Thursday, August 30, 2012

A 200 Calorie Bento

Turkey Sandwich and Red Pepper Broccoli

I've been pretty successfully dieting for a few weeks, now, but the pounds take forever to melt off these days. Still, I'm feeling healthier than I have in a while, and the calorie crunch has got me thinking creatively.

One of the key rules I've been observing is to munch a little throughout the day. Six mini meals supposedly kick start your metabolism and keep you losing more than three regulars. Unfortunately, it's kind of a pain to come up with something other than diet shakes and dried out, sugary snacks that fit under the bar. Finally, I had enough, but I didn't want to ruin my good streak.

Enter the 200 calorie bento.

This one's pretty simple. A turkey sandwich on 12 grain bread and Red Pepper Broccoli are the stars of this show. The 12 grain bread is definitely negotiable. A lot of multi-grain and whole wheat breads can pack in sugar to compensate for the drier texture, so read your labels carefully. This one is pretty hefty, clocking in at 120 calories on its own, but the veggies and low fat turkey meat help balance it out. I have a small smear of deli mustard and some Boston lettuce.

Red Pepper Broccoli is becoming a staple in my lunches lately. A few sprinkles of red pepper and some lemon juice while boiling add a kick to the trees without any added calories. If you want to do a speedy bento version, just fill a bowl with water, mix in 1 tsp red pepper flakes, garlic, and lemon juice with salt and pepper to taste. Cut up fresh broccoli florets and add them to the spice water. Microwave or boil for 4 minutes. After draining, shock the florets in ice water to keep that green color. Dry the veggies thoroughly before putting them in the box with the sandwich.

I'm going to try to keep these up as I go to school, so cheer me on in the comments.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bento Safe Sushi

Salmon Sushi Rolls and Kipper Nigiri

I have to start keeping track of updating this thing. Without a lot of readers, there's no incentive. :/ Still, it's a good exercise for writing and nutrition.

Sushi rolls are a guilty pleasure of mine. Even if I could never have a bite of anything else, I would still love these things. It's just tough to find sushi grade fish out here in the desert. Go figure. Worse, I couldn't pack fresh Nigiri for fear the fish would spoil. I found a great alternative in canned fish.

Although high in sodium, canned fishes like salmon and herring have loads of Omega-3 fatty acids. If you haven't heard of this miracle oil, start reading up. The fat helps cardiovascular health, inflammation, and many suspect developmental disorders and cognitive strengthening properties. (You can overdo it, though, so limit yourself to way less than 3 grams.)

Try this recipe for some at home or on the go fishy pleasure. Overall, this was a 400 calorie little box including the rest of the tin of kippers. (I like kippers, but they are VERY fishy. Be sure to pack your box with a dryer sheet in the bag so the smell doesn't bug others.)

Salmon Sushi Rolls:
-1 4-6oz canned salmon without bones or skin, drained
-2 tbs mayonnaise (with preservatives)
-1 cup sushi rice
-2 pieces nori sheets
*Optional: Cucumber strips, avocado, carrot strips, cream cheese, sesame seeds

1. Drain the salmon (or tuna) and mix in a bowl with the mayo.
2. Prepare the sushi rice. (1 cup glutinous white rice such as Calrose, 2 tbs rice vinegar, 1 tsp sugar, and 1 tsp salt. For lower cal and sodium, don't use the sugar and salt.)
3. On a sushi mat or gallon-sized plastic storage bag, lay out the nori and press half the sushi rice in a neat square over the seaweed in an even layer.
4. Line half the filling evenly about half an inch from the border of rice. (Line other fillings, too.)
5. Roll and press the rice together as you turn the mat. This will get easier with practice; just be sure you're pressing enough to push air pockets out.
6. When the roll is tightly packed, take a very sharp kitchen knife such as a butcher or Santoku and slice the roll in half with one gentle stroke. Line the two pieces up and continue to slice in half until you have eight pieces.
7. Sprinkle the roll with sesame seeds and repeat with the next roll. Be sure to clean the knife thoroughly to avoid sticking and tearing.

A lot of sushi preparation is just practice. You will get lots of ugly rolls, and the filling may slide around or leak out. Don't worry, you'll get it in time. Even a completely torn and collapsed roll can be pressed back into shape. Just be sure you get all the water out of the can or the oil will deteriorate the rice's stickiness. For Nigiri, take two tablespoons of sushi rice and pack it into the hollow of your palm until you get a neat egg-shape. I used canned kippers and gently slid out a fillet for the tops. You can use any sort of canned fish or shell fish. I was just trying this recipe out, so no garnishes, but you could pack the rest of the box in broccoli, pickled ginger (a classic sushi side!), or any combination of low-sodium veggies. I might do a real sushi recipe at some point, so stay tuned.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Happy Belated Birthday, Julia Child

So, yesterday was Julia Child's 100th birthday. She was a giant of a woman in personality and talent, paving the way for French technique in a spray cheese and Spam postwar America. I personally think she saved us all from bland casseroles for the rest of our days and made foreign food appealing and easy. The above was mixed by PBS from her shows and set to autotune. Happy centennial, Julia. You are missed.
At 6'2", she had 38" counters that still fell short.

I'll be back with a Japanese breakfast after the weekend.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Been Awhile

 Chicken Kijiyaki, Tamagoyaki (not shown), Steamed Broccoli, and Rice.

Sorry for the late post, but between the Manbearpig's birthday and a generally busy summer, I've been swamped. I kept cooking, but I really don't as much as I do during school. There were a few stars. I'll post up the food porn for now and get to recipes later this week. :3 Enjoy and tell your friends the Bento Buddy is back.

Those sharp of eye may notice that the hubby's box is back in that top photo. No, it's not an old shot. We went to San Francisco as a weekend anniversary getaway. Lo and behold, a Japan Town dollar (sort of) store had the exact same box, chopsticks and all, for $5. We scooped up the box and got a few veggie cutters, sauce bottles, and a chopstick case for myself. With treats and all, we didn't spend $20. Pretty sweet deal. Best of all, he doesn't have to use mine anymore. The boxes on Amazon can still be a good deal if you don't live near a specialty store like that, though.

This is a meat pie bento I made for the hubby before we got the newbie. Flaky, butter and shortening crust and a little beef and onion filling make this seem like a fatty treat, but you really only use a couple tablespoonfuls between the pies, and fitting them in the boxes means making them small. It's a good sometimes treat for when he has to work late, and I pad the rest of the box with veggies only. Best of all, the pies keep well. Make a bunch and freeze them for a quick and easy bento on the run.

I was feeling Moroccan for a week. These are Moroccan meatballs, mini Roti, Cucumber Raiti, and Cilantro Rice. The meatballs were little more than ground beef, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, poppy seeds, and cilantro, and the cucumber salad was fat free Greek yogurt and dill. Roti are an Indian flat bread. I make these on occasion as a cheap and easy snack or to sit with a bowl of curry. It's just two parts flour to one part water, a sprinkle of salt and oil, and cook it on a dry skillet. The bread couldn't be easier, but they impress.

When Danny saw Dad's excitement over his new box, he insisted I pull out his Star Wars tin lunchbox and fill it for him one day. A peanut butter and jelly Tie Fighter, carrots, vanilla cookies, and some sliced apples were the perfect appeasement and took no effort on my part. I've learned how to carve apples in the traditional rabbit and checker styles since I took up bentos, but I made the mistake of spoiling the Manbearpig with them. Now, he insists I cut every apple the same way for him.
Here's a quick treat and a recipe: Bubble Tea. This has become extremely popular lately and can even be found around our town. Large tapioca pearls sit at the bottom of milky drinks and are slurped up with special, wide straws. I'll give two recipes for making the pearls and tea, but you can pair the bubbles with any cold drink for a fun, summer sweet.

1/2 cup large tapioca pearls (or flavored gelatin cut into small cubes)
5 bags chai or black tea
1 quart boiled water
1 tbs sugar
1 pint milk
-Prepare the tapioca as directed, drain and stir in the sugar.
-Steep tea bags in water in a bowl for 5 minutes, removing bags after.
-Add the milk to the tea and refrigerate in a serving jug until cool.
-In a glass, pour 2-4 tbs of the tapioca pearls or gelatin and fill the remainder of the glass with the milk tea. Add sugar if desired.

I love Bubble Tea, and finding these rainbow pearls on the trip was a major bonus. Even Danny enjoys the drink, but be careful to watch small children with these. I keep the sugar low in my milk tea, but many Japanese recipes call for a syrup of the stuff added to a much thicker milk concentration. The pearls create a similar consistency when you add the sugar, so I suggest adding extra at that stage. Play with it how you like.

Finally, Popovers! Okay, they're not Japanese nor particularly bento friendly. I just like them as an homage to traditional American baking and have made these to accompany a few meals lately. The ones in the corner are bleu cheese with the foreground being plain. They're light and buttery, but I'm starting to look a little like that puffed over muffin top. x.x Hope you enjoyed catching up. I'll post recipes soon enough.