How to: Homemade shio kombu or kombu no tsukudani

kombu_tsukudani450.jpg

Kombu, the leathery seaweed that is used to make dashi stock, is packed full of umami. A traditional way to prepare it is as shiokombu (salty kombu) or kombu no tsukudani. Tsukudani is a method of cooking something with soy sauce, sake and/or mirin, and sugar until it’s very dark, quite salty and sweet too. It’s a preserving method, since the salt and sugar greatly increase the keeping qualities of the food.

Kombu no tsukudani can be tucked into the corner of a bento box to add a little variety. It’s also a good onigiri filling. Properly made and stored in the refrigerator, it keeps almost forever. continue reading...

Bento for your spirit as well as your body

A reader left a great comment on the last post. I’m quoting part of it here:

But, honestly, the thing I love about bentos is the zen-factor: it makes me excited about eating and I always spend time in the morning really thinking about what I’m putting into my body. It’s very calming. I feel like I spoil myself everyday.

I couldn’t agree more with that. Planning bento lunches for yourself makes you feel like you are really taking care of yourself - something we are apt to forget when we are running around conducting Life in general. It’s as important, or even more so, than planning and making bentos for your family. It’s a way of pampering yourself during the course of your day spiritually as well as physically. Nothing can beat that! continue reading...

Speed bento tip: Squeeze bottles!

squeeze_honey.jpgI’m always looking for ways to shave a few minutes off bento prep time. One way to do this is to look at the containers the condiments, sauces and other ingredients that you use frequently come in.

I use honey quite a lot as a sweetener. Measuring it out of a glass jar is a sticky, messy business, that more often than not requires washing of a spoon, wiping drips around the lid and jar, and other little things that add up in terms of wasted time. So, for morning preperations I rely on the neat runny honey in a squeeze bottle. It’s not rare gourmet honey gathered from bees who suckle on rare alpine flora (I save that kind for leisurely cups of lemon-honey-water), but it sure cuts down on bento making time in the morning. continue reading...

Bento no. 8: Leftovers bento with garlic chive blossom fried rice

bento_8_450.jpg

Bento contents:

  • Fried rice with ham, lentils and garlic chive blossoms (400cal, more or less depending on the fattiness of the ham)
  • Broccoli stem, celery, walnut, apple and carrot salad with lemon dressing (60 cal)

Total calories (approx): 460 cal (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 15-20 minutes

Type: Japanese, leftovers yay continue reading...

Homemade furikake no. 2: Carrot and sesame seeds

fukake2_carrotsesame450.jpg

Carrots are a staple of just about everyone’s fridge I think. They are really good for you, but it can be rather hard to find different ways of eating them. This sweet, savory and spicy furikake uses up whole carrots as well as bits of carrot left over from other uses. Plenty of sesame seeds are added for flavor and texture - and they’re not bad for you either. The warm, brown-orange color perks up a dull looking bento, especially on white rice. continue reading...

Bento no. 7: A mostly make-ahead bento with fall vegetables and tamagoyaki

bento_7_450.jpg

Bento contents:

  • 1 1/2 cups (370ml) sweet potato rice (300 cal)
  • Braised spicy daikon radish and carrot (50 cal)
  • Japanese-style omelette (tamagoyaki) with green onions (120 cal)
  • Stewed dried shiitake mushrooms (5 cal)
  • Broccoli florets with wasabi sauce (5 cal)

Total calories (approx): 480 cal (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 30 minutes total (20 the night before, 10 in the morning)

Type: Japanese, no meat (egg) continue reading...

Bento no. 6: Assemble-your-own pita bread sandwich bento

bento_6_450.jpg

Bento contents:

  • 2 small pita breads (or use one regular size) (150cal)
  • 3 black bean vegan burgers (150cal)
  • Fruit salad containing 1/2 small apple and 1/2 small pear (120cal)
  • 1 container low-fat yogurt (60 cal)
  • Mixed salad - lettuce, carrots, red pepper, tomato (20 cal)
  • 1 tablespoon homemade preserves (about 50 cal)
  • Tzatziki salt

Total calories (approx): 550 cal (how calories are calculated)

Type: Sort of Middle-Eastern, bread based continue reading...

Bento no. 5: Black bean burger and mushroom rice vegan bento

bento_5_450.jpg

Bento contents:

  • Vegan mushroom rice, with 1 cup white rice (190 calories)
  • Black bean mini burgers with tomato sauce (250 calories)
  • Instant radish pickles (5 calories)
  • Blanched spinach (20 calories)

Total calories (approx.) 465 calories (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 30 minutes total (20 the night before, 10 in the morning)

Type: Japanese vegan continue reading...