Now, if you are like most Americans, you probably don't know much Japanese. (so sad!) So you probably have no idea what bento is. Bento is a healthy home-packed cuisine-breakfast, lunch or dinner-that is for one person. A typical bento would have rice, fish or some type of meat, and a surplus of veggies or pickled veggie, typically put into a cute box shaped container. (or in my case, it was just a tupperware that was a bit to big to be a proper size bento for me, but it was all I had..)
I aspire to someday get such a lovely bento box for myself. I like the ones that have little movable section walls, or to get a solid box and get the little cups to go in it. Bento boxes come in all shapes and sizes, depending on if you are an adult or child, male or female, etc. You get the proper size based on what you food calorie needs should be. You can make traditional bento, Americanized bento, whatever type of bento you want!
It's best to have a small bento box, as you will be filling it FULL. You want it as full as possible, packed tightly, so if it gets flipped over, your bento won't get mixed around. It's as much about the food as it is about the appearance. It should look appetizing and taste appetizing.
On Friday I made myself a bento for dinner, as our family was going out to eat at a Japanese restaurant for my sister-in-law's birthday. I love the restaurant-but it's not friendly for those of us who are wheat free. (traditional soy sauce has wheat in it, and soy sauce is in EVERYTHING!) I wanted to stick with the Japanese theme-and seeing as how I have wheat free soy sauce on hand at home-I decided to have fun and run with it. So here's what I made:
What's in it? Well, we'll start on the left side. Below the mat of zuccini (which is what that woven, thin, green vegetable is) I have a bed of brown rice. Above the zuccini mat is braised kale and onion. The orange is cooked butternut squash that I cut out with cookie cutters. I used nori (dried seaweed) to make the pumpkin face. The bottom right is sweet pepper and carrot confetti on a bed of zuccini. The upper right hand corner is exactly 3 oz of chicken-cooked in soy and sake and a tiny bit of garlic.
It was sooo good!
I made the butternut squash first. Cut a tiny sliver off my huge squash. Used cookie cutters to cut it. (while raw) Put water in my skillet, cooked both sides until tender. Carefully pulled out and cooled. Easy.
The braised kale was beyond simple. Get out a skillet. Toss in some butter. Add a bit of diced onion. Cook until almost clear. Toss in a bit of minced garlic. (up to your preference how much) Add in rinsed kale and some soy sauce. Stir until it wilts. Serve, or allow to cool a few minutes before putting in bento box.
The confetti? Dice up bell pepper, onion and carrots. Toss into pan with soy sauce, ginger and water. Cook until tender. Serve or put into bento box.
The chicken was also extremely easy. Dice up chicken. Toss in pan and brown sides slightly. Add 1-2 TBSP sake, and 1-2 TBSP soy, and 1/4 cup water. Cook until meat is no longer pink, and the liquid is all evaporated/absorbed. Stir around the pan to get all the good brown tastyness. Serve or put into bento box.
And I did it all in the same skillet. (the rice was leftover from a previous dinner) It was a most excellent dinner. I forgot how much fun it is to make bento-and how easy too! I plan to be doing this quite a bit for That Bearded Guy and I-how can I not?
Remind me later to tell ya'all about the oat-free granola I made. I think I'll just call them oat-free power bars. I used millet, flax and hemp seeds. And. It. Was. Good! TBG was raving about them-as was I! So extremely healthy-so extremely tasty! And filling too! Perfect for a side with breakfast, a snack, or even a hearty dessert! Yay!