Quinoa, black beans, and spinach with fresh veggies and fruits

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Easter Monday is a statuatory holiday in BC, so I get the day off but the spousal unit does not. Yay, I get to make him a bento! I have a delicious quinoa recipe, adapted from one of Jillian Michaels’ (the tough-love meanie who makes those workout DVD’s that I love to hate!). Oh my nom, is it tasty:

-1 cup quinoa: rinse your quinoa, and cook in 2 cups of lightly salted water.
-Meanwhile, sautée one diced onion, and 1 diced bell pepper in a little olive oil, covered over medium heat, until soft (covering speeds this part up)
-add a teaspoon or two chili-garlic paste, 1 tsp cumin, black pepper, and stir around until fragrant – 30 seconds or so.
-add in 1 19-oz can/2 cups cooked black beans, reduce the heat and simmer while the quinoa finishes cooking.
-when the quinoa is cooked, take it off the heat, fluff with a fork, re-cover.
-add in 3 big handfuls of spinach to the black bean mixture, and cook, stirring, until the spinach has wilted. Then add in about 1 cup of fresh diced tomatoes, and fresh cilantro to taste (original recipe only called for 1/4 cup… not nearly enough).
-Finally, add in the quinoa, and stir until everything is mixed nicely.

Sides are celery with some black olives (2 of his favourite snackies to distract him from the veganity of this bento), and a baby orange, the last of the strawberries from two days ago (we have a resident strawberry thief and I guess I wasn’t fast enough) and a tiny sprinkling of blueberries.

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Yummy in a bento: moist, creamy hummus

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It’s been a while since I found a hummus recipe that really really makes me happy, but here we are:

http://www.panningtheglobe.com/2013/03/05/hummus/

I just made it (with 1 19oz can of chickpeas, as canned beans come in different sizes in the US and Canada, and I find that Canadian beans are packed more tightly with less sauce in the can too), and was immediately compelled to dip some raw celery into it.  I would halve the amount of salt called for (but then I am notorious for undersalting food, as your palate adjusts and too much sodium is not healthy), and add some black pepper.  I can see the flavour working really well with some chipotle in adobo to heat it up if you wanted to mix things up a bit.  Happy hummusing, people!

I plan on using this hummus to snack on with veggies, and to put into sandwiches with more veggies. Hummus and veggies – there’s a tasty trend!

Cupcake Friday! A rose by any other name edition.

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Fun fact if you have a cupcake cult – only ever taste the cupcakes, rarely eat a whole one. I love cakes and all things sweet, but the reality is that when you are around cupcakes as often as I am, you just don’t eat a whole one all that often – particularly if you’re on the successful end of a not-too-shabby weight loss story. Usually just by looking at it, you can tell if the recipe is a keeper or not. The exception until today was gluten-free cupcakes. Because the flour replacement mix I used has pea and chickpea flours in it, the batter itself has an aftertaste until it’s cooked and becomes delicious. It was a struggle to try the batter with this recipe.

So while browsing food porn food and recipe blogs the other day, I saw these and had to say I was intrigued at best, and put-off at worst. There was quite the conversation about them on my Facebook wall, but Lainey, awesome coworker, Facebook bestie, and reader here, challenged us spinach cupcake nay-sayers. So today, Friday, I had grand plans to make the recipe, be wowed with how totally deelish they were, box some up for Lainey to enjoy (she’s on maternity leave with her daughter, so isn’t around to sample the cult offerings at school), and photograph some beautiful cuppies with fresh berries and whipped cream on top, akin to (cue google image searched stock photo):

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However, prior to whipping cream, I figured I would give them a taste test – hence the auspicious gap in the baking pan here. I grabbed a fork, dug into the centre, and while the batter is perfectly moist and expertly baked (natch), you can definitely taste the spinach. I was hoping it wouldn’t be discernible, after all, I put spinach in smoothies regularly, and quite enjoy it raw or cooked as well as incorporated into entrees. A cup of real English PG Tips tea later, and I can still taste spinach. Needless to say, I don’t feel comfortable boxing some up and having Lainey try them, but it does make for a wonderful domestic goddess fail story.

Cupcake On!

My foodie secret in bento form

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I love pasta and cheese from a box. There, I said it. And I put some into a bento to enjoy for tomorrow’s lunch before piling the rest onto my plate for dinner (you can see moisture droplets on the side of the bento… this is a no-no if your box is travelling as moisture leads to food spoilage; being that I’m at home tomorrow, I’m okay to put hot food into the box and then the fridge). It’s still Spring Break, but tomorrow is the day I get caught up on all the things I said I’d get done before I go back to school on Tuesday. A bento will be nice as I won’t be tempted to try a new recipe and mess up the kitchen for the bazillionth time in the 10 days I’ve been home over the break.

I am fortunate enough to be able to buy food and household goods in bulk. Many people in North America simply do not have the cashflow to be able to do so, so I am very thankful to be able to use my Costco membership to save money in the long run. I usually donate some of the canned tomatoes, juice boxes, pasta sauce, granola bars, bags of pasta within the giant bags, a bag of crackers within the giant box etc. to the food bank. I shudder to think how close many of us are to needing a little help. I bought a 12-pack of mac and cheese, and while I plan on giving most of them to the food bank, had to sneak one in for dinner. Hubs has a meeting tonight, so he’d already had dinner by the time I got home – so I could eat something cheesy without him pulling faces around me or it.

For the green beans, I sautéed them in a little olive oil, adding splashes of water to help them steam and soften, for about 6 minutes. I then added about a tablespoon of tomato paste and a dash of sriracha for some heat to counterbalance the creaminess of the shells and cheese. If the tomato paste isn’t loosening up, add another splash of water. I threw some pine nuts in for crunch, flavour, and because I have a giant-sized bag of them that hubs has not discovered yet.

I’m very attached to the idea that bentos are a way to show love and affection for your family… I’m now thinking hubsbentolove had better not pick a fight with me anytime soon!

SoraNews24

We’ve covered the phenomenon of charabens in the past ranging from the extremely cute to the downright bizarre. However, as with any art form, the horror genre cannot be left out.  Inspired by some photos of horror bentos found online a reporter from the website Pouch, Hotaru Yamakawa, has decided to make her own series of 3 horror bentos and help you make your own.

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Guest Post: Detox bento No. 4 and seed growing from Laurel at Bento Amour

Hey all, time for the last installment of my detox spring cleaning series for my guest posts. As promised, I’m going to explain what I did with my seeds and planting for my own herb garden this year. If you want to try your own indoor herb garden, http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/gardening/indoor/vegetable-herb-container-garden-steps-00000000038606/index.html (Lizzie – I cannot get pretty linkies to happen… my apologies) is a good starting point to get ideas. For me, http://www.intuitionphysician.com/organic-gardening-growing-seedlings-in-recycled-containers-tutorial/, inspired me. I loved the idea of a frugal, homemade mini green house. Instead of a double plastic container, I used a piece of cardboard I folded and covered with tin foil, to reflect any sunlight back to the top. I think it will be a more efficient greenhouse.

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Over about six weeks, I collected the empty toilet paper rolls we had (you could also use a paper towel tube as they show on the website). I cut each of them in half, ending up with 16 halves. Since cilantro is better started in ground and not as a seedling, I had enough to do three each of basil, oregano, curly parsley, mini bell peppers, and tomato seedlings. I placed them in rows of three on the tin foil and sprinkled broken egg shells, in the bottom then filled each half tube with enriched potting soil. I put several seeds for the basil, oregano, and parsley in their containers to get a bigger yield. The mini peppers I used about 4-5 seeds in each of the three, and the tomatoes I used two seeds in each for a total of six. I don’t want to over crowd them.

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Once I put in the seeds, I put a few more crumbled egg shells around them, then filled the tubes the rest of the way with soil. I watered each one just a bit, filled in where the soil went down, and then watered again. After all of that, I attached the plastic dome container over the top of them, securing it on the side with the basil with two pieces of black electrical tape (it’s all I had on hand) and on the side with tomatoes just one piece. That way I can remember what each little tube has for seeds.

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This went up on a windowsill in the extra bedroom so I can keep the door shut and keep kitties away from my seedlings. I’ll be sure to post progress shots of them when the start sprouting up through the soil. Be sure to check out my blog for future updates. For my last bento for this series, I did a very veggie and fruit filled bento with a side of grains and protein.

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In this bento: baby carrots, yellow bell pepper sticks, ¼ sliced & peeled cucumber, strawberries, and one sliced Granny smith apple. My side, as you can see below, was two pita pockets sliced into triangles and three tablespoons of roasted garlic hummus with a liberal sprinkling of paprika.

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You might be able to see in the second picture that we still have snow in Iowa. And it’s snowing again today! So much for spring weather! Hopefully after Easter it will all melt and really start to warm up. I want a sunny birthday month!!! I’ve had such a great doing this guest series and have learned a lot about how much I procrastinate things and put it until the last minute. Really need to get that in check. If you enjoyed reading these posts, be sure to follow my blog, Bento Amour, for more updates on healthy bentos, and any seedling growth. Ciao- laurel

Cupcake Friday!

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If you’re reading this in the State of California, you should know these cupcakes are illegal. NSFW cupcakes? It’s the sprinkles – they’re food grade, but not okay in California.

Green velvet – which foodie friends, does NOT work if you’re using high-quality cocoa powder as they turn a kind of camo colour – cupcakes with cream cheese icing and sparkles! I took 12 of these lovelies to a conference. I managed to get them past airport security without all 12 being whisked away for “taste, ahem, safety testing” by the staff there (for the record, icing is considered solid, not a gel), survived 1.5 hours on the plane and 30 minutes on the Skytrain without them being devoured by random cupcake-appreciating strangers, and get the tasty treats to the conference table intact and un-tipped through the whole process, as you can see here (look who found her son’s camera?!).

While at the conference, I passed on these, knowing that I have access to cuppies 24/7, but I did try a nutella cupcake at a cupcake store. I am very proud to say that my cupcakes are better!

Unfortunately, my cupcake carrier went missing. I guess my laptop and cellphone are too crappy to be liberated, as I could plug both in at the recharging station without woe, but the carrier grew legs and ran away. I contacted lost and found at the hotel with no luck. I’m fortunate enough to be able to purchase another one, but I’m a little upset about it going missing, as it’s one tier of a 3-tiered carrier, and of course, there was only one lid which went missing too. Bah. Cupcake on!