So to say that my lunch and food-related whims are fickle is like saying that March weather in the northeast is mildly weird. I am notorious for loving my dinner and absolutely refusing to eat the leftovers for lunch the next day – something which usually pleases my husband because there is more for him. I cannot explain this other than to admit that when it comes to food I have two settings – quickly bored and completely obsessed. There is no real way to predict which I will be, it seems unrelated to food quality or content, and even favorite foods (I’m looking at you Broccoli Salad!) sometimes end up in the “I’m bored of eating this” category.

I am confessing all of this food-weirdness to you to set up yet another one of my food experiments. I recently came across this book – and was immediately intrigued by the idea of home-made bento boxes. Lots of different food items in small portions? Adorably packaged meals? An excuse to keep ginger in the house? Sign me up right now! Plus, the author, Makiko Itoh, includes many tips about preparing food ahead and freezing it – which goes hand in hand with my recent attempts to be less wasteful with food.

So far we have tried two of the meals – one with miso-tofu nuggets, and one with sweet and sour meatballs – and have been very pleased with the results. My husband may have even said “I want this for lunch every day!”

Some quick tips for anyone also intrigued by this book:

  • Get it! It is very well written and has lots of procedural tips for those of us who are not well versed in Japanese cooking techniques.
  • I am finding that it is taking me a lot of time to do. Some of this is because I am not yet up to the multi-tasking needed to get finished quickly, and some of this is because I don’t have a rice-cooker yet. However, we are getting about 4 lunches each time, so if you think of it as 2 days worth of cooking, it feels better.
  • When you pull a bento box out at work, be prepared for some jealous ribbing. I have been compared to Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club, and had incredulous looks shot my way when I admitted that I had not picked up take-out from anywhere.

In the end, while I may not try to create bento boxes every day, the really cool things about this experiment, so far, are that it has made me very aware of how much food is a lot of food – it is pretty amazing how little food is needed to make one feel full – and it makes us both feel a bit spoiled at lunchtime. Even though I’m making the food myself, it is a bit like opening a lunch that my mother packed for me – I know there is love in the food, instead of just lunchmeat. Which is either a really poignant observation, or the girliest thing I’ve ever said…

Might be a little obsessed with beaded lace right now.

Specs: Unique Sheep Chasca in Justin Gradiance; Unknown succulent house plant; Size 3 needles; Silver-lined Cobalt beads.

  About two years ago, K of Local Kitchen and I had a discussion about her extremely wonderful Sausage, Herb & Mozzarella bread. This was right around the time that my already convoluted career path took an abrupt turn towards me spending much more time at home doing schoolwork, so I had the time regularly to make more involved meals. During that discussion, at some point, I ventured that I thought that it might be equally as tasty stuffed with curry chicken, and with a more garlic naan sort of taste in the bread itself. In order to preserve this idea, K asked if I would please comment on her blog to that effect, so we would remember to try it later. And then we both promptly forgot didn’t do anything about this idea until now (I think anyway, she might have sneakily tried it first, but she didn’t tell me if she did!). And while it didn’t turn out quite the way I had envisioned, it was good enough that my husband is already planning to eat it for his next few lunches.

  The recipe which follows is really just another set of options for K’s recipe – I will detail how I changed things, but really, K writes recipes so well that I didn’t feel I could do the rest of it justice. Just take my stuff and add it to her recipe!


Curry Chicken and Goat Cheese Bread

  • Herb mixture ingredients:
    • 1 tsp oregano
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tbl dried basil
    • 2 tsp ground coriander
    • 1 and 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • Curry chicken stuffing:
    • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 3 shallots, chopped
    • 1/2 c sun dried tomatoes, chopped
    • 4 tbl Korma curry paste (found in the asian food section of the grocery)
    • 1/2 tsp cayenne
    • 3/4 c carrots, chopped
    • 1 lb. chicken tenders or breasts, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
    • 6 oz. plain soft goat cheese (I used Chavrie)
  • Methods:
    • 1. Substitute the herb mixture ingredients for the dried herbs in the first step of K’s recipe
    • 2. Sauté the chicken cubes in a large skillet with olive oil until mostly cooked through.
    • 3. Add garlic, shallots, tomatoes, curry paste, cayenne and carrots to the chicken, and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until the garlic and shallots are soft, and the carrots are just beginning to soften slightly, and the chicken cubes are cooked through. Let cool to room temperature and substitute in step 14 of K’s recipe
    • 4. Substitute dollops of goat cheese for mozzarella cubes across the filling in step 14
    • 5. Finish up the rest of the recipe, cut slices, eat and enjoy!
  • Notes:
    • I found that it didn’t end up tasting quite as much like garlic naan and curry chicken as I had expected, but it was really fantastic anyway. Using green curry or yellow curry paste might change that, actually, but korma was all we could find at our local store.
    • Resist the urge to cut out the cheese or the carrots – even though they were sort of last minute additions that I thought would end up really strange, they both added great flavor and texture. Even my husband, who hates goat cheese, loved the goat cheese in this recipe.
    • This version was not very spicy – adding more cayenne or other chili pepper product will give it more of a kick if you should so desire.

One of my husband’s and my unofficial resolutions (we’re not much for official New Year’s resolutions here), was to try to be better about food. We often eat out, which is expensive, and we throw out a good deal of food as well, which is also expensive. And given that one of our good friends is essentially the queen of not letting things go to waste, it makes me pretty ashamed that we don’t do such a hot job at our house. So our resolution was to spend less time and money buying everything we need for a set of recipes every week, but instead use what we have and see where the food took us, as we attempted to use up food we already had bought.

This improv style dinner menu has so far gone very well, although we really are only about two meals into it, due to weekends away and such. The first meal used up the heels of a loaf of italian bread, a package of chicken tenders, a jar of mustard, the last half of a package of plum tomatoes, the last half of a package of carrots, and about 2/3s of a jar of pasta sauce. We made this, with a side of roasted root veggies. According to my husband it was, and I quote, “mmmmmm, this is fantastic!” Now before you start thinking, hmm, that recipe has a can of crushed tomatoes and not fresh plum tomatoes and tomato sauce – it’s true, we took some liberties, but it was still really fantastic!

Up for tonight’s menu was some bratwurst which we had picked up on a whim. Tonight’s final tally was somewhat less impressive than the chicken parmesan, but I did finish a package of spelt pasta, use about half of the brats (the rest are frozen), and some of our vast supply of garlic.

Without further ado, I give you Brat Pasta (I think I need to work on my recipe names, maybe Brats from a Hat? hmm.):


Brat Pasta

  • Ingredients:
    • 2 bratwursts, sliced
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 tbl extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 1/4 cup marsala wine
    • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
    • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
    • 1/2 package spelt pasta (can be found in the organic section at the grocery)
    • 1 tsp salt
    • Shredded parmesan, asiago and/or romano cheeses for garnish

  • Methods (since everything is an experiment at our house):
    • 1. Put sliced brats, garlic, pepper and olive oil into a large skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until brat slices are browned, stirring regularly.
    • 2. Add balsalmic, marsala, and dried herbs, turn the heat down to medium or medium low (depending on how powerful your stove is), and continue to cook, stirring regularly, until the brat slices are cooked through.
    • 3. Reduce heat to low, and keep the sauce warm
    • 4. Cook pasta according to the package instructions, adding the salt to the water before putting in the pasta
    • 5. When the pasta is cooked, drain and add directly to the skillet with the brat mixture. Toss, serve, garnish and enjoy!

  • Notes
    • Makes enough for 2 for dinner, plus enough for one to have a side with lunch the next day
    • Would probably be just as yummy with some broccoli or something else plant-related added in, we just didn’t have much greenery in the fridge
    • I have made a similar recipe with chicken, it just ends up less savory

I met some young boys on the train awhile back, and I have to share the exchange, because honestly, it still makes me giggle.
I have to admit, I was not excited to see them when they arrived – there were twin (approximately 6 yo) boys and their grandparents, and there were only 2 more places to sit, in the outer two seats of the 3-seater I had scored for the ride. I’m not quite sure why no one else had sat with me, but I WAS crocheting, so clearly I looked intimidating.

For the first half of the trip they mostly kept to themselves, discussing the adventure they had had during the day. I noticed, however, that more and more often, I would see one or the other of the boys sneaking looks at what I was doing.

“Grandpa, what is she doing?” “She’s knitting.”

While normally I would have made this a teaching moment, and told them about the differences between crocheting and knitting, I let this one go, figuring it wasn’t worth it.

“What’s she making?”

At this point I stepped in – “I’m making a blanket!”

“A nice warm blanket to keep you warm and happy in the winter?” No lie, this is how these two talked – enthusiasm++.

I explained that yes, I wanted a warm blanket, and they discussed my color choices (they liked them) and their feelings on warm blankets (they were both pro-blanket, too).

And then, it happened – one of the boys turned to his grandmother and said “Can you teach us to knit when we get home?” I tried to hold in my triumphant laugh, feeling that I had perhaps planted a seed for these boys to become fiber-addicted artists themselves (or at least make them snobby about knit-goods). Their grandmother seemed a bit non-plussed and admitted that she might be able to show them a little bit about knitting, but “weren’t you going to go dirt-biking when we get home?”

Curses, foiled by dirt-biking!

“Maybe we can learn AFTER dirt-biking!”

Huzzah, hope is not lost!

The train-ride ended soon thereafter, with us going our separate ways – though they both yelled goodbye to me as I walked away, waving as hard as they could. I’d like to think they didn’t forget about their blanket plans – but it was, frankly, the best knitting conversation I’ve had!

1 – Crocheting a baby blanket. This was my first attempt at reading crochet charts, and my first finished crochet project! (Ignore the granny blanket’s whines of neglect, babies are trumps to all other projects)
Cabled Baby BlanketView 2 of the cabled baby blanket
This is Sólás Caomh crocheted in Naturally Caron Country, in Charcoal and Green Sheen.

2 – Finding these sweet buttons at a local art show. I have plans for these beauties, to be told once I actually start the project. I’m a little concerned that I don’t have enough of them, but I literally bought all of this type that the artist had!
Not my gumdrop buttons!!

3 – Having my mother be a bad influence on my knitting. Remember this lovely lace knit-along shawl?
yay, beads and lace!
Well it still isn’t finished, but now it has a friend!

I was going to forgo the second shawl, but I accidentally got my mom addicted to lace shawl knit-a-longs and then couldn’t resist when she signed up! I totally had willpower to avoid knitting 2 shawls at once. Totally. Maybe.

4 – Knitting for Christmas – including these little beauties:

The hair was the most fun, and is only slightly realistic.

Which I adapted from the “Human Bean” pattern in this book. Yes, they are based on real people (Kaela of Local Kitchen, and her hubby), and they were incredibly fun and fast to make. And I cackled about making them for months before hand, because they were such a goofy idea.

I knitted some other stuff which I neglected to take pictures of, and one surprise present which hasn’t been delivered yet, so it might be more of a mid-winter gift instead.

5 – Generally doing lots of random Christmas things, like trimming the tree, and baking my husband a gingerbread TARDIS.

It's bigger on the inside.

6 – Considering whether I should take up spinning and quilting. Because a girl cannot have enough hobbies.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I have a bad habit of disappearing in the summertime. But dudes, it is totally worth it, because I have lots of amazing adventures to relate.
I’m saving the best stuff for full length posts, but here are a few mini-posts to slake your thirst:

1 – I have been crocheting like a madwoman!

I actually have hopes that this may someday be finished. Which would be amazing, because I have a very poor track record for finishing large objects like blankets and sweaters. I’m feeling a bit like this might be a bit of a “granny blanket”, but I am telling myself that the amazing color palette makes it the hippest granny blanket ever. (My Nonnie is laughing at me right now somewhere in the ether.)

2 – We went back to the Caymans this summer. And forgot the camera.
Here is the only picture we took, using a cell phone:

The dock from our room.


But its still ridiculously gorgeous there, and we spent the whole time snorkeling, and discovering new things the island had to offer. Including this amazing rum, called Seven Fathoms, which they age in casks on the bottom of the ocean. I would say that this is probably the best sipping rum I have experienced.

3 – We moved to a new big grown-up house! I am not posting pictures yet, though, because it still looks a bit like a tornado blew through. Apparently if you love books, and move from a house with built-ins to one without, you are going to have book storage issues. Who knew?
The best part about the move though, is that I have a room for my creative endeavors, so all my yarn and my easel and such don’t feel so neglected anymore!

More to come, including the cutest train conversation I have ever had, the best way to travel with a birthday cake, and how my mother is a bad influence on my knitting.