Thursday, June 30, 2016

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One #43

A salad of Boston lettuce, avocado slices, and quartered cherry tomatoes with a little bottle of lime juice for dressing, blackberries, cherries, and a cheese quesadilla with tomatillo salsa for dipping.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

KOSOX 2-Tier Sushi Box #12

Silver dollar pancakes, maple sausage patties, maple syrup, kiwi, blackberries, and fresh cherries.

Breakfast for lunch often means no veggies, but you can make up for that at dinner.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #76

Baby carrots, grape tomatoes, cucumber slices, yellow bell pepper rings, a cup of dip made from a mixture of sour cream and tomatillo salsa, some tiny Japanese panda cookies I picked up on a run to a Korean market (yes, I bought Japanese food at the Korean market because I don't have a Japanese market anywhere near me!), a wrap made of tortilla, ham, Boston lettuce, and cream cheese, and blackberries.

Monday, June 27, 2016

3-Tier Bottle Bento #28

Onion and chives crackers, chunks of Gouda, peach slices, and a simple undressed salad of grapes and cucumbers (to be eaten with salt and pepper).

I was just not in the mood for much today. This was too light on its own but there were cupcakes at work, so I wasn't too hungry. Still, I'd recommend a bit more food in most cases.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Insulated Jar & Sides #11

Grapes, chicken in a white wine-marmalade sauce (from Quick Cooking for Two), toasted pastina pilaf (recipe below), and orange slices.

This chicken is a huge improvement over the last marmalade chicken recipe I tried. I think the white wine is important but the key is probably the flouring of the chicken before you brown it; that seems to get more of the sauce to cling to the chicken. It's lovely and I'll be making it again.

As for the toasted pastina pilaf, I made a version of this earlier but wanted to tweak it. Originally I found a version of this on the back of a package of pasta, but it didn't have all the veggies and herbs I wanted in it. Now it does. So now, without further adieu, I am ready to share it. Here's a close up so you can see the veggies in it. It might be a good recipe for you if you're cooking for someone--yourself or someone else--who isn't really much of a veggie person, because the veggies are cut so small one doesn't get a mouthful of veggies. It's inexpensive, especially if you have a window herb garden going. I mean, seriously cheap here. You could easily see this in the Good and Cheap book. It's also a rather unusual way to cook pasta, and the results are fantastic. I used tiny stars for this but you could also use any other tiny shape you can get. Just make sure it really is tiny.

Toasted Pastina Pilaf
Serves: Roughly 3-4

1 small carrot
1/2 medium onion
1 rib celery
1/4 cup butter
6 oz. uncooked pastina
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
The leaves from 1 spring of thyme (or use a pinch of dried thyme--it'll be fine)
Salt and pepper to taste (about 1/8 teaspoon of each, or leave it out if your chicken broth is already seasoned enough, as mine was)

Chop the vegetables very finely, then process in a food processor. You want them to be cut as small as possible without making a raw vegetable puree or something. You're aiming to get them the same size or smaller than your pasta shapes.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add vegetables and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned. Add pasta and stir well to coat with butter and vegetable mixture. Cook and stir until the pasta is lightly browned.

Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, then cover and cook about 5 minutes or until the pasta is cooked through. If the liquid isn't all absorbed by then it will soak it up while it cools. Under no circumstances should you drain this! Also, nothing horrible will happen if you stir it every so often while it simmers but there is no need to stir it after the water has come to a boil and you've given it a good stir. So while this cooks you can go off and cut up an orange or something.

If you're packing this for lunch, make sure you pack it hot. It works best in an insulated jar. It'll be fine at room temperature so long as you've started with it warm. Leftovers are great for this in my opinion but if you pull it out of the fridge it needs to be reheated to get the butter melted before you pack it. The butter won't re-solidify if it cools to room temperature but it also won't melt if it just warm to room temperature, if that makes sense.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Temari Rabbit Bento Bowl #11

At long last, I believe I have cracked the secret code to making that shrimp and pasta salad they sell at the local grocery store for entirely too much. So here that is with more avocado with lime-cilantro dressing (see yesterday's post for that recipe) and some Greek yogurt-covered Craisins.

But this salad...

It's a retro sort of recipe, complete with ketchup and mayo and things that come in cans. If that's not you, well, that's fine; I have plenty of recipes that are based on fresh ingredients. But there are some changes I made to the way 1950s home cooks went about things. The herbs are fresh here. It's a red bell pepper rather than chopped pimentos from a jar. But this is still the kind of recipe your grandmother would have taken to a potluck supper.

Feel free to double or quadruple this recipe as needed; it will multiply just fine. But I'm a single person who typically cooks only enough to eat things 2-3 times.

Shrimp and Pasta Salad
Serves: 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side

5 tablespoons full-fat mayo (no substitutes)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (or if you don't have any on hand, frozen or dried will do)
1/2 teaspoon ketchup
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Splash Worcestershire sauce
Dash cayenne pepper
Dash white pepper

4 oz. very small pasta shapes (I recommend tubettini--you'll use 1/2 cup to get 4 oz.)
1 4 oz. can tiny shrimp, drained
1 small celery stalk, very finely chopped
1 mini red bell pepper, very finely chopped (or 1/4 of a big one)
1 scallion, white and green parts, sliced very thinly

Paprika (if desired)

Whisk the ingredients for the dressing in a large bowl; chill.

Cook the pasta shapes in boiling salted water until tender; drain. Rinse the pasta in cold water and drain again.

Add all the salad ingredients except the shrimp and mix well. Gently fold in shrimp. It will look like this and you will swoon:

But it will not be ready. You will need to transfer it to a storage container and let the flavors meld for a few hours. Pull it out to stir and note that the noodles have absorbed a lot of the dressing. My apologies that I didn't choose a prettier storage container to set it off in all its glory.

Just before serving, you can add a garnish of paprika if you wish. I wished.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One #42

A toasted English muffin, an avocado dressed with lime-cilantro dressing (super easy recipe below), carrot sticks, and some ham salad nestled into a cup of Boston lettuce.

I so love Boston lettuce that I'm pondering attempting to grow it in my kitchen window! It was perfect here, letting me assemble an easy English muffin sandwich at lunch with nothing getting soggy and the ham salad staying off the carrots (though, let's be real here, a carrot stick with ham salad on it isn't anything to turn your nose up at).

Meanwhile, I have been growing herbs in my kitchen window, and it's time for you to start seeing them at lunch more. I actually think I'm more successful growing things in this window than I ever was at growing things on balconies. I've never tried growing food indoors before this year. But aside from the occasional aphid attack on the dill or the mesclun, all has gone really well. My tomato plant is four feet high and sporting dozens of tomatoes in a variety of stages of development.

And so, I have cilantro. And this way of preparing avocado was incredibly good, so I have to share.

Avocado with Lime-Cilantro Dressing
Serves: 1

About 2 springs cilantro
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 ripe avocado, cut into chunks

Snip cilantro leaves into small pieces with scissors and discard the stems. Mix with a pinch of salt and lime juice. Pour dressing over avocado. Top with a little more salt to taste.