Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bento: yes; blogging: no.

Yes, I've been keeping up with bento, although I haven't had much chance to snap pictures, so I haven't bothered writing about it. We had a family event in the shape of a funeral. It was expected, it was time, it was even a bit of a relief, but it was still difficult. And that was right in the middle of Hurricane Ike, which my in-laws weathered OK, although my mother-in-law still hasn't been able to return to Galveston to check on her house. Reports from her neighbors are very promising, however.

Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled programming. Today is leftovers from dinner (meatballs), freezer stock (onigiri), and other stuff (fruits, veggies and a carrot stir fry). Enjoy - they did!

08-09-24s 08-09-24d

Monday, September 15, 2008

What is this, the third or fourth week of school? How is it that I'm already getting into a rut? Note to self: research more lunch ideas.

Today, both got pepperoni and mozzarella skewers, corn muffins, veggies and some fruit, although there was some variation in the fruits and veggies, according to individual tastes. She got a sidecar of vanilla yogurt, but I packed quite a bit less for her, since she hasn't been finishing her lunch. This looks skimpy to me, but it looks like it was about the right amount.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pat, pat, pat

That sound you hear? That's the sound of me patting myself on the back. My kids are still excited about packing lunch, and are disappointed if I tell them they have to buy lunch at school. Especially if it's Fiesta Bean Burrito, but I'm just not that cruel.

Anyway, here are today's offerings: both got chunks of grilled chicken (leftover from dinner), corn muffins (from the freezer), gold kiwi, and veggies, with cat cookies for dessert and bbq sauce in the small sauce container (for the chicken). He also got a tangerine and a string cheese in his bag. Again, she loves the cuteness, he lives in dread of me sending something that will diminish his 10 year old boy-in-the-burb cred.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Another day, another lunch.

Here's today's effort:

08-09-09dThis is his lunch: carrots and red bell pepper, orange chicken, mini onigiri, lemon grass chicken stix (from Trader Joe's), peanut butter filled pretzels and some chocolate cat cookies. He is still anti-cute, so no picks or little forks, but I just realized I forgot to pack a regular fork. Hmmpph. Well, he has no problem eating with his hands, lucky for him. That's what he gets for not appreciating adorable little accessories!

08-09-09sAnd her lunch is pretty much the same as his (except no carrots), but doesn't it just look better in a bento box, with accessories? She also has a little case of peanut butter, for the red bell pepper. That's by her request, believe it or not; I wouldn't have inflicted that on her otherwise.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Frozen Assets: Mini Onigiri

So last week we discovered that we all like onigiri. Great news, but there were some limitations - they had to be the little, tiny, bite-sized, labor-intensive onigiri. I know (from many online sources) that onigiri freezes well, but the instructions were to wrap each onigiri well in plastic wrap. I couldn't see myself wrapping each dice-sized cube in plastic wrap. So here's how I did it:

Step 1 Fill the onigiri mold with rice.

Step 2Smooth out the top - you don't have to pack it in tightly, but it should be full. Put the top insert on, and press down. Turn mold over and push the cubes out.

Step 4Lay the cubes out on a piece of plastic wrap, spaced evenly.

Step 5Fold the top edge of the plastic wrap over the top of the cubes.

Step 6Roll the three cubes toward you, covering them completely in the plastic wrap.

Step 7Add three more cubes to the wrap, right next to the first three.

Step 8Fold the bottom edge of the plastic wrap up and over the cubes, covering them completely.

Step 9Pinch the plastic wrap between the pairs of cubes, squeezing out excess air.

Step 10Push the cubes up next to each other.

Step 11Press the ends of the plastic wrap under and there you go! These are ready to be frozen!

This may have been obvious to everyone, but I'm easily impressed with myself!

Friday, September 05, 2008

So far, so good

My school lunch goal this year is twofold:

1) pack nutritious lunches (that the kids will actually eat) more often, and keep doing so all year long.

2) document those lunches on this blog.

After the first two weeks of school, how am I doing? So far, so good. I'm doing pretty darn good at goal number one, but could do better at goal number two. I'm just not great at taking the pictures, since I start to get a bit crazy about getting out of the door. And even when I take the pictures, I'm not putting them all up here. So here's my catch-up post, a gallery of some of the lunches I've packed.

08-08-28Here is a lunch for my son, with cheese and crackers with pepperoni, fruit salad, celery and cucumbers. (Notice that all signs of cuteness have been removed.) When it comes to packing for him, the hardest part for me seems to be trying to figure out how much food to send. This seemed to be enough for him, although he needed a hearty snack after school.

08-09-04dHere's another for my son, again no cutesy stuff. This is leftovers from dinner, a delicious recipe for roasted vegetable pasta primavera on AllRecipes. I reheated it a little to improve the texture, then let cool to room temperature before packing with an ice pack. Some fruits and veggies on the side, along with some sliced french bread. I spread some butter (actually, Brummel and Brown yogurt spread) on the bread and then sprinkled with some parmesan cheese. The cheese kept the buttered sides from sticking to each other. I also got some chocolate cat cookies from Trader Joe's, so I'd have something sweet to tuck into lunches.

08-09-04sYes, I've been making lunch for my daughter as well - but lucky for me, she likes the cutesy stuff! Much more fun. This is her kind of lunch, lots of variety, but it turned out to be a little too much for her, so I need to remember to scale back. This is hummus, pretzel thins, baby bel cheese and some chocolate cat cookies on the bottom tier, with a ham and cheddar corn muffin, cucumber slices, grapes and a tangerine on the top tier. She got some chocolate cat cookies in the lid, as well. She didn't eat much of the hummus, and only half the cheese. She did manage to eat all the cookies, however!

08-09-05sAnd here's today's for her, more teriyaki meatballs, cucumber, carrots and edamame in the top tier, mini onigiri, grape tomatoes, chocolate cat cookies and a cheese wedge in the bottom. The mini onigiri we made with a mold from Ichibankan. This was only the second time we've tried to make it, and this is a much better size for her to eat. We also used a different flavor of furikake (no bonito flakes!) and she liked this one much better. She had so much fun making little faces - I'd love to get a punch now!

So there are some of the bentos I've packed this week and last. I still need to streamline the process - I'm taking too much time in the morning - but the kids are really excited about their lunches now, and that makes it worth the extra effort. Plus I feel like they're getting a better, healthier lunch, and they're more willing to be adventurous eaters - onigiri is new for all of us. Yay for bento!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

I'm not just daring, I'm terrified...

This is my second Daring Bakers challenge. The first month, I was impressed. OK, I was thrilled. I baked a freaking Danish, and it was good. And I didn't even use a Pillsbury something-or-other dough to do it. It was dough from scratch. Suck on that, Jacques Pepin. (Yeah, I am that juvenile.)

Then July happened. July wasn't a good month; we were really busy. And there was family illness. And I didn't have some of the required equipment. And frankly, I wasn't feeling very daring. In part, because I was still feeling rather proud of myself for the Danish (did I mention that it was from scratch?) and I didn't want to kill that buzz by screwing up. So feeling guilty, I passed. But I knew that I wouldn't be able to pass August. It was a good month, compared to July. I could do it - I'd have to.

And so here it is: chocolate eclairs. Once again, my initial reaction was: Do people really make this at home? Daring Bakers: it's not for wimps.

But, believe it or not, I've made choux dough before, inspired by Alton Brown. (He's on my list. You know what list I'm talking about.) I can't even remember what I made, but I know it wasn't eclairs. I do remember being amazed by the dough, and the almost magic way it came together, and then puffed up in the oven.

So I printed out all of the pages of the recipe, and gathered my ingredients, and charted out my time. I've never made pastry cream before, and that was fun. And oh my God, it is good. And I made the dough, and I made a glaze but not the one called for in the recipe. But that was allowed, according to the rules. (You think we don't have rules? Hah!) And to spare you the blow-by-blow, here are the results.
And the verdict? I'd make this again, even without the fear of public shaming, it was that good.