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Just Bento, my new brand site dedicated to the making of bento box meals, is now officially open! It will have bento-specific recipes, tutorials and tips galore. While the majority of the bento box examples will be Japanese or Japanese-style bentos (geared and adapted for people who don't live in Japan), there will be foods and recipes from many other cuisines too, just as on Just Hungry.

The focus is on bento lunches for busy adults, especially those who are looking to using bento lunches to regulate healthy eating habits and/or lose weight. Why? Because that's how I use bento lunches. Late last year I made a resolution to try to lose some weight in 2007. While a lot of things I attempted in order to achieve that goal fell by the wayside, one of the things that 'stuck' was making bento lunches at least 2 to 3 times a week, if not more. So far, I have very slowly lost about 30 pounds (15 kg), and plan to keep going! I occasionally indulge in more luxurious and/or time-consuming bentos too, but that's all part of keeping things fun and loose.

Time is of the essence in the morning, so every bento example will be presented with a graphical timeline besides step-by-step instructions. (See Bento no. 1 for an example). Most bentos will be take less than 30 minutes to make, and the majority will clock in at 20 minutes or under.

There are already several articles up on the site. And no, Just Hungry will not be neglected; there'll be a lot of cross-referencing of tips, recipes and more between the sites.

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In case you don't follow Just Bento, but read Just Hungry for the Japanese stuff, be sure to check out my onigiri magnum opus. In case you are wondering, yes I made all those onigiri and shot them over the weekend. It took 8 cups of rice! Some are stored in the freezer, but regrettably, many were consumed on the spot by the photographer and me.

Shooting white rice against a white background, especially on a cloudy day, is not easy. But the other weekend project we managed to finish finally really came in handy - the shoestring 'studio' box.

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I am almost ready to give birth to a project that's been incubating for ages. It's still rather sparse (or, as they say in Web 2.0 speak, 'beta'). If you take a look let me know what you think....

[Update:] Thank you for all of the positive comments! (If you have any criticism that's welcome too.) As you can probably see already, the site will be quite tutorial-heavy, especially since there are already a growing number of bento blogs. As I've written in Bento Basics, the focus of most of the bentos (I'm sure there will be some exceptions) I'll be writing about are 1) brown-rice based with a large portion of vegetables, 2) made in 20 minutes or under (with some prep work) and 2) 600 calories or under (a bit more for bigger guys). They won't be that cute - at least inside the bento box. I don't have a lot of patience for cute-fiddling in the morning. You can of course add cuteness with the bento box itself or the wrapper for the bento box.

The site is still 'beta' because I'm still ironing out some background kinks, but you can already subscribe to it and things.

Incidentally, I started to make a concerted effort to make bento earlier this year, as part of an overall 'eat healthier, dammit' thing. It's been a really positive experience health-wise and taste-wise, and as one side effect I've lost about 30 lbs (15 kg or so) since the beginning of the year. Does that give you an incentive to start making bento too? :)

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A little non-food business. I have been getting tons of invites from people I don't know (and a couple I actually do) for yet another social networking site called Quechup. It seems that sometime during the signup process, this site makes it possible for people to send invites to all the people in the GMail and other online mail service address books. It's kind of interesting to see who has my address in their address books, but nevertheless...if you want to avoid this annoyance, just avoid Quechup.

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This seems to be the week of appearing on other great food blogs! I was asked, amongst other more illustrious food bloggers, what my last meal would be by <a href=http://chewonthatblog.com/?p=209">Chew On That. Check out the great answers!

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Liz Crain of Culinate interviewed me recently, and the result is now up on their site. I always feel funny reading interviews of me, but nevertheless Liz did a great job. (I didn't realize I average 15 posts a month... is that too little or too much?) You get to find out about my dad's infamous restaurant business card collection! Food obsession must be inherited.

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In case you left a comment here in the past few days and wondered where why it wasn't approved - I suddenly stopped getting comment notifications, which is why I didn't even know they were there. My apologies as I try to figure out if Drupal, Gmail or another interweb gremlin is at fault.

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I'm back home from Provence, both in the physical sense and the interweb sense. I actually lost Net access for the past two weeks (we thought we had something more convenient but it turned out we needed to drive 30 minutes one way to get to a WiFi spot, and well...other things sort of took priority). What I need to get into my head is that in this day and age, being offline for so long is not a good thing. It's sort of like being MIA, for a lot of people that know me. Yes, I confess I didn't even check my email for two weeks. So...if this affected you in relation to your food related questions and so on, I apologize. Next time I go away I'll make sure I can at least get online once a day.

I'll have a lot, lot more to say about my trip later on, but in the meantime, here is a little mystery. Can you identify these? (Click on the image to get a bigger view. RSS readers will have to go to the site to do this.) I'd never seen them in this state before.

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While the food in Provence is glorious - the freshest vegetables and fruit ever, tons of fresh garlic, and delicious cheeses, fragrant herbs - I really, really missed Japanese food. I did bring a (very small) bottle of soy sauce with me, but no rice or any other ingredients. (Curiously I found nori and soy sauce at the local hypermarché, but no Japonica rice, or most other needed ingredients. So I'm not sure what rice the people of Provence make sushi with.)

Last summer, I had to make an emergency stop at a small Japanese-Korean restaurant in Aix-en-Provence to take care of the withdrawal symptoms, but this year I toughed it out for three whole weeks. But anyway, the first thing I did when we got home last night? Make a potful of rice and have a bowlful with an umeboshi. I think the older I get, the more Japanese I'm getting. If my long term plans to Get A Place In Provence work out, I'm definitely going to have to sort out the Japanese food supply situation.

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We've had a bit of a Plumbing Disaster in the kitchen, which has necessiated the removal of everything from shelves and such up onto higher ground (not to mention the disposal of many ruined food items). This has meant cooking activities have had to take a short pause. Hopefully the kitchen, my sanity, and cooking (and posting thereof on this blog) should be back shortly.

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Things may be just a bit slower on Just Hungry for the next couple of months, since I'll be on the road a lot. I do have several articles piled up on the back burner though, so you shouldn't miss much (hopefully) in the way of new stuff to read. What may be slower is my comment and new user registration approval rate, as well as replying to comments, but I'll try to get to them when I can.

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