Spice Up Your Life With a Taste of Japan

Spice Up Your Life With a Taste of Japan

*Fun Bento Box**Cute and Natural Food From California*


Cute Vegan Bento Box

I'm posting some pictures of my bento from last week.
Last Sunday, I prepared some food below for my bento for the week.
I froze leftover food from the previous week so  I used that for the last week bento too.

I cut rainbow carrots, pickled radishes with a variety of cookie cutters so that I can decorate my bento.


Bento Photos

More bento from last week.

Smoked mussel
Okara shu-mai
Rice with farro and couscous sushi salad

Okara vege burger
Rice with green onion miso
Vegetables marinated with Moroccan preserved lemon


Smile Face Lunch Bento Box

I usually assemble bento every morning.
I really don't have much time to play with my food in the morning.
When I want to make cute bento when in hurry, this smile face bento is my go-to kyaraben.
Use the shape of the bento box to make a face.
For the hair, it could be anything.....
I used Japanese hearb, Oba leave this time. Lettuce would be good too, but oba leave has a good flavor and great with rice. I like the shape of this herb too.

Here is other ideas for hair.

Seaweed salad, Curry and Hijiki&Quinoa salad.


Pickled Radish Pig Character bento

Pickled Radish Pig Character bento
One of the bentos from last week.
Made a pig with pickled radish:)

Braised octopus in white wine
Okara "meat" balls
Broccoli marinated with Moroccan preserved lemon


Bento Preparation

I mentioned it before, but I prepare my bento food on Sunday for a week. (bento making tips)

I went to a Japanese grocery store yesterday and got Okara  (leftover soy pulp from tofu making)
It's really cheap and rich in protein, calcium and fiber. I often used it as a substitute of meat,

-Okara shu-mai  (vegetarian)
-Okara vege burger (vegan)
-Okara "meat" ball  (vegan)

I pickled veges and am ready for another week of bento making!


Easter Tofu Bunny Bento

A popular mommy blogger, Funky Frugal Mommy posted about my Easter Bento!!
I created bunny with tofu stuffed mushroom and place it on curry scrambled tofu tofu bed,

I like using tofu for my bento. Great source of protein and it absorb flavors well.

The key is to drain tofu well to make a good tofu dish!
Please see my post How to Press and Drain Tofu for the tips.

Tofu Stuffed Mushroom 

Please visit her blog for tofu stuffed mushroom recipe. (→Click Here)

Scrambled Curry Tofu: 
1/2 pkg House Foods tofu Frim, drained  
1/4 –1/2tsp Curry powder (optional) 3/4 tsp soy sauce salt to taste

Crumble tofu into a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the curry powder and soy sauce and stir.  Cook until tofu is completely crumbled.
To assemble the Charaben Bunny Bento:
Add the rice to a bento box. Top with the scrambled tofu.  Place the bunny face inside the bento box where you’d like to create the bunny.  Place two slices of radish above the bunny’s face.  This will be its ears. Garnish with your choice of spring vegetables.  Repeat to make second bento


Bento Making Tips

Today's menu
Fried tofu with sweet peppers
Lemon pickled Chinese green
Roasted cauliflower
Spicy yam noodle
Brown rice
Vegetable soup

When I make bento, I try to prepare these 3 parts in a good balance.

1. Grain
2. Vegetables
3. Protein

For the grain, I often use short grain brown rice.
When I eat bento, I try not to use microwave. I feel like microwave destroy the nutrients of food.
The wooden bento box I like can't be used in a microwave anyway.
Found an interesting article about eating cold rice online:
"Eat Rice Cold for Fewer Calories"

I usually cook rice at night for the next day. After 2 days, rice starts to get dry, so you might want to freeze if you know you are not going to eat soon.
Please see my Rice Making page for how to cook rice. You really should soak rice if you are eating rice cold like I do. It helps cook soft and moist rice.

If you use microwave, go a head and make a big batch of rice, divide and freeze on a weekend.
You want to freeze rice  right after it's cooled down to keep the freshness and moisture of rice.
Don't wait to freeze until next day!

I usually prepare bento food on Sundays after shopping at my local farmers market.
My bento preparation starts with pickling the vegetables enough for a week.
If you like to make your bento a little cute, I recommend cut some veges with flower cookie cutters before pickle. It helps you save time to decorate bento in the morning.
To minimize waste,  I make a big batch of vegetables soup with leaves and stems from the vegetables.

Don't throw away the cut out carrots. Put them in soup too.

Love my new soup container<3<3

I found this vegetable at a farmer's market. This is Chinese green called Yu Choi.
I had never heard, seen and tried before, but it looked so cute with little yellow flower!
When it's cooked, it kinda tastes like asparagus.  I really love this green and have been using a lot lately.

This is my pickling jar. My favorites are radish and sweet mini peppers.
They add nice colors in a bento box.

Pickles Recipe
1cup white  vinegar
1cup water
6tablespoons sugar
2teaspoons salt
a little  chili flakes to your taste 
1 baby leaf
3 cloves
2 peppercorns
1 garlic clove

Mix all the ingredients in a pot. Bring it to boil. Cool it down and then pour in a jar. Put your favorite vegetables in it.

For protein, I often use tofu, tempeh and okara (Leftover soy pulp from tofu making. Available at Japanese grocery stores.).
I try not to eat meat that often for a health reason. I love seafood so I'm not vegan though:P

This is okara mini hamburgers. I made a lot and freeze them to save time in the morning.
I just put them in a bento box while it's still frozen. It will be defrosted by lunch time. This helps keep a bento box nice and cool too.


Vegetarian Bento

I've been making bento for myself almost everyday for the last couple of months,
My new company is Japanese and a lot of co-workers bring Japanese style bento for lunch.

I have a lot of bento boxes. One of my favorites is this wooden one. My husband bought this for me when we visited Japan. It's a little hard to take care, but it keeps rice fresh and yummy I think.

I love making character bento, but I also like Japanese traditional bento.

Today's menu

Brown Rice with Yukari Furikake
Vegan Okara (soy pulp) Hamburger Steak
Tofu egg omelet
Pickled Radish