Curry

January 24th, 2011

Here we have another bento for The Boy. On the day I made this, I had something similar only with more broccoli and less yummy yummy curry. If my memory serves me right, this night I used Vermont Curry. I’m sad to say that I have yet to develop a real preference when it comes to curry mixes. Right now I have only been using Japanese brands like Golden, Java, and Vermont. One of these days I am going to have to take better notice and make note of the one I like best. Spicier the better if you ask me. Now if there was only some way to make this less horrible for me.

Chicken Curry

For those of you who might not be that familiar with Japanese curry, making the curry itself couldn’t be easier. Brown meat of choice in pan, add veggies and water, boil until cooked, add curry mix. It’s so easy in fact that I remember this old gag in the Sailor Moon amine where they claimed she was so inept at cooking that she couldn’t even make boxed curry. Well, I guess princesses from the Moon have more important things to do like talking her cats and flirting with a strange masked man who kept throwing these sharp roses at her…you know, cause he liked her. And I mean liked her liked her.

Oh, and in case anyone out there is interested to know why curry has become such a commonplace dish in Japan, I recommend checking out this article on the Vermont Curry website.

C is for Chicken

January 13th, 2011

My apologies for the terrible picture.  I wasn’t planning on actually featuring this bento until The Boy reminded me of how bad I have been about posting actual bentos….you know those things that I started this blog for in the first place?  Well played, The Boy.  Well played.  Sadly, this leaves us with a terrible phone snap shot rather than something I have attempted to make look nice.

C is for Chicken

Contents:

-boneless chicken thigh with Bavarian seasoning
-mushroom rice pilaf
-“braised” artichoke hearts with red bell pepper (adapted from the City Tavern Cookbook)
-baby arugala

Pizza Success!

January 9th, 2011

After barely surviving the holidays and a rather nasty sinus infection, I had decided that it was time to return to my blog with something I am rather successful at.  Yes, I know that reading about my shameful candy corn disaster is certainly entertaining, but did we learn anything from it?  Well, other than hot sugar plus Smalerie’s sensitive baby skin makes her a very sad panda?

So here it is, something that is very easy and that I should more often but I don’t: pizza.  Really, I have a strong belief that everyone should know how to make their own pizza on occasion because it is really inexpensive and the results are really rewarding.

I don’t use a recipe really, but I am more than happy to share a few tips that I have learned from my mother and NaNa when it comes to making something tasty and extremely comforting.

Pizza corner

Tip #1: Use real dough.  While I’m not demanding that you make your own dough, I am saying that the stuff you can get refrigerated at the supermarket is a pretty good bang for your buck.  Best of all, it freezes really well.  Just remember to let it rise before using it.  This means finding a nice warm place to let it get all puffy so that you can squish it down again before making your pizza.

Tip #2:  Making your own sauce can be really quick and easy.  I’m sure this doesn’t surprise you, but as a 3rd generation Italian-American, I can be very leery of jarred or canned sauces.  I’d rather just get some plain stuff and add my own garlic, oregano, and such.  Though, I will admit to using the pre-made stuff in a pinch, when my pockets are a bit more bare than usual, I will scour the “must-go” produce section for tomatoes.  It can feel really great to leave the market with a bunch of plum or heirloom tomatoes for $1.  Also, fresh sauce on your pizza makes a HUGE difference.

Tip #3: I apply grated Parmesan to the pizza before I add the mozzarella.  Thanks for the tip NaNa!

Tip #4: I sometimes splurge for fresh mozzarella at Costco.  I prefer the milky taste it has and the way it browns.  If you’ve never tried this before, you should try treating yourself.  It’s so so so good!

Tip #5:  Cook your pizza it a hot oven.  Think 400 to 450 degrees hot.  This helps make things nice and crunchy.  There is nothing more satisfying than a slice of pizza that is so crispy it will stand up on it’s own when you lift it off the pan.

And in case this quick blog didn’t interest or entice you, let me show you this:

Pizza

That’s right, extreme close-up food porn of my porcini mushroom pizza.  Oh baby!

Big Disaster

November 17th, 2010

Just because I haven’t been blogging all that much, it doesn’t mean that I haven’s been out in the world facing certain culinary failures and disasters. Most notably of these recipes gone wrong was my attempt to make candy corn. Now, I can be pretty adventurous when it comes to cooking, and I certainly love a challenge… but I cannot do sugar work for the life of me. Place me in front of a candy thermometer and you’ve got one of those sudden melt down situations that ends with ruined pots and pans, me in tears, and possibly a rip in the time-space continuum. Seriously, that hadron collider’s got nothing on a woman who has to spend four hours scraping burnt sugar off the walls. I’m just saying…

Attempt number one to create delicious vanilla-y candy corn:

Things seem to go well until it’s time to add the powdered milk. As the mixture begins to cool, it also gets harder. Really hard. So hard in fact that the top comes off my spatula as I try to stir. No big deal, I just need something a bit tougher is all. The wooden spoon is taken out and proceeds to snap in half right in my little enraged hands. This shit just got personal!

At this point my blind rage causes me to make a rather poor decision. Rather than calling it quits, my desire to literally strangle the sugary snark out of my would-be-candy-corn causes me to use my hands. It burned as all get out, but I still tried to mix everything together as it continued to cool and harden more and more. Eventually the pain was just too much as not only was it burning me, but the mixture had become sharp and tough. I had to stop and all I had to show for my efforts was this:

Fail

Yup, not only did it weigh a ton, but when I dropped some of it on the floor it made a sound as if Satan himself had taken a dump on my linoleum. Nothing was damaged mind you, but I bet if I took a hammer to that stuff, there would have been glass-sharp shards, not unlike sugary throwing knives, everywhere.

I had to call back-up for round two, a friend with more sugar work and candy making experience than myself. This time we erred on the side of caution and didn’t cook the sugar long enough. We waited and waited for the mixture to harden, but instead we got play-dough. I’ll save you the gory details this time, but rather than continue to attempt to make super soft corn shapes that would lose that shape as soon as they came into contact with absolutely anything, we called it a day and created this:

Candy corn

The world’s largest and softest candy corn (that’s a quarter next to it for reference).

Sigh…

Ginger Limeade

October 13th, 2010

Ginger Limeade

Okay, okay, I admit to getting a little carried away with my phone app on this one, but at the time I took this picture, it just felt so right. I was home alone on a sweltering day and wasn’t feeling too hot. I had a whole bunch of limes left over from a party and a huge piece of ginger I had picked up at an Asian market. I wanted something cold, sweet, and with a bit of a kick to it. Answer: ginger limeade.

Making this delightful nectar is extremely easy. First you need to make a simple syrup which is nothing more than water and sugar. Add one part sugar to one part water in a pot on the stove and slowly bring it to a boil until all the sugar dissolves. However, instead of stopping here, I added slices of peeled ginger to the mix. Since I like things nice and strong, I added all the ginger I had (a piece about the size of my hand). Once everything was boiled to my liking, I let the mixture cool before straining it into a bottle.

To make the limeade itself, you might need to practice a bit before you find the combination that best suits your taste. Start by squeezing two limes into a glass filled with ice. Next add the syrup. For a more tart drink, I only use about an ounce (think of a shot glass for reference). For friends, I will often be a bit more heavy handed with the syrup. Lastly, fill the rest of the glass with water (still or carbonated) and either use a shaker or stir to combine.

I think all in all I drank 3 of these that day. That picture you see up there is of my second one because the first one didn’t even make it out of the kitchen!

Oldie

August 24th, 2010

Another older one:

P2040089

Contents:
Baked egg cup with spinach
tomato and cheese salad
candy
baby carrots
Spanish rice with beef and ham

That’s right people! Beef and ham! The ham was planned for the bento, but I also had a little steak left over from dinner that I didn’t want to waste. As you can tell from the pic, this is another older one and you can see that there is a lot more food in here than I normally have in my lunch now.

Looking at this reminds me of how much I love those egg cups though. A perfect bit of protein to get me through the afternoon and if you like eggs, there are a million difference combinations you can try. Best of all, they are really easy to bake in the toaster oven the night before.

A Little Lunch Luxury

July 26th, 2010

Sometimes when work is throwing me for a loop and I want to spend my lunch hours hiding from the world, I will use my bento as a way of a little pick-me-up. I’ll pack something extra special and it makes me remember that small moments and treats can have a really large effect.

And so I present, Shrimp Cocktail Bento…complete with the semi-homemade (with recipe posted at the end) cocktail sauce. Trust me, it’s hard not to feel awesome about your lunch when everyone else in the lunch room is eating boring sandwiches and brown/red smoosh in Gladware containers. You can start to feel the sophistication oozing out of your pores and creating an aura of kick-ass all around you.

P3310235

Contents:
shrimp and cocktail sauce
sauteed spinach with garlic
wasabi peas
chickpeas with parsley, olive oil, and vinegar
raspberry gummies

Homemade cocktail sauce:
ketchup
horseradish to taste (I like mine pretty spicy)
squeeze of lemon juice
hot sauce to taste

Shake and Bake

July 19th, 2010

This bento is a bit of an old one, but I found a bunch of pics I that never used on the site. Rather than just throw them in my flickr account, I figured they deserved their spotlight time.

P2250152

Contents:

breaded chicken breast strips (my own kinda shake and bake)
cucumber slices
sesame dressing
bbq sauce with chili sauce swirl
olives
reduced fat cheese
rice cracker

This bento was fun because i had a good time using the chili sauce not only to spice things up in terms of taste, but also in the look of things as well. The trick is to make sure you mix it into the other food before you eat it if you want things to be a bit more mild.

The chicken was really simple to make. While you can buy pre-cut chicken strips and pre-seasoned bread crumbs, I often like to do these things myself. Buying whole chicken pieces can help you cut down on the cost, and making your own bread crumbs from that bread you forgot about helps reduce waste. Also to be sure these stay healthy, I baked these in the toaster oven rather then fried them. It’s nice and fast and makes a pretty satisfying lunch.

Carpaccio – I love you so!

June 17th, 2010

Recently a restaurant near me had added carpaccio to their menu for a limted time. I was thrilled, we are talking all kinds of excited and demanded we go for it AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. When we placed our order at the restaurant, I noticed that the chef came out with a plate and the waitstaff all kinda crowded around him. They talked for a few moments and the chef himself came over without plate. It turns out that we were the first people to order the dish, and the chef wanted to know about our background, experience with the dish, and to pretty much give us a culinary pat on the back.

I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed to discover that no one was ordering the carpaccio, but considering that very thinly sliced or pounded raw beef is one of the main ingredients, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

For a pretty decent picture of what all this looks like, check out this link.

The meaning of what carpaccio is has changed a bit over time to be pretty much any thinly sliced raw meat or fish (even fruit or veggies sometimes too) with some sort of dressing on top. When I was a kid however, carpaccio was always the same thing: very thin raw beef topped with shaved Parmesan, a drizzle of good olive oil, capers, and perhaps some lemon juice. Yes, yes, I know, raw beef can be challenging for some people to eat (and even scary considering Mad Cow Disease and all that), but when prepared by a reputable chef, it might be one of my favorite dishes of all time. Imagine if you will the beef melting on your tongue, set off by the sharp and salty toppings…. I am getting hungry just thinking about it!

If this sounds appealing to you in anyway, I highly suggest you try it. The Boy tried it for the first time that night and we have already gone back a second time for more (only to discover that we are still the only people ordering it). Alton Brown even has a pretty easy recipe for those of you who want to take things one step further and make it at home. Considering my level of obsession, this might be a better option than camping outside my local restaurant every Wednesday night for the summer.

Pimpin’ A Project

June 14th, 2010

While I am hoping to post something food/bento related this week, I wanted to take a minute to let you all know about a project a friend of mine is doing.

Please please donate if you are either a Troma fan or just a fan of indie films. In this final days of pledging, the goal is in reach and I’m hoping that letting the word out a bit more might help. Geoff is a stand-up guy and a true foodie, so you can give yourself a strong pat on the back for donating or even forwarding the message along.

Assuming I still have any readers out there, feel free to spread the word and let me know in the comments with a link or something. I might even reward your efforts with a little bento something if you are in the first few people to notify me. You gotta do your part before he reaches the goal to be eligible.