Sunday, January 31, 2010

Shoyu Chicken

Well, I made some shoyu chicken this morning. The nice thing about it being so snowy, AND Sunday, is that I am free to tinker as I please.

So- without further ado, here it is:

I took a two pound package of chicken thighs, no skin, no bones. I trimmed them up (they're kind of fatty straight out of the package.

Now, the recipe I found calls for much larger portions than these, so I sort of just scaled it down in my own way- not really exact, but it does taste pretty yummy.

In a deep pan, I put the following:

2 1/2 cups of chicken broth
1/2 cup of mirin
3/4 cup of soy sauce
1 tbsp minced garlic (although the original recipe calls to use cloves, but I only had minced)
1 tsp ground ginger (original recipe calls for a chunk that you can remove later)
1/2 cup brown sugar (might have been a little more than that)

Once it was on the verge of boiling, I added all the meat pieces. Once the meat was in and the mixture came to a full boil, I reduced the heat and simmered for about 20 minutes.

I removed the pieces of meat, then strained out the minced garlic. I tried to skim some of the fat off the top of the sauce, as well. I returned the sauce to the pan and got it up to a boil.

I mixed 2 tbsp cornstarch with 2 tbsp water. After letting the now plain sauce reduce at a boil for about ten minutes, I turned off the heat (electric stove) and whisked in the cornstarch and water. It made a beautifully thick and glossy sauce.

I then poured the sauce over the chicken pieces and made sure they were all well coated.

I'm eating it now with some plain white sticky rice and the results are fantastic. I'm well pleased!!

Onigiri and Fruit

Today's bento box was a fun one for me. Onigiri with umeboshi center(furikake in the rice) and nori detail (I used my clover punch to make the nori strip a little more interesting).

On the top is just fruit- a clementine, some cherries, and blueberry "flowers".

I know this one is missing protein- but I'll have a protein shake for breakfast and a nice piece of fish with dinner, so it will balance out. :) I wanted to find some quail eggs, but while I was at the asian market I forgot to look (and it's too snowy outside right now to go anywhere!!)

A nice light lunch! ^_^

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Inspired by a few other penguins, I decided to try my own. He's....well, kinda funny looking, but I think it gives him character- and it gives me the goal of trying to do better next time. ;) I'll call him "Hulk the Penguin".

Rice, with penguin nori, and chocolate cake fans are on the bottom. Meatballs and blood orange sections on top. A really simple box for today, but yummy nonetheless. ^_^

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fun Time!!

As you can well imagine, I was very excited to pack my new bento box this morning.

It's exactly the size I was hoping it would be- I really love to have a very light lunch, but also enjoy having my rice separate from everything else. It might just be a weird thing of mine, but it's how I like it. ;)

Anyway, today's bento box is rice with black sesame seeds, with nori clover and carrot star details.
Also: those little sauce bottles are HARD to fill up!! I need to find a tiny dropper or something, it took WAY too long to put sauces in them this morning.

The top box is a tuna salad with chopped cilantro, shredded carrots, and corn. Then I arranged some kiwi and oranges.

Can't wait for lunch!! ^_^

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Hi. My name is Melanie, and I have a bento addiction.

That out of the way, I had this little box waiting for me when I arrived home today. My pulse actually raced a little faster- which makes me believe that I definitely have the disease of addiction.

I opened it up, excitedly, and pulled out all the bits inside (are you as excited as I am?!!):

I think that in addition to the couple of bento boxes and travel chopsticks I have, I made a good selection for starter items! I am quite pleased!!

The box is a two level box, but there are no dividers in the top box, which is what I was JUST thinking that I wanted. The cutters look sturdy enough to cut veggies, which is what I was hoping for. The decorative picks are super cute, and the grass dividers solve my GREEN problem (living alone, I can't get through a whole head of lettuce before it goes bad).

The nori punch excites me, too!! I bought a simple hole punch today to better do nori eyes, but I think I will invest in some of those cute face punches (that sounds so funny!!).

The ONLY thing I wasn't expecting- the divider cups (top center) are NOT reusable. I thought it had one red and one blue, and they were in plastic. Turns out, there are three or four of each color and they are sturdy paper. THIS is why learning Japanese will be useful for me!! ^_^

I can't wait to place my next order. ALREADY!!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sunshine Flowers

I've been inspired by the beautiful blood oranges everyone seems to be using lately! So I popped over to the store and picked one up. They had some nice kiwis and nectarines, surprisingly, so I got one of each of those as well!

I used a little beet juice to color the rice, it's sticky rice, with rice wine vinegar and sesame seeds. Black sesame seeds for the dirt, cilantro for the stems and leaves, and cheese, kiwi, and nectarine for the flowers, with beets and carrots for the centers. The lemons and the blood oranges make a pretty sunset, don't you think?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saturday Night

Taking a little obento break tonight. I was craving something really sinfully yummy- so I sauteed chicken strips with black pepper, kosher salt, and a little evoo. On the side is peanut sauce (my guilty pleasure!), some cauliflower with melted cheese, and some v8 with lemon juice.

I weighed in this morning, and I have lost 20 lbs since Christmas. I feel really great about that. I hope it's a sign of good things to come!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Smiling Bear

Today's lunch- rice with cheddar, with nori and cheese smiling bear face. Next to it is red bell pepper sticks, pineapple (doesn't it kind of look like a butterfly like that?), turkey and cheese roll-ups, and yummy yummy blackberries!! ^-^

My nori cutting is...well, I know it's not that good. It's so hard to do! But I hope that my nori punch will arrive soon, and make things a little bit easier. I've been thinking about maybe getting some more precise cutting tools as well, do to better shapes.

I am so inspired by the really amazing people that I've found via Bento Central and the really talented women who blog and twitter about their bento adventures! I am very encouraged by everyone who leaves such kind and encouraging words when they visit here. Thank you all so very much!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Happy Faces

I feel like I'm learning to be more creative. Today's bento box: rice circle, with nori and cheese detail, two hard boil eggs, lemon pudding with orange and pineapple slices, and corn and green beans with blue cheese. (I'm sorry that the focus is a little off today- my camera and lighting didn't want to cooperate!!)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Butterfly Dreams

Blue rice with topped with stars and sesame seeds, baked sweet potato slices (with clove decoration), and steamed pork dumplings- on a bed of raw sunflower seeds, and with little butterflies for decoration. I definitely didn't steam the dumplings right because they flattened. I will have to figure out how to do this better next time! Thankfully I bought a big bag of them and only steamed a few at a time, so it will give me lots of practice! (If you read this blog and know why they flattened or how I can avoid it next time, please feel free to tell me!!)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Satisfying Soup

I made some soup tonight. It was kind of one of those days when I didn't want to eat anything with a ton of calories, but I definitely wanted something to satiate me!

I think it's similar to an italian soup, but of course I never really do things by recipes. So here's what I did:

cut up a bunch of celery (a whole thing of it)
two onions
heaping tbsp of minced garlic

Sauteed all of that in a tbsp or so of olive oil over medium heat. While that was softening, I added: salt, pepper, basil, oregano, thyme, a little ginger, and a bay leaf.

Once there were some of those great crusty bits on the bottom, I put in a few splashes of vermouth. Mostly because I was curious as to what it would do to the flavor of the soup. Then I added a box of low sodium beef broth, and 2 small cans of tomato sauce. I let that come almost to a boil, then reduced the heat. I added some leftover meatballs that I'd baked the other night, and then I opened and rinsed a can of pinto beans (although I bet almost any soup bean would work here), and added those last. Then I let it cook for about ten more minutes before I just couldn't resist anymore!!

I am happy with the soup- it's a little spicy, just the right amount of heat for me. I suppose if you like things really spicy you could add some crushed red pepper flakes. It's made me feel like I am not hungry, AND I don't feel like I missed out on anything! I was really craving some chocolate, but I think I've conquered my sugar desire for the time being.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Today's bento box: Cauliflower with coconut curry sauce, meatballs, and a rice ball (colored with a bit of tumeric in the cooking process) with dried plums. I even tried to make little face bits from nori- although I am anxiously awaiting the cute little face punch I ordered!

I spent some time this last weekend looking through flickr photo pools of the gorgeous bento boxes that people do- it's so inspiring!! I can't wait to do so many more!

I want to thank Lil'chan for a blog award!

I don't know enough bloggers to pass the award on- but I will list ten things that make me happy!!

1. Bento Boxes! I love my new hobby!
2. Video games. I play mmo's more than I should- but I can't get enough of Final Fantasy XI!
3. Big Bang Theory- one of the only tv shows I watch, and totally worth it. So funny in the perfect geeky way!
4. Spending time with my best friend! Joseph makes me happier than anyone else ever has.
5.! Where else could you find a pen that's 0.18??
6. Little tiny candies that fizz in your mouth. We found some at Mitsuwa and they were fantastic!
7. My barefoot dreams blanket! It's the best blanket in the WHOLE WORLD.
8. Blogging! I love being able to talk about anything I want to.
9. My camera! I love my DSLR! I can't wait to get an even better one. Full frame here I come!
10. New York City! My favorite city in the world!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Brunch

I realized today that I could make a beautiful brunch, even if it is only for one. I am seeing food in a whole new light, and I really like it.

This is very simple- scrambled eggs, potatoes, and cheddar cheese with a side of citrus. I drizzled a teensy bit of really great basalmic vinegar over the top. That's it.

I made everything in rounds. The potatoes I sliced thin, seasoned with only salt and pepper, cooked in a little olive oil. The eggs are scrambled eggs, a teensy bit of sugar (blame Mitsuwa for that) and salt and pepper. I had some sliced cheddar that I made the same size as the egg rounds, just for fun.

Doing obento has really made me think more about my meals, which really is the natural progression for me, now that I think about it. After reading "French Women Don't Get Fat", I realized that my attitudes toward food in general were very American. And that means ugh.

I am almost gluten-free now, but not entirely. I think that if I do make it to Paris this year, I will abandon it because there is no way I can go all the way to Paris and not eat bread. I just won't do it. It would be like...sacrilegious.

It looked a lot better once the cheese melted down the sides- but my fork was faster than my camera, sorry. Maybe next time. ;)

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I did some slices of chicken tenders, wrapped in rice and nori, and sliced it sushi style. Next to it is pineapples and cherry tomatoes. Next box is cubes of white cheddar cheese, orange pieces, and brussel sprouts drizzled with a toasted sesame dressing.

I want to have lunch. Now. ;)

Mystery Solved.

Well, I have discovered what the egg pieces were in my Bento Box at Mitsuwa!


A Tamagoyaki (also called tamago or dashimaki, literally 'grilled egg') is a type of Japanese omelette, which is made by rolling together several layers of cooked egg. These usually are prepared in a rectangular omelette pan called a makiyakinabe.

It is served as a Japanese breakfast dish, and often included in bento boxes as well as being a popular sushi topping. There are several types of tamagoyaki, both sweet and savory.

It became popular in more modern times and is commonly used for breakfasts or lunches.


Cool huh? I think I might invest in a few Japanese cookbooks.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Today's Bento

Today's bento box:

Two chicken skewers, two brussel sprout skewers, tomato flowers with corn, pineapple, red grapes with stars, rice rolled in nori, with a little cheddar cheese face for fun. :)

Looking forward to the arrival of my bento picks for decoration! I am trying to figure out how people put little cute faces on things, too. I know I have a long way to go until these are really super cute, but I am looking forward to the journey and the things I'll learn along the way!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Today's Bento

Today's bento was fun for me. I did some cauliflower with melted cheese, and sweet basil seeds for decoration. Cherry tomatoes (I painted little faces on them but they didn't stick), some roast beef, brussel sprouts, white sharp cheddar cheese, and carrot slices. Aren't the little faces cute? I found some edible markers at WalMart of all places- in the cake decorating aisle.

I swear, I'm seeing the grocery store in a whole new light. It's fantastic.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bento #2

So this Bento is the other bento box that I bought while in New Jersey. It's smaller, stackable, and blue! It's really adorable. It will probably end up being Dylan's when he starts kindergarten, because how cute is that. I know that you know what I mean, internet.

I must admit that while I am excited about the cuteness of bento, how fun it is as a little hobby, it ends up being overwhelming when you see the really amazing bento boxes that are out there. Pikko and Happa Bento take it to this whole other level. I'm no where near there yet- BUT it's inspiring to see their work and know that after a time, I will be be someone who inspires other people as well.

There are just so many cute gadgets for making bento boxes!! I do admit that I am limiting myself a bit by choosing to be gluten free (I'm doing it in an attempt to feel better physically and lose weight, I have not been diagnosed with anything that dictates I should eat this way), BUT I have yet to feel like I'm "missing out" on anything.

Today's Bento:
The bottom layer is two rice balls, with a crescent and star cut out of red bell pepper, on a bed of curly leaf lettuce. The top layer is orange slices, some apple/cranberry/blue cheese salad from yesterday, and some...well, I don't know what they are called. But here's the story:

When I was in New Jersey, at Mitsuwa, I had a bento tray for lunch. In the tray were these egg square like things that tasted like egg, but with a little sweetness. So I tried to imitate it when I got home- I put egg whites into a glass baking dish and drizzled maple syrup over the top (it sank to the bottom) I then cooked it in the oven at 350 for 15-20 minutes. I let it cool completely, then cut it into squares. (Before you go all "ewww" on me- it's like having a hard boiled egg. But without the yukky yolk. So shush.) I haven't decided what I'm going to call them, so for now they are "egg squares" until someone tells me differently. That's what's in the middle.

I need to work on my knife skills, I know. But I am looking forward to getting better at this! I found out tonight that there is a small Japanese market about 30 minutes away from where I live, so I am going to go there this weekend, to see what I can find. :)

I ended up ordering some supplies from a website called J-list:

1 "WA" DECO Bento Set Type B ~ vegetable Shaper & BARAN / Partition
1 Mini Study Q & A Bento Cup for Japanese Students
1 Pink x Blue Mini Bento Sauce Bottle ~ 6pcs
1 Mini Punch for DECO Bento ~ Clover
1 HENSHIN / Transforming Bento DECO Picks
1 BARAN -- Bento/Sushi Decorative Partition Grass
1 WA IRO-DORI Picks Set

And another bento box for the collection. I'd like to initially get up to one for each day of the week, but realize that I should branch out into more sizes for variety.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Today I did my first Bento.

Yes, this is the direction that my cooking blog is going in. I've been wanting to try it for a while, and am happy that I figured out something that is fairly unique for me to focus on.

There are several benefits to bento (Japanese for "box lunch") for me- first is portion control. Second, it's just so much fun. Third, it's a great way to express some creativity and definitely helps with this no gluten thing that I am trying this year.

Here's today's bento:

I took some chicken tenders, dipped them in egg, then in a cream of rice dry cereal that I added a teaspoon each of ginger, garlic salt, and garam masala. Then I baked them at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Along side of the chicken tenders I have some little rice balls, in different shapes, with a little rice wine vinegar on them for flavor. On the bottom left is a salad of green apples, dried cranberries, and blue cheese. Above that are some rounds of apple with slices of red bell peppers.

I got the bento box at the Japanese marketplace in Edgewater New Jersey earlier this week when I went up there for a visit. I really could live there.

So: first you get photos of the box (and I love the little sayings they put on everything! It's so cute!):

The box pulled apart:

The chopsticks with a case that I bought to take back and forth to work with me:

And finally, the bento all put together:

I added another piece of the chicken and put the lid on top:

I think I will probably get more creative as I go along, but I am pleased with my first attempt!!