I don’t know if my kids really appreciate it, but I’ve been on the Bento bandwagon for the past year or so. It’s a great way to add interest and variety to otherwise dull schoolyard lunch.
The Bento, or a single serving meal usually prepared in an enclosed container, comes to North America by way of Japan. It can be found commercially prepared almost anywhere food is sold in Japan–from convenience stores to train stations–but it is very commonly prepared by homemakers and those on the go as a healthy alternative to fast food and restaurant meals.
While perusing the local Korean market sometime ago I found these handy divided snap lid containers and began my Bento explorations at home. For today’s post I’ve taken a shot of a somewhat typical kids’ bento that I prepare daily. While many bentos found online fall into the kawaii (cute) category–complete with cut-out animal shapes and flowers created from shaved carrot pieces–my early morning preparations often involve just repackaged leftovers from the previous evening or when I’m short on time, preparing neatly cut sandwiches or something like today’s bento–burrito, fruit, crackers and vegetables. To this I will add a container of milk or yogurt and usually a piece of easy to store and eat fruit such as an apple. A relatively healthy meal consisting of a protien, a carbohydrate, two or more servings of fruit and vegetables, a dairy product and usually a little treat.
I’ll add more bento creations here as time goes on, some very cool and some very simple. In the meantime do checkout some of the bento oriented blogs listed in the “Blogs I Follow” section to the right of my posts.
Some Sundays you’re racing all over hell’s half acre driving the kids to sports, birthday parties or to the mall (oh the joys of having a teenage daughter). When dinner rolls around the energy to cook has often flown and you’re left trying to figure out the easiest way from point A to B.
This past Sunday was no exception for me. I pulled into the local grocery store wondering what to do. I had vegetables on hand at home (peppers) and leftover rice from Saturday’s dinner. The obvious answer was something combining the two. So I came up with a quick Spanish inspired rice dish along the lines of a paella.
- Spanish Rice
- Cut Apples with Lime
- Beverages: Milk for the Kids, Red Wine for us
Menu wise, it doesn’t get much simpler.
Spanish Style Rice*
- 1 1/2 to 2 c Long grain rice (I use Thai scented, but basic long grain white will do)
- Chicken Broth (sufficient to cook rice)
- Pinch of saffron
- Olive oil for frying
- 2-3 Mild Italian/Portuguese Sausages
- 1 Medium red pepper, diced
- 1 Medium Spanish or red onion, diced
- 1 Medium ripe tomato, diced (optional)
- 2 Cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp Cumin
- 1/4 tsp Oregano
- 1/2 tsp Garlic powder
- 1 to 1 1/2 tsp Spanish or Hungarian Paprika
- White Wine
- 1 Tbs Fresh Parsley, chopped fine
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Cook rice, substituting chicken stock and saffron for water–salt the rice prior to cooking if using a low sodium broth.
Poke the sausages two or three times with a fork to allow fat to escape.
Boil the sausages in water for 3-5 minutes, remove from water and dry.
Fry the sausages over medium heat in a very small amount of olive oil.
Remove sausages and drain most of the fat from the pan.
Cut sausages into 1/4 to 1/2″ thick slices on the diagonal and reserve.
Return the pan to the element, add a teaspoon or two of olive oil.
Saute the onions and peppers until softened.
Add sliced sausages, minced garlic and spices and saute for one to two minutes more.
Add white wine to deglaze the pan and add moisture (about a 1/4 c).
Add tomato if using and cook for a few minutes to soften.
Add cooked rice a cup at a time, blending the ingredients into the rice until the desired consistency is reached (rice should be moist but not soggy).
Add chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste.
If you find the mix a little dry then add a little butter or additional olive oil.
Serve on pre-heated plates or bowls.
Total prep about 60 minutes including cooking the rice. Serves 3.
Notes: This is free form cooking at its best. Adjust quantities of meat, vegetables, spices, oil, wine, etc. to taste and according to the number of servings required. I left out the heat as a courtesy to my son, but a little ground chili or sambal oelek wouldn’t go amiss in this dish. The recipe above is for about three moderate eaters and will leave you with a little left over rice for the next day’s lunch–better to have too much than too little. Don’t forget to taste as you go (after the sausages are cooked of course).
*This can be considered a good GF meal providing the sausages are gluten free (many are not).