We have reached the end of our week of Totoro-inspired bento boxes and I have sent the kids to school with a bento-brunch menu featuring baby Totoro boiled eggs and cocoa-dusted Soot Sprite beignets.
My kids discovered beignets on a family trip that included a stay in New Orleans. The beignets were served warm with powdered sugar and my kids were hooked. They would eat nothing else until we returned to Colorado. Making our own beignets is new, and making them round was untested until I envisioned them as Anime characters. The most important difference between traditional and round beignets, is that you must be extra careful to fry the dough long enough when it shaped into a ball as it’s center is further away from the hot oil. Cocoa-dusting the fried dough is less sweet than using traditional powdered sugar, but I got an overwhelming thumbs up when the kids’ sampled my finished product.
Memories of New Orleans inspired me to include another vacation-discovery in today’s bento box, this time a staple of our first trip to Cozumel. Sprouts had fresh Papaya on sale and I am certain my kids haven’t tasted this amazing fruit outside of our time in Mexico. Papaya flowers in baby Totoro’s world are magical.
I hope the kids’ enjoyed their week of Totoro and that my ingredients remind them of all the fun we had on these amazing family trips. We are excited to see what I come up with to celebrate Halloween on this bento adventure.
My family is loving this experience with bento and I talk about its positive influence daily. I think it is important to remember that this is bento for real-life and that this post is more challenging than I make it appear. Many of the ingredients used to detail this week’s characters were items I just happened to have around and not something I purchased to assist in making bento Anime. Bento on a budget means using what we have on hand, though I will definitely pick up some Halloween sprinkles post-holiday as they clearly have many uses. Also, I make three bento boxes every morning, under the gun, to be finished before my husband needs the kitchen to make his breakfast. This is real-life bento, we don’t have space to work side by side. I don’t have endless time to assemble these lunches and I can’t leave a huge mess. My pictures are taken on the fly, before sun-up as the kids leave for school at 7:15. We don’t have the benefit of daylight, or the luxury of making lunch just to take a picture. I makes lunches and photograph them and hope for the best. I love what I am doing and the kids give me feedback daily, reminding me of just how much this means to my family. I have shared the benefits I derive from this project and truly believe this is a step towards making a full and complete recovery. I hope I can continue this project for as long as my family needs it.
I changed the title and added this paragraph after posting because I thought of how my daughter likes to share her lunches with friends at school who either don’t have a lunch or love to see what she has in her bento box each day. When Anya first mentioned sharing lunches, I was irritated because I thought it went against the idea of showing my love with the lunches I make for the kids. Today though ,I realized that she is sharing precisely because it is made with love and she is proud and it makes her feel special. I can’t make all of her friends (many my former Anime students) bento boxes, but I can send samples from some recipes for her friends to try. We want to share this great idea, not keep it to ourselves.
Baby Totoro eggs made with muenster cheese and nori. Cocoa-dusted Soot Sprite beignets made with recipe below, sugar sheets and sprinkles. Other ingredients include papaya flowers, Anjou red pears and Kinoko No Yama Japanese mushroom snacks.
Today’s bento includes a side of Irish Soda bread (see recipe previous post), baby carrots and sweet baby peppers and ranch dip. I filled our kittycat thermoses with No-Time Frozen Smoothies.
I have included an individual serving of Jagabee Japanese snack potatoes. This will be the kids’ first introduction both these and the mushroom Japanese snack foods. They are too cost-prohibitive to be regular menu items, but we wanted to try them all the same.
Baby Totoro Boiled Eggs
Cover eggs with cool water in medium pan and bring to a boil.. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 12 minutes. Place eggs in ice bath and crack at both ends and then all over. Peel carefully, beginning at larger end, dipping often in cold water. Slice top of egg with sharp knife making a v shape.
Cocoa-dusted Soot Sprite beignets
3/4 c warm water
1/4 c sugar
1/2 pkg dry yeast
1 egg beaten
1/2 c evaporated milk
3/4 tsp salt
3 1/2 c flour
1/8 c shortening
Safflower or peanut oil to fill fryer
Dissolve yeast in water and add sugar. Set aside for 15 minutes. Combine egg, salt and evaporated milk and add to yeast mixture. Add 1/2 of flour to yeast mixture and cut in shortening. Mix and add remaining flour. Knead dough on floured surface until smooth, then set dough aside, covered with a clean towel and allow to rise for 2 hours. Fill deep fryer with safflower or peanut oil and heat. Roll dough into 1 ” balls and fry in small batches turning to brown all sides. Roll in sweetened cocoa powder. Makes 36 Soot Sprites. They are best served warm so we sampled.
No-Time Frozen Smoothies
I have filled freezer bags with 2 cups of mixed fruits and greens, including raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, baby kale and baby spinach. There is variation between bags, but the idea is to not have to measure or think. I combined this with the last of this week’s almond milk, about 1 cup, and 1/2 cup homemade organic whole milk yogurt. My 24 oz Nutri Ninja cup was almost too full. I allowed mixture to blend for 30 seconds and poured into 3-8 oz thermoses. I tasted the left over smoothie and it was a little tart, so next time I will add 1 Tbsp organic agave to this recipe.