Sunday, February 8, 2009

Just Bento Challenge Final Week Goals

It's the eve of Week 5 of Maki's Getting Started Bento Challenge, so here I go: my goals for this week.

What have you learned? What can you work on?

I have really enjoyed doing this challenge, and I think that it has served as a great start to a regular bento-making routine. I have also found that confining my efforts to a limited, definable space has enhanced my creativity when it comes to recipes and food pairings. Finally, it just feels really good to sit down to a full, beautiful meal of food every day at lunchtime - a great way to de-stress. M. also appreciates my efforts, although one surprise of doing this challenge has been that he doesn't need lunch as much as I thought he did, so the bento-making is mainly for me.

I want to work on building a stash and also an "arsenal" of go-to recipes that I can whip up in the morning. Obviously Just Bento has been very helpful in this regard, as well as Lunch in a Box.

Today gave us a head start on the week:
* I put up a batch of radish sprouts in my BioStarter, for maki sushi later in the week
* I roasted a couple of winter squash from our CSA when the oven was still on after making roasted brussels sprouts for our dinner
* I made a batch of tsubu an (chunky adzuki bean jam) to have on hand (numerous potential uses - I'm sure it'll turn up in at least one bento this week!). I use a recipe from Washoku, by Elizabeth Andoh.
* I marinated and M. then cooked up a London Broil that was on sale at Harris Teeter - we had this for dinner with rice and brussels sprouts, and the leftovers are going into our Monday obento.

Although I certainly don't have the luxury of time every weekend to put up so many things in preparation for the coming week, I plan on taking advantage of the time when I have it, because I feel so much more prepared having done all of that work today.

Is there any area of focus that was a stumbling block for you?

The hardest part for me has been getting organized to make bentos: setting up my mise en place. With the recent added challenge of making bento for my coworker and possibly additional coworkers in the near future, organization has become paramount to me not going insane.

I started working on this over the weekend, in taking the time to clear out and re-organize our fridge and freezer. I feel much better having done that, because now I know the exact contents of both fridge and freezer, and where everything is located!

I also found that I was focusing too much on bento making and not enough on dinner. I forgot how incorporating dinner leftovers into bentos can simplify and shorten the process of making bentos. For this coming week, I plan to focus a little more on dinner, in the hopes that it will decrease the amount of time that I spend on our bentos, particularly in the morning.

Finally, I think that in order for me to keep this up in the long run it's best to "keep it simple, stupid." While I would like to use bento making as a way to expand my cooking repertoire and be creative, I want to keep in mind that I am doing it to feel Less stressed, and back off a bit if I get to the point where bento making is becoming too time-consuming and overwhelming everything else in my life.

Where do bentos fit in your life?
Making bentos every workday for myself is definitely essential, since I don't have the time to go out to eat (better for my budget and my health, anyway, so it works out for the best!). However, I have discovered that M. only needs a bento a couple times a week. Also, bentos are becoming a source of income for me, as I have started making bento a couple of times a week for a coworker who pays me for them.

Reasons I want to continue making bentos:
* I have to! (otherwise I would skip lunch most days at work)
* It's a good way for me to expand my cooking repertoire
* It's a potential source of income for me (now and maybe in an expanded form in the future)
* It's fun!
* It gives me a reason to keep my kitchen organized, which helps me to feel less stressed in general.

My goals for this week are:
* Dinner bentos for Tuesday
* Plan a dinner every night that we're going to be at home
* Use of leftovers, and starting to put up a stash
* Finish a draft of a plan for offering my bento-making services to additional coworkers

Aside from everything that I've discussed here, this challenge has given me something to write about!

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