The weather has finally started warming up, so I made chicken salad last night and packed it in my bento for today. Normally when it’s cold I probably wouldn’t think about having a cold salad for lunch.
I got these silicone muffin liner things from Jbox too, and decided to try them out today. They’re just barely the right height for the bottom portion of my usual bento box, and I think they definitely wouldn’t fit in my new smaller bento box. One nice thing it does though, is help with portions. As I was filling them with blueberries this morning, I thought “wow these don’t hold alot” but as i’m eating my lunch now I realize the whole bento is probably more than enough and i’m starting to feel full already. Sometimes the eyes just have a bigger appetite than the stomach, you know? I may just be bad at estimating quantities too.
Chicken Salad (chicken breast, carrots, red onions, cucumbers, mayo)
Half of an Avocado (not pictured)
Prep Time: 10 minutes (mostly filling, then trying to put the lid on, and them removing/shifting things to make the lid close!)
Finally received my new bento box in the mail yesterday from JBox. Ooo pretty… it is slightly smaller than my other bento box though, but the lunch I packed today in it was still pretty filling.
Glazed Chicken Legs (bones removed, these were seasoned with ranch dressing powder, garlic powder, salt, and lawry’s, they kind of just ended up glazing themselves as the seasonings melted)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
I tried making the Parmesan Chicken recipe with chicken legs last night, but I think it really works better with chicken breasts. It just tastes too… oily (?) with dark meat. I still used it in today’s bento though, and it wasn’t bad cold.
Parmesan Chicken Legs (bones removed after cooking)
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Monday is over… phew. Busy day at the office today; i’m always glad I packed my lunch on these busy days, and the bonus of a bento is that you don’t need to reheat anything, especially if the office microwaves are far away (my office’s microwaves are 8 floors below).
Here’s to a good week though!
Finally… it’s Friday. Today’s bento was all made in the morning since we didn’t have leftovers from dinner; shrimp with a little salt and pepper, and Tamagoyaki (egg “omelette”). I sauteed the shrimp in some olive oil first, and then while it was cooling on a plate, I made the Tamagoyaki (2 eggs + 1 tablespoon water + pinch of sugar and salt). For the small amount of sugar in this, I don’t really sweat it, because I can control how much I use. You don’t need very much to lightly flavor the egg either. Then as the Tamagoyaki was resting wrapped up (wrapping in plastic wrap after it’s cooked helps it hold its shape), I sauteed the carrots in a little bit of water just to soften.
Shrimp (cooked in olive oil + salt & pepper)
Radishes (I tried to cut them like this, but yeah… fail)
Tamagoyaki (instructions here*)
Prep Time: 20 Minutes (Tamagoyaki probably took most of the time, but this is often a bento staple people make ahead of time and freeze, so that could cut some time off if you made it ahead of time)
*Note that for the Tamagoyaki, I use a very simple recipe with just egg, water, and sugar (sometimes a little salt). I also cook it in a normal round pan, but the idea is the same, you bunch the first layer to one side, then pour egg to the left of it, roll it up when that layer is cooked, and keep repeating on the next side until you’re out of liquid egg. Then I wrap it in plastic wrap tightly to help it keep its shape, and then slice.
This was Thursday’s bento, but I never got the chance to post it. I tried a new recipe the night before, adapted from Hellmann’s Parmesan Crusted Chicken, but omitted the bread crumbs. I didn’t have grated parmesan, but shredded italian cheese worked really well for this too. I added some extra seasoning so we wouldn’t miss the seasoned breadcrumbs too (italian seasoning mix, garlic powder, ground black pepper).
These taste great at room temperature too, so they’re perfect the next day in your bento.
Parmesan Crusted Chicken
Steamed Carrots & Broccoli
Prep Time: 5 Minutes (since everything was made the night before, just a couple minutes in the microwave in the morning)
For some reason, leftovers taste so much better in bento form. I was kicking myself last night for not making more Ginger, Lime and Soy Sauce Marinated Pork Chops because i’d only made enough for dinner for my husband and I. So I saved half of it from dinner to pack in my bento this morning and had a snack later instead (cashews). In the morning I made some shrimp, also marinated, to round out the rest of the bento. This pork chop recipe is really a keeper; it tastes great fresh and also at room temperature the next day (remember always to reheat in the morning – I microwave it – before cooling to room temperature to pack in your bento). Find the recipe here.
Ginger, Lime and Soy Sauce Marinated Pork Chops + Shrimp
Steamed Carrots & Broccoli
Cauliflower Rice w/ Salmon Furikake
Time to Prepare: 20 Minutes (due to cooking the shrimp this morning)
Ginger, Lime and Soy Sauce Marinated Pork Chops
2 Boneless Pork Chops
1/2 Red Onion, sliced (about 1/4 in width) – you won’t need this until you’re ready to cook the pork chops
For the Marinade:
A knob of ginger, coursely chopped (I chopped mine into about 4 thick matchsticks)
1/2 cup Soy Sauce
2 tablespoons Mirin (rice wine)
1 tablespoon Ground Black Pepper
Place the pork chops in a ziplock bag (or container of your choice for the meat to marinate in). Add all the marinade ingredients, and mix the marinade around (I just close the ziplock bag and move the marinade around by squeezing the bag) and place it in the fridge to marinate for 2 hours or overnight (overnight is best).
To cook, heat a tablespoon of oil in a skillet on medium heat. Remove the pork chops from the marinade (discard marinade), and sear each side of the pork chops until browned on each side (about 3 minutes each side). Then, scatter the sliced red onions around the skillet and put the cover on the skillet to cook the chops all the way through (10-15 minutes for 1-1/2 inch thick pork chops). When the pork chops are done, your red onions should be translucent and a little carmelized from the juices. Transfer the chops and onions to a plate and cover loosely with foil to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
I served them with the carmelized onions on top, with a side of cauliflower rice and steamed carrots and sauteed watercress. Delicious! Leftovers are reheated in the morning for my lunch bento.
I had a checkup for my PCOS yesterday, and my doctor urged me to avoid carbs (2nd doctor now) to mitigate the effects of PCOS, so i’m going to switch from a more liberal paleo/primal way of eating to a more cut and dry primal without the occasional rice and potatoes that i’ve been having. I’ve already been avoiding carbs mostly, but have still had rice, so i’m trying to cut that out now too. Low carb bentos are not that new; alot of people either pack no rice-like items to replace the rice, or they use cauliflower rice, which I used this morning for the first time. It was actually really simple to make – recipe here).
Asian Pork Meatballs with Shitake Mushrooms and Wood Ear Mushroom
Steamed Chinese Vegetables (spinach, dou miao [pea shoots], baby bok choy)
Califlower Rice with Salmon Furikake
Time to Prepare: 15 Minutes
The vegetables (steamed) and cauliflower rice (pulsed in food processor then microwaved) were made this morning, but the meatballs were made the night before. I think i’ll make the meatballs one of my bento staples, since they keep well and are super easy to make. Meatball recipe here.
Asian Pork Meatballs with Shiitake Mushrooms and Wood Ear Mushrooms/Fungus
1lb Ground Pork (I used 80/20)
1 cup Diced Shiitake Mushrooms (soaked in hot water until soft – squeeze out water before dicing)
1 cup Diced Wood Ear Mushroom/Fungus (“Mu’er” in Chinese – also soaked in hot water until soft)
1/4 cup Minced Green Onions (Scallions)
1 tablespoon 5 Spice Powder
3 tablespoons Soy Sauce (you can use Coconut Aminos if you don’t use Soy Sauce)
1/2 tablespoon Ground Black Pepper
Mix all the ingredients together and roll meatballs, size of your choice, between your hands to make rounds. Pan fry on medium heat in a little bit of oil, turning the meatballs as they brown on each side. When each side is mostly browned (I usually get about 3 sides browned since I make smaller meatballs – about 1 tablespoon filling each), add 1/4 cup of chicken broth (you can just use plain water too), and put the lid on to let the meatballs steam a bit. When the liquid is mostly reduced, check for done-ness (again, will depend on the size of your meatballs). I used chicken broth to give it a boost of flavor and to have something to keep the meatbals moist since I freeze these as bento staples. When I microwave these for bentos in the morning, I microwave them in a bit of that juice, covered, so that it adds some moisture back in that may have been lost in the freezer.
Note that these also make a great dumpling filling. I used about half the meatball mixture to make dumplings/potstickers, the other half as meatballs; they taste great as a dumpling filling. I used pre-made dumpling skins, and filled them with the raw mixture, froze some for a later date, and pan fried the rest for dinner.
Salt and Pepper to taste
I promise this recipe is so so easy. I made it for the first time in a pinch this morning for my bento. Break off some florest from the cauliflower (washed), and throw them in manageable pieces into a food processor (I have a mini one). Then pulse the cauliflower until the pieces are quite small, the size of rice (or even smaller depending on the consistency you like). It doesn’t have to be precise. Then transfer the riced cauliflower into a microwavable bowl, and microwave covered for 2 minutes (for a 1 serving, about 1/2 cup). Then add some salt and pepper to taste.
You can freeze the uncooked cauliflower in bags, and when you’re ready to use it, defrost it a bit, then either microwave or pan fry until your desired done-ness when ready to eat. I’ll likely freeze batches, then put each 1 serving bag in the refrigerator to defrost the night before.