Tuesday, 29 June 2010

No.50 Humpty Dumpty bento

Phew! Last night's storm and heavy rain really cooled everything down. I slept a little better for it, I think. I skipped making a bento blog post yesterday, since I only had to make a bento for my son (my daughter had a school trip), and his bento, although still pretty and fun, wasn't very photogenic. It was marmite dolphin sandwiches with cheese slice dolphins in between and a fruit layer.

Today's bento took a little more time to prepare and in my opinion is a little more interesting than yesterday's. I began without inspiration, just cooking up boiled eggs as the main ingredient and thinking over what I could do with them. After I told my sister that the base would be egg, she suggested Humpty Dumpty! Thank you, Sis. All the ingredients just came together quite nicely then, really.

Under the lettuce I have some sliced tomatoes and a dollop of humous to mix in and make a dressed salad after the egg is gone. Humpty is of course a boiled hen's egg, with hand cut carrot arms and legs and food colouring features. The wall underneath him is a very thin slice of sesame tofu, that already had that grid pattern on it. The King's horsie is cut out from brie cheese, with food colouring features put on with a toothpick. In the fruit layer are satsuma pieces, strawberries and seedless grapes. I'll pack a granola bar and a Big Pot Petits Filous, too.

All in all, I'm quite happy with it!

On the bird front, because we're ALWAYS bird spotting in mornings and afternoons, we saw a magnificent Jay the other day, while stopping to talk to our dog walking friend. It was gorgeous. We've also been spotting some very young birds indeed, all new and naive and still a bit fluffy. We've had a few escargot to rescue today after last night's rains and we've also been seeing plenty of butterflies.

Tomorrow there is going to be a teddy bear's picnic at school, and parents are encouraged to bring in their own teddies as well. I'm taking one of my old favourites 'Efnisien Gwrtheyrn' (I used to name my toys from the Mabinogion). He has a very large brown nose made from embroidery thread that I stitched on when I was eleven years old after his three-strands-of-wool nose came loose. I still think I did a good job of it now, looking at it as an adult. There will be cakes and tea at the school picnic and a violin recital from my son. I'm very excited about it!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

No.49 'Sandy Beach' bento

Ugh, the Summer heat is now really withering me and also melting my bento creativity! The kitchen is too hot to be standing around in, even hours after the cooking is over. There may be one or two days of non-bento lunches or rather, non-decorative bento lunches this week, but we'll see how it goes. Only two more weeks until school breaks up for the Summer holidays and this blog begins to see picnic bentos and other cooking rather than school lunches.

Today's bento has a base of moroccan spiced couscous leftover from a weekend barbecue. The top is simply decorated with some hand cut cheese slice bucket and spades, since the couscous looked very beach-like. It's simple, but tasty and quite healthy. In the fruit layer are pineapple slices, seedless green grapes and morello cherries.

In the second picture you can see the boxes of Graham crackers I'm sending in for break time. The quantity may seem excessive, but I'm sure the children will be sharing them with class mates in the playground (or munching the leftovers on the way home). I'll add a dried fruit bar to their lunch bags, too.

In other news, the children had a great time at the school sports day! My daughter came 1st, 2nd and 3rd in her three races and my son came 2nd, 2nd and 3rd in his. Very good effort, little ones!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

No.48 'Gold medal' School Sports Day bento

Sports day! The children will be competing at their school's sports event tomorrow, so I wanted to provide them with a very filling and energy rich bento. For the little athletes' carbohydrate I made mini 'bread sushi' rolls by de-crusting and flattening with a rolling pin, several slices of bread. Then spreading them thinly with soya spread, vegemite or jam before rolling them tightly and cutting them into sections. There are two layers in each box. They also have crackers and cheese and some cubes of sesame tofu.

In the fruit layer I've put some tangerine and halved grapes with a 'gold medal' Jaffa Cake! (writing icing for the lettering). That way, they'll be getting the gold even if they stagger in last. The third box has sweet animal shaped biscuits.

I can't wait to see them compete and to get out there and join in on the Mum's race, too!

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

No.47 'Rainbow birds' bento

Hello all! I missed making a decorative bento yesterday for the first school day in along time. I have posted the bento that I did provide at the bottom of this post. Despite it's undecorated state I am informed that it was none-the-less delicious. I have provided similar ingredients today in the form of a slice of broccoli and gruyere cheese quiche, with a portion of vegan worcester sauce flavoured couscous replacing yesterday's pesto pasta. The rainbow birdies are cut from a cheese slice, simply inspired by our many bird experiences lately. In the fruit layer are pineapple rings and seedless green grapes.

As I have written separately, we are the carers of a year old, hand reared Wood Pigeon by the name of Sammy. He hasn't been the only bird in trouble that we have brought home in the past year. A month or so back we found another young fledgling pigeon injured and dehydrated. That one was a 'feral' pigeon as they are known. Domestic pigeons that have found a place for themselves, and bred, in the wild. I took it home and provided emergency care and attention, but even with my best efforts the little creature (beautifully feathered in white and brown) died before the day was through.

I'm sad to say that we had a similar experience yesterday, when I brought home a very sickly, flightless Carrion Crow fledgling. Again I provided emergency care, rehydration fluid and a great deal of love, but the little guy passed away at the end of the day. I can only hope that the ones who don't survive my 'rescue' have at least been rested and their distress soothed before they go. Each one leaves myself and the children very saddened, but I firmly believe that my efforts are a lesson in compassion for my offspring.

There is a lot I could say about how the experience of raising a wood pigeon has altered my life, but using the fewest possible words I will only say that my life before The Bird was lacking in a special kind of richness and connection to the natural world.

And back to bento. The last image here is of yesterday's undecorated bento. Product of a very busy day indeed!

Monday, 21 June 2010

No.46. 'Poppy field pasta' bento

The bento for Tuesday was planned around the fact that I haven't given the children a pasta bento for a long time. I decided that the green pesto coated pasta would make an excellent field for bright flowers! When I think of fields of flowers my first thought is always of poppies. There was one fine Summer day in my childhood when I saw such a field and also some very impressive kites being flown over it. Funny how a single day can leave a lifetime's impression. So here is the pasta poppy field I put together, using the flower cutter from my new little collection and some mild English cheddar.

In the fruit layer I've put tangerine segments and jaffa cakes as dessert. For break they will have the box of crackers and cheese that can be seen on the right of the picture. I'll also put in a Petits Filous Big Pot to go with their dessert.

I bought the children some adorable Sigg flasks for their lunch boxes today. My daughter's is bright yellow with little monsters all around it, and my son's is a 'space robot' on blue background. They love them! The flasks have been with them to their climbing lesson and Karate this afternoon. Speaking of Karate, we attended the Monday training session this week with an aim to do two days training instead of one. Monday's session turned out to be very rigorous and we three were the only 'white belts' there. It didn't exactly put us off going again on a Monday, but we have decided to do much more additional training at home between sessions to push ourselves a bit more.

Must do more Kata!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

No.45 'Caterpillar' bento

Usually, finding a huge wriggly caterpillar in your lunch box is an unpleasant experience, but who wouldn't love this cute little guy! Luckily, he's also a sandwich. Today's bento is a cheese and piccalilli finger roll, with the top half sliced and filled in with cucumber segments to give it that 'creepy crawly' look. Underneath there are just a few pieces of lamb's lettuce (which my son enjoys quite a bit). In the second layer today, instead of fruit, I've put vegan worcester sauce flavoured couscous and a couple of vine cherry tomatoes.

The fruit layer is now in a second little box and they have some lovely morello cherries. I'll also send in a cereal bar for break time.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

No.44 'Sala(d)mander' bento

Last bento of the week! Meet the Sala(d)mander. I had leftover tofu and asparagus teriyaki noodle stirfry for tomorrow's bento boxes (seen here under the cucumber) and I wanted to get away from using cheese to decorate. Some cucumber carving seemed like a good idea, and this amphibian shape is what I ended up with! My daughter walked in and said "Ooo, a salamander! Or Mum, a saladmander!" So now that awesome name she gave it has stuck and we're really pleased with the two I made. I've put a sprig of lamb's lettuce in too and coloured the cutout bits in the cucumber saladmander with ketchup. In the fruit salad layer, by request, I've chopped mango, strawberries and kiwi. My daugther said she wanted to eat it right there and then, even though she had eaten a big bowl of my noodle stirfry for dinner!

They'll have Hoola Hoop crisps and a Big Pot Petits Filous to go with this tomorrow.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

No.43 'Dojo Pride' bento

Good evening, bento world. Tonight's bento is not terribly sophisticated I'm afraid, but I know the children will LOVE it. Tonight was our Karate night and we've been feeling a lot of 'Dojo Pride' (hence the title!). We're very new to Karate, but we're determined to be good students. I want the three of us to benefit not only from the martial art itself, but also from the traditions, discipline and deeply respectful environment. The children and I talked about how storming through belt ranking is not what we're hoping for from Karate. I look a little inspiration from what I've read about the founder of the Dojo and discussed how possessing 'good' Karate, even if that is just a very few moves that are very well formed and strong, is what we should really be proud of. It all seemed to sink in very well.

So, in honour of our Dojo and to put a smile on the children's faces at lunch time tomorrow, I re-created the Seki Ryu Zan Dojo banner. The banner itself is cheese and underneath they have vegemite sandwiches, lamb's lettuce and pimento stuffed green olives. In the second layer they have carrot cake and strawberries.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

No.42 'Blue Rocket' bento

Oof, another bento made! I was having one of those "not...sure...I...can...drag...the...energy together...to...make...a...bento..." days. As usual though, once I set out my chopping board, cute cutters and ingredients I had a new lease of life! When will I learn? Bento is my happy time not my chore. Keep forgetting, silly me. I had it in mind that I wanted to make a kind of Tapas bento, with lots of nibbles including some lovely fresh coriander naan bread I had. To add the 'Kawaii' I took a look at my cutters and noticed the little carrot shaped one looked rather like a rocket when upside down. It reminded me of the hilarious "He Came From Outer Space!" t-shirt that my little boy wore for climbing this week, which prompted a discussion between him and his teacher about who came from outer space.

My boy: "Yes, he came from outer space."
Teacher: "Who did? Was it you?"
My boy: "No, it wasn't me, it was him."
Teacher: "Him?"
My boy: "Yes. Him. The one who came from outer space." Matter of factly.

I don't think you can beat a conversation with a seven year old for entertainment value. So there I was, looking at my upside down carrot space rocket and then I realised I could cut the naan with the star shaped cutter too. Intergalactic Tapas was born and this in the end result.

Cottage cheese at the top, with salad onion, pimento stuffed green olives and a cherry vine tomato. Partitioned off with lamb's lettuce are a few naan stars and a pot of humous with the little cheese rocket. In the fruit layer is chopped mango and strawberries. The children enjoyed their pear today, so I have another couple to pack with their lunch tomorrow. Super healthy! There'll also be a Petits Filous 'big pot'. They were on offer this week (can be quite an expensive yoghurt), so I've stocked up because they're yummy and I like them too.

I hosted the school Mums' coffee morning at the house today and had a great time chatting to everyone and making teas and coffees. It has been a while since I got everyone together like that, and with new additions to the school there were new faces than should have a proper friendly welcome. I was so pleased that so many turned up, despite fairly short notice. Our house is on the smaller side, but everyone found a spot to sit. I hope to have another morning like that again soon.

In other news, we had postcards from our friend who is visiting Scotland this week. She has been bird watching and reported back some sightings of Plover. We weren't sure what they were, so we Googled them and discovered that they are a lovely looking bird! What bird isn't lovely looking though? They live on the shore.

I have begun to have a small collection of photos my Big Sister sends me of her bento creations now. They are marvelous, she is so creative! She finds interesting shapes and patterns in food that I would not find myself. Really lovely work. She's a bit shyer than I am about showing them to the world though, so for now I will not post any up here. Keep up the great work though, Sis! I love to see them and also love knowing that our children share the bento love.

Great day. Very tired now...

Monday, 14 June 2010

No.41 'Sausage Dog' bento

This sausage dog bento is something I've wanted to try for a while. I think it might have turned out better had I used more contrast in the colour scheme, but it's not far off how I imagined it would be. My children and I always love seeing those miniature dachshunds or 'sausage dogs' with their proud little faces and cute, stubby legs. Whenever I see one I think "I wonder if I can make one out of nothing but a sausage". That may or may not be an odd thought to have, but I would not know, because I am the one that has it! Hurray! So this bento has my first and perhaps last attempt to make a dachshund out of a sausage. A vegetarian sausage in this case. No dachshunds or sausage-ingredient animals were hurt in the process.

Apart from the veggie sausage I made one of those cheese eyes I've been using for the past few lunches. Cut out with a straw and then coloured in the centre with a toothpick and some black food colouring. The rest of the ingredients are also quite yummy (we had some tasters while I was making it). In the base are fine noodles coated in Thai Sweet Chili sauce. The asparagus at the base (there's a little stack of them underneath it as well) was pan fried after being coated in sweet Teriyaki sauce. Delicious. Less fruit than usual in the second layer. I've put in half a very large strawberry and white chocolate muffin and some dried apricots. I'll pack a strawberry yoghurt to add to dessert and perhaps a juicy pear for break time.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

No.40 'Little Hen' bento

Monday has snuck up on me again! On Saturday we had a barbeque in my in-laws' garden and enjoyed many (many) vegeburgers. While moving some bricks to put under the barbeque tray, the children and I found a tiny ecosystem of insects and escargot. It was a beautiful day. The rain returned today, but we had planned a relaxing indoors afternoon anyway. 'Relaxing' I say, even though I spent most of the day cleaning the house! I did sit with the children and play XBox games for a couple of hours though, something I NEVER do. Or rather do only very rarely. I'm not much of a sharer when it comes to playing games (or anything else), so it's a good job that they enjoy watching me playing as much as they enjoy playing themselves! Teehee!

Tomorrow's bento has a little hen, which I was inspired to make after seeing the shape of the Quorn nuggets I had cooked as a lunch box portion. The base is couscous seasoned with vegan worcester sauce, mini-carrot and cucumber sticks and a juicy vine cherry tomato. The hen's features are: cheese circle eyes, tomato skin comb and wattle and a little carrot beak. The wings are also pieces of cheese. In the fruit layer I've put some cranberries and a sliced kiwi.

I'll pack a slice of garlic bread, a blueberry yoghurt and a dried fruit bar as extras for break time and dessert. I particularly like how these cheese eyes always manage to have different expressions!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

No.39 'Duckies and hearts' bento

Hello! Today's school plays about China and the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb were brilliant! The children and their teachers had a lot to be proud of. I got a front row seat in the school hall, a cup of tea and a chocolate chip biscuit too. I Couldn't have been more content. 

It seems as if we've had the longest day today. A walk to the dentist after school drew out the outdoors bit of the afternoon. Then a trip to the new clothes shop that has opened nearby made dinner very late indeed. Dinner was delicious though, when we finally got it. I cooked a vegetable and Quorn pie with a very peppery white sauce. I decorated the pastry to look like the pie in Kiki's Delivery Service, but the photos didn't turn out very well. 

With a late start to making tomorrow's bento, I was stuck for time and energy, so resorted to just using one of our small cutters to add a character element to the meal. The colours don't add very much contrast in the photos, but there are two little duckies in these lunches! 

In the top layer I've put a little cheese roll and the last of the vegetable samosas, with cucumber, cherry vine tomatoes and a pot of hummous. The ducks are just cut from slices of mature cheddar.

In the second layer I've put two pieces of fruit loaf, cut into heart shapes and a handful of cranberries. As a snack I'll give the children a packet of mini-cheddar biscuits and a blueberry yoghurt for dessert.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

No.38 Ancient Egyptian bento

Rain again! Nice and refreshing. The weather has been behaving itself and only pouring down when we've reached the safety of indoors. Perfect. Many many escargot to rescue from the pavements today. Today's bento boxes came home empty, which I like to see. Even the dreaded lettuce had been eaten. I had an abundance of leftovers to get through, so instead of my own bento, I had a large pot of pasta for lunch. Looks like I'm having homemade vegetable stew for tomorrow...

And now for the bento! My daughter's class have been studying Ancient Egypt this term and the latest part of their work will be to put on a play depicting the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb at school tomorrow. I wanted to make an Egyptian bento, but by the afternoon, the only thing I had thought to put in it was a hand cut cheese sphinx. Then as I was fetching the cheese from the fridge and wondering what I would add with the rice, I found these mini vegetable samosas that I had forgotten I bought today! Pyramids! So in they went as a pyramid backdrop to my slightly dog-like sphinx. I'm pleased with the result. To use up further leftovers I put in the cucumber rounds from yesterday's cucumber flower shapes. There are two cherry vine tomatoes also, and a base  in the Egyptian section made from sushi rice. I can't wait to hear what my children think of it tomorrow!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

No.37 'Jiji' Kiki's Delivery Service bento

Almost mid-week already! Wow. Yesterday's bento was reported back to have been very tasty, with the cute eyes on the 'soot balls' particularly loved. I decided to use the same shape for eyes in tomorrow's bento and stick with a Studio Ghibli theme. After reading Slinky Malinki with my son at bedtime (a favourite of ours that stars a mischievous black cat) I was reminded of Jiji, the black cat from Kiki's Delivery Service that has those same cute, wide little eyes. I only made the head, because my mature cheddar cheese slices are very crumbly and difficult to work with. The box below is my son's version, with slightly less salad than his sister's box, since he eats much less. The cheese slice Jiji is on top of two small marmite sandwiches, with finely chopped radish, lettuce, mini carrot sticks and cucumber flowers as salad. In the fruit layer is half a Jaffa orange and a sliced kiwi. I keep the cut-outs from the flower cucumber in a separate pot, no need to throw them away. My son and daughter will snack on them after school tomorrow. 

I rarely mention what I pack along with the bento, but I should get into the habit of doing so. Sometimes the bento on it's own is not enough to cover all the food needed for a full school day. I almost always pack a 'dessert' of some kind and a snack for break time. For instance, yesterday's snack was a box of animal shaped sweet biscuits and the dessert was a pot of tropical fruit in juice (lots of fruit yesterday!). Tomorrow's snack will be two slices of buttered fruit loaf and the dessert will be vanilla yoghurt.

Another rainy day today, so we had plenty of escargot to rescue to and from school! The bird life was mostly taking shelter though, so not many feathered friends made an appearance. At the weekend we were lucky enough to see two Partridges though, which were so pretty. It was only this morning that I looked them up in our bird book to find out what we'd seen.

Monday, 7 June 2010

No.36 'Makkuro Kurosuke (Susuwatari)' bento

Hello! Monday brought rain, so the scorching hot Summer school walk was avoided for one day at least. Lovely damp air was very refreshing. We saw Chaffinches and Magpies along the way. Late afternoon had a climbing wall session for the children, so as usual for a Monday we were late starting to cook. Ravenous Mr.Miloko ate his leftover vegetarian chilli from yesterday, but the children and I managed to hold out long enough for a pot of pasta and broccoli to cook, as well as a tray of delicious vegetarian Swiss meatless meatballs. We threw cheese into the pasta and had toasted pitta bread with butter too. Delicious. 

For tomorrow's bento, made from leftovers of our meal, I managed to make something I have promised to create for my children's lunch for a while now. The little soot creatures that appear in Studio Ghibli films, particularly in our favourite 'My Neighbour Totoro'. They are known as 'Makkuro Kurosuke' (pitch-black blackie) or Susuwatari (Traveling soot). In the main dish the pasta sauce is tomato and basil. For the eyes of the Susuwatari I cut cheese with a straw and dotted in a spot of black food colouring. In the fruit layer are watermelon wedges, dried cranberries and dried apricots.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

No.35 'Blue Skies' bento

Back to bento! Half term break is over and school lunches are back. Today my husband made another of his Mexican meals, so the protein for tomorrow's lunch comes from a small portion of vegetarian chilli topped with a little grated cheese. Rather that add the salsa and salad how I did the last time I created a Mexican bento, I decided to go for rice. 

I was a bit hard pressed on how to get creative with this one, but at the last minute added a tiny splash of blue food colouring to the rice while it was cooking, so that I could make it a blue sky background. We've had gorgeous blue skies all through half term break. One of my new cutters is a sweet little aeroplane, so I cute a few little fajita wrap planes and then hand cut little baskets to add to half cherry tomato hot air balloons (This is one of two identical bentos). I'm fairly happy with the result. To add detail to the wrap pieces I used a tooth pick with the tip dipped in black food colouring. Now that I look at the pictures I'm seeing what looks like a pencil drawing. I like that. In the fruit layer I've put some mini wedges of a VERY scrummy watermelon we got this week and some kiwi slices. Mmm. 


Awww, the children and I, as always, are sad that school break is over. The next break is the eight week long Summer holidays though, and I think we only have five or six weeks of school left before we get to them! 

Thursday, 3 June 2010

'Besto' pasta

Half term break from school has meant no bentos required for this week. Wow. I'm seriously missing my bento routine. The children and I had planned to make a picnic bento today, but discovered that it was so scorching hot outside that we'd prefer to eat indoors before we went  out to play. My daughter has been requesting pesto pasta for lunch all week and I've been a meanie and made alternative lunches with food that would otherwise spoil if left in the fridge. I don't like to be wasteful. But today, she got her pesto pasta wish! When I decorated it with our new bento cutter flower shape in cheese and cucumber, she immediately called it 'Besto' pasta. Which is why I wanted to share this meal on Bentovention. A little bit of bento leaked into our non-bento lunch and made it the best.

On our trip to the local botanical garden to play out and make dens, my daughter and I practised our 'Kihon Kata' movements to be ready for the next Karate belt grading that comes up. We're new to Karate, but very enthusiastic. My son wasn't interested in practising his Kata today, because he was having too much fun building pretend camp fires and roasting buttercups and daisies over them. Today was a busy day at the botanical garden, since they are getting ready to properly open up a newly built pond and planted walkway to visitors. The children and I went to inspect the pond and very pretty new borders. While we were looking for dragonflies it occurred to me that we were seeing as much of the pond today as visitors will see after the 'unveiling'. How do they intend to 'open' a pond? It just made me smile.


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