hello kitty garden bento

Have you ever done a cooking course and put off trying out your new recipes, to find later you just never get round to it?  That has happened to me before… but this time I wanted to learn from my mistake.  I was determined to put the Hello Kitty class I did while in Singapore to good practice!   Problem: too many catch up jobs to do after our holiday.  One of the looming jobs was garden work… weeds, weeds, everywhere!  It’s spring time now, and everything is growing quickly, especially the weeds.  hello kitty in the gardenHowever, after a morning of intensive weeding, I still had some energy left, so decided to make a practice Kitty bento for lunch.

The onigiri part was okay…I managed to get the shape worked out…although as you can see Kitty’s ear got a bit mashed at some stage.  And the other problem was Kitty was way too big!  She’s more like one of those giant feral cats we get in the desert here!  Funny, when you’re portioning the rice it doesn’t look like much.  Let me tell you, this cat was a serious mouthful.  And because the onigiri was so massive, there was no room to show the colourful and tasty side dishes!  So they’ve had to be hidden underneath the kitty and katsu chicken.  You’ll have to take my word for it, the sides were steamed baby spinach, and a salad of corn, peppers, and tomatoes in sesame miso dressing.

The other thing I would have done differently was, to add some food picks.  I even had the perfect ones, lady bugs and bees would have been just right!  So anyway, I guess there’s always room for improvement…next time :).

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hello kitty made easy

I have been trying to post each week at the start of the week, but earlier this week I didn’t manage it…I was on holidays, in Singapore.  I’m back home now… and looking at a big bag of yet-to-be-unpacked bento goodies I managed to collect on my shopping explorations.  I splurged badly, but what can I say… I live in bento-starved Perth and I had to take advantage of the opportunity!


I’m really missing the bustle and excitement of Singapore… so much life, so much to do!  It makes Perth seem like a sleepy country town.  Not that that’s bad.  But sometimes I feel like I want to be in the flow of life, and that is what Singapore is like.  It’s always busy!  And there are so many intriguing sights and tastes to experience.  Not to mention shopping experiences that will make your credit card go into meltdown!  We stayed near Orchard Road, a perfect location for retail therapy.

hello kitty onigiriAnother fabulous thing I did while on holiday was a bento course with Shirley, a very talented and experienced bentoist (you can see her bentos here!)  She offers a variety of different classes.  The one I did was a Hello Kitty one.  I wanted, no NEEDED, to do it because I love charaben, but frankly, am not good at it!  The course was a highlight of my holiday…not just because I learned so much but because it was delightful to catch up with Shirley, and also to talk to her about blogging.  Down here in Perth I don’t get a lot of chances to meet other bento bloggers!

little miss onigiriOne of the things I love about Shirley’s bentos is that they are not just skilled and extremely cute, but she’s a great cook!  She always features tasty looking side dishes…and now that I’ve tasted her recipes for myself, I can verify for you that they are delicious!  🙂  In this bento we had green beans with sesame dressing (yes, we did grind the sesame seeds, and no it didn’t take very long!!), teriyaki chicken, and steamed prawns.  The kitty onigiri was stuffed with salted salmon.  The taste was simple, natural and homey…exactly my kind of food.  We had a combination of hands-on and pre-prepared ingredients…and were able to form (under expert instruction!) the kitty onigiri, and to make all the decorative touches.  One major thing I learned from it was, not to make the onigiri too tightly packed!  I realised I had been making mine too hard.  And a pair of offset tweezers is very handy for positioning the details.   I picked up a couple of pairs at Daiso to bring home, but forgot they were in my purse…unfortunately they were confiscated at the airport!!! 😦 WAH!

So, if you are ever in Singapore, (or maybe you live there already?), I highly recommend doing one of Shirley’s bento classes.  She gives a lot of tips, and you will get to take home a tasty bento to eat!  Here is mine:

hello kitty bentoI tucked the bento into my bag and headed back to our apartment on the train, looking forward to eating something scrumptious and homemade.  And, I assure you, it was yum!

In the next little while I’ll be blogging about some of my Singapore finds.  Also, coming up I’m having my 100th post.  Wow, where did the time go?!  To celebrate the big event I will be having a giveaway to thank you for your support, so make sure you subscribe in the sidebar, you don’t want to miss hearing about it!  🙂

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a writerly bento

tom collins house bentoOnce a week I facilitate a creative writing group at a writing centre in Perth.  So between dropping my son off at taekwondo and cooking the family dinner, Thursday evenings are usually a rush for me.   It’s one of the occasions when I really need a bento for dinner.

I love to arrive at Tom Collins House early and enjoy a quiet dinner.  That’s my bento there, wrapped in a furoshiki, and sitting on the sideboard waiting to be eaten :).

Among the antique furniture and black and white photographs of noteworthy writers of Western Australia’s past I find myself relaxing and switching gears…and usually have a think about the writing exercises I have prepared.  I love the meditative atmosphere.  I posted about dinner at Tom Collins House before, here.   Here is one recent bento I made for a Thursday night, it was a version of what my family was having for dinner that night: nimono vegetables, rice and teriyaki chicken.

nimono bento

Just a simple meal, like most of my bentos…but delicious all the same.   I was thinking maybe I’d do a feature once in a while about dinner at Tom Collins House.  Historic house bento…hmmmm….?

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sunny rice bento

Hurrah!  I finally managed to make a bento, eat it and blog it all in the same day!  Today was: sausages, greens, carrots, crabstick omelette, brown rice with fresh corn and umeboshi.Image

It was a very simple lunch (except for the omelette, which, if I do say so, was flash!)  Usually after I make a bento I think, hmmm….it could have been more interesting.  But this one did have one of my favourite combos, corn and umeboshi.  I love the sunny bright look of corn, it lifts brown rice for sure, which can look a bit drab at times.  I don’t know what it is about the flavour combination of corn and umeboshi together, I guess it’s the combined intensely salty/sour/sweetness.  I just crave it sometimes.  Here I was thinking of a macrobiotic recipe I used to make, brown rice with umeboshi, onion, corn and cabbage.  So good!  I would have made it today, only I didn’t have cabbage.  

This time I used my magewappa bento box…one of my favourites too.  I love its soft and subtle colour, and the lightweight feel of it.  It seems, I’m not sure how to put it, maybe, “compatible with food”.  Maybe “in harmony” would be better.  But that’s getting way too serious, so for now I’ll say goodbye!  🙂

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my love of hotpots bento

The weather is so cool and wet here at the moment; all I want to have everyday is soup, stew or hotpot, Japanese style.  I wonder if my family is getting tired of hotpot yet?? It’s definitely my fave-crave these days.  It’s so easy to make, and I love the comforting look of clay pot or donabe sitting on the table.


Clay pots are beautiful to cook with, holding their heat for a long time to keep food warm.  Mine are very simple serviceable ones I have picked up over the years from Asian grocery stores around Perth.  The large glazed donabe is my favourite, it holds plenty of protein and vegetables for a family of four.

For my standard hotpot, if I’m in a hurry I don’t follow a specific recipe, just add dashi stock (from a sachet), soy sauce, mirin, sake, followed by whatever meat and vegetables I have on hand…nothing complicated!  Potato, carrot, sweet potato, etc, chicken or beef, leeks or spring onions, shiitake mushrooms (usually soaked dried ones).  I always add something green, usually I cook the greens (at the moment mizuna) separately and add them at the end.  I don’t want their bitter taste to overpower the broth.  Snow peas or snap peas are great in this too, as are a scattering of green soybeans (I keep a bag of frozen ones on hand).  I usually heat some frozen udon noodles to serve with the vegetables, meat and plenty of broth in big bowls.

And of course, leftovers are great the next day, as a rustic side dish in a bento!  As here, with kimchi omelette and rice with peas.

chicken nabe bento
For more hotpot inspiration, please visit the just-opened-today English version of Japanese food website, Cookpad!  Click here for a link to a section of CREATIVE HOTPOTS!!  I’m in heaven!

Finally, thanks to my friend Hillary for the huge jar homemade lacto-fermented kimchi, it is still delicious!

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toasty onigiri bento

Just recently I ordered a bag of biodynamic brown rice from Queensland.  The rice is called rain-fed, meaning cultivated in a way that uses rainfall rather than irrigation to grow.  It is the best brown rice I have ever tasted!  After years of not enjoying brown rice, now I love it again.  And because it’s short grain rice, it makes perfect onigiri!  
toasty onigiri bento

My favourite onigiri of the moment is a simple one, pan grilled brown rice ball with some soy sauce to give it a toasty glaze.  This is a dinner bento I made for the night of my weekly writing group; a simple bento with chicken cutlet with barbecue sauce, chopped salad (you can’t see it underneath the garnish!), Japanese mayonnaise.  I uploaded my Japanese mayonnaise method for Thermomix here.  Japanese mayonnaise is the best, I crave it sometimes.  Funny because I’m not a fan of mayonnaise normally.  I guess I find it kind of bland, but Japanese mayo is full of flavour.  Especially homemade!  However, if you don’t have a Thermomix that recipe would also work with a stick blender or food processor.  Did you notice the mizuna garnish?  It’s from my garden…so nice to step outside the into the rain drenched garden and pick a fresh baran to go in my bento!

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my-desk-is-really-piled-up-right-now bento

I have such good intentions for blogging.  Lots of ideas of things I want to make, projects I want to develop.  But as usual I’m snowed under in an illusion of busyness.  In fact, so overwhelmed that this post I was going to do about being snowed under, got snowed under!  So this bento is actually a couple of weeks out of date.  ARGH!


What to do?  Just perch your lunch on top of the pile and don’t let it get you down?  I guess….but seriously though, this clutter and bother is really getting me down!!


And to top it off I’ve been sick a lot lately, which to me is a sure sign I’m not handling the load so well.  I’ve had to chop a few things from my schedule, and I’m still thinking about dropping more.  I thought maybe I’d even quit blogging!  Terrible thought, go away right this minute!!

So anyway, here is this poor bento I made, but nearly forgot to post, because it was so lost under books and papers and thoughts.  Somen noodles with spicy minced chicken, thai basil and chillies, and a dollop of homemade sweet chilli sauce (recipe here).  Steamed and fresh veggies with homemade bento-takeaway-style miso salad dressing.  Delicious! (Japanese dressing non-recipe = mashed up spoon of miso, splash of mirin, splash of rice vinegar, optional splash of oil.  Shake-shake.  Done.)

So anyway, long story short, that was weeks ago, and my desk looks pretty much the same.  Only, the lunch is gone.  <sigh>

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