Category: Recipes

Easy Bento Lunch Box Tips & Recipes for School or Work

Bento box

Bento is a form of boxed lunch that originated from Japan. Traditionally, it consists of a balanced, single-serving meal that looks visually appealing at the same time as being delicious. You know how I love my international foods, and bento boxes are becoming increasingly popular due to a number of reasons.

By utilizing a bento box of the right size, the amount and type of food to be consumed can be controlled—better nutritional balance for kids and a great way for adults to keep that diet in check. Also, a packed lunch is less waste generated for the environment. It can certainly save some dollars too. Save your leftovers from eating out to help fill up your lunch box for the next day!

How to Make a Bento Lunch Box
If you’re interested in making a bento box, first invest in a good lunch box. The easiest way to start is to get containers that already have individual compartments. Keep in mind that if you intend to use the microwave to heat up your lunch, you’ll need a container that is microwave safe!

If you can’t find containers with partitions, get mini-containers available in the supermarkets as an alternative. Be creative! You can use silicon cupcake holders as an alternative—they are flexible and can be easily manipulated to fit into corners or any odd space left. Or make your subsets edible—use large lettuce or cabbage leaves and place food in the middle of the leaves, leaving the edges free to act as a partition.

How to Start Filling In Your Lunch Box With Food
Although bento boxes conventionally consist of Japanese food, it is not a rule that has to be strictly adhered to. Pack in food tailored to your own taste. To save time in the morning, it is best to pre-make fillings and/or salads that can keep well for a few days in the fridge. Here are a couple of recipes that double as a filling or a salad.

Egg Mayonnaise:

  • Hard boil 5-6 large eggs
  • Approximately 5 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • Salt, pepper and butter to taste

Mash the hard boiled eggs with a fork in a large bowl. When the eggs have been mashed into crumbly bits, add in the mayonnaise and toss. Add salt, pepper and butter to your liking.

Creamy Tuna Salad:

  • A small can of tuna flakes in water or olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce
  • Black pepper to taste
  • A dash of lemon juice (optional)

1. Drain excess water or oil from tuna. Empty tuna into a mixing bowl; add in mayonnaise and tomato sauce. Mix well and add in black pepper. Add a dash of lemon juice for extra flavor.
2. These fillings can be spread on bread, tortillas, or pita wraps. Wrap them in with other ingredients such as butter lettuce, cheese, or diced tomatoes. (Tip: With rolled tortilla/pita wraps, use cling-wrap to reinforce and prevent the ingredients from falling out.)

Ideas for Bento Box Side Dishes

  • Boiled/steamed vegetables such as broccoli, baby carrots, or spinach
  • Steamed corn tossed with salted butter
  • Canned baked beans
  • Hard boiled quail eggs
  • Small fruits such as berries and grapes
  • Mini muffins
  • Individually portioned packaged food such as cheese cubes, dried fruit, or chocolate

What to do With Leftovers
Save leftovers whenever you eat out. Keep them in a microwave safe container and re-heat it the next morning to pack it into your lunchbox. If the leftovers are not enough for a meal, use it as a side and pack in other food such as white rice or fried noodles.

Have Fun Creating Your Bento Box!
Remember, it doesn’t have to be a perfect work of art, as long as you have fun making it and enjoy the food—that’s all that really matters!

Espresso Brownies for a Pick-Me-Up

espresso-brownies

You may be sensing a theme here based on the last recipe I posted for cappuccino creams. But if you’re not, let me spell it out—I love chocolate and coffee. There’s something about the combination of flavors that’s just simply satisfying. With THREE kinds of chocolate and actual brewed espresso, these delicious brownies really pack a punch. This is one of my very favorite recipes. I love making them just for my family, but they’re also great for baby showers, potlucks, or any kind of get-together—I’ve never encountered anyone who didn’t like them. If you’re a coffee person, too, and don’t already have a machine, I’d recommend getting a Breville (like this one), a great espresso maker. You can use extra-strong brewed coffee in a pinch, though.

Recipe is courtesy of Real Simple.

Equipment needed

  • 8-in square baking pan
  • Parchment paper
  • Microwave-safe bowl

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, plus some for the pan
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup natural cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons brewed espresso or extra-strong brewed coffee, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Instructions

1. Heat your oven to 350° F.
2. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with butter. Then line the pan with 2 crisscrossed pieces of parchment, buttering in between the pieces and leaving an overhang on all sides of the pan. Butter the top of the parchment to prevent it from sticking to the brownies.
3. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside.
4. Combine butter and unsweetened chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high in 30-second intervals until melted, stirring in between intervals. Let cool slightly.
5. Whisk the sugars, eggs, espresso, and vanilla into the butter/chocolate mixture until smooth. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in the bittersweet chocolate.
6. Spread the batter in the prepared pan
7. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes.
8. Let brownies cool completely in the pan.
9. Holding the paper overhang, lift the brownies out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.
10. Enjoy every last morsel!

Cappuccino Cream Cookie Crowd-Pleaser

Chocolate

This wonderful dessert is a coffee-lover’s dream (and a chocolate lover’s, too)! This combination of most people’s favorite “vices” is sure to please pretty much any crowd.

These cappuccino cream cookies really do work for any occasion, or just a regular Tuesday night. Our family makes them most often when we treat ourselves to steak—because I always want something chocolate with steak—and at the holidays because they make everyone happy. This recipe makes about 2 dozen, so it’s great for a crowd.

Recipe is courtesy of King Arthur Flour.

Equipment needed

  • Two baking sheets
  • A glass

Ingredients

Cookies

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter (12 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups King all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder

Coating

  • 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Cappuccino filing

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, or a combination of butter and vegetable shortening*
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk

*Using half shortening in the filling will stabilize it, which is particularly useful if it’s a hot day and the filling may soften

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets.
2. To make the cookies: Combine butter and sugar thoroughly.
3. Beat salt, egg, water, and vanilla into butter/sugar mixture.
4. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, and baking powder, and add to the butter mixture, stirring to thoroughly combine. The dough will be stiff, but sticky.
5. Scoop the dough into walnut-sized balls (a slightly heaped teaspoon). Roll in your hands to make smooth, which will ensure the cookies come out round.
6. To make the coating: Combine the cocoa and granulated sugar.
7. Dip the flat bottom of a glass in the coating, then use it to flatten each dough ball into a round; it will be about 2″ across and 3/16″ thick. Dip the glass in the coating each time to keep it from sticking to the dough.
8. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes. If you see the edges browning or smell a whiff of chocolate, take the cookies out of the oven.
9. Let the cookies cool on the pan. While they are cooling, make the filling.
10. To make the filling: Beat the butter or butter/shortening combination until fluffy. Beat in the salt, espresso powder, and vanilla.
11. Add the confectioners’ sugar and milk, beating until smooth. Scrape the bowl, and beat again, to combine any residue. Adjust the consistency of the filling with additional milk or sugar, if necessary. Filling should be spreadable.
12. Turn half the cookies bottom side up, and scoop a ball of filling onto each; a teaspoon cookie scoop works well here.
13. Top the filled bottoms with the remaining cookies, squeezing gently to spread the filling to the edges.
14. Store cookies for 1-2 days at room temperature, well wrapped. Freeze for longer storage.

2 Easy Recipes for Coleslaw and Blue Cheese Dressing

coleslaw-on-table

Coleslaw, coming from the Dutch, Koolsalade meaning cabbage salad, is a common and typical side dish ordered by millions of us around the world every day. It is amazing that despite its simplicity and ease to make that most of us still buy our coleslaw from the market, rather than take the few minutes needed to make our own. This very quick and easy recipe will seek to rectify that.

Coleslaw is a delicious accompaniment to various meals from southern fried chicken to baby back ribs, its versatility and variation means it never gets left in the fridge for long. This easy recipe is for the basic coleslaw that is both delicious and almost universal in its uses.

This easy recipe can be tinkered with to your hearts content, ingredients such as raisins or sultanas can be added, even apple to make a fruit coleslaw, its variations are endless. Also because of its ingredients it can be made using the leftovers from many meals, and of course is vegetarian.

Coleslaw Recipe

For a normal sized bowl of coleslaw you will need

Ingredients

  • White/hard cabbage, for this recipe you will need a quarter
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 half onion
  • 2 heaped tbsps mayonnaise, low fat is fine
  • Splash of milk
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch or chopped fresh parsley, optional but a nice touch

Equipment

  • 1 large mixing bowl
  • Grater
  • Wooden spoon
  • Chopping board, sharp knife for prep

Method

  • Slice the cabbage length ways as finely as you can.
  • Peel and grate the carrot.
  • Slice the onion as finely as possible.
  • Add the vegetables to the mixing bowl.
  • Now add the mayonnaise and stir well.
  • Add a splash of milk and stir well to loosen up the coleslaw, add more if necessary.
  • Add the parsley and pepper to taste.
  • Refrigerate in a suitable container, serve when ready.

Your delicious homemade coleslaw is ready, and goes great as a side to many dishes as mentioned above, also give it a try with pizza, enjoy.

Blue Cheese Dressing

A delicious dressing or dip, blue cheese dressing is great with southern fried chicken and Buffalo wings as well as many other dishes.
You will need

Equipment

  • Mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mayonnaise, low fat is fine
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 6 ozs blue cheese
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Pinch pepper
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 half tsp garlic powder

Method

  • If you wish to make your own sour cream, simply squeeze the juice of half a lemon into 1 cup of double cream, stir and allow to stand for a minute to sour and thicken.
  • Mix all of the ingredients together in the bowl, bar the cheese.
  • Crumble the cheese into the mix and stir well.

Your blue cheese dressing is ready, enjoy.