I have been trying to decide Food or Games. Food won out because I am hungry.
Summer is not a time when I do a lot of new cooking. Typically, I stick to quick and easy dishes and meals that do not generate heat. This place has horrible ventilation, in the winter heat from the kitchen is great when the doors and windows ice over; in the summer heat is bad. However, due to non-typical summer weather, a friendly neighbor, Barb entering pharmacy rotations, and some new cookbooks, I spent a lot of my summer cooking.
Bentoing, the act of making a bento. Bento a smallish meal. Fine, those aren’t the real meanings and bentoing is not a word, but it is now that I have taken to putting bentoing in print several times now. 🙂 This was the summer of the bento.
Looking for a way to cut costs, we settled upon Barb taking a lunch to work. However, I did not want her to take a sandwich and stuff. I have zero desire to send Barb or my kids off with that. I can cook and I have time during the summer. Plus, I want to be the grandfather from Eat, Drink, Man, Woman-if you have not seen the movie, SEE THE MOVIE-in a nutshell, he makes food for the grandchildren and family meal. I want to be him. So, I cooked lunches for Barb and the kids.
After picking up a couple of bento boxes and two bento cookbooks: Effortless Bento and The Just Bento Cookbook I got to work. Did I need those cookbooks? No, I could have made plenty of food and packed the bento boxes full. However, I love to learn new cooking techniques. From the two cookbooks the number of meals and combinations of meals jumped. I learned recipes for chicken, pork, steak. I learned several new ways to prepare a variety of vegetables. In fact, bentoing has expanded what I do with vegetables so much that much of our diet is vegetable. I learned deserts, mostly involving fruit. In other words, without the cookbooks I would not have learned anything and Barb would not have been sent to work with meals that got attention and filled her belly.
Now I have a full menu of regular items I make for bento boxes and dinner. I expanded the bento meals into other areas, such as a taco/nacho bento and moo goo gai pan bento. Cooking for bentos has become such a part of my week, that Sundays you will find me in the kitchen making food for the week and in the kitchen at least three other times working on dinners or special items for bentos.
Related to bentos, has been finally figuring out how to make rice in the rice cooker and pickling. The rice cooker should be a duh! But as our rice cooker ages it has developed a mood. That mood being, I’m not going to cook rice unless you (me) put a lot of effort into prepping the rice. What started out as a sushi rice prep has turned into any rice prep: rinse rice until water runs clear and let rice soak in water for at least a half-hour. Good rice, has turned into great fried rice and crispy rice-meaning bento boxes can have any of three versions of rice in them, always a plus.
Pickling is something I learned last year, but really began to apply this year in an attempt to extend the lifespan of fruits and vegetables. I shouldn’t have to pickle, but the refrigerator does not have a lot of space for proper storage and is wonky in regards to temperature control. Thus, I pickle as much as I can using a variety of pickling recipes. From a quick pickle, which is good to go in a half-hour to more traditional pickles-speaking of which the jalapeños will be ready in six more days.
As summer cooking goes, this was a great summer, not only did I learn several new techniques and dozens of recipes, I was able to apply everything. Happy bellies abound. 🙂