Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thai Tropical Tapioca Dessert

Desserts are a treat! I have been exploring recipes more than making bento lately. Thai food is my second favourite after Japanese and I really wanted to try out some new recipes. I made "Thai Heavenly Pineapple Fried Rice" which tasted divine and really lived up to its name. It inspired me to make some more hot and spicy Thai food, but after all that chilli I really craved a Thai-style dessert.

Tropical Tapioca with mango and coconut

Every now and then I like to try something new. I'd never eaten Tapioca before, or come across it in a restaurant. I bought tapioca the size of large pearls. Smaller beads of sago was also available; but although it looks very similar to tapioca, according to Wikipedia: Tapioca is cassava root. Sago is the pith of sago palm stems. 

Either way, I was a bit skeptical at first...

The first pot of tapioca got burnt and just didn't look right. Not that I knew what it was supposed to look like. The second time I kept a close eye on it - but when it was supposed to be done it looked more like a pot of thick glue with styrofoam beads (like from the inside of a bean bag). I thought maybe I'd gone wrong somewhere and almost threw it out again.

But no, I gave it a chance and carried on with the recipe.

So, after the pre-soaked tapioca was simmered in salted water, it was left to cool until lukewarm, to let the rest of the 'beads' soften. (It is still unbeknown to me if all the tapoica was supposed to become translucent).

To put together the pudding, scoop a portion of cooked, lukewarm (or cold) tapioca into a dish. Drizzle with maple syrup, top with mango slices, and pour over a few spoonfuls of coconut milk (the lite version is great, with just half the calories).

Take it from me, when you serve tapioca this way it tastes amazing. It's the toppings here that make this dish a success.

Eating this decadent dessert takes your mind to a tropical island, palm trees swaying in the breeze, coconut and mango go so well together. That's one thing I love about Thai food, it's never bland, always interesting and full of different flavours.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Baby bento

A bento for my baby girl that she ate in her stroller while we were at the Parent and Child show. Cheese hearts, sultana bran buds and a couple of 'bread sticks' (baby teething biscuits).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

BB Bento

As I was preparing this I thought of a name for it; BB bento - a bit boring bento, haha. It's just rice with thinly sliced cucumber on top, cherry tomatoes, an omelet cut into quarters and broccoli. If you look closely you'll see some satay sauce on the omelet, which I know is probably not a good idea if you have to transport your bento. But since I eat all of mine at home I thought I'd get away with it. I dont have any of those neat little sauce containers. Maybe I should go shopping for some new bento accessories!

Which reminds me, I have a useful tip for storage of bento stuff. I bought a couple of plastic baskets that fit neatly on the shelf in the cupboard. One for bento boxes, lids etc, and another for all those itty bitty items; picks, molds, vege cutters and so on. Now all I have to do is pull out the required basket, find what I want, and put it all neatly back in the cupboard. Saves stuff getting lost or pushed to the darkest corner of your pantry never to see light of day again.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Baby Girls first bento!

I knew the day would come :) I just didn't know it would come so soon.... BabyGirl's first ever bento!!  The first thing she did when I gave it to her was tip it all out, but she can be excused, that's what they do at 9 months old. :) Here she is enjoying it...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tamarillo and rice bento

Tamarillo - This exotic fruit is locally grown (I picked some up at the Saturday Farmer's Market), and has a tangy, mildly sweet flavour. I decided to stew them with a little sugar and water, adding a few frozen blueberries for extra sweetness.

It made a delicious and unusual topping for rice with capsicum, the flavours actually went very well together. In the other dish of the bento are some crumbed chicken filet pieces, baby carrots & beans. I cut the last tamarillo in half to show what they look like when fresh. I think they taste better cooked though.

The stewed tamarillo also made a nice topping for vanilla ice cream!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sesame fish cakes bento (+recipe)

Sesame coated fish cakes are one of my favourites, and a good way to use up leftover mashed potatoes from dinner the night before. The recipe is below, you can kind of adapt it to how much time you have got when you are making your bento, and how adventurous you want (or don't want) to be. They feature in this bento on a bed of baby lettuce leaves, with fresh tomato halves and some chopped mango.

Sesame coated fish cakes:
~1 1/2 cups leftover mashed potato (you can vary the amount if you have a bit more or less is ok)
1 can of tuna, drained
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
and any (or all) of the following:
crushed garlic
finely chopped onion
finely chopped red pepper
small amount of grated cheese

Mix everything together, shape into flattened balls and roll in sesame seeds. Cook on both sides in a little olive oil. If you want you can place them on a paper towel before putting into your bento (I like to do this to remove any excess oil). These fish cakes are not only tasty, they look good as well!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hello Kitty bento

Hello Kitty! My first ever cute bento in the making. I know she's not complete, I had to improvise a bit for the eyes, nose and she has no real whiskers. Baby girl was being especially fussy while I was trying to put this together so had to try and feed her at the same time. But we shared the Hello Kitty bento when all was said and done. :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cute little sandwich bento

When all you have in your kitchen is fruit, veg and bread, this is an easy bento to make. I made a salad sandwich and cut it into little shapes with a sandwich cutter. Insert a cute pick such as the Hello Kitty one to help hold it together. Add some fresh strawberries, ripe plum and kiwifruit "blossoms" in a little pink box, this makes for a fruity bento lunch.

I've been a little busy with my photography course this past week, but did pick up a copy of Crystal (Pikko) and Maki's (luckysundae) book Yum-Yum Bento Box from our local library today...


It really is packed full of tips and everything you need to know for making cute Charaben bento. In fact I'm so impressed with this book that I might buy my own copy to keep. Baby girl is 9 months old today - one day soon I'd love to start making her cute bento!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Korean tea and rice cakes - a feast for your eyes

Yesterday we visited a food and cooking demonstration of international food at the local museum, this week it was Korea. I had my camera with me and took some pictures of the rice cakes - they were so pretty!

These authentic Korean rice cakes have layers made with natural colourings. They were a feast for your eyes and we all got to try some. They're only slightly sweet and probably a lot healthier than regular, European cakes made with butter, sugar and flour.

One thing I find again and again and that I love is with a lot of Asian food the emphasis is so much on presentation. From the elaborate platters of Japanese sushi and sashimi, delicately carved vegetables of a Thai banquet, and now these beautiful Korean rice cakes.

I've had the pleasure of dining at some fine restaurants from time to time and something beautifully presented always rates highly to me. And that's why I love bento so much, it's about creating something beautiful that's healthy at the same time.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fish filet bento

A simply delicious and healthy bento dinner. Tarakihi filets cooked in a little olive oil on a bed of cos lettuce heart leaves. Slices of tomato and cuke and some sticks of carrot. I was a little hurried or I would've added a few decorative touches.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Earth gems and appelmoes

Summer fruit and earth gems bento
  These tiny potato-like nuggets are marketed here as "Earth gems" or jewels of the Inca's. As soon as I saw them I thought: bento! They have a taste and texture much like new potatoes, but more earthy. Very nice dipped in appelmoes, or apple puree. Also in this bento is a sliced nectarine and plum, fresh avocado, vine-ripened tomato and cuke.

Earth gems bento (#2)

Second bento featuring the earth gems. Not the best photography I know, but there was no natural light left at that time of day. Included is a simple 1 egg tamagoyaki (or my attempt at one).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sesame seed coated fish cakes and rooiekool

I'm pleased with how this bento turned out. It features a new colour I hadn't used yet before in my bento's - purple. Red cabbage with apple to be more precise, or rooiekool in Dutch - t's my grandmother's recipe.  And then there are fish cakes coated in sesame seeds nestled with tomatoes on a bed of lettuce. Lightly roasted cashews nuts, fresh avocado and carrots. A very satisfying bento lunch!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bento al fresco

Orzo and tomato salad bento
A bento with an al fresco feel - orzo and tomato salad nestled in a bed of lettuce, topped with avocado butterflies. Some cinnamon spiced pumpkin pieces and a ripe plum for dessert.

This pasta salad is great for bento as it is quick and easy! Orzo is ready in 5-6 mins, so while it's cooking just fry some onion and garlic in a little olive oil, chop some fresh tomatoes and squeeze the juice of half a lemon. When the orzo is ready, combine all ingredients, season and it's done! Tip: the orzo can be cooled quickly by draining in a sieve and running cold water over it.

Optional extras: If you have tofu, add a few small cubes when you fry the garlic and onion. Feta cheese can be crumbled into the salad when it's done. Fresh basil goes well with it too!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Vege-filled omelet/nori rolls and falafel with basil

Vege filled omelet/nori rolls. These turned out to make a very colourful bento! They are easy to make as well. You make a 2-egg omelet, being careful not to break it. Transfer it to a plate and top with nori. I used a seasoned kind of nori that comes in one-portion little packets. Place thickly cut sticks of carrot and celery and some snowpea shoots in the centre of the omelet and roll tightly.  Trim the ends and cut the omelet roll into pieces. That's it, easy! You can have it with a dipping sauce of your liking, or it is tasty just as it is. Other veges can of course be used for the filling. The other dish contains falafel with basil, using ready-made mix they take only a few minutes to cook when making your bento in the morning. Happy bento making!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"Let little seem like much, as long as it is fresh and beautiful" (Japanese ryori)

Teriyaki sesame chicken with organic soba noodles. I made this especially for my bento and couldn't wait to eat it. These noodles are supposed to be very good for you - high in protein and low in fat, (unlike instant noodles, or ramen as I think you call it in the U.S.). Soba noodles are made with a combination of buckwheat flour and wheat flour - the buckwheat is what gives it the extra nutrition. I used these Japanese organic soba noodles, they have an interesting website about some of the history behind these noodles and the Japanese diet and way of life. (click on Lifestyle in the menu on the left).

As the Japanese ryori says "Let little seem like much, as long as it is fresh and beautiful". I think this very much applies to bento making as well!

Steamed salmon and red potatoes were combined to make salmon patties, adding some miso paste, garlic and ginger for flavour. I tried my hand at making an avocado fan, it doesn't look as perfect as some that I've seen (maybe it was too ripe), but I love avocados. It's a taste that's really grown on me.

Baby girl is still too young for bentos, but I gave her some cooked potato slices and broccoli spears to chew, or gum on, as she still only has 2 teeth. The avocado was a bit too slippery for her to manage on her own. She's only just turned 8 months, but I think she's doing well in her eating adventures so far.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Chilli black bean couscous bento's

Organic black beans in chilli sauce add a delicious hot spicyness to sweetcorn kernels and couscous - so quick and easy to make!  Pumpkin with cinnamon/maple syrup so sweet, on a bed of curly lettuce and some rice molded into cute shapes.

Next day I revamped the couscous by adding garlic and chopped cherry tomatoes, complements the cumin & chilli spices, topped off with avocado angels and heart. Thick carrot slices - cooked with a butter & brown sugar glaze. Add a cutesy teddy bear egg and baby tomato garnish. Yummy!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Two bento's in a day

After a few days of no bento (but plenty of bento viewing) my first thought on getting up was why not a breakfast bento?
Three kinds of fruit - banana, kiwifruit and apple, some strawberry yoghurt, star cut outs of toast spread with yummy almond butter. It's strange, ever since I was little I have never liked peanut butter, but recently I developed a real liking for almond (and cashew nut) butter... As long as I spread it on something crunchy!

At lunch time my bento had a bunny shaped egg, cinnamon/maple syrup pumpkin pieces (goes together oh so well), rice shaped like a teddy bear (a little hard to see),  sweetcorn kernels, a vine-ripened tomato, all on a bed of curly lettuce, and some green grapes.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pretty in pink

I instantly fell in love with these pretty pink bowls and adorable little bento box. My baby girl will love these, she's just a little too young to be having bento's just yet!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Humble beginnings

Inspired by photos of healthy, delicious, & cute homemade bento box lunches on Flickr, I made my own first bento on 21 August 2010. This is what it looked like:

My first ever bento
Looking back, I see that I used all simple ingredients, nothing is cooked (except for maybe the toast). The kiwifruit, grapes, tomato, carrot & avocado are all fresh and raw, the apricots & baby corn were canned, then there's smoked salmon on crackers and little star cut-outs of cheese and toast. It's natural, healthy and colourful with 11 different ingredients! Not bad for a very first bento, but being completely new to bento making I knew I had a LOTTT to learn.

My second ever bento looked like this:

Second bento I've done
I'd decided some cooked food belongs in a bento! I'd steamed a few broccoli spears, and made an omelet roll with seasoned nori. I tried to be a little more creative with my presentation, with a Japanese style lunch box (not a bento box per se), bamboo mat and some new chopsticks for my bento.

So far, I've eaten all my bento's at home, as I don't need to be anywhere for work. My third bento looked like this:
Bento at home

Since carbs had more or less been missing from my bento's so far (save for the toast), I found something in the cupboards I only had to heat up: canned spagehetti - not very Japanese I know. Speed is key, as every time I make bento's my baby also wants my attention. But hey, I was already hooked and my bento's could only get better.

Next day I made 2 bento's! - one for lunch and one for dinner.

Lunch time bento
By now I realised you don't need a large number of ingredients to make a bento, as long as it's colourful. I'd made some falafel with coriander and used my rice moulds for the first time - it's just plain rice, and probably the wrong kind (long grain) but it's all I had in the cupboard at the time.

Dinner time bento

In the evening I made another bento. It didn't take long to chop up some pumpkin and cook it while assembling my bento, adding maple syrup and cinnamon for some extra flavour. The little egg/nori rolls make their appearance again.

The next bento turned out to be a simple vegan one. Again I see that I didn't include carbs! I steamed some carrots with the broccoli and put a few cashew nuts in my bento which I LOVE - but this is the only time they appeared in my bento's as I found them irresistable and ate the rest straight from the packet. :P
Vegan bento

For my next bento I cooked some carbs especially. It's a recipe featuring orzo (pasta shaped like big grains of rice), with some fried tofu cubes, onions, tomatoes, and lemon juice. I also added some surimi. Falafel feature again, and I tried cutting carrots to look like little flowers.
I know the bright pink box is a bit much (clashes with the food), but hey. :) The broccoli was starting to look a bit sad (note to self: don't buy TWO more heads of broccoli when you still have one at home as well). After this bento, the rest of the broccoli was made into a (still very nice) soup.

So this sums up my first week of bento making. All trial and error and a lot to learn. Hopefully in the future I can look at my first week of bento's and see that I have come a long way from these humble beginnings.