Monthly Archives: November 2016

Kindergarten bento – Recycled soup (11/Nov/16)

Menu: Sweet potatos simmered in udon noodle soup, Corn omelet, Steamed broccoli, Rice with goma-konbu, Steamed flower carrot

Mandarin mikan for dessert

The weather is getting winter-like over here in Tokyo with cold rain and icy wind, which makes you crave for some warm winter dish for dinner. Last evening I cooked warm udon noodles with chicken, spring onion and hakusai cabbage in dashi broth, with salt, sake and mirin for seasoning. It turned into this beautifully opaque soup, which was perfect for thick, long, snow-white udon noodles. There was this sweet potato I had roasted in the toaster earlier, so I tossed the diced potatoes into the leftover soup and simmered them for a while.

Ta-da, here is a smartly recycled yet tasty dish for our daughter’s bento.

Kindergarten bento – Open Day (8/Nov/16)

Menu: Hijiki rice with scrambled egg, Aji (horse mackerel) cutlet, Cucumber & tomato salad, Boiled green beans

Mandarin mikan for dessert

There was an Open Day at our daughter’s kindergarten, where the parents are invited to witness how the children play, tidy up, get ready for the next activity, and in doing so how they interact with their friends and teachers. It was the third Open Day for us since the school started back in April, and it was very interesting to see some changes in the behaviors of the children after seven months. They started to play more with others rather than on their own, act more maturely (in an age appropriate manner of course), and be more aware of the social boundaries they’d been learning at school. All the children were super excited for this special occasion with all the grown ups staring at them, and jumped up & down and ran around, while laughing out loud and squealing in delight. It was such a pleasure to see your child develop this way, in an environment where she truly enjoys, is surrounded by great friends and teachers, feels secure and protected, and gets stimulated everyday.

After the Open Day, the school opened up a large activity room for those parents who wish to mingle and talk over lunch. I thought it would be nice to spend some time with other mummies (no daddies this time but there are a few regulars – hurray, Japan is changing for the better at last!), so I brought my own lunch and participated. My packed lunch had exactly the same food as my daughter’s, just in a bigger bento box. It was funny and kind of ticklish to think I was tasting what my daughter was tasting, as we say in Japanese “Ofukuro no Aji,” the Taste of Mother’s.

My & minime bento

Kindergarten bento – No rice!! (7/Nov/16)

Menu: Penne Amatriciana, Spinach omelet, Cucumber sticks

Banana & Mandarin mikan for dessert

On Sunday evening I realised we had run out of rice. In a Japanese household this almost never happens and is unheard of. I failed to stock up our daily staple… To make matters worse, I even didn’t have time… agh… actually forgot to buy fresh meat or fish… Yes, I had a busy weekend.

This means I had to improvise something out of whatever we had in our fridge and pantry on Monday morning for our daughter’s bento. Luckily, there were some tomatoes and bacon in the fridge, which I magically turned into so-called Amatriciana sauce (tomato, bacon & onion). Served with penne pasta & parmiggiano, it is a perfect pasta dish to kickstart a good week. With the help of egg and spinach, it rather became a nice Italian bento box for our ever so hungry princess.

Kindergarten bento – Simmered pumpkin & chicken (4/Nov/16)

Menu: Simmered pumpkin & chicken, Fried rice with Japanese hakusai cabbage and shirasu baby sardines, Boiled egg, Boiled broccoli, Cherry tomato

Mandarin mikan for dessert

3rd of November was a national holiday in Japan (Cultural Day), and we had our daughter’s kindergarten friends over at our place for a playdate followed by an early dinner. I cooked this dish, Simmered Pumpkin & Chicken, hoping to fulfill the appetite of the kids who are all growing so fast day by day.

I love the combination of pumpkin and chicken in general – somehow the sweetness and soft texture of the pumpkin go so well with the juicy tasty chicken with meaty texture.  I used chicken thigh this time so that the kids can eat them more easily, but chicken drumsticks are also very compatible. I’d definitely recommend this, too.

Here is the recipe:

Simmered Pumpkin & Chicken

Ingredients (for 4 – 6 people):

– 1 pumpkin; seeded, cut into chunky blocks, ideally peel off all the sharp edges to make them smooth (apparently this will avoid pumpkin to be mushy)

– 400g chicken thigh (or drumsticks); cut into bite size blocks, a bit smaller than the pumpkins I would say

– about 300ml of dashi broth (or just enough to cover the top of the ingredients)

– 2 to 3 table spoons of sake (white wine if no sake)

– 1 to 2 table spoons of cooking oil

For seasoning (adjust depending on how much dashi broth you use):

– 3 to 4 table spoons of soy sauce

– 2 to 3 table spoons of sugar (I use beetroot sugar)

– 1 to 2 table spoons of mirin (depending on your liking)


1. Heat a large cooking pot (such as Le Cruset), pour in oil, and throw in the chicken. Fry until golden in medium heat.

2. Pour in sake and fry until sake evaporates

3. Add pumpkin and pour in the broth, just enough to cover the ingredients. The top of the ingredients doesn’t need to be covered in the broth, can be peeking out. Do not soak them – if they are entirely covered in broth, it gets too watery.

4. Cover the ingredients with aluminum foil (make a circle shape to fit the surface of the pan). This will circulate the heat evenly and quickly.

5. Bring it to boil in medium heat and cook for 5 minutes or so

6. Turn down the heat (to low), cook further until the pumpkin is soft, for another 12 minutes or so (use a toothpick and see if it penetrates)

6. Add the soy sauce, then sugar. Cook for a few minutes.

7. Add mirin at the end to taste

Kindergarten bento – How to avoid apple from browning (2/Nov/16)

Menu: Grilled sawara (Spanish mackerel) in saikyo-miso, Boiled egg, Boiled green beans, Cherry tomato, Cucumber sticks, Rice and goma-konbu

Apple wedges for dessert

As you know the flesh of apples turn brown after a few minutes when exposed to air. This is due to oxdyzation, but there is a trick to stop it. Soak apple wedges in water with a pinch of salt.

Maybe it’s a common sense or one of those old grandmother’s tales, but I wanted to mention it here in case someone didn’t know about it. I asked my husband if he did, and he said yes but didn’t remember how. So there you go.

Kindergarten bento – Niku-jaga (1/Nov/16)

Menu: Niku-jaga (stewed potato & meat), Broccoli omelet, Boiled green beans, Cherry tomato, Rice with furikake sprinkle

Strawberries & banana for dessert

Niku-jaga is stewed potato and meat, usually cooked with carrot and onion. I once wrote about potato being considered as vegetable in Japan 🇯🇵 (hence it comes with rice in a bento box). Most of my Western friends disagree – click here to find out more!