“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.


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 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 48

Dinner over the past two days has taken on some form of a theme. The other night, it was lemons. Last night, honey was the star at the dinner table.

I wanted to make beef pares ever since I encountered this article on I’ve actually never had pares before, which is a sticky situation when you’re cooking something. I just followed the recipe here although I did substitute the beef with chicken (just because I wanted to finish up the chicken before buying any more meats) and the sugar with honey.

I suggest to skim the fat off while the chicken simmers so it would not be too oily. I also separated some of the broth before I thickened the sauce to make a soup. Paired with garlic rice topped with caramelized onions (makes a world of difference instead of just frying the onions with the rice and garlic), it seemed like a pretty decent interpretation of beef pares. I still have no idea what pares is supposed to taste like but dinner was pretty good.

it tastes a lot better than it looks, i promise.

I also wanted to make some kind of dessert. My sweet tooth has been neglected recently. I encountered a recipe for tapioca pudding on Heart of Light (I love you, Rachel!) and it looked amazing. It was perfect because it does not require the use of an oven, which I currently do not have and it lets me use up our overflow of tapioca (sago, for the rest of us).

I followed the recipe, with the addition of a little bit of chocolate powder  and it turned out to be a huge, blobby mess. The tapioca disintegrated into mush. My theory is that the tapioca sold here does not require any soaking. After all, the instructions in the package said to just dump the contents in boiling water.

With the first version rejected, I made a second batch using honey as a flavoring. I tweaked an old custard recipe and it turned out to be just what my sweet tooth ordered.

honey tapioca pudding

Honey Tapioca Pudding (makes four servings — two, if you like sweets)

What you need:

1/4 cup of honey

1/4 cup of tapioca

1/4 cup of cornstarch

1 egg yolk

1 cup of milk

1 tablespoon of butter


Cook the tapioca in boiling water until it becomes fully transparent. Stir it occasionally to prevent sticking. Drain the tapioca and let it cool once it is cooked. Dissolve the cornstarch in the milk and bring to a boil. Put in the honey — you can add more or less depending on how sweet you want it. When the mixture starts to thicken, add the beaten egg yolk. It helps to temper the egg by adding a little bit of the hot mixture into the egg before putting it back in. This prevents the egg from being scrambled. When the mixture starts to look like custard, take it off the heat and put the butter in. Fold in the tapioca and chill before serving.

If I had shot glasses, I would have served these up in them for better presentation. In this reality, I just ended up spooning the pudding in juice glasses.