Obake no Q-tarō bento

October 29, 2010

Obake no Q-tarō bento

I remember watching Japanese animations with my sister when I was small. They weren’t normally broadcasted on tv but we watched recorded tapes my dad borrowed from a friend that could have access to Japanese tv programs.

At that time, satellite and cable Tvs were way out of reality and my parents couldn’t watch any Japanese tv show if not in that way.

So, my sister and I  would put the (Sony) Betamax on (wow! Does anyone remember that?) and watch Doraemon, Obake no Q-tarō, Gegege no kitaro (ゲゲゲの鬼太郎) and Sazae-san, among others.

Obake no Q-tarō is originally a manga, made by same creators of  Doraemon (Fujiko Fujio). Obake means some sort of “apparition”, can take any form, like a ghost for example.

This bento was actually made in the same day of the “Boos” bentos I posted yesterday. I was thinking about Halloween, boos, ghosts and Q-tarō came to my mind. I think he is so cute and thought he deserved a bento form and a separate post ^_^.

Contents of the bento (originally made to me but eaten by hubs!):  rice, tamagoyaki, cherry tomatoes, edamame, steamed romaine broccoli with sesame oil dressing, pan fried MSG free sausages and a cup of cucumber and carrots asazuke. Q-tarō made with rice, turkey ham, nori and cooked carrot.

Obake no Q-tarō bento

Boo Halloween bento

October 28, 2010

Boo Halloween bento

I couldn’t resist to make a Halloween theme bento. I’ve been having so much fun seeing many of my bento friends making them I also decided to give it a go. ^_^

We don’t celebrate Halloween in Finland. At least not officially. The habit came some years ago (maybe because of some “trend”) and it is possible to see some Halloween decorations and costumes being sold at shops.

Anyways, kids asking candies on Oct. 31 is rare. There is an equivalent celebration on the Sunday before Easter, when girls dress like witches and go, door to door, offering their “spell” using decorated flowering shoots of pussy willow. They wish health and prosperity and we shall pay them back with money or candies.

My girls, for some reason, know the existence of Halloween. Every time they see a Jack o´Lantern they inform me it is for the “Haalow weeen” (<trying to write the way they pronounce it ^_^). “And what else we have in Halloween?” “scary things. BOO”

:D. I hope not totally out of the theme, there are “Boos” from the Super Mario game series and Jack o´lanterns.

Boo Halloween bento

Contents of the boxes: rice, tamagoyaki, lettuce, steamed romanesco broccoli with sesame oil dressing, MSG-free small sausages (it supposed to look like a candle..), edamame, grapes, cherry tomatoes and a carrot Jack o´. Boo made from rice, nori and turkey ham.

I was so happy when I found the Romanesco broccoli at the market last time! Very lucky .. the same day we watched the TED video of Mr. Benoit Mandelbrot about fractals, in his homage. (Oh yes, we are nerds)

Boo Halloween bento

Lihapulla - Finnish meatballs

The other day I was talking to friends in twitter about how weird is to make blog posts about savory foods and hot meals (compared to sweets and bakery ) once they just don´t look good at all when you take photos of them. They can be super tasty and delicious .. but they can look so ugly too :P

Well.. besides nice sweets and well fixed bento meals, we also eat “normal” food.. like everyone else. Who normally takes a picture of your last pasta bolognese? I mean.. without taking the risk of the meal cooling too much and kids start yelling they are hungry and can´t wait for mom to take the best “shot” ?

Aha. See my problem ^_^ !

Anyways..  I made Finnish meatballs. The complete meal (“koko setti” – the whole set,  like we would say here) and I decided to post about it (bear with me).

Meatballs in Finland are very very common. They can be quite similar to the meatballs they make in Sweden (and I am almost sure you are thinking about the Ikea meal right now… gotcha!) but with less herbs and spices. It differs from the “Italian” meatballs too. Read the recipe and you will understand why :)

Ok, so the recipe basically calls for minced meat, breadcrumbs, egg, spices and kermaviili. “Kermaviili” what? Well, yes, that. This is the recipe I use often and it’s how I learned to make “lihapulla”. There might be variations (my mother-in-law does not use “kermaviili” in hers as far as I know).

And what the heck is that kermaviili then? Before moving here, I had never heard about it. True.  Kermaviili is a dairy product made by fermenting milk cream, similar to the normal “viili” (which is another delicacy from the nordic countries ) but can be used in cooking, baking and to make dips. “Viili” is more like a gooey yogurt and most likely to be eaten as breakfast or dessert.

… (hey, but..) …

Yes! I have suggestions if you can´t find the kermaviili! (*clap, clap* XD) Substitute it by equal amounts of cream, milk, plain yogurt+cream, crème fraiche or meat stock . I can´t guarantee it will be the same meatball as mine but I believe it is worth a try. ^_^

We eat meatballs with cooked or mashed potatoes (this time the potatoes were from girls´ grandparents´place, special!) , gravy, homemade lingonberry jam, salad and sometimes cucumber pickles (when I remember I have them in the storage…). The ultimate Finnish confort food!

By the way.. they are a terrific freezer stash.. I can use in soups, sauces and for my bentos.. my girls enjoy  them a lot, like most of the kids in Finland.

Finnish Meatballs – Lihapullat

Makes 4 – 6 portions

  • 500 g ground beef (or you can use half beef and half ground pork)
  • 1 dl (about half cup) dry breadcrumbs. It is called “korppujauho” here and it differs from normal breadcrumbs (and Japanese “panko”) once it absorbs a lot of liquid when soaked (and looks like semolina flour when dry). Substitute by normal breadcrumbs or soak 2-3 slices of old dry bread.
  • 200 g “kermaviili” (I used this). Update: if your substitution is too liquid, milk or stock, I suggest to half the amount
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2  chopped onions
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp allspice (“maustepippuri”, it´s what a Finnish meatball must have, according to hubs)
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika

Heat the oven to 225 °C

In a large bowl soak the breadcrumbs in the kermaviili (or in the liquid of your choice), leave for about 10 minutes. The result must be moist, somehow hard, not “runny”. Adjust the amount, if using a substitution, according to the softness of the mixture.

Fry the onions in a skillet (use butter or oil) until soft, set aside to cool.

Add the egg, mince, onions and seasonings to the breadcrumb mix.

Knead the mixture thoroughly until well combined and firm. Shape into walnut sized balls with slightly oiled or moist hands (keep a bowl with water nearby) and place them on a greased shallow baking tray or over parchment paper. Do not crowd .

Bake for about 15 minutes until golden. You can turn them to cook evenly but I usually  don´t . They  get a crispy bottom ^_^ .

While the meatballs are baking, you can make the gravy.

Gravy – Ruskea kastikke (“brown sauce”)

  • 1 -2 tbsp butter
  • 2-3 tbsp flour
  • about 1/2 l beef stock
  • salt and pepper to taste

Boil the stock and keep it warm. Melt the butter in a large skillet and add the flour, mixing until the “paste” turns golden brown and starts to release a nutty aroma.

Start pouring the hot stock using a whisk to constantly mix it in (oh yes, beware of the steam! It can be scary at this point). Stir well, whisking until no lumps remain. If you feel uncomfortable to continue with the skillet, transfer the sauce to a deep pan and continue cooking and stirring until the sauce thickens.

Season a little with salt and pepper.

Serve with potatoes, meatballs and lingonberry jam.

Lihapulla - Finnish meatballs

My notes about the recipe:

If you don´t like the oven method, you can fry the meatballs in a large skillet. Make batches and keep the ready ones warm until you are ready to serve.

It is possible to make patties with the same mixture. Adjust the cooking time according to the size of your patty.

You can freeze the meatballs, raw or already baked. They are both good but I prefer freezing them ready. They keep well for about 3 months in the freezer. To use, I simply add the ready ones straight to soups, sauces and “warm” them up. For bentos, I defrost and gently reheat using a frying pan.

Some people would mix the ready meatballs to the sauce before serving but I prefer offering them separately. Others would add cream to the gravy.

M´s Cheesecake

October 25, 2010

M´s Cheesecake

Some years ago I tried this cheesecake in a potluck lunch with friends. It was just delicious and the idea of that cheesecake stayed in my mind.

The lady who baked it and I became very good friends. I value her friendship a lot and we try to keep in touch whenever it is possible (she is not living in Finland at this moment).

Anyways.. I was thinking about making some sort of cake to celebrate my wedding anniversary and I wanted to try something different  this time. Talking this and that with my friend “M” , suddenly her cheesecake came to my mind and I had (HAD) to ask her for the recipe ^_^.

And lovely as she is, she promptly sent it to me! =)

“M” suggested to serve the cheesecake with bilberry/blueberry jam. Unfortunately we didn’t have it at home and I was too lazy to make some with my frozen blueberries. I served with the jams we had in the fridge. Each from the family could choose what jam they wanted on top.

Ja “M”, kiitos  reseptista! Arigatou! Olet tosi suloinen!

M´s Cheesecake

M´s Cheesecake

Yield a 18 cm cheesecake (about 12 small slices)

  • 6 – 8 Digestive biscuits, finely crumbled (I used 8, about 120 g total). Digestive cookies are similar to graham crackers.
  • 40 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • about 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 pack Philadelphia cream cheese (200 g, full fat)
  • 2 dl (200 ml) cream
  • 70 g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (I used the lemon zest too, even if not mentioned in the original recipe)

Heat oven to 180 °C

If you didn’t brake your biscuits yet, put them inside a strong freezer bag and smash using a rolling pin (or use your hands, a meat hammer.. think about something that bothers you and release the anger on those biscuits! ^_^)

Mix the crumbs, butter and milk. Press onto bottom of 18 cm springform pan, line based with greaseproof paper.

Beat the cream cheese and sugar until well blended. Add eggs and the rest of the ingredients. Pour over crust.

Bake for about 40 min until slightly golden or center is set.

Refrigerate after it cools from the oven. I left it inside the pan for the night in the fridge.

To serve, remove the rim of the pan by running a knife around the rim (I used a wooden knife because I didn’t want to damage my pan). Remove the rim carefully and “slide” the cake to the serving plate.

Slice and top with fresh fruits or jam and serve.

My notes about the recipe:

The cheesecake was very good and very easy to make (like “M” said!), perhaps too big for our small family. I will try to half the recipe next time and see how it comes out.

I prefer a more “tangy” taste for a cheesecake and would add more lemon juice ( update: reading about the subject I figured out to use sour cream instead. Should definitely bake another to compare! :P). Anyways, I fixed it by eating my slice with a big dollop of my homemade apple-lemon jam (and cherry jam the next day). ^_^

My girls got disappointed they couldn’t decorate a “normal” cake for the wedding anniversary so I allowed them to use some sprinkles…

Heh (♡:lla to Mr mies!)

M´s Cheesecake

Bento for niece: Baikinman

Sometime ago I got a nice theme wish for a bento from a very special reader of my blog. According to her mom, she checks my blog everyday and asks “what auntie is making for me today?”  ^_^

Celebrating her birthday today, I dedicate this bento to my little niece A !  Feliz aniversário linda da tia! Happy birthday! We can´t be there to party with you, but your cousins are sending huge hugs and kisses from here \(^o^)/

Ah.. and the bento she requested.. Baikinman from the Anpanman anime series :D! Baikinman is known as “Meanyman” in English and he is the main antagonist of our hero Anpanman. He is the villain of the Germ World and usually appears with co-partner Dokin-chan ( Pikkusiili´s favorite ) and the Meanspiders. Seems my girls have a tendency for the “evil” ( ehehehe )

Contents of the boxes: lettuce, carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, steamed cauliflower, grapes, lettuce roll with cheese and turkey ham, chicken meatballs, mixed rice (and non featured tamagoyaki… I remembered only after taking the pictures  #fail ). Baikinman made from rice, nori, turkey ham and cheese. Note the party hat he is wearing, specially for this occasion! :D

Bento for niece: Baikinman

Ayu-chan! Foi muito legal você ter vindo visitar as priminhas no verao! Estamos com saudades! Parabéns e um beijo enorme da tia ♡♥♡♥ ♪( ´▽`)

Pink October bento

October 12, 2010

Pink October bento

October is the month of Breast Cancer Awareness. The international health campaign aims to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research.

Bentoblog invited me to join the pink bento theme event she is hosting (please visit there and check the other wonderful supporters´ work!). Making a bento in the pink theme or using the pink ribbon is our way to participate and show our awareness too.

Other dear bento-friends are also giving their contribution! If you’re in twitter,  look for hashtags #projectpink and #thinkpink.

You can also participate, donating, joining the different events taking place this month and spreading the word about them. Let´s hope this shout out is effective, not only in October but also for the whole years to come.

In Finland, please visit Rintasyöpäyhdistys ry and the Roosa Nauha campaign page.


Pink October bento


This bento is dedicated to everyone who has been affected by breast cancer or knows of someone who has been.

(contents of the box: “deconstructed sandwich” with a whole grain loaf, turkey ham, turkey meetvursti – mettwurst, cheese slices, mini plum tomatoes, carrot slices, steamed broccoli, red grapes, salad and basil  )


Panda tonkatsu bento

October 7, 2010

Panda tonkatsu bento

It has been a while since I made the last bento and posted about it. I don’t know what´s wrong with me but I am seriously lacking inspiration and motivation. Those are huge problems for someone who enjoys creating stuff… well, anyways.

The selection of vegetables and fruits in the markets are getting smaller and poorer the closest we get to Winter. Yes, I know, I should do with what is available.

Planning the bento, I was thinking it should be something easy to make. Fast and without any fancy colors.  *think* *think* *think* … PANDA!  ahahah, pandas are black and white, so no fooling around with colors. Just rice and nori :) . And we love pandas. Oh yes!

Panda tonkatsu bento

I used my new two-tier bento boxes that I got as gifts from a sweet bento friend of mine ( thanks ^_^ ). The idea was to offer half of a mandarin to each of my girls in the fruit container, but when I peeled them I found out they were bad :(. Next time then!

Contents of the shallow boxes: rice, furikake, edamame skewers, tamagoyaki (egg omelet ) and tonkatsu strips. Panda made of rice and nori, eye detail with cheese. Tall boxes have cherry tomatoes, cucumber, carrot sticks, edamame, apple slices and red grapes.

The apple was given us by my mother-in-law. They came from her neighbor´s garden and were exceptionally sweet. Luonnonvoima ate the most of them and this was the last one…

Panda tonkatsu bento

Pikkusiili didn’t manage to eat the whole meal but Luonnonvoima ate it all and helped her little sister to finnish hers :D.


Last weekend my in-laws came for a quick visit. Girls were very excited about the fact they were going to see their grandparents and spend time with them. They live about 440 km from Helsinki and when they come to see us, it is almost a big happening for everyone.

Not only they brought happiness to the girls, they also brought us lots of produce.Those who follow me on twitter might know that my in-laws have a gorgeous vegetable garden which produces the most in summertime. Now it is Autumn and people in Finland are preparing for the cold months to come.

I got potatoes, carrots, swedes/ rutabagas , onions, some of my mother-in-law homemade pickles, a huge winter pumpkin and apples. We keep them in the cold storage downstairs that belongs to same apartment building.

I thought it was a good idea to use the apples as soon as it was possible. Those apples I got are slightly different from the ones you get normally from any supermarket. Finnish apples, most of them are small , very fragrant but also very sour. The sourness reminds me apple vinegar taste, no kidding.

Interesting thing is their flavor gets better when you cook them. Or when you use them in a pie :).

Omenoita. Apples

A little something about Finnish pies. The word for pie in Finnish is “piirakka” or “piiras” (and sometimes “torttu” ) and it translates to pie. You can see lots of pies in Finnish cuisine that don’t look the same, neither are made with same technique. It is a fact. You can find pies made of usual butter crust, shortbread crust, sweet bread crust, “pizza” crust, cake-alike crust, rye dough crust.  Imagine a dough with a filling and  we call it pie. Yep.

The apple pie I made this time is very common during the apple season. The dough reminds a lot a very heavy and rich butter cake in its softness and the filling varies according to what is in season. For example in Spring the same dough is used to make Rhubarb pie and in late Summer, Bilberry pie.

I forgot to mention.. my father-in-law has lactose intolerance and my mother-in-law has gluten intolerance. Because of that, I baked two pies : the first using lactose-free butter and the second, using a different dough recipe with almond meal.

Here follows both:

Omenapiirakka – Apple pie with “cake” dough

Adapted from the recipe that came on the package of my ceramic baking dish ( Kermansavi )

Yield a 25 cm pie

  • 125 g unsalted butter ( I used lactose-free butter )
  • 125 g caster sugar
  • 125 g all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 3-5 apples ( I used 5 small ones. A good substitute would be Granny Smith apples )
  • 2 tbsp demerara sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Heat oven to 180 °C. Butter a 25 cm baking dish ( or a tin ) and line base with greaseproof paper. Wash and prepare the apples ( you don’t need to peel them if they are organic like mine ^_^ ).

Sift the flour and baking powder and reserve. In another bowl, beat butter and sugar until pale. Gradually add the beaten eggs and the flour mix a little at a time , mixing carefully after each addition.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish. The dough consistency looks like a heavy cake dough ( or a soft cookie one ). Try to spread it in a way it looks like it has borders, like a pie.

Remove seeds from apples and slice them thinly. Lay the slices on top of the batter, overlapping them in circles. Sprinkle the demerara sugar and cinnamon and bake for about 25 min ( check the border with a skewer ).

Serve alone, with vanilla sauce or ice cream :)

Omenoita. Apples

Gluteeniton Omenapiirakka –  Gluten-free apple pie

Yield a 18 cm x 24 cm rectangular baking dish

  • 100 g butter
  • 1 dl caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 dl potato starch
  • 80g almond meal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • zest of half orange
  • 4 small apples
  • 1tbsp demerara sugar
  • 1tsp cinnamon

Heat oven to 180 °C. Butter the dish (or tin ). I used the rectangular one because I didn’t have any better available :P . Wash and prepare the apples.

Combine the almond meal, potato starch, zest and baking powder and put aside. In another bowl, beat butter and sugar until pale. Gradually add the beaten eggs and the dry ingredients mixture a little at a time , mixing carefully after each addition.

At this point you will think something is wrong. My dough got very liquid but I carried on with the recipe and it ended up perfect!!

Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish.

Remove seeds from apples and slice them thinly. Lay the slices on top of the batter, they will slightly sink in.  Sprinkle  the demerara sugar and cinnamon and bake for about 20 min ( check the border with a skewer ).

Let it set and cool before serving.

My notes about this recipe:

It is really necessary to leave the pie resting for a moment. Due to the crumbly nature of the dough, the pieces brake apart if you try to cut the pie while it is still warm.

The almond taste was so pleasant I myself enjoyed the pie so much and ate the rest of it after my mom-in-law left ^_^.

Gluten-free apple pie. Gluteeniton omenapiirakka


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 30 other followers