Time required: 20-30 minutes

Bento no. 49: Vegan rice burger bento

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Bento contents:

  • Rice Burger patties made of approx. 1 1/2 cups sprouted brown rice + 1/2 Tbs. olive oil, 350 cal
  • Mediterranean flavored green vegan burger using about 1/5th of the recipe, 120 cal
  • Cherry tomatoes, arugula, berries, 50 cal

Total calories (approx): 520 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 20-25 minutes in the morning if making from scratch; much less if using pre-made/pre-frozen components

Type: Bread-free, vegan continue reading...

Cooked to death hot and sweet peppers

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Greenhouse grown peppers are available year round, but summer is when peppers are really in season. I picked up a bushel load of colorful hot and sweet peppers at a market last week, and some of them turned into this item which is great for bento.

It couldn’t be easier to make, but does take a little time. A mixture of mildly hot chili peppers and sweet peppers are briefly stir fried in sesame oil, then simmered for about half an hour or more. The peppers are falling-apart soft, spicy, sweet and salty. It’s great to tuck into the corner of a bento box, and, well drained of the cooking liquid, also makes a great and unusual filling for onigiri (rice balls).

My grandmother used to make this kind of ‘cooked to death’ or until very limp (kuta-kuta ni) vegetable dish quite a bit. It’s a great way to reduce a big pile of vegetables to a manageable eating amount. This method works well with green beans too. I think it’s rather similar to the way some vegetables such as greens are cooked for a long time in American Southern cooking. I’m no nutrionist, but you do eat all of the ‘cooking liquor’ alongside the vegetables, so nutrition loss may not be so bad, though raw-food advocates may shudder.

The key here is the selection of peppers. The spicy chili pepppers should only be mildly spicy. In Japan you would use shishito peppers. Here I used a variety from Italy that I’m not sure of the variety name of, but it is similarly thin-walled and mild enough not to burn my mouth. Jalapeños or anchos might be good choices too. For the sweet peppers, I used the long red peppers that are called banana peppers, Hungarian peppers or paprikas, depending on who is selling them and where. continue reading...

Glazed Triple-Soy Loaf

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I am always on the lookout for vegan/vegetarian protein recipes that are bento friendly, and this flat oven baked loaf is another one. It's called triple-soy because it has tofu, edamame and miso in it. It has a very dense, rich texture with a sweet-salty glaze. One or two small squares are quite enough for a bento. It may fall apart a bit during transport, but that doesn't affect the texture or flavor. If you can, put it in its own compartment in your bento. continue reading...

How to make shuumai / shumai dumplings

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Shuumai or shumai dumplings (焼売)are a standby for dim sum, and are very well suited to bentos. They are small, taste good cold, freeze very well, and are a lot easier to make than gyoza dumplings.

You’ve probably encountered shuumai dumplings in the freezer section of Asian or Japanese grocery stores. Frozen ones are usually pretty good, but if you make them yourself you know exactly what you put in them. I just make a double batch whenever I decide to make shuumai for dinner. Just follow along with the photos and you’ll be turning out lots of shuumai yourself. continue reading...

Bento no. 23: Parsley lemon sushi with salmon

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Bento contents:

  • Parsley and shiso leaves in lemon-flavored sushi with 1 cup white rice cooked with white zakkoku mix (approx: 200cal)
  • Lotus root slices (approx. 20 cal)
  • Salted salmon, about 50 g / 1 3/4 oz (approx. 80 cal)
  • Usuyaki tamago (thin egg omelette) (approx. 80 cal)

Total calories (approx): 380 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 20 minutes in the morning, 10-15 the night before

continue reading...

Bento no. 22: Vegan bento with lotus root mini-cakes

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Bento contents:

  • Savory lotus root mini-cakes (approx. 150 cal)
  • Pan-roasted red pepper and leek with peanut sauce (approx: 200 cal)
  • Sweet chili jam (30 cal)
  • Cucumber wedges (5 cal)
  • Naval orange wedge (30 cal)

Total calories (approx): 415 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 20-30 minutes total

Type: Asian-fusion, vegan, gluten-free continue reading...

Bento no. 13: Mixed-noodle pasta with pepper confit and wiener flowers

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(click on image for a larger view)

Bento contents:

  • Mixed capellini (angel hair) and shirataki noodles, about 1 cup cappellini cooked + 1/2 cup shirataki (220 calories)
  • Sweet pepper and onion confit, about 1 cup (120 calories)
  • 1 1/2 wiener sausages (200 calories)
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste (25 calories)
  • Broccoli florets (negligible)

Total calories (approx.): 565 calories (how calories are calculated)

Type: Japanese, novelty continue reading...

Bento no. 11: Gyuudon (beef bowl) bento with konnyaku

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Bento contents:

  • Gyuudon with konnyaku: Beef, onions and konnyaku on simmered in a sweet-savory sauce (220cal)
  • on 1 cup brown rice (220 cal)
  • Blanched greens (10 cal)
  • Pickled radish (5 cal)

Total calories (approx): 455 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 25 minutes total (15 the night before, 10 in the morning)

Type: Japanese

The top trick used here is setting aside some ingredients for a dinner dish to make the main part of this bento at the same time. continue reading...