Monday, December 3, 2012

Bento #4: Mini Lamb Meatballs, Steamed Carrots and Napa Cabbage Stems, and Black Gomoku Onigiri

Sorry I missed a couple blogs.  I had been ill and had a ton of doctor appointments and did not have the time or energy to write.  But now I am feeling a bit better, and can sit down today with a cup of Red Zinger tea and write about today's bento. 

This is my favorite mug.                         
This morning I made the bento was made of left overs from last night.  Mini lamb cabbage rolls, steamed carrots and napa cabbage stems (left over from wrapping the cabbage rolls), and black gomoku onigiri. 
I added a couple Lipton blackberry tea bags (we are trying to stop drinking soda pop).  I do not see it on their website, but here is a link to it just in case you want to shop.
Okay, onto the food!
This was a one level bento.  I used the bento sized mini cabbage rolls recipe from Just Bento. I can not express how much I love that site and her sister site Just Hungry!!  The recipe on just bento called for ground beef, pork, or a combination of the two.  I happen to live in a house where everyone LOVES lamb, so we picked up some ground lamb at The Holy Land in MPLS.  If you live in the twin cities you must go there!  So much middle eastern food stuffs, they have their own butcher shop, and they have a dreamy bakery/deli/restaurant with food to die for!  Their lamb prices make the trip super worth while for Lara and I, plus we always pick up some fresh feta, foule, and naan and spoil our selves with some yummy deli goodies! And I used a combo of vegetable broth and dashi.  For my steamed veggies I just put them on top of the cabbage rolls that way they get some of the yummy broth infused into them.  so easy!  The veggies, the cabbage rolls are a bit of work the first time you make them but I promise, they are WAY worth it!
The black gomoku onigiri I found on Ochikeron's YouTube channel.  She makes the best tutorial videos ever!  And she is super cute!  I also like it when her darling made chicken wings!  You could also go to her blog, Create Eat Happy.
I did not have black pork, so I used bacon.  I think next time I make this I will fry the bacon before I put it in the rice to cook.  I also used hijiki seaweed instead of kelp. I find sometimes the kelp I have used in the past to have a chewier texture than I like. Also if you do not have sake, you can substitute white wine. If you are looking for the black rice, kelp, black sesame seeds or anything else I recommend United Noodles in MPLS. They have lots of stuff I could never find anywhere else, and lots of stuff I do not even know what it is or what it is used for, yet!
Lara said it was her most favorite onigiri yet! 
I put two of the onigiri in her bento (not wrapped in nori) I had wrapped them in cling wrap because the cabbage rolls were still "juicy" and I did not want to have the liquid ruin her onigiri.  I also put a little container of ponzu sauce in a little container (ponzu is 1 part lemon juice to 1 part soy sauce).  We use it alot in my house and I am always making more, but it is not hard.  It also lowers the sodium in the soy sauce, and has a brighter flavor.  Also in her bento were 6 mini cabbage rolls, and about 1 cup of the veggies!
So easy and delicious!
Next week is my first review of a container I have been using for a bento for the past month.  There was a slight hitch, some puppy got hold of one of the containers.  We gave it a nice funeral in the back yard (not really).  If you have containers that you love, PLEASE beware of this adorable puppy that answers to the name Beau.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My Policies On My Product Reviews

I have decided to incorporate product reviews as part of my monthly blogging schedule. I also decided I would state my intent on why I do the reviews I do, and all the policies I tend to follow in regards to reviewing a product.

I review one product a month

Most product reviews do a testing of only two weeks. For me that is not long enough. Can you really get the measure of a products performance in 14 days? Most things I purchase for my home, I want to use more than just 14 days. I personally feel that a 30 day trial is much more comprehensive test of any product I would want to spend my money on. Granted you may not use a singular pair of chops sticks every day of your life, but if you did wouldn't you want someone to let you in on how they would hold up to such use? You may not want the same bento box day after day, but if you are a full time student that may be your only option. Wouldn't you want a durable and affordable box that can stand up to the rigors of college life and not spend money on replacing broken and worn out boxes, when you could be spending your money on food and school supplies? A full month gives me time to fully find out everything I adore about a product, as everything I hate. I extra time to find out if all the bells and whistles are useful in the long run or just thrown in for marketing to drive up the price of a product and is something you really need not invest in.

Full Disclosure On The Origin Of The Product

Sometimes when I read reviews of product, I find it suspect when it was sent to someone for free. Yes, I understand how important it is for companies to find people to customer run their product. It is vital. However, when it is not disclosed before I waste my time reading it, honestly I feel a wee bit manipulated. I will fully disclose how I came about the product in the first sentence. That way you can choose to read it or not at the beginning, instead of feeling like you read a 5 minute commercial. If it is a product I purchased for review, I will explain where I bought it, how much it was, and why I purchased it. If I receive a product free of cost, I will disclose the company of manufacturing and locations to purchase the product without getting paid for your purchase should you take my recommendation and buy it. I take notes (and photos# from the moment I open the package, until the end of the trial period. This way I never miss anything, good or bad in a review. Hopefully giving you better information in which to decide on purchasing the product or not. If you wish for me to review your product, have a product you want reviewed or have questions, please see the bottom of this post for information on how to contact me.

What Happens To The Things I Review?

If I do receive free product to review, not only will the company of the product's customer service office get the review via email of the review, regardless of how good or bad it is , but if my family can not use the product - or if I feel it can be better used, I will donate it to a local public school in my area.

If I receive something my family will use and love, I will purchase the exact same product and donate that as well, keeping the one I have tested and donating the brand new one.

If it is an item I have purchased, I probably did so for a reason. If it is not something I think my family will use, and it is not too abused, I will donate it as well.

I feel like a lot of children in large cities do not get healthy well balanced meals. I am in love with the work that Jamie Oliver is doing to bring healthy food into school lunches for children and in getting all families to eat home made healthy meals with his Food Revolution! For me, it started with watching Jamie Oliver's TED Prize wish: Teach every child about food on TED Talks (The TED Prize is designed to leverage the TED Community's exceptional array of talent and resources. It is awarded annually to an exceptional individual who receives $100,000 and, much more important, the granting of "One Wish to Change the World." After several months of preparation, the wish is unveiled at an award ceremony held during the TED Conference. Over the life of the prize, wishes have led to collaborative initiatives with far-reaching impact). I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend you watch it at one point or another.
To further aid this cause, I think donating bento boxes and accessories that I get for no cost, be better used for a better reason than filling my cupboards and rarely getting used, the health of our children, in all of our cities and communities.

If you find the products I have reviewed helpful and you end up purchasing an item I have reviewed and LOVED it, I ask you donate a new one into your community as well. I ask companies to please think of donating to this cause as well, especially bento boxes. They are a fun way of teaching children how to eat healthier #not to mention adults as well), and get them involved in better food choices and help them learn proper portion control. Besides it is fast, healthy, and fun!

Notice Of Next Product Up For Review

The last paragraph of every review will be dedicated to the next product I am going to review. The name, company, place of purchase or place of origin, specs (dimensions, weight and whatnot) price, and country of origin will be listed (if all are available) Also the use of the product, like container, or steamer, or decorative divider. I will not be giving a link to the product until after the review is complete. If a product does not meet criteria, a link will still be given to a place where you can purchase it. Just because it did not meet my standards, does not mean it will not work perfectly well for someone else that does not need it to meet all that I expect.

I Will Also Review Accessories And Gadgets For Making Bentos

Things such as picks, cutters, silicon cups, dividers, chopsticks, and really the list for this could go on forever. Basically mostly things that are useful in a bento box or make it cute, pretty, or more appetizing.

I Will Also Review Appliances

Things such as steamers, tofu presses, pots and pans, sushi presses... really anything that helps me make components for a bento (and hopefully free up some time and effort).

Review Criteria

These are the areas I will be looking at in a review.

1. Durability (does it stand up to a month of every weekday and occasional weekend use without compromising the integrity of the food or degradation of the products effectiveness and structural integrity)

2. Does the product do what it says it should do. If it says it is microwave safe, is it? Is the packaging accurate or misleading in any way?

3. ease of use (mostly for appliances)

4. aesthetics (mostly for decorative accessories)

5. Useful nature (does this product benefit my bento needs in making something easier or quicker? Does this add something to a bento that now I can not live without?

So basically there is a 0 to 5 rating, 0 being horrible why does this exist?!, and 5 being I now have a more complete life because of this product, what did I ever do before it came into my life.

Of course, pros and cons will be listed. Also there will be bonus points given for things not advertised or reported that a product has regardless of it's fabulously. For instance, if something turns out to be microwave and dish washer friendly, but it was not stated or advertised as so and it comes as a pleasant surprise... I may give it a bonus. If it says it has separate compartments, and it turns out the compartments are removable and water proof, also a bonus. Or if something has a silly feature that I think is ridiculous, let's pretend oh... say polka dots, for freshness. And the polka dots end up to be some kind of crazy freshness port that actually works and makes me wish everything had it, bonus point.

I will also add age appropriateness if applicable.


WOOF! That was more involved than I thought it would be starting out. However if everything is laid out so a bad review can not be blamed on bad policy or undisclosed criteria.

I have a small hand crafted business of my own (not bento related), so I would love to review hand made bento related stuff! It may also help a small business advertise simply by mailing me their work to test out, I try to keep my blog out on all the social media sites and try to mail out the reviews to companies with similar product, and from experience, good word of mouth is THE BEST advertisement you can possibly get (beware, I tell it like it is... it is usually the opposite for a bad review).

Big companies, nothing can be more valuable than a blogger targeting those customers that you can not reach that are looking for reviews to purchase an item just like yours... but make your product well, and you just increased your sales to people that will tell other people just how great your stuff is, and all without hiring new employees.

All I get out of it, is peace of mind knowing I helped someone else use their time, energy, and money better than they may have had they not read my review. To me this is important, good advice is more valuable to me than an excellent advertising scheme. People happy and healthy without having to trudge through bad products is something I find emotionally satisfying, and dare I say proud.
How To Contact Me

If you have a product you would like me to review (say you found it in a store and want to know if it is worth your time and money) please email me.

If you are a company, or small business that would like me to review your product, email me at the same address and contact and shipping info will be available via email response. Again here is the email link.

Review To Be Posted December 9th

With all of that being said, on with the first product review. It will be posted December 9th. The product I am reviewing is L.O.T.G. Lunch set with removable ice pack made by Medport, LLC. It is a plastic lunch set of 3 containers (1 large and 2 small) all with their own lids and a single rigid plastic ice pack. Sizes for containers are as follows: Large 2.75 cups/ 660ml/ 22oz. Small 1.5 cups/ 300 ml/ 10 oz. Dimensions (approximately to an 1/8 inch): Large 5 1/2 inch wide X 8 inches long X 5 1/2 inches deep. The ice pack fits inside on a shelf about 1/2 way down. It is 1/2 inch thick.

I picked mine up at Wal-Mart for under $10. I believe they also go by the name Fit & fresh.  I purchased this product as my first personal bento box that I want to use every day.  So, it is a product I personally bought.

I am excited to share with everyone how this product holds up to my crash test!  Check back December 9th for the results!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bento #3: Inarizushi, konnyaku with garlic, and steamed veggies

Bento #3: Inarizushi with brown and wild rice with dashi soaked carrot and hijiku filling, Konnyaku with garlic, olive oil and chili peppers, cherry and pear tomatoes, and steamed vegetables (broccoli, napa cabbage, and carrot - fridge clean out vegetables or vegetables that needed to be used or thrown out).

I had no idea what inarizushi was, so I did some digging.

"Inarizushi (稲荷寿司) is a pouch of fried tofu typically filled with sushi rice alone. It is named after the Shinto god Inari, who is believed to have a fondness for fried tofu. The pouch is normally fashioned as deep-fried tofu (油揚げ, abura age). Regional variations include pouches made of a thin omelette (帛紗寿司, fukusa-zushi, or 茶巾寿司, chakin-zushi). It should not be confused with inari maki, which is a roll filled with flavored fried tofu.
A version of inarizushi that includes green beans, carrots, and gobo along with rice, wrapped in a triangular aburage (fried tofu) piece, is a Hawaiian specialty, where it is called cone sushi and is often sold in okazu-ya (Japanese delis) and as a component of bento boxes." (via Wikipedia)
As a sushi lover, I had to try making it!

I love sushi, but I am not a fan of boring white rice. No amount of sugar and vinegar to make it into sushi white rice is going to change that for me. Yes it is fine if it is a layer on my sushi roll, but the entire filling? That did not excite me (when I make sushi at home, I always make my sushi rice out of short grain brown rice). So I thought I might play around with the rice filling to make it more robust. I made some short grain brown rice, it is more nutritious than white (has a somewhat nutty taste), and it is not bleached. I added a bit of cooked wild rice. I live in Minnesota and have access to tons of it at a reasonable price compared to other regions of the US. Then I added about 1/4 cup of a sushi rice filler I found online to cut down on calories, and it is delicious to boot. It consists of carrot, hijiki (a seaweed) and shitake and oyster mushrooms. It is based off a recipe I found on Just Bento, however I used dried and reconstituted shitake and oyster mushrooms that I reconstituted in the dashi broth. I used a regular dashi broth, not the vegetarian dashi. If you do not know what dashi is, it is a big part of making a lot of Japanese foods.

"The most common form of dashi is a simple broth or fish stock made by heating water containing kombu (edible kelp) and kezurikatsuo (shavings of katsuobushi - preserved, fermented bonito) to near-boiling, then straining the resultant liquid. The element of umami, considered one of the five basic tastes in Japan, is introduced into dashi from the use of katsuobushi. Katsuobushi is especially high in sodium inosinate, which is identified as one source of umami." (via Wikipedia)

Smells like the yummy smoked fish I grew up with. I shredded one carrot and sautéed it in sesame oil. Then I added about a handful and a half of the hijiki to the pan and poured the dashi over it until it was covered with about 1.5 inches of broth after it reconstituted the hijiki. I diced up the reconstituted mushrooms, threw those in the skillet and cooked uncovered until there was hardly any broth left (it took quite some time, about 45 min, but trust me it was worth it!).  I then added the soy sauce and mirin. I used sugar in the raw, it is less processed and quite frankly, bleached and over processed foods now give me the willies since I did some research after watching Hungry for a Change (which I highly recommend watching).I added 1/4 cup of it to my 3 cups of brown sushi and wild rice. It looked like this after mixing in the packet of "seasoning" that came in my package of inari-age. It made more than enough, actually made enough for two packages of inari age.

And here is the inari age I used.  I picked mine up at United Noodles in Minneapolis Minnesota.
Here is the back of the package for nutritional info.
They looked like this after filling the tofu skins.
Soon I shall look into making my own inari age to cut down on ingredients that I do not know, and ingredients I can not pronounce. I like to know what I am putting in my mouth. It is just a quirk I have.

I also had to make konnyaku after reading about it. It was so mysterious!

"In Japanese cuisine, konjac (konnyaku) appears in dishes such as oden. It is typically mottled grey and firmer in consistency than most gelatins. It has very little taste; the common variety tastes vaguely like salt. It is valued more for its texture than flavor." (via Wikipedia)

For more on this substance please read this article on the Just Hungry website.

I made the recipe I found on Just Hungry for Konnyaku with garlic, olive oil and chili peppers.

I used Southwestern Chipotle Mrs Dash instead of the peppers, and added a few cherry and pear tomatoes on the side.
To be honest, the texture was a little off putting to me, kind of like super extra firm tofu jello, and it really did not have much of its own taste. I think I was expecting something like octopus, and it wasn't. Next time I use it (I have a package of the white konnyaku) I want to make it with some ginger green beans, so it is not the main focus. I am not saying I did not like it, it grew on me, it just may not be every ones cup of tea. Here is the package of white konnyaku #the picture above was the grey variety made by the same company).
I would use it again, just not quite so much.

Lastly since it was Sunday, I did a fridge clean out of vegetables that will go bad if not used. I had some broccoli that was turning yellow, and some napa cabbage that would be tossed out in the next 3 days if not used now. I added some grated carrot and steamed the lot. I tossed it with a bit of parmesan before eating. That made the bottom of my bento. I make vegetables my main source of intake because it does not contain tons of carbs like rice that is traditionally used for a bento. More diabetic and diet friendly that way. I have lost 10 pounds in the past 2 months of only changing my lunches to a vegetable based bento. I call that a win!

So the bottom was the steamed vegetables and parmesan (not in picture).
Top layer was the konnyaku and tomatoes container, and 3 inarizushi with the mixed grain filling.
And that is it! Delicious!

If you would like to know what I used for the box, I used Medport's L.O.T.G. (also called Fit & Fresh) lunch set with removable ice pack.
(the quarter is for a size reference)
I will be reviewing this product for my first product review, due to be posted on December 9, 2012. Next Sunday (November 11,2012) I will be posting my product review policies (if my editor, the distinguished B, my main squeeze and scource of all things spelling and grammer related, finishes checking it for me).


Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Adventure Continues: Bento #2 Asian Salad Tribute

Bento #2 Asian Salad Tribute.

Today I made a bento with all Asian Salad Tribute (based on bento no. 28 from Just Bento).  It is a cold bento, and needs to be refrigerated since it does have eggs and mayo in it. 

Let's start with the bottom of the bento.
This is my tossed Asian salad.  It is made of a pre packaged Dole salad mix, Asian Island Crunch Kit, and boosted with little things to boost color and flavor, I also increased the bulk of the salad with out adding much fat or carbs by adding some left over spring roll veggies.  I added to the mix (which is a variety of lettuces, red and green cabbage, shredded carrot, pea pods, and dried pineapple) shredded Napa cabbage, Julianne cucumber, Julianne carrots, and green onion.  It was a great way to deal with leftovers that may have otherwise not been used.  I also added 6 grape tomatoes for color. The dressing is a sesame ginger dressing, some from the salad mix, and some pre made Kraft dressing to fill it out.

I also added a small container of crunchy things I did not want to get soggy by adding it to the salad before eating.

This container has the salad proteins and carbs.  I like a little bit of nuts on my salad.  this is a mix of slivered almonds and crisp chow mein noodles.  About an ounce of both.

On to the top of the bento. 
The main part of the top compartment is a Japanese potato salad.  Japanese potato salad is commonly eaten on a sandwich from what I have read.  I put a leaf of Boston lettuce if Lara wanted to make a sandwich (as I did with my lunch).  Japanese potato salad is a mayonnaise based salad and is not tart and vinegary from mustard.  I added a splash of unseasoned rice vinegar and a little lemon juice to suit my palate.  This can also easily be made vegan if you omit the egg and use a vegan mayo.  I based my version on the Just Hungry web site's (a fantastic website for info and recipes for Japanese food and home cooking) Japanese Potato Salad and made some adjustments to make it my own.  I added 1 hard boiled egg for added protein.  There are a few tricks to make a perfect hard egg that is not over done, so the yolk is a beautiful golden color and super moist - not runny and creamy.  Far from dry, hard, and green.  For pointers on how to make a hard boiled egg, I went to Simple Recipes website and followed their tips on the How to Make Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs I get perfect eggs every time!  I also make sure I use old eggs (about 5 days old), they peel better.  I also peel them under cold running water (I have a garbage disposal, If you don't make sure the drain cover is catching your shells.  Bad for your plumbing).  Lastly, I put a cup of huge, super sweet red seedless grapes in.  Make sure you always was your produce.  I worked in the grocery store industry for about 15 years, and believe me, if you have seen some of the things I have, you would never put unwashed produce in your mouth EVER again.  It is only as clean as all of the strangers that touched it.
Here is how the finished bento looked before I added the bread package and closed the lid.

Not too bad. 
Since I used red potatoes I wanted a little extra carb.
On top of all of it I wrapped 1 slice pumpernickel bread cut in half for a potato salad sandwich wrapped in wax paper so it will not get soggy from the potato salad. 
Here is how I wrapped it .

#1 cut the bread in half.  Then tear off 2 pieces of wax paper large enough to triple over the bread. I put them at a opposing angles. 
#2 Then I fold the first layer, I fold the bottom flap up, then each side after right then left, then finally the top flap gets folded down. Then I flip it over so you have a little package with one layer and the bread easy to see through the paper.

#3 Then I fold the bottom in the same way. Then I tape the package closed with tape, all though a cute sticker, note of encouragement/love would be awesome here for a child's lunch.

I included in this picture the products I used. Then you should have a little package of double wrapped bread. Safe from the Curse of Soggy Bread.

I put the little wrapped bread package on top, and closed the lid.
Voila!  Lunch for less than 600 calories!  Using a pre made salad and left overs cut down on prep time and clean up time.  Really, the only time consuming part was waiting until the potatoes and carrots cooked, and waiting for the onions and cucumbers lost some of their liquid (Important step if your salad is made ahead of time.  Otherwise, they will loose their water in your creamy salad, making it and everything else watery).  Also, the potato salad recipe made 4 portions.  Make sure you only use 1/4 of what you make. If you don't, portion control is lost and making a healthy lunch has gone out the window.

It is about here that I would like to state my policy on posting any recipes.  Whenever possible I will give you the link to the original recipe.  I plan to start posting how I altered the recipes to make them my own on the weekends when I may not be making a daily bento.  Comparing mine to the original is highly recommended.  I really want to give credit where credit is due, so my policy on recipes is to always site the original for use (you really should read them anyway for little tips and tricks learned by making the original) and not to repost their hard work here, confusing it as something I created.  If I can not post a link, I will try my hardest to find the original or site the book and/or person I learned it from.
 I find that I agree with the ethics of Makiko Itoh of Just Hungry and Just Bento.

"I didn’t copy down the original recipe there, since it’s my policy never to do that with someone else’s recipe that’s online (or indeed offline)." 

With that said, PLEASE, take the time to look at Just Bento and  Just Hungry.  They are both AMAZING sites packed with all kinds of info and tips!  I have learned TONS from them.
So bento #2 is done! And it looks like Lara is just as excited about her lunch as I was to make it!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The First Bento Box Adventure - Bento #1 Egg Salad

So, today I started my adventure into bento box lunches. There are a couple reasons why I wanted to try it. I am a semi-vegetarian, meaning I follow a vegetarian diet as strictly as I can, however, 2 meals a week I eat meat. I usually try to stick to game animals my father has hunted (venison and duck) or free range raised (chicken or pork) to keep my digestive enzymes that I would otherwise loose, I stay away from beef for many reasons, mostly because it does not agree with my body. Also, I eat fish. It is not that I do not consider fish and seafood creatures animals, I do... but I want the fatty acids it will give me since using a flax additive is medically out of the question for me. I also am not strict when on vacation... not only do I not want to push my diet onto others, it keeps my choice to be a semi-veggie question free so I do not need to delve into all of my health issues as well as my religious and ethical motives. Other reasons for adventuring into bento land are the following:

#1 I am over weight. I am using the bento as a dietary aid. it will exercise portion control so I do not end up over eating when I do not feel full right away. I have gastroparesis and can not always tell when I am full, and if something is really good, I tend to have too much. It will also regulate calories. Being able to pack a less than 500 calorie bento will give me tons of options, and be a well balanced meal to boot.

#2 I am pre diabetic. Keeping my calories down is important, but watching my sugar and carbohydrate count is just as important. Bento boxes a lot you 1/4 of your over all meal a carbohydrate space, thus keeping it down because I am one of those people that loves pasta and bread. It also gives me a little wiggle room to add a small "goodie" as a filler... basically keeping my desert a space filler more than an entire portion. Also, giving me all kinds of ideas for healthier "goodie" options, meaning I am not having an over proportioned bowl of ice cream, I am having an ounce of toasted almonds with an ounce of semi sweet chocolate chips which is I don't know how many more times healthier.

#3 Being semi-veggie, it hopefully will keep me honest. If I pack my lunch the day before, I am less likely to want to make the decision to take the easy way out of lunch, and stop at some fast food place for a burger or a chicken patty.

#4 I am not the only one in my household with these problems. I live with one of my best friends and she has a few dietary medical needs as well. Packing two bento boxes should be just as easy as packing one. This way we are both healthier, happier, and can spend years that we might not otherwise have with each other if we do nothing with our diet as well.

#5 I have quite a few friends that follow a vegetarian lifestyle, and they make all kinds of yummy food. Why not try and fit those yummy things into every day? Why would I waste such valuable resources to better not only myself, but my friends as well?

When listing the reasons, it seems like a really good idea. Why not start? Why not give it a try? If you view all new things as a learning experience, a way to better yourself, and have a new little adventure... the choice seems to make itself.

Now I must admit, since today was my very first exposure to making a bento, I did have some preconceived ideas, and worries. (Yup another numbered list... get used to it. I am a chronic list maker).

#1 The prep time for two bentos would be ridiculous. With all those adorable little foods, cutting up the veggies would take forever.

#2 The meals would be too small, and I would abandon making bentos because they were not filling or satisfying.

#3 While controlling portion size and calorie count I would sacrifice flavor.

#4 Clean up would take forever.

Man, a good woman knows to admit she is wrong... not only was I wrong, I was ridiculously wrong.

For my first bento box I chose one that could be kept cold, was not super messy needing tons of little containers, and was well balanced. 1/2 veggie/fruit, 1/4 protein, 1/4 carb - the perfect bento.

I made my "bento #1" - egg salad with boston lettuce, pumpernickel bread, veggie side, fruit and yogurt finish, as a filler I bumped up my proteins instead of carbs by making a little container of candied cinnamon almonds with semi sweet chocolate chips (I was worried about sweet cravings later in the day). Here is how it looked in the tin (sorry the pictures are a bit on the blurry side).

Bottom of the bento: Broccoli with grape and pear tomatoes, and blueberries and banana with vanilla yogurt and toasted almond garnish.

Top of the bento: Egg salad on bed of boston lettuce, 2 slices of pumpernickel cut in half for 2 mini sandwiches, and candied nuts and chocolate chips.

So (and the reason why I listed my preconceived ideas) here is how wrong I was.

#1 The prep time for two bentos would be ridiculous.  With all those adorable little foods, cutting up the veggies would take forever. Wrong.  The prep took in all less than 15 minutes, and that was with making the hard boiled eggs.  Prep was less than half of what I do for a normal dinner.

#2 The meals would be too small, and I would abandon making bentos because they were not filling or satisfying.  I suffer from gastroparesis.  A normal stomach digests a full meal in 2 hours, in 2 hours I have digested less than 10%.  Also, a person that has gastroparesis, usually can not feel how full they are, or how hungry they are... they either do not eat enough, or eat too much.  I usually fall into the latter category.  By the time I can feel what is in my stomach, be it too empty or too full, it is painful.  Period.  If you over eat, not only is it excruciatingly painful, I 99% of the time will end up unwillingly emptying my stomach and all its goodies into the toilet.  I do not enjoy vomiting every time I eat.  This was perfect.  I did not feel hungry an hour later and end up putting more in my stomach, thus vomit.  I did not have too much in there, thus a bonus again, no vomiting.  I can not tell you how deliriously happy it makes me to eat a meal and not get sick.  In fact I ate lunch at about noon, an I think a light dinner is all I am needing to be satisfied. It is now almost 5 pm... and no vomiting or feeling like I need to vomit.  If I could do this everyday what a wonderful world it would be.  I guess what I am trying to say is it is not too small and it will satisfy, or even make you silly with how much you have to eat without over eating.

#3 While controlling portion size and calorie count I would sacrifice flavor. Wrong again.  It was NOM!  I added a splash of white wine vinegar in the egg salad so no additional salt was needed.  Since I used more mustard than mayo, and the mayo was light I had flavor and less calories.  The sandwiches had more than enough goo, and not too much.  If the eggs are hard boiled the way I do it... you always have a super orangey golden soft yolk (not runny, soft and moist) and not dry at all.  the celery and green onion gave it a nice crunch. I even added a few of the extra greens from the green onion for garnish, no extra calories!  Adding the vanilla yogurt to the blueberries and bandanna... was delightful and almost like a desert.  One ounce of candied cinnamon almonds from the farmers market with an ounce of semi sweet chocolate chips made me feel as if I had desert.  No sweet cravings later even, not even after dinner.

#4 Clean up would take forever. 5 minutes, literally.  I had allotted myself a half hour for clean up, because I thought with all the cute little cut up veggies, prep would dirty a lot of stuff.  Since there was hardly any prep, there was hardly any clean up.  Most of the clean up I did while I was prepping and only a couple things to rinse and put in the dish washer. 

So, I was wrong, and on every count.  I think the bento and I might have quite a thing going.  It could become serious.  Healthier, cheaper meals that are homemade, and mildly artistic and fun to create... I can not say that about any lunch I have ever made, EVER!  I found myself considering separation and barrier materials, garnishes as well as where I needed more color to make it visually pleasing.  As an artist, I never thought of my food as a creative release or an artistic medium.  Granted I did not get fancy or super cute with my first box, but I thought of oh so many things I could try!

My point being, I thought of all these issues I might have had so I would not feel bad for abandoning bentos.  Now that I proved myself wrong, there is really no reason NOT to make bentos for lunch for both me, and my gal pal, Lara.  And there is really no reason, for you people out there that are adventurous and wish to change little things in your life to live healthier and happier, not to incorporate bento into you life as well.  If you are just starting and learning, so am I!  Let us learn together!

Hope you all stay tuned for my future bento adventures!  Cheers!