Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Sakura 3-Tier Bento #49

Orange slices, a hard boiled egg, quick-pickled cucumbers (just salted, with the excess juices squeezed out so they wouldn't run in my container), cherry tomatoes filled with tuna salad, and mini Club crackers.
I know you've seen very little from me lately, and this is probably the last post of mine you'll see this year. (So many working lunches, and then I'm taking a much-awaited mini vacation.) But lunches will come, I promise.

Monday, December 28, 2015

ECO Lunch Box Three-in-One #25

Tossed salad, yogurt ranch, a chocolate, goat cheese, grapes, and mini toast squares.

It was what I had around, and it worked out.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Temari Rabbit Bento Bowl #9

A lunch from before I moved, that you've never seen (I attended a conference where lunch was provided, and did not pack anything). Vegetable fried rice and grapes. Actually not bad considering the circumstances, trying to pack everything up and all.
There will be no Pack-a-Snack post tomorrow, and the next few weeks will probably have few lunches in it due to the holiday. Stay safe out there, everyone!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #58

A stuffed egg (paprika mix), some grapes, mini toast squares, and mushroom walnut pate.

This is not much to look at, really, but it was amazing. Necessity was the mother of invention here; I had way too many mushrooms going south in my fridge. Just sautéed wasn't going to cut it or I'd be eating mushrooms atop things for a week.

A the suggestion of a friend, I Googled "mushroom pate." But I didn't actually have all the ingredients for any of the versions I saw. So I plunged ahead, and made this. This is my own mushroom pate.

Okay, so it's brown. And pureed. If you can overlook that, and enjoy the flavor, you won't be sorry. It's truly lovely.

Mushroom Walnut Pate
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

10 oz. mushrooms (I used about half white button mushrooms and half baby bella mushrooms)
1 baby leek (if you don't have one of these, just use about 1/2 cup of chopped leeks)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 tablespoon dried parsley

Cut the mushrooms up. Saute them in the butter until well cooked; set aside. Slice the leek thinly, then submerge in a bowl of water. Swirl around until the grit settles at the bottom. Carefully spoon out the leeks and strain them in a colander.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet you used for the mushrooms. Cook the leek and the garlic in this until quite soft, then add mushrooms and cook a bit more until the flavors meld (a total of about 5-8 minutes). Transfer the vegetable mixture to a bowl.

Toast the walnuts in the skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the walnuts. Using a food processor or blender, finely chop the walnuts with the oil. Add vegetables, lemon juice, and herbs. Blend until creamy. Salt and pepper to taste.

Chill for at least a half hour to thicken a little. Serve with toast or crackers.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sakura 3-Tier Bento #48

Grapes, orange slices, ricotta dip, roasted grape tomatoes, sliced black olives, sautéed mushrooms, and mini toast squares.

This worked surprisingly well. I should not be surprised, as I have had some variant of this before and found it delightful, but it's so simple I guess it just surprises me that it tasted so sophisticated.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sakura 3-Tier Bento #47

Orange slices, cherries, an improvisational cucumber and smoked salmon salad, a bottle of soy sauce, cherry tomatoes, and shrimp-edamame shumai.

The cucumber-smoked salmon salad was taken from Makiko Itoh's Just Bento, only it was meant to have seaweed in it. I didn't have the seaweed, but I had everything else, and it sounded pretty good. It worked out! I really loved this salad, and it is different than what I usually do with cucumbers and/or smoked salmon. I'll probably make it again, whether or not there is any seaweed available.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #57

Some sauce bottles with a mixture of soy sauce and rice vinegar in them; vegetable mini dumplings; cucumbers tossed with sesame seeds, soy sauce, and rice vinegar; tamagoyaki; and cherries.

This was just okay. I was disappointed in these dumplings (frozen, a brand I've not tried before), so having the tamagoyaki really helped matters.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Pack-a-Snack #59

Leftover seasoned sushi rice with seaweed crumbles, a bottle of soy sauce mixed with rice vinegar, and tamagoyaki, in my Happy Jackson "Picky Things" box.

This is some of my best snack packing work. It was truly delightful. I think the fact that the rice was already very well seasoned with rice vinegar and sugar made a big difference. And what else are you going to do with just a few spoonfuls of rice, anyway?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Skater Lunch Box #15

This photographed badly and wasn't too exciting to begin with, but anyway: a wrap made of leftover pork, avocado, lettuce, and mayo; and cherries.

Not every day can hit it out of the park. But this is still much, much cheaper than buying something at lunchtime, and it got me through the day. So it has things going for it.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

ECO Lunch Box Three-in-One #24

Couscous-veggie salad, vanilla yogurt topped with min chocolate chips and tiny marshmallows, and slices of fuyu persimmon.

First, a warning. If you have never had a persimmon, and end up with one, like this, that is slightly underripe, run! It will make you believe persimmons are awful. Because the difference between "this is one of the best things I've ever eaten" and "HOW DO I GET THIS TASTE OUT OF MY MOUTH!?" is a razor thin thread with persimmons. I'm just glad my first one didn't taste like this or I would think they all did.

The couscous salad was pretty bland, but perfectly edible. If I were to make it again I'd use some sort of dressing. I made it from leftover parmesan couscous, so I figured it was flavored enough, but it just wasn't enough flavor to take care of all those veggies (tomatoes, asparagus, cucumber, red bell pepper, and carrots--it was at least a 1:1 ratio of veggies to couscous).

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

KOSOX 2-Tier Sushi Box #4

Pickled baby corn, cherries, asparagus with sesame dressing, and smoked salmon-avocado sushi (tiny soy sauce/rice vinegar bottles are nestled among the sushi).

This was not really the plan. But I woke up super early with an irresistible urge to make sushi. And there you are. This isn't perfect sushi, in terms of getting the fillings right in the middle, etc., but the flavors were just exactly right.

Also, this is the first time I've had pickled baby corn. It's actually really nice, and a good change of pace. It went well with the sushi. In fact, it would probably go pretty well in sushi sometime.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Insulated Jar & Sides #1

Mini Club crackers, butternut squash soup, and fresh cherries.

It's winter and I really needed something that I could have hot soup in. My experiments with anything microwave safe plastic have been sort of disastrous, so I finally sprung for a thermal lunch jar. It worked! My soup was hot at lunch. This isn't the most colorful of meals, but it worked for today. I'm not bothering to list this according to brand because there are so many options of pretty much the exact same thing, but if it matters to you what this is, just let me know in the comments and I'll give you a link.

Also, I love butternut squash soup. It's so easy and elegant.

Monday, December 7, 2015

KOSOX 2-Tier Sushi Box #3

Salami, mortadella, and pepperoni on silicone baran leaves (to keep other stuff dry), garlic-herb breadsticks (barely visible), black olives, cucumber slices, yellow bell pepper strips, grape tomatoes, and a small cup of ricotta dip (recipe here).

Apparently, this imperfect box is growing on me. I needed something to fit the breadsticks, so I had to use my longest box. (As it was I nibbled off the ends to get them to fit.)

I'd never had mortadella and it was on sale, so I figured I'd give it a try. It's essentially Italian bologna with visible chunks of pork fat. (Is it right to call it "Italian bologna" or should we call ours "American bologna"? Mortadella is from Bologna, Italy, after all.) Sounds kind of dreadful, but it's actually pretty lovely--especially if you like bologna. (As a child, I was in love with bologna. I hardly ever have it now, but a taste of that super-processed loaf of pork is quite the heady sense memory!) Mortadella has an interesting history. It was banned in the United States from 1967 to 2000, so at the risk of showing my age, I could never have had it before I was a legal adult anyway.

I was really happy with this lunch. Italian is a nice change of pace.

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Saturday, December 5, 2015

#Pack-a-Snack #58

Roasted butternut squash seeds in a small container I had on hand.

I was making butternut squash soup, so I decided to roast the seeds while I was cooking the squash. They turned out really well! And because I'd otherwise throw them away, they were practically free. The only thing is that you don't get a whole lot of seeds out of a butternut squash--about enough for one snack.

Roasted Butternut Squash Seeds
Serves 1

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the seeds from a butternut squash (hopefully being used for some other purpose). Rinse and dry the seeds, discarding any smaller, softer seeds. Coat the dry seeds in olive oil (about 1 1/2 teaspoons will do it). Bake in a single layer on a baking sheet, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Season as desired (I used garlic salt, and it was excellent). Leave to cool if you plan to pack them before serving.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #56

Swiss cheese and apple slices, red grapes, mini Club crackers, a cup of yogurt ranch, yellow mini bell pepper rings, baby carrots, and celery sticks.

This is from the absolute dregs of my fridge/pantry after nearly three weeks of avoiding the grocery store, but it worked!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

KOSOX 2-Tier Sushi Box #2

Some homemade bacon-mushroom mini quiches pulled from my freezer stash and Waldorf salad. I put too much lemon juice in the salad, and it was super tart, but edible. I also put the quiches on a napkin and gave them a quick blast in the microwave, which helped matters some.

This box with it's imperfectly-fitting lid still annoys me, but it seemed to fit the quiches so well, I just gave in.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

ECO Lunch Box Three-in-One #23

Honeycrisp apple wedges, mixed grapes, yogurt ranch, croutons, and a striped chef salad-type thing with Swiss cheese, carrots, ham, cucumbers, and hard boiled egg on top of Boston lettuce.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #55

Hard boiled egg halves, Persian cucumber slices, a little cup of yogurt ranch, baby carrots, a chunk of Honeycrisp apple, and shrimp pasta salad topped with parmesan cheese.

My version of shrimp pasta salad isn't perfect yet (hence the parmesan), but I'm getting closer! Someday soon I'll have it ready to share with you.

Monday, November 30, 2015

3-Tier Bottle Bento #15

Mini club crackers, baby carrots, chicken salad on a bed of Boston lettuce, and bi-color grapes.

Because of how my posts are scheduled, I actually ate this before Thanksgiving. I made the chicken salad out of the teriyaki chicken you saw last time. It was really very good! I wouldn't have thought of making chicken salad out of teriyaki chicken under normal circumstances, but when in hiding from grocery shopping necessity becomes the mother of invention, so I mixed finely chopped leftover chicken with finely chopped celery and mayo.

Meanwhile, I really like Boston lettuce, but I rarely spend that much on leafy greens. Romaine is so much cheaper. But when you're not going to go to the store for three weeks, you splurge! So glad I did.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pack-a-snack #57

Orange gelatin salad in my new Happy Jackson "Picky Things" box, topped with micro mini marshmallows I bought from my local Amish market.

Why the Amish are making tiny marshmallows is beyond me, but maybe some things are better left unquestioned.

There are a multitude of variations on this salad, all of which are largely forgotten this day and age. But it has a mousse-like texture and holds up beautifully at room temperature, and includes both fruit and protein. Plus, there is no cooking, just stirring stuff. So, in the interests of our old-fashioned food holiday, I bring you my version of this midcentury delight.

Orange Gelatin Salad
Serves: About 4

1 small box (about 1.4 oz.) orange gelatin
8 oz. whipped, creamed cottage cheese (see note below)
1 small can mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 tub nondairy whipped topping

Note: If you don't have whipped, creamed cottage cheese available at your market, just put regular cottage cheese in a blender until smooth.

Mix gelatin with cottage cheese until well blended. Gently mix in oranges, then fold in whipped topping. Chill. Will set up more with longer cooling times; overnight is ideal, but 1/2 hour will work if needed.

Serve topped with marshmallows or coconut shreds, if desired.

Happy Thanksgiving! See you on the other side.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #54

Carrot-cucumber salad, a half a Forelle pear on a silicone lettuce leaf (supposedly to keep it out of the honey-sesame dressing), blackberries, rice with nori crumbles, cherry tomatoes, and teriyaki chicken.

The silicone lettuce leaf didn't really keep the pear from getting the dressing on it, but it actually didn't taste bad anyway, so it worked out.

I made the chicken out of things I happened to have around, and some chicken thighs in my freezer. Grocery stores are scary, crowded places this time of year...

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sakura 3-Tier Bento #46

Blackberries, grapes, avocado chunks, grape tomatoes, mini Club crackers, and Swiss cheese squares.

In the lead up to Thanksgiving, I avoid grocery stores like the plague, but I stock up to prepare. Do you do this, too?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Pack-a-Snack #56

A mixture of Greek yogurt-covered Craisins and dark chocolate-covered blueberries. A pretty good high-energy blend. These are packed in my new Happy Jackson "Tiny Treats" box. (Which I bought myself, and nobody paid me to talk about.) Isn't it cute?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Sakura 3-Tier Bento #45

Apple wedges, blackberries, grapes, cucumbers and grape tomatoes with a cup of yogurt ranch, ham/cream cheese/olive tapenade pinwheels, cornichons, and mini Club crackers.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

3-Tier Bottle Bento #14

Lemon yogurt topped with shredded coconut and white chocolate chips, avocado and tomato chunks, and mini Triscuits.

This was pretty simple, but very satisfying.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Skater Lunch Box #14

Cucumbers and grape tomatoes, blackberries, grape, leftover apple-bourbon pork loin, and leftover mashed potatoes perked up with some chives.

A delightful lunch that stained my pretty Skater box, likely on a permanent basis. Alas.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #53

Kavli rye crispbread, grape tomatoes, grapes, a cup of doctored hummus (with pepperoni and scallions), mushroom slices, baby carrots, and sugar snap peas.

This is a Norwegian crispbread. It isn't great and it isn't terrible. It gets bonus points for fitting this box so well. I think it might go better with something other than hummus (probably cheese). It's an ongoing struggle to convince myself to cook at night lately, so my lunch was weird today, but there could be hope for a better tomorrow. And hey, even so this wasn't disastrous!

Monday, November 16, 2015

KOSOX 2-Tier Sushi Box #1

Banana "sushi" (almond butter and whole wheat tortilla), sugar snap peas, grape tomatoes, hummus, and baby carrots.

I ordered this box a while ago but haven't used it; the top lid doesn't fit quite the way it's supposed to. I do appreciate the style of the box, but I may have to keep looking for one that better fits my expectations.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Pack-a-Snack #55

Sour cream and a cheese blintz, using a smaller Lunchopolis container and a Tupperware Smidget.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sakura 3-Tier Bento #44

Mango sticks, shredded coconut, pear wedges, baby carrots, red bell pepper strips, hummus, snow peas, mini pretzel thins, and improvisational cheese dip.

This was a something from nothing lunch. I haven't been to the grocery store in a while, and I needed to come up with something. Coconut goes really well with mango, so that was a nice combo. The cheese was a variant of my homemade pimento cheese, really--shredded cheddar, scallions, black pepper, mayo--and was excellent with the pretzels.

My "nothing" isn't everyone's, but this is a good example of how packing a lunch every single day brings out creative solutions one might not otherwise find. Just try to hit the high points and sometimes it all comes together.

But I am still looking forward to having more groceries to work with.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #52

Baby carrots, cucumber slices, roasted mini roma tomatoes, mango sticks, leftover breaded fish on a bed of mushroom rice pilaf, and sautéed peppers and onions.

The peppers and onions were a new recipe for me, and they were really great--they used a little sugar, thyme, and chicken broth for seasoning, and it really brought out the flavors. I'll be making this recipe again!

Rice pilaf really needs to be warm to taste good, unlike steamed rice. Lesson learned. I'll pack it in something microwave safe next time. But it was still edible.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #51

Persian cucumber slices, purple carrot slices, a mini roma tomato, a cup of hummus, red and yellow mini bell pepper rings, mini pretzel thins, and applesauce mixed with almond butter.

The applesauce/almond butter mixture was kind of born of necessity; when putting this together I decided plain applesauce would not be enough calories (rarely an issue overall, but with vegan meals it can be), and I wanted to try something different. It was really, really good--I'd say this is maybe 1/3 almond butter and 2/3 applesauce. It was great with the pretzels as a dip, but it was also delightful on its own with a spoon, like a pudding.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One #22

Raid-the-fridge salad (romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow bell pepper), a cup of yogurt ranch, some experimental homemade mini mushroom-bacon quiches, and applesauce topped with cinnamon sugar.

The mini quiches used prepackaged tart shells and were fine the day they were made, but got not so nice as leftovers. They might have been better if I'd heated them a little; don't know because I didn't have more, though I did freeze some so we'll find out sooner or later.

Monday, November 9, 2015

3-Tier Bottle Bento #13

Applesauce topped with chopped strawberries, leftover skillet pastitio, and cucumber slices and baby carrots with a little chick cup filled with yogurt ranch.

Pastitio is a Greek version of lasagna. I make this recipe from America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2009 (I think? Maybe 2010? I have too many!) with spiced ground lamb. It's really one of the best things I know how to cook, and the leftovers are even better than the freshly made version. But lamb is pricey and I generally don't buy it unless it's on sale, so I don't often get to have it.

I saved some cooked lamb in the freezer. I love having a freezer big enough to do that sort of thing--moving is horrible but this move has been really positive for me.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Pack-a-Snack #54

A cup of almond butter with mini pretzel thins to dip in it in one of my small Lunchopolis containers.

Very good. I've missed almond butter!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Sakura 3-Tier Bento #43

Sesame melba toast, olive tapenade over cream cheese, hummus, purple carrot coins, Persian cucumber slices, some yellow bell pepper strips, mini roma tomatoes, and chunks of fuyu persimmon with blackberries.

This lunchbox is getting a workout this week, but it has been such a perfect size!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Skater Lunch Box #13

Tiny wedges of leftover pizza and a sliced fuyu persimmon.

The pizza is leftover baked-at-home frozen pizza, which I don't think you see often from me. A while ago, though, I made a discovery, which is Dr. Oetker's Ristorante pizza. Nobody ever pays me or offers me free food for an online mention, and if they did I would tell you outright. Anyway, to me, this is the height of frozen pizza. It's better than what you would get at any chain pizzeria I know of. Even the meat pizzas have a good amount of veggies on them, and the cheeses are often unexpected (like blue) but always lovely.

They were on sale, and I was sick to death of cooking. So it worked out.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

ECO Lunchbox Three-in-One #21

Scallion pancake wrapped with pastrami, strawberry chunks, blackberries, pineapple wedges, avocado chunks, a cup of sweet potato salad, and slices of tiny roma tomatoes. The colors are nice here!

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Sakura 3-Tier Bento #42

Pineapple wedges, blackberries, Asian-style sweet potato salad, a stuffed egg, purple rice, and kielbasa sautéed with tomatoes and mushrooms.

Much like yesterday, and yet not. The recipe I had for sweet potato salad made tons more than I expected, so it may make a lot of appearances. As for pineapple, well, you know how that goes when you're living alone.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Sakura 3-Tier Bento #41

Blackberries, strawberries, wedges of pineapple cut to fit my box, a silicone cup of a sesame-cucumber salad whose dressing I'm still working out, Asian-style sweet potato salad, purple rice, turkey soboro (from my freezer stash), and plain tamagoyaki.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Pack-a-Snack #53

Fruit salad in one of those Ziploc containers. (Yes, there has been a lot of fruit this week.)
Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Skater Lunch Box #12

Mini 4-cheese pierogies, kielbasa sautéed with onions and peppers, a little cup of sour cream, and a cup of fruit salad.

This is a lot like Monday's lunch, only instead of some crazy Italian-American fusion, this is some crazy Polish-American fusion.

And it was delicious.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #50

Slices of homemade mini banana bread loaf (recipe below), a cup of Brummel & Brown, two mellowcreme pumpkins (Halloween is coming!), cucumber slices, snow peas, a cup of yogurt ranch, a berry cup, and a stuffed egg topped with paprika.

Someone who saw me eating this lunch said, "It's pretty, but it doesn't look like you eat enough vegetables." Sigh. I'm going to avoid the rant I initially wrote out and deleted, because you were reading along to find the recipe for banana bread. Let's get to it.

As a single person, I would never have enough extra overripe bananas hanging around for most banana bread recipes. So I have used America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2010 sometimes, because it at least only requires about 1 banana. But as much as I love America's Test Kitchen, sometimes they overthink it, and I just don't always have the energy to take all their steps and wash all their dishes. So this is my version of their scaled-down recipe. It makes 1 standard mini loaf, 12 mini muffins, or two of these mini-mini loaves (which are kind of like jumbo muffins).

Banana Bread
Serves about 2-4

1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
About 1 small banana, mashed (I used 3/4 of a large banana; aim for about 1/4 cup of banana but don't stress if it's over or under a little)
1 egg
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted (allow to cool a little so it doesn't scramble the egg)
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray baking pans with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Stir the wet ingredients together in another bowl until smooth. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. (Don't overmix. It'll be lumpy and you'll see a streak of flour or two.)

Divide the batter among your prepared baking pans/dishes. Tap on the counter to smooth the batter out a little.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes for mini loaves. Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then flip out on a wire rack to finish cooling.

I'm not going to say you can't eat it now, because, well, look at it! But it'll slice a little easier if you let it cool all the way.

And with a little Brummel & Brown, with a glass of milk, this is the sort of thing I eat for breakfast, where nobody is around to judge me for the total lack of veggies in a single meal.