Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Weekly Food Prep for Bento Lunches and Make-Ahead Dinners

   A lot of people ask me about my weekly food prep and salad bar. Those 2 pages are some of my most viewed places on my blog!

   I like to do my food prepping on Mondays whenever possible ( but I'm pretty flexible when necessary), so yesterday I did food prep for lunches and dinners for the coming week. I decided to do a little show and tell so you can see what I've made, and how I plan to use it.

  I usually cook proteins first, since they usually take the longest. This week I made grilled chicken breasts, taco meat ( made from ground beef), and boiled eggs.

  I cut the chicken into strips and portioned them out into sandwich bags. I have a small spare refrigerator in the garage, and that's where I stash most of my food that I've prepped for the family for the week. This will be used for mandarin chicken salads this week. And for snacks - everyone in our family likes to snack on chicken!

  For the beef, I cooked it and drained off the extra fat. I also rinse it in a colander to remove even more fat. I returned it to the pan and added taco seasoning and water and simmer until done. Then I portioned this out into individual servings, just like with the chicken. This will be used for tacos and taco salads this week.

  While the meats were cooking, I made some instant brown rice. I already had some quinoa that I  cooked a few days ago, so I'm using both of these for grains for the week. These will go in stir frys, and a casserole later in the week. Some of the quinoa I put in the freezer just to make sure it doesn't go bad before I turn it into dinner, since I'll be making that at the end of the week.

  I got a great deal on melons at the store this week, so I cut them all up and stored them in containers for everyone to have with their lunches and snacks. My very favorite containers to keep portion sizes under control are made by Fit & Fresh: Fit & Fresh Kids' Smart Portion 2 Cup Chilled Container, Assorted Colors 

  I often try out a new recipe if I have time during my weekly food prep sessions, and this week's try-out was a huge success! These are chocolate cookies made with avocado, and they are FANTASTIC! 

  Here's the link to this amazing recipe: Healthy Avocado Cookies, and here's how mine looked:

  I also made my usual big salad bowl and salad bar, several homemade dressings, and cut up some carrots, celery, daikon radish, broccoli, and cauliflower for snacks. But I forgot to take pictures :)

 I made less food this week than I usually do, partly because I already had food in the freezer that I'll be using up this week, and partly because I have so much good food left over from Easter dinner. But here's a final picture taken right before I packed this stuff away in the fridge and freezer in my garage:

  And here's what I packed for my husband to eat - it only took about 5 minutes to make lunch for him and me because I already had so much food pre-prepared:

  And here's mine, minus the chicken:

  We had black bean and edamame salad, with raw veggies and chocolate avocado cookies. It was SO good!

* I added this to What's for Lunch Wednesday. Go see what other bento bloggers made for lunch today!

 Here are some things I used to make these lunches, and for my food prep ( click on the picture to learn more):

Monday, March 10, 2014

New Insulated Bento Bags for Sale in my Etsy Shop!

 I've been cooking up some new lunch gear designs for my Etsy shop! I have 4 new lined and insulated bento bags that I designed to accommodate a taller bento box or a thermos. I needed something that I could keep taller containers standing upright, but I didn't want there to be too much extra room for things to shift and slide around.

 I also wanted a bag that was insulated so it could keep my food either warm or cool, so I lined them with Insul-Brite.

  And I needed it to be easy to just toss in the wash, so the seams are all finished and reinforced.

As an added bonus, I discovered that with this design I have enough fabric left over to make a front pocket with a reversible cloth napkin :)

  I'm really pleased with my new bento bags! They are easy to tuck into a big purse or a backpack, and I find that it's really nice to have a cloth napkin handy. In fact, I have been enjoying using cloth napkins SO much, I've been thinking of selling them individually in my shop... (I'll keep you posted on that idea)

  If you are interested you can find these bags, along with other fun stuff, right here in my Etsy shop:

Beneficial Bento

 Today's lunch is chicken and mushroom meatballs (recipe found here), along with rice and a cute snail made of cheese, carrot, nori, and lettuce. On the side are some assorted fruits, veggies, and a laughing cow cheese.

Have a wonderful day  :)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Bunny and Flower Sandwich Bento

   Today's lunch is a bit of a departure for me - it's very sweet and flowery ( something I wouldn't ever make for my boys) and the little sandwiches are not gluten free ( so I couldn't eat it either). I made it to showcase my new pink sakura blossom bento bag, which is for sale in my Etsy shop.

  I really LOVE this pretty pink fabric! It has salmon-colored sakura blossoms with light gray branches on a pale pink  background. I sewed up 2 bags, then realized I wanted to make a few more items out of it for my Etsy shop, but now I can't find that fabric anymore! I kept one for myself, so that leaves only one for sale - so if you're interested in buying it, you've got one shot at it  :)

 What are these bento bags good for anyway?

  I created them because I often take my lunch or a snack with me when I'm away from home (it helps me stick to my diet). I found that I needed something to cover my lap and wipe my fingers when I'm eating in the car or outside. These bento bags can double as a placemat and napkin, then  be turned inside out ( so the crumbs and food stains are on the inside), tucked in my purse, and just tossed in the wash when I get home. They can be rolled down to suit lots of different sizes of lunch containers, and just tied on top:

  What is in this lunch:
 - Ham and cheese sandwiches on regular white bread, made using these cute little sandwich presses:

-grapes and sugar snap peas

- an orange cut zig-zag style

-carrots that I peeled with a serrated peeler and then cut wedges out of the sides with a paring knife to look like flowers. ( Hmmm... I should post some pictures of that sometime)

  My oldest son was with me when I took these pictures, and since he was hungry he was happy to oblige by eating my cute little sandwiches for me :)

Friday, February 14, 2014

I Love You Valentine Bento Lunch

Happy Valentine's Day!

This is a lunch I made for my husband to take to work - as most of my lunches are :)

  Have I ever told you how this blog got started?

  A few years ago, I started searching around the internet for some new ideas for making healthy lunches more interesting, and I came across the word bento :) I was intrigued by the idea of making vegetables and other healthy food look more appealing and fun!
  After a trip to San Francisco, where I loaded up on fun bento-making supplies, I said to my husband,  " I wish I had a some little kids to pack cute lunches for ".
  And he said, " You can pack me cute lunches. I don't care what they look like, as long as they taste good. And nobody is going to see them anyway."
  So that's just what I did. After a few days of doing this, I started to hear things from friends:
 "How do you make eggs shaped like hearts?"
  "Where did you get that little tiny salad dressing bottle?"
  It turns out my dear hubby was taking pictures of all his lunches and posting them on facebook!
  My daughter talked me into starting a bento blog, and the rest is history :)

  So thank you, Rusty, for making this blog possible - I love you!

    In this lunch is kalua pork ( under the rice), brown and white rice, broccoli, carrots ( which are those cool looking Parisian carrots from Trader Joe's) and strawberries.

  The letters are cut from a red bell pepper, using this set: ( click on the picture to see more)

The heart is made from 2 grape tomatoes cut on an angle and pressed together.

The heart shaped strawberries are so easy to make - here's a great tutorial to show you how:

How to Make Heart shaped Strawberries

  The fabric in the background is one of my bento bags, which you can find here in my Etsy shop.

I hope you all have a lovely Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Fancy Sandwich Friday February 2014

 It's the first Friday of the month, and now that I have a working computer again, it's time for Fancy Sandwich Friday!

   If you don't know what I'm talking about, please read all about it here: Fancy Sandwich Friday info.

 Today's lunch is gluten free ham and cheese sandwiches; carrots and daikon radish cut with a crinkle cutter; cucumber, tomato, blackberries, and kiwi. And for dipping, homemade ranch dip.

  If you have ever used gluten free bread, then you know why I'm so proud of my little sandwiches! GF bread is notoriously crumbly and can be very stiff unless it's microwaved. But this can be overcome with a few little tips:

  1. microwave the bread in a sandwich bag or covered container ( to hold in the steam) for 30 seconds for cold bread, or 1 minute for frozen bread.
  2. place the warm bread on a flat surface, like a cutting board, and roll it with a rolling pin. You can roll GF bread more vigorously than you can wheat bread, as long as it's warm. This helps to press the holes in the bread together so there's a better surface on which to imprint the design.
  3. Cut the top of the sandwich first, press the design into the bread ( press fairly hard) and set it aside. Here's the sandwich cutter set I used for this lunch:

  4. Cut the cheese, ham, and bottom portion of the bread separately with the cutter, and sandwich it all together, adding a dabs of mayo or whatever else you want to hold it together. Here's how mine looks from the side:

  As you can see, pressed sandwiches are pretty flat. But they taste yummy and look very cute in a lunchbox!

  Now it's your turn! Show us what you've got - I can't wait to see your fancy sandwiches! Like last time, I have decided to leave this linky up throughout the weekend so you can come back and add more - you can never have too many fancy sandwich ideas, and if you have more than one, we'd all love to see them!

thanks for the visit :)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Bacon Chef Salad Bento

 Here is another lunch I made for my hubby to take to work: it's yet another twist on an old favorite - chef salad. I put this together super quick with ingredients from my Personal Salad Bar. He reported that it was one of the best salads he's ever had, and he wants it again for lunch soon! My salad bar idea has saved me many times and allowed me to throw together a lunch countless times when I thought there wasn't enough time in the morning.

  The bacon was made by threading Trader Joe's turkey bacon on a wooden skewer and microwaving for about a minute or so, then sliding it off and threading it back on these cute heart picks:

 Also in the salad are tomatoes, boiled egg wedges, chicken breast, cheese, sunflower seeds, and a radish. The dressing is a recipe I made up, based on one found in Trader Joe's Harvest Chicken Salad. Here's where you can find it: Creamy Dijon Vinaigrette.

  The background for this lunch is one of my favorite bento bags, that you can find here in my Etsy shop - it's called Starry Night Bento Bag. Here's another view of it:

   And here it is all tied up and ready to take to school or work:

  Have a beautiful February day, folks! And I hope you pack a lunch for yourself or someone you love today - nothing says I love you like a homemade lunch made just a little more special with a few extra minutes of your time :)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Valentine Onigiri Bento

 Well, hello!
  It feels nice to be back here at the computer after such a long absence.
  My Black Friday and CyberManDay sales were fantastic for my Etsy shop, which kept me SO busy that I hardly had time for anything else - including blogging! Then right before Christmas I injured my hand... and then right after Christmas our computer crashed... phew! It's been a crazy couple of months.

  Even so, I have still been making lunches through all this, and now that my computer is up and running again I can share them with you  :)

  This is a lunch I made for my husband. I pre-made some heart shaped onigiri that I colored with beet juice from a can of beets. I just used plain cooked rice, and I stirred in a little beet juice to color it pink. I put a few of these in the freezer so I expect they will turn up in some lunches this Valentine's season :)  Also in this lunch is some kalua pork  (which is under the rice). I made some in advance to use for several lunches and dinners.  On the side are some carrot flowers with sugar snap pea leaves, and some heart shaped strawberries. I used this great tutorial to make them: How to Make a Heart Shaped Strawberry in a Few Seconds.

Here are some things I used to make this lunch, and where to buy them: ( just click on the pictures)



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