Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bento 283

I'm still packing bento.

#3 wasn't well the last couple of days and I've neglected taking pictures of the packed bento. Anyways, here's one of those which I did take a photo of.

This is banana topped with cinnamon sugar. This item has been 'missing' for a while because #2 commented that it would get wet and liquids from this spill out. I packed this again and so far another similar comment hasn't arise yet. *grins* There are two slices of banana cake I bought at a fund raiser in Church.

Her favorite 'ladies fingers' (Okra) and some spaghetti mixed with a blend of sun dried tomatoes, basil, cream, chopped onions, roasted peppers, salt and pepper. Yummilicious!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bento 282

I was at BSC yesterday and #1 and I picked up some small cakes. The banana tart was the most delicious tasting custard filled dessert!

I packed one third of the banana tart and some freshly made Oden in the bottom box.

In the top box there was a freshly steamed salmon, de-boned for easy eating.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bento 281

This morning I managed to quick fix this bento because I didn't plan for it last night. It was a long and late night of checking and booking of flight tickets for the kids.

I simply boiled the fish cake to rid the oil and used some 'well hidden and long forgotten' bento accessories to brighten the scene.

A bear faced hard boiled egg surrounded by boiled okra (ladies fingers), a bottle of shoyu and half an orange cut in wedges.

Quickie bento!

Bento 280

So I've been really busy with some personal stuff and fixed runs which only moi can accomplish.

This was one of the bentos which I packed but didn't have time to post. It's the vegetable of this season for the two elder girls. I usually buy two heads of each, broccoli and cauliflower and they never tire of it. In this box, the florets has been slathered with some salad cream and colored with some carrots.

The basic tuna sandwich and some grapes for another long day.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bento 279

Lots of leftovers from last night so this was put together in less than 15 minutes. The Fettuccine is nothing new and it's a long day today so there has to be sufficient food before the next meal. There are slices of cuttlefish fried in onions, chillies and a whole mix of spices.

The top box has some Oyster sauce fried cauliflowers with mushrooms and carrots and half a kiwi.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bento 278

The Fettuccine and tomato base sauce was left over from last nights dinner. Classes end late noon so there's a hard boiled egg to help counter hunger pangs.

The top box is a mix of vegetables from the fridge. Button mushrooms alternate with raw carrots and a bed of broccoli florets.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bento 277

Some left over salmon sandwiched between salad and Adventist 7 grain sprouted bread. #2's favorite! She can eat this bread plain without anything.

The style of cooking the vegetable florets has been reduced to blanching with some salt in rolling hot water. #2 says she enjoys the natural sweetness of the vegetables.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bento 276

I'm closing on to my 300th bento and this being my 599th post. I wish I had the time to commemorate my 300th post but I'm up to my eyes with commitment.

Today's bento is full of Salmon Onigiri and some fried peanuts to snack on.

There's a quarter Kiwi and a vegetable blanched in hot water. The vegetable has been cut into four quarters for easy eating.

I know, I'm having color issues.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bento 275

This was for Wednesday. There was some miscommunication which resulted in a desperate rush to put this together. It pays to communicate properly.

For now, it's the usual stock of okra, a scone, a mini laugen and some mix colored veggies.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Terri @ hunger hunger

I've been a big fan of Terri for a long time. "hunger hunger", her blog has been an inspiration in both cooking and 'make a lot of sense' kind of advice and comments. I like her honest and straight to the point opinions (although I think she's calmed down a lot compared to her earlier posts).

When I visited her blog yesterday, I read her latest post on "Bao Hao Sao (Full, Well, Little)".
I found myself nodding all the way through whether from agreement or from admission. Immediately I sent her an e-mail for permission to duplicate her post on my blog to share with you. I can hear myself making similar statements and sharing the same sentiments.

Entirely duplicated from Terri's blog with permission.

"My daughter posted on recent calls by several food experts to change the way we eat. I watched the first video clip of Mark Bittman urging a healthier diet and didn't watch Jamie Oliver's message because it took too long to download. Someone commented on it though so I watched it and am very inspired by his call to change our eating style. Jamie is enjoyable to watch because he's always natural and passionate about what he believes in. His tipping a whole wheelbarrow of sugar onto the center of the stage to show the amount of sugar in the milk a child would have eaten in 5 years of primary school was dramatic and shocking. And that's only the sugar from milk, not the milky bars or chocolates or ice creams or juices or cakes or doughnuts or Coke.

The message is the same whether it's Jamie O or Mark Bittman : obesity is killing people, we need to change the way we eat and one of the most effective ways is to teach the young before it's too late. We need to go back to simple, local produce, non-processed food, less meat more veggies and home cooking. Besides the health considerations, we need to help lighten the burden to the earth of feeding 6 billion + people. I know that I can do my part by influencing my family on how to eat healthy by starting immediately. I'd like to share with you the changes I've made:

1) Cook more, eat out less. Now that we're down to 4 (Hub, my youngest child, my mom and I), it's cheaper to eat out. It's so easy to eat out here. For simple meals, we don't have to eat at fancy restaurants. Our equivalent of Denny's would be the Beaufort and Man Tai restaurants where a cheap meal for a family of four would cost less than RM50/US$14, half of that if you keep to a plate of noodles each. Eating out at such restaurants is cheaper than cooking at home. And you don't have to set the table, wash the dishes and holler for the kid to come to the table.

Eating out has far more cons than pros for me. I was just talking to a restaurant cook last night (I went for a late night snack of ginger and spring onions clams. I watched him cook and will share the recipe). Cook said he'd rather eat at home. The reasons were "a cook's revulsion" at the unhygenic conditions in the kitchens he'd worked in. That was a shocking statement from a cook but he was honest. And it was ironic because I had watched his worker prepare my clams and I was revulsed. He said there are three things he'll never order from a restaurant: 1) Quick soups. He started out as a waiter in the 70s and he'd seen a cook's assistant fish out a rat that fell into the stock pot, which is usually brewed all day and night. Better to fish the rat out than tell the cook who'll kill him for not watching the soup. Stewed soups are safer bets because they are stewed fresh daily 2) Veggies. The most they do is give the veggies a hose down. Think pesticides, manure, spit, bugs. 3) Claypots and iron hot plates. If you are unlucky and you get the pot at the bottom, which hasn't been used for weeks, don't think the roachy stink is your imagination. Rust on iron plates are never washed, they just burn it off. Just three? I can give him 300 reasons.

The oil used in restaurants is cheap oil and 'recycled' oil from deep fryers of KFC and other fast food joints. Unless they are hotel and higher-end restaurants, most restaurants will use cheap ingredients loaded with preservatives, artificial flavorings and colors. So don't think that msg is the worst thing you get in restaurant food. You are slowly and surely poisoned by all those inferior substitutes and additives.

Bottomline: restaurants are there to make money, not to feed you with healthy food. Also, SE Asia is generaly filthy, except for Singapore. Look at our restaurant workers. All are from neighboring countries like Myanmar, Indonesia and Thailand and they are lowly educated which means they very likely don't know that they must wash their hands after they pooped. That's how E.coli is transmitted.

On a food program recently, it was estimated that 8 to 9 out of 10 (something like that) families in Hong Kong do not cook at home, their kitchens being too small, shopping and cooking take up to much precious time, restaurants being 'downstairs' and everywhere and their food, well, it is Hong Kong we are talking about. My last word on eating out is "Your body is what you feed it".

2) Cut out carbs at dinner. In the last 3 months, I've changed my dinners by nearly cutting out all starch. We eat carbs in the day, when we are active. My mom, who's diabetic, woke up one morning with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). The night before I had made wholemeal chapattis (Indian flatbread) and allowed her one only and withheld her usual serving of 3 to 4 tablespoons brown n white mixed rice. Cutting back on a small amount of refined carbs made such a big difference to her sugar level that I now cut down her starch intake to 2 tablespoons of rice at dinner time and make up for it with more veggies and meat. I've lost 1.5 kgs in three months by cutting out carbs at dinner time and eating less through the day. Slow, but the mountain is moving.

Initially it was hard not to eat carbs at dinner, especially when we eat Chinese dishes, but we soon got used to it. Like any habit, it can be broken. You just need to believe it and not give up.

3) Cut back on snacks, in particular sweet things. And that means I never eat a piece of cake unless it's a birthday cake. I reduce the sugar in any recipe that calls for it. I don't take sugar with coffee or tea. And I never have candies or sweets in my house. What are they for anyway? I do, however, struggle with chocolates.

My mom, who dislikes sweet things, became diabetic in her 60s despite seldom eating anything sweet. She was, however, big as a barrel in her 40s. The diet of the new generation is far more sweeter than the old. When I was little, the only time I could have a Coke was during CNY. Cakes were only available in my teens. But look at our kids and how young they start eating sugar and how much sugar they are eating. And salt and oil and carbs. And additives, hormones, pesticides and antibiotics-laden food.

4) Eat lots of colorful veggies. I have two reluctant veggie-eaters at home. I have to apportion and threaten until my face is black before they eat their veg. Slowly, they are eating more veggies than before. Genetics aside, I always tell young people that if they don't want to be midgets, they must eat their veggies and their protein. Sadly, I see a lot of girls as young as 12 going on a diet. That's exactly when they should eat to grow tall and shapely.

Children in Malaysia especially are getting a lousy deal in school canteens. When Wey was in primary school, he was addicted to fried chicken wings. I visited Chung Hwa Primary School in Likas one lunch and was shocked to find that nearly every item they served in the canteen stalls were processed and deep-fried: deep-fried wontons, deep-fried fish balls, deep-fried wings, deep-fried sausages, deep-fried bananas, deep-fried potatoes. Add to that fizzy drinks of all flavors and colors and iced water, also flavored and colored. I bet they are still serving the same things now. I am so impressed with Jamie Oliver's success at changing the meals in British schools, especially his introduction of a salad bar.

Quoting Terri from her response to my e-mail: "i was thinking of you when i wrote about the bentos"
There are mothers, especially those who make bentos, who understand nutrition and make an effort to raise healthy kids. I applaud them. However, I think bentos only work with daughters. My daughter once said, when she saw a photo of a beautiful colorful bento box of slices of heart-shaped apples and other dainty finger food, that she knows her brothers will starve rather than take bentos to school. And she's right because she was the only one who would eat the tiffin lunches I made. My boys pretended not to know me when I walked into their school with tiffin boxes and I gave up bringing lunches for them. And maybe that's why men are usually less healthy than women. They are too busy working and behaving macho and know little about health and nutrition.

5) Eat less but well, if you are not very active and if you have reached adulthood. Most people eat a heavy breakfast, a sizable lunch and a big dinner. I think that when you are no longer growing (meaning anyone over 20), you should change eating habits by eating a decent breakfast or lunch, or brunch, and a light dinner with no carbs. I fully support eating like 'a king for breakfast, a prince for lunch and a pauper for dinner', or in China, eating 'hao (well) for breakfast, bao (full) for lunch and sao (little) for dinner'. Because dinner is the main meal where the whole family comes together to eat a good home-cooked meal after a day of eating commercial rubbish, it is hard not to cook a big dinner. I suppose it works for us because there's only one growing child in the family. Now we eat smaller and simpler meals everyday but on Saturdays, when we eat at my in-laws, it's always a feast. There are so many festivals and special dinners through the year that we get enough feasts in between the smaller meals.

Just look at the Biggest Losers. It's not nice, but really, do you find fat people in Africa?

6) Educate your family about nutrition, teach your kids to cook. I don't think giant food companies will make any changes with our health in mind. We have to educate ourselves and our family on what, how, why, if, because, regarding our choices of food and eating habits.

In secondary school, one subject I took was home science. Home science was where we learnt nutrition and simple baking and cooking. Now students have 10 subjects and home science has been dropped. If I were the Education Minister, I'd cut out history and include home skills. History can be learnt in the lower secondary years. I'd do that because my motive is to bring up a healthier generation, not brainwash kids about our historic heroes.

Change now, not when you are diabetic, hypertensive, old, obese or half-blind. If you still haven't watched Jamie's clip, please do so and after you do, please make the changes, starting with yourself and your family."

Over and above all that Terri wrote, I personally feel it is important to pack home cooked meals in bentos for my children. Occasionally it would be impossible, and there would be a need to buy a variety of processed food, fast food, commercially popular snacks and even vitamin enriched breads.

However, I remind myself to avoid nuggets, sausages, quail eggs, use of dyes or coloring agents and several other bento popular store bought fillers. Sometimes I too am tempted to enhance the visual look of my bento and want to include these stuff and more. But for now I don't wish to start with them and be stuck with the 'pressure' to pretty up my bentos. I work on a simple concept of home cooked food and try to balance up the nutrition around the bentos during the main meals cooked at home.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Charaben tutorial

I'm working on backing up my pictures into a new ex-hard drive which hubs bought. In his own words "backup before your computer crashes". I've got thousands and thousands of photo shots in my iphoto folder and that's caused my Mac to crank like a century old computer.

All this backing up business has taken up a lot of time and sitting in front of the computer is what I love best because I get to browse and search new sites.

Imagine my surprise stumbling onto Pigeon Info. I used to buy lots of baby stuff from Pigeon when my girls were babies. I loved their bottles, teats, training cups etc.

made by Mari Miyazawa

made by Mari Miyazawa

Now they even have Charaben tutorials for Bento. I used Google translate to translate the Japanese site to English. The translation sometimes doesn't make sense so you need to figure it out yourself. Better in poor English than in Japanese.

Pigeon Info even has a section for "Lunch Drawing", these are plating of lunch meals in Charaben too. They look simple to make since it's all detailed with a list of ingredients, step by step pictorial instructions, tools and tips.

made by Mari Miyazawa

If you want maternity recipes for pregnancy, they also have it here. There's speed recipes for kids which looks simple and interesting too. Pigeon Info is a real goldmine of a find for mums with young kids and Bento enthusiasts who want to try Charaben.

All bentos posted at Pigeon Info are made and created by Mari Miyazawa the creator of

Have fun browsing!

Note: I have no affiliations with any of the mentioned names above.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Bento 274

This morning's bento was free and easy. Classes begin for #2 in the midmorning. It's a busy day today ending with a private function of song and dance.

Over the weekend I managed to make another batch of Oden. This time with different ingredients which included lotus root, noodle type Konnyaku, different variety of fishcake etc. My husband and my two elder girls love this evergreen dish. #1 calls it the "brown soup". *shakes head*

There was an orange in one box and chives in another.

Bento 273

This was last Friday's dinner bento for #1.

Basic spaghetti with a tomato base sauce with a mix of Ricotta, Parmesan cheeses with chopped onions and mushrooms. #1 kept complimenting the sauce in between mouth fulls.

A box of mixed vegetables, steamed and tossed together with sesame seed dressing. #1 said, "mum, please don't give me sesame seed dressing ever again!" Okay, she finished the box of vegetables but strictly no sesame seed dressing again. *sigh*

One man's meat is another man's poison.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bento 272

This morning's bento for #2 was quite easy. I planned it last night and everything was available and ready ahead of time because I woke up early too.

There's kyuri, carrot and crabstick topped with kewpie mayo in the croissant. The little side cup has chopped onions, mushrooms and feta cheese and tomato.

There's a "beary" face hard boiled egg this morning surrounded by a bed of vegetables.

"SASA" is holding their first meeting this afternoon.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Bento 271

I've been good. I packed bento for #2 this morning. I had lots of time because class was mid-morning. Still, kept it simple so I could cuddle back in bed again.

A full box of colorful veggies tossed in one tablespoon of Sesame seed dressing.

Some yummy white and dark chocolate biscuits from Japan and some fishcake skewered with Kyuri.

Thank you friend!

First Bell Pepper

Five months ago, I planted some bell pepper seeds. I blogged about it here.

I'm elated that the seeds has now borne fruits. They begin by flowering and then they become like this. (below).

Later on they turn Yellow or Red or just remain Green depending on which species was sown.

Happiness!!! Just so amazing!

Bento 270

This was last nights bento for #1. She's been rushing from Uni to practices several days a week. Performance is over Monday next week so hopefully the mad rush will slow down.

The flask has a mix of broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms and carrot, all tossed in some oyster sauce.

There's de-boned Salmon and a box of watermelon.

I like these gladiator style shoes she's using for Monday. Way to go girl!!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bento 269

#2 stays back till after lunch for College today. It's a simple steam fish with some bento fillers of soya beans, Ratatouille, some orange chunks and a Cinnamon apple pastry.

I woke up late this morning and had to rush but this was packed in less than 10 minutes because the fish took 8 minutes steaming time.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Just a Mum?


A woman, renewing her driver's license at the Motor Registration office,
Was asked by the counter clerk to state her occupation.

She hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself.

'What I mean is,' explained the counter clerk,
'do you have a job or are you just a ..?'

'Of course I have a job,' snapped the woman.

'I'm a Mum.'

'We don't list 'Mum' as an occupation,

'housewife' covers it,'
Said the clerk emphatically.

I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same situation, this time at our own Medicare office.

The Clerk was obviously a career woman, poised, efficient, and possessed of a high sounding title like,
'Official Interrogator' or 'Town Registrar.'

'What is your occupation?' she probed.

What made me say it? I do not know.

The words simply popped out.
'I'm a Research Associate in the field of
Child Development and Human Relations..'

The clerk paused, ball-point pen frozen in midair and
Looked up as though she had not heard right.

I repeated the title slowly emphasizing the most significant words.
Then I stared with wonder as my pronouncement was written,
In bold, black ink on the official questionnaire.

'Might I ask,' said the clerk with new interest,
'just what you do in your field?'

Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice,
I heard myself reply,
'I have a continuing program of research,
(what mother doesn't)
In the laboratory and in the field,
(normally I would have said indoors and out).
I'm working for my Masters, (first the Lord and then the whole family)
And already have four credits (all daughters).
Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities,
(any mother care to disagree?)
And I often work 14 hours a day, (24 is more like it).
But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are
More of a satisfaction rather than just money.'

There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk's voice as she
Completed the form, stood up, and personally ushered me to the door.

As I drove into our driveway, buoyed up by my glamorous new career,
I was greeted by my lab assistants -- ages 13, 7, and 3.
Upstairs I could hear our new experimental model,
(a 6 month old baby) in the child development program,
Testing out a new vocal pattern.

I felt I had scored a beat on bureaucracy!
And I had gone on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than 'just another Mum.' Motherhood!

What a glorious career!
Especially when there's a title on the door.

Does this make grandmothers
'Senior Research associates in the field of
Child Development and Human Relations'
And great grandmothers
'Executive Senior Research Associates?'
I think so!!!

I also think it makes Aunts
'Associate Research Assistants.'

Bento 268

It's been almost a week since #2 had a bento. Both #1 and #2 has a performance next week and thus it's (more) healthy eating this week!

This morning's bento to College is a slice of steam and de-boned Salmon. There's a box of ricotta chesse and mushrooms for accompaniment.

There are raw kyuri and carrot sticks and a section of sweet watermelon.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bento 267

This is for #1's dinner after Uni. She's having after class practices again tonight.

It's a simple fish and squash compote with some tomatoes and herbs. There's fettuccini and some watermelon.

Snack from #2

Last Wednesday, #2 finished her mid-term exams. Round about 3p.m. she declared that she was going to cook something for tea. I was busy doing some stuff on the computer and I responded with an "Okay!"

A couple of minutes later, she brought this to me. Salad topped with a poached egg and Parmesan cheese.

A slit in the egg yolk revealed soft runny insides.

Pretty delicious for a first timer.


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