Monday, 26 July 2010

In Association with 

Week 7: Finding Inspiration

Kawaii bento Club's Summer School is well under way, and this week I'll be adding my contribution. Finding inspiration for creating bento is something that all occasional bento makers and dedicated bento hobbyists alike can find tricky. Even if you aren't making 'character' lunches, it's easy to get stuck packing the same meal day in day out. Especially with fussy eaters to cater for and a limited budget for lunch items.

Personally, I take my lunch ingredients from the same salad tray and cupboard essentials I buy for all my other meals in the week. I purposely try not to go out of my way to buy 'special' foods unless I find something on offer or have a very particular idea of making something out of, well, something! That way I'm sure that my hobby doesn't put strain on my household budget.

There are ways to overcome using the same bits and pieces in your bento each day, without buying in special ingredients that cost the earth. One of these tricks is to put aside small portions from the previous night's dinner for the following day's bento. That works a treat. Another way to add variety is to alternate between different stock base ingredients. For instance, rice, pasta, couscous, garden salad and bread.

The next thing to consider is how you'll make your selected ingredients appealing. I have two methods for making this important decision! One is to draw upon ideas from my week's experiences with the children, and another is to lay out my food on the chopping board and look for shapes that are already part of the meal, which might be used to create a character.

A good example of one of my past bentos that drew on the week's experiences was the Egyptian bento I made in preparation for my daughter's Egyptian party at school.

Another example is the Dojo Pride bento I made for my children to celebrate our new found love of Karate training.

As for finding inspiration from the shapes already present in food in your cupboards, how about this caterpillar bento I made from a hot dog roll that looked suitably bug-like. With a bit of thought I worked out that cucumber could be used to make segments out of the bread and it was made in no time at all!

Assignment 1

Which brings me to the first assignment for this week. I'd like you to have a go at planning your bentos in the same way I do, and that's by drawing on special things I see in the week and experiences I have in daily life. If you;re making lunch for children this can be especially appealing. It captures a shared memory in their lunch.

The first week of Bento Summer School encouraged you to start a journal in one of several forms. Beginning today, use that journal to note down one or more things from each day of the next week which you found special.
Some examples are:

"On Monday evening there was the prettiest sunset."
"On Tuesday morning I/we saw a woodpecker."
"On Wednesday afternoon we stopped for ice cream."

Here's a page from my diary where I have doodled the designs that later became my Rockabilly and Sisters bentos.

Assignment 2

Once you have a few special ideas from the week, pick a day that you;re going to make a bento from one of them and decide beforehand what ingredients you have available to put into it. Once you;re ready to put the bento together, cut, slice, chop and rinse everything then lay all the bits out on a chopping board so that you can see what you have available. That way, once you're in the creative stage you don't have to stop and rummage around for things in cupboards or start cooking something that will take a long time and start to frustrate you.

I'll give you an example of how I might create a bento that was inspired by one of the above sample ideas. If I chose the 'ice cream' day, I'd be thinking I could make the top of the ice cream with a small cup of cottage cheese, with some toasted sesame seeds to make sprinkles on the top half. I would nestle the little tub at the top of my lunch box and surround it with vegetable sticks of cucumber, celery and carrot that will make a colourful background, hold the cup in place tightly and be great for dipping! For the bottom section I need to make a 'cone', so I'd fist put a bed of salad in to raise up the level to the cottage cheese 'ice cream' then cut a wedge of toasted garlic bread into a cone shape to pop on top. I could score the bread with a tooth pick to make it look waffle-y. Ta-da! I have an ice cream themed bento and it's healthy and yummy.

Get Kawaii!

For the final touch, I'd make some cute facial features to put on the cottage cheese. A pair of little eyes can be made by cutting two circles of sliced cheese with the end of a straw. Use the end of a toothpick to dot in two tiny circles of black food clouring. You can hand cut a smile out of sliced cheese too, or use a piece of nori (seaweed sheets) cut out with some small scissors.

Submitting your assignment

Once you've had a go at creating your week-inspired bento submit it for teacher's comments and advice. Upload a picture, a description of ingredients and an explanation of what inspired you to make it to a Kawaii bento Club lens, your own online blog or any alternative such as a  Flickr account, then post the url to your creation in the comments section below along with your email address. I'll get back to you!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

No.54 'Rilakkuma bear' bento

This Rilakkuma bear (relax bear) bento is for my husband, and will probably be eaten for supper tonight. I wanted to try out using all natural food colourings for this one. The base is a layer of leftovers from last night's dinner. Rice combined with sir fried pak choi, carrot, green beans onion and spring onion. Rilakkuma bear is made from a piece of cheddar cheese and the colouring and detail is added with some soy sauce and vegemite. Not a very brightly coloured bento, but I think it should be tasty!

"Hello! time to relax" says Rilakkuma bear. 

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Giant Toblerone Cake

This week I made a giant Toblerone segment and replica box for a friend's 50th birthday. It has been posted in the cake hall of fame on my Bentovention cakes page. I'm very proud of the result, and just hope that it's frightening chocolate content didn't do anyone too much damage.

Also proud to announce that the box was partly made from recycled materials! Two cereal boxes that were put aside specially for it. I had to fight off my daughter a couple of times, since her chore is to collect and sort the household recycling into the outside collection boxes. The precious Toblerone box cardboard was almost lost to her thoroughness!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

No.53 'Red stars' bento and the start of summer break

This red stars bento was made as the last bento for the school year and I've been very late blogging about it! The noodles are thai green curry flavoured after I combined a little of the base I had made for the meal with them (garlic, coriander, galangal, white pepper, green chillies, onions). The meatless balls are vegetarian and in the second layer the children had crackers with grated cheese and carrot to top them with. Because it was the last day of term I knew they'd be eating all sorts of chocolates and cakes that people had brought in, and also the school was putting on a French breakfast of croissants and toppings, so I didn't expect them to eat their lunch. I was surprised though, because the boxes came back empty! The noodles were a big hit.

The children are in their second week of summer holidays now and we had planned picnic bentos. It has rained so heavily though, that even when it's not raining the ground at our favourite playing places is sodden. We did manage to get one day out playing, and took some expertly designed paper aeroplanes to try out. These came in a pack, all the way out of the eighties. They were bought for my husband when he was a child and we've been given the rest of them to make with our children. They fly brilliantly, but my favourite bit about them is that it takes about twenty minutes for the children to cut out all the layers for just one of them! A great way to keep them busy for an hour or so when we're not busy with other things.

Another small project I've come up with for our trapped-indoors-by-the-rain period has been our pet pigeon's indoor vegetable plot. Our rescued wood pigeon has been with us for almost a year now, and since we don't yet have an outdoor aviary for him, I've been thinking up ways to make his indoor environment more interesting for him and encourage some natural behaviours in him. I started by providing him with hanging parrot toys in the room he stays in most of the time. They went down well. Next up was the vegetable patch, that you can see in the picture below. In the wild, a wood pigeon would graze for edible vegetation, fruits and shrubs, and even pick at the soil for nutrients and seeds. The little indoor veg plot lets him do all those things and he has been so pleased with it! before he would walk back and forth on the carpet, grazing for the occasional dropped seed from his bowl, and although he still likes to march around and do that, he also spends a lot of time in and around his veg garden, picking at the soil and eating the greens. I hide seeds and sweetcorn in the pots and he hunts them down as an added bit of enjoyment for him.

The first day I set the boxed garden down for him, he inspected it very proudly. Taking a strange offence at where I had placed his miniature watering can, picking it up and throwing it about with his beak. I think it was his way of telling me he's in charge of the indoor garden now. He'll decide where the watering can is kept!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

No.52 'Cutie-pie' bento

Hello all! Here we are, right in the middle of the childrens last week of school before summer break. We can't wait for the wonderful relief from routine that the weekend will bring us, but at the same time we've had such a lovely few days of school that it is a little sad to be parting from everyone for such a long break. Yesterday I accompanied my son's class on their school trip to visit a museum and castle. We were all treated to a wonderful meal at a hotel and had a fantastic time being shown around the museum and castle.

Today's bentos have miniature savoury pies made with the same filling as the big one I made for dinner (Quorn, potato, onion, carrot and mushroom seasoning). The children always enjoy my pies even when eaten cold as leftovers, so I thought I'd make them their own mini versions for lunch tomorrow. As you can see, I've added square eyes to make the little pie in the picture look like a cutie-pie! Also in the box layers is some grated carrot and cheese mixed together to go on the crackers found in the second layer, some grapes and a smallish tomato.

They'll be taking in a cereal bar for break time  and a rhubarb custard pot for dessert. I'm quite pleased with how the crease in the pastry of the pie looks like a clam-shell mouth at certain angles. In the other bento (not pictured here), the eyes are on the lower half of the pie, so it has a bit of an overbite!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

No.51 'Big Heart Bibimbap' bento

Hello all! The children won't be needing a bento tomorrow because they have a Prize Giving day at school where they only take a snack. I'm really looking forward to seeing them awarded a prize in recognition of their own personal achievements throughout the year. It's a half day of school too, so we get to go for a treat lunch together afterwards!

The bento above is actually today's lunch (prepared last night), only I was too tired to write the blog post for it before bed last night. It really isn't a terribly pretty bento, or one that took me a great deal of time to make, but it was delicious! In the savoury layer is Thai fragrant rice and leftover Bibimbap (a Korean dish). In the dessert layer is a little jam sandwich, a pealed satsuma and some chocolate chips mixed together with raisins. The big red cheese heart is in there to add a touch of 'cute' and also some colour.

Only my son took this bento, because his sister didn't take so well to the Bibimbap. She did take some of the rice though, with a salad, some brie and a mini bottle of soy sauce.


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