Gluten-free Bento: Vegetarian Yakisoba-Inspired Fried Rice Recipe

November 29th, 2012 yum Posted in Adopt a Gluten Free Blogger, Bento, Japan, Japanese, Rice 4 Comments »

Long time no see, dear readers!
As you might have guessed, I’ve been a little occupied since I got back from Japan. I’m writing my dissertation and the dear Kid Yum is in a busy daycare schedule. Then of course there is the DH… and our house… and kitty… Blog writing has become a luxury that I haven’t been able to afford.

I have been cooking, though, and I have been making many, many bento lunches for Kid Yum these days, and being me, I can’t resist photographing them.

So.. when I can, I’d like to share the week’s bentos with you. And if, like today, I come up with a fun recipe, I’ll share that too.

I have a new passion these days as well that I’d like to share. Along with making (mostly) vegetarian bentos, I’ve been trying to teach Kid Yum some Japanese. She attended a Japanese pre-school for six months while we were in Mutsu City, and she picked up some phrases and vocabulary, as well as a love for Japanese food and taiko (drums). When I was a kid in first grade, I desperately wanted to learn Japanese (or Chinese)… but I didn’t have anyone to teach me. So, given Kid Yum’s great start, I thought it would be nice to give her a chance to keep speaking Japanese.

Twice a week she goes to a neat Japanese language school we found. I know, it seems a little crazy for a 3 year old, but it is a really fun school with lots of songs and games. The atmosphere is also very welcoming, and the other moms are really friendly. It has a great sense of community, and I’m hoping that Kira will get a lot out of it long term. The other three days a week, she goes to her old, much-loved preschool. Her Japanese language school is designed to be a once or twice-a-week program, so she couldn’t go every day even if she wanted to. I’m happy to have her back at her old school anyway. She is really comfortable there and has even adjusted to nap-time with the help of the head teacher.

So, my new passion is playing in Japanese with Kid Yum. We play with hiragana (Japanese letter) blocks, try writing hiragana on a dry erase board, listen to japanese kids songs in the car, and get Japanese kids books from the library. We also listen to fun Japanese kids songs and watch youtube videos. I have found a new favorite blog as well, the clever Hiragana Mama blog with lots of ideas on how to share Japanese with kids.

Kid Yum seems to like it, and I’ve learned some new Japanese too. Kids Japanese and vocabulary is a little different than adult conversation, so it is a fun challenge twisting my tongue around the kids book lingo. It may be a funny fit, but I’d like to share the occasional Japanese song gem or fun book that we’re reading with you, along with the week’s bento and recipes, when time allows. I hope you enjoy getting this peek into Japanese culture and kids education!

I was lucky enough to have dear, kind-hearted fellow bloggers help me with Adopt a Gluten-free Blogger pretty much the whole time I was in Japan. I would like to take back the reins and so I will be posting a sign-up sheet on December 1st. Sign ups AND Posts will be due on December 15th and I’ll try to get a round up ASAP so you can enjoy the recipes for the holidays.

For the Japanese media of the week
Here’s a recent favorite song that we heard a lot in Mutsu at kid’s karaoke etc.

Here’s a rough translation that I found with a quick search.

And on to the Bentos! Hope you enjoy!

Weekly Bento:
Bento 1 Japanese Vegetarian Bento (w/ pescatarian variation)

Contents: Yakisoba-Inspired Fried Rice (back)
1/4 recipe of Maki’s tamagoyaki Recipe, raw yellow cauliflower from the farmer’s market [uneaten], and grapefruit pieces (front)

note: I actually made a 1/2 recipe of Maki’s tamagoyaki and Kid Yum ate 1/4 for breakfast and 1/4 for lunch. She just loves eggs.

Bento 2 Mexican American Vegetarian Bento

Contents: Avocado cubes with lemon juice (do NOT make these the night before, best morning of bento), Apple cubes, gluten-free sweet potato bread (back)
Refried beans (scroll down, used black beans instead of pinto), and quesadillas with homemade gluten-free corn tortillas (front)

*Note: dough mixed night before, saved in refrigerator covered with damp towel and then cooked in cast iron pan the morning of bento. If you can I’d recommend mixing the dough the morning you make the bento OR frying the tortilla the night before and then making the quesadilla freshly in the morning.

And though these pictures aren’t as pretty… just for kicks, I thought I’d show how I take my grown-up bento (or tiffin, in this case) and do a pre-school friendly version.

Here’s my tiffin:
Indian Quinoa Masala, Carrot Sticks, 1 boiled egg and some fried tofu cubes.
And Kid Yum’s bento, made the same night:
Sugar snap peas, grapes (back two containers)
toasted jam sandwich (not Gluten-free, but easily done with a gluten-free bread), sunflower seeds, carrot sticks, CAR-SHAPED boiled egg seasoned with soy sauce, 1 heirloom tomato, and a small serving of Indian quinoa masala

Hope you enjoyed the post! I’m glad to be back. It just didn’t feel right, not sharing our Thanksgiving with you… So here’s a last yum for you of our Thanksgiving menu. Maybe it will give you some ideas for other winter celebration dinners…

Our Thanksgiving Menu:
GF French Bread, GF Spinach Pie, Baked Acorn Squash Stuffed with Portobella Mushroom filling
Baked Sweet Potato Cranberry Mash with Streusel and Meringue Topping, Mashed Potatoes with vegetarian gravy, and homemade Cranberry Sauce

Dessert included: Homemade GF Apple Pie, GF Pumpkin Pie, GF Pecan Pie, and mini gingerbread cheesecakes

Gluten-free Vegetarian Yakisoba inspired Fried Rice Chahan Recipe
1 tsp. gluten-free tamari or coconut aminos for soy-free
1 tsp. mirin
1/2 tsp agave nectar, maple syrup or sugar
1 small knob of ginger (1/2 in) grated finely with micro-plane

Fried Rice:
2 cups cold cooked brown rice
1 tbsp. grapeseed oil
1/3 onion, diced (or 2 or 3 scallions, diced)
1/2 carrot, diced
1/2 cup slivered cabbage
*optional- for pescatarian version, add katsuobushi bonito flakes

1 large or jumbo egg, whisked
1 diced green onion/scallion
*sesame oil for pan

Special almost-yakisoba sauce* omit for soy-free:
1 tbsp. ketchup
1 tbsp. GF Worcestershire sauce* contains soy

ao nori for topping
salt (if needed)
black sesame seeds

Combine sauce ingredients in small bowl and reserve.

Heat grapeseed oil in a wok or cast iron pan on high. Add your onion and let soften. Then add the diced carrot and then the slivered cabbage and sautee until carrot is al dente. Add sauce to veggies and stir fry for one minute, and then remove from pan.

If necessary, rinse pan with water, clean and dry. Whisk egg ingredients in small bowl, without the sesame oil.

Add a few drops of sesame oil to your newly clean, dry pan. Heat on medium and when warm, add your egg in a flat sheet like a crepe to the pan. After 10 or 20 seconds, add your brown rice, crumbled in your hand so that it falls in individual grains on the rice. Use spatula or large spoon to fold egg into rice. Cook for a minute or two and then fold in the reserved veggies. *Optional pescatarian version- fold in katsuobushi flakes.*

Turn off heat and combine ketchup and worcestershire sauce in a small, microwavable dish and microwave on 30 seconds or until thickened but not burned. Smoke is bad. Thick and crusty is bad, too, so avoid that. Not that I’ve had any experience with overcooking my almost-yakisoba sauce, mind you.

To serve (or to dress for a bento), put in your intended dish or bento box. sprinkle with ao nori, salt if needed (taste to determine) and sprinkle with black sesame seeds.

Trying to get Kid Yum to like brown rice is a challenge, but she did like this. She found it hard to eat with a fork and a little messy for bento, though. Fine for adult or coordinated kid’s bento. I made it the morning of the bento day, using brown rice made the night before.
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Gluten-free Dairy-free Roasted Eggplant Tomato Risotto and Chickpea Hummus Burger Recipe

August 25th, 2012 yum Posted in Adopt a Gluten Free Blogger, Chickpeas, Dairy Free, Eggplant, Japan, Rice, Vegan, beans 12 Comments »

Here in Japan, it is the season of festivals, fireworks, and finally, the summer harvest. In the Northernmost part of Japan that we are living in, summer comes later than other parts of Japan, and goes by quicker. However, at long last, local gardens are giving up bounty of green peas, bok choy type greens, tomatoes, and edamame soybeans. I have never lived in rural Japan before- which is called “Inaka”, or Ee-nah-kah, by residents and visitors. Honestly, I don’t find Mutsu City (where we are currently living) all that “Inaka” or rural. There are a handful of different grocery stores, tons of clothing stores, lots of restaurants (although we just end up going to the kaiten zushi, revolving sushi restaurant called Kappa Zushi), and a terrific city workout center and city library.

But one thing that does make me think that I’m living somewhere rural is how warm and generous the local people have been to us. I’ve never gotten so many (food) gifts in my life, whether it is the local specialty Beko Mochi for Kid Yum, or random snacks received and redistributed, or, these days, bounty from people’s garden. Just today we were given fresh, beautiful tomatoes from two different friends’ gardens. One woman befriended my Mom at the city workout center (wellness center), and today had her over for lunch and gave her tomatoes to bring home from her garden. Kid Yum’s Preschool friends’ mother came all the way to my research site today and brought me still more tomatoes from her own mother’s garden. We were suddenly swimming in tomatoes! The latter friend also gave me some beautiful garden eggplant. I looked at those two ingredients, and somehow thought that risotto would be the perfect way to marry the two together. I found an interesting recipe online which roasted and pureed eggplant and mixed it into the rice. Since Kid Yum won’t touch any eggplant she can see, I thought it would be a good way to sneak a little variety into her diet, so taking that as my jumping point, I created a new recipe topped with vibrant roasted baby tomatoes.

We’ve been having a wonderful time here in Japan enjoying the festivals. Kid Yum got to participate in our neighborhood Kid Nebuta float and play at pulling the float along with her neighborhood pals. And a week or so later, I got to help carry the City Hall Mikoshi (portable shrine). There’s no place like Inaka, at least, the inaka of the biggest city in Tohoku’s Shimokita Peninsula.

Here are a few pictures and a video to give you a taste of our life here, before you enjoy my latest recipe.

A terrible picture of me, but it was dreadfully hot. Unfortunately the only picture of me in the happi traditional jacket for festivals.

Alta from Tasty Eats at Home is hosting THIS MONTH’S Adopt a Gluten-free Blogger. You can still sign up! Please give her your support in comments and love. Since I’ll be staying in Japan through October, I would love any offers to host for September or October. Please let me know if you are interested in Hosting Adopt a gluten-free Blogger! *hugs*

Finally, a Video from the Tanabu Festival, with traditional dancing and Shimokita’s theme song

Grilled Eggplant and Roasted Tomato Risotto Recipe
2 small eggplant, cut in half horizontally, pierce skin in several places and rubbed with olive oil
2 cups small tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine or mirin (sweet rice wine)
3 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup non-dairy milk (unsweetened, plain- I used soy)
salt or herbamare to taste
smoked paprika
fresh basil, julienned to garnish
Grill eggplant on a bbq, broil in an oven, or grill in a Japanese fish grill (under the rangetop in a japanese house) until soft. Then scoop out the flesh, dispose of the skin, and food process the soft eggplant flesh until smooth and creamy.

Prepare tomatoes by placing on cookie sheet lined with wax paper, drizzling with olive oil and a little salt. If you have a toaster oven, you can roast them in the toaster oven for about 20 minutes. Otherwise, you can use a regular oven or broiler… remove when the bottom starts to brown slightly and they have shrunk in size.

Heat the olive oil to medium in a large stock pan (a dutch oven is great) and add your diced onion. Saute until onion starts to turn translucent, and then add your risotto rice. Stir rice into the onion and let the rice start to turn translucent around the edges. Add your white wine or mirin (I didn’t have wine so used mirin) and stir. Prepare some warm vegetable broth either in a pot or microwave. I used a gluten-free vegetable bullion cube with hot water from a tea dispenser. Add 1/2 cup of broth to your rice, stirring until it is evenly distributing and then leaving the rice until it has absorbed more liquid. Add more broth 1/2 cup at a time, until you have used it all and the rice has become soft, about 20 minutes. If you need more liquid, add water 1/4 cup at a time until the rice is soft. Don’t add too much because the water will dilute the flavor! When rice is tender stir in the grilled eggplant puree and non-dairy milk. Season with salt or herbamare and smoked paprika. Serve topped with roasted baby tomatoes and fresh julienned basil.

Chickpea Hummus Un-Burgers
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1 tbsp tahini (if thick, add a little hot water to make liquid)
1 tsp. lime or lemon zest (grated skin)
1 tbsp. potato starch
herbamare or your favorite seasoned salt
dried dill herb to taste
1 tbsp. julinned basil
1-2 tbsp. olive oil

Lime slice (For serving)

Place your drained beans in a medium bowl and use either a potato masher or your fingers to partially mash them. Drizzle your tahini on the beans, add zest, and sprinkle potato starch, dried dill and salt, mixing together to form a ball, adding fresh julienned basil at the very end. Form into small, firm patties. Heat olive oil on medium and put in your patties, turning when side is golden brown.

Serve each patty topped with a squirt of lime juice from the lime slice.

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