Bento Week! The Weekly Plan: Dec 7 – 13

The important thing this week is that there’s any sort of plan at all.  We have friends in town early in the week, events Tuesday and Wednesday, and then I work again on the weekend evenings.  On the plus side, I am off on Wednesday and we have Thursday night at home together.  We made a conscious decision to make this a very low-cooking week-only Thursday night involves any cooking of scale.  I also knew we needed more lunch options, since we wouldn’t be

Building off of my new lunch parameters (no soft food, no heating), I headed to Pinterest for some inspiration.  The most appealing no-heat lunch?  Bento box!

I found my way to the magical land of justbento.com.  Clear, just whimsical enough, and incredibly informative, Makiko’s site is a living text book of bento.  I can’t possible explain any of her methods better than she can, so I’ll link over where appropriate!

SUNDAY: Prep Day

I realize it’s important to note all the things we do in advance, especially for a week that’s mostly putting things together.  On Sunday evening, I spent a little less than three hours cooking and made:

  • 2 grilled chicken breasts – for slicing in bento lunches or eating in a wrap (well, technically Dave made these)
  • Tofu, mushroom, and spinach ramen.  Homemade ramen!  You use the noodles from the packets and build your own sauce around them. Pretty rad.  Our recipe came from the New Best Recipe Skillet book, but surely there are many out there. We ate two portions for dinner and had two leftover for lunches.
  • Beef soboro.  The link provides the best explanation, but soboro is basically a flavored meat or fish crumble that you can use on top of dishes as a flavoring.  It’s definitely of the “meat on the side” ethos.
  • Onigiri AKA rice balls!  Sweet jesus, they’re so good.  I put a little bit of the beef soboro in the middle and wrapped them in nori.  They weren’t hard to make at all, they just involved a fair amount of time start to finish, but most of that was not active time.  I first encountered onigiri under the name “musubi,” specifically, ahem, spam musubi, which are overwhelmingly delicious and widely available at Hawaiian restaurants.  Of course, musubi are the result of Japanese migration to Hawaii, so they’re all part and parcel of the same idea!  You don’t have to fill them, but you can, and with pretty much anything.  Dave has requested we make these every week.
  • Soup eggs: hard-boiled eggs that are finished, shells off, in the soup made from ramen packets.  I thought this was a great one-two punch so that we didn’t waste the dried soup packets from the packs of ramen.  Something went awry with the cooking time…I ended up with half-cooked eggs with sticky shells that pulled away huge chunks of egg.  I am going to try to eat the scraggly core that I was able to pull out and boiled in the soup, but  adjustments will be made next time.

The Bento Boxes

So with our cooking on Sunday and a trip to the grocery store, here are all the things that can be combined into bento boxes:

  • Grilled chicken
    • In a tortilla
    • On its own
  • Onigiri
  • Soup eggs
  • Carrots
  • A red pepper
  • Tangerines
  • Apples
  • Chili-garlic sauteed kale (leftover from Sunday lunch)
  • Pretzels
  • Block of colby jack cheese
  • Fresh rice (I count this as pre-made, since it requires 2 minutes of prep and could be made morning-of)
  • Beef soboro

This first attempt at a bento lunch week is feeling a little more snack plate than composed lunch, but that’s quite the antidote to my problems from last week, so I say who cares.  I’m snackin’!

MONDAY: Dinner with friends.  Ethiopian!

TUESDAY: Dave makes his own dinner.  

WEDNESDAY: Mexican Night – Quesadillas

THURSDAY: Asian Night (switcheroo) – Tuna Skewers with Mochi Cakes and Carrot and Yuzu Salad

The big cooking night!  This is a wild recipe.  Mochi, at least the mochi that makes it to the U.S., tends to be sweet, so this savory application where the mochi cake is the starch on an otherwise traditional protein-starch-veg plate is  very intriguing.

 

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Weekly Plan & (Some) Recap: Nov 30 – Dec 6

What I’m quickly realizing with my new job is that the “crazy week” scenario from before our week-long Thanksgiving vacation is pretty much the every week scenario.  Given how the first two full weeks have gone, I’m going to be making some adjustments to how I plan.

Specifically:

  • I’m slow cookered out.  I’m struggling to find recipes that don’t result in the same soft, slightly wet texture.  Does that just come with the territory?  I suppose the other big use of the slow cooker is breaking down tough cuts of beef and pork, but that’s moving in the opposite direction of what we’re trying to do.
  • I don’t like having to heat my lunch up every day.  Part of that is stemming from wanting to eat things with a variety textures and part of it is that the best place to eat at work is outside, a short walk from the office, and it’s kind of a hassle to carry a hot, open bowl (of mush) with you.
  • We need more partially-ready components to throw together later in the week.  Wednesdays are hard.

MONDAY – Asian Night: Thai Green Curry & Eggplant

Green Thai curry is a snap to make.  You warm up some pre-made curry paste with maybe some fresh ginger and garlic,  dump in a can of coconut milk, and then gently simmer vegetables, meat or shrimp, or tofu just until they’re cooked through.  That’s it.

A fellow shopper at our local Asian grocery store saw Dave and I buying ingredients for curry and, citing her experience as an actual Thai chef, recommended coconut milk and Maesri curry paste.  We took the advice, of course, and while the coconut milk seemed to work well enough, the Maesri green curry paste was overwhelmingly spicy for me.  I’m fairly sensitive to heat, but can take some; I can handle a whole lot of sriracha and usually tap out just on the spicy side of jalapenos.  I was very disappointed that I couldn’t even finish the first bowl of my beautiful curry with tofu and enoki mushrooms!  Luckily, Dave has a higher heat tolerance and had no problem with it.  Oddly enough, I loved the Thai eggplants (slice them about 1 cm wide) I cooked off in a skillet with some chili garlic paste and basil when they were just-cooked, but Dave found them slimy after less than 24 hours in the fridge.

TUESDAY  – Mediterranean Night: Red Lentil Stew

We made this on Sunday to keep through the week, pulled from Best Slow Cooker Recipes.  Flavor was good, but texture was odd, very grainy, like the lentils had broken down only part of the way.  Mixing it with rice helped, but I definitely reached an “Ugh, mush again…” moment at work.

WEDNESDAY – Mexican Night: Bowls

We planned to do some simple bowls, ended up with black bean and cheese burritos that I sliced my thumb in the process of making.  Can lids are not to be trifled with!  I was trying to get to an aerial class across town that I ended up having to cancel because, well, bleeding onto a trapeze bar is discouraged.

THURSDAY – American Classics: Sicilian Chickpea & Escarole Soup

Sounds great, right?  Operative word, sounds.  We needed one ingredient to be picked up on Wednesday night so this could go in the slow cooker on Thursday morning and that just didn’t happen (See thumb slicing, above).  A good lesson in the need to be more realistic about time management once the week gets started.