Spice Up Your Life With a Taste of Japan

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



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.


Rice balls
Chicken karaage
Roasted brussel sprouts
Steamed pumpkin
Pickled daikon radish

Chicken Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken)
Adapted from Japanese Recipe Website

2 Chicken thighs, cut into bite size pieces
4tbs Soy sauce
4tsp Sugar
1tbs Grated garlic
1tbs Grated ginger
Potato starch, enough to coat the chicken
Oil for frying

1. Mix soy sauce, sugar, garlic and ginger. Marinate chicken and the mixture in a plastic bag. At least 1 hour.
2. Add 1tbs of potato starch and massage the chicken over plastic bag.
3. Put more (a lot enough to coat chicken) potato starch and shake the plastic bag.
4. Fry.

~How to make Mickey and Minnie Rice Balls~

1. Shape warm rice as shown in plastic wrap. (I forgot to include their noses in this picture....)
2. Draw the line with sharpie.
3. Unwrap the plastic wrap and use as a guideline to cut nori seaweed.

**Cut the seaweed big enough to wrap their face. (See the picture on the right) It's easier to wrap seaweed if you cut slits as shown.

4. Wrap seaweed around ears and noses too.
5. Make the face parts with sliced cheese and nori seaweed.

4th and 7th of July Bento

Happy late 4th of July :p !!!
Celebrated with this fireworks bento:)
It's fried rice and fireworks are made with ham, egg, and colorful peppers.


Picnic Sliders

Happy 4th of July!
There is a concert at a park near our place tonight!!!
Made this slider bears to eat while watching the show:)
This would be great for parties!

I recommend avoiding beef patties for picnic.( if you can't heat them up before you eat)
Beef fat is hard to be melt in our mouth and not that tasty when you eat them cold.
I made tofu chicken patties this time. It was really good even when it's cold! :)

I made 2 big patties and a couple of small ones.
I used the big ones for this sliders and froze the small ones for bento!
*Wait for patties to cool before freeze:)

Eyes and Nose : Sliced cheese, Nori seaweed

Tofu Chciken Hamburger 

250g Ground chiken
250g Silken Tofu
125g Onion
1 Egg
40g Panko bread crumbs
1/2tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Black pepper
*2tbs Soy sauce
*2tbs Sake
*1tbs Sugar
*1/2tbs Vinegar

1. Mince onion and saute until transparent.
2. Mix the onion, tofu, egg, panko, salt and pepper in a bowl by hands.
3. Divide into 6-8 egg shapes.
4. Heat oil in a pan and cook the patties for 1~2 minutes over medium heat. (with a lid on)
5. Turn down to low heat and cook for 3~4 minutes.
6. Flip the patties and cook for another 3 minutes. ( no lid)
7. Mix * ingredients and pour over the patties.