Squash and Corn Pancakes with Cilantro Dressing

Squash pancakesOK, these just don’t look as pretty as I would like. Please  don’t hold that against the pancakes. Trust me, these are delicious and you will want a gallon of the dressing if you love cilantro as much as I do. In fact, if you don’t get around to making the pancakes, go ahead and make the dressing for your next salad.

bento

I cooked a bit of the pancake batter in the waffle iron to make mini buns. There are two mini hamburgers here- although the photo doesn’t do it justice- they really are quite cute. With little picks in them. And a bagel (from my cookbook) on the other side.

Squash and Corn Pancake Recipe
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Dressing
2 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt

Pancake
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup corn
1/3 cup rice flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cup cooked smashed squash (Delicata, Acorn, Red Kuri)
1 egg

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Combine all of the dressing ingredients together in a food processor and blend until mostly smooth.

Combine all of the pancake ingredients together and cook as you would any pancake on a skillet over medium-low heat with a touch of oil. Flip them when they are cooked on the first side.

Serve the pancakes hot with dressing.

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I am sharing this recipe on

Pistachio Pesto Pasta and Scary Monster Bento

Monster

Maybe I went too far. I didn’t realize how scary this was going to look! A few years ago my oldest daughter forbid me from making scary bento, so I haven’t until now; but I just felt so inspired! I put the vegetables on the bottom, pasta on top, cut the mouth out of a cucumber and put a strawberry behind it. The eyes are raw mushroom, cucumber, and strawberry.

Pistachio Pesto Pasta Recipe
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Pesto
1/4 cup salted pistachios
1 cup packed cilantro leaves
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
*

Pasta and Vegetables
8-10 ounces gluten-free pasta
1-2 tablespoons oil
mushrooms (2 cups chopped)
2 cloves garlic
bunch of asparagus (2 cups chopped)
salt

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For the pesto, combine the pistachios and cilantro leaves (and garlic if using) in a small food processor and pulse until it is a chunky paste. Pulse in the olive oil and set aside.

Cook the pasta. (Remember to salt the water and if using rice pasta it tastes best if rinsed after cooking.)

Saute the vegetables in a bit of olive oil, then toss with the cooked pasta and pesto.

Enjoy hot or cold.

* If you make the pesto for another recipe, you might want to add 1-2 cloves garlic- I did not do that here because the garlic in in with the vegetables.

Shared on Bento Blog Network, Allergy Free Wednesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays, Wellness Weekend

First Day of School

Not just the first day this year… but the first day of kindergarten!

Sierra was only slightly nervous as she left the house looking prepared for her new future as a kindergartener.

She requested maki rolls for her lunch. Her favorite. That’s pickled ginger on the side (she could eat a whole jar if I let her). I tried to make the maki look like a school bus. I colored the rice with turmeric and filled them with yellow peppers.

Sierra bravely climbed on the bus and as the school bus pulled away I noticed my knees shaking. My body was remembering my first day of school so many years ago…

Sierra and I agreed to a tradition of “Freaky Friday” lunches. We don’t have time for fancy bento everyday, but Monday’s are “Maki” Mondays and Friday– it’s scary monster time!

Shared on Motivate Me Monday,

Bean-Free Hummus and Olympic Bento

bean-free hummus

I love hummus. It is one of my favorite party foods. The problem is, some people can’t digest chickpeas and I like to make food that everyone can enjoy. I also follow a few Paleo diet bloggers, and I started to think, “I wonder if they miss hummus?” (Paleo diet excludes eating beans). So, I created a bean-free hummus. It tastes quite a bit like hummus and it is very flexible- allowing you to flavor it to your preference.

Olympic Bento

Olympic Bento: There is an open face sandwich on one side with the Olympic rings (simply cut from fruits and vegetables with cookie cutters). Then I used the hummus as “water” and green beans for the swim lanes. I cut the swimmers out with a paring knife after sketching the swimmer first on paper.

Note: I don’t eat nightshades and you won’t see them in my recipes, but my daughter does eat them, so occasionally they will appear in bento photos.

Bean-Free Hummus Recipe
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1 cup raw cashews (soaked for 3 hours)
1/4 cup raw tahini (be sure it is raw- toasted tahini will taste too strong)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Lemon juice (1/2-1 lemon to taste)
1/4-1 clove garlic (to taste)
Salt to taste (1/8 teaspoon)
1/4-1/2 cup water

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This recipe is all about personal preference. Basically just puree everything until very smooth in a food processor. Add water to achieve a nice dipping texture. Add lemon, salt, and garlic to your tastes. Garnish with chives or scallions (I used lemon zest too- my husband said, “too much”, while I loved it lemony.

Serve at room temperature. If refrigerated it will thicken, so just let it come back to room temperature before serving.

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I am sharing this recipe on Allergy Free Wednesdays, Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays, Bento Blog Network, and Wellness Weekend

Creativity for Joy and an Award

Indian Food Bento

Some people look at my bento lunches and say, “That’s too much work.” And I can see where they are coming from. But it doesn’t feel like work to me. In fact it is the opposite. Fixing lunch day after day feels like work. Fetching snacks and sippy cups for toddlers all day feels like work to me. Creating art is my pleasure. Thinking of fun ideas and watching them come into form is a treat. Sometimes I don’t have time or don’t feel inspired and then I make a regular lunch packed in bento form. But often I need the break from being a “mom servant” and I treat myself to 15 minutes of creativity. Just for me. And my kids love it too, but really I do it for me because I am an artist at heart.

I am enjoying reading other blogger’s thoughts on creativity as self care during the July Self-Care Retreat. Art has always been my way of relaxing and enjoying life, so the Creativity posts really speak to me. Before kids I was into fabric art (and no worries I will be back to that in a few years).

Quilt

Amber from The Tasty Alternative sent me this award recently. It was so thoughtful of her and I am really grateful to the entire blogging community. I have enjoyed a very warm welcome during my first six weeks of blogging!

 

I enjoy blogging because it is an extension of the art and creativity of bento. It is fun to edit the photos, look at them again, write about the bento, and have a permanent record of a very temporary piece of art. And of course blogging is about sharing. Sharing my fun with other people. Thank you.

The award comes with a suggestion that we might enjoy passing it along to other bloggers. And I would like to mention a couple of blogs that I have been reading for a few years.

1) Gluten Free Fix. Michelle writes recipes with skill and precision. She can write the steps to a recipe in about 3 short sentences when I would take a long paragraph to do the same. I read her blog not only for the great food, but also for lessons on how to be a concise recipe writer.

2) The Spunky Coconut. Kelly uses at lot of ingredients that I enjoy (coconut being one!). She has nice stories, and her photos are lovely.

Pumpernickel Bagels (grain-free) and Rescue Bento

Rescue Bento

I love bagels. I ate 1-2 bagels everyday for years before going gluten-free. I missed their chew texture, delicious varieties, and versatility. I loved them as sandwiches, with cream cheese, as mini pizzas…

Pumpernickel Bagels

I do have Everything Bagels and Raisin Bagels in my cookbook. They are great and quite different from this recipe. But it is always fun to have options, so now I can add this grain-free pumpernickel bagel to the lineup.  Stay tuned as I am sure more bagel recipes are soon to follow.

For the bento, I was having a bit of fun telling a story. I used a paper punch for the face on the Avocado Lady and for the mouth of the Kumquat “Victim”. I baked the bagel in a miniature donuts pan (rather than full sized) and wrapped a chive around it.

My daughter thought it was too worrisome that the kumquat was yet to be rescued, so she placed him on top of the raft. She had quite a bit of fun playing with him.

Rescue Bento

Can these be made as muffins? Probably but I haven’t tried it. Does baking soda work too? Yes but use about 1/4 teaspoon. Can you substitute the eggs? I doubt it, but I feel free to experiment. I learned about baking with almond butter and eggs from Elana’s Pantry, so thank you Elana!

Pumpernickel Bagel Recipe
makes 6 bagels
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3/4 cup roasted almond butter, smooth, unsweetened
3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons molasses
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
2 teaspoons caraway seeds, toasted

Standard sized donuts baking pan (required)

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Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare the donuts pan with oil (6 slots). (I had one batch stick- that was frustrating, so I recommend being thorough here.)

Mix all of the ingredients together in a mixing bowl and then  fill the donut slots about 3/4 of the way.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. Be sure not to overcook or they become dry. They are done when a toothpick comes out clean and they feel firm but still have bounce.

Remove from the pans and set out on a cooling rack.

Enjoy hot out of the oven, toasted, or at room temperature.

This is shared on Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays, Fat Tuesday, Bento Blog Network, and Allergy Free Wednesdays

Sesame Broccoli Slaw and Star Spangled Bento

Star Spangled Bento

I love candied nuts on salad. I decided it would be a fun change to try candied sesame seeds. (It was fun and delicious by the way.) Also, with this salad, you could skip the cabbage and use all broccoli instead.

The bento was very quick and simple. The music notes are the flesh of a white peach and the stars are the skin side of the same peach. This is one of those two minute bentos, but I think it influenced my older daughter toward tasting the salad. She ate most of it.  My younger daughter cried through dinner and refused to try any of the food. Sometimes that happens. (OK, I confess, it happens often. She is very resistant to trying anything.)

Sesame Broccoli Slaw

Sesame Broccoli Slaw Recipe
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Salad
2 cups shredded Napa cabbage
2 cups broccoli, briefly steamed, still crunchy
1/4-1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 red apple, chopped

Dressing
1/4 cup toasted sesame tahini
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey or agave
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Salt, to taste

Sesame Candy (Buy it at the store or try this recipe.)

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Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients and toss with the salad.

Top with sesame candy.

I am sharing this salad on June 2012′s Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten-Free Season Salads Theme and Wellness Weekend.

Chocolate Leaves

Chocolate Leaves

I wanted to make chocolate feathers but didn’t have a mold for that. Then, somehow, I got off topic and started daydreaming about making chocolate leaves. It occurred to me that I could use a real leaf as a mold. I got started on the project that afternoon. That’s the kind of person I am- off and running at the first inclining of an art project.

Leaf Close Up

For the plate you see here, I roasted chopped almonds and spread them over the bottom of the plate. Then I poured white chocolate over the nuts. After that set, I poured semi-sweet chocolate over the top. I used chocolate molds from the store for the flowers. I used my recipes for chocolate and white chocolate ( in my cookbook), but you can melt semi-sweet chocolate and use that.

Leaf Close Up

How to Make Chocolate Leaves
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Ingredients:

High Water Content Edible Leaves (I used spinach for this project. I tried strawberry leaves for another project but they did not work so well due to not freezing well)
Melted Chocolate

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Prepare a platter with parchment paper and place the leaves on top. Put the whole thing in the freezer. Give it at least half an hour to freeze.

Dip the frozen leaves carefully in melted (but not hot) chocolate. Only get chocolate on the backside of the leaf. It takes practice. The leaves wilt very quickly so you may want to leave most of them in the freezer and work with one at a time. Place the dipped leaf on the frozen parchment paper (chocolate side up). (I also tried pouring chocolate onto the backside of the leaves, and it worked but was more difficult to control.)

Place the leaves back in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Take them out, let them warm-up for a few minute and the leaves will easily peel off the chocolate.

Some thoughts:

Maybe leaves out of the refrigerator instead of the freezer would work better. I will try that next time.

This is a just for fun activity. If you want a perfect, works every time project, you might not want to play this chocolate leaf game. That being said, these photos are from my first attempt- so it clearly works!

Shared on:

Sweet Tooth Friday

Cutie Pie

Cutie Pie

My daughter (she is 5) and I were discussing fun food projects. Somehow we got on the subject of pie and she started talking about a “cutie pie”. Great idea!

Later that day I stumbled upon a notice about Pie Party 2012 on Facebook- and it was happening the next day. Well I got up and made a cutie pie first thing in the morning. What else could I do?

This is a pie/crisp. Peaches on the bottom, then crisp topping pressed flat on top. I used Namaste Food’s Pie Crust mix for the cutout features. I just cut them freehand. My daughter came along and suggested the bow. Raisins for eyes and a dried cranberry for the bow.

The recipe for the crisp topping is in my cookbook.

Cilantro-Pistachio Cream and Sunny Garden Bento

Sunny Garden Bento

While on vacation, I acquired a new cookbook, a beautiful bowl of soup, and I found several fun recipes to try (no caps on the title- their quirk not my mistake). So far my favorite recipe is the curried carrot soup with cilantro-pistachio cream (really this book uses no caps on titles– a very lovely book actually). If you decide to make this at home you can; buy the cookbook, or make any nice carrot soup recipe (they’re out there). I made my own curry mix because I avoid nightshades and I omitted the dairy in the recipe– it came out great.

But, to the point: Cilantro-Pistachio Cream. This is my new favorite condiment. It makes a delicious salad dressing, soup topping, vegetable dip, etc, and the recipe follows the next photo.

My daughter loves it too, so I kept the bento simple.  Corn on the cob with water melon tops, boiled eggs, and raw carrot and beet flowers. Of course the star; Cilantro-Pistachio Cream to dip the vegetables and to smear on the corn. I have no idea how she ate the corn because her four front bottom teeth have barely grown in and the top fronts are loose. She said she managed.

Cilantro-Pistachio Cream

Cilantro-Pistachio Cream Recipe
adapted from
a beautiful bowl of soup
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1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup salted pistachios
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup canned coconut milk

Optional for salads:
apple cider vinegar, to taste (about 1-3 teaspoons)

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Combine the cilantro, pistachios, and garlic in a small food processor.  Pulse until it is a thick paste, then add the pepper and coconut milk. At this point I like to enjoy the cream with a slightly course texture, but you could process it until smooth as the book suggests.

Shared on Diet, Dessert, and Dogs,  The Daily Dietribe