Time required: 30 min - 1 hour

Bento sized mini-meatloaves

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Who doesn’t love a meatloaf? (If you eat meat, that is.) Sliced leftover meatloaf is great in sandwiches, and it’s also very nice in a bento box. Meatloaves also freeze very well, since they have a moistness to them.

While I do like to make a big meatloaf now and then, I also like to make these mini-sized meatloaves specifically for the bento freezer stash. I often reserve a couple for dinner, and wrap and freeze the rest.

You could use your own favorite meatloaf recipe for this, but here is one in case you need it. The key point here is the size, perfect for bento boxes and sandwiches. continue reading...

Vegetarian Cake Provençal With Kinako

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Throughout Provence, especially in the colder months, you often encounter stalls at the markets selling golden loaves of goodness called Cake Provençal. They look just like pound cakes or what we might call in the U.S. ‘quickbreads’, but they are made with savory ingredients. They usually contain cheese, olives, sautéed vegetables, ham, sausage, herbs and so on. They are great at dinnertime,for picnics and of course (since it’s on this site) for not-Japanese bento lunches. Here are some that were on sale at a market in Nyons (in the Drôme Provençal) last December.

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They are made exactly like sweet cakes, but this being the land of olive oil they use that instead of butter. My version here is a bit light on the olive oil (some cakes that I’ve tried are almost dripping with oil). I’ve added a very non-Provencal ingredient, kinako (toasted soy bean flour), to add nuttiness as well as protein. You could use chickpea flour instead of the kinako. A piece or two, or three or four, of this cake makes a great vegetarian bento, on its own or with a salad or raw vegetables packed along. You can also make very interesting sandwiches with it. (Try Boursin cream cheese with watercress.)

I made mine in a square baking or brownie pan instead of the traditional loaf pan, since I like to cut it into little squares, but you could make it in a loaf pan too. It freezes very well, which makes it a great ‘freezer stash’ item. continue reading...

Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds

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A variation on an old personal favorite, these lentil snacks are packed with protein and are a great vegan item for non-Japanese bento boxes. continue reading...

Root vegetables and tofu stewed in miso sauce (a vegan one-pot meal)

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(On the forum and elsewhere, I frequently hear vegans lamenting the lack of vegan protein-rich dishes. Such dishes do exist in traditional Japanese cooking, and I try to introduce them to you. Not all dishes are that simple to make, though if you read through the recipes they aren’t really that hard. Anyway, here’s one vegan one-pot dish that is good hot or cold, so is very suited to bentos.)

There are all kinds of stewed dishes in Japanese cooking, called something-ni (煮). Collectively these are called 煮物 - ninomo. This is sort of a vegan variation on a classic nimono called chikuzen-ni (筑前煮), which is a staple of the New Year period and the winter months.

Chikuzen-ni gets its umami from chicken pieces and a rich dashi made from konbu seaweed and lots of katsuobushi, dried bonito flakes. Here I’ve skipped the dashi (though you could use vegan dashi for even more flavor), but I’ve used one of my favorite vegan proteins, atsuage or thick fried tofu, and added a lot of umami by using shiitake mushrooms, leek, and miso to finish. There are three kinds of root vegetables in this: taro root (satoimo 里芋 in Japanese), lotus root (renkon 蓮根)and carrots, so it’s full of fiber and nutrition and is a fairly complete vegan meal. I used it for a bento last week, and found it very filling. (I meant to use the leftovers for another bento round at least, but it got eaten up by someone…)

If you can’t get a hold of taro roots or dislike the slightly slimy texture, substitute boiling potatoes (the kind you use for potato salad, not baking potatoes). If you can’t get lotus roots, just leave them out and use more carrots.

This is not a quick recipe, but you can make a potful of it and can last you for several days of bentos and other meals. continue reading...

Bento no. 35: Special occasion- Spring sushi picnic bento

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Bento contents: continue reading...

  • Bite size shrimp and caper sushi, about 40 cal per piece
  • Tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette), 3 eggs worth, cut into 12 pieces - about 30 cal per piece
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Blanched snow peas or mangetout
  • Carrot flowers
  • Cherries (not shown)

Bento no. 21: Chicken teriyaki bento

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Bento contents:

  • Bite size chicken kijiyaki (or teriyaki) made with 90g of thigh meat with the skin (210 cal)
  • Blanched bean sprouts with umeboshi (5 cal)
  • Blanched spinach (10 cal)
  • Haiga-mai, or germ rice 150g or about 1 cup (170 cal)
  • 1/2 of a tamagoyaki made from 1 egg (50 cal)

Total calories (approx): 445 (how calories are calculated)

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

Type: Japanese

This is the ‘skinny bento’ featured in Skinny Bento vs. Not So Skinny Bento. continue reading...

Bento no. 17: Potato oyaki bento with wakame sunomono

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Bento contents:

  • 3 potato oyaki filled with beef soboro (300 cal)
  • Cucumber and wakame sunomono (20cal)
  • Lettuce garnish (negligible)

Total calories (approx): 320 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 15-20 minutes in the morning, 20-30 previously

Type: Japanese, Potato based, gluten-free continue reading...