Beach Picnic Bento

 I will be doing Japanese character bento workshop at Whole Foods Market on September 6th. (For moms and kids I think) I will post more details when I know:)!

You'd like to make cute bento, but have no time in the morning?
 How about trying to make it on weekends and going to a park to have picnic bento!?
My husband and I love parks and enjoy having bento outside.

For picnic bento, I try to make food that is good even when it's cold.
The tofu/chicken teriyaki slider  is one of my favorite picnic menu.

I wanted to use up pasta I bought in Italy, so have been cooking a lot of pasta!
This cold tomato/basil pasta is one of my husband's favorite!
I put pasta and sauce in a separate container so that pasta won't get soggy.

Enjoy a picnic before summer is over!!

Cold Pasta
3 Roma tomatoes
3tbs Basil dressing (Recipe below)
1tbs Shio Koji  or salt to taste ( See "Shio Koji Hamburger" if you are not familiar with it )
about 160g Capellini pasta

1. Peel tomatoes. (See "How to")
2. Cut the tomatoes into small pieces.

3. Place the tomatoes in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until you don't see big tomato chunks.

4. Turn off the heat and add shio koji. Let it cool.
5. Add the basil dressing.Cool in a fridge.
6. Cook pasta. Drain and cool with ice cubes. Drizzle a little olive oil to avoid them from sticking.

Basil Dressing
10 Large basil leaves
3 Garlic Cloves
1/2cup Olive oil
1tbs Lemon juice
1/2tsp Salt
1/2tsp Pepper

Place all the ingredients in a blender and mix well.

Making yachts with masking tape & toothpicks

Cut cherry tomatoes in half and insert this picks.

Making fishes with carrot 

1. Slice carrot and cook (boil, steam, microwave or however you like)
2. Draw fish on carrot with a toothpick
3. Cut along the line with a knife

I got a lot of cute picnic items at Daiso^^!!


Mitsuwa Summer Bento

I made a summer bento for a Mitsuwa market ad! Inari sushi.
This cute character is called "Mi-Taro", their new mascot!
It's Mochi, they said...

I just realized that......I forgot to add seed on the "watermelon"..... Oh well.
It still looks like watermelon, right?

Please see "Rillakuma Inari Sushi Bento" for inari recipe.
I put a little rice in the edges of inari to make his ears.

I forgot to take process pitures for Hamburg steak sunflower, but it's on my book.
Or I will remember to take pics next time I make it!


旦那「ベイビー!!!!!(怒)どうしてそんなことするの!だったら洗ってまた使えるタッパを   使いなさい!!」



Kinpira Gobo - Burdock Root Recipe-

One of the popular Japanese side dishes, Kinpira Gobo, Braised Burdock.
Burdock looks like wood...I know it doesn't look that tasty but it actually is good! and very healthy.
It has unique flavor and a lot of nutrients like fiber.
It prevents blood sugar spikes too!

This braised burdock is salty and sweet.
A lot of Japanese side dishes are highly seasoned to prevent food from spoiling.
Also to compliment with plain rice!

I cooked a big batch and froze the rest for the next bento.
I might put it in a oven to defrost it since I and my husband decided to stop using microwave for a health reason. I'm a little too sensitive to radiation now....
 I don't know how long it lasts, but no microwave for now!!!!


1 Burdock
1/3 Carrot
40ml Sake
1.5tbs Sugar
1.5tbs Soy sauce
2tbs Mirin
Sesame oil

 This is how burdock looks like.
 1. Wash burdock and peel by rubbing the back side of knife against the skin. You don't need to peel completely since a lot of nutrients are in the skin.
2. Slice diagonally and cut into thin strips as shown. Soak in water for a couple minutes and drain.
3. Cut carrot like burdock.
4. Heat sesame oil in a pan and cook burdock and carrot until soft.
5. Pour over sake and stir.
6. Add sugar, soy sauce and mirin and mix well.
7. Simmer until it absorb all the liquid.
8. Shift to a plate and sprinkle sesame.

Reicpe adapted from フライパンで簡単~✿きんぴらごぼう✿~ (This recipe has about 4000 Japanese reviews!) 

I put the leftover in paper cups and froze for the bento.







Japanese Curry Rice Bento

Made Japanese curry last night! My husband said that curry is better on the next day....
I put the leftover curry in a bento box. Let's see if it tastes better that last night!

We had annual passes for Universal Studio Hollywood when their new minions ride was open!
We both loved the ride:) I'd love to try it again!

Today's bento menu

Minion Curry (eyes: purple potatoes, cheese and nori seaweed / mouth: cheese, nori seaweed)
Haiga rice

Homemade Japanese curry recipe is below.
Add any protein of your choice.
I added left over bbq chicken and my husband liked it:)


最初にStudio Tourを体験したときは感動~!日本から家族や友達が来たら連れていきたいなー。


60g flour
45g Canola oil
10g Curry powder
1tbs Shio Koji, or 1tsp Salt
*See the older post about Shio Koji

1clove Garlic
Ginger, same size as a clove of garlic
1 Onion
1 Potato
1/2 Carrot
1 chicken breast
800ml Water

1tbs Sugar
1tbs Honey
1tbs Ketchup
2tbs Miso
1/2can Diced tomato

Soy sauce to taste

1. Mix flour, oil, curry powder, shio koji or salt together and set aside.
2. Mince garlic and ginger. Cut vegetables and meat into small pieces.
3. Heat a little oil in a pot and add garlic and ginger.
4. Add vegetables and chicken. Cook until the veges get soft.
5. Add water, sugar, honey, ketchup, miso and canned tomato. Cook over low heat about 15 mins.
6. Add the curry paste from step1 and mix well.
7. Taste it and add a little soy sauce if you need.
8. Cook about another 10min over low-heat.

Want to make bear curry? Go to "Homemade Japanese Curry Roux"



My interview article was published last week on a Japanese free paper, Weekly LALALA!
It's distributed to Los Angeles, Orange County, Las Vegas, San Diego, Phoenix, San Jose, San Francisco, Texas, Denver and New Orleans.
My husband's parents asked me to translate it into English, so here you go!

Character bento is a lunch box that features food decorated to look like animals and characters from tv.
Mayumi Johnston has self-published a book of cute character bento collection "Fun Japanese Bento Styling".
She is a character bento decorator who makes fun and healthy food.

She went to UC Davis as an exchange student from Waseda University. That's when she started being interested in food she said. "UC Davis is known for agriculture and has some farms on their campus. By taking agriculture classes, I naturally became interested in what you eat"

After graduating Waseda, she moved to LA in 2008 to work for a Japanese free paper in sales.
She worked from early morning to late night every day, but what kept her energetic is bento making.

In 2012, she got a food coordinator certification in Japan. She also started attending macrobiotic diet workshops to learn about food more deeply. " The test to become a food coordinator consists of history, science and art of food as well as economics/management. I was able to learn about food in different ways."

She got married last year and has been living in Orange County.
While working at Whole Foods Market, She has been creating more character bento.
One of her recent works is for a game company. " I designed and created bento of characters of their new game. It was used for their promotion."

"Not only the visual affect of the bento but I also think about nutrient balance. By using colorful ingredients, you can get a variety of nutrients from different colors of vegetables."

Her husband inspires her in her bento making.
"It brings smile to his face. That's one of the thing I like about character bento. I would like to do workshops for local people in English to spread Japanese bento culture" 




Potato Porcini Soup with Shio Koji

Went to my husband's hometown, Oregon over the weekend.
It was my 3rd time there, but 1st time in summer!
It's very beautiful this time of the year.

We stayed at Wine Country Farm B&B in Dayton.
Such a beautiful place!!!!

breakfast room

We grabbed pizza and soup at a nearby market for dinner and ate at their yard.
This soup.....potato porcini soup....it was sooooooo yummy!!!!!!!
I had a package of dried porcini that I bought in Italy at home, so I looked for a recipe of this soup as soon as I got home!
I made it for dinner tonight and it was really good.
I used 4cup of water + 3tbs of shio koji ( see this post ) instead of chicken stock.

Recipe: Porcini Farro Soup from Italian Food Forever

そしてこの写真見て下さい。。。なんとも素敵なホテル!!!今回泊まったWine Country Farm。料金も150ドルぐらいでバカ高くないし、とてもおススメです♪
このPotato Porciniスープがとても美味しかったので家に帰ってからすぐレシピを検索!!


Steamed Pork Buns

I should have put more effort to their beaks...
I just mixed curry powder to the extra dough and .....overcooked:(

These Donald and Daisy are made with steamed pork buns!
I tried the recipe that I found on a Japanese recipe site.
My husband liked the bread part, but not much the meat inside.....
Will try a different recipe next time!!!
Here is the recipe for the bun.

260g Flour
3tbs Sugar
Pinch, Salt
2tsp Baking powder
6tbs Milk ( I used soy milk)
4tbs Water
2tsp Oil

1. Mix the dry ingredients.
2. Add the wet ingredients and knead.
3. Make a ball and wrap with plastic wrap. Let is sit for 30mins.
4. Divide into 2~4 and roll out each dough.
5. Put pork mix inside and shape.
6. Steam for about 10 mins over medium heat.

I like this buns better without meat. Great snacks:)





Karaage Bento ~Mickey and Minnie Rice Balls~

There are concerts in a nearby park every Tuesday in July.
We went there last week with bear sliders bento.
This week, I made Mickey and Minnie karaage bento.
I think I enjoy making picnic bento than regular lunch bento because I can go big!
I took some process picture of Mickey and Minnie rice balls, so will update soon.
Stay tuned!!!!