bento love

Variety Bento

autumn is in the air —
i vacillate between
excitement for
mustard yellows & crunchy leaves
and
utter dread for
dreary cold temps.
today marks the first day of school
for most kids in MD,
which means traffic is up,
the campus is packed,
and the kids in my building
aren’t seemingly training for the
gymnastics olympic team at 1pm.

Variety Bento

in favor of transparency here,
i’ve been in a food rut.
i’m not my usual excited self on market day,
most evening dinners have been veggies on toast,
i’m spotty with the breakfast thing
and while i still pack our lunches 4/5 days,
more often than not,
it’s PB&Honey sandwiches
or pasta salad.
just punch me with all this food blogger burnout already.

Variety Bento

enter the bento.
i tinkered with it a little last summer,
then lost interest
and for reasons beyond me
picked up the interest again.
i like the portion control,
and honestly,
how pretty it looks.
if that’ll get me out of my slump,
i’ll take it.

Variety Bento

resources & inspiration: (these are not affiliate or sponsored links)
glass bento containers
sushi maker
bentoparty
shisodelicious

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beef, squash & white bean chili

Beef, Squash, White Bean Chili

it’s a known fact,
probably even scientific,
that the cold makes us all shitty people.
the general lack of sunlight,
or enough of it in the day,
the hovering around freezing temps,
the static hair,
well.
it’s enough to make this girl
cantankerous.
add to that
the decline in desire
to be in the kitchen.
the first week after thanksgiving
i had no meal plan,
some lunches consisted of
sorry apples and oranges
and cookies.
that had to be remedied.

this chili came out far
better than i anticipated.
in our house,
dw likes the tomato based,
hearty chilis and stews,
while i prefer the
brothy, noodle bowls.
this week,
to combat the dreary
this became our lunch.
and boy did it improve
my disposition.

Beef, Squash, White Bean Chili

beef, squash & white bean chili
adapted from the everyday squash cook by rob firing, ivy knight and kerry knight
about 8-9 servings

*note: i received this great cookbook from movita beaucoup, after winning her pumpkin carve off. thanks to all who voted for us!
the recipe is very straight forward. i doubled a few of the spices for kick, and i also added more liquid than it calls for.

1 lb of lean ground beef, grass fed
1 onion, chopped
1 28oz can diced tomatoes, with juice (i used muir’s fire roasted diced tomotoes) + 2 cansful of water or stock, divided
2 cups peeled and 1/2″ cubed butternut squash (fine, it may have been more than half the squash)
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 TBL chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves
1 cup dried navy beans, soaked overnight and cooked until al dente (or a can of white beans, drained and rinsed)

in a big soup pot, brown the ground beef on medium high. depending on how lean/fatty the meat is, you may need to add a few swivels of olive oil. break down the meat until crumbly. at this point, you can drain the meat reserving some of the oil/fat, or you can be lazy like me and push it to the side and add in the chopped onions. saute until translucent. at this point, i season with salt/pepper.

next add in the minced garlic and stir it around, until fragrant. just kidding, it’ll be fragrant almost immediately. add in the spices/dry ingredients. allow the spices to get thoroughly mixed into the meat and onions, about 5 minutes. carefully pour in the can of dice tomatoes + juice. allow to reach boil status and lower the heat. for the next hour, as the liquid reduces, add in a can’s worth of water or stock. do this twice.

for the last time that you pour in can’s worth of liquid, also add in the cubed squash. bring to a furious simmer/gentle boil. you don’t want the squash to get mushy but you do need to cook it through, about 15-20 minutes. for the last 10 minutes of cooking, add in the cooked beans.

can be served with cornbread or eaten as is. i’ve been dipping pretzel crisps for an added crunch.

BAM!

Beef, Squash, White Bean Chili

other soups & stews:
autumn harvest soup
3 bean chili
vietnamese beef stew
caribbean oxtail stew
miso ramen bowl
chicken pho
portuguese chicken + chorizo curry
chickpea & sausage stew

chickpea & sausage stew

Chickpea + Sausage stew

oh, mid-autumn.
in most cases,
i can be found bundled up,
ensconced in lap blankets,
fingers tangled in yarn,
dw next to me reading
or perusing the internet.
upon the early setting of the sun
there isn’t much that can
inspire us to be out
in the dark,
not when we can be snuggling
and noshing on comforting fares,
mostly of the sweet variety.
ahem.

Chickpea + Sausage stew

now that the cold has settled,
permanently it seems,
my cooking leans towards
the measured and lazy.
this is the time i tend
to slow down my pace,
finding comfort in a pot of soup,
a pot that feeds us for a week straight,
the kind of dish that
warms us through and through,
sometimes even coercing me
off the couch for seconds.

Chickpea + Sausage stew

chickpea & sausage stew
serves 6-8

*note: this is a soup that we are having for lunch this week. the whole having a huge pot of soup on the stove on sunday to feed us during the week has been such a relief for me, not having to worry about packing lunches. the repetition hasn’t gotten to us, yet, and hopefully it won’t, because seriously, lunch during the work week is my least fave meal to deal with.

olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1-2 lbs Italian sausage, thawed and casings removed
2 TBL tomato paste
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
4 cups homemade chicken stock, or leftover water that cooked the garbanzo beans, or combo of both
1 1/2 cups dried garbanzo beans, soaked at least 8 hours, cooked until tender, reserving water
head of kale, washed and rough chopped
1/4 cup of teeny tiny pasta, like acini di pepe (optional)
kosher salt and pepper

heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. saute onions until soft & translucent.

throw in the sausage and cook, crumbling it with a wooden spoon, until browned.

add in the tomato paste and parsley, cook for a few minutes.

add in the liquids, along with the garbanzo beans. bring to a boil.

throw in the kale, allow to simmer for about 20-30 minutes.

if using, add in the acini di pepe.

season to taste.

BAM!

Chickpea + Sausage stew

other soups & stews:
autumn harvest soup
3 bean chili
vietnamese beef stew
caribbean oxtail stew
miso ramen bowl
chicken pho
portuguese chicken + chorizo curry

three bean chili -vegan

3 Bean Chili - vegan

it began with a simple idea:
lunch.
what can i make that will
last a week in the fridge,
will warm us through,
be easy peasy to put together,
and still be delicious
by the very least,
4th day,
ideally 5th day?

chili.
stew.
soup.
same thing.

as i told dw
“we are going to have stoupli
the entire winter.
prepare thyself.”
this is likely going to be
an ongoing theme around these parts.
sorry about that
bring on the cold!

what do you have for lunch?

3 Bean Chili - vegan

three bean chili
as inspired by will cook for friends and something for sunday

*note: it’s early in the season, or late, but i was able to use all fresh vegs. as the season progresses i will likely turn to canned tomatoes and the make up of the recipe will differ slightly depending on what vegs i can get at the market. adjust accordingly, use your best judgement.
**note: we don’t do canned beans, we’ve been trying our hand with dried beans. by all means, for convenience and preference, use canned if that works for you!
***note: the use of cocoa powder and coffee is not new. for Cincinnati chili, it uses a very generous amount of cocoa and wendi once fed me her commitment chili that has coffee in it. it adds a dark richness to the stew. if you’re against caffeine, or darkness and whatever, use broth or water.

3 Bean Chili - vegan

a swirl or two of olive oil, enough to coat the pan/pot
1 cup dried black beans (soaked overnight, cooked for approx 2 hours, until al dente)
1 cup dried chickpeas/garbanzo beans (soaked overnight, cooked in crockpot on high for approx 2-3 hours, until al dente)
1 cup dried navy beans (soaked over night, cooked for approx 2-3 hours, until al dente)
1 huge, gigantore ripe tomato, rough chopped (a can of whole tomatoes is fine)
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 red bell peppers, diced
1 big tomato, rough chopped (a can of tomatoes is fine if not using fresh)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, deseeded and diced
2 bay leaves
2 heaping tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 TBL spoons italian seasoning
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp, more or less, smoked paprika
1 tsp chili powder
3 cups strong black coffee
1-2 cups leftover cooked bean liquid (or water or stock is fine)
salt/pepper to taste

one of the things that i’ve learned from watching cooking shows and competitions: season well! for every layer of vegs that i add to the pot, i sprinkle in salt & pepper.

in a big pot, heat olive oil at medium high heat. add in the diced onion and saute until translucent. next add in the other vegs, being sure to season between layers and allowing each veg proper saute time. you’re building flavors, don’t skimp.

add in the dry seasonings and mix thoroughly.

pour in liquids, coffee and bean liquid (or water), bring to a boil. lower temp to gentle simmer and cook until beans are soft, up to 45 min – an hour.

*if using canned beans, don’t add the beans until the final 30 minutes. but do allow the other vegs to simmer in the liquids.*

this is even better the next days when all the spices mingled and got merry.

serve with toast, sometimes i added diced avocado if i was feeling fancy, other times, i ate it simply.

BAM!

3 Bean Chili - vegan