Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bento Challenge Week 3 Report

Here's my Getting Started Bento Challenge report for Week 3! I was out in Arlington last night so I haven't had a chance to update until now.

I ended up making bentos on four out of five weekdays: I would have made five, except that I didn't eat the bento I made for Monday's lunch. I was too busy at work with the preparations for making Chinese dumplings with my students in honor of Chinese New Year, so I actually skipped lunch completely (not a good idea, I know) and ended up eating my Monday bento on Tuesday. Also, we had a snow day on Wednesday, so I only made a bento for M. on that day.

Monday 01.26.09 (no picture)
-Leftover Japanese chicken curry with rice
-Braised gailan (Chinese broccoli)

Tuesday 01.27.09 (ate Monday's bento today; M. packed something else for himself which I can't remember)

Wednesday 01.28.09 Snow Day Bento for M., who had to work

-Leftover Japanese chicken curry, in Stanley thermos
-Steamed white rice
-Steamed broccoli trees
-Carrot kinpira made with powdered ginger because we didn't have any fresh

Thursday 01.29.09 "First" Onigiri bento (for me; M. had lunch provided for him at a seminar that day)

-4 onigiri rolled in furikake
-raw carrot sticks
-roasted beets and parsnips with fennel
-marinated baked tofu cubes - I basically followed this recipe and just added Sichuan peppercorns (花椒)
-2 tuna tofu miso mini-burgers

Friday 01.30.09 Flavor Explosion Bento, for me and M. (M.'s bento is pictured)

-Leftover kubideh kabob, rice, and bread from Moby Dick's House of Kabob
-Simmered lima beans and carrots flavored with dried thyme and sherry
-Roasted beets and parsnips with fennel
-Marinated baked tofu slices (M.)
-2 tuna tofu miso mini-burgers (M.)

My favorite bento of the week was probably Thursday's - I'm definitely going to be making onigiri more often! I was also very pleased with how the lima beans turned out. M. commented that he thought the components in Friday's bento, while tasty on their own, didn't really harmonize very well in the bento. Since his bento also included the tuna tofu miso mini-burgers and the marinated tofu with Sichuan peppercorns, I could see that. I thought mine went together very well.

On meeting my goals for this week: I narrowed my bento-making goals down to three: Frugality (in keeping with the week's challenge), Variety, and Trying a new recipe. I succeeded in achieving all three goals, and did particularly well in the Frugality department, if I do say so myself: We used up leftovers (chicken curry; black bean soup) and I used up most of the tofu that I had in the fridge and dipped into our pantry a bit when making this week's bentos. I also used some of the frozen lima beans lurking in our fridge and overall thought that I did very well at using up odds and ends that we had around the pantry, in addition to restaurant leftovers (from Moby Dick). I managed to pack more of a variety of okazu into one bento on Thursday and Friday; and I tried three new recipes: roasted root vegetables (which I had never made before - more of a technique than a recipe, really), baked tofu (again, more of a technique than an actual recipe; I added huajiao, Sichuan peppercorns, to the marinade and it turned out great), and Maki's tuna-tofu-miso mini-burgers, which were delicious - thanks, Maki!

I need to expand my thinking on bentos to include dinners, especially since we started our Korean class on Tuesday evenings, and my husband occasionally attends evening seminars immediately after work. On Thursday I had the opportunity to make him a dinner bento, and it wouldn't have required more than the normal level of effort, since he didn't need a lunch bento that day - but it did not occur to me, so we ended up eating out Thursday night, not the most frugal thing to do. I also might be adding on an additional person to make bentos for at least a couple days a week (more on that later).

While I really enjoyed the challenge of trying to incorporate more of a variety of foods into one bento, I would like to try for bentos with a variety of foods that harmonize well together, by possibly balancing bland foods with more flavorful foods in the same box.

For next week I'd like to start packing us two bentos on Tuesdays so that we don't have to grab something out before our class.

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