Repost: Kabocha Soup

kabocha-soup

It is finally hoodie weather, well, at least in the morning. Time for kabocha. I posted this one in 2009 so it is time to make sure everyone knows about it. It is so easy and satisfying on a cold day.

 

Kabocha Soup

Serves two.

1/4 kabocha, peeled and chopped

1/4-1/2 small onion, diced

a little oil

1 chicken bullion cube (vegetable also tastes great and makes this a vegan recipe)

2 cups water

fresh ground pepper to taste

milk or soy milk, optional

In a soup pot, saute the onion in the oil until transparent. Add the kabocha, bullion cube and water.  Simmer until the kabocha is cooked – it should break in half when you put a fork in it. Turn off the heat and allow to cool for a bit.  Puree everything using a blender, food processor or immersion blender.  Reheat if necessary. This will be on the thick side.  You can thin it with water or milk/soy milk/cream if desired.

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Curried Pan Fried Japanese Pond Smelt

Curried Pan fried japanese smelt wakasagi

I whipped this up one morning to put in lunches. As it was cooking, I found myself getting excited for lunch. It smells great. Not having grown up near the ocean, it sometimes doesn’t occur to me to buy fish. I love fish but we rarely ate it when I was a child. I went through a fish poor couple of weeks and decided to try something new. Small fish are good for you so I picked up some Japanese pond smelt (ワカサギ wakasagi) on a whim. When I find a new ingredient, I often turn to Cookpad.com (I use the app so it is the Japanese version but the English site is supposed to be great). This recipe is so simple and tasty.  It takes less than five minutes from start to finish. Continue reading

bento-boxes

Bento boxes I covet and my actual bento boxes

 

I like the idea of funky bento boxes but I rarely buy them because they are not all that practical for me. Most bento boxes are based on the assumption that you will have rice in one compartment, not anything sloppy or juicy. I don’t eat a lot of starches but I do eat a lot of stews and they leak when I use normal bento boxes. Bento boxes aren’t that sandwich friendly either. I don’t eat a lot of sandwiches but when I want to make them I have nothing to put them in.

What’s important for me when choosing lunch containers:

  • shape – will it fit the types of foods I eat
  • size – not too big as to encourage overeating but not to small as to require extra containers
  • leakiness – I eat a lot of soupy things so leak proof is a must (both levels in case of a multi level container)
  • aesthetics –  I have yet to find something both functional and beautiful but I keep up hope. I always have and always will choose function over form.

What I covet

bento box

  1. Lego bento box – I don’t really need to explain why I covet it. It doesn’t look too leak proof so I will have to satisfy my lego love by picking up some lego chopsticks next time I go to the lego store. I just bought the fork and spoon set for the resident toddler. Image source.
  2. Wooden bento box – I love wood. I have a wood for and spoon set that I use at home all the time. I can see this getting stained by something tomatoey or leaking all over my bag. I would buy this if I drove to work everyday and could keep my bag flat at all times.
  3. Slim bento boxes – I had one. When I bought it I thought it would fit in my bag better than a wider box but discovered that it didn’t. These also have a leaking problem. The bottom level is for rice and the lid for that doesn’t stop leaks, even from things that aren’t saucy. If you only use the bottom for really dry things you will be fine.
  4. Donburi bento box – I love the shape and the non-pink ones look cool. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t eat a lot of starches so there is nothing that will absorb excess juice from stews. I have a feeling these babies will leak.

What I actually use is pretty boring but effective. All links are for Amazon Japan.

my bento boxes

  1. Larger bento box with rubber around the inside edge – (top left) this one is for meal salads. Sometimes I put smaller containers, sans lids, inside so I can take things like humus and chickpea salad without mixing.
  2. Bento boxes with rubber around the inside edge – (top right) this is the one I have for non-salad meals. It is perfect for stews, pastas and curries. I would choose the black version if you eat a lot of tomato sauces as it could get stained over time. Mine hasn’t but I don’t make tomato sauce that often.
  3. Ziplock screw lock containers – these have never leaked on me, even with soup. I have all three sizes. The large ones are great for salads, you can layer the ingredients with the dressing and the hard veggies on the bottom and the leafy stuff on top. Then you just shake it up at lunch to get everything coated. No extra containers and no soggy lettuce. I use the middle size one the most.

What do you use for your lunches? If you have any product recommendations please leave them in the comments below.

 

Frozen bento fillers

20130728-173118.jpg

I take my lunch to work and most days I take a large salad. I love salad. My son, on the other hand, is two and is not a bit fan of raw vegetables. Lunch making takes a bit longer since I have to cater to his twoness. When I moved a few weeks ago, I picked up some frozen veggie side dishes to use for the first couple of days. They came frozen in individual muffin cups, perfect for his bento box. I thought it was a great idea decided to give it a try.

In the picture is leftovers from a quick side dish I made with spinach, tomato and canned tuna. I decided to freeze leftovers instead of making a whole batch of something to freeze. Who wants to have the same side dish for three weeks? I picked up some reusable muffin cups at the local supermarket and have been using those. I’ll soon have quite the collection going. The best part is that since it is summer, I don’t even need to thaw them before I put them in his lunch. It’s over thirty degrees everyday, they’ll be thawed before he gets to school…

Do you freeze small quantities of food for lunches? Please leave a comment below with what you freeze. I’d love to see all of your ideas.

Freezer bento fillers

bento freezer ideas

The last three months have been full of making lunches. I’ve had to up my game as the kiddo probably wouldn’t appreciate eating the previous night’s dinner for lunch every day. Or meal salads every day… I have a tiny freezer but I’ve been keeping as many bento fillers in there as possible. Because there are those days when all of the energy you have is to move things from the freezer to the bento box. Or those days when you want eight different things in your lunch. I am usually fine with two. Here are some things that work well from freezer to bento box. If you have access to a microwave where you are going to be eating the bento, you don’t even have to defrost. In summer you probably don’t have to defrost anything. If you don’t have microwave access at lunch, defrost your fillers when you are making your lunch.

Mini burger patties – they can be veggie, bean, beef, chicken, pork or any mixture you want but they are versatile

  • top with salsa and cheese
  • top with gravy
  • top with bbq sauce and canned pineapple
  • top with ponzu and grated daikon
  • cut up over a salad
  • add to a lettuce wrap

Daikon steaks – easy to make and they get soft after freezing (something I consider a good thing)

  • eat as is
  • mix in with simmered veggies (nimono)
  • dice and mix with canned tuna and mizuna – no dressing needed

Steamed broccoli – or any veggie that freezes well

  • eat as is or topped with dressing
  • top with cheese
  • cut up and mix in pasta

Grilled sausage – grill cocktail sausages and then freeze

  • eat as is
  • slice and serve over a salad
  • top with bbq sauce, “sauce”, mustard or ketchup
  • top with cheese
  • roll in lettuce

Shumai/gyoza (dumplings) – just freeze leftovers anytime you have them

 

Sauces – have a little bit of leftover sauce from dinner? Freeze it in an ice-cube tray for quick bento toppings

 

Cheese – grated or cubed

  • eat as is
  • sprinkle over salad
  • sprinkle over pasta
  • sprinkle over Japanese curry