Back to Bento

Now that I’m working full-time at an awesome startup downtown I’ve been packing bento lunches again. In addition to being better for me, it’s substantially cheaper than buying lunch in midtown. A wrap or salad at the “usual” place ends up being about $9. Even considering the fact that Chris works from home a few days a week it adds up fast, to about $300 per month. A bento lunch generally comes in under $3.

Today’s lunch consists of a baby spinach salad with peppers, carrots, and mushrooms, and a chicken sandwich with pepperoni. I use fat free cream cheese instead of mayonaise. Fat free cream cheese completely fails as anything I’d want to put on a bagel, but does well in sandwiches. I used “low carb” bread. Low carb bread has a weird spongy texture I really don’t recommend. Stick with the real thing.


Bento is Back! Bento #11

It's been a while without bento. The main reason is that for the past two weeks, Chris has been working at home; no bento required. We've also both been running around like crazy. I still need to re-stock on bento supplies, but managed to make do with what was in the fridge this morning.

Bento #11

Today we have:

  • Carrots! Always with the carrots.
  • Grapes
  • Cheddar cheese slices
  • Hot dog wrapped in tortilla strips to make pseudo pigs in a blanket
  • steamed broccoli and red pepper
  • leftover noodly stuff from the other night

Also, let me reiterate that I am not starving Chris! There really is enough food in one bento box for a human male lunch. We're all used to eating huge portions, but it turns out you can totally get through canadian pharmacy discount code viagra your day on a rational sized lunch. If you don't believe me, try it. Get a 600ml bento and pack it with food. Notice how there aren't any gaps in my bentos (usually). You won't starve, I promise.


Bento #10: Turkey Sandwich Maki

Today is another day for experimental foods. We have:

  • Carrots
  • Orange wedges
  • Pita
  • Laughing Cow cheese wedge
  • Turkey sandwich maki (what?!)

Once a week or so I make fresh rice and freeze it, and today was the day so I wanted to make use of the fresh rice on hand. Using Soy Wraps instead of nori I made maki with sliced turkey, american cheese, and cucumbers. If I'd had more turkey sandwich veggies on hand I'd have used them too. Sprouts seem like they'd be good.

I also attemtped to make banana maki (not pictured) with a soy wrapper, rice, and banana. It came out pretty bland, so next time I may mix purchase viagra in australia some peanut butter up with the rice before rolling it.


Bento #9: Cheese and Crackers!

I’ve been slacking on the bento photos a bit. It’s been a hectic week and while very few of my bentos take more than 10 minutes, staying organized and waking up more than 30 minutes before I’m supposed to leave has been a bit of a challenge.  I’ve also skipped photographing bentos which were just more of the same. And I entirely missed the one with the chicken pot pie. Chris was running out the door so there wasn’t time for theatrics.

This is one of the faster bentos I’ve put together. It couldn’t have taken more than 5 minutes. Today we have:

  • Leftover pasta and meatballs. You’ll recognize this from Bento #7. We’ve finally managed to eat it all!
  • Half an orange. Are you starting to see a pattern? At least I know he’s getting vitamin C.
  • Snow peas
  • Laughing Cow cheese spread
  • Water crackers

Snow peas are great for bentos because you can toss them in raw and they fit in small spaces. I like to eat them cold, but Chris prefers to heat them along with his entree. The laughing cow cheese is also great because it comes in a wheel of eight individually wrapped wedge shaped servings. It’s a soft cheese so it doesn’t really need any utensils.


Bento #8: Chicken Wings Don't Fit in Small Boxes

Today I learned that chicken wings are hard to put in a small space. They're awkwardly shaped, unforgiving, and frankly provide a very low ratio of edible food to volume ratio. I really ought to have used a big square tupperware for today's lunch, but only realized that after I'd packed in everything else. But buy viagra online in canada man are chicken wings a pain.

Today we have:

  • Leftover Atomic Wings
  • Rice
  • Some bizarre pseudo-maki I made in an attempt to use some leftover veggies. Two are rice and zucchini rolled in nori. One is avacado and zucchini rolled in nori, without rice. I admit this may not be the most appetizing thing I've ever created. I was tired and in a hurry.
  • Sliced bananas 
  • Sliced carrots
  • The omnipresent baby spinach

As you can see, I really need to go to the grocery store. My bento vegetable collection is dwindling, and we've been out of dessert foods for a while. On the flip side I'm proud of myself for putting together a balanced if not interesting lunch in ~10 minutes given the limited foods in our fridge.


Bento #7: Quick Lunch

Mostly levftovers today, except for my attempt at some veggie stir fry with zucchini and mushrooms.

  • Leftover pasta and meatballs in marinara sauce
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Half an orange
  • Mushroom and Zucchini Stir Fry

A bunch of people have said to me, "I could never find the time to pack a lunch every day, much less make it look nice." But I promise you, you can. This lunch took me less than 10 minutes, and that includes the time to stir fry the veggies. Making it look nice isn't really much harder than throwing it all together haphazardly.

Granted, the cute rice shapes (and really fresh rice in general) take a while, but most of the time I just throw leftovers in a box, decorate with some spinach for color, and throw in whatever fruits/veggies are handy. Since I do viagra buy now it every day, I can cut extra on days when I have time and save them for the next day.

Really the best thing about this is how many veggies we're using. I think this is the first time in a while we'll get to the end of the bag of carrots, rather than having to throw them out because they're old and gross. Veggies are way less intimidating when you can just tuck them into the corners of your lunch. Somehow figuring out how to use 1/2 a carrot is way easier than figuring out what to do with a bag of them.

We have a lot of leftovers, so I'm trying to think of things besides carrots to dress them up with. Hmm…


Bento #6 My First Maki

Today was my first attempt at making maki. I thought about documenting the process itself, but decided there are enough online instructions that no one needed to see me flail about trying to make maki.

I think they came out pretty well. It took about an hour to put both our lunches together, most of which was the time it took to cook the rice. I am saving up my pennies for a rice cooker, let me tell you.

After some internet research, it turns out what I thought was a cucumber was zucchini. I of course found this out after packing the lunches and sending Chris off with his. Oops. I'm still learning this whole vegetable thing.

In this lunch:

  • Slightly messed up California rolls (rice, nori, avacado, imitation crab, zucchini)
  • Banana
  • Carrot slices
  • Edamame

Both of us got the same lunch today, Chris's is just a little bigger. The blue container with a dog on it contains soy sauce, which I left out of mine. I didn't have any pickled ginger or wasabi, oh well.

As you can see we now have offical bento boxes. The tupperware still works best for certain foods / shapes, but the two-tier bento makes separating foods much easier and travels a little better. Chris's even came with an insulated bag with a handle to carry it in.


End of Bento Week 2

I haven’t posted many bento photos this week because I only packed lunches two days, and canada viagra for sale didn’t have time to photograph today’s.

I picked up a Benriner Japanese Mandolin Slicer at a Japanese market near here. It’s great for slicing veggies, but the blades are wicked sharp and the hand guard is kind of a joke. I’m a little scared to use it. I’ll probably pick up a cut resistant glove to wear when trying to slice harder veggies on the thing. It does however make nice even thickness slices of whatever you want.

I also picked up a few stacking bento boxes, a green one for me and a black one for Chris. I thought about getting him a Hello Kitty lunch box but decided against it.

This whole bento experiment has been really good for my fresh fruit and veggie consumption. Because they add color and can be chopped into whatever size I need they’re great for filling holes between bigger items. It’s also a good way to use up leftover veggies, since you’re packing in small portions of a variety of things. Overall I’m really happy with the lunches, and it’s totally worth waking up earlier to prepare.

The Japanese supermarket also had a HUGE array of rice cookers. Huge. I’ve decided that I’m allowed to have a rice cooker once I find a good home for the bread machine I have but don’t use much. Rice cookers range from cheap to insanely priced robotic controlled monstrosities. I’m looking at a mid-range one with a timer so I can leave the rice soaking overnight and have it ready when I come down in the morning.

I’m sure Chris will be STOKED to have one more gadget in the kitchen. Yeah, right.


Goomba and Fire Flower Rice Molds

I took Friday off, and was sick Monday, but I think you'll agree the latest bentos were well viagra tablet weight worth the wait:

Yes, it's rice balls in the shape of a goomba and a fire flower.

Chris's lunch contains:

  • Fire flower rice
  • Baby spinach
  • Orange half
  • Leftover chicken and udon
  • Red pepper slices

Mine contains:

  • Goomba rice
  • Red pepper slices
  • Orange half
  • PBJ in a tortilla. This didn't turn out as festive as I'd hoped.
  • Baby spinach

On Chris's I used some plastic grass from when we ordered sushi as a divider. On mine I separated things with a slice from the tortilla (which I cut into a square).

All out of cookies. Sad times!

I made the molds myself using the laser cutter at NYC Resistor.

I started with flat sheet and cut the mold layer by layer. Everything was laminated together using acrylic cement.

Version 1, shown above, had the backing (which holds the features like eyes and mouth) permanently attached. This was a mistake. The rice had absolutely no incentive to move. I had to dig it out with a knife. It was a total pain.

Version 2 features a removable back piece, which works quite well:

The registration marks (blue rectangles) are important, because the acrylic slides around once it's full of sticky rice.

While they're much too time consuming and expensive (not to mention the intellectual property issues) to make for sale, I've posted the plans for the Mario rice molds at Thingiverse so anyone can have their own molds cut.


Bento #4: Real (frozen) Japanese Food!

Today's lunch features some actual Japanese foods, purchased frozen from a local grocery store.

It contains:

  • Heart shaped rice balls
  • Gyoza filled with pork, chicken, and veggies
  • Edamame
  • Half a banana
  • 2 female viagra jelly Chips Ahoy cookies
  • Baby spinach used as a divider

Today was surprisingly one of the longer morning prep times, despite using mostly frozen foods. It took about 15 minutes, so far the only bento which took longer was when I was cooking the rice fresh. These rice balls have been frozen in the freezer since them, I just zapped them in the microwave for about a minute to soften them up again. Having to cook the edamame and gyoza on the stove took a while.

Kitchen efficiency is something that's going to take practice. I have an electric kettle, but forgot to turn it on until about 5 minutes into the prep, after I'd already started the gyoza cooking. Because the edamame was frozen it took a while to bring the water back up to a boil, and I still had the burner on medium heat. Despite the fact that the gyoza takes 10 minutes and the edamame takes about 5, I was waiting on the edamame to finish the lunch. I'll get more streamlined as I get more used to cooking.

I should mention that before this lunch experiment, I pretty much never cooked anything. Even now I'm not doing a ton of actual cooking; mostly I'm just reheating leftovers and frozen foods. But it's still the most time I've spent in the kitchen since I moved in.

I'll only be gone for a few hours today, so I packed myself a mini lunch with some of the leftovers from Chris's:

Unless I come up with an awesome bento idea I'll probably take a day off from lunchmaking tomorrow and start again next week.