Here a Bento…there a Bento…

Since I’m currently hiding in bed, trying to get rid of a stupid cold, I figured it was a perfect time to catch up on blog writing. A few weeks ago, I got it into my head to do some research into bento box meals, both in an attempt to eat healthier balanced meals, as well as making sure the amount of left overs that we produce in this house hold don’t go to waste (it gives me another reason to mess around in the kitchen and experiment with cooking, which I’ve discovered I’m actually pretty decent at, and the last bonus is I have food for lunch, which means I have to eat less of the crappy stuff that’s available at work).

In my research, I came across the following website, JustBento.com, and to my delight, the site’s author was just about to start a free, complete-when-you-can online course on how to make and pack Bentos – an introductory course that she’s designed to kind of work in conjunction with her book (which I have since grabbed) – though the purpose is less to sell copies and more to pass knowledge of how to move beyond set recipes and to get people thinking “outside the box”….oh that was bad, even for me…

Anyway! The first assignment had us thinking about the types of foods we like to eat and cook, as well as how to balance the meals. Maki provided a simple to use table format, and we were to just fill in the simple categories with stuff we like.

For assignments 2a and 2b, we were to get started on choosing a bento box (2b), but first, maki had us grabbing any container (preferably with a tight fitting lid) and understanding approximately how many milliliters each container can contain (and therefore approximately how many calories, as 1ml approx = 1 calorie).

First: what I made:

This was one of my dinner experiments, which tasted ok, but the actual practice of cooking some of these things…not so much. test kitchenWP_20130211_001There was a serious miscalculation on how the rice pilaf was being cooked (I misread about the water amount), and I *might* have overcooked the salmon slightly, I’m definitely still working on how to cook multiple dishes at the same time, and have them all finish within the same period of time…it also doesn’t help when I’m cooking three new things at once 😛

So, this is what I packed:
– Salmon w/ sauce (greek yogurt, tarragon and lemon)
– Sauteed leeks, peas and spinach
– rice pilaf

The idea, maki said, was to fill up a plate with as much food as you would normally eat, then attempt to get the same amount of food packed (tightly) into whatever size container you had. (For reference: The two pictures up above include plates that are actually two different sizes, the top one is a dinner plate and so the two amounts of food are about the same). I chose two of our smallest Costco Tupperware containers (those things are AWESOME), each approximately 296ml in size.
WP_20130211_008

As you’ll notice, everything fit quite well into the two containers. I had struggled with how I was going to transport the sauce, when I happened to come across the little red measuring cup pictured. It’s got the added bonus of having markings inside, so I can measure out 1/8 or 1/6th of a cup of something, and it fits perfectly under the lids. WP_20130211_011The only problem with using the red thing, as I discovered on my first day of using it and having to slam on my breaks in my car…causing my purse, with the containers, to go flying…is that it is no way airtight, and there was definitely some spillage. I wouldn’t trust putting anything runnier into that red bowl unless I was perfectly certain it wasn’t going to be falling all over the place.

bento 1

The next step was trying to pick a Bento box I thought I’d like to use. I poked about on Amazon, and ended up going with the one pictured on the right and below – which just to be clear, is NOT my attempt at a lunch, but it demos the inside the best of the pictures I saw.
(Chopsticks not included!)

bento 2

I chose the box for both the design (although it shipped with a bright red elastic, would have preferred black), and the fact that it is a two stack-able compartments, the top one has a tight fitting lid, which solves the liquid issue if necessary, as well as both compartments being both dishwasher (top shelf) and microwave safe. Convience!

Maki is already up to lesson 3 (assignment 4), which is where we actually USE the new bento boxes we’re bought to take an actual lunch in, which I’ve yet to do because we haven’t been cooking at home much (funny, having a bunch of the Xbox MVPs in town does tend to keep me out late) but once I kick this cold, I do want to actually *use* the thing…

Until next time!