Mini quiches

Had a very nice weekend, which was good preparation for returning to my regular work schedule. Which I shouldn't really complain about, since I do still get to work from home two days a week, but when has that ever stopped me? ;) I did use it as an excuse, however, to go ahead and order some items from my bento wish list that've been on there for a long time. It'll be a few weeks or a month until they get here, but thought that would probably make you all collectively grin or groan, depending on how you feel about my bento pics clogging up your reading list.

  • ham, cheese, and spinach mini quiches I made on Sunday afternoon; steamed cauliflower with carrot shapes for garnish
  • carrot and celery sticks with honey peanut butter dip
  • kiwi and Anjou pear slices
  • dried mango slices and chocolate almond clusters

The mini quiches were something I'd been meaning to make for awhile, so when we got a nice bunch of fresh spinach in our bin last week, and I had some ham and cheese to use up, I figured it was time.

I used little rounds of biscuit dough in muffin tins to make them, and used milk instead of cream to mix with the eggs. The ham is just the last of the Black Forest ham from the deli that I'd used last week in my wrap, chopped up, and the spinach I tore into pieces and wilted with a bit of oil in a saute pan. We only had a sad little piece of cheese left in the fridge by the time I got around to making these, so there's not a lot in cheese in them, but they turned out mighty tasty nonetheless. And as you can see, I ended up with WAY more egg custard stuff than would possibly fit in the tins, but that just meant a nice frittata for dinner. Win/win!


The healing power of bento

Today is a "Get Well Bento", because poor Sal is very sick with a bad head and chest cold.  He called in to work sick, in fact, an occurrence so rare that the number of times he's taken a sick day could be counted on two hands for the entire almost-20 years that we've been together. This is his very first bento, which I would've liked to make cuter/prettier/whatever, but the poor guy was getting hungry upstairs waiting, and I'm in the midst of work, and so.

  • carrot and celery sticks (with carrot shapes throughout)
  • chicken basil sausage (lost in the dark shadows underneath the carrot shapes, unfortunately), molded egg, mozzarella pearls
  • Marcott tangerine section and a small container of macadamia nuts and dried cranberries

This box went along with a bowl of chicken noodle soup, crackers, a teensy container of peanut M&Ms, and the rest of the tangerine.


Almost a theme

Back to the office today. This will be the only day I'm in this week, but I think this will be the last week of needing to stay home more to work on The Project from Hell. OMG so ready to be done with it.

Don't know why, but I got a little arty today. Not intentionally, it just kind of came together like that. But the more I look at it, I realize that I could've gone the whole way and made a garden picnic theme. Though that would've required more thought and effort and I think we've established already that I am laaazy. ;)

  • celery, peanut butter, and dried cranberries, which I've decided to call red ants on a log :)
  • dark chocolate-covered raisins in the side container
  • wraps (black forest ham, muenster, in spinach tortillas) with red leaf lettuce to eat with them and rainbow carrots as gap fillers

  • deviled egg "flowers" with pea pods as "leaves"
  • Enterprise apple slices

Going viral

Here's something my mom wrote me last night about my lunches: reminds me somehow of when we used to have tea parties when you were little. We didn't spend much time on the food because you insisted on fussing over the place settings and presentation. I think the little tupperware dishes had everything from washminnows to petrified halloween candy put in them. There were a few things that grew mold and a few that became unrecognizable and play dough that crystallized. So here you are playing tea party again.


And now I want to do a bento tea party.

  • tri-color radiatore pasta with more of the marinara Sal made over the weekend
  • salad of red leaf lettuce, rainbow carrots, celery, and dried cranberries (not pictured: simple homemade vinaigrette)
  • strawberry slices on one side, dark chocolate covered raisins on the other

So the infection appears to be spreading. One friend started a bento wish list about a week and a half after we met for coffee and she asked me about bento. Another is back on the bento wagon thanks to my continuing obsession. Or in her case, bike. And a third reports that she looked for bento items whilst perusing a kitchen store because of my recent purchase of bento gear.

You could be next.


Berry-riffic bento

I need to get my crockpot back in gear to have more meal type of things in the evenings for dinner and leftovers the next day. I'm doing okay on lunches, but I'm just in the mood lately for more complex things than a smorgasbord for lunch. Nothing too complex, of course -- this is still me we're talking about, lazy as all get out ;) -- but something that involves soup or casseroles or some such.


  • raspberry yogurt with blueberries for garnish
  • kishus and a sliced strawberry
  • little pink spoon has an octopus on the handle, isn't that adorable?


  • chicken basil sausage; molded eggs (THAT NEVER GETS OLD) with peas under and around as gap fillers
  • mozz pearls on the pick, purple rainbow carrot sticks
  • sliced strawberry and dark chocolate covered raisins in the side container
  • matching fork to the spoon from breakfast, because I'm OCD like that

Today's quote:

"If the path is beautiful, let us not ask where it leads." – Anatole France

Plain ol' tuna fish, but better

A (mostly) typical American lunch, yet somehow better because of colorful containers. It's like magic!

Also, Sal's class has begun the candies section again, so I have a small container of sweet treats: mango gelees, chocolate caramels, and dried cherry-pistachio nougat. I LOVE HAVING A CHEF FOR A HUSBAND.

clockwise from right:

  • a strawberry cut in slices to make it fit and a supremed orange, which is basically cutting away all the pith and membrane and everything, so all you have is the juicy citrus goodness -- Sal  does this for me from time to time when I ask very, very nicely
  • two halves of a tuna sandwich (tuna, mayo, sweet relish on 9-grain bread), with red leaf lettuce for the sandwich, two celery sticks to fill the gap between and little carrot shapes for garnish (the cut off ends of the carrots from the other container)
  • the ultimate Broke Food*, macaroni and tomato juice...yes, you read that right
  • rainbow carrot sticks and dark chocolate covered raisins in the small container
  • chocolate Pocky and my salt container (originally stowed in the silverware section), and ice cold water in the drink bottle

*Broke Food is the cheapest possible meal you can make, usually with a minimum of (extremely cheap) ingredients. Ramen and macaroni cheese are the most common, of course, but I'm sure we all have Broke Foods from our college days or whatever.

But it's also one of my comfort foods (hence its appearance in this lunch), probably because it requires no effort whatsoever and is always yummy. I know it sounds gross and doesn't look appetizing, but I promise you it is.

What you'll need:

  • macaroni -- salad macaroni (shown) is preferable, with small shell macaroni being a good second choice; elbow macaroni is also acceptable, though not my preference
  • tomato juice
  • small bit of butter
  • salt

Boil the pasta, drain, then dump back in the pot. Stir in some butter. Pour in tomato juice and heat just long enough to bring the whole thing back up to a nice, hot temp. Add salt to taste.

The tomato sauce consistency changes once it's been heated and cooled and reheated, but it's still good as leftovers (and can be rejuvenated with more tomato juice, if you'd like). It can also be added to a soup or stew if you're trying to get rid of the leftovers, or made into goulash by adding hamburger and onion.


Cheating, but still yummy

Cheating today. By the time I got home last night (7 freaking o'clock), I was completely exhausted and had a baby gift to put together still, not to mention feeding the cats and myself. I don't think I had more than an hour of time that wasn't a meeting yesterday, and in fact ended up having to break out my lunch in the middle of a meeting so I wouldn't be eating when the guy from Corporate arrived.

The night before last, I didn't get to sleep until late due to the very nice parallel tension pains running up my back from stress (though I did go to bed at a reasonable hour) and wanted to get to bed earlier last night to try to make up some ground. Just to add a degree of difficulty, I knew I had a meeting right off the bat at 8 AM that was going to take most/all of the morning, which would mean no opportunity to eat breakfast. In fact, that the day would pretty much be a day of non-stop running again, thus, the necessity for a hearty lunch. And since I haven't had time to cook since this weekend, there was just no way I was going to have the lunch I needed without a little help.

So today's lunch comes courtesy of New Seasons deli. God bless New Seasons and double god bless their deli. They offer a nice selection of good, well-made food and though it's not made by me or Sal, it's at least food that I know is fresh and organic (and usually local), with an ingredients list that's both short and pronounceable.

Why am I telling you this? Because I think it's important to share how I make this whole bento thing work for me with the very real challenges that come up daily, and that there are times when I just have to punt. Everyone's choices and criteria and reasons are different, obviously, these are just mine.

clockwise from bottom:

  • parmesan breaded chicken breast
  • orzo with mushrooms, roasted red peppers, and Italian parsley; roasted brussel sprouts
  • strawberries -- yeah, I know, not in season, trucked from California, and in no way as delicious as Oregon strawberries, but I was craving strawberries liek whoa, and so there you go...can you tell that I'm craving comforts? ;)
  • kishus with a bit of dark chocolate covered raisins in the little side container
  • orange juice (my immune system gets so depressed when I'm stressed that I'm hoping the vitamin C boost will be a bit of a preventative measure)

Unfortunately, I ended up having to go to a business lunch with the aforementioned Corporate guy and other colleagues, what was intended to be my lunch will instead be my dinner. Which is just as well, since I got home so wiped out that having something already put together was a nice little bonus after an especially trying few days. 

But I've just come out of a glorious soak in the tub, with the radio tuned to the local jazz station, candles everywhere. (I used the incredibly luxurious Think Pink bath bomb from Lush that Cat gave me. It fizzes the moment it hits the water and turns the water a lovely shade of pink, then releases a bunch of pink confetti hearts. Bless you bless you, J, for that unexpectedly prescient gift.) Thanks to that the tension pains in my back are considerably less than they were, I should actually get to see Sal tonight (he didn't get home until after 11 last night, just before I had to get to bed, and was up until the wee hours working), I've got this delicious meal to enjoy this evening, and tomorrow and Friday I'll be working from home.

Hurray for surviving the hurricane. ;)


So glad yesterday is over

Last night was one of those times when I had low energy and low morale (SO GLAD YESTERDAY IS OVER OMG), and everything I put my hand to seemed to end in fiasco. Among other things, I discovered that I don't like buckwheat honey (which I mixed with the last of the peanut butter to use with celery before tasting it), the potato I made for dinner was rotted in the center and though I managed to salvage some of it, there was only a smidge of sour cream and butter to go with it, so it ended up being a pretty blah supper, the Fuji apple I started to cut for today's lunch turned out to be mealy, and the Cara Cara orange I peeled had a rind thicker than the earth's crust and so much pith that I gave up peeling it about halfway through. I was so disheartened that I just kind of stood with the fridge door open (which always makes me feel guilty) staring dumbly at the odds and ends on the shelves and trying to figure out what to pack for lunch.

Because our corporate IT guy is coming today (whom I've never met) to review our systems, I knew I wouldn't have time for anything that required taking a length of time and sitting down to eat, that I had to be able to pick at it as I can find a minute here or there. At one point, the thought crossed my mind: well, I could just run and get something, it's not that big of a deal if I don't bring my lunch, and I could just skip breakfast altogether since I won't really have time for that, either. There's a Whole Foods close to the office, so I could get something healthy for lunch at least, even though I try not to shop at Whole Foods if I can help it.

Or, just as likely, I would end up not eating at all. Which I know isn't good, but happens all too often when I don't bring in a lunch. I don't have the time, I don't make the time, or the day just flies by and it's one of many where it gets to be six or seven o'clock and I haven't had anything to drink, haven't been to the bathroom, haven't eaten anything. (Welcome to my job. I suspect many of you can relate.)

So glad I didn't listen to that voice. I felt better once it was done, knowing that I was taking the time for myself, that I wasn't going to spend some outrageous sum for lunch that would end up in the pocket of some cracked out global warming denier anti-HCR nutjob, or end up not eating at all. The whole point of bento 2.0 baby! is that I'm making the time for myself, no matter how crazed the day is going to be, and maintaining a boundary that's been crossed too often and too far. Though this may not be the most glamorous breakfast and lunch ever, it'll get me through the day and I won't feel like crap at the end of it. (Well, not from food, anyway.) And despite not really being motivated or inspired, even odds and ends can become a decent little lunch on a day when I really need to give myself a little TLC.


  • stawberry yogurt
  • kishus
  • granola


  • EGGS! Finally got the extra large eggs so the molds came out really cool this time and decided to use both the heart and star. Also: grape tomatoes and red leaf lettuce*
  • smoked turkey bites, strips of whole wheat naan, and snap peas for baran
  • kishus with cut-up celery as gap filler

*I see a lot of bento pics using lettuce leaves to line the boxes, which makes for a really nice presentation. But I always wonder whether they ever actually eat the lettuce, or if it's just for show. I suspect the latter in most cases. That just seems like such a waste for me, so I don't use things that I won't be eating as part of my lunch. In this case, I thought it would make a handy little envelope for the turkey bites, since there are just three small strips of naan to eat with them.


Busy week ahead

It's going to be a full week here at Hall House, as I'll be in the office through Wednesday and then scrambling to make up for lost time on the Project From Hell Thursday and Friday so I can hopefully wrap that damn thing up in the next couple of weeks. Which means maybe not quite so much prettiness as, say, Friday's (which the more I look at, the more those carrots look like kazoos...hee), but at least I'll be eating well despite the craziness.


  • strawberry yogurt
  • Pink Lady apple slices
  • kishu mandarins


  • homemade spaghetti pasta with a yummy marinara thanks to Sal
  • salad with red leaf lettuce, red onion, celery, the last of the rainbow carrots (hopefully more in today's delivery!), and grape tomatoes with vinaigrette on the side
  • whole wheat naan strips with two kishus in the side container and macadamia nuts underneath/around as gap filler
  • almond crunch Pocky


Portioning & calories

Today's breakfast and lunch are pretty healthy, through no real design of my own. Out of curiosity, I thought I'd figure out how many calories they ended up totaling, and it came out to about 150 for breakfast and 475 for lunch. That seems about right -- the breakfast box isn't full with granola, but if I'd put it closer to capacity, it would've probably worked out to be approximately the same as the 320 mL volume of the box, which of course is how it's supposed to work (# mL ≈ # calories, if it's packed appropriately). The lunch box is 500 mL, and I don't really have a starch/carb in there today. I don't believe in obsessing about every little calorie, but it's good to know that I've got a pretty good feel for the appropriate portions.


  • Greek yogurt with 3 blueberries
  • granola with raisins to mix in


  • mozzarella pearls and grape tomatoes on picks, with cubes of smoked turkey* underneath
  • rainbow carrot slices and sticks -- that's the last purple carrot from the bin, which are my favorite because of the purple & green color when you cut them...maybe Monday's delivery will have more
  • kishus and edamame, which I just tried for the first time last night

*The students in the culinary classes went through the cured meats section recently and one of Sal's students gave him a smoked turkey breast. Yet another nice perk of his job. ;)


Dental bento (dento bento?)

Just lunch today. I had a dentist appointment this morning, which included some preventative fillings -- i.e., no cavities, they just wanted to protect a couple of places where my bite had chipped away some enamel and needed some protection -- so I don't know if I'll be able to eat this very well. I wasn't thinking about it when I packed it last night, and I actually forgot about my appointment this morning and was late. They were very accommodating, but I'm not so sure they didn't get me back because I got rickrolled while I was trapped in the chair and they were giving me the second shot. ;)

clockwise from bottom:

  • simple salad of red leaf lettuce, celery, and rainbow carrots with my little vial of balsamic vinegar and olive oil
  • spread made of the smoked salmon from last week mixed with cream cheese and onion-sesame crackers to eat it with
  • sweet pickles with a side container of honey glazed peanuts
  • mandarin orange
  • in the silverware section, strawberry Pocky, and delicious cold water in the drink bottle; oh and another of my pretty new napkins

Since it's been so bizarrely warm (is this really January??), I'm going to mosey on down to Cathedral Park to enjoy my lunch today. A bit of a chilly breeze off the river, but otherwise quite lovely.


Back to work

Just kind of threw things together since we got home late and I didn't have a lot of energy after unpacking and whatnot. Thank goodness we came home to a clean house! I love that, and we usually try to leave the house all nice and tidy when we leave, but aren't always able to. I'm so glad we were this time, though.


Breakfast, using my new 320 mL box:

  • Greek yogurt in one of my new silicone cups
  • a few mandarin segments (sadly, not the kishus, which met their end -- deliciously -- in Seattle)
  • the ubiquitous Sauvie Island blueberries (for the yogurt)
  • one of my new little spoons -- the handle has a turtle on it :)
  • see my pretty purple napkin napkin/furoshiki in the background?


Lunch, using Ms. Bento:

  • the last of the crockpot chicken soup sauce thing from the week before last
  • cut pieces of whole wheat naan, the last bit of Cotswold cheese, and a few straggler baby carrots that were lurking in the crisper
  • first half: two of the little blueberry mini muffins I made last week with a few sesame sticks as gap fillers; second half: more mandarin segments
  • background: my new pretty green drink bottle!

Not very pretty compared to some previous lunches, but still very welcome on a day when I really needed it -- in the midst of dealing with having our webhost account hacked by some miscreants in Romania, our entire server, network, and phone system went down thanks to the electricians in the office next to ours accidentally shutting off our circuit. (Yeah, I don't even.) Oy vey, this day is not my best day ever.


Go by train

Hello, internets!!! We are back from our Weekend Trip of Delight and Wonders. I highly recommend such a trip if you're looking for a vacation. Of course, you'll have to find your very own sweet and awesome and funny and generous Cat to host you in order to have as great a getaway as we did, because I'm not sharing, but you know, good luck with that.

So we went by train, which was pretty nice. Not quite as roomy as I expected -- I was expecting something a little more like European trains -- but definitely WAY more comfortable and roomy than an airplane. Also, never underestimate the luxury of being able to use your cell phone whenever you'd like without the threat of somehow interfering with the vehicle's navigation and plummeting to Earth in a fiery crash. (I've always been pretty dubious about that claim anyway, but whatever.) I don't even use my phone all the time or anything, but even being able to just check my gmail account real quick was nice.

Plus, you don't have to get there nearly as early -- we arrived about 30 minutes before departure -- and the whole carry-on/baggage thing isn't at all the hassle it is with flying. It's all just very low-key and uncomplicated. (Also, I just really love the great old Union Station here in Portland, and I hope the King Street Station renovations can really return that building to its former glory. Never underestimte the romance of an old train station.) With an iPod and a book, the trip passes quite nicely.

We arrived on time in Seattle to the lovely Cat waiting for us right there -- ANOTHER lovely thing about going by train, having your loved ones able to greet you right as you get off. She whisked us off to her home so we could offload our stuff and relax for a bit before going to get lunch. Chatted, relaxed, then she took us to the Baguette Box* for delicious, delicious sandwiches. The overcast cleared a bit while we were there, so we decided to check out Discovery Park since we'd never been, which was very nice, and we stayed until it started to sprinkle again. A bit of a warm up seemed called for, and of course she had the perfect antidote, a place called Chocolati, which specializes in (you guessed it) hot chocolate and handmade chocolates. Oh lordy, am I ever spoiled for hot chocolate now. Mine had orange zest incorporated into the chocolate, and that combination is pretty much my favorite combination ever ever ever.

*(Albino: it was just down the street from that coffee shop called Bauhaus that you and I and your friend walked to from our hotel)

Then it was back to her place for the evening to relax. While Sal took a much-needed nap, we chatted while she prepared dinner -- roast chicken, spinach gratin, and pilaf. Freaking delicious, by the way, which is pretty redundant when you're talking about food Cat makes, but it bears repeating. (Oh, and dessert later on were these amazing chewy chocolate sandwich cookies with ganache in the middle for filling, the extras of which she sent home with us on the train and which I am eating at this very moment and crying a little bit from the perfection.) Anyway, we had a really great visit that was like our hours long phone conversations but better because it was in person.  We solve the problems of the world during these conversations, y'all, so be glad we have them.

Cat got a fire going in the fireplace and we watched Chocolat while we ate dinner, which Sal and I had never seen. We're both kind of appalled that it took us this long to see it, frankly, and I feel like we ought to relinquish some awesomeness points for being so lame. Holy CRAP what a great movie. (I know, welcome to the world, right?) Stayed up late visiting, then finally got our bed setup in the living room and went to bed to the flickering of the fire. That was a pretty fantastic day.

Yesterday, we took our time getting going and then made our way to the International District to this great Vietnamese deli for our first banh mi sandwiches, which I've been wanting to try for some time. Love them so much that we're going to have to find a good place for banh mi here in Portland. Headed over to Uwajimaya to buy a bunch of random fun stuff for no other reason that it's a fun thing to do with a bunch of foodies. We stopped at the Daiso across the street first to see what kind of bento selection they had. A nice selection, actually, though nothing I really wanted (other than some short picks that I wish I'd gotten now, but we were going to a bigger Daiso store later so I figured I'd find them there and then didn't). We came away with about five different Pocky flavors, shrimp-flavored chips (always wanted to try them and didn't think to get a bag when I was at the one in Beaverton; pretty tasty, it turns out), crazy gummi flavors, "chocolate finger-flavored orange" treat things ("I don't think I want to find out what finger-flavored tastes like" "maybe the orange flavor makes it better?"), kimchi noodles, nori-wrapped sesame sticks, black-colored cola carbonated gum, and some other stuff I don't remember.

From there, we made our way further into the heart of downtown to go to the Daiso at Westlake Center. Along the way, we stopped at L'Occitane, where Cat introduced us to sinfully wonderful French bath and body goodies, as well as to Lush, which we'd heard about but never been to. OMG LUSH WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE. I've never been to the one in Portland, but unfortunately for my checking account, I will be a frequent visitor now.

The Daiso had some good bento stuff, and I (finally!) picked up the specific assortment of silicone cups I'd been looking for, some mini spoons/forks I needed for future boxes that won't come with utensils, and! a small box for breakfasts that will fit the bill for what I'd been looking for.

This means I won't have to order nearly as much from J-Box when I order the three other boxes I want. So even though I didn't find any more regular-size bento boxes that I wanted, it was still a successful foray. From there, we made a stop at City Kitchens, because duh. Convinced Cat to buy the perfect all-clad saucier that was on sale and that she needed because I said so, Sal found the spaghetti attachment for his pasta maker he'd been looking for, and I got some bright, pretty colored napkins to use just for my bento (both as furoshiki and napkins) that were on sale, as well as a cute, smaller stainless steel water bottle to use with my Ms. Bento and other boxes that don't have a drink bottle -- see above. (We use cloth napkins at home, but I wanted to get some specifically for my lunches because just using one from our sets of two or four means that there's always one in the laundry so we can't use it for dinners or whatever. This way, I'll have some specifically meant for my lunches. Plus, pretty colors!

So it was a fun and productive day. And by productive, I of course mean consumer-iffic! Not our normal activity, but it's fun sometimes to be happy little capitalists and buy things that strike our fancy, non?

We spent the evening all cozied up at Cat's, she and Sal cooking up a storm in the kitchen -- marinated shrimp and flank steak, both done on the grill, and cheesy grits with jalapenos, and bread pudding for dessert -- and me handing them samples from our various Uwajimaya purchases earlier. We watched the pilot episodes of "Burn Notice" and "Friday Night Lights" -- two of her latest obsessions -- while we ate and enjoyed them immensely, then visited until the wee hours until the fire finally burned completely down and we couldn't keep our eyes open any longer. (FNL has been in our queue since forever so we'll have to bump the DVDs for all the seasons that are out up to the top, along with BN. As if we didn't already have enough shows to catch up, yeesh! :)

This morning was another late and lazy morning, with a simple, civilized breakfast of toast and jam and tea, packing things up (making room in our bags for all our newly-acquired Stuff), and a stop at the Vietnamese deli for a couple of banh mi sandwiches for lunch on the train, then all too soon, our lovely vacation was over and we were saying goodbye and giving squeezy hugs to Cat.

So I'm off to pack myself something for the office tomorrow. and not really ready to go back to work, but I suppose what goes up must come down, eh? Yay for new bento stuff, at least!


Yes, even salad can be yummy

Meeting Sister tonight for pizza and girl talk (YAY), and we have some lettuce in the fridge to eat up, so I figured I should probably have a good salad for lunch today. Not very pretty as I didn't have a lot of time last night/today to put it together, but I'm okay with that. Still delicious and pleasant-looking (certainly moreso in person). And you can see my Fit 'n Fresh, which is technically my first bento box, and which sees way more action in the warmer months. (The built-in ice pack divider thing is awesome.)

clockwise from top:

  • simple salad of red leaf lettuce, carrots, and celery with maple-smoked cheddar grated on top
  • two more of those mini blueberry muffins I made earlier this week and five(!) kishus -- it's like eating M&M's, if M&M's were juicy and healthy ;)
  • the last of the dyed molded eggs -- This is the heart-shaped one, which I made the other night when I made the star egg for yesterday's, but the yolk went all wonky. I molded it anyway and it came out funky, but kind of a happy accident so I turned the "wrong" side up. I probably won't really do dyed eggs much now that I've gotten it out of my system -- they take extra time and it kind of goes against my unprocessed, all-natural, organic food philosophy to make it a regular thing. I may do it occasionally for fun, but mostly I just like doing the molding part. Also in this container: cut-up whole wheat naan, more maple-smoked cheddar, a little salt container (for the egg) and a dressing container of a simple balsamic (extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, bit of salt, shaken well to emulsify)

Tomorrow we're headed to Seattle BY TRAIN to visit the lovely Cat for a couple of days, since Sal has MLK day off. It'll be the first time I've been on a train in 20 years, my last train ride having been a night train from Pisa to Paris. We've wanted to take the train forever, and I'm really looking forward to not having to sit in a car for 3+ hours, being able to read and take story notes in my little journal. I'm even toying with taking a little travel bento, but we'll see if I actually get that organized or not. Regardless, SO VERY EXCITED OMG.


This is getting ridiculous

This madness has got to stop. I'm now taking requests in my bento! (see egg below, done at a friend's request) Though I'm pleased -- in that "yay, I'm not alone here in this dark place!" kind of way -- that another friend is now contemplating purchasing her first bento box thanks to this illness of mine. Save yourselves, you guys, srsly. The infection is spreading.

clockwise from bottom right:

  • egg "flower" -- a purple dyed, star-molded egg cut in half -- with celery sticks underneath and rainbow carrot shapes for garnish; didn't come out nearly as pretty as the one the other day that inspired me to do this (the yolk isn't centered and was cooked just a bit longer than it should've been so it's not that pretty orange yellow, the egg came out a little lopsided from the mold so when I cut it in half, you couldn't really make out the flower shape, and I didn't dye them long enough to get a pretty rim of purple on the edge)...oh well
  • blueberry mini-muffin I made last night and two(!) kishu mandarins; my little salt container was tucked in underneath the muffin
  • the last of the smoked salmon cakes, with a celery stick, more rainbow carrot shapes, and two halves of a fresh mozzarella pearl

A closeup of the egg, though as I said, the color isn't very apparent here.

Here's a bowl of the kishu mandarins, a bag of which Sal bought me yesterday morning. Some of them are no bigger than a quarter! I think they may be my new favorite thing.


I win

Oh man. I win the  Clean-Out-The-Fridge-Concoction Olympics today.

Well last night I was in an experimenting mood, so I thawed out some smoked salmon (salmon we smoked ourselves awhile back) and read through the crabcake recipe in The Joy of Cooking. It called for some things we didn't have, and I didn't feel like going to the store, so I improvised. Significantly. Obviously, the salmon for the crab. It called for scallions, and I had neither scallions nor green onions. But there was a lovely leek in our bin delivery yesterday so I chopped up some of that instead. I needed breadcrumbs...out of Panko and didn't want to use any of our lovely flavored crackers if I didn't have to, since there's lots of cheese to eat up still. Scrounging in the fridge yielded the last three slices of 9-grain bread that were starting to go stale, so I toasted them and grated them into a bowl. No dill or similar herb, so I left that out. Recipe called for dijon, which I don't like (though mixed in things, it's usually fine) and mayo, which we don't have on hand because Sal just makes aioli when we need it and I didn't feel like making any. But I figured the smoked flavor of the fish was going to be pretty strong, so it was probably best to keep the flavors simple anyway. (Translation: too lazy to go to the store, so let's see what happens.) Mixed in some egg and breadcrumbs, added some sea salt and black pepper, made little bento-sized patties pressed in breadcrumbs, and fried them in a bit of butter and olive oil.

And I have decided that I am a genius. :)

  • The aforementioned experimental smoked salmon cakes. Pretty darn delicious if I do say so myself.
  • celery sticks
  • purple (though it's hard to tell in the pic) dyed molded egg -- I did a heart one, too, but because these eggs aren't big enough to fill the molds, it's harder to tell it's a heart so I'll put in tomorrow's if Sal doesn't eat it first.
  • Peas for gap filler, steamed using my new microwave mini steamer. I think I steamed them a bit long, but oh well. Also: peas on a pick. Heh.
  • Jazz apple slices
  • carrot shapes for garnish

Here's a closeup of the egg, though it's still hard to see the color.

Also, the mystery of my descent into bento madness (not really a mystery, I know) has been solved! I've been emailing my mom pics of them (trying to convert her) and in response to the pics from last week when I embraced the dark side and got more gear, whilst bemoaning my further addiction, she wrote this yesterday:

I'm not sure if you can be saved!!!! I am not sure that what you need to be saved from is really all that dire!!!! I am pretty sure that even if we could save you that you would NOT stay on the wagon. You see, I was around when you caught "bento-itis" when you were five. I think it has been latent all this time, poking its organized, meticulous little head out only occasionally to let you know it was still there. If you search your memory you will recall that you had an "attraction" for cutsey little containers and you filled them with cutsey "little" things of all kinds and sorts. Some that got moldy eventually!!!

So I was apparently born with this affliction and was doomed from the start.


Experimenting with two boxes

I won't be eating dinner until late tonight, so I packed myself two bentos today, the 500 mL box with breakfast and an afternoon snack, Ms. Bento with lunch, with the Ms. Bento not packed as densely as I would normally to make sure the overall eating portions for the day are normal. (at left: bento box in its little furoshiki :)

breakfast/snack, clockwise from right:

  • strawberry yogurt with bits of banana mixed in, as well as banana slices for decoration
  • kishu mandarins (OMG SO CUTE) that Sue brought to Second Saturday with honey-glazed peanuts as gap filler
  • sweet pickles and two mozz pearls for snack

closeup of one of the sections of the kishu mandarins for size comparison. Were these made for bento or what? They're jam-packed with flavor, too. And here I thought nothing could beat satsumas...

lunch/afternoon snack, clockwise from right:

  • more of that crockpot chicken soup thing I made last week with a few carrot shapes for garnish -- ran out of broccoli and didn't feel like making rice, so I'm just eating it as a soup today
  • rosemary and water crackers with sesame sticks as gap filler for a snack
  • left half: carrot sticks with the last of the green beans in the center; right half: animal crackers


Snack bento I made for me and ProcrastiGirl Friday night to eat while we watched movies. Includes: rosemary crackers, cheeses, rolls of ham and turkey, dark chocolate-covered raisins, yogurt-covered pretzels, animal crackers, carrots, sweet pickles, and dyed molded eggs in pink and blue.


Life is good

I am definitely getting more of these smaller boxes. They're just right for these days at home, or days when I can take both breakfast and lunch to work. And so much fun to pack! I love packing my two systems, but these are even more fun, if that's possible!

clockwise from right:

  • tangerine, a few sweet pickles, some fresh string beans for baran, and bits of herb-roasted turkey breast slices from the New Seasons deli (they kind of come apart as you handle them since they're so thinly sliced, so I just sort of rolled bits and pieces together into a half dozen little rolls)
  • picks with ends from the carrots and beans that had to be cut off to make them fit; underneath are alternating slices of rosemary-cheddar and Cotswold cheeses (the rosemary-cheddar, by the way, is made by a local cheesemaker and used to only be available at the Farmers' Market so I would buy a package everytime we went; the day New Seasons started carrying it, I did a little jig in front of the cheese case, ngl :)
  • carrot sticks and dark chocolate-covered raisins

I'm working out of the nook today, so there's an added dimension of enjoyment of my little lunch box. Life is pretty great today.


Back to normal, sorta

So the verdict from all of you on my continuing descent into madness? GOOD TIMES THUMBS UP. Duly noted.

Back to Ms. Bento today because I had hot food on deck. No molded eggs today; I need to use up the almost 2 dozen eggs in the fridge before I can justify getting a new package of the extra large to really make the molds come out the way they're supposed to. Hmmm...perhaps I can make some cookies to use up those eggs.... Anyway, at least there'll be molded eggs to look forward to in the coming week or two.

clockwise from right:

  • chicken crockpot dish I made yesterday for dinner -- This was a new recipe I was trying out from a crockpot community and it makes a kind of thick soup/sauce with chicken breasts that you serve over rice or pasta. I added broccoli to the recipe, which I steamed separately so it wouldn't get mushy and discolored in the crock.
  • jasmine rice to mix with the chicken stuff, with some broccoli mixed in
  • first half: apple slices (more slices hidden underneath) with a tiny handful of raisins on one side; second half: carrot sticks with honey-peanut butter dip in the center (more sticks hidden underneath) -- The dip is in a steel pinch bowl, which are the small (usually ceramic or silicone) bowls chefs use for small quantities of ingredients, like spices, herbs, etc. for their mise en place. These are the most adorable steel pinch bowls my mom got us when I took her to IKEA (where she proceeded to go completely bananas). They're a near-perfect half-sphere and I've been wanting to use them for awhile in a bento as a sauce cup.