Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ladybug Garden: #52

Last Sunday I taught my first ever bento making class. I was nervous, but it was great fun getting together with a group of women (and one 10yo) to discuss making healthy lunches in creative ways. The bento above was the inspiration (because no way was I walking into a room to show people how to make something I'd not tried myself).

I thought it would be fun to show variations on a theme. In other words, you can make the same thing out of many different food items. We started with some simple ladybugs on a log (celery with strawberry cream cheese and dried cranberries), then moved on to onigiri.

The two rice ladybugs are dyed with beets. The red one is made with pureed beets. The purple one is made with beet dye. I simply poured some boiling water over shredded beets and let it steep for 60 seconds. Then I poured off the water and added a bit of baking soda. That turned it a lovely lavender.

Then we made a babybel cheese ladybug and squished everything together so it wouldn't move around. We packed in steamed broccoli, cherries, cherry tomatoes, carrot flowers, and purple podded pole beans. I even took it upon myself to create a ladybug out of a cherry tomato, some nori and cream cheese (for spackling the nori in place).

It turned out okay, but my poor tomato ladybug was a little sad.

Here are some of the creations made by the rest of the class. It was really fun to see how they all turned out. (I was hurrying, so unfortunately some of the photos turned out blurry.)

Purple Podded Pole Beans: #51

This bento was so simple, I almost didn't bother to post it. But I wanted to showcase my beautiful purple podded pole beans that we grew in our garden this year. I love these beans. They're really gorgeous on the vine and very tasty. When you cook them, they turn green just like any other pole bean.

Luckily sweetPea likes to eat them raw as well as cooked. She took this lunch with some ranch dressing for dipping.

Leftover Bento: #50

I am behind in posting. I wish I'd had a more fantabulous bento to show for the 50th bento, but I figure I'll do better on number 100. Anyway, it gives me an excuse to talk about the Thermos Food Jar. (Note: I am not affiliated with this product in any way. I have received nothing from the company. I just think it works well.)

I didn't do the best job in planning out lunches this week and it shows. Usually when I make the grocery list, I start by writing the days of the week and listing the dinners I'll make every night. Then on the back, I'll sketch my bento ideas for the week. I'll usually just have maybe 3 ideas or so and then I'll fill in with whatever strikes my fancy. Only then will I start adding the ingredients to my list.

This bento was actually consumed on Thursday 8/25. The night before we had roasted broccoli and Spanish Style Quinoa. She was willing to eat her broccoli cold, but she wanted the quinoa in her "heater". In the morning, I put some very hot water into the Thermos and let it set while we ate breakfast. Then I heated up her quinoa, poured the water out of the Thermos and put the quinoa inside. At her request, I sprinkled cheese on top. Then for lunch, her quinoa was still toasty warm and the cheese was melted.

You can also use the food jar as a "cooler", too. Then you simply add iced water first.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

sweetPea's Choice: #49

I usually plan several bentos before we do the grocery shopping, but I also leave room for making up some as I go along. Today, I was particularly uninspired so I simply asked what she wanted for lunch. "Hmmm. Carrots. Cherries. Cheese and crackers. And cut the carrots into flowers."

That was pretty good actually. I mean, cheese and crackers aren't exactly a paragon of nutritional virtue, but she didn't ask for potato chips and HoHos either, you know?

So I pull out the fresh bag of carrots to choose one for peeling. Lo and behold, we got an extra special bonus prize. In the bottom of the bag of ordinary Kroger organic carrots, I saw a beautifully bright yellow carrot. I looked at the package to make sure it wasn't some kind of "special" bag, but it didn't indicate that we were getting anything special. We had to taste it. Pea proclaimed that it was harder, but extra sweet.

I made a bed of yellow and orange carrot sticks with carrot flowers on top. Then I threw in some cherries. I added some Wheat Thin crackers and cut butterflies into the BabyBel cheese. Voila!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Birthday Bento: #48

Yesterday was sweetPea's sixth birthday. She wanted to stay home from school today to play with her new toys. I didn't let her do that, but I did send her with a special birthday bento as a consolation prize. In this bento she has carrot sticks, broccoli, cherries, and watermelon balls.

The cupcake is a cheese sandwich covered with provolone and cheddar cupcake cutout. I used cream cheese to get the sprinkles (yes, real sugar sprinkles) and the tomato "cherry" to stick. I didn't have any cookie cutters to use for this one, so I borrowed the idea from a post on Bentology and hand cut out the shapes. It was actually pretty easy. A paring knife and a pair of kitchen sheers made short work of it. 

The Bounty of Summer: #47

For her second day of school, I used the smaller box. She has a big Tomato Bread Salad with the olives picked out and with fresh mozzarella chunks added. I love kalamata olives, but she just hasn't developed a taste for them. She also has some lovely cherries (on sale from Whole Foods) and my attempt at Peach Fruit Leather, which turned out more like peach crisps. I think I over cooked them, but they're still really tasty. To the basic recipe, I added some ginger and cinnamon. The house smelled divine while they were drying.

She ate almost all of this one. A few pieces of the salad came home, but everything else was eaten.

First Day of First Grade: #46

This was actually her first FULL day of first grade. She had three half days, then Thursday she went for a full day. It's her school's way of easing the transition from the lazy days of summer to the hectic school year.

Clockwise from top, she had steamed broccoli and tomatoes, watermelon and cantaloupe balls, carrot sticks and a Babybel cheese with the number one cut out, and mahogany rice with a red rice and nori ladybug. The ladybug is colored red with beets.

Unfortunately a fair amount of this lunch came back. I packed her an especially large one because she was so concerned about not having enough food. Last year they had fruits and vegetables sitting out for the kids to snack on throughout the day. In the grades they no longer have that option. I still think she would have eaten more, but one of the older children baked chocolate chip muffins and sweetPea ate two of them. I think it's great that the kids can cook in school, but broccoli just can't compete with chocolate chip muffins.