Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mental for Bento

So I've been fascinated by Bento for ages now, but I finally have an excuse to make some!  The Prawn is doing double martial arts classes on Wednesdays and Fridays (we're doing a different discipline now and are finding it challenging and FUN!) and then staying through the adult class, which she likes to watch.  It also gives her a chance to play with some friends at the gym and read, but mostly, she just watches.  Tuesdays present a similar situation, as she has soccer practice until our game starts on the adjoining field.  Finally, FINALLY, a justification to pack Bento. :)  I've been having  a lot of fun coming up with things to pack.  Being veggie and GF can present a little bit of a challenge, but once you're in the groove, it's not that hard.

Here are a few of the bentos she's had lately:

This one has rice on the left (a mixture of white jasmine, and red cargo) topped with furikake.  On the right, a boiled egg, moulded to look like a bunny head, 2 soy sauce fish, and below that, skewers with alternating slices of cucumber and cheese.  The cucumber slices were tossed with rice vinegar and sesame oil.  Below that, on the left, some sweet/salty rice crackers, and on the right, a little hippo cup with her oshibori (damp towel) rolled up inside.

In this pic, you can see the jelly sticks that I also tossed in her bag - 1 for Prawn, and more to share with friends.  As it turned out, they couldn't open them without scissors, so they all took them home.  Lesson learned. :-/

Next bento!  On the left, some onigiri (are they still onigiri when they're not triangles?  I think so. . .) and a soy sauce fish, a pack of haw flakes, and 2 homemade green tea mochi with red bean filling.  On the right, skewers of cherry tomato, avocado and cheese.  I dipped the avocado in lime juice to help prevent browning, and it seemed to work.  I know this is an odd fusion of cultures, food-wise, but it was a big hit!

And last, homemade green tea mochi on the left, with jalapeno/cheese sticks below.  On the right, onigiri and a soy sauce fish, cheese flowers and kiwi bites in little silicone baking cups, to the right of that, sliced green and black grapes with a skewer for stabbing, and below that, her oshibori.

I have way too much fun making these, and it's even more rewarding to see the smile on my little Student of the Month's face. :) 

Monday, September 03, 2012


Every now and then, I manage to have a rather productive, or Attention Deficit Hyper Creativity Day.  Yesterday was one of those days.  After browsing bento ideas and pics (bento porn!) for a couple of days, I finally lurched into action.  It started with jello in tiny silicone cups (mini muffin cups and bento cups.)

I made it Knox-blox style (extra firm,) so then I had to make regular for MuNKi and Fish.  Then it was time for the real adventure: mochi.  That's right, I finally got the courage to make my own mochi!  I think I first meant to try this over a year ago, but it took me this long to get my courage up.  Silly me.  It turns out that Mochi aren't hard to make at all!  I used this recipe.  There are others out there that give the measurements in cups, etc. but the one I found first called for baking, which is not the traditional way.  This recipe looked authentic, so I set my scale to gm, and all was well.

OK, almost.  I then saw that I needed to measure the coconut milk in ml.  Break out the chemistry set!

So that worked.  By the way, light coconut milk from Trader Joe's works fine.  I can't believe how simple this was.  Rice flour, sugar and coconut milk, mixed and steamed.  I don't even have a proper steamer setup, so I did this:

Yep, totally unprofessional, but it worked great.

Since the dough gets steamed for 30 mins or so, I decided to multi task, because I wanted to make this AWESOME bento box bag for Prawnie.

At some point I made even MORE jello so I could put the extra coconut milk in it (it turned out great, btw) and eventually, the dough was done:

The bag of bean paste is one of the apparently many different fillings/filling ingredients I bought and forgot about during my year of loin-girding in preparation for this.  Next time I'll remember to spray the glass before steaming, but forgetting wasn't the end of the world.

The nice thing about mochi (OK, ONE of the nice things) is that it's very forgiving, and you don't have to have perfect little circles to start with:

 You can just pinch off a chunk of dough, smoosh and stretch it enough to get the filling in, then pinch it into a taco shape:

 Once the dough is closed over the filling, you can turn it sideways and pinch the taco into more of a ball:

And, finally, you get to give it a roll in your palms and then squash it into the potato starch:

After you eat the "accidents" (Oops!  It fell into my mouth!) you'll have a plate full of soft, plump, pleasantly squeaky little mochi bodies:

Heady with this phenomenal success, I decided that I should launch on making a yummy lasagne recipe my mom had told me about.  Well, it's kind of lasagne.  Actually, instead of noodles, you use strips of roasted zucchini and yellow squash.  (And eggplant, but I forgot about that.  Also, I had a HUGE zucchini to use.)

So I set the oven to 400ºF, sliced the zucchini, sprayed the pans and slices with olive oil, and tossed on some kosher salt.  I had 2 cookie trays full.  Next time I'll make 3.

That had to roast for a while, but I wasn't sure how long, wasn't sure where I'd put the recipe, and all the computers were in use.  I just went in 10 or 15 minute increments and worked on this:

As you can see, Emmett decided that he absolutely HAD to be on the ironing board.  I took him off to my room, but he left so fast that I think he actually passed us on our way there.  I tried a bunch of things to distract him, but in the end, he won.

Of course I couldn't leave the pattern alone.  I never seem to be able to do that.  I decided I wanted a different colour on the bottom, so made the kokeshi girls 5 1/4" x 12 1/2" and the dark blue 4 1/4" x 12 1/2".  (The extra 1/4 inches were for the seam allowance when I joined the 2 colours.)

Somewhere during this process, I realised that the dark blue could have been just one piece.  Duh.

The same happened for this part:

 I don't know why she chose to make it as 2 pieces.  But since I did a quick read through and went step-by-step instead of visualising the whole thing first, I didn't figure these things out until it was too late.  No biggie, though.  Oh, also, when you get the the corners and it says "cut" it means "sew" the first time.  The second time "cut" does mean "cut."  Again, had I not been being ADHCD, I'd have caught that.  As it was I lost 1/4" at both of the box corners, but it worked out OK.  And her "recipe" (OK, pattern) is truly spectacular, so I don't begrudge things I should have caught had I been paying more attention.

At some point here, the zucchini was done.  It was AMAZING by itself.  Note to self - just make this to snack on sometime.  I layered the zucchini slices with crushed tomatoes, whizzed up ricotta-cottage cheese-an egg-and-spices, and shredded cheddar.  Also mushrooms on half for myself and the Littles.  The whizzed up stuff is something I used from our stuffed shells recipe, because I can rarely leave a recipe untweaked.  Next time I will add fresh basil and feta, too.  It went into a 350ºF oven for about 15 or 20 mins whilst I kept working on the bag:

See the brown shadow from the iron?  Yeah, that's not a shadow.  That's what happens when you have an ADHCD day, My Dear.  It was at this stage that I told Prawn that her "new swimsuit top" was ready.  She was appropriately shocked.  ^_^

We were so hungry and devoured the "lasagne" before I thought to take a picture, so you'll have to imagine that for yourself.  Just picture a molten festival of cheese and veggies.  Yum!!  Suffice it to say that I'll be making it again.

Eventually, fueled by said festival, tea and mochi, I ended up with this:

I added the tabs to the ribbon ends, because, again, I apparently have a tweaking disorder.

I think this came out closer to my initial imaginings than anything I've ever made.  Pink Penguin, you rock!

Monday, August 06, 2012

What's Eating You?

I don't think I've blogged about our GF and veggie lifestyle, but I'll get there eventually.  Long story short, Eldest has a gluten sensitivity, and my mom was recently diagnosed with Sjögren's Disease.  Eldest can't have wheat at all, and with our genetic makeup, it's just easier/wiser for the rest of us to go off, too, rather than risk the things that might be brought on by repeated exposure.  (See how I totally avoided going off on a GMO rant there?  **pats self on back**)  MuNKi is the only one still doing wheat.  And sometime in Jan the girls decided to go veggie.  Since I was raised veggie, it was super easy for me to go back.  There are just so many foods to love!  GF-ically speaking, I mostly like to find things to bake that don't need substitutions, but I'm OK with tweaking things here and there.  The other day we *did* use a substitution (GF graham crackers) to make these amazing peanut butter bars.  Superb!  I love how the graham crackers give a little crunch to the final product!  I'll let you go to that wonderful blog to see the pics, since our bars disappeared before I could take any.

Today I was inspired by the amazingly cool morning to bake again.  I have a great cookie recipe from my mom, but I was in the mood for experimentation, too.  It's very, very hard for me to just make a recipe as it stands.  Usually I have to add my own touch somewhere.  Today, I turned her cookie recipe into a bar recipe and we got this:

Again, this is a treat that I would make purely for the yum factor.  It just happens to be GF.  Yay!  That's the way GF should be - good on its own merits, not just "good for GF."

Here's the recipe:

2/3 c shredded coconut
3 c rolled oats (quick oats are fine)
1 c oat flour + 4 T coconut flour (yes, you could probably use all oat flour, but this is yummy)
1 c dark choc chips
1 t baking soda
1 scant t salt

1 c canola oil  (I use a scant cup)
3/4 c peanut butter
2 t vanilla (sometimes I add more)
1 1/2 c brown sugar
2 lg eggs

Spray a 9x 13 pan with oil and preheat your oven to 350 F.  Measure out the dry stuff first, so you can use your measuring devices again for the wet stuff without having to wash them.  Measure out the wet stuff into your mixer's bowl and whizz it all up.  Add the dry stuff and whizz it some more.  Decant the glop into your pan, press it into place, and whap it in the oven (providing it's already reached 350.)  Set a timer for 25 mins and go do the laundry.  Get distracted and start looking through all those great library books, or else remember that you wanted to practice juggling soccer balls with your youngest for 15 mins.  Try to listen for the timer, whatever you end up doing.  When the timer goes off, rejoice in the glorious brown-toppedness of your bars, and then decide to throw on some more chocolate chips while the bars are still hot, just to see what happens.  (It's OK to be liberal.  It's chocolate.*)  Squeal with delight when the chips melt, smear them all over the bars, and dive in.  You'll probably need a fork since they're still hot, but once you've gone for a bike ride, done a little knitting, and taken some of the kids to the library, they'll be well cool enough to cut into respectable bars so that you can take pictures with which to wow your friends.  (Only a very, VERY good friend deserves the real thing.  The rest will have to make do with pictures.)

Eat them for the rest of the day.  Proper meals are for wusses.

Every time you carve off another little bar, smile smugly, because one of the sweetest pleasures in life is an excellent snack. :)

* Josh Groban. Except he said "sugar."

Friday, August 03, 2012

Of Sage and Honeybees

Eldest and I went library hopping to our fave non-local library today.  I scored a couple of Albinoni CDs and some fun knitting books, as well as what promises to be a cheesy Russian children's film.  Delight!  I also leafed through a copy of what I thought was a 50 Shades of Grey spoof, but turned out to be one of the actual books.  How?  How???  English grammar and good writing are going the way of the dinosaur, apparently.  Oh well, it gives the rest of us something to feel smug about, right?

I have discovered the joys of the Game of Thrones books (as evidenced by yesterday's closing,) and am currently on book the fifth.  Yay.  Oh, hey!  I guess good writing isn't dead after all.

Lately my flowers are full of butterflies and hummingbird moths.  Listening to my sage buzzing is really

Get it?  The bee's knees! (Well, OK, knee.)  I'm so glad you can't hit me from there.

Anyway, yesterday's pics were from about a month ago, but these are from last week and today.

 One of the six bajillion honeybees enjoying my Russian sage.

So sorry to

you with pictures again.  I just can't stop myself sometimes.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

One Month Ago

This is the part where I jump back in and pretend I never stopped blogging.

We've lived here 9 years now.  Nine!!  I've never EVER lived in the same house this long.  I'm starting to notice, for the first time, how time takes its toll on things both inside and out.  On the other hand, I'm getting to see how the trees and plants mature.  I get to add things each year, and know they'll still be there, even bigger, next year.  Many of my plants are having babies, too. :)  Slowly, slowly, I'm wrangling the "weed beds" so that they are more flower than weed.

These were taken a month ago.  Summer in full riot!

 But in case I were to forget, I also got these little reminders:

Winter is coming.