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!

We're back!

Happy New Year to everyone!  Hopefully your holiday was as wonderful as ours.  Monstro suddenly developed a mega-interest in Lego in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  I'm not sure where it came from but I am so very happy that it's arrived!  We've tried to encourage him to play more Lego (and Trio and K'Nex) but he's not been in to it.  Now?  He's a Lego Maniac if you will!

I wanted to do something special for the New Year and his heading back to school.  Initially, I was thinking of doing something with fireworks for New Year's Eve but then I decided I wanted something a little more.... personal.  So Legos it is!

I chilled our small thermos in the freezer overnight so it would keep the cottage cheese cold.  I put in TONS of freshly cracked pepper because that's how he loves it.  I used my alphabet cutters to cut out the word "LEGO" in red pepper to go on top of the cottage cheese.  Apparently, by the time Monstro ate it no longer said any sort of word and some of the letters had capsized and sunk. 

I cut bread into a rectangle and then used the scraps and a bottle cap to cut the nubs.  I cut the meat for the sandwich (salami, smoked turkey and brown sugar ham) using the bread as a template and layered it together before "gluing" the dots on with mayo.  When I was done I wrapped it really tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.  That helped set the dots to the sandwich and kept the layers together.  I sliced apples into Lego brick sized pieces and used the extra to punch out dots.  The apples are Duplos of course!  I also cut 2 tiny carrot bricks and 2 square cheddar cheese bricks.  I used a straw to pop out nubs for those - as you can see, the cheese ones didn't stay very well!  I used honey to "glue" on the carrot nubs.  Then there's some broccoli as space and tummy filler. 

The lunch was a big hit.  When I got it all assembled in the morning I made sure to show Monstro in case it didn't make it until lunch time (it did except the letters and the cheese).  He was really excited and started planning how I could cut holes in another sandwich so he could really build with them!  Too cute! :D