“Ow, you’re squishing me!” Bento


What is it about kids that they are programmed to be picky eaters? My daughter dislikes egg yolks, milk, chicken, and carrots. My son dislikes everything except doughnuts and ramen.

One trick that I use to make them eat better is the Do As I Say rule. Usually, this involves telling them the story of how the Pharaoh was cursed by God with 10 plagues because he kept on disobeying.

But, I want the kids to have pleasant memories of mealtimes. They should have a positive relationship with food. Not associate it with rivers of blood.

So I make these little bento lunches. It’s cute so they’re interested. My daughter makes up a whole scenario where the faces are going to a party inside her tummy. My son roars like a dinosaur sometimes; other times he makes up dialogue like, “please don’t eat me.” Then he gobbles them up.

For this, I just shaped rice into balls and added nori for the eyes. I have a puncher to make it easier, although scissors work just as well. The rice comes with humba, a vinegar and soy sauce pork stew, and sauteed vegetables.

It’s not as complicated as it looks, but it does take some time to assemble. Say, 30 minutes? But, it sure beats having to make angry faces just to make the kids finish their lunch.




Puppy Bento


Quick bento of rice, vegetables, and some beef patties for dog ears.


Bento Snacks for Beginners

My daughter is a good eater, but very picky. She loves eggs, but only the white parts. She’ll eat rice, but won’t touch the meat.

She only likes the bread part of sandwiches. Just hand her a piece of bread, you say. Easy.

Uh, no. She insists that I make her a sandwich and then watch as I pick it apart and just hand her slices of bread.

To further complicate things, these quirks are highly dependent on her mood. There would be times when she must absolutely, desperately have meat. No rice.

She’s three so she has complicated feelings, okay?

Last week, my daughter had assessments so she had to bring snacks to school. I was a little nervous since the last time I had to do this, she came back with a note saying that she refused to eat and that we should do a better job packing her food.

This time around, I was determined to redeem myself.

I got her a new container, so issue two was solved easily. As for the mystery of whether or not she would eat them, I decided to outsmart her by using an appeal to cuteness.

On day 1, she got butter and strawberry jam sandwiches and some cereal. I just used a cookie cutter to make bunny shapes. The eyes are chocolate cereal crumbs, and I drew on the noses and smiles with jam.


On Day 2, she got a hard boiled egg sliced to make a very crude looking Baymax. The eyes are just balled up pieces of herbs (this was cilantro, I think), from dinner the night before. Baymax was on a bed of cheese crackers. She also got a few orange segments.

This was a bit of a failure, because the egg made the crackers into a soggy mess. I would separate them next time.


I saved the big guns for the last day: a rice ball shaped like Hello Kitty, her favorite character. You can buy rice molds in every shape imaginable, but I just used plastic wrap. I put the rice on some Saran and shaped it like the cat’s head. The plastic kept the rice from sticking to fingers and made it easier to pack in the grains tightly so they’ll keep their shape.

The whiskers and the eyes are cut up pieces of nori, and the bow and nose are cheese slices. She ate the rice with shredded up adobo and had a cookie for dessert.


Making these were surprisingly therapeutic.

In my mind, I’m one of those crafty, Pinterest moms. It was nice to do something creative with what should have been a routine chore. Even better, my daughter was excited to eat her snacks and came home with cleaned out containers each time. They took only about 10 minutes longer to prepare, so I got maximum rewards for my input. I’m marking these up as a parenting win.





A is for Applesauce, B is for Bacon

Images via Tommy Perez’s Instagram

Talk about playing with your food. Designer Tommy Perez, taught his daughter, Zoe, the alphabet through her favorite treats. In a project called A to Zoe, he doesn’t just use the food as examples for the letter sounds, but uses them to demonstrate the appearance of the letters themselves.

Me and my haphazardly printed out letter flashcards for my daughter’s ABC lessons are ashamed.


Day 211: Beet Cake

Our kitchen will never produce something this pretty. Whenever I bake something, it always feels like the kitchen exploded in a cloud of flour and sugar.


Day 200: Carla vs. Gabi

Sinigang was on the menu last night. But before I could enjoy the sour, salty deliciousness that was this soup, I had to contend with the unexpected fight that the gabi (taro) put up before it allowed itself to be dropped into the pot.

So there I was, happily peeling the skin off the taro roots, when I felt a minor itch on my right hand. A tiny red mark had appeared. I thought nothing of it, and continued to peel.

Approximately 10 minutes later, the itching worsened. It felt like a bazillion little monsters were scratching my skin with their mutant chicken claws.

While breathing fire.

I tried washing my hands, but it was still super itchy. The tiny red spot grew to be about an inch in diameter. With the obvious deterioration of my condition, I did the only logical thing:

From what I read, it turns out that gabi contains calcium oxalate, which is poisonous when raw*. Wait, what? If it has poison, why are we eating it?

And please, for the sake of all that should not itch, what can be done to get rid of the itchiness? Someone posted in a forum that tamarind breaks down the crystals of the calcium oxalate to render it harmless.

Since I used a sinigang mix, I did not have any tamarind around. I thought maybe the mix might work too. It should have some tamarind in it, right? I rubbed some on my hands. It didn’t work. Then I thought maybe it is the acidity in the tamarind that breaks down the toxins. I had some calamansi in the ref, so I tried those as a substitute. Didn’t work either.

Finally, I just resorted to washing my hands as thoroughly as possible. About five times. Eventually, the itchiness went away and the redness subsided. I’m not sure what helped. Maybe it was just time and  time really does heal all wounds.

After my hands felt better and I cooked the sinigang, I made sure to eat the gabi that attacked me.

*Cooking breaks down the toxins so gabi eaters, do not fret. Just stay away from raw gabi and all is well.


Day 143

One of the running jokes between my husband and I is the correct way to cook rice. My grandmother taught me that to measure the amount of water that goes into the rice, use the tip of your middle finger.

You know how each finger has lines that divide the it into segments? (Three, usually although I have a friend who has four segments. She has very long fingers.) The first line from the tip will show you the exact water to rice ratio needed. Rest the tip of your middle finger on the rice and make sure that the water reaches the first line, submerging the top segment of the finger in water.

This will yield in perfectly cooked rice every time. I promise. Now, when I first told my then-boyfriend/now-husband about this, he scoffed at the idea.

When I told him that the method has never failed before so empirical data shows that it works, he laughed. It has never happened before, therefore it will never happen?

But ever since we got married, he’s seen how accurate fingers can be. Our rice always comes out awesome. Now, he makes use of the same method too. He’s been going around saying our grandkids will make fun of him for his initial disbelief at my rice-making technique.

So, are we the only ones who makes use of our fingers to measure out the water? How do you cook your rice? 🙂