Sep 18, 2017

Alabama Bento

How many of ya have an Ollie's close by? Well, we have one up the road from my mama's house and I love that place. It reminds me of home, aka Schuylkill Co. PA. (Lived there only 5 years, 3 of them rebelling against the cold and the north in general, so of course, just when I start thinking of it as home, I move. Now I want to go back. *insert eyeroll* Must be a military brat thing, I dunno.) Aaaaanyway, while I was at Ollie's I found bento boxes, legit bento, not plastic tubs, not chambered little trays with snap on lids. I'm talking the actual bento boxes like they have in Japan. They were under $5 each. HECK YEAH! I grabbed one each for each of us except David. (Last time I did something similar he rolled his eyes and never used his so ppppttttthhhhhhhtttttt party pooper! No, I didn't forget him, he just got something else.) I, however, am in love with them. As you know I love trying out new things in the kitchen and I've been itching for a time to use these. One more thing off the bucket list Japan edition! YAY! (Now if I could just actually ever get there....sigh)

2 pink ones, 1 gray (chopsticks I had already)

So now I'm here......... in AL........... with bento boxes........(crickets).

I start thinking.

I made some pork nuggets from leftover pork chops and froze them awhile ago to use just for this, and I have more rice than I know what to do with. So that part is taken care of. 

What next? I mean bento is all about variety and being cute. Right?

Well, I have zero time for cute right now. Functional it is! I really need to use up the last of that fresh okra, and those sweet potatoes. Those apples are starting to look sketchy too. Can I really use leftover french style canned green beans?  Hhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Welp! We're about to find out!

So after doing a quick internet search on okra and sweet potatoes to make sure I wasn't completely insane I made Alabama bento y'all! 

I must say I was surprised at how well it turned out and the kids loved it. My attempt at apple bunnies was merely passing, I know, but the kids liked it imperfections n' all. The green beans I simply sprinkled some sesame seeds over the top to perk them up a bit. The rice was cooked in my rice cooker with a 2 to 1 ratio of water to rice. The pork nuggets I just warmed up in the skillet. (Forgive the few that got a little too warmed up.) 

My biggest shock was the okra and sweet potatoes. I thought there was no way on earth I would like it and was facing possibly wasting food. I crossed my fingers and dove in. With the okra not being overcooked and the sweet potatoes being fork tender I am a fan and will be making this again. My kiddos agree, so much so that they went for seconds and even thirds in one case. While not unheard of, it is certainly not the norm for my kids to want more vegetables!

Sweet Potatoes and Okra

1 tbsp. vegetable oil 
1 large sweet potato cubed
1/4 c. water
1 cup sliced fresh okra
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 or 2 good shakes of minced dried onion
1 good shake of garlic powder
2 tsp honey
pinch of salt

Add the vegetable oil to a hot dutch oven, add the sweet potato and cook until it starts to get caramelized. Add water and cook until almost tender. Add the okra, cinnamon, dried onion, garlic powder, honey, and salt. Cook until fork tender. The okra will give it a bit of a slime factor, but not too badly if you don't overcook it. I just told my kids if they saw any stickiness it was from the honey, because yeah, I'm that mom. ;) 

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