Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Week in Bentos : Feb 17 - Feb 21

Irrespective of whether my weekend has been hectic ( filled with outside activities, cooking and baking sprees ) or sedentary , the end of said weekend always comes as a surprise. As in "Is it Sunday night already ? Where did my weekend go ? " Does it ever happen to you ? Its the same right now, sitting as I am on my sofa at 9.45 pm on a Sunday night, surrounded by silence and kept company only by the relentless ticking of the clock :)
Wonder what the week ahead has in store for me !!
Here are the lunches that we packed this past week.

On Monday, LG7 had a holiday from school on account of President's Day. So, no bento lunch packed that day. Instead, we had a quiet day at home and celebrated LG3's third birthday at home by baking a simple eggless chocolate cake. LG3 was, unfortunately a little sick, so it was a pretty quiet affair.

On Tuesday, LG7 took a waffle sandwich with almond butter and jelly, carrot sticks, strawberries and blackberries and a piece of chocolate cake for a treat.

On Wednesday, I tried a pasta recipe with a white sauce, an orange, apple slice and carrot sticks. For some reason, LG7 didnt like the white sauce and brought back almost half the pasta back. I will have to tinker with the sauce recipe to get it to his liking.

On Thursday, the Easy Lunch Box contained spinach and corn quesadillas with ketchup, an orange, strawberries and a chocolate chip cookie.

On Friday, as per request, I sent Annie's Mac and cheese, carrot sticks, strawberries and an orange and heaved a sigh of relief when everything came back empty.

I have been observing that LG7 is almost emptying the contents of both his water bottles. Thats probably a sign that winter is bidding adieu !

Hope you have a wonderful week ahead !

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Week in Bentos : Feb 10 - Feb 14 2014

Winter seems to be releasing its hold on our area slowly..Its getting warmer day by day and we are definitely looking forward to spring and summer. I need to get some of my seeds started. Although my vegetable garden is by on means on a large scale, I still look forward to all the activities associated with the garden !

I tried a few new things last week in the lunchboxes and they were all pretty successful.
So here goes:

On Monday, I made cheese Uttappa ( savory rice and lentil pancakes) with ketchup, leftover fried potatoes and strawberries.

On Tuesday, I made toasted sandwiches with a savory avocado filling. I also included carrot sticks and orange segments. I am happy that I have been able to wean LG7 slightly from his peanut butter fixation !

On Wednesday, I packed Mac and Cheese in the thermal jar, an oatmeal chocolate chip bar and fresh mixed berries.

On Thursday, it was mixed pasta again in a light butter sauce, with a cutie orange, blackberries and the oatmeal bar for a treat.

On Friday, I made grilled sandwiches with almond butter and apple slices, orange , strawberries and dried fruits and almonds. I added a heart pick as a nod to Valentine's Day !
I attended LG7's class party and thoroughly enjoyed myself, watching LG7 interact with his friends.

Hope you had a wonderful week too !

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Week in Bentos : Feb 3 - Feb 7

I am getting progressively later and later on my weekly Bento posts ! Do you ever get the feeling that the day just gets away from you sometimes ? I definitely have more time now than I did a few weeks ago, because my younger son LG3 has started attending preschool full time. But even then, the hours seem to fill up with chores and tasks of all sorts ! The only thing left to do, is to allocate times for specific tasks for the entire week and be slightly more organized than I am at the time. I will let you all know how that works out !

On Monday, LG7 got whole wheat noodles with spinach and corn in a light tomato sauce with nutritional yeast, blackberries and a chocolate chip cookie for a treat.

On Tuesday, the lunch box contained sandwiches made with whole wheat bread and avocado filling, one half toasted and one un-toasted  as requested :) , apples and strawberries and a cookie.

On Wednesday,  I packed corn and spinach quesadillas with ketchup (in the small white box), carrot sticks and some cake cubes.

On Thursday,  lunch consisted of toasted peanut butter and apple sandwiches, homemade semolina cake, cantaloupe and strawberries and dried fruits and almonds.

On Friday, I packed lunch in the 2-tier bento box. The bigger container contained spicy vermicelli noodles and the smaller one had apples, strawberries and blackberries.

What are your plans for Valentine's Day ? Although we dont celebrate it in any special way, it is impossible to miss the hype and hoopla surrounding this day all around you ! My children also celebrate it in school and this year I sent cute cards and non-candy treats like tops and stencils.
You dont really need a special day to tell your loved ones or show them that you care, but tell them today anyway !
Have a sweet Valentine's Day !!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Dora's Delicious Blueberry Muffins !

During my last visit to the local library, as I was walking the aisles, selecting books for my family; I noticed that my younger son(aged 3) had selected a few himself. I gave them all a cursory glance, making sure that they would be suitable for his age and his interests and then checked them out. When I came back home and sat with LG3 to read the books, I realized that the Dora and Diego book that I had assumed was a storybook, was in actuality a recipe book for kids ! When I asked the little one why he had selected that book, he quipped that he wanted to see all the snack pictures in there !!
Then last week, I decided to bake the yummy looking blueberry muffins listed in the book. I already had some fresh blueberries and the cornmeal needed in the recipe. The batter was extremely easy to whip up and took me about 15 minutes to get into the oven. 20 minutes later, we had piping hot scrumptious looking mini muffins on the cooling rack.


½ C unbleached all purpose flour
½ C white whole wheat flour
⅓ C cornmeal
⅓ C packed brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
⅔ C low fat plain yogurt ( I used homemade)
¼ C canola oil
1 flax egg (1 Tbsp ground flax + 3 Tbsp water, beaten well)
1 tsp cornstarch
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
1 C fresh or frozen blueberries (I used fresh)

1. Preheat the oven to &deg(375);F. Line a mini muffin pan with liners or spray lightly with cooking spray.
2.Combine the flours, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and cornstarch. Whisk well. Reserve two tablespoons of this mixture.
3.In another bowl, combine the yogurt, oil, flax egg and vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and combine gently. Add the blueberries to the reserved flour mixture and coat well. Then add the blueberries to the batter and fold in gently.
4. Divide the batter among the muffin cups and bake for about 15 - 17 minutes, until tops are golden brown.
5. Cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, before removing onto a wire rack to cool completely.
6. Enjoy lovely muffins, bursting with juicy blueberries !

1. The addition of cornmeal to the batter gave a wonderful texture to the muffins. They weren't pasty or dense, instead they were really light and airy, bursting with the goodness of fresh blueberries.
2. As usual, these mini goodies made their way into lunchboxes and traveled really well.
3. These can be frozen nicely too and will keep for several days(if they stay undiscovered that long !

Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Week in Bentos - Jan 27 : Jan 31 2014

As I sit here, typing away at my keyboard, it is snowing softly outside. It feels as if we are gently being blanketed by a white fluffy swirling cloud. Although it is bitingly cold outside, it only seems cozy inside with my big mug of hot tea, warm sweaters and lovely music playing around the house!
In a hectic lifestyle, such peaceful moments come but seldom and I am trying to get maximum enjoyment out of it all.It makes me rethink about simplifying my life so that peaceful moments are the norm !What say you ?
In Lunch news , we had another good week.


On Monday, LG7 took noodles in a tomato and vegetable sauce, with apple slices and dried fruits and nuts.

On Tuesday, the lunchbox contained toasted peanut butter banana sandwiches, carrot sticks, mixed berries and a homemade blueberry muffin. 

On Wednesday, LG7 requested Mac and Cheese and got it. In addition, he took apple slices and a mini muffin.

On Thursday, lunch consisted of cheese toasts, strawberries and steamed broccoli.

On Friday, I packed pita pizzas, leftover potato fry, berries and a chocolate chip cookie for a treat.

Keep warm and work on increasing the peaceful moments in your life !  

Monday, February 03, 2014

Eggless Greek Simiti - Eggless Baking Challenge

This month, the Baking Eggless Group celebrated the 2 year anniversary of their eggless baking adventures ! Wishing all the members a very happy anniversary ! This month, the challenge set before the  bakers was the Greek Simiti bread which is a kind of a sesame encrusted yeasted bread rings. These are apparently sold plentifully by Greek street vendors as well as in the bakeries. These Simiti or Koulouri are a popular local breakfast item. This recipe was suggested by Priya Suresh of Priya's Versatile Recipes.

I have realized that I like baking - breads , muffins , cakes, cookies are all enjoyable, not only for the end results, but also for the entire process. So I was looking forward to baking this beautiful bread earlier in the month. But Man Proposes and God Disposes, after all. Sniffling little noses, cranky toddlers and cold weather all contrived to push my baking attempt to the very end of the month. But bake them I did and was really glad.

There was a single egg to be replaced, so that wasnt a hardship at all.
The original recipe is beautifully explained with detailed pictures at My Little Expat Kitchen.


1 packet instant yeast
1/2 C warm water
1 Tbsp sugar
1½ C white whole wheat flour
1½ C unbleached all purpose flour
1 Tbsp oil
½ tsp salt
¼ C warm milk
¼ C yogurt 

¾ C toasted sesame seeds
3 Tbsp honey diluted with 2 Tbsp water

1. Mix the yeast with the warm water and then add the sugar, yogurt, milk, oil , the flour and the salt into the yeast mixture.
2. Add only about 2 C of the flour initially and then add more if and when required. The dough should be slightly moist, not sticky.
3. Knead the dough for about 8 - 10 minutes, until you get a smooth, soft dough.
4. Coat a large bowl with oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turn it once so that all sides are coated with the oil. Cover loosely and place in a warm spot for about 45 minutes, until dough doubles in volume.
5. I usually keep my yeast dough in the oven with the light on.
6. Prepare a large baking sheet by placing a parchment paper over it.
7. Preheat your oven to 390 degree F.
8.Once the dough has had enough time to prove, remove it from the bowl, deflate it slightly.
9.Divide the dough into 6 equal parts.
10. Roll each piece into a long, even rope. Twist the rope at the top and then braid it down its length. Bring the end of the twisted braid together to form a ring. Use water to seal the ends, if required.

11. Dip the rings on all sides in the honey water combination. The original recipe used grape molasses, which would probably give a wonderful, subtly exotic sweetness to these rolls. I wasnt able to find the molasses in my local health food store. I could probably have found it in stores that stocked Mediterranean products.
12. Coat the honeyed rings with the toasted sesame seeds and place them on the baking sheet.

13. Ensure that there is enough space between the rolls.
14. Bake these rolls for about 20 minutes, until they are golden brown all around.

15. Remove from the oven when cooked through and serve warm !

1. I was probably wool gathering when I mixed up my dough, because first I forgot to add the oil and then I added slightly more flour than was probably required. The original recipe was written with metric measurements and I not only converted the recipe into the Standard US form but also halved it. I should have added flour gradually, but the dough was still forgiving.
2. Toast the sesame seeds on a medium flame and keep stirring so that the seeds are toasted evenly and do not burn.
3. The bread rolls were delicious - nutty flavored from the abundant sesame seeds, the slight sweetness from the honey and the crustiness beneath it all.
4. I got about 6 medium sized rolls from this recipe.