Saturday, February 4, 2012

Learning To Make Bento Lunch!

I try to pack lunch for me and the mister everyday and some days I wake up a bit more energetic than others. On the most energetic days, I've been playing with learning to make cute bento. I like to make other pretty things; why not pretty food?

Sometimes, it's inspiring to see somebody master something. But, I thought it might be just as inspiring to see someone begin something. This is bento for beginners.

Since most of the cuteness of bento comes from shaping sticky rice, I first had to learn to make sticky rice. Having acquired a bag of legit looking rice from the local grocer, I proceeded to follow the instructions on the bag. They weren't good instructions.

I looked up a recipe in this awesome book from the library...

...and it seemed to work. Victory!

I rested on my laurels for a while. A few months later, I tried to shape the rice for the first time, which is done either with wet hands or plastic wrap. I thought it best to keep it simple, so I made some cute happy dongo family characters from my favorite anime, Clannad.

I got a little braver a few months after that and tried cute penguins. Success!

And, this morning, I woke up at 4:30 and decided it was a sesame chicken and panda day, since the mister has to drive 30 miles in two feet of snow to get to work on a Saturday...

I'm rather proud of my bento lunch today! I even cut up my red peppers, onions, and carrots into little flower shapes this time and tried a new recipe for sesame chicken. A few bits of lettuce made for a nice background, two slices of orange for dividers, green onion for the grass around the pandas, rice and nori for the panda, with a little sesame seed for each of their eyes.

Trying to make certain there are lots of pretty bright colors also ensures that your lunch is fairly healthy and well-proportioned. It's kind of a win-win. Now, if only I didn't work full-time, I'd make these for the mister everyday. Until then, it'll be the occasional super cute lunch-time surprise.

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Recipe for Sticky Rice

1 cup Short or medium grain rice
1.5 cups Water

Put rice in colander and rinse in cool water until the water isn't very cloudy.
Put clean rice in a pot and add water. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat.
Stir it around a couple of times to prevent sticking and then put a tight fitting lid on the pot.
Reduce heat to low/med low and let simmer with the lid on for 8 minutes.
Keep lid on and remove from heat.
Wait about 15 minutes, then remove the lid and fluff.

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Sticky rice is sticky! If you'd like to shape it, try scooping some rice onto a sheet of plastic wrap, then using the plastic wrap to handle, squish, and shape it however you'd like. If you must handle the rice, wet your fingers with cold water first! They sell rice molds if you feel so inclined.

To decorate, get a pair of tiny scissors and cut up a sheet of nori into desired bits. Nori will stick to the rice if it's warm enough. Otherwise, a bit of water on the back of the nori will do the trick. They sell nori punches if you feel so inclined.

When I'm not playing with food, I play with paint! Take a minute to stop by the ol' art shop and keep the dream alive, if you feel so inclined.

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