I also like to play around in the kitchen. Sure there are some days when I would rather not mess with it. When I would rather have someone else have to clean up the mess and not have to worry about what I'm going to cook and when it's going to be ready or if it's even going to end up edible. But I totally jump for joy when I get a new cookbook or a new cooking mag!
Last month, I got a copy of the new addition to Kentaro Kobayashi's Easy Japanese Cooking series, Noodle Love. And this month I'm drooling over Bento Love.
For those of you who don't know, bento is just a boxed lunch, usually Japanese. They're pretty (people compete to build the most aesthetically pleasing bento layouts!), they're somewhat healthy, and they're pretty much grown up lunch boxes. Grown up for us, that is. For the people who have been preparing them and eating them for years, they're just lunch.
Now that I'm working from home, it's a little easier to control what I'm eating for lunch, but when I was working at an office, I would typically go out and buy lunch every day -- and it cost me at least $10. That's $50 for lunch every week! It's insane. Yes, there are cheaper options (McD's and Wendy's), typically unhealthy fried, yummy food (ah, Taco Bell, I miss you). And you could always bring your lunch, but the same old sandwich starts to lose its appeal for this girl -- I crave variety -- and frozen "healthy" dishes are sneered at by my gaping hole of a stomach. So of course Bento Love is right up my alley! It's everything you need -- rice, an entree, veggies, and (my favorite) condiments, all in one encompassed and easy to carry container.
The recipes in Bento Love are easy to follow and feature small portions, just the right size for your lunch. There are stir-frys (Beef and Green Pepper Stir Fry, Cashew Chicken Stir Fry), traditional dishes (I've seen the Three-Color Bento before), and some atypical bento recipes like Fish and Chips and the Cheeseburger Bento. There's also a section on side dishes -- because there are pictures of each recipe in the prepared bento boxes (very drool-worthy) -- and info on some of the ingredients you see throughout the book with some substitutions suggested as well (using sherry in place of mirin, for example).
So, get out your rice cooker and give yourself a little extra time in the morning to treat yourself to a really tasty lunch with the help of Kentaro Kobayashi, a man who takes his bento seriously! (Bentos are meant to be eaten just a few hours after they are prepared, but I'm sure if you don't have a bento lunchbox -- I've seen them at Asian stores -- that you shouldn't have a problem storing these in the fridge and reheating in the microwave.)