Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Not such a Bad Ass After all. . .

Okay, so my Bento BadAss blog has been languishing for lo these many months.  I guess it turns out that I am NOT actually BadAss enough to maintain both my bento blog AND the rest of my life, which features(in no particular order) Too Many Children, Too Much Homework, Too Many Loads of Laundry and Too Little Sleep.  Plus of course my "real" job as a floral designer at Hansen's and any semblance of a personal life with my Rock Star Husband. . .so, faithful readers(Ha!) the BadAss became the LazyAss--hey, it happens.  However, spurred to new levels of energy by Twitter,  #baketogether, and a pun too good to keep to myself, I have scooted over to Wordpress and started a new fling with the blogging world.  Check out The Flour Gardiner. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Badass Bakes Baywatch

Okay, so I may do a few bento lunches now and again, but the truth is that when I am in the kitchen doing whatever I want to do, chances are it will involve flour, sugar and butter.  Truly-- I love to bake.  I buy butter 4 lbs. at a time, and vanilla in the 32 oz bottle. My colleagues at the flower shop know that when some of our fruit basket inventory of apples or pears get plenty ripe, throw'em my way and a tart shall be forthcoming!  My neighbors and in-laws know that if I offer to "bake a little something" for the cookout they will NEVER see a box-mix standard.  And, of course, my wonderful lifeguard friends at Chair 5 know that at least once a summer it will be(dramatic pause). . . LIFEGUARD COOKIE DAY!!!

I have been coming to the same beach, and sitting more or less in the same spot, for many years now.  Every June feels a bit like a homecoming, seeing the regulars and the guards who return.  Some of them remember me as a young waitress, napping on the beach until it was time for me to run down to the bistro for the start of my 4:30 dinner shift.  I never needed to bring a watch in those days, because down at Chair 5, tea was served promptly at 4pm! A few of them remember the years when each summer (it seemed) I would waddle onto the sand pregnant, waddling back the following summer with one more blond baby boy in tow!  The Chair 5 guards are sort of our extended summer family.  They have by turns helped my lug our beach stuff back and forth over the dunes, swam with each boy and let them sit on the red rescue surfboards, played Uno under the chair during rain showers, and applied vinegar to countless jellyfish stings.  Some days, when my boys were small and my husband working like crazy, they provided my only adult interaction of the day!

Tea(nothing but Darjeeling!!) is still served daily at Chair 5, and I feel that--at least for a day or two out of the season--the cookies that accompany it should be really stellar.  Here are my 2011 selections.

These cookie-brownie hybrids, baked in mini muffin cups, were inspired by Abby Dodge's double-decker bars.  Because everybody needs some chocolate!

Next, as a refreshing change after the gooey goodness above, I broke out the citrusy, shortbready favorite: Lemon Squares. I have been using King Arthur Flour's recipe since I was in high school--it's an oldie but goodie!

Finally, no Baywatch Baking cookie tray would be complete without the gingerbread boy lifeguards--which aren't gingerbread at all but a Grand Marinier-spiked sugar cookie. Royal Icing made the trunks and shades.

Stay cool, keep your toes in the sand and your fingers in the dough and all will be right with the world.  Take it from me, my boys, and the guys from Chair 5!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Left Over Pork, meet Cute Vegetable Cutter.

Tomorrow I will be working at the flower shop, for the first time in a couple of weeks.  Since it is going to be a beautiful summer day, I could think of about 2 thousand things I'd rather be doing, starting with Floating Idly On An Air Mattress In The Pool and finishing up somewhere around Soaking RJG's Retainer In Hydrogen Peroxide(yes even that!). But, times being what they are, those J-O-B things don't exactly grow on trees and (summer Saturday blues aside) I generally like mine. . .so off I will go, early. . .reluctantly. . .and toting a Very Cute Lunch.
The first thing I did was attack an innocent watermelon with an implement of spherical destruction.  The resulting melony goodness was arranged with large juicy strawberries and(in a nod to my badassed reputation) 2 daggers of blueberries.
Then I boiled some vermicelli.
While that was working I artfully sliced some carrots and a few marinated green beans.
The pasta got dressed with a good old spicy peanut sauce and tossed with some purple cabbage, more carrots, garlic scapes, basil and MUCHO CILANTRO. If you are in the segment of the population that cannot appreciate this herb, my sympathies.  Cilantro is well known to be a food of the gods with many extraordinary properties. It should be eaten regularly, and in large quantities. Look how pretty these guys are!
 My cutting board, pictured above,  is branded with IC for Ives Creek Ranch. It's a boutique ranch near Houston, Texas where my Aunt Laurie and Uncle Matt have a small herd of cows and a big crazy bull named Fred.  They do not really brand their cattle--ear tags being a much nicer option--but they did brand this cool cow shaped cutting board for me this past Christmas!  I love it, and tell people about it at any opportunity.  Like I just did. Anyway I digress. . .
Pasta dressed, herbs tossed, I finished by arranging some slices of left over teriyaki grilled pork tenderloin in my bento box, keeping the foods Small, Separated, and Fragmented. I mixed it up with regard to color and texture and. . . wait what else did I learn from Tracey over at Tangled Noodle??!!OH!  Of Course. . .the obento is meant to evoke nature.  Enter cute veggie cutters.  Sprinkle food with carrot, cabbage and lime flowers. Voila!

The only thing left to do was package up this feast.  I stacked up my bento containers, added the cute lid TA-DAAA!

Which reminded me of Yuri ,my gateway to bento, and her delightful #bentocuteness Twitter Challenge( see the roundup here! ), and finally the elastic strap. . .

Isn't he kawaii!?!?  So I was snapping this photo when my oldest son told me that I needed to flip the strap.  He thought that the Panda would be more Ninja-like and Bad-Assed with eyebrows arching down.  What do you think?
I know, right?! Smart Kid. Too bad his Philosophical Differences will probably keep him out of Harvard. Well, now my Panda Bento is ready to go to work, just a fork and an artfully tied furoshiki and off we go.  Wish me Luck, it's going to be a long day . . .

Thursday, June 30, 2011

For all Bento Cuties!

So, I guess most of you #bentocuteness tweeps, and anyone else who may have landed here, are probably more well versed than I am in the world of  kawaii(I mean, that would be most of the food blogging population!).  But I was really inspired-- and only slightly weirded out-- when I found this siteAllThingsForSale, which sells about a zillion uber cute bento making items.  They are running a giveaway.  Click the link and maybe you will win some bento supplies, and then you won't end up like me. . .trying to kick my amazon dot problem.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Come Together, right now. . .

Are you singing that Beatles' song?  Well, sing something. . .or grab your (air)guitar and join me on my Bento journey.  Watch it come together.

The first thing I did was line my bento box with some pretty pale green cabbage.
Then I layered in black quinoa, small cooked red bliss potatoes, some baby spinach leaves and a large area of quinoa.

A hard-boiled egg became the skull shape, with purple cabbage letters and a red pepper guitar body.
I added some color and some crunch with sliced green beans--two small pieces became the pick-ups--and a row of carrot circles. I tucked in two raspberries for color and piped on a row of tarragon-dill egg salad. I needed at LEAST a gesture of cuteness/kawaii, I mean after all this IS #bentocuteness, right? So to add a little bit of whimsy I trimmed some carrots into the shape of musical notes.

My little rock stars were suitably impressed, but they did suggest one change. . .putting the STAR in my rock star bento!
In the smaller top compartment I packed a small squeeze bottle of lemon-flax vinaigrette and a small fork. In the bottom compartment I included a simple but VERY well received desert: raspberries threaded on "pirate swords" and a dip made of drained whole-milk plain yogurt swirled with caramel sauce.
And that is how I attempted to ROCK the bento challenge.

***note!****I could never have made this, or any deco cute food item, without my favorite little scissors.  These are a little gem I snagged from my "real" toolbag which I use in my "real" job as a floral designer.  The blades are titanium, stay-sharp and absolutely non-stick, with a short and ultra-control friendly run.  I spoke to Rick Constantine, the wonderful guy who runs the Clauss brand, and he told me that they are tested with gorilla glue, Krazy Glue, and residues from many kinds of tape and have been proven to be truly, 100% non-stick, which is handy for food styling as well as floral design.  Once the world of food stylists discovers these babies, they WILL become the new "it" tool. Learn what the florists know, and get a pair.  They are less than 10 dollars and worth their weight in gold. 
ARIGATO GOZAIMAS to all for checking out my attempt at #BENTOCUTENESS!   Can't wait to see all the rest!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

In the beginning there was the concept. . .

I knew I was going to attempt a Rock and Roll themed Bento...so, a few images came to mind. Skulls, lightning bolts, guitars. . .I looked at a few of our guitars for shape inspiration and wavered between the Explorer and the Flying V--settling on the V as being the most iconic. Here is my original goofy sketch:
For the ingredients--the building blocks really--I decided to de-construct a confetti quinoa salad that I had made recently which combined black quinoa, red and yellow peppers, and shredded purple cabbage with a simple flax-oil and lemon juice vinaigrette.  To round out the package nutritionally, I would include an egg salad made with tarragon and dill and some baby red potatoes.  The plan was now in place--could my skillz do it justice?  Stay tuned!

Who? What? and. . .Where's the cute?

Hello Friends--if you landed here searching for one of those great, professional quality blogs full of adorable and nutritious bento lunches for adorable smiling children. . .ummmm, sorry. I am a bento newbie who, until the other day that is, used my cute stacking bento containers for standard--albeit occasionally pretty awesome--lunches to bring to work.  You know, fruit slices in the bottom, maybe some leftover chickpeas w/red curry, plus baby spinach or kale in the top. Just some fuel for a hard working chick who tends to eat while standing at the workbench. . .nutritious? Yes.  Delicious? Certainly! Attractive? Frequently.  But we're not talking about little piggy faces on the cocktail weenies here--I never thought to take it that far! Until I read a tweet, and later a blog post, by the wonderful and inspirational Chef Pandita, my twitter friend and fellow #baketogether baker.

Chef Pandita challenges the Twitterverse to submit a bento box, no pressure, just to have fun with kawaii food.  In her blog post she even mentioned that we could just use tupperware! Well, that took the pressure off for me for sure.  I began to play with some ideas, and as some of you undoubtedly know, I love any excuse to play with all of my sharp tools.

I tried some little bunny sandwiches.  Cute!  I experimented with ladybugs in a garden complete with Oreo "dirt". Adorable!  I made pancakes into piggies with tiny choco chips for eyes.  Precious!

Every time I(with increasing pride, of course) brought my prototypes to my testing panel(also known as my 3 kids), I got reactions which were, shall we say, LESS THAN ENTHUSIASTIC!  Why? I had to know.  Why don't you guys like Mommy's cute lunches?!!  It was the middle child who put it very succinctly.  Mom, he sighed patiently,  we're boys.  We like BOY THINGS, like video games and superheroes. And Rock and Roll.

Adios Bento Cuteness. Bienvenido a Bento Bad Ass.
My mission: create a bento lunch that fits these three criteria:
1 .Fits(however loosely) the traditional bento perameters--fits in a box, represents balanced nutrition and is pleasing to the eye
2 .Contains items that my family will ACTUALLY EAT, i.e. no nori or grains dyed funky colors
3. Features BOY THINGS as a nod to my true audience.  Think Goodbye Kitty, Hello Ramones.

It's On.