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I’ve built up a bit of a bento backlog in recent weeks, so I figured it’s high time that I unloaded it.

Valentine-y Bento (eaten 2/12/10):

Taller tier: Kiwi, carrot sticks, hard-boiled egg, strawberry gummies. Shorter tier: Mini onigiri (1 furikake, 1 w/ rou soong filling), pepperoni, edamame & corn, green olive, soy sauce in piggie. Sidecar is actually just yogurt and nuts that I ate with a banana for breakfast because I had a long day out of the house that day.

Homemade Dumpling Bento (eaten 2/19/10):

Taller tier: Boiled shanghai bok choy and pan-fried homemade pork & leek potstickers (I had a dumpling night with my housemates for Chinese New Year, for which I made a ton of fresh dumplings – these are some of the leftovers, which I froze). Shorter tier: Umbrella “cookies” (I thought they would be sweet when I bought them but actually they are mostly salty, like crackers with black sesame bits), lotus seed candy (also left over from CNY), pepperoni, rou soong stuffed onigiri, olives, dipping sauce in a small container. Sidecar: Sliced kiwifruit.

Yogurt chicken “nuggets” bento (eaten 3/5/10):

Taller tier: Spinach & pine nut salad (underneath everything else), baked “chicken nuggets” made using chicken breast and a variation on Pioneer Woman’s yogurt chicken recipe, strawberries. Shorter tier: mini onigiri (one w/ rou soong, the other with furikake), more strawberries, baby carrots, balsamic salad dressing in the small container.

Shrimp Salad Bento (eaten yesterday):

Main compartment: Real Simple’s shrimp, cucumber & white bean salad (with parsley instead of dill), lemon for squeezing.  Smaller compartments: Furikake mini onigiri, dried kiwifruit (best stuff ever!), sliced strawberries, olive oil for the salad. Notes: Something in this bento made me a little sick.  My stomach is still not great (I might skip lunch). I noticed while eating one of my onigiri that the middle of it had a weird freezerburnt texture, so I wonder if that was the culprit.   Don’t think it was my shrimp, cucumber or cannellini beans (I had a little of it the night before an, d it was fine and the salad sat in the fridge overnight), or my strawberries (ditto, though they are getting old-ish).  Definitely not the dried kiwi.  Maybe the lemon?  They are getting kind of old.

* * *

Finally, an experiment: I tried to make chicken char siu a couple of weeks ago and it just did not come out the way I’d have liked it.  I think I had several issues going on: first of all, chicken just tastes like chicken, and it was very weird to have a chickeny taste going on for something supposed to be char siu like (I hadn’t realized how much I’d associated char siu with the taste of pork before, or that chicken can really have a strong taste!); secondly, the marinade wasn’t quite right — not sweet or thick enough, and the chicken didn’t get crispy enough on the outside.  I have looked at some other recipes since and think next time I would need to put hoisin and five spice in the marinade, brush on the honey thicker (or even add brown sugar on top), and broil it for much longer.  An open gas flame would also have helped, but I have an electric stove, so that’s not an option. As for the chicken-y taste, I guess that can’t be helped!  Next time if I really have a char siu craving I should make the real thing.

After I made the “char siu” I ate it in a big bowl of noodles with egg, boy choy, and scallions:

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Blue Yo-Yo Brooch

Do you remember this post from a few weeks ago?  Well, that little mess eventually turned into this:

It’s a brooch, made of yo-yo’s I sewed from an old sheet that had ripped in the middle.  I embellished them with pearlescent beads and swarovski beads, sewed them to a felt backing, and added pins.  So far I’ve only worn it once, in a manner inspired by a shirt I saw at Ann Taylor Loft:

I was so excited about jazzing up my old and slightly careworn blue oxford shirt (I’ve literally been wearing it since high school).  I can’t wait to mix up the brooch with other outfits.  I think it’d look really cool on a tee of some sort, or perhaps on a sweater or cardigan.

Who’s this?

Someone poised for a long postal journey to California . . .

Bearing a little heart and a message.  He even has a matching card!

(He’s an owl, by the way; even though I know he looks kind of like a penguin with ears.  I misjudged the shape of the face this time heh).  I was originally going to send my new little friend off with a packet of cookies, but snow prevented me from getting to the grocery store on time that week, so my messenger went solo (well, except for his card).  He’s made from a singleton, felted wool sock, acrylic craft felt, and stuffed with fabric scraps (including much of the rest of the sock) and rice in the butt to keep him sitting upright.  I say “him” but I guess it could really be a “her,” too.  I left the gender up to D to decide upon receipt.  I’m pleased with my handiwork, though I could definitely have done a better job with making him look more like an owl. Thankfully the card looked a little more recognizably like an owl than the original; D did say he was a bit confused at first, but the reference drawing and verbal hints inside helped! [Update: D has informed me that the owl is a boy, and that his name is “Glimfeather,” after the owl who helped Eustace and Jill in The Silver Chair].

And look what I received in return! (Well, actually, his gift arrived first)


Orchids, D told me, not just for Valentine’s Day, but also for Chinese New Year’s day, which coincided with Valentine’s this year.  I loved that he thought to send me something a little different than the standard roses.  The orchids were beautiful and delicate and are only just now (a week later) beginning to droop.  Speaking of Chinese New Year, since I always like to do a little something for my girl friends on Valentine’s Day, this year I made my roommates hybrid valentine-hong bao cards that consisted of little yellow cards with tigers on them inside little handmade red paper envelopes, and served them up with a big New Year’s dinner of dumplings and fried noodles.  I eventually wrote their names on the origami hearts, but that wasn’t until after I’d already taken the picture:

Last but not least, a little Wonderland whimsy; one of my classmates’ birthdays is on the 14th of February, so someone hosted a Wonderland-themed tea party for her.  I went dressed as the white rabbit (unfortunately I haven’t got a picture of my costume but I was pretty proud of it, since — with the exception of paper ears, white gloves, and a felt heart pin — I put it together almost entirely from things that were already in my closet), and brought the birthday girl (whom they dressed up as Alice) a little corsage of white paper roses painted red:

Unfortunately, the stem portion proved to be a little too scratchy and the curling ribbon would not hold the heavy corsage fast to her wrist.  If I were to attempt this craft again, I think I’d use fabric (jersey from old t-shirts for the roses, perhaps, felt for the leaves, and satin ribbon for the tie) instead of stiff paper and tape!

My three most recent culinary re-contextualizations. That is to say, old foods in new contexts (or in the case of fennel, new foods in an old context).

First up, Sardines.
A sardine salad bento, that is:

This has to have been the best salad I have had in a very long time. Hands down.  Romaine lettuce with pine nuts, scallions, and a fat chopped sardine that had been packed in olive oil.  On the side: a hard boiled egg, a strawberry gummy, citrus-mustard dressing, and kiwi.  The combo of grapefruit juice-dijon mustard-balsamic-olive oil in the dressing with the salty fish and the crunchy greens, creamy nuts, and sharp scallions was phenomenal.  Unfortunately, I dropped my fork on the floor in the middle of eating this lunch, and could not get up to wash it, as I was in class at the time!  Not to be deterred, I managed to finish the salad using fingers and spoon.  A little messy/awkward, but effective.

* * *

Second, Fennel.
Shrimp and Corn Chowder with Fennel from the February issue of Real Simple.

I’m not a giant fan of clam chowder; I like a bowl of the New England kind every once in a while, but can’t eat too much of it at once (it starts to taste gloopy and too milky and potato-ey after a while). But this shrimp chowder was amazing! The fennel added a really nice taste and texture that broke up the mealiness of your normal potato-potato-potato background, and the spritz of lemon juice at the end gave the soup a nice zing and woke up the chowder from its flat-tasting natural state.  Also, let’s face it – the texture of shrimp in a soup is just nicer than chewy old clams! The presentation of the soup was great, too.  Pink shrimp, green fennel, yellow corn, and lovely crispy bacon crumbled on top (I did not fry the leeks in the grease as suggested, because I didn’t want the whole soup to taste like smoked meat).  The bacon, in particular, made for the perfect finish — a little crunch and salt that contrasted the creamy soup and made the whole dish an awesome lunch. Admittedly, the soup was a little less fennel-y tasting the next day, which disappointed me a bit, but it was still very good — good enough to have multiple bowls at a sitting — and I will definitely make this again!

* * *

Finally, Ginger.
In double chocolate cookies.

These cookies have a story behind them. I was having a friend over for tea on Saturday and, having promised her cookies, decided to try making Nigella’s Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies (I’ve seen the clip sooo many times on YouTube and have always wanted to try them, as the idea of freezing half the dough intrigues me). Unfortunately, when I went online to look for the recipe, I could only find it in metric measurements! I guess I could have converted, but I was a bit short on time, so instead I moseyed over to Real Simple (I am really growing to trust their recipes now) and looked up “Double Chocolate Cookies.” I ended up finding this recipe, which seemed almost the same as Nigella’s, except that it doesn’t have a packet of melted dark chocolate stirred into the batter, and it uses less chips. However, after getting out my ingredients, I found that I didn’t have enough chocolate chips (maybe only half as many as the recipe calls for), so I decided to substitute chopped up crystallized ginger in some of the cookies as an experiment, since I’d bought and enjoyed chocolate with ginger in it before. Turns out, it was a really great idea! I actually think I like these cookies more with ginger in them than I would have liked them with just more chocolate. They were gone in a snap, eaten by my guest, my roommates, and me (I baked only half the batch and froze the rest, but still — I had to smuggle the last cookie upstairs to get a photo of it before my third roommate got home and had a chance to eat it!) Changes I would make to this recipe next time: 1) The dough was a bit dry, so I added some milk, but I’d like to try Nigella’s idea of adding melted dark chocolate; I think it would help add some moisture and some richness to the cookies; 2) I would add more ginger, and slightly more chocolate chips, using only semisweet — milk seems too sweet for these cookies to me. 3) I would try to use a scoop instead of rolling the balls in my hand, and would make the cookies slightly smaller, as they took forever to bake in the 2″ size I used!

In Progress . . .

Yo-yo’s and fake pearls. I’m working on a brooch to embellish cardigans and t-shirt necklines. (Please ignore the egregiously messy desk). I’ve been cutting up a fitted sheet that ripped the other week while I was stripping my bed (don’t worry, I washed it before cutting it up to use in other crafts). Turning in my sleep + old sheets + years of abuse from university-issued plastic mattress covers = ripped sheets (apparently). The sheet wore really thin in the middle, where my body is, and the fabric just gave, I guess. (The material at the sides is still usable). I’m also trying something new with the image alignment. We center-align most images at the LR blog and I like the effect. So I’m trying it here.

I do not have time to be crafting.

I do not have time to be blogging.

I do not have time to be sitting at my computer, unshowered, not-yet-medicated, not-yet-caffeinated, looking at things which do not involve either LR or schoolwork (TONS of reading, and impending thesis deadline).

Nevertheless, I am

Blogging,
Thinking about crafts I don’t have time for (esp the one I should NOT have started last night),
Wandering from task to task,
Still in my pj’s
With no food, drink, or medicine yet in my system,
Staring out at the gloomy snow,
Bummed that my sun lamp time is over for the day,
Not working.

Blah.

Enough of this. Time to go shower and feed/medicate/caffeinate myself, then back to work, posthaste!

Pizza “Brick” Bento

Why am I calling my pizza a “brick”?  Because that’s how my Pillsbury pizza dough turned out this time: fat rectangles with a lot of dough and crust, and not so much of anything else.  I made pizza last Thursday night for dinner because M & I were going to see a play and there was not much time to cook.  We like to get ready-made dough in a can and pop it in the oven with our own fixings; it’s hot and quick on an evening when we don’t have time to cook. I actually am not the biggest fan of Pillsbury dough in cans (I think they all kind of taste the same!) but it’s not too bad as far as readymade pizza doughs go; doesn’t taste like real pizza crust, but it’s nice in its own Pillsbury-bread kinda way. In the past we’ve had trouble with putting too much sauce on our pizza; this time, I purposely put a thinner layer of sauce on, but because I was in a hurry I did not bother to stretch out the dough after unrolling it.  I think I would’ve fared better to roll it a bit thinner.  And I should’ve put more toppings on. Two slices plus the salad in this lunch (eaten the next day, during a class that goes through the lunch hour) were not quite enough to fill me (I was just shy of satisfied).  It was tasty, though!


Clockwise from LH compartment: Mushroom, scallion, and pepperoni pizza, extra pepperoni, strawberry gummies, mustard-citrus dressing in the piggie, kiwifruit, spinach and tomato salad with pine nuts (spinach hidden beneath the tomatoes).

You’ll probably be seeing more bentos from me this semester.  I have a Friday class from 12:30 to 2 and a lot of people bring their lunch.  I do like eating hot food at home, but I’m also excited to start with lunch-packing again.

Bees and Bracelets

First, a birthday cake for my roommate M.

Nigella’s Honey Bee Cake, to be exact.

With Marzipan Bees and Roses.

Closeup of the bees.

(They’re staring at you).

I did not have a springform so I baked it in two tins and layered it with raspberry jam. Would’ve tasted better if I hadn’t let it dry out and burn a little (I baked it for the suggested time, and with foil for part of it, too!). :-/ Oh, well. People said it was good, anyway.

Second, a birthday gift.  A detachable bracelet set. (Also for M).

Tied together.

Bracelet #1.

Crystal, pearlescent beads, metal filigree, toggle clasp.

Bracelet #2.

Metallic ball beads, filigree bead caps, purple and clear iridescent glass, pearlescent beads.

Both bracelets are strung on clear elastic thread to make them stretchy and easy to put on and take off (the toggle on the one provides another option for closure, but is more for show).

Modeled after the general idea of this Forever 21 bracelet set. I may not like all of their clothes, but Forever 21 does have some lovely vintage-inspired jewelry this season (I don’t trust the quality or make of it, though; I generally don’t buy costume jewelry anyway, because I usually end up wondering whether I can make it myself . . ..) I was thinking about texture for this set.  The mixture of smooth, milky pearl colors with the sharp sparkle of crystal and the slightly more liquid gleam of intricate metallic filigree, the hardness of beads and metal juxtaposed against the soft white of the satin tie.  Texture is a lovely thing.  I’m glad it’s “in” at the moment.