My Week in Bento 09/14/12

I managed to do one every day this week, and I’m rather proud of myself!

I knew I wanted less red meat and more other stuff this week , so I baked enough portions of Chicken Meatballs to take me through Friday. I also made Egg Frittatas, cobbled together Cherry Jell-O cups with fruit cocktail, and for flair, sliced and assembled created Cucumber Roses. I was a little disappointed with the Jell-O, and I suspect the consistency of the cannedfruit cocktail was too much for it to gel firmly. Maybe less water next time to compensate?

Sunday Roll Call

I’m still trying to get a balance for what I want to eat at the beginning of the week, and what I actually feel like eating by Thursday. Plus I need to learn how to freeze what I may not eat. Portion control and expectations – two things I struggle with daily.

Monday

Chicken Meatballs and a Cucumber Rose in the Upper berth. Lower berth has an Egg Frittata, steamed Carrots, Cherry Jello cup with Fruit Cocktail, fresh Raspberries and canned Pineapple. BB says “sluuuuuuuurp” because it really was runny. :/

It’s a reflecting pool of delicious.

Monday night I also learned how to make Apply Bunnies. I never had the time to make them for my lunch this week, but the test samples came out well. That’s a seed for the eye, and if you’re making them for smaller kids, it’s probably a smarter to use a raisin or sesame seed apoxied with a bit of honey. I like living on the edge.

 

Tuesday

Keanu joined me at the office.

The 3 Bitter Musketeers

Upper berth: Frittata, Meatballs and Carrots – Chickie holds the honey, which complimented the garlic and basil nicely.

Lower berth:  more runny Jell-O, easier on the fruit, Carrots and a Cucumber Rose.

Wednesday

I was rushed and harried and could not find my bento box. Instead of making myself more late for work, I grabbed my original box and arranged the food thusly. Meatballs, Frittata, fruit.

Thursday

Someone threw down a challenge (in a roundabout way) to include food people actually pack in their kids lunches. This is doable with cutters, especially if their kids are like me, they won’t eat the crusts anyway.

PB&Grape Jelly sandwiches and the fruit. Keeping the apples from turning brown is just a five-minute soak with a bowl of water and teaspoon of lemon juice. As those are Granny Smith apples, I rather like the tartness.

Friday

I’ve been on a lamb kick the last few days, helped along by the fact that my local market was selling blade chops for $4.99/lb. This bento does not contain any lamb, but it does feature the remnants of the salad-portion of the warm lamb salad I served for dinner the night before. In my rush to leave the house, I flipped my tiers – I like my warm foods on the top to keep them from heating my fruit from the bottom – so the Upper is the Lower, but just for the sake of consistency:

Upper Berth (on the bottom: Assorted fresh fruit and a BB in a raspberry beret – which was only pointed out to me after I posted the pic on FB. Thanks, Doug! Piggy holds butter and goat cheese, and Chickie holds BBQ sauce

Lower berth (on the top): Steamed Asparagus, steamed Butternut Squash, marinated Tomatoes (I meant to have them with my salad last night, dang it), and a Pork Chop, sliced thin and briefly poached, before pan-fried in a wee amount of butter.

Leftover:

My bento Boxes are small, holding about 2-2.5 cups of food (if crammed in every available space. I want them small because in order to learn how to eat better, I should concentrate on not supersizing my lunches because I think I’ll be hungry. That’s why I always try to pack the lower box with things to nibble on and keep small boxes of raisins in my desk. Consequently, because I’m feeding just myself for lunch, I’ll have lunch leftovers of food that didn’t make it into the box. Either I opted for something else, or I made too much by over-estimating what I would be in the mood for. I can’t pack everything I want into the box, and I want to pack what I know I will eat.

In my fridge I have 1 Cucumber Rose, 4 Chicken Meatballs, 6 Jell-O cups, 1 Frittata.

With the exception of the Jell-O cups, everything else will hit the trash, as they’re past the 4-day mark (which is about when I decide that something prepared is no longer safe to eat). No one wants to get sick.

I also have lots of grapes, carrots, strawberries and a few raspberries, which we will munch on over the course of the weekend. I’ll probably do something with the half of cucumber. I was as prepared as I could be for the week, and it made pulling it together much easier (I was behind all week), and even managed to jumped in with something fun, and it’s not a huge waste of food.

Recipes:

Chicken Meatballs

I eyeballed this one, so season to taste

  • ¾ lb Ground Chicken Breast
    1 small clove Garlic, crushed and minced
    Some Fresh Basil
    Some dried Parsley Flakes
    Some pepper
    Squirt of Lemon Juice
    1 egg, whisked
    Some Panko crumbs – not too much or it will be too dry

It’s just like making regular meatballs. Also remember – this is chicken, and if it’s overcooked, it will be dry and you won’t eat it.

Mix everything together and using a teaspoon measure out heaping portions to roll. Larger than a teaspoon and A – it won’t cook all the way through and B – the smaller your meatballs, the more you can fit into your box. Roll them and place on a baking sheet prepared with wax paper – I use wax paper because it minimizes the mess, and when they come out of the oven, I can lift the whole paper off the sheet to completely stop the cooking process and let them cool. I think I got 18 and some were a little too big. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes. Do not wait until they brown or they will dry out. You could brush the tops with butter, but that kills the purpose of using less butter just for the sake if aesthetics. Store in an air-tight container for up to 4 days (longer if you’re brave) or you wrap them very well and freeze them. 1 min 30 sec to reheat in the microwave or 6 min is a 300 degree toaster oven. Leftovers are great for a chicken spaghetti sauce.

Egg Frittatas

I have no idea if this is what they’re actually called, but think of them as baked omelets in a wee cup.

  • 2 Eggs
    Some water (call ¼ to 1/3 cup)
    Some Green Pepper, chopped
    Some Grape Tomatoes, chopped
    Slice of Mozzarella, quartered

Interesting side note: the grape tomatoes were left over from last week’s bentos. They were too dry to look good by themselves in a presentation, but when cut up into an omelet, they looked fine to me!

Mix everything together but the cheese adding more or less water to make them fluffy and break up the whites and yolks. Pour everything into four silicone baking cups on a cookie sheet, but not all the way to the top , making sure the veggies are evenly distributed, and top with a quarter of cheese. As they bake they will rise and if the insides aren’t cooked through, you’ll have a mess. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. They will look very pretty and full when they come out but as they cool will fall to nearly pre-bakes levels. I like the silicon cups because I can pop the whole thing into a toaster oven or microwave to reheat. Store in an air-tight container for up to 4 days. These make great running late for work breakfasts – 30 seconds in a microwave or 5 minutes in a 300 degree toaster oven to reheat.

My toaster oven times are wildly approximate as I usually just set it to broil for ten minutes and walk away. 10 minutes is long enough or people to not pull my stuff out, but well over of what I need to walk back to my desk, grab my coffee cup and return.