Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Scary Clown

Yesterday's bento was inspired again by the bento challenge, this week's topic was "scary." What could be more scary than a clown? I didn't want to make something that would frighten the girls, so I picked a topic that would be more scary for adults.

The twins liked it just fine. The clown was made of a turkey and cheese in a tortilla for the lower face, strawberry for the cheeks, banana for the mouth, cherry tomato for the nose, rice cakes as the eyes, sausage for the irises, rotini for the hair, and pumpkin pie for eyebrows.

I did another quick bento today, which I didn't take a picture of, but the best part was pumpkin butter and cream cheese sandwiches cut with a cookie cutter into the shapes of ghosts and pumpkins. Pumpkin Butter is pretty tasty.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Happy Halloween with Bat Bento Box

Today's bento was inspired by the most wonderful time of the year, Halloween! Family of Food is big on a holdiday where people give you not only food, but some of the most wonderful food there is... CANDY. No doubt this bento is only the first of the spooky lunches for my twins. Last night I was inspired to make Pumpkin Pie (which the girls loved) so I have to figure out how that works into my next bento. This one, called Bats Flying in a Moonlit Sky, contained two almond butter and jelly sandwiches on wheat cut into bat shapes. The night sky was graham cracker with swiss cheese clouds. A hard boiled egg and sungold tomato made for a misty moon. Lastly, the whole image was framed with green beans and string cheese.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Octopus' Garden - Experiments with an 8 Legged Cake

The Twins are two! This glorious event called for a very special cake. If you remember, for their first birthday, I made a Duck Cake. Friends gave us an octopus cake form a few months back, so this time, we went with an under the sea theme giving us the OCTOCAKE.

Like with the Settlers Cake I made for my husband a few weeks ago, I used the Lemon Cake for Lino recipe from Amy Sedaris' Cookbook,I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. The cake baked well with only a small sink hole at the bottom and a few tiny abrasions to the surface. Those small deficiencies did not worry me because the frosting would easily cover any imperfections.

This is where things got a little dicey. I had a lemon buttercream recipe that called for powdered sugar and a white frosting recipe which called for boiling water. I only had regular cane sugar and I was not sure if the other recipe would turn out thick enough for frosting the octopus cake.
Under pressure for time, I made a rash decision. I combined the recipes. I thought maybe the sugar just needed to be lighter so somehow combining it with boiling water would make it work like powdered sugar. I beat the mixture in my Kitchen Aid for several minutes, but as you've probably suspected, no frosting came of it. Instead a thick lemon syrup formed. Feeling I had nothing to lose I added some flour and baking soda and attempted to make a lemon cookie. It was not a crazy idea, either the cookies would come out poorly and I would just be out a little bit of flour or they would be great and we would have an extra batch of cookies for the party. Either way it wasn't much of a risk. Well, it was close but no cigar. The cookies came out pretty tasty, but they wouldn't come off the pan. I was left with a I pile of lemon crumbs and a cookie sheet in need of some sort of solvent to remove the stuck on cookie bits.

It was time to face facts, I needed powdered sugar, but time was tight. I sacrificed a few of the dishes I was going to make and hopped down to the market for the powdered sugar. I left trusty Husband of Food in charge of the wee ones and a few of the cooking related tasks I had left to do other than the cake. He came through for me, like the prince that he is, and I was able to get to making the frosting.

The lemon buttercream (dyed green) came out beautifully. Frosting the octocake was not easy, but I had enough for coverage. I used store bought icing for the face and details, blue icing and coconut for the ocean waves at the base of the cake, Swedish Fish surrounding the bottom, and Hershey's chocolate sauce on the side for the octopus ink. The ink was a big hit. As amateurish as this cake may be, I can say this, it was made with fun, love, and just the right amount of powdered sugar.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The mundane kitchen accessory that will improve your life.

Yes, it's the Oxo Sink Strainer.

What is wrong, you ask, with the strainer/stopper in the drain that came with your sink?

Everything is wrong with it.

When you run the water, the stopper drops into the drain, and the sink starts filling up, so you have to kind of put it on a slant so it doesn't strain out the bits of food that you don't want to go down the drain, and then you realize you might as well just leave it on the counter. Then when you actually want to put down the stopper, it doesn't completely stop the drain, so the sink starts to fill, but it's draining at the same time, so if you wanted a sink full of cold water to cool down a big pot of stock, you would have to keep checking it and filling it up with more cold water. And besides, it's old and skanky with some kind of gelatinous crud that's been building up there for years between the bottom of the strainer and the top of the rubber stopper, because you don't have the specialized tool you would need to clean that, and the rubber stopper is probably cracked and crumbly.

By contrast, the Oxo Sink Strainer stops the drain when the stopper is released, and the stopper stays put when you want the sink to drain, and it strains out the things you don't want to go down the drain, and it's easy to clean silicone.

For $6.99 from Amazon, the Oxo Sink Strainer is way more expensive than the cheapo one you can get from the hardware store, but it's still just $6.99, and it will improve your life, and isn't it worth $6.99 to improve your life?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Two Bentos for Two Girls

This bento was a second try at the "flowers" theme from the bento challenge. I like this one much more than the previous flowers box, but I was too busy to post the picture before the theme changed. It includes cous-cous, broccoli, pear, pineapple, craisins, celery, cheese, turkey, wheat bread, and bunny grahams. I went into daycare with the girls that day, so I had the pleasure of seeing them eat their lunch. The box got a bit messy on the way out that day, but the girls liked it anyway. They especially liked the pear.

The second bento is farm based. This one is filled with favorite foods of the twins, cheese, grapes, carrots, Cheerios, "quackers", and an almond butter and jelly sandwich shaped like a pig (the eye is a champagne grape). The girls ate this one up. Click on either picture for a closer look.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Roses in the Garden

The twins are under the weather, so they may not go to daycare tomorrow, but if they do, they are going to have another Bento Challenge inspired lunch.

I call it Roses in the Garden.

The leaves are cheese tortellini, the roses, tomatoes. Under the garden is a happy String Cheese worm tunnelling up through the roast beef and pretzel ground.

Update! One of the Family of Food Finds has Moved

If you read our article on Cuban Food last summer, you might have tried El Criollo in the Valley. This restaurant has moved to a new location.

EL Criollo is now located at 6622 Van Nuys Blvd, between Kitteridge and Van Owen.

Enjoy the flavors Van Nuys!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rubber Duck Themed Bento

This week I made bento to please my rubber duck loving children. According to the folks at daycare, this was their favorite lunch yet.

The sandwiches were almond butter and jelly shaped like a rubber duck, complete with champagne grape eyes. To get a tactile sense of the rubber duck there were strips of rubber like cheese surrounding the sandwiches. Corn was included due to its Rubber Duck color. Tiny duck crackers "Quackers" from Whole Foods made a side dish. And a Strawberry topped the whole thing off. Why a strawberry? My kids like them. Not everything has to be duck themed...

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