Monday, September 30, 2013

The Week in Bentos - Sep 23 to Sep 27

This past week, temperatures in North Dallas have been pretty moderate. The mornings are crisper,  afternoons are not sweltering (!!) and nights are significantly cooler. Looks like fall is almost here !
I will have to look up some cool weather dishes for the lunchbox soon.
Hows the weather in your neck of the woods ?

 On  Monday, LG7 had a sesame seed bagel (from Costco) with almond butter and honey, raspberries with an elephant pick, cantaloupe with a car pick and some sweetened pita chips.I packed his lunch in a box that I got at a local Japanese store.

On Tuesday, I used a two tiered bento box from AllThingsForSale. The lower tier contained vermicelli cooked with spices and vegetables (Shavige bhath). The upper tier had raspberries and cantaloupe pieces with an airplane pick .

On Wednesday, I packed sandwiches with peanut butter and  apricot preserves. I used a dinosaur sandwich cutter that I had purchased a long time ago. These dinosaurs have tiny blue eyes (tried to use dark colored sprinkles) and are not easily recognizable !! LOL I also added carrot sticks, apple slices, dried apricots, pepper jack cheese slices and a couple of vanilla wafers.

On Thursday, the lunch was packed in an EasyLunchBox container. I added bread and vegetable cutlets with ketchup, goldfish , sugar snap peas and red and black grapes with a soccer ball pick.
That day, LG7 came home with a slight stomach ache and fever. He hadnt eaten any of his lunch except the grapes and the goldfish.

Thankfully he was all better by Friday morning. I packed him a peanut butter jelly sandwich, raspberries with a car pick, apple slices with an elephant pick and a couple of yogurt covered pretzels.

Its always worrying when your child falls sick, more so when its sudden. I usually refrain from giving over the counter medicines immediately and prefer giving homemade remedies for colds and fevers and such. This has worked for our family so far. Our bodies are generally capable of healing themselves if given a chance !
How do you handle minor pains and illnesses, especially for school going children ?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Eggless Donut Muffins

Today's recipe is a simple one ... a mini muffin that I adapted from the Tasty Kitchen site. I was searching for muffin recipes that I could whip up easily with ingredients at home. I came across these scrumptious looking muffins and when I glanced over the ingredient list, I was happy to note that I had all at hand!
Since the original recipe mentioned only one egg, it was easy to replace it and still retain the texture. The batter came together very quickly and mini muffins bake up in about 15 minutes. The kids devoured the muffins as soon as they came out of the oven!
These eggless donut muffins do taste very buttery and cinnamon-y. They are good at tea time, in lunchboxes, as snacks and any time in between!
Give these a try in your kitchen !


 ½ C whole wheat flour
1¼  C unbleached A.P Flour
1½ tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Nutmeg
½ tsp Cinnamon
⅓ cups Oil
¾ cups turbinado raw Sugar
1 flax egg (1 Tbs ground flax seed + 3 Tbs water)
¾ cups Milk

4 Tbs melted butter
1/3 C sugar
1 Tbs cinnamon

1. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
2. In another bowl combine the oil, sugar, milk and flax seed mixture and mix well.
3. add dry ingredients in batches and stir to combine. Do not overbeat.
4. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for about 15 minutes.
5. In the meantime, combine the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Keep the melted butter in another small bowl.
6. Shake the muffins out of the pan while still hot. Dip the muffin tops in butter and then roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Let cool slightly before popping into mouth and savoring the sweet spicy donut muffins !

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Week In Bentos : Sept 16 - Sept 20 2013

This past week, the thing uppermost in my mind has been organization - its importance in making life smoother and my lack in applying it to my own life recently. There are always so many things going on simultaneously : home , work, kids, their activities, their school work, your own hobbies , spending time with family, etc etc..unless there is some semblance of organization in place. In its absence, it wont be long before chaos and extreme stress make themselves known !! 
So...I am trying to be a little bit more in control of the time that is available so that I am not scrambling and rushing around just to get the dinner on the table on time. Menu planning , keeping the calender updated according to the activities of various family members, making lists are just a few tricks that I am planning to extensively use to make my life easier. 
How do you organize your life ? 


On Monday, I packed a PBJ sandwich, carrot sticks, whole grain crackers, peaches and raspberries and vanilla wafers in an EasyLunchBox.

I forgot to take a picture on Tuesday , but I packed a sandwich again, although I used a whole wheat bun instead of bread..

On Wednesday, LG7 got bow tie pasta with vegetables in the thermos food jar. In a smaller Lock and Lock box, I added carrot sticks, orange segments and a chocolate chip cookie.


On Thursday, I made spinach and corn quesadillas with ketchup, honey sesame sticks, grapes and raspberries and chocolate covered peanuts for a small treat.


On Friday, I made a kind of cheese toast, using whole wheat bread slices, ketchup, olives and two types of cheeses. I know it doesnt look very appetizing, but the box was empty so I guess it tasted better than it looked !

Now I am off to make a menu list for the coming week !!
Have a great weekend :)  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Week in Bentos - Sept 09 to Sept 13

Last week was pretty hectic. Nothing very special going on, but although I took pictures of the lunches that I packed for LG7, I wasnt able to put this post up ! So here I am - Better Late Than Never !

On Monday, I packed whole wheat tortillas with potato filling ( aloo parathas ) , ketchup in the small white box, orange segments, mixed nuts and dried fruits and a chocolate cream cookie for a treat.


Tuesday, the lunchbox contained bow tie pasta with mixed veggies in a quick tomato sauce, carrot sticks, peaches, homemade savory rings (kodbale) and a chocolate chip cookie.


On Wednesday, LG7 got whole wheat bread slices with peanut butter and grape jelly, apple slices and blueberries, steamed broccoli with salt and pepper, goldfish crackers and a chocolate chip cookie.


On Thursday, I ran out of new ideas for the box. So in went potato parathas with ketchup, peaches, carrot sticks, dried cranberries and apricots.


On Friday, LG7 wanted Mac And Cheese. I used Annie's organic pasta and packed that in the Thermos food jar. In another Lock and Lock rectangular container, I added a mini muffin and apple slices.

Despite the lack of spectacular ideas, all lunches were completely eaten leaving me happy, although a little tired !!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Eggless Pate Choux and Chocolate Mousse - Baking Eggless Challenge

In the course of 10 years as a wife and then a mother, I have gone from being slightly indifferent to culinary adventures to a person highly interested in spending time in the kitchen. As a result, I like watching cooking shows on TV, especially ones with a vegetarian theme. I also like watching shows where the chef bakes things, because that's one area that I dabble in quite frequently. All this interest then led me to watch an episode of Martha Bakes on PBS where she demonstrated a recipe for pate choux and several other delectable recipes using the pate choux pastry. The recipes were impressive and delicious, needless to say.
So when Gayathri of Gayathri's Cook Spot announced the recipe for the monthly Baking Eggless challenge, it came as a pleasant shock - because we were supposed to make pate choux and chocolate mousse! The recipe was suggested by Shey of Just Not The Cakes.

I knew that the pate choux recipe was going to be difficult to adapt to an eggless version because the original recipe required a large number of eggs in order to get the rise and texture of the pate choux. Every time I searched on the internet for eggless pate choux recipes, I got the same recipe and almost similar results.
Due to some health issues, I wasn't able to get to the recipe in time. When I did decide to try out the pate choux recipe, I stuck to the most common recipe found on the net.

As soon as I mixed the batter, I realized that something was wrong ! When the little pastry balls came out of the oven, it was evident that something went wrong. Instead of the puffy, airy, light pastry balls, what I had were slightly chewy and hard pastry puffs. Any harder and I would have been in a position to supply several hockey teams with pucks !!
Since I was already out of time for the challenge, I didn't get time to make modifications to the recipe and try again. But several bloggers who participated in this challenge have adapted recipes that seem to have worked, so I am definitely going to try again, at least once :)


In contrast, the chocolate mousse was a breeze to prepare and turned out pretty well.
I adapted Tarla Dalal's recipe and the mousse came together very quickly.
I did cheat a little and used store bought whipped cream, because I had some in my refrigerator and wanted to use it up. But by all means, use fresh whipped cream for better results !


Eggless Pate Choux 
Recipe source - How To Feed a Vegan

 1 C all purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 Tb coconut oil
1 C milk
2 Tb Ener-G egg replacer whipped until stiff with 1/3 cup water

1. Stir together the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.
2. In a saucepan, bring the milk and the oil to a boil.
3. Add all of the flour mixture in to the hot liquid, stir quickly and constantly on low heat, until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the saucepan and forms a ball.
4. Remove from heat and add in the egg replacer mixture and beat in until well incorporated.
5. Use spoons to drop the mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
6. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 and bake for a further 25 minutes. (The original recipe had us bake at 350 for 10 minutes, but I found that the insides were not cooked through properly)
7. Cool completely.

Eggless Chocolate Mousse


1 C chopped unsweetened dark chocolate
1/4 C milk
1/2 C raw sugar
1 3/4 C whipped, lightly sweetened cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp maple syrup or honey

1. Combine the chopped chocolate and the milk in a saucepan and heat on low flame until the chocolate melts.
2. Remove from heat, add the sugar and whip until sugar is dissolved. To make your work easier, use powdered sugar. Also, if you use semi sweet chocolate, you will not need to use as much sugar. Since I had only unsweetened chocolate blocks, I used more sugar.
3. Add the maple syrup and vanilla extract and mix well.
4. Once chocolate mixture has cooled considerably, fold in the whipped cream gently.
5. Pour into serving cups and refrigerate for a few hours to let the mouse set.
6. Serve cold and enjoy!

This was indeed a difficult challenge and made us all think and research quite a bit. I have to say that I failed in the pate choux category, although I am quite determined to try again with a different recipe !

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The week in Bentos - Sept 2 to Sept 5

Its the third week of school and schedules are pretty much set. LG7 is getting regular homework and I make sure he does some additional revision work as well. I try and make up a schedule for his afterschooling work over the weekend. As of now, we keep to uncomplicated work like spelling, math work and handwriting.
More on that later.
We had a good week in lunches - everything came together easily and the kids finished all of their lunch ! Exactly what Mom wants to see :-)

On Tuesday, I packed spicy vermicelli with vegetables (shavige bhath), okra stir fry from the previous night's dinner, carrot sticks, apple slices and a homemade pineapple coconut mini muffin.

On Wednesday, the lunchbox contained tortillas with a mixed veggie filling (veggie paratha), ketchup in the small box, peaches, steamed and salted broccoli and a chocolate sandwich cookie.

On Thursday, LG7 got penne pasta with vegetables, carrot sticks, apples, a mini muffin and mixed raw nuts and dried fruits in the small box.

On Friday, I packed grilled sandwiches with peanut butter and banana, apples and blueberries, carrot sticks, mini muffin and goldfish!

Well, that was my week in Bentos. Hope you had a wonderful week as well.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Of Empty Nests and Bento Lunches!

So, it has been a week since the new school year has begun here in our part of the woods (North Texas). My elder son LG7 (Little Guy - 7 years old :-) ) started second grade and has happily adjusted to his schedule. Considering that he has been in the school environment since he was 2 years old, this is not so surprising. My younger son, LG2.5 also started attending a montessori school this year.
So for three days a week, 3 hours per day, I am absolutely alone in the house ! The silence is sometimes unnerving. Its not that my children are so very noisy or that I kept engaging them every minute. Its just that the realization that my two little children are off on their own adventures, gaining valuable skills and enriching experiences all on their own is awe inspiring and a little humbling. They are navigating the tough world comprised of other little people and teachers by themselves and I am nowhere near them to guide, help or comfort them.I also get a glimpse of how it will be when my two kids go off to college eventually, leaving me in an empty nest. But although I wallow in a little self pity for some time, I quickly realize that this is as it should be.
A popular quotation says that the two things that we as parents can give our children are - roots and wings. A young child growing into its personality and gaining independence is akin to a young bird unfurling its wings for the first time and then learning to fly on its own. Only by vigorously flapping its wings and trying again and again will the fledgling bird strengthen its wings. So it is with our children !

As Kahlil Gibran writes :
"You may give them (your children) your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams

(To read the entire quote, see this post)

Then, here's wishing all parents and children joy and excitement - joy in knowing that parents are blessed people who have in their keeping little gems that will shine in the future and excitement for all the new adventures that are just waiting around the corner for parents and kids alike to enjoy together!

On another note, I have decided to write a post every week, sharing my lunch box creations. I have been packing lunch for LG7 every school day for the past two years. Some weeks, creativity bloomed delightfully and other days it was sadly missing. I hope to be better inspired this year. Blogs detailing Bento creations and recipes abound in the blogosphere and I intend to take full advantage. So join me every week as I put creativity and inspiration to work in my kitchen. You , dear readers , are absolutely welcome to join in with your lunch box delights!

Here are the lunches that I packed for LG7 last week:

On the first day of school, we had pasta with creamy white sauce, sago fryums, peaches, carrots and a sandwich cookie. I also included some homemade yogurt mixed with pureed strawberries and honey which I froze overnight. It was perfect at lunchtime. I used an EasyLunchBox for the lunch, a freezer safe Glad container for the yogurt and a small water bottle.

On Tuesday, LG7 took a peanut butter and honey sandwich, strawberries and blueberries, baby carrots with ranch dressing, cheddar cheese cubes and a homemade chocolate pudding cup.

On Wednesday, the lunchbox had veggie quesadillas with spinach and corn and ketchup in the small box, peaches, sandwich cookie, two rice balls made from leftover spiced rice and a yogurt cup. I included two small picks to make it easier to eat.

On Thursday, LG7 took Annie's Organic Mac and Cheese in a Thermos container, strawberries and blueberries and some yogurt raisins in the small container.

On  Friday, I packed two homemade tortilla wraps with cream cheese, jelly and peanut butter, cantaloupe, steamed broccoli and jicama with ranch dressing and a sandwich cookie.

Other than the jicama coming back limp and lonely on the last day, the rest of the lunch box contents were happily consumed ! Kid happy => Mom happy !

Hope you have a great Labor Day weekend !!