Monday, March 26, 2012


Sad, sad news. 

Bob has lost his bento box. We think it might have been the janitorial staff at his work, but how someone could have confused his nice box with Tupperware is beyond me. The black beauty had its run, though, and lasted over a year in spite of bumps and a broken hinge. Other than that, it was very sturdy and didn't get ratty like most plastics. For now, Bobbers will be toting disposables, but we'll get him a new one soon enough.

Tomorrow's meal will be mini quiches, smoked turkey octodogs, and apple bunnies. I love eggs. They're something of a super food in my mind because they can be anything you want and give you protein for minimal calories. I know some people harp on the "cholesterol" tangent, but eggs contain a good cholesterol that actually helps clear away the plaque kind that builds up in the arteries. Besides, anything in moderation is fair enough, and these puffy, spinach-packed bites are just that. The hot dogs were a surprising treat because cooking them filled the kitchen with a pleasant smokey smell, and the turkey meat means less fuss over fats. Normally, I don't pack a box with mostly proteins, but these two were healthy enough in their small doses.

Another staple of the bento box, the apple bunnies make their appearance here. I'll have to do these as my next tutorial, but for now, shiny red apples and a fruit paring knife will easily get you started in fruit carving for the boxes. Most people will carve out the ears and dip them in ice water so they stand up, but a quick triangle cut shallowly into the skin gets you the same look with little effort. I'll even carve these out for the Manbearpig when we're at home. You can also try cutting into veggies to get finicky eaters interested in the treats. For the boxes, just a splash of lemon juice and water will keep these fresh.

Happy cooking!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Curry Noodles and a Bobbers Cocktail

It happened again. Sorry about the delay in posting. I don't know what's going on with my camera (or just the memory card), but I lost a couple of meals and the pictures are mixed up. I'll try out a different card and see if that helps. To catch up on the two that I have, one is a bento, and the other is a cocktail creation from the Hubby, Bobbers.

Curry Udon Noodles was a treat we tried when we went to San Francisco's Japanese district. I love wandering around there and finding hidden shops, so when we stumbled into one restaurant that was literally a door hidden in the corner, we were thrilled with what we found. I can't remember what it was called as the sign was in Japanese. (Still trying to learn, but unsuccessfully.) What I do remember is that we all had a wonderful meal with a very friendly staff. I had a donburi with eel (basically, a rice bowl), but Bobbers chose the special of the day: Curry Udon. As much as I loved my eel, I couldn't help but eyeball his pile of curry and noodles and vowed to try it myself someday.

It's been a couple of years, now, but Japanese curry is one of those stick-to-your-ribs meals that you just don't forget. You can make this either of two ways: store-bought roux paste or make it yourself. The first is how I grew up with the curry. I recommend Golden Curry as it comes in a variety of heats and colors and you can break up as much of the bars as you need and reserve the rest for another time. I ended up making this from scratch, but the flavors are almost identical.

Chicken Curry Udon:
1 small russet potato, sliced thin
1 carrot sliced thin
1/2 small onion chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock, plus 1/2 cup
1 chicken breast, large, chopped into 1" cubes
2-3 tbs flour
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 package udon noodles prepared as directed
green onion for garnish

1. Slice up the veggies and heat a small pot with 2 tbs olive oil.
2. Cook the chicken cubes for 5 minutes on medium high heat and remove to a bowl.
3. Add the onions and sautee for 3 minutes.
4. Add the potatoes and carrots and cook for 5 more minutes before adding the chicken again.
5. Aside, mix the flour and spices in a small bowl or dish and add a little of the chicken stock very slowly, stirring until a thick past emerges with no lumps.
6. Stir the remaining stock into the veggies and chicken and add the roux in a little at a time, eying the thickness. The sauce should be runny at this stage.
7. Cover and reduce the heat to low, simmering for 15 minutes.
8. When curry reaches desired consistency, serve over the udon noodles with green onions sprinkled on top. Serves 2-4.

For experienced curry munchers, you may notice that this recipe is a little on the mild side. Japanese curry is supposed to have a smooth, creamy, and almost-gravy taste to it. You can kick up the spice a bit or mix around the ingredients; I don't even follow the recipe when I'm making it. I just smell what I like that day and adjust the flavor accordingly.

Belated St. Paddy's Day Treat Courtesy of the Bobbers:
This is a Key Lime Pie Martini that the Hubby concocted with Smirnoff Whipped Cream Vodka and Ke-Ke Beach Key Lime Liquor. He rimmed it in graham cracker crumbs and a lime, topping it with whipped cream and a cherry. I usually don't like alcoholic drinks. I taste the alcohol right away, and it's just not my thing, but this was fabulous. Every sip was a perfect balance of the flavors, and the alcohol didn't stick out at all. I liked it so much, I went back for a rare second. I'll have to get the exact measurements from him at some point, but I thought this was a cheerful alternative to the soupy, dyed green beer on St. Paddy's.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sorry I've been missing out on updates. I mostly just got busy last week, but I'm caught up and even ahead a little. Above is a Miso-Marinated Chicken with broccoli, blueberries and strawberries. This one was for last Thursday and was very tasty. I should have marinated the chicken overnight and cooked it in the morning, but otherwise, it was perfect. I've been trying to branch out into different recipes, but mostly, my range is Japanese food in these little boxes.

Remember the Onigiri (Rice Balls) I promised? Here they are:

There are hundreds of ways to make these, but the basic recipe is short grain rice pressed and molded by hand with a little sea salt brushed over your palms. This triangle shape is the most traditional, but people make them in all shapes and sizes. You can even stuff them with a variety of fillings from Umeboshi plums to dried, salted salmon. Just make sure that what you're filling them with isn't greasy or the oil will make the grains soggy and split up the Onigiri. I decided to munch on just a few of these with some soy beans (they were frozen, but by lunch time, they thaw and are perfect for snacking) and more strawberries and blueberries. I seldom put sweets in the boxes, but when I do, it's always fruit. Fruits can still be high in carbohydrates, so count them as part of the carb portion of your box, and you're safe. Preserving the cuts until meal time is really easy, too. Most people try a salt water dip, but I don't like adding too much sodium to something already sugary. I sprinkle my fruit with lemon juice, and it keeps its color and shape. If you're really worried about it, keep a small ice pack handy.

And the last two! (What an update, right?)

The top is Teriyaki Salmon with ginger-glazed carrots and Tamagoyaki. Bob loves teriyaki, so I confess that I make this one a lot. Up to once a week. It's a basic, easy meal that can be churned out in fifteen minutes if you have the rice already. Good teriyaki sauce can come in a variety of flavors at your local grocery store if you want to save even more time. Otherwise, I use a simple mixture of one clove minced garlic, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and a sprinkle of grated ginger. When the fish is done, take it out to cool and throw in the carrots in the remaining sauce with a little honey and a sprinkle more ginger.

The bottom photo is today's concoction and catches us up from my camera. Salt Salmon, Octo/Fish Dogs, and Tamagoyaki. This is a really Japanese mix. Salt Salmon is fish (skin on) that has been cured in sea salt for the last three days. The end result can be VERY strong and fishy, but it's perfect for mashing up in the rice and is a great flavor once you get in to it. You can also try it with whole mackerel and grill it for an irresistible taste. The hot dogs are cut up like an octopus and fishes. I don't know why this is a thing in Japan, but it's so cute, I'm not objecting. It might have something to do with octopus being a popular food. In either case, these were cooked up in the pan and tossed in, too.

I'll try to be more punctual in the future, but here they are. Thanks for reading.