of the nori punches that Santa brought me for Christmas for the face and bow then Sriracha for the rosy cheeks.

 Finally we have even more sushi!  Some families love pizza, we love sushi!  Well, we love pizza too.  We probably love pizza as much as we love sushi but sushi keeps much better for lunch.  These rolls have left over torikatsu.  My husband makes the best torikatsu you'll ever eat!  It's better than what we've had at any local Asian restaurant.  And, as you know, Monstro LOVES "Katsushi."

For his lunch he's got katsushi made with brown rice, katsu, carrot strips and Country Bob's Sauce.  All the slices are snuggled together with broccoli and a little radish mouse is nibbling away at them in the corner.  In the top tier there are blackberry skewers.

 My lunch has the katsushi topped with a bonus strip of chicken, some extra Kewpie mayo and Country Bob's.  The center container has homemade kimchi and there's also carrots, blackberry skewers and a radish mouse.

Unfortunately, we'll be short a lunch this coming week.  Monstro has been running a fever so he can't go to school tomorrow.  But he'll be back in full force on Tuesday and I'll have some yummy Mom lunches in the meantime!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Weekly posts

I've decided that weekly posts may be a better fit for PepperMilk and I.  I get so bogged down in the idea of daily posts that I just don't do it at all.  I think it will be easier for me to keep up and feel good about it if I'm doing it once a week.  All you bloggers out there - what do you do to keep your posts fresh AND frequent?

I posted the first week of lunches over on PepperMilk's Facebook   Now for the rest that we've had so far.  It's really a pretty small number of lunches.  With the long MLK Day weekend we had a bit of a bento break.

First up is actually a Mom lunch!  I made a fantastic veggie quiche with leeks, mushrooms and spinach for dinner the night before.  The recipe was a hybrid of several that I found online but it's really pretty basic.  The crust, though, was a miracle!  I found this super easy crust method/recipe and just made 2 batches to cover my pan.  The crust was sweet and "buttery" and actually felt flaky when you cut into it.  Despite insisting that it was disgusting, Monstro polished off a rather large piece during dinner and picked up all the little crust bits left behind.  I packed up a left over slice along with grape tomatoes, carrots and 1/2 of a pretzel roll.  The pretzel roll ended up as a snack before lunch.  Apparently my breakfast was a bit lacking that morning!

Monstro LOVES to make sandwiches.  And I love helping grow his confidence in the kitchen by letting him!  He's got 1/2 of a seckle pear (they're sooo cute!) topped with a blueberry and a flower pick and a blueberry tower in his top tier.  The lower tier has a sandwich of his own creation (spicy mustard, ham, turkey on french bread) with some blanched green beans, broccoli, a radish mouse (no tail) and a few bits of honey-chili sweet potatoes.  For some reason Monstro claims that he doesn't like radishes even though every time a mouse or mushroom appears in his lunch it's the first thing he eats.  Hmmmm.....

The Monstro got to take my LunchBot Eco because he wanted a bread "butt."  Doesn't it hilariously look like a little bottom?!  And it's not a sandwich - it's just bread.  This kid is a serious carbo-loader!  He will ask for bread pretty much any time of the day or night.  His protein choice was cheese so he's got some extra-sharp cheddar squares, broccoli, carrots, blanched green beans, grape tomatoes and an adorable little squirrel filled with boiled squash seeds.  Again, something he'll eat any time.  He even runs out of his room at night just to grab a handful and run back to bed!  Weird kid!

Mmm pizza!  This is made with no-knead bread dough.  We use this recipe ridiculously often but rarely make bread with it.  It's almost always pizza, calzones or "fry bread."  This particular batch was made by the hubby and since he didn't sub in any whole-wheat flour it was extra tender.  The pizzas have roasted red pepper sauce, cheese and mushrooms or spinach chiffonade.  Each one was only about 3inches across but I cut them anyway so it'd be easier for Monstro to take them out of the box and eat.  He's also got some carrots and a little radish mouse eyeballing the pizza!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mom lunch roundup

I've had some pretty tasty lunches in the last week.  Most Mom lunches end up on Peppermilk's facebook but I had so many to post this week I thought I'd put a few in each place.

I have been craving my brother's Caesar dressing but he won't part with the recipe.  So, I broke my rule against corn syrup-containing dressings and bought a bottle of Cardini's Caesar.  It was no bueno!  I doctored it up with a few extra anchovies, some salt and pepper and LOTS of fresh garlic.  That made it good enough to take a big salad to carry the dressing.  This salad is a bed of baby spinach, carrots, avocado, loads of fresh black pepper and apple.  I tucked in a little apple with a bear cut out that was left from one of Monstro's lunches for added cute factor!

One day Monstro decided he wanted to make my lunch for me.  I love when he does things like that because it's super sweet AND I'd do anything to get that kid in the kitchen!  He made me a "triple-double-griller."  It was club style with extra sharp white cheddar, black forest turkey, brown sugar ham, a mountain of spinach, spicy mustard and a slice of salami - topped, of course, with an "olive" on a toothpick (really just a green gem pick from our collection).  I also tucked in a couple of carrots that had been shaved for salad and abandoned in the fridge.  I have to admit that it was one of the best sandwiches I've had in a while!  The kid is good at what he does! 

The last lunch of the week was also quite a treat.  Since I made my own kimchee it'll get used obsessively in lunches.  This one has brown rice left over from last night's sushi-making spree.  I love the way brown rice tastes after sitting on "warm" over night.  Have you ever tried it?  It gets so nutty and delicious.  I topped the rice with a heaping serving of turnip green kimchee and a little green onion knot.  On the side are some cucumber curls (also left over from sushi night) that I chopped up and mixed in while I was eating.  In the top tier I have a rather large Magic Bar.  I'm taking a cue from Monstro and including dessert every day!

I convinced a co-worker to try the kimchee.  I didn't think there were people who lived in this town who hadn't tried nearly every ethnic food there is to try!  He liked it... maybe I'll give kimchee as Christmas gifts next year!

Turkish feast

We ate dinner at Turkuaz Cafe and Monstro had considerable leftovers.  He insists on the kebab even though it's way more food than he could manage.  I think he's afraid he won't get the flaky pita if he tries something else!  We took his extras home as well as an order of Baklava to go.  I'm no expert on Baklava but my mom used to make it quite a bit and we've tried it at a few places here and this is the best we've had.  It's not as sweet as some and it's a little syrupy.  Anyway, to lunch!

The bottom tier is, of course, Baklava!  Apparently every kid in the whole school gets dessert in their lunches every day.  I am such a horribly neglectful mother that I only give him dessert every now and then.  I hope this makes up for the tragedy!

Up top we have a little chopped baby spinach with ranch dressing in the penguin.  Next to that is the real star- ajvar beans, rice and coban all mixed together and topped with beef kebab. 

As you can imagine, this bento was practically licked clean when it came home!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fried rice

I love fried rice for lunch.  I actually think most fried rice tastes better "cold" than when it's all hot and fresh.  Monstro isn't as die hard as I am but he tends to like the mixed up goodies in fried rice.  Unfortunately, he was upset with me for only sending 1 thing.  I tried to explain that it has everything he'd normally eat but all mixed up together.  He wasn't buying. 

For this version I used refrigerator brown rice, carrots, red onion and chikuwa cut into small rings.  The sauce was soy sauce, Bragg's, and teriyaki-miso sauce dumped in during the last few minutes to get all toasty and sweet.  I criss-crossed a few strips of red pepper for color and to add another veggie.

I used the other 1/2 of the rice to make fried rice for myself with the kimchee I put up last week.  It was really good; a little lactic, very garlicy and so spicy!  You can see the pic on the Peppermilk facebook page!

Just for kicks... here's the turnip green and carrot kimchee getting ready to ferment...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


We love Chikuwa in our house.  We love it in soups, steamed, stuffed with cream cheese or pickles... pretty much any way to eat it.  We used to only be able to find it in one store but now they have it at our favorite Asian market, Saraga.  I picked some up when Monstro and I were on our first "date" of 2012. 

Today's lunch is pretty simple.  I need to pick up some of his favorite veggies but for now this is what we've got.

 I layered the bottom of the box with brown rice and then steamed and sliced chikuwa on top.  I found the tiniest pickle ever and stuffed a small piece of chikuwa with it then sliced it.  There's a little fence of carrots protecting an army of apple bears.  Over in the bamboo forest (chikuwa is made to look like bamboo) there are carrot and red pepper bears hanging out.

Monstro doesn't usually pay much attention when I put his lunches together.  Today he was really in to the process and was shocked that I used lime juice on his apple bears.  He said he thought I just used water on them.  It was a cool chance to talk about oxidation and how citrus fruits help stop it.  Hooray for science in the morning!