Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Brand New and Tried and True: A Bento Round-Up

It's just about time for another bento round-up, I believe. My bento lunches from last week ran the gamut in terms of new recipes vs. good stand-bys, and creativity vs. efficiency. I ended up with quite a few of the same or similar lunches over the course of the week as I had a lot of that lentil spread I made the previous week to use up. However, I did make up for that fact by also trying out a couple of new recipes, including one for noriben, marking my first true attempt at a traditional Japanese bento component.

I have been wanting to include brown rice in my bento lunches for quite some time now, but I've either been pressed for time in the morning (exacerbated by my lack of lunch planning the night before), or I have crackers that I need to use up. However, I had also seen Just Bento's recipe for noriben, and it seemed like a simple recipe with which to ease myself into more typical Japanese bento meals. I wanted to try it. And so . . . I did! I made very plain noriben with just brown rice and nori seaweed with soy sauce.

Making the noriben and then packing it in the bento box the night before, the creation looked and smelled good to me before I put the box in the fridge. The next day, however, I found that the topmost layer of rice was a little crunchy, which I think means I should have used more soy sauce. Also, the seaweed was soggy. It was supposed to be, but I think I should have torn it into smaller pieces before layering it with the rice so that it would be easier to eat. Overall, my first authentic bento recipe didn't quite turn out as successfully as I would have liked, but it wasn't half-bad, either, especially since I rarely make rice in general.

I also began including lunch meat roll-ups in my bentos this past week. The Best Husband Ever and I purchased a massive bulk package of sliced turkey and ham at Costco for sandwiches for him, so I figured that I'd better help out or he will never get through the entire package before the meat goes bad. Having seen and heard about other bento fans making little meat roll-ups as part of their boxes, I decided to give it a shot. Taking a piece of turkey or ham and spreading some fat-free cream cheese down the center, I place a little fresh spinach or dill pickle on top of the cream cheese before rolling the meat up into a tight spiral. I then cut the spiral into four pieces, spearing them on a toothpick and placing them in my bento box. Not only are these roll-ups an easy-to-prepare source of lean protein, but they're surprisingly delicious. I felt a little skeptical when I first heard about the cream cheese, but now I'm a believer!

Another fun new recipe that I tried out this week was the Carrot-Raisin-Pineapple Salad from The Book Lover's Cookbook by by Shaunda Kennedy Wenger and Janet Kay Jensen. A fun cookbook that I found and perused at the local public library, it's full of recipes inspired by dishes or meals described or eaten in literature. As an avid and passionate reader (and writer!) I couldn't resist the book, and in paging through it found this unique little recipe. I don't remember what work of fiction inspired it, unfortunately. It was pretty tasty, although a little dry on top as the juices all sank to the bottom of the bento box. However, that could be because I used diced pineapple instead of crushed since that's what I had on hand. Try it for yourself and see how it turns out.

Carrot-Raisin-Pineapple Salad

4 cups grated carrots
1 cup raisins
1 20-oz. can crushed pineapple
1 T lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon

Combine all the ingredients and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

An additional component of the bento lunch that I included the above salad in was a cup of fat-free Green Tea Mango yogurt. Made by Lucerne, which seems to be one of Safeway's brands, I spied the intriguing flavor and had it try it. It sounded so unlikely -- green tea in yogurt? And then to throw mango in, too . . . like I said, I had to try it. The yogurt wasn't bad, although it was a little less sweet than I expected. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though, but I'm not sure if I'll try it again. Thankfully, Lucerne manufactures quite an array of these less traditional yogurt flavors, so I'm excited to try another. Like banana cream pie yogurt, for example, which you'll be able to read my thoughts on soon in an upcoming post.

So that's the round-up, folks! A bunch of tasty and filling -- if somewhat repetitive -- bentos as well as an ambitious attempt at an authentic bento filler and a brand new salad recipe. What a week!


  1. Susan from Food BlogJune 6, 2008 at 5:54 AM

    I love a good pineapple-carrot-raisin salad. In fact, I make one with plain yogurt, chickpeas, and hot curry powder which I love too.

  2. That sounds so tangy and delicious, Susan! I'll have to try it out.


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