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Thursday, July 31, 2008

I braved the Asian Market!

Well, one of them. There's one that got GREAT reviews on the search site that I found, and it's nearer my house than most of them. I was very excited! And they were not there anymore
So, we had packed Bento lunches for me and the kids, to go on a shopping expedition... and by gosh, shopping we were going to go! Oh, I suppose you'll want to see the Bentos

The kids had hard-boiled eggs molded in the shape of teddy bear heads, a small pink angel pig of soy sauce in lieu of salt. (DD9 decided she would much rather have salt... the other two loved the soy sauce, but I think it was because they had fun dripping it onto stuff =P ) They had baby carrots, a small sauce container of 3-Cheese Ranch, some "Ants on a log", crackers with cheese, grapes, cherries, and some Veggie-Tales fruit snacks for space filler. Voortman's wafer cookies in the lid for dessert, and we're golden!

So, we headed down toward the intersection of 50 and Mills, or "Little Viet Nam" as it is unofficially known. Parking SUCKS down there... the places that look safe are marked "so-and-so customers ONLY, others towed at owner's expense". Well, I finally found a little Asian supermarket that had its own parking lot, small though it was. It wasn't full, so that's where we went. It was such a cute place! DD4 complained of the smell, and DD5, while she didn't say anything, pulled her shirt up over her nose =P There wasn't anything WRONG with the smell, mind you, they're just little. It smelled of a mix of spices, not all that surprising. The kids had fun looking at the fish in the fish tank. I enjoyed browsing the shelves, with SO much stuff that I had very little idea what any of it was. A few things had descriptions in English, but not many. I did find some Agar agar, they had a lot of flavoured ones, and coloured ones, but I managed to find one that the instructions said to add sugar to, even though sugar is listed as an ingredient... I figured maybe that's the "plain" one, and agar agar has to have sugar to work right? I dunno. Anyway, I bought a box, so as soon as I find some little molds, I shall experiment with making some gummies for the kids. (Thank you to another livejournal Bento blogger Melanie for the recipe!)

I also found these adorable little mini-jello-like cups. (Click for larger view) (This is what a couple of them look like out of the package)
When we got up to the cashier, I asked if they had tiny pudding the same way, because I hadn't seen any in the store, but I had seen it a bunch online. She pointed me to this bear.... it's SO cute! A plastic bear full of tiny pudding cups. I'm hoping another Asian grocery nearby will have them without the bear, because I really don't want to buy a new bear every time I run out of pudding. These don't look quite the same as the ones I've seen pictured online, either, so maybe I'll find the other kind next time I go hunting. (Which will probably be after the kids start school .)

So now, everyone is getting quite hungry (we got a later start than I intended, and then that first store wasn't there), so we wanted to find a suitable place to eat our yummy Bentos. I thought... Hey! There's a mall on 50, that we don't go to much, and it has a food court! Multiple tables, shared by multiple restaurants, so they don't care if you bought the food there or not. Perfect! As we were driving to the mall, we passed a huge, stand-alone Dollar Tree store. Oooo.... now that has potential! It's down here near the Asian stores, and also quite a bit larger than the Dollar Trees near my house... so maybe it will have those adorable Hello Kitty Bento boxes! Alas, wrong side of the street, and we are all starving, so it will have to wait.
We got to the mall, found the bathrooms, then found a table and ate lunch. Then I discovered 2 stores in the mall, side by side, while looking at the directory. One is called "JapanHQ", and the other is called "Kitty & Friends"... and I think... hmmmmm... that sounds promising! So off we go to find them. They're actually one store with two entrances, connected in the middle. The "JapanHQ" side has mostly anime stuff, I recognized a little of it but not much. The Kitty side is all Sanrio! And they had BENTO BOXES! Not lots... and no accessories... but, they had boxes. They had 2 different Hello Kitty ones, both square, with a space in the lid for a fork and spoon (and they came with them). One was pink and the other red. They had a Cinnamaroll shaped box, a Keroppi collapsible sandwich box with a belt, AND.... the square Chococat box. Woo hoo! They had another square one similar in style to the Chococat one, but I don't remember who was on it. I was very good! I didn't buy them! The Hello Kitty boxes were $6 each, and the Chococat one was about $10. Not horrid, but not in the budget right now. (I really want that Chococat box... lol.) I did end up buying a Chi Chai Monchan kitchen towel and oven mitt that they had in their clearance basket. SO cute!!

Time to leave the mall and head home. I did decide to stop at the Dollar Tree on the way home. No Hello Kitty :( However, they did have magic towels, and each DD picked one out. I hope to use them as oshigiri. They had little Pooh-bear character ice packs, so I got some of those. I've seen them for sale on eBay for gobs of money as Bento ice packs, but they're actually supposed to be for bumps and bruises and such. So that was our shopping adventure! More Bentos below...

My lunch was very similar. I had no "Ants on a Log", and my egg had to be cut in half because it was too tall for the box. (Also, it's a bunny.) I had a different kind of cookies, too. I had a couple of Nestle Treasures in there for space fillers, but I ended up sharing them with the kids instead of eating them myself.

Brian's breakfast and lunch. He wasn't very hungry, as he hasn't been feeling well. (He stayed home sick on Wednesday, hence no Bento post.) So breakfast is just a microwave scrambled egg, with a cheddar star on top, and a star-shaped "Grits-nigiri". Lunch is a turkey, ham, and cheddar wrap, some carrots with dip, crackers and Babybel cheese, a few grape tomatoes for space filler, and of course, Oreos in the lid for dessert!

Goodness, if you actually got this far, thanks for reading! :D

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Last Day for Bento Contest!

I'm submitting something for this contest, I just LOVE that it doesn't have to be all about the cute to win! I mean, I LOVE the very uber cute Bentos, I think they're awesome... but so many contests are character contests already.... I'm just very appreciative that there is a chance for "the rest of us" to win some cool Bento stuff.
(Also, my oldest daughter is completely MAD for Pooh Bear, so since there's a good amount of Pooh stuff in the winning package, I really have my fingers crossed.... makes it hard to type, but oh well =P )

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Amazing blurry Bento Breakfast of 25 July

Sounds like a great movie title, huh? =P
I dunno what happened to the picture, but it's blurry, as you can see.

Fridays are his "going out to lunch with the guys" days, so no lunch Bento, just breakfast.
Two scrambled eggs, with cheddar cheese hearts on top. Blueberries, sliced strawberries, T/W salt & pepper shaker, and buttered toast cut into soldiers.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

24 July Bento for The Man

Breakfast in the small tan 2-tier box on the right... scrambled eggs (microwaved), the T/W salt & pepper shaker, and a "Grits-nigiri"... I put grits into an onigiri mold :D
Worked pretty well, I think. DH liked it :) Then strawberries and blueberries in the lower tier.
Lunch was leftover teriyaki steak with brown rice and LOTS of veggies, small bottle of soy sauce just in case. Baby carrots, red and green grapes, some dip in the T/W Smidget container for the carrots, and a small heart of wasabi peas.
Oreos for dessert! :D

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

23 July Bento for The Man

It's mah birthday! :D *happy dance*
DH had jury duty yesterday, and didn't want to mess with carrying extra stuff, so no Bento.

Breakfast at the top... cheese omelette, cooked in the microwave. Container of sliced strawberries, some fresh blueberries with a couple of strawberry slices on top, and some buttered toast cut into soldiers.
For lunch, he's got leftover fried chicken, pulled off the bone; Club crackers, and a Laughing cow cheese wedge; green grapes; baby carrots with dip in the T/W Smidget container; a side car of cole slaw, and the ubiquitous Oreo for dessert, in the lid.
Looks good to me!
(But why didn't anyone make me a birthday Bento? /le sigh)

Monday, July 21, 2008

21 July Bentos for The Man

Breakfast is in the white container on the right... buttered toast cut into soldiers, two different microwave omelettes, and some blueberries.

Lunch : A wrap, which I am not sure what is in it, because DH had it put together before I got downstairs. I was SO impressed with him! I woke up with a migraine, and I figured that he'd just get some lunch out somewhere, because I couldn't make a Bento fast enough... but when I got into the kitchen, he was already working on it! So, we finished it up together :D
Red and green grapes next to the wrap.... baby carrots, dip, Babybel cheese round, and rice crackers in the other tier... Oreos in the lid for dessert! :D

Friday, July 18, 2008

18 July Bentos for Me and the Kidlets

Top tiers : Red grape and cheese kabobs, cherries, cheese teddy bears, hard-boiled eggs in neato shapes.
Bottom tiers : PB&J sandwiches, carrots, small sauce container with dip, cheese teddy bears.
Lids : Keebler cookies!

Mine.... pretty much the same stuff as the kids' lunches, except I have baby carrots instead of the ripple chips. Yummy stuff!
This picnic took place at IPEZ, instead of home :D

Just Breakfast this time..

Friday is his day to go out to lunch with "the guys" from work, so I only packed a breakfast Bento for him.

Top tier : Japanese-esque omelette, was cooked in the microwave and then frozen, and reheated in the morning. Also a more "American" omelette, with cheddar cheese, which was cooked in the microwave as well. The little T/W smidget has grape jelly for the toast.
Bottom tier : Strawberries, halved. Bread.... it was supposed to be toast, but the toaster oven wasn't plugged in, and I didn't notice it right away... he said not to worry about it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Kidlet-Made Bentos!

The kids REALLY wanted Bentos today, for another stay-at-home picnic... I was really not feeling up to it, but the oldest agreed to make them, AND to wash out the Bento boxes afterwards, so I let her try it out. I made a few suggestions, and I cooked the omelettes (in the microwave), but she orchestrated the rest. Her little sisters helped quite a bit, as well.
I'm not sure why the picture came out so blurry, though .

Cheese omelettes, Club crackers, cheddar cheese sticks, carrots with dip, grape kabobs, strawberries, cherries, Laughing Cow cheese cubes, and Girl Scout cookies for dessert! I think they did a really awesome job . DD9's comment when she was done was "Wow, that's a lot harder than it looks!"

Bentos for the Man (breakfast and lunch)

DH said something, half-joking, about doing a "breakfast bento", so he doesn't have to go down to the Nature's Table in the lobby and have over-priced stuff in the morning. (Yes, he COULD eat before he goes, but he's not usually hungry first thing in the morning, and if he tries to eat then, his tummy complains.)
I said, "Ooo! I can do that!" So, here we have both!

Breakfast is in the tan box in the lower part of the picture. Microwave poached egg, got a little overdone, but not too bad... live and learn! Small sauce bottle with syrup in it, and mini pancakes that I cooked up last time we had pancakes for breakfast, and froze. Strawberries in the bottom tier. His dessert of piroulline cookies is in the lid. (That would be for after lunch, just being creative with space.)
In the square Lock and Lock container, we have leftover enchiladas. Small round Lock and Lock has some chopped, roasted green chilis. In the black box, we've got red grapes, baby carrots, dipping sauce, and a Laughing Cow cheese wedge. The lid holds Club Crackers.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Shaped Eggs

This is a common thing in Bento lunches that I've seen.... a hard-boiled egg, shaped in a mold. Neat trick, I must say. You have to peel the egg and put it in the mold while the egg is still hot, which is kinda tricky. It's not as painful as one might think, however.

The trick is to crack the egg, then run it under cold water for just a few seconds. This gets cold water between the egg and the shell, making it MUCH easier to peel, and also cools down the egg and the shell just enough to peel it without burning your fingers, but not enough so that it won't mold properly.
All in all, a successful experiment, I think. The bunny one exploded during the boiling process, but I decided to try to use it, anyway.... mangled mutant bunny, we called it. DH said he'd be proud to take a mangled mutant bunny to work in his lunch, since mangled and mutant is definitely not "cute" (or should I say "kawaii"?)

Kidlets' Bentos (and mine)

Another "picnic in the living room".
Top tier : Japanese-esque omelette, with soy sauce and sugar, adapted from a recipe I found... er... somewhere... cooked in the microwave. Club Crackers, Laughing Cow cheese cube, carrots, small sauce container of 3-cheese Ranch dip for the carrots.
Bottom tier : Red grape and cheese cube kabobs, cherries, granola bar pieces.
Lid : Koala Cookies, creme-filled... two each of 3 different flavours. SO cute, very yummy, and only 99 cents a box! I found them in the "international" section of the Publix cookie aisle.

I have about the same stuff as they do, I just have Piroulline cookies instead of the cute little Koala ones. Yum!

Hubby's Bento

Bottom Tier (right side) : baby carrots, 3-cheese Ranch, Laughing Cow cheese wedge, cherries.
Top Tier : ginger marinated Shrimp, small bottle of soy sauce, brown rice.
Smaller Lid : Piroulline cookies. (These ended up being a little too wide for the smaller lid, so they went into the larger lid after the picture was taken.)
Larger Lid : Club Crackers. (Since the cookies had to go in here, he had a few less Club Crackers back in the smaller lid instead.)

It's making me hungry!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lunch Bentos for home picnic

It's been pouring all day, and the kids really wanted to have an indoor picnic. I hadn't had a chance to make a Bento for DD9 yet, she had been at her grandparents house all last week. So they got a big beach towel out to spread on the floor in the living room, and we packed Bento lunches for all!

Top Tiers, the kids have carrots, 3-cheese ranch, and red grapes. I have more carrots, and hummus to dip.
Bottom Tiers, we all have peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. The kids have goldfish, I have cashew trail mix from Archer Farms.
In the lids, we all have Voortman's wafer cookies. Mine are vanilla, the kids have 1 strawberry and 1 peanut butter flavour.

Bento 15 July 2008

Left side (which is the top tier), we have 2 skewers of red grapes, with a few more grapes underneath... a whole grain wrap with ham, chicken, salami, and cheddar cheese, and some baran (green plastic grass) as a separator. Next is the bottom tier, we have a Laughing cow cheese wedge, baby carrots with 3-cheese ranch dipping sauce, and some cashew trail mix from Archer Farms. Larger lid has Oreos, smaller lid has Club crackers. Side car with potato salad.
I need to get some edible green stuff that he'll like, for variety of colour if nothing else...

Bento Pet from On a Bento Frenzy is holding a bento contest for "regular" bento packers (as in, not the uber-cute ones), so I may enter, if I get enough posts up here by the contest end. I would LOVE the prize, so much Pooh stuff my daughter would go NUTs.... lol.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Another Bento

Left side (which is the top tier) is carrots, 3-cheese ranch for dipping, a Laughing Cow cheese wedge, and some dried pineapple flavoured like Mango. (Yeah, that made me go , too... but it's yummy, I promise!) Right side (bottom tier) is whole wheat cheese ravioli, a little container of fresh grated Parmesan, the T/W mini S&P shaker, and some tomato-Alfredo sauce for the pasta. Club crackers in one lid, Oreos in the other.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bentos for the Kids

The kids were so impressed with DH's bento, that they've been begging me to make them Bentos, even when we're not going anywhere. I didn't take pictures of the first few of theirs, either. On the 11th, we went to IPEZ and met one of Emily's classmates there. IPEZ has their party rooms open during their "Mommy and Me" playtimes, so you can bring snacks and lunches and such to eat there. So, I packed Bento!

The top tiers are trail mix, and leftover pizza cut into small wedges. The bottom tiers are carrots, little containers of 3-cheese ranch for dipping, a Laughing Cow cheese square, and red grapes. There were cinnamon graham crackers in the lid.

This one's MINE... lol. Top tier is leftover brown rice, ginger-marinated shrimp, and a little sauce bottle of soy sauce. Bottom tier is watermelon, with a couple of picks to look cute
This plain lunch box is actually smaller in capacity than the cute ones I got for the kids, so I have a side-car with green salad, carrots, and 3-cheese Ranch dressing.
(You can click on the pictures for a larger view.)


Several months ago, I stumbled across Laptop Lunch boxes. They are really neat, but a bit out of my budget, especially since I would need 5 of the complete packs. They call themselves "Bentoware for everywhere", and I wondered "now what the heck is a bento?". So, I did some Googling and some reading and some more researching, and discovered that apparently almost everyone in the world knew what Bento was but me
In brief, it is a Japanese tradition of packing lunches, mostly intended to be eaten at room temperature. There are 3 distinct types of bento, but if I try to give the Japanese names I'm sure I will butcher them. There are Bentos that focus on health-food, there are "regular" bentos, and then there are the super-cute Character bentos. My favourite site so far is Lunch In a Box. Biggie is a Mom who used to live in Japan. She lives in CA now, and has a preschooler that she packs bento lunches for. She has TONS of information, tips and tricks for making things speedier, recipes, reviews of specific products, even a "shopping guide" using Google maps. Truly an awesome site.
My favourite site to shop is Ichiban Kan, my only problem is they sell out of stuff too fast

So, I ordered some basic bento stuff, and I started packing bentos for DH to take to work. (It took awhile for me to find a reasonably-priced "men's" bento box, but Ichiban Kan came through, and last time I looked they were still in stock!)

I didn't take pictures of the first few that I packed, but here's one that DH took a picture of with his phone. This one is from 10 July 2008. (Although, he ended up going out to lunch to Tijuana Flats that day, so the Bento got eaten on 11 July )

On the left side (which is the bottom tier of the lunch box), we have baby carrots, a Babybel Gouda cheese round, a little blue container of 3-cheese ranch dip for the carrots, a Laughing Cow cheese wedge, some Club crackers, and a Tupperware mini S&P shaker. On the right (the top tier), we have 2 mini quiches (ham and broccoli), and some red grapes.
Not in the picture are the oreo cookies that were placed in the lid