No-green-food-in-my-house bento

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I’m a bit giddy with anticipation right now. Next week, I get to go to Vancouver for a Social Justice committee working session. I get to do more Ally work, and connect with some wonderful friends. Just to add to the awesome, my husband will also be there for a conference. The dates overlap and while we’ll both be too busy to spend much time together, we’ll at least see each other for a few minutes each morning and evening. I’m hoping for one date night dinner out, but that might be a little too lofty a goal.

Being that we’ll all be out of the house for at least part of next week, I’m determined to eat the food we have in the fridge before we leave. I took some leftover brown rice, cooked lentils, and tomato sauce (all in the fridge), and combined them into a saucy, tasty dish. I put some carrot stars over to decorate and pretend that I really do know how to make bento lunches. I managed to get three apples off my tree before the wasps decided “all your apple are belong to us” and started buzzing menacingly around me forcing me to retreat inside (it’s a really bad year for them, or would that be a great year?). Having an apple to eat with lunch is therefore quite a victory! I sliced up a lemon to put in my water bottle that I forgot at work. I love flavouring water with lemon slices, and it’s so alkalizing and cleansing.

Rice, roasted veggies, curried chickpeas

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Not sure if this qualifies as a bento. I feel it’s more just food put into the box. I’ve been having a very good but busy startup to the school year, and I don’t have a lot of energy or creativity left over to give to food. I have made lunches, they’ve just felt a bit pathetic and not worthy of being uploaded. The other day I had a pbj on gluten free French bread, cucumber slices, and a pear. In a bento, but not cute. Today I had avocado on gf sprouted grain bread with some edamame. Again, not cute. Today’s bento isn’t cute, but I feel I’m letting vegan mofo down, so here we go.

Under everything is a layer of brown rice, then a layer of roasted green beans and red peppers, then some leftover curried chickpeas on top. To give it some colour, I hacked away at a spring/green onion. Will taste good, just doesn’t look cute!

Fried rice with smoked tofu

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Smoked tofu has to be my favourite kind of tofu. It’s unlike any other form of delicious soybean goodness. Here’s some ‘fried’ rice (how-to again as it’s been a while):

-sautée some vegetables in a little olive or canola oil until crisp-tender – here I used onion and celery – use what you like and what’s in the fridge. I have about 1/2 cup raw total (it cooks down in volume) for one person.
-season with what you like. Ideas include a dash of toasted sesame oil/ketchup/sriracha/soy or tamari sauce/sambal oelek/minced garlic. I used some sambal oelek and tamari today.
-add in the cooked, cooled rice (about 1/2 cup for one person) and toss around to coat it. Hot fresh rice won’t work as well as cooled. This rice is leftover from last night’s dinner.

This method gives you tasty fried rice flavour without all the grease.

With the fried rice I have some sliced smoked tofu, spinach baran, tomato with some spring onion slices and balsamic vinegar (the really-pricey-but-worth-it syrupy kind), and carrots steamed then tossed with foodie-approved tomato jam for taste, and covered with sesame seeds for visual appeal. They’ll be almost like dessert, so sweet!

2 salads with addictive salad dressing!

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Do these ingredients look familiar? They should – smoked tofu, grated beet, grated carrot… just goodies from yesterday’s kitchen awesomeness. This time I tossed them with some quinoa and cilantro to mix it up. There are only a few pieces of tofu as the quinoa is high in protein as well as being very filling. In the smaller tier, I have half a raw fennel bulb (am I ever in love with raw fennel? Yum!), some dried cranberries, and diced grilled halloumi cheese.

I plan to use the same dressing from the glory bowl recipe for both salads – it’s that good!

My snacks for tomorrow are a Clif bar and a pear. Breakfast will be overnight oats, and this time I’m experimenting with vanilla protein powder to see what happens. I’m hoping it’s good because otherwise I’ll be hungry!

Pasta frittata and spinach salad

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One more not-great iPhone picture. I’m not knocking Apple products. One of my students has a new iPad and it takes fantastic pictures and videos of his day and work for him to watch and to share with his family.

This idea is not mine. It comes from the wonderful Biggie at http://lunchinabox.net/2007/05/14/leftover-remake-pasta-frittata-multi-grilling/ (pretty link tool not working today). I adapted it a little: 1 cup of pasta in marinara sauce, 1 egg, and 1 egg white with some black pepper. I considered cheese, but only had feta in the fridge, and didn’t really want to use it. I have used cheese in the past for weekend lunches with tremendous success. This also works quite nicely for leftover mac and cheese from a box, where the sauce hardens up and isn’t quite so melty as when it’s freshly made.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Wansink, notable food scientist from a consumer point of view, talks about how most households have a nutritional gatekeeper, the one who decides the majority of food purchases. I am usually that gatekeeper, but my husband did the major grocery shop this time around. I asked for a bag of spinach, and I got given one of those huuuuuuuuge family-sized boxes of it. I’ve been incorporating it into breakfast smoothies (also because proxy nutritional gatekeeper couldn’t find oatmeal…). I swear you can’t taste it up beyond one big handful. Make sure it’s closest to the blender blade so it gets the first blast of smooshiness, and you won’t be able to discern the leafy texture in your beverage. I’ve been eating spinach every day since Friday, and I’m getting so sick of it! It’ll be sautéed tomorrow, and any leftovers frozen. I just can’t do any more spinach right now. However, here it is in a salad with grape tomatoes, craisins, and incredibly syrupy thick balsamic vinegar. This stuff is so good nothing else is needed to dress a salad – kind of makes up for eating spinach again!

Leftover love: ideas to try with rice

I treated myself to a (basic) rice cooker. While I have my eyes on a fancier one the next time I see it on sale, the one I have cooks rice, quinoa, and even steamed eggs and veggies nicely. I often make enough rice for dinner, and use the rest for bentos – cook once, eat twice! Here are some ways I incorporate it into my lunches, and I hope it gives some ideas. Be aware that rice spoils very easily – with that in mind, it’s probably best to chill it at the earliest opportunity, and use it the next day to be on the safe side.

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Chili rice… stir together equal amounts of chili and rice. You could also mix other sauces, like curry, stew, or stirfried veggies.

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Fried rice. This is fantastic made with cooked, cooled rice, so it’s perfect for leftovers! Heat some oil in a non-stick pan, and cook a diced onion over mediumish heat. If you have leftover carrot and/or celery, put them in too. Softer vegetables can be added once these are soft. Cook until the vegetables are nice and soft – don’t skip this step, as soft rice with harder veggies is not so pleasant. Once harder veggies are ready, increase the heat to just over medium and feel free to put some quicker-cooking ones in (sliced peppers, sugar snap peas, thinly sliced Chinese green vegetables – bok choi, for example) and give them a quick stirfry until crisp-tender. Then, break the cold cooked rice up with the back of a spoon, and add it into the veggies. Some will stick to the pan – expect it 🙂 If you like to add a protein, now’s the time – scramble an egg in there, or add some cooked veggie protein… give it a few stirs until it’s well-heated through. Season with soy sauce.

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The most common use for rice in my bentos is as a bed or side dish to protein and veggies, similar to traditional Japanese bentos, where rice accounts for 1/2 the meal by volume. I try to break lunch down into 1/3 each carb, protein, and veggies, but it’s a similar idea. Here I have rice under a veggie protein, with veggies on the side.

Leftover Love: Ideas to try with chili

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Chili rice – about 1/2 chili and 1/2 rice by volume, mixed. This is quite nice either just in the bento like this, or in a wrap with salsa and veggies to make a burrito-style lunch. In the other tier, I have veggie sausage patties, yellow pepper strips, and sliced cucumber. This is a true leftover/fridge foraging bento.

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Chili bento for the hubs. He doesn’t like to reheat leftovers, so it’s okay to put chili and salad together if it’s for him. Traditional bento is eaten at room temperature, but I often make a ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ tier in a 2-tier box.

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A small portion of quinoa chili, brown rice, and smoked tofu.