Sweet Potato Pancake Bento

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This bento is centered around my favorite recent discovery: sweet potato protein pancakes! These pancakes are fluffy and just so amazingly scrumptious that they don’t need any nut butters, jams, or cottage cheese. I put 130g of baked sweet potato in my blender with 4 egg whites, a scoop of Met-Rx vanilla protein powder, and about 1/2 a teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. Blitz and it makes about 6 pancakes the size of your hand. I want everybody to try them!

Above it is some turkey bacon and to the left is cottage cheese, half a mango, and my homemade almond loaf from chocolatechillimango.com. I would list the recipe, but it requires homemade almond milk and that’s also featured on the same page. That’s just too much for me to edit in, haha! Here’s a picture of my finished loaf and milk all Instagrammed and prettified:

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The bread is tasty but I got a little confused on the actual yield of almond meal in making the milk versus the amount required for the loaf. After a few minor adjustments (one tsp less baking powder I think was all I did), the loaf came out beautifully. I should have immediately cooled it in the fridge but I got really hungry and impatient. It’s on the crumbly and moist side but is highly recommended.

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Going to India Bento

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As much as I would love to announce an impending trip to India, I regretfully disclose that I was only singing the Flaming Lips song while cooking. This bento was a little more labor intensive than I had intended in that when I made the tandoori chicken pictured on the top right, I was not aware that you have to soak wooden skewers before putting them in the oven so they won’t set fire to your kitchen. It seems stupidly obvious and I have many honorary blonde moments as a brunette, so feel free to laugh at me, embrace the schadenfreude, and let us now move on. The tandoori mix was a little marinade packet I picked up from World Market, I believe, and you marinate it with yogurt and chicken. I marinated it all day and after nearly setting my kitchen ablaze, replaced the chicken on some metal skewers I had thankfully already purchased. The yogurt helps the chicken stay moist and it was absolutely delectable. I will definitely use it again.

I cheated and used frozen Baigan Bharta from Trader Joe’s because I needed more supplementary Indian food for this bento. But the white concoction in between the two is some homemade raita! When my mom and I eat Indian food at restaurants, we fight over this stuff. And when I was living with my folks and she would make it, we would also fight over it. Ultimately, she would get the last of it because she made it, but that was not the case today!

To the left are some cucumber slices and freshly cut honey mango. This was a savory, sweet, and spicy bento and I highly recommend that everybody recreate it!

    Raita Recipe

1 Tsp crushed garlic
A wee bit of salt
The juice of .5-1 lemon (I used a whole one but started with half)
1 tbsp mint
Half a cucumber, diced
1 cup NF Greek yogurt (or throw caution to the wind and use the whole fat stuff- it’s also AMAZINGLY delicious)
.5 tsp cumin (this was an afterthought. I used zat’ar because I had it and didn’t know about the cumin until later)
1 tsp Splenda (or the equivalent of your choice of sweetener)

Crush the garlic with the salt and set it aside for a few minutes to allow it to amalgamate. Then stir in the lemon juice. And after that you can kind of just dump all the ingredients in and stir. Around then is where I tasted it and added the rest of the lemon juice for more acidity. Use it with your own tandoori chicken, curries, or burgers!

Nighthawks at the Bento

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Every time I make eggs and sausage for breakfast, I always start singing “Eggs and Sausage (In a Cadillac with Susan Michelson)” off Tom Waits’s Nighthawks at the Diner. Unlike the song, however, there is no side of toast, I was drinking my coffee while I was cooking, and the presence of a roll is replaced by a side of cucumbers and baby carrots. There is also a lack of hash browns over easy as well as chili, burger and fries because, let’s face it, that is WAY too much food to consume in one sitting. I’d end up like the enormous man in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.

My scrambled eggs are a 4:1 ratio of egg whites to a whole egg. I put in some frozen spinach and half an ounce of shredded Mexican cheese as well. This whole mixture is very high in protein, pretty filling, and just shy of 200 calories. I recommend eating it with salsa.

Another guest bento by Megan

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Today’s bento is brought to you again by Megan! In the top left corner is Banana Chocolate Chunk Protein Bread from chocolatechillimango.com, an amazing blog full of recipes for healthy and protein-packed snacks. To digress momentarily, Megan has made a few recipes from the website like Sweet Potato & Rosemary Protein Bread and another type of muffin of which I can’t remember. Both recipes were incredibly delicious and I could hardly tell they were made with protein powder! I look forward to conquering some myself in the near future!

Anyway, beneath the bread are some green beans and to the right are turkey meatloaf muffins and sweet potatoes. Recently, the two of us were bemoaning the fact that our beloved frozen roasted mashed sweet potatoes were dubbed a seasonal item and have since vanished from the frozen section. However, a co-worker of hers disclosed that if we were to bake and peel a bag of sweet potatoes and refrigerate them, they should last about a week. So stay tuned for more sweet potato presence!

Banana Chocolate Chunk Protein Bread from chocolatechillimango.com

Ingredients
165 grams egg whites (or 3 large eggs)
225 grams very ripe banana (edible flesh only, about 3 medium)
75 grams oat flour (gluten-free, if required, or substitute quinoa flour)
15 grams coconut flour
40 grams unflavoured whey protein (I used Professional Whey NZ WPI or rice protein)
30 grams unflavoured micellar casein (I used Professional Whey Micellar Casein or rice protein)
1 teaspoon vanilla powder (I used Professional Whey Organic Vanilla Powder. Substitute vanilla bean paste or seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150 grams 0% thick Greek yoghurt (I used Chobani Plain 0%)
50 grams dark chocolate, chopped into chunks or shavings (I used Willie’s Cacao Venezuela Black Carenero 100%)
sweetener, to taste (optional)*

*I did not add any sweetener as the bananas were very ripe and super sweet enough for me. However, check the batter to make sure it is sweet enough for you. If not, add some of your preferred sweetener, whether it be honey or maple syrup, pureed medjool dates, coconut or rapadura sugar, or stevia or a stevia blend.

Directions
Preheat the oven to 180℃.

Grease a loaf tin lightly with olive oil spray or line the tin with silicone paper, if not using a silicon mold.

Place the egg whites (or whole eggs) into a large mixing bowl. Mash 150 grams of the banana and add to the egg whites. Beat on a low to medium speed until the egg whites are frothy and the banana is well incorporated. The mixture should be whipped and creamy. Reserve the remaining 75 grams of banana.

Sift together the oat flour, coconut flour, whey and casein powders, vanilla powder, and bicarbonate of soda. Add half of the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix well. Add the yoghurt and beat again. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until smooth. If you wish to make this bread sweeter, test the batter and add your preferred sweetener and mix in well.

Slice or chop the reserved banana. Add the banana and chopped or shaved chocolate and fold in to the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin.

Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes until risen, and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove and cool on a wire rack before turning out.

This loaf keeps, wrapped, in foil, in a freezer bag, in the fridge for several days. It is best served slightly warm. It’s fantastic spread with some freshly made peanut butter or topped with ricotta, cottage cheese, or thick yoghurt and extra fruit as a snack, breakfast, or dessert.

Crudité Bento

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It’s a beautiful day so I figured I would eat some more veggies today. I chopped up some celery and cucumbers. Put in some baby carrots. At the recommendation of a coworker, I then made tuna salad in my food processor to make it really creamy. I used a 12oz can with 2 tbsp of mayo and a bit of salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano. I put a few dollops into my collard leaves each with half a kumato tomato.

While this may seem too healthy to some, I will mention that I ate the heck out of some shrimp and grits earlier for a going away lunch for one of my coworkers. My advice to everyone is to not fear indulgence. Because those grits were delectable.

The Ratatouille Bentos

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In this bento, I breached my hiatus with bread because I embarked on making one of the tastiest sandwiches I have ever made: a caprese sandwich. I found Braswell’s Balsamic Sweet Onion Jam and thought it would be perfect on bread with mozzarella, tomato, and basil leaves in between. I was right. And then I proceeded to eat that for lunch and dinner for three days before I ran out of cheese. I highly recommend it to everybody! Megan also informed me that she put the jam on a pork roast and it was fabulous! The versatility of this product must be made known!

Anyway, this bento also marked the first of three bentos made with ratatouille. I had been dying to make ratatouille for years because it’s easy, cheap, and full of vegetables. However, I was not aware at how much my recipe actually yielded. I made a lot. I think I could have comfortably fed about ten people.

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This was a breakfast bento for one of my early morning shifts. The top was a protein shake with almond milk, Met-Rx protein powder, frozen spinach, and frozen kale. The taste wasn’t that weird but my smile after every sip probably wasn’t attractive. To the right are some protein pancakes with cottage cheese and pineapple and to the left is sautéed roasted garlic chicken sausage and more ratatouille.

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This was when I tried the recipe for Megan’s meatloaf and botched it because I used the fatty ground turkey instead of the lean stuff. It was really tasty but very caloric, so a second attempt has yet to be made. There is also the return of my favorite avocado and strawberry salad with balsamic glaze, green beans, and, oh boy! Ratatouille again!

It was around this time that my beloved ratatouille had become lamentable. I added it into my bentos, I ate it for breakfast with soft boiled eggs like they make at the French restaurant across the street from my apartment. By about day five of eating it, I was sooo done with it. I would look at it with bitter resentment and mild disgust, wishing it would turn into something else. We had some good times that ratatouille and I, but by the end of the week, I felt it had outworn its welcome.

Here is the recipe for the ratatouille. It was delicious and I encourage everyone to make it. But make sure you have other people to feed it to because it gets old if it’s just you.

Ratatouille
Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse

Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
1 1/2 cups small diced yellow onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups medium diced eggplant, skin on
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup diced green bell peppers
1 cup diced red bell peppers
1 cup diced zucchini squash
1 cup diced yellow squash
1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Set a large 12-inch saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onions and garlic to the pan. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are wilted and lightly caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the eggplant and thyme to the pan and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is partially cooked, about 5 minutes. Add the green and red peppers, zucchini, and squash and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley, and salt and pepper, to taste, and cook for a final 5 minutes. Stir well to blend and serve either hot or at room temperature.

Back On the Wagon Bento

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I ate nothing but crap this weekend. Just yesterday I ate 3 sugary granola bars, a Think Thin bar, countless samples of cinnamon dusted Toscano on Raisin Rosemary crackers, trail mix with chocolate in it, a Larabar, 2 dark chocolate honey mints, and then decided to end the day with a Lagunitas pale ale, cucumber slices, and like a third of a container of salmon dip. I ate all this because I did NOT pack my bento. This is what happens when I abandon my principles and joy of making my lunch. I gorge myself on carbohydrates and, in turn, battle self-loathing.

Since I fell off the wagon and rolled off into a ditch yesterday, I decided to make up for it by cooking tasty healthy food last night to use for my bento today! On the top right is my spaghetti squash bake. I layered cooked and already sautéed spaghetti squash, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese together twice and then baked it at 350 for 25 minutes. Beneath that is cauliflower mash, a dish that I absolutely love! I purchased a huge, gorgeous head of cauliflower from the Dekalb Farmer’s Market on Thursday and boiled about half of it in chicken broth for about 15 minutes. I then strained it and put it in the food processor with 2.5 tablespoons of garlic and herb butter from Trader Joe’s and 15g of grated Parmesan cheese. I blitzed it until it was mush and then put it in the fridge to eat for today!

To the left is another new addiction of mine– collard wraps. I am always looking for alternatives to breads and such for sandwich-like entrées because,while I am an energetic creature by nature, I do not need excessive carbs in my diet. It is always an extra bonus to find new ways of incorporating vegetables as well. I use a collard leaf just like a tortilla and today I used avocado, sliced turkey, and a wee bit of balsamic glaze inside. I usually make two and those can be pretty filling on their own. I actually have a few more wrap-oriented bentos to post because I am a giant slacker.

In the middle of this bento is the purple sludge I drank/chewed for breakfast. Lately, I’ve been making green tea smoothies for breakfast because I can get in some fruits and vegetables early in the morning without having to cook everything. I have an “anything goes” approach to breakfast because I am not very hungry in the morning, so if anything seems appetizing, I’ll toss it down my gullet. I make a cup of green tea and then put frozen blueberries, frozen peaches, frozen kale, and frozen spinach into the blender. When I pour the hot tea over the frozen produce, it creates this beautiful array of colors and it’s like twilight in a blender. However, after I toss in chia seeds and blend it until I can’t hear the crunching anymore, it turns into this weird purple mess that tastes amazing. Lately I have found some of the best tasting things can be purple, brown, or gray.

This was longer than my usual posts so I’ll stop for now! I have to save some breath for all the other entries I have to catch up on!

Rachel’s Guest Post

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I received this photo from my friend Rachel and was so proud of her for using her bento box that I said I would use it as a guest post! Incidentally, we bought our bento boxes together a little under a year ago or so, thus I am pleased to see hers getting more use.

Her bento consists of chickpeas (with nothin’–just plain ol’ chickpeas), a cut up Boca burger, fresh romaine, and tomato. Not pictured are pears and peaches. And this bento is only 6 WW points!

Congratulations, Rachel, on making the cut for leemakeslunch! Not that I was scrambling through entries:) And keep up the healthy eating habits!

Exploding Pudding Bento

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In this bento I made a salad with power greens, alfalfa sprouts, a chicken patty, and balsamic glaze. The white concoction in the red cupcake container was my failed attempt at chia seed pudding. I put in too much liquid and not enough seeds to soak it up. This was the most presentational this bento ever got because when I opened it, chia seed pudding when EVERYWHERE on my steering wheel. Epic fail.

The bottom half consists of eggplant caponata on the left and the new superfood pilaf from Trader Joe’s. It has quinoa, kale, carrots, and sweet potatoes. While I love all these things, the sweet potato chunks were a little big and did not match with the size of everything else. It was kind of weird but none the less tasty.