Now that the temperature is heating up, it’s time to spend less time in the hot kitchen making lunches.
Mini Burger Patties – They are
- top with salsa and cheese
- top with gravy
- top with bbq sauce and canned pineapple
- top with ponzu and grated daikon
- cut up over a salad
- add to a lettuce wrap
Daikon Steaks – Recipe here. They get softer after being frozen but I prefer them that way.
- eat as is
- mix in with simmered veggies (nimono)
- dice and mix with canned tuna and mizuna – no dressing needed
Steamed Broccoli (or other veggie that freezes well)
- eat as is or topped with dressing
- top with cheese
- cut up and mix in pasta
- add to an omelette
- roll in shaved pork or beef and grill
Grilled Sausages – grill them before you freeze them to save cooking time in the morning
- eat as is
- slice and serve over a salad
- top with bbq sauce, “sauce”, mustard or ketchup
- top with cheese
- roll in lettuce
- Add to an omelette
Dumplings or pot stickers (shumai and gyoza) – cook and freeze
Sauces – freeze leftover sauces in ice cube trays for quick bento toppers
Cheese – grated or cubed
- eat as is
- sprinkle over salad
- sprinkle over pasta
- sprinkle over Japanese curry
As a lover of tacos, taco rice and anything Tex Mex, I had to try the Family Mart taco rice musubi sando when I saw it. How could I not? It was decent and I will definitely try to replicate it.
- The rice was seasoned with taco seasoning. It was also reasonably spicy, as advertised.
- There was taco meat and processed cheese as filling. I will use regular cheese when I make it.
- The nori was surprisingly okay with the taco flavors.
To make it:
- Mix rice with taco seasoning to taste. Taco seasoning is available at many supermarkets and import shops. You can find a recipe for it here.
- Brown some ground beef and onions, season with taco seasoning and add a bit of salsa or tomato paste.
- Spread rice in a thin layer all over a nori sheet. Spread taco meat and cheese over one half of the rice layer.
- Fold the non-topped half over the topped half. Cut to any size you desire.
- Done and done.
This week summer has finally come. This means it is corn season. I eat mostly seasonally, which means that when something (that I like) is in season I eat it every day. That is especially true for corn. I had it with all three meals yesterday.
In the bento box:
- green peas (frozen) – This is my favorite brand. Green peas are available in almost every supermarket at the moment.
- fried zucchini and sausage – Zucchini is also in season so it is cheap at the moment.
- slices of tomato (also in season) and boiled corn
- white rice mixed with mentaiko (spicy pollack roe) and edamame
What is your favorite bento filler at the moment?
It is the start of the new school year here in Japan and that means bento lunches. I quite like making homemade lunches as most store lunches are lacking in vegetables. Here are two lunches from this and last week.
- Soramame gohan – boiled fava beans (soramame 空豆) mixed with rice and topped with black sesame seeds
- Pan fried pork seasoned with herbs de provence, salt and pepper
- Peas and corn (both frozen) and edamame
- Mozzarella cheese and cherry tomatoes
- Soramame gohan
- Shaved beef in mushroom gravy
- edamame, mozzarella cheese and cherry tomatoes
- black olives and steamed broccoli
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I have seen a variation of these egg rolls in various bento pictures in the last month. I thought I’d give it a try. Most of the pictures look like they add the same seasonings as in tamagoyaki but my son doesn’t like that so I just did it with an egg. I added black olive for some extra flavor. these are great in bento lunches.
Nori egg rolls
Nori sheets (2 if using riceball size, 1 of rolled sushi size)
oil for frying
any add-ins (cheese, olive, spices, etc.)
In a small bowl, beat the eggs until you have a relatively smooth mixture. Add a bit of oil to a frying pan and heat on medium heat. Spread the egg as thinly as you can in the frying pan and cook on medium until cooked through. Transfer the egg to a bamboo sushi roller or a piece of saran wrap. Lay nori sheets over the top of the egg in one layer. Don’t put the sheets all the way to the edge. Roll the egg and nori as tightly as you can and leave in the bamboo roller or saran wrap until cooled. This will ensure that the shape is maintained. Slice when cool.
Note: Egg isn’t sticky so handle is gently as it can unroll easily.
Today I thought I’d post a weeks worth of bento lunches to give you some ideas. As you can see, I didn’t have that many veggies in the house for side dishes so there are a lot of repeats. This is a bit less variety than usual but there is no reason to pretend that this doesn’t happen sometimes. Plus, the repeats are some of my favorite veggies so there was no feeling of monotony. No one, aside from bento bloggers, makes a completely different bento every day. (Note: I cannot actually back up this statement with data but I’m pretty sure it is true)
Monday: A black olive and spinach omelette topped with parmesan cheese, red rice with green peas and steamed broccoli and cauliflower.
Tuesday: A homemade hamburger patty over daikon radish matchsticks, curried carrot slices, cherry tomatoes and salt pickled cucumber and rice topped with aonori and sesame seeds.
Wednesday: Pan fried salmon, cherry tomatoes, salt pickled cucumbers, steamed broccoli and romanesco, black olives and rice and green peas topped with sesame seeds.
Thursday: Beef and mushrooms fried in a sesame yakiniku sauce, cherry tomatoes, black olives, salt pickled cucumber and rice topped with aonori.
Friday: beef and cabbage simmered in tomato sauce (the previous night’s dinner), cherry tomatoes, black olives, salt pickled cucumbers and half a large sweet potato.
So after looking at these pictures all together, I went shopping for veggies. This is what I got at the veggie market that sells locally grown goodness.
That’s right, you do see purple cauliflower. It looks pretty steamed.
This was a gem I found on Pinterest when I searched for cauliflower recipes. Cauliflower is in season right now and I am taking full advantage of the white, yellow and purple cauliflowers at the local farmer’s association store. I eat relatively seasonally so when something I like is in season, I eat it every day.
You can find the recipe here. The changes I made:
- additive free (無添加 mutenka) chicken (チキンyasai) consomme (コンソメ) –> 無添加チキンコンソメ
- additive free (無添加 mutenka) vegetable (野菜 yasai) consomme (コンソメ) –> 無添加野菜コンソメ
It is finally hoodie weather, well, at least in the morning. Time for kabocha. I posted this one in 2009 so it is time to make sure everyone knows about it. It is so easy and satisfying on a cold day.
1/4 kabocha, peeled and chopped
1/4-1/2 small onion, diced
a little oil
1 chicken bullion cube (vegetable also tastes great and makes this a vegan recipe)
2 cups water
fresh ground pepper to taste
milk or soy milk, optional
In a soup pot, saute the onion in the oil until transparent. Add the kabocha, bullion cube and water. Simmer until the kabocha is cooked – it should break in half when you put a fork in it. Turn off the heat and allow to cool for a bit. Puree everything using a blender, food processor or immersion blender. Reheat if necessary. This will be on the thick side. You can thin it with water or milk/soy milk/cream if desired.
I whipped this up one morning to put in lunches. As it was cooking, I found myself getting excited for lunch. It smells great. Not having grown up near the ocean, it sometimes doesn’t occur to me to buy fish. I love fish but we rarely ate it when I was a child. I went through a fish poor couple of weeks and decided to try something new. Small fish are good for you so I picked up some Japanese pond smelt (ワカサギ wakasagi) on a whim. When I find a new ingredient, I often turn to Cookpad.com (I use the app so it is the Japanese version but the English site is supposed to be great). This recipe is so simple and tasty. It takes less than five minutes from start to finish. Continue reading Curried Pan Fried Japanese Pond Smelt
I like the idea of funky bento boxes but I rarely buy them because they are not all that practical for me. Most bento boxes are based on the assumption that you will have rice in one compartment, not anything sloppy or juicy. I don’t eat a lot of starches but I do eat a lot of stews and they leak when I use normal bento boxes. Bento boxes aren’t that sandwich friendly either. I don’t eat a lot of sandwiches but when I want to make them I have nothing to put them in.
What’s important for me when choosing lunch containers:
- shape – will it fit the types of foods I eat
- size – not too big as to encourage overeating but not to small as to require extra containers
- leakiness – I eat a lot of soupy things so leak proof is a must (both levels in case of a multi level container)
- aesthetics – I have yet to find something both functional and beautiful but I keep up hope. I always have and always will choose function over form.
What I covet
- Lego bento box – I don’t really need to explain why I covet it. It doesn’t look too leak proof so I will have to satisfy my lego love by picking up some lego chopsticks next time I go to the lego store. I just bought the fork and spoon set for the resident toddler. Image source.
- Wooden bento box – I love wood. I have a wood for and spoon set that I use at home all the time. I can see this getting stained by something tomatoey or leaking all over my bag. I would buy this if I drove to work everyday and could keep my bag flat at all times.
- Slim bento boxes – I had one. When I bought it I thought it would fit in my bag better than a wider box but discovered that it didn’t. These also have a leaking problem. The bottom level is for rice and the lid for that doesn’t stop leaks, even from things that aren’t saucy. If you only use the bottom for really dry things you will be fine.
- Donburi bento box – I love the shape and the non-pink ones look cool. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t eat a lot of starches so there is nothing that will absorb excess juice from stews. I have a feeling these babies will leak.
What I actually use is pretty boring but effective. All links are for Amazon Japan.
- Larger bento box with rubber around the inside edge – (top left) this one is for meal salads. Sometimes I put smaller containers, sans lids, inside so I can take things like humus and chickpea salad without mixing.
- Bento boxes with rubber around the inside edge – (top right) this is the one I have for non-salad meals. It is perfect for stews, pastas and curries. I would choose the black version if you eat a lot of tomato sauces as it could get stained over time. Mine hasn’t but I don’t make tomato sauce that often.
- Ziplock screw lock containers – these have never leaked on me, even with soup. I have all three sizes. The large ones are great for salads, you can layer the ingredients with the dressing and the hard veggies on the bottom and the leafy stuff on top. Then you just shake it up at lunch to get everything coated. No extra containers and no soggy lettuce. I use the middle size one the most.
What do you use for your lunches? If you have any product recommendations please leave them in the comments below.