Friday, February 6, 2009

Just Bento Challenge Week 4 Wrap-up Report's the end of Week 4 of the Just Bento Getting Started Bento Challenge, and I'm tired.

In the spirit of making bentos for others (which was coincidentally the challenge theme for this week), I have taken on one "client" - a coworker who has been admiring my lunches for a while. JK, as we'll call her, was willing to pay me for my efforts, so as of Thursday I have started making her obento for most days that she is at school.

So, I have most certainly met the Week 4 challenge theme head-on. As it turns out, M. only needed a lunch a couple of days this week, so adding JK was not really that much extra effort. However, after this coming week there is a good chance that I will be adding more customers! Many people at work were interested in signing up for whatever I was able to offer them. My lunches have been attracting some attention around the lunch table for some time. It's a vast improvement from the fall, where I was habitually scrambling to find something that I could eat in the 20-30 minutes that I have to eat lunch (I have recess duty). So, I know that I will continue to make obento for myself, and making bento for others doesn't seem like that much of a stretch (plus, I would be getting paid!)

Here's what I ended up making for obento this week (seven total bento on all five weekdays):

Monday 02.02.09
You know what, I didn't take a picture, and I can't remember what I ate this
I think it might have been curry, just like last Monday, plus some greens or something.

Tuesday 02.03.09 Tuna Salad Futomaki (fat roll) Bento, for me

-One tuna salad roll (tuna, Kewpie mayo, yuzu togarashi, scallions)
-One lazy tea egg, quartered
-Dribs and drabs of veg: lima beans and carrots; roasted CSA beets and parsnips with fennel
-Raw carrot sticks

Wednesday 02.04.09 First Korokke Bento (for me)

-3 beef korokke made with beef "soboro," previously frozen and then thawed, on a bed of shredded cabbage
-Kewpie mayo for dipping the korokke
-Steamed carrot coins
-Mushroom pasta with shoyu bata (soy sauce-butter) sauce, garnished with parsley, made fresh that morning

Thursday 02.05.09 First Coworker Bento day

JK bento contents:
-2 vegetable korokke (potato, scallion, a little cheese)
-Mushroom pasta with shoyu bata sauce
-Carrot sticks
-Garlicky white bean dip with lemon and scallions
-Green grapes

My Bento contents:
-Short-grain brown rice
-Beef soboro
-Boiled gailan (Chinese broccoli) in soy sauce and water, squeezed dry and chopped (the gailan was a little old so I wanted to make it tender)
-Raw carrot coins
-One potato korokke
-Green grapes

Friday 02.06.09 Grownups Like Octodogs, Too!

(My bento is on the left; M.'s is on the right, the only difference is that he had one extra octodog)
-Mac and cheese with tomatoes (leftovers from the night before, recipe courtesy Alton Brown, it was good except we would reduce the amount of dry mustard next time - what were you thinking, Alton?)
-Carrot chunks, simmered in a little water with ginger root; bit of salt added
-Green grapes

I made two new items this week, both of which turned out well: deep-fried korokke, and octodogs (great tutorial on Lunch in a Box, here) - I will go on record as saying that the octodogs are going to be the limit of cute in my obento.

As far as meeting my specific Week 4 goals:
* Re-organize freezer and designate a bento box for my bento "stash" (johbisai) - Not yet, it's on the weekend to-do list though.
* Designate a section of the fridge for the same purpose - ditto.
* Come up with a set list of stash items to keep on hand near-constantly (such as tofu, carrots, and canned tuna) - Been thinking about it a lot, just need to commit it to paper.
* At least plan (and possibly even make!) one lunch for my coworker this week - Done, and in style, even!
* Plan dinner bentos for next Tuesday's Korean class (the bento dinners for this week kind of made themselves; M ended up not needing his bento lunch for today so it's carrying over into tomorrow for our dinner) - No but this will also be part of the weekend planning.

Reflections: I found that I was planning my bento contents more the night before, but still feeling like things were taking a long time (like, 45 minutes to put together a bento with only one component that I had to make fresh!). Part of this was due to cases where we had clean dishes sitting in the dishwasher overnight (and thus the dishwasher was not readily available for dirty dishes from bento prep/sink was full of dishes waiting to go in the dishwasher), or hand washed dishes set out to dry that took up valuable counter space. Also, earlier in the week we had two incidents early in the morning that impeded my bento-making: First, M. dropped a glass lid, which shattered all over the place (we have subsequently instituted a "slippers 24/7" policy in the apartment). Then, our sink backed up, so we couldn't wash any more dishes (or had to cart them to the bathroom). So, although those things could not be anticipated, I *really* want to do better with the whole "mise en place" thing for the final week of the challenge.

Also, I find that I shop very differently post-challenge. For example, the frilly pink and light green leafy cabbage-like vegetable ("savoy salad") on one of the top shelves of the refrigerated produce section would have normally gone unnoticed, but I snapped one up on my last trip to the store, since it would make a great bento box garnish! I also pick up things like grapes and broccoli to use as gap fillers that I rarely purchased before.

I have been putting so much energy into making bento lunches that I frequently run out of ideas for dinner. (The Coq au Vin that we're making for dinner tonight is definitely an exception to this pattern).

I also know that I am going to have to be more organized, and this is where I feel that Maki and her Just Bento site are really going to come in handy. I'm definitely going to be utilizing her bento planner. I really want to be able to sustain cooking for JK, and add bento "clients," but I know that I'm going to have to find ways to be more efficient, or I'm going to burn out fast!

This evening has been devoted to relaxing - made some delicious and creamy spinach and artichoke dip, and now we're starting to make the aforementioned late dinner of Coq au Vin, in my new Le Creuset 5.5 quart pot, (in Kiwi) which I purchased with gift certificates over the last two Christmases given to me by my aunt. I thought that making Coq au Vin would be a fitting way to break in my new cooking vessel. Looking forward to trying it out.


eilis alana said...

I have been finding your blog very inspiring!! Good luck with your clients -

Jaemus said...

Glad to hear it, and thanks!


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