Archive for April, 2009
This bento includes an ode to my toaster oven!
See the pretty pink chicken? You can thank Toaster Oven Prime for that. The night before was Red Dwarf Curry night, so I took an extra chicken breast from that, chopped it up, added it to a sandwich bag with tandoori seasoning, a little olive oil, and a splash of white vinegar (according to the seasoning’s instructions) and let it hang out in the fridge for the night. The next day, I popped the pieces in the toaster oven and lo and behold, super-fast chicken. Ta-da! Add some marinated cucumbers, some sesame peppers, dried peaches, and a two packages of sixlets and you have one fabulous lunch.
A little shout out to the URO (see previous post).
I made this bento while a friend was over for dinner. The salad is leftover from dinner, I made the pudding for our dessert, and cooked the egg while we chatted. I had meant for it to be an egg pouch, but for some reason it all stuck to the pan and I had to make do. It still tasted really great though, over cooked or not. Since I was also telling her about the URO this weekend, I decided to give them a little shout out via my cheese. I love the little trick of cutting designs into the wax. It packs a lot of punch for just a little effort.
Quick Recipe: Cucumber and Pepper salad
1/2 cucumber (I used the seedless kind so I don’t have to peel or seed)
1 bell pepper (red, yellow, or orange)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons vinegar (red wine or apple cider)
dried parsley, dried basil, or oregano to taste
salt and pepper to taste
Cut cucumber and pepper into bite sized pieces. Combine with the rest of the ingredients and let sit for about 10 mins before serving, stirring occasionally to coat the veggies. Makes a great side dish and bento filler.
I rarely go to concerts anymore. Back during my college years I did a few internships where I was at a show almost every week, sometimes twice. Now I find my dislike of crowds and lack of free time to be more of a deterrent than I would normally like. While it would never be fair for me to say that I am one of those people who are truly passionate about music (ie. can play a million instruments, write their own songs), I do enjoy live music when it is done with the energy and passion it deserves.
Thanks to the urging of my sister, I was able to see a show this weekend that was truly amazing. A Night at the Rock Opera was perhaps the best night out I have had in a long time. Having grown up on old-school rock (you know, the kind that you will always love and will never be embarrassed for loving), the Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra might be my new favorite live show. Playing what could be considered “true rock and roll cannon,” there wasn’t a bad song all night. If bands like The Who, The Beatles, and Queen have already found drilled their way into your music sub-conscious, chances are that you could sing along with at least 80% of the show. But even if you don’t know all the words…the amount of energy coming off that stage will make you feel like someone stuck an IV of Red Bull in your arm. We are talking pure, liquid rock people!
You can watch a video of the URO on their website. For any of you Boston readers, you should really take some of that money you are saving by making bento lunches and go check them out at the Stuart Street Playhouse. Tickets can cost you anywhere from $40 to $20 depending on how you get them. Hint: People on the mailing list can get a discount and there are discount tickets ($20) available on Goldstar.
The bento below was made from Easter leftovers:
As the daughter of two Italian-Americans, the cuisine I know most about would be Italian-American food. Notice that I don’t say Italian food, because there are those who believe that there is a distinct difference between the two. A few years ago when I was taking a class on the Italian-American Experience, we read a book called Hungering for America: Italian, Irish, and Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration. It argued that may people migrated to the US as a result of poverty and hunger in their home countries. In the case of Italian-Americans, they finally found themselves exposed to the kinds of foods that were usually only available to the upper class. As a result, Italian-American food evolved to include more of things that the lower-classes would only eat on special occasions if at all. To Italian-Americans, food also became a public statement of identity and celebration. This is not to say that Italians do not have a similar passion for food, but availability of ingredients and the influence of American culture has definitely had an effect on what Italian-American families eat today.
In my house, a holiday meal could never be complete without the antipasto. In fact, antipastos were even common on weekends, especially if we were having guests. The table would be spread with various cheeses, cured meats, marinated or grilled vegetables, anchovies, olives, and Italian bread. As children, my sister and I would help my mother arrange everything on the plates as attractively as we could while still taking the time to preform “quality control”…cleverly hiding the olive pits and other evidence on our napkins. Most of the time, the actual meal became secondary and would barely be touched.
This Easter was no exception. Though there were only six of us, we had so much antipasto that we barely made a dent in our ham (a concession we made because some people *looks pointedly at her sister* do not like lamb, a more traditional choice for Italian-Americans on Easter). Happily, the various things that make up an antipasto lend really well to making bentos because you can give yourself small portions with a lot of variety and color. Not to mention the fact that this bento took 5 minutes to put together. If I had any bread at my house, all the ingredients would have made an incredible sandwich. I’m sorry to say that I did not roast these peppers myself, but that can be another journal entry for another time.
For more detail on the contents of the bento, please click on the picture.
The above bento was my attempt at experimenting with some time saving tips. I had precut and marinated the chicken in advance so that the cooking would go much faster. I also used a pre-mixed bag of veggies (buy one, get one free) for the little stir-fry. Using dried fruit saved me some time so I didn’t have to cut anything up, so that left the pasta as the longest thing I had to cook. So, this bento might be all that exciting, but it fit into my life during an oddly busy and exhausting week.
Update #1: I went to Kotobukiya last night and asked about the future of the store. As of May 10th, the store will be closed permanently, and there are no plans to open up a new location. I was told that in the summer, someone else would be opening an Japanese grocery market in Medford Square and it should have parking available. The woman tried to tell me the name, but I don’t speak Japanese and she couldn’t write it down for me. I was assured that if I asked at the restaurant across the way, they would be able to help me out. I didn’t have time to stop there, but if anyone else local hears anything, I would love to be in on the info.
Update #2: My friend Sean is about to donate half of his liver in two week’s time. Since this is a major decision that will definitely change his life and relationships with many of his loved ones, he has decided to journal about his experiences over at Journey of Will. Sean is an amazing writer and probably the bravest person I know. You really should be reading it.
I’m sad to say this, but I found out over the weekend that Kotobukiya Market will be closing as of May 10th. Lesley has decided not to continue their lease so that they may expand their bookstore instead. Really Lesley? You couldn’t have though of this before you let them put that huge Citibank in Porter Exchange? That bank is not only unnecessary (cause all you need to do is go to Harvard Square if you want to see what happens when banks take up all the prime real estate), but it also required expanding the space in a way that completely killed the flow when you walk through the mall. Now Porter Exchange feels cramped and without personality. Getting rid of Kotobukiya is just going to make things there a bit less vibrant. I understand in the end that it is Lesley’s space and they have tot right to do with it as they choose, but I also don’t think this bodes well for the food kiosks and other shops in Porter Exchange. There is a rumor that the market might get a second life in Medford somewhere, so I guess the best we can do it to keep our fingers crossed.
For a bit more info: Check out this article at WickedLocal.
In the meantime, I am hoping to check out Reliable Market in Union Square as a new possible shopping locale. Still nothing is going to beat the convenience of having a place right off the Red Line like that.
For those of you who read my last blog over at journalspace, the fuzzball above should be a pretty familiar face. For those of you who are new, meet Kitsune (Japanese for fox). While Kitsune (Kitsu for short) does not belong to me, I am lucky enough to dog sit for him from time to time. When he is staying with me while his mommy the veterinarian works at a local animal hospital on overnights, I can’t help but to dress him up funny and test how much he will let me get away with. So far, Kitsu has never protested and is probably the happiest dog I have ever had the fortune to know. Then again, it might just be the chicken treats he knows he is going to get once I’m done wrapping him up in toilet paper to make him look like a mummy….but still, look how happy he is:
As for me Boston-y update, this weekend is Eater weekend so there is a lot going on. A friend of mine recently shared this link with me: Johnny’s List of Weird Boston Events. I wouldn’t say that all these events are “weird” (Easter egg hunts? Really?), but Johnny’s commentary is fun and there is some really great stuff in there. I plan to start taking advantage of more Boston events myself, so I’m sure to be lurking around somewhere this spring. Nothing says fun to me more than a good ol’ historical reenactment. What girl doesn’t love muskets and cannons?
When I fist started buying bentos, those little bands that you use to keep the tiers together slowly became the bane of my existence. While many of the nicer bentos came with the bands, some of the cuter or cheaper ones I bought would not have the band included. Not realizing this, I would get home only to discover that I would be forced to use a hair elastic or something to keep everything in place. I realize that I was being silly, but I was annoyed that I went through all this trouble to have a cute lunch box, only to keep it together with something kinda boring and bland. I returned to the place were I bought my bento and discovered two things: one, they keep the bands in another aisle at the store and that is why I had missed to make the connection, and two, they were out of the matching band that went with my box. The odd thing was that they still had a million of my boxes in stock, just no bands. Rather than searching online and paying shipping costs for something that should only cost a dollar or two, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own.
Making your own bento bands couldn’t be easier. All you need is some elastic, a needle and thread, and whatever you want to use to cover up your seam and make your band pretty. In the picture above, I simply crocheted a little flower. I even used some elastic that I had lying around from an older craft project.
Measure your elastic by wrapping it around the box once. Make sure that you cut it a little short to ensure that the band will be nice and snug to keep the box closed. Sew the two ends of the elastic together making sure they overlap at least half an inch. Lastly, sew or glue on whatever decoration you have over the part where you sewed the two ends together. I have used anything from buttons to felted beads and flowers to make my bands. The possibilities are endless and you can really customize things to match your bento box surprisingly well.
I think it is safe to say that around 60% of my bentos are made using leftovers in some form or another. In the bento pictured above, eveything was from dinner the night before. When I find myself with enough leftovers to fill an entire bento, I do try to add a little something special to make things a bit more interesting. Sometimes it can be something as simple as adding a little dessert, but in this case I needed something a little more to get me excited about eating the same food over again. With the simple use of a fondant cutter (purchased at my local Michael’s or AC Moore craft store in the cake section), I was able to dress up the veggies a bit more so they felt more special. I also sprinkled on some black sesame seeds for contrast. With only 5 mins or so of extra work, I managed to make myself a pretty decent bento for the next day.
A note about food cutters:
There was a time when all I wanted was the special food cutters made just for bentos. I spent lots of time on ebay and trolling various bento communities looking for an opportunity to swap. While I am happy with the things I bought from those times, I also found myself spending a lot more money than I really wanted to. I was making bentos to save money, not to spend it all on accessories when I could find perfectly good alternatives state-side. My advice, the japanese stuff is great for certain shapes and can be pretty easily found on ebay. If you can’t find it, check out the options whenever you find yourself in a craft or kitchen store. Just because something is labeled as being for clay or fondant, that doesn’t mean it won’t be able to cut though a nice soft piece of cheese.