Kindergarten bento – Blueberries (18, 19, 20/May/18)

During the weekend, we went to visit my relatives who live in the mountains in Gunma prefecture, 150km north of Tokyo. It’s a secluded place completely opposite of our crazy urban life, away from capitalism with hardly any tourism.

In the private field in front of their beautiful Japanese wooden house, they grow blueberries along with potatoes and buckwheat without using any pesticides. Our daughter and I had a privilege of handpicking their lush, fresh blueberries covered in the morning dew, and putting some of them directly into our mouths. There was no one else in the field but us, with only the sound of bird singing in the background. The field where the blueberry bushes were grown was surrounded by a white net (to protect them from birds), making it seem like we were immersed in a dreamlike land covered in clouds.

We brought most of the blueberries we picked back with us, which is a true luxury in Tokyo where they are sold very expensively (usually over ¥500 for only 15 pieces or so). Now our freezer is full of these beautiful, dark, purple, blue, plump berries, so we won’t have to buy them for quite some time.

For the next few days, I packed the fresh ones in our daughter’s bento for dessert, hoping she would bask in the exquisite memory of her time in great nature.

Kindergarten bento – Post holiday (Thursday, 14/Jun/18)

For the first two weeks in June, we took our daughter off from school in order for her to spend time with the Dutch side of her family who were visiting Japan for three weeks. During the break we took a trip to Okinawa, the prefecture comprised of a group of islands in the south west of Japan, which is surrounded by the breathtakingly beautiful East China Sea.

Okinawa was like a paradise to me, not only because of its emerald green beaches and the unique culture reminiscent of Ryukyu Kingdom, but also, frankly and simply, because of the absence of daily chores such as cleaning and cooking.

Our daughter went back to school the day after we came back from our glorious getaway, and so followed my inevitable daily bento making. After being away I needed to be wise for the bento preparation, making the most of the limited ingredients. I used the frozen basil & spinach pesto sauce with macaroni pasta, and for dessert frozen apple mousse & mashed sweet potato combo with raisins, all of which are usually stocked up in my fridge. The rest of them were bought in a convenience store in the neighborhood upon our arrival back to Tokyo.

Kindergarten bento – How many ingredients comparison (29/May, 30/May, 31/May, 1/Jun,4/Jun, 5/Jun)

29/May – 11 ingredients

Simmered cod, rice, edamame, egg with corns, spinach in sesame sauce, cucumber, carrot, apple, banana

30/May – 11 ingredients

Fried chicken (with corn flower), green beans, broccoli, cherry tomato, goma konbu (sesame & kelp), rice, furikake sprinkle (counted as one), apple, strawberry

31/May – 12 ingredients

Bread (count as one), ham, cucumber, scrambled egg, cheese, Dutch appelstroop, peanut butter, blueberry jam, green beans, apple mousse, mashed potato, cinnamon

1/Jun – 10 ingredients

Chicken soboro, chopped komstsuna, rice, sesame, tomato omelet, broccoli, cucumber with bonito flakes, watermelon

4/Jun – 11 ingredients

Nikudon (pork slices, sliced cabbage, rice), broccoli, cherry tomato, tofu omelet (tofu, egg, ao-nori (seaweed) powder), cherry tomato, apple, banana

5/Jun – 11 ingredients

Tortillas (counted as one), ham, cucumber, cheese, Dutch appelstroop, strawberry jam, banana with Nutella (secret, as it’s not allowed at her school), boiled egg, broccoli, watermelon

Wow, I am quite consistent, with mostly 11 ingredients used every day.

Kindergarten bento – Dutch Sweet & Sour Chicken (Monday, 28/May/18)

Dutch Sweet & Sour Chicken for my daughter’s bento, the leftover from the dinner party.

We had some guests over for dinner on Sunday, and I cooked Dutch Sweet & Sour Chicken which recipe I got from my Dutch mother-in-law. Whenever I tell our guests I cooked a “Dutch” dish their faces go blank – Dutch kitchen is not widely known, and people just have no idea what to expect.

This Sweet & Sour Chicken is also not a traditional Dutch dish, but is a modern interpretation of historical backgrounds of the Dutch. It has some influence from Indonesia as well as West Indies, and of course The Netherlands. It is actually a complex dish, just like their history can be, and usually people cannot figure out exactly what’s inside apart from the main ingredients (chicken, tomato and curry).

If you’re interested, here is the rough recipe I posted a while ago.

Kindergarten bento – Boiled egg failure (Friday, 25/May/18)

Our daughter loves half boiled egg served in egg stand. That’s how her Dutch grandmother (Oma) prepares it, and our daughter calls it “Oma Egg”. She loves cracking it horizontally at the top with a knife, and eating gooey golden egg yolk with a sprinkle of salt using this tiny egg spoon. It’s a whole pleasurable ritual for her.

Now back to our kitchen in the morning, while preparing bento, I went auto-pilot, boiled an egg for 5 minutes, peeled it, cut in half and saw the shiny yellow egg yolk spilling out of the egg white. Only then did I realise it was meant for her bento and needed to be fully cooked. As is always the case it was the last egg in the fridge, and as being Friday I had no other ingredients to fill up the bento box. Panicking, I put the halved egg into a small bowl of boiled water, but nothing really happened. I then put the bowl of egg into the microwave, being afraid it might explode, so ran it for 10 seconds, check, and repeat. After five times of pathetic efforts, it finally solidified, and with a feeling of relief I packed it into my daughter’s bento box.

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Kindergarten bento – Easy tomato sauce penne (Thursday, 24/May/18)

Despite my continuous effort on cooking healthy yet time consuming Japanese dishes on a daily basis for our daughter, if we ask her what her favorite food is, she always instantly answers, ‘pasta!’.

For busy morning, I place halved 8- 10 cherry tomatoes, a small can of tuna, little bit of chopped onion in a medium sized frying pan, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt, pepper & oregano to taste, and just let it cook with the lid on while pasta is being boiled in a separate pot. I usually add a small ladleful of pasta water when the sauce gets a bit dry. Drain the pasta once it’s ready, and toss it in the sauce and mix them well.

As simple as it may be, this pasta is quite tasty.

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Kindergarten bento – 15 ingredients (Wednesday, 23/May/18)

  1. Rice
  2. “Shirasu” baby sardines
  3. Kelp (konbu seaweed)
  4. Sesame
  5. Carrot
  6. Egg
  7. Tofu (mixed in omelet)
  8. Ao-nori (seaweed) powder (mixed in omelet)
  9. Pumpkin
  10. Chicken filet
  11. Okra
  12. Cucumber
  13. “Katsuo-bushi” bonito flakes (mixed with cucumber slices)
  14. Strawberry
  15. Banana

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