Saturday, August 7, 2010

August Bento Days (1)

Summer Vacation will end soon for my kids and suddenly I wish time will stall and stay idle. Every year, we make an effort to enjoy the outdoors with summer berries picking, lazing and soaking at the neighborhood pool and having short trips to family friendly places around the state that I live in. Although we never travel far away from home, summer is equally fun if we really can spend time together as a family, reminisce what happened at the end of last school year and talking about the coming new school year with expectations and hopes. I can feel anxious every time my kids go to the next grade or new classes and sometimes I don't really understand why I have all these thoughts! Perhaps, each summer vacation represents to me that my kids have grown up, with a new busy school year looming  plus extra activities that will keep them more busier than myself and before I know it, they rather go to summer camps with their friends than cramped into mommy's Minivan for a road trip. Summer is so short and yet all the best memories with my kids are jam packed into this season. This year I started doing more picnic Bento for them and Curry and hopefully their summer days will be filled with good food and fun all the time!

For today's Picnic bento, I used the same 4 tier tiffin box as last week and packed something more substantial as we were out about hiking and biking in the State parks. Our home grown tomatoes were popping red and plenty because of the recent hot weather and home grown ones seem to taste juicier. I used frozen broccoli and cauliflower as it was faster to pop them out from the bags and boil them for 2 mins, drained and arranged into the box. I did this salad and fruit bento the night before.


For the next box, I made some rice Musubi, simply Japanese rice with rice vinegar and flavored with salt, shaped into a triangle or any shape of available moulds. I added pan fried turkey bacon pieces to the cooked rice for added texture and flavor. To make them fancy, I digged out all my small punches and punched out different shapes and patterns of strips of nori and wrapped them around the Musubi. Musubi is larger in size than sushi rolls and packed compactly, which one piece is more than enough for a kid's portion.



The next tier contained rice noodles, which I fried with soy sauce, grated garlic and julienned carrot strips. To save me time in the morning, I parboiled the noodles the night before, and kept them in the fridge together with the prepared carrot and garlic cloves. I like to grate the garlic as it releases more flavor and fragrant when pan fried. A very simple and quick dish to make.



The last box contained oven baked pork chops and made the same way as my previous oven baked chicken strips. I usually use pork butt meat as they are more tender after cooking and comes in the right sizes and cut. The meat slices were first marinated overnight in salt, pepper, cooking oil, chopped up cilantro leaves and orange juice. The acidity in the juice works to tenderize and flavor the meat. In the morning I just coated the meat in beaten egg and panko and baked them in the oven at 375F for 50 mins. This is definitely a better option than deep frying and cleaning is a cinch, especially when we have to rush out early in the morning as I didn't want to scrub the oily pot or come home after a whole day out to do it! I also made some Japanese rolled omelette with nori to slot in the empty spaces in the box.

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