Touch of Nectar

{October 31, 2011}   Happy Halloween Bentos

First hers

Is it just me or does her pumpkin look like he’s saying “how YOU doin’?” LOL. That’s what I get for rushing. I obviously need some smaller cutters too. I found some (but didn’t buy them) this weekend… they are made for cutting tiny shapes out of clay. Perfect! Soon. Very soon.

In the box is roast beef sandwiches (under the pumpkin made of cheese), black olives, quails eggs, dried mangos, half a banana and some carrot slices.

And mine…

I tried to keep it pretty simple.

In the upper box is pickled green beans, shiitake mushrooms and roast beef sandwiches. That white thing was supposed to look like a ghost. There are some black olives and dried mangos hidden underneath everything too.

In the lower box is orange slices, plums, cheese and veggies. I have a little container of Green Goddess dressing to dip those in.


{October 30, 2011}   More on 365

Since we are talking about my (ahem, extensive) cookbook collection I thought I’d share one more with y’all.

Food Fest 365 – The Officially Fun Food Holiday Cookbook By Yvoun D. Lemoine © 2010

I got this fun book as a surprise present from a friend. So far, for Project 365, I have only made one recipe. Blueberry Popovers.


This book lists national food holidays with a corresponding recipe for each day. They are listed in chronological order, starting with January 1st. Each calendar date and recipe has a little food fact or history note to go along with it. This appeals greatly to my nerdy side. The author obviously has a quirky sense of humor. She includes food origins and political history relating to various dishes.

It is such a fun book. I started looking at specific personal dates to see what foods were listed for them. My birthday is Apple Dumpling Day. My daughter’s is Chocolate Cake Day. Our wedding anniversary is Raspberry Tart Day.

Then I skimmed to find some of my favorite foods. June 19th is Dry Martini Day, but she uses gin, not vodka. Okay, just use the stuff in the blue bottle!

Some other fun examples: January 19th is Popcorn Day. It is one of the oldest snacks. It became the official movie snack during the depression. The recipe she includes is for Salted Caramel Popcorn.

February 6th is Nutella Day – Nutella and Banana Crepes (yoooo hooo! Spindle, this one’s for you!)

April 30th is Raisin Day – Carrot Raisin Salad The book is interspersed with gorgeous photos of yummy food. Some of the recipes are the author’s family recipes, some are very simple and some are classic dishes with a new twist.

Who knew we needed an Escargot Day. May 24th. The recipe is for Escargot Hush Puppies and Pesto Mayo. I don’t know that I’ll be trying that any time soon, but it’s still fun.

May 27th is Grape Popsicle Day. I can’t think of a better excuse to turn my tongue purple, can you?

If you can’t decide what to cook today, check the date in the book and see what the theme of the day is. Fun!

Just for the record, today, October 30th is Buy a Doughnut Day and the Recipe is for Classic Cake Doughnuts with Maple Bacon Glaze. (Hey Pickle Gulch friends! Think LameBeaver would make this for us next year to go with the Bacon Martinis? I think he needs to. Yes, yes he does.)

{October 30, 2011}   Eat Well Stay Well

Eat Well Stay Well

Let me tell you about one of the books I am using for Project 365. One of my favorites.

The Project 365 recipes I have made from this book so far are Lentil Pear and Goat Cheese Salad, Swordfish Kabobs with Lemon and Garlic, Maple Pork Chops, Old Fashioned Mushroom Barley Soup, Orange Banana Breakfast Smoothie, Teriyaki Salmon,

Greek Style Romaine Salad

Strawberry Ricotta Crepes

Pork Piccata

Chunky Beef Chili

Other recipes I have tried include Cauliflower with Deviled Cheese Sauce, Fresh Fennel Salad with Lemon, Scalloped Potatoes with Smoked Turkey, Baked Rolled Sole with Lemon and Oregano, Ricotta Stuffed Turkey Breast, Chicken Normandy and Blueberry Scones.

The book starts out with nutritional information on a wide variety of foods, nutrients and food components. It talks about minerals and vitamins and why each is important. 

The chapters are organized by type of food, not the type of dish; Vegetables, Dairy & Eggs, Fish & Shellfish, Lean Meats, Fruits & Berries. Then each of the chapters is organized alphabetically by ingredient. Artichokes and asparagus begin the vegetable chapter for example.  This is good if you “read” cookbooks compulsively like I do, but it may be a bit frustrating if you are simply looking something to make for dinner. The index in the back, however, is very useful.

That said, I really like this book. It is one of the first books I added to my collection. We won’t talk about how many years ago that has been.  The recipes are simple, creative and healthy. This book is so loved that it is beginning to fall apart. A good sign for a cookbook!

About half the pages have super quick recipes down the side of the page with gorgeous photos. Unlike the full page recipes, these have the ingredients incorporated right into the directions.  Not every recipe has a photo, but every page does. The photos are beautiful!

{October 28, 2011}   Halloween-ish Bentos

First the kidlings. She is using my new box, the little thief!  She requested “kabobs” today, so there are sausage and cheese kabobs, carrot slices and quails eggs. The owl and pumpkin picks are cupcake picks that I found when buying halloween decorations this year. They are paper, so won’t last long, but they were cheap, and it keeps the munchkin happy.

On the right is a peanut butter and jelly bagel, grapes and dried mango.

I was trying to do two things with my lunch today… The first was to try and use up what is in the fridge. The second was that I wanted it to look “autumnal” or something.

I think I got the colors right, but it could use some cute picks like the kid has in hers.

On the left is diced tomatoes, black olives and pork fried rice (dinner leftovers)

On the right is krab sticks, carrot slices, one dried prune, mushrooms, simmer kabocha squash, pickled green beans and onions.

{October 28, 2011}   A Lovely Evening with the Girls

I had such a nice time last night that I wanted to share it with you all.

I met up with the girls from my knitting group at Third Place Books to see the Yarn Harlot, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, speak about her new book. I had never seen her speak before, but I follow her blog and love her books, so I was really looking forward to it.

After quite litterally dropping the kid off on our doorstep, I rushed over the hill to the bookstore. I quickly found my friend Petra, who was eating dinner. I was starving, so I wandered off to find my own dinner. Sushi! And miso soup! From Kitto, which is in the same complex as the bookstore.

As I was waiting for my food, one of the other knitter ladies found us and told us where our saved seats were.  The room was packed with all kinds of people, needles and yarn in hand. This is great!

We found our seats and got ready for the show. No photos, because while I could see okay, I didn’t want a photo of the backs of a bunch of people’s heads. I wish I could have gotten a pic of the stash weasel though!

The Yarn Harlot did not disappoint. She was funny. VERY funny. I about lost it at one point when she started talking about how knitted bobbles look like nipples… Something we had talked about at a previous knit night. Tears were streaming from my eyes.

Sadly, the budget is tight this week, so I did not get the new book. A couple of the ladies stayed behind to get theirs signed though. The rest of us headed off to the bar for more knitting and chatter. As we were leaving, we met up with a few more of the ladies who had arrived late. My friend, Aleen, had broght me a new bento box. From Japan!! The kidling already laid claim to it and is using it today.

GREAT night!! Could not have been more perfect.  Well, okay, if I could have bought the book… but you know what I mean. 🙂

Project 365 marches on. I’m currently at 279/365. Only 96 recipes left to go! I have a few weeks left, right? RIGHT?

My menu isn’t 100% finished yet. I still need to figure out what I’ll be doing (extra) for lunches, but I may decide that after I see what fruits and veggies look good at the store. I still have quite a bit of unused produce from this week, so I need to use that up. We don’t need a dessert on the menu this week. There is still leftover (storebought) coffee cake and chocolate rice crispy treats. What? I had marshmallows that weren’t being eaten. *grins*

Grocery List for the week: ham steaks, spinach, lettuce, leeks, rice cakes, chicken broth, ground beef, cucumbers (and a reminder to self to not let them get slimy!), orange chocolate candies

Everything else I will need is either in the freezer or pantry. Looking good here.

I had picked out a bunch of recipes from my Bento cookbooks for this last week and many of them did not get made, so I might just recycle them into this week. There are also some veggies sitting on my kitchen table that I haven’t cooked yet. Delicata squash (oh how I love thee!) and some zucchini that I have no idea what recipe it was supposed to go with. I think the zucchini might get snuck into the spaghetti sauce. Muwahaha….

This week is a tight budget week (damn those day care costs!) but I never let that stop us from eating yummy food… And thank goodness for dollar stores, where I can find chicken broth and ham steaks.  Anyway, on to the menu.

As usual, these are in no particular order. I just write it out this way so that I make sure I have all my bases covered… And like for Monday, which is Halloween, we won’t have a lot of time for preparing dinner, so I’ve planned leftovers.  Add salad and/or a vegetable and bread and the dinners are pretty much complete

Saturday: Fish from Trader Joes? – depends on what they have. OR Navy Bean Soup with Ham (1001 Slow Cooker )and corn bread

Sunday: Scalloped Ham, Potatoes and Leeks (365 One Dish)

Monday: Leftovers

Tuesday: Chicken Drummettes Valencia (365 BBQ) – I have legs in the freezer

Wednesday: Fettuccini with Greens and Caramelized Onion (1001 Low Fat Vegetarian) – put whatever leftover meat we have into hubby’s portion

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Tomato Sauce with Ground Beef (365 Pasta)

Lunches: Tuna and Cucumber on Rice Rounds (365 Low Cal)
Three Mushroom Rice (Bento)
Baked Delicata Squash

Other: Chocolate Cream Muffins (1 Mix 100 Muffins) – with orange chocolates

{October 27, 2011}   Feeding the Dragon – Review

Feeding the Dragon – A culinary travelogue through China with recipes

By Mary Kate Tate and Nate Tate. © 2011  A (western, not Chinese) sister and brother team.

The first thing I do when looking at a book such as this is to look at the photographs. This one does not disappoint. The beautiful photos are a mix of both history and modernity.

Chapters are divided by region – Beijing, Hong Kong, Yunnan, Tibet etc. Each begins with a description of the area and personal stories from the authors. There is lots of history included. I particularly liked the piece on “dog on and off the menu”. Dog meat = gou rou. It is believed to be medicinal. Contrary to what westerners might believe, it is truly not that common in China. There are no recipes for dog in the book.

A lot of the recipes would be good for bentos. I have several that I have bookmarked to try, either for dinners or in smaller portions for my lunches.

Stir-fry spinach with Oyster Sauce (Beijing)
Stir-fried Potatoes and Peppers (Beijing)
Radish and Baby Corn Quick Pickles (Fujan)
Corn and Pine Nut Stir Fry (Fujan)
Lemongrass Chicken Wings (Yunnan)
Pineapple Rice (Yunnan)
Chicken Spring Rolls (Hong Kong)
Tibetian Curry Potatoes (Tibet)

In additional to traditional recipes, such as Won Ton Soup and various stir fries, there are also creative recipes that use traditional ingredients in new ways, such as the Lychee Martini. I must try that!

There are a lot of descriptions and how-to methods in the back of the book. There are also sample menus. The glossary of ingredients is extensive.

The book is a great mix of recipes, stories and photos. There are two little things I would change about the book. I would have liked captions to the photos. Also, in addition to the Chinese characters in the recipe titles, I would have liked to know the phonetic, English pronunciations of each as well.

{October 26, 2011}   Emergency Bento

I’m having a hard time making both pretty lunches for the kidling AND myself for some reason. I think mostly because they need to contain different things.

Well… It’s time to get creative. I don’t want to give up my daily bentos! I’ve stocked the fridge with fresh udon noodles. Yummy hot noodle soup. Perfect for the cool fall weather we are having. And the chewy noodles are satisfying.

They run $1-2 and last in the refrigerator for a long time. Some flavors are better than others. I like the mushroom flavor of this particular brand the best.

However, I always think these types of mixes need a little *something* more. So I put together a quicky “emergency bento” this morning to be paired with my packaged noodles.

I had sauteed some mushrooms to go with our dinner last night, and this package of udon just happens to be mushroom flavored. Perfect. The broccoli is the tiny bit left over from dinner and I had boiled quail eggs for the kidling’s lunches. I’ll peel them while the soup is cooking away in the microwave. A few slices of carrot for crunch and a soda for dessert.

Basically everything just gets thrown in the soup. The broccoli is already cooked. If it wasn’t, I would just put it in with the noodles while they were cooking.

I’m happy.  And looking forward to lunch!

First, get out your box and tools. Today I’m making onigiri and using my basic rectangular box.

Make the onigiri and place them in the box. These are filled with sauteed chanterelle mushrooms.

Next comes the side dishes and veggies. This is a small tomato stuffed with tuna and cilantro. I had mixed up the tuna to make spring rolls, but changed my mind when making lunch this morning. There is still enough mix left to make some tomorrow.

Gaps get filled in with veggies. Carrots and snowpeas here. I have a little container of green goddess salad dressing for dipping.

Then fill in the box with more veggies. Here is roasted red bell pepper (from a jar) and simmered kabocha squash.

Those onigiri look a little plain, don’t you think? How about a little furikake to dress them up? I also added a can of sparkling water and a plum for dessert.

I forgot to take pics yesterday, but I remembered this morning!

Lets hope the kidling does better with her lunch today. Too much of her food came home last night.

First hers:

Tortilla rolls with ham and cheese, grapes, boiled quail eggs and carrot sticks.

And mine.

Sauteed pea vine, mini hamburgers, sweet pepper kinpira, bean sprout salad (bought), tomatoes and chikuwa stuffed with green beans.

et cetera