Friday, September 30, 2011

SPAM Sushi with Tofu

Very often, when you do too much of a certain thing, you probably end up at a bottle-neck at one time or another. Having to cook two meals a day, six and a half days a week, I sometimes run out of ideas as to what to cook. Especially so when I need to cater to everyone's preference and likes.

It is the end of the week, and I desperately need a break from cooking.
So here comes SUSHI to my rescue =D

This is one item which pleases everyone in the house! SPAM is not exactly the healthiest choice, but once in a while consumption should be alright. To feel less guilty about feeding the boys processed food, I included some tofu triangles and lots of broccoli florets. TGIF!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Egg and Chicken Soboro

I prepared meat soboro for Darling son KW when he first started school in the woods three years ago. He didn't like the chicken soboro which I prepared, although he politely ate a portion, and left a portion to be brought home. Neither did his little brother, who stayed home with me the whole day, since I didn't enroll him to any pre-school.

Since it was time to introduce some new dishes into the boys' packed lunch, I thought I could try including this dish. After all, it had been three years since they "Dislike" the dish. As the kids get older, their taste and preference change, don't they? In any way, when you are hungry and need to eat, you eat whatever that is packed. Ok, that's my crazy theory, and I'm putting it to test by including Egg and Chicken Soboro in the boys' packed lunch today!

Recipe adapted from THE JUST BENTO COOKBOOK by Makiko Itoh.

Chicken Soboro (Serves 6-8)

450g Finely Ground Chicken
2 tsp Peeled and Grated Fresh Ginger (I use Ground Ginger, just a dash)
4 tbsp Sake (I replace with Shaoxing)
4 tbsp Mirin
1/2 cup Chicken Stock
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tbsp Sugar

  • Put all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Using two pairs of chopsticks held together, stir the meat mixture as it cooks.
  • Keep stirring to keep the meat from clumping.
  • The liquid will evaporate as the meat continue to cook.
  • Remove the pan from the heat when the meat is cooked, and the liquid is almost gone but not totally dry.
  • Let cool the meat before packing.

According to the book, extra servings can be kept in the refrigerator, well covered, for a week, and in the freezer for up to a month. I halved the portion as 450g of minced chicken was just too much for us to consume. The boys finished all the chicken soboro in their lunch! No complaints from them. This is one easy dish to prepare, with no oil involved in the cooking!

However, Darling son KW did say that he liked the egg soboro better!
Here's the recipe for the egg soboro, again, adapted from Maki's Just Bento Cookbook.

Egg Soboro (Serves 1)

1 Egg
1/2 tsp Sugar
1 tsp Sake (optional)

  • Beat all the ingredients together in a bowl.
  • Pour into a small pan over medium heat.
  • Using two pairs of chopsticks, stir the egg mixture as it cooks, to form fine granules.
  • As soon as the egg mixture has cooked, remove from the heat.
  • Let cool before packing.

After packing, I realised the rice portion looked too white. Oops, I didn't prepare well for my nightly homework! So I added a mini cheese-tree, a feeble attempt to wipe out some of the whiteness present. The next time I prepare this bento, I would spread the rice out, and have it under the portions of egg and chicken soboro. That way, there will only be green, yellow and brown colours shown when the lid of the lunch box is removed!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Autumn and Falling Leaves

It's officially Autumn! The leaves from the oak tree outside our apartment have started to turn brown, and some have fallen and covered the ground. Soon, the yard will be covered with piles of brown oak leaves.

I just love these little cookie cookies from Wilton. They make 'dressing up' the bento so easy! This oak leaf cutter is from the Halloween set.

Darling son YW saw the Hanbagu while I was packing the lunch.
He asked, "Do you rotate the dishes?".
I am no super chef, and yes, I do!
Ok son, I get your message.
Hanbagu will take a break from your packed lunch =D

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wooooo ... BOO!

Woooo .... Are you ready for Halloween? Too early?

So here's a ghost coming out of a haunted house .... saying BOO!
Not hello or welcome =p

Added some cauliflower to make it more "ghost white". Included are some strawberries and baked chicken thigh fillet. I cut the piece of fillet into strips after it was baked.

I'm sure the boys will have fun eating up the "ghost" =D

Monday, September 19, 2011

Oh Mummy!

What a busy morning! I was in such a hurry, I managed only a decent shot of the boys' bento! Only one photo was in focused .. the rest turned out blurry.

Got the "Mummy" idea from CuteFoodForKids. Check out how to create the Mummy in her step-by-step tutorial. I replaced the bread with a rice.

Darling sons came home without the Mummy =)
KW told me that his friend came over to him during lunch, but walked away from the lunch table, disappointed. "My mom is doing Halloween bentos, so no more Angry Birds." he told his friend. He was secretly happy that there was no more Angry Birds as he could now "Eat in peace, without anyone disturbing him.", I quote him.

Maybe some day, an Angry Bird will make an appearance again =D

Friday, September 16, 2011

Skulls Attack!

Are you ready for Halloween?
Skulls attack! Scream!

I know, Halloween is at least a month and a half away. But I love Halloween-themed bentos! They are so much fun to create! Even the Angry Birds game on the iPad has a version of "Trick or Treat".

Do you know that for children age 4-8, they need at least 800mg of calcium per day? Kids 9 and above, adults too, need at least 1000mg/day. I'm very sure that with an asian diet, we are not meeting the daily calcium intake. The boys drink a cup of milk every morning. But that is not enough. So I try to include some cheese into their lunch, a smoothie or another cup of milk after school, and a serving of yogurt after dinner. I strongly believe that what you eat as a kid determines your health as an adult. Good eating habits start from young.

And so, I happily cut out 6 skulls from a slice of cheese! And the boys happily finished all =D

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Friendly Phantom

I saw this really cute set of Halloween stamps at ThereSheGoes .
You know it's good stuff when it's "Out-of-Stock". Since I couldn't get my hands on this set of stamps, I thought it would be a good idea to "borrow" one of the image and include it in the boys' bento. The original phantom was holding an axe! I don't want to promote violence in school. So I have the phantom holding a leaf instead of an axe! How timely, since some of the leaves had already fallen from the trees.

And so we have, not one but two busy phantoms raking the leaves!

Ok, back to the bento ... the boys have pan fried chicken thigh strips marinated in Korean BBQ sauce. I put too little sauce when marinating the meat, and after pan frying them, I added a little more to taste. I had the leftover for lunch, and it tasted good even though it was cold. Well, the boys were happy with the phantom, and came home with an empty lunch box.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Meet The Zombies!

Meet the zombies! Eight of them in total, and each one is different!

You know, Moms always say "Don't play with your food!".

That's what my mom told me when I was young. But I had a blast creating the faces of these zombies! Guilty, guilty. And Darling son KW told me, during lunch yesterday, his friend G was so taken in by the Red Bird, he decided to create his own using the tortilla from his Hot Lunch!
My mom would say "That's playing with food!". So I asked my boy if his friend finished up his lunch after "creating the bird". He said YES, phew!
I don't want G's mom to come after me for indirectly teaching her son to "play with food".

But it may not be a bad thing after all! I mean, playing with your food.
As long as one remembers to eat it all up. It helps the boys to see things at a different perspective, and encourages them to think out of the box.

At times, when my boys request for a certain character to be included in their lunchbox, I will tell them "Sorry to disappoint you, but I don't have the colour to do that. And I don't want to use food colouring". They will, most of the time, come out with all kinds of ideas and suggestions. Just this afternoon, KW suggested using the Japanese Cheesecake I just baked to create a catapult! He explained to me "See, the top of the cake is brown. Just like the stand. You don't have to worry about the colour. Just cut the stand. Then you cut a nori strip. Put them together and TADA!". They are indeed becoming more aware of the kind of pattern and figures their food can create =D

Well, back to their bento for today. It had to be quick and simple, as Darling son KW had an appointment with the Orthodontist at 815am! I woke up really early to start cooking, hoping to finish packing his lunch by 730am. These Japanese fishcakes were easy to cook. All that was left to do after cooking them was to put the expressions on the faces of the zombies. And KW came home very happy, not because of the zombies, but because the Orthodontist told him he need not wear the retainer at night till his tooth has emerged! I am happy for him too. Adults find it hard to wear it, what more kids. Getting a good night's sleep is very important for growing kids.

I really hope that his tooth come out well. Otherwise, it will be a stressful trip to the orthodontics clinic in six months' time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Caw! Caw!"

Watch out! Here comes the Red Bird! Caw! Caw!
Do you know that the Red Bird in the Angry Birds Game is sometimes known as the Cardinal Bird, Normal Bird, or Lame Bird?

My homework last night ... sketching the Red Bird and sticking the sketch onto the kitchen wall for me to refer to in the morning. I did the Yellow Bird sketch as well. When I compared the Yellow Bird I did for the Bento last week, and the one I drew, I flipped! What a difference! If only I had a sketch last week ....

The Red Bird didn't look too bad, huh? Oh well, the vegetables and the meat did looked kind of messy though =( Darling son KW woke up this morning, coughing badly, and I could hear the phlegm when he coughed. At the very last minute, I decided to drop the pan-fried chicken from the list, and replaced it with tofu and sausages instead. Gosh, I thought the rice bird will not take up too much space in the box. How wrong! I had a tough time trying to press the rice and compact it so that I would have enough space for the other items! It didn't help that the rice keep sticking onto my spoon.

Oh well, hope the boys enjoy their lunch as much as I enjoy drawing the birds =D
Maybe we should take a break from the Angry Birds ... Is it too early for Halloween?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Happy Pigs!

The Angry Birds are out of the picture today, and the Pigs are happy!
It's Mid-Autumn Festival today, we don't want any fighting between the Birds and the Pigs =)

With the morning rush, I sometimes tend to forgot how the characters look like. Just to play safe, I sketched a picture of the pigs and stuck the paper on the kitchen wall! There, I know I need to cut circles and ovals from cheese, and I will remember to place the eyes at the sides of the face, instead of above the nose! I love these pigs! I had fun assembling the parts of the pigs, despite the morning rush =D

Why this sketch then? Well, I changed the boys' lunchbox from a Lock&Lock box to a bigger stainless steel box. With the bigger capacity, I need to be sure that I have enough food in the container. Too little, the contents will move and their lunch will end up in a mess when they open their lunchbox. I have learnt that if I do not think about where to place the food the night before, I will end up wasting time, trying arrange the contents here and there.

There you go ... pigs, logs, bushes, and a little mushroom =)
Happy pigs wishing all "中秋节快乐!"!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Angry Birds - Maching/Turbo Bird

We have the white and black birds, and it's now the yellow bird to make an appearance! Do you know that the yellow bird is also known as the Maching or Turbo Bird? I didn't. But my boys knew! I thought they made up those names, until I did a check on the Internet.

Instead of shaping the rice into a triangle, I chose to leave it as it is, that is, a length/square of rice. Less time consuming, and definitely easier when cutting the slice of cheese to fit the block of rice. It was a hectic morning, as I tried a new dish ... Oven-Baked Lotus Root Chips. Since it was my first time trying out the dish, it didn't turn out as I expected. But the boys happily finished all the chips that were packed =) Will try baking these chips again on another not so hectic day.

This was my little boy's dinner plate from last night. He happily took the slices of pan-fried tilapia and arranged them nicely on his place. When satisfied with how it looked, he grabbed his camera and took a shot of his dinner plate. Maybe he did learn something from all his bento lunches =)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Angry Birds - Black Bomber!

The boys were so happy with the Egg Beater Bird yesterday, they requested for all the other birds for today's lunch! After some thought, they finally settled on the Black Bomber =)

Can you spot the pig hiding in the strawberry?
The green pig dyed himself pink!
It's Summer Pig-nic for lunch today!

In the bento, there's blanched cabbage (seasoned with a little sea salt), oven-baked soy sauce chicken thigh fillet, strawberries, and rice wrapped in nori (the bomb).

I used a thin slice of Japanese fishcake for the eyes. Cut out a circle using a cutter. Half the circle and you get two semi-circles. That's a pair of eyes! Punch out some circles from a nori punch, and place the black circles onto the semi-circles. Done! The brows were made from a grape tomato. You can use red pepper or the red part of crabmeat too.

Question: How do I "stick" the eyes to the rice ball wrapped in the nori sheet?

Answer: I used a short length of angel's hair to secure the eyes/brows to the rice ball. Do not use toothpick as you don't want your kid to choke. You can also use some grains of the sticky rice, or a little mayonnaise. For me, the stick of uncooked angel's hair works best =)

I wonder which bird or pig the boys want for lunch tomorrow .....

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Angry Birds - White Bird

It's September, and it's Back-To-School for the boys!
And it's Back-To-Bento-Making for mom!

Yeah! It means that I have more time to do things at a slower pace.
Much as I miss having the company of the boys at home, I really need those "Me-Time" to recharge my batteries =)

For the new school term, I bought lunch boxes for the boys. The ones that they were using last school term were in quite bad shape. Plus they are also eating a lot more, especially after a summer of everyday swimming.

The boys were introduced to the Angry Birds Game on the iPad this summer. And so, they were allowed, and had been playing, since they were very disciplined when it was time to do their Math workbooks. I was very pleased with the effort they put into the Math this summer vacation. The elder boy would take out his workbook, set the timer, and start doing his sums. The little one would follow. It was a great improvement from last summer. Last summer, every Math session was filled with their protests and complaints ... It's vacation, why do we have to do work? It's too hard.
I don't know how to do. I don't want to do.

Hopefully, this Angry Bird Bento lunch can help cheer up the little one, since he is alone in a new class this school term. He has been quite miserable for the last two days of school. New teacher, new classroom, new friends, new routine. He has been pushed out of his comfort zone. His new teacher is a very nice lady, who notices some tears in his eyes on the first day of school. I'm sure she will help him settle into his new environment very quickly.

In today's lunch, we have cauliflower and broccoli, and panfried Japanese fishcake. Since the lunchbox is bigger, I put in two strawberries instead of one. The sauce for the fishcake ... 1.5 tbsp soy sauce, mixed with 1/2 tbsp each of sake (or shaoxing), mirin and sugar. Pour the sauce into a heated pan, or the pan that you use to fry the fishcake. When the sauce starts to bubble, return the panfried fishcake to the pan and glazed the slices with the bubbling sauce.

And what's for lunch tomorrow?
Another AngryBird-theme bento =)

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