Friday, July 29, 2016

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #81

Black olives filled with feta spread, cucumber slices, cheddar-jalapeno peanuts, blueberries, cherries, garlic-herb water crackers, a stuffed egg (just the usual salt, pepper, and mayo with a touch of mustard and Worcestershire for good measure), a grape tomato, and eggplant tapenade.

The tapenade was a jarred thing I bought some time ago and couldn't figure out how to serve. It worked out here but I think tapenade should really be olive-based. The jalapeno-cheddar peanuts, however, are kind of amazing. Try them if you can find some.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #13

Linguine with vegetarian "meatballs", tomato sauce, and Parmesan cheese; steamed broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots; blueberries; and blackberries.

I made these "meatballs" with Neat, a meat substitute made of pecans. I had some in my cabinets for far too long and needed to use it up. I was following the recipe on the back of the package of the Italian flavored Neat, but I think I cooked them too long. They were very dense and not that wonderful. They weren't bad enough to chuck, though, and I willingly brought last night's leftovers for lunch.

Incidentally, I haven't gone vegetarian, but I do find it interesting that all my lunches have been vegetarian this week! Tomorrow's will be, too.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Laptop Lunches #268

Blackberries, cherries, blueberries, black bean hummus (see Monday's post for the recipe), garlic-herb water crackers, artichoke-tomato salad (see recipe below), and a stuffed egg with a paprika garnish.

After a new lunch box entered the rotation, it's only right to go back to my tried-and-true Laptop Lunches box.

I had much of a jar of marinated artichokes hanging out in my fridge and was keen to use some of my basil (that, at least, grows well in the window), so I came up with this recipe, based partly on one I found over here. I added cheese and changed the seasonings to make it more of an Italian flavor and workable as a main dish.

Artichoke-Tomato Salad
Serves: 1

5-6 large grape tomatoes, quartered lengthwise (about 1/2 cup--I had tomatoes that were either very small roma tomatoes or very large grape tomatoes; feel free to use either and adjust quantities accordingly)
About 4 marinated artichokes, cut into pieces if larger than your tomatoes
2-3 tablespoons sliced black olives
6-7 basil leaves, shredded
A splash of white wine vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced
About 2 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed

Put tomatoes in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In another bowl, mix remaining ingredients well. Toss with tomatoes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

LunchBots Quad #1

This lunch uses much of the same stuff as yesterday, in a new box. I am something of a magpie for shiny new lunch boxes, and I've had my eye on the LunchBots for a while now. I bought this one from a local sustainability store. I think this is an older model than they're currently selling online--no fancy colors or anything, just plain old stainless steel.

Quinoa, mango, and black bean salad; tea biscuits; blueberries; and some pinwheels made of black bean hummus (see yesterday's post for the recipe), red and yellow bell pepper strips, carrots, and cucumber in a flour tortilla.

I have completely fallen for tea biscuits after finding them on sale for 50 cents a package in the kosher section of my grocery store. You do need to dunk them in hot tea for the full experience, but I usually have hot tea with lunch so that part is easy. They come in lots of flavors and are amazingly cheap. (When not on sale they run about 65 cents per package at their most pricey.)

Vegan again, two days in a row. Hmm. Not bad for a committed omnivore.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Temari Rabbit Bento Bowl #14

Quinoa, mango, and black bean salad (from Eating Well Serves Two); baby carrots; mini cucumber slices; homemade black bean hummus (I had to do something with the extra beans); and blueberries.

This is vegan and gluten free. Go figure.

The cilantro in this quinoa salad came from my window garden, but after aphids attacked said garden, I had to replace the plant. My new cilantro plant is not exactly thriving but it's doing much better, sans aphids, than the last one. Next I'll have to replace the sickly dill. Window gardening is turning out to have challenges I had not anticipated.

I had the intention to make my own hummus for months now and just haven't gotten around to it. Mostly I didn't want to be stuck with vast quantities of homemade hummus--it's hard to eat any recipe up alone--so I improvised with this when I ended up stuck with half a can of black beans. You do what you can when you're cooking for one. To give credit where it is due, I was inspired by this recipe.

Black Bean Hummus
Makes about 1 cup

1 small garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup cooked black beans, drained and rinsed if canned
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon tahini
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika for garnish (optional)

Put all ingredients except paprika in a bowl. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. When serving, top with paprika, if desired.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Pack-a-Snack #72

Popcorn and M&Ms using the largest of my Lunchopolis containers and a tiny "mini bento" box I bought a while ago. This was my post-blood-draw snack (for my annual--erm...1st time in some years--checkup). I also had ginger ale, because I think if you don't get to eat or drink anything for a while and then they remove a not-insignificant amount of blood from you, you have earned ginger ale and popcorn and M&Ms.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Lunchopolis #22

Pepperoni, provolone, bread sticks, marinated artichoke hearts, mixed seasoned olives, and the first four tomatoes I grew in my window.

Aside from what I have growing in the window, I don't have much of any fresh produce around. If the aphids hadn't had their fill, I would have had lettuce and carrots in the window, too, alas. Aphids don't like tomatoes. So I had these, at least. It's definitely time to go to the store, but this is good stuff to keep on hand for such days.

The tomatoes, by the way, taste amazing. So much more tomato flavor than you get from the store.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #12

Ham and noodle casserole, honey-lime carrots, and a mixture of dried fruit.

Someday, I will give you a recipe for the casserole. Right now it's not quite ready. But you can have the recipe for honey-lime carrots. They're pretty quick and easy and a nice change to what you might normally do with carrots. This recipe is adapted from Going Solo in the Kitchen, but I felt it needed some parsley (which the original recipe didn't include), and I wanted to use baby carrots rather than whole mature carrots, because that's what I had on hand.

Honey Lime Carrots
Serves: 2

About 1 cup baby carrots, halved lengthwise
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon lime juice
A few sprigs of parsley (optional)

Steam carrots over boiling water for a few minutes until crisp-tender. Set carrots aside and put 1 tablespoon of the steaming liquid into a small pan. Add honey and stir over medium heat, boiling until the sauce cooks down to a syrupy glaze. Remove from heat. Add lime juice and mix well, then add carrots and mix until coated. When ready to serve or pack, top with chopped parsley.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #80

Kiwi slices, a square of walnut fudge, a cherry, some peach slices, an egg baked in creamed spinach (I did this again, but I just topped it with salt and pepper rather than cheese), and sesame melba toast.

I think the egg is prettier without the cheese on top, although this is less flavorful and will need salt.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Skater Lunch Box #18

Cheese grits with scallion garnish, maple ham steak, maple glazed carrots (I was in a maple mood), and creamed spinach.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Happy Jackson Snack Boxes #11

Yogurt ranch and veggies (carrots, red bell pepper, sugar snap peas), mini cheese crackers, and peach slices.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Pack-a-Snack #71

Alternating slices of Korean melon and peaches and cherries in a Happy Jackson snack box.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Lunchopolis #21

I thought about not showing this to you at all, because it's not exactly inspirational. Except that in another way it might be: baby carrots, cucumber slices, cherries, and PBJ triangles.

It's crunchy peanut butter and raspberry preserves on whole grain white bread, if that matters. I cut the crusts off because that's how I like my peanut butter sandwiches.

Anyway, the reason this might still be worth sharing is that it serves as a reminder that lunch need not be a big production. I had this with a cup of hot tea at work and I enjoyed it. It's not fancy or innovative, but it's inexpensive, satisfactory, and reasonably healthy. And peanut butter and jelly, though they may sink into the bread a little, don't make for a soggy, sad sandwich by lunchtime. So this is far from my usual approach, but there's nothing wrong with it.

Also, it happens to be vegan, incidentally, if that matters.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Temari Rabbit Bento Bowl #13

A literal bowl of cherries and tofu fried rice.

The counter was giving me too much glare this morning, but I think this backdrop--a cutting board I never use--looks pretty cool. You may see it again now and again.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #79

Seaweed salad, Korean melon, cherries, peach slices, rice, and honey-glazed tofu with a scallion garnish.

I am going to give you this tamed-down recipe for the tofu. The original version was far too spicy for me, plus it made too much.

Also: I know that honey is controversial in vegan circles. I am not a vegan, so I'm fine with honey, but if you want this lunch to be vegan as tagged, according to the strictest of vegan principles, you'll want to use a different sweetener for this. Maple syrup would probably be pretty good here.

Honey Glazed Tofu
Serves: 2

1/2 block (about 7 oz.) firm or extra firm tofu
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 scallion, sliced thinly (optional)

Mix honey, soy sauce, vinegar, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl; set aside.

Drain the tofu and pat dry. Cut it into two large rectangles, then either cube or cut into even triangles. If you want triangles, the way to do this is to make X and + -shaped cuts in each rectangle you have made.

Heat oil in a nontsick skillet. Add tofu and brown on all sides.

Add honey mixture and reduce heat. Simmer, turning the tofu occasionally to coat in the glaze. When it seems to have thickened enough for your taste, remove from heat.

Serve topped with scallion slices, if desired, with rice.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Insulated Jar & Sides #12

Pinwheels of ham, cream cheese, and tortilla; a cup of my favorite bottled mixed berry smoothie (life did not permit me to make my own for today), cucumber slices, a cherry tomato you can't really see, baby carrots, and a cup of ranch dressing for dipping.

This is a totally different use of the insulated jar, and one I may try out again--fruit smoothies can be a pretty nice thing at lunch.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #78

A mini wheel of brie cut to fit the box, cucumber slices, baby carrots, apple slices, sesame Melba toast, and avocado chunks tossed with halved grape tomatoes.

To eat this, I basically had two different kinds of spreads for my toast, savory and sweet. Version one was to slightly mash the avocado and spread it on the toast with salt and pepper, and top with tomatoes and sometimes cucumber slices. Version two was to smear half a mini brie wheel on the toast and top with apple slices.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

3-Tier Bottle Bento #29

Eggs scrambled with scallions, ham, and cherry tomatoes; silver dollar pancakes; Korean melon; and a cup of maple syrup.

I have had all sorts of problems keeping my scallions fresh, but recently discovered an amazing method that actually works astonishingly well without having to have me tend to watering it or anything. I read about it here. I am so excited about this I cannot tell you. No more slimy scallions! Weeks of crisp green garnishes! Plus, against all logic, my scallions actually grow more green from the root end I have trimmed and stuck in a container in the refrigerator. Scallions are more fascinating than I ever dreamed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Temari Rabbit 2-Tier Bento #77

Korean melon, cucumber slices, baby carrots, chicken lunchmeat rolls, grape tomatoes, brioche toast, and an improvisational cream cheese spread.

The cream cheese spread was basically just whipped cream cheese, red onion, lemon juice, and capers, and I topped it off with some of the chives I have been growing in my kitchen window.

Kitchen window gardening has benefits and drawbacks. Lately I've been experiencing mostly the drawbacks in the form of aphids. But aphids don't like chives, so I at least still have that.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Temari Rabbit Bento Bowl #12

The lighting in my kitchen was awful this morning. And this bento bowl never really does do my food justice. So I experimented with the camera. Here's angle #1 (the bowl itself):

And angle #2 (the inner bowl/lid section):

And angle #3 (overhead), looking quite a bit sadder:

This is what comes of cloudy mornings.

But anyway.

The inner bowl has Korean melon, and the larger bowl has purple rice, seaweed salad, and kung pao chicken.

Korean melon, like any melon in my opinion, benefits from salt. If you don't normally salt a melon, but salt cucumbers, a Korean melon could be a good entree into the world of salted melons.

This kung pao chicken was a new recipe for me, taken from Quick Cooking for Two, and it was truly excellent--a good balance of not being too dreadfully much effort and still tasting pretty good.

Kung pao chicken was the first recognizable dish I ever saw an actual Chinese person cook. I'm sure most Americanized Chinese food is based on actual Chinese food in some way, but there was something reassuring, in the season of my life I spent lots of time with Chinese people, about the fact that Chinese restaurants weren't just pretending altogether. There is a thing called kung pao chicken. Chinese people eat it. It has chicken and peanuts and it's spicy. A nice comfort for a cloudy day.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Sakura 3-Tier Bento #57

I hope you enjoy your 4th of July (for you American readers)!

Orange grape tomatoes, cucumber slices, blackberries, cherries, beef bulgogi (recipe below), nori tamagoyaki, seaweed salad, and steamed rice.

I went to a large Korean market for the first time recently. It reminded me of a group of Korean women I used to cook with. Life has taken me somewhere else since then. But if one dish besides kimchi or kimbap reminded me of them, it would be beef bulgogi. The recipe is quite easy, though you need very thinly sliced beef (see below).

Seaweed salad, incidentally, has a way of getting stuck in your teeth. But it's a nice change of pace, and very green.

Beef bulgogi
Serves: 1 or 2

1/3 pound marbled steak, such as ribeye, sliced very thin (see note below)
4 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 3/4 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons chopped scallion (green parts only preferred, but I'm not persnickety about this)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Nonstick cooking spray

Arrange steak in a shallow dish with a lid; set aside.

Mix remaining ingredients except nonstick cooking spray in a small bowl. Pour over beef, cover, and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.

Spray nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add marinated beef and stir, turning beef, until browned on both sides, about 2 minutes.

Serve with rice and you favorite banchan.

A note on steak: I got mine from the Korean market, but you can also find very thinly sliced "sandwich steak" sold in the American northeast; if neither is available where you are, ask your butcher to cut the meat as thinly as possible or freeze it a bit so you can slice it very thinly yourself.