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Food Question!!!

OK, so I have been observing the fantastic bentolunch community lately. And then today tzel sent me this bento link. It is easy to chop up some things, or grab a few pita chips or carrots, or what have you to put in a bento box. But what I don't get is:

How do you prepare noodles to pack up on a daily basis? Or rice? Surely these people do not cook these starchy items the same day they pack them? Don't noodles get kind of oogy and weird if you refrigerate them? And rice, doesn't it get hard?

Please forgive my food ignorance, and enlighten me gently. :)

Also, I want to write a lengthy post about how on some talk show last week some food expert was talking about how we make (some stupid number like) 750 decisions about food a day. My point of decision making remains emotional in lots of cases. If there is a lengthy post to be dragged out of that, I don't have it in me today. I do feel that I am experiencing the psychological "backlash" of dieting that is the downfall of many dieters. So my attitude about WW is not as 100% rosy as it once was, and I have not proved to learn quite so many of the lessons I would have liked.

I made a list of all the meals I have at my fingertips in the house, and it's kind of long. That way I can't think "there's nothing to eat in here! I guess I will have to give up and order chinese!". AND I will have a handy reference for what's missing when I go shopping.

I went looking for the babybel cheese things that everyone and their sister loves at the grocery store and failed to find them. The would fit so well in my bento box. Oh yeah, I got a bento box off ebay. I also got some of that Sabra hummus that Tracy introduced me to, but forgot to get anything to PUT IT ON. DER. My kingdom for a pita chip or celery stick.

I feel like my back is better enough to start running, but uh, the ground is covered with ice! So I lifted weights and made an annoyed face. I am also having possibly paranoid delusions that my running shoes don't fit right.

And if you got this far and are not on my health filter, and want to be on it, let me know. I talk about weight watchers and shit. I didn't put this post on that filter because I wanted to get the most noodle feedback I could.



( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 14th, 2007 08:49 pm (UTC)
I totally prepare a bunch of noodles or a bunch of rice every time I cook either so that they can be used for leftovers. I've found that rice only gets hard (and noodles goopy) if you don't cover them - it's important to make sure that they're properly sealed. Other than that, they're perfectly reheatable.

If either is getting a little dry on reheating, you can throw a tablespoon or so of water to rehydrate. Works like a dream!
Feb. 14th, 2007 09:27 pm (UTC)
Noted. I of course was imagining the rice you get with say, take out chinese, which on day two of sitting in the refrigerator in that foldy cardboard thing, is like a brick.

Feb. 14th, 2007 09:40 pm (UTC)
yeah, that is the worst rice. When I cook rice at home, it doesn't do that.
Feb. 14th, 2007 09:41 pm (UTC)
or, duh, maybe it's the container. Because I just realized that Indian basmati rice turns into a rock too - WHEN I don't take it out of the styrofoam carry-out thing to put it in plastic!
Feb. 14th, 2007 08:59 pm (UTC)
Just don't mix the noodles with the sauce until you're ready to nuke and eat. As long as they are stored separately, they keep for days.
Feb. 14th, 2007 09:28 pm (UTC)
So I should just be able to keep a whole mess o' cooked noodles in the fridge for random use?

I mean, random eating. I don't use noodles for anything else. I swear.
Feb. 14th, 2007 09:36 pm (UTC)
Absolutely. When I cook pasta, I always cook the whole box and then throw the rest in tupperware in the fridge. I've had it a week later and it's perfectly fine.
Feb. 14th, 2007 09:00 pm (UTC)
I suppose noodles might get a little strange (although they soften up quickly enough in the microwave with some butter). I find that homemade rice (unlike restaurant rice) stays soft much longer, especially the whole-grain rice I invariably make.

I make huge pots of both at the beginning of the week and eat one or the other for lunch and supper each night, because I hate to cook.
Feb. 14th, 2007 09:29 pm (UTC)
Fantastic. I will consider making a huge batch on sundays!
Feb. 14th, 2007 09:02 pm (UTC)
If you rinse the noodles in cold water and then put the sauce on them, it stops the cooking and removes the starch which makes them gummy.

With rice, as another commenter said, covering it tightly is the key. However, if your rice dries out, don't despair, that makes the best fried rice (which contrary to its name does not need much oil).

I keep a whiteboard in my kitchen and list allllll the food I have in the house. All of it. It's the only way to stop myself from going shopping, when I can look at the board and say, "hey, dummy, you have tomato soup, beans, and tortillas, make dinner out of that."
Feb. 14th, 2007 09:04 pm (UTC)
I should specify that my sauces tend to be oil-based (like sesame noodles), so they don't get soggy. I wouldn't sauce ahead of time with tomato sauce or something else water-based.
Feb. 14th, 2007 09:34 pm (UTC)
The bento boxes I was attracted to looked like they had something like pad thai in them, which I do like, and would enjoy having in my lunch even cold. But I'd need to be sure it wasn't going to be disgustimacating by day 3.
Feb. 14th, 2007 09:31 pm (UTC)
I am pleased to know that we both came to the same plans seperately. I don't have a whiteboard but close enough. :)

Do you think whole wheat pasta will be any different?

What about the type of noodles you'd use for say, pad thai, versus spaghetti?
Feb. 14th, 2007 09:38 pm (UTC)
Whole wheat pasta is more resilient (though the texture does vary a LOT from brand to brand). Pad thai noodles are softer so I think they keep less well (but still should be fine for a couple days if they are not swimming in sauce).

And now I am hungry. :-)
Feb. 14th, 2007 10:44 pm (UTC)
I only buy whole wheat noodles nowadays.

PRO: they get a lot less soggy in soup! I have been enjoying the many quarts of homemade chicken noodle I made last week, and the wheat noodles don't get slimy upon reheating.

CON: they are a lot starchier, so rinsing is even more important. I shock-rinse them in cold water and then warm them again in the sauce I am using. And they are a lot less tasty cooked al dente, IMO. I really cook them all the way through.
Feb. 14th, 2007 09:04 pm (UTC)
You may like the vegan lunch box for inspiration as well. As the name suggests, it's vegan, but there are lots of good ideas there.

Personally, I much prefer noodles and rice that are pre-cooked and left to dry out overnight (as in stored in tupperware in the fridge). I find that they tend to hold up a lot better if you saute them in a little soy sauce and seasonings to make the noodles more interesting. If they are plain, they also tend to suck up the liquid from my stir fries.
Feb. 14th, 2007 10:32 pm (UTC)
I loooooooooove vegan lunch box (and the schmoo food blog) I just got a laptop lunch kit and joined the cult of cute and tiny portions!
Feb. 14th, 2007 10:44 pm (UTC)
You totally started this. :D
Feb. 14th, 2007 09:06 pm (UTC)
As everyone else said, the starch in rice will crystallize when it cools, but as long as you heat it up again (with extra water if necessary) the crystals should melt and you should have regular rice. I think noodles are easier since their starch doesn't crystallize as easily.

Either way, rinsing after cooking will help your starches stay looser and less hard because it takes some of the surface starch off which would make everything stick together. And I think the starch inside the rice or noodles is less subject to crystallization than the exterior starch, but that's mostly conjecture.
Feb. 14th, 2007 09:08 pm (UTC)
Also, Angela knows better than I do. Take her advice before mine.
Feb. 14th, 2007 09:40 pm (UTC)
Thanks :) I guess I just need to try it and get over my images of gross leftover rice from Hunan Hamlet.
Feb. 14th, 2007 10:45 pm (UTC)
Cardboard takeout boxes aren't airtight, Ms. Kim :)

The weird hard leftover rice works fine in rice pudding, too, if you're curious.
Feb. 14th, 2007 09:18 pm (UTC)
How do you prepare noodles to pack up on a daily basis? Or rice? Surely these people do not cook these starchy items the same day they pack them? Don't noodles get kind of oogy and weird if you refrigerate them? And rice, doesn't it get hard?

I make them ahead of time for dinner, and then pack the leftovers in "airtight" tupperware. Noodles and Rice can both get dry if you refrigerate and then reheat, but noodles are usually covered in sauce which re-wets them, and you can cover rice with a wet paper towel to re-moisten. Noodles only get "oogy" if they're sitting in water for too long. :-)
Feb. 14th, 2007 10:29 pm (UTC)
I just wanted to add a vote for a rice cooker. If you're making a batch to eat for a few days it simplifies everything. Also, I echo what the others said about adding a tiny bit of water when reheating rice. And old leftover rice makes really good fried rice, especially if you like pineapple in it :)
Feb. 14th, 2007 10:45 pm (UTC)
We totally already have a rice cooker! Score!
Feb. 14th, 2007 10:33 pm (UTC)
also...traditional bento lunches (from all accounts) aren't refrigerated day of, so the rice and noodles will relax from their icy evening.

I too just joined that community and have been getting oodles of ideas.
Feb. 14th, 2007 11:05 pm (UTC)
I learn so much from the comments on your journal! Rock out! I have a friend here who did a lot of bento boxes, if you want to browse some of her creations:

Feb. 15th, 2007 12:48 am (UTC)
As far as I know, they cook them every morning. Most Japanese rice cookers ( including mine, but I never use it ) have a timer function that allows them to kick off and have the rice warm and ready for breakfast / bento prep in the morning if you prime them the night before. This is one of the "expected wifely duties" of traditional Japanese marriage.
Feb. 15th, 2007 02:24 pm (UTC)
Even if your container isn't airtight and the rice bricks up, I just smash the rice bricks in a bowl with the back of a spoon, sprinkle some water on them, and they reheat up just fine. And as others have pointed out, dry old rice is perfect for fried rice.

Off to peruse the bento community -- thanks for linking!
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )


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