BENTO – CURRY/NOODLES/PASTA/FISH
ROYAL CHICKEN COOKED IN YOGURT
Left: royal chicken cooked in yogurt; carrot, tofu, and tuna salad; fresh blueberries for dessert
Right: brown rice with steamed edamame
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1-1/2 lbs chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup vegetable oil
8 cardamom pods
6 whole cloves
2-inch stick of cinnamon
3 bay leaves
2-1/2 tbsp blanched, slivered almonds
2-1/2 tbsp golden raisins
- Put the yogurt into a bowl. Beat it lightly until it is smooth and creamy. And 1/2 tsp of the salt, some black pepper, and the ground cumin, ground coriander, cayenne, and cilantro. Mix and set aside..
- Using the remaining 1/2 tsp salt, season the chicken pieces on both sides and sprinkle on some freshly ground black pepper.
- Put the oil in a large skillet or pot and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaves. Stir once and put in the chicken pieces. Brown on all sides and remove to a large bowl. Put the almonds and raisins into the same hot oil and stir quickly. When the almonds turn golden and the raisins plump up, put the chicken and its accumulated juices back into the pan.
- Add the seasoned yogurt. Stir to mix andbring to a simmer. Cover, turn the heat to low, and simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice during this time. Remove the cover, turn the heat up, and reduce the sauce until it is thick and just clings tothe chicken pieces. Turn the chicken pieces over gently as you do this..
Note: The large, whole spices–cardamom pods,whole cloves, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves–are not meant to be eaten. Serves 4.
VIETNAMESE CHICKEN CURRY
Top: rice wrapped in nori, steamed broccoli, grape tomatoes
Bottom: chicken curry with potatoes and carrots
4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 tbsp. sugar
2-1/2 tbsp. curry powder (Vietnamese “madras curry powder” if you can find it)
3 tbsp. tomato paste
1 lb. chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces (you can use a whole chicken too)
4 tbsp. oil
6 garlic cloves, sliced
2 stalks lemongrass, cut into 2-inch lengths, halved lengthwise, and smashed
2 cups water
2 cups milk, plus more to taste (I use 1%)
2 cups + 1 can of coconut milk (I use light)
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into large dice
1 medium russet potato, peeled and cut into large dice
1 medium white sweet potato, peeled and cut into large dice
2-3 carrots, cut into large bite-size chunks
- In a large bowl, thoroughly mix the salt, red pepper, sugar, curry powder, and tomato paste. Coat the chicken and marinate for 10 minutes.
- Heat oil in a deep pot and stir-fry the garlic and lemongrass until fragrant. Add chicken and stir-fry about 5 minutes more.
- Pour water, 2 cups of milk, and 2 cups of coconut milk into the pot. Stir in the potatoes and carrots and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
- Once vegetables are tender, taste the curry to see if you like the spiciness level. I added an additional can of coconut milk and some more milk (about 2 cans) to adjust for the spiciness and soupiness level that I prefer.
* I served the curry for dinner the first night over noodles, so I made it relatively soupy. It is also great to dip french bread into. If you like your curry thicker, you can either add a thickening agent, like cornstarch, or don’t add the additional milk — just remember to lessen the spices if you’re not accustomed to spicy foods.
* Use gluten-free ingredients
SOBA NOODLES WITH VEGGIES AND TOFU
Big bowl: soba noodles tossed with seared tofu and fresh veggies, little bottle of sauce/dressing on the side
Upper layer: strawberries, blackberries, marshmallow candy, mushroom-shaped chocolate biscuits
2 bundles of soba noodles
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
big handful of shredded carrots
3 small radishes, julienned
1/3 cup scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup English cucumber, thinly sliced (I like to quarter the rounds first)
1 8-oz. package of extra-firm cubed tofu (or you cut your own 1/2″ cubes from a big block), rinsed and drained
2 tbsp. of a stir-fry sauce (I used Soy Vay’s Very Teriyaki Sauce)
3 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. low-sodium tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
3/4 tbsp. peanut oil
3/4 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper, or more to taste
toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
- Cook soba noodles according to package directions (mine took about 5 minutes after I added the noodles to boiling water) — do not overcook! Drain, rinse under cold running water, then drain again and set aside..
- Combine the rice vinegar, tamari, peanut oil, toasted sesame oil, sugar, and crushed red pepper in a small bowl. Don’t fret if the sauce is not that salty — the soba noodles themselves are a bit salty.
- Heat a wok or frying pan over medium-high heat. Coat with cooking spray then add the tofu cubes and toss to lightly coat in oil. Add the stir-fry sauce and continue tossing until the pan is almost dry and the tofu is browned to your taste..
- In a large bowl, gently fold the veggies into the drained noodles. Add the sauce (in increments — you may not need it all) and toss gently. You can add the tofu into the mix at this point or just top the noodles with it. Garnish with the sesame seeds (I put mine through a coarse grinder first) and enjoy!
*This recipe is gluten-free.
SOMEN NOODLE STIR-FRY
Left: steamed edamame with kosher salt, grape tomatoes, gyoza–some with shrimp filling and some with pork
Right: somen noodle stir-fry with veggies and tofu
Not pictured: spam musubi snack, azuki bean cake (monkey-shaped), soy sauce
8 oz. somen noodles (or 2 bundles if pre-separated in package)
2 aburage blocks, thinly sliced
2 cups veggies, thinly sliced (I used orange bell pepper, carrot, and Chinese broccoli)
Chicken tenderloin, sliced into strips, then sliced again into “sticks” – optional
1 tbsp. canola oil
3 tsp. sake
2 tsp. soy sauce
salt to taste
sichimi togarashi to taste
- Bring water to a boil in a small pot. Add somen noodles and cook according to package directions until almost done. Be careful not to overcook! Drain, rinse in cool water to stop the cooking process, set aside.
- Heat oil in frying pan (large enough to accomodate all the veggies and the noodles) over medium heat. Add the veggies and tofu (and chicken if using) and a generous pinch of salt. Cook until veggies are done, but still crisp (and chicken is done, if using).
- Add the somen noodles to the frying pan. Add the sake, soy sauce, and salt to taste. Toss the noodles with the veggies until well-mixed and noodles are heated through.
Place noodles in bento boxes (or plates). Sprinkle sichimi togarashi on top.
CHICKEN PASTA WITH WALNUT PESTO
Top (non-GF): reduced-fat Cheese Nips, light Babybel cheese, ginger chews, dark chocolate Le Petit Ecolier cookies, mini chocolate wafer cookies
Bottom: chicken pasta with walnut pesto, steamed broccoli
6 oz. bow-tie pasta (about 2 cups uncooked) — Tinkyada and Bi-Aglut are great GF pastas
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
10 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup parsley, leafless stem sections removed
1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped and toasted
1 clove garlic
1-1/2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1 clove garlic
- Cook pasta according to directions, but omit any salt and fat that the box says to add.
- Lightly season the chicken with salt and pepper, then saute quickly in a non-stick frying pan (or in a bit of EVOO in a normal pan).
- Combine the basil, parsley, walnuts, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, parmesan cheese, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until well-combined, scraping down the sides to ensure a smooth paste.
When pasta is done, drain and place it in a large bowl. Add the tomatoes, chicken, and olives and toss to combine. Add the walnut pesto and mix well.
JAZZED-UP JARRED MEAT SAUCE
Top: avocado tossed with lime and lightly salted; mandarin oranges
Bottom: spaghetti* garnished with red bell pepper confetti and spinach sakura flowers
Side: meat sauce for the spaghetti
(Everything is Totoro today, down to the utensils set, which includes chopsticks, a knife, and a spoon.)
* Tinkyada brown rice spaghetti tastes just like regular wheat-based pasta.
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced
2 bell peppers, diced (I used yellow)
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
salt, to taste
1 jar of store-bought pasta sauce (I used Amy’s Garlic Mushroom)
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onions and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the bell pepper and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- Push the vegetables to the sides of the pot and add the ground beef to the center. Cook the beef, using a spatula or wooden spoon to break up any large chunks.
- Once the beef has evenly browned, add the jar of pasta sauce and stir well. Add the crushed red pepper and salt to taste. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes — or whatever time is needed for you to boil up some pasta!
* Use gluten-free products
SHRIMP & ROASTED ZUCCHINI PASTA WITH BASIL VINAIGRETTE
Big Fish: roasted zucchini & shrimp pasta with basil vinaigrette
Little Fish: strawberries, honeydew melon, blueberries
GF product used: Tinkyada vegetable rice spirals
5 tbsp lemon juice (about 1-1/2 lemons)
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil
1 oz. fresh basil leaves, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1-1/2 pounds uncooked medium shrimp, peeled, deveined
1 pound gnocchi pasta or orecchiette pasta
4 zucchini, halved lengthwise
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Preheat broiler. Combine 4 tbsp lemon juice and Dijon mustard in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in 1/3 cup of olive oil. Then mix in chopped fresh basil. Set aside.
- Place shrimp in medium bowl and drizzle with remaining 1 tbsp lemon juice and 2 tbsp olive oil. Toss to coat, and season with salt and pepper.
- Cook pasta according to directions (omitting salt and fat) until al dente.
- Meanwhile, brush both sides of the zucchini halves with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil them until charred, about 2 to 4 minutes per side. (You can also grill the zucchini, about 2 minutes per side.) Remove from heat and let cool.
- Cook the shrimp on the stove or in a grill-pan over medium-high heat until just cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Cut the zucchini crosswise into 1-inch pieces and add to shrimp. Add cooked and drained pasta to the shrimp and zucchini. Drizzle in the basil vinaigrette and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with Parmesan cheese.
*Use gluten-free products.
MANGO-SHRIMP SUMMER ROLLS
Right: mango-shrimp summer rolls
Left: steamed edamame with kosher salt, dipping sauce for summer rolls, grape tomatoes, more mango!
Hubs bento: (see inset) same as mine, but with a daifuku, light Babybel cheese round, and ginger chews
– Summer rolls –
6 large shrimp, peeled
1/3 package of rice vermicelli (usually each 1lb package is divided in 3 and tied by twine)
3 tbsp sushi vinegar (rice vinegar also will work)
4-1/2″ chunk of seedless cucumber, peeled, cored, and sliced lengthwise about 1/8″ thick
one ‘cheek’ of a large, ripe mango, peeled and sliced lengthwise about 1/8″ thick
handful of fresh chives
handful of mint leaves
handful of cilantro leaves
4 sheets of rice paper (not too delicate if possible, at least 8″ wide), more just in case some tear
– Dipping sauce –
1-1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1-1/2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp brown sugar
crushed thai bird chili or 1/2 tsp ground chili paste or chili oil (optional)
- Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Add shrimp and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until cooked. Using a slotted spoon, remove shrimp and run under cold water, then drain. Slice shrimp in half lengthwise (and devein if necessary).
- Bring shrimp water back to a boil and add the rice vermicelli. Cook about 3 minutes, or until just tender. Drain in a colander, rinse under cold water, then drain again well. When noodles are fairly dry, add the sushi vinegar and toss to coat. Leave the noodles in the colander so that any excess liquid can drain.
- To make the rolls, wet a round of rice paper in hot water and place on work surface. Arrange a handful of rice noodles in a row along the bottom third of the rice paper. Arrange chives, and strips of mango and cucumber in the space above the noodles and sprinkle some cilantro leaves on top. Fold the bottom of the rice paper over the filling and roll towards the top, stopping after one revolution. Fold the sides of the rice paper in, then arrange some mint leaves in the crease and continue rolling a little further. Stop when there is about 2 inches of rice paper remaining. Place 3 shrimp halves along the crease and finish rolling. Repeat with the other 3 rolls.
- To make the sauce, stir together all ingredients in a small bowl until well-mixed.
- You can also make these 4-6 hrs ahead of time — just place on a platter, cover with damp paper towels and then saran wrap the platter. If you are placing it in a bento, the rolls should be ok for 4-5 hours provided your bento box has a good seal. If you want to be sure, just wrap the rolls in some saran wrap before packing.
* Use gluten-free ingredients
SHRIMP BURGERS WITH CHILI MAYONNAISE
Top: mini shrimp burgers with chili mayo, baby greens, tomato and red onion
Bottom: Trader Ming’s kung pao chicken
Dessert: (not pictured) minneola, strawberries with brown sugar
– Burgers –
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/8 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 medium red onion, minced
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
pinch of cayenne pepper
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
Canola or safflower oil for frying
– Accompaniments –
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/8 cup chili sauce (I use Sriracha)
hamburger buns and/or mini pita breads
tomato slices (or cherry/grape tomato slices)
mixed baby greens
- Put the shrimp, mayonnaise, onion, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl and mix well. Shape into patties and place on a baking sheet. (I find that 1 lb. of shrimp is enough to make 2 regular-sized patties for dinner plus 3 baby patties for bento. You can also double the recipe and make 6 regular-sized patties.) Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours or overnight. (These also freeze well at this point.)
- Put the bread crumbs on a plate and carefully dredge the patties. They will fall apart easily — be gentle!
- Pour oil in a skillet to a depth of about 1/2 inch and heat over medium heat until hot, but not smoking (use a small frying pan and much less oil if you’re doing the bento-sized patties). Fry the patties until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes per side for regular patties and 3 minutes for bento patties. Check and adjust the heat to make sure they don’t burn. Drain on paper towels.
- Combine the chili and mayonnaise in a small bowl and mix well. Spread the underside of each hamburger bun (or the insides of the pita breads) with the chili mayo, place a burger on the bun, then top with tomato slices, onion rings, and lettuce. Ta da!
This recipe is adapted from The Beach House Cookbook by Barbara Scott-Goodman.
TRIPLE-MEAT PASTA SAUCE*
Bottom left: homemade triple-meat pasta sauce
Top left: whole-wheat pasta with parmesan cheese
Top right: grilled zucchini and orange bell pepper, steamed broccoli
Bottom right: fresh asparagus soup
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. Italian sausage (mild or spicy)
1/4 lb. pepperoni slices (if large slices, then half or quarter them)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 onions, diced
3 carrots, diced (small)
3 stalks celery, diced (small)
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. mushrooms, halved or quartered (depending on size)
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
1 28-oz. can of diced tomatoes
2 6-oz. cans tomato paste
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp. dried thyme
1-1/2 tbsp. dried oregano
1/2 tbsp. dried basil
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 cup beef broth (optional, use to thin sauce if needed)
- In a large pot, saute the beef, sausage, and pepperoni for 1 minute. Add the green bell pepper, red bell pepper, onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook until the meat is no longer pink. Pour into a large sieve to drain grease.
- In the same pot, addthe mushrooms, tomato sauce, tomatoes, tomato paste, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, basil, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and sugar. Stir well, then add the meat mixture back to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1-1/2 hours to let the flavors meld. Add beef broth to thin the sauce if needed.
*This recipe is gluten-free.