Archive for January, 2009

Bento Challenge: week 3 wrap-up

January 31, 2009

This was an interesting week.  On the one hand, the whole week was plagued by a general sense of disjointedness; I kept on feeling very scattered, and this really had an impact on my bento making work-flow.  So everything felt like it took more effort.  Upon reflection I think it may be that I overbooked life a bit, so I’ll try to pull back where I can this coming week.

On the other hand, I had a GREAT doctor appointment Friday morning.  This wasn’t the nutritionist meeting I’ve been looking forward to, but a regular checkup.  I’d forgotten it until I got the little reminder on my PDA, and I was immediately aghast; I was pretty sure that I was extra-fat just now, and I imagined that my blood-work numbers were going to be horrid and that my doctor would glare at me.  Much to my great surprise & delight, I’ve lost six whole pounds!  Six!  Pounds!  Also, my HA1C (diabetes number) was down a point, and other results were similarly positive.  Yahoo!

I had goals for this week, and I met some of them, while others.. not so much.

I ate soup one night, and I had wanted to eat soup for dinner more frequently.  This is based on the idea that for me, having my main meal be lunch and having a light dinner makes me feel better.  That’s sort of happening now with bento lunches, but dinners are a bit more haphazard; I’ll often graze the fridge for dinner, and this can lead to unbalanced and ultimately unsatisfying dinners.  So, I’m going to keep trying to increase my soup-for-dinner nights.

I did not end up eating a vegetarian bento.  I kept wanting to, but I’d made this really great soboro, and it was easy to go to that.  I’m not feeling too bad about this, but I will try again next week to make just one.

The soboro was nice, and this week I ate it in lots of different ways, and I really liked the versatility of it.  I used it as a topping for rice, as part of a breakfast omelet, as part of some yummy not-fried-rice, and in a little savory dinner custard.  I have enough to have a good meal or two over the weekend as well.

Hot dog fishies & flowers are fun 🙂

I did get to use two back-o-the-pantry items this week.  Well, back of the root-cellar and freezer, but same thing –I used some of my home-grown proto pesto, and I used some beets which were, I’m sure, starting to feel neglected.  And each of these become favorites of the week!

Another goal was to try out the LIVESTRONG food diary application for the iTouch.  So far I really like the input part of the package –entering food items is so much faster, easier, more streamlined and more fun than doing it manually.  I’m still unsure if other features, things like the ability to export my data to a spreadsheet program, will work for me.  I’ll look at that over the weekend and next week and report back.

I did not uncover the rowing machine.  So this goal gets rolled over to week four ..

Hot mochi love

January 30, 2009

I told my sister NannyOgg that I would share this with her.  It’s a post I made over at the Bento Challenge forum..

So, a few years ago my sister Min taught me to make this mochi-esque dessert/snack/treat: Mix sweet/sticky/glutinous rice flour with enough water to make a batter with the consistency of heavy cream. Pour that onto a buttered flat plate or flat form so that you have a nice large 1/8″ or 1/4″ flat pool of batter. Microwave or steam (microwaving is vastly faster for me) for a minute or two, watching carefully. The batter is cooked when it has changed from bright opaque white to a more translucent white/pearly grey. Heat a tablespoon or so of red bean paste for 10 seconds (in the micro) or so, just to soften it, and spread carefully on the mochi. Roll up, and then slice into 3/4″ or so pieces. Roll each of these around in a little bowl of unsweetened coconut flakes (toasted they’re even nicer). So, this is super yummy.

Recently I learned about a more Japanese-style mochi treat called dango where you combine a generous half cup of the sweet/sticky/glutinous rice flour with *just* enough water to make a very stiff dough. It feels like a sort of silky playdoh when it’s right, and I’ve found that it’s easy to add too much water. I’ve fixed this by adding just a little water at a time, and really mixing it well with a fork. It starts out all crumbly, and with just a few more drops water begins to cohere properly.

Bring a pot of water to a boil.

Take a generous tablespoon’s worth of dough and roll into a sphere, like a large marble. Repeat with the rest of the dough. I generally make 6 or 8 mochi with the above amount of flour. Using a spoon, drop each ball into the boiling water, and boil until the balls have risen to the surface, plus 2 or 3 minutes. Use a spider or a spoon to lift each mochi ball into a bowl.

I like them with these toppings:

A sweetened soy sauce: 2 T soy sauce with 1 t of sugar –both savory and sweet and delicious
A mix of 1 T soy flour with 1 T raw or muscavado sugar (or regular sugar)

Another fun thing to do is to take each ball (before boiling) and flatten in your hand. Make a little depression in the disk of dough and put a little ball of sweet red bean paste there. Just a tiny bit, like maybe the size of a pea. Carefully fold up the disk of dough to seal in the bean paste, and then roll the ball carefully. Boil like above. When I make these, I like making a little dimple in the ball with my finger. They come out very adorable with a little innie-bellybutton like spot, and then with a drizzle of maple syrup, just a tiny bit, oh my these are good.

Another fun thing I did: I mixed a few drops of some beet water (water I saved from boiling up a mess of beets the other day) and made pink mochi. The colour was super cute, and there was no earthy odd beet flavor at all, just the pretty colour.

I understand that there is a `dark syrup’ that is traditional with Japanese mochi, and I’d love to learn to make that. Any ideas? In fact, any mochi tips, tricks, lore, topping ideas, etc. would be lovely.

This is not exactly diet food, but it’s the food I have a hot crush on right now. And in fact, I reckon in small portions as part of a diet otherwise low in sweets, well, it’s not the worst thing in the world.

Now I have some dango ideas I’m going to work on, and I’ll post later about how they work.  And pictures!

Post blizzard update

January 29, 2009

It was a fairly gentle blizzard as blizzards go, but we did get nearly two feet of new snow.  I was a little rueful about the timing –Wednesday is my busiest errand day, and I had several appointments in addition to my usual Wedensday stuff.  When I first woke up I was not happy that it looked like I might need to drive north to Lebanon twice, but then a friend suggested a great idea which allowed me to get all my things done with just the one major trip north.  It wasn’t a problem that I’d be driving in snowy blizzardy weather, it was the waste of gasoline which was bugging me!

So first I went to local hospital for bloodwork, and I scored a new pair of used wheels for my chair.  They’re used, but fifty times nicer than the ones currently on my chair.  They have TREAD!!!

Then it was on to the farm to pick up mom’s CSA share and our milk.  Then to the market to pick up a few things, and that was a highlight of the day: I got to visit with all my favorite market friends, and because of the storm, there was hardly anyone there!  It was heaven.  I ate my bento whilst chatting with Chris & Tracy & Jake in the bulk food aisle and we had lots of giggles.  I also got a nice long visit with L, and I’m sending her love even as I type.

Finally I headed to mom’s, and unloaded all the goodies.  I was torn about staying for dinner & cards, but we figured that I’d need help in either case to actually get into the parking lot at home, and from the truck into the building.  So I did stay for delicious dinner & sevearl rounds of fem hunderede; it was very cozy there with the woodstove, the licorice, and the snow all snarly outside.

Sure enough, when I got back home, the parking lot was completely inaccessible, and the ramp, path, and parking lot were all unshoveled and impassable.  It’s a good thing that I keep a blanket in my truck.  Grr!  I called the management of the building several times and they kept saying the plow hadn’t gotten there yet, so I didn’t get home until around noon today.  I think this is ridiculous.

My bento today was made & eaten late, and so welcome.  It was an attempt to emulate a bento lunch made by a lovely local Korean place called Yama, and it turned out really great:

Salmon, rice, broccoli, carrots, broccoli-carrot sushi, japchae, edamame, and salad

Salmon, rice, broccoli, carrots, broccoli-carrot sushi, japchae, edamame, and salad

This week has felt a bit disjointed, and I keep feeling like I’m not caught up, or that I’m missing something, but I’m just trundling onward, confident that I’ll feel a bit more centered in a few days.  There have been a fair number of jolts to my winter schedule, so I suppose it makes sense that it feels a bit off.

The highlight of the last week or so has been watching Oz open grand slam tennis –it’s the first grand slam of the season, and it’s been a great one so far.  The weather over there has been crazy hot –in the 120’s (F) on court!  Insane!  I was sorry to see Murray go out, and I’m still cheering Federer on.  He so hot.

Chores & bento-prep

January 28, 2009

Today was productive, though not as much as I’d like.  How is it that I still tend to underestimate How Long Stuff Takes?  At any rate, I did get lots done.  Besides getting the kitchen cleaned up, I made the following:

  • mushroom soup
  • beets (for marinated beet salad)
  • beef soboro
  • carrots simmered in seasoned dashi
  • sweet potatoes simmered in seasoned  dashi
  • sunomono pickles

All tasty and now in the fridge.

How pretty is this beet?

Bento challenge: week 2 wrap-up

January 25, 2009

This week had some great stuff (yay Tuesday!) and some stupid stuff (back failure).   I was just looking at the goals I had set for week 2:

• Continue making a bento  5 days a week
• Integrate data I get from nutritionist-lady into my goals
• Clean off my damn rowing machine & start using it
• Continue organizing my pantry & fridge & freezer

The bento making went fine & was enjoyable both to construct and eat.  I’m still seeing my daily numbers fluctuate quite a bit (cal/carb/fat).  I have had two conversations with the nutritionists office, but not with the actual nutritionist.. so I’m eager for my appointment with her.

The growing johbisai in my freezer & pantry has been of huge benefit.  I’m particularly glad for the mini meatballs, the soboro, the tea eggs, the delicious CTD peppers, and the store of quickly steamable/boilable veggies.  I tried a new brand of rice for this week, and the few onigiri I froze turned out slightly better than last week, but I still am loving them made from freshly cooked rice best.  Perhaps a rice cooker is in my future, but I’ve been making rice in a pot for 30 years now, and it works pretty well.  Tamagoyaki make me SUPER happy, even in my non-standard frying pan.

Onigiri with tuna & ume, sunomono, tamagoyaki, stewed shiitake, and a tea egg

Onigiri with tuna & ume, sunomono, tamagoyaki, stewed shiitake, and a tea egg

As I’ve mentioned, I’m keeping a food diary, and my intention is for it to be extremely detailed.  That’s working okay, ’cause I’m prone to obsessive geekiness, and tools like the online Nutrition Data site are certainly helpful.  However, I am not happy with how long it takes me with the current method.  Essentially, I send myself an email each day and use the Nutrition Data site to get the cal/carb/fat numbers.  I know there are tools such as CalorieKing that might make keeping a food log easier, but I can’t really afford it, so I’m still searching for a better way to log my food.  There’s an iTouch app called LIVESTRONG which I plan to try this week, and I’ll keep looking for a good free food diary application, preferably one I can use on the iTouch.

I did not get my rowing machine cleaned off.  Partly it was procrastination: I kept telling myself that I would do it on Thursday or Friday so that I would have technically met my goal, but then my back crashed.  I guess that’s the classic downside of procrastination!  Still, here it is Sunday, and my back feels much better, so I’m encouraged to think that this episode was just a brief blip.  I’ll try again this coming week to get the rowing going.

I did make some progress with regard to organization.  My organizational goals stretch far beyond this bento challenge, so at this point I’m glad to just be keeping up, i.e., doing a little bit every day to improve & streamline my life’s workflow.  During week 2 I got my freezer neatened up, and it already makes life so much easier to be able to easily FIND those mini-meatballs & sugar snap peas!  In week 3 I hope to tackle the pantry.

Besides all the lovely recipes & bento related expertise that Maki is sharing, I’ve been impacted in some really significant ways.  This challenge continues to encourage me to be more mindful about what (and how much) I’m eating, and that really matters to me.  Also, though the rowing didn’t actually start, this bento challenge is motivating me in that regard as well.  And I still really derive a great deal of pleasure looking at all our Flickr pool pictures, and sharing my own.

Oh, and I also credit the bento challenge with giving me the incentive to finally retool my old blog into a much more useful component of my online life.  I made it much more general in focus, and that’s so much better for me!

Upward & onward!

Karrie cake (mmrowr)

January 24, 2009

Yesterday Karrie & I celebrated her birthday.  It was a lovely day, despite my stupid back (which is better this morning).  We watched lots of Oz Open tennis, some Iron Chef, and played cards.  She spanked me.  She spanked me bad.  And we ate cake:

Karrie's birthday cake

The cake was constructed from scraps leftover from making Svend’s German chocolate birthday cake on Wednesday, and it was tasty.

Taiyaki & fiffles

January 24, 2009

I received a taiyaki pan yesterday, and since it’s been busy time I didn’t get it out for a test run until this morning.  I love it so much!  Those of you who know me know that I am mad about everything fish.  I’m an obsessed fly tier and fly fisher, I love to cook & smoke & eat fish, and I love fish as a design motif on everything from textiles to ceramics.  So when I saw a this fishy cooking implement in the shape of sea bream, I was pretty much instantly besotted.

I awoke at 5am or so and couldn’t fall back asleep, so I spent an hour or two googling any recipes, tips, and pictures I could find of taiyaki.  I learned that some of the traditional sweet fillings include red bean paste (familiar to me from steamed buns), custard, and sweet black sesame jam.

I found this utterly fabulous youtube video about making Hello Kitty taiyaki.

I have some red bean paste, so I decided I’d try that.  Then I thought about all the different batter recipes I’d seen, and decided that they were all very similar to western waffle recipes, so I used a basic not-too-sweet waffle batter.  This batter incorporates whipped egg whites and I am really glad I chose this recipe as it was deeelicious and light and tender on the inside, and beautifully crunchy and carmelized on the outside.

Here is the red bean paste version:

Taiyaki with red bean paste filling

It was super tasty, and will make a lovely afternoon snack with some good green tea.  Mmm!

Then, seeing as it was around the breakfast hour, I figured I’d make the rest of the batter into plain old waffles, only fishy shaped.

These were delicious!  I’ve never owned a waffle iron; I’m not a frequent sweet breakfast eater, so that was okay.  But with my new taiyaki pan, I can make all manner of snacks and breakfast-like foods, and all of them shaped so cutely.  Yay!

Here are the plain breakfast version (which I’ve named fiffles), drizzled with a little maple syrup and a pat of sweet butter:

Fiffles (fishy waffles)

A few notes about using the taiyaki pan: First of all, I found that filling the batter to what seems like barely overflowing the mold is just about right.  So, when I make filled taiyaki, I put in less than full, add the filling, and then put in additional batter to just barely overflowing.  The mold half that you’ve filled is on the heat, so as soon as I close the mold I flip it so the still slightly flowing batter can neatly fill the empty half of the mold.

At this point, I look every few minutes, flipping the pan accordingly so I get the level of crispy carmelization on the crust that I desire.

About that: I find that I like my crusts to be well done, crispy, and pretty well-browned.  For me, this gave an inside that was tender and beautifully cooked, and some nice crispy bits around the fins.  Perfection!

I’m intensely interested in hearing about any savory fillings, so if you know of any, please share!  I’ve thought of one that I think might be delicious: I’ll fry up some tiny diced bacon, then set aside.  Then I’ll make some scrambled egg, add in the bacon, and cook until only barely set, and I’ll use a tablespoon of that in each savory taiyaki.  I know this probably isn’t traditional, but it seems as if it will be yummy.  I’ll report back.

WordPress blogging app for iTouch

January 23, 2009

Testing the nifty app for blogging on the go.

Owie back & a real good noodle bowl

January 23, 2009

Today Karrie came so she and I could celebrate her birthday.  Just after she called to confirm the time, I did Something Bad to my back, and that has temporarily put the kibosh on various physical plans that I’d made.  I was going to take Karrie and our lunch up to a hill north of here, but decided to stay here at home instead.
There were some sweet bits: I’d ordered a birthday present for Karrie and was sad as the morning passed that it hadn’t arrived in time.  No sooner had I thought that when there was a knock at my door, and it was the UPS guy!  I just had time to wrap it up when Karrie herself arrived.  What good timing 🙂

I made us our favorite spicy comfort-food noodle bowl, pictured here:

Spicy noodle bowl with shrimps & baby bokchoi

Spicy noodle bowl with shrimps & baby bokchoi

It started out as a bento lunch, but it morphed into a bowl when we decided to stay home.  I dunno if it really qualifies as a bento lunch after it got de-boxed, but I posted it to the bento challenge Flickr pool anyway; I hope that’s okay.

The gift I got for Karrie I got for myself as well, and I love Love LOVE it: it’s the AeroPress coffee maker by Aerobie –We tried it already (of course) and it works as well as we’d hoped.  Yay Aerobie!  Yay Alex, fabulous guy from Aerobie!

I hope my back injury heals quickly; it really cramps my style.  I had wanted to start rowing, and I can’t until the back is working.  I’m not the patient sort, and this injury historically takes anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks to heal.  Let’s think super positive healing thoughts!

Bento bento bento bento bento

January 23, 2009

Yep, the new year has been all about making & eating yummy bento lunches.  I’ve joined the excellent Get Started Bento Challenge started by Maki over at Just Bento, and it’s been a lot of fun.  I’ve made some new friends, and participating has allowed me to closely observe the data of my eating life, and that’s a good way for me to become more mindful about my eating, and maybe get skinny so I can get laid!  Er, I mean, so I can be healthy and happy.

I’ve also retooled this blog to be much more general, so I can post here about anything and everything.

Wasn’t the inauguration great?!  I made this lunch to celebrate:

Inaugural bento lunch

Inaugural bento lunch