Elephant Bento

One of my girls has a collection of stuffed elephants. I got my inspiration for today’s bento from it, as I wanted to make something other than a bear or bunny in my kyaraben creations. After doing some research online, I was able to find an elephant onigiri that is really cute and is not that hard to make.

I still have some leftover sakura denbu from the my melody bento I made last week. That is what I used to give my elephant a nice pastel pink color.

To make, add sakura denbu to your cooked rice and mix until you get your desired color. Form three balls using a plastic wrap, one should be larger than the other two. To make ears, press the smaller shaped rice while still in the plastic wrap with your thumb to make an indent. Repeat with the other remaining rice ball. Get a pinch of rice and shape it into a small log to make the trunk.

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To assemble, add nori eyes and carrot cheeks for the elephant’s face. Attach the trunk and ears.

My elephant bento with vegetable patties, gyoza, grape tomatoes and cucumber slices.

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Beef Pepper Rice Copycat

Beef Pepper Rice is one of the most popular dish served at Pepper Lunch. This is a Japanese fast food chain that allows customers to cook their own food on a special plate that can be heated to 500F in very little time. The meat and vegetables are then placed on these plates then served to the customer where they continue to cook. You are encouraged to mix everything up until the meat is done to your liking. Two kinds of special sauce are also offered to season your food.

My husband and I got to experience and eat at Pepper Lunch when we visited home last year. We thought it was really good and wanted to re-create the dish. I did not have that special plate to cook the meat on so I just bought a sizzling steak plate. I guessed the food will get cooked enough if I get really thin sliced meats. If you don’t have this you can cook your meat in a non-stick pan and just arrange everything on a warmed plate. I got the copycat recipe for Beef Pepper Rice on this site.

Honey Brown Sauce and Garlic Soy Sauce. I should have pureed my sauce in a blender but I was in a hurry since I made lunch really late.

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Our Beef Pepper Rice lunch !

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Spaghetti and Meatballs

Fridays is pasta night in our family. It’s just usually the girls who have dinner at home as Fridays is date night for me and hubby. It’s also the end of the week and I want to cook something quick and easy. Tonight I decided to make spaghetti and meatballs. I made the meatballs from scratch but I used my favorite bottled brand for the sauce. I did not have any canned plum tomatoes on hand so this will make do.

For the meatballs, add the following to your ground meat: a medium sized minced onion, 2 cloves finely minced garlic, chopped parsley, a handful of breadcrumbs, 2 eggs and salt and pepper. Mix well using your clean hands. Form the meatballs into golf size balls.

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Heat a pan and when it’s hot add your oil. Fry your meatballs until all sides are evenly browned. Do not crowd your pan and do not overcook as the meatballs will continue cooking in your sauce later. When all your meatballs are done, set aside.

In another pan sauté minced onion and garlic until soft. Add 2 cups of chicken broth and let it reduce. Add your bottled sauce (a can of plum tomato is better), basil, oregano and salt and pepper to taste and stir. Finally add your meatballs and let it simmer for about 25-30 minutes.

While waiting for your sauce, cook your pasta according to package directions and drain.

Arrange cooked pasta in a bowl add your sauce and top with desired number of meatballs.

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Kabocha Gohan (Kabocha Squash Rice)

Kabocha is a variety of  squash or what you call Japanese pumpkin. It is green skinned and weighs an average of 2-3 pounds. It’s skin is edible when cooked.  Gohan is the Japanese word for rice. This  is what you refer to as a mixed rice dish, where ingredients are added and cooked with the rice.

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I chanced upon this recipe while browsing the web for dinner menu ideas. It looks fairly easy to make plus squash is a favorite in our family. You can make this by stove top method or by using a rice cooker.

Cut and remove the seeds and fibers from inside the Kabocha. Peel the skin, and cut into cubes. Rinse 3 cups of rice until water runs clears (I used the measuring cup that came with my rice cooker) then add water up to the 3 cup line. Add 1 tsp salt and 1 tablespoon sweet cooking sake and stir. Place a cup of cubed kabocha on top of the rice, cover and turn on cooker.

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When it’s done, gently fold or fluff the rice from the bottom up. The squash will be very soft and will streak your rice into an orange color. No worries for this is what makes the dish rustic. The natural sweet flavor of the squash complements well with the rice.

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My Melody Bento

One of the challenges in making bento is finding natural ways to make it colorful. I try to avoid using dye to color my rice. To make My Melody I had to source for Sakura Denbu. This is ground seasoned codfish with a sweetish flavor and is bright pink in color. I have been searching for this product since last year. I even have to ask relatives from the Westcoast to keep an eye out for this. I finally spotted one at our local Asian store early this Spring.

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To make, I added sakura denbu to my cooked rice and mixed it until I got my desired color. I used a plastic wrap to mold the rice in the shape of my melody. I decorated the face with nori and cheese.

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My Melody bento with edamame shumai, japanese sausages, red and yellow bell peppers.

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Tuna Lumpiang Shanghai

In keeping with the Lenten season, I made a meatless version of lumping shanghai. Lumpiang shanghai is one of the most popular and well loved dish among Non-Filipinos. Almost all of my friends here in the Eastcoast request for this whenever I entertain. This is a thinner egg roll with a ground meat filling where finely minced vegetables and seasonings are added. There is no rule on what you can add to the meat filling. For this recipe I used carrots, celery and green onions. You may also add water chestnuts, red bell pepper and raisins.

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To make, drain 2 cans of albacore tuna in water. Squeeze out extra liquid from the tuna. Add finely minced carrots, celery and green onions. Season will salt and pepper and add one egg. Mix everything until well combined.

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Wrap filling in lumpia wrapper or spring roll wrapper. Then deep fry until golden brown.

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Serve with sweet chili sauce.

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Pinakbet (Filipino Mixed Vegetables)

I grew up eating the Tagalog version of Pinakbet. This is a mix of different vegetables consisting of chinese eggplant, okra, bitter melon, long beans, calabaza and tomatoes with the addition of shrimps. This is usually flavored with bagoong (shrimp paste). There is also the Ilocano version where they use fermented fish sauce and ginger as flavoring and everything is just layered and not sautéed. Note: Metro Manila where I came from is part of the Tagalog region. Philippine cooking is very much regional and each has their own way of cooking thus creating their own distinct flavor.

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For this recipe, I sautéed onions, garlic and tomatoes in a little oil. Then I layered my vegetables starting with the longest to cook, calabaza, long beans, okra, bitter melon and eggplant. I added a tablespoon of shrimp paste to taste and ground pepper.

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I let it simmer over low heat until veggies are crisp tender. I did not stir this but just shake the pan to evenly distribute the seasonings and mix the vegetables. This help the veggies not lose it’s shape and avoid getting mushy. No shrimps were added in this recipe since I did not have any on hand.

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Easter Treats

I have made chocolate dipped strawberries for various holidays and occasions in the past years. This particular treat is now a favorite of mine. I have always used Ghirardelli candy making and dipping bar till I discovered Candiquick. This candy melting chocolate gives great consistency and finish and is not difficult to handle.

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For this recipe, I used a package of strawberries, vanilla candiquick and orange gel food coloring. Melt candiquick according to package directions. Add your food coloring and stir until you get your desired color. Dip your strawberries to coat and lay on wax paper until it sets. This does not take too long. With the back of a spoon or a piping bag drizzle your strawberries with candimelt to create lines.

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No child or adult can resist when you serve them this veggie treat.

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Happy Easter !!!

Tinumis

Tinumis is a stew of ground meat with the addition of pork or beef blood as it’s gravy. For non-Filipinos who are unfamiliar with this dish, I just have to say that the use of pork, beef or chicken blood in cooking for that matter is not totally unusual. A lot of countries and cultures have been doing it for decades and each have their own version/way of cooking it. I also find it similar to a Northern Thai dish Laap Meuang.

I’ve eaten and tried this dish countless  times but this is the first time I tried making it. It took me a while to get past the idea of cooking and handling blood. This blog, finally forced me to conquer my fear.

I  got the ingredients from my favorite Asian store. Ground pork or beef, white vinegar (Philippine brand white vinegar), pork or beef blood (they come frozen in tubs), long green chilies and spinach. Note: Tamarind is usually used in place of vinegar. If fresh tamarind is not available you can use tamarind soup mix.

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First, thaw the frozen pig/beef blood in your fridge. This may take the whole day.
Saute onions, garlic and tomatoes until softened. Add your ground meat and cook until browned. Pour about 1 cup of the pig/beef blood and 1/2 – 3/4 cup vinegar and stir. Let it simmer for 8-10 minutes. Season with salt or fish sauce. Add water if it appears to be too dry. Add 2-3 pieces of long green chilies. You can add your spinach towards the last minute of cooking. Chili leaves are traditionally used for this recipe but I substituted spinach since it’s not available here in the Northeast.

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Roasted Chicken Leg Quarters

Roast chicken is my go to recipe on a busy school night. My original recipe only uses salt, pepper and garlic powder as seasoning. During a trip to Montreal, I got to taste their Portuguese style roast chicken. It was the best chicken I have ever had. Since then I have searched the web for the closest recipe for it to recreate it’s flavor.

This is my own take on it. I think it needs more spices and garlic but my family loves this so I’m keeping it this way for now.

Season your chicken leg quarters with salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder (fresh garlic I think is better), the juice of one lemon and a drizzle of olive oil. Make sure that the chicken is coated really well with the marinade. Bake at 400F for 1 – 1.5 hours until the chicken is brown and crisp.

The Portuguese style roast chicken is usually served with roasted potatoes. I like to serve mine with rice and some greens.

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