Mexican Bento

mexican bento

(See Note on Bento below)

This Mexican-inspired bento is filled with cheese quesadilla wedges, Spanish rice, guacamole, salsa, tortilla chips and yellow pepper strips. A dry lettuce leaf helps to keep the rice separate from other foods and small containers with lids house the salsa and guacamole.

Making your own Spanish rice is so easy, you'll never go back to boxed again. You're also in control of just how spicy or mild to make it.

Spanish Rice:

Hands-On Time: 5 minutes
Ready In: 25 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

    2 Tablespoons oil
    1/2 cup chopped Spanish onion
    2 cloves garlic - minced
    1 cup white rice
    2 cups chicken broth
    1 cup salsa
    1 teaspoon chili powder

Directions

  1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add oil. Stir in onion and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  2. Stir in rice and add chicken broth slowly. Add salsa and chili powder and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low and lid tightly. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Fresh salsa goes together quickly and the flavor is markedly different than the store-bought versions. Make it mild or hot by altering the amount of peppers added.

Fresh Salsa:

Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
Ready In: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Yield: 3 cups

Ingredients

    3 large ripe tomatoes - peeled, seeded and chopped
    1 small white onion - chopped
    3 garlic cloves - minced
    Chiles (as many as you like) stemmed, seeded and chopped (or 1 small can of chopped mild green chiles)
    1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    1 lime - juiced
    1 teaspoon Kosher salt
    Sugar to taste if the tomatoes are acidic

Directions

  1. Combine all and mix well.
  2. Allow flavors to blend for at least 1 hr.
  3. Taste for seasoning and serve at room temperature.
  4. Refrigerate unused portion.

Smooth and creamy avocados get spiced up just right with onion, garlic and lime juice. Serve with tortillas chips, tacos or fajitas.

Guacamole:

Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
Ready In: 15 minutes
Yield: 3 cups

Ingredients

    2 ripe Haas avocados scooped out and mashed
    1 medium onion chopped fine
    5 scallions chopped fine
    2 cloves of garlic - minced
    1 jalepeno pepper - seeded and chopped fine (optional)
    1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    1 lime - juiced or 3 tablespoons
    Salt and pepper to taste
    Sugar or honey to taste, if needed

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients, except avocado, and blend well.
  2. Mash avocado last to keep it from browning before adding to remaining ingredients.
  3. Place plastic wrap directly on the guacamole to help keep browning to a minimum if storing before serving.

A Note on Bento: Bento is, very simply put, a Japanese lunchbox that's making waves across the U.S.. Traditionally made with rice, meat, poultry or fish and pickled or other cooked vegetables, bento can be as intricate or simple as you'd like. The bento I send always come back empty and the kids prefer them to the usual bagged lunch.
Bento boxes can be as simple or elaborate as the food they hold, from laquered boxes with built-in dividers to reuseable plastic containers available just about everywhere lately. It's important to keep moist foods separate from dry foods to decrease the risk of spoilage. Silicone muffin liners are ideal for keeping foods separate, but anything from dry lettuce leaves to waxed paper works as well.
While leftovers are perfect, any food that tastes as good chilled as it does hot will do. To keep foods cold until lunch time, small condiment packets like kethcup, mustard, mayo or relish, when frozen, are the perfect size ice-pack whether meant to be consumed or not.
Fill-ins help food keep its shape and stay put; some ideas for fill-ins are grape tomatoes, grapes, baby carrots, individually wrapped cheeses and dried fruit. Experiment with your own kids' favorites and have fun with it, your kids will have the most envied lunches at school.

See more recipes from Anne Coleman (aka Short Order Mom).

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