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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Bento Box Week

I am not an organized person.  It's just not one of my personality traits.  Thankfully, people know this about me and love me anyway. Ha!  Lately I've had a surge of motivation to get organized.  Maybe it has something to do with the time of year.  Maybe I was bitten by the Spring Cleaning Bug.  Whatever the reason, I've made some small steps toward getting my home more organized and it feels great already!

The first thing I did was watch some Youtube videos on organization.  There are some great ones available!  The most inspiring chick I watched was Alejandra TV (  She showed how she folds her t-shirts and jeans so they take up the least possible amount of space in your drawers.  She also had great ideas for jewelry, socks and underwear, shoes and accessories.

Feeling inspired and ready to improve my home environment, I headed to Ross, T.J. Maxx and Tuesday Morning to pick up a few decorative/utilitarian baskets and bins.  Here are a few photos of my hard work in my drawers, bathroom and closet...

I must say, it feels good to be organized!...but you're probably thinking, "when are you going to talk about food?"  Well, that is what I would rather talk about any day!

All the putting things in things inspired a very compartmentalized food idea...Bento Box meals!  5 days of them to be exact.  Information about bento boxes from Wikipedia is as follows:  "...a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional bento holds rice, fish or meat, with pickled or cooked vegetables, usually in a box-shaped container. Containers range from disposable mass produced to hand crafted lacquerware. Bentos are readily available in many places throughout Japan, including convenience stores, bento shops (弁当屋bentō-ya?), railway stations, and department stores. However, Japanese homemakers often spend time and energy on a carefully prepared lunch box for their spouse, child, or themselves."
 Here are my bento box ideas for your viewing pleasure and inspiration:

5 Days of Bento Box

Day 1-Lunch Bento
This one was quick and simple!  I simply threw in a pre bagged salad, turkey and cheese rollups, some veggies and fruit.  This would be perfect to take to work for a quick and nutritious lunch break selection.

Day 2-After School Snack Bento
Large Pepperonis, Fresh Mozzarella Cheese Slices, Basil Leaves, Bananas, Nectarines, Celery and Carrots.

Day 3-Asian Flavors Bento
Asian Beef with Lime Ginger Rice, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Beets and Sauteed Bok Choy.  The recipe for the Beef is below.

Day 4-Mediterranean Flavors Bento
Grilled Chicken and Garlic Pine Nut Couscous with Feta and Fresh Basil, Sauteed Swiss Chard with Walnuts and Roasted Sweet Potatoes.

Day 5-Movie Bento Box
This one was inspired by Gilmore Girls.  If you're a fan of the show, you know that Lorelai and Rory are always watching movies and eating junk food.  My daughter put this one together.  She is a very organized and particular child, so she was totally on board with the bento meals!

Asian Beef with Lime Ginger Rice

Beef Recipe:
2 1b. Ground Beef
2 Garlic Cloves (minced)
1 1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
2/3 cup Hoisin Sauce
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1/4 cup Rice Vinegar
3 tsp Sesame Oil
1/2 cup chopped Green Onions
Sesame Seeds for garnish
Cook the ground beef and garlic until meat is thoroughly browned over medium heat.  Drain the excess grease.  Turn the heat to low and add all other ingredients.  To serve, spread mixture over the Lime Ginger Rice and garnish with sesame seeds and green onions.

Rice Recipe:
2 cups cooked White Rice
2 tsp Ground Ginger
the juice of 1 Lime
1 Tsbp Butter
Mix all ingredients together and serve with the Asian Beef.

So this is what I learned from my week of Bento Box research and practice.  The possibilities are really endless. You could make any theme and mix of foods.  This is a way to make eating healthy more fun.  If you make the choices aesthetically pleasing, you and your family are more likely to eat the nutritious stuff.  If you love this idea and want your own set of bento boxes, I've attached the link to the ones I bought, below.  As always, I hope I've inspired you to try something new in the kitchen. Also, I love feedback!  So if you have your own ideas or inspirations for bento box meals, let me know!  Until next time, love to all!  -1cookingchick

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Best Cheesecake Recipe

All of my family members LOVE cheesecake!  Actually, who doesn't?  This indulgent treat can be intimidating to attempt.  I have the solution for that, courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis.  Her blend of marscarpone cheese, lemon and vanilla flavors paired with an almond graham cracker crust, is a winner every time.  

As always, I like to get a little creative and tweak the recipe just a bit.  Giada doesn't call for it, but I add one or two teaspoons of lemon zest into the cheesecake batter.  It just adds a little something to the overall flavor.  Also, this time, instead of vanilla extract, I used this vanilla bean paste.
It really added something special as well.  There were little bits of vanilla bean visible in the cheesecake.  It just felt fancy, you know?  I think we found this at T..J. Maxx, but I'm sure it's on Amazon or at Fresh Market too.

You'll see in Giada's recipe, that she does this amazing Nutella topping.  I love it.  But this time, I wanted to try something different.  I had a sudden inspiration to blend cherries with balsamic vinegar.  Sounds weird, right?  It was tasty!  Here's how I did it...

Balsamic Cherry Reduction

1 cup Frozen Cherries
1/4 cup Water
1/4 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
1.  Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
2.  Stir frequently as the mixture comes to a boil.
3.  Turn down the heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
4.  (Optional) Use your whisk to slightly chop the cherries.
5.  Pour into a gravy boat or small bowl and allow to cool before drizzling over the cheesecake.

...and here is my masterpiece!...Mascarpone Cheesecake with Balsamic Cherry Reduction

Something else I would highly recommend is a little cheesecake-making party!  Strap your babies on, give your older kids some Legos and get busy.  I hope I've inspired you to try this wonderful recipe.  So grab a friend and your springform pan and get ready to impress your people!