The Devil’s Chicken Bento

The other day I went to buy groceries and bought a whole chicken to roast for lunch meat this week. I recommend this idea to everyone. Roast a chicken, use it just straight in a bento like I do, or make chicken salad like I am going to eventually do. This particular chicken I found humorous and knew no one in this area (the South, if you are a complete stranger and not one of my friends who knows where I live) would EVER buy it.

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As you can see, I also bought Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary to read while I ate, adhering to the theme.

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But here is the slapdash bento I made before going to work! I roasted the chicken with lemon (flavored, enhanced, scented, imbued, something like that) olive oil and some of it sits on a bed of baby lettuce with a bear head of cilantro dressing and little cupcake cup of blueberries. Above that is half an orange that was absolutely delicious, frozen sweet potatoes, and green beans.

Stay tuned for my next bento where I hope to make a delicious chicken salad without running late!

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The Beached Octopus Bento

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I took this bento to work yesterday. I tried to make the traditional hotdog octopus seen in many Japanese bentos out of Trader Joe’s Smoked Apple and Chardonnay sausage. It wasn’t the most successful attempt and I was not as impressed with the taste (I prefer the sweet apple chicken sausage). So he’s hanging out in the corner with another avocado and strawberry salad with a cup of blueberries. The top contains more of that darn butternut squash (which is tasty but I never want to make that much of it again because my culinary ADD is kicking in); pan seared polenta with olive oil, salt, and pepper; and a serving of my last jar of the sadly discontinued Trader Joe’s Eggplant Caponata.

I love polenta as it is low in carbohydrates and satisfies a craving for something grainy. I’m not as big on breads and pasta because I love them and tend to overeat them, causing self-loathing and body-image issues. But polenta is fabulous for this because it’s dense and filling for only a little bit. I used the pre-cooked stuff that is packaged cylindrically and costs about $2 so you can just slice it without having to cook it. I use it for breakfast sometimes by pan searing (I guess that’s the term) 2 small slices in spray olive oil with salt and pepper until they are golden on both sides. I then poach 2 eggs and serve with black beans and salsa over them. It also tastes great if you slice it up and line a baking pan with it, cover with pasta sauce and mozzerella, add another layer, add sauce, cheese, and basil and make a polenta lasagna!

Brunch Bento

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I had to work early today from 5am-1pm. Even though I’ve been doing this for years, it is still difficult to get into a comfortable breakfast routine. It takes about 3 hours from the time I wake up to become hungry and it often hits me like a ton of bricks. Today I came to work prepared. I brought my little strawberry protein shake (it tastes like strawberry Quik and has some questionable artificial ingredients but I figure it maintains a balance somewhat) and a fiber bar. I whipped up these nifty protein pancakes before I left the house and stuck them in my bento with a bit of maple almond butter. To make them you take a scoop of protein powder and mix it with 2 egg whites, spread it out into a little pancake shape in a small pan over medium heat, cook one side, flip, cook other side, and consume. They look like regular pancakes, too! I use Met-Rx protein powder and it tends to thicken quite a bit so I only used about 3/4 of a scoop, added half a tablespoon of chia seeds, and made two nicely sized pancakes. Highly recommended to everyone!

And I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the strawberry, avocado, balsamic salad. I think I have a friend for life with that combination. And say hi to our old friend butternut squash, who’s still kicking!

Veganized Bento II: The Reckoning

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I made another veganized bento. Everything is the same except for my addition of frozen sweet potatoes and maple almond butter. Holy cow, the combination of those two is absolutely delicious. It was like eating a nice healthy dessert. I ate this after exerting myself on the elliptical and doing an ab workout on a completely empty stomach. I ate in the student center amidst all the other students, all using shiny new tablets they probably got for Christmas. I personally began to feel smug, but not for my technological superiority; I felt smug because the guy next to me was eating the saddest sandwich I had ever seen out of a brown plastic bag. So what you have a swanky new tablet! I cooked my lunch! You can’t cook kale with a tablet!

Veganized bento!

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This past week, I went a little overboard on my grocery budget. I made too much money over the holidays and since I work at a grocery store and rarely venture into other retail establishments, I spent most of my extra income on food. My freezer was bulging with all sorts of frozen vegetables and something needed to be done. I pulled out the butternut squash I had frozen last month and whipped up the Garam Masala butternut squash. I also had a bag of frozen kale. There’s only one reliable kale recipe I’ve made and it’s Garlicky Kale and Mushrooms from vegan queen Isa Chandra Moscowitz’s Appetite for Reduction. I bought the cookbook during my roughly 5-minute long vegan phase where I would do really well for breakfast and lunch, feel great about my accomplishments and then reward myself with chicken. I now use the recipes for my vegetable sides and they are just so darn tasty!

I then made another salad with the other half of my avocado, cut strawberries, power greens, broccoli slaw, and a kitty head cup of balsamic glaze. Let me tell you that avocado, strawberries, and balsamic are an absolutely killer combination. Try it!

Isa Chandra Moscowitz’s Garlicky Kale and Mushrooms
1 tsp olive oil (I used a hot pepper olive oil)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
8 oz. cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
1 lb. Kale, coarse stems removed, leaves sliced or torn into pieces (I just thawed and strained the frozen kale)
Several pinches of ground black pepper

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the garlic in the oil for about 2 minutes, being careful not to burn it. Spray it with a little nonstick cooking spray if needed. Add the mushrooms and sprinkle on the salt. Let them cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often, until the moisture has released and the mushrooms are lightly browned. Add the kale and pepper, and use tongs to sauté for about 10 more minutes. Add splashes of water if the pan seems dry. The kale should be tender and cooked down pretty well. Serve immediately.

The other recipes in her book that I want to try are grilled portobellos, ginger mashed sweet potatoes and apples, lettuce wraps with hoisin-mustard tofu, and buffalo tempeh. In the meantime, I found a non-vegan breakfast adaptation of this kale recipe that looks phenomenal as well!

The return of the bento!

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During the winter holidays, I did not fixate myself around my bentos because I was too busy being sucked into the maelstrom that is retail.This was my first bento of the new semester. The top container houses a strategically cut up whole wheat English muffin with maple almond butter and avocado with Trader Joe’s everyday seasoning. And then my super tasty salad of power greens (baby spinach, baby chard, and baby kale), broccoli slaw, sugar snaps, rosemary chicken, and a little silicone bear head of cilantro dressing. One of my new year’s resolutions was to increase my vegetable consumption. I think this is a good start! It definitely felt great after my workout that day.

Turkey Salad Bento

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I revisited my turkey in the freezer for this bento. I hand-shredded a bunch of turkey to make turkey salad because I started to get tired of looking at the turkey in the freezer. I think I shredded about 4 to 5 cups of turkey and threw in some mirepoix I bought at Publix and a finely chopped Honeycrisp apple. I added some herbes de Provence, salt, pepper, a tablespoon of Splenda, and then used about 1-1.5 cups of plain nonfat Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise. The result was a sweet and tangy salad that was not the least bit greasy. I topped it with some arugula and had my good ol’ staples edamame and frozen mashed sweet potatoes for my sides.

Birthday Bento

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This is the bento made with leftovers from my birthday dinner at my parents’ house. My mom makes these AMAZING beef and rice stuffed cabbage rolls with like 17 cloves of garlic boiled in an enormous pot. It is the dish that converted me back into an omnivore after 2 years of vegetarianism. It was my grandfather’s recipe and my mom has a good arsenal of his recipes. I, however, completely forgot to retrieve the recipe. But I will endeavor to retrieve it and more! The rest of the bento is my typical cast of characters- mini muffins, edamame, out of season fruit, trail mix- and a few new additions of corn, peas, and a frozen yogurt squisher.

*addendum

Emile’s Stuffed Cabbage
Separate leaves from a head of cabbage. Put leaves in boiling water– a few leaves at a time– for about one minute. Drain

Meat mixture:
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/4 cup rice
2 tbsp. melted butter
1/2 tsp salt

Mix together by hand.
Wrap cabbage leaves around small pieces of meat mixture. Add 17 cloves of garlic to the pot. Add hot water, just to the top of the top layer of cabbage rolls. Simmer 1 hour.

Mix 2/3 of a lemon (juice) over 3 more cloves of crushed garlic. Add some crushed mint leaves. Add more water if needed. Simmer 15 minutes longer.

The Learning Experience Bento

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This bento was made with my first turkey! And here is my first turkey and the cleaned out carcass after I handpicked all the meat and put it away:

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I was apprehensive about cooking a turkey because it is definitely a delicate art to make a nice juicy turkey without drying the breast out completely. I procured this turkey for free from my job, so it wasn’t like I personally invested a good chunk of money into a new experience. I consulted my mom and some coworkers and had my boyfriend hold Galliforme vigil while I worked on on a class project well away from the house. But the bird cooked well. By well, I mean really well. As in that breast couldn’t infect anything it was so cooked.

At least it was free.

Since I like dark meat, that was totally fine! I added a smattering of the two meats over frozen asparagus with some homemade trail mix (made of cashews, dates, dried cherries, pistachios, and almonds), carrots, hummus, edamame, cantaloupe, and watermelon (both ridiculously out of season). I was excited about this particular bento, but unfortunately the flavor of asparagus is so potent that it penetrated throughout all of my turkey, giving it a really weird and unsettlingly bitter flavor, rendering me equally bitter. Bitter enough to say that the rest of the asparagus is still sitting in my freezer door 2 months later.

Leftover spaghetti squash bento

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This one I was really proud of! Mostly because it was the most successful attempt at cooking spaghetti squash that I had ever had. I learned that the more yellow the squash is, the riper it is. I bought a relatively sizeable yellow squash and when I went to cut it, I didn’t feel like I needed heavy artillery! My knife just cut right through it! I roasted it open side down in a pan with about an inch of water and aluminum foil over it for about an hour at 375. I then took it out, scraped all the squash bits out, and sautéed them with butter and garlic, adding in chopped red onion, tomato, and basil. After, I tossed in some thawed cooked shrimp and it was phenomenally delicious! There wasn’t much left over but what little was left I put in my bento with more vegetables and Garam Masala butternut squash.

This was the day that someone asked me, “Whatcha got for today?” The lunch envy grew two sizes that day.