Bento Cuteness!!

This is my entry for the Bento Cuteness Challenge.  Please visit @ChefPandita's blog for the Round Up on Saturday, July 2! Update:  the Round Up is published!

A bunch of us started talking Bento towards the middle of May, and we decided that we'd all put together a cute bento box lunch and post about it at the end of June. And now, here it is: the end of June.  And it's time for Bento Cuteness!

What I like about this group of Bento Cuties is that we are all on different levels when it comes to bento.  I knew nothing; some of us had Dabbled, and some were Bento Experts.  How fun that everyone is participating together and hopefully learning from each other.

Back in May, I immediately went into Obsessive mode, scouring Japanese shopping sites for the Cutest Bento Box Ever.  I was drawn to the pretty shiny ones, the ones that were kinda Bakelite Retro, ones with rabbits (for the Year of the Rabbit)--I wanted them all.  Right, then.  All I needed to do was sell a kidney and use my Earnings to buy all the bento boxes I wanted.  And then I decided that a)I Like both of my kidneys and would be unable to choose which one to let go.  I felt like Sophie.  And b)Yuri, from Chef Pandita said that it really didn't matter what the box looked like, just that the food inside be Cute.

I pouted for a moment, because I was in love with This Bento Box, but then I pulled it together and realized that she was right.  I ended up buying a clear plastic container with three small, removable compartments.  The lid locks down on all four sides, making a Very Tight Seal.  It's made by a Korean company, but I'm just too lazy to climb down 16 steps to find out.  Sorry.

Once I was lovingly slapped out of my glazed obsession over the boxes themselves, I turned my attention to what was supposed to go Into a bento box.  And then I realized that a)I am not from Japan and b)I don't want to have to learn an entire new way of cooking all my foods, complete with seasonings, sauces, etc.  I Vowed to stay pretty true to our American way of eating while making sure there was a variety of healthy smackerels for The Beloved to Chow Down upon.  I have been packing bento-style meals for The Beloved pretty much since my box showed up, so for about a month.  He is really loving the variety as well as all the fresh fruits and vegetables.  Here are pictures of three of the "regular" bento-style lunches that I have packed, and then Prepare Yourselves for the Pizza Resistance, the #bentocuteness Challenge bento!

bento! 001This bento featured some leftover cauliflower/potato curry, some Tuscan bread, mixed olives, red grapes and a cucumber salad that I quickly made by julienning cucumber, salting/draining and dressing with soy sauce&vinegar.  Took about 15 min to assemble (I started the cucumbers first and then came back to them after everything else was put together.

023This guy has some salmon salad and mesclun mix in half a multi-grain flat bread round, red grapes, celery with some peanut butter, cucumber slices dressed with rice wine vinegar and a wee triangle of cheddar to take up some space.  Something I have learned about myself through making bento-style lunches:  Cutting cheese into shapes other than slices or cubes makes me Ever So Happy.  Again, about 15 minutes to put together.

011And this one is a Lunch for Dipping:  homemade hummus with cucumber rounds, some triangles of flat bread, and celery for dipping.  Also, a quick fruit salad made with pineapple, grapes, honey, salt and mint.  And a triangle of cheese.  I just can't help myself.  This one took about 10 minutes to assemble, since I had everything ready to go.  By accident; not by design.

And now, here it is.  The Pizza Resistance.  But first, here were my rules (that I made up this morning because I never plan ahead).

1)I will do some actual cooking to make this happen.  A fruit tray Will Not cut it.
2)I won't get up early to do this. (Obviously--I loves my sleeps)!
3)I will use only what is lying around the kitchen--no special shopping. (Again, obviously.  I am Not a planner).

So, I can assure you that, while a little bit a futzing about did happen, I put this meal together in about 30 minutes.  Not bad for three cooked items, chopping, arranging, and photographing!

OK, here it is: bento! 033I know, right?!  I'll give you a moment.

Underneath the whole Composed Portion of this guy are three Romaine lettuce leaves.  (I used the rest of the head of Romaine in our smoothie this morning).  Then, from left to right, we have potato chunks cooked in water, soy sauce and vinegar, olives, sardine fillets (he Loves them), green beans blanched in salted water and shocked, hummus (on top of which are hard boiled egg slices from our girls) and a couple of pieces of celery.  For closure.  And, as a nod to the Very Cute bentos that many, many smart bento folks make because they Love Their Children, I made an emoticon smiley out of smoked paprika.

The whole thing acts as a composed salad, and I drizzled everything with a Very Lit Bit of both extra virgin olive oil and rice wine vinegar.  The Beloved can just eat everything with a knife and fork.

Here are some more pictures of the Bento Madness from this morning.

bento! 015Three (!) pots on the stove to start.
bento! 019An ice bath for cooling everyone down.
bento! 020Shocking the beans.  The Blendtec looms in the background.
bento! 023Chilling the 'taters.
bento! 026Hummus, beans and 'taters layered on top of the lettuce.

I couldn't bring myself to do a Ton of Cutesiness, although it always makes me say "Awwwww..." when I see one made that way (you seriously need to click on that link.  You won't be able to look away), because The Beloved a)is growed up, and b)works as a consultant.  Not sure what his clients would think if their Highly Competent and Handsome consultant were eating duckies and bunnies for lunch.

I am hoping some of the other Bento Cuties broke out some Serious Cute, because I need a fix, even if I didn't go that route for The Beloved's bento.

This challenge actually came up at the perfect time--it's a great transition to the New, Healthier and More Balanced Pastry Chef Online.

Thanks for stopping by; I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Have a lovely day.


  1. says

    How sweet! Love your paprika smiley. Nice to see your other tasty and healthy bento meals too. Welcome to bento Jenni; looks like you are taking to it quite handily! :o)

  2. says

    Jenni, I love all your bentos! The dipping bento sounds like fun. Such a variety of food and colors, and the cuteness added by the paprika smiley: mission accomplished 😀 I am posting the roundup on Saturday so I can have all the links and show at once. Yay for bento cuteness!

  3. says

    Those eggs look magnificent! I can’t imagine what an egg so fresh must taste like. I feel lucky to get them in my farm share every week, and they are wonderfully fresh, but you’re that much closer to the source. Also, do you knwo the sites and The bentos are extremely cute, and the other is a great crash course in Japanese cooking.

    • says

      Camille–I can’t even tell you how good those eggs are! OK, I’ll try! 😉 I cut off the end pieces of 2 eggs, leaving us four pieces w/rounded bottoms and just a bit of yolk. We each ate two, and they were sweet and amazing, even w/o salt! Much sweeter, richer and more interesting than unhappy eggs. I’m sure your eggs are great–grocery eggs are already a month old when they show up at the store, so I’m sure your CSA eggs have that beat by at least three weeks!

      Thanks for the bento site recs–this was fun, and I plan on making his lunches (and packing picnics for both of us) this way most of the time! 🙂

    • says

      Be careful, Drew–you don’t want to have to sell a kidney! But there are some really, really cool ones out there. This is a fun way to make lunches, and The Beloved is digging it, so it’s a win-win here. 🙂

  4. says

    Yum yum yum yum oh, wait, sardine….ok yum yum yum yum! Jenni, you even made ME want to(maybe?) taste a sardine, a feat heretofore unaccomplished. So organized, so beautiful, so healthy. You rocked the bento, lady! And also, you lie. You said you weren’t getting up early but the clock in the photo CLEARLY says 6:25. Just sayin!! 😉

    • says

      No lies, ma’am. The alarm goes off at 6:00 here. I generally loll about for about 20 minutes before getting up to iron a shirt, make a lunch and a smoothie for The Beloved. Yesterday morning, I only lolled for 10 minutes before ironing, so technically, I didn’t get up early–10 whole minutes after the alarm went off! 🙂

      • says

        Wow! You are officially a Dream Wife in my book. Rock Star Husband is lucky if I crack one eye open a sliver before he leaves for the train. Hungry. In his wrinkled shirt!

        • says

          Bwah!!! Nancy, you are hilarious!! Yes, I put forth so much energy getting The Beloved ready for work that I generally need to Take to my Fainting Couch and eat bon bons for a few hours! 😆

    • says

      Love that salad–so easy. If you have a julienne peeler or a mandoline, I highly recommend making “noodles” out of the cukes, salting them and letting them get limp and then rinsing before continuing. So cute and not-the-usual cucumber salad. I’ll take this kind of salad over pickles, any day!

  5. says

    Look at you with your cheesy triangles! I clicked on that bento link and you were right, I could not look away. I even broke out the kitty (note, not kidney) and bought a neato bento type box – the whole thing is addictive. Meanwhile I think your Beloved has become one very lucky luncher. As for spuds cooked with soy sauce and vinegar, I am all over that one, lady!

    • says

      I absolutely thought of you, DS, when I was cooking those potatoes! Is the box you bought the one in your post? I love that guy–that his little container is triangular is The Best!

      I think The Beloved is pretty lucky, too! 😉

  6. says

    Jenni, you are the mastermind of this whole challenge and you just did such an amazing post! I am blown away by your creativity and fun way to put it all together. Now I’m hungry after reading this post. Thanks for giving me a chance to join you and the rest of the Bento cuties in this challenge!

  7. says

    Well, look at you – fully embracing a bento-lifestyle! I’m pretty sure that your hubs’ clients would be nothing but envious for his boxed lunch. The curried veg on Tuscan is making me hungry and I would feel ever so healthy if I had a chance to chow down on your challenge entry! Well done, friend – I hope you’ll post some more of your bento-ishness!

    • says

      Thank you, Francys. 🙂 I’ve just learned about bento boxes myself. The traditional Japanese bentos, especially the kawaii (cute) ones are real works of art. I’m just trying to send colorful, healthy food! 🙂

  8. says

    how lucky is The Beloved??? getting different beautiful lunches to chow down on 🙂 But i do have to say that I like your pizza one the best. I love all the components of it. YUM

    • says

      Thanks, Cherrie! Today, he got a BLT w/happy bacon & our own tomatoes w/chipotle mayo on a wheat bun, homemade potato salad and Greek yogurt w/honey, vanilla and fresh blueberries! Every once in awhile, I’d better send him a Lunchable so he doesn’t come to expect too much! 😆

  9. The Beloved says

    Once you go Bento, you won’t go back. Jenni does an amazing job with the short amount of time to put these together before I hit the road every morning. Good and good for me!


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